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PMC 2005: Day Zero, Huckleberries, West Stockbride to Sturbridge

Friday, August 5, 2005

"Mumble mumble mumble ... something something something ... national public radio ... " Where's that darn snooze button!? I can't find it! Let me sleep!

Wait! I can't hit snooze. It's time to ride!

I dragged myself out of bed and took a shower to wake up. It wasn't terribly early, I just wasn't waking up easily enough.

Weather Report

While we got ready, I left the radio on. The local NPR station, coming out of NY, gave the longest, most detailed weather report I've ever heard. The meteorologist went on for at least six or seven minutes with detailed statistics about heating and cooling days, maximum minimum temperatures, minimum maximum temperatures, maximum maximum temperatures, etc., etc., etc. It was wonderful! (I'm such a stats junky.)

In brief, it was going to be extremely hot and humid until a very powerful line of thunderstorms blew through the state from West to East, pushed along by the cold front moving in.

Click the image to see the entire
ride profile (644 kb).
Thanks, Steve!

Finding the Start

I packed most of the big stuff back into the truck, and we left. The innkeeper said it was only eight miles to the NY border...

He was wrong. It was closer to eleven miles. Between that and leaving later than we planned (so what else is new?), we didn't arrive until 8:22. Just the night before I had told Steve that we'd be there at 8:00 so that anyone who needed bags transported to Sturbridge could put them in the truck! In the end it didn't matter, there was a van going the same way and everybody had packed their bags into it already. Still, I felt bad.

The Start

To make the start more "interesting," the fastener/clamp/tightener/ratchet "thing" on the right side of my right shoe snapped off when I put my foot in! Oh man, there goes my whole weekend... I can't ride without shoes! Lucky for me, the screw had come loose and the end had snapped off. There was still enough left to screw it back on again, and all was well.

Steve Davis and Jim Boyko both came over to say Hi to Corinne. (Note to all friends for future encounters with Corinne: she has "gusto." If you're glad to see her, give her a big hug! No quick pats on the back, and definitely not a handshake. There, I'm glad to have that out of the way, as I should have said that years ago.)

Corinne left after she was sure I had everything and that nobody needed to send any bags with her. She was heading back to the hotel, which was actually on our route so I was promised a "cheering squad of one" in about a half hour's time. :-)

The riders all crossed the street, and some of the drivers took our pictures. (Hopefully, I'll get one of those pictures, somehow. I forgot my camera this weekend!) One of those photographers was none other than Jim Boyko's dad, Jim Senior! I first met him -- and was very impressed with him -- after riding the King's Tour of the Quabbin in 2003.

The first flat happened just a few miles after we started. (The same guy -- I never got his name -- flatted at least twice more.) Nobody knew whether to stop or keep going, so we did both. Steve stopped, along with most of the others. Jim Boyko and I, and two others, kept riding slowly, hoping they'd catch up. Jim decided they were riding too slow for me, and told me to go ahead with one of the other three. I did, a little, but then Steve caught up and said to slow it down because the others would never catch up at that pace.

Hmm. My friends like to tell me how fast to ride. Just noticed that.

Steve then sped up and lead the group faster than I had been riding! (It was a misunderstanding.)

Señor SAG

(Jim Sr. SAGged for us all day. He drove a Chevy Suburban full of coolers, each containing the three essential ingredients for life on the road: ice, water, and gatorade! He drove ahead of us, parked on the side, waited for all of us to pass, and then repeated those steps over and over again until we were in Sturbridge. There were "scheduled" water stops, and he was always there waiting for us. (Almost always, more on that later.) In short, Jim's dad was like two or three PMC volunteers all in one body, plus a sag wagon, but without the lime green shirt worn by all the other volunteers.)

Missing Cheerleader

Unfortunately, my cheering squad never materialized. I told her we'd pass through in about 30 minutes, but she mistimed it and never saw me pass. (Since the drive to the start was longer than we expected, she thought we'd pass through a bit later.) Still, she was my own personal SAG all weekend (that's a compliment!), just like the last two years, so I'm not complaining! I only mention it because she felt bad, she really wanted to see us pass. Oh well.

Hot Hot Hot

This was a hot day. REALLY REALLY STINKIN' HOT. This is why I called it "ninety five squared." Ninety five miles, and ninety five degrees. (Plus, it felt like 95% humidity, though I think it was only about 85%.)

Oh Yeah, The Ride...

"How went the ride," you ask? It was great! All the training this year made a difference, and I guess four days off was just right for me. I won't say I was the strongest guy there -- with guys like Mike and Andy around (friends of Dave Schlageter's), I'd only be kidding myself -- but I was the first up some of the climbs (including the MONSTER), and even sprinted to the top of a few of them! That was freaky. (I could tell Graham that, but he wouldn't believe it without confirmation from someone else that saw it.)

I told Steve that there must not be any kryptonite in the hills in Western Mass, like there are in SE Conn. He didn't get it, which is probably good since I should *never* brag. I need to stick to comparing my performance with nothing but my own performance...

Mark, Andy, and Dave

I didn't get everyone's names. I think I forgot to pack my brain for this trip! However, there are three names I should explain, because I'm sure they'll come up alot.

First, there's Dave Schlageter. I've mentioned my aunt, Ellyn (Dillingham) Schlageter, before. She's 9 years older than me, more like a big sister. She married Gary Schlageter. Dave is Gary's younger brother. Dave hasn't yet been riding for a year.

Mark and Andy are both friends of Dave. All three work for John Hancock. Dave is from Toronto, Andy and Dave are both from Atlanta.

Mark and Andy are fast. They're both former Category One racers, now they race/ride in the "masters" events. (Neither of them seem old enough for a category like "masters." Cycling is a tough sport!)

Andy rode with Steve Davis and Dave Schlageter in the Brasstown Bald Buster in February. He came in second, and was one of only a few guys to actually climb that whole monster hill.

Readers, meet Mark, Andy and Dave. Guys, meet the readers.

Learning to Fly

After cresting the top of the first of two huge climbs, I slowed down a little to catch my breath but Steve said I should go back to the front because it's a "screamin' downhill." OH MAN WAS HE RIGHT!!!! Never in my life have I descended a hill like that. It just kept going and going and going! I was out front, by myself. No traffic most of the time. I hit my top speed of the weekend on this hill: 53.1 mph. I could have gone faster, I wasn't pushing it in the steepest parts, but I didn't want to.

It felt like I was flying. In one long, straight part of the descent, I sat up and spread my arms a little (nothing too dramatic, they were still by my sides), and wished for wings. What a rush.

Other than one or two little bumps (small climbs), the descent off of that mountain went on for miles and took us into Huntington where we stopped at...


Huckleberries is the muffin/coffee shop where this ride has traditionally stopped to recharge. It's also, not coincidentally, the name of this ride.

Unfortunately, they were out of muffins. Really! In previous years, someone had called or written to warn them about the onslaught of hungry riders, but this year nobody remembered. This made the "muffin lady" a little cranky and sort of ruined the fun of a bunch of sweaty cyclists piling into a small town shop like that. Oh well.

We chatted for a little while, refilled our bottles from the SAG wagon, and then left again (in small groups). Shortly after Huckleberries came...

The Big Climb

The previous climb, that came before that awesome descent, was pretty tough, but it was "up and down." As in, go up for a half mile, then down (or at least level) for 1,000 feet, and repeat.

The climb shortly after leaving Huckleberries was different. It wasn't steep, but went on for 2 1/2 miles! Look at the ride profile if you don't believe me!

I think I did pretty well on this climb, considering my mass, but I'm not going to say more about it here. If anyone else wants to comment on it, that's great, just post a response, but anything I say about it is bound to be exaggerated, or understated, or misread. The only thing I will say with absolute certainty is that it was so hot, and that climb was so long, and I was concentrating so hard, that by the time I reached the top my brain was like the egg in that "this is your brain on drugs" commercial. I don't remember the descent off of that mountain at all.

North Hampton, MA

Like all smart cyclists, we know it's important to take time out from the ride to recharge with a good book. So, we stopped at the library in North Hampton, Mass.

No? Ok, we didn't actually enter the library, we just used the parking lot to regroup and refill our bottles again. Dave Schlageter had fallen way behind, somehow, and a couple riders started to worry enough that they were going to head back the way we had come in (forgetting that this is why the SAG wagon was there). He was fine, though, and acted like a "tough guy" climbing the little hill up the library's driveway.

Backtracking slightly... about ten minutes after we left the start of the ride (way back at the beginning), a van passed us heading towards the start with four more riders and their bikes. They waved, but it was way too late for us to wait, and we didn't really know who they were. They caught up with us at the library and made good use of the drinks in the truck, then stuck with us until lunch. (I'm still not sure who they were.)

Side note: North Hampton is known as one of the best cycling towns in the United States, and has been featured on OLN and in various magazines and newspapers.

Lunch at Atkins Farms

Just ten miles from the Library, we stopped at Atkins Farms for lunch. (Follow the link for a description. Very cool.) Nice place, with hardwood floors or tiling everywhere. I'm sure they loved having our stinky, sweaty selves walking all over the store in our cleats! :-)

My lunch consisted of a roast beef grinder (that's a sub for you non-locals), a couple of caffeinated cold drinks, and a bunch of fruit.

Did I mention it was hot? It was above 90° when we came out again, and that darn sun wouldn't stop beating on us. Most of our bikes were parked under a tree, and we talked about cutting the tree down to carry it between us for the shade. :-) Impractical, but at least we'd be hidden from the sun.

Back Thirty

We were about thirty miles from Sturbridge and the end of the ride. I think.

During lunch, Jim talked everyone into a route change. We would take Route 181 instead of climbing some brutal hill next to a cemetery. By this time, most of us felt like a few more "brutal hills" would land us over the cemetery fence, so to speak, so it wasn't a hard sell. I've never done this ride anyway, so it really didn't make much difference to me. The ride length was supposed to come out about the same.

The group split up. The four that caught us at the library left ahead of us. I rode with Mark and Andy for awhile, but decided their pace was slightly too high so I told them I was going to back it off slightly to save some for the rest of the weekend.

Things are a little fuzzy here -- I think this part of my brain probably baked in the sun for too long -- but somehow Mike Lucas ended up riding with me. We stopped at a convenience store to refill our bottles with gatorade and hope for the SAG wagon's appearance. The four who had left ahead of us were there, but they took off again shortly after we showed up. After fifteen minutes, we gave up waiting for SAG. We thought that perhaps they had passed us while we were in the store.

On we rode. Clothes fusing to our skin with baked sweat-salt. Hands fusing to handlebars. Feet welded to pedals. Tires melting, sticking to the molten river of tar that passes for a road when it's a million degress out. Just Mike and I, Mike mostly drafting because his knee hurt. Me pulling hard because there was nothing else to do except, literally, flame out.

The half-bottle of gatorade that I had left was HOT. Not just luke warm, but hot!

Finally, I told Mike I had to stop, but he saw a sign for a rest area. Just another half mile. OK. Since were actually riding on a four lane divided highway (but not "limited access"), this was a real rest area pull off to the right. This was the last official regrouping point on the ride.

I laid down in the ashes that used to be grass, and tried to think cool thoughts and remember how to breathe. After ten minutes, Mike tried to call Steve (voice mail), and then Jim, to figure out where everybody was hiding. Just as he got Jim's voice mail, riders came around the curve and pulled into the rest area with us. SAG wasn't far behind, and that's a sight that brought a tear to my eye!

Well, it would have if there had been any water left in my body.

Everybody sat down and tried to cool off. I drank a bottle and a half of ice-cold fluids. This helped enough that I realized it wasn't actually a million degrees, the grass hadn't burned up, and the roads hadn't completely melted yet. I was recharged.

dave schlageter hoses down.jpg
Dave Schlageter cools off at Jim Boyko Sr.'s house before finishing the ride to Sturbridge.
Photo by Jim Boyko Jr

Jim (and Dave?) never caught up with us at the rest area. Dave was having muscle cramps, and Jim just didn't want to push it in the heat. Jim had told his Dad to let us go on ahead, so we did and the SAG wagon waited there for them. They eventually made a side-trip to Jim's parent's house, where they cooled off under a hose before finishing the ride into Sturbridge.

With two icy-cold water bottles and my core temperature back down out of the red, I pulled most of the last ten miles to Sturbridge. That is, with one major exception.

Without warning, Steve suddenly blasted past us like his shorts were on fire! (I had to look carefully... in that heat, they very well may have been burning.) Too late, I realized what he had done: taken the town line sprint into Sturbridge. Sneaky git. (He can have the green jersey if I can have the polkadots.)

Please note that Steve has a more detailed and slightly different recall of the hours after lunch. I've asked him to post a response to clear some things up. Apparently I abandoned a rider in distress, without knowing it! No joke, and that's not funny. :-(

Finish Line

The ride was effectively over when we got to the first hotel. Four or five of the riders shook hands and high-fived all around, then peeled off. All the rest did the same when we passed the Sturbridge Host (the official starting point for PMC Day 1, and rider check in this afternoon). I still had two miles to go, up the hill to the Scottish Inn where Corinne would be waiting.

The storms were catching up, finally. I had told Mike that I hoped they would catch us so things would cool off a little, but he said I didn't want to be caught out in a thunderstorm on my bike in the Berkshires. At the time, I disagreed.

I was wrong.

The wind was blowing as I pulled into the parking lot. I stopped at the desk to get my key. It blew harder still as I rolled into the room and shut the door behind me, waking up Corinne from her nap at the same time.

The air conditioning was blasting, the room was cold. Yay!

BANG!!! The first peal of thunder. The rain started, and it came down amazingly hard. I took my shower, but I'm not sure why I bothered... it was raining harder outside that it was in the tub. Should have just stayed outside!

Overall, this really was a great ride. (If not for the heat, it would have been perfect!) I went into it thinking there were 10,000+ feet of climbing, but it turned out to be less than 7,000.

Stats: 97.15 miles (156.4 km) in 5h 16' 16" for an average speed of 18.43 mph (29.67 kph).

Page last updated: 8/17/2005

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