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Old 04-24-2014, 02:02 PM   #1
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Goodbye Cruiserface, Hello Happyface: The (old) Long and (new) Short Of It All

We have four riders in the family, 3 of whom are local and active, and between us there should be close to a century of combined time with motorcycles. Most of that time was spent on one slab or another, taking longer rides across country to visit friends and family, going to Sturgis or some event, participating in Rolling Thunder or just seeing the sights. Nothing terribly difficult or eventful about any of this. It was just a matter of getting or making the time, throwing some stuff in a bag on the cruiser, putting on your cruiserface along with some gear and going with no thought to taking pictures or posting on the internet. The ride was everthing - the means and the end, with no thought of sharing the experiences with others. Then somebody said, "I wonder what's down that road?" and things changed

To make a long story very short, said riders quickly rediscovered the forgotten fact that Road/Street Glides, Goldwings and other big cruisers didn't really handle all that well off the slab. Well, rider number one sold his Harley and Goldwing and got something better suited for dual purpose. A year or more later, rider number two got a similar bike that he lent (when at work) to this rider, who started exploring unpaved roads and paths. This rider subsequently sold his Goldwing and joined the other two and we now go exploring. Cruiserface has been replaced by a happyface, gear has replaced leather, regular short rides to interesting places have replaced occasional long trips and the ride has become a very happy means but not the end. The end is seeing, exploring and learning about interesting places to some depth, which will be the stuff of this thread.

We will start off with our first exploration of the season - the supposedly haunted and very historic Hoosac Tunnel. Please feel free to join in with your own pictures and/or experiences.



Above is the west portal. Our objective was to ride to both ends of the historic 4.75 mile long Hoosac Tunnel, built from 1848 to 1877 at a cost of $21 Million and nearly 200 lives. It was (and still is) called "the bloody pit" and "abode of the damned" and is said to be haunted, with ghosts hanging out at the "Hoosac Hilton" (i.e., an area where a large portion of the tunnel collapsed and killed a number of workers).

Both ends of the tunnel are the private property of Pan Am Railways and you are warned to stay off. The west portal, located in North Adams, MA, is the trickiest to get to. There is a dirt path turnoff 8A in North Adams that is 1/4 mile north of West Shaft Rd. That dirt road is on the east side of 8A at coordinates 42.677823, -73.097230, which is just before a house.

A little ways in is a gate, beyond which is a dirt road/path that leads to the tracks. You have to ride down the tracks for a bit to get to the tunnel entrance. When we rode in, the ground was wet, muddy and slippery in spots not covered by loose gravel. Below is a picture looking back at the way in.



There was a good amount of water flowing out of the tunnel, which was dug at a slight incline down from the center for drainage purposes. As a result most of the ground leading up to the entrance was soft and spongy. You can see how the ties have sunk into the somewhat soft ground.



As much as the younger one (shown below) wanted to ride in, lack of train schedules, being on borrowed time (before RR folks happend by) and common sense ruled the day. Aside from being unlawful and (according to those who've tried it) dangerous, there is that issue of quickly turning around in a dark, wet, tight mud/gravel area when facing an oncoming train.



The east end/portal of the tunnel is in Florida, MA at coordinates
42.675212, -72.998020 and is easily reached by a very scenic ride down Whitcomb Hill Road off Rt 2 (Mohawk Trail) down to River Road. We first rode this last year, where we encountered this bridge that led to where the water-powered compressor (for driving the air drills) building once stood.



It is very short and easy to ride up to the east portal, provided no RR personnel are around. On two previous occasions, we have found them in trucks parked nearby.



As previously mentioned, there was a large, water-powered compressor building just past this end of the tunnel that powered the drilling equipment. No longer there, it looked like this:



The location of the compressor building would have been right beside where this bridge now crosses the Deerfield River.



The bridge presents a terrific opportunity to ride out onto it and get a great picture for the "show us your bike @ the bridge" thread. We were about to do just that but thought we'd wait for the trees to leaf out.




For more detailed information check out Hoosac Tunnel or any of the Google sources thereon. More to follow, including the mysterious, bloody tower.
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Old 04-24-2014, 04:11 PM   #2
AZ Desert Dog
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Hey! I grew up less than 4 miles from there . The tunnel was the terminus of some great boyhood adventures. I remember the ghost stories. Thanks for posting this. Did you stop by the freight yard pub down the road? The overpass you went over to get to route 2 my brother and I would throw chuncks of snow off of onto the trains below as they passed by. Route 2, 9, 8A and 116 are all great roads to ride. Well done more please.
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Old 04-24-2014, 05:21 PM   #3
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Hey! I grew up less than 4 miles from there . The tunnel was the terminus of some great boyhood adventures. I remember the ghost stories. Thanks for posting this. Did you stop by the freight yard pub down the road? The overpass you went over to get to route 2 my brother and I would throw chuncks of snow off of onto the trains below as they passed by. Route 2, 9, 8A and 116 are all great roads to ride. Well done more please.
We didn't have time for any pub stops but the locals are into the stories with tails of ghostly shapes and mournful moans coming from inside the tunnel. From the Hoosac Tunnel site:
On October 17, 1868, the worst disaster in the tunnel's history occurred. Thirteen miners died in a gas explosion that blew apart a surface pumping station. Debris filled the central shaft where the miners were working.
Glenn Drohan, a correspondent for The North Adams Transcript, reported that a miner named Mallory was lowered by bucket and rope to search for survivors. Brought back to the surface, and almost unconscious from fumes, he gasped. "No hope."
Without an operating pumping station, the 538-foot shaft soon filled with water. Bodies of some of the dead miners surfaced. More than a year later the remaining bodies were found on a raft the men had built to float on the rising water. They had suffocated from the vapors of deadly naphtha gas.
Drohan wrote. "During the time the miners were missing, villagers told strange tales of vague shapes and muffled wails near the water-filled pit. Workmen claimed to see the lost miners carrying picks and shovels through a shroud of mist and snow at [the] mountaintop.
“The ghostly apparitions would appear briefly, then vanish, leaving no footprints in the snow, giving no answers to the miners' calls.
"But, as soon as the raft-bound miners were found, and given a ‘decent’ burial, the visitations ceased."
Below is a period drawing made of Mallory being lowered into the central shaft, which was as deep as the Empire State building is tall.




BTW, we came across 116 to get to 8/8A - great road, especially between Greenfield and Ashfield. Next time out that we we're going after the Central Shaft and the Bear Swamp powerhouse tunnel, if we can find some way to get in. Also ahead is the insane asylum bloody towers.
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Old 04-24-2014, 08:02 PM   #4
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Rail yards, abandoned mills, covered bridges, air strips, old diners and the like have an indescribable way of purging my mind of clutter. I believe, naïvely perhaps, that they symbolize so many things that are great about this country and the people I meet in and around these places. It’s cathartic to see and experience them. Getting “off the slab” (to quote Popscycle) is the best move this rider’s (rider number two) made.

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Old 04-25-2014, 07:19 AM   #5
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I've considered getting an adventure style bike but I'm not ready yet. I really enjoy exploring north america by pavement. I can easily see me making the same change as you fellas did, in a few years. I'll be following your storys to see how you enjoy the change in bike styles.

Unforntunately, I can't do too many long rides yet as the weather is really not great here, (+1 C this morning)
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Old 04-25-2014, 08:15 AM   #6
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I've considered getting an adventure style bike but I'm not ready yet. I really enjoy exploring north america by pavement. I can easily see me making the same change as you fellas did, in a few years. I'll be following your storys to see how you enjoy the change in bike styles.

Unfortunately, I can't do too many long rides yet as the weather is really not great here, (+1 C this morning)
The thing the three of us have discovered that we can ride the adventure bikes as far and as long as the road sofas and have more fun in the process. What road sofas give you is passenger comfort and laid-back lounge riding but you sacrifice speed, handling and versatility in the process. For us, increased handling equates to increased comfort. Since none of the wives ride any longer, our choice of bikes was, to us, a no-brainer. I have already put near 10K miles on two of the three GSs but it took some time to get used to them (over a thousand miles) after 55+ years on cruisers. What I am still getting used to is riding an expensive bike in gravel, muck and less-than-stellar unpaved roads/paths like this one.



We hope your weather clears soon so you can get out and go and find many things to enjoy on the road. It is quite possible you may discover what we have learned - that what's off road can be as much or more interesting as what's on the road.
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Old 04-25-2014, 10:23 AM   #7
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The thing the three of us have discovered that we can ride the adventure bikes as far and as long as the road sofas and have more fun in the process. What road sofas give you is passenger comfort and laid-back lounge riding but you sacrifice speed, handling and versatility in the process. For us, increased handling equates to increased comfort. Since none of the wives ride any longer, our choice of bikes was, to us, a no-brainer. I have already put near 10K miles on two of the three GSs but it took some time to get used to them (over a thousand miles) after 55+ years on cruisers. What I am still getting used to is riding an expensive bike in gravel, muck and less-than-stellar unpaved roads/paths like this one.
We hope your weather clears soon so you can get out and go and find many things to enjoy on the road. It is quite possible you may discover what we have learned - that what's off road can be as much or more interesting as what's on the road.
I ride a Honda ST1300 so I have OK handling and comfort, some take them "offroad" but I won't. I spent quite a big part of my life driving offroad and realize the fun out there. I really want to ride the road now, there is so much to explore. The pity is that I'm 55 and will really only be able to ride, the way I do now, for so many yrs. Offroad is even more demanding. I'm sure I'll get there eventually but it's gonna take a while...so many neat roads and towns

You're right about where people are taking the GS, V strom, KLR type of machines. It seems like some of those machine only see dirt roads, others only paved, and many that travel the world on all types of surfaces. They are very versitile and must be a blast to explore with.

Since the end of Mar I ridden around 2500 miles but would've doubled that with good weather. Hopefully the warm patchs start to stay longer

Be safe and keep telling us your stories.
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Old 04-25-2014, 10:54 AM   #8
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I ride a Honda ST1300 so I have OK handling and comfort, some take them "offroad" but I won't. I spent quite a big part of my life driving offroad and realize the fun out there. I really want to ride the road now, there is so much to explore. The pity is that I'm 55 and will really only be able to ride, the way I do now, for so many yrs. Offroad is even more demanding. I'm sure I'll get there eventually but it's gonna take a while...so many neat roads and towns

You're right about where people are taking the GS, V strom, KLR type of machines. It seems like some of those machine only see dirt roads, others only paved, and many that travel the world on all types of surfaces. They are very versitile and must be a blast to explore with.

Since the end of Mar I ridden around 2500 miles but would've doubled that with good weather. Hopefully the warm patchs start to stay longer

Be safe and keep telling us your stories.
The ST1300 is a great ride and we hope it will see many thousands of happy miles of roads traveled this year and that you will let us know of any pics you post along the way.
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Old 06-19-2014, 01:40 PM   #9
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That cleft looks like a hand cut for a long abandoned rail road. If you let us know where it is, there are books available with all the known abandoned railroads listed, with maps. I have one and would be willing to look it up.

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Old 06-19-2014, 02:18 PM   #10
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That cleft looks like a hand cut for a long abandoned rail road. If you let us know where it is, there are books available with all the known abandoned railroads listed, with maps. I have one and would be willing to look it up.

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It may be what is known as the Poland Gate on the Main Poland Road out of Conway MA at about coordinates 42.499298, -72.731580. I did find a postcard that seems to depict it at CardCow.com - Poland Gate but that's about all. We may have to ride out that way and see if any of the Conway oldtimers that gather in Baker's Store know about it and the old log shack. If you have any other information, we'd love to know about it. Thanks.

UPDATE EDIT: I called Helen at Baker's Store and she verified that the cleft was called the Poland Gate but didn't know if it was man-made or natural. She's going to ask around among the old-timers. I am thinking that grades were too steep in places for a rail bed. If natural, it looks like a great place to construct a toll gate at an earlier time. I remember reading that Conway MA was, at a time, larger than Springfield MA and this could have been a main road south out of town. If so, a toll gate would have been the ideal way to relieve travelers of their money, something this state is very good at with its cash cow turnpike.
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Old 06-28-2014, 08:30 PM   #11
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I passed through Pepperell, MA last weekend coming back from visiting my brother in Lunenberg. Watched people falling out of a perfectly good airplane while I was having coffee.


If I had known there was a covered bridge nearby I would have visited it.
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Old 06-29-2014, 04:14 AM   #12
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I passed through Pepperell, MA last weekend coming back from visiting my brother in Lunenberg. Watched people falling out of a perfectly good airplane while I was having coffee.


If I had known there was a covered bridge nearby I would have visited it.
The bridge is on Groton Street over the Nashua River at coordinates 42.669708, -71.575155.



From certain angles (e.g., someone's back yard), it has visual appeal for being new.
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Old 06-29-2014, 02:34 PM   #13
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Seeing Stuff

Was out and about today checking out new roads and saw some stuff that might be of interest to some. First was an old factory that is, to the best of my knowledge, still being operated to a limited extent by one old man (older than I).



He is makes chairs, the human-sized kind, that are sold here at Chair City.



It wasn't open today but I have stopped in there in the past to chat with him. Next time, I will try to get some pics inside the factory.

I also stopped off at the Great Falls Museum to finally see what they had on display. Unfortunately, it was just a few static nature dioramas. Nothing about the industry of the area.



Out in back, though are some good views of the canal, bridge and powerhouse.




Below is the footbridge near the start of the canal.



Walking to the center of the bridge, you can see where the canal starts.



From there I headed west to investigate roads.
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Old 06-30-2014, 09:45 AM   #14
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Mystery Cabin and Gravel Travel

Some weeks back, we happened across this cabin, not far from the Poland Gate (rock formation/road opening).



Not knowing anything about it, I went back to Bakers Store for lunch and hung around a while chatting with all the locals that came in to see if anyone knew about the cabin.



The consensus among the regulars was that it had been a writer's cabin where some aspiring Thoreau went to compose; however, nobody knew who that person was. What they did say was that Archibald MacLeish had a house and writer's cabin north of town, so I set off find and photograph it. They said it was a stone cabin on the road shown below where the asphalt ended and the gravel began. I rode up there to see the place and found a wonderful road with lots of curves, grades and gravel. Running out of time (had to be back for Sunday evening family dinner), I didn't get off the bike to explore or take pictures. We'll save that for a later date when Rider Two can quite playing in the water long enough for some high-brow literature-related exploration. He also needs new tires, having put 12K on the (nail hole patched) OEMs.



Here is a Youtube video I found on the subject of MacLeish's home.



Saving that road for a future adventure give me enough time to travel some gravel on the way back.



Riding on gravel is fun when you have a bike that likes it and can master the technique(s) enough to not fall down. So far, so good on the latter point.
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Old 06-30-2014, 11:49 AM   #15
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Lesson Learned

Captain Nemo (aka Rider Two), here. In response to an earlier comment from Rider Three, yes indeed - like an idiot I turned my GS into a submarine on Saturday. I stupidly assumed that the water filled washout in front of me was but a few inches deep. Hah. Wrong. It turned out that it was a few feet deep. Without checking the depth, I began crossing the roughly 25 foot wide washout only to discover how much of an idiot I was. The water moving across the grade had eroded away the road bed. A few yards out I was in three feet of water. I struck a rock, which twisted the tire, and I promptly dumped the bike to the left. Thankfully I had the presence of mind to kill the ignition. The bike was completely on its side, mostly submerged. I got my footing (water was up to my waist -- I'm six feet tall), stood up the GS, slipped, and dumped it on its right side. Unbelievable. At this point I’m furious with myself and thinking that this thing is never going to start and I am in the middle of no where. I walk around the bike and stand it up for the second time. The water is literally flowing over the seat. Like I moron I spent at least five minutes trying to push the bike up onto the other side of the road. At this point I am exhausted, beyond soaked, and frankly worried about how I'm going to get myself out of this self-induced dilemma. The only chance I have is a fool's hope that the bike will start, enabling me to walk it out in first gear. I'm thinking there's no way this bike will fire – all together it's been dumped on both sides, in the mud, and mostly submerged in water for about 10 minutes – pretty sure there are tadpoles under the seat and a small fish or two down the exhaust. I cross my fingers, turn the key and BAM, she fires right up as if to say "hey idiot you should have done that a long time ago instead of trying to push me out of this pond you got me into!" So, apart from a strained back, a banged up leg and a dented pannier, all's well that ends well. Moral of the story...always check the depth fellow riders. Pic one below is the washout. Pic two is after I surfaced the GS. I love that machine.
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