Saturday, August 21, 2021

Abandon hope all ye who enter here!

The 160 KM route for this year's Deerfield Dirt Road Randonee was a modified version of the first mystery ride in 2016.  Of all the rides Will and I have ridden together, the 160 KM remains our favorite route and have been riding it since 2014.

Will and I attempted the first D2R2 Mystery route back in 2016, which I named my post about it: Napoleon's Death March. We probably would have had better success if we had did the roadie version instead of the mountain bike one. Today was our chance to take a mulligan on the original D2R2 Mystery route, accompanied by Will Boericke,  a member of our D2R2 crew with a similar lust for adventure and challenging bike rides. Wheels were rolling by 7:05 AM.

The First Dirt road we hit was Hawks Road just after the 3rd mile on the course. Further down the road Will hit a dip in the road funny and crashed. His knee and elbow were a little bloody, his right lever knocked inwards and his derailleur hanger was bent. Otherwise he felt good. Didn't hit his head or break anything.

Will B was able to bend the hanger back enough and adjust his L screw so that the bike was in working order and Will would have all his gears.

The morning started out cool and overcast, with some wisps of mist still in the trees. It was one of those glasses on, glasses off kind of morning rides.

After Hawks Road, we were on pavement for approximately 7 miles but it was still challenging.

then came a one mile dirt section on North Warger Road,

followed by 2 more miles of pavement

then more dirt on 
Phillips Road, which was closed to normal traffic

and included a challenging little climb

The first rest stop was a little over 20 miles into the course

Will got a little first aid while we watered up 

and stuffed our faces for what was to come next

Just past one of the most infamous D2R2 climbs I heard a loud bang come from my bike but it didn't feel like I ran over anything. 

The chain didn't break because I was still pedaling, trying to keep up with the two Wills, and nothing else seemed out of the ordinary so I just kept going.

Then came the steepest dirt road on the course and probably one of the toughest hills in all of D2R2 land

On ClimbPro, I thought I saw 23% but RWGPS is saying its actually even steeper. Sandy Whittlesey says he has physically measured the grade and it comes in at 27%.  

Anything over 20% is wicked steep and in the middle of this climb I started to question my decision on my choice of gearing, namely my front ring. 

I got up the hill but it would have been nice to have a little more gear ratio to play with.

I remembered this next one from 5 years ago and it was hasn't gotten any better. The climb on the road that is negotiable by cars is brutally steep with an average grade of 11%

but when you see the trail disappearing into the woods still heading upwards reminds me of the inscription on the entrance to Hell:

Abandon hope all ye who enter here!

I rode into the maw and before I pedaled as far as I could and then got off the bike. I noticed a tingling sound coming from my wheel and when I started checking spokes I found one broken and realized that the sound I heard earlier was that of a spoke breaking.  Once you get past the Napoleon's Death March section, which is basically a stream bed that might be rideable if you were on a mountain bike I was able to ride the flatter section near the top.

I met Will B half way up the hill and when we exited the gates of hell in one piece Will M was nowhere to be found. We caught up to him further up the road.

Crossing into Vermont I saw some cows. There were a few dairy farms on the route up this point but their cows were nowhere to be seen until these.

The sun popped out around noon as we neared Whittingham.  

Back in Massachusetts there is this great view looking towards Charlemont and the start of a big dirt road descent to route 2 and the lunch stop at The Boat House Galley.  Over half way now!

The longest continual climb on today's route, 5 miles, started on West Hawley Road and then turned onto Middle Road and ended at East Hawley Road. 

Middle Road, if you can believe it slightly harder than East Road, and I used to think there was nothing harder than East Road. It started out easy but once you crossed over the brook it got steep really fast.

I thought about stopping but knowing that both Wills were waiting for me at the top I pressed on

I rode with this guy on a mountain bike for awhile. He had Young MC playing on a Bluetooth speaker and we fixed gear ratios - he wanted to know if there was a secret sauce to fixed gear gearing. I gave him the Sheldon Brown Standard, 42x15.

Mountain bike guy and I caught up to these two women who were stopping for a break just as we rode by.

Before turning onto East Road we had this wonderful view looking east

We turned north again, descending East Road and then at the next intersection we turned east again on to Labelle Road, which goes behind Berkshire East Ski Mountain.

Then began the second Napoleon's Death March of today's ride this snowmobile trail 

which has a section that is over a 25% grade!

Just 28 miles to go after the last rest stop

At the next vista we looked out and determined that the lone mountain must be Wachussett

Will B and I rode the Dirty Wachussett route last month.

Second to last climb on today's route on Main Poland Road. The hillside looks damaged by a tornado

The last climb on the route, according to ClimbPro, was Fields Hill Road

It's the kind of climb that keeps just giving 

and giving!

Fields Hill Road was mostly trail that would have been better on a Mountain Bike

It was mostly rideable with some slick rock that looked to too slick to roll

The same could be said for Roaring Brook Road

Now with 5 miles to go we were in the Connecticut River plain and there was no more climbing

Just marvelous views

The last stretch to the finish line. Since we were not going back to the camp grounds because DCR closed all the State Camping grounds before Hurricane Henri made landfall I had to take my famous rear tailgate shower. I basically set my 2.5 gallon water container up on the open tail gate of my SUV and open the valve and let the water trickle over me and wash off all the dirt and grime from the ride. Then Will and I had dinner and he took off for home.

I went to check out the swag and bought a few things and when I tried starting my car it wouldn't start. I tried my emergency jumper but it didn't work. I called AAA and was on hold for 30 minutes until I finally got through to their dispatch service. They said someone be there between 8 and 9. I went back to try the car again but no luck. That's when Sandy saw me and asked if I needed a jump. I said sure and that's what got the car started and I headed home.

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