In the morning we were greeted by the sounds of farm animals ready to be fed and to the wind chimes which had lulled us to sleep as they clanged in the still hungry winds.
Dennis and Jane had prepared breakfast that we were invited to share. Farm fresh eggs and bagels and coffee (lightened with their goat’s milk), and Jane prepared her breakfast favorite-- oatmeal with apples. I was beginning to feel spoiled. We discussed the advantages of small farms and the industrialization of agriculture and livestock in our country, and soon we were back on our bikes, very grateful for the flat ground and the warm showers and hot breakfast.
Back into the hills we went and pedaled and pedaled and pedaled, and I learned quickly that the recovery of muscles that theoretically takes place during rest is something that necessitates periods longer than 10 hours as my quads resumed their misery at the start of the first hill.
I am quickly discovering and rediscovering and periodically remembering the disadvantage of lugging 90lbs of bike (estimated 30lbs unloaded with somewhere around 60lbs of gear in the bags) up inclines. The lowest gear of my 27 and I have become fast friends as I pedal furiously at our self-imposed 90rpm cadence ‘sweet-spot’, the quotations are there because while the 90rpm is a pace which, if you can pedal at comfortably, can go on nearly indefinitely, my legs are not quite as indefatigable as my mind. After a mile of climbing, I was ready to collapse. Gen soldiered on as I pathetically hopped off my bike for one of the more daunting climbs and slowly trudged uphill pushing my 90lb albatross of poor packing decisions. I counted all of the items I hadn’t used at all yet and imagined the weight of the bike without their generous contribution to my encumbrance.
As we approached the halfway mark of our day, I saw signs for Sturbridge, MA, and I realized that we were approaching one of my favorite places to eat in the state, B.T.’s Smokehouse. I urged Gen to consider the minor detour that would take us in that direction so we could stop for a bite. This ended up necessitating nearly 6 miles of pedaling down the local alternative to the Mass Pike, Route 20. After a harrowing half hour of contending with heavy fast traffic, we were within a mile of BBQ when I had a sinking realization. I asked Gen what day it was and she replied Monday which to our great chagrin meant that B.T.’s was closed. Sturbridge has this odd tendency to close every business on Mondays leaving picking for food slim.
We pedaled over to the Oxhead Tavern, one of the few establishments that eschewed the local practice of Monday lethargy, and were greeted by a nearly vacant dining area and two excited waitstaff. They allowed us to park our bikes on their porch so that we could eat inside which already seemed like a great boon to our paranoia addled minds. Earlier in the previous day we had realized that both had expected the other to bring a bike lock, and in our poor communication neither had fulfilled this task. We enjoyed a warm meal of fish and chips and reuben and were back on the road.
The first order of business was to get off of Route 20 and to hit more rural roads. The difficulty with rural roads is that they pay no heed to elevation gain. The climbs resumed were likewise joined by the return of my legs' complaint. Up and down and up and down we went and eventually reached a small dilapidated marker that signified the end of Connecticut and the beginning of Massachusetts. We posed for a short picture while being plagued by the incessant gnats that had been our travel companions for the past several miles and set back out.
Thankfully, the 4 miles that we had to travel to reach our next campsite proved to be mostly downhill, and so we more or less coasted to our destination. Around 6PM we reached Judy and Roland and their very cute dog, the name of which I have now of course forgotten as I tend to forget most things. They gave us a nice flat area in their backyard to pitch our tent and invited us in for a shower and hot meal. We gave them the rundown of our trip’s plans and our short autobiographies which I can already tell will be so well rehearsed by the end of this trip that we will be able to recite each other's line for line in our sleep.
Judy and Roland are avid cyclists and had actually hosted our previous night’s companion, Matthew, the day prior. They told us stories of their tours which have the added challenge of being done on a tandem bike. The trick is cadence according to them; without the right cadence rhythm between partners, the tandem is doomed (or at least the one partner). Roland is a bit of a bike collector and had more than a dozen bikes in various states of assembly in his basement which, according to Judy, is his big hobby.
After a delicious dinner of Quinoa, roasted vegetables, salad and veggie burgers, Roland offered to make us margaritas in honor of Cinco de Mayo and a shot of tequila to toast to a successful trip. Unable to turn down such a kind offer, we enthusiastically agreed and shared a drink before turning in and heading to our tent for the night.
The tent is proving to be a godsend in terms of size. We were able to park the bikes inside of the vestibule the first night that we stayed with Dennis and Jane who very graciously offered for us to sleep inside (but we wanted to have our first proper night of the trip in the tent) and with our bikes stowed in the garage the second night at Roland and Judy’s we were able to leave the panniers in the vestibule and have oodles of space inside the main tent. It is the one piece of gear that is worth every extra pound we have to carry (which is admittedly not many at all).
With some booze in our belles and brains we are headed to sleep for a hopefully short easy day tomorrow.