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On Top of Monadnock

I turned 45 in June, and, as I had done when I turned 40, I celebrated with a long weekend bike trip.  In this case, I headed north (and a bit east) into New Hampshire, where I intended to hike Mt. Monadnock, which I’d been meaning to do for several years.

I started the trip on Friday, biking through South Hadley, Hadley, Amherst, and Leverett, and then stopped for lunch in Montague (at the cafe at the Book Mill).  From Montague Center I rode up to Turner’s Falls and then into the town of Gill, and just as I passed into Northfield, Mass, it began to rain lightly.  Fortunately, I’d brought a rain cover for my bike luggage, so I was able to keep the stuff dry while I rode through Northfield.  When it started to rain a little harder, I took shelter briefly at a bank drive-through lane.  I only had to wait 10 minutes, and then it lightened up.  Soon, as I was about to cross the state line into NH, the rain stopped completely.

What was interesting was that, in NH, the ground was much wetter than in MA.  It had clearly rained more there, but by the time I got up there the sun was out and the moisture had started steaming off of the road surface.  I rode on (along route 10) through the town of Winchester, and eventually the ground dried up.

At one point I stopped to rest by this pond/wide piece of river (click on pictures to enlarge):

    

I continued north through West Swanzey, and on into Keene.  I had intended to pick up a bike trail in W. Swanzey, but did not find it (turned out later that I had incorrectly remembered which direction it lay from the main road).  I eventually found the trail just after getting in to Keene, and followed it to downtown, where I had dinner.

After dinner, I headed southeast, toward the town of Rindge, where I would be staying the night.  It took a bit longer than I’d expected, and I was feeling fairly tired.  I did cross a few nice looking streams/rivers, or perhaps the same one multiple times, as I rode down route 12.  They all looked similar to this:

It was after dark by the time I reached Rindge, but I’d brought lights, and so was prepared.  I had booked to stay 2 nights at an AirBnB place, which had the advantage of having a couple of cats.  The long-haired one was more friendly and approachable, while the other one only showed up after I’d been there a while, and he crept very cautiously into my room:

   

When I went to bed, I left the door cracked open in case a cat would want to visit during the night.  As far as I’m aware, that did not happen.

The next day, I biked down to a nearby diner for breakfast.  The house where I was staying was right on a trail through the woods, so I did not have to ride on the road.

The trail was a bit rough in spots – it’s an old railroad line, and there as a section that still had ties in place (I walked the bike over those).

After breakfast, I biked up to Monadnock State Park and met up with my friend David.  We started up the mountain, as he told me that it’s a very popular hike, despite being pretty strenuous.  I had not realized how strenuous, but it does go upward more than it goes laterally (i.e. the slope is greater than 1).

The mountain is very forested, so it was quite a while before we had any kind of view.  Once we did, it was pretty cool.

   

We were about 2/3 of the way to the summit at that point, I believe.  The summit itself is mostly devoid of vegetation.  Here’s a view from the top:

And then standing a little lower, looking up at the summit:

As mentioned, it’s a popular spot.  We hung out up there for about half an hour, then went down by a slightly different trail.  I had not brought quite enough water for the hike, as it turned out, so I was rationing myself as we went back down.  Once we got back to the bottom I drank a whole bunch from a faucet by the bathrooms.

After recovering a bit, we parted ways, and I biked back into Rindge.  I took a shower and then got some dinner, and ended up going to sleep somewhat early (funny how doing a 5+ hour mountain hike the day after 85 miles of cycling will wear you out).

The next day I had breakfast at the same diner, then packed up and started heading for home.  I went by a different route, traveling west from Rindge into Fitzwilliam, then south into Royalston, MA.  Unfortunately, what was not included in the route I’d mapped was a bridge under construction soon after getting into MA, which necessitated taking a 4 or 5 mile detour which had a bunch of up and down riding.  At least it was still morning, and so not too hot yet (though that day ended up getting into the mid-nineties).

From Royalston I kept going south until I reached Athol, then I rode on Mass Routes 2A and 2 west through several towns (Orange, Erving, Northfield, Gill), until I got to Turner’s Falls, and I then mostly retraced my path from Friday (though passing through Sunderland instead of Leverett).

On the way through Montague Center, I stopped to check e-mail, and while stopped, I noticed something familiar looking at the front of a residential property:

I went closer to see if this was actually what I thought it was.  It was, indeed, a facsimile of a certain British Police Call box.

It lacks a bunch of details, but maybe it’s trying to look unassuming…

 

The rest of the ride was fairly uneventful, but much of the day I’d had to stop for shade breaks because it was so hot.  So the riding took longer than I’d expected, even though I was only traveling about 65 miles.  I met up with others in Hadley for ice cream (at Flayvors of Cook Farm), as part of a joint birthday celebration for 2 of us, and because of the late hour and the heat, my bike and I got a car ride home.

Posted by seaking on 09-19-2017 at 10:09 pm
Posted in Biking, Cats, Hiking, Travel with 0 Comments

Forest in the City

The first weekend in June this year, I went on my first 50-mile ride of the year.  Much of the route was roads I’d ridden on before.  I rode from Holyoke east into Chicopee, then south through Ludlow and a bit of Springfield into Wilbraham.  I then went southwest to East Longmeadow, rode the Redstone Trail again, and then made my way due west into the town of Longmeadow.

I had not biked through Longmeadow this way before, but my objective was to head to a part of Springfield that I hadn’t previously visited.  Heading north into Springfield, I rode into Forest Park.  I’ve known about this large park in the city for years, but only finally got around to visiting.

I didn’t ride through all of the park – mostly the western section.  There I found a large pond:

   

The pond, as you might expect, attracts waterfowl:

   

Apparently that one goose prefers the company of ducks to that of its own species.  Birds, like humans, have different orientations, it would seem.

I passed by the old carriage house that is now used as an event space, and walked up a little hill to view the fancy mausoleum of the Barney family.

   

It’s fenced in, so the general public can’t climb all over it (or to keep people from defacing it, I suppose).

I exited the north side of the park and went to have a burrito for lunch.  I then, as a couple times in the past, rode up Springfield’s riverside bikeway, though that path currently has a discontinuity.  The portion of it that traveled on a bridge over railroad tracks is closed and under construction – part of the larger reconstruction being done on Interstate 91.  So I had to ride on downtown streets for a ways, then go back to the path.

After reaching the northern end of the bikeway, I headed through Chicopee and back to home.

Next: a weekend bike trip to another state.

Posted by seaking on 09-16-2017 at 11:09 pm
Posted in Biking, Wildlife with 0 Comments

Stanley, I Presume

Back in April, I went for a 26-mile bike ride, which is a typical length for the early to mid-Spring as I get back in cycling shape.  I rode to Westfield, Mass to check out Stanley Park, which I’d heard about but had never visited.

I entered the park on the South side, at a sort-of “back entrance”.  There was a small parking lot there, which featured the entrance to hiking trails in a wooded area.  The trail just looked like a little dirt road at first, but then became more of a traditional hiking trail further along (click on images to view larger).

  

The trail I hiked mostly followed the Little River, which flows along the southern part of the park.  There are a number of nice views of the water, such as this:

I did not see a lot of wildlife, but did catch sight of this snake, just after I heard it slither off the trail into the groundcover:

At one point, the trail I was on crossed a tributary stream, doing so on a floating bridge:

There was a sign dedicating that bridge:

I walked through the trails for about 90 minutes, before getting back to my bike.  I then ended up walking the bike through other parts of the park, such as past a duck pond:

which had a swan in it, as well as ducks.  There were also various kinds of geese around, including these white ones:

Near the pond are a couple of small, old structures, like this one with a water wheel:

As I moved past here toward the front of the park, I passed through a couple of the garden areas, including the Asian Garden (named for the structures erected more than the plant life).

Near those gardens, along the front side of the park, were a series of athletic fields and picnic areas.  For a park in a somewhat urban area, it was not only larger than I expected, but surprisingly diverse in the types of terrain and facilities.

Posted by seaking on 09-14-2017 at 09:09 pm
Posted in Biking, Hiking with 0 Comments

Another Year, Another Century

Once again, I’m participating in Will Bike 4 Food, the bicycle ride that raises money for the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and its mission of fighting hunger. My goal is to raise $1000 in donations, and I plan to match that amount just as I did last time.  If $1000 is donated by others to the Food Bank, I’ll donate another $1000 myself.

This year the event takes place on September 24, and, as before, I’ll be riding the 100-mile route.  That route is the same path as last year, so my hope is to finish in less time than last year.  Think I can do it in 9 hours flat?  Stay tuned to this space to find out.  I’ll post live from the ride at least a few times, and in the next couple of weeks I’ll recount the long rides I’ve done this summer that have helped me train.

Donations can be made online at this page, or you can contact me to donate offline.  Thanks for supporting an important cause!

 

 

Posted by seaking on 09-09-2017 at 10:09 pm
Posted in Biking with 0 Comments

Broken Records

The post title does not refer to cracked or skipping vinyl discs, but to my fundraising ride this past weekend doing better than previous rides in 2 respects.

First off, the fundraising: people donated more to this ride than in any of the other five times I’ve asked for such donations (2007 and 2009 for the National MS Society, and 2011-2013 for the Food Bank). All the donations from others came to $1450.  With the $1000 I contributed myself, that’s $2450 in total.  An e-mail that was sent out today says the whole event brought in over $114,000 in contributions.  It feels great that the organization is getting so much!  Thank you again to everyone who donated.

The other record, as referenced in my live posts from Sunday, is that I rode 100 miles in less time than ever before.  My previous best time for this distance was 10 hours and 30 minutes (which was, interestingly, how long it took me the first time I ever did a century ride, in 2011).

This ride started out chilly, as the temperature was in the 40s when I showed up at the start.  It started and ended at the Lions’ Club Pavilion in Hatfield, which is in the town center.  I had driven there with the bike, arriving about 6:30am, and then got checked in and had some of the provided breakfast (a bagel with cream cheese and a sweet roll).  Some signage, etc. was still being set up as I prepared to get going.

lionpavmorn

The official start time for the 100-mile route was 7:00, and while riders on that route could start whenever they were ready, I ended up getting going right at 7.  The sun had just come up, but there was fog to be seen in some places.  The route went north through Whately, where I saw a rabbit and some chipmunks on the side of the road who seemed surprised that humans were passing by so early.  I then passed into Deerfield, continuing north along the Connecticut River.  Just after entering that town I passed into pretty heavy fog.  Fortunately traffic was very light.

In the north part of Deerfield, the route went onto a bike trail, crossing the river into Montague.  We followed the trail all the way into the Turner’s Falls section of town, and then exited up onto the road just in time to cross the CT River again into the town of Gill.  I stopped to use a bathroom just before crossing the river here.  Once in Gill, the route climbed a sizeable hill, at the same time that it went onto a road I’d never been on (called, appropriately, Mountain Road).  This climb was not too bad – I was able to make it to the top without stopping, and then the downhill portion was mostly nice, except that it had a really tight S-curve on the steepest part.  I had to really lay on the brakes and creep around the curves, for fear of losing control otherwise.  I did stop briefly before reaching the bottom, just to get rid of my momentum and proceed slowly until the road became fairly straight.

Once that hill came to an end, I turned back onto the main road in Gill (named Main Road, in fact) and passed through the center of town, then north past the Northfield-Mt. Hermon School, an old private boarding school up there in the countryside.  The route took a couple of turns before continuing north, and seemed to go through small pieces of various towns.  In order, I traveled in Gill, Northfield, Gill, Bernardston, Gill, and Northfield.  I was then heading north in Northfield (on route 142) for a little while, until I reached the Vermont state line.

The route went through the whole south-north length of the town of Vernon, VT – about 6 miles’ up from Massachusetts.  I stopped for a rest some of the way through, and took these pictures of the distant hills (click on pictures to view full size):

vernon1  vernon2

Eventually, just before the route turned west, I came upon the first water stop of the ride.  It was operated by volunteers from a local grocery store, and they had bottles of water and granola bars on offer.

reststopvern

On reaching this stop, I’d gone 39 miles, and it was just about 10:30am.  At a few points during the morning, I’d been passed by other cyclists.  A group of 3 of them went by me just before this stop, and they left the stop pretty quickly.  At that point, I think I was probably the furthest behind of the century riders (fortunately it was not a race).

After leaving that stop, the route turned west onto a dirt road that went uphill.  I’m not fond of riding on dirt or gravel, but this was a very pretty section.  At one point there was a little bridge over a creek.  Here are views over each side of the bridge:

vernpool1  vernpool2

Once I got to the top of the hill, the road became paved, and then headed under I-91 into the town of Guilford.  The ride started to head southwest at this point, then went south.  This is where various hill climbing began to happen.  A lot of it was gradual, but I was climbing much of the time.  The route passed back into Massachusetts at mile 48, and then soon turned onto another dirt road.  This one climbed a hill like the previous one, and on this hill I passed the halfway point of the ride.  The dirt ended as I got into the Leyden town center.  There was a cyclist at the Leyden town hall working on his bike, and a little while later, he caught up to me, and we rode together for a while.  The route had a bit of downhill, but mostly more climbing as we went west into the town of Colrain, then headed south some more.

This fellow cyclist was also on the 100-mile ride, and had gotten a flat on the second dirt road.  He also said his wheel rim had gotten slightly bent.  As we conversed, it turned out that we both work in different health care facilities in Holyoke, which use the same medical record software, so a bunch of discussion centered on that.  He got a bit ahead of me as we went (most long-distance riders seem to be better hill climbers than me), but on a flat road I heard a loud “pop” from his bike, and we stopped.  It turned out his tube had blown out.  He didn’t have another spare tube, and I offered that he could try the one I had, but my tires were wider than his, so it wasn’t clear it would work.  Before he made an attempt to use the tube, though, a support vehicle drove up, and the volunteers in it offered a couple of tubes, one of which seemed to be the correct size.  Since he had other people looking out for him at that point, I continued on.

Soon the last of the climbing was over, and I started heading downhill, out of Colrain into the town of Shelburne.  This was a long downhill section, covering 4 or 5 miles (and it allowed me to make up time after the slow climbing).  Before 1:00 I was in Greenfield, riding on a short bike path.  The riding was fairly flat there, and I ended up on routes 5 and 10 heading south into Deerfield.  At this point I started to pass, and be passed by, riders on the 50-mile route.  Their route coincided with the rest of the 100 from that point.  We passed through Historic Deerfield, followed the Deerfield river a bit, then went through Deerfield Center, before heading south into Whately.

By the Whately town offices, I finally came upon a second water stop.  This one seemed to be staffed by a group of high school students, and they were offering chips and peanut butter sandwiches in addition to bars, water, and energy drinks.  I took a sizable break here, which was at about the 74 mile mark.  One thing that was odd at this stop was the lack of any Will Bike 4 Food signage, and in fact, once I got going again, I came upon another stop 2 miles later that did have such signage.  I didn’t stop there since I just had done so.

The ride entered Hatfield again, and then veered off west into Williamsburg.  This involved some more climbing, and I could feel myself having a harder time of it.  I did make it up the first hill, then had a gentle downhill ride past a reservoir, and then another bunch of climbing to a final water stop.  I was just there briefly, then went downhill into Williamsburg Center.  From there, the route turned back east, traveling into the Leeds section of Northampton, and then the Florence section of Noho.  Shortly after entering Florence, I came upon a pair of cyclists (not affiliated with the Food Bank ride) stopped on the side of the road, and they were pointing back the way I had come.  I stopped by them, and asked what they were pointing at.  They said I should turn around and look.  I did, and saw that I had just passed by a bear on someone’s lawn!  It was a smallish black bear, and it was foraging around the base of a tree and ignoring us.  I took some pictures, in which you can mostly just see a dark shape in the center:

bearflor1  bearflor2

I really did not want to get closer to try and get better pictures, so you’ll have to trust me – that’s a bear.

This was at mile 94, so I was in the home stretch.  I rode northeast from there, back up into Hatfield, and eventually made my way back to the Lions’ pavilion.  I got there and finished the ride at 4:45pm.  I checked back in and had some dinner before they started to put away the food (the after-party ended at 5pm).

The booths and decorations were mostly taken down by 5:00:

wb4f-teardown1  wb4f-teardown2

(that’s my bike leaning against the column)

Having eaten, I packed my bike and stuff back into the car to head home.  The final tally of miles for the day:

odometer-100

100.79 (couldn’t get my phone to focus on the odometer).

Thanks again for those who donated – your support gave me some of the inspiration I needed to finish in record time.

Posted by seaking on 09-30-2016 at 10:09 pm
Posted in Biking with 2 Comments

9 hours and 45 minutes!

The title says it all.  I just finished the ride and checked in.  Thanks everyone for your encouragement!

I’m going to eat some food now.

Posted by seaking on 09-25-2016 at 04:09 pm
Posted in Biking with 0 Comments

Almost there…

I’m in Williamsburg center now, nearly at mile 88.  The whole ride is almost 101 miles, so I’ve got 13 miles to go (with not much climbing).  Home stretch, here I come!

Posted by seaking on 09-25-2016 at 03:09 pm
Posted in Biking with 0 Comments

Staying on target

It’s just after 2:00 and I’ve finally reached a second water stop.  I’ve now gone 74 miles, and I’m feeling better than I was at this point in Bikefest last weekend.  Time to tackle the last quarter of this ride!


Posted by seaking on 09-25-2016 at 02:09 pm
Posted in Biking with 0 Comments

Sixty percent

There was a bunch of climbing in the middle of the route, as I headed back into Mass, but I just finished a nice long downhill run.  I’m at mile 61, in Shelburne, and soon I’ll be in Greenfield.

Posted by seaking on 09-25-2016 at 12:09 pm
Posted in Biking with 0 Comments

Northern Point

I’m in Vernon, VT at the northernmost part of the route.  I’ve gone about 42 miles.  I was at the first water stop 15 minutes ago, but did not have great cell reception there.  Now I begin heading back south.

Posted by seaking on 09-25-2016 at 10:09 am
Posted in Biking with 0 Comments

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