Photo by Jason DeVarennes



Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sunshine, snow squalls and round towers

All this talk of a mild winter is starting to annoy the weather gods. So they huffed and puffed and blew a gale force wind our way this weekend, providing another excuse to take out the tandem. So while John's mates were off sheltering from the wind in the woods, we headed out on the tandem. We only made it a few blocks before stopping into the new George Howell Coffee in Newtonville. 


I decided to indulge in a Rogue Chocolate panini, which wasn't as weird as it might seem, while John opted for a more healthy crepe. We did amass a pile of espresso cups before we finally could avoid heading out into the wind no more.

First stop was the Norumbega Tower.  It does look like a glorious day!

We headed a little further along to try and get a closer look at the gatehouse, but it's well protected by big fences! We did take note of those big grey clouds.

It became quite clear that this was to be a relaxed photo op day, so we gave in and stopped lots along the way to be rewarded with scenes like this.

At some point we found ourselves in the midst of a pretty intense snow flurry, but it was too windy for anything to reach the ground! Not surprising, we found ourselves at Ride Studio Cafe, where we lingered a while over hot chocolate before heading for home.

All in all, a lovely, relaxing day out!

No fear, the big rides will come soon.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Nawth Shaw riding

I don't know Boston's Nawth Shaw well. So, when Beverly native, Matt Roy, suggested, in one of his infamous Bad Ideas (TM), dragging David Wilcox and yours truly on some of his favourite roads in that direction, I leaped at the chance.

Matt had the decency too, to lay on simply splendid February weather. It was sunny, dry, if breezy and a smidgin chilly. However, it transpired we were going to cover a large portion of the North Shore in our day out, so there wasn't much hanging out and chillin' to be done!

I wasn't too worried about the rip-roaring tailwind we enjoyed early in our ride, even when I was spinning out the top gear on my junior racing (16-27) cassette. Until perhaps, I saw this sign. I wondered if it referred to the headwind battle that awaited us on our return journey...

After enjoying a very friendly coffee shop stop in Ipswich at ZUMI’S Coffee House, we started heading (vaguely) in the direction of home.

This included a very worthy side-trip out to the secluded Conomo Point.

Next up were some rough coastal neighbourhoods, where I was worried about puncturing and having to ride the rim to safety...

Did I mention it was a gorgeous day? And the roads weren't too bad either!

We continually tacked back and forth, so the feared headwind was never a big factor.

200 quality kilometres in our legs had us running on fumes towards the end of the day. However, the ever kind Mo stuffed David and I full of heavenly quinoa (courtesy of the awesome Bob's Red Mill) and berry pancakes, before sending us off on the last leg of our journey home. Not a bad day out for February!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Presidents and Purgatory

Astute readers may recall that at the end of the Festive 500 challenge last December, John and I declared ourselves so far beyond redemption that we felt no need or desire to serve additional time in Purgatory (Pamela had already been to Purgatory Falls, NH earlier in the week), so we bailed on our planned final ride from Framingham out to Purgatory Chasm. This is probably why we didn't win! That and the fact that we didn't have epic blizzards to ride through. But try as I might to ride in snowy conditions this year, global warming seems to have arrived in New England, and we've been blessed with some pretty amazing winter cycling this year.

But it is also a presidential election year, and we've been bombarded with news stories that try my patience and insult my intelligence and make me feel I'm in some sort of presidential purgatory. I'm really hoping to emerge into a state of grace soon. So seeing as how I like my theme rides, we decided President's Day would be a fine day for Purgatory.

President's Day is also the beginning of school vacation week here in Massachusetts. As bike commuters, we love it when school is out because traffic at commuting time is much lighter. We had hoped for relatively light traffic on our ride, but it turns out that since we have almost no snow, instead of heading north the ski, all the school kids and their parents drove out to Purgatory Chasm for a hike - or so it seemed, based on the traffic we encountered on our ride and our hike.

John has a new camera, a Sony NEX7. Most of these shots are with that camera - with a few obvious exceptions. We've learned that if we ride singles, we can get nice action shots, but it was windy, and there's nothing so nice as riding a tandem in windy conditions, so we opted for the non-action shots of a tandem ride! I guess pictures at a cemetery (on our way to Purgatory) are about as non-action as you can get!

While we haven't had any snow, and it's been really mild for most of the winter, we do have the odd day where the temperature is 40F higher or lower than the previous day. This makes it really tough to dress appropriately. In a normal winter, conditions are relatively constant, so once I get the clothing choices right, it doesn't vary much from day to day, but this year I've worn different gloves every other day. And I can't just tweak it for the next day. I just need to carry all 20 pairs of gloves I own! Today's wind came straight from the north pole, and I left my north pole gloves at home! I survived, but my fingers got a bit chilly.

We took a slight deviation off route to check out the West Hill Dam.

John is really enjoying the new camera.

Ah, we have arrived, soon to discover where all those cars were headed!

We always ride in walkable shoes, and if you are going to Purgatory, I will recommend them. Signs suggested the chasm was closed in winter, but everyone else had ignored the signs and headed in, so we did likewise. We had to take care on some sections with ice, but it is pretty amazing that we could do this hike in the middle of February.

I'm not really a fan or sermons of any type, but the speaker failed to show. Maybe Hell has frozen over.

Oh this could explain why he was a no-show at the pulpit!

Hiking through the chasm was the only time we were out of the wind all day. But the brilliant sunshine and cloudless sky made for a lovely warm hike.

After our hike, we hopped back on the tandem and aimed it toward Framingham, taking in some much quieter roads on the way back. We arrived back just as my fingers were really starting to complain, and John graciously sent me into the supermarket to thaw them out while he loaded the tandem in the car.

After returning home, I modified the route to remove some of the roads that we found too busy, and hopefully now have a much quieter loop. I look forward to heading back on a warm windless day.

Now that we've been to Purgatory on President's Day, can I have some salvation from the endless, relentless attack on my patience with the American political system? Not a chance, but I can still hope, can't I?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

"Snowy" trail riding

The forecast predicted 3-6" of the white, fluffy stuff. While sensible types might have stayed at home and provided laps for cats in front of a nice, warm fire, Messrs. RoyWilcox and I decided to go slip, sliding in the woods instead. The plan called for stringing together as many sections of trails in the Fells as possible, with Matt leading the way.

Things started according to plan when I awoke to find a dusting of white outside. The forecast still seemed accurate as I made my way to Gnarlington through white coloured precipitation. However, that was to be the extent of it for the day, as you can see from the following photos:

The first order of business for the day was to find Wright's Tower in the Fells - with just a little help from modern technology.

Not that we let technology get in the way of some fun!

However, we were soon back on the bikes, with the tower in sight.

While it felt like we were miles from anywhere, "civilisation" wasn't actually very far away.

This was as close as we got to snow on the ride. You, dear reader, will be glad to hear that we coped!

A chatty metal detecting enthusiast pointed us towards this lovely stone bridge.

Continuing the tower theme, we next visited Bear Hill Tower...

...from which Matt won the bike tossing competition.

Next up - with the emphasis on up - was the old ski area overlooking Horn Pond.

There be Boston!

At this point, the Ride Studio Cafe was calling our name, so off to Lexington it was. We arrived there with 35(ish) miles on the clock, of which 3 or 4 were on those things called roads. Not a bad day's work!