Posts Tagged ‘road biking’

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.


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.


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


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


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.



A very brief synopsis…it was late August as we left from Holyoke crossing into South Hadley. The views over the bridge of the Connecticut River are awesome. Going around the route 202 rotary, we get away from 202 and follow the river to Granby. These are some of my favorite roads. Unfortunately, I don’t know them as well as I’d like. Relying on Mike 10, Mike 11, and Ron, we put together a very good route as we circle around the mountains of the Holyoke Range.

On the other side of the range, the roads get flat. We cross route 9 and go from Hadley, to Amherst passing close to the UMASS campus. We push up the small but intimidating Mt. Warner and stop in Sunderland for an ice cream sandwich before turning around into the wind.

See August 24 Ride.


The top of Dickinson Hill Road looks much less intimidating than the bottom.

The top of Dickinson Hill Road looks much less intimidating than the bottom.

I had something in mind but I didn’t say anything. Mike 11 and Mike 10 joined me at the Elks parking lot on Sunday, August 10 for a ride.

See August 10, 2014 Ride

We headed for Montgomery Road…the one in Southampton. It starts out steep and ends steeper with a consistent 14% grade. Mike 11 joined us up to that point and asked us for the best route back. His biking has been sporadic this season.

Mike 10 and I headed up the hill after a long good bye with Mike 10. Now fresher, it wouldn’t help too much very soon. This hill hits you early and hits harder, much harder, on the last quarter to half mile.

After that it was more rolling hills as we climbed into Montgomery before a long descent into Huntington. Mike took it easy on the downhill after noticing that he needed to replace a tire. Going downhill, the road takes some rather sharp turns where I typically get a little nervous and pump the brakes lightly.

Like a fly to you-know-what, we stopped at the Huntington General Store for a wrapple (too dry Mike said), before moving on.

I wanted to go west before turning back. We spent a while shooting the crap with Mike 11 but it probably wouldn’t have mattered though since I was asking for too much. Instead we turned back on route 20, a road we don’t particularly want to be on even out here in the mountains. There are many more interesting roads all around we would rather be on. Problem is, most don’t get us closer to home.

Then Mike verbalized the thought I had back at the car. “We could go UP Dickinson Hill Road.” “I was thinking the same thing,” I said.

Dickinson Hill Road drops severely from route 23 down to route 20 ending near the state police barracks. It’s 0 to 40 in no time. Its stupid to go up it. We never have.

This time we did.

Mike climbs well and took off straight up. The hill starts steep and stays that way. There is an ever so slight break in the road before it gets extra severe again with no end in sight. I was “paperboying” almost immediately. That means I was doing “S” turns all the way up. With the end out of sight, I had to pace myself and avoid blowing up. I need to save my legs and my lungs for the miles yet to come.

Its a real tough hill. Some of the hardest I’ve done. I just don’t have the gearing for this. Ron keeps on telling me that I could use a 29 or 32 gear in the back like he has.

I tried to focus on the side of the road looking for something to distract me from the severe climb. It was slow going and I was sweating plenty and had to wipe my eyes regularly. I tend not to drink enough which can lead to cramping so I was trying to be careful not to induce it by pushing too hard.

At the top we were smiling a delirious smile. We were very happy with ourselves, especially after climbing Montgomery Road earlier.

From there we headed down route 23 and turned right onto General Knox Road. The hill hits me in the face right away making me pay for the steep downhill that awaits further on.

8-5-14 Covered Bridge

Suffield Connecticut lies on the Massachusetts line and borders Bradley Airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. An upscale community, it has many nice homes, some newer, some very old. While almost rural in nature, I bet most people don’t know it has a covered bridge. It is not on a public way though but is located on some rich homeowner’s very long driveway. I have biked past it many times but I have yet to ride on it.

Turning off route 75 near Suffield Center, Mike 10 and I were quickly heading downhill on Russell Avenue. I was driving on this road recently with my wife and knew right then that I had been away from it too long. The road goes downhill over a bridge and passes some more expensive homes interspersed between some average ones. Up ahead is a small ranch with longhorn cattle. Soon after that is the covered bridge on the other side of the road. It sits on a very long driveway…the house way back out of view. There are many nice houses out here, and there are also many extravagant properties like this one.

The road though is very much like a country road. We are not too far from main roads but there is a web of intersecting back roads that keep you off of the busier ones. This road intersects Hill Street—part of a loop Mike 10 and I used to do regularly when we both lived in Agawam. Turning left onto the second half of it, we were nostalgic for the days we did this road regularly. Mike lived on the next street over from mine and I could see the back of his house from my driveway. Every time we ride these roads he says how much he enjoys biking around here.

We had started this ride near the 57 rotary and we would return there close to dark. Mike had arrived later than anticipated. Winding our way through Suffield, we took a favorite route that goes by the high school before coming back via South Stone Street, across route 168, to North Stone Street. Some average homes dot the roadside, some not so average, but still a great country road. That brings us to Rising Hill Road in Agawam.

Funny how many of our rides either bring us past Rising Hill or Apremont Highway (not a highway).