Quabbin via Motorcycle


Around the start of the last century, water shortages in Greater Boston caused the state government to look to Western Massachusetts for supplies of clean drinking water. The Wachusett Reservoir was completed around 1908, and in the Twenties, the people of the Swift River valley lost their battle against eastern Massachusetts, and construction of the Quabbin Reservoir begun. The towns of Enfield, Greenwich, Prescott and Dana were disincorporated, their citizens evicted from their homes, and all structures in the way of the future reservoir razed. Construction took place during the thirties, and the reservoir filled during the forties, becoming the largest inland body of water within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Today, it supplies most of eastern Massachusetts with water. To protect the water, the area around it is a reservation. Yesterday, I took the motorcycle out for a ride around there. The roads around the reservoir are great for motorcycling — curvy, and not too crowded.

I took the fastest route out there, via the Massachusetts Turnpike to Palmer. From there, I took Route 32 north to Route 9, and entered the reservation through the eastern entrance.

My first stop was Hank’s Meadow, a long grassy meadow with a view down to the shoreline. The reservoir is at about 86% capacity right now, so there’s a small band of exposed rocks at the water’s edge.

View from Hank's Meadow

View from Hank’s Meadow

Water's edge at Hank's Meadow

Water’s edge at Hank’s Meadow

From there, I got back on the bike, and headed towards the Enfield Lookout. From the lookout, you can look north out over the reservoir, to where the Town of Enfield used to be.

Sign for the Enfield Lookout

Sign for the Enfield Lookout

Enfield Lookout

Enfield Lookout

View from lookout, before and during construction

View from lookout, before and during construction

What used to be Enfield

What used to be Enfield

From the outlook, I rode to the lookout tower, then past the Winsor Spillway, where excess water is allowed to rejoin the Swift River, parked, and walked up to the Winsor Dam — since the 9/11 attacks, you haven’t been allowed to drive near either the dam or the Goodnough Dike, which impounds the rest of the reservoir.

Quabbin Lookout Tower

Quabbin Lookout Tower and high clouds from the remains of Harvey

Windsor Dam spillway

Windsor Dam spillway

Winsor Dam, which is a high earthen dam impounding the Swift River

Marker for the Dam

Marker for the Dam

I only walked a short distance over the dam; by then it was getting close to 3:30 and I was getting hungry, so I exited the reservation and took Route 9 to 202 south, and had a hamburger and ice cream at a local restaurant. Then I headed back north on 202 towards the actual goal of the ride – the roads around Quabbin.

The roads around the reservoir are great for motorcycling – curvy, scenic, and at least yesterday, not too crowded. They’re also in good condition. From the restaurant, I headed north on 202, past Route 9 where I’d come from (Route 9 in this area is itself a fun, scenic ride – nothing like the honky-tonk of Framingham and Natick), north along the western edge of the reservoir. There are turnouts at various places along the road, but the reservoir is only visible in a few spots along the road. What you mostly see is the woods.

Once I reached Route 122, I turned right onto it, and started heading east. Route 122 is another great road – curvy, little traffic. There are a couple of turnouts that would allow you to hike into what were once Dana and Prescott, but by this point, I wanted to get going. In Barre, I switched onto Route 62 for the ride home. I’d been a little worried about finding it, because the last time I’d been this way I’d gotten a little lost, but I picked it up in the center of Barre without any trouble.

Most of Route 62 is pretty scenic too. It’s a lot hillier than the other roads — there was one long steep downhill, and then a steep uphill. There were also a couple of sections where I got stuck behind someone driving under the speed limit.

Route 62 also runs through a couple of towns; I went through the centers of Hudson and Clinton, and passed along a bike path along the way. As I was exiting Clinton, I saw a big dam up ahead; it was the Wachusett Dam, with Wachusett Reservoir behind it. Of course, I had to stop to look and take a couple of pictures. The dam is tall and imposing, blocking a narrow valley with a narrow river and fountain below, and the reservoir above.

Panorama downstream of the Wachusett Dam

Panorama downstream of the Wachusett Dam

Wachusett Dam

Wachusett Dam

Wachusett Reservoir near dusk

Wachusett Reservoir near dusk

Wachusett Reservoir

Wachusett Reservoir

From Clinton, I followed Route 62 back to Route 2, back to Route 128 and home. All in all, a good day’s ride.


Goodbye EX-500

I just got rid of my first motorcycle, a 1987 Kawasaki EX-500 the other day. It had been taking up space in the garage for a decade and a half.

I’d been interested in motorcycles for a long, long time before I got the bike — privately. My parents were very opposed to motorcycles, and I was pretty conservative in the way I manifested myself, so I think it was a shock when I actually got it. (I think my relatives have gotten over being shocked at anything I do).

I started buying motorcycle magazines in 1986 or so, and by 1987, I’d decided on the EX-500 — sporty, but a good beginner bike. I put down my money in the spring of 1987, intending to pick up the bike after taking the Motorcycle Safety Foundation course.

It was a disaster. I bombed out of the course. In hindsight, it didn’t help that the instructor was a screamer who just made me tenser when I screwed up. At the end, I came home from that weekend convinced motorcycles were not for me. I called up the dealer and cancelled the order, rather to his disbelief.

And yet… over the next few weeks, I found that it really was something I wanted to do. I still found myself looking at bikes hungrily. So I found another instructor who gave me one on one instruction, found that it went well, and called the dealer back, found that they still had the bike, and picked it up in the mid-summer of 1987.

It took me a while to get comfortable on the bike. I remember doing a lot of practice on Green Lodge street, where there is no traffic. Then I started taking it out on the side roads in traffic, and started to get comfortable.

This was all on my learners permit, which restricted me to daytime operation within the state. I had jury duty scheduled in early fall, so I couldn’t make the appointment until after that was over. In the meantime, I practiced circles and figures eight for the license test, and got so I could do one in a fairly tight area.

Finally, I had my appointment in early October. The inspector had me do a circle and figure eight in an area about twice as big as the areas I’d been practicing for, so I whipped through them confidently. He then told me to go down the road half a mile and come back, and as I did, I could see him in the rear view mirror go inside to do the paperwork. I had my license.

That October was when I first developed my liking for night rides, since I could now ride at night. It wasn’t until the following year that I really started to get into riding. I got better at it,  and got more confident. I developed that awareness of other vehicles that motorcyclists have. And I found I really enjoyed it.

The ride that sticks out in my memory was a trip out along the Mohawk Trail in July of 1993. I got to Mount Greylock at the end of the day, and took the road up to the summit. To the west, the sun was setting. To the east, the full moon was rising. It was awesome.

By the late 1990’s though, the bike was getting unreliable. It developed some sort of intermittent electrical problem that left me stranded a couple of times. I took it to one place to get fixed; the problem came back. I took it to a second place to get fixed; they said they found it, and I was just about to pick it up, when they came back and said it had died on the owner while he took it on a test ride. They got to the root of the problem, but I never fully trusted it again.

I was coming back from a short ride to visit my aunt when the end came. I was 90 seconds from home, when the car ahead of me stopped short. I slammed on the brakes, and was just congratulating myself for making a good emergency stop when I heard the squeal of brakes, and got tossed over the handlebars, breaking my collarbone.

The bike sustained enough damage — broken windscreen, mirror, and other scuffs, that it wasn’t worth fixing, especially given its past issues. So I got a new one, and the EX-500 has been sitting in the garage ever since. I wanted to be rid of it, but couldn’t figure out how. Dealers didn’t want it, and there weren’t any local junkyards.

I got a little more serious about this fall, and started looking online, and finally found a page that suggested Kars4Kids. I’d heard their jingle on the radio, of course, but didn’t realize they dealt with dead bikes too. I called them a couple of weeks ago, and asked them about it. “Sure!” they said. I told them the bike was damaged. “That’s OK”. I told them it had been sitting in the garage for 15 years. “Wow” they said, but they’d still take it. Great. So I put some air back in the rear tire so I could move it, and got it out from under all the accumulated junk. Last Wednesday, I wheeled it out to the street, and when I came home, it was gone.

Medflight Motorcycle Run

I took part in the 5th Annual Medflight Motorcycle Run today. The run, which benefits the operations of Boston Medflight, started in Canton at noon. This year, the route was different. Instead of going down Bay Road to Easton and Mansfield, we went through Sharon, back roads to Route 27 in Medfield, before looping back via Routes 16 and 135.

I put the iPhone in the map pocket of my tank bag, intending to get a GPS track, but the sun fried it! ( temporarily). Next time, I put something white in the pocket to keep it cool.

When we got back, they had a barbecue, and then the helicopter arrived. It’s amazing how much wind it kicks up. I got a good video of it landing, but it’s only visible in Safari– when I tried to convert it to formats other browsers can read, it cam out upside down. So much for embedding video with the iOS version of WordPress…

Features vs Quality

Yesterday’s motorcycle ride reminded me once again that sometimes quality is better than a whole bunch of features, and that fit counts.

Late in the summer, I bought the Scorpion EXO 900 helmet. It’s a modular helmet that allows you to flip up the chin bar– in fact, you can even take it off, and use it as a three quarter helmet. I’ve been wanting a modular helmet since the last time I took the camera with me and had to take the helmet off every time I stopped to take a picture. In the store, I fell in love with the retractable sun shield, and allowed myself to be talked into a snugger fit, on the theory that it will only get looser, and you want a snug fit.

For me, though, it’s turned into one uncomfortable helmet. It’s heavy, and after a while, the weight gets to you. And the tightness around the ear pads gets to me after awhile. It just doesn’t feel good after awhile. It sort of reminds my of my first helmet, a Bell, that wasn’t very comfortable either.

This was borne home to me yesterday when I wore my old Shoei. It’s not modular, but it’s light, and comfortable, and it felt so good. I could have ridden even further if I hadn’t been anxious to get a bicycle ride in.

I’ll probably keep the Scorpion around for rides when I think I’ll need the modularity, but will stick to the Shoei or Arai for most of my riding.

Warm December

The unseasonably warm weather continued today. With a high around 54°, it felt more like October. I took the motorcycle out along Route 109 to 27 to  Route 16, past the Weston Ski Track, where they weren’t making snow yet, to Route 30 and back.

I then loaded the bicycle into the car, and took a ride along the Charles. My legs have been stiff and sore lately, so at the start of the ride, I wasn’t sure how far I could ride, but by the time I hit the Mass Ave Bridge, things had loosened up nicely, and I ended up going as far as the North Harvard Street bridge.

Boathouse Boathouse on the Cambridge side of the river, taken near sunset

It was beautiful around the river, but the earliness of the sunset was a reminder that it really is December. I’m wondering how long it will be before the weather catches up.

MedFlight Motorcycle Run

Did the MedFlight charity motorcycle run today. There were maybe 70 – 80 bikes, mostly Harleys, with only a few sport bikes. There was a police escort, so we didn’t have to stop for lights or cross intersections. It started at the VFW parking lot, then went down Bay Road down to Mansfield and Norton.

After we got back, there was food and then the helicopter arrived. It’s amazing how much wind those things kick up. I got a good look inside– hopefully I’ll never need a ride.

MedFlight helicopter

MedFlight helicopter right after landing