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Monday, July 2, 2012

Big Ride - Day 9

Henry Covered Bridge in Bennington,Vt
We get all trussed up...

After enjoying continental breakfast at our suite in Rutland, we headed out US7 south towards Bennington, about 70 miles away, to look at a few covered bridges.
US7 was scenic, smooth and relatively free of any traffic this morning, just a nice winding highway through the woods and hills of Vermont. As we were keeping a sane pace within reason of the posted limits and enjoying the scenery, we averaged perhaps 45mph, and reached Bennington in a little under 2 hours. I had a pretty good idea from the maps where a few of the bridges were, out along Rt67A, but had no idea they would be right along the road, as 67A was bordered immediately on our left by the Walloomsac river, and the bridges we were looking for (three in this area) allowed passage over the Walloomsac from 67A. We found the farthest out first, having blown by the first, Silk bridge, as it was unexpectedly close, and I knew the others ("Papermill" and "Henry") would be up ahead soon.
The neat thing about these covered bridges, is that at least these three were all still in service. While pulling over and getting ready to explore and make the requisite photos, there was steady auto traffic across the bridges, with everyone being polite and considerate of its one-lane dimensions.
Being late morning at this point, the light was rather harsh, and not ideal for making great photos of these bridges, but it was interesting to study the "Town Truss" design from the inside, and how all the connectors were made with large wooden pegs, rather than bolts. All three of these bridges near here (Henry, Papermill and Silk bridges) were of the Town Truss design, invented by a man named Ithiel Town in the 1820's that proved to be a very versatile and strong design. The bridges we managed to visit, the Henry and Papermill bridges, were all built circa 1840. While its not known exactly who built the Henry bridge, the Papermill Bridge (so called because it was built near a papermill) was built by a man named Sears, who was the son of the man who built the Silk bridge a little further up river. As all three bridges utilize almost the exact same design, I think its a safe bet that either Sears Sr. or Jr built the Henry bridge as well.
Bikes at Henry Bridge

Detail of the Town Truss design

Henry Bridge, Bennington, Vt

I'm not a covered bridge aficionado, I just happened to see a documentary covered bridge restoration in New England on PBS just before the trip, where they talked about evolving bridge designs: from King/queen posts like in post and beam construction, to Town/scissor Trusses, to Burr arches (an arch instead of a truss) and eventually to using iron bars for reinforcement.
Here's a link to various support types if you're interested in exploring this further.
The bridges we ended up visiting were all meticulously restored during the 1980's, to address the wear and tear and vandalism that has taken place over the last hundred years or so, using the same materials and techniques the original builders used.
Knowing we were at the last of the three bridges we were trying to see along this road, we turned back towards Bennington to locate the other 2 we must have passed, and shortly came upon the Papermill Bridge. This was a nice stop as it had a relatively large area to turnaround and park in, although it was loose gravel which made it a bit slippery. There was a nice path that allowed us to walk down to the river across from the papermill dam and photograph the bridge in its full length above the river. Unfortunately, it was backlit this time of day, and I think Dad and I both wished we could return later in the day to make better photographs.

Papermill Bridge, from the Walloomsac river

Old Tissue Paper millworks from Papermill Bridge

Signs here say the bridge is limited to 16,000 pounds. I say that's pretty darned
good for an 1840's bridge designed for buggy traffic

We decide to test the weight limits...

Having spent a good deal of time at Papermill Bridge, and feeling the pull of home at this point, we skipped the stop at Silk Bridge, as it was easily visible right along 67A, and looked pretty much like Henry bridge. It was getting quite warm, and weather reports had it in the nineties with high humidity and chance of thunderstorms all down the east coast, so we got back on US7 headed south to see how close to home we could get today, knowing we had slipped more than half-day behind schedule in getting home. Riding on a schedule stinks, but a necessary evil at this point as Bro and I both have to be at work on Day Eleven.
Our planned route would be to continue South on US7 down to Great Barrington, Mass and over 23, where we'd hustle the Taconic Parkway down into 209 through the Poconos and into New York, hopefully to reach somewhere south of Harrisburg Pennsylvania.
US7 turned out to be a really nice ride - as fast as we needed with minimal stopping, but also scenic at times.
Pontoonsuc Lake, Near Pittsfield, Mass on US7 
Pontoonsuc Lake, Near Pittsfield, Mass on US7

Interesting sight at a gas stop in Pittsfield, Mass.
Kinda like Partridge Family meets The Munsters

US7 being such a nice scenic drive, I was fearful the Taconic Parkway would be more like the New Jersey Turnpike, as we were getting really close to the outer reaches of NYC, but feeling a need to keep making time, I put us on the Taconic Parkway just past Great Barrington, Mass. where we had picked up the 23 heading West.
The Taconic State Parkway was actually a nice ride, on a divided highway with good speeds and nice views. The road remained slightly curvy with few boring straightaways and light, courteous traffic.
Having enjoyed our ride up 209 north to Port Jervis, we cut over on the 84 to Port Jervis to pick up 209 again, this time headed south.
Wow, what a difference from last friday. The 209 had become clogged with bumper-to-bumper mini-vans and Subaru's with Kayaks, and the going was hot and slow. The 50 miles to Stroudsburg, PA. took about two and a half hours.
Desperate not to couple this with a repeat of the horrendous and dangerous traffic we encountered on Day1 around Allentown, PA., we slabbed the next 125 miles on interstate 80 over to 81 to bypass Allentown altogether and get into Harrisburg.
We found a hotel just south of Harrisburg, near Mechanicsburg, on Bro's smartphone and decided to make for that for the night.
This being our last night before getting home tomorrow, I wanted us all to have a nice dinner out. But the only recommendation the desk clerk could make was the Texas Roadhouse up the road. At least it was a place to get a nice steak and a bottle of wine, so after checking in and cleaning up a bit, we headed out for our last big meal of the trip.
Dad explaining some aspect of the days ride to Bro

I can't believe these poor slobs have to wear "I love my job" t-shirts at their job.
Seems a bit de-humanizing
Its a shame mass marketing of mediocre beers keeps so many from trying real beer.
I did get a steak, and it was very good.
With all the warnings from people throughout our trip, this was, alas, the only moose we ever saw
Toast to end our last night on the road together.
We really don't know who all those young girls are in the background, really.
No, honey, we really don't know them....
It is fun they all cheesed it up for our photo tho'
After a great meal and good conversation, we retired to our room, anxious to finish the ride home tomorrow.

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