On this perfect Saturday morning (full sunshine, 70’s) – finally – we had only five riders gather at Pulaski. Apparently I sufficiently (scared?) away folks with the ride description: “this won’t be an easy ride” Actually it is not unusual mid-summer to have a lower participation on weekend rides. Between families trying to squeeze in family events and vacations on the nice weather days before school starts up again.
We try to cover as much of Western Massachusetts as we can over the riding season, taking us off the usual routes to something new and enjoying as much of the beautiful scenery as we can get. Peru is a classic destination for this. It is always a balance between miles and elevation planning these out- there is no easy way to get to Peru, as it is the highest altitude town in Massachusetts.
And so we were off with our small group- with plenty of time to chat because we got all three red lights on Elm St. We met Johnathan coming the other way on Elm, as he was running late due to a flat or two.
With not much time to relax (less than 4 miles!), we got to the Chesterfield “walls” to wake up our legs. For those of you who do the Tuesday series, this is the Leeds/Chesterfield Hillclimb. That took care of a little over 1000′ right away! At the top, we found Mike Y…. we joked about how he got there, with a SUV parked over in a nearby driveway or air lifted, etc… nice way to make the ride easier (just kidding!).
A beautiful ride down through the Bisbee section of Chesterfield, then (more climbing) back up to the center. All of the effort so far was now rewarded with a screaming fast descent down Rte 143 into the West Chesterfield section, and over the east branch of the Westfield River. Of course that rest was over quite rapidly, so on to more (but gentle) climbing to Worthington Corners where we stopped for refreshments.
Sufficiently hydrated, we set out on fresh pavement with Peru just the next town over. Only about 700′ higher to go! One of the things I like about this route is even though we are on a state highway, it is very low traffic and quiet. The climb from the corners to the center of Peru is beautiful- there are areas with open grassy fields and spectacular views. Some of us chose to hammer ahead to the top, the rest of us took it at a slower pace and enjoyed the scenery more.
After the photo op, it was “mostly” downhill for a while. From the center of Peru, we took a left onto South Rd, which is a fun and beautiful descent, linking us up with the Skyline Trail. The next fifteen miles were the best part of the ride in my opinion. The trail runs from Chester to Hinsdale. We jumped on it at maybe a little more than halfway up it. There has been a SMR that goes the entire trail- and we may do that sometime again. Anyway, thankfully we were headed south – down- it. This section never is never disappointing. There is mixed forest and open fields on each side. We even had several chances to make sure our climbing legs still worked, as a couple of ramps pop up here and there.
At the bottom in Huntington, we stopped again to refill on fluids, none of us really looking forward to the ride home.
As with much of Western Massachusetts, usually you pay the price for a nice descent in order to get back home. From Huntington, the choice is to add 25+ additional miles or suffer with 10-12% climbing for a little while. Since we were not going to do a century today, the choice is County Rd or Rte 66. They both hurt, but we went with County Rd.
At our final regroup we took a minute to catch a breath or two, and looked forward to the fun (mostly) descent back down to Northampton on Rte 66. Folks started peeling off at various points on Rte 66 and it was just Felix and I rolling into town. Speaking of- Felix is new to the club and this was his longest road ride ever! What a choice of a ride and a big congratulations to him for this huge accomplishment!
At 1:45 PM I had 63.5 miles, 5,658′ of climbing +/- depending on what device you believe.