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Old 04-24-2014, 01:02 PM   #1
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Goodbye Cruiserface, Hello Happyface: The (old) Long and (new) Short Of It All

We have four riders in the family, 3 of whom are local and active, and between us there should be close to a century of combined time with motorcycles. Most of that time was spent on one slab or another, taking longer rides across country to visit friends and family, going to Sturgis or some event, participating in Rolling Thunder or just seeing the sights. Nothing terribly difficult or eventful about any of this. It was just a matter of getting or making the time, throwing some stuff in a bag on the cruiser, putting on your cruiserface along with some gear and going with no thought to taking pictures or posting on the internet. The ride was everthing - the means and the end, with no thought of sharing the experiences with others. Then somebody said, "I wonder what's down that road?" and things changed

To make a long story very short, said riders quickly rediscovered the forgotten fact that Road/Street Glides, Goldwings and other big cruisers didn't really handle all that well off the slab. Well, rider number one sold his Harley and Goldwing and got something better suited for dual purpose. A year or more later, rider number two got a similar bike that he lent (when at work) to this rider, who started exploring unpaved roads and paths. This rider subsequently sold his Goldwing and joined the other two and we now go exploring. Cruiserface has been replaced by a happyface, gear has replaced leather, regular short rides to interesting places have replaced occasional long trips and the ride has become a very happy means but not the end. The end is seeing, exploring and learning about interesting places to some depth, which will be the stuff of this thread.

We will start off with our first exploration of the season - the supposedly haunted and very historic Hoosac Tunnel. Please feel free to join in with your own pictures and/or experiences.



Above is the west portal. Our objective was to ride to both ends of the historic 4.75 mile long Hoosac Tunnel, built from 1848 to 1877 at a cost of $21 Million and nearly 200 lives. It was (and still is) called "the bloody pit" and "abode of the damned" and is said to be haunted, with ghosts hanging out at the "Hoosac Hilton" (i.e., an area where a large portion of the tunnel collapsed and killed a number of workers).

Both ends of the tunnel are the private property of Pan Am Railways and you are warned to stay off. The west portal, located in North Adams, MA, is the trickiest to get to. There is a dirt path turnoff 8A in North Adams that is 1/4 mile north of West Shaft Rd. That dirt road is on the east side of 8A at coordinates 42.677823, -73.097230, which is just before a house.

A little ways in is a gate, beyond which is a dirt road/path that leads to the tracks. You have to ride down the tracks for a bit to get to the tunnel entrance. When we rode in, the ground was wet, muddy and slippery in spots not covered by loose gravel. Below is a picture looking back at the way in.



There was a good amount of water flowing out of the tunnel, which was dug at a slight incline down from the center for drainage purposes. As a result most of the ground leading up to the entrance was soft and spongy. You can see how the ties have sunk into the somewhat soft ground.



As much as the younger one (shown below) wanted to ride in, lack of train schedules, being on borrowed time (before RR folks happend by) and common sense ruled the day. Aside from being unlawful and (according to those who've tried it) dangerous, there is that issue of quickly turning around in a dark, wet, tight mud/gravel area when facing an oncoming train.



The east end/portal of the tunnel is in Florida, MA at coordinates
42.675212, -72.998020 and is easily reached by a very scenic ride down Whitcomb Hill Road off Rt 2 (Mohawk Trail) down to River Road. We first rode this last year, where we encountered this bridge that led to where the water-powered compressor (for driving the air drills) building once stood.



It is very short and easy to ride up to the east portal, provided no RR personnel are around. On two previous occasions, we have found them in trucks parked nearby.



As previously mentioned, there was a large, water-powered compressor building just past this end of the tunnel that powered the drilling equipment. No longer there, it looked like this:



The location of the compressor building would have been right beside where this bridge now crosses the Deerfield River.



The bridge presents a terrific opportunity to ride out onto it and get a great picture for the "show us your bike @ the bridge" thread. We were about to do just that but thought we'd wait for the trees to leaf out.




For more detailed information check out Hoosac Tunnel or any of the Google sources thereon. More to follow, including the mysterious, bloody tower.
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popscycle screwed with this post 06-17-2014 at 02:27 PM
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Old 04-24-2014, 03:11 PM   #2
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Hey! I grew up less than 4 miles from there . The tunnel was the terminus of some great boyhood adventures. I remember the ghost stories. Thanks for posting this. Did you stop by the freight yard pub down the road? The overpass you went over to get to route 2 my brother and I would throw chuncks of snow off of onto the trains below as they passed by. Route 2, 9, 8A and 116 are all great roads to ride. Well done more please.
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Old 04-24-2014, 04:21 PM   #3
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Hey! I grew up less than 4 miles from there . The tunnel was the terminus of some great boyhood adventures. I remember the ghost stories. Thanks for posting this. Did you stop by the freight yard pub down the road? The overpass you went over to get to route 2 my brother and I would throw chuncks of snow off of onto the trains below as they passed by. Route 2, 9, 8A and 116 are all great roads to ride. Well done more please.
We didn't have time for any pub stops but the locals are into the stories with tails of ghostly shapes and mournful moans coming from inside the tunnel. From the Hoosac Tunnel site:
On October 17, 1868, the worst disaster in the tunnel's history occurred. Thirteen miners died in a gas explosion that blew apart a surface pumping station. Debris filled the central shaft where the miners were working.
Glenn Drohan, a correspondent for The North Adams Transcript, reported that a miner named Mallory was lowered by bucket and rope to search for survivors. Brought back to the surface, and almost unconscious from fumes, he gasped. "No hope."
Without an operating pumping station, the 538-foot shaft soon filled with water. Bodies of some of the dead miners surfaced. More than a year later the remaining bodies were found on a raft the men had built to float on the rising water. They had suffocated from the vapors of deadly naphtha gas.
Drohan wrote. "During the time the miners were missing, villagers told strange tales of vague shapes and muffled wails near the water-filled pit. Workmen claimed to see the lost miners carrying picks and shovels through a shroud of mist and snow at [the] mountaintop.
“The ghostly apparitions would appear briefly, then vanish, leaving no footprints in the snow, giving no answers to the miners' calls.
"But, as soon as the raft-bound miners were found, and given a ‘decent’ burial, the visitations ceased."
Below is a period drawing made of Mallory being lowered into the central shaft, which was as deep as the Empire State building is tall.




BTW, we came across 116 to get to 8/8A - great road, especially between Greenfield and Ashfield. Next time out that we we're going after the Central Shaft and the Bear Swamp powerhouse tunnel, if we can find some way to get in. Also ahead is the insane asylum bloody towers.
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Old 04-24-2014, 07:02 PM   #4
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Rail yards, abandoned mills, covered bridges, air strips, old diners and the like have an indescribable way of purging my mind of clutter. I believe, naïvely perhaps, that they symbolize so many things that are great about this country and the people I meet in and around these places. It’s cathartic to see and experience them. Getting “off the slab” (to quote Popscycle) is the best move this rider’s (rider number two) made.

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Old 04-25-2014, 06:19 AM   #5
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I've considered getting an adventure style bike but I'm not ready yet. I really enjoy exploring north america by pavement. I can easily see me making the same change as you fellas did, in a few years. I'll be following your storys to see how you enjoy the change in bike styles.

Unforntunately, I can't do too many long rides yet as the weather is really not great here, (+1 C this morning)
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Old 04-25-2014, 07:15 AM   #6
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I've considered getting an adventure style bike but I'm not ready yet. I really enjoy exploring north america by pavement. I can easily see me making the same change as you fellas did, in a few years. I'll be following your storys to see how you enjoy the change in bike styles.

Unfortunately, I can't do too many long rides yet as the weather is really not great here, (+1 C this morning)
The thing the three of us have discovered that we can ride the adventure bikes as far and as long as the road sofas and have more fun in the process. What road sofas give you is passenger comfort and laid-back lounge riding but you sacrifice speed, handling and versatility in the process. For us, increased handling equates to increased comfort. Since none of the wives ride any longer, our choice of bikes was, to us, a no-brainer. I have already put near 10K miles on two of the three GSs but it took some time to get used to them (over a thousand miles) after 55+ years on cruisers. What I am still getting used to is riding an expensive bike in gravel, muck and less-than-stellar unpaved roads/paths like this one.



We hope your weather clears soon so you can get out and go and find many things to enjoy on the road. It is quite possible you may discover what we have learned - that what's off road can be as much or more interesting as what's on the road.
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Old 04-25-2014, 09:23 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by popscycle View Post
The thing the three of us have discovered that we can ride the adventure bikes as far and as long as the road sofas and have more fun in the process. What road sofas give you is passenger comfort and laid-back lounge riding but you sacrifice speed, handling and versatility in the process. For us, increased handling equates to increased comfort. Since none of the wives ride any longer, our choice of bikes was, to us, a no-brainer. I have already put near 10K miles on two of the three GSs but it took some time to get used to them (over a thousand miles) after 55+ years on cruisers. What I am still getting used to is riding an expensive bike in gravel, muck and less-than-stellar unpaved roads/paths like this one.
We hope your weather clears soon so you can get out and go and find many things to enjoy on the road. It is quite possible you may discover what we have learned - that what's off road can be as much or more interesting as what's on the road.
I ride a Honda ST1300 so I have OK handling and comfort, some take them "offroad" but I won't. I spent quite a big part of my life driving offroad and realize the fun out there. I really want to ride the road now, there is so much to explore. The pity is that I'm 55 and will really only be able to ride, the way I do now, for so many yrs. Offroad is even more demanding. I'm sure I'll get there eventually but it's gonna take a while...so many neat roads and towns

You're right about where people are taking the GS, V strom, KLR type of machines. It seems like some of those machine only see dirt roads, others only paved, and many that travel the world on all types of surfaces. They are very versitile and must be a blast to explore with.

Since the end of Mar I ridden around 2500 miles but would've doubled that with good weather. Hopefully the warm patchs start to stay longer

Be safe and keep telling us your stories.
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Old 04-25-2014, 09:54 AM   #8
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I ride a Honda ST1300 so I have OK handling and comfort, some take them "offroad" but I won't. I spent quite a big part of my life driving offroad and realize the fun out there. I really want to ride the road now, there is so much to explore. The pity is that I'm 55 and will really only be able to ride, the way I do now, for so many yrs. Offroad is even more demanding. I'm sure I'll get there eventually but it's gonna take a while...so many neat roads and towns

You're right about where people are taking the GS, V strom, KLR type of machines. It seems like some of those machine only see dirt roads, others only paved, and many that travel the world on all types of surfaces. They are very versitile and must be a blast to explore with.

Since the end of Mar I ridden around 2500 miles but would've doubled that with good weather. Hopefully the warm patchs start to stay longer

Be safe and keep telling us your stories.
The ST1300 is a great ride and we hope it will see many thousands of happy miles of roads traveled this year and that you will let us know of any pics you post along the way.
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Old 04-25-2014, 04:46 PM   #9
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I spent most of last Sunday working and was in the office when I got a text message from rider number two that contained only picture of a tower. It was a tease to get me out. Several days later I rode to the location and found this mystery - a tower that sits in the graveyard of what was once a state hospital/asylum.



The mystery is that nobody seems to know for sure why it was built and what it was for; however, there are some clues. Shown in more detail below, the tower can be seen at coordinates 42.251750, -71.685250 on cemetary grounds of a former mental hospital in Grafton, MA. The tower and cemetary is just over the border in Shrewsbury, MA.



There are quite a number of different opinions on the tower's purpose; however, town officials insist it was a water tower. But then, who builds towers in cemeteries? Well, the Irish for one and the structures are known as Irish Round Towers. Less well known is the purpose of these medieval structures; however, current thought is that they were bell towers. Less medieval is the Irish Round Tower in a Milford, MA. It is interesting to note that a similar tower exists on asylum grounds in Brattleboro, VT. Shown below in a picture taken from the internet, the Brattleboro tower was supposedly built as make-work therapy for the inmates at that institution but was used by patients as a place to commit suicide. That tower is located atop the bluff at the end of the "Tower Climb" trail at coordinates 42.857580, -72.565990. Some believe the Grafton tower was also used to commit suicide.

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Old 04-25-2014, 08:03 PM   #10
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Hey, I am enjoying your transition from cruisers. I am interested in how it progresses , so I hope you keep posting rides. I had a similar transition, but it was from sportbikes. The truth is that waaay back I raced MX for quite awhile so I liked dirt. Those old mx images have clung to my brain for decades. Certain starts, and certain turns at various tracks in NorCal where I grew up.

After a long layoff I started riding Ducatis. I sort of had to learn how to ride on the street and it took a couple years to really get comfortable. Then I found this website and read a few RR's. Dang!!!!!

I was going to buy a big BMW GS and actually went to buy one. But on the way I stopped at another dealer to look at a KTM 950 Adventure. I was smitten. Sitting on it felt like my old 1980YZ and I was done. Life changed for me with that motorcycle. I rode it all over the continent and experienced some of the great dirt roads on the planet. Roads the went for hundreds of miles through spectacular landscapes. Since then I have had to downsize to much smaller motorcycles. I am solo a lot and in remote places. So I have to be able to pick my bikes up in the mud or rock garden. I miss that big ole' 950, though.

Two weeks ago I tackled part of a route called the AZBCDR. I bought the tracks from Butler maps. The route went from the Mexican border to Utah on mostly dirt. I went solo aboard a 250 dual sport. One 35 mile section took me 3.5 hours! It was such a struggle... Of course after I felt

Welcome to Adventure dual sport. You'll have the time of your life and see remarkable landscapes.
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Old 04-26-2014, 03:33 AM   #11
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I' was looking at a Triumph Tiger just yesterday, but not sure I'm ready to give my Harley up, I do love looking at this site, looks like a close knit group.
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Old 04-26-2014, 03:36 AM   #12
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Hey, I am enjoying your transition from cruisers. I am interested in how it progresses , so I hope you keep posting rides. I had a similar transition, but it was from sportbikes. The truth is that waaay back I raced MX for quite awhile so I liked dirt. Those old mx images have clung to my brain for decades. Certain starts, and certain turns at various tracks in NorCal where I grew up.

After a long layoff I started riding Ducatis. I sort of had to learn how to ride on the street and it took a couple years to really get comfortable. Then I found this website and read a few RR's. Dang!!!!!

I was going to buy a big BMW GS and actually went to buy one. But on the way I stopped at another dealer to look at a KTM 950 Adventure. I was smitten. Sitting on it felt like my old 1980YZ and I was done. Life changed for me with that motorcycle. I rode it all over the continent and experienced some of the great dirt roads on the planet. Roads the went for hundreds of miles through spectacular landscapes. Since then I have had to downsize to much smaller motorcycles. I am solo a lot and in remote places. So I have to be able to pick my bikes up in the mud or rock garden. I miss that big ole' 950, though.

Two weeks ago I tackled part of a route called the AZBCDR. I bought the tracks from Butler maps. The route went from the Mexican border to Utah on mostly dirt. I went solo aboard a 250 dual sport. One 35 mile section took me 3.5 hours! It was such a struggle... Of course after I felt

Welcome to Adventure dual sport. You'll have the time of your life and see remarkable landscapes.
The transition has been an interesting one thus far. I started talking about it on another forum some time ago by suggesting changes/improvements that could be made to certain models (e.g., lighter weight, removable luggage, better suspension, improved electronics, etc.). You would not believe the dogpiling and hate mail I received for doing such a thing. To say that some folks can get really dissonant and uptight about their rides would be an understatement.

Another interest aspect has been the extent to which you start noticing things when moving from a riding mode to an explore mode. For example, I have passed this building hundreds of times heading out on leisurely rides to NY, VT or NH but only really took notice of its history recently. The firm below was started just after the Revolutionary War and are still in business (but in a different state now). Who'd have thought it would take a different bike for someone in a historical area to pay more attention to unique historical things and places.



And, as your post suggested, having a bike that weighs half of what your old bike did (1,000+ to 500+ in my case) makes going off road much more enjoyable. To the extent we can get permission to do so, exploring around old mills has become a favorite pastime and getting around this one would have been unpleasant, if not impossible, on the old road sofa.

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popscycle screwed with this post 04-26-2014 at 03:41 AM
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Old 04-26-2014, 04:23 AM   #13
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I' was looking at a Triumph Tiger just yesterday, but not sure I'm ready to give my Harley up, I do love looking at this site, looks like a close knit group.
The best of all worlds would be if you could get an exploration bike and keep your Harley. That's what rider number two here did. I couldn't afford to keep the old cruiser and really didn't want to. Regardless, if you're out and about, take pictures and join in. Most are good folks here who enjoy what others ride and see.



Two good guys! Good guy number one (Rob) had just finished doing some farkle work good guy number two (Kev) had done because he was too busy with work and exploring to do it himself. Right now work obligations and responsibilities are our biggest impediments to more riding but they are necessary to pay for it all. Here's what it looked like last spring.



Riding then was very good. Riding now is simply great. That cafe above, BTW, is Rose32 and a great place to stop for breakfast or lunch (no affiliation). If you do, say hi to owners Cindy and/or Glenn (a rider). Their baked goods come out of a wood-fired oven and are about as good as it gets.

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Old 04-26-2014, 04:40 AM   #14
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Good stuff! Grew up in New England and still have family in the Dalton area. Enjoyed many years of riding in your neighborhood to include many Enduros, MX and even as a worker for the ISDT. There is so much great riding and exploring of that region, thanks for sharing.

Cheers
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Old 04-26-2014, 04:40 AM   #15
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My Street Glide doesn't handle so well on roads like this (and it's amazing how many of them there really are). And, there's almost always something worth seeing at the end of them. Dual sport is the way to go. Why limit yourself to half the fun and adventure when you can have it all?
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