As I write this, we have several inches of frozen snow and ice on the ground,
the roads are seriously flooded and rutted, and the potholes have already
begun to appear. But, believe it or not, biking season is just around the
corner. I hope all of you are hitting your wind trainers, cross-country
skis and the like to keep in shape.
As we approach the new season, I'd like to share with you some of my goals for the Franklin-Hampshire Freewheelers Bicycling Club (heretofore referred to as the "Club") for the coming year. First and foremost, I'd like to encourage more participation by the club members in the actual organization and running of the Club. We've all come to rely too heavily on Bob and Sally, and Al and Marion, and others to keep on top of the Club's business, but it is not fair to put all these burdens exclusively on them.
Participation would also include more involvement by the members in the devising and, in particular, the leading of Club rides. You may recall that on our last ride schedule, [almost] all the road rides were listed as "Show and Go's" because no one volunteered to lead a ride. I encourage each member to lead at least one ride during the coming year. You can devise your own route, or use one of the many routes that have been utilized in the past. There really isn't much involved in leading a ride, and it doesn't depend on a person's skill level. It really comes down to simply securing the signatures on the release sheet, passing out cue sheets, and paying some attention to make sure that everyone finishes the ride or is at least accounted for. In any event, get involved! It can be fun, and it is important to the Club.
I would like every member to do what he or she can to increase the Club's membership. There are a number of people that I have met in recent years that are new to biking and would love to become involved in a club. Biking's popularity is increasing every year. It's important that, as a Club that has as one of its goals biking advocacy, we reach out to those new bicyclists and encourage good riding habits, camaraderie and the like. "New blood" is necessary to maintain the vitality of any club.
Lastly, I wish you all a good riding season, and hope that the wind is always at your back and the roads are all downhill!
Are you ready for our latest adventure? Here it is! We returned to Alaska for a third time and visited the Kenai Peninsula and Kodiak Island. The Kenai is a microcosm of all Alaska and compresses its beauty into an area about 1/35th the size of the state - mountains, ice fields, glaciers, fjords, islands, swampy plain, varied climate, large rivers and lakes, a few scattered port towns, and more - beautiful!
We flew to Anchorage and spent two nights with our friends Jerry and Marilee before heading down the Seward Highway towards Seward. Friends from back home [Tom and Kate?], traveling by van, joined us at our campground our first night out. Jerry and Marilee met and bicycled with us the second day. Our third day, we reached Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park on the outskirts of Seward and camped there. After biking 138 beautiful, scenic miles from Anchorage, we shifted gears to hiking.
The glacier was within sight and walking distance of our campsite, so we hiked the lower and upper loops and a piece of the nearby 70-mile Resurrection Trail system, which goes to Hope. When Tom and Kate joined us again, we went on a spectacular 10-hour nature cruise on the Gulf of Alaska in Kenai Fjords National Park. It was so beautiful and there was so much to see, we suffered sensory overload. The following day, Al and Tom hiked up to the Harding ice field, while Kate and I drove into town and did the laundry - and the shops. All four of us hiked on the beautiful Coastal Trail the next day, then parted company again.
Al and I headed for Kodiak Island on the ferry - a 13-hour overnight ride. We set up our tent on the upper deck and the waves of the open ocean lulled us to sleep that night. Kodiak Island is a beautiful island with friendly people. It is 60 by 100 miles in size and has a population of about 14,000 people, 12,00 of whom live in and around the town of Kodiak. It has Alaska's longest history, largest fishing fleet, the country's biggest brown bears and a Coast Guard station. It is perched on the continental shelf on the edge of the Aleutian trench. It has an interesting history dating back to before the Russian occupation and includes a role in World War II. It has 100 miles of roads, only 14 are paved. We spent a week on the island, bicycled gravel roads, visited the museums, talked with the inhabitants, and camped all but one night. We bicycled along the water and in the mountains and camped wherever we found a spot, as well as in Fort Abercrombie Historic Park, amongst the stately Sitka spruce and World War II bunkers. We thoroughly enjoyed Kodiak Island and felt sad to leave.
Our next port-of-call was Seldovia, a beautiful, quaint and secluded historic fishing village at the tip of the Kenai Peninsula, with a population of about 300 and accessible only by boat or plane. We slept on the deck of the overnight ferry, but splurged in Seldovia by renting a one-room cabin with cooking facilities. The highlight of our stay in Seldovia was a day of sea kayaking in beautiful Seldovia Bay.
From Seldovia we ferried to Homer, but except for the Pratt Museum we were not impressed by Homer and leapfrogged to Hope junction via the Homer stage. Hope is a former gold-mining boomtown, with a population of about 200. It's a shabby but picturesque log cabin town. We camped at Porcupine Campground for three nights and spent two days hiking. We liked Hope, but all good things must come to an end and so, on July 5, we headed for Portage.
A hard day's ride - 47 miles - with a headwind going uphill, rain going downhill, and a flat tire in the rain, brought us back to our first campground - where we camped in the rain. However, the company of a German traveler that evening cheered us.
The next day we arrived back in Anchorage, where we cleaned up, bought new panniers for our next trip, went mountain biking and hiking with Jerry and Marilee before flying home July 9. We bicycled 535 miles in all and might have done more if we hadn't taken so much time off for hiking and other activities. It was a beautiful trip characterized by much variety.
Marilee and Jerry returned our visit in October and biked and hiked in the Pioneer Valley. I had broken the head of my humerus (left arm), which fits into the shoulder socket, in a bicycling accident at the Eastern Tandem Rally in Fitchburg, MA in August and was unable to fully participate. It was a bad break and I am still undergoing physical therapy and doing home exercises. I have about 50% range of motion now. The orthopedist predicts 80%; I'm aiming for 90%.
My book BICYCLING THE PIONEER VALLEY ... and Beyond is out and selling well I am told. It has been accepted by Amazon.com and is available at Eastern Mountain Sports in Hadley and most of the area bookstores. I've had three book signings. New England Cartographics, which publishes books of this nature, is my publisher.
I could go on and on about our other activities, but I think I've gone on
long enough, so I will conclude as I started by wishing you Happy Holidays,
a Happy New Year, peace, love and friendship.
At 6:30 AM on September 20th, the volunteers gathered at the Hadley Village Barn Shops parking lot to sign in the 35 FHFers and 114 non-members. The day started out foggy and cool, but warmed up to the lower 80's when the fog lifted.
A few riders fell crossing the badly angled railroad tracks in Vermont - there were no serious injuries, just scrapes and contusions to bicycles and humans. Riders must cross tracks perpendicular to the tracks. The following drawing illustrates this point. The tracks will grab the front wheel if the rider hits them at an oblique angle.
Even the registration volunteers got a chance to ride at least a Quarter
Century. By dividing up into short shifts, they were able to ride either
before or after their stint at the desk. The volunteers are what make
any century ride possible - be sure to thank them for their efforts!
I made up a similar question. On Saturday at Molly Stark, there were 8 bikes and 6 tents in the overflow camping area near the picnic pavilion. On Sunday, there were 7 bikes and 5 tents in the same area. How many bike campers were there on Saturday, and how many were there on Sunday? You may ask questions that elicit a "yes" or "no" answer only. Hint: the group would have been more than 30% larger, but the weather was gloomy and the forecast was for deteriorating conditions.
We got as far as the little snowmobile suspension bridge before the rain started. We sought shelter under a bunch of pine trees while we put on rain jackets, pants & booties. We were sheltered from the rain at the designated lunch spot because we ate INSIDE the Green River covered bridge. After 2800 feet of climbing in 30 miles, we arrived at our destination.
The ranger at Molly Stark Campground did not expect us to show up - we surprised her! She allowed us to take over the picnic pavilion where we strung up a web of clothesline. No one was picnicking in the drizzle that fell when we arrived. We quickly set up our tents and got ready to go to Poncho's Wreck for dinner. Beth & Pete chose to stay at the pavilion and cook dinner there. We promised that we'd return and fire up the Outback Ovens for another bake-off dessert.
It was cold and damp as we rode to Wilmington, but it was pouring for the return trip to Molly Stark! We were all happy to pay 25 cents for a hot shower. The bake-off produced an apple pie by Al and chocolate chip cookie bars by Sally. We sat around the campfire stuffing our tummies. (Yes, you CAN have a campfire in the rain!)
The rain stopped on Sunday around 4 AM. The bake-off continued with scratch-baked coffeecake by Al and hot, gooey cinnamon buns by Sally. After breakfast, it was decision time. We had to decide to stay or go home. A tiny patch of BLUE SKY to the north convinced us to stay and ride to Newfane for lunch. (The group did get smaller, though, see the question above.) The riders were treated to some peeks of sun during the middle of the day. The evening meal was pizza and pasta in Wilmington, but a few members of the group chose to do pizza takeout and secured their pies on Blackburn racks for transport back to the campground. The campfire was much easier to start and maintain on Sunday evening. Everybody gathered around the light and warmth of the fire and told stories & jokes, and got to know each other better.
For breakfast on Monday morning, we had the usual instant oatmeal, etc. and were treated to a coffeecake made from muffin mix to which cinnamon, sugar and apple chunks were added. Beth "harvested" the apples by sitting on Pete's shoulders and whacking them out of a tree with a stick. (We have photos for proof!)
The last treat of the weekend occurred at the country store (where there's
allegedly a 3-state view). There was an acappella group from MIT singing
on the deck! They were quite good, and we were an appreciative audience.
When they finished, we climbed back on our fully loaded bikes for the quick
30-mile descent back to Greenfield.
King Corner Road - what a misnomer! Heavy summer rains had created a gully that cut deeply into the "road" forcing us to ride on the edges (or walk). Bob Austin rode all but a few places on his cross bike, and I was dazzled. Stetson Road looked just like someone's driveway as it climbed up a steep hill at the end of King Corner "Road".
We ate lunch at the State Forest headquarters, enjoying sandwiches, fruit and hot tea on the lawn in weak sunshine. The cold wind shortened our lunch break, and sent us off in search of a hill to warm us up. Hills? Yeah, we had hills. The ride was 18 miles in length with 1890 feet of climbing... that's over 100 feet per mile. We offered optional single track for those desiring more demanding terrain. About a dozen riders rose to the challenge, the rest followed pleasant dirt roads back to the parking lot.
Lunch was at the Monk's Cave after some pleasant dirt road riding. We rode pavement past Lake Wyola. The day had turned cloudy, and the wind had increased. Everyone was happy to get back into the woods on a series of dirt roads and deer track. Those that found the single track too twisty and challenging walked their bikes for the quarter-mile section.
We checked on the beaver pond and found that it was still abandoned. The beavers have taken up residence elsewhere. We offered a pavement option back to the parking lot that everyone declined! Everyone rode 16 miles and climbed 1360 feet - not as steep as Hawley, thank goodness.
Back at the cars, we made plans for post-ride activities that included a trip to Bart's in Amherst. We also talked about continuing mountain bike rides that would be arranged on a week to week basis depending on weather conditions, with information passed on by telephone [how '80s].
Alas, the warm weather could not last, but we were able to bike on snow-free trails until after Christmas. Some snow fell in late December and was immediately reduced to icy boilerplate with no recreational value at all! We chose to ride in Southern Connecticut to welcome the New Year.
Finally there was snow - Mass. had bulletproof hardpack, so we drove to the Heritage in Dover, VT for the first cross-country ski trip of 1999. Ideally, we'd like to be backcountry skiing on trails in state forests, but we are content to go to areas with good grooming equipment until the conditions improve.
If you would like to join us on a Mountain Bike or Ski outing, call Bruce
Kitson or me.