October 21, 2020

Hill Country: Getting Back In The Saddle

CHESTER, VT – I haven’t ridden any of my motorcycles much in the past couple of years. Maybe two or three thousand miles. The downside is that being a competent motorcyclist requires that you keep your skills sharp. The only way you can do that is by riding a motorcycle. So I’ve got some catching up to do.

My friend (and RIDE-CT & RIDE-NewEngland contributor) Paul Siciliano rattled my cage last week wanting to know if I’d meet for breakfast and do a ride. Sure, I said. Let’s meet in Townshend at the Dam Diner on Route 30. 

Sunday dawned with way less humidity and started bright and sunny. Some clouds rolled in, but it was a comfortable riding day.  

I pulled up to the Dam Diner on my Harley-Davidson Sportster and there was Paul on his BMW K-Bike – just laughing away at the empty parking lot. Well, I had heard some rumblings, and I didn’t know the diner’s true status at this time. Let’s just say that it is in a state of flux and is temporarily closed. We all hope they are back soon. 

We proceeded to Jamaica on our way to Bob’s Diner in Manchester on Route 11. I’m leading and this makes me a little nervous. Paul is a hard-core motorcyclist. He is a Motorcycle Safety Foundation-certified riding instructor. I’m probably not being evaluated, but maybe I am. I don’t know.

Arlo Mudgett

This is the first time we have ridden together. Suddenly, a great big freakin’ test rears it’s hideously ugly, dirt-spattered head. It’s a construction zone on Route 30. The tar is gone. The road has been dug right down to the original road bed that most likely accommodated Concord coaches pulled by spirited horses. 

Hell, I’ve ridden plenty of dirt and construction sites in my 50-plus years of motorcycling. Do you think I slowed one bit for that nonsense? Not on your life. I kept the pace, kicking up rocks, squirreling between lanes of packed dirt and mud to avoid dumping the bike. I could see Paul was having no trouble with it. This went on until we reached Route 11 in Peru.

Paul Siciliano, left, and Arlo Mudgett

Breakfast at Bob’s was excellent as always. We cruised sedately through malfunction junction down Historic (or Hysteric) Route 7 with me pointing out the road to Hildene. I’ve been priming Paul for a visit to Robert Todd Lincoln’s famed summer home, knowing he and wife Emily will fall in love with the place. 

I then overshot the road up Mt. Equinox. We pulled a U-turn and went in the welcome center and paid the entrance fee. I haven’t been up Equinox in decades and Paul seems to think 2005 was his last ascent. We rode up to the first pull-off and he took some photos.

As we continued on, the sky looked turbulent. We got hit by the occasional fat raindrop. It cooled off about six to 10 degrees for every one thousand feet that we ascended. At the next pull-off we ran into a couple of Paul’s friends. Frank was on a gorgeous BMW R-bike and Mike had a beautiful Honda ST touring bike. We enjoyed a nice visit, met up with them again at the summit, then headed back down the mountain with me in the lead.

Coming out of a turn, I failed to look through the turn like my training says I should. I arced across the lane and ended up barely off the edge of the pavement, perilously close to the wire guard rail. My dirt bike riding skills kicked in and I eased it out of there back on to the pavement. At the bottom, Paul leaned over and reminded me that I didn’t look through the corner. I agreed. Rookie mistake. 

We then headed north to Wallingford. I love that winding road that runs over to Mt. Holly, up and over to Weston. I tackled it with total abandon. At a rest stop in Weston, Paul said my body language was reading “pure joy” and he was so right. It turned out to be a great ride and a great day. Thank you, Paul, for dragging me out and getting me back into one of the great joys in my life. I needed a day like that!  

About Arlo Mudgett

“Arlo Mudgett” is the pseudonym used by a Chester, VT resident for the columns he writes in the “Brattleboro Reformer” and “Springfield Reporter” and for daily reports on WKVT and WKVT-FM in Brattleboro, VT. He owns a ’93 Honda Nighthawk 750 project bike, a 2010 Triumph Bonneville, a 2006 Harley Sportster 1200 and a 2014 Honda CRF 250 dual sport. He is a graduate of Boston’s Northeast Broadcasting School. He also attended Dartmouth College.