It was back to road-tripping for us, on an overcast, somewhat cooler week day, to enjoy time on our adaptive tandem bike. We have been putting into practice some of the tips to avoid crowds that we share in our upcoming book, Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. 1. Get out on weekdays when you can, rather than weekends; 2. Leave early in the morning; 3. Head out on overcast, rather than bright sunny days.
We hoped the overcast weekday would mean fewer people out and about on a local railtrail, but by the time we got there, many others were already parked, and on the trail. We decided to use our Plan B. In the past we have exclusively ridden our adaptive tandem on railtrails, to avoid inattentive drivers who seem to spend more time looking at their cell phones than driving, but these days our priorities have shifted, and inattentive rail trail visitors neglecting to wear masks has become a bigger issue for us. Rather than trying to fight this battle on our own, we chose to head a little farther afield, to explore quite country roads near the quiet corner of Connecticut, to the Foster-Glocester area of Rhode Island.
We found parking right of Rt. 44 near the Pulaski Recreation area in Glocester, RI. We had hoped to ride on packed dirt paths throughout this recreation area, but what we were able to see from the trailheads, and being unfamiliar with the trails, we decided road biking was our best bet.
Durfree Hill Road off Rt. 44 offered access to some quiet roads, and roads connected from there allowed us to follow a loop around the Ponaganset Reservoir. We encountered very few cars on our travels, and those who passed us were incredibly careful to offer us room as they passed.
I have always loved the stone walls of New England, and enjoy spotting roads with wall remnants on either side of the roads we travel. From the back of a bike, it is even easier to spot these older roads. Seeing walls on both sides of the road tells me that we are following in the footsteps of many who lived here years ago. Sections of wall are typically missing–the walls have often been removed by people looking for available building materials, and walls stacked up by the side of the road are easy targets for those interested in only the easiest way to do something.
The walls are also often overgrown by shrubs, vines, and poison ivy, making capturing photos difficult as these stacks of rock track along each side of the road. We spotted one farm track off the road we rode on that had walls along both side of the path, so I grabbed a picture to show what I mean when trying to describe walls lining both sides of a path.
We came across a number of farms in the area, substantial gardens, and orchards as well. Several of the roads we took turned into well-packed dirt roads, before turning back into pavement.
As some dogs ran toward us from the yard we pedaled by, we were reminded of another challenge that faces those riding bikes on roads. We have rarely if ever had dogs chase us when riding on rail trails. Road biking is a whole other experience, and it is important to be prepared. Rather than continuing pedaling, we got off and walked our bike, keeping the bike between us and the dogs. They turned out to either have an electric fence, or else actually not very interested in chasing us, since they stopped at the edge of their yard.
We studied our map and decided to take a small detour along Elbow Rock Road to get back to where we parked, and while part of the road was delightful, we eventually encountered a section that was completely washed out.
The detour was not a complete bust, since we came across some high bush blueberries waiting to be picked, and spotted some not quite ripe blackberries as well. But as the road continued to offer either loose sand, rocks, large puddles, or bedrock that required walking the bike over, around or through, we made the decision to turn around and head back.
We traveled in all about twenty-two miles on our outing, and were grateful to get outdoors to explore. Hope you are keeping cool. Please take care, and happy trails!
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a personal historian who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, More Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, and editor of Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed. Just out is her latest book, Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are.
She has been a freelance writer for numerous local, regional, and national publications for the past 20+ years, has helped numerous families to save their stories, and has recorded multiple veterans oral histories, now housed at the Library of Congress.