a scenic berkshires bike ride hints at autumn

Scenic View - Berkshires, Mass.

A friend’s wedding in Lenox, Massachusetts last weekend gave me an opportunity to explore the Housatonic Valley by bike along a mellow route that wound past weathered barns, still lakes and rolling meadows, all layered against the backdrop of the Berkshires.

Starting in Lenox, I road a 40-mile loop south through Lee and Tyringham to Monterey, then west toward Great Barrington, and finally north through Stockbridge back to Lenox. Along this scenic route, I passed the “Gingerbread House” fantasy studio of sculptor Henry Hudson Kitson, the stately French chateau-hotel Wheatleigh and the home of the Tanglewood Jazz Festival.

It’s easy to imagine that traffic will pick up once the Big Show of foliage fully reveals itself in October, but on the Saturday morning after Labor Day the roads were peaceful. Although most are shoulder-less two-lanes, the relative paucity of cars contributes to a care-free ride. Plenty of rolling terrain provides variety;  a long, steep climb southbound along Tyringham Road was the most challenging natural feature.

It’s tough to deny a whiff of melancholy in hydrangeas gone mauve, heavy-headed sunflowers and crunchy tassels atop drying corn stalks. But temperatures in the ’50s and tiny pixels of  yellow and orange in trees, shrubs and rock outcroppings along Berkshire bluffs hinted at the invigorating promise of autumn.

More Reasons to Love Lenox

Pasta at Nudel Restaurant, Lenox, MA
Nudel's linguini with fresh tomato sauce.

After the ride, my husband and I drove into Lenox for lunch at the restaurant Nudel, a contemporary newcomer on Church Street offering seasonally inspired salads, sandwiches and pastas along with friendly service. While there, we stumbled upon a charming annual tradition: The Tub Parade, which is rooted in friendly competition among wealthy Gilded Age “summer cottage” owners who trotted out their finest horses and seasonally decorated carriages for the townspeople to admire. To me, nothing beats standing behind a group of kids sitting on a curb and watching the old-fashioned magic through their eyes.

Tub Parade Horse and Carriage - Lenox, MA
Tub Parade of horse-drawn carriages.

For the tri-athletically inclined, there’s yet another reason to add this September weekend to your agenda. The Annual Josh Billings RunAground Triathlon, which is billed as one of the oldest and largest bike, canoe-kayak and run events in the country, starts in Great Barrington and finishes at Tanglewood.  I was busy  vacuuming the buffet table at the post-wedding brunch, but I hear that the “Josh,” named for a 19th century humorist, develops into a slammin’ local hammerfest on the bike leg.

Finally, the afore-mentioned buffet offered the best apple cider donuts I’ve ever tasted.  (I assure you that I take my donuts very seriously.) Whole-wheat flour gave them a toothsome, but still moist and cakey quality, and the granulated sugar coating was just right. Our hosts thoughtfully heaped go-bags next to the donut baskets, no doubt to help ease the grind of the long drive home. But I’ve got us covered: the donuts are made locally at Bartlett’s Orchard in nearby Richmond.

photos: velojoy

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