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Tour de Cheese: Massachusetts Day Three.

Bicycle touring with a schedule is not really what it’s meant to be. Touring is about taking your time, absorbing the views, the time, the places, and resetting your internal clock. All at your own pace.

So two days with ‘appointments’ at cheesemakers meant I had a little hustling to do every now and again - which isn’t ideal when the route you are taking is circuitous, and the bike you ride is equal to your own weight.

Somehow I’d held it together, but with no scheduled stops, today was a day to




Today I could tour.

Getting up at 7.30 (late for me), and leaving my room at 8.30, allowed me to meander down through the lovely Turners Falls, over the river and up the hill to Greenfield. Fuelling up with coffee and cookies, today was to be a day of smooth, relatively flat riding, until the final 10 km or so, where I would have to crest the hills to get me through the Berkshires.

From Greenfield to Shelburne Falls, the roads were very much back roads, which is a great way to start a ride. It gives you time to wake up and open your eyes, literally and figuratively. As you move relatively slowly, these hidden routes show you a side of America which is missed and forgotten, if you flash by in a car on an Interstate or major route. It is here that you see the old barns, tractors and farm buildings which are in the final stages of decay - falling apart, but not yet fallen down.

I think of the conversations I’d had with Bob at Westfield, Pam at Robinsons and Ben at Chase Hill. All of them talked to me about land prices in Massachusetts being ridiculously - too - expensive. Active farmers struggle with the payments for large lots of land, or have to keep their land small, or abandon the fields and import their milk/curd. Farmers from the past who lived in and worked these building couldn’t keep the money in better than the money out, and let their livelihood run away through their hands.

These places are relics now, not necessarily because of a lack of desire to work the fields, but because this desire can’t overcome the financial obstacles. Small scale farming needs help. If we can do this, little rural areas just like this would begin to become successful again.