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Alternate title for this post: “Another nail in the coffin of MS.”

Yesterday I did the big ride, and it was quite a ride. First off, I want to thank again everyone who donated. In supporting my effort, you’ve helped fund more MS research and advocacy to the tune of $711.00. Pretty good considering that last year’s ride had an average fundraising total of $660 per rider.

The day started early, as I needed to leave the house around 7:00 to drive out to Pittsfield. I actually left around 7:10. I have a bike-carrying rack that attaches to the trunk lid of the car, but this was the first time I’ve carried my bike on the freeway with it. Things were fine as I headed down I-91, but then I got on the Mass Pike (I-90), and as I got back up to speed, one of the bungie cords got loose, and the back end of the bike started to move up the pole of the rack. I had to pull over and secure the bike better. At least now I know how to properly attach the bike for 65 MPH driving.

Because of that stop and the late start, I got to the ride location at 8:20, 40 minutes before my ride would start. Between checking in, loading up the bike, putting on my number, applying sunscreen, hitting the restroom, and grabbing a cider doughnut from the food table, that was barely enough time. Once I lined up with the other 50-mile riders, I had about a minute to snap this picture:

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I didn’t count, but there seemed to be 20-25 other riders at the start with me. A few more people passed me after the ride began, though, so there were some stragglers who started after the group did.

We started out riding West, passing the Pittsfield airport. The ride then headed South, passing a local apple orchard (from which the aforementioned doughnuts had come). I quickly ended up behind other bikers in the pack, largely I think because they all had road bikes and mine is a mountain bike. However, I also slowed myself down by stopping to take pictures along the way, starting with this little marsh a couple of miles in:

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We were given a cue sheet for the ride that listed all the turns to take and some landmarks we’d pass, and how far to go after each step. In addition, there were periodic paint markings on the ground (‘MS’ plus an arrow), showing which way to go at intersections, and paper arrow signs on sticks or poles whenever a change of direction was required. Somehow I didn’t see the arrows for the first major turn, but there were some volunteers directing traffic there who pointed me in the right direction.

The ride entered the town of Richmond, and took a short loop to the North before heading South again (presumably this loop helped pad the distance of the routes). Along the loop I got a nice view of some mountain:

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I’ll warn you now: I don’t know the names of any of the peaks I saw or photographed on the ride. Perhaps if I spend more time in the Berkshires in the future, I’ll get to know them. The route was somewhat hilly, though the climbs were all pretty gradual and not too long. I was able to make fairly good time, and once I really got warmed up I could head up the inclines a little faster.

Here’s another peak I shot, seen across a farm field:

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Shortly after that picture I crossed above the Mass Pike, and took pictures of distant mountains in each direction. This is looking East:

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and here’s West:

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I was in West Stockbridge by this point, and after only a few more minutes’ riding I came to the first rest stop (of 2), almost exactly one third of the way through the ride. I had some food, including a PB&J, and topped off my water supply. I also typed up a blog post, but couldn’t get it to appear right away. I was using a post-by-email method, because typing an e-mail message on my cell phone is a little easier than using the blog interface. However, the blog is supposed to check for e-mail postings if you reload the page, and it wasn’t grabbing the e-mails when I loaded the blog’s front page on the phone (I had e-mailed a post with only a subject line right before the race). It could be that the version of the blog displayed on mobile devices doesn’t contain the code for checking the e-mail account, but the 2 posts did show up later.

I left that rest stop after nearly half an hour (I spent more time typing on the phone keypad than eating), and went through the town center of West Stockbridge. I crossed over what I believe to be the Williams River, which flows right between several buildings. Here’s a view from the little bridge:

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and a picture of flowers in planters on the bridge railing:

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From here the route went South and a bit West, through the town of Alford. After riding a bunch of the way on some wooded roads, and up the longest hill of the day, I came to a nice view of some more mountains:

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A little while later, back in a tree-lined section of road, I found this individual at the end of someone’s driveway:

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Saw some more mountains off to the side as I headed further South:

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I then passed the approximate halfway point, and headed into Great Barrington, the Southernmost town on the route. After a bit the route headed Eastward for several miles. It was during this Eastward section that I passed, and somehow did not see, the other rest stop. I suppose I was enjoying the ride too much. :)

Shortly after I would have passed the rest stop, I crossed a little bridge over the Housatonic River:

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A bit further along, the route headed North again. It came close to this ridge:

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Imagine having that in your backyard!

Soon the road was running alongside the river. I initially thought this river was called the Fox River, because I saw a building labeled “Fox River Paper Co.” However, maps showed me it is the Housatonic. Here are pictures of a wider section of the river next to the road:

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Another mile or so and the road crossed the river, but still was following it, and the river was narrower and had some slight rapids. This was a fishing area, and I saw a few people out there in their waders. I also covered a couple of miles without seeing any route arrows, and began to get worried that I was off the route. I stopped to look at the cue sheet, and it seemed to indicate that I had done all the right things (this was when I realized, though, that I’d missed the rest stop). I also had no cell reception at that moment, so I couldn’t call the organizers to check the route or do another blog post.

I kept going on that road (highway 183), and did eventually see arrow signs. I then passed the Norman Rockwell Museum, but was not interested in visiting. Just a tad after that I got to the next turn in the route, and started heading Northwest on highway 102, back toward West Stockbridge. I was three-fourths of the way along at that point, and this is when I really started feeling fatigued, and the hills started to be a little harder to climb, despite being gradual.

Just before reaching West Stockbridge, I ran out of water. I thought about stopping at a store in town, or going off the route a bit to go back to the first rest stop, but decided against both options. The ride had volunteers driving back and forth in support vehicles, which would pass at pretty regular intervals. Sure enough, I was able to flag down a vehicle shortly after passing the town center, and got a bottle of water from them. That was also when I posted to the blog again, using the regular interface instead of e-mail.

I was certainly slowing down at that point, and even little hills required me to rest, but I was able to push on, and even got another wind (my fifth or sixth wind) with about 5 miles to go). I was concentrating all my effort on keeping going, so I didn’t take any more pictures along the route. With less than 3 miles to go, I was back on a road that I recognized, retracing the beginning of the ride. This encouraged me further, and I had a little more energy to finish. Also helping was when I saw the sign saying “1 mile to go!”

As I rode back into the parking lot at the finish, a group of volunteers stationed there cheered me in, which was nice (I heard them cheering another rider just after I got there). According to the cue sheet, my total ride was almost 51 miles, and I had ridden it in just under 6 hours.

They had a cookout going to feed all the returning riders, so I ate heartily. The location of the start and finish was a ski resort, and the dining area was right by the ski lifts. As I’ve never gone skiing, I hadn’t seen chairlifts up close before, so I took some pix:

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After eating, I packed up the car and made ready to leave. I took a couple of last pictures of myself post-ride, including showing off my number. I leave you with those photos:

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Posted by seaking on 09-30-2007 at 10:09 pm
Posted in Biking, News with 2 Comments

Done!

I made it! I got back to the starting point – also the finish – a bit before 3:00. Those last 10 miles were the hardest by far, not because the road got any hillier, but because my legs were getting weak. I’m now enjoying a meal before I leave for home. All the details of the day will be posted tonight or tomorrow.

Posted by seaking on 09-29-2007 at 02:09 pm
Posted in Biking with 1 Comment

Much farther

I somehow missed the second rest area. I’m now about 40 miles in. Fortunately, a support vehicle came by and I was able to get more water just now. I had run out a bit ago. So only 10 miles left to go!

Posted by seaking on 09-29-2007 at 12:09 pm
Posted in Biking with 0 Comments

First rest stop!

I’ve made it to the first stop. It’s just over 16 miles into the ride. To=
ok about 1.5 hours to get here. That included a couple of quick stops to t=
ake pictures. I didn’t have time to post more at the start, as I arrived i=
n Pittsfield a little late, and only had time to get ready for the ride. M=
ore later, as I should get going.=

Posted by seaking on 09-29-2007 at 09:09 am
Posted in Biking with 0 Comments

About to start

Posted by seaking on 09-29-2007 at 08:09 am
Posted in Biking with 0 Comments

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow

In less than 12 hours I will be in the Berkshires, accomplishing several firsts.

  • I’ll be visiting the Massachusetts towns of Pittsfield, West Stockbridge, and Great Barrington for the first time each.
  • I’ll be doing a fundraising ride for the first time.
  • and I’ll be riding 50 miles in one day for the first time.

I’m pumped about it, but in case I become less so, I am bringing a pump along.  :)

Watch this space for some live updates during the day.

Posted by seaking on 09-28-2007 at 08:09 pm
Posted in Biking with 0 Comments

Four rivers and a bookstore

On Saturday I went for one last long training ride. This time I rode from Northampton up to Greenfield, and then came back by way of Montague. The total distance is about 46 miles. The big advantage of this route over previous ones I rode is that it has virtually no hills, so I was able to focus my energy on distance.

Mass highways 5 and 10 run together on the same road from Noho to Greenfield, and seem to be relatively low in traffic (presumably because any traffic that isn’t local would be on I-91). This makes the route pretty good for biking, despite the shoulders being small to non-existent.

Getting out of Northampton is pretty quick, and one first passes through the town of Hatfield. No, there is no neighboring town of McCoy that they’re at war with. Hatfield is fairly rural – at least along this road, you don’t encounter much beyond farms and residences. I saw, but didn’t take pictures of, lots of pumpkins. I find it kind of odd that people would buy jack o’ lantern pumpkins now, as I would think them fairly likely to rot before Halloween, even if you don’t cut them open right away.

After Hatfield I passed through Whately, which is still quite rural, though there are a few more businesses, including some high tech ones. I passed by the local office of this company, with whom I applied for a job a couple years ago.

Once out of Whately, one is in Deerfield, which is longer North to South than either of the previous towns, and has more traffic, as it has Tourist AttractionsTM. The first of these that one passes is Yankee Candle Village, a place whose appeal I confess to not understanding. Anyone who has been there can feel free to enlighten me in the comments (perhaps it helps to be interested in candles…).

I do understand the appeal of this place, though:

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I didn’t take the time to go in, but took pics of two exterior denizens:

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I also passed Magic Wings, which I’d heard of, and would like to check out sometime, and Dr. Spooky’s Animal Museum, which I’m undecided about (it’s like a haunted house meets a science museum, I guess).

Eventually, I reached the Deerfield River, which is the border between Deerfield and Greenfield. Here’s a view from the bridge, looking at a train bridge and some old bridge supports, as the river flows East toward the Connecticut River:

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and here is the view upriver to the West:

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As I rode toward downtown Greenfield, the road passed along another waterway, the Green River. This view is looking North (upriver):

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Then these pics are looking South, along the river and the sort of riverwalk they have:

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Once downtown, I took a break to have some lunch and do a little CD shopping (didn’t buy anything). I started heading South on 5/10 again, but turned East just before the Deerfield River. After a short bit I came to the Connecticut River, and crossed over the rather beat-up bridge connecting Greenfield with Montague. Here is a shot of the bridge:

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You probably can’t tell how rough the road surface is. Let it suffice to say that it isn’t pleasant for biking. There is a nice view of the river here, though. This is looking South from the bridge:

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The Connecticut flows off to the left there, and on the right is the mouth of the Deerfield. That train bridge visible on the left seems to be in the process of becoming a bike bridge, as I saw when I rode by it a few minutes later.

Once I had crossed the Connecticut, I headed South, and passed the Montague water treatment plant. Because of the smell surrounding the place, I tried to move past there quickly, and so didn’t stop to investigate the seeming bike path and bridge (which appeared to be blocked off, anyway). I headed on down to Montague center, to visit the Book Mill. It’s a neat store, being in an old mill building right on a river.

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I hung out there for a good hour, getting another nice rest before the big ride home. As I was getting ready to leave, I took some pictures of the Sawmill River itself (the Book Mill building is on the right in the second photo):

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From there I headed South into the town of Sunderland, where I paused at one point to photograph Mt. Toby, which I’d like to hike sometime:

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Once I got to Route 116 in the center of Town, I turned and headed West back across the Connecticut. Here’s a view North (upriver) from that bridge:

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On the far (Western) side of the river you can see the 2 peaks of the Mt. Sugarloaf reservation, which I also want to hike. This is North Sugarloaf:

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and this is South Sugarloaf:

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Not to be confused with the famous ski resort in Maine.

A bit past the mountains, I rejoined routes 5/10, and headed South toward Noho. On the way back through Hatfield, I got a picture of this mural on the side of a barn:

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That cow has a lot to feast on, assuming that she likes fruit:

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I arrived home about 6.5 hours after I’d left. Pretty good time considering that at least 2 hours of the outing were spent resting. Even though I expect the actual ride to be hillier, I think the 50 miles will be quite doable in the 7.5 hours expected.

In other words, I believe I’m ready for the big ride, and not too soon, as it’s coming up in 5 days. Stay tuned for more updates, and some live posting from the ride on Saturday.

Posted by seaking on 09-24-2007 at 10:09 pm
Posted in Biking with 2 Comments

Gotta get up to get down

Last Sunday I went for another training ride, in preparation for my MS fundraising ride. This time, I decided to ride a route that I’d never been on before, not even by car. I figured it would be fun to explore the countryside, and see at least one particular site I’d heard about.

So I set off to ride from Northampton up to Williamsburg, then West to Chesterfield, visiting the Chesterfield Gorge, continuing South to Huntington, and then heading back East through Westhampton to Noho. Total distance would be about 41 miles.

Those towns I would be riding through are some of what are known as the Hilltowns of Western Mass. That day, I found out why they are called that.

It started out nicely enough, with a little up and down riding as I went Northwest on Route 9, going into Williamsburg. At one point the Mill River runs alongside the road, and I stopped to take some pictures:

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Across the street from the river was this vet clinic, with a permanent greeter for visitors:

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Once I passed through the town center, I turned off onto Route 143 to go West. That road climbs up a hill…and climbs…and climbs…and climbs. I had to ride in my lowest gears, and kept stopping to rest as I climbed. The road would sort of level off occasionally, but only for a short distance, and then it would climb again. A number of times I though I might be about to crest the hill, and then it would rise again. Eventually I did get some downhill portions, and then there was a final climb to Chesterfield center. From there, it was strictly (and steeply) downhill to reach the Westfield River. Here are a couple of pics of that, first looking North:
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and then South:

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Right by the river was a cross street known as Ireland Rd. I turned South on Ireland, and only had to go a short distance to reach the entrance to the Chesterfield Gorge reservation. I took a nice break from riding here, and got several pictures along the gorge (which the Westfield flows through).

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This is an old bridge abutment:

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From there I continued South on Ireland. This involved heading up another hill. Another very long hill, that is. At least this time, I was able to see a nice view during one of my rest breaks:

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I believe that ridge on the right is what I rode over when going through Chesterfield. Here’s a view of just that ridge:

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Further up this hill, I saw some deer run into the woods. I stopped where they had left the road, and there they were – 3 of them – in a little clearing. By the time I got my camera out, though, they had fled into the trees where I could not see them. Ah, well.

Eventually Ireland leveled off, and I rode faster for a while. Then the road began another long descent, all the way until it reached Route 112 in Huntington. 112 descended more, with just a few mild uphill bits. Unfortunately, as I rode South on 112, I started getting hungry. You see, I got a late start on this ride, leaving the house at 3pm, and had forgotten to bring any snacks. Because of the hills, I was not as far along as I had thought I might be at this time (which was approaching 7pm). The sun was also starting to get low in the sky, and so the weather threatened to get cold (the high for the day had only been 62).

I pressed on, and got to Route 66 (state route, that is, not the famous US 66). I turned East on 66 to head toward home, and was immediately faced with another long hill climb. This time, as I was getting a bit tired, I had to rest more frequently. I also started to genuinely get cold, because the sun went down, and I hadn’t brought a sweatshirt or jacket. I did have lights with me, though, so the darkness itself didn’t pose a problem. I did make it to the top of that hill after some time, and coasted downhill into Westhampton.

The cold wind of the fast downhill riding proved a bit too much for me though. between the cold and the hunger I didn’t feel I could continue. By this point I’d been out for over 5 hours (which I originally thought would be my total time), so I threw in the towel and called home for a ride. I had to wait by the side of the road for 20 minutes, which was cold, but not as cold as if I’d been moving at a good clip on the bike.

The place I stopped was 7 miles short of home, so I did make it 34 miles. Also, it sounds from the descriptions of the ride I’ll be doing on the 29th as though it may not be as hilly as what I had just ridden. So, the ride was still good preparation.

Posted by seaking on 09-21-2007 at 11:09 pm
Posted in Biking with 2 Comments

This Movie Bashes Government?

I received an e-mail the other day of news about They Might Be Giants, including this link to a video for the song “Shadow Government”, which is on their new album.  A pretty neat video, IMHO.

The animation style in the TMBG piece reminded me of a video that I saw a few years back at a film festival in Cincinnati.  That would be this video, by the band Bad Religion (to date, it’s the only song of theirs I’m familiar with).

Posted by seaking on 09-17-2007 at 10:09 pm
Posted in Arts/Media, Links with 0 Comments

Shark: 1993-2007

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The assessment given by the vet who diagnosed Shark’s cancer was correct. He said that Shark probably had a few weeks, maybe a month, to live. That pronouncement was made on August 13, and the end came on September 12.

I originally got Shark in the summer of 1994. We had stopped by a dancewear store in Ann Arbor during the sidewalk sales that accompany the annual Art Fair (which is actually four different art fairs). There were 2 cats living in the store, but the store was getting ready to move, and the owner told us that in their new location they wouldn’t be able to have cats. The two were litter mates, and his sister had already been promised to someone, but Shark didn’t have a home lined up yet (that was already his name). We agreed to take him, as there was only one cat in our house at the time, who we thought would like the company. It took a couple of days to accomplish this, because he would run away and hide in the store’s attic wall whenever anyone tried to catch him and put him in a carrier.

He was pretty much my cat from the outset. He was only a year or so old when I got him, and wasn’t much interested in sitting on my lap or being picked up. Eventually, though, he did come to like such things after he got a little older and mellower. For several years he would go flying through the air when he’d play, as can be seen on his web page. In later years he got less active, and also somewhat chubby.

Generally he was a healthy cat, with occasional problems such as when he ate a bunch of thread right out of the sewing machine, and I found him with it hanging out of his mouth, still attached to the machine. He was diagnosed with a heart condition a couple of years ago (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy), but medication kept that in check (Shark has always been easy to give pills to). This year he lost weight over several months, which initially was thought to be thyroid-related (and might have been in part), but he turned out to be in worse shape.

He declined slowly, still being affectionate, but hiding more often and losing his appetite despite pain-killing medication. This past Wednesday he hid all day, and by evening was crying when we tried to move him, and then was unable to walk correctly. I took him to the emergency vet clinic late that evening.

It was hard to say goodbye, and I keep being reminded of things I will miss about him. I also have occasionally forgotten that he’s gone in the past couple of days, thinking in the morning that I have to give him medicine, and the like.

To our surprise, when our normal vet found out he’d been euthanized, they sent flowers. I’ll end this post with a picture of that arrangement:

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Posted by seaking on 09-15-2007 at 02:09 pm
Posted in Cats, News with 12 Comments

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