Here’s a brief summary of 2 rides I went on in late August and early September. First, I headed southwest to Westfield, to see newly completed bits of bike trail there.
I had ridden down there earlier in the year, when construction had begun on extending the Southwick trail up into Westfield. I went the same way down – taking trails down through Easthampton, and then riding past this intersection with the blinking lights in the stop sign:
When I rode past here back in May, there were 3 abandoned shoes lying there. Those 3 shoes were all gone this time… and there were 2 new ones:
(‘new’ in the sense of being new to this location, anyway)
I got to the trail entrance in the south part of Westfield, where in May there was dirt trail and preliminary pavement heading to the south. Now there is finished pavement going in both directions from the road. Here is the view of the trail heading south to join the Southwick one:
And here is the new section heading north toward downtown Westfield:
(my bike poses for the camera in the middle, there)
I rode north on the trail, and quickly came to where it ends in the middle of the woods. There is plenty more length for them to pave yet. The new section does have a couple of access ramps, though, which head up into quiet side streets. I went up one of these and then rode up through town via route 10 (and followed that road back to Easthampton).
On Labor Day, I took a trip up to Greenfield. On the way, I rode from Hadley into Amherst on the Norwottuck trail, and checked out the temporarily closed section:
The state conservation and recreation dept. closed it for reconstruction of a bridge that carries the trail over a side street in Amherst. There was a detour directing trail users onto a dirt/gravel path:
Here’s the new bridge that’s being built, as seen from the road:
and seen from the other side of the closed section:
From there, I headed up through the UMass campus, and through Leverett, Montague, and Deerfield to get to Greenfield (including riding on the nice trail in Turner’s Falls). In Greenfield, I had lunch at the People’s Pint, so as to enjoy their homemade sodas (as I did once last year). I made sure to have the Orange Cream this time, as I hadn’t tried it before.
I rode home through a section of Deerfield I’d been though on a previous ride, but then followed an unfamiliar road that goes along the Deerfield River for a bit. Here’s where the road (and the river) passes under Interstate 91:
Here’s the view to the right of that, looking downriver:
From there I headed through Deerfield center, and headed on more familiar roads down to Northampton, and home the usual way. Each of these rides was in the neighborhood of 60 miles.
Here’s another bike ride I did this summer. I rode down to the town of East Longmeadow, which is south of Springfield. I’d never been there before, so I wanted to take a look.
My ride initially took me through South Hadley and Granby, into Ludlow. Just before one hits the Mass Pike in Ludlow, there is a municipal beach on a little lake:
Further south, past the Pike, one can cross a bridge into the eastern end of Springfield, which I did. I then headed a little further east into Wilbraham, and then went south. I came to this golf course with a nice view at one point:
They had this sign there, the likes of which I’ve never seen before:
(as I don’t play golf, though, it’s possible that lots of courses have such a sign)
From Wilbraham I angle to the southwest and headed to the town center of E. Longmeadow. It has a 7-point intersection: that is, there are 7 input/outputs in one spot. Here are a couple of views of that intersection, though to really get a good idea of it you have to be there (and it’s also clearer on maps – just google East Longmeadow, MA):
You can’t really see all of the streets in either of the photos, obviously.
On the map, when I was planning the ride, I saw that there was a bike trail of some kind in the town. I found it and rode it – it’s called the Redstone Trail, and is about 1.5 miles long. Here is the northern end:
and here’s the south end:
After riding that path I looked for a place to have lunch, but did not find any place especially interesting. There is a middle eastern place in the town, but it’s closed on Sundays, which is the day of the week I was there.
I headed northwest, and found this little park with a whole lot of geese (not sure if this was in East Longmeadow or Longmeadow, which is a separate town):
Many of the geese were walking in a series of groups toward the baseball diamond, and then into the diamond:
What’s special about that location for them, I have no idea.
I got up into Springfield, and ended up eating lunch at Bueno y Sano (a great burrito place which I’ve eaten at in Amherst and Northampton several times).
As I neared downtown Springfield after lunch, I headed for my other objective on this ride – checking out the riverside trail there, which I’d never seen, only heard about.
The path is part of a riverfront park that is separated from the rest of the city by railroad tracks. There are only a few places to cross the tracks. I went over a walking bridge that is up a few flights of stairs. Here are some views from the platform at the top of the stairs:
Here’s the actual bridge over the tracks – it’s one level below the viewing platform:
The bridge seen from its own level:
On the far side of the tracks the bridge has a series of ramps to get you to the ground, rather than stairs (technically there is an elevator on the side I came up, but it wasn’t a big deal to carry my bike up the steps).
Once on the path, I rode north to see how far it would go. Here’s a river view:
At one point, the path gos into its own sort of bridge, and rises:
This path bridge is to go over a set of train tracks that cross the river:
While above the tracks I took this picture (which you may have seen on my Will Bike 4 Food fundraising page):
After that, the path descended to ground level again, and headed up into the city’s north end. I got off where it ended and rode up into Chicopee. I soon had to cross the Chicopee River, which is accomplished with this little temporary bridge right now:
This is there for pedestrians and bikes while a street bridge is being rebuilt:
That’s the temp bridge on the left. Cars have a detour that involves the freeway.
Here is the view upriver:
From there, I headed up through a bit of Holyoke, back into S. Hadley, and home. My total distance for the ride was 56 miles.
Last year I participated in the inaugural Will Bike 4 Food ride, put on by the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. The Food Bank obviously considered that event a success, as they’re doing it again this year (it did raise more than $35,000 for their efforts in 2011). I’m going to be riding in the event again this year.
I’ll be doing 100 miles again, and while I now know that’s an attainable goal, because I have more experience with long rides I’m challenging myself to finish the ride in significantly less time. It took me over 10-and-a-half hours last September. I’m now shooting for riding the 100 miles in 9 hours or less. With more experience and a lighter bike, I think I can do it. The route will be different, perhaps with fewer hills, and perhaps with more – that remains to be seen (it does go up into Vermont, which is neat).
I also want to offer an extra incentive to get donations – a partial matching grant, if you will. I’ve set a goal of $1000 in donations to collect (last year donations to my ride totaled around $800). If we can reach that $1000 goal, I will kick in an additional $500 of my own money – so the Food Bank will get a total of $1500 from my ride.
You can visit my fundraising page to give online, and find out more about the event. If you prefer to give offline, contact me to make arrangements. I’m also happy to answer any questions about the ride – you can e-mail me or post here in the comments.
The ride is in 3 weeks, and should be a blast.
On July 4th I went biking in a big loop. I first headed south through the town of South Hadley, then west through Holyoke. I passed through Anniversary Hill Park, where I had biked a few years ago, only this time I did not come out the way I had entered the park, I passed the tower and walked my bike through the woods on a dirt path, emerging on a side street further west. I then continued on to Easthampton.
Easthampton was once again this year doing a Bearfest, with bear statues decorated by different artists displayed in front of businesses and in some parks. Here’s a sampling of the bears I saw:
This one by the municipal building did not use the standard statue:
This one’s a bit creepy (mainly because of the size of the bees):
A few were interesting alternatives to painting the statue, like the Steel Clad Bear:
and the Luminous Bear:
that one came with a warning:
This one seems to be partly carved out of a stone block:
That one was located in front of the old town hall building, which now houses a few arts organizations (and which I think is neat looking):
This one (called The Bear Truth) was the most overtly political message, and the saddest bear I saw:
I left downtown and headed for the Acadia Wildlife Refuge, which straddles the line between Easthampton and Northampton. I had thought that one could bike through the refuge, but that’s not the case. They do have a bunch of walking trails, though, so I spent some time walking them. Soon after I entered the woods, I encountered this elevated viewing platform up in the trees:
The partly enclosed platform stands on top of a few wooden pilings, and is mostly stabilized by several guy wires. Despite being stabilized, it (and the metal spiral staircase that leads up to it) sways back and forth a bit. The motion was a little disconcerting.
Nevertheless, it does offer a nice view of the Mill River and related wetlands:
Unfortunately, I didn’t see much wildlife while I was hiking around. I saw the occasional chipmunk, and encountered quite a number of mosquitoes. Some of the paths were almost overgrown, as well, so my legs got a bit scratched up. I left the place a little over an hour after I’d gotten there and rode on toward Noho.
On the way, I passed along the northern edge of the Connecticut River oxbow, and went over the mouth of the Mill River on this little bridge:
Here is the oxbow itself, with Mt. Nonotuck in the background (to the south):
From there I headed up into Northampton, and then home via the usual trails.
I posted last year about the flower on our night-blooming cereus plant, which was open for less than 24 hours. It bloomed again this year, on almost the same date.
Here is a picture from late June, when we had just noticed that a flower was growing:
Here is the flower one day before blooming (July 7):
It began to open in the early evening of July 8:
And here it is fully open in the late evening:
The following morning it was still open:
Later in the day it had closed up and started to fall off. Until next year…
On June 10, I headed home from the Boston area. I had decided not to set the alarm clock in my room, and so didn’t wake up until 8:00. I ended up checking out at 9:30, and then hopping on my bike to pedal for home. Whereas I had ridden to downtown Boston on the way out, then taken a bus up to the hotel in Revere, to go home I headed westward straight from Revere.
My route did angle a bit southward, taking me through communities such as Malden, Belmont, and Arlington, until I reached Waltham, where I linked up with the route I had followed before, and started following it backwards. This first meant a long stretch on highway 117 (angling a bit north now), which took me through Concord and Sudbury. In one of those towns (I think it was Concord), I saw this pretty little waterway:
In Sudbury, I saw that there was a trail project, which not everyone in the town is happy about.
In looking at some google hits on the subject, it’s unclear whether these signs were leftover from votes the town took earlier in the spring (in which the trail was affirmed), or there was some new vote scheduled later in the year.
I made better time on this road than I had on the way out, which I mainly chalked up to being fresher for riding, since I was covering this stretch earlier in the ride. Before too long, I was in Bolton, the town in which I would leave 117 and start heading through a series of different back roads. In Bolton, I stopped to photograph the public library building:
It’s an interesting building – I’m not sure how often I’ve seen a tile roof on a stone building.
I continued to make good time, and stopped off for lunch in the town of Sterling. The place I picked to eat had a sign outside saying that they served breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but once inside I discovered that on Sundays it’s only breakfast all day. So I had an omelet, toast, and home fries.
Soon after that I traveled back along the small section of bike trail in West Boylston, made my way through Holden and Rutland (in the latter town I stopped to replenish my water supply), traversing Central Mass and getting nearer the Quabbin Reservoir. I didn’t take any more pictures until I was headed through Gilbertville (a section of the town of Hardwick), right near the Quabbin. Here’s the library there:
and an adjacent church:
I headed south from there, to downtown Ware. On the way into Ware, I saw this view:
That would be one of the Quabbin hills.
I had dinner in Ware (a tuna grinder at a pizza place), and then headed on for the last 2 hours of riding. It started to get dark when I got within an hour of home, so I put my lights on. Just before home I passed through the Hampshire College campus, and stopped by this bus shelter with an art project in it:
As you can see, the colors of the light change. I had seen this exhibit on a previous evening ride, but did not have a good camera with me that time.
I made it home a few minutes after 9pm, making my total travel time 11.5 hours. Interestingly, this is less time that it took me to go out to Boston, and I had even traveled a longer distance coming back, having ridden all the way from the hotel. The most likely reason for the difference is that, on the way out I had to refer often to the directions and maps I had printed out, while on the way home I remembered most of the turns, and didn’t need to stop as much.
Thus concluded my longest bike trip to date, and my 40th year on the earth.
The second half of my birthday in Boston involved a lot of aquatic life. After having lunch I headed to the waterfront, and the New England Aquarium. I had bought a combo ticket in advance for the aquarium itself and a trip on their whale watch boat.
The aquarium had a new exhibit (though the whole place was new to me, as I’d never been there before) – a touch tank. That is, you could stand by the side of a big, shallow tank, reach in and touch rays and small sharks. There were a couple kinds of each swimming around in the tank.
If you can’t tell from the photo, the background is painted on the wall.
Here are some of the rays:
Those are cownose rays, which I got to touch a couple of (you’re only supposed to touch them on the middle of their backs – otherwise you might freak them out). I also touched a bonnethead shark and an epaulette shark (for them it was more like petting a cat). All of these animals are about a foot or so long, I should add. It was pretty neat – the rays felt pretty slimy, whereas the sharks were rougher.
Moving into the main part of the aquarium, there is a large central tank that takes up multiple floors, and on each level there are smaller tanks around the periphery. Below the ground floor are various kinds of penguins:
They have a lot of rocks to sit on, surrounded by water for swimming.
Before heading up the various levels, I took a detour to the seal and sea lion area:
I then made my way past various tanks on my way upward. Some highlights included the sea dragon tank:
At first I thought this next one was a piece of seaweed floating around. That would be its camoflage:
It was hard to get a good picture, unfortunately.
When I got to the top level, I was able to look out over the surface of the large ocean tank. They have a big, fake coral reef in the middle which goes up to the surface. I saw (but failed to take a picture of) a moray eel swim upward and (mostly) hide itself among the convolutions of the reef, then sit there with its mouth opening and closing, as morays are wont to do.
There was an aquarium employee at the top talking about the big tank and some of the animals in it. In particular, it was mentioned that their large green sea turtle (named Myrtle) is about 80 years old.
As I headed down the spiral walkway along this tank, I got a good view of Myrtle, just after she’d come to rest:
When I finished going through the place, I headed outside to line up for the whale watch. It was an early evening boat trip, starting at 6:00. Here’s the aquarium as seen from the boat:
And looking back at the building once we got underway:
I had figured that the boat ride would be chilly compared with the city, especially as it was so late in the day. So I had worn jeans instead of shorts for the day, and brought a long-sleeved shirt in my backpack. I’d been hot at points earlier, but dressing warmly was well worth it once the boat got going (with its attendant wind).
Here’s a view of the harbor once we were a ways out:
The boat headed about 30 miles east from the harbor to get to whale feeding areas. We remained in Massachusetts Bay the whole time, and at our farthest point out we could see the tip of Cape Cod just to the east.
The boat slowed down once whales were spotted, and a crew member called out whale appearances at various angles around the boat. There were a number of appearances I couldn’t get on camera, as I wasn’t quick enough, or the whale was too far away, or other passengers were in the way. But I got a few good shots:
We saw 2 species: humpback and minke.
After about 45 minutes in the whale area, the boat headed back, and soon the sun was setting ahead of us:
It was dark by the time we returned to the dock. From there I hopped on the blue line train and headed back up to Revere, then took the bus to near my hotel (and walked the last few blocks).
Next: the ride home.
On my birthday bike trip, I spent my birthday itself in Boston and its suburbs. I decided to give myself a break from the bike seat for the day, so I got around on foot and by public transit. After breakfasting at my hotel, I walked a few blocks through a residential neighborhood to pick up a bus to the Revere Beach train station, where I bought a day pass that’s good on all buses and trains. It was a bargain at $9 (though the price went up to $11 on July 1).
I rode the blue, green, and red lines to get out to Cambridge, and went to a fun secondhand clothing store, The Garment District. Specifically, their by-the-pound section (formerly known as dollar-a-pound). For those that haven’t had the experience, they have a large floor area covered with clothing that you go through, and then you pay $1.50 per pound for whatever items you want. The only thing I found that I wanted was an additional moisture-wicking shirt for biking (bringing my total of such shirts to 2).
I then took the train out further to Harvard Square, and hit a few stores, including a very good comic shop, Million Year Picnic.
I headed back into Boston after that, and walked around the Public Garden. The best aspect of the Public Garden is the many ducks that make their home by the large pond there (ducks that inspired a famous book).
Ducks and ducklings:
I like how you can see the beads of water on this one’s feathers:
The ducks will come right up close to people in hopes of being fed (and several people were tossing the birds food). There were some birds who were kept separated in this fenced-off area, though:
Here the swans are building their nest:
After hanging out with the park’s waterfowl for a while, I exited to the south onto Boylston St., where a crowd was gathered along both sides of the street. This was in anticipation of the Boston LGBT pride parade, which was scheduled to come by soon (I took my place in the crowd around 12:30). When I got there, there was a nearby church playing, for some reason, ‘Danny Boy’ on its carillon. When that ended, I was surprised and intrigued by the next piece of music that played – it was ‘Happy Birthday’. I wonder how they knew…
Before too long, the parade came through. This was the first time since the mid-90′s that I had been to a big city pride parade, and it was neat to see.
It started out with the mayor riding in a car, along with other dignitaries, such as the Pride King and Queen:
There were pink flamingo balloons:
There was, of course, a lot of rainbow-colored stuff, including this…interesting hat:
A gigantic rainbow flag is de rigueur:
There were a bunch of men in purple priestly vestments:
Cool balloon sculptures:
and The Price is Right!
It also wouldn’t be a pride parade without some leather men:
And their flag looked bigger than the large rainbow one:
This might have been the largest headdress I saw:
But this was a more impressive outfit:
Star o’ teal wig:
There were a number of politicians marching in the parade with groups of supporters. They were mostly city councilors or candidates for state legislative districts in the area. Toward the end of the parade, though, I did see my favorite U.S. Senate candidate:
After the end of the parade passed by, I went back through the Public Garden toward Boston Common. I caught the last parts of the parade again as they came up Arlington St., and got a good view of this vehicle:
I went off in search of lunch, and found a Turkish place east of the common where I got a very filling falafel, hummus, and tabbouli sandwich.
Next time: the latter half of the day.
Those in the know (and to be in the know, you only need to have read this page) will be aware that I turned 40 last month. I had been thinking for a while about a special way to celebrate, and I decided that, given my increasing bicycling prowess, that I should take a long bike trip. So, I took a long weekend and rode to Boston and back.
I had to prepare for the trip by getting some luggage that would fit on the bike. A backpack wouldn’t hold enough stuff for a weekend, and I ideally didn’t want to be carrying stuff on my back anyway, as that would make me tired and sore sooner than necessary. After looking around in local bike shops, and then finding cheaper stuff online, I ended up getting this set of bags. The 3 bags held plenty of things, and the top bag can be used as a backpack, so it’s good for walking around without the bike. I also mapped out directions online and printed them out. It’s true that my phone can look up maps, but you never know when you’ll be lacking signal.
I headed out from my house in Hadley on Friday, June 8, about 8:45am. For the first 1.5 hours or so, the ride was familiar, as I headed through Amherst and Belchertown into the town of Ware, climbing some good-sized hills on the way. Before getting to downtown Ware, I passed this marsh, where one can often see herons, and that day was no exception:
I stopped briefly to rest in downtown, and put on sunscreen (it had already been sunny, but there were several shady areas). At this point, I was about to head into unfamiliar roads.
I headed north out of the town center, then started bearing northeast, coming to state highway 32. There I saw this pond:
and just past the pond was the next road I was supposed to ride on, heading east. However, that road had a “Dead End” sign at its beginning, so I thought it probably wouldn’t help to go that way. Instead I consulted the direction sheets, which had some small maps of various stages, and elected to head further north on 32 before taking a more major side road.
I found the road I wanted, headed east (and uphill), and before too long was back on my official mapped route. I made my way through the town of New Braintree, which involved more hills, and then followed an odd route toward the center of the town of Oakham (odd because I had to keep turning at various intersections, but the name of the road I was on always was the same).
After Oakham center I got to do some nice downhill riding for a while, then passed by Rutland state park and into the town of Rutland. Here is some nice waterway by the park (looking to either side of Route 122):
I had to head up a longish hill after the park (on Route 122A), and my legs were starting to feel weak. At this point, I’d been on the road for about 4 hours, and was in need of a longer break. I pressed on, having a couple more slow climbs as I headed into the next town, Holden, where I was planning to stop for lunch.
I did get lunch in Holden, at a place called Ethan’s. I allowed myself plenty of resting time, staying there for an hour and 15 minutes. It was 2:45 when I got on the road again, and while there was still sun shining, a good bit more clouds were in the sky.
I rode out of Holden on some residential side streets, passing into the town of West Boylston. Here I encountered the Mass Central Rail Trail – that is, one of the few sections of that trail that has been built. I rode on this trail section for its 2.5 mile length, and was surprised to find that much of it is not paved – it’s hard-packed dirt. Still, it’s a nice trail, with a couple of bridges over creeks:
Here’s a waterway that flows near the trail:
And the trail passes underneath Interstate 190:
After leaving the trail, I headed into the town of sterling, as the sky became overcast, and I started to hear thunder. A chance of storms had been predicted for the late afternoon, so I had brought a poncho for myself and a rain cover for the luggage. Pretty soon it started to sprinkle, so I put the rain cover on the bags and continued. Just after I passed Sterling center, rain started to fall more earnestly, so I put on the poncho and kept going, heading east on highway 62.
The rain got really heavy just after I put on the poncho, and it was getting hard to see. I saw a garden store/nursery on the side of the road, and pulled off to wait out the worst of the rain under their generous wooden awning. They sold bottled water, and I was just about out of water, so I refilled there.
After about 20 minutes, the rain stopped entirely. I continued into the town of Clinton, still wearing my poncho to help dry it out. I made my way a bit northward again, and got up to state route 117 in Bolton. This was the road on which I’d spend the most time that day – it made up more than a quarter of my mileage for the day.
There were some hills to ride up on 117, but overall it was a pretty quick ride. In Bolton it took me past the outer beltway of the Boston area (I-495), and through a number of other towns (including Concord and Sudbury).
Eventually, I passed over the inner beltway (I-95) and headed into downtown Waltham. Here I was able to go a few blocks down to the Charles River, and start riding on riverside bike trails toward the city. The trails were a little hard to follow, though, as the directions indicated changing sides of the river several times, but there were often trails on both sides, so it wasn’t always obvious where the turns were. While heading along the trails, it was starting to get dark, so I put on my lights. Eventually, I did get into Boston itself, and walked my bike on a footbridge over the turnpike, ending up near the Public Garden. I rode over to Boston Common and called home to indicate that I’d made it. It was just after 9:00pm.
I then went and had dinner at a nice taqueria, and after that, I and the bike caught a bus up to the city of Revere, where my hotel was (I’d gotten a deal on the place online). I took a much needed shower and went to bed. Total riding for the day was about 97 miles or so.
Next: what I did in Boston.
A while back, I noticed a falcon sitting on the fire escape of an empty building in Holyoke that I pass on the way to work.
I took a closer look after work, and saw that there was what looked like a nest in the top landing of the fire escape:
In that blurry cell phone picture, you can see the mama falcon just to the left of the nest, perched on the railing.
I wanted to bring my better camera to get clearer pictures, but kept forgetting it for a few days. By the time I managed to bring it, I ceased to see the mama there. Eventually, I think whatever babies there flew away, and the nest was abandoned.
However, one of the mornings I brought my regular camera, I noticed a different sort of flying creature on the side of my building:
I know this to be a butterfly, because it rests with its wings folded together (moths have their wings apart when at rest). I owe that knowledge to the trip to Magic Wings earlier this year.
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