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

Sean's Blog

Personal Best

As in the past year, I showed up last Sunday right at 6:30am for Will Bike 4 Food, which was when registration opened. As I drove in to the parking area, even before unloading my bike, I saw some riders heading out as soon as they could. I was not that quick about it, as I wanted to get some food before starting. (Click on photos to see larger versions)

Sunrise in background, with cars and the edge of a canopy in front of a field.

Volunteers were still getting the food out as I registered, but by the time I had checked in and put on my number bib, there were some bagels and doughnuts available. So, I was able to load up on some carbs for energy. Here, by the way, was my assigned number:

Rectangular ride or race bib with the brand "Road ID", and the number seven on it.  Also labeled as WB4F 2019.

Apparently I was the 7th person to check in at the registration table that morning. After eating, I got going at 6:58am.

The course was the same as it had been the past 3 years. From the Lions’ Club pavilion in Hatfield, I rode north on Main St, which then became River Rd. in Whately. While on this road, 2 other riders caught up with me, and we rode together for quite a while, chatting. Their names were Michael and Tim. The former has been a runner for years, but only took up cycling relatively recently. The latter bikes a lot, but mostly on dirt roads. Each of them had ridden the 50-mile course in last year’s WB4F, and this year was the first ever century ride for either of them.

We crossed Route 116 in Deerfield, and continued up River Rd., which has some ups and downs (the ride had been pretty flat until that point). In the north part of town, we headed across the Connecticut River into Montague on the bike trail, and then followed that trail on into Turners Falls (as had been the case the previous weekend in Bikefest). We then crossed back over the river into Gill, continuing across Route 2 up Main Rd. (unlike Bikefest).

This was the first real hill climb of the day (at about 19 miles). There’s a bit of a climb on Main Road, but then we turned onto Mountain Road, which climbs a bunch more. Of the 3 of us, I was the slowest climber (usually the case), though Tim stopped briefly near the top for me to catch up (Michael had flown on ahead). We headed downhill, which I took a little slowly, as the road gets steep and extremely curvy at the same time. We then turned back onto Main Rd. and continued northeast.

Around mile 25 we came to the first rest area, at the Northfield – Mt. Hermon school (still in Gill). I should mention that, a few days earlier, I had come down with a cold. It was very mild in terms of symptoms, but the fact of dealing with the virus meant I was drinking more water than I typically would for this much biking. I had gone through one full bottle, and at least half of my other bottle. It was good to top them both off.

I saw Michael again briefly at this stop, but he left several minutes before me or Tim. After some water and snacks, the two of us continued on, coming soon to Route 10, following that just a bit west, then heading north on Route 142. The ride course goes alternately through bits of the towns of Northfield and Gill a couple of times, before settling on Northfield once we got going on 142.

Just after mile 31, we passed into Vermont, the town of Vernon. The road was still Route 142, even though it’s a state highway in both sides. There seem to be a number of such coordinated highway numbers between MA and VT, and also between MA and NH.

Vernon is a nice ride, though there is a long section of farm fields with no trees, and it was quite windy, including a stiff headwind for a while. I also was having some issues shifting my gears on this road – I was not able to get the chain to go onto the highest front gear multiple times. I tried adjusting it on the fly, and eventually got it to behave, but that and the wind seemed to cost me some speed. Tim also pulled a ways ahead of me, and I could no longer see him by the time the course turned west, which it did around mile 39.

The bit heading west goes uphill on a dirt road, but it is not a very bad climb, and is quite pretty (I took pictures along there in previous years, but did not want to take the time this year). This road takes one into the town of Guilford, where it becomes paved again, and heads under I-91 and up to Route 5. A quick jog north and then west brought me to the second rest stop, in Guilford Center.

Food and water table under a canopy, with half a dozen cyclists around it.  This is in a parking lot, with the Guilford fire station in the background.
Wide white building with many windows and a very large chimney, seen from across the road.  A pickup truck is parked in front of the building.
View along a road, with buildings visible on the right side, including a light-colored building with lots of dark brown trim on it.

This stop was at mile 41, and around the most northern point in the course. The day had been warm enough that I started out riding with only a short-sleeved jersey on top, but with long pants on. At this point, I took off the pants and just went with shorts and the jersey. I also put on sunscreen here.

I was riding by myself for the rest of the event, but there were a couple other cyclists who I passed and who would later pass me, with some alternation. From Guilford Center, the ride went southwest a ways, then straight south. I stopped by one house, because there was an interesting display, which I assume is for Halloween:

Dolls and other figures arranged on a rural lawn for Halloween - some sitting, some standing - with a house in the background.
Close view of 2 creepy dolls on lawn, in the shadow of some trees.
A doll or large figurine in white drapes, on the grass, with a solar light next to it, and some bushes in the background.

In the daylight these were a little creepy – I imagine they are much more so at night.

Soon, around mile 48, I passed back into Massachusetts. There was a volunteer there recording the numbers of riders as they passed, to presumably help the ride organizers keep track of us.

This was in the town of Leyden, and another brief stint on a dirt road took me into the town center at mile 50. I continued on west, doing a little more climbing (after a bunch of it coming south in Guilford), and then got a nice long downhill run, which ended right at the Colrain town line. The course turned south here, and headed back uphill.

I stopped to rest after some of the climbing, and as the route went a bit more west. I was up on a ridge, and here was the view from there:

View downhill of a grassy field, with trees toward the bottom, and tree-covered hills in the distance.  Some dry cleared brush is piled in the left foreground.

As I finished the climbing in Colrain, I hooked up with the route I’d ridden on BikeFest, for a bit anyway. I headed downhill on the same road as the previous weekend (Shelburne Line Road), and near the end of that road, crossed into the town of Shelburne. The course here turned east, and then came to a section of road that is closed to car traffic (it was closed last year, as well). I walked my bike around the concrete barrier and headed downhill – glad of having no car traffic, but wary of the many leaves covering the road, as they tended to hide sticks and acorns. I had to make sure not to go too fast.

Here’s the lower end of the closed section viewing the barrier before crossing it, and then afterward looking back.

Road surface with metal guardrails on either side, and concrete barriers spanning across the raod, with a bit of white paint graffiti sprayed on the concrete.  There are trees on both sides of the road and stretching into the distance.
Concrete barriers across road surface, with a faded stop sign on the middle barrier, and guardrails on both sides of the road.  Trees in background and to left.

I continued downhill, and southeast, heading into Greenfield. Once there, the course took me onto the paved trail there, which runs under I-91 and along the Green River. That trail is not very long, and once it ended I was riding on some side streets, crossing Route 2A, until I got to Routes 5/10. The course then followed those highways south a little ways into Deerfield, and then we turned off into the Historic Deerfield area.

This is where the third rest area was located – right by Deerfield Academy. The school’s football team was staffing the stop, and they were very boisterously greeting all cyclists who came by, whether the cyclist stopped or not.

Here are the signs that were posted at the stop:

Poster board signs attached to a pole, with grass, picket fence, and some houses in the background.  The signs read "We have water and things, and food and stuff.  Deerfield Football"

And here are some of the school buildings:

Brick buildings with trees and grass in front of them.

At this point I was 2/3 of the way done. I continued south from there, and then angled a bit east, and passed south through Deerfield Center, before crossing Route 116 and heading into Whately. There were 2 rest stops in Whately, reasonably close together – so as to serve riders on different routes. I did not stop at either of these, given that I had stopped so recently. I kept moving to make time.

The ride got just into the town of Hatfield, and then headed off to the west. After crossing I-91 again, the course climbed again, on Westbrook Road. This climb starts out steep, but that section is short, and then it is fairly gradual, if long. Fortunately, this late climb did not stop me short as it had last year – I got up the steep part and at least halfway along the road before stopping to have a quick rest. When I did stop (in Whately again), I took a picture of West Brook itself:

Gentle flowing brook, seen from a bridge over it.  A bit of bridge railing is seen at the bottom edge of the photo, and there are small trees and undergrowth on the banks of the brook.  A narrow trunk of a dead tree lies across the water.

I then finished this climb, turned left on Haydenville Road, and went a bit downhill. There was then another slightly steep climb, but this climbing was shorter, and I got to the top in fairly short order. The road then went a bit south, but also further westward, into Haydenville (which is a village of the town of Williamsburg). The course turned off further west, heading uphill once more, for another somewhat long climb. This was the last significant climb of the day, and I did have to stop and rest again, just once, on the way up.

Shortly after this climb I got to the final rest stop. The volunteers there were in the process of taking things down, as they were going to leave after the last cyclists came through (and there were only a few cyclists behind me – a couple showed up while I was there, and then took off before me).

From here, we made our way to Willamsburg center, riding for a bit on Route 9, and then turned back east on a route south of the way we’d come. This road mostly went southeast, heading into Northampton (the village of Leeds, technically). This had a bit of up and down, but nothing that presented a great challenge at that point. I headed into Florence (another village in Noho), and through its downtown, crossing Route 9 again, and then got on the bike path for a spell (a shorter spell than during Bikefest).

The course went off the path onto Hatfield St., heading north and east, then going north on Routes 5/10. Finally, I went straight east into Hatfield, back to the center of town and the Lions’ pavilion where I’d started. I got to the pavilion right at 3:58pm, having shaved 28 minutes off my time from last year. There were plenty of participants still around, as the after party was scheduled to go until 5:00pm:

Canopies in front of a grassy field, with several people milling around.  The asphalt surface of a parking lot is in the foreground.
Large picnic pavilion with a number of people under and in front of it.

The total amount of contributions people made to my ride was $1410. I matched that, so the Food Bank got $2820 from my efforts. I’m glad to have had this opportunity once again, and especially happy to have a new personal record. My thanks go out to everyone who supported me!

Posted by seaking on 10-08-2019 at 11:10 pm
Posted in Biking with 0 Comments

New Hills Make for Good Training

The hills I refer to in the title are merely new to me, not newly built. I expect they’ve been there for millenia. However, my last training ride for Will Bike 4 Food was a different organized event: Bikefest, put on by the Northampton Cycling Club. I’ve participated in it many times in the past, and it generally makes for good training. However, after a few years of making only slight tweaks to their routes, they made bigger changes this year.

Bikefest took place on September 21, and I had signed up for the route known both as the Metric Century (a term that refers to riding 100 kilometers) and as the 70-mile course. Both of these were misnomers, as the actual length of it was 68.8 miles.

The unfortunate thing about that day’s ride is that I forgot to grab my phone before leaving the house, so I had no way to take pictures. Thus, this post will be imageless. However, it was a great ride, and I enjoyed the scenery – which was plentiful. In particular, the ride went over two hills that I had passed near, but never climbed before, as well as one hill that I had only been on once previously.

The ride started and ended, as it always does, in Northampton’s Look Park. In addition to the route going different places, it also went in a different direction – we followed the loop counterclockwise instead of clockwise. The ride went east on the Noho bike trail for a bit, then headed north into Hatfield, then further east, until it followed the river road through the rest of Hatfield and all of Whately. We then crossed over the CT River into Sunderland on Route 116, and turned north on Route 47.

The course only followed 47 for a couple of miles, and then we forked off to the left to stay close to the river. One gets a few nice views of the river from this road, which I have photographed in the past. Eventually the road curves east and takes one near Montague Center. It was here that the first rest stop was located, and I stopped for a brief bit.

Of note: when I’d been riding in Hatfield, I had seen a stray potato by the edge of the road. In Montague, shortly before getting to the rest stop, I saw a head of cabbage by the side of the road. I wondered if it would be a day of random vegetable sightings, but those turned out to be the only two.

The route then went north and somewhat west again, heading off toward Greenfield. This piece of road was one I’d ridden back in July, which involved the short bike bridge over railroad tracks. We took this road all the way to its end in the NW corner of Montague, and then headed east a bit, getting onto the bike path that took us into Turner’s Falls. At this point the route crossed the CT River again, into Gill, but then we immediately took a left onto Route 2, and headed into Greenfield. In Greenfield we turned again to go north through a small industrial park on Adams Road, which involves some climbing. This is a hill I’d climbed in 2013 as part of WB4F, and it was more challenging then, coming after more than 60 miles of riding. In this case, after less than 30, it was not so bad.

The road came to a peak, and then went downhill a bunch, and then riders turned west to head to Routes 5/10, which we then took just a bit south. We turned west again, and headed a ways west on Barton Road, then zig-zagging onto some other roads, and ended up heading south on Green River Road (still in Greenfield). Close to the end of this road, we turned sharply to head north by northwest on Smead Hill Road. This began the big climb of the day. The road passed through a corner of the town of Shelburne, and then into Colrain. It was a reasonably steep climb, which kept on going, such that I needed to stop and rest twice (a few other cyclists passed me on the way up this hill). When I got to the top, the road went under and along some power lines, and past a couple of farms. There was an amazing view to be had at points. There was a little up and down as I went along, and the road was dirt and gravel for a portion. It was still dirt as I started to descend, but fortunately it quickly became paved again before I had too much momentum.

I went downhill a bunch for a couple of miles as I headed west and then south, back into Shelburne. There was then another climb, this time short, but steep, to reach the second rest stop. This was located at Apex Orchards, which I had heard of, but never been to. They also have a great view from the top of their hill.

The route then descended, heading south, to Route 2, and then further south to the Bardwell’s Ferry crossing of the Deerfield River (into the Town of Conway). There is a steep descent, including a hairpin turn, to get to this bridge, so it has to be done with a lot of braking. On the Conway side of the bridge, one then climbs for a while again, going mostly west, before getting some more descent (I’d ridden this road once before, in the 2017 Bikefest, but in the opposite direction).

The route then took us south through Conway Center, and down into Whately, and then Williamsburg. This was all familiar to me, and was not very difficult riding, though I was getting sore and tired. In the Haydenville section of Williamsburg there was a third rest stop, but I did not stop there, as it was only a few miles from the end (that stop was of more use to riders on the 100-mile course, who would still have had 20 miles or more to go at that point).

From Haydenville, we got on the bike trail’s western end, and took that back into Look Park. I had started the ride at about 8:50am, and I finished a few minutes before 3:00pm. So 69 miles in about 6 hours and 10 minutes.

Next: the full WB4F summary.

Posted by seaking on 10-02-2019 at 11:10 pm
Posted in Biking with 0 Comments

I did it!

It is now 4:00. I am at the finish, having pulled in at 3:58pm. I started the ride at 6:58am, so my time was exactly 9 hours!

I am tired, sore, and hungry, so I will sign off for now. Stay tuned for posts with more details later.

Thanks again to everyone who contributed!

Posted by seaking on 09-29-2019 at 04:09 pm
Posted in Biking with 1 Comment

Last rest

Well, I’m at the last official rest stop, but if I have to I can stop and rest along the remaining course. It is 2:42pm, and so I’m definitely on track to finish by 4:00. Just about 16 miles to go.

Posted by seaking on 09-29-2019 at 02:09 pm
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The Welcoming Stop

It is 12:55pm, and I’m at the third rest stop, which is at Deerfield Academy (in Deerfield). The volunteers here are all academy students (as well as football players, I think). They applaud and cheer each rider who comes in, or even passes by.

A bunch of flat riding ahead as I head down into Whately. Should go by pretty quickly.

Crowd of people in front of a canopy, on grassy area between street and sidewalk.  Trees in background.

Posted by seaking on 09-29-2019 at 01:09 pm
Posted in Biking with 0 Comments

Up in the hills

I’m around mile 54 now, in the town of Colrain (I think – it could still be Leyden). The time is 11:37, so I’m doing well on the schedule. Time for some more hill climbing!

Posted by seaking on 09-29-2019 at 11:09 am
Posted in Biking with 1 Comment

Guilford stop

I’m at the second stop in Guilford, VT, at about mile 41. The time is 10:20. The day is heating up a little now. Fortunately it won’t be too hot (high of 72). Time to start heading south again.

Posted by seaking on 09-29-2019 at 10:09 am
Posted in Biking with 0 Comments

Quarter stop

It is a couple minutes before 9:00, and I’m at the first rest stop. This is about the 25 mile mark. Good time so far.

Cyclists and volunteers at a food table, on a grassy area to the side of a road, with a sign saying "Northfield Mount Hermon", and some trees.

Posted by seaking on 09-29-2019 at 09:09 am
Posted in Biking with 0 Comments

Warmer start

I’m checked in and about ready to start the ride. The time is 6:45am, despite what the blog timestamp may say (the WordPress app does weird things with times).

Just going to have a bite to eat and then start rolling.Tents over registration tables, next to a parking lot, at sunrise.

Posted by seaking on 09-29-2019 at 06:09 am
Posted in Biking with 0 Comments

Woods, Water, Frogs, and Fowl

Two weeks ago I went for an afternoon ride that followed some more old roads through forests. I actually left the house in the morning, but initially rode into the Mt. Tom State Reservation to meet others for a wildlife presentation there (I’ll write more about that in a separate post). After that, and a picnic lunch, I struck out down the old portion of Reservation Road down into Easthampton. This section is closed off to cars, and is really more of a hiking trail with some chunks of old pavement in it. I rode it once last year, but headed upward at that time. In both directions, some walking of a bike is necessary, as it is too steep to ride.

I passed through downtown Easthampton, then rode up Park Hill Road, which I had not been on before. I took that north, then west, until I got to a point where the pavement ends, and there is just dirt trail going into the trees (click on photo to embiggen):

Asphalt pavement at bottom of the photo, with a dirt trail extending beyond it into the woods.  The words "dig safe" are spray painted on the pavement edge.

I followed this west, as I’d seen on a map that it would come out on pavement again. It did, after maybe half a mile, but there was a point where a large tree had fallen on the path, and so I had to climb through and around some branches with the bike (it was not quite as bad as that sounds).

Once on the other side, I continued on the paved road, which soon came to an end at Glendale Rd. I headed south on that, going down hill, then up again, and passed by a winery there (called Glendale Ridge). Here is the view from the ridge, over some grape vines:

View with grape vines in the foreground, with a field and trees beyond, and further in the background are some hills.

I kept going south on this road and another until I hit Route 10 in Southampton. I turned there to head further south, and for a bit I followed a less busy parallel street: High Street. It runs a bit higher than 10, and at one point I was able to look downhill (east/southeast) toward 10:

Green grass field sloping downward with a vegetable garden to the left,  and trees and houses in the distance.

High St. stopped at Fomer Rd. and I then got back on Route 10 for a bit, before turning onto Brickyard Road. I had been on the other portion of this road back in May (the portion to the east of route 10), but this time I headed southwest, which was all new to me.

It’s a pleasant ride with a bit of uphill, and a bit of down, and eventually the road passes into Westfield, where it changes name to Root Road. I continued following it south, and then it bent southeast, heading toward downtown Westfield. Before I got out of the rural part of the city, I did stop for a moment by a marshy area:

Small marsh with several cluster of lily pads in the water, trees in the background, and reeds and other plants in the foreground.

I could hear, but not see, frogs in the area.

I did not ride all the way downtown. This road eventually ran into Routes 10/202 just south of the Mass Pike, and I jogged onto that road, then onto Holyoke St., which runs east, parallel to the pike. I followed that road all the way to its other end, still in Westfield, at East Mountain Road. Here I went a very short distance north, passing under the pike, and then headed further east where I passed a gate and got onto the old road that I had ridden in May in the other direction.

This time, I was able to find a better path, so that I only had to cross the railroad tracks – I did not have to walk along them. Here is the view along the tracks, looking southwest, then northeast:

Railroad tracks stretching into the distance toward the right, with trees on either side.
Railroad tracks stretching into the distance toward the left, with trees on either side.

I headed across and back onto the “road”, and continued east, but soon came to a blockage. There was a tree down, or perhaps multiple small trees, so I had to make my way around, walking the bike through the underbrush:

Road surface with dead tree branches lying across it, and living trees above and to the sides.

I continued along until I passed the gate that keeps cars out, onto the regular road (Prospect St. in West Springfield). At this point, I turned north, passing around another gate and heading up a completely unfamiliar path/dirt road. The map had shown me that this route should connect to the Ashley reservoir in Holyoke.

After I had gone a ways north, there were a few large, deep puddles in the middle of the road. I thought they looked semi-permanent, and in fact they were home to some number of frogs:

Small frog sitting in a mud puddle, with reflections of the sky and leaves on the water's surface.
Small frog sitting next to a stick in a mud puddle, with reflections of the sky and leaves on the water's surface.

Those were the best photos I was able to take – other frogs moved away when I tried to get pictures of them.

Soon after these puddles, I came to the railroad tracks (same ones I had crossed earlier). I walked along them for roughly 50 feet, and came to a break in the bushes on the other side, where I did indeed descend into the Ashley reservoir land. Here is the reservoir, seen from the south end:

Grassy expanse in foreground, with reservoir pond beyond, and green trees on the far side of the water.

I rode around to the west side, and just before passing out of sight of the water, I spotted a great blue heron, and took some pictures. Not being able to get very close to it, they aren’t very clear. This is probably the best one:

Tree branch with leaves at top of photo, with a great blue heron standing in the water beneath it.  Some grass and weeds are in the foreground.

I rode on to the north, eventually turning east and coming near the water again, and then headed south, where I saw another heron. This one flew away before I could even try to take a picture, but I also saw a cormorant a ways out in the water:

A cormorant sitting on a small branch sticking out of the water.  Water is all around.

From there I headed home on familiar Holyoke streets. The distance for this ride was about 40 miles.

Next ride: the final training ride – BikeFest

Posted by seaking on 09-28-2019 at 08:09 pm
Posted in Biking, Wildlife with 0 Comments

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