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Sean's Blog

Around the water in 8 hours

2 weeks ago I went for my next training ride (I had a few weekends where I didn’t ride, because we were on vacation – pictures from that to come).  This time I planned a route around the Quabbin reservoir.

I started out the same way I had a month previously – by riding east to downtown Ware.  This time, I stopped to take a picture of the town’s welcome sign, with its claim to fame, of sorts:

Click here to see where that name comes from.

They must have known I was coming, because they built a cake:

The town is apparently celebrating its birthday:

I stopped here for a bit of a break, next to a tiny park:

The plaque that went with this little patch of green:

After my break, I headed north out of town on a minor road that ran not far from the Quabbin, though it was low enough that it didn’t offer any views of the water.

Soon after leaving downtown, I did see this sign:

Apparently Ware is the town of weird quotations on signs.

While I couldn’t see much scenery to the west, where the reservoir was located, I did see some nice views of a ridge to the east:

On this road, I passed into the town of Hardwick, and soon, I saw a frog sitting in the middle of the road:

I’m sure it was enjoying the sun there, but I was worried about the traffic (although there wasn’t a whole lot of that).  I did see one car go by that passed harmlessly over the frog.  Hopefully it continued to be that lucky until it decided to leave the road.

The road soon started to descend a ways, becoming almost completely wooded, and then turned east.  There were an entrance or two to the Quabbin reservation at that point, and the road started to climb toward Hardwick center.  It climbed for a ways – more than a mile, certainly, and then a horse farm provided some more open views:

I think I could almost see the water from there, but not quite.

Soon I cut over on a side street to state highway 32, missing Hardwick center so I could head north sooner on 32.  I came upon a couple of houses through whose yards I could actually see the water:

The road climbed a bit more, but then went downhill as I crossed the Petersham town line.  At that point, the road surface became a good deal worse, and there were hardly any lines painted on it to speak of.  I was surprised to find a numbered highway looking like that, but that section of road turns out to be pretty low traffic compared to the section in Hardwick, so maybe it makes sense.

In one house’s yard I saw a couple of wild turkeys near the road.  However, by the time I’d gotten out my camera, they had retreated a bunch:

I eventually got to Petersham center, and tried stopping at the one restaurant in town.  It turns out that the place closes at 2:00, which is exactly when I got there.  I was hungry, though, so I ended up getting some convenience food at the general store in the town center (which apparently would be opening up a deli in another week or two).

After eating I headed west toward New Salem on route 122, and to skirt the northern end of the Quabbin.  Before getting to the Quabbin itself, I passed the picturesque Harvard Pond:

A bit of a ways after that, I turned off the highway and went into the Quabbin reservation, I passed a boat launch, and then went onto a narrow road that only allowed bikes and pedestrians.  There were a couple of little bridges over parts of the water – here’s the view in each direction from one of those bridges:

There was a semicircular edge that water was spilling over in that second photo – sort of a little dam.  I noticed this little bird walking around on top of it:

Just after that, the road turned to dirt and gravel.  Also, I came to realize that a few roads on the route that I’d planned were these little Quabbin dirt roads (they didn’t look like that on the map).  As such, they were unmarked, and at one point I went the wrong way and had to turn back from a dead end.  The road that actually went somewhere in that case looked like a less of a major path at its turnoff than the dead end one.

Here’s a picture of the road at one point:

Riding on these paths was worth it, though, because I still got some nice water views:

Soon after I took those shots, I had to climb a ways, and then I emerged through a gate onto a paved, but still very minor, town road in New Salem.  A little more climbing brought me to US 202, where I would turn south (but not until after a stop at the New Salem general store for some more liquids).

At this point, my legs were tired of hill climbing, but I still had some to do, as route 202 goes up and down as you head south through the towns of Shutesbury and Pelham (they call them ‘hill towns’ for a reason).  Just before leaving this highway, I got to a scenic overlook in Pelham which I’d driven by several times in the past.  Here you can see the Quabbin from the west side:

From there I headed west (and downhill all the way) into Amherst, where I went through the Amherst College campus and picked up the Norwattuck trail, which I took back to Hadley.  My total time for the trip was 8 hours, 15 minutes, and the length: 71 miles.

Watch this space for longer trips yet!

Posted by seaking on 08-28-2011 at 02:08 pm
Posted in Biking with 0 Comments

Flowers and Potholes

2 weeks after my adventure with flat tires, I made another attempt to bike to Shelburne Falls.  This time I made it!  I took a slightly different route through Northampton, allowing me to stay on the bike trail much longer, and avoid a little hill climbing that I’d done before.  The route through Williamsburg was mostly the same, and I rode the same road through Whately into Conway.  After passing Conway center (and the point where my tube had blown out the previous time), I was in territory I’d never been in before.

The road is pretty level for a while, even declining a little, but then there is a good-sized hill climb.  It was at least a 2-rest-stop hill.  After that climb, though, the road gently declines for quite a long distance.  Eventually, I passed from Conway into the town of Buckland, and saw this view:

Among the wild (?) flowers in this field, I saw this lily:

I was thinking that, at some point, I would pass into the town of Shelburne Falls, but I discovered that that there is no town by that name.  Before too long, I arrived in the Shelburne Falls historical district of Buckland.  And on the other side of the Deerfield River was the Shelburne Falls district of the town of Shelburne.

I rode across the river on this bridge to check out the lay of the town (and to look for a bike rack):

I did find a rack by the public library, and having secured the bike, started walking around.

I walked back over the iron bridge and saw the Bridge of Flowers, one of the attractions I’d come to see:

I approached the bridge:

I took quite a few photos of the flowers on the bridge, however I don’t know what all of them are.  A few of the plants seemed to be labeled with little signs, but most of them weren’t.  Here are a whole bunch, in the order I encountered them:

There were a couple of trees on the bridge, including this one with big seed pods:

These are delphiniums (blue):

Balloon flowers! (which we grow ourselves, as well):

Now it’s flowers in 3-D:

These looked like tiny roses:

White balloon flowers:

Begonias, perhaps?

I thought these were really neat looking, and they had a sign:

They’re called crocosmia lucifer.  Here’s a wider shot:

A poppy (which did not put me to sleep):


A more pastel shade of delphinium:

I think these are lilies, but the leaf structure is unfamiliar to me:

I don’t know what these are:

But the bees really liked them:

After I finished going across the bridge of flowers, I headed to the other main attraction in Shelburne Falls, the glacial potholes.  Basically, they’re these interesting rock formations in a portion of the river (next to which a dam was built).  Here’s the view down the river toward that area:

And here is the overview of the pothole area:

Followed by some close-ups:

The view upriver from the potholes:

There is an old mill building (apparently empty) next to the pothole viewing area (with a star o’mill):

As I headed away from the potholes, I saw this little zen garden in front of a yoga studio:

After seeing the sights, I had lunch at McCusker’s Market; I ate a lovely turkey and avocado sandwich with lots of veggies.

Following lunch, I headed west and a bit north out of town, and then picked up route 112 to head back south.  It was a nice, easy ride until I hit the town of Ashfield, and then I began to climb, and climb.  The hill seemed to go on forever, and required a number of rests (I was probably getting a bit tired at this point).  I eventually got to route 116, and headed east (and downhill) toward Conway, heading south again before getting to Conway center.

The road I was on this time involved another climb, not as bad as the previous one, and then had lots of downhill riding toward Williamsburg.  I passed through Williamsburg center, and headed southeast back through Northampton and toward home.

Including the nearly 2 hours I spent in Shelburne Falls, the trip took about 8.25 hours.  My total riding distance was 68 miles, a new personal record for one trip.

Posted by seaking on 08-18-2011 at 10:08 pm
Posted in Biking with 1 Comment

Ware, I went

After my failed attempt to ride to Shelburne Falls, I planned another training ride the following weekend.  This time, I went for a bit more modest distance, because I went biking the evening before, and was a bit tired from that.

The evening ride was on Saturday, July 9, and involved riding from Hadley north to Sunderland, MA and back.  It was a quick 22 miles.

The following morning, I set out for points east and south.  I first rode east through Amherst and Belchertown to the town of Ware (“Where?”  “That’s right.”).  On the way, I passed near the southern part of the Quabbin Reservoir reservation, and rode right by a marshy area along state route 9.  Saw a heron there (at a distance):

The road gets a little hilly as one gets closer to downtown Ware, and so I was feeling a little bit worn already when I got there.  Here’s what the main street looks like:

In the distance is the spire of the Town Hall:

Here’s the whole building:

I’m always fascinated by how many town and city halls in New England seem to look like churches.  Coincidence?

I left Ware heading south on route 32 toward Palmer, MA.  This was a slightly hilly, and not always very interesting-looking ride, but I did find one nice view:

I could tell that the ride the evening before was still having an effect on me, as even minor hills were slowing me down a fair deal.

Before too long, though, I got to Palmer, passed south of the Mass Pike, and started heading back west on US 20.  As I rode out of Palmer’s downtown, I passed this abandoned fast food place:

There were no signs indicating what it was, though the patterns on the awnings might give some clue.  The only text seemed to be a “Welcome” sign over the side door, and this:

At that moment, I wasn’t hungry yet, having had a sizable breakfast.  But it was nice to be asked, I suppose.

I passed briefly through the town of Monson after that, and then into Wilbraham.  In the latter, the road started run along the Chicopee River:

That’s the view west (downriver), and here’s back east:

Soon after this, I turned onto a side road that took me across the river into Ludlow.  There’s a dam just before that bridge:

I didn’t take any more pictures after that, as I didn’t see anything I really wanted to photograph.  I rode through Ludlow, with a short break to eat some fruit I’d brought along, skirting the Pike on a parallel surface road.

This road took me into the city of Chicopee, where I ran into route 33, a heavily developed road.  I headed north on 33 toward home, and though it isn’t a particularly pretty ride, it was direct and pretty flat.  My legs were not liking inclines much at that point.  I stopped at a convenience store to get some kind of drink with electrolytes, and fortunately I wasn’t feeling picky, because they had hardly anything on their shelves or in the coolers.  I wasn’t sure if the place was closing, or getting ready to remodel, or what (and I neglected to ask).

Somewhat refreshed, I continued up into South Hadley, where I rode on route 116 for a while, and then picked up route 47, which took me back to Hadley.  47 has a few short but steep hills, and it took me a good bit more time to climb them than I was used to (this is the route I use when I ride my bike to work).  I did make it home, though, having spent about 6 hours total on the ride.  Miles ridden: 58.  Still an improvement over my previous rides of the year, and a total of 80 miles for the weekend.

Posted by seaking on 08-15-2011 at 10:08 pm
Posted in Biking with 0 Comments

Sean Rides Again!

As I’ve done on two previous occasions, I’m doing a fundraising bike ride for charity.  There are a couple of differences this time, though.  Instead of the MS Society, I’m riding in an event being held for the first time by the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.  It’s a local organization that collects and distributes food to other area organizations that serve people in need of food.

The other difference is that, instead of going 50 miles, which is pretty easy for me now, I’m going to try and ride 100 miles – something I have not yet come even close to.

As with other rides, I’m looking for donations in any amount to benefit the Food Bank.  My goal is to try and raise a total of $1000.  If you want to give, you can visit my fundraising page at and donate online, or contact me to send me payment in another form.

The ride takes place on September 17.  I’m in the process of training now, and my next few posts will be about training rides I’ve already done.

Wish me luck!


Posted by seaking on 08-13-2011 at 10:08 pm
Posted in Biking, News with 0 Comments

Cereus Matters

Last fall, we acquired a night-blooming cereus plant (more correctly known as epiphyllum oxypetalum) from someone on Freecycle.  I was told that it had never bloomed in its former home.  We thought, “well, maybe we’ll get lucky”.  So it sat on the porch until the weather got cold, and then it sat by a window in the house over the winter, getting watered once a week or so.

This past spring, we put it outside again, giving it water more often.  Lo, and behold, we discovered a little bloom right around the beginning of July.

Here is the plant with the flower on the right, after 4 or 5 days’ growth:

And a close-up view of the flower:

One of the fascinating things about this plant’s flowers, as you can see from the pictures, is the the flower grows directly off the side of a leaf.  It makes sense, though, when you know that the plant is related to cacti.

The flower opened that night.  Here it is beginning to do so:

Opening much more after dark:

And fully open, shortly before we went to bed:

The next morning, it had mostly closed up again, and it stayed closed until it withered (as these are wont to do).

Will we get another bloom next summer, or even earlier?  We shall see!


Posted by seaking on 08-05-2011 at 11:08 pm
Posted in News with 1 Comment

Totally Not Tubular

Over the July 4th weekend I made an attempt at a longer bike ride, intending to ride to Shelburne Falls (where I had never been before).  I made sure that I had plenty of air in my tires, and plenty of water, and set out mid-morning, riding first to Northampton.

I headed out into Florence, and then North through a rural part of Noho.  While on a country road, I spotted this house with interesting wood/paint work:

Who knows who lives there.

Soon after that, I passed through part of the town of Williamsburg, and then into Whately.  I passed by the Whately reservoir while climbing a good-sized hill:

and I saw just a few geese hanging out there:

I kept going, with more climbing to do on the same road after that hill.  Before too long, I was in the town of Conway, where there is a nice, long downhill stretch that takes you into the town center.  This was all part of a route that I had traveled on a couple of previous rides, but I started into unknown territory as I headed North away from the town center.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get very far.  About a mile North of Conway center, I hit a bump and my front tire blew out.  I suspect it was overinflated, as I had put air in the tires with an air compressor.  I always carry a patch kit and tools with me, so I quickly removed the tire and found that there was a nearly 2-inch gash in the tube.  I set to work patching it (using 2 patches in the process).

The patch seemed like it had worked, but I pumped up the tube to test it, and it started to leak out the side of one of the patches.  So, I slapped another patch on that.  Again I tested the tube with air, and after holding for a few seconds, it leaked again.  I tried with a fourth patch, but could not get the thing to hold air.  At this point, I had spent nearly an hour working on the tube, and knew I wouldn’t have time to go to Shelburne Falls.  I walked the bike back into Conway to see if I could find some place to get a new tube.

I had lunch at a general store and luncheonette in town, and asked where there might be a bike shop.  It turned out that the nearest one was several miles away in Sunderland.  Too far for me to walk.  I tried searching on bike shops on my phone in case there might be a closer one, and discovered a bike touring company that was located not too far away.  I called their number to ask if they would sell me a tube.  As it happened, they had a tour group who would be riding right past my location in a little bit, and they could give me a tube at no charge.

So I waited a while (it ended up being another hour), and the group did ride by and stop.  The tubes they had were for standard road bike tires, rather than the somewhat wider ones my hybrid bike uses, but I made a go of it.  With enough inflation, the tire seemed good to go, and I started riding back toward home.  However, when I was back in Whately, just a little way past the reservoir, the front tire went flat again.  I tried putting in air, but it would leak out right away.  At that point, I needed to get home, so did not have time to try patching the temp tube.  So I gave up on the ride, and called home to get a car ride.

The next day I went to a bike shop and bought 2 tubes, so that I could have a spare one to carry, and also got a new tire, as the old one had some of the metal bead exposed (which could have pinched or scraped the previous tubes, contributing to the leaks).  I planned to take another crack at this trip later.  In the meantime, I had ridden a mere 29 miles (and walked 2 miles or so).

Posted by seaking on 08-03-2011 at 11:08 pm
Posted in Biking with 1 Comment

Sodas and Waterfowl

The first weekend in June I went on a bike trip up to Turner’s Falls and Greenfield.  I headed up through Amherst, Leverett, and past Montague Center to get to Turner’s Falls (where I had been on a previous ride), and once I got there, I rode the full length of the bike path that follows the Connecticut River.  That path runs for a while along a canal, but then the canal rejoins the river to the West of downtown.  While next to the river proper, I saw several ducks sitting on logs in the water, and I also saw this bird:

Which, from some Google searching, appears to be a cormorant.

The path eventually leaves the river for a bit, then crosses it, as the river turns South.  The path ends soon after, in the Northern part of Deerfield.  From there, I rode across the Deerfield River into Greenfield, and went downtown to The People’s Pint for lunch.  I had never been there before, but had recently heard about the sodas that they brew themselves.  I tried both the root beer and the ginger ale, and while the former was good, the latter was amazing!  It’s fairly gingery, but also has a citrus base to it.  Highly recommended.  Unfortunately, while the brewery bottles a number of its beers for sale in area stores, the sodas are only available there at the pub.

Once I left there, I headed home by a different route than I’d taken on the way up.  I rode down through Deerfield, Whately, and Hatfield into Northampton, and then back across the Connecticut to Hadley.  This ride was part of an effort to extend the distance I can ride – the total length was about 53 miles.  More on my riding plans for this year in an upcoming post.

Posted by seaking on 08-03-2011 at 10:08 pm
Posted in Biking with 0 Comments