Tue Jun 24 15:39:06 2003
Southbridge, Stinkiest Town Ever -- Sheffield, MA

We were lucky to have beautiful weather leaving Amherst, but we took a little while getting out of town. This is an effect we used to call "town-suck" when my Dad and I were hiking. We managed to leave by 10:30 or so though.

It was actually getting rather hot towards the middle of the day, and we were biking up this very difficult hill when I heard a very loud hissing sound, and looked down at my front tire to see my very first flat rapidly in progress. By the time I stopped and pulled to the side of the road, my front tire was completely flat. My first thought was "At last, I have justification for bringing that huge floor pump!" I pulled out the patch kit and got to work.

It was a strange flat; there was no puncture, and it wasn't a snakebite flat. The tire just blew out in one spot, presumably where the rubber was weak. Perhaps the pressure increased too much in the hot weather. What was stranger was that a tremendous amount of water started coming out of the tire, along with some off-white bundles of fiber that looked sort of like snot, immersed as they were in water. As best I could figure out, the water and the snotules were coming out of the tire. My best guess is that they were supposed to be some sort of self-sealing system for the tire, but it didn't work very well.

Once I finished patching the hole and test-inflated the tube, I noticed another spot that bulged a little and looked like it might burst easily. So I took the time to patch that one too, as a precaution. Then I noticed three or four more, and decided it wasn't worth the time. I'll patch them whenever they blow out. I headed off up the rest of the hill, and was treated to an amazing, long downhill on the other side.

I caught up with Emily at a country store where we had a nice lunch and refilled our water bottles. I got some ice cream too. There was a big creek going alongside the road, and we decided to go for a swim after lunch. It was cold and the water ran very fast, to the point where if we ventured more than four feet past the shore, we would be swept away very quickly. This happened to me several times, but I always managed to catch myself eventually.

Emily discovered in East Brookfield that she had another broken spoke (we discovered one in Amherst and took it to the bike store to be fixed). There was no bike shop for at least 14 miles, and we thought it would be a bad idea to ride on it for that long, so we parked our bikes and hitched with the tire to Westfield. We caught a ride very quickly from a young couple in a red pickup. We forgot Emily's water bottle in the back. The bike store fixed our tire in 15 minutes, and we were on our way back shortly. We caught a ride back to East Brookfield from a carpenter on his way home.

Alas, by this time it was nearly five and there was a thunderstorm brewing. We waffled for a while on whether to continue or not, then decided to get out of town before the storm hit, and hope it just blew over. Just as the rain was starting, we found a lovely campground just outside of town, in Boulder State Park. We stayed there the night, and found that the storm mostly passed us over. There was no four inches of rain, as one passerby had predicted to us.

Today we got off to an early start, but there were some ridiculous long hills as we crossed the Berkshires. We would go up a hill and just keep going and going and going. Just when we thought we were at the top, there would be another hill. I don't know where all that elevation went, we still haven't hit a long downhill yet. It's another real scorcher today, we are sweating up a storm. But the riding is pleasant and we are on nice roads. We crossed the Appalachian Trail on Route 20. I recognized the area as the spot where Dad and I stopped, thoroughly soaked from the rain, to hitch a ride into Lennox and stay at Kripalu, where some of my friends from Acton drove out to meet me. I waved a quick hello to the spot and moved on.

I called Google back today to arrange to fly out to California; This Monday, when I was hoping to fly out, is too soon, so I will probably fly out of Chicago when I get there.

The title of this post is a reference to passing through Southbridge, which town was marked as I entered it by a profound smell like an outhouse. I thought it was a dead animal or such, and would pass, but it only grew stronger. The mystery was resolved when I passed by the Mead paper mill.

Now I'm in Sheffield, taking a break at the library to type this entry. I'm heading on with lots of energy!