By Jonathan O'Keeffe
Published 07/16/2011; Updated 01/22/2022

by Jonathan O’Keeffe » Sat Jul 16, 2011 5:14 pm
We started from the Academy on a perfect Saturday morning with a group of nine, including Jonathan B, David, Uri, Kevin, Morgan, Keith, Clayton, and me. David laid out a route taking us first through South Hadley and Belchertown, and then onward through Shutesbury and then to Wendell. As we headed out through town toward the bridge, Morgan remarked that he had never been on an NCC ride that turned right out of the Academy – maybe we’re getting a bit predictable by always heading up towards Conway and Ashfield.

We swung south on Rt. 47 around Skinner, and then on via Pearl St. and Batchelor St. to Harris Mountain Road. After a brief wrong turn in Belchertown, we found our way, and crossed Rt. 9 to make our way up Gulf Road. This is a terrific climb, with the trees pressing in like the forest primeval, and a babbling brook running alongside most of the way. The climb is especially good on a hot summer day, when the shade and the brook make it feel about ten degrees cooler.

At our regrouping point near the top, Kevin needed to turn back, and disappeared back down the hill as we pressed on. However, at our next stop, he rolled up as we were preparing to depart, having “changed his mind”, and having re-climbed the worst portions of the hill. He gets the red combativity number for the most aggressive attack of the day.

In Pelham, we went off-road for a one-mile stretch on Meetinghouse Road, featuring a steep initial descent on loose gravel that had a couple of us with white-knuckled death grips on the brakes. After the long climb up Buffam Rd. to Shutesbury, Jonathan and Keith had time pressure and took the shortcut down the S-curves, while the rest of us finished the climb up to Shutesbury center, and then down to Lake Wyola. We were feeling a bit drained at that point and decided to lop off the Wendell portion of the ride. Instead, we took a pit stop at the North Leverett co-op, where David chatted up the local motorcyclists while the group took a break on some sort of wobbly merry-go-round type of playground equipment.

From the co-op, there was one last climb up and over Cave Hill Road. David split off in Leverett, while the rest of us crossed over to Rt. 47 and headed south on the way back to Northampton. I split off en-route, and ended up with 50.7 miles at 18.1 mph, 3,900′ of climbing for the group portion of the ride.