For some reason, this entry could not be posted when I was at the Food Bank, so I’m posting it from home.
I did finish the ride, but it took 12 hours, which is considerably longer than my time of 10.5 hours from 2 years ago. More detail on the ride will be in a longer post in the next couple of days.
Well, I’m not going to do the whole ride in 9 hours. I still have 20 miles to go. The hill that we had to climb was just killer. The road mostly climbed for over 2 miles, and my climbing muscles don’t have a lot of strength left.
I’ve come down from the hill now, and am at another rest stop. Must continue on.
I’m 2/3 of the way done now. In Deerfield at the beginning of the bike path to Montague. We now get to follow the path to Turners Falls.
I’m just over halfway at this point, having finished the first loop. The second loop promises a lot less climbing, so hopefully I’ll still make my time goal. They started us off at 7:10, so I’m shooting for being back here at 4:10.
I’ve reached the second stop, in downtown Conway. We’re 40 miles in, and it’s about 14 miles to the Food Bank, where I’ll start the second loop.
I’ve reached the first rest stop, and am about 26 miles into the route. There was a lot of hill climbing in the first half, but I expect things to get a little faster after this.
I’m at the Food Bank HQ, and will be starting in a few minutes. It’s foggy and cold right now, buy those will change.
Readers will recall that, last year, to celebrate my 40th birthday, I biked to Boston and back. On the way out there, as well as on the way back, I rode on a small section of what will eventually be the Massachusetts Central Rail Trail, running the length of the state. The section I was on runs from Holden to West Boylston, just north of the city of Worcester. What I wasn’t aware of at the time, but realized earlier this year, is that there is another, longer section of trail that I had passed somewhat close to. That section runs through the towns of Barre and Rutland (further to the west than the West Boylston section). I decided earlier this month to ride out there and ride this section of trail.
I began the same way as my Boston trip had, heading east through Amherst and Belchertown, then into downtown Ware. I took a slight detour on the way, going through the southern end of the Quabbin Reservoir reservation, riding across Winsor Dam:
Here’s the view north of the water:
And looking south I could see rather a large number of geese below the dam:
Back on the main road (route 9), I passed a swampy area, and as often happens there, I saw a heron:
Once in Ware, I then headed north into Gilbertville, and went farther north than I had last year, in order to head east on a more direct route to the bike path.
The route I took was not very hilly for a while, but eventually did require a bunch of climbing of me, and then went downhill for a long stretch right to the beginning of the trail in Barre.
What I had not realized was that this section of trail (about 5 or 6 miles total) was not paved. It’s mainly finely crushed stone/gravel, with a few sections that are almost dirt trail. Here’s what the surface mostly looks like:
It is a very pretty area that the trail passes through. Here are some of the water areas:
The trail even does a bit of climbing and falling. There are a couple of tunnels under roads:
and a bit that heads between 2 rock walls:
I took longish rest when I got to the end in Rutland. At this end (and only this end) of the section is a MCRT sign:
Here’s the path seen from that end, just before I started back:
Riding back was a bit quicker to get to the western end of the path, and I then went just north and picked up highway 122 so that I could have a more hill-free ride home. I did make fairly good time getting back, completing the whole trip (85 miles) in less than 8 hours.
In early August I went for a ride to the North. Specifically, I was headed for Northfield, which I had ridden through 2 years ago on my way to Brattleboro, VT. I took pretty much the same route up there, going through the UMass campus into North Amherst, then heading through Leverett and Montague. At the north edge of Montague I went over the same little walking bridge as in 2011, which crosses the Millers River in a very pretty spot.
In fact, as an aside, I got contacted last December by a staff member of the Northfield Mountain reservation asking if they could use one of the pictures I had posted from that bridge. They were putting together a Google map guide to various scenic recreation spots in the area, and thought my picture illustrated the bikeway well. That guide can be seen by clicking here, and if you scroll down the sidebar and click on “Franklin County Bike Path – Northfield Connector”, you’ll see my picture, and a photo credit that links to my 2011 blog post. Pretty neat.
I continued along the Connecticut River, until the road moved me back to highway 63, and then headed up into Northfield Center. I stopped for lunch there (at an okay bar/bistro), and then headed east into new territory for me. I was headed into the town of Warwick, MA, from which I would then head south.
Now, I expected that the road, which goes near Northfield Mountain itself, would climb a ways, and then descend into Warwick. That’s not quite what happens. The road climbs, and climbs, and climbs some more. It turns out that Warwick is at a good bit higher elevation than Northfield. So I kept expecting the climb to end, but then the road would continue going up. Finally it went downward a little, but then I had a last little climb to come out on highway 78, which would take me south.
Now, this was where I really started to go downhill. There was a lot of descending on 78, and some downhill sections were nice and straight, which meant I felt safe letting gravity speed me up a lot. I have a bike computer that I got last Xmas that has a speedometer and odometer – at one point heading down route 78 my speedometer actually read 40MPH! (which is kind of a scary speed on a bicycle – even on a straight road with no traffic around)
Before leaving Warwick, I stopped by the side of the road where there was a nice pond:
As I was taking that picture, something came out of the rushes to my right. It was a heron, which had flown up just a bit to a fallen tree:
It wasn’t there long. I got a couple of pictures of it and then it took off across the pond.
Heading south again, I soon entered the town of Orange – one of the larger towns in Franklin County. I only passed through one corner of it (didn’t really get close to downtown), but my descent ended there. I arrived at route 2A and headed just a tad west, then was able to go south across a little bridge over the Millers.
This is looking back at 2A from that bridge (and having just passed under that railroad trestle in the photo):
Here’s the view upriver (east) from the bridge:
Not visible, but just off the right side of the photo was a house whose lawn sloped right down to the river. I thought it would be really cool to live right by the water like that, but then wondered if their house is high enough to avoid flooding in the spring. Who knows?
Here is the view downriver:
From there I continued south into the town of Wendell. I had to start climbing again there (I had forgotten that Wendell is on quite a hill). Once I got to the top it was not far to Wendell Center. There is a lovely general store there which I stopped at to get more liquid, and then I headed south and west (and downhill) through Shutesbury and into Leverett. In Leverett I picked up route 63 again and headed back home the way I’d come.
The total time of that trip was a little over 8 hours, and I went 79 miles.
The Farmington Canal Trail is part of what will eventually be continuous recreation trail stretching all the way from New Haven, CT to Northampton, MA. Currently, that trail runs from the town of Farmington, CT north up to the Massachusetts line, where the Columbia Greenway continues the trail into the city of Westfield. Including bits of trail in Northampton and Easthampton, as well as some bits in southern Connecticut, more than half the whole thing is complete.
That section connecting Westfield and Farmington is the longest continuous stretch, and is longer than any piece of trail I had previously ridden. I decided back in July to ride the length of this section down and back. Since that would be 64 miles round trip by itself, I didn’t want to ride all the way from my house to get to the trail, and then start riding south into CT, as I wouldn’t have been able to do the whole trip in one day. So I drove to Westfield with my bike and just rode the trail.
On a couple of past rides I rode small portions of this trail, through the town of Southwick and a few miles into CT, but had not gone past the town of East Granby. I parked by the trail in Westfield and started southward around 9:30am. Right at the point where I had turned around the last time, there was a sculpture that had been installed since my last trip:
In either East Granby or Granby, soon after I was on a new (to me) part of the trail, the trail crossed over a waterway. Here is the bike bridge itself:
The view to the west of the bridge:
And here is the view to the east, where someone can be seen playing with his dogs in the water:
After the Granbys, the trail headed into the town of Simsbury. I paused by the side of the trail at one point here, where there were some picnic tables, and a pond:
The trail goes through some rural areas of this town, as well as running alongside roads in more settled parts.
Simsbury has a few monuments of its own to bicycling:
From there, the trail passed through Avon, CT, where the trail goes right by the municipal office buildings (through their parking lot, in fact). It then gets into Farmington, where another river is crossed:
I came to the terminus of the path and took this picture:
and then headed east along the road into town to get some lunch.
I found a place called Truffles, which offered sandwiches and other deli stuff. One thing that was quite excellent was that they had fresh lemonade, which I got a large glass of (I was fairly thirsty after biking 32 miles in the heat).
After lunch I made my way back to the trail and headed north again. On the way north, I photographed the various town line markers that are at the side of the path.
Looking back into Farmington after I left it:
The north edge of Avon:
The town of Simsbury has 2 signs:
And East Granby is the last place I took a picture of the marker:
I didn’t get a picture of a Granby marker (the path moves to the west a bit, goes north again, then back east, and continues north, so it goes through a portion of Granby in between 2 sections of East Granby).
It was about 4pm when I got back to the car in Westfield. I certainly felt like I’d had a workout, but the nice thing about riding so far on a trail is that there isn’t much in the way of hill climbing, so I didn’t get worn out.
Next: a much more hilly ride.
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