For several weeks before yesterday’s Bike Fest sponsored by the Northampton Cycling Club, I’d been encouraging people to join me at this celebration of cycling in the Pioneer Valley. This event was big time, and the club had gone all out to plan and promote it. Roadside ads were all over, a television commercial ran during cycling events like the Tour de France. I was especially excited because I was going to do the 25 mile ride with my son, Quinn, to make up for missing our summer bike tour.
Then came the weather forecast. Rain. Heavy rain.
But you know what? The rain never came. Bike Fest was a marvelous success and won the day!
Quinn and I arrived at Look Park about 15 minutes before the 25 mile ride began. The joint was already jumping. We saw some friends there with their bikes and lots of smiles. By the time we had finished registering the ride was about to begin. Look Park had requested that all cyclists leave the park at the same time, so we had a park vehicle escort in front and the back until we reached the bike path exit.
During the first part of the ride, Quinn and I rode with many other riders in a large group. I was concerned that this would be hard for him, as group riding takes some skill. It was not a problem. He rode a straight line, he was aware of the riders around him. He pedaled at a steady cadence. I was so impressed and proud.
Before we’d left the park, I’d glanced at the cue sheet directions. I recognized the route from my own rides – so I thought. I was pleasantly surprised to find the route went to roads new to me. Wonderful quiet roads with spectacular views. I love when I find new places to ride my bike in the Pioneer Valley!
One of those new roads was Park Hill Road in Easthampton. Our rest stop was there at Micka Farm. It was staffed by organizers of Steph’s Wild Ride, a cycling and motorcycing poker run event in memory of Stephanie Micka which raises money for grants to support individual children with cancer. Steph’s Wild Ride was also a beneficiary of funds from Bike Fest. Steph’s aunt and uncle were so welcoming and gracious to us encouraging to eat more of the apples freshly picked from the Micka orchard – delicious!
This stop re-confirmed my belief that the Northampton area is a terrific place to ride a bike. Here we were at a farm having apples fresh from the field. The view was spectacular, little traffic on the road. We had just passed dairy and other kinds of farms. We were 13 meandering miles from the end of the ride, but only about 6 miles from downtown Northampton where restaurants and entertainment could be had.
He surprised me by telling stories from our family trip along the Erie Canal in New York in 2003. Quinn was three years old and rode in a seat on the back of Heidi’s bike, playing with his cars and bullet train and eating cheerios. I was so surprised that he had such clear memories of this trip. Talking with him as we rode along made me glad to be where I was doing exactly what I was doing with him.
Towards the end of the ride, we got back to familiar roads, and I could describe the coming terrain for him – he appreciated knowing exactly where the hills were. We were both tired and looking forward to the BBQ promised back at Look Park.
When we got back to Leeds, he recognized where we were and shouted for joy, knowing that the bike path to Look Park was only a block away. We both savored the downhill into the park, and of course he sprinted to the end.
We could hear Roger Saloom‘s band playing as soon as we got to the park. There were several hundred people milling around, bikes everywhere, and yes, a food area. We parked and loaded our plates. The food was really good!
I talked with friends who had done the 44 miler and the 75 miler. Both talked about the new roads they were introduced to and how beautiful the routes were. I also saw lots of cars with out of state tags.
Bike Fest was a great time and I can hardly wait until next year’s version. You should definitely put it on your schedule. Congratulations to the Northampton Cycling Club for a great event, and thanks to them for highlighting the beautiful bike riding in Western Massachusetts!
Maybe next year I’ll convince Quinn to do the 44 miler with me…
If you were at Bike Fest, drop a note in the comments with your experiences of the day!