Sampling the North East BDR

Yesterday was the first rain-free day since I arrived in Massachusetts on Sunday. Work was slow, so I decided to take another motorcycle ride, this time without the constraint of having to be back in time for a company meeting. But where? As I was looking into local bike rides, both paved and dirt, I discovered that the famed NEBDR passes by right down the street from where I’m staying. My decision was made.

Without bogging you down with motorcycle jargon, BDR stands for Backcountry Discovery Route. From their mission statement: “Backcountry Discovery Routes® (BDR®) is a non-profit organization that creates off-highway routes for dual-sport and adventure motorcycle travel. We have introduced a new route with free GPS tracks for the community every year since 2010.” Last year they introduced a route through my former home in the northeast. I’d been meaning to sample it, but my broken foot put an end to last year’s plans for any serious dirt riding. I thought that moving out of the area put an end to it this year. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was wrong about that.

Peru State Forest
Peru State Forest

After loading the track into my GPS, I followed a route out of Cheshire that gave me some beautiful views of nearby Mount Greylock, the highest point in Massachusetts. Soon the road began switching from pristine pavement to rough dirt roads and everything in between. It took me through Peru State Forest on a loose gravel road. Although my bike is in great shape for this, my tires are not. They’re mainly pavement-oriented tires, which I chose for my recovery from my broken foot. It was the right choice, but now I’m venturing into more dirt, plus they’re a bit worn as well. I still did all right, though, and enjoyed the BDR all the way down to Middlefield, where I turned back toward “home” in Cheshire.

I checked in on work and seeing that it was still quiet, I decided to head back to the BDR and go north this time. Once again, I had a great view of Greylock, and then it put me out on Route 116 for a while. It’s a wonderful road to ride, but I’d just done it yesterday and found myself wondering where the dirt was.

I didn’t have to wonder for too long. Soon I turned off 116 up a steep dirt road marked “dead end,” leading into Savoy Mountain State Forest. I stopped when the track veered off onto a rocky damp “road” with a seasonal closure sign on it. It’s in the season to be open, but it looked more technical than I felt ready to tackle. Something inside me, however, pushed me to do it anyway. I don’t know why, but I did.

My instincts were correct. The wet rocks often gave way to mud, something my low-tread tires were unable to dig into very effectively. Momentum rather than power was my friend. The road was more technical and difficult than I was comfortable riding, but I was already committed, so I had no choice but to keep going. I even ended up taking a leap of faith and crossing a puddle stretching all the way across the road. With a bit of extra gas to overcome the drag of the water and mud, I made it. In fact, despite all of the challenges this road threw at me, I made it all the way to the other side, unscathed. “No whammies,” as I like to say when I don’t even drop the bike once during a difficult dirt ride.

Entering Florida?
Will the real Florida please stand up?

This ride was quite therapeutic, in many ways. Motorcycles are always good therapy for me. They knock my brain out of whatever rut I’m in (and I’ve been in quite a rut lately) by forcing me to focus on the ride. Difficult dirt riding does this even more since I need all of my concentration to read the surface and choose my path across uneven terrain. On top of that, this ride gave me a serious confidence boost. Despite more challenging conditions and less appropriate tires than I’d prefer, I did it.

That’s a lesson that can apply to my life in general at this point (which is why I’ve gone into far more detail here than usual about a motorcycle ride). I wasn’t prepared to do this alone. Sometimes I question my ability to do so. But I’m doing it. I don’t just know enough to be dangerous, but enough to actually make this work. I just need to try it when my insecurities tell me not to, and I’ll get through it just fine. That’s why, more and more, I’m leaning toward going out west when my New England commitments are complete, rather than sticking to what I know on the east coast, or giving up van life completely.

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