Photo by Jason DeVarennes

Monday, July 6, 2015

D2R2 inspires our move to the Pioneer Valley

For 20 years now, the Pioneer Valley and the Berkshires having been enticing us to come out and ride our bikes. Western Massachusetts is an amazing place to ride with a labyrinth of lovely quiet scenic roads with plenty of climbing providing endless breathtaking scenic mountaintop vistas. 

In 2005, Sandy Whittlesley ran the first Deerfield Dirt Road Randonee, more commonly known as D2R2, taking in some of his favorite dirt roads north of Deerfield, MA. With more than 16,000 feet of climbing and just over 100 miles, with 70% dirt roads, it was guaranteed to have great views and spectacularly fast and fun descents. This was our type of ride, and it did not disappoint. Now, this event makes our must-do calendar every year. And with so many roads to choose from, Sandy has created a variety of routes of different lengths, giving folks a chance to see even more of the area. At this stage, we've ridden most of the courses, exploring as many different routes as we can, riding a variety of bikes, including simple road bike, dedicated dirt road machine, single speed and tandem bike. Over the years, D2R2 has become the primary fundraiser for the Franklin Land Trust, an organization whose goal is to preserve this special place. Every year, veterans return and new riders come and see for themselves what a magnificent area it is and as a result become supporters of the Franklin Land Trust. In return, the Franklin Land Trust continues its efforts to buy and preserve more land, so Franklin County can continue to be this pedalers paradise. Thank you to Sandy and D2R2 for this showing us heaven on earth.

So this winter, when the snow kept piling on and ice dams did so much damage to our house in Watertown that we were forced to move out for repairs, we decided to take advantage of John's work from home setup and just move out to paradise.

We made the decision to start looking at new houses the evening before the remediation folks started pulling down walls in our old house.  I quickly found a dozen houses of interest in the Greenfield area and reached out to realtors that evening. We then planned to drive out on Saturday to look at various houses.
But then two days later my mammogram glowed white.  The results of the biopsy came back positive (in the not so good way) on Thursday. But with the bad news of a positive biopsy came fortunate news that I had the good luck to get a cancer with a highly successful treatment. Armed with this positive news, we decided to head out to Greenfield on our new house quest anyway. And of course, high on the priority list for a new home was eliminating potential ice dams.

After listening to us talk about insulation and energy efficiency, the realtor took us to a house that had not made my original list. It was brand new and built from ground up to achieve energy star rating. And it was gorgeous. We instantly fell in love.  We both felt that we would have put in an offer on the spot, if we didn't have all the other unknowns.

I have to say that having a house come down around you and searching for a new one is a very good distraction when life events are trying to drag you down.

We continued to think positively. I had a good prognosis, but we still didn't know some details. A PET scan was scheduled for Tuesday. This would tell us if the cancer had spread. I was also to have a lymph node biopsy and MRI. All these came back with good results. The cancer appeared contained to the breast. We met the medical oncologist on Thursday, and chemo would start the following week.

With all this positive (in the good way) news, we called the realtor and arranged to go out and put in an offer. We planned some upgrades, and went back a week later to meet the builder and finalize things. We moved in a month ago.

In the meantime, the walls came down in our old house, and we lived in this semi-construction zone for a couple of months. We arranged for the reconstruction to start after we moved. I rented a storage unit nearby and slowly started packing and hauling boxes to storage. I continued to get out for bike rides in between all the packing and planning and medical stuff.

Two days after we moved out, the crew came in and starting putting walls back up and painting. Cupboards and floors went in. Countertop and backsplash were next. Then the wood floors got refinished. Once floors were dry, the house went on the market. Hopefully it sells soon.

Life in Greenfield has been amazing. The first day that John got out for a ride, he sent me a text from the road saying, "Feck, I can't believe we live here."

We headed out on the tandem on the same loop a few days later. We went out the front door and turned left and instantly started climbing up a 15% monster. The views were spectacular. The roads were quiet. At the top of the 5 mile climb, we turned left on a dirt road with a swoopy descent to the Green River, making our way back home.

Life is indeed good. 


  1. Congrats, John & Pamela, on the successful relocation and new home! You are showing that sometimes one can turn life's headwinds into tailwinds. Enjoy those rides. Jim Duncan

  2. Welcome to the Pioneer Valley! I had seen all the area rides on Strava, but I thought it might have been a summer HQ, not a permanent relocation. I wasn't a serious cyclist when I moved here myself, but it has been a great area to become one. (The four years living in Middlebury, Vermont weren't bad either!) Perhaps we'll cross paths, on the Group W bench at the Lady Killigrew or the Green River covered bridge on D2R2.

  3. Indeed we are looking at this as a positive change and look forward to seeing our new neighbors on the road!

  4. Welcome, enjoy the riding and exploring your new world! I'll keep an eye out for you on the roads here, a very little bit west of you.