This post if the second part of my recent motorcycle journey through New England to take in the changing of the leaves.
Find Part I of this post here.
Day 3: A Stopover in Stowe
The cold night in Jackson, NH turned into a cold morning. Ice on the motorcycle seats! Luckily the sun was up soon after we were, and the ice melted off in a matter of minutes. Following an excellent pancake breakfast at the Cranmore Inn, I proceeded to pack on as many layers as would fit beneath my motorcycle jacket - sans pancakes things might have felt a bit looser. The bike engines roared to life and we got on the road northbound to the Mount Washington Cog Train.
A funny thing about Mount Washington is that it is said to have the worst weather on earth. However, our tour guide informed us that we had arrived for a tour on the nicest weather day of the year! Just lucky, I guess. The ride uphill was slow and lumbering, the train never reaching speeds in excess of 5 miles per hour. Climbing up the side of the mountain we experienced gradients of 20-30%, which explains why our seats initially sloped downward; while the train is climbing the hill the seat feels flat.
The top of Mount Washington is worth seeing, if only for the things you can see from it. The photos below tell the story more so than words alone can, but the peaks of the Presidential Mountain range and the changing fall foliage were absolute highlights for this time of year. The good, cool, and clear weather gave us the opportunity to catch views of the Atlantic Ocean, around 70 miles away near Portland, Maine. Had our guide not told me where to look, I would have seen only a glimmering horizon which turns out to be the sun glinting off the ocean waters.
Also at the top you can find a US Post Office and a snack bar. We saw dozens of hikers on this blue-sky day crossing the Appalachian Trail. An auto road also runs to the top, but aren’t trains more fun? The auto road had only been paved end-to-end within the past couple of years! Prior, it was a gravel track the final few miles to the top. Turns out that paving a road up and along a mountain requires some specialized technique, backing the dump trucks full of asphalt up the road in reverse because they had no room to turn around and come down otherwise.
Our train down the mountain was delayed about 30 minutes, so we had to hurry on to Hill Farmstead Brewery, our next stop. It turns out that the “reservation” system for Hill Farmstead isn’t much of one at all. No one asked us for tickets and timing, and thus our speedy trip there was wasted. Ah well, at least we had some good beer and got to sit in these nicely crafted Adirondack-style chairs made from what appeared to be wine barrels.
As the sun began to set, we packed up the bikes for a final trip into Stowe, Vermont. Dinner was at a last minute and luckily-snagged reservation at Harrison’s in town. My recommendation for Stowe? Eat at Harrison’s if you can. Everything is excellent, and warm food in a cozy basement restaurant and bar just feels so…comforting.
Lodging for the night was at the Stowe Motel, which is not a high-end place, but is a relatively-affordable one. And they had the only room available in town, so ok! We tucked in early and passed right out.
Day 4: Arriving in Albany
Breakfast was a quick stop at our favorite crepe place in Stowe, The Skinny Pancake. Chicken, bacon, and ranch crepe for me. Good start to the day.
The next stop would be Albany. We took the scenic drive south along Route 100, capturing plenty of GoPro footage (coming in a future post). With the leaves changing this ride provides excellent countryside scenery. Red barns, cow fields, and burning foliage.
Our first stop only 6 miles out of Stowe was for apple cider donuts. Pack those away for later, given the enormous breakfast we had had only minutes beforehand. Right before we had turned into the parking lot of the cider donut factory, we spotted a metallic eagle sculpture in a parking area along the road. Turning around briefly, we wanted to snap a few pics with the motorcycles staged in front.
The day was planned around arriving in Albany that afternoon and taking in a few of the historic sights, Schuyler Mansion and the USS Slater ship. Unfortunately our day dwindled faster than we thought it would and we were only able to arrive in town in time for a tour of the Schuyler Mansion. We shot straight to the hotel, unpacked, changed, and grabbed a ride-share over to the Mansion. Another fun wrinkle of this trip was a Luke Bryan concert happening in downtown Albany the same night we were in town. This made getting an Uber or Lyft anywhere…challenging, to say the least without a few swear words thrown in.
After exploring the history of Schuyler Mansion we decided our feet would be more reliable than a ride-share, and wandered over to Son of Egg for a chicken sandwich. This place had been offered as a good dinner option by our next destination, Pint Sized, which was a draft and bottle bar for craft beer. The chicken sandwiches we got here were, um, curious. Pounded flat chicken breast covered in panko crumbs, and topped with a homemade sauce plus cole slaw. Glad I tried it; would try something else next time around.
Pint Sized for draft pours and local craft beer can was excellent. Would definitely go back. Had the vibe of a locals bar, despite us being there on a Saturday night. Perhaps all the tourists were enjoying their cowboy hats while watching Luke Bryan perform.
Dessert was Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and then another ride-share back to the hotel. Long days make for easy sleep.
Day 5: Riding Home
Today’s breakfast was at Iron Gate Cafe, a highly reviewed garden cafe which thankfully had indoor seating because the morning started out cloudy and it was cold out there. The plan was to hit the USS Slater for a tour as they opened at 10am. It was our last day, but we had the time. I’m glad we did as that tour proved to be really interesting.
As we rolled out of the USS Slater parking lot, the sun started to peak out from behind the clouds. Sadly, heading south that day meant we would be following the cloud cover and heading straight back into the remnants of Hurricane Ian. Not a promising day for motorcycle riding, but at least it was our last day and we could arrive home to a hot shower and lots of time to dry out our gear.
On the way back south we would be passing Suarez Family Brewing, which meant we had to stop in for a quick pint. Timing this with lunch meant some respite from the ride.
With a final sigh, we mounted up on the bikes one last time and turned into the cold and dark of the rainy day ahead of us. The first 100 miles or so were cloudy, cool, but no rain slowed us down. The final 50 miles or so brought on small sprinkles of rain, and only when we passed through Flemington, NJ did we finally hit a light mist. Wet roads meant the speeds decreased, and we finally rolled into our own driveway just before sunset. Somehow we had missed the worst of the rain, arriving back home between bands. As we pushed our bikes into the garage to unload the rain picked up.
This was a fantastic long weekend trip. The weather - which looked iffy several weeks out - ended up being sunny and warm until the last 50 miles of the final day. We packed heavy with insulated jackets and rain gear, and yet barely needed any of it. No miserable mornings putting on wet jeans from the day prior! No foggy visor lens in the helmet, or worrying about sliding out on wet leaves or a puddle. The temps were quite cool that one morning in Jackson, but all in all we had the right numbers of layers to stay warm.
The sights and sounds were something else. Seeing the fall colors come into New England from the back of a motorcycle felt magical. Hopping off the motorcycle, getting changed into hiking gear off the back, and then going up and down a mountainside was an invigorating experience given the sense of self-sufficiency one feels living off the back of their bike.
If only each and every motorcycle trip I plan from now on could be as lucky as this one was. 🤞