Western Massachusetts

Text: Ken Aiken • Photography: Ken Aiken

Adventure is going into the unknown. Even on familiar roads, I can never anticipate what will be seen or experienced. Nor can I predict how it will all end. As my bike dove into an impossibly green canyon, these thoughts arose superimposed on beautiful images of the landscape and analysis of the asphalt ribbon. But if these thoughts were premonitions, I certainly didn't heed them.

Day 1
The narrow twisting road follows the rust-colored Deerfield River as it descends from the Green Mountains of Vermont. The hillsides are impossibly steep - any closer to vertical and they would be cliffs - and the road cuts along their flanks high above the rapidly flowing water. The foliage is lush green, growing right to the edge of the asphalt before arching over into the already narrow lanes. This is my favorite road in the Berkshires and its only flaw is that it's far too short.

I turn onto the Mohawk Trail and head west. Now designated Route 2, this old Indian path, which runs through the mountains from the Connecticut River to the Hudson, has become one of the most popular motorcycle touring roads in Massachusetts. Today is no exception and I have plenty of two-wheel company as I wind through the northern Berkshire Mountains and down into the old mill town of North Adams.

I pass the turn leading to the Greylock Reservation, but the group of bikes behind me peels off Route 2 and heads up the Notch Road. Despite the rough asphalt leading to the highest summit in Massachusetts, Mt. Greylock is the most popular motorcycling destination in the Berkshires. I've taken this side trip several times, but not today.

The Moonlight Grill on Route 2 is an excellent place to stop for a bite to eat, but the crowded parking lot deters me from stopping for breakfast. Instead, I venture onto Spring Street, the downtown shopping area for Williamstown. Situated in the middle of the campus of Williams College, it has a unique flavor: hip cafés, conventional businesses housed in staid nineteenth-century commercial blocks, and Images Cinema, one of those rare movie houses that specializes in art films, showing classic, independent, and foreign footage.

I finally take a break at the wonderful picnic area at the intersection of Routes 43 and 7. Across the highway, the Five Corners Store offers all the necessary fixings for a fine picnic lunch, but a coffee and muffin is sufficient this morning. Route 43 runs along the Jericho Valley, a low pass through the mountain range that forms the boundary between Massachusetts and New York. It leads to Route 22, one of the most frequented touring roads in eastern New York, which becomes just a short connector for me today. The sole purpose of taking this highway is to enable me to head east, this time climbing over the Taconic Mountain Range and enjoying the wide sweeping turns this portion of Route 20 is known for.

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the March/April 2004 back issue.