Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Scenic Motorcycle Fall Foliage Ride in Central Massachusetts and Northeast Connecticut

Editor's note: Mid-October is usually the best time to enjoy peak fall foliage in Central Massachusetts. For updates on best leaf peeping times, call the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism at 800.227.6277

Article by Tom K., avid motorcycle enthusiast

Bookmark and ShareThis route starts out in Rutland Mass., takes a scenic route through Charlton, Mass., and down to Pomfret, Conn., for lunch at the Vanilla Bean Cafe.

We then head northwest from the Vanilla Bean through the central Massachusetts towns of Southbridge, Sturbridge and eventually, Ware. From Ware, we head into Hardwick, around the eastern side of the Quabbin, up to Athol, and down the western side into Belchertown, but not without stopping at the Hamilton Orchards in New Salem for warm cider doughnuts, first.

I have taken this route many times and still enjoy the ride!

Start at Colonial Convenience/Mobil gas station at the Intersection of Route 122 (Barre Paxton Rd.) and Pleasantdale Rd. Follow Pleasantdale Road into Spencer where it merges with Route 31. Stay on Route 31, south into Charlton. Follow Route 31 south into Connecticut. Take a right onto RT 197 into Woodstock, Conn. Take a left onto Route 198 south. Follow Route 198 south into Pomfret. The Vanilla Bean is at the intersection of Routes 198 and 44. Enjoy the wide variety of menu items. Be prepared to wait in line on a weekend, but they move fast. Be careful of the gravel parking lot! More than one biker has taken a tumble here in front of everyone (not me, thank God!).

When you are full, head north on Route 169, again into Southbridge. Take a left onto Route 131 north. Follow Route 131 into Sturbridge. Take a left on Route 20 west into Fiskdale. Take a right onto Route 148 north. Follow Route 148 into Brookfield. Take a left onto Route 9 west. Follow Route 9 through West Brookfield toward Ware. Take a right onto Route 32 north toward Gilbertville. Take a left onto Route 32A toward Hardwick. As you head North on Route 32A, the eastern side of the Quabbin Reservoir is on your left. Just after you enter Petersham, if you feel like a walk (need to walk-off lunch so you can have those doughnuts), stop at Gate 40 on the left had side. This is the old road to Dana Commons. Dana was one of the towns that was taken by the State to create the Quabbin Reservoir. Dana Center is approximately 1.8 miles from Gate 40. There is a Granite marker where the town common was once located. There are cellar holes all along the road where old homes used to be. Check them out! Quite a thing to see what once was!

Back to the ride! Continue on Route 32A and take a left onto Route 122 north toward New Salem. You are now on the north side of the Quabbin. Take a left onto Route 202 south toward Belchertown. Keep an eye out for wildlife as you head south. I saw a bobcat cross the road last year! The Quabbin is on your left now and there are a few places to pull off and look at the beauty of the area. As you head south on Route 202, you will see signs about fresh cider, doughnuts, pies, and, of course apples! Stop at Hamilton Orchards on West St. in New Salem. Take a few minutes to enjoy the apples, treats, apple-smoked pork loin sandwiches (if you are hungry again) and, of course, the warm doughnuts! Take a few home with you and don’t forget to say "hi" to the doggies roaming around!

Continue down Route 202 into Belchertown. Take a left onto Route 9 east towards Ware. A few miles down on your left is the entrance to the Quabbin Museum at Windsor Dam. They have a history center that you visit to learn about the making of the Reservoir. Very informative. Continue down Route 9 east and a few more miles up on the left is the Quabbin lookout tower. Take this in and climb the steps and you can see for miles all the way south to Connecticut and north to Athol. Continue on Route 9 west through Ware and into West Brookfield. Take a left onto Route 67 north and follow into North Brookfield. Take a left onto Route 67 and then after the center, take a right onto Route 148 north towards Oakham. Follow Route 148 north to Route 122. Take a right on Route 122 South and follow back to the Colonial Convenience store on your left.

This will be an all-day ride. I usually leave Rutland about 10:00 a.m., stop for lunch at the Vanilla Bean about noon, hit Hamilton’s around 3 p.m., and then back to Rutland by about 5 p.m.. The total miles is probably close to 250, so gas up in Rutland, again in Southbridge, and then again in Belchertown.

Editor's note: We also recommend reading Tom's (and his wife Anne's) excellent article on camping around New England at VisitingnewEngland.com/

If interested in a book on motorcycle travel in New England, check out Motorcycle Journeys Through New England.



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