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PMC Day 0: The Huckleberries Ride Again

This was the third year in a row that I participated in the Huckleberries ride. This is a 95 mile ride from the border between New York and Massachusetts (on Route 102 in West Stockbridge) to Sturbridge, MA.

A few things about this ride never seem to change: the core group who has been doing it for eleven years (this was only my third), the heat, and the pain of climbing the longest hills.

One thing that does change is how we all handle the weather and the climbing from year to year. Two years ago I rode quite well (for me) in spite of heat and humidity like I've never experienced (on a long ride) before or since. Last year was hot but rainy and I suffered with stomach cramps for the second half. This year it was very hot again (a little less humid) and I felt great for the whole ride other than five or ten minutes when I had to work out a cramp in my right inner thigh.

Route Map

route map thumbnail

Click the image to see a Google Map of Friday's route.

The Route

Here's the route map. The green marker is the start on the NY/MA line. The first waypoint is Huckleberries, a restaurant (coffee shop) in downtown Huntington, MA that makes tasty muffins and great coffee.

The second waypoint marks the big, mean mountain we have to climb for 2 1/2 miles, with bellies full of muffins and coffee. Ugh.

The third is the lunch stop at Atkins Farms Country Market.

The fourth is the official end of the ride, at the Sturbridge Host Hotel (or for some people, the hotel right next door where they were staying). The Host is the start of the PMC on Saturday morning.

The end of the route is the Scottish Inn, 1.7 miles up a hill from the Host. After a long day on the bike, 96 miles of hills and hot weather, those extra miles up that hill were enough to elicit at least a whimper out of me.

Would You Please Go!?

Corinne and I spent the night at a small motel just a few miles from the start. So, unlike previous years, she didn't have to drive me anywhere super early in the morning, as I could just ride to the start.

Unfortunately, Thursday night was the third in a row that I didn't sleep well (the first two because I read Harry Potter, the third because of all the travel and the hotel bed). I just couldn't seem to engage my brain on Friday morning. I'd leave the room, remember something, go back, knock on the door (getting Corinne out of bed to let me in), grab the item, say another "Happy Anniversary" and apologize for coming back (again), leave for the start... and then repeat. Over and over again. I must have done that five or six times.

I was supposed to be there at 7 and we were leaving at 7:30. I arrived at 7:45, we left ten minutes later. When I showed up, the pictures had just been taken and it was time to load up bottles before rolling.

Rolling... and Flatting

Ten minutes after we hit the road, a van honked as it went past. Later we found out that it was Rawson Hubbel and his friend Mike (and whoever was driving). Rawson found out about the Huckleberries ride with a Google search which brought him here. (He contacted me, and I made sure he was on our email cc-list for planning the ride.)

Rawson had warned us that he wouldn't be able to start with us, but hoped he would catch up with us at Huckleberries (the restaurant) or at lunch. He got lucky, though: a few miles after they honked at us, we rolled through a field of broken glass and two of our 18 wheels went flat (one was Mike Lucas's, not sure who the other was). It took about fifteen minutes to fix them (even with the floor pump in the SAG wagon), so Rawson and Mike caught us early.

To Huckleberries

There was a tandem riding with us this year, and they went on ahead when the tires went flat so they could climb the mountain at their own pace. We caught them and all regrouped at the top... and then came the descent toward Huntington.

(Rawson and Mike caught us when we stopped on this climb.)

Zoom! That's a fast hill. I hit my high speed of the weekend here, at 52.7 mph. The tandem hit 53.2 (grr). I really thought my new gear (bigger chain ring) would give me a little boost in the descent, but that's actually 0.5 mph slower than last year.

The stop in Huntington was supposed to be a quick one, but it never is. There's only one waitress in the restaurant, and a swarm of yellow-clad cyclists is pretty disruptive.


After breakfast we ride on flat roads for a few miles before starting the 2 1/2 mile climb near Gardner State Park. That climb has a lot of false summits (and somehow, when it's super hot and the road just keeps going up forever, the brain is more gullible). I thought I had reached the top so I pulled over so everybody could regroup... but about half just rolled through because they knew we weren't there yet. That really is a long climb.

We skipped the traditional library stop in North Hampton because lunch is just seven or eight miles later, and we were already running later than we had intended (thanks to my late arrival and the flat tires).

For lunch I had half of a roast beef sandwich (as always) and lots of fruit from the salad bar.

To Sturbridge

There are about thirty three miles between Atkins Farm Market (lunch) and the Sturbridge Host Hotel. Now we're into the hottest part of the day, and there's one significant hill left to climb. I doubt this one has a name, but it's a gradual ascent for about a mile and a half up to the rest area on the side of Route 20.

I started the pull up the hill, and then rotated back. Steve Weiss (the George Hincapie look-alike) took over with a steady pace. Everything was going fine... and then OW!! I had a cramp in my right inner thigh. I had to drop back and baby it for a few minutes, but I was lucky: once it was gone, it never came back. (I've heard horror stories, but have never had problems with recurring leg cramps.)

It took us a few minutes to regroup at the rest area, and then a few minutes more to actually start rolling again. I think it's less than ten miles from there to the hotel in Sturbridge, and it's pretty easy riding, but...

Some people just don't know when to settle down. People like... me. I felt good, and was eagerly anticipating someone (anyone) sprinting for the Sturbridge town line. (Steve Davis always seems to sprint for the last town line, so now I watch for it.) I couldn't remember exactly where the line was, guessed (badly) that it was "around the next corner" and took off. When I realized it was nowhere in sight, it was too late: Mike Lucas came flying after me, and actually yelled at me for riding so fast because I was "making Steve (Weiss) work too hard." (I had been pulling, and Steve took over when I rode away.)


We arrived at the hotel (Sturbridge Coach, just before the Host) at... hmm, I don't remember the exact time. Maybe 3:00? (2:00?) A few people rode on to their hotels immediately, most of us rode up to the Coach and took more pictures.

Corinne had already checked in to our hotel, the Scottish Inn, when I got there about fifteen minutes later.

Stats: 98.01 miles (157.7 km) in 4h 59' 16" for an average speed of 19.65 mph (31.63 kph). Also, I drained about twenty bottles of water and gatorade.


After showering and telling Corinne about my day, saying "Happy Anniversary" a couple more times, and smelling the wonderful pasta she had picked up for me (!), I drove down to the Host to register and hang out for a little while.

After parking the truck, I realized that I was going to walk right through a huge gaggle of SAG vans. After a few minutes of asking around, I finally met Chris, who is on the road crew and has posted here quite a few times in the last few years.

Steve and Paul Davis happened to be right in front of me at registration, so we had a few minutes to chat. My wrist band had the wrong contact information so I had to wait in line a second time so they could fix it. Then a third line at the "free socks" table for a pair of Verge cycling socks that were surprisingly comfortable. (The girl at the table asked me, "What size are you?" I just looked at her, amused, and she said, "Oh, right," and gave me the largest pair.) Finally, I headed back to the meal tent for a snack and to see who else was around. Eventually Steve called to tell me that they were at a table by the gazebo, so I wandered over to hang out with them and Chris Rawsen. (That was the only time I saw Chris all weekend.)

Tired and hungry, I was back at our hotel by 7:00, eating my pasta and waiting for the "kickoff show" on TV.

I requested a 4:15 wake-up call, but didn't fall asleep until some time after 10:30. That made four nights in a row with far too little sleep. (Do you hear the ominous thunder off in the distance?)

For anybody who's wondering: yes, I feel a little guilty about spending my 10th anniversary on the bike. Corinne seemed to have no problem with it, but I felt plenty guilty.

Page last updated: 8/10/2007

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