Mike 11 looks out over Lake Wyola in Shutesbury.

Mike 11 looks out over Lake Wyola in Shutesbury.

Ron was the one to make the case…”I’m bored with the same old roads. Let’s start in Northampton.” Its a little farther than we typically start a road ride from. (Not so with mountain biking though.) Ron’s suggestion reminded me of my own season goal of riding different roads. Sometimes the worst part of a ride is the same 5 miles to and from home, so I was in.

Road riding’s appeal to me is two-fold…or maybe three. Sure its the fitness, but its firstly the freedom—you can disconnect from all of life’s pressures for a time. Secondly, its the ride—when I’m on my bike, I enjoy going places and experiencing them on a bike. New roads (or rarely traveled ones) mean new experiences and I enjoy my views from the saddle.

So here I was arriving in Northampton for a Sunday ride, 17 miles from home.

See July 12, 2015 Ride

Ron and Mike 11 arrived excited for a new ride. I had an idea. Five years earlier my family and I vacationed in Shutesbury next to Lake Wyola. I did some biking up there and know a route to Wendell State Forest. Ron wants to do some mountain biking up there sometime so it would be a great destination…a sort of research for a future ride.

There was some miles between here and there. Hatfield’s flat road is the best, fastest, and most direct way there. After accessing the bike path to route 5, we turned right crossing over the highway and entered Hatfield…it should be called “Flatfield”. Its a solid 10 miles of flat road through Hatfield and Whately. Turning right, we crossed over the Connecticut River onto route 47 in Sunderland then left towards Montague.

Mike 11 knows this area from riding with a Greenfield area group. Ron and I rode here from Holyoke this year but turned around soon after. What we all knew is that the roads up here are just the best. Really.

Franklin County BikewayWe got off route 47 turning down a hill following the Connecticut River to the Franklin County Bikeway. The mostly flat road follows the river. Above us on our right are farm houses, riverside homes and rock cliffs that were carved out by the river centuries ago. We pass a waterfall on our right that leads under the road to the river. Rock ledges try to lure me in for some exploration.

We turn up Old Sunderland Road and climb away from the river. The mild hill reminds us that not all roads are flat around here. We are in our glory enjoying a new road, a new experience. We already know we will be doing this again.

Eventually the road led us back to route 47 and Montague center. We had to backtrack a little to find the road to Lake Wyola. It was unlike Mike 11 to know the way, but he did and I had to apologize for thinking he wasn’t up to it. We turned on the road I knew from five years earlier when I stayed on Lake Wyola.

We had a good average speed getting here but that was about to end. I just remembered, North Leverett road climbs…very gently at first. In fact, it appears to be a downhill…but it isn’t. Its kind of frustrating that way. Then it climbs a little more and just keeps going and going. Its like being hit with a thousand little punches. Eventually it wears you down.

The road itself though was wonderful. We followed the quiet road following old mills, rocky streams, and other back roads to explore. Passing by Rattlesnake Gutter Road, I knew we would be back for that someday. It was quite the experience 20 years ago when I road up it.

We stopped at Lake Wyola for a break and were glad for it. I was ready for a swim at the already busy state beach. Soon though we were off riding to the end of the road. Taking a right we soon turned onto West Street and climbed some more. By the time we got to the end of the road, it was 10 miles of climbing.

And we climbed more towards Wendell State Forest’s entrance! I knew there was a big downhill coming but it couldn’t get here fast enough.

We stopped for water at the ranger station. It was hot out but I was well hydrated. I put some watered down sweet tea in my bottle and that helped. What didn’t help was that I forgot to bring energy bloks. And time was starting to run short. And I had people coming over! “Okay guys, lets get moving.”

We flew down the road from Wendell’s main gate enjoying the views that opened up on our right. I never want to go up this road. Our average speed was improving with the long downhill…not that that really mattered to us. I wished it would get me all the way back but it only got us to the center of Miller’s Falls. We still had to get back to Montague center before I would feel comfortable about getting back in time.

I guess “freedom” when biking only lasts so long. It starts dwindling quickly the closer you get to the time you promised your wife you would be home by.

We started cranking on route 63, trading off the front, drafting and making time back. The hills weren’t bad but I was worried about my energy level. We came upon the intersection where we turned towards Lake Wyola only this time turning right onto route 47 heading back towards Sunderland. The hills weren’t too bad but it felt like an obstacle in my way. There were many miles left to go but most of them would be flat miles. Would my energy level hold? I hoped so because I wasn’t going to stop.

Turning right onto route 116 for the short span over the bridge, we took a right repeating the 10 miles of flat road back into Hatfield. Ron and Mike 11 soon waved goodbye to me. They had all the time they needed. I didn’t blame them. Later I learned though that Ron got a flat in that parking lot delaying them further.

This became the hardest flat 10 miles I had done in a while. The wind was picking up against me, I had nobody to draft, my energy was fading and I could see my speed creeping downward. It seemed a lot easier on the way out.

Arriving home just before 1 pm, I had made it. Aside from my mom, all my other guests would be late.


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