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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Concord, MA

    Mass Bike Pike Tour 8/14-17

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    OK, we decided to do something different this year, so we signed up for a 4 day tour from Sudbury to Northampton, MA that is sponsored by Mass Bike. They are a cycling advocacy organization that generally does great things. We decided to camp each night, although there was a B and B option.
    We drove the 8 miles to Sudbury (neighboring town) and left our car at the middle school, while our bags and equipment were loaded on the truck. The weather forecast had been iffy all week and we were not happy with the prospect of riding in bad rain.
    Each day there were 30, 50, and 65 mile routes that ended up in the same place. You could ride with a leader or alone. We decided to do the 50 mile ride the first day, since we knew that after that, the following days would have extremely challenging climbs. The first 25 miles of the ride were on roads we always ride on. In fact, we headed back to Concord and then into Acton, Stow, and Hudson, which pretty much replicated my old commute to work. Just when we were about to leave Hudson, we started a climb that was pretty tough. I was hoping none of my former students lived on this street, since I was swearing a bit; the sun came out and there was no shade. The pace had been very moderate up to this point, but I fell back a bit. The climb went on for about 2-3 miles, into Marlborough. Shortly after that, we stopped for lunch, and headed toward Hopkinton (home of the Marathon start). By now we were sick of the group. They were calling out every little hole, sewer grate, turn, to the point of driving us crazy. I am a very safe rider, but we are used to using signals and voices only when it's a real hazard. As we started up a really long climb, the sky was getting dark. Another rider from one of the other routes told us hail was predicted. We stopped and after 20 minutes of wasting time, we said let's just go.It started raining as soon as we left. We had 10 miles of riding in just torrential rain on a very busy road. I had my rain jacket, but my pants were not in our bag on the bike. I got so stressed over this, but managed to stay in the front of the group. Finally, about 3 miles from our destination, it stopped, but the group had stopped yet again so we told the leader we were going ahead.
    The first night we camped at the middle school in Whitinsville. The showers were good and it was dry when we arrived. All went well with the tent set up. Dinner the first night was catered by Redbones, a great BBQ restaurant in Sommerville that does a lot with cycling advocacy. Before dinner, we were so hungry and thirsty, we walked to a very local pub and had a beer. Quite an interesting group of people there! We were in bed by 8:30.
    Day Two: Woke up at 4:45, got cleaned up and started breaking down our stuff by 6. We had a pancake breakfast at a church and left on the 30 mile ride. Weather was 70% chance of rain, so the goal was to get to Wells State Park in Sturbridge as soon as we could. Well, a few little ups and downs commenced the ride and then the real fun began. As we headed into Charleton, we climbed one of the steepest roads I have ever done; Mudgett Hill Rd. It was as steep as the climb in the Berkshires that forced me off my bike a couple of weeks ago, but I think the very steep part was not as long. All I know is that I actually went ahead of my husband and I prayed my legs would keep going. We got to Charleton center at about 10:30, so we stopped and had a second breakfast. We took our time, staying for more than an hour, since we only had about 10 miles left. The people in the diner were really nice, too By now, I felt like I was very far from home, not 40 miles in a car. We climbed some more, and arrived at the park about 10 minutes before the truck, the third people to arrive. The camp site was pretty, but lugging our crap in the woods, over a stone wall wasn't fun. Got that done, took a "bath" in the lake and got in the tent to relax just as most were arriving. And that's when the rain began. It was about 3:45 and it rained until about 3 in the morning. Huge thunders, some lightening, and rain that was just hard as heck. Dinner was in an outside pavilion, so we wore our rain gear. Needless to say, we were in our tent at 7:30. Although it was cozy, it was scary, being in the woods in a thunderstorm. Our tent stayed dry, but it was hard to pack up in the morning, and breakfast sucked. Cold cereal and pbj. I'm allergic to peanut butter, so I found a bagel and smeared it with jelly and had left over chicken from the night before.
    Day three had some iffy weather predicted, but it was supposed to clear by the night. We decided on 30 miles again because we were getting into western MA, where the hills are challenging. My legs were killing me on the 1 mile climb out of the park, but I settled in. At about mile 15 we started up Long Hill Rd. It was marked on the cue sheet as a dangerous, rough pavement downhill. No mention of the 3 mile climb... it was really tough, but I had a good attitude. However, I wished I had my mountain bike on the down hill. As a ride leader, I would never take people down a road like that on road bikes. My hands were killing me from braking and I actually stopped at one point and walked around an s curve that was probably an 18% grade, with no pavement, rocks, and rutted. Sorry, not on my skinny tires. Plus, a lot of the people on this tour were experienced, but more casual riders. After that, we stopped for a drink and then made our way to Palmer (home of the Tampax Company!) and on to our destination of Belchertown. I know, a funny name. I used to think it was a skanky place, but it's really a nice town! We got there at 11:30, and I promptly ate a huge calzone and drank a giant iced tea. We rode to the school, helped unoad the truck, and set up our tent. At 4, it started to thunder and got very dark, but we decided to walk to the pub and get some beer. Several riders were there and also several motorcyclists. It never did rain, but there was a tornado warning. That passed, we went to our dinner at a Masonic Lodge. It was good, but by now we sort of just wanted to get home. The constant setting up and breaking down the tent and packing, etc. was tiring after riding all day.
    Today we got up at 5, did our final break down of the stuff and had the worst breakfast ever... cold cereal and half a cup of crappy coffee. We left for our ride at 7:45. We were riding to Northampton, which is really just the next town over, but today's ride was a really beautiful set of loops. There was along, 4 mile climb by a rushing brook and waterfalls. The last part was very hard, but we knew that was the only climb of the day. We took our time, as we had on all of the climbs and took several pictures along the way and at the top. Then we rode down into Amherst center, where our son went to school. We stopped at the Black Sheep cafe, a well known deli/bakery and had bagels and lox, lots of good coffee, and enjoyed the college town atmosphere on a quiet day. Since it was so early, we sat for 2 hours and met several other cyclists who were out today, which was hot and sunny. We then rode to a park, past U Mass, where the lunch stop was. They had great sandwiches, but we weren't hungry. After a bit, we shared a sandwich and rested. Then they gave us t shirts, which they insisted we put on and wear for our ride into Northampton. By now it was about 85 out and I did not want to put a t shirt on over my jersey, but I did.
    We rode into Northampton on the bike path and onto Main St., where we took up the whole street and people clapped for us. After getting on another path, we arrived at a park where we changed out of our shorts and waited for a bus to take us back. I can't believe several people asked me why i changed out of my cycling clothes; I just said,"bacteria, urinary tract infections, and saddle sores," and they looked at me like I was nuts.
    The bus ride back was quick and we both ran in the house and showered and promptly ordered Indian take out.
    What I learned:
    1.I won't camp and do a challenging tour again. I don't mind suffering on the road, but I want to be comfortable and a bit pampered when I finish. I like camping, but not when you have to move camp every day.
    2.Don't try to put in your contacts in the dark, in a tent. I think I tore one and suffered for 2 days with it. I am paying for it now.
    3. Appreciate your bike and wicking material. About a third of the people on this trip had bikes that looked like they were glued together. A lot were wearing t shirts and sneakers. I am in awe that they did the climbing on this trip.I know a lot of them walked, but still. They did it.
    4. I never train enough for these things!
    Last edited by Crankin; 08-17-2008 at 06:48 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Riding my Luna & Rivendell in the Hudson Valley, NY
    Our bikes...OurBikes...and my mountain dulcimer blog
    Ruby's Website and My blog

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Western Canada-prairies, mountain & ocean
    Crankin, I haven't cycled toured with camping for the last few years. Only for approx. first 5 years after I returned to cycling. But my great respect for cyclists older than either of us, who go on loaded bike trips and camp continuously ..for several months.

    Our trips now don't include camping. Would I consider camping..yea maybe 2 days ..out of 15 days of straight cycling.

    But even on self-loaded cycling trips with b 'n b /hotel, it is a like little mini-journey in life. Some great times with more difficult moments.

    It helps to do such a trip with other cyclists if one hasn't done this for awhile or for first time with camping.

    You can add this trip..into your present bag of tales..



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