By Jonathan O'Keeffe
Published 11/26/2011; Updated 12/20/2021

by Jonathan O’Keeffe » Sat Nov 26, 2011 8:34 pm
We’ve got no right to expect weather like today’s at the end of November. The temperature was 45° when I left home, 50° by the time I got to Northampton, and heading further upward, with almost no wind. The crew was dressed appropriately, with several sets of bare legs in evidence, as we gave our cold-weather gear a day off. We started out with our core cold-weather crew of Jonathan B, Mike Y, Mike F, Kevin, Roberto, Ron, and me, joined by Joe, Tom, and Zak. I had plotted out a longish hilly route for us, with the primary goal of hitting Ireland St in Chesterfield from the “opposite” direction — usually we take it heading north, but I wanted to do it southbound to hit the big climb at the northern end. The group was up for it, so off we went.

We took the Thursday night route to Williamsburg, where Zak split off, looking for a shorter day. The rest of us climbed up past Main Poland Road and turned left into the DAR. The temps were a bit cooler up there, but still very comfortable, despite a fair amount of snow on the ground (and even a bit on the road). After the DAR, we joined the Tour of the Hilltowns route for the big descent westward on Rt 9, on pavement badly split by wide longitudinal cracks.

We stopped to refuel at the Creamery, enjoying the local color and the wide array of organic free-range kombucha flavors (they at least had Gatorade, though). I outlined the upcoming route, eliciting a very loud cry of despair from Joe when I mentioned turning onto Potash Hill Rd. I always try to mix in a few new (to me) roads when I plan a route, and had found some nice-looking paved climbs off of Rt 112 south of the Creamery (my feeling is that a road with “Hill” in its name is usually fun to ride 🙂 When we reached the left-turn onto Potash Hill Rd, Kevin looked at me and said “You’re kidding, right?”. But I wasn’t, so we forged ahead up an initial grade that was close to 20%, and on past some great scenery to the summit. Feeling a bit warm there, Joe remarked that it must be because we were now so much closer to the sun.

Looking at the map, I see other promising roads in the area, including Porter Hill Road and Clark Hill Road, not to mention the intriguing Trouble Street, so we’ll probably be back to revisit this area soon — hopefully Joe can join us for that ride, since he likes it so much up there 🙂

After the nasty climbing on Potash Hill, we had a great descent on Fairgrounds Road down to Rt 143, and then hit the Ireland St climb, which stair-steps up several steep sections, alternating them with false flats along the way. On this climb, as with most of the others, Tom and Mike F were battling it out at the front of the pack, followed closely by Roberto and Joe.

Down the other side of Ireland St to Rt 112 south, where Jonathan B found a second wind and was crushing some of the rolling hills along the way. That brought us to Rt 66 for the last big climb of the day. I was hurting by that point, and the lead group was out of sight in front of me, but we eventually made it to the top, and enjoyed the long downhill run back to Northampton. A great ride, with good teamwork along the way, and a lot of painful but enjoyable climbing.

For the round-trip from NoHo, I had 55 miles @ 16.9 mph, 5,100′ of climbing.