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Sean's Blog

Training Summary

So, in preparation for the Food Bank Ride next weekend, I have gone on a number of training rides over the past couple of months.  Here’s a quick rundown of these rides, with pictures from some of them.  I did not do extensive photo taking, partly because I wanted to keep moving, but also because several of these involved riding in areas I’d photographed before.


July 4 – Huntington and Back:  This was almost totally a route I had followed before, and it was somewhat short.  The total distance I covered was 48 miles, but it was a very hilly 48 miles.  I traveled west out of Holyoke to Southampton, then rode up into Westhampton, and then headed west over a large ridge into Huntington.  I was climbing for almost all of that time.  One interesting highlight of that trip was, as I was resting on the way up the hill between Westhampton and Huntington, a motorcyclist coming the other way and told me about a bear.  At first I thought he was saying that the hill I was about to climb was “a bear”, but as he pulled away, I realized he was warning me that there was a bear by the road.  I was a little nervous about this, so I kept my eyes peeled, but did not see any bear myself.  I made it to Huntington center fine, though found that places I could have eaten lunch were largely closed.  I headed east from there on Route 20 and ended up getting lunch at a liquor store/deli in the town of Russell.  From there, I went on into Westfield, then headed north and east back into Holyoke.


July 17 – Greenfield/Montague loop:  This ride was a total of 75 miles, with some hills, but not a ton.  Pretty much all the hills were in the latter part of the trip.  I rode up to Greenfield from Holyoke on Route 5, which is a relatively flat road, stopping for lunch in Whately at a hot dog stand.  Once I got to Greenfield, I stopped again for house-made sodas at The People’s Pint (because who can resist?).  From there I went through Deerfield to the bike trail that begins there, and headed over to and through Turner’s Falls.  This path is usually good for seeing waterfowl, and in addition to seeing a lot of ducks, I passed a snowy egret in the water.

tf-egret  tf-birds1  tf-birds2

From Turner’s, I rode south through the eastern part of Montague, then through Leverett center, and along the eastern edge of Amherst.  I crossed the Holyoke Range on the not-very-busy Harris Road, and went home through Granby and South Hadley.


July 24 – The Trail to Connecticut:  Once before I had ridden the continuous bike trail from Westfield, MA to Farmington, CT.  In that case, I drove to Westfield with my bike and only rode on the trail.  In this case, I rode down there from home to pick up the trail (which extends further north than it used to).  It’s a fairly easy ride, with very little hill climbing.  But to make up for that, it was long – about 88 miles, which is my longest ride so far this year.  Only a couple of pics, taken from the bridge over which the trail crosses the Farmington River.

farm-riv1   farm-riv2


August 27 – Home from the Berkshires:  There were a few weekends when I was traveling, and so could not go for a ride.  Hence the gap between the last date and this one.  On 8/27, we drove out to Pittsfield, MA to see Elizabeth Warren speak.  The event was a bit disappointing, because, even though we had responded to an e-mail to reserve a place, we ended up in an overflow room at the venue, to watch the talk on video.  As the talk was being streamed on the Internet, this was not very different from being at home and watching it, but at least Warren came into the overflow room to greet us before giving the talk.

In any case, I had brought my bike along, and I then rode home from the event.  From there to home was 52 miles, but it was, again, a very hilly ride.  There was an initial climb when I left Pittsfield that was really difficult, as I had to stop and rest 7 times to make it up the long hill.  It was also fairly hot out, and a few times while climbing that hill I felt queasy.  Fortunately it passed quickly each time I rested.  Once I got over that hill I did not encounter any more queasiness.  I rode on some familiar roads on that afternoon, but at least one other unfamiliar road turned out to involve a long, steep climb as well.  It took me more than 6 hours to make it home.


September 4 – Sturbridge:  Looking for a long ride that would cover a lot of unfamiliar territory, I settled on riding east to Sturbridge, in Central Mass.  I first rode down through Chicopee to the south side of the Mass Pike, and then followed Route 20 through the towns of Wilbraham, Monson, Palmer, and Brimfield before getting to Sturbridge.  In Wilbraham, I saw this horse statue, with the springs from an old carriage behind it.


While I did not take pictures in Brimfield, that town apparently plays host to a gigantic antiques market over Labor Day weekend.  There were many white tents set up for vendors on various properties as I rode through town, including some on the lawns in front of houses.

After having lunch in Sturbridge, I rode north and came through some different towns: Warren, Ware, Belchertown.  I had intended to travel through Ware and into Belchertown on a new route for me, but somehow missed my planned turn off and ended up in downtown Ware.  So I just followed Route 9 to Belchertown center, then Route 202 home from there.  Total distance for this ride was 84 miles, and yes, there were hills.


September 11 – Curious Orange:  I’m not saying there’s anything particularly curious about the town of Orange, just that I was curious to ride there, since I hadn’t before.  This was a fairly long ride, and included a number of good-sized hills that I’d ridden before.  I rode up through Amherst and Leverett, then passed through Shutesbury and Wendell.  It had been raining that morning, and I started out just after the rain stopped, so I rode on a lot of wet pavement.  The sun did not come out until I reached Leverett, and I stopped at the Village Co-op there to rest after some hill climbing, as well as to put on sunscreen.  The co-op has a little playground, as well as a small Buddha shrine.

villcoop   levbuddha

Here are some images taken in Orange.  The first is the town’s public library, the third is a view of the Miller’s River.

orangelib  orangebldg  miller-riv-orng

Coming back uphill into Wendell, I stopped to rest by this swamp, though I did not see any particular wildlife there:

wendswamp1  wendswamp2

I tried leaving Wendell center through a different route than  I had taken north.  It turned out to be a dirt road, and after a mile or so it abruptly stopped, giving way to a horse trail.  I say that’s the type of trail because 2 people on horseback emerged from it while I was there consulting maps on my phone.  I ended up following a side dirt road back to the road I’d taken north.  I did then head to Shutesbury center, which is another long climb, but then I got to ride a long downhill run almost all the way to North Amherst.  From there, my route home was the same as in the morning.


Next post: the NCC Bikefest.

Posted by seaking on 09-18-2016 at 10:09 pm
Posted in Biking with 0 Comments

Fourth Food Fundraising Foray

I’ve signed up for this year’s Will Bike 4 Food, the cycling fundraiser held by the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.  This is the 6th year the Food Bank has held the event, and it will be my fourth time participating (I wasn’t able to do it in 2014 or 2015 because of travel and moving, respectively).

As in the past, I’ll be riding the 100-mile route, and I aim to complete it in less time than I did in previous tries.  When I last rode in 2013, it took me a full 12 hours to go the distance.  This year I believe I can do it in 10 hours (or less), so that is the challenge I’ve set myself.  It looks like the route is somewhat less insane in terms of hills, so this should be doable.

The Food Bank does excellent work distributing food to partner organizations in the area who get it to people that are in need, and I hope you’ll consider donating to support this work.  You can make a donation online at my fundraising page, or contact me if you would rather send a check.  As an extra incentive, if donations to my page reach the $1000 goal that I’ve set, I will personally donate an additional $1000.  Contributions in any amount are helpful.

Thanks for your support!


Posted by seaking on 09-05-2016 at 08:09 pm
Posted in Biking, News with 0 Comments

Tally for the Month

Just time for a quick post today.  I thought I should summarize how I’ve done at NaBloPoMo.

I technically did not meet the letter of the event rule – there was one day that I did not manage to post, as I tried to upload a photo from my phone and was unable to do so by midnight.  I gave up for that night and finished the post in the morning.

I did manage to post 30 times in 30 days, which to my mind meets the spirit of the month.  Als, going for this goal got me to post about a bunch of stuff that I had neglected.  So, there you go.

Expect a few posts in December, but certainly not one each day.

Posted by seaking on 11-30-2014 at 07:11 pm
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Lots of Lux

As I mentioned briefly in my first post this month, I went to Las Vegas for a convention for work (the same conference I went to in 2011).  The trip out there was uneventful, and I made it to the hotel fine.

The hotel I and my co-workers were staying in this time was the Luxor.  Yes, it’s the big, black pyramid:


At night it has that huge beacon shining up toward space from the apex.  In a city that’s well known for its light pollution, this place may be the worst offender.

Some statuary out front (click any picture to enlarge):





Similar features are found on the interior:







Looking up at the apex from the ground level:


I ended up with a room on the 26th floor (there are about 30 floors total).  Getting up there was kind of neat, as the elevators in the place travel diagonally in the 4 edges of the building (you can’t see outside the elevator while you’re in it, but you can feel that the movement is partly horizontal).  On each floor, there are walkways which are open to look down, with the rooms all on the exterior of the structure.  Here’s the view across the interior from outside my room door:


And looking down:


Here’s the room itself:


There were heiroglyphs on the bureau (not sure whether they’re real ancient Egyptian letters):


The hand soap in the bathroom was also part of the theme:

You can see by the angle of the window that the room is on the side of a pyramid:


Here’s the view, looking northward at the Excalibur:


Looking slightly to either side are the Luxor’s adjacent towers, which hold more guest rooms:



Here is the view at night:



It was a comfy room, and the Internet connection worked well, though I was a bit surprised that the rooms only offer wired Internet.  Wireless is only available in the public areas on the lower floors.  At least they provided an ethernet cable on the desk, given that I had not brought one.

Posted by seaking on 11-29-2014 at 11:11 pm
Posted in Surreal, Travel with 0 Comments

New Trail Blazed

In mid-October, a new hiking trail on newly conserved land was opened here in Hadley.  The Trustees of Reservations, a private non-profit, purchased the property to protect it from development, and are now making it available for the public to enjoy.  Mount Warner (a reasonably-sized hill in the north part of Hadley) is the location of this new reservation.

I attended the formal opening ceremony that weekend to check out the new place.  I arrived a bit early, and there were already many people there (click pics for larger versions):


And there were tents set up with information displays on the history of that area of town, and on the Trustees and their other properties (a couple of which I’ve been to, such as the Chesterfield Gorge):


Some various remarks were made about the acquisition of the land and preparation of the trail:


They fortunately had setup a PA system for this, as the crowd was easily up to 60 or 70 people by the time things got started.

They had a ribbon cutting with the obligatory giant pair of scissors, and all children in attendance were invited to take part (along with State Rep. John Scibek and State Senator Stan Rosenberg):



After the cutting, there were a couple of guided tours offered of the trail.  I started out following a tour group that included a Trustees naturalist talking about various flora along the way, but as I didn’t have a lot of time, I ended up moving ahead of the group to hike the entire trail on my own.  The trail is a loop that’s a bit over 2 miles long, so I had just enough time to cover the distance before I needed to get going on other errands.

At the apex of the loop, there was a side trail that led to a lookout point.  Mt. Warner is a very gradual hill, unlike many other large hills in the area, so one looks across a field to the view, but it’s still a pretty nice view:


That view looks north, including some of the Connecticut River and, in the distance, Mt. Sugarloaf.

The trail did involve some climbing, and so was a good workout, but overall I did not find it as interesting as the trails on the Holyoke Range (around the border between Hadley and South Hadley).  It was nice to visit once, but I don’t know that I’ll head to Mt. Warner to hike again.


Posted by seaking on 11-28-2014 at 11:11 pm
Posted in Hiking, News with 0 Comments

Feasting Local

So our power was out last night, through most of the night, but it came back on just before 6:00am and stayed on.  This was fortunate, as there was a lot of cooking planned for today.

The snow on the trees did look pretty in the sunlight this morning (click to enlarge):



It appeared that we got a total of 6 or 7 inches over the storm.


We did another shoveling of the driveway (which went quickly with the help of our houseguests), and knocked snow off the branches of a lot of trees and bushes that were being weighed down.

Our Thanksgiving meal once again had a bunch of local ingredients.  I did not take pictures today, but here’s a rundown of dishes we had and where various foodstuffs came from:

  • Chestnut bread stuffing: contained leeks from the Hampshire College farm center (about a mile from the house), chestnuts from our trees, and sage, thyme, and rosemary from our garden.
  • Mashed potatoes and celery root: the celery root was also from the HC farm center (they have a fall CSA that we buy a share in every year), and there were also chives from our garden in this dish.
  • Baked sweet potatoes: these are from the HC CSA.
  • Popovers: eggs and milk from specific area farms went into these.
  • Boiled beets: HC CSA
  • Steamed broccoli: HC CSA
  • Sautéed kale: HC CSA
  • Apple pie: made with Cortland apples from Atkins Farm, which is also about a mile from our house.

We also had a bit of a few different vegetables that we’ve pickled recently (turnips, eggplant, daikon – all from HC).  More on that activity will probably come in a future post.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted by seaking on 11-27-2014 at 10:11 pm
Posted in Food with 0 Comments

White (and dark) Thanksgiving

We’ve had a bit of a snowstorm come through today – the first snow to stick this season.  Here’s how things looked when we were starting to shovel:



Things were otherwise fine until I was defrosting some soup for dinner (to feed us and guests who were about to arrive to stay a few days), and then the power went out. It ended up being off for 2.5 hours.  The fortunate thing is that we have a wood burning stove, and I was able to finish heating dinner on it.

We we were worried about cooking Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow, until the power came back on just after 8:30.  Then things seemed fine.

However, the power went out again around 10:30 or so, and is still out as of this writing (I’m posting this from my phone).  Here’s hoping it’s back on by morning.




Posted by seaking on 11-26-2014 at 11:11 pm
Posted in Food, News with 0 Comments

Ever More Sirius

So I posted a few weeks back about the 2 flowers that bloomed this year on our night-blooming sirius plant.  It seems that it had not finished at that time with producing flowers.  While I was vacationing abroad in September, 6 more flowers began to grow on the same plant!  Now, none of those got to be the usual size at which the flowers bloom, and in fact none of them opened.  They ended up withering and falling off.

However, that still was not all for this year.  At least a month ago we brought the plants inside as the weather was getting colder.  That plant started growing a couple more flowers.  We still did not end up with a full bloom, but they got pretty big this time, and one almost opened.

This is the most developed that one got:


The other seemed to start blooming, but did not get past this stage:



I don’t know if the fact that it was hanging in the air made a difference (all the blooms we’ve had were resting on the porch surface).

I expect that there really won’t be any more flowers this year, but who knows?


Posted by seaking on 11-25-2014 at 10:11 pm
Posted in Surreal with 0 Comments

This Year’s Quabbin Pics

As I seem to do just about once a year, I went for a bike ride last Memorial Day weekend that included riding through the Quabbin Reservoir reservation.

What I have not done every time is ride up the long hill to the observation tower there, but I did so this time.

Here are views west and north from the tower (click each image to enlarge):






From there I continued riding east on Route 9, through the town of Ware and just a little ways into the town of West Brookfield (which I had not been in before).  At that point I needed to turn around for time and energy reasons (I needed to save some strength for climbing the hills on the way home), and I just passed through a bit of the Quabbin park on the way back (one can pass over Winsor Dam without having to go through the hilly parts of the reservation).

Posted by seaking on 11-24-2014 at 10:11 pm
Posted in Biking with 0 Comments

Post-Easter Eggs

Another post involving pictures from this past spring – this time from early May.  Around that time, a few bird nests got built on and around our front porch.

There were some finches who initially were determined to build a nest inside a light fixture on the porch, but every time they tried to bring twigs and stuff inside, the materials would just fall out the bottom.  We ended up hanging a small basket from the light, and eventually they successfully built a nest in the basket.

Here are the eggs that were laid, which were a pale green color:


Eventually we saw 3 baby birds that had hatched and who eventually left the nest.

In a couple of bushes by the porch, robins nested and laid eggs.  Here is one of the robin nests:


Some of the ones in this nest were successfully hatched and raised, though I don’t recall how many.  Unfortunately, the other nest, which was in the holly bush, ended up being abandoned with a few eggs in it.

Posted by seaking on 11-23-2014 at 11:11 pm
Posted in Wildlife with 0 Comments

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