Summer heat is not my favorite, and it’s been a hot, wet summer for lots of us. Rather than drive a long ways to get out on our bike, we left straight from our yard and chose to return to road biking, which we did a lot of last year in the height of the pandemic. Our goal? The Diamond HIll Reservoir in Cumberland, RI, just a few miles from home, despite our living over the state line in another town. We are back to #avoidingcrowds and learned that road biking, rather than navigating our beloved rail trails, offers some unexpected delights, and provides for much less interaction with others right now.
Road biking feels quite different to us than in the past. We are prepared now. Our reflective triangle perches at the back of our bike. The warning flag helps drivers know they need to give us some space. And our reflective vests provide even more visual cues to drivers that they need to give us some room. All these precautions have really helped us feel more confident as we set out to explore, sharing the road with cars (and trucks).
We reached the Diamond Hill Reservoir in Cumberland, RI uneventfully, and were reminded why we have not visited here more often. The reservoir is rather unwelcoming to visitors. Guard rails and fencing prevent easy access to the water. And the biggest hurdle to visitors–there is no parking anywhere near where the best views of the water are located.
Stopping on the shoulder of Reservoir Road in Cumberland is a much easier proposition when riding a bike, even our tandem bike, with all the equipment we need to keep me safe in warmer weather.
Both sides of the road are offer spectacular views, especially the hills leading to Mercy Woods in Cumberland. (There is no marked trail to the reservoir from Mercy Woods.) We did visit here many years ago in winter. We had got news of a deer carcass on the ice, killed by a pack of coyotes. The remains had drawn eagles to the wide open area, and we visited several times to take in the sight of bald eagles right off shore. I took some photos, but cannot find them now, so we just have to picture in our minds the huge birds settling on the ice of the reservoir, feasting on the unlucky deer that was unable to escape across the ice.
After getting our fill of the water views of the reservoir, we continued on our way and enjoyed taking in the sights of farm fields, and stone walls along both sides of many of the roads we traveled. As we began looping back toward home we stopped to enjoy the stunning slopes filled with fruit trees of the historic Big Apple Farm in Wrentham. Lacking room in our carry bags, we did not stop at the farm store, but will be sure to head back there soon to get, yes, apples, but also other wonderful fruits and vegetables (and cider donuts!) when we are out and about another time.
Just down the road from the Big Apple is the Cistercian monastery, Mount St. Mary’s Abbey, which has substantial farm fields and stone walls to enjoy. We took a quick stop at the chapel, which is open for prayer seven days a week. I have attended their services, a quiet, peaceful experience, for sure.
We remarked often as we pedaled on how much more we were able to take in at the slower pace of biking, rather than the insulated environment our car provides. Familiar roads took on a different character as well as we journeyed on roads we have used many times in the past. And yes, we noticed the determined poison ivy working its way into the roadway at every turn. Our two-hour ride covered twenty miles from Bellingham, MA to Cumberland RI, through Wrentham, then Franklin and back to Bellingham, and we both took a well-deserved rest once we got home. 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. The newest book is 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.