After we said goodbye to the Atlantic Ocean and were officially headed home, we realized we were only one days ride from Hob and Deb, whom we had met serendipitously a few weeks earlier in Virginia. We called them up, and despite the short notice, they insisted we come stay at their place (even though they had just returned from their own tour a few days prior). Hob had warned us that central Connecticut was hilly, and of course he was right – after 30 years of bike touring, he knew his state pretty well. We arrived exhausted as we hadn’t really battled many hills since leaving Panama a few weeks earlier. Hob gave us a tour of his wonderful 200+ year-old house and property that he and Deb have worked on tirelessly for years to restore to the beauty that it is now. Deb prepared a wonderful meal and the kids fell asleep easily when bedtime rolled around.
After the sun set, we talked for hours with Hob and Deb. Despite our differences in age, it felt like we were old friends – we had a common level of understanding of kindness and generosity in the world, of risk taking and adventure, of stupidity and mishaps that lead to learning in a whole new way. There are things you can share with a fellow bike tourist that they understand only too well! We learned more about their 100,000 miles of bicycle touring – what started it all, and how the cycling actually took a back burner to their interest in long-distance hiking. Over the years, these (now retired) school teachers have hiked every long trail in America, as well as thousands of miles spent tracing old pilgrimage routes in Europe. Their stories were inspiring and led us to dream about what a lifetime of adventure could look like. We said goodbye the next morning, but are certain our paths will once again cross as this amazing couple are a wealth of knowledge on biking, hiking, and pilgrimage walks around the world.
We decided to cross the state line into Massachusetts that night, as their parks are more reasonably priced than Connecticut’s, but once arriving at our destination, we found it was not yet open for the season. There was little we could do, as it was 6:00pm and we had nowhere else to go, so we set up camp for the night anyway. As we have crossed the country, we have found that many states’ parks are now adopting rules that prohibit turning away campers arriving by bicycle or by foot, as it would be unsafe to force them back onto the road at the end of the day. Because of this, parks often allow cyclists to camp regardless of whether the park is open or not, and will even find a spot for you to set up your tent if the facilities are completely full. We figured this was the case here, so we would wait for the ranger to approach us for fees the next day. But no one ever came by, so we had the place to ourselves for two wonderful nights.
The following morning was Mother’s Day! We had a delicious big breakfast and relaxed at our site, eventually making our way out to Old Sturbridge Village a few miles away. This living history village is reportedly the best in the New England area, and it was much larger than we expected – we didn’t even make it to half of the buildings over the course of the day! We all had a great time surrounded by many other families and young children, all enjoying the most beautifully warm weather yet this season. After returning to the park and getting the kids tucked in, we celebrated the day with one of my favourite treats – dark chocolate paired with a good red wine enjoyed in front of a campfire on a lake in what felt like the wilderness with no generators, radios or loud talking from neighbouring campers. Ahhh…
The next morning we headed west towards Springfield where Peter and Liz, more Warmshowers.org hosts, took us in for the night. The weather forecast called for rain throughout the following day, and Peter and Liz generously offered to have us stay another night. However, in the morning the weather looked a lot better, so we decided to head out and see how far we could get. The clouds held their rain for a while but after about 35 km, they released it – and we scrambled to find a campsite. Luckily, a lovely campground with discounted off-season rates, a playground, and a dry pavilion to hang out in was only short four miles away. We figured it was a homerun and we’d be set up within the hour. As it turned out, that four miles was pretty long – uphill the whole way with those famous New England grades: steep! We arrived an hour and a half later, soaked to the bone and completely exhausted – but the kids were giggling and joking around as they had enjoyed the uphill together in the trailer.
The climb was worth it though – this campground had an open rec room with kids books and games, a DVD player and movies, tables and couches and legos! They had a store to buy food at and a microwave to use. Unwilling to endure another rainy day of riding, we booked in for two nights and ended up having the entire campground to ourselves the whole time. Not another soul was there. The playground dried out enough to play on the next day and our site was right beside a small lake that the kids loved to throw rocks and sticks into. It was a great opportunity to enjoy some quiet family time as the few weeks previous had been pretty busy and exciting.