Almost everyday so far I have, some nights literally, dreamed of arriving at the Massachusetts state border. I thought of how magnificent the border sign would be and planned all the elaborate poses I would do in front of it. However, by the time I reached the miserable looking sign, all I could do was curse at it, take a quick picture and carry on slogging up the hill.
The day hadn’t started like this, in fact I had a very unique and enjoyable morning with Carrie, Sean and Alyssa. Carrie is a yoga instructor and takes a Sunday morning class. Yesterdays big mileage meant that today was to be a short day and as expected, the weather was pretty bad early on. So the decision was made that we would all go to Carries yoga class, which would be my first ever yoga class.
I would like to say that I immediately set the yoga world on fire, but unfortunately my first foray into yoga was a mixture of confusion and as much guile as a baby elephant. I did improve, in my mind at least, as the class went on, but there were still some poses and stretches that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do, not in this lifetime at least. The last section of the class involved us lying on the ground in a comfortable position while Carrie played very relaxing music, definitely something I could get used to. Relaxed and now well fed, I headed off with Massachusetts the destination.
With only around 40 miles to cover today, I was expecting an easy, enjoyable day. What I had forgotten was that today was a Sunday, from past experience, things don’t go well for me on Sundays. The weather had cleared slightly by the time I left and I was excited about reaching my final state. This excitement soon disappeared and suddenly, Massachusetts seemed like a long way away. Carrie and Sean had warned me about the bridge going out of town, they said that due to the construction on it, it was now very cycle unfriendly, and suggested that I take the side walk if possible. Approaching the bridge, I could see why they had warned me, but I couldn’t see any way to get onto the side walk. Fortunately, definitely more by luck than judgement, I ended up on the side walk that was caged in, away from the traffic. The side walk was not wholly pleasant but it was certainly far more pleasant than cycling on the bridge would have been. Once across the bridge, things got even more unpleasant. If you asked me what are the worst conditions to cycle in, I would say; busy, fast, single lane roads, with no shoulder. Wind in your face, uphill and raining. For the next 8 or 9 miles, I experienced all of these combined except the rain, which managed to hold off until the last 2 miles, it was horrible. Finally I was out of the suburbs and things began to quiet down, I began to dream of Massachusetts once again.
At this stage, I am now relying completely on my gps on my phone to get from one place to another without getting lost. Unfortunately, as I approached the Mass border, my phone lost signal (which is not uncommon), rendering my gps useless. Fortunately, knew that I had been on the same road and needed to continue on the same road the whole day, the only problem was that I had no idea how far along the road I was, which was frustrating. After a while, I decided that I must be no more than 5 miles from the border. 5 became 4, 4 became 3, three became 2 and my excitement rose. For the last while I had seen in front of me a large set of hills, that I would inevitably have to cross. I therefore had been expecting a bit of a climb, what I was not expecting was a 4 mile climb up the steepest gradient I have ever cycled. When the hill started, I laughed to myself about the gradient. 4 miles later, I was no longer laughing. The worst hills are the ones that you don’t expect, the ones that you don’t know when they will finish. I was knackered and I hadn’t even reached the border yet, which I thought was only 2 miles away. Eventually there it was, the unbelievably anticlimactic sight of the Massachusetts state border sign. The sigh offered very little encouragement as behind it the hill continued to wind up through the mountain.
The hill continued, the trick is to find a ‘comfortable’ gear and stay in it until the hill is over. That’s what I did and that’s what happened. It wasn’t until what turned out to be near the top of the hill that I saw a sign explaining that this was the Berkshires. The Berkshires are part of the Appalachian mountain range, I knew I was going to cross them at some stage but I didn’t think it would start today. It was actually quite a relief to realise that these were actually mountains and not just small bumps that I had made to seem bigger in my mind. The downhill that followed was fun, and I allowed myself to listen to the Boston natives the Dropkick Murphys for the first time on the trip. As I was approaching Pittsfield, my destination for the day, I phoned David (my host for the day) to confirm his address. It turned out that he lived on the other side of town, a bit frustrating today but it does mean less miles tomorrow. David lived in a cool house just out of town, worryingly down a big hill which I would definitely have to go back up tomorrow. David and his wife Anne have done a lot of touring throughout the states and across Europe and it was nice to hear their stories. We had an awesome dinner, where they insisted I finish all the food, because they didn’t want leftovers, I kindly obliged. Downstairs they had a really cool cinema room, equipped with lazy boy chairs. Naturally, that is where we spent the evening. A good end to another tough Sunday, but very happy to be in Massachusetts.