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Main Touring Route, Connecticut to Lenox
Cue sheet northbound | Cue sheet southbound
The main route through the southern Berkshire Valley begins in Ashley Falls at the Connecticut border, where it links with a route designated on the Connecticut Bicycle Touring Map. Points of interest begin almost at the border, with the Colonel Ashley house and Bartholomew's Cobble Nature Preserve. The route passes through the center of the village of Ashley Falls and proceeds north on back roads through flat farm country along the Housatonic River.
You cross the river into the Sheffield town center and head north for a short while on Route 7, a section with wide shoulders.
Leaving Route 7, you pass through more level farming country to the village of South Egremont. On the way, you pass the Shay's Rebellion battle monument which marks an armed revolt against the post-Revolutionary United States government that led to progress toward the U. S. Constitution. The village of South Egremont has stores and restaurants; these are the last on the main route until West Stockbridge, 15 miles ahead. The designated side trip into Great Barrington, however, does pass through a commercial district.
From South Egremont, the route follows lightly-traveled and wide Route 23, turning north to pass the Albert Schweitzer Center on Hurlbert Road at the western end of Great Barrington, a museum and international center commemorating Schweitzer and furthering his mission. [The Schweitzer Center is closed as of 1999] The route passes Simon's Rock College and then begins to climb gradually into the hillier country of the west valley. You pass through the village center of Alford and up a scenic valley past small farms and a few vacation homes to West Stockbridge. Here you will find a variety of lodging, restaurants and shopping.
You now turn east on Route 102 toward Stockbridge. Route 102 has wide shoulders throughout its length and carries moderate traffic -- long-distance traffic is diverted by the parallel Massachusetts Turnpike.
On the way into Stockbridge, you pass through the grounds of the new Norman Rockwell Museum, which include a designated bicycle route and a bicycle and pedestrian-only bridge which connects with the center of town by a lightly-used back street.
Stockbridge is one of the cultural highlights of the tour, with museums, a theater company, the Daniel Chester French sculpture studio and other cultural attractions side by side with fine restaurants and lodging.
Art gallery in Stockbridge: ice cream shop next door!
The main route can not include all of thee attractions, so one of the side trips does.
Continuing east from Stockbridge, you pass an old industrial complex
along the Housatonic River and then turn north into Lee. Lee has a Massachusetts Turnpike interchange -- which the route avoids. As the gateway to the Berkshire Valley from the east, Lee is the largest commercial center on the bicycle route south of Pittsfield, with many restaurants, lodging places and shops.
From Lee, you travel northwest to Lenox past a dairy farm with a unique stucco tower,
the Edith Wharton home and museum, mansions and the Berkshire Christian College. At the center of Lenox are many fine restaurants and lodging places.
You take a scenic back route from Lenox around the end of a small glacial valley and come out at the main gate of the Tanglewood Music Center, where you can either enter the gate (left in the picture) or turn right to continue with the northern half of the route. .
There are few problems along this route, other than a slight increase in traffic volume on roads around Great Barrington. The major traffic problems facing bicyclists, aside from the heavy traffic on Route 7 are along Division Street and Routes 183 and 41, all of which are relatively narrow. However, the route manages to avoid them. Route 41 has seriously deteriorated pavement south of West Stockbridge, an additional reason that it is unattractive for bicycling here.
In order to avoid these problems, the route bypasses several points of interest including the old industrial center in the village of Housatonic. In the author's opinion, widening of the more heavily traveled roads is desirable, and it should start with Route 41, which is due for reconstruction anyway.
Other roads used on the bicycle route are either wide already -- Routes 7 and 23-41 south of Great Barrington -- or they are lightly traveled and remote from areas likely to experience much development soon. In the long term, parts of the bicycle route may have to be relocated; but an ongoing program of highway upgrades can provide the necessary alternatives on highways for the foreseeable future if parallel rural roads become less suitable.