Progress, like the odometer, rolls on and on. Time flies, wheels turn, numbers roll higher, and just about everything increases in complexity. Forests give way to farms, that concede to homes, that spawn shopping centers, that lure expanding city boundaries. But unlike the forces that drive the increasingly familiar conurbation, a good traveler will attest that progress, in many ways, doesn't always have to be "full speed ahead."
A few miles east of Troy, New York, the rush-hour strangled suburbia finally begins to relax its iron grip. The Harley-Davidson's air-cooled twin is panting from the slow, dicing slog through endless lines of commuters fleeing nearby Albany's city center. You'd think that numerous trips up the Northway to Lake George each June for the yearly Americade Rally would've taught me to avoid the five o'clock knot that grips the roads surrounding the Empire State's capital. No such luck - again.
Eventually, the eastbound line of cars on Route 7 begins to develop gaps as the metallic mass is slowly siphoned off into the surrounding smaller towns and neighborhoods. Soon, the distant Green Mountains come into view sporting an emerald cover of early summer foliage. With this area having been initially claimed by the French in the early 1600s, it's easy to see how their original descriptor les monts verts has remained in today's name, Vermont.
Just a few miles over the border, I rumble into the town of Bennington. Earlier research indicated that Bennington College is hosting a big to-do and motel rooms would be in short supply this weekend. That's unfortunate, because plenty of tidy looking establishments are within easy walking distance of the lively downtown center. The sidewalks, decorated with colorful hanging baskets and American flags, teem with shoppers, strollers, and late afternoon partiers looking for an early dinner. It's a fun, welcoming scene that makes me wish I could park here for the evening.
With the sun slowly fading behind me, I put the whip to the XR1200 and continue east on Route 9. The smooth tarmac winds gracefully skyward through the Green Mountain National Forest and toward Haystack Mountain. Though the ride is excellent and traffic delightfully light, the near 3000-foot elevation spawns chilly temperatures that soon dispatch what little warmth my lightweight summer gloves are harboring. By the time I stop in the small town of Wilmington in the Deerfield Valley, my will to continue has gone the same route as the feeling in my fingertips. Apparently, honest-to-goodness summer arrives late in these parts. I make note of the obvious landmarks, drop a few proverbial breadcrumbs at the intersection of Routes 9 and 100, and abandon the tour's designated track in search of someplace warm in nearby Keene, New Hampshire. Though on my own tonight, the good news is that my next two evening stays are pre-booked.