Posts Tagged ‘Southampton Massachusetts’

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.

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.

8-3-14 Ride

See August 3, 2014 Ride

Back on August 3, Mike 13 joined Mike 10, Ron and I for a ride. He rides occasionally but is strong anyhow. He’s skinny, and most importantly, a rower. (Read the book “The Boys in the Boat” for a great story about rowers and their quest for Olympic gold.) So, he knows pain and endurance.

Having stopped for wrapples at the Williamsburg General Store and were swinging back on familiar roads into Westhampton. The road was freshly paved and much better now. Across the intersection though, the road was as bad as always and deteriorating every season. We turned right, deeper into more rural Westhampton.

Stopping where the road comes to a “T”, we were eyeing the same small local breakfast/lunch place. Surely, it is a local phenomenon sitting on this lonely country road. Mike 10 says they serve real maple syrup, made locally. He tells variations of the same story every time we see it. Every time we eye the place, we say we want to go there. We never have, its too out of the way, which is kind of funny actually. Its not too far out of the way for a bike ride, but to drive to, it is.

We biked past Westhampton’s Outlook Farms, a great place to stop for fresh pork, apples, treats or the bathroom! We circled back through Southampton on familiar roads until we decided to throw a wrench into the route.

Surprising Ron, we turned left facing the mountainside that slopes off Mt. Tom to our left. Then we turned right onto Line Road—a hilly dirt road that goes up to Southampton Road. Its all hill with a town line in the middle. Its a well packed surface with pavement near the top. As we climbed I checked out the woods on both sides and the older houses tucked into the forest. Higher up, newer, bigger houses took advantage of the views.

Avoiding Mountain Road and Apremont Highway (not a highway) for once. We road to route 141, a busy road but more down than up. Taking a right our next surprise was coming. Holyoke Community College was putting in a new access road from its campus to route 202. It wasn’t quite finished yet but it was good enough. Any new road’s a good road for me. We road around campus and swerved onto the new road. Other than on spot, it was almost done and probably would be in time for the fall semester. I’m sure we will try this route from time to time. Maybe it will keep us away from the notorious Apremont Highway (not a highway).

4-27-14 Ride

Carl wanted us to start a ride from Southampton across from the small winery. I never start that far out but had the opportunity this time, so I took it. Scott joined me although later saying it’s too far away to begin a road ride. Totally understand that and most any other time I would concur.

Carl was already there. His friend, usually mountain biking, was looking to do 1oo miles. Frankly I do not remember his name (Carl will correct me) so I will call him Mark.

Meeting up in Southampton, it was another cool, Spring day. Ron and Mike decided to go mountain biking instead with Dave. I wasn’t willing to give up another road ride.

See Sunday, April 27, 2014 Ride

The four of us started out heading towards Williamsburg. (Nothing like an early wrapple at the General Store.) Some of these roads on this popular route were now much improved. Some were worse than ever. Getting there quickly was quite a plus though. It’s occurred to me quickly that driving far to start a ride can be at first annoying but then rewarding. I get bored always riding the same 5-10 miles out and back. Today we were reaching farther out—new roads with new possibilities.

The Williamsburg General Store came quick. From there I had some ideas We quickly got off route 9 turning after the small town grocery store onto North Street, a right over the bridge, then up Nash Hill Road.

At the top of Nash Hill there is a right turn with a very steep hill we usually pop up from the other direction (a steep hill mirrors it). We regrouped and Mark asked where to next. I said right but always wondered where straight went. “Then let’s go that way,” Mark replied. And that was the gist of this ride. This conversation would be repeated again—directing our route.

Nash Hill Road brought us deeper into the Williamsburg wilderness. Eventually the road turned to dirt and gravel. We continued on. The road took a right turn and I spied a gate for a state forest. Right then I wanted my mountain bike. The dirt road continued on for a few miles eventually coming to a bridge over a cold, rocky stream. I was enjoying riding in the woods. It was turning out to be quite a unique ride.

I was wondering where we would emerge as we exited the woods and rode around the barriers. Happily, it was just where I wanted to be in the first place. Just via a rougher but more interesting way. We were turning left next to Weber Road onto Conway Road. Just to our left was the reservoir and we were following a favorite, wide but isolated road towards route 116. Its a gentle hill up that eventually gently descends for a long way to route 116 in Conway.

At 116 I planned on taking a right heading towards Deerfield. We had one hill in front of us then a long descent down. Mark asked about the other way. “That goes up towards Ashfield,” I said. “It’s a long climb.” Mark saw the challenge in front of him, “let’s go that way.” Challenge accepted.

It’s not a terrible climb at this point, just fairly consistent. I held on for a while but was lagging behind. Carl was on me telling me to spin faster and avoid grinding large gears. I was listening because what I was doing wasn’t working for me. Recovering enough, we continued past a covered bridge and found our way to the turn I had now planned on taking. Mike 10 had warned me about the climb to Ashfield center and I wanted us to take the left back towards Williamsburg. It’s a wonderful road with one good climb on it.

Mark said “where does that go?” “I don’t know exactly.” And so the story goes…guess where we went.

While the climb was less than expected, it was still a climb. I was in unexplored territory again. I found Ashfield to be quite a nice, quaint town that lies on a Ashfield Pond. I wanted to stay and swim (if it was warm enough). Or maybe come back with the kids sometime this summer.

At the end of the road, Scott and I took a left onto routes 116/112. Carl and Mark were going right to complete their 100-mile goal.

The day was still overcast but warm when the sun occasionally came out. We were high up in the Berkshire hills on a rolling road above DAR State Forest in Goshen. This was more new territory for me, but I knew what was to come. Stopping for a moment at the state forest, we were now very close to route 9 and a long, long way down.

I never wanted to ride up route 9 from Williamsburg to Goshen. It’s all uphill on a tight road. Downhill though is another matter and we had earned this treat. I let the bike go taking the hill for all it’s worth. We were making good time back going over 30 mph for around 5 miles back to the Williamsburg General Store. It was a wonderful thrill ride.

Following our early route back to Southampton, I would be getting home late today. I still had to drive home from Southampton. My brain was now contradicting itself trying to convince me that starting out this far away from home was not a good idea. I knew the dog was home with his legs crossed waiting for me to let him out. And I still had to get my son Joe at my mother’s apartment. Later that day, the lousy weather that was promised would finally arrive.

I was too happy to care about any of that.

 

My first ride of the Spring, if you could have called it that, was on Sunday, March 23. Mostly, Spring had mostly arrived only on the calendar.

March supposedly comes in like a lion. This time it had stayed that way almost to the end. There was plenty of snow on the ground making mountain biking almost impossible without very fat tires. It was windy, and freezing out with no end in sight.

See March 23 Ride

The day before was pretty warm in the 50’s. It was the first break of the year. But, it was very windy with strong gusts. I did 19 miles holding on for dear life as the wind tried to push me around. With Saturday family commitments, that’s all I had time for anyhow.

Sunday is biking day though. A week before I had planned a Sunday ride and texted my intentions to the others. That morning Ron backed out with temps starting in the 20’s and only promising to get a little better. I backed out soon after and headed for the gym. It was only after my workout when I saw a few obligatory, nasty comments come back from the guys regarding me backing out.

This Sunday I was all alone. It was cloudy, with cool temps around 40. Snow was on the ground. I thought of giving up again.

Before breakfast I went out to pick up a Sunday paper. Coming out of the store parking lot  I saw a guy driving off with his road bike on the back of the car.

My mind was made up.

I donned 2 layers of shirts and a coat, winter gloves, booties and a warm headband on my head. The temperature was at the bottom level of what I would consider road biking weather. Typically I would choose the woods but it was either too much snow, or too much mud, or both.

I was happy to find that throughout the whole ride, the cold was never a factor. This despite the fact that I was heading for hilly Wyben, where I knew it would be colder than in my hometown.

I guess I learned something.

It’s been a strange season so far, or lack of one. My winter workouts consisted of the gym, and hiking or snowshoeing up Mt. Tom. Not much biking except for the gym.

I’d rather ride with friends but riding alone can be special once in a while. Without others to push, I daydreamed more letting my mind wander. In the back of my mind I was considering a steep, early season climb up Montgomery Road in Southampton. It was windy but not nearly as the day before. As I headed down route 202 hitting 41 mph, I was eager for my favorite roads coming up.

Entering WybenI turned right after Hampton Ponds. I had planned out the series of abrupt turns I took a few years ago and have made it a regular ride of mine. After a few turns the short steep hills followed quickly after. Nothing as drastic as I was thinking about, but challenging still. Especially this early in my bike season.

Russellville Road climbs gently before descending steeply. Up ahead was my turn. I wasn’t sure which way I would go. Up Montgomery Road in Southampton…a severe, SEVER climb…or bear left into Wyben, following Wyben Road. A gentler climb that gets me to my destination quicker.

Well duh, time was getting short (sure it was), and the season along with me was starting off slowly. I decided not to be so stupid and chose the quicker, easier route.

I was turning right at Wyben Orchards. I’ve written of this road before…it’s a back road that brings you in a roundabout way back to Westfield. I climbed at first before descending past farmland and rural neighborhoods. Turning left, I was moving well now. On my right I was following the railroad tracks along the Westfield River. In the distance I could see the mountains and farmland. I was pushing myself finally and had the wind at my back. Biking season was back, at least for today.

At work the next day I told Steve, a rider himself, about this road. It must be ridden. When the weather gets warmer he plans on checking it out as well. Its a great road to push the pace and test yourself, enjoy the view, and feel the cool wind in your face.

Too bad the next day brought in 2 weeks of cold wind in your face.

 

One of my favorite roads is out in Wyben—Pochassic Street to West Road. The road is seemingly very rural but not too far from Westfield’s center. My only disappointment is that this road doesn’t last longer. It starts out generally flat and rises a bit towards Wyben Orchards. Sometimes I take it in the opposite direction which is a little faster. Next time I’m heading that way.

It’s just a great road and to remind you, that’s what it’s all about.

See May 28 Ride.

The ramp is rather complicated and provides a fun challenge similar to our mountain biking experiences.

The ramp is rather complicated and provides a fun challenge similar to our mountain biking experiences.

Mission accomplished.

Mission accomplished.

Getting there meant navigating route 20 from West Springfield to Westfield. It sucks as does Dewey Street in West Springfield. As I always say, sometimes, “you have to bike through crap to get to the good stuff.” The payoff was worth it though.

I rode through Wyben recently with Ron and Mike 11. We took a detour as the small bridge we usually go over was out. We turned around when we saw the blocked bridge. This time I decided to investigate further.

Getting there I noticed a wooden ramp bridge set up to allow neighborhood walkers to access downtown Westfield. This would do nicely. Making it a game, I rode up the ramp taking the turns carefully as to not touch the sides. I was testing my bike handling skills. Each turn up seemed too narrow for me but I made each. Getting to the top overlooking the railroad tracks, I looked back at my accomplishment. That was fun.

That Sunday, I took Ron on this same exact 30-mile ride. (It was Sunday but I had a graduation for my step-daughter later that day. An early 30 miles would have to do.) Ron didn’t know the ramp “challenge” was coming, but repeated the same thing I said the time before, that was fun.”

See June 2 Ride With Ron

After that I/we were Wyben-bound. The road along the river and railroad tracks changes quickly from a neighborhood to rural. I hadn’t gotten far before feeling I was in the middle of nowhere. The road is mostly flat at first with hills rising after the right turn. Houses along the route tend to have rather large yards and are spread out. Farms dot the route along the way. Mountains loom in the distance. This ride skirts along the edge of them with some good hills that stop short of mountain roads. Those are just off to the left.

Tuesday and Sunday’s ride both take a left onto Montgomery Road. Then a right onto Wyben Road. Previously this road had been rough but was now nicely paved making it even more luring. Plus it’s a nice downhill for a bit. Then it turns into Russelville Road as it passes another (shorter and steeper) Montgomery Road in Southampton.

Before I get too far though there is one very steep hill in my way. I call this “the hill where no hill should be”! Coming upon it, you thought you had cheated the nearby mountains by veering away from them. Instead this steep monstrosity lies in front of you blocking your way to downhill bliss.

So, one more big climb. This time I did it mostly standing up (that’s what she said). I got out of the saddle just having discovered that all that jogging has paid off—this feels rather easily.

From there it’s mostly downhill into Southwick’s route 10. The last time I was here a few weeks earlier, Mike 11 was surprised how much downhill it is. Riding down towards 10, I took a turn off onto Gilbert Road and continued my well-deserved descent. My feeling Tuesday and Sunday were the same as I approached Brickyard Road. I decided that this loop was excellent. It will become one of my more regular rides.

Which is why I brought Ron on it again Sunday.

Crossing route 10 is much better than riding on that busy road. The road crosses by jogging just to the left onto Moosebrook Road. From there it’s a rather complicated but familiar series of turns and climbs back towards home.

As always Apremont Highway stands in my way like an ugly bully. On any ride north from West Springfield, this always seems to stand in my way. It can get tedious. Sometimes the pain you know hurts more than the one you don’t.

On one side is the canal, the other is the Connecticut River.

On one side is the canal, the other is the Connecticut River.

Tuesday, May 7—With Mike 10 and Mike 12

Anyone missing a crack pipe?

Anyone missing a crack pipe?

Mike 12, sometime MFR member, was with Mike 10 and I. Although he has had a chance to ride with Mike 10 this season, he hadn’t been out with anyone else from MFR.

He’s been in training for the MS ride we did with him last year. Mike 10 and Mike 11 will be joining him this time. I have a graduation to attend.

It’s going to be a 50-miler, and while Mike 12 has the lungs (he’s a rower), he still needs the miles. That’s what this is all about.

We headed off from the 57 rotary. It may be our last time from that parking lot. Mike 10 found a crack pipe on the ground. I don’t need to leave my car around people looking to make a score. It’s an sad world sometimes.

I wanted to ride all the way to Windsor center and circle back. With Mike 12’s 8 p.m. deadline though, that would be difficult.

We brought Mike 12 along River Road and past Six Flags bearing right in Connecticut cutting over to Suffield Center. We followed the Wednesday Millennium group ride back to route 159 and kept going south away from the Millennium route. Both Mikes were getting nervous knowing how I can “bite off more than I can chew.”

I was disappointed that we had to make a turn but I was pleased to explore a road I always wanted to take. The good news is that we discovered a new alternative that I’m sure we will make use of in the future.

The bad news is we had turned around heading straight back the way we came. We had been making good time but I wanted an alternative. I suggested we take the bike path along the river.

The 4.5 mile Windsor Locks State Park Canal Trail is a paved road running between the Connecticut River and the old canal. For most of the distance, the only way off is to swim or stay on the trail. The surface is a rather rough pavement but that slows us down enough to enjoy the views on either side. The early Spring foliage gives us a good chance to spy Kings Island in the middle of the river. It’s surprisingly large with cliffs facing us. I started imaging taking that plunge to jump off along the long cliff.

We weren’t leaving that trail hungry either. Being along the river, the gnats were swarming. We were getting routinely pelted and I was attempting to dodge the swarms as best I could. Aside from that, I kept my mouth shut as much as possible.

Mike 12 looks over at a bridge that the canal flows over.

Mike 12 looks over at a bridge that the canal flows over.

We took one detour after the Canal Trail along River Boulevard that we had first discovered last year on Mike 12’s MS ride (his company sponsored us). It’s now one of our favorites.

Racing back, we kept the pace close to top speed. Mike 12 got real smart though using the draft to swing by me as we crossed the state line. I definitely underestimated him there. I took no mercy after that though keeping the pace fast all the way back. Near the end Mike 10 and I pushed it even faster and we finally shook him on the last quarter mile.

Serves him right.

Saturday May 11—Mothers’ Day Weekend Ride

I wasn’t riding Sunday, so I was going out Saturday no matter what. It wasn’t cold like many days this month, but it was cloudy with a chance of rain.

See my previous post regarding this ride.

During the middle of the ride it did just that. I was mountain biking though and not caring in the least. The water drops felt warm against my legs and I was very comfortable. Riding my bike from Robinson School to the top of Provin Mountain and back kept me warm as well. I was doing a fast pace, especially considering the climbing I did. Aside from the view at the top of Provin where stopping to take it in is a must, I didn’t stop much, so I was plenty warm.

Sometimes a ride like this is just what I need. The hills help with my road fitness as does the fast pace on the twisty trails back near my car. My ultimate goal was to not feel cheated on Mothers’ Day, pining away for my bike.

Mission accomplished.

Wednesday, May 15—Millennium Ride Again

Twenty riders, one flat, not bad.

Twenty riders, one flat, not bad.

Mike 11 wasn’t here this week so my best intentions to run after the ride didn’t pan out. Also, my son Frankie called me at the end and I drove over to see him and my daughter Eleni. They come first…while providing a good excuse.

This ride is always the same but it never disappoints. The sprints make up for the drafting behind so many people during most of the ride.

This day, one of my son’s teammates on the swim team was riding with us. She’s a great athlete in the water and that translates as well to other sports. She’s an aspiring triathlete (aspiring?) and her father acts as her coach. A few weeks after the ride I got to talk to him. Usually he doesn’t say much, until you get to talking about his daughter. I can see where she gets her drive from. He is passionate about the sport(s) and knows what she needs to do. Before you feel bad for her, I think she is just as passionate.

Riding with her and the group, I tried not to be too bothersome to her. I can only do that so much though and did offer some advice. She seems to drift away from a fast paceline. It’s not her fitness as much as it is her will. I told her to virtually reel them back in (sometimes I just can’t). The body will hopefully follow the mind.

I know sometime in the future, she will be just a blur ahead of me.

Sunday, May 19—Riding My Father’s Age Through Wyben and Southampton

This day I was exactly the age my father lived to—51 years and 17 days. I saw the day coming and it made me think about him and how young he died. As I prove most days I ride, I still have a lot of life left in me. He should of as well.

I did admit to being a little tired today. I’ve been trying to pull a large “widow-maker” branch out of a tree in my backyard and have spent a lot of time on it lately. The only thing I’ve accomplished is a great core workout.

I was riding today with Ron and Mike 11. We started out at a very early 7:15 (with the intentions of 7:00). Ron had to get back early and Mike 11 needed to be done by noon. I found I really liked the early start getting some good miles in while it was still early.

As we rode through Wyben, I decided to bring the guys straight towards the sand and gravel pit instead of making the turn up the hill. I knew we were heading for a dead end but I was sort of inspired. I had made this wrong turn before and I like the road despite its ending. The road still has the great personality of the road we were just on. Plus it sits in a hole surrounded by the mountains and I like the feel of the area.

We got to the gravel pit and took it the area and the pit itself. I was kind of cool hidden here amongst the mountains. I wished this road kept going!

This ride had just taken on its own identity. It’s what our group is all about. Change direction and purpose like we change gears…in an instant. Without thought. Make a new destination and purpose to the ride.

Turing around, we took the turn we earlier avoided. Climbing the hills, Ron was suddenly on fire. I fought to keep up and did, but it tired me out. My arms seemed as tired as the legs and lungs. The tugging at the tree branches I had been doing a good part of the week made me wish for the couch.

We got on the main road head towards the mountain, but veered right onto West Road instead heading towards Southampton. Ron split away earlier that I thought he should. He had to make sure he got to the game in time. Later he said he got home earlier than he thought he would.

There were more hills to come…more than we thought.

The ride’s purpose remained the same. I brought Mike 11 up Fomer Road, another turnaround I’ve done. This ride was becoming a repeat of many of my best mistakes. This road ends (sort of) onto gravel. If you followed it all the way, it would bring you to Westhampton. Last time I took a turn which eventually brought me back to where I started but I didn’t care. The journey was great.

What I didn’t remember about the journey though was the long hill. Most of Fomer was uphill. Maybe I suppressed that part.

After we stopped climbing we took the right I had taken previously. The road was still gravel when it turned again. After getting even worse, it got much better. We saw a few young guys taking their dirt bikes for a spin in the woods. I wanted to live out here.

Circling around back to where we came, brought us down hill to the main road. It was a great circle and is one I will do again. This ride has been very interesting in it’s difference. Getting back to my house, my Garmin had us at almost 2,500 feet of climbing. I didn’t expect that. I showed Mike 11 my widow-maker branch in the back yard. I wanted to get it down but was instead getting worn down. Mike 11 had a suggestion which sounded good. I gave it one shot then gave up and called the tree guy. I was tired.

But I was NOT feeling my age!