Sunday, September 15, 2013

Chesterfield and Westhampton: Hills, hills, and more hills

If you live in the valley and you want to suffer through some steep climbing without going all the way out to the Berkshires for your woe, I found just the route for you today. My first time up in these two towns, and when I say, "up..."

Well, read on.

I crossed the Connecticut on the bike trail first thing, and rode up to Williamsburg the back (steeper) way, via Audubon and South Streets, always a good check on the thigh status. I wish I had refilled low supplies at the stores in Williamsburg, since there were no such pit-stops for many miles after.

I turned left off Route 9 onto Route 143 just after Williamsburg and began a steep six-mile climb into Chesterfield. Think of Wendell Road, the long, hard climb from Route 63 to Wendell center -- but harder and longer. On the way up today, a fellow cyclist went whizzing by me on the way down; I waved, and he replied, "Woohoo!!" That'll give you some idea of the climb.

Great lunch spot on 143

Good enough for a closer shot
After lunch, I pulled into Chesterfield and glanced around -- and that's all it took. It's a tiny little crossroads, though a few of the houses are so perfectly colonial, I half-expected to espy a mother in petticoats and a bonnet in the yard wringing out the breeches and flouncy undergarments. Right out of an 18th Century print, it was.

Left on South Street at the intersection there, and I was rewarded with a swooping descent -- briefly. Then the descent becomes crazy rollers leading down overall -- but involving lots of up, too. Seemed cruel at the time. "This place hates me and wants to hurt me," muttered I. However, the scenery was rustic New England all the way; great stuff through there.

I went with my gut and took a right on King's Highway (more evidence of Colonial times?). Steep, curvy, gravel downhills, pretty well graded, thank goodness. Fun and scary and fun.

Check out the mailbox. Figured no one'd believe me, so I took a picture.
A quick stop at the KOA General Store in Westhampton for a Diet Coke, and then a left on Route 66. (The reader will here notice my admirable restraint in not making lame references to the song by the same name.)  A new road to me; I'd been avoiding it because it's a highway and I expected over-development. However, most of the way back into Northampton, it was pleasantly rural, very smoothly paved, and with a very cushy shoulder. Recommended as a connector route for anyone passing through.

Take note of Outlook Farm on 66 in Westhampton, a surprisingly large farm stand/grocery store (think Atkins Farm-size) with plentiful food/drink options, and picnic tables and benches strewn about.

Nuthin' beats local produce for fuel
From "Hamp," as locals call it, I made my way back across the river and home again, home again, jiggety-jig.

I'd do the route again, for sure, but I think it would be more rewarding in reverse. 66 would make a nice early-morning warm-up climb, and 143 isn't especially scenic, so would be well-suited to a very long, screaming descent -- as my fellow cyclist testified today. "Woohoo!!" indeed.

All in all, 46 miles and 3,200' of climbing, certainly my most ambitious altitude for the year to date -- but there's a metric century coming up in two weeks which will beat that all to heck. 'S'why I was out beating on my legs today: prep.

Guess you'll just have to stay tuned for that one. Heh, heh.

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