January Hike

Posted: February 20, 2015 in Uncategorized
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1-25-15 Winter Hiking

Frankie joined me on a Sunday hike with my friend Ron. My dog Scout got a treat as well, joining us for a Sunday walk.

Typically, hiking, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing take the place of my biking Sundays this time of year. Some years not so much. This year very, very much. So this was kind of the first time my son joined me on a guy’s hike.

Frankie knows my hikes though, always done with the other kids. So the only difference this day was in my mind. But its just another reminder to me that my boy is growing up!

It was January 25, 2015 and it was a bright, sunny but cold day with a stiff wind. Starting from route 202 in Holyoke, we crossed the street and entered the pipeline trail. The snow was thick enough to slow us down a little but not so much that snowshoes would make much difference.

In the woods, we were soon warm enough to be comfortable. I let Scout off the leash (my youngest son Joe would be flipping out), and we were soon enjoying being outside. I chose for us to take the steep trail to the left after the pipeline. Climbing up the steep trail, we were warming up quick. Frankie had his coat off and I was working up a pretty good sweat. Funny how fast things change. It was very cold at the Ashley Reservoir gate.

At the top of the trail we took in the view while cooling off very quickly. As expected, the wind was gusting even harder along the ridge but the sun was shining. I was cold and warm at the same time. Frankie kept his coat off long enough to get his body temperature down close to normal. The boy is a furnace!

Backtracking just a little, I got Scout turned around on the right path and we followed the trail along the ridge. We were somewhat more protected from the wind but more exposed than at the pipeline trail. Enjoying the view along the ridge, we headed slowly down the path towards the trolley trail.

It was cool having Frankie along with Ron and I. I was enjoying this time. As the kids get older, they want to be away from their parents, even if in the same house. Frankie will spend a lot of time downstairs either doing homework, or just listening to music. Quality time becomes important. Sometimes its just in the car, sometimes its a walk. Either way we don’t always say much to each other. Ron a I did much of the talking. But talking is not always as important as just experiencing a little bit of life together.

Robinsons-14

This is local turf for us. We like it, we loath it, we ride it.

Ron hates the twisty trails. I get bored with it, until I’ve done a lot of technical stuff elsewhere, then I look forward to it again.

There are a couple of truths here…

We are lucky to have the place.

Robinson has most of the locally made trails closer to Robinson Park School. Many times I stay here and never hit the park itself. I twist fast through the woods doing many miles close to the car. When it is time to leave, I am not terribly far from the car. And, I am not terribly far from home.

I can also bring the kids here hitting some of the same twisty trails, we just do it much slower.

It is more technical than you think.

While many trails are not very technical at a low speed, they are much different at a high speed. Trees and turns come on you fast in the twisty sections. We joke when we say “watch out for the rock.” Yes there is a rock to watch out for. It is in the center-left of the trail and you come upon it quickly. But, there are many more roots to avoid. There are bridges, there are “whoop-de-doos,” there are steep hills. There is a lot of single-track.

There is a lot of variety.

Yes, there are many twisty trails. But you can avoid much of that and hit the park early (from the school). You can twist less or not at all.

There is the black forest. Even with bright sun, it is very dark in there.

The bridges can hurt your pride, or your groin. One in particular is quite a challenge and I have seen people get hurt. Another bridge I avoid altogether now. It has gotten the best of me before.

I love the “whoop-de-doos.” Love them.

Because the trails tend to be smoother, I can go faster getting a sort of road ride in the woods. Well, that is until the fall leaves have just fallen. Then the trail is like ice and I am sliding through the turns. Or in the winter, then I am sliding on actual ice.

Then there is the hill challenges. Fitness is important but takes a back seat to technique. Its all about the right balance. Looking up from the base of many of these challenges, it seems impossible. But it is not. If you ever ride here, I suggest you try it, the only thing you have to lose is your wind.

There is the M&M Trail

The M&M trail cuts straight through part of the park. Best part is that it goes far into Connecticut. You can leave the Robinson trails heading south. Far south.

Then there is Provin Mountain.

Traversing the whole park from the school to the 911 gate, the trails lead to the Westfield line. Crossing the street, you are set to climb up Provin Mountain along the M&M trail, and if you want, far into Connecticut. The trails are very different across the street. They get more technical. There is a lot of hills, large rocks and hard climbs. It is the kind of ridge riding that we always enjoy with challenges around every corner.

 

See the January 3, 2015 ride.

Starting from 911 we recently did a one way ride up Provin Mountain and down the other side. We crossed route 57 and went to Rising Corner. Crossing the street we reentered the woods, climbed the long technical trail up another peak into Connecticut all the way to Phelps Road.

It was a 16+ mile epic ride.

See the January 18, 2015 Winter snow ride.

The snow just made it harder. Without studs on my tires I had to traverse the trail from left to right trying to avoid the ice in the middle. The snow slowed me down but gave us a good workout. Plus it was beautiful in there.

See one of my fast early Fall rides.

I was on my own a lot in September and October. I decided to keep my mountain bike riding to the smoother twisty trail in Robinson. I got real good at going fast. I barely slowed down much less stop. They were good rides. I would play my music off my iPhone without earbuds. Once in a while I would run into some friends who were laughing at me. The music kept me motivated…and kept away the scary creatures.

And, see my kids riding a small whoop-de-do…

 

Looking back, we seem to take Robinson for granted. It is our fall back place at times. Its better than that though. We are lucky to have the miles of trails in our back yard. And the miles of trails that it connects to.

 

10-12-145 Kingdom Trail

Looking at the snow outside, I realized I still had to share a special ride from the fall.

We were at Jay Peak for the Columbus Day weekend. My stepson Carl and I were taking most of Sunday to go riding at the Kingdom Trails in East Burke, Vermont.

We started the hour ride to there by first heading over the mountain into Montgomery to rent Carl a 29er mountain bike. I knew its bigger tires would give him the advantage he would need to ride the manicured trails. He’s gone mountain biking with me before but his ability is still limited. The larger tires let the bike roll easier over obstacles on the trail.

The ride to the trails was marvelous on its own. Traveling on route 58, this part of the route is closed in the winter but offers spectacular color right now, especially with the bright sun sparkling against the brilliant leaves.

Last time I brought Carl here, I made him ride up the steep road before we entered the trails. This time I promised I would pay the extra $5 to park at the top of Darling Hill.

We warmed up on the first series of twisting trails and I gave Carl a few pointers and reminders. “Let the bike roll” I said. “The bike will want to go where you look, so don’t look where you DON’T want it to go.”

He managed the berms on the turns well but probably held his breath doing so at first. I learned as we went that the only problems he was having were trails with many roots across them. I remembered how much trouble they had given me in the past so I tried to avoid them as we went on.

I kept him energized with gel blocks and kept reminding him to pop one in his mouth. That allowed him to last the full 3 hours of our ride. Last time he had run out of gas and could barely manage to roll along on a flat road.

He managed all the hills well. My advice was “just keep spinning.” “Don’t worry about speed. Its not a race.” And he did. In fact I think he was amazed at how well he did on the hills.

Two years earlier I brought my son Frankie and Carl here. We avoided the hardest trails. Not this time. I introduced Carl to his first real challenge on Tap & Die…a prelude to a similar but harder trail to come. With its wide berms twisting us down here and there towards the river, we’d then pop up over a short hill, twist again, twist back, then shoot through another fast section before ending at another trail at the bottom. All the while I’m yelling, “let it go!”

We did long bridges which I discovered last time, were scary for the kids. That’s because these bridges turn making them think the back wheel is going to veer off. We followed the bridge along the river, spied the place we swam 2 years earlier (too cold now of course), then kept rolling over more bridges.

Eventually we were halfway through and at our biggest challenge…Sidewinder. Sidewinder is a series of 9 huge “whoop-de-doos” heading down through the forest. The steep hills shoot you down, the up like a rocket, then turn and do it all over again. The beginning of the trail is easy enough but Carl knew what was coming. I shouted “let it go!!!” and repeated that mantra many times as he followed behind me.

After that he admitted he hated it while he was doing it but loved it after that fact. Knowing he had “survived” allowed him to enjoy the experience after the fact. I knew he could do it but he had to learn that for himself.

We then followed a series of switchbacks back up. It is one of the more fun trails that goes up. It crosses the steeper main trail crossing over it multiple times and is a preferable way back up.

We crossed the main road soon after and Carl got to attempt his next challenge. The trail Jaw has a series of bridges that start out wide then get thinner until getting almost impossibly thinner. I warned him about it and he handled it very well almost making it too the end. Some parts of the trail, the distance to the ground is a few feet and you don’t want to lose it there. He found an easier place to bounce off the bridge though and did a much better job of the bridge that other riders around us.

Later we found a large rock with a bridge going up it. I did it first seeing that there was no bridge on the other side, just the sloping rock. It was a bit intimidating for me even. Carl went next and thought twice before holding his breath and just doing it. I congratulated him on his success.

Throughout our ride I made sure Carl kept his energy up. We had a choice to end earlier or take another trail. He chose another trail. I had warned him that this one is hard as well but he chose it anyhow. This descends along a river on the other side of the trail system. At many points the trail rides on the middle of a sloped hill. On one side is the uphill, on the other is the downhill. There is only so far you can wander off the hill so you have to be careful. This is where my advice kicked in again. “Keep your eyes on the trail in front of you. Only look where you want to go.” If only he listened as well at home as he did here! We followed the trail down then over many twisting bridges before heading back up the hill to the other trails.

Then one more break before our final challenge.

I saved one of the best trails for last. Kitchel starts out easy enough before turning into a series of table tops that throw you into a series of wide (and I do mean WIDE) berms twisting you to the bottom of the trail. The bike goes almost horizontal with the ground facing you at your side, then on the other side.

Carl made it almost to the bottom before the back tire slid out from under him on the last berm. He got the most of it anyway. In fact, he did great! I told him so and thanked him for coming with me on this fine fall day.

I awarded him by not making him ride up Darling Hill to the car. That and treats from the store for the ride home.

See October 5, 2014 Hatchet Hill Ride

Cowles 10-5-14

Our new playground is an old playground of ours. Cowles Park is in East Granby, Connecticut off route 187. Cowles Park also borders Hatchet Hill Road and the M&M trail that crosses in the middle of Hatchet Hill. We always enjoyed it here and once brought Doug and the crew through it. They liked it okay. Now its a whole different story. Many new trails have been added lately by a few industrious individuals in the neighborhood behind Cowles Park and it is starting to catch fire with the biking community.

Whenever we bike here we seem to run into “Tom,” a neighbor to the guy making most of the trails. He told us he got the builder into mountain biking. He and his buddies have been very active making new trails like “Smaug’s Lair,” “Six Flags,” and many others. Tom told us that new trails would be opened after the first frost. They also maintain them and regularly blow the fall leaves off the trail.

See November 23, Hatchet Hill Ride

Cowles 11-23-14

Typically we have always parked at Newgate Road, crossed route 20, and rode the M&M trail to Hatchet Hill Road. That is 2 hard miles of trail. It has very steep hills, some that have to be walked, with very technical sections. I like it plenty and enjoy the challenge although I didn’t like falling down one of those steep hills around Thanksgiving!

Now, we are accessing the new trails via the Cowles Park lot on route 187. I was happy with the new start since my hand was still hurting weeks later from that November 23 ride.

Over the years we have ridden the ridge and the M&M trail that sits atop it. Usually we would ride the ridge and descend to the power lines and cross over to the Cowles Park trails. (Other times we would hit route 189 on the other side and ride the quarter mile over to the Penwood trails.) Cowles Park trails were more like walking trails. They were okay with the exception of the bridges which were very cool. Now there are 2 new trails that cut through its center leading us back over the power lines and to the ridge. They twist more than the others with short rises and falls until finally climbing to the power lines. From there we access all the trails, new and old, circling the ridge.

See December 14, Cowles Park Ride

Cowles 12-14-14

Click here to see the video of riding the rock with the hairpin turn.

They built these new trails well, utilizing the rocky terrain and the series of parallel ridge lines. Many trails roll back and forth among the ridges, rising and falling with tight turns, berms and rocky sections. We like to ride the roller coaster down to the bottom, follow it to the next trail and circle back around until climbing back up to the top of the ridge.

I expect to do much more riding through here, sometimes starting from Newgate Road, sometimes riding over to Penwood. Its starting to become one of our favorite rides.

It turned out to be a rather cool, but beautiful day for a hike up Mt. Tom. Frankie, Eleni, Carl, Joe and Scout joined me. Frankie’s girlfriend Julia got treated to the 1-1/2 hour walk as well.

Some of the kids needed convincing…as they always do. Its easy to do. I just say “you’re going!” I never ask them.

This is a regular walk of ours. We head up Mt. Tom from the Log Cabin lower parking lot next to Mt. Joe’s “coffee and pastry cabin.” (It was closed for the holiday…so sad.)

The longer walk consists of heading almost straight up the mountain, with a stop at the shale cliffs. Then we follow the M&M trail along the edge of the mountain to the orange trail that brings up down to the B-17 crash site. Then we cross the road following the trail back down the mountain.

Even the kids that complain end up having a great time. Scout pulls us all the way. He was very excited to be on this walk. I mostly enjoyed my children, and the time spent with them.

New Years walk

Mike 11 shows Ron his new Surly fat bike.

Mike 11 shows Ron his new Surly fat bike.

Doug called me to arrange a ride with me and the guys. He wanted to show me some new trails at Case Mountain near Manchester Connecticut. With all the meandering, criss-crossing trails, having Doug guide us was very welcome. I think I have a good sense of direction but still get lost in here almost immediately.

Case Mountain is known for its technical riding. Unlike some places we go, its almost never too technical to ride. With effort and good technique, a rider can do pretty much any trail here. Still, the wandering trails with almost constant barrage of rocks, twists, short ups and downs can wear me down. At least this time I came prepared with gel blocks.

Case Mountain was a good call for this November day. I rode along with Ron and Mike 10 for the 45 minute ride there. Mike 11 followed us there. Pam, the girlfriend of a vendor/friend of mine joined us as well. I was telling her boyfriend Dave about it and since she knows Doug as well, she decided to come along.

See November 8, 2014 Ride

We love everything about this place aside from the long ride getting here. The trails are a blast to ride with challenges around every turn. Mostly we find ourselves here when there is snow on the ground at home. Usually there is none here for some reason.

Doug wanted to show us this well-endowed tree.

Doug wanted to show us this well-endowed tree.

Its a familiar start from the parking lot. We roll around a pond then head uphill towards the one lookout point. We avoided the view until the end but climbed most of the way there. Its a challenging start with a steady climb. Doug (my “biking mentor”) leads us out front. He’s technically a senior citizen but doesn’t ride like one. We ride up a series of rock “platforms” and “walkways.” I’m sticking with Pam at the moment but know that won’t last. She lives to ride and is ready for the long, steady effort. I have three children and 2 step-children holding me back!

We climb to an intersection and Doug gives us the lowdown on the route he plans to take. We avoid the view to take a new series of trails Doug had discovered. He is a great group leader with a strong knowledge of great bike routes for both road and mountain biking . I pale by comparison. Nobody’s perfect though and both of us have been known to lead people “down the wrong path.”

That happened early on. Pam suggested another way and maybe she knew best this time. We ended up doing a rare “hike a bike” through a small valley.

Soon enough we were back on track though. We rode a few great long trails before walking over a girder bridge (don’t slip), Doug told us we were now in for an uphill ride up a long slope.

Pam went up ahead. Doug led the rest of us up the long, twisting trail. I was amazed to see how well Mike 11 was doing on the fat bike. This was the first real test of his new bike. Its heavier but with great grip with those extra wide tires. I was learning something about weight vs. grip. Weight doesn’t seem so important when the bike can stick on the trail and just roll over everything.

It wasn’t a hard hill. There were even some spots that went downhill before climbing again. But it was a long hill. We twisted around this tree, jumped up onto that rock, cranked up this, sweated up that and before long I discovered I was running low on fuel. That’s how it works here. Its a constant effort with constant challenges sapping your strength. At least I was prepared this time. I was just too busy to stop and eat anything.

Up ahead I saw Doug and Pam waiting. Mike 10 was just getting there and I followed. Now that we finally stopped, I told Doug I needed a moment to refuel with some Clif Shot Blocks.

We were halfway done. While I ate, Mike 11 started talking to Doug about life insurance. Pam was itching to go and later told me “they were talking about life insurance!” She is in a different class than us. She went ahead on her own for a time

We were on the edge of the power lines that divide one part of the park from the other. Mike 11 needed to get back home and was given directions that led out to the road. We went the other way though the power lines to the other side. Here the terrain was very different. Logging takes place in here and new trails were cut through the landscape. It felt a lot like Robinson with many turns with berms and drop offs. It was very fast but leafy at the same time. Those leaves can slip up a bike tire and feels like riding on ice.

A few more trails like this followed until we came to the famous stream where Doug has fallen in twice during successive winter rides. Once falling backwards into the deep water when his bike slipped on a route, the other when he slipped going over the rickety bridge. No chance of that happening this day. The bridge was replaced and the stream was dry. No such luck I guess.

The view of Hartford from Case Mountain is close by the car but we waited until the end to check it out.

The view of Hartford from Case Mountain is close by the car but we waited until the end to check it out.

We had regrouped with Pam and rode around the pond. We were on the last third of the ride. There was still many obstacles and hills to climb before we got back.

Fast forwarding to the end, Pam had moved on to take a longer route. We climbed up to that lookout and were close to the cars. I was anxious to get back so I could get home at a close to reasonable time. The last leg home though is the best. Its all downhill but with more rock “walkways.” I feel like I’m doing bike tricks as I hop up onto one rock. Roll onto another. Pop off and jump onto the next. Then Doug takes us down an alternate, more challenging route with steeper declines. I felt like a kid as we finished the ride. Pam was already in the parking lot having gone farther than us but getting there sooner.

We thanked Doug for leading the ride. He told us how he does this ride with his guys, just faster. I’m not sure I want to be part of that.

Robinson Falls

Posted: December 28, 2014 in Uncategorized
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12-28-14 Ride

We went to Robinson for a rare Sunday ride to the park. It was a rainy morning so Ron said “hell with that.” Dr. Dave, Carl, Mike 10, and Mike 11 chose to ride. Dr. Dave has been using his GoPro lately and had it on again. We had yet to see any footage from it though.

That would change today.

See Sunday, December 28 Ride (I used my phone and it didn’t record distance for some reason, but the course is there. We did over 13 miles.)

A few miles into the ride, we turned onto what we call the JC trail because we would yell “Jesus Christ” as we tried to navigate this most technical Robinson trail.

Mike 10 led us out and I was just behind him. He just got a fender from his brother for Christmas. It fits quickly under the bike seat keeping the mud off his back.

It was damp out and instead of kicking mud onto his back, Mike 10’s bike kicked up a chunk of mud into my left eye. Here I was going down a fast technical trail with one eye closed. I thought to myself, that won’t work so instead of stopping (and lose my momentum), I decided to open that eye and “squint” it out. I knew I needed 2 eyes on this trail for sure.

Well that didn’t work out long. I hit a root, my front tire twisted on me and I was airborne off the bike. I landed on my left side. Luckily knowing how to fall, I was falling forward and not straight down. My right hand is still hurting from a pre-Thanksgiving ride. Its getting better but I didn’t want to re-injure it.

Dr. Dave offered to help me up. I said “no, not yet,” and laid their for a moment. My left leg had a “wicked” charlie horse and I could feel my left side was scraped up. Eventually I asked Dave to help me up and I was off…err…on the bike again. I let the other guys pass me by so I could soft-pedal the rest of the trail. My left leg was sore and needed to slowly spin for a bit.

So, Dave posted his first video! He said “you inspired me.”

Watch the video…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wndpd80Lh8I

I had my son Joe watch the video. He said it wasn’t very entertaining. I told him “my friends found it very entertaining!”

9-14-14 Ride

This is more of an epic ride. Many, many challenges including multiple steep climbs and rock gardens. A year before, Carl broke his neck on this ride. Since he’s still walking and riding, it must have been a lucky break.

See September 14, 2014 Ride

Carl had rode over and down a rock and locked up his front wheel throwing him right on his head. He had a possible concussion, seeing stars. His wrist and neck hurt as well. Despite all this, we rode the trails…difficult trails…all the way back to the cars.

A neighbor who happens to be a Physician Assistant convinced him to go to the ER.

So why not do it again…the ride, not the fall.

Dr. Dave, Ron and I joined Carl on the return trip. It was Dr. Dave’s first time on this particular ride. He is an avid mountain biker and we had missed him all summer since he won’t join us on a road ride.

The first leg of the ride is no more than 2 miles at most. The first hill is almost immediate and climbs up an almost impossible hill. We are hitting our maximum heart rate within 5 minutes.

The second leg is on the other side of Hatchet Hill Road. You descend down to the road knowing you will have to climb back up it later. After crossing the road, you climb again, skipping the marked trail for the next one to “Smaug’s Lair” trail. Its marked and labeled a black diamond. The trail follows ridgeline to ridgeline slowly snaking down to the river. On its way we are subjected to more rock gardens, tight turns enhanced by berms, long downhill runs, uphills…until it runs into the Keg Roller trail. This blue-marked trail is a bit smoother so it is faster as well. One last wide berm swings us near but away from the river.

We find one more blue-marked trail before hitting route 187 up the street to Tariffville, Connecticut. At the lights we go up Mountain Street where the trail continues. This travels towards Penwood forest. More hills, and difficult challenges awaited.

But not before another hard climb. Climbing up the road we turn right onto a gravel road. Going around a gate, we follow the gravel road up to the trail then up again on switchback. I was conserving energy. This strategy didn’t fail me as I made this climb for once. Usually leaves, roots a sheer fatigue get me off my bike. Not this time.

From there its a wild ride. I pop over rocks, around another, over that one, miss the tree, and descend around it hoping for the best. Finding my rhythm we are heading for the opening in the trees. Passing under the power lines, we climb once again. I think not of what is ahead, but what is behind. We have to go back the same way.

More climbing, we find the spot where Carl fell. Ron, Carl and I tell the story to Dave…Dr. Dave. Too bad he wasn’t there when it happened.

But then again, maybe he wouldn’t have let Carl bike back.

 

 

Just starting out, we see the mountains we will climb in the distance.

Just starting out, we see the mountains we will climb in the distance.

We prefer to call it Butt-Crack Road. (That’s how we roll…like juveniles.) Starting on the southern side of route 190 in Somers, its a great road that just seems to flow along a nice wooded landscape. Houses line the road but you can still feel the road’s backroad roots.

See September 7, 2014 Ride

Mike 11 was back. Ron was there, I was there. It was the four of us together again. First in a long while.

We started at Mike 10’s house with a plan to ride through most of Buff Cap Road, or as we prefer to call it…

Since this is our running joke, Mike 11 thought I would find this funny. I did.

Since this is our running joke, Mike 11 thought I would find this funny. I did.

Buff Cap is a very long road split up by crossroads that seems to keep going forever…until hitting Tolland Connecticut. The first time we road with Mike 11, we brought him on this road, getting caught in a long dead end loop. We were trying to find another way back instead of hitting main roads in Tolland. We failed miserably and must have made quite a bad impression on Mike 11.

But somehow he kept coming back for more abuse.

We wouldn’t do much better this time!

We started with a great roundabout route avoiding most of Greystone Mountain but still had to climb part of it. We took the long ride down Old Springfield Road towards route 190. We kept exchanging the lead as we drafted each other, tucking in to gain speed. Crossing route 190 we were soon climbing again on our way to “Butt-Crack.” After hitting route 30, we found our road soon realizing how we forgot that there would be more climbing at first.

We were trying to find a better way back, so this time we only rode halfway through Buff Cap trying to avoid the rough turnaround in Tolland. Looking back on the Garmin route, we should have just taken it to the end because from there we took a few wrong turns and ended up where we would have been anyhow. Then we took a few more wrong turns to keep it interesting.

I love that road. Its a great ride all the way to the end. Then not so much.

Next time we ride that whole road. We just need to find a better way back.

Tuesday, August 25, 2014 Ride

8-26-14

I was riding with Carl on a Tuesday evening. Cutting deep into Westfield from Agawam, I brought him up Whitaker Road eventually dumping out onto Loomis. It was my second time on Whitaker and I really like it. Its not nearly long enough but it takes you along an upscale residential neighborhood with large front lawns on one side with views of the mountains further west.

We were moving along pretty good, doing pretty good time. Watching the setting sun though, I knew we didn’t have time to travel all the way down Loomis as I had hoped. Seeing a left, we made a hairpin turn onto George Loomis Road. I was taking a chance that it wouldn’t dead end or turn into a dirt road like many of these roads do around here.

Whitaker had been a recent find and now so was this. It would be less than a week before I was off exploring this area again.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

8-31-14

It was the last day in August and I wanted to make this ride count. Problem was, I had a party to go to at 1 pm and I didn’t want to miss it. My wife, would not be happy with me if I left her waiting!

Ron, Carl and I rode into Westfield starting out much as I had on Tuesday. As we were about to cross the bike path, we decided to follow the new section to the right. Our ride immediately had a new purpose…exploration.

Riding the trail about a mile in, the newest portion began. It was almost complete and officially not open. We were crossing over a river with railings yet to be built. We passed by farmland and parts of Westfield I had never seen. We were heading towards Westfield’s downtown and were curious as to where it would drop us. (Eventually this path will go through Westfield and connect with the path in Easthampton.)

At the end of the trail we found ourselves near the center of town. Going left, we were heading past Big Y and heading towards the hospital. I was surprised where we ended up. Now we had to figure out where to go from here. My loose plan for the ride was being rewritten in my head as soon as we turned onto the bike path.

We continued with the plan…exploration…and making a turn behind Stanley Park, we headed for the hills. Heading down Loomis again, I was back on the same road I had been on the last Tuesday. Turning right this time, we turned onto Honeypot Road. A few years ago I headed up this road with Mike 10 and it turned into dirt. This time it remained paved…rather a rough pavement…but nonetheless…paved.

What a great road. Ron, Carl and I were talking on and on when I stopped them saying “guys, this is a great road!” And, it went on for a while. This was a found gem! My mind started putting together the road I did Tuesday along with this road which is very nearby. I saw a new route in our future. And, amongst places I already ride regularly.

We cut over to Granville Road, then cut down Northwest Road bringing us near Westfield State University. Instead of heading back to town, we turned up General Knox Road, my nemesis hill! The hill that has tormented me during my long riding career. Its a very long hill, steep of course, with multiple steeper rises to wear you down. I have a long, painful history with this road. But I love it anyway. I can gauge my fitness based on how I ride this hill.

Did pretty good.

This road brings me passed my favorite place, Russell Pond. I’ve faced this hill many times just to find a quiet spot along this pond (really a lake). The beach is a town beach and I am not allowed there. After that is a gate to the Boy Scout Camp. I used to go there as a kid but its off limits as well. There is an old cabin just in between and it sits next to a small peninsula. Since driving there could mean a ticket (sometimes but not always), I would ride there just to lounge along the rocks on that peninsula, soaking up the sun, meditating to the quietness around me, my mind in a semi-trance while the clean water laps against my feet. My favorite place on earth.

Not today though. We ride down the hill past the pond and end up on route 23. Plans must now be made. I had to be back to the car for noon. It is now 10:20.

Used to be we could head up route 23 and turn in Cobble Mountain Reservoir. The roads stay paved for a bit, then turn to packed dirt and small rocks. Since 9-11 that route has been blocked.

Carl has an idea. “Let’s head up 23 then turn on a road just passed that.” “I didn’t know there was another route nearby,” I said. “Oh yeah, its just up past there. Follow me.”

Riding up the long hill, we were trudging along. Its pretty much uphill for 5 miles. Its not as steep as “my hill” though and we got into a good rhythm. My mind was wandering as we passed the familiar roads to Cobble Mountain. I was thinking about Carl’s route. Where could it be?

Sh_t! I know what he’s talking about. “Carl, do you mean the North Road that takes you all the way to route 57?” I am NOT heading down the hill after the white church! I don’t have that kind of time! (After the white church, the hill goes down long and steep before going up the same way again. Its quite the roller. You get down there and you are trapped with only pain facing you either way you go.

“We can do this Frank. We’ll just shoot down that hill and shoot along North Road.” (I was thinking about another steep hill in there he had told me about.) Then we’ll shoot down route 57.” (More rollers…many more steep hills.) “Then we’ll shoot down 57 and back home.”

“Carl, its not all downhill! Its too far out.”

“Then we’ll shoot down through part of Cobble Mountain (other parts are ok to ride in), then fly home.”

“Carl, that’s very rocky. We can’t FLY though there. I have to get back for noon!”

I put the brakes on, literally. New plan.

Instead of heading much farther, I suggested we turn right going back down Russell Stage Road—a long ride downhill to route 20. That would get us back in time.

I had only been on the road once and that was uphill. This was just a great ride down though the forested countryside on the backside of Blanford Ski Area. It went downhill, turned, went downhill more. We were hitting 40 mph and I was holding my speed back. Carl was up front moving faster than a small guy like him should be able to. I didn’t know what to expect around each turn. It felt like we were going to descend every inch we climbed through the whole ride.

Finally at the bottom Carl thought it would be good to go left to Huntington General Store, have a wrapple, then go up the mountain road back home.

“Carl, I can’t do that. You are welcome to. I have to get back (and avoid my wife’s scorn).” “We would have to ride there, then buy it, eat it, and get on our bikes to go up a 2-mile hill.”

We turned right.

Heading back towards home, we were on route 20. Its a wide road that cuts an east to west route. We were heading east. We had some time left (not enough to go away from home though) and I had a thought. “Let’s turn left into Woronoco, (a blue collar mill burb), and check out the mills. My father used to work in there at the Strathmore Mills.”

We cut down the road rolling closer to the Westfield River. One mill is straight ahead along the river. Houses are scattered along the road and more dwellings line the other side of the street from the mill. The population is very small here and very blue collar.

Another mill resides across the river. An old, seemingly temporary metal bridge brings us there. The old bridge is out and in need of repair just upstream and has been in that state for many years.

Crossing the bridge I was in new territory again. I had never been over here. What I didn’t expect was another neighborhood. I had no idea there were houses over here as well! It was a lower middle class neighborhood. One street lined with about a dozen houses. Bikes were left out in front of houses. Old curtains hung in windows. I found it funny how isolated they were and was kind of envious of their private world.

Moving along we passed the other mill with its old but iconic smokestack jutting out into the sky. “Strathmore” lined its side vertically. Very cool…and the road moved on.

We turned right and checked out the old bridge. The river below held promise with all the rocks and water-hewn potholes. Maybe I could bring my kids here sometime.

Getting back on the bike we followed the road to its end. A final house at the end of the road in a world of its own. Nothing fancy but still special.

We all enjoyed the exploration but Carl still said “we could have gone to the Huntington General Store.” “We didn’t have time for that,” I said, siting my same reasons.

Woronco is part of Westfield so we headed down route 20 and through the center of town back to the cars getting back JUST AT NOON!

Carl said “boy when YOU need to get back you know how to time it just right.”

Yes I do.