Yesterday I [Emily O’Brien] pre-rode Jake’s new 300k route. It’s everything you’ve come to expect from a Jake route, in that it is difficult but uses really, really nice roads and the challenges are rewarded with gorgeous destinations.
What I really enjoyed about this route is that after all that climbing in the first third or so of the route, you find yourself in a region that really looks and feels very different from where you started: Farmland with dramatic hills in the distance, and those distinctive tobacco barns that the route is named for. And it is a gorgeous time of year to cruise up the Connecticut river valley. The return takes you back through areas that will be familiar from the outbound of the previous 300k route. There’s still plenty of climbing, but it is somewhat milder and once you make it to Ashburnham it is much more down than up.
My one caveat here is that there are a *lot* of potholes on the descents in the last 3rd of the ride. It’s not a good place to let ‘er rip on the downhills, especially if it’s dark. I like to tuck on the descents as much as anyone, but this is not the place.
I had nice weather for my pre-ride with the exception of a stiff headwind that definitely slowed me down a bit. It’s a gorgeous time to be out, with all the crabapples and redbuds in bloom. I was kinda underdressed, so I stopped early at Best Bagel in Sterling for a breakfast sandwich and a coffee. There’s also a Dunkin in Rutland if you want to stop before the first control.
Speaking of the first control, it’s a fairly small Cumby’s and they don’t have a public restroom. Also, at least yesterday something or other was broken so they were cash only. No word on whether that will be fixed before Saturday, so bring cash. But I also definitely do recommend stopping either in Sterling or in Rutland if you think you’ll want more than the basics.
I did find a port-a-john at a rail trail construction area at around mile 78, and the bike path leading into Amherst had port-a-johns at the entrance too. Keep an eye out for beaver lodges visible from the bike path!
I had a delicious muffin and cold brew in Amherst at Amherst Coffee. There are a ton of other choices, but they involve more messing around so I just went with that.
The stretch from Amherst to Northfield is pretty much your stereotype of idyllic country roads. If you have the time and the inclination, Four Stars Brewery is a really nice stop and has a food truck. I didn’t stop there this time, but I’ve been there before. This stretch is your chance to get some time back in the bank after all the climbing earlier; this is also where you should start counting barns! Also notable is a view of Montague Plains, where you can see clear evidence of a controlled burn that was carried out last November.
This stretch also includes a couple miles of dirt road along the Connecticut River. There are a few potholes but otherwise it’s a perfectly nice dirt road surface and skinny tires are fine. I didn’t see a single car for at least a few miles on that stretch.
The Northfield control has a couple of choices for food, including Mim’s Market and also an ice cream place next door (which had a really long line because of a large group that had just arrived, so sadly I did not get ice cream). There’s a long steady climb out of Northfield with a nice descent, and a bunch of ups and downs before Winchendon. The Cumby’s in Winchendon is of the larger variety, and depending on what time you arrive you may have some other choices in town as well.
Leaving Winchendon, I enjoyed a chorus of spring peepers. I couldn’t see the pond in the dark, but I sure could hear it! At this point it’s not *quite* all downhill to the end, but it almost is. As I mentioned, there are a LOT of potholes on these descents. Don’t try to set any land speed records here, and keep your lights on high.
The newly paved bike path bridge over Rt 2 at the very end is one last little treat – definitely beats waiting for the light!
So there you go. Jake was waiting for me at the end, and he and I will be waiting for you too! I enjoyed this route and I hope you do too!