Through the final few days of September and for the start of October, I took a motorcycle trip up into New England to explore the fall foliage and visit some of my favorite places. Unsurprisingly, many of those places were craft breweries. Also snuck in a good hike, some historical monuments, and a jaunt through downtown Albany. A productive long weekend, to be sure.

Kristin came along with her Honda Rebel, and we made a good time of it.

Day 1: The Journey to Massachusetts

An early morning set off. Early mornings in late September in New Jersey are closer to 8am, giving the sun an hour to rise and providing enough warmth to get moving on a motorcycle. Checking off the list: cats fed, trash placed out at the curb, and gear packed onto the back of the bike. Here we go.

This first day of the trip was intended to pound out the 250+ miles to get us into Massachusetts in time for some afternoon beers at Treehouse Brewing Company. If you have to plan a trip with lots of driving, get as much as you can out of the way up front. Improves the ride home.

The beers at Treehouse were excellent, as anticipated. If you’ve never visited…come on a weekday. They attract massive lines of vehicles picking up cases and cases of beer per car on the weekend. The stuff is good! The challenge becomes getting a draft pour while you are there, and the latest system involves snagging a wristband up front to ensure you don’t overstay your welcome - three pours per person each day. Being timebound and on motorcycles, three pours was plenty. Sharing different varieties between the two of us meant we actually got six half-pours each.

What I did not anticipate was how good their darker stouts would be! At least two beers made with maple syrup had me wishing for cooler air and a campfire. Making a note to travel back here in the cooler months again. Their main taproom in Charlton, MA has many hiking trails surrounding it, providing a reprieve after imbibing those excellent brews.

Dinner was at The Duck in Sturbridge. Excellent food! Duck fat fries topped with roast duck, followed up with some vegetable gnocchi and a fancy macaroni and cheese plate. Good comfort food after a long day of riding, and it helped shake the chill in the air.

A final 40 minutes on the road led us to the doorstep of the Bird House Inn, a what can only be described as “cute” roadside bed and breakfast. The front door was opened by a code, and, being the only guests that evening, we stumbled around what appeared to be an abandoned farmhouse until we found the right room. Could have slept anywhere! The shared bathroom was huge, and led us into a second “breakfast” room, as our host called it. The host had a second staircase into this room so that they could deposit food and other necessities without disturbing us.

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Heading north, and the first signs of fall color.
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Packed up and ready to ride.  Stop too long in the sun and it gets hot.
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Welcome to paradise!
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Tanks for days.

Day 2: Northbound to New Hampshire

Starting our day in the breakfast room of our B&B, we came across a better meal than I was expecting. All nicely laid out for us.

After eating as much as I could fit, we packed up and wiped down the bikes. Parking outside at night leads to a dewy build-up the next morning, and it’s nice to be able to see through your front windshield.

We took a somewhat straight, somewhat meandering course up to Jackson, New Hampshire. Lunch was at a small sandwich shop in town (which ended up having the best cookies I’ve had all year, more on that later) - soup and sandwich, split for two, then off to hike up a mountain.

Arriving at our hiking start point1, we performed a roadside clothing change. This is always fun on a motorcycle. Things are packed tightly into your two rear panniers, so you effectively unpack everything, get changed, then repack everything, knowing you’ll be doing this same song-and-dance again in a couple hours when you finish the hike. Regardless of the time it takes, this is a fun part of the overall trip. Not something you do every day.

Our hike up Imp Ledges Trail was meant to be a challenge. 1,800 feet of elevation in 2 miles is not really a beginner trail. But after we had covered the first mile and a quarter, I was feeling oddly confident that our map was wrong and in fact we would not be making the full 1,800 feet of climbing. Nope.

The final three quarters of a mile was pretty damned steep. We covered the full 1,800 feet, as my Strava recording will tell you. It was fun! (And a bit of a cardiovascular challenge.)

The view at the top was well worth it. You can see from the photos below that we were treated to an excellent view of Mount Washington and the other mountains in the presidential range. Peaks we would be scaling the next day, thankfully not on foot.

We trekked down the mountain, the sun setting ahead of us and the loss of daylight turned the air frigid pretty quick. Before departing on our hike we had packed in ice a few Treehouse beers in a cooler on the back of my motorcycle. The reward for a good hike! We did a quick clothing change roadside, rode back into town, and cracked open a cold beer. Worth it.

Dinner was in the town of North Conway - pizza! We came at the right time, too, as they were training a new chef, who somehow forgot one single ingredient on our pizza and for that sin they made us another one, for free, in addition to giving us the first (why waste it?). Not one to complain, I would have preferred if this mistake had happened prior to us ordering two more beers and a second pizza. Two beers and three pizzas, between two people, is, um, a lot.

Without really needing round tires on our motorcycles, as we could have affixed our own bodies in their place, we slogged out the last mile back to our hotel for the evening. As it felt like we were out in the middle of the woods, we walked outside to view the stars. And what a view we got! Best my iPhone camera could do is below, but in person it looked even more amazing.

Off to bed for another night.

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The breakfast room breakfast.  It was great! (With the sweet and sugary yogurt being the one exception.)
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Sun rising in the morning.
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Gotta wipe that dew off.
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First (and sadly only) hike of this trip.
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1800 feet isn't that much, right?
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Starting off we walked along a stream.
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Happier times with only 400 feet gained.
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I could see the top, and felt elated.
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That view!
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More of that view!
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Ok, ok, last one.
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Some pinecones, enjoying their natural habit of spectacular views.
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The stars at night under the skies of New Hampshire.

More To Come in Part II

In an effort to actually get this published, I’ll split this post into two parts. I am hopeful the motivation I gain from hitting Publish on Part I gives me the motivation to finish writing Part II.

Link to Part II.

  1. Somehow I navigated us to the wrong starting point. Luckily, the true start point was only 1/4 mile down the road. Imp Ledges Trail is a loop trail, which starts off Highway 16, and winds up and down the mountain. Unfortunately, I put us at the wrong “end” of the loop. We solved it by walking the 1/4 mile down the road to the true start point of our out-and-back hike. Did not have time for the full loop. ↩︎