Scoot Commute

Wells State Park, the next day

Let’s see…I’ve had Rice-o-rama on my calendar since the end of last semester. I had so much fun last year; yeah, it helped that we won Best Scooter because who doesn’t love receiving recognition for your ride.

I like to pretend I’m a good planner, but I’m not so good with final follow-through. But in mid-August, I started to look for a campground near to the Rice-o-rama location in North Brookfield, Massachusetts, and I wound up booking two nights at Wells State Park.

We arrived at the park around 7:00 pm on Friday evening. We checked in and the ranger said they would deliver the firewood to our site as we were on bikes (and he was being nice). I protested as I’m used to schlepping wood on the bike, but he insisted.

We get to our spot, #18, which was really, really nice. Lots of trees with a nice view of the lake. A separate section for our tent, hidden in the trees behind a split rail wooden fence. There was a big fireplace and a separate barbeque if we wanted to use charcoal (which I don’t because I like to cook on the open flame). I was very pleasantly surprised by the site. There was no spot across from us and nothing to our left (if looking at the lake) except trees and trees and trees. We could see two spots from our location but both were far enough away that we didn’t feel crowded. It would have been even nicer if the one family didn’t have some odd fear of the dark and have not one, but two, Coleman lanterns burning since before dusk and three tiki torches. Really? Why do you need so much light? And they did bring their two small yappy dogs. I don’t get upset with the dogs for the barking because, well, why wouldn’t dogs bark in the woods with chipmunks everywhere. I get upset with the idiot owners who have long ago ceased hearing their yappy dogs and do nothing to stop the yapping.

We have our site set up in no time because at this point in our travels together, we got it down. He sets up the tent (after conferring on location) and I set up the kitchen and fire area. I also start the blowing up of the sleeping pads and he finishes them off.

I would say we were ready to sit down around 7:20pm. I settled in and waited for the arrival of the firewood. The ranger had said that as soon as they dealt with the few straggler arrivals, they would swing by and drop off the wood. I had readied the sausages and Martins potato rolls for grilling over the soon-to-be-started fire and my one-burner stove for the side dish of noodles.

Because we bring chairs with us when we camp (I’m not going to sit on the ground or a rock for hours…I don’t get those nutjobs who think that’s acceptable when touring in the US or Canada but to each his own), we settled into our comfy chairs and looked over the relaxing,  lapping lake.

It was growing darker. No wood. It became dark. Still no wood. I told him that I would go back up to the ranger station at 8:00pm if they hadn’t dropped the wood off by then. I couldn’t start cooking dinner until I had wood, started the fire, and it settled down enough to cook over.

Fire! Fire! Fire!

Fire! Fire! Fire!

8:00 pm comes and goes. Still no wood. So I pull on my helmet and ride out to the ranger station. “Umm, hi. I’m here to pick up my bundles of wood, ” I said to the different ranger sitting outside the little welcome shack. “Oh, we can deliver it,” he said. “Umm, yeah, but I really need to get my fire going because I can’t cook dinner until I have a fire, so, umm, yeah, I’m used to carrying it on the bike as we’ve done this a bunch of times.” I grabbed two bundles and walked back toward the bike. I slung the two bundles on the back rack and secured them in place with a bungee net. The older ranger brought the third bundle over and I dropped it into one of the Ortlieb sidebags. I thanked the ranger, threw my leg over the seat, and headed back to camp.

As I rode into our site and prepared to swoop around the BMW, the left sidebag which was holding one bundle of wood, knocked into the sidebag on the BMW. I watched the BMW tumble over on its side in slow motion. I will say right here that 1) I was very hungry as I had not had lunch; 2) it was really dark; 3) I have next to no depth perception. I quickly spun the DRZ around the tree, killed the engine, dismounted, and ran over to help pick up the BMW. “It’s ok, really,” he said as he pulled the bike up on its centerstand. “I’m so sorry. I thought I could make it.” Boy, does he know me or what.

I pulled the wood off the bike and brought it over to the fireplace. I arranged a few small rocks in the fireplace, carefully splayed the twigs I had collected earlier, lit one of my fire starters and placed it underneath the twigs. Immediately catch. While I was doing this, he was opening the bundles and arranging them by size. I can’t believe he’s picked up the German gene from me.

I get the fire burning well in about 45 minutes and slap those buns over the fire to crisp ’em up. I realize I’ve forgotten my tongs…the same tongs I got teased about at the CT camp-and-ride but that everyone wound up using. Nothing like burning your hand off to turn sausages.

As the sausages sizzled over the licking flames, I cooked up the noodle thing I had gotten in Canada and we never ate. He wasn’t a fan as it was a sorta white cheese sauce, but since I was starving (again, no lunch), it was fine. I smothered my sausages in wholegrain mustard, but purposely kept one aside for tomorrow’s breakfast of scrambled eggs. Mmmm, mmmm, mmmm.

I kept the fire pretty calm on Friday night as we were tired and I have a mental block using up the wood when it’s not the final night at the campground.

Saturday morning brought us PERFECT weather. But no riding, because, uh, yeah, the freaking clutch cable was broken on the BMW. We asked at the ranger station about any local moto-shops, and the one suggested didn’t carry parts for BMWs (which is why I ride Jap bikes as they had Honda and Suzuki parts, but I digress). After calling a bunch of other places I had thought of, incluidng Wagner in Worcester (what I would do for love, including riding to Worcester!) and getting the same ‘No’ each time, he finally gave up and called Brendan at Razee in North Kingstown.

Of course they had it. And we knew that Brendan was coming to Rice-o-rama on the Sunday. He agreed to bring it up with him and we were to meet him bright and early at the show.

So what to do with Saturday? I sure the hell wasn’t going to ride around on the BACK of my own bike, and the thought of riding him around on the BACK of the DRZ was not appealing to me (have I ever mentioned he’s the WORST passenger…ever?!), so we decided to do what other people do when camping…go for a hike.

We headed onto one trail and as we’re about to enter it, a woman at the campsite immediately adjacent to the trailhead comes over to warn us about “the big hill to climb”. Um, ok, but what else are we supposed to do with the day? Read the Economist?

The trail was beautiful, skirting along the lake. There were downed trees everywhere, courtesy of beaver that had been here not that long ago. I absolutely love beaver, Castor canadensis in Latin. To the point that I made up a crossword puzzle about beaver for my school paper when I was in fourth grade…yeah, I know. You don’t have to remind me. I wore glasses, too. No other people on the trail, big rocks to one side, the lake to the other. Just perfect. The weather was sunny but we were in the woods so the temps were perfect.

At one point the trail became a dual track and all I wanted was to grab the DRZ and ride through these beautiful woods. The only bad thing was the location so close to the Mass Pike because we could hear the traffic. But there was lots of poop on the trails so deer and/or bear had been wandering around.

We decided to head to Carpenters Rocks because it was noted as a “scenic lookout”. The trails were slashed in different colors but none of the maps noted which color went with which trail. We walked and walked and walked for hours. The walking wasn’t strenuous, just long and a bit disconcerting as the lame map we had didn’t seem to correspond to reality.

Carpenters Rocks, Wells State Park, MA

Carpenters Rocks, Wells State Park, MA

Eventually we came upon other people; a family consisting of a mother, father and a sullen 14-ish daughter. We asked them about the Carpenters Rocks as they appeared to know what they were doing; Dad even had a walking pole. He informed us we had missed them so we listened intently to his directions before turning back. Oh, I failed to mention that the family also consisted of not one,

but two, pugs. Now who takes their pugs hiking? We were in the woods…these little pugs would have had to walk a considerable distance no matter which trail they were on to get to where we were. Pugs, really? I felt kinda bad for the little fellahs.

We turned around and did find the path up to Carpenters Rocks. It was worth the hunt. Just a beautiful view. I could see the powerlines down to the left. Nice dual track. Very nice.

We climbed down from the rocks and headed back to the campsite. We bumped into the ranger who was supposed to bring wood the previous night. He was extremely apologetic. I said I’d give him another chance tonight. The woman ranger at the head station said that we should be at the site when he drops it off because it might get stolen. Really? That’s what goes on at Wells State Park? Someone would come into a site with two motorcycles and steal our wood? When she thought about it, she took back her comment.

He actually beat us to the site in his John Deere tractor/trailer rig dropping off my three bundles. We saw him as he headed back to the station and we got him to stop for a chat. Turns out this was his first summer working at the park. He had just completed his masters in environmental studies and philosophy. What a perfect place for him to work. He told us that most of the people working there go on unemployment in the off-season because who else can work 6 or 7 months in the summer at one job and then go to another winter job. We both really liked him; smart guy and I would have invited him back to our spot for some bevvies and conversation later in the evening, but thought that would put all of us in a tight spot.

At this point we had to think about food for dinner; well, I had to think about dinner. I said I would head out to the store to pick up some steaks and baking potatoes and, um, some more beverages. I rode the DRZ around the other side of the lake and onto Route 20 to the Super Stop & Shop. I picked up some New York strip and spuds, but no beer. I asked one of the S&S employees about where to buy a nice bevvie and he gave me directions into Sturbridge to the Yankee Spirits.

As I headed toward Brimfield, I saw the Yankee Spirits. Duh, it’s in front of the Oxhead Tavern. Duh. I had never been in the place. If you’re ever in Sturbridge, Mass and you like alcohol, you have got to stop in this place. It’s massive. Row after row after row of wine. Everyone had shopping carts laden with bottles of wine. If I wasn’t in such a “I don’t want to see, talk to or deal with people” mood, I would have grabbed a bottle or two, but when I’m in a shop in hi-viz, I tend to want to get in and get out. I had a list of beer that would be acceptable to him, and grabbed the first on the list. I continued down the chiller aisle and picked up some more cider. Any place that has Strongbow in cans in the chiller is good because why else would they waste valuable cold space on a weirdy item in the US.

I headed back to the campground taking my time. Everyone rushes about all the time, but I was keeping to the 45 posted speed limit. Two state police were out with their radar guns making sure everyone else was keeping to 45, too. I really wanted to go up the powerlines road as I came into the campground, but I’m a rule follower. And people were walking them as I peeked over. Man, when it gets cold, I may have to head up here.

I got back and it was still earlyish, around 5:00pm, so we sat over looking the lake, me reading my Technology Quarterly in the Economist and him some random Sci-Fi book. It was perfection…and just what I needed at the end of the first week of semester. Oh, and we had our wind-up/solar radio and were able to listen to Prairie Home Companion. I know,  I know, a bit of an NPR geekfest. But that’s who we are!

When I started the fire on this night, I snapped the fire starter in half, as suggested by the boyz at the CT camp-and-ride, and got the fire going with no problems. So now one package of my fire starters can last me 28 fires. Thanks guys for the suggestion.

The steaks were great. The baked potatoes were perfect. Lots of real butter and pepper-laced Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Fat, more fat, and then some fat. Mmmmmm. Perfect-o.

I burned through a lot of wood. At one point I threw in a penny and it went off in a blaze of white. I love fire. We finally retired late into the night.

If you don’t like camping, I think you may be doing it wrong. There’s nothing like the complete darkness save for the blazing fire. Crawling into the tent and snuggling into the sleeping bag. We have two bags that zip together. Yes, they’re bigger than micro-tiny mummy sleeping bags but seriously, even on the old R75/5 and my apparently teeny, tiny DRZ400 (or so I’ve been told by people who think you can’t tour on anything smaller than a 650), we managed to carry everything we need for two people. And I don’t skimp. Well, I skimp in the clothing department, but everything else is about comfort. Zip your bags together!

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