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Oct 5, 2001

New England Fall Colors

October 5-13, 2001

Here’s a map of our trip (click on it to see it larger). The driving routes are shown in black. The three days that we rode are in blue and green. We rode a total of 168 miles on Sweathard, our tandem. Read about the science behind WHY leaves change color.

Oct 5, 2001

Why do fall colors change?

Borrowed from

fall leafIn the midst of summer’s sizzling heat, bright sunshine and rumbling thunderstorms, the beginning forces of fall foliage are underway. “A lot of the influences on fall color will take place or not take place in the next six weeks,” explained Stan Krugman, a life-long forester who provides the U.S. Forest Service with its annual fall foliage forecast.

Forecasting fall foliage

“I follow the weather around the country. I look at the [national] weather forecasts on television. I try to follow it to get an idea of what’s happening,” he explained.

Then, he applies the season’s weather events to a couple of biological processes that kick in at about the time autumn gets underway.

The science fall leaf

By the time summer begins, most deciduous trees are covered in green leaves. That green color masks other colors, usually shades of yellow.

“As we get into shorter days and longer nights, a number of hormonal things take place in the leaves,” said Krugman.

A layer forms between the leaf and its stem, choking the movement of nutrients and moisture to the leaves. This makes the leaves’ green color fade, exposing the yellow underneath, explained Krugman.

So, that explains some of the yellows that radiate from tree limbs in the fall, but what about the rest of the gem tones?

The second hormonal change brings out those hues, when sugars used by the trees actually create new colors in the leaves.

“They’re not there in the leaf [when it forms], and they’re usually generated in the fall. They are the reds, blues and the purples. The longer the leaves stay healthy, the longer the [sugar] conversion takes,” said Krugman. And, that translates into a longer, more brilliant season of fall foliage.

Meteorology meets biology

It’s those showers, hot days and dry spells during the summer that dictate how long a leaf will hang on to its green, yellow or gem tones in the fall.

“Some years the color can be absolutely fantastic. If there’s a normal winter with adequate moisture, adequate sugar, no severe drought during the summer and a normal wet fall, you get brilliant color. Part of it is that the leaves stay on the trees longer,” explained Krugman.

On the other hand, “severe drought in the summer — if it’s not alleviated by rain in the early fall, you can expect really quite poor color display,” he warned.

He said that’s because the leaves die before they get a chance to display a great deal of color.

Oct 6, 2001

The Weekend: October 6-7

Weldocme to Rhode IslandWe began our journey by sending our bike to Rhode Island on Amtrak. We followed, via Delta, about a week later. S2 and Cycle were reunited at Sheila’s brother’s (Ric) home in Newport, RI where we spent two days before beginning our fall odyssey.

During that time we visited Sheila’s cousin, aunt, and uncle. We also took a short, 18-mile shakedown cruise on the newly reassembled Sweathard. We rode the Ocean Drive in Newport, seeing such sights as the fire truck on top of the Brick Alley Pub, the Marble House, one of Newport’s grand mansions and of course the beautiful ocean views and traditional kites flying every weekend.

Oct 8, 2001

Monday October 8 -38 miles

Hairpin turn where we had our flat

On Monday, we tossed the bike in the back of Ric’s truck, strapped on the pop-up camper, and drove to Greenfield, Massachusetts, in the northwest part of the state. Sheila and I got out, mounted Sweathard, and pedaled west on Highway 2.

Our first stop was in the little town of Shelburne Falls. The Bridge of Flowers there was heralded on many maps and road signs. It was beautiful. We had to ride past the firemen collecting money for a new truck as a sort of “toll” for crossing the regular bridge. Below both bridges was the actual falls. A diversion dam allowed us to see glacial potholes adjacent to the actual falls.

Then it was back on the road along the Deerfield River. We passed a delightful scarecrow along the way to the Berkshire Mountains. Then we started climbing.

And climbing.

And climbing some more.

It never seemed to end. We finished a 2 mile incline, congratulated ourselves on our stamina in the 40 degree weather, then turned a corner to climb again. We eventually reached the Eastern Summit. Hooray! But wait. “Eastern” implies “Western”. Sure enough. We climbed some more. We arrived at another summit, but it wasn’t the Western one. A short downhill resulted in yet more climbing. I think the people who plotted these roads were masochists.

Just past the Western Summit we stopped to take pictures. When we re-mounted, our rear tire was flat. We were flat. We had had enough. We limped down to our first campsite in North Adams. Ric had already set up the camper and we were ecstatic to be able to rest in the warmth it provided.

Oct 9, 2001

Tuesday, October 9 – 50.5 miles

View from Hogback summit

On Tuesday we took off by 10:30 to head north to Vermont. We stopped at the Natural Bridge, a marble rock formation spanning a 30′ deep chasm carved by a creek. It was beautiful, though not as expansive as arches in Utah. We continued north, passing stone walls and very little else except fabulous fall foliage.

The road was again uphill most of the time. At times it was steeply uphill. Cresting one rise we saw a cemetery framed by a wind farm. We eventually arrived at Vermont 9 and turned east. We caught a good long downhill (HUZZAH!) which ended at a lake in Wilmington. The road then narrowed and started climbing to Hogback Mountain Pass, 3,600 feet. We hadn’t expected that. But by now we were anticipating continuous up, so we were better able to handle it. The good part was the 12 mile downhill to Brattleboro.

There we used the local library to send a message to Spencer’s class, visited with a bike store owner, then found Ric and our camper. He’d had some problems with the water system and when we rode up, the entire thing was drying out after a severe flood. Fortunately, no real damage was done and our sleeping bags were the only things which had gotten wet. We tossed them in the dryer at the campground, went out for Indian cuisine, then retired for the night.

Oct 10, 2001

Wednesday, October 10

We had decided to bag our plans to drive to, then ride our bike across the Kancamagus highway in New Hampshire, it being too far a drive for too long a ride. Instead, we drove to Holderness, NH and camped at Squam Lake, the site of “On Golden Pond”. After setting up camp, we continued driving north to see Franconia Notch and the Old Man of the Mountain.

The Old Man adorns just about everything New Hampsire makes. It makes the background of their highway signs and adorns their license plates. Earlier in the day we’d been discussing if the profile was a former president when we happened on a NH Highway information booth. We inquired about the image, to which the attendant replied, “The Great Stone Face, Nathaniel Hawthorne.”

I turned to Sheila and said, “Oh, it’s not Jefferson. It’s Nathaniel Hawthorne!”

I was subdued by a glare worthy of a polar icecap eminating from the highwayman. “Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote “The Great Stone Face”. Didn’t you read it when you were growing up?”

I hadn’t. Sheila hadn’t. Nor had Ric. Now he further enlightened us by telling us the New Hampshire-ites called the formation the Old Man of the Mountain. We began looking forward to seeing this remarkable stone formation.

When we arrived at the notch, we had to walk a mile to Profile Lake in order to view the Old Man. Full of anticipation, we strolled the path. We looked up and there we saw a tiny rock form at the top of a hill. The Old Man. Not really much to look at. Of course, it was 40′ tall, it was just far away.

Afterwards, we drove to The Flume. It is a natural gorge, 30-40′ deep and 10′ wide. The soft volcanic dike between the granite walls had worn away. At the head of the gorge was Rainbow Falls and a bear cave. The walking path also took us past a pair of covered bridges.

We returned to our campground and fell to bed.

Oct 11, 2001

Thursday, October 11 – 62.6 miles

Thursday morning found us ready to ride again. We had decided to do a 60 mile loop while Ric drove to Mt. Washington for the day.

Our trip took us around Squam Lake, site of the filming of “On Golden Pond”. It was, surprise! very hilly. When we dropped down into Center Sandwich, we hit 49.7 mph. We stopped to see a general store and were almost immediately accosted by another couple on a tandem. Donna and Carl were out for a short loop through the colors. We shared a pie with them then continued toward Wonalancet, which was billed as a picturesque New England town.

On the way we stopped at Durgin Bridge, got momentarily lost after climbing a huge hill. Then we backtracked across the bridge and found our way toward Wonalancet. After endless hills we saw the 35 mph speed limit sign. We figured we were close to town. More hills led us nowhere. We finally stopped at the first house we’d seen in miles. “Are we near a town?” Sheila asked.

“Nope,” was the answer.

“We’re out of water and hoped to refill in Wonalancet,” she continued.

“Oh. Well, you’re IN Wonalancet. There’s nothing here! But come in and fill up your bottles and use the bathroom,” the gentleman replied.

Turns out he was a cyclist too. And that there really wasn’t much to Wonalancet. All it turned out to be was a small church at the edge of a field. What a disappointment.

The rest of the day we cruised through the 75 degree weather finding more hills than we thought existed. After 62.6 long miles, we were back at camp and ready for a shower.

Oct 12, 2001

Friday, October 12

We broke camp Friday and drove the Kancamagus Highway. Stopped at Sabbaday Falls, which was reminiscent of the Flume, and Rocky Gorge. Then we high-tailed it for home. Took a short detour through Maine just to say we’d been there. We arrived in Newport around 7:30.

Our trip came to its end the next day as we packed up the bike, took it to Amtrak, and boarded our plane to Seattle. On the last leg from Cincinnati to Seattle, we each had the luxury of an entire section of seats to ourselves. There couldn’t have been more than 30 people on the plane. And that was our journey to New England.