The 50-Mile Rule

50-mile rule
Breakfast at Blackberry River Baking Company in Canaan, Connecticut, tastes even better after satisfying the 50-Mile Rule.

The Lonesome Weirdoes Motorcycle Club taught me the 50-Mile Rule. It’s not complicated: you must ride 50 miles before breakfast. The Weirdoes informed much of my early development as a motorcyclist. They introduced me to tech events, moto camping and rallies. They provided persuasion and crucial guidance that prepared me for my first long-distance ride to the Canadian Maritimes. And they made me wait for breakfast.

If I had any rule regarding breakfast, it was to wake up and eat it. But I wasn’t leading rides with the Weirdoes, John was. I was the newbie. Like a cadet at a military academy, my role was to pay attention and learn.

On a riding weekend in Vermont, we were up at dawn and soon underway. I found my place mid-pack behind John and Gary. This early we’d more likely encounter a moose than other vehicles. I practiced the delayed apex entries I learned around the campfire the night before. I discovered how a staggered formation with good spacing helped us to see the road ahead and keep track of each other.

But my stomach complained. A diner appeared ahead with cars in the parking lot. In my head I worked through my order of two eggs scrambled, bacon crispy and rye toast, but John rode past. Wait—what was wrong with that place?

Presently we turned onto Old-SomeThing-or-Other Road and began carving the road across the mountain that, years ago, had been supplanted by a wider, flatter road around the mountain. Smooth tar, painted with stripes of sunshine and shadow, guided our progress alongside pastures of Holstein cows. A farmer paused at the approaching symphony of motors and offered a good morning wave that conveyed, “Wish I was riding, too.”

Farther on, we approached a general store. The sign screamed “BREAKFAST SERVED” but John rode past. Now what was wrong with that place? As I eventually learned—when we finally stopped for breakfast—we didn’t stop because we hadn’t ridden 50 miles yet. Mind you, 50 miles was merely a baseline; once the trip odometer rolled over the magic 050.0, breakfast suddenly became an option. But that morning in rural northern Vermont, we rode many miles beyond 50 before encountering a place for breakfast.

After we’d placed our orders, I asked my Weirdo mentors to explain the rationale behind waiting so long for breakfast. Ah, young grasshopper, the 50-Mile Rule leads to better riding.

Already I had proof. An early start and adept routing put us on scenic, challenging roads that were largely empty. Rolling through the sights and smells of a cool morning, our senses were enlivened. Without speaking to the others in our group, we shared a dance of men and machines across a winding dance floor of asphalt, a decidedly social experience that each rider carried out alone. I had never ridden in such ideal circumstances. It was sublime.

Had we stopped for breakfast earlier at that popular diner, we’d have waited for a table, waited to be served, waited for everyone to finish eating and pay their check and use the facilities. Meanwhile, this early, the roads we came here to ride would still be largely empty. Why waste that opportunity?

50-mile rule
Joe’s Diner in Lee, Massachusetts, easily satisfies the 50-Mile Rule.

More than a quarter century later, I still subscribe to the 50-Mile Rule. I’ve gotten to know good places for breakfast 50 or more miles from my home in western Massachusetts, and found fun ways to get there. The Farmington River Diner in Otis, Massachusetts, is just beyond 50 miles from home. The Chelsea Royal Diner in West Brattleboro, Vermont, is about 75 miles. The Vanilla Bean Café in Pomfret, Connecticut, which draws riders practically year-round, is just over 40 miles from home, but no worries. There are lots of winding roads in eastern Connecticut, so I just play “wonder where that road goes” until that magic 050.0 rolls over my tripmeter. Keep in mind, the 50-Mile Rule works just as well when your starting point is far from home.

Some mornings, the 50-Mile Rule stretches out to 100 miles or more. One Sunday last summer my favorite roads in western Mass and southern Vermont stayed practically empty all morning. Route 112, Mohawk Trail, Zoar Road, 8A, Molly Stark Trail and East-West Road were mine to enjoy. I hadn’t gotten off my bike since I left my driveway. I savored every curve until the low fuel light came on at 225 miles. By then it was late morning. As drivers running errands or leaving church began to populate my playground, the time had come to stop for food and fuel.

Yet again, the artful utility of the 50-Mile Rule had proven its worth. Early to rise and late to breakfast delivers the best riding of the day.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Joe’s Diner.. a mere 3 miles from me. I have to go north of Bennington to hit the 50.. But after reading the article, I truly understand the 50 mile rule and it’s growing on me as a new way of riding once I can again (after surgery). Thanks for opening a new window 😊

  2. Vermont is New England’s best: great roads in good condition, great food, and you can pass on a double yellow. I love it.

  3. Nothing like the days 1st bowel movement occurring out on open rode after breakfast and having to crap in the woods or some never cleaned gas station bathroom. No Thanks !

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