As you may have seen from my brief iPhone posts, I rode in the Will Bike for Food event this past Saturday. It was grueling, but good, and I’m still marveling that I did it.
The morning was a cold one – the low had been only a little above freezing the night before, and when I arrived at the starting point in Easthampton, it was still only 40 to 45 degrees out. I had planned for that, though, and wore a few layers.
The 100-mile ride was officially supposed to start at 9:00am, but as I checked in I was informed that other riders had already gone ahead and started. I wanted to get back as early as possible, so after having a little food, I took off at 8:30. I started out with another guy who had just checked in, and who had more experience than me, though I knew the ride course (at least the beginning of it) much better than he did.
At first we headed along the Manhan rail trail to its western end, then went north, cutting through a bit of Southampton before heading into Westhampton and up(hill) to Outlook Farm. We then went west on route 66 (which I specifically had trained on), with its slow climbing leading up to the first big hill. That hill wasn’t too bad, and in the climbing leading up to it we only stopped once (my endurance has definitely increased). Having been over this part of the route before, I was a lot more confident going down the steep downhill portion.
The route went south on highway 112 in Huntington for just a bit, then headed west on a road called Bromley Road. The Food Bank website had claimed that the hill we’d previously climbed was the worst of the course. I have to disagree. Most of this Bromley Road involved climbing, and the climbing started with a very steep part around a hairpin turn, so one could not have any momentum going into it. This area is where my erstwhile companion pulled away as I took a rest, and he ended up out of sight. As I climbed further parts of this road, other cyclists caught up and passed me.
Eventually the road ended at a slightly busier road called Skyline Trail in the town of Chester. There was a little more climbing on that road, but also some nice views, such as these pictures I took just after getting on the road:
Those are looking east, back toward Huntington.
Skyline trail took me into the town of Middlefield, where I passed a biker I hadn’t seen earlier. Soon after that, I arrived at the first water stop, which was at the town hall. The biker I had passed caught up and stopped there, so I found out that he was also doing the 100-mile ride, and he’d started before me. He ended up leaving the stop shortly before I did.
After some water and trail mix, I started out again, and took a picture of the actual Middlefield town center:
The road started going downhill a bunch after this, and I passed that guy again. It turns out I was not the slowest rider on this course – merely the second slowest.
I stopped for another view picture, and saw this windmill on a farm:
Here’s the view in that spot looking west/northwest:
There were a few short uphill parts as I continued on this road, but then more lovely descents. Soon I was in the town of Hinsdale, and went off on a side road the led to route 143. I turned onto that road only for a few yards, then turned off again to head north on New Windsor road. This is a narrow road leading through a wooded area, and it comes to a T-intersection where we were instructed to turn left (onto the fun-named Frank Schnopp Rd.), and head west. This road went by a reservoir:
That tall, thin thing in the background is a high electrical tower (you can sort of see the power lines). After I stopped to take that picture, I passed a better view of the water, but didn’t stop again as I wanted to make good time (I passed up other picture opportunities later for the same reason).
Somewhere around that reservoir I passed into the town of Dalton, and eventually turned north briefly, ending up at Mass route 9. This was the westernmost point in the ride (being near Dalton center I was not very far from Pittsfield). I started eastward on 9, thinking the ride would be fairly easy along this busy highway.
It wasn’t that easy. While route 9 out in that area has nice wide shoulders to keep one away from traffic, it also spends a few miles slowly climbing from Dalton into Windsor. The climb is so gradual, it looked like I shouldn’t have trouble with it, but I couldn’t get up much speed and had to stop and rest several times. I got a little worried at this point, but pressed on.
Finally, after some leveling off and more climbing, the road started heading downhill out of Windsor. There’s quite a bit of downhill taking one into the town of Cummington. One site you see on the way down is this observatory:
At least, I think that’s what that is.
As I got a little ways into Cummington, the ride course headed off onto a side road which then paralleled 9 for a while. This road led to the next rest stop, but it also involved some fresh hill climbing. At the top of the hill was the rest stop, located at the homestead of poet William Cullen Bryant (at least, the stop was at the end of the homestead’s driveway). I didn’t see any other 100-mile riders here, but this stop was also the halfway point for riders on the 50-mile course, so I saw a few of them.
I was feeling sore and kind of shaky at this point, and very briefly considered taking the 25-mile shortcut to the end, but I decided I wasn’t that bad off, and that I owed it to all my loyal donors to press on. I was feeling unusually cold as I started out again, getting to route 9 and then heading off north on Plainfield Road. The sun came out, though, and the road started climbing, and I got a good deal warmer. Interestingly, I also started feeling better as I climbed. Here’s a view from that climb, looking southwest:
Another 100-miler passed me on this climb, whom I had seen just before on route 9 getting on her bike outside a restaurant. Having a real meal probably would have been a good idea for me in the middle of the day, but I didn’t want to take the time.
By the time the road finished climbing I was in Plainfield, and crossed route 116. What followed was a sequence of back roads that went a little further north, but mostly east (including one Bear Swamp Rd.). There was only a little bit of climbing on these roads, and eventually they started heading down, passing through part of the town of Hawley, and eventually into Ashfield.
In Ashfield I got onto 116 heading east through the center of town for a bit (I had passed through here in July on the way home from Shelburne Falls), and then turned north again on Baptist Corner Rd. More rural backroads followed during which time I saw this cairn by some high electrical lines:
I passed into the town of Conway on these back roads, and ended up on Shelburne Falls Road, where I turned south, and headed down a big hill that I had climbed in July.
Soon enough I got to Conway center, and the third and final rest stop (just over 3 quarters of the way through the ride). I had been at the previous 2 stops for 15 to 20 minutes each, but I spent just over half an hour at this one. The rider who had passed me on the way up to Plainfield was there when I arrived, and she left soon after. Shortly before I left the stop, the slow rider who I had passed hours before got to the stop – so he was clearly as determined as I was to do the whole 100, even though it was clear we wouldn’t make it back before the party ended.
One fun thing about this rest stop – it was outside a little bookstore/cafe, and there was a house across the street which seemed to be the home of some birds. Specifically, a bunch of guinea fowl who were walking around grazing:
Just after 5pm, I left this stop to ride the last segment. I first had to ride back west a bit on route 116, and then do one last section of hill climbing on North Poland and Main Poland roads in Ashfield. While doing that series of climbs, I saw these sculptures in a yard:
I don’t know if those are supposed to be spoons holding peas, or peapods.
Finally finishing the climbing, I headed south and down, down, down into Williamsburg. I passed Williamsburg center and into Northampton, following the Mill River through the Leeds and Florence sections of Noho. Finally, I picked up the new Manhan trail connector just a bit west of Smith College, and followed that back to the start of the ride in Easthampton. I got there at about 7:10pm, 10 hours and 40 minutes after starting. The few organizers who had stuck around to wait for stragglers gave me some leftover burritos, for which I was quite grateful, and I soon packed up the bike and drove home.
Thus ended my first century ride. I felt more tired and sore than from any ride I’d ever done before, and I wasn’t good for much of anything that night, but after sleeping I felt almost normal the following day. I could definitely do this again sometime, but I think the next time I ride 100 miles, I’ll go for a somewhat less hilly ride.
I made it! My first ever century ride, and a very hilly, challenging ride, but I made it. I finished at 7:10 pm, an fortunately there were a few volunteers still around to check people in, and they had food. They gave me burritos. So now I’m eating and then I’ll head home. A full report will follow in the next few days.
Thanks to everyone who donated and gave me encouragement.
I’m at the third rest stop now, having arrived here about 15 minutes ago. At this point I won’t make it back by 6:00, so I won’t get to have the meal they’re serving, but I can always get food in Easthampton. There’s still 27 miles to go, but it’s the easiest segment.
I’m at the entrance to the William Cullen Bryant homestead, at the second rest stop. According to the sheet I’m 55 miles in, and the entire ride is 103. My legs are feeling sore, as is my back a little. Less than 50 miles to go, and I believe there are still 2 serious climbs.
I’m at the first rest area, which is one fourth of the way through. It’s at the Middlefield town hall. It took 2.5 hours to get here. I need to make better time on the rest of the ride, but I think it should be a bit easier going forward, as the worst is supposedly behind me. (There was more climbing after my last post, which was worse than the previous climbing.)
I’ve gotten over the first big hill, and am most of the way down the steep descent. Have only had to stop and rest twice on the way – I’m doing pretty well, endurance wise.
I’m about to get started on the ride. So far it’s chilly out, but I dressed in layers, so I should be fine.
I’m posting this from my iPhone, to make sure that I can do so on my ride tomorrow.
Below is a picture of some fascinating fungi in our backyard. They’re a ways from the house, but were easy to spot from the house because of the rather bright color.
This past Saturday I went for my final training ride. This time my goal was to head up to Brattleboro, Vermont.
I got a reasonably early start and headed north into Amherst and through the UMass campus. From there I went up the familiar route 63 just into Montague, and then diverted through Montague center. Just a but past there, I turned off at a right fork and followed a couple of different roads that make up the Franklin County Bikeway (the Northfield spur mentioned in the text at that site). These roads (one of which was gravel) took me through more rural parts of Montague, roughly halfway between the villages of Turners Falls and Millers Falls. Eventually the road I was using, though paved, got very narrow, and then said that only utility company vehicles were allowed on it. Soon, I came to this bridge:
I had been sort of wondering if I was still allowed to bike here, but there was this sign marking the bikeway:
This bridge crosses the Millers River, and here’s the view upriver to the east:
But much prettier was the view to the west, where the Millers empties into the Connecticut River a short distance away:
That high span is State Route 2 crossing the water.
Once I was across my little bridge, I came out to the side of a road, took a left, and that road then curved north and went under Route 2, following the bank of the Connecticut. I had a few nice views of the river:
Next to that inlet above was a park:
Just after this point, the road became dirt again. It was also clearly the route cars took to the park, as before passing the park I had not seen a car for 20 minutes or more. After passing the park 3 cars went by me in a 5-minute period.
Before too long, the road headed away from the river and into some farmland. In addition to farm fields, I also came across this huge area of grass that was mowed very short – it looked like a lawn, only huge:
There was no obvious house associated with it (all the houses on that part of the road were on the other side). I can’t imagine keeping up with mowing such an area, or to what end one would do it, unless they’re planning on turning it into a golf course or something.
Moving on, the road turned east and took me back to route 63, which I then followed into Northfield center. At this point I started seeing a lot more other cyclists, mostly going the opposite direction that I was heading.
Here’s a shot of what seems to be the main intersection in Northfield:
Continuing north, I got to the border with New Hampshire, which was interestingly marked by a traditional Massachusetts style town sign:
That sign is right next to the only drive-in theater anywhere in our area:
Just after taking these pictures, I was about to start moving again, when I saw this tiny turtle (or tortoise?) that had just crossed the road:
It was only 2 inches long.
After that the road had a few ups and downs, and I was seeing groups of cyclists heading south. There may have been some kind of organized bike event that day, but I’m not sure.
I soon arrived in the center of the town of Hinsdale, NH, and crossed the Ashuelot River. Here are views up and down that river, respectively:
And the town center itself, with some classic New England buildings:
From here I kept going North getting into a more commercial strip of road, which featured a Wal-Mart, a seemingly closed dog racing track, and at least 3 large fireworks stores (they’re legal in NH – not in MA).
The road got closer to the Connecticut River again, which up here forms the border between NH and VT. At last, it turned and headed over the river in two jumps, as the river seems to be divided around an island. Here’s the first bridge, seen after I went over it:
And the second bridge, as I was about to cross it into downtown Brattleboro:
Once I had crossed the road part of the bridge, I came back onto the sidewalk part to take a picture of the river itself:
I also turned the camera toward the NH side, where there’s a high ridge:
As you enter the downtown, there’s a small waterway spilling from under the streets, and around some buildings toward the river:
Here’s a somewhat blurry shot of the main street (I took a few pictures along there, none of which came out very well, for some reason):
I found a place to lock up my bike (against a railing – there are surprisingly few bike racks to be found), and went looking for a place to eat. I saw this sign:
but could not locate the corresponding cafe. I think it may have been under renovation, as there was an empty storefront nearby in the same building:
I walked through a short alley to a parking lot and some stores behind the main drag. There I saw this book mural:
It appears that many of the spines have titles of famous books altered to have local relevance:
It was lucky that I had walked this way, because I came upon this restaurant:
I had no idea previously that there was a middle eastern place of any kind in Brattleboro, much less a Lebanese place (I’m a big fan of Lebanese food). So, I stopped in and had a combo plate. Very good felafel and hummus.
After lunch I wandered back to the bike and took a few more pictures of downtown:
The sign on that glass facade says “River Garden”, and if you pass through the little building, there’s a terrace that looks out on the river, and has trees and such growing just below:
Collecting the bike again, I rode south out of town, following along the Vermont side of the river. There were a few places where the water jutted inland a bit, like this:
Right by this spot, there was a lumber company site with lots of logs piled up, and the logs were being sprayed with water:
Why you would want to keep logs wet I don’t know.
I continued south as the road (route 142) took me away from the river. As I approached the Mass border, I turned off the highway to ride close to what’s known as Satan’s Kingdom Wildlife Management area (there really isn’t a good link for that). This ended up dumping me on a bit more gravel road – really more of a gravel trail – and the roads ceased to look like they did on the online maps. I ended up being unaware of when I crossed into MA, and I got back to route 142 (it has the same number in both states) sooner than I had expected.
Undaunted, I went further south through the town of Gill, passing through the center of town (which I didn’t photograph), and then across the river into Turners Falls.
I went down the bike path in Turners, crossing the Connecticut again into Deerfield, and then I followed the River Road there further south. I emerged onto Route 116, and, while I had originally thought of heading for Northampton at this point, I instead went for a slightly shorter ride and went across the river into Sunderland, then straight south to Hadley and home.
My total ride time, including the hour I spent in Brattleboro, was 8.5 hours. Total distance: 88 miles.
Coming up this weekend: the big ride itself!
On Sunday of Labor Day weekend, I got another ride in, trying to avoid getting rained on. This time I went in a general easterly direction (as well as north). I went through towns I’ve ridden through in the past, but on some roads I hadn’t been on at all before.
The ride started by heading east into Belchertown, by way of Bay Rd. When Bay neared its end, I cut over to US 202, and headed north up into Pelham. Both of those roads have some hill climbing, although nothing like the big hills I did the previous day.
A little ways into Pelham, I left 202 on a road that sort of forked off on the left (called Shutesbury Rd. 2 on the map), and headed north on that into the town of Shutesbury. It’s a nice route to bike, as it doesn’t have all the ups and downs that 202 does to the north of Pelham. I stuck with that road until it ended at the main east-west road through Shutesbury (which is known there as Leverett Rd.). A quick block east of that was the town center, where they have this pillar showing the direction and distance to a few other places:
Here’s Shutesbury’s town hall:
which seems like it has some solar power:
At least, I assume those are solar panels – I didn’t go back there to check it out.
I headed north from this point, on Wendell Rd. (so named because it heads toward the town of Wendell). This road ended up taking me downhill a bunch. I kept expecting to have to do a bunch more climbing, but it just kept going down, with minimal uphill bits. Eventually, I spotted a place that I had heard about, and seen signs for, but not been to in person. That is, Lake Wyola:
I only saw the lake from its west side, where it is rimmed by private homes (so I couldn’t get too close). The picture above really doesn’t do justice to how pretty a spot this is, with trees all around and that hill on the other side. I bet the houses that are right on the lake must cost a pretty penny.
If one continues around to the north side of the lake, there is a state park, so I probably could have gotten closer to the water there, but I had intended to head back west at this point, and so I did. The road I used took me into the north part of the town of Leverett, and before too long I was at the Leverett Village Co-op, which I had visited by bike last year.
I took a rest there for a bit, had a snack, and then headed a bit further west, before turning south and passing through Leverett center. I also passed by the Peace Pagoda, or at least, its sign and driveway. Nothing else can be seen from the road, so I didn’t take any pictures. I’ve heard that it is a pretty place, so maybe I’ll visit at some point (I believe it’s open to the public, though it may only be for special events).
From there I headed into north Amherst, through the UMass campus, and back home. I was out for a bit less than 4 hours of riding, and covered 43 miles. My total for 2 days of riding was 100 miles, though of course that’s not the same as riding 100 in one day. I’m getting there, though.
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