News about me, and my thoughts, jokes, and stuff.

Sean's Blog

50 over 5

Well, as you know if you were reading my last few posts, I had a fun and successful ride in the Berkshires yesterday.  It was pointed out to me that my live posts from the ride seemed to have the wrong times on them.  Sure enough, I checked the time zone setting on my blog last night and found it was set to UTC -5 (i.e. Central Time), so the posts appeared to have been created an hour earlier than they actually had.  I’ve corrected that setting now, and changed the 5 posts from yesterday so their times are correct.

The drive out there was uneventful, and there were no problems with my bike on the back of the car.  This is the ski lodge where the event is based:

skilot

I arrived, got checked in, put on my number, etc.  This is my number attached to the back of my shirt:

bikenum

I got that shirt from this event 2 years ago.

Here I am near the starting line as we were just about to line up for the 50-mile ride:

seanbegin

I started out in long sleeves and pants, as it was chilly, but I had other layers underneath for when it warmed up.

I could tell I was speedier and more endurant than the previous time, as I kept fairly close with people at the front of the pack for a while.  2 years ago, the whole pack left me behind within a few miles of the start.  I was able to go quite a ways without resting, and in fact, I stopped the first time mainly just to take come pictures.  This is one of them:

41view

That’s off of route 42 in or near the town of Richmond (I included an iPhone pic of the same view in a live post).  I generally tried to take pictures of things that I didn’t photograph 2 years ago, as I didn’t think I needed to duplicate the old stuff.  Plus, that allowed me to stop less.

I got to the first official rest area in relatively quick time, and then spent half an hour there between using the bathroom, having a granola bar, and blogging (note to self: posting 6 pictures from my iPhone with only a 2-bar cell connection takes a while).  I was feeling pretty warm at that stop, so I stripped down to my short-sleeve jersey and shorts, and put on sunscreen.  This seemed like a good move until I got going again, when I got cold riding in the wind.  Within an hour, though, the temp got warm enough that I stopped being cold.

I had something happen during this second leg of the ride that I hadn’t experienced before: a falling leaf hit me in the face and pasted itself onto my sunglasses.  The wind just held it there.  I had to reach up and pull it off, otherwise it probably would have stayed there until I slowed sufficiently for it to fall off.

Partway through this second leg, I took a couple pics of a pond:

pond1

pond2

And after a couple more miles, some mountain shots:

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alfmount2

Even with 2 photo stops, I still made as good time to the second rest area as I had to the first.  Here’s where they setup the second stop, located in Great Barrington:

guthsign

guthbldg

rest2

I was there for about 20 minutes, then got going again around 12:10.  I still had almost 20 miles to go, but figured I could cover that distance by 2:00.

Soon after that, I came to this paper mill, which I had seen last time but not photographed.  I think it’s a pretty neat building:

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risingmill2

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And just a couple miles from that was what looked like a village center, which from Google maps looks like might be called Housatonic.  It’s definitely part of the town of Great Barrington:

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The route then headed North into Stockbridge, following the Housatonic River, and heading slowly uphill over a couple of miles.  Eventually, I passed the Norman Rockwell Museum:

normsign

The road levels off for a bit after that, but then one turns West onto Route 102, and the road ascends again.  It’s a gradual hill, but it’s long, and by this point my legs were getting a little tired.  That climb ends soon after 102 crosses the Mass Pike, and then there’s a nice long downhill ride back into West Stockbridge.  In that town’s center, I stopped again (and blogged), and then started the last 10-mile stretch.  Mild hills felt like a lot of work at this point, given my muscular tiredness, and I had to downshift much more often (and into lower gears) than I had to earlier in the ride.

I did make it back to the ski area before 2:00, though, cutting off an hour from my time 2 years ago.  Here’s a picture of me at the end (after I’d eaten and stuff):

seanafter

Thanks very much to everyone who supported me with donations.  The total amount I raised was $715, about equaling the donations I got last time (and this time the economy is worse, so I really appreciate people’s willingness to give).

In the future, whether I do more charity rides or just riding for fun, I can certainly challenge myself to ride a distance like this in even shorter time, but I feel like I’m ready to attempt greater distances.  50 miles has, in a sense, become “no big deal” for me.  Stay tuned to this site for further developments!

Posted by seaking on 09-27-2009 at 10:09 pm
Posted in Biking with 1 Comment

All done!

Woo hoo! I’m at the finish. Got here at about 1:53. That’s at least an hour shorter than last time. Bring in better shape and more practiced at riding definitely made a difference, as did, to a lesser degree, riding a hybrid bike rather than a mountain bike.
Coming in to the finish is fun, as they have people there to cheer as you arrive (see pictures below).
The last ten miles were the hardest, as my legs were getting tired.
Time to have some lunch, and then drive home. I’ll be taking the scenic route back (i.e. Route 9).

Posted by seaking on 09-26-2009 at 02:09 pm
Posted in Biking with 0 Comments

Getting there

I’m back in West Stockbridge. The route North through here doesn’t have a rest stop, but I pulled over anyway (there was a lot of hill climbing after the last stop). Some river pix are below (I think it’s the Housatonic). Got about 10 miles to go.

Posted by seaking on 09-26-2009 at 01:09 pm
Posted in Biking with 0 Comments

Stopped again

I’m at the second rest stop now, close to 32 miles into the ride. This is going a bit quicker than I thought it would, as I got here before noon. It’s certainly a lot quicker than last time (and at that time I missed this stop). Below are pix of sights from the second leg of the ride. It has also warmed up considrably – I took off some layers at the last stop, but was cold in the wind for a while. Now it’s nice.

Posted by seaking on 09-26-2009 at 11:09 am
Posted in Biking with 0 Comments

First third!

Well, I’m at the first rest stop, about one third of the way done. It took me 1 hour and 10 minutes to get here, which included a 5-minute stop to rest and take pics. Below are pictures of the start of the race, a mountain view along route 41 in Richmond, and the rest stop itself in West Stockbridge. About to get going again!

Posted by seaking on 09-26-2009 at 10:09 am
Posted in Biking with 0 Comments

In the beginning

I’m at Bousquet ski area, the starting and ending point for the MS ride. They have free wi-fi here, so I have a pretty fast connection. Those of us riding 50 miles begin in abot 25 minutes. Just having a bit of food before I get ready to set out. It’s a bit chilly – in the mid to upper forties – but it will get up to 65 later. That’s all for now.

Posted by seaking on 09-26-2009 at 08:09 am
Posted in Biking with 0 Comments

Testing the app

So I have an iPhone that I got as a hand-me-down earlier this year. I’m writing this post on the phone, using the WordPress app. If this works well, I’ll be able to do some better liveblogging of my ride this Saturday than I was able to do last year.

If you can see a picture below, then I’ll be able to include those during the ride.

Posted by seaking on 09-24-2009 at 07:09 pm
Posted in Meta with 0 Comments

Training: Collapse and Construction

This past Saturday I went for my final training ride.  I set out for the City of Westfield, which I’ve never been in, except for traveling through it on the Mass Pike.

I started out heading over the river into Northampton, and then went South on route 5 so I could pick up the Manhan Rail Trail, and ride it through most of Easthampton. I had heard earlier this year that part of the trail collapsed when a sinkhole opened up, but I didn’t know exactly where that occurred, or how large it was.  I discovered it soon after getting on the trail, as it’s near the Eastern end:

sinkhole1

sinkhole2

Needless to say, I wasn’t going to be crossing that gap (it was a good 50 feet across).  I peered over the edge and saw a bit of construction equipment.  Apparently efforts have recently begin to start fixing the hole and trail.  As I was taking pictures, a cyclist showed up below, walking his bike through the trench, then coming up a sort of construction road and making his way through the woods over to the part of the trail I was on.  He said that was the first (and might be the last) time he’d attempted crossing through that way, but he’d just gotten tired of going the long way around.  He also mentioned that the original collapse was not quite as wide – the repair efforts have widened the gap somewhat.

I ended up going back to the beginning of the trail, but at least got a nice view of the Connecticut River oxbow before leaving the gap:

oxbowlook

I headed down nearby East St., which parallels the trail for a while, and then I took a side street back to the trail at a point past the collapse.  I continued on toward downtown.

Just before downtown Easthampton, one comes upon various abandoned mill/factory buildings:

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deadfactory2

deadfactory3

I kept on the Manhan trail until its end near the West edge of town.  From there I hopped onto Route 10, and headed into Southampton, a town I had never been in before.  Just before hitting the town line, I saw this view of mountains to the West:

e-s_view

Southampton is a pretty town – there are some little shopping centers, and a big Harley-Davidson dealership, along 10, but most of it is pretty rural.

The Manhan River, which flows through Easthampton, goes first through Southampton.  I took a couple of pics of it where it crossed Route 10:

manriv1

manriv2

A heron flew up soon after I got to the river crossing.  It landed at first near that left-hand red building, but when I tried to photograph it, it flew across the road to get farther away.  I managed to spin around a get a pic of it in flight, traveling away from me:

heronfly

And then I captured it from afar, along with some ducks and geese:

heronducks

Not too long after that, I was heading up a gradual hill, and came upon this:

elecmail1

Coolest

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Mailbox

elecmail3

Ever!

(I think the owner works for one of the local electric companies, as you can see a utility truck parked there.)

A bit further along I passed into Westfield, and then Route 202 joined with Route 10.  The combined highway heads South for a couple more miles before passing the Pike (aka Interstate 90) and then the road descends a hill into downtown Westfield.  There are 2 bridges that would normally carry traffic over the Westfield river into downtown, but one of them is under construction.  Here’s the one that is open:

westbridge1

And here’s a view from that bridge of the other one:

westbridge2

Here are various pictures taken in and around the downtown:

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westdown3

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westdown5

westdown6

Here’s the Westfield River again, looking the other way (downriver, East) from the previous view:

wf_river

I headed back North, up the hill and past 90 again, and noticed the airport off to the right side:

barnes

That would be Barnes Municipal Airport, which also functions as an air National Guard base.

Just after I got back into Southampton, I saw this great view of Mt. Tom off to the Northeast:

sh_tomview

That’s technically the whole Mt. Tom range, but Tom itself is the peak on the right (if you look closely, you can see the many antennae on the peak).

I stopped off at a little grocery on the way home and got an apple to keep my energy up, but I didn’t have a huge amount of time, so didn’t want to take too long to eat.  I skipped the Manhan trail on the way back, and just took Route 10 all the way to downtown Northampton, then Route 9 back across the Connecticut to Hadley.  I made the whole round trip in just a hair under 5 hours.  Total distance: 48 miles.

I’m definitely ready for the big ride this coming Saturday.  More details in my next post.

Posted by seaking on 09-22-2009 at 10:09 pm
Posted in Biking with 1 Comment

Training: Turning or Falling

This past Sunday, I went for a longer ride than my previous few, up to the village of Turners Falls.  It is not its own municipality – rather the village is part of the Town of Montague, which generally lies across the Connecticut River from Greenfield and Deerfield.

It was almost a straight North ride all the way, passing through parts of the towns of Amherst, Leverett, and Sunderland before entering Montague.  I went through Montague center, and stopped off at the Book Mill, which I’ve written about before.

millsign

bkmill1

I browsed there for about half an hour (didn’t buy anything), and then continued toward Turners Falls.

There was a bit of hill climbing to do on the way North, and then the road descended quite a ways into downtown T.F.  The main drag through town is called Avenue A, and it looks something like this:

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This sign greets visitors coming Southwest over the river from the Town of Gill:

turndown1

Here is the bridge to Gill:

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The view upriver from that bridge:

turnriv1

Here is the dam on that side of the bridge:

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Here’s the downriver view on the other side of the bridge (and the dam):

turnriv2

turnriv3

On the bridge I saw these flowers:

bridgebouquet

Perhaps someone fell or jumped from that spot.

There is a canal that comes off of the river and parallels it for a while.  Along that canal is a bike path:

turnbike

Here’s the bridge, seen from the path:

turnbridge2

The canal, with not much water in it:

turncanal1

Further down it has more of a flow:

turncanal2

Across the canal are old factories/mills, beyond which is the river proper, and then a ridgeline:

turnfact

A walkway crossing the canal:

canalwalk

Just outside of downtown, I ran across a sculpture park that I had not known about.  It has many things made of old bike parts, as well as some other items:

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sculpark1

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After riding around a bit more, I stopped in at the Rendezvous for some food:

rendezvous

I had a delicious cheese plate and a virgin mojito (lime and mint are a wonderful combo when you’re thirsty).

From there I rode the bike trail to the West, and followed it across an old train bridge into Deerfield:

bikebrg

Here’s the view from that bridge North, looking at the confluence of the Deerfield River with the Connecticut (and the car bridge into Greenfield):

greenturnriv1

This is South (down the Connecticut):

greenturnriv2

I didn’t have time to explore the West side of the river, so I came back across, and headed back down to the bookmill and toward home the way I came.  Somewhere in Leverett, I believe, I came across this little fenced-in cemetery:

picketcem

I think it may be a family graveyard, as there seemed to be a house just behind it.

I made it home about 5.5 hours after starting out, feeling pretty tired (and sore in the legs).  Total distance: 46 miles.

Next: A Place with a Base

Posted by seaking on 09-17-2009 at 09:09 pm
Posted in Biking with 2 Comments

Training: Hidden in Plain Sight

I went for a ride on Labor Day, and my main destination was a place that’s not very well-known around here, and even less visited.  But I’ll get to that in a bit.  First, I headed over to Northampton and checked out the new bike trail that runs North-South along the train tracks:

newpath

It seems that it’s not quite finished, as you can tell when you get to a bridge that another layer of pavement is needed for things to line up.  There are 2 bridges on this section of trail – one over North St.:

northbridge

and one over Main St.:

mainbridge

Though both of them say the path is closed, neither has any barriers, so I rode across them both (and I wasn’t the only one).  After crossing Main Street, the trail passes along the “back” side of downtown Noho, mainly passing a couple of parking lots.  It then heads West, passing a corner of the Smith College campus and crossing the Mill River on another new bridge:

millbridge

That bridge replaced an old railroad trestle.  Looking down, you can see that it uses the same supports as the train bridge did:

support

Here is the river flowing South from under the bridge:

millriv

Soon after that, the path comes to an end (until they do more construction), and dumps one on Earl St.  a short block from there put me on Route 10, which I followed Southwest to the town of Easthampton.  In Easthampton center, there’s a nice pond that’s fed by (or feeds into) the Manhan River.  I sat on a bench by the pond to have lunch.  This was my view:

ehampond

Just behind where I was sitting was a bear statue:

pondbear

It’s part of this art project the town is doing this year.

After eating, I headed South on Route 141 into Holyoke.  This includes climbing a considerable hill just before getting to the Holyoke line.  I rode up that hill last year on the way to hike Mt. Tom, and at that time I had to rest 4 times to get up the hill.  I must be in better shape right now, because I only had to stop and rest twice on this occasion.

My main goal was to head to Scott Tower in Holyoke’s Anniversary Hill Park.  I found out about it last Fall from an article in the Valley Advocate (our local free weekly paper).  One first goes to Community Field, which is a little playground/park that is easy to find.  From there, there’s a little road that passes under the freeway:

holygate

The other side of the overpass is, I believe, where Anniversary Hill Park officially begins, and the road gets a bit narrower as it heads into the woods.  The road heads uphill, and eventually reaches a cell tower.  From there, there are narrower (but still paved) paths that lead up to the top of the hill and the observation tower.

Here is Scott Tower itself when I emerged into its clearing:

scotttower1

The area around the base is quite overgrown:

scottgrowth

Clearly people do come up here regularly, but it is not a place used highly by the general public, or maintained much by the city, as evidenced by the large amounts of graffiti, litter, and broken glass (do not go there in bare feet or even sandals).

The base of the tower:

scotttower2

scotttower3

More evidence of low maintenance is this sign, which clearly used to include the words “Enter”, “at”, and “risk”:

ownsign

Here is the entrance to the spiral concrete staircase:

scotttower4

The steps go up one story to an observation deck around the tower:

scottdeck1

On that deck is this interesting graffito:

scottdeck2

This deck occurs about one quarter of the way up – there’s still a bunch more to climb:

scotttower5

I continued up the steps, which were mostly in good condition, though I found one that was mostly missing (I stepped over that one).  Nearing the top, there’s this narrow window:

windslit

At the top, there’s a metal roof overhead, with some bars holding it up:

towertop

Here’s a view of Mt. Tom to the North:

scottview1

Downtown Holyoke to the East:

scottview2

The ground below, where I emerged from the woods:

scottview3

and looking South, the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home (with a bit of I-91 visible to the left):

scottview4

After taking a good look around, it was time to head back down the steps:

downsteps

They seemed steeper heading down.  I had no trouble doing so, though I had to be slow skipping the missing step.  I rode back down the hill, and encountered a few people coming into the park just as I was about to cross back under the freeway.  Other than them, I hadn’t seen a soul while exploring.

I headed out of Holyoke into South Hadley, crossing the Connecticut River on US Route 202.  Here’s the view downriver from that bridge, looking toward the Holyoke dam (which you can’t really see, but it’s where the water drops off):

holydam1

Off to the right side is where some of the water is diverted into Holyoke’s system of canals:

holydam2

From there, I headed North through S. Hadley back to the town of Hadley and home.  Total distance: 34 miles.

Next: A Town that Isn’t

Posted by seaking on 09-16-2009 at 10:09 pm
Posted in Biking with 2 Comments

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