June 23, 2013
Fitchburg, MA to Northampton, MA
Leaving Fitchburg, we were told that we would have to go up a few more hills before we get out of the town, but then it would be all down hill from there. I set off with a fun group, prepared to stop at any and all swimming places we could find (unfortunately there weren't many). One of the first cities we went through had a sign deeming it chair city! And sure enough, right when we go over a hill there was a giant chair! Naturally we all stopped and got on it.
After we finished climbing the next hill, a guy walking his dog told us that it was all downhill from there to Northampton. Unfortunately, that was not so true. Next was lunch at Irving state forest. It was three miles to the beach/picnic area and completely uphill. It was definitely the steepest hill we had encountered yet. After getting off of our bikes we all got in the water, which felt amazing. What was even more amazing was that one of our trip leaders, Kristen, was being visited by her coworkers and they brought us all lunch! Swimming and lunch, the perfect afternoon on bike and build.
However, that was where it stopped being great. We had heard that the road we were supposed to go on next was not safe for cyclists and actually prohibited bikers from traveling on it. The leaders talked with a guy on the beach who biked the area frequently and he suggested we either shuttle ourselves by the van past the dangerous area or we reroute up hill for 10 miles. We ended up choosing the reroute. I thought the hill we went up to get to lunch was bad, but the hills we encountered after lunch were a couple times worse. At two points, the hills were so steep and long that we had to get off and walk our bikes or we would have fallen over. The group cleverly calls this "hike and build". And a hike it was.
Thankfully after climbing up the hill there was usually a downhill right after that went by much faster. The upside was that we got some amazing views of the Berkshire's and western Massachusetts!
The rest of the ride was an extreme struggle with more hills and open fields. Throughout the day we were told by multiple people once we got to the top of a hill that it was all downhill from there. Not once was any of them telling the truth. I didn't reach the host site until 5:30, and at that point I wasn't ready to be happy and cheerful with anyone--all I wanted was a shower and alone time. Luckily I was able to get some time away that night since Andrew came down to visit and we went and got dinner in Amherst and then spent some time walking around the campus. By the time I got back to the church I was exhausted and crashed on my thermarest.