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Sean's Blog

A Little Better

As I live blogged, the Food Bank ride on September 30 began with thick fog.  As I drove to the starting point, I couldn’t see all that far in front of the car.

Here’s another shot of how things looked at the event (click on pictures to enlarge):

After getting checked in, I got some breakfast (lots of carbs), and I got going a few minutes before 7:00am.

Visibility was not too big a problem on the bike at first.  However, the fog did start to condense on my glasses, so that posed a bit of a challenge for a while.

The route was the same as the previous 2 years – starting from Hatfield center, I headed north through Whately and Deerfield, following the Connecticut River.  At the north end of Deerfield, the ride turned onto a bike path and crossed the river into Montague.  By this time another rider was traveling alongside me, and we chatted about the route and other cycling events.  As we crossed the river, we had our first glimpse of sun, and the fog mostly lifted after that.

We followed the trail to Turners Falls, and then got on the road and crossed the river again into the town of Gill, to begin the climb up Mountain Road.  It’s a somewhat long climb, with a few steep parts, which is followed by a steep descent that features sharp curves.  As I did the past 2 times, I laid on the brakes a lot for the curves.

Back on the main road (named Main Road), we went through Gill center, and a couple miles later came to the first rest stop at the Northfield Mount Hermon School.  Students from the school were staffing the tables of food and water.

I had some food and refilled my water bottles, and rested a few minutes before continuing.  The route went north a few more miles through Northfield, MA, and then just after mile 31 I crossed into Vernon, VT.  The ride went straight north for another 8 miles along route 142, and the scenery was quite nice at points, but I didn’t want to stop for pictures much, as I was trying to make good time.  I did take one picture before heading away from the CT River – this is technically a little inlet from the river, I believe, and is in the north part of Vernon, near Brattleboro:

I rode west (and uphill) from there on the pretty Broad Brook Road (of which I took pictures the last 2 years), and into the town of Guilford.  In Guilford center was the second rest stop of the day – a new one for this year – at the town’s volunteer fire station:


Here I grabbed a peanut butter sandwich, and only upon biting into it did I realize it was a fluffernutter (the bag was labeled “PB & F”).  I remarked on this, and one of the people staffing the stop said “Yeah, how long has it been since you had one of those?”  I answered that, actually, it had only been a week or so, as we eat them somewhat regularly at home.

The morning had been chilly, and so I’d been wearing a hoodie with the hood up.  Only at this stop, around 10:30am, did I take the hoodie off.  I still remained in a long sleeve top and long leggings the rest of the day, as the high only got into the mid-sixties.

From there, the ride went a bit west and mostly south through Guilford, and back into Massachusetts around mile 48.  In the town of Leyden, MA, I deviated a bit from the prescribed route, and took a dirt road that involves a climb, but it’s a more gradual climb that the paved route into the town center that was the official way to go.  I think this allowed me to get to Leyden Center (at 50.5 miles) a little fresher.

The town hall there:

The next several miles involved some nice downhill segments with more climbing, which started to wear me out a bit.  The long downhill heading toward Greenfield was slowed a bit by the fact that the road was closed, so cyclists had to go around, and in some cases over, construction barriers.  The road itself was not torn up (I’m not sure why it’s closed to cars), but there were a lot of leaves and some sticks on the road, so I couldn’t charge downhill at too fast a speed.

Eventually I entered Greenfield at mile 62 and got onto another bike path, following the Green River south.  This is a fairly short path, so soon I was back on roads and skirting the city’s downtown.  I picked up routes 5/10 and headed back into Deerfield, then off onto a side road through the town’s historic district.  The third rest stop was located here, by Deerfield Academy, and was run by a large group of boisterous students, who applauded and cheered each rider who arrived.

At this point I was about 2/3 of the way done.  After just a few more miles, I headed into Whately, and there came more concentrated rest stops.  There were 3 total in Whately and north Hatfield, largely because this section of road contained the intersections of different routes (the 50, 25, and 10-mile routes all passed along parts of that road).  I stopped at the middle one of the 3 to get a little more water and get off the bike for a few more minutes (I was getting pretty saddle sore at this point).

Once I was back in Hatfield the route headed off west again, and I just had about 24 miles to go, but was starting to slow down.  There were some small hills to climb going toward Williamsburg, and they took me a while to climb – my legs muscles were pretty sore and I did not have a lot of power to climb.  I had to stop for quick rests a few times before I got to the last rest stop, which I reached a little after 3:00pm.  There was some nice downhill riding immediately after this stop, heading into Williamsburg center, but then there were some more climbing bits heading from there to Northampton.

I managed the rest of the ride through Noho and back to Hatfield without having to take any rest breaks, but it was still slow, painful going.  I did finish in less time than last year, though, by about 17 minutes.  Total time was 9 hours and 28 minutes, covering 101 miles.  One thing I’m curious about is how fast I could do 100 miles if it were fairly flat.  Maybe that’s something I’ll try to do next year – we’ll see.

As far as the fundraising, this has been the best year yet – people donated a total of $1530 dollars to the Food Bank as part of my ride, and I have donated the same amount myself.  So glad that so much support has been given – thanks to everyone for stepping up, and if there’s anyone who still wants to give, you can do so through October 31 – just click here to give.


Posted by seaking on 10-13-2018 at 11:10 pm
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I have finished the ride – got to the end at 4:25, which means my time was nearly 9.5 hours. Not the 9 hours I’d hoped, but at least I shaved 15 to 20 minutes off my time from last year.

Going to eat now. Expect a write up of the whole ride in a few days.

Posted by seaking on 09-30-2018 at 04:09 pm
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Getting There…Slowly

I’m at the last rest stop, in Williamsburg. I’m at mile 86, so I could still finish on time for my goal (it’s 3:03 now), but we’ll see. My legs are sore and weak, and the last few hills have been tough.

Posted by seaking on 09-30-2018 at 03:09 pm
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Don’t See Any Deer nor a Field

I’m at the third rest stop, in Historic Deerfield. I misremembered how far this one was – it’s at 67 miles.

Just had some fruit, and now will continue on. Current time is 1:07pm.

Posted by seaking on 09-30-2018 at 01:09 pm
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The Halfway Point

I am now in Leyden center, at the 50 mile mark. There’s no rest stop here, but I’ve stopped for a minute to catch my breath after coming up some hills. It is now 11:25am, so I’m on track to do this in 9 hours.

More climbing ahead.

Posted by seaking on 09-30-2018 at 11:09 am
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North Stop

I’m at the second rest stop, at about the 41 mile mark. This is a new stop this year, in Guilford, Vermont, and is much appreciated, as we don’t get another one until mile 70 or so.

Posted by seaking on 09-30-2018 at 10:09 am
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Quarter of the way

I’m at the first rest stop, in Northfield. I made good time, getting here in just under 2 hours.

Note: the WordPress app puts weird time stamps on posts. I posted my previous entry a few minutes before 7:00, and it is currently 9:03.

On toward Vermont!

Posted by seaking on 09-30-2018 at 09:09 am
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Foggy Top

I’m at the start of the ride, and it is quite foggy. Fortunately, I have lights. This should clear off before too long.

Posted by seaking on 09-30-2018 at 06:09 am
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Fruitless, but Useful Nonetheless

Last Saturday, I rode in Bikefest, which is put on by the Northampton Cycling Club.  As it happens the weekend before Will Bike 4 Food, it’s the perfect final training ride.  I did the metric century ride, and as in previous years, it was somewhat longer than 100 km (this year it was 69.2 miles, or about 111 km).

I did a little extra riding, as I parked a mile or so from the park where the event took place, and biked in to the check in area.  Here’s the picnic pavilion for check in and such, seen as I and other cyclists were lining up for the ride to begin. (click pictures to see larger versions)

There were a bunch of riders around, but most of them were outside the frame at that moment.

The route was almost identical to last year’s Bikefest.  From Look Park, we rode into Leeds on the bike trail, then headed west and north to Williamsburg center.  From there we continued north, including a long, slow climb up through a bit of the town of Conway, and into Ashfield.

The ride turned off to the west shortly after reaching Ashfield, and climbed a bit more, and then we got a nice long downhill section, which was followed by some more climbing to the town center.  Just before reaching Ashfield center, I saw these horses grazing by the side of the road, and so stopped for a picture:

Continuing on, the ride got quicker, as it’s mostly downhill heading northeast from Ashfield center to Shelburne Falls, where the first rest stop was.

Here’s the rest stop, which was located at the famous glacial potholes:



That stop was located about 26 miles into the route, so more than a third of the way through.

The next section of the ride was reasonably short, as we headed east through the town of Shelburne and into Greenfield.  The route had been shortened a bit here, as there was a point where, in past years, we’d gone south for a mile or so, then doubled back on a different road.  This time, we went more directly, but had to ride for a ways on a dirt road to do so.  Fortunately, it was a well-packed surface, with almost no loose gravel, so it was easy to ride on.  That portion was followed by one of the tougher climbs of the day – not as long as the earlier one, but steeper.  The reward for that climbing was a long downhill into Greenfield.  Even with my being slow in climbing, it only took me 45 minutes or so to get to the second rest area from the first, an 11 mile stretch.

That second stop was in Greenfield, at the entrance to the Franklin County fairgrounds:

I began to notice something odd – while there were plenty of different kinds of snacks, energy bars, and the like, neither of the first 2 stops had any fresh fruit, which I remembered them having in the past.  The closest thing was fig bars, which I did have.

Soon after leaving that stop, there was a point where the ride crosses the Green River on a pedestrian/bike bridge.  That bridge was mostly blocked by a whole bunch of tree branches and leaves lying on it, and there was a municipal worker nearby with a chainsaw who had apparently been trimming trees there.  I asked if the bridge was okay to cross, and the reply was that “other people have been carrying their bikes across”.  So, I walked past the branches while holding the bike, then resumed riding at the other end of the bridge.

We went up over a hill, then down, and crossed the Connecticut River into Montague.  The route went onto the river/canalside trail there, into Turners Falls.  Once the trail ended, the last real climb of the day occurred, with an initial short and steep bit, and then a more gradual part as we headed southward.

The ride went through Montague center (past the Bookmill), and then followed a route near the CT river to head down into Sunderland.  Shortly after entering Sunderland, there was a nice river view from the road:


Soon after that, the route got to Sunderland center, and the final rest stop.  This stop did not have any fruit, either, and in the past it had the most (last year or the year before they had lots of apples and peaches there).

From there the ride had 16 or 17 miles to go, almost completely flat, as we passed through Whately and Hatfield, then back into Northampton.  The last bit of the route went back to Look Park on the bike trail, and I ended up finishing in a little over 6 hours (we’d begun around 8:50am and I hit the end a few minutes before 3:00pm).  It was a bit of an improvement on my time over the last couple of times I did this ride, with one particular difference being that I did the entire long Williamsburg to Ashfield climb without stopping to rest.  I seem to have some good strength and endurance going, which will be needed for Will Bike 4 Food.

After I ate at the post-ride meal, I biked back to where the car was parked, for a total of about 72 miles for the day.


Posted by seaking on 09-29-2018 at 10:09 pm
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Snaking out and Back

On Sept. 15, I had time to go for a longer training ride, and I chose to head out east to Gilbertville (part of the town of Hardwick).  Instead of riding on route 202, which is the way I went in the past, I took various side roads that roughly parallel that highway.  Some of them were roads that I had not been on before, and one thing I discovered is that the route I took involved more hill climbing to get to Belchertown center, compared with 202 (followed by some downhill, of course).

Sometime soon after I crossed the Belchertown line, I came upon a snake enjoying what warmth the pavement had.

I was worried that it was far enough into the road that it might get run over by a car, so I moved close enough to it that it slithered off into the grass.  Satisfied that it was safer, I continued.

From the center of Belchertown, I went east on Route 9, but soon diverted off into the Quabbin Reservoir reservation.  It was a beautiful day at that point, and so I could not resist taking some pictures of the water from Winsor Dam:


Here I’m looking along the dam:

I rode across there and then up the hill that goes to an observation tower.  I didn’t go all the way to the tower this time, as I’ve been in it many times before, and wanted to make time.  It’s a long uphill anyway, but then one is rewarded with a lot of down hill before exiting to 9 again.

There are a couple more hills that I climbed in the town of Ware, before I came out on Route 32 and headed north into Gilbertville.  I stopped off for lunch at a bakery/cafe that had been recommended to us – Rose32.  Had a very nice sandwich and a strawberry ginger ale to drink, and then got a box of various pastries to take home.

I retraced my route back to Belchertown, but then headed west on Bay Road, followed by going north on Warren Wright Rd. to pick up the Mass Central Rail Trail (Norwottuck section).  I wanted to make sure to get a significant enough number of miles in, so didn’t want to head home the way I came (taking the trail was less direct).  I rode the trail all the way to Northampton, and then turned south and followed Route 5 back to Holyoke.

My total distance was 70 miles, and despite some of it being bumpy, the pastries survived the trip.

Next post: Bikefest 2018.

Posted by seaking on 09-28-2018 at 11:09 pm
Posted in Biking, Wildlife with 0 Comments

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