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Worst snowstorm of winter around here happened in the spring.

It had been a great start to the biking season…until now. I was hoping for a Tuesday road ride tomorrow night but now I am resigned to a good spin class. I may want the exercise but I still refuse to snow-blow the driveway or shovel the walk.

I’ve neglected this blog for a while but it hasn’t been due to lack of biking. The winter barely stopped us. We did a lot of mountain biking.

Bear Hole

Usually our first spring forays are on our mountain bikes but even our road rides got off to an early start. Typically we prefer 50 degree weather for a road ride but have learned to enjoy the road at lower temperatures this spring.

That’s all over, at least for this week.

The roads along Lake Champlain are mostly flat and very inviting.

The roads along Lake Champlain are mostly flat and very inviting.

We stayed in Ferrisburg, Vermont for the second year in a row. The house we rented is on a small peninsula, called Long Point, jutting out into Lake Champlain. The house has a “dock with a rock.” We would park ourselves on the dock and jump the 8-10 feet off the rock into the water. Or, add a few feet at the base of the tree above the rock. It was a great way to get into the water. Looking west, we had great view every night of the sun setting under the overlapping New York Adirondack mountains.

Many days I spent swimming and kayaking…and biking with and without the family. I kept my rides shorter though, since this was a family vacation.

Route 7 cuts north to south through Ferrisburg paralleling Lake Champlain. I found it to be a sort of natural dividing line for many of my rides.

Toni’s Ride

I brought my wife for a ride hitting the southern part of Ferrisburg. Riding away from the lake towards Greenbush Road, route 7 was three miles away. Turning south on it, we rode along the busy rode turning left onto Little Chicago Road. Lying next to the lake, the roads here are considered flat to experienced riders with gentle rolling hills. I brought my wife down Little Chicago Road and saw by the smile on her face how much she appreciated these great roads. The road takes a ride swing to the right before ending. We took a right towards Kingsland Bay State Park. The road climbs a little making my wife groan from the added effort. I reminded her how easy she has had it so far and assured her that this was just a minor obstacle. We then descended gently along farmland and large estates with deep front lawns. This was Vermont at its best and most gentle. Arriving at the entrance to the park, two horses greeted with a whinny from the field next door. We took a quick little loop into the park on the gravel road to see another view of the lake.

Back at the entrance, the road turned sharply continuing the circle back to Little Chicago Road. We follow what soon becomes Hawkins Road that leads us over Little Otter Creek, an offshoot of Lake Champlain. The road temporarily turns into a thin strip of land with a little bridge over the creek. Fishermen stand on either side lazily fishing off the bridge. The quiet road turns once again. There is little traffic here along this meandering road except for a bus full of children traveling to a day camp we just passed by.

Back on Little Chicago road, we are doubling back but still enjoying the route. I see my happy wife chugging along. I feel bad we forgot to grab our water bottles but make up for it with a water stop when back on route 7. The way back is mostly downhill and faster. Now that we have water, Route 7 doesn’t last that long and the roads back from there provide us a good warm down.

Getting back, swimming and kayaking await. Then lunch. Then a trek to the Bolton Potholes. What a great day.

Boy’s Ride

I decided to bring Frankie and Carl in the opposite direction…away from route 7. We headed north towards Charlotte and Shelburne along Greenbush Road. We were soon at our biggest hill and I coached both boys to not get discouraged. It was already hot out and we were making a big effort. At the top we were rewarded with a long downhill towards Charlotte’s center of town where the speed limit is 25 mph. (We should know. Driving through it, we have been warned to slow down by the residents.) Frankie and Carl both quickly came up with the same personal goal…to go faster than the speed limit. Hitting 27 mph, Frankie felt triumphant. (Carl’s bike computer was not operating and had to rely on reports from Frankie.)

Crossing the center we were passing by beautiful houses just off the intersection. Some were for sale and I was back in fantasyland thinking about buying one on the spot so we could stay forever.

I stand beside Carl along a public beach on Lake Champlain.

I stand beside Carl along a public beach on Lake Champlain.

We were picking up speed again and I was getting the boys to draft behind me. We were heading towards an underpass and our speed was climbing past the 30 mph speed limit here. Its a tight “S” turn in the road but that just makes it more fun. We right, left and then right again under the short tunnel then I looked left for the turn I knew was coming up fast.

Frankie and Carl waited at the turn while I took it fast knowing it was there. A short hill slowed our pace as we followed the quiet road towards the lake shore. A picturesque house with an iconic red barn sat on the bend in the road. We turned left following the road that led us back along the shore of Lake Champlain. Houses dotted the roadside before the view totally opened up to the lakeshore and the Adirondack mountains of New York State. A park straddled the street with the parking on the left and the beach across the quiet street. Docks sat out in the lake like little islands and I wanted to stop for a swim. Instead we stopped just for the view.

A small covered bridge stood between us and the road ahead. We took pictures before heading forward. This spot makes the whole ride for me and I was loath to move on too quickly.

Nice homes greeted us along the road and I was wondering who could own such great estates. Could it be someone famous or just rich. I’m a conservative by nature believing anybody can make it in America, but I am no stranger to envy.

At the crossroads Lake Road soon turns to dirt but we instead turned right on Ferry Road to add a few miles and check out where the local ferry crosses to the New York side. The road turns left down a short but steep hill and I felt bad (for a second) about doing this to the boys. I am a sucker though for another great lake view. Stopping at the ferry landing, I noticed the sailboats sitting out on the lake, the small peninsula that is part of someone’s property that juts out into the water like a little baby finger. A comfy chair and table sit on the little strip of land and I was again imagining buying it with my millions.

We turned around and I coaxed the boys back up the hill returning to the intersection where we continued our ride home. The road turned into dirt briefly before returning us back near Greenbush Road again.

Family Ride

My wife and I wanted to take the kids on one of the Lake Champlain Bikeway rides, especially the ones on one of the lake’s islands. We took half the week trying to decide which it would be. Upon closer inspection though, I found these rides to be better for the older members of my family. These were routes, not trails and we would be riding on some roads with more traffic than I’d like.

We instead decided to ride the bike trail along the shoreline of Burlington. It starts just south of the center, follows past the aquarium, along neighborhoods, state parks, and undeveloped coastline.

Best yet, it eventually juts out into the middle of the lake along a causeway that was formerly a railroad bed. Along the causeway trail there is a gap where a bridge once stood. At one time, the bridge would rise to let boats through. Now, bikes manage to cross the gap by taking the bike ferry. From there, the trail leads to South Hero island.

I wasn’t sure how far we would get when we parked the van near Oakledge Park but I looked forward to finding out.

Following the road to the park entrance, we turned away from it heading north. Along the shoreline, families were sitting along a small but popular beach. Just after that where the trail turned right, a miniature “stonehenge” stood reminding my wife of the “stones” from the series Outlander.

The bike trail promptly emptied onto a street in a small neighborhood. We followed the painted arrows on the road leading to where the trail reemerged.

We crossed by the marina where I stopped at a small bike shop administering to customers using the trail. I got more information about the cost of taking the bike ferry and decided right there that we would most likely want to cross over to the island.

The trail followed the coastline I had ridden back on Mother’s Day weekend when I was here for a wedding. We passed by a campground and state park with a wide beachfront. We crossed road through upscale neighborhoods. I had noticed in the spring that sometimes houses abut the lake, sometimes the shoreline is left undeveloped…all in a short span. It seemed like a nice compromise.

We passed a dog park, went over a bridge over the Winooski River where we stopped for the view. Frankie wanted to jump off it I am sure. The trail from there leads to a raised platform over a marsh. At the other end of the marsh is a popular spot for kitesurfing and I was reminded of the kite surfers at Columbia River Gorge in Oregon.

The trail leads into another neighborhood where the trail leads along the side of the road, crossing into Airport Park.

Along the trail, I had been intermittently riding with Joe, pushing him along when necessary or letting him ride with his mom, Toni. Frankie, Eleni and Carl road up front. I would catch up to them when necessary, either pushing Joe or leaving him behind with his mom.

At Airport Park, the trail turns into gravel and enters a wooded area as it heads towards the causeway. I was getting excited hoping the distance wouldn’t be too great to the island. The farther we rode, the less I wanted to turn around early. The trail was mostly flat of course but the gravel tends to slow the bikes down. I got behind Joe and pushed him along. Entering the causeway, I could see the island in the distance seemingly connected by the thin thread of the trail.

Lining the trail was white marble slabs. Vermont is well known for its marble quarries. Seemed like an extravagant expense for a bike trail but I liked the white outlines on both sides of the trail.

As soon as we biked into the sunny causeway, I wanted to take a swim along its banks. We chose a very large tree pointing at it horizontally at an uninhabited island and stopped for a swim and some pictures. We all climbed out onto the large tree limb jutting out over the water. I walked up to where the limb forms a “V” and jumped through the opening. Frankie and Joe followed me down.

I could see the trail extending like a ribbon of white arc its way to the island. I took off for the ferry with the family. We had gone a good amount of miles but I wasn’t willing to turn back now. This was too cool. The swim and the lake air helped keep us cool on this sunny day. When we arrived at the ferry, I was ahead of Toni and Joe far enough to have bought the tickets already when they arrived.

The ferry is a small boat. Half of it is dedicated to bikes while the rest is for passengers and crew. The crew were very pleasant and helpful handing out cold water bottles to all of us for a small donation.

We were first on and last off on the short ride to the other side. The boat does an arc out away from the causeway and around to the other end of the gap. My kids petted the crew’s golden retriever on our way over with Joe being most interested in him.

The ferry’s crew gave us directions to the closest places for lunch. It was already 1:30 and we were plenty hungry. We chose a food truck that lies at a local farm three miles away. Half that ride is on the trail, half is on roads.

On the trail again, we were warned at the ferry that there are potholes along this part of the trail. We weaved around the holes on our way to the road. I was distracted by some great spots along the shoreline peaking through the vegetation.

The trail ended onto a flat gravel road. We turned right as our captain and first mate explained to us and took the left at the stop sign. It was little over a mile to our lunch but some small hills were in our way. Joe and Eleni were getting a little tired. Eleni’s butt hurt from the bike seat. I pushed both along switching back and forth between them until we got our last small downhill to the farm.

Vermont Burlington Ride

We were greeted by a small country store with burger shack alongside. Evidently the guy running the food truck built a semipermanent structure for his burger business. We ordered and the kids checked out the animals and free-range chickens roaming the grounds. I checked out the store buying fudge and later maple-creamy ice cream.

Now I had to get my family back to the car.

I pushed Eleni and Joe again over the small hills, then back onto the trail where Frankie promptly fell off his bike into the vegetation. It was one pothole too many for him. Luckily it was a soft landing.

We took the ferry back and made plans for our return. I would go ahead with Frankie and Carl. Toni would stay back with Eleni and Joe. I told her when we got back to the car, I would let her know. She could find a place to stop and use her smartphone to “drop a pin” with her map app and email it to me. I would drive back and pick them up.

With the two boys, we were moving fast. We blew through the gravel trail but the distance was starting to wear the boys down. Crossing over the bridge, I saw that clouds were moving in. It was a good week for weather but isolated thunderstorms would pop up from the Adirondack mountains and cross over the lake. Sometimes it would be just south or north of us, or sometimes right on us. This one was north of my position but heading for my wife and kids.

I pushed the boys to get back to the car but they were getting tired. They did great doing 30 miles with me, but I was getting a little anxious by the time we got to the van. I called my wife telling her we were back. Toni didn’t know how to email me the pin, but Eleni did and sent their position to me.

My phone’s GPS, was leading me through downtown Burlington. Stop lights and downtown traffic along with the thunderstorm moving in kept me uptight. When I was within a few miles of them, I had Carl let them know how close we were getting. It was starting to rain now and their was the thunder of course.

A half mile away, the GPS let me down a street I didn’t expect. Thank God for technology. The rain was picking up when I pulled over to the side of the road to them. When I got there, I had been more worried then they were. I hastily put the bikes on the van and we were done. I figured they had ridden about 25 miles. A new record for Joe.

And a great family experience.

My Hilly Ride

From the lake house, I traveled the 3 miles up to route 7 again, this time deciding to take a left away from the lake and try out some of the farm roads. On the way up route 7 I met another biker, Doug, formerly of Connecticut.

After retiring, he moved to the coast with his wife where they lived for 6 years. They then moved to Vermont where they have lived for the past 11 years. He is not that much older than me so he must have retired early. He was telling me how much he loves Vermont. No crowds, or lines to wait in. Its beautiful country at a slower pace. And, he rides regularly doing some races, mountain climbs or the casual ride along the backroads around Lake Champlain. He loves it here.

I think I know exactly what he’s talking about.

He was turning right onto Little Chicago Road, where I typically like to ride. We parted there as I turned left instead onto Middlebrook Road. As I did, Doug told me “its nice, rolling terrain, enjoy.”

What  a difference a turn makes…Doug was right…Rolling hills abound. Little Chicago road is emblematic of the roads along Champlain…mostly level with mild, gentle rises and falls. Middlebrook Road starts right away with a long rise leading up to farmland. I was feeling pretty good and took the next hill with enthusiasm. I was intrigued by the difference of the road from one side of route 7 vs. the other. I hadn’t had a hard ride lately and my body wanted this. I jumped on the bike pedals enjoying the first hill. To my left I see a small mountain, bumping up out of the landscape. Having planned my ride from my cell phone’s map, I knew I going that way eventually. I could see what I was in for and was looking forward to it.

I knew right then that I wanted to come back next summer. These roads were already challenging me. In my head, these roads were “juicy” and full of character. I wanted to try every direction. Take every turn. Experience everything all at once.

I only had so much time though and when the road stopped at the “T” I went right instead of left by mistake and soon found myself back at route 7!

I turned around and took the correct route going back up a small hill I foolishly went down. Getting back on track, I rechecked my map and made sure I wasn’t going to take the wrong road again. I was chasing the clock and possible thunder storms were chasing me. We’d had one here and there almost every day.

Monkton Road in Monkton was the second of three roads I was taking on this side of route 7. I was climbing and descending along the back roads and loving it. I was watching the clock though and looking for my turn…that seemed to be around the next corner. “Okay,” I thought. “It must be just ahead.” “Ok, now?” Roads usually look longer on my map app. I was thinking I misjudged this when my left turn finally came. I was a little beat from one hill after another, but felt renewed with knowing I was on my way back.

There was that mountain on the left now. It was one more climb before I was descending into North Ferrisburg where I was beating the speed limit. I spied some roads to the right that I wanted to ride another time. Another summer vacation?

It started to rain just as I crossed route 7. Two miles back to our rental.

 

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.

 

It was a cold March and April was getting much better. I usually like road rides to be a bit warmer. Usually I would hit the woods instead. But it was April 12 and I was done with waiting. So I packed on 3 layers and headed out into the cool, sunny morning.

See April 12, 2015 Ride

I got only 4 miles away before I found myself overheating. I pulled over and took off the middle layer happily and stashed it along the side of the road. I was coming back this way eventually. There are not many good ways to bike into West Springfield.

Turning away from Holyoke Community College, I crossed route 5 following the road towards the Connecticut River. Rolling down from the top of a hill I followed the road down, down, down crossing intersections as I rolled along through traffic. I showed my daughter many years ago (in the car) how if you time it just right, the lights will turn green in front of you one after the other. Every time we drive through here she watches for it.

Its just as easy to do it on a bike, maybe easier. I just had to time the first light and the rest fell into place.

I crossed the Connecticut River into South Hadley, circled around the busy rotary and exited onto more rural roads. I passed McCray’s Farm knowing it was too early to have their fresh ice cream. I followed the road and saw the Connecticut River again at Brunelle’s Marina where the road abruptly turns back away again.

At the center of South Hadley I turned left onto route 116 not sure where I was heading. The day had warmed up quicker than I thought it would. My friends had all abandoned me today and I was making it up as I went along. So far this was a typical route here but I didn’t want to follow the road up through the notch but along a more circular route.

After entering Granby I turned onto Amherst Road then Batchelor Street intending to circle around Mt. Holyoke Range State Park. At Batchelor Street sits some of the best trails in the Northeast. Many have been made specifically for mountain biking, others intersect trails at the state park. The trails are some of the most fun, and most challenging with their twists and turns up hills, down and around. Its a special treat to ride there and grueling at the same time.

4-12-15-which-way

I had ridden through here before and vaguely remembered the way. I wasn’t afraid of getting lost, but enjoyed the surprises along each turn. Ron and the others know these roads better than I do.

I made some choices that seemed right and ended up at Bay Road. This I knew. I was definitely on the right course. I was getting some good miles in finally albeit much later in the early season than I wanted. The sun was shining, Spring was finally finding its footing, and at 25 miles out, I was only half way through my ride.

I was hoping to run into Bay Road knowing it would complete the circle around the Holyoke Range.

I was hoping to run into Bay Road knowing it would complete the circle around the Holyoke Range.

Bay Road took me to Atkins Farm downhill from the Notch road I just circled. I followed the flat road and enjoyed the faster pace into Hadley. I entered the resurfaced Norwotuck Rail Trail (the old surface was infused with minute particles of glass—great idea!) and followed it to the refurbished train bridge back over the Connecticut River.

It was a simple route back down route 5 along the other side of the river. I collected my stashed layer and finished my ride gloating via text to the others of the first great ride of the season.

They were not impressed.

The refurbished Norwottuck train bridge is an elegant, and safe way to cross back over the Connecticut River.

The refurbished Norwottuck train bridge is an elegant, and safe way to cross back over the Connecticut River.

 

layeredMy first road ride: 5 layers, winter gloves, winter cap, booties

My second road ride: 4 layers, winter gloves, head band, booties

My third road ride: 3 layers, winter gloves, head band, booties

By my fourth ride I was getting away from winter gloves but kept the 3 layers on. My headband seemed mostly unnecessary but the stiff wind kept the riding cool.

See second—March 31, 2015 Ride

See third—April 4, 2015 Ride

See fourth—April 5, 2015 Ride

Its been consistently cooler for road riding than I am used to doing or even want to do. I’ve given up waiting though. Typically I will start the season out mountain biking but until about now, the trails have been snow covered. (Sunday may have worked but it would have been hit or miss.)

I like mid 40’s or above and if its mid 40’s, it has to be sunny. I’ve learned though that my standards can be lowered. Desperation caused that and now I see that I don’t mind. Whether its 3, 4, or 5 layers, I’m comfortable. Sometimes I strip one layer off…better than not being warm enough.

Rides have been slower than I want. I think my muscles move slower in the cooler temperatures…kind of like riding in molasses. But, I’ve also forced myself to hit all the local hills early…Southampton Road, Apremont Highway (not a highway), Mountain Road (in Holyoke), and of course Mt. Tom’s access road (see my first road ride: March 30, 2015).

I’ve found the potholes to be not as bad as I thought they would be (so far). I have enjoyed the head start snowshoeing and spinning classes have given me. I am wondering if I will be conflicted with mountain biking now. I’m sure my friends will want to hit the woods. I do too but hate to loose the road conditioning.

I got an early Easter ride in with Mike 11. We did a hard 20 miles. Going into Southampton from Holyoke, it was windy and we had a hard time maintaining 15 – 16 mph on a flat road. The hills were rolling with some steep sections. When we got back Mike exclaimed “We did 1,500 feet of climbing.” I was surprised as well. Between the climbing and the hills, it felt like the end of a longer ride. More conditioning and more hard miles to come. Finally biking season is really here.

I was done waiting for the snow to melt. I was riding Sunday no matter what. The day before it lightly snowed most of the day. It didn’t stick but it didn’t leave me hopeful.

The weather prediction promised sunny skies Sunday, low 40s at best in mid afternoon.

Good enough.

See March 29, 2015 Ride

Mt Tom 3-29-15

I met up with Ron in Holyoke at route 5. I had on a short sleeve bike shirt with arm warmers and a shirt over that. I added 4 more layers including 2 coats. I also wore long tights, winter gloves, and “bootie” covers over my shoes. My toes would get a little cold, but I stayed comfortable during the whole ride. Ron had warmer gloves but still had to stop to warm up his hands.

We rode a slow pace to avoid the wind chill, especially when going down hill. Slower speeds also helped us avoid potholes that littered the roads.

Following route 5 north, we turned onto Ron’s favorite hill…Mt. Tom Reservation’s access road. He climbs it 20-30 times a year. I have been keeping up on spinning classes and felt good about this early climb. What neither of us anticipated though was the ice and snow on the roadway. Sitting in the saddle, we steered carefully through the snow and ice at a consistent pace.

At the top of the road both left and right were blocked to traffic. The right turn hadn’t been open for a long time. The left turn towards route 141 gate has been blocked since the microburst that happened last fall.

From my many walks up to the Mt. Tom summit, I could see the damage along the road from a distance. Now I was getting a closer look. At first no damage was evident and it looked as it always has. Then it changed quickly. As Ron said “the view is now spectacular.” I was saddened by the damage but impressed by the power of nature. Logging was going on even on that Sunday which I appreciated. I look forward to when it will be cleared out.

The gate at 141 is at the highest point on the road. The damage abruptly stops feet from the gate. Trees on the other side of the gate, close to the road were mostly untouched. A restaurant and banquet house across the street seemed unfazed. Just below that is Mt. Joe’s where I park for Mt. Tom hikes. From there you would never know what happened a few feet away.

Biking towards Mt. Joe’s to Go , I looked forward to the rest of my ride knowing the season was starting with a bang.

 

Carl, Eleni and Frankie pose in front of a pine tree cathedral.

Carl, Eleni and Frankie pose in front of a pine tree cathedral.

Happy Spring! It was snowing when Spring officially started as well as Saturday, the first full day of Spring.

But it did finally change for the better. Not liking to stand still, I got Frankie, Eleni and Carl to join Scout and I for a walk. After stopping at Nick’s Nest for a hot dog, I drove over to the old Mt. Tom ski entrance. around Whiting Street Reservoir and along the Mt. Tom ski area.

The Whiting Street Reservoir and Mt. Tom behind it.

The Whiting Street Reservoir and Mt. Tom behind it.

Back 25 years ago, I was skiing here at Mt. Tom. Before that I was going to Mountain Park (drive past the ski area) with my parents to go on the amusement park’s rides. Before that, my father used to come to Mountain Park to dance to the big bands. (He was quite a dancer!) Now at least they hold summer concerts here near the entrance.

We cut along an access road and entered a forest of tall pines. It seemed like we were passing through a cathedral as we entered the path around the reservoir. After walking around partway, we took a right onto an access path and walked towards the old Mt. Tom ski area. I pointed out the old trails, and the old wave pool that got Eleni’s interest. Then Carl and her saw the old ski lodge and decided to do a little investigating. They were fascinated by the graffiti decorating the walls inside and out.

The old Mt. Tom ski area.

The old Mt. Tom ski area.

When they all emerged from behind the buildings, I told them some family history…of how I came here skiing, about the amusement park called Mountain Park where I played and my dad danced.

Then we too a look at the massive quarry. After the ski area closed in the late 90’s the owners started excavating the quarry. Looking into it the size seemed intimidating. The day was finally warming up and I could here icicles breaking off the walls and small rocks tumbling down the sides. Eleni and Scout walked down and I followed behind. She seemed swallowed up by the size of the place. The rocks were being heated by the sun making it much warmed inside the large bowl.

Carl, Eleni and Frankie in front of the Mt. Tom quarry.

Carl, Eleni and Frankie in front of the Mt. Tom quarry.

Eleni descends into the quarry with Scout.

Eleni descends into the quarry with Scout.

My words echoed off the walls as I called her and Scout to come back up. There was no danger but the cracking ice and trickling stones just made me nervous. The kids were enjoying themselves and Eleni especially.

I brought them to a trail that climbs far around the rim of the quarry before going up towards the ridge at the top of the ski area. I didn’t get too far before the kids convinced me to turn around. I was tired of slipping on patches of ice hidden by the recent snowfall anyhow.

We circled back past the ski lodge and I had one more look at the old ski lodge. I wished of getting rich so I could resurrect the old ski area.

You would think MIT students would know how to treat a bike.

You would think MIT students would know how to treat a bike.

March is a month of great change and the snow is melting. I’m not sure how soon I will comfortably be able to ride outside though. Numerous potholes, sand, salt, and rivers of water along the side of the road make road biking outside difficult and just very messy. The trails are too mushy to try riding on and will probably last to melt with all the packed snow on them.

Inside, winter training has been a combination of spinning classes, running, swimming and lifting. Outside its been snowshoeing, cross country skiing, downhill skiing, and hikes. I sound like I’m complaining but not so much really. I’ve enjoyed the cross training and know I will be that much more eager to get back on my bike. I’ve enjoyed mixing up the workouts and hope to see it give me a strong start.

In the meantime I can be found daydreaming of new bike routes and fantasizing of riding the Kingdom Trails. I’m considering riding an old mountain bike on the road and getting disgustingly dirty while aiming for potholes.

I guess I’m ready to get back on my bike.

2-15-15 Snowshoeing

My wife bought me snowshoes maybe five years ago. The first few years, I didn’t try them once. The snow just wasn’t that thick. The next few years, I’d try them but couldn’t keep them on my feet and was thinking maybe this was a bad idea. After all, snowshoeing is just walking in the woods. I’d rather be cross country skiing anyhow. Then last year it all changed with our hikes up Mt. Tom.

It was Sunday, February 15. The snow was too thick for cross country skiing. Not unless you already had tracks to ski on. I instead decided to join Carl for some snowshoeing in his backyard…well out his backyard into the woods. We brought our dogs with us Tucker and Scout. They were more cooperative today being more or less stuck walking in our tracks.

Carl’s house is located near Rising Corner in Agawam near the Southwick and Connecticut borders. We accessed the woods and the M&M trail that cuts behind his house. Getting there meant crossing a farmer’s field first. With the strong wind, that was a pretty brave fete.

We traversed along the edge of the field then plunged headlong into the center towards a lone tree. As we approached the tree I saw the wind kicking up and warned Carl, “A snow devil!” Instead of a “dust” devil, a frigid version had kicked up in front of us. It swirled right towards us and I stopped and put my head down into it closing my eyes.

I was prepared for the cold wearing multiple layers and my ski gear. Carl thought I could overheat but I knew unzipping for five minutes would take care of that today.

Entering the woods, the wind chill was gone and I was very comfortable. We did a few loops around the hills with the dogs. I was enjoying them sticking by us. I only wished that Scout would try to not step on the back of our snowshoes. We worked up a good effort before doubling back to where we entered the woods. Ryan was joining us on his second ever snowshoe endeavor.

The three of us plowed up the hill to meet up with the M&M trail. Carl led the effort through the thick snow leaving Ryan and I in the “dust.” Ryan was impressed with the area for both biking and snowshoeing. Carl was pointing out the rolling terrain around us and talking of the potential of some manmade trails. Tucker was trying to chase the scent of a deer again. We interrupted our planned route to veer off course and drag him back.

Eventually we followed the M&M trail down to the bog bridge that crosses the beaver pond. The bog bridge is a series of planks and pallets that form a rudimentary bridge across the swampy pond. It had fallen into disrepair until recently.

At the moment though that was all irrelevant. The pond was all ice with the only indication of what was there being the beaver home standing boldly on the winter landscape.

We soon decided to fall back into the protection of the trees.

Carl turned along the pond following an old trail I used to take. Then he turned uphill.

I didn’t think any hill around here could compete with the climb up Mt. Tom. Boy was I wrong. We started trudging up through the hip deep snow. The muscles around my hips felt like they wanted to give away under the strain. It was wonderful! Carl told me “those are the same muscles you use to climb hills on your bike.”

I planted my poles and pulled myself up with both arms. Rotating each arm wouldn’t be enough. Each step was a test to see if the shoes would hold and not slip backwards. My breath increased quickly and I thought “this is the kind of snowshoeing I have been hoping for all along.” What a great workout.

While we are doing this, Tucker is taking another run at that deer. He stayed down and ran into another farmer’s field crossing it hot on its scent. I thought he would be long gone, before he turned back as abruptly as he’d left.

I had to make a beeline towards getting back. We had started our Sunday workout much later than I usually would. It was too cold to make it an early start. I knew though that I would want a return trip here. It was the best snowshoe workout I had gotten yet. I was finally seeing what the fuss was all about with these darn shoes.

2-8-15 Mt Tom Snowshoeing

Carl’s dog Tucker was missing. We were heading back on a trail midway down the mountain. Carl had just discovered that his dog took off and took off through the woods following Tucker’s tracks.

Mike 10, Carl and I  (and Scout and Tucker) started by crossing route 141 from the Mt. Joe’s Coffee shack. We had a touch climb snowshoeing up Mt. Tom. I had wished I brought my poles. Mike and Carl were doing better than I was. Scout was following Tucker along the trail. Once in a while I had to yell to him to come back. Sometimes I had to yell more than once. Closer to the top he disappeared for a bit. I figured I knew where he would be but I would hate to be wrong.

Last time Mike 10 did this hike, it was in the other direction. We ended up going down the steep hill from the top. That bothered his knees and he was unsure that he wanted to do that again. He was finding this route much better.

At the top we followed the edge of the mountain. It was a cloudy day, the snow was heavy and the snowshoes were absolutely necessary. The dogs stayed close following the existing tracks.

Until we descended to the B17 memorial. Tucker started sprinting down the access road with Scout following obediently behind. I had to run down the road yelling like a madman…”Scout, come, come…” I must have made a nice impression with Mike. So much for a peaceful walk.

Carl was mostly unaware at first but was soon close behind me. He figured that Tucker must have gotten the scent of deer and was following his nose. Our yelling did the trick though and the dogs came back, chugging back up the road almost as fast as they did running away.

Following the trail, Scout was in front of us on a “verbal” leash. I made sure he stayed well in sight. Tucker stayed behind Carl…until he wasn’t.

Mike and I were not shuffling off trail with Carl. We went forward slowly thinking that he could have circled around us and could be up the trail. More than once with my old dog, I would think he was gone and he would just show up looking at me with a “what’s the problem” look.

We kept in contact with Carl by phone. He called back saying he found him. Found him 20 yards below him on a steep, icy hill. Tucker had gone looking for those deer he smelled. “Its very steep but I’ll try to get him to come to me.” Five minutes later Carl was heading back towards us with his dog. He would meet us back at the cars.

We got out of the woods just before Carl. Carl offered to buy us coffee for our troubles. They were his troubles but I was accepting anyway. Mt Joes to Go…damn good coffee.