View Full Version : Weekend in the Berkshires

07-23-2007, 07:57 AM
We do this trip every year, but this time we stayed in a different area and did 3 new routes (one was a partial new route). We left Thursday at around 2 to drive to South Egremont. Our friends arrived earlier and actually did the ride we did Sunday while they were waiting for us. We had to drive through a blinding rain storm, worse than snow coming down around Springfield, but it did stop raining. The weather was looking a little iffy for Friday, but it was supposed to clear. Anyway, our inn turned out to be not such a great choice. The owner switched the room we had requested and put us in a room on the lower level; waay too much mold smell for me, so we ended up in a tiny room on the second floor, which kind of sucked. He gave our room away to his "repeat" customers. This guy was a piece of work. But the location was great. After a great fish dinner at John Andrews we got up Friday, ate breakfast and started a 52.5 mile "Great Barrington Challenge." This ride was from a book and the cues were really good. We had a nice flat 7-8 mile start and then we went up a bit to W. Stockbridge where we got lunch food for later. Then the climbing started as we headed back to Great Barrington. At around mile 20 we went onto a packed gravel road that was a climb. Not too bad, but the surface was scary to me. I went slow, to say the least. There was a steep downhill into Great Barrington that my husband was waiting for me at and he had to really tell me to slow down because it intersected with some bad traffic. It was a little hairy riding in downtown GB, with all of the tourist traffic. Let's just say i am not enamored of tourists from a certain large city in another state that take over western MA in the summer. I think this is why most people from eastern MA never come out to the Berkshires. Anyway, we ate on a park bench and headed out to Sheffield. After getting off of the main road, we had another gorgeous flat stretch, along a river, with lots of farms for abut 10 miles. We could have bailed here and gone back to the inn, at 35 miles, but I said, what the heck, it's only 18 more miles. I did notice a road called Cooper Hill Rd., but didn't give it much thought. As we headed into Connecticut, the road turned up. It flattened out for awhile, but then it was like straight up :eek: . And, I could not see the end. So, I was glad my cue sheet holder was covering my computer because my strategy is to just slow down to about 6 and grind up the hill. It seemed endless. I would say the grade got up to at least 10 and probably 12 at some spots and the climb was at least 1.5 miles, maybe 2. My friend, Brant, who is the strongest of the 4 of us passed me and it was the first time I ever have heard him breathing hard. After waiting for my husband and Janine, we headed back toward S. Egremont. The last few miles were rolling and had quite a bit of small inclines that i just wasn't happy about at this point. At about 47 miles my soft tissue started complaining and I had to slow down. Another cyclist passed us so my husband and Brant caught him, leaving me alone, since Janine rides a good deal slower than me. I was pissed, hurting, and ready to be done. I rode back to the inn alone and it started raining right when I got to the door. Mexican food that night revived me, but I have learned that I really get nervous on routes that I am unfamiliar with. And, I don't like being alone on deserted country roads. But the scenery was gorgeous and next time I will plan for the hills (4200 feet of climbing).
On Saturday we drove to Otis to start a loop there that includes the "Tyringham Wall." This climb is one we do every year, but the rest of the ride was new. It started with an 8 mile downhill, which was a little warning of the up that was to come. At the end of the downhill, we stopped to check out an inn and asked one of the workers about the road coming up. He said, "Oh, it's a climb, but not bad." Well, this was the hardest thing I've done in the U.S. The climb was about 4 miles, almost 5 and an average 7% grade. I honestly had tears in my eyes about half of the time. I know I can do these, but I get a seriously bad attitude while I'm doing it; then I forget! I was the second one to get up, so we rested there and then started the descent into Monterey, where we bought lunch and ate at a wonderful little park by a waterfall, behind the town hall. OK, on to the "Wall." I am not sure how long this climb is, probably about a mile. It has about 3 parts, and flattens out a tiny bit in between each one, but it's a good 18% grade in a couple of spots. It's very shaded, which helps. At the top, 2 people stopped and asked us for directions, which was weird, because this happened last year, too in the same spot. We only had about 8 miles back to the cars, but when we turned back onto Rt. 23, the road back into Otis, I knew there was a small climb and I was really tired. So, I got behind Janine to force myself to slow down and our conversation distracted me. On a long downhill about 2 miles before the car, there was a car crashed in the middle of the road. It looked like a tree had fallen on it! Some nice motorcyclists coming the other way warned us to slow down, which was very helpful. On the way back to the inn, we stopped at the bike shop to look around and bought Brant a can of "Bike Lust" as a gag gift for his birthday. That night we went to Tanglewood where the concert was probably the best one I've seen there. So the day ended up with about 32 miles of riding and 3200 feet of climbing.
Sunday we packed up and left our bathing suits and shorts out for later. We set out on a 24 mile ride. The first 10 miles were flat and then we started another long (3-4 mile?) climb through Sheffield and Gt. Barrington. Sunday was hotter and more humid and this climb felt like torture to me. My back hurt from sitting at the concert Saturdaynight and my groin was a little touchy, too. Anyway, there was a really long and curvy descent after the climb and although I have been improving my speed descending, I was being very cautious and it was a good thing; near the bottom there was a camp having a function and 2 police stops were letting people out of the entrances. I was doing about 30 when the first police lady stopped me. After I started back up and passed the next cop, he was waving furiously at me to slow down (me???) and yelled, "Are you riding with anyone else?" When i said yes, he said "You can tell that guy to slow down or he's in big trouble!" Huh??? I knew my husband must have gone speeding by as he is a very fast and good technical descender. So when I got to the end, Steve said he had slowed and was going about 35 when he went by this guy. Anyway, I revived a bit and after crossing Rt. 7 and heading over to another part of S. Egremont, we headed up the second climb. It was about 3/4 of a mile, very steep, but absolutely gorgeous. There were farms everywhere and you really felt like you were in Europe, on top of the world. I was the first one up. Then we headed back down, the road became packed gravel for a bit so we had to slow, but when we got to the main road, we were only about 2 miles from the inn. We stopped to get lunch and then put on our bathing suits, rinsed off in the pool and ate. We were able to change in the cabana and then we headed off to the Mass Pike. All in all, a great weekend; about 9,000 feet of climbing and 110 miles.

07-23-2007, 09:31 AM
Great report! I live in Blandford, right off Route 23, near Otis, and can relate to your descriptions of the hills around here. There are some BIG hills in this area. :eek:

short cut sally
07-23-2007, 10:44 AM
My body ached just reading all of your hill climbing..oh my..my mind imagined and I think i would cry too. Thanks for a nice report of your weekend.

07-23-2007, 01:50 PM
Sounds like "fun"! That's a lot of climbing, but that which does not kill you, makes you stronger :D . Just think of how much better you will do on your street, Strawberry Hill...

BTW - we rode up "Aneurysm Hill" on Friday, and I was thinking of you - some of those driveways to the left look positively heinous.


07-23-2007, 02:12 PM
Great job! Makes my ride seem absolutely flat:p

07-24-2007, 06:17 AM
Well, doing that kind of climbing certainly puts Annursnac Hill and Strawberry Hill in perspective. But both of them seem a lot easier in the past months. And yes, SheFly, my driveway is one of those on the left. But, it's definitely not the worst one (I think our neighbors have that one). It's about 15% at one point, but I've taken to climbing up the steeper side of the loop (the one you were on) so I get up speed going down right before I hit my driveway.
OK, off to the bike shop to get fitted for inserts for my shoes.


07-25-2007, 05:38 PM
Great report, Robyn! I will have to check out some of these climbs. I am just beginning to appreciate tougher hills. It sounds like you had a great and challenging weekend out in the Berks!

So much to visit and love in our area...

07-25-2007, 08:06 PM
Hey, my DH and I rode from our home in Chatham NY to Great Barrington MA for lunch and back on Saturday! (a 50 mile ride) It was pretty hilly but doesn't sound near as bad as what you did! Did you see us in GB on Saturday on our Rivendells by any chance? :)

07-26-2007, 05:26 PM
Shoot, Lisa, I wish I had known you were riding to GB. The ride we did Saturday started out of Otis, about 10-12 miles away and did not go through GB. We had our lunch stop there on Friday and also rode there Sunday, since we stayed in the next town (S. Egremont). Where did you eat?
Our friends always plan routes with big climbs. They have one called the Taconic Challenge that is a 4 mile climb with a 7% grade. So far, we have avoided it, but Brant said he wants to do it next year.

07-26-2007, 06:26 PM
Well i feel better knowing we were not in GB on the same day! ;)
We never seem to be very hungry when we get there, so we go to a little cafe right in the middle of main street. It seems to have young hip tattoo types hanging out front at any given time, one or two people on laptops inside, and a park bench out front in the street. They have good pastries and good coffee.

Dinner would be a whole 'nother story however- we'd go to Bizen for sashimi, and the fancy place on Railroad street next to the theatre for romantic choc mousse cake afterwards.... :cool: Also, we'd be in a car. :eek:

I don't think I could handle the kind of climbs your friends are planning to do for a while yet- just the 50 mile fairly hilly ride from Chatham to GB and back is enough for me, especially in the heat.


07-27-2007, 05:29 AM
Hi Lisa,
I have been to all of the restaurants you mentioned (did I already say that the other half of our trip is eating???). Is Chatham 50 miles round trip or 50 miles one way from GB? Maybe next year we can ride to your house for a day, but probably not if it's a century. I wouldn't mind taking a trip out there in the fall, either.

Well, I wouldn't think that I could do those climbs either, but I do. I always complain, but everyone just knows that I do, and then I quiet down. There's an alternate route for the "Taconic Challenge" ride, but I think the one we did in Otis was almost as long. My friend rides at a slower pace than me and she gets up everything! She's been riding for years, but I think it proves that you don't have to be a speed demon to attack the big hills. In fact, what helped me on this trip was conserving energy and slowing down.

07-27-2007, 06:57 AM
I would have said that I could have made the big climbs SLOWLY and steadily too if I paced myself....
but last week when we went to GB (50 miles round trip) we took a different route back that had a really long fairly steep incline. I know it's steep (for me) because I am going about 3mph for over a mile. This one really had no level offs to rest at, and the shoulders just drop off to woods. Anyway, this was on the way home after a big day and I actually had to stop and recover for a while and sit on the ground right in the woods because 2/3 of the way up my legs began to shake and I started feeling a bit strange. I got off the bike right away (I always pay attention to my body!) and just sat on the ground for 20 minutes drinking and eating- though I had been drinking and eating all along anyway.

After that I was able to complete our ride without incident, but it reminds me that after only one year of biking I actually "do" have limits, and those limits are probably lower than for others who have been biking for years. :o
It's good to know one's limits- and to be able to readjust them as time goes on too! :)

07-27-2007, 12:08 PM
Lisa, after one year of cycling I was still riding my yellow Voodoo mtb on the road, with an average of 12... I climbed some big hills in Harvard, MA on that bike, but NOTHING like the Berkshires. So after one year of cycling, you are doing great. I didn't ride anything longer than probably 20 miles at the most until I got my first road bike, after two years.
I didn't stop on that long climb, because frankly, I never would have got started again! So, if GB is a 50 mile round trip to Chatham, we should definitely plan to meet up. I will let you know the next time we are out there.