Although I usually hit the motocross track 2-3 times a week, it had been a few months since my last dual-sport ride and a couple years since my last organized rally. As I closed the rear door of the packed van, I wondered why I was not more excited to be headed out to the Cromag. After all, the weather was stellar and I was going with my favorite ADV trouble-maker, ClassyD. The truth is, I was in a moto-rut. All motocross and no anything-else makes Tod a dull ADVrider. I’m sure my buds at the track can live without me for one weekend.
So With my trusy Tee Dub strapped in-van, I head north for about an hour to pick up D and his CRF-250L for a fun filled weekend of New England dual-sport riding. We got exactly 5 minutes into our trip before we hit a brick-wall of traffic on 84E. A car fire a few miles up the road would put us at a standstill for about an hour. This set us up for a heavy volume of weekend traffic that would make the 3 ½ hour trip about 7 hours as we rolled into Silver Lake campground just before 10pm.
Yes, I just LOVE setting up in the dark. The only thing better is setting up in the dark AND the rain. But it was dry ,and after a brief hissy-fit I set up my tent and got organized. I apologize to the inmate next door with the hammock/tent on the FJR (?) and others who slept nearby for the late-night racket.
We cracked open a bottle of FishEye Cab/Sauv, grabbed 2 plastic cups and headed over to the bonfire. It was then that I realized we were arriving in the middle of the rally. It had been a long day of riding for most and there were only about 20 inmates left awake and chatting around the fire. I met Sallydog and Littledog for the first time. We had a great conversation about moonshine and traveling pups. The coffee flavored stuff was awesome! He was one of two attendees who brought their dogs on their bikes; NOT sidecars.
When we enquired about a trail ride Saturday morning we were told there was just one “Really Gnarly” dirt ride scheduled. Coming from the Cromag crew, I’m thinking “Really Gnarly” probably means “Beyond Our Skill-set”, but we had plenty of options and would figure it out in the morning. It was a very long day and midnight was approaching. Time for bed.
7:30am came very quickly and my head pounded from the cheap red wine. caffeine would be nice right about now. I geared up and we headed over to the General Store. I have to say the General Store next to the Silver Lake campground is an awesome place. They had everything from thick cut Rib-Eye steaks to live bait, and the best tasting home-made chocolate-filled croissant I ever had. For breakfast, I had the aforementioned croissant along with sausage, bacon and horseradish cheddar on an english muffin. I’m drooling as I write this. Impressively, they were also able to accommodate D, who is a vegetarian and also must eat gluten-free foods.
With full-bellies we went back to the campground and D went in search of a GPS file of the dual-sport ride (AKA the Gnarly-Dirt-Ride). A friendly inmate camping close by to us had exactly that! He was on a (please correct me if I’m wrong) KTM 200 EXC-W and had ridden some of the route on Friday, and encountered a riverbed of sick rocks but everybody kept it on two wheels. “We leave from the General Store at 9:30 if you wanna go” he told us. Coincidentally, we would be there.
The ride was led by GuyManBro, who was on a Gas Gas dual-sport woods machine. Shortly before the ride he came over and counted us all up. “Ok we got 13 guys” he said.”Quick rider-meeting…..OK., there are things on this ride that will hurt you if you do the wrong thing...So don’t do the wrong thing and all will be good! Also, your are only responsible for the guy behind you. if there is somebody behind you, stop at the intersection and wait for him. (it was only guys).” “If there is any really technical sections, I will stop and let everybody know what is coming up” That was pretty much it and we were on our way.
My TW-200 looked like a mini-bike next to all of the woodsy-dual sport machines on the ride. Yamaha, KTM, Kawasaki and Honda were well represented in both 2 and 4 stroke models and our leader was on the first Gas Gas dual sport bike I had ever seen.
After only a mile or so of pavement we got on a dirt road and then our first technical area. By technical, I mean technical solely by my own limitations of course. The terrain was pretty much your standard New England stuff; rocks, trees, roots and mud with the emphasis on rocks. Not crazy large pointy rocks (at least that’s not what D and I encountered) but lots of smaller round rocks with a few boulders thrown in the middle for good luck.
What really made it challenging for me was how long and steep the sections.were. I had to keep the Tee Dub pinned in 2nd and preferably 3rd gear in order to keep up the momentum needed to get through the tough stuff.. “ON YOUR LEFT!” I shouted at the pilot of a WR-250R as I overtook his machine. He gave me a double take...I guess you don’t get passed by a TW-200 everyday. You also needed to watch your lines, as a poor choice could easily mean losing your bike or worse. It was not beginner stuff, but no one said it was a beginner dual-sport ride.
I was (a little) worried about D. “I’m waiting for that red 250L” I told the Katoom rider at the next intersection as he rode up next to me.” I wanna make sure he wants to keep going”. “He’s doing fine and right behind me” he said. He was. And I was immediately impressed. As soon as I saw D’s headlight, I got back to the business of trail riding. One obstacle that I loved and was present every 100 yards or so on the steep up-hill sections, was a depression in the trail (like a large pipe was once there) that I could pop over. The fat-tired Yamaha was having some fun!
As I rolled into the next intersection/pee break, I noticed some guys laughing at the 420 machine, and making references to illegal substances. I just want say: Yes, I did inhale….An inmate made my day by asking me “Are you 5chord?” He had seen my racing threads and recognized the blue yamaha from the Hare Scramble post I did here in late June. I guess this is really what the Cromag is about. I only wish that I had gotten to meet more of you.
I rolled up on 4 bikes waiting at the next intersection looking at their GPS and each other. I guess somebody forgot to wait for us. What’s up?” I asked one of the riders. “We’re lost” he said. A couple minutes later the red CRF250L came rolling up “I have the route” D said as he joined us. One of D’s superpowers is his ablity to use a GPS. I am always comfortable knowing D will (eventually) get us out of trouble, even if he was the one who got us in the mess to begin with.
And all was good again as we continued down the dirt road. We met up the rest of the group a couple miles later. Guymanbro reiterated how important it was to wait for the rider behind us, and when somebody brought up the idea of someone riding sweep, D immediately volunteered. “D, we’re not exactly the most technical riders here; who’s going to save our asses if we crash?” “Good point” he said. “No crashing!” Guymanbro told us. And we continued on our merry way with D and I riding sweep. Some of the cruising sections were just stunning….one dirt road that ran alongside rows of corn will be etched in my head forever.
About 11:30 at a pee break, We told the group we were going to peel off in search of some easier terrain. 2 hours of spirited trail riding was taking its toll on us and we didn’t want to slow down the group, or get hurt. So we said goodbye and were sent down the trail the opposite way that group was traveling. It was probably a good thing too, judging by the wide-eyed tales of the next few hairy-rocky sections that were coming up.
At the next break, D plotted a course that would take us through the mountains and over to Rt-100. It would be a wonderful 4 hours of dual-sport riding getting there…..But we never found the easier terrain we were looking for. In fact it got progressively worse. On one hill, D had gotten out of shape and had a harmless get-off. Comically ,his bike, parked itself vertically on an embankment. “First rule! Get a picture!” We joked around and took a few. Then I saw something that shocked me. “You’re not going to believe this….There’s a car coming.” WTF??? As it got a little closer I saw that it was a small Range Rover. I can’t believe I have to move my dirt bike out of the way to make room for a car to get by on this gnarly hill.
“Helloooo!” said the driver of the Range Rover in a British accent. He was a friendly 50ish fellow with a pretty 30 something wife who was snapping pics and waving from the passenger seat. “Do you know where this road goes?” he asked. I was still in shock and shook my head. “We have no idea” “Oh my God! What happened here?” said the pretty blond woman when she noticed.the vertical CRF250L “Oh, just a crash” D told her. “A crash? Are you alright??”....I couldn’t believe we were having this conversation. They were both dressed for the country club. But that didn’t stop the driver from helping us get D’s bike upright and ready to ride.They were both very nice and came up from Manhattan for a weekend in the Green Mountain state.
We said our goodbyes and headed back up the mountain….For about 200 yards where I saw D stopped on his bike looking at his GPS…..And about 25 yards in front of him there was a steep wall of rock, that was way above our ability to ascend. God I hoped he wasn’t going to go for it..BEEEP BEEEP I honked the horn. “TURN AROUND, WE CAN’T MAKE IT UP THAT!” He looked at me like I was crazy. “We have to go that way!” he said. “Turn around now before it’s too late! It will be much harder to get turned around in the middle of THAT” I said pointing at the evil rock faced hill. Then I remembered the Range Rover. “Shit, I gotta warn them!”....I launched the Tee Dub down the hill and caught the Range Rover not much further up from where we left them. They were still smiling and taking pictures until I pointed out where the road was going. Then the color fell from his face. “You gotta turn around...We are” I told them. “Oh!” said the driver…”I think I can turn around just over there!” I took his word for it and headed down the rocky hill the same way we came. This would be the only time we would retreat with our tails between our legs
D had quickly plotted a new route. It was plenty hairy, but with the exception of one mud-hole that turned my bike and I a browner shade, we got through to Rt-100 unscathed. And then I noticed the wobble. It seems at 40mph my front end wobbles slightly. 50mph, nothing, 30, nothing, 40 wobble. Not terribly,but noticeable. It would not get any better or worse on this trip and was mostly unnoticeable off road. Any ideas? Steering head bearings?
We took a much needed break at a general store in Pittsfield and when D asked a woman about a map and nearby trails, she responded by telling us trail riding on MOTORCYCLES is illegal in Pittsfield. All the trails there are designated and maintained for snowmobiles, mountain bikes, hikers and cross-country skiers. We would be intercepted by the snowmobile police for even trying. We went anyway.
BEEP BEEEEEEP…”D, look at the sign, we aren’t supposed to be here” “Where does it say that?” he said. While the snowmobile route sign clearly said NO ATVs, I actually I couldn’t find anything on it that said a plated (or unplated) bike couldn’t use these very well maintained trails. “What about the snowmobile police?” I said. God I’m such a wuss “Maybe she thought we didn’t have plates?” D said. We then continued for several miles on some of the best cruising trails of the day….until we ran into a fence blocking it. NOW the sign said no motorized traffic except snowmobiles. We backtracked and did another section before being turned around by another fence. It was about 4:30, time to head back..
D plotted us a course that would put us at a Cambodian restaurant in Woodstock he wanted to try right about 5:30pm. I was getting hungry and tired. That sounded awesome and we started back. As I followed behind D, I could feel and hear the RPM rising and soon realized my clutch was slipping in 5th gear if I gave too much throttle. My cherished Tee Dub turned 6k miles on this ride and with it a wobble and blown clutch. It still had plenty of bite to get me back to camp….I hoped
I was also hoping that I was just hallucinating and the spots appearing on my goggles weren’t raindrops, but they were. It started light and sporadic and then soaking. Even though D had a spare rain jacket for me, it was too late. The cold rain eventually got to me as I whined (to myself) and rode about 2 mph... D was waiting for me at every corner. We opted to head back to camp rather than eat a nice dinner soaked. We rolled in right about 6pm. 15 minutes later we would see Guymanbro and 3 remaining riders from the morning ride at the general store!
The really amazing thing was there was little or no rain at the campground. All our stuff was dry! The word was heavy rain and thunderstorms tonight and rain all day Sunday. Half the ranks had already fled I was told. We planned to pack up early and head home in the morning, but in the meantime I took a $1.25 (5 quarters) 12 minute shower, grabbed another cheap bottle of wine and headed over to the Bonfire with D
There were quite a bit more people this time, mostly because it was so much earlier. Here I met Dakota, a super cute 4 month old puppy….mmmm love that puppy smell!. She was the other dog arrive at the Cromag via motorcycle. Dan, from the MOV, who was also on the little-bike ride, told us how tough the ride got after we bailed. By the sound of it we got out at the right time. Dan also regaled us with stories of his trips to Thailand and Cambodia; something I’m not sure I have have balls to do. Dan please post that ride report link, I’d love to see those pics! Shortly after, heavy raindrops sporadically start to fall motivating us to say our goodbyes and walk back to camp.
I had already packed up most of my stuff and set up my sleeping pad/bag in bed of the the van in anticipation of the forecasted deluge and took the pop-up and put it over D’s tent to lessen the impact of the soaking rain. And then it rained. I fell asleep to the (surprisingly loud) drumbeat of raindrops on the van roof. It rained hard until 3 or 4am and then stopped, but the return of the tap-tap-tap of rain on the roof at 8am motivated me to get up. We soon had everything packed and headed over to the General Store for one more amazing breakfast sandwich and Danish. A steady stream of Cromagers came and went on their way home and we would be following them shortly.
We got home in a fraction of the time that it took us to get to the Cromag but it was weird to be heading back in the bright sunshine; I think the forecast was a bit off. But my trusty Tee Dub would need some TLC before her next mission (Clutch, steering head) so dual sporting is out for me for awhile. I had an amazing time and want to thank all who were involved with making this happen as well as all the fine people that I met over the day and a half I was there, and last but not least D, who invited me in the first place. Next year I may try it from a different perspective (street) and bring my 1200GS!