Posts Tagged ‘M&M Trail’

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.

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.

Wednesday July 16 Ride

On a Wednesday I brought my son Frankie for a ride after work. Knowing how much he likes riding through Agawam, I brought him through there.

I’m teaching him how to spin faster, ride closer and draft me. He’s also starting to drive so he’s learning the roads better. More than once on our rides we’ll pop out at the end of a road somewhere and he will say “I know where we are.”

It was a quick 17 miles for him. His best yet. I love riding with my son.

Saturday, July 19 Ride

That next Saturday I got to do a ride with my wife Toni. Starting in Feeding Hills, I bypassed the usual route through Rising Corner and instead went out on a more directly southern route. It was mostly flat as we merged onto route 187 then crossed over route 20 in northern Connecticut. She was sticking well to my wheel and we were moving along at a nice pace.

The bike trail from Simsbury, CT to Southwick, MA follows a mostly rural route.

The bike trail from Simsbury, CT to Southwick, MA follows a mostly rural route.

I warned her that the flat ride wouldn’t last forever. We turned onto Hatchet Hill Road and she caught that word “hill” in the road’s name right away. This was the payback for what we did so far. Hatchet Hill is like a little notch in a low point along a ridge. Through that ridge is the M&M trail that my friends and I enjoy so much during mountain biking season.

We crossed from route 187 to 189 through the little “notch” attacking the steep hill at its center. My wife can handle hills better than she knows but she was still probably cursing me out a little.

Going over the bridge we took a right into Tariffville, a little mill village that is part of Simsbury Connecticut. The small neighborhood sits on a small plateau abutting the same ridge line and Penwood State Park where the M&M trail continues. We crossed through the small town going down the other side of the mountain. Taking a right we traveled along scenic byways before connecting to the bike trail in Simsbury that would bring us back. My wife was very impressed with our route and told me so. This despite me missing a turn.

Riding back into Southwick along the trail we were looking forward to a stop at Red Riding Hood’s Basket, a nice coffee shop/deli which sits along the trail. I’ve brought the kids there many times during our family rides. They were all out of luck today.

It was a short ride back from there and we were feeling pretty good about our ride together.

Climbing up through the long field, I turned around to take in the view into Westfield.

Climbing up through the long field, I turned around to take in the view into Westfield.

Rising Corner has been the break between the Massachusetts and Connecticut M&M trail. Rising Corner to me is also the gateway to great road riding. The road rises to the top of a small, rather steep hill. Exiting out of Agawam, right brings you back into Massachusetts into Southwick, left into Suffield, Connecticut. The roads get more rural and lead toward the mountains.

The trail had been closed off for a half dozen years or so since a newer landowner didn’t want the trail running through their property. The workaround was for the trail to follow the road into Suffield along Warnertown Road for a mile or 2. Not much of a solution. Carl had recently told me that the M&M trail was reopened there. 

I knew a ride would be necessary.

See Sunday, October 20, 2013 Ride

Mike 10, Ron and I met up at the 911 Gate at Robinson. Our ride started off going up rout 187 and taking a left up Provin Mountain. We were following the ridge south across route 57. We soon climbed up one of our favorite local trails to the top of Provin Mountain. Until this point, it was a rather regular ride. Mike 10 loves this ridge.

For Mike though, the top of Provin was the end of the ride for him. This is the former home of TV22 and we had climbed onto the access road and into the old parking lot. As Mike dropped off the old pavement, his bike picked up a stick and twisted his derailleur into his spokes. His day was done.

It's quite the view at the top of Provin. Especially on such a great fall day.

It’s quite the view at the top of Provin. Especially on such a great fall day.

At the top of Provin Mountain, we always admire that house with the small pond. I always wish I owned it.

At the top of Provin Mountain, we always admire that house with the small pond. I always wish I owned it.

Mike didn't get to enjoy the field much since his bike was now out of commission.

Mike didn’t get to enjoy the field much since his bike was now out of commission.

Ron helped Mike repair the bike enough for Mike to coast down the steep access road hill and back to the cars. Although the bike seat was set a little too high, Mike was able to “paddle” his bike back to the Robinson gate.

After Mike left, Ron and I then descended down the other side of Provin, happy at least to ride down the familiar but tricky trail. Near its end, we circled around the quarry then dropped to route 57.

After crossing, we followed the old part of the trail that brings you up an outcrop of rocks then down through the archery club grounds. Never saw any archers in all my days riding through there.

The trail is an easy double track for a bit until we crossed the power lines. Here the trail is built well with little “steepies” creating a series of small but tiring challenges. On the second one we came face to face with Carl walking his dog. I had told Carl we were coming his way as he lives just short of Rising Corner. With his protective collar defending his broken neck (see previous blog posting), he was still stuck at home recovering, but was starting to feel like his old self again. He  wasn’t nearly ready for riding yet, much less mountain biking. He was ready for talking though…obviously feeling much better.

After a long conversation, we departed up the trail. Carl followed along for a short bit surprisingly. We intended to cross the walkway down by the beaver dam despite Carl’s warning of flooding. It was a nice drop down to the pond but we discovered that Carl was correct…we just had to see it for ourselves though. In the past, the pond would sit just at the walkway level but not above it. Now it was over it. For some reason, all beaver dams are sacred. Maybe that will get repaired next.

Carl's neck brace was much sturdier than I thought it would be. Could have been much worse though.

Carl’s neck brace was much sturdier than I thought it would be. Could have been much worse though.

THe beaver dam had done a number on the trail down here. An alternate route was a must.

THe beaver dam had done a number on the trail down here. An alternate route was a must.

We climbed back up and back to Carl who was taking an alternate path back towards a farmer’s field and home. I’d done it once before with him but parts of the trail are sketchy at best. Carl took the time to scratch into the surface leading us back through the woods to him. Catching up again with him, he was able to point us through the field leading behind his house.

Saying goodbye for good this time we headed for the new part of the M&M trail at Rising Corner. Just after a guardrail, you turn left along the edge of a generous landowner’s yard. A tire swing sits just to the right of us. Following the edge of the yard we saw the trail just in front of us cutting through the tall grass. Taking it, we were back in the woods enjoying the fact that the trail was newly opened. We started climbing again back up the ridge and soon found our way to familiar territory and the former end of the trail in the middle of the woods.

Back when the trail ended in the woods, it was the weirdest thing. A tree had 2 horizontal lines on it indicating that the trail stopped there. We had always gone past it since we are such rebels, but always turned around eventually refusing to cross through a person’s open property—our rebellious nature going only so far.

The former end of the trail through the woods.

The former end of the trail through the woods.

As stated, the trail rises towards the ridge and we were still climbing. Despite the long break while talking to Carl, the ride was getting long and time was getting short. We kept on though but avoided a very sketchy non-M&M trail out to the right. It brings you down to the main road and was our way off the trail before they reconnected it.

We kept climbing up the trail. As we went it started to change from pine trees and a needle laden trail to more leaves. Passing though an opening in an old rock wall, we went a little farther before turning around.

Going back to Rising Corner, we took the road back. The fall sky was a deep blue and it had warmed up nicely. Time was now short though. Mike’s “sort of” repair and our talk with Carl gave us little time to get back. Still, the experience was a good one. The opened trail now opened our future options for other rides. Perhaps next time we’ll keep going. Or maybe we’ll start in Granby and do the whole ridge to Rising Corner then to Carl’s. I can’t wait.

Just before turning around, we took in one more view along the ridge we so love.

Just before turning around, we took in one more view along the ridge we so love.

Ron and his new monster.

Ron and his new monster.

I was back from Vermont, it was Sunday September 8 and a great day for a road ride.

Ron wasn’t about to let that happen though. After having his bikes stolen, he had just replaced the mountain bike. While I was at the Kingdom Trails the week before, he had gotten into the woods with Mike. Now that I was back, it was join the crowd or ride on my own.

See Sunday, September 8 Ride

Meeting up with Ron and Mike 10 at Elks, I got to see Ron’s new Specialized Stumpjumper with a brain (for analyzing and adjusting to rough terrain), and a telescoping seat post that will go down at the flip of a switch. That allows Ron to get lower in the saddle on tough, steep descents. Standing there with my 26-inch wheeled Giant, I was feeling less than giant. Totally unfair. Especially in this terrain.

Leaving the parking lot, we headed directly for route 202, crossed the street, and headed up the pipeline trail. After crossing the slick pipes over the stream, I suggested taking a left up the extreme, rocky hill. Composed mostly of large pavement stones neatly pushed together over time, the surface is much smoother than it was 15 years ago (I should know). We did our best to ride up most of it. I almost made the top but didn’t care. Good enough. Mike made it. No heart attacks.

Crossing over the dry (usually wet) puddle, we entered another rocky section. Compared to years ago, this is easy. Many people we know wouldn’t be so happy. We love a challenge. This brings us to a ridge we usually access via Apremont Highway (not a highway). After recovering and taking in the view, we headed downhill towards the Hellgate trail. Bouncing along and in our glory, we dodged or headed for the many rocks along this descent. Looking into the valley below, we knew we would be looking at it from the other side. I was leading the way and feeling real good.

After a tough climb, we get our first reward.

After a tough climb, we get our first reward.

Ron rides along one of our favorite ridges.

Ron rides along one of our favorite ridges.

Mike faces the mountains we love to ride.

Mike faces the mountains we love to ride.

Getting to the bottom, Hellgate with its steep beginning, tough middle, and very rough descent, was staring me in the face. Usually we stop here.

Ron said “you’re not stopping.” Mike laughed. I said “no, keep going.” Navigating the steep, loose rocky surface is hard enough when you are fresh. I was feeling good and got to its top with one dab. Then its a small down, turn right, then get off the bike. Always without fail. Your heart is beating real hard, you’re out of breath. Looking up over the rough, rocky, steep surface you wonder just how far you can get.

You’d be surprised.

I had to walk around the tree despite the trail that gives you a chance. Right after that it’s too tough. Not long after that though I was back on the bike, turning my easiest gear up the hill. No race here. I just want to stay on my bike. I did.

I rode that thing all the way up to where the trail finally started leveling off. After a slight downhill (thank God), I came upon a tree down across the trail. Suspended in the air, I climbed up that tree bridge and waited for the guys.

I climbed on the tree to wait for my friends.

I climbed on the tree to wait for my friends.

Today seemed to be my day and I was feeling real good. You never know how a ride will go until you get there. Ron had said hell with me and had stopped below to recover. No excuses from him. He would have his day soon enough.

The now marked M&M trail takes a left and so do we. Climbing up the thin ridge gets tougher as you go up. We rode mostly but with some hiccups. Some great views too looking west. I love how this ridge goes down so abruptly on either side. We are riding the razor’s edge.

Ron looks back towards Mt. Tom from the top of Hellgate's ridge.

Ron looks back towards Mt. Tom from the top of Hellgate’s ridge.

A nice long view from Hellgate.

A nice long view from Hellgate.

The riding just gets phenomenal now with almost no excuse to stop. You would be surprised what can be done on these harsh trails. When the trail takes a left down a steep, short descent, I stop. I have never made this always stopping just before the rock drop off. Ron did it (at least a year ago and again now). Finally Mike did it (eventually after Ron and again now). “Oh crap.” “I’m not going to do it” I say as I almost stop once again…then I do it! At the bottom I forget to go to the left of the tree to get up the other side but what the hell, that was easy! Why didn’t I do that before? Funny how the scary ones are always like that.

Stopping farther on after more fun, we look again in the other direction over the valley between the two ridges. The large rock along the edge has bird poop on it from where the hawks sit and look for prey.

Ron stands on the rock, in the yellow sunlight and looks over the valley between the two ridges.

Ron stands on the rock, in the yellow sunlight and looks over the valley between the two ridges.

Now the toughest downhill today. Rock roll around us as we get as far back on our seats. Have to keep the bike rolling or get bogged down by your tire bumping into a rock. You look for the smoothest line but mostly there is none. I get my butt behind my seat while Ron drops his seat with the touch of a lever. I want to stop more than once but I love the challenge of this hill. I do well on this. Just at the bottom a log gets in my way but no bother. The worst, or best, is over. I won again against this rigorous trail. What a blast!

Going the rest of the way to the bottom, we stop to talk about our experience. The light filters beautifully through the late-summer green leaves and I take a picture. A great ride is no reason to ignore nature.

After Hellgate, we stop to reflect on the ride so far.

After Hellgate, we stop to reflect on the ride so far.

Mike had to get back so we brought him back along the Trolley trail to the other end of the Pipeline. Ron and I weren’t ready to stop. I said “you may not like this but I think we should go back up the steep hill we did from the Pipeline trail.”

Back up the hill we went. Laughing I said “most guys we know would think this was stupid.” We loved it. I did good enough. Ron did better. Back over the dry puddle. Back up the technical, rock laden trail. Back to the lookout.

Then back on the ridge in the other direction. We usually do it the other way. This way towards Apremont Highway (not a highway), is a treat.

Back across route 202, back around both reservoirs. Back to the cars. Great to be back in the woods.


Carl fell over his bike, crunching his helmet as he went head first over the bike. I came upon him and Ron as I was just a little back. Seeing the wheel sticking up in the air I said “Carl, are you alright?” He answered saying “I don’t think so.” “That’s not the right answer,” I said in all seriousness. I tried to laugh it off from there though asking if I could help him up. He wasn’t ready to get up right away and laid there until he felt better. Getting up his arm was a little numb, a little blood was caked around his ear. He said he thought maybe he had a concussion. He came down on his head, heard a crunch and his neck was now sore. His wrist was a little sore as well. The knee he hurt in the past was banged up as well.

See September 15 Ride (this ride is out of order from the others I still have to catch up on. This was too important.)

We decided to ride out of that section even though we had a way to go still. Hearing a police helicopter fly over we made a few jokes about flagging them down. Carl was getting stronger the longer we went along. He wasn’t taking too many chances but still bounced over rocks, did some steep downhills and seemed to be enjoying himself. He was loosening up now and taking whatever the trail had to offer.

Coming out to Hatchet Hill Road, I was thinking we should head back via the road as we had planned. Asking Carl, he chose the trail instead. Aside from the fall, we were having an excellent ride. He didn’t want it to end. Climbing past the power lines we started up the hill. We had some climbing to do. Carl wasn’t as strong as I knew him to be but he kept chugging along. Ron was using his new 29er (the old one was stolen) Stumpjumper to maximum effect as he rolled over everything. Perhaps Carl wanted to best him back aways when he fell. Even Ron had decided to avoid that drop taking a right away from it. Carl had decided to go for it.

We climbed up and had a few more to go as we double-backed on the trails we had started on. There were some very technical trails in our way. Carl made some, walked others. Eventually getting back, we made sure he was okay to drive. We stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts and saw him in front of us as he drove to the parking lot.

Later Carl’s wife Kathy texted Ron saying they had just left Noble and was being transferred to Baystate. He has a fractured C7 (in his neck!), and a broken wrist! Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers.

I want to think that he will be just fine! The man biked out!  That neck and wrist took some punishment on those technical trails biking back to our start. I texted him knowing he wouldn’t necessarily see it right now saying “You’re the toughest man I know!” All too true.

Our Awesome Ride

I always wanted to cross the bridge and follow the M&M trail from Newgate to Penwood.

I always wanted to cross the bridge and follow the M&M trail from Newgate to Penwood.

We started the ride from Newgate Road and immediately headed across the street at the lights heading south on the M&M trail. We were all looking forward to the trail we found last Spring. I chose it saying “it looks too good to not try.” I was very right. It flows, turns, rises and falls eventually bringing you down to the river next to the route 189 bridge in Tariffville, Connecticut. Getting there was a series of technical trails, with sharp dips and hard climbs. A few make you get off the bike, but not as much as a novice would believe. We are not novices but Carl still has a thing or two to learn. He is willing to take his lumps though but did keep saying “I want to get through this ride without any bad falls.”

Crossing Hatchet Hill Road, we made our way for that trail right away. I wanted to ride it multiple times today. It was everything we remembered and more. “Flow” is the biking word of the day. It flowed, it inspired. Getting to the bottom near the river we immediately changed our plans when Carl said how we could keep going towards Penwood. I knew the way having checked it out on a previous ride a few years back. Following the trail markers along the road, I knew then where we had to go but we turned back at the pivotal moment desperate to get back at a reasonable hour.

No such reservations this day. We crossed the bridge, went up Mountain Road and followed the trail climbing around the access road to the trail. More climbing followed as we went up to the ridge. We would have just short of 2,800 feet of climbing today over 15.5 miles. Damn good workout.

Ron made it to the top without a dab. Rolling over everything in his path, he was leading me through some very technical and fun stuff. We were high on life and loving our bold decision to extend the ride. Penwood is a blast on its own and combined with what we just did, we were in for an epic ride.

The halfway point is next to a parking lot that accesses the trail. I thought we would turn back here but Ron had a better idea. We would turn back at the old, unused road near the other end that we had discovered Eric and friends when we first road in here together.

Carl and Ron overlooking Hublein tower.

Carl and Ron overlooking Hublein tower.

Doing that, we turned back up another ridge. Usually when we ride with Doug, we go all the way through Penwood, hitting a separate ridge then going downhill along a long fire road. This was much better. Stopping at an outlook, we were tired but figured we’d find the energy to get back. There were a few steep, rather difficult sections from here and a little walking was necessary. Nothing dampened our enthusiasm though…

Until I came upon Carl’s wheel stick up in the air on the other side of a rock.

Myself (Frank) overlooking Hublein.

Myself (Frank) overlooking Hublein.

Ron made lots of the technical stuff seem easy. He is a master of his 29er bike.

Ron made lots of the technical stuff seem easy. He is a master of his 29er bike.


The Beavers made the end of the trail impassible if not impossible.

It was the first day of daylight savings time. I changed my watch and set its alarm before going to bed. We were meeting at 9 a.m. and I reminded myself that 9:00 is really 8:00. I woke up at 7:50 a.m., jumped out of bed and got ready. I called Ron saying “I running late, and I’m on my way.” Ron replied “it’s only 8:00, we have another hour. I still haven’t eaten breakfast.” I guess I messed up my calculations. Nine is eight unless you already pushed the clock ahead. Not a good start to the day.

The parking lot was full across from 911. We quickly decided to park at a lot next to the Westfield line instead. It was Ron, Mike10 and I. Mike picked the route and we would soon find it to be a very good choice.

See Ride

This is one of our “standard” rides. We enjoy making the trek over the mountain. The first real test is the open field facing Westfield and route 20. As always, it looks like its slightly uphill, but in reality it gets steadily harder as you go. From there we climb towards the top. Along the way there are various steeper sections to navigate with one in particular the Mike successfully made. After a brief misstep early on, I made the rest of it as well.

Getting to the top of the mountain is always the first real goal. That’s our first real stop to rest. Its also a great view. Even if you weren’t tired from the climb, it’s a must to place to pause and take in everything facing west. Inevitably, we feel lucky to be there.

It was a good climb up there, now we followed the other side, mostly down, towards route 57. This is the most technical part of the trail. As we follow its ups and downs along the edge of the ridge we soon came to the trail above the gun club. Someone moved the trail farther back from the edge hoping to give the gun club some extra safety margin. We’re too stupid to follow their advice instead staying on the original trail. It’s too much fun.

After that the trail lead us to the quarry. We got there and peered over the edge. Needless to say it’s a sudden dropoff. We followed a small trail to another precarious spot before following the trail along, but not too close, to the rim. It starts as a slickrock slide. This part used to make us pause before attempting ride it. We’ve gotten used to it and now tend to make the most of it. Of course that doesn’t mean we always make it down safely.

We came back up the other side and were now facing the quarry in the opposite direction. We continued on to route 57 which was just a descent away.

The M&M trail crosses route 57 along the edge of an archery club grounds. Again, we’re too stupid to avoid it and climbed a series of rocks where I did my best Doug imitation as I did an endo. Luckily it was slow enough for me to correct.

The next section of trail is pretty smooth and frankly boring until we cross over an open area. The woods on the other side are where the trail changes dramatically back to technical with plenty of short but difficult hills. (Here go the lungs again.)

Eventually this all leads down towards Rising Corner just over the line into Connecticut. Problem was right before that the trail turns into a swamp. Typically the trail leads over a series of wooden platforms but beavers have brought up the water level making it all but impassible.

Go forward and get wet? Or turn around back up the hill? Back up the hill. It way be getting warmer but a swim isn’t necessary. It may be pretty much a back and forth ride today but it I dreaded the hills going back more than I did getting there.

Fast-forwarding a little, we got back to the quarry only to see some boys climbing up the steep side of the quarry wall. One wouldn’t do it and one was left trying to scale it. We got a little nervous watching but eventually he made it up. When we got over to them we found it was high school kids (of course). Even better, we found one of them to be Steve’s son. I threatened to tell his father on him but knew this kid was a “chip off the old block.” Pushing the limits is in his blood.

Everyone was safe now so we continued, going back up the slick rock as far as we could. Heading back, we climbed back towards the peak. I started having flashback’s to the previous week’s hard ride as we climbed back up the hill. At least I knew the end would be down through the field.

Feeling It

I’ve had a recent issue in the last 5 years with asthma and sometimes I just feel a fatigue come on. It can be a smell that I react to or maybe it’s the recent warmer weather. If it was my heart, I figure I’d have had a heart attack by now. We push so hard. Anyway, I tend to get a feeling, usually slightly delayed from a hard effort—my doctor once mentioned that asthma can be exercise induced. I’ve had it often lately and was having it now. I can feel it walking upstairs or just getting the newspaper. Again, its not the heart, it’s the breathing. I’m not really out of breath. It’s more like when one breathes too hard, too fast on a cold day. That cold gets into your lungs. It’s something like that.

Right now climbing up to the summit again, I could feel it pretty good. It’s a fatigue that is more than being tired. My stomach reacts as well with an upset feeling.

Before you worry about me, I had this start about 5 years ago. I had all kinds of tests on my heart and I was fine. Eventually these feelings got a little better. Now though they aren’t.

Just the other night I woke up with mucus flowing through my throat like I was suddenly sick, but I wasn’t. Water couldn’t flush it out. I had to sleep on the couch sitting up most of the night until it went away. I’ve been told the mucus could have something to do with the stomach and the breathing.

Time to call the doctor. Maybe figure this thing out. Right now I’m trying to lose a few pounds by not overstuffing myself, especially at supper. Maybe that will help some as well.

Final Descent

We finally entered the field again. Flying down the last hill towards the road, the steepness of this field reveals itself and one realizes why it was so hard to climb. This is one of our “standard” rides but as Mike says, one of our favorites as well. And typically, we have it all to ourselves.

We took up much of the street. Felt sorry for the neighborhood.

Mike 10, Ron and I met up with Doug’s Sunday group ride back at (going to) Penwood. Other riders included Eric, Fran, Steve (not THE Steve), Michael, Doug, Mark, Chris, Simon, Rob, and John—thirteen in all.

We got there before they did (except for Steve) for the second week in a row. I never expected the ride to be so well attended. Doesn’t get better than that for a February ride. Of course, with the time change only a few weeks away, Spring cycling should start up soon bringing many others out of their caves.

The parking area on Mountain Road was nice an warm, with no apparent breeze. I almost decided to leave my headband at the car. Luckily I changed my mind. As soon as we started climbing, we found the wind. Eventually, we found the cold. Very cold, like stepping into a freezer. A windy freezer.

See My Ride

See Eric’s Ride

Ron and I had something to learn on this ride. With our solo effort last time we went here (we met up with Eric and the guys halfway), we took some wrong turns on the way out. This time we saw a slightly more gentle way up the hill. I was ready for the immediate pain taking two Motrin when I got up. We plateaued and regrouped. I made it most of the way, Ron all of the way, but I was trying to be careful to pace myself and not overdo it on any tough climbs. It proved to be a good strategy for a while at least.

The trail was just hard enough giving the rider a good challenge without having to attempt the impossible. I popped up over many rocks, enjoying the challenge. It seemed everyone was up to it. I was hoping it would slow them down a little, but we just kept on going. Luckily, we regrouped regularly though. Along the way we were all surprised to see one area around the power lines to have loose gravel covering the trail. While that area didn’t last long, it wasn’t there a few weeks ago.

The first part of the trail, I found to be great. After the parking lot/dead end road where Ron and I took the wrong trail up (walking mostly), we turned left and saw what we had missed. I found it to be good but not as good as the earlier part of the trail. We had some wet parts I thought will only get wetter in the Spring. I knew better stuff was just ahead. We soon found the paved area where we had met up with Eric’s group a few weeks ago. It went downhill then back onto the trails thankfully giving us a good start back up the steep climb. Mark’s Garmin had the hill at over 30 degrees steep. Doug walked up part of it but easily kept up with everyone around him. We had a momentary pause to regroup then were back at it. The trail from here was awesome again eventually leading down a steep incline to the road near the route 185 pass separating the parking lot from the trail towards the Hublein Tower.

We three MFR guys thought the downhill was easy. Doug scared some of the guys telling them to be careful. Just sit back in the saddle, or my case behind the saddle and let it roll. Doug found a little trouble where the hose of his camelbak got caught under his seat.  In the end everyone made it down just fine.

From there we went into the parking lot, turned right, and went back up towards home. These trails are just awesome. Some climbing, some descending, but all hard. You don’t get much of a break. Thank God Michael broke his derailleur. It gave us fifteen minutes to rest. A very, very cold rest. So cold guys wanted to hug me. Only if the money was right. The rest still was helpful.

Too bad my back was on fire. Mike gave me two more Motrin a little while back. It started to kick in but I was keeping it in the second chainring. That was straining my back something fierce. I was standing periodically trying to stretch out my back. I would only work for a moment. When we eventually hit the gravel again, that was it for my back. I had to stop for a second then slowly keep moving again.

It was a fun ride back to the cars despite my back. This early part of the trail we had been on is fun in both directions. Then the beginning we had rode was all downhill.

Everyone else but us MFR guys were going to a the Crackerbarrel Pub close by. With our kids waiting at home, we had to get back as always. This, (along with friendship, and love of biking) is why we got together in the first place. We are all in the same boat. We have family to get back to. No complaints though. Just the way it is.

Sorry guys, maybe next time. Maybe not.

Sunday Stress Test

Posted: February 5, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

Early on it was so far, so great.

Ron and I were alone today—for a while. We heard about Doug’s ride on the M&M trail starting in Tariffville which is just south of where we always turned around on the M&M trail. We needed to do our own exploring out there. It’s been a long time coming.

I ran into Jan and Frankie, two of Doug’s troupe and they told me that Eric would be leading the group down there again also. I’m not sure if I wanted to run into them or not.

Getting there around 8:45 the blue trail immediately started uphill. Eventually flattening out we found it a blast and knew that Mike 10 (out with a sore back) would love it as much as us. The terrain was technical but not impossible…for a while. Staying on the blue trail, we hoped to duplicate Eric’s garmin route from last week. Problem was though, we started getting a bit confused. We tried the yellow trail for a while but it brought us back to the blue, then after a parking lot, it got very steep. At times we were doing more walking, or should I say climbing, than biking. It didn’t seem that Doug and the guys would like this.

Eventually the trail went to a final peak before bringing us to very steep descent. A thin strip of unkempt road was behind us. We followed it around to a switchback where Ron spied a group of bikers. Giving chase down then up a hill I was unsure if I wanted to catch them or not. Of course, it was Eric with Chris (who I knew) and many that I didn’t or barely knew including two other Mikes and Andy.

See Eric’s Garmin Post

Ron and I held our own, especially on the downhills. This type of terrain is an MFR specialty, rocky, sharp descents and just dangerous enough to give us an edge. I could have used more time on a bike in the last three weeks though. Finally making it to the Penwood parking lot off route 185, we quickly turned back and started climbing. While we would eventually make a stop a probably the highest point back, the stops were few and far between. With some steep climbs and rocks I had to force the bike over, most of my recovery had to be done in the saddle.

Ron stands atop a platform that seemed to have some sort of tower.

Returning to a parking lot about half way back, I took a good spill. This was where Ron and I did some steep walking. We were given some instruction for next time then started a steep, short climb that got my heat a-thumping. I could have used a break right there and that started my long suffering. From there we didn’t seem to stop and with that last hill to recover from, I could have used a break.

I guess I was long overdue for a stress test. I was redlining and I wasn’t getting a chance for recovery. I didn’t stop though and suffice it to say I’m not writing this from the grave. I guess that means I passed the test. Heart seems good to go.

Near the end Ron let me catch up. Until this point I had been doing well. I just had enough. We all regrouped for the final descent back to the car. It was a nice finish. My heart was finally settling down.

Eric and the guys at my final resting place.

After we said goodbye, Ron and I had a few coughing fits on the ride back. Funny, I don’t remember having a bad cough today. I didn’t know whether to thank Ron or not for spotting Eric and the group. In the end though, I survived and am stronger for it.