Toymakers Café, Falls Village, Connecticut
What: The 40-mile stretch of Route 7 between New Milford, Conn., and the southern border of Massachusetts.
Best Kept Secrets: Toymakers Café in Falls Village, Conn.
Beware: Along with lovely rural views come not-so-lovely rural smells, i.e., parts of the area smell like the farms located here.
Keep an eye out for: Side roads where asphalt turns to rutted dirt.
Some routes by their very number need no introduction. Route 66 was one of these back before interstate highways and development reduced the road to patchwork and rubble. Scenic Route 7, which parallels the Housatonic River in northwestern Connecticut, is a well-known road to riders in the tri-state area that takes in New York and Massachusetts.
On weekends in spring, summer and autumn, bikes often outnumber cars on the roughly 40-mile stretch between New Milford, Conn., and the Massachusetts border. It’s a smooth, twisty ribbon of rural pleasure. Old maples and oaks overhang parts of the two-lane state highway, there’s a covered bridge in West Cornwall, a 250-foot water cascade at Kent Falls, and numerous places for a bite to eat. One must-stop eatery is Toymakers Café in Falls Village. Greg and Ann Bidou gave up the corporate life and commuting daily to New York City back in 2001 and opened the café in 2002. They now serve up English banger platters and sweet potato waffles to famished riders Thursday through Sunday.
Greg also has a small side business, T100 Toymakers, which imports parts for vintage British motorcycles. A red barn directly behind the café is jammed with frames and matching motors of old Triumphs just waiting to be rebuilt, and a workshop in a separate barn across the parking lot is filled with more parts and the tools needed to get the job done. Greg isn’t averse to visitors looking inside the main barn if they first ask permission.
The bright mustard-colored café at 85 Main Street has an eclectic décor, with a British tilt. Order coffee and Ann’s apt to hand you a mug bearing a Triumph or Norton logo. Simply put, Greg and Ann are Anglophiles. “I couldn’t afford Harleys. I was running around with guys who rode in the dirt. The 500cc Triumph was the bike I could get my hands on,” said Greg, explaining that his love of British iron dates back to his youth.
From the Sixties into the Nineties, Greg raced Triumphs, and Greg and Ann even spent their honeymoon touring the area on a 1973 BMW R75/5 with sidecar.
Having Toymakers Café is a dream come true. “We try to make it comfortable, warm and friendly. Some of the finest riding roads in the country are in this area,” says Greg. If you’re short on dollars, Toymakers Café even accepts British pounds instead. Yes, people actually pay with pounds. “Not too often, but it’s fun when it happens,” Ann says.
Sunday is the best day to stop in as the parking lot will inevitably be filled with motorcycles. You might see Will Paley’s 1951 Moto Guzzi Falcone parked next to a new BMW F800S. Sussex, England, native Alistair Jones regularly rides in on his “mist green” 1954 Sunbeam S7 Deluxe, while Dean Mojon often visits on his pristine yellow 1971 Norton Commando 750 Mk II Roadster.
Whether it’s a vintage Yamaha Vision pulling out from behind a line of modern-day Ducatis or a 1948 Harley-Davidson FL parked near outdoor picnic tables where riders can leisurely enjoy their food and swap stories, Toymakers Café has it — just be prepared for a long wait for food because the place is popular.
While Route 7 is the main north-south artery, it’s also often fun to impulsively stray down back roads. Be warned that the asphalt may give way to rutted dirt, but if your bike and skills can handle the hilly terrain, there’s a payoff in pastoral beauty.
Perhaps because of cold winters that provide time for tinkering, northwestern Connecticut seems to have an inordinate number of rare and running vintage bikes. With the beginning of the route in New Milford, Conn., being just a little more than 80 miles from mid-town Manhattan and the end near the Massachusetts border just 150 or so miles from Boston, the Route 7 corridor is just close enough for urban riders to get a quick dose of rural relaxation. MC