By Jonathan O'Keeffe
Published 03/16/2013; Updated 10/27/2021

by Jonathan O’Keeffe » Sat Mar 16, 2013 8:06 pm

I came close to cancelling this ride, with a bit of snow overnight and temperatures hovering around freezing in the morning. But the roads were dry in the morning, and I figured we’d get some cold-weather stalwarts to show up. I was right, with a crew of nine bundled up at the Academy — Roberto and myself, along with Joe, Clayton, Chris, Ron, John, Rich, and one other — can’t remember who, my brain might still be a bit frozen.

Roberto and I planned out a route up into Chesterfield and then down through Huntington, returning on Route 66. The first order of business was to preview the Northampton Hillclimb, on tap for this coming Tuesday. But before we could do that, we had to deal with one of our crew who had forgotten his helmet. Joe had an extra one at home, so we made a quick pit stop at Chez Lellman on our way to the base of the climb.

The climb started off fairly mellow, with most of the group sticking together up the first steep section, with the exception of Roberto who quickly shot off the front, to be soon joined by John. They were quickly out of sight by the time we approached the crest of the first hill. Conditions were already starting to deteriorate, as the dry roads of the flatlands turned wet with melting snow as we gained a couple hundred feet of elevation.

By the time we got to the upper stretches of the climb, the roads were a mess, with lots of new-fallen snow in the roadway, seeming to melt and freeze at the same time, leaving long stretches of water, ice, and slush. We pressed on further west on Chesterfield Road, but the precarious conditions as we were descending made it clear that staying at the higher elevations was foolhardy. This put the kibosh on our original route plan; instead, we pressed on to the center of Chesterfield and headed east on Rt. 143, a face-freezing, slush-splashing descent back to Rt. 9 in Williamsburg. We contemplated extending the route at lower elevations, but there was little enthusiasm for this, since most of the bodies and the bikes were coated with a layer of frozen sludge at this point.

When we split up in Northampton, I had about 31 miles @ 15.5 mph, 2,500′ of climbing.