Photo by Jason DeVarennes



Monday, December 31, 2012

D'oh! 500 KILOMETERS, not MILES! - Festive500

As Fear Rothar raised his glass in toast tonight for completion of the Festive 500, he said, "Next time pay attention to the UNITS."

What? It was only 500km, not 500 miles?

photo courtesy of Henry van den Broek
The ride up to Harold Parker is another of my favorites. Wait, I've said that about every route, haven't I?  I admit it, I like them all! This ride is another of my semi-urban rides.  I've again tried to find the quietest possible roads through a very densely populated area. It's easy to find quiet roads going west, but it can be a real challenge when going north or south. Still for the sake of variety, I have taken on the challenge and have rides heading away from RSC in all directions. This one goes north.  But it's not just to fill out the spokes in the map-wheel. There is some absolutely gorgeous and quiet countryside up around Harold Parker State Park, and the Ryer's Country Store is a treat too.  

Pamela, Patria and Henry ready to start the final ride of 2012
The road conditions were only slightly improved from yesterday. No snow had melted, and no additional plowing had taken place. The temperature had plummeted overnight into the low 20's F, but at least the sun was out! That might help melt some of the snow that was still on the roads.

What is that bright thing in the trees?

photo courtesy of Henry van den Broek
We still managed to find a few slushy bits of road here and there. I was quite happy to have my winter tires and was even more happy than Patria that she had a studded tire on the front of her bike to slow her down a wee bit - although she didn't seem handicapped by it at all!

photo courtesy of Henry van den Broek

photo courtesy of Henry van den Broek
It was pretty cold to remove gloves for photos, but we all took the opportunity as we rode through the park.

But fingers and toes were a bit chilly as we approached the lunch stop. We passed on sitting outside at the picnic tables, and instead warmed up with hot soup and coffee indoors!

photo courtesy of Henry van den Broek
Ryers has bike parking too!

photo courtesy of Henry van den Broek
Two hot chicks, pretending to be cold!

photo courtesy of Henry van den Broek
Last beautiful light of 2012!
What a wonderful way to finish off a fabulous year. Thanks Rapha for putting on this challenge again, at a time of year when sane people might hang out by the fire. Thanks to all my riding companions this week, who kept me company and endured my progressively slower-each-day pace. And thanks to John for loaning me a winter tire and not giving me too much grief as I claimed exhaustion.

Now to put my feet up and eat a Panettone!

And Fear Rothar, for his part, escaped for a few km's after work. He took the scenic route to RSC and accompanied me home.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Motivation to Keep Going - Festive 500

Shortly after we finished our ride on Saturday, the sky was filled with white particles - small at first, but they grew larger after a while. It was actually very pretty. The larger ones had a lace-like quality, with patterned edges and they floated down slowly. I searched deep into my memory. I knew I'd experienced this before. I almost suffered a mini panic attack as I feared the sky was indeed falling - that whole Mayan thing is still lurking in my sub-conscious. What if they were right, but had miscalculated? Could this be the end?

Reception on the Cat TV (TM) was snowy too.
But after a few google searches, I discovered and then actually remembered that this phenomena is called snow!  It's been a couple of years since we've seen a proper snowfall, and my brain has been so filled with raptures, ends of the world and fiscal cliffs, that the memory of snow falling had almost been completely erased. As it began to pile up on the deck behind our house, I started to recall other activities associated with this substance, like shoveling. Ah finally a chance to get some upper-body workout! I also fondly remembered this activity that we call cross-country skiing. I made my way down to the basement, and after moving a few bikes aside found both snow shovels and cross country skis, sitting in a corner, looking lonely!

But we have two more days of Festive 500. And even though I'd already surpassed the 500km goal, Fear Rothar had a few more km to go, and I had advertised all these rides from Ride Studio Cafe. I checked the news. All reports were that this was indeed snow, that it would end overnight, but the world would not. It seemed reasonable that roads would be in good shape by mid-morning, and we would be able to ride.

Relying on the un-snoozable kitten alarm, we did not set another.

Even frothed milk fails to snooze the kitten alarm!

We arose to find 6 to 8 inches of snow piled up in our driveway. After an awesome breakfast of eggs made by frothing them with the steam tip on our espresso machine, we pulled out the snow shovels and made a path wide enough to get our bikes out. By this point we were running late, but in chatting with Patria at RSC found out that just one rider was planning to join us and she was quite happy to linger over coffee while we made our way over. Mary had ridden with us on Christmas Day and was so impressed with how well the fenders kept road crud off our backsides that she had ordered a set for her own bike, and today would be their initiation - and a good day for them it was.

We pulled out our winter bikes, having again failed to make any progress getting fenders on the new (well 6 month old) tandem, and headed out. The first obstacle was the Pointy Bridge. We live on the south side of the Charles River and RSC is a few miles away, north of it. We have a couple of choices to getting across the river, one of which involves navigating our way through a crazy 8 way intersection in the center of town, while another passes over a small pedestrian (and bike) bridge, that goes up at a constant angle, before pitching down - hence the pointy bridge moniker. Plowing it was not a high priority this morning, so it was still covered in semi-packed snow. I know my limitations and decided to walk.

Wind-whipped snow on the Pointy Bridge

Some of the roads still had piles of slush, but we were able to ride through everything, and as we got on bigger streets, all was clear. We arrived at RSC to find Mary and her be-fendered machine ready, but in no way impatient. Neil had ridden over on trails on his mountain bike with studs, but decided that was enough. It would be the three of us then. We decided to opt for a slightly shorter ride than the 100km route that was on the schedule. Given our late start, I suggested a direct route out to Nashoba Brook Bakery, where we could get soup and hot cocoa and cupcakes. Mary's eyes lit up at the prospect of cupcakes, so we were off!

Pamela forgot to mention to Mary that there was at least one honking big hill between RSC and cup cakes...
...but she was still smiling!

It was still quite blustery, but we at least had selected a direction that should make the return journey easier. The lunch was well received and I do believe Mary and I are kindred spirits as we both love our rides with a nice lunch stop in the middle.

Bike parking by Nashoba Brook

The return journey was actually aided a bit by the wind, but we also got a few mini snow-squalls in our faces as the wind whipped the snow from trees. Then the sun came out, making for beautiful light conditions in the afternoon.

Angel of the highway!

I believe my legs are now twisted just like this tree!

Another lovely day to ride a bike, Fear Rothar now has surpassed the 500km mark. But we do have one more day to go, so I'll head back over to RSC again in the morning for the final ride of 2012! Then it's time to get a massage and then go for an x-c ski!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Another 100km Before the Snow Flies - Festive 500

It's a bit tricky trying to plan rides in New England at this time of year. Fortunately, we are somewhat resilient, so we can cope with fluid plans and changing things on the fly! A few weeks back, as Patria and I were putting together the schedule of Festive 500 rides for the week, she heard from Derrick Lewis, Ride Studio Cafe's Rapha representative, that he and Rich Bravo, Rapha Continental rider, would be joining us for a ride on December 29. So we planned a special ride with some Rapha Epic (tm) potential.

The initial plans were for a 105 mile ride that headed out to Mount Wachusett, taking in some lovely steep back road climbs up the the park entrance, a few nice ridge views, a couple of wind turbines, and even some nice dirt for good measure. While we barely got any snow in our neighborhood in the mid-week storm, the western suburbs got quite a bit on Thursday. I received several emails from folks who live further west, about less than ideal conditions on the roads near the mountain. I'd already decided that passing on the dirt road around the back of the mountain would be wise, but still felt like the ride to the mountain would be doable, and should score us some Rapha Epic (tm) Points. However, as the day of the epic ride approached, the forecast began to suggest that snow might start to fly partway through our ride, potentially making it more epic than we really wanted. I studied lots of different forecasts, and came to the conclusion that if we scaled back to the 60 mile option, that everyone, including slow-worn-out me, should be able to do the ride and make it back to the mothership (Ride Studio Cafe) without drama. Since we'd initially planned for a century, we had moved the start time for this ride up to 8AM, so the earlier start time would definitely help with beating a potential midday arrival of the storm.

Patria fired up the social media machine and sent out updates with the revised plans. And John set up my winter bike with snow tires (to make me work harder)!

Beppe breakfasting - photo courtesy of Henry van den Broek

Ride Studio Cafe opened early Saturday morning, serving up free porridge to help fuel folks through the first half of the ride! I arrived in time to get a great mocha, and found a crowd of about 25-30 folks eagerly awaiting the ride start.

Wow look at all that Rapha clothing!
Photo by Rob Vandermark
Studly Geoff - photo courtesy of Henry van den Broek

The group rode along at a fairly civilized/social pace and mostly stayed together out through Stow, but started to stretch out a bit as we hit Woobly Hill, then Long Hill, followed by Wattaquadock Hill, and finally Old Bay. I, naturally, brought up the rear. I could claim the was all part of my role as sweep, but as I was well behind everyone for a while, I have to make excuses of too many miles, heavy bike, winter tires, and loss of concentration, as I tried to come up with a clever name for the ride for Strava!

Old Bay was a bit icy and slushy. Looks like Derrick was live-tweeting the conditions.
Photo by Neil McInnis

We took a break at Bolton Orchards, where folks seemed quite happy to warm up with hot cider, coffee, sandwiches, cookies and other assorted fare. I think the riders appreciated the stop as much as the cashiers!

photo courtesy of Henry van den Broek
Patria and Derrick getting in some calories

I'm sure other patrons were surprised to see all the bikes parked out front

We headed up in the Harvard direction before dropping down into Acton.  I started out at a nice digestive pace, allowing all the faster folks that were still getting ready, a chance to re-group and catch up. Things got a bit more spirited on the way back. A few folks decided to keep the sweep company for the return journey. The sun even made a very brief cameo appearance. I saw a shadow for about 15 seconds, and then clouds returned.

photo courtesy of Henry van den Broek

photo courtesy of Henry van den Broek

The final four riders (including the sweep) arrived back at RSC at around 1PM, just as a bit of snow was starting to fall. But that was just a teaser, and despite lingering for another hour or so over coffee, there was no snow coming down when John and I headed for home.  

John's now about 40km shy of the 500km goal. Maybe I can sell him some of my excess km's, if he needs them!

I must say I was very excited when I uploaded today's ride to Strava to discover that I have now managed to ride the length of the Runway in Knock over 5280 times in 2012, according to the Christy Moore unit of measure!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Blue Moon - Now I'm No Longer Alone - Festive 500

The song played inside my head throughout today's ride, although with slightly revised cycling themed lyrics...
Blue Moon by Lorenz Hart and Richard Rogers

Blue Moon
You saw me standing alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own
Blue Moon
You knew just what I was there for
You heard me saying a prayer for
Someone I really could care for

And then there suddenly appeared before me
The only one my arms will (ever) hold
I heard somebody whisper please adore me
And when I looked to the Moon it turned to gold

Blue Moon
Now I'm no longer alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own

And then there suddenly appeared before me
The only one my arms will ever hold
I heard somebody whisper please adore me
And when I looked the Moon had turned to gold

Blue moon
Now I'm no longer alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own

Blue moon
Now I'm no longer alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own

The sun returned Friday morning. It was quite cold, but at least it was clear. The roads were a bit dicey though. The temps had plummeted overnight and a dusting of snow had fallen. With all the rain from yesterday, there was potential for icy patches hidden under the film of light snow. I probably should have shown better judgement and taken a bike with the winter or studded tire, but I was tired and really didn't want any more of a handicap than necessary.

Yes, I admit it. I am tired. And may not show the best judgement!

I managed to safely make it to the Studio where I saw a small crowd of hardy souls, including Mary, Neil, Scott, Mike, Geoff and Sam. Yeah, now I'm no longer alone! The miles pass so much faster in good company.

I had pulled a fast one and changed today's route, since everyone missed the ride to Blue Moon yesterday. Hmm, what happens when you have two blue moons within two days. Does the universe collapse in on itself? Let me go ask the Mayans!

Actually what happened was our whole group rode together and had a grand time. As the worn out and thoroughly exhausted ride leader, I exercised the prerogative of doing the medium ride,  but encouraged everyone to come back again another day and do the 11 miles we had cut out. Opting for the medium ride would allow us to have a relaxed lunch at the Blue Moon and to get back to RSC and linger over coffee and still let me get home before dark. It was lovely riding with such a gracious and agreeable crowd! And the time did indeed go by quickly.

Misery loves Company. But in this case, there was no misery!

Regular blog readers may spot the theme!

Mirror in the loo of the Blue Moon

A great meal helped warm us all!

Partway through the day, I surpassed the 500km Festive 500 goal! But despite being done and dusted, I did not call a taxi!

A trail thrown in for fun!

Mary powers her way up the trail

Photo courtesy of Mary Baker
Safely back at Ride Studio Cafe, aka the mothership

Lingering over one of Sal's wonderful mochas, courtesy of Sam.
The forecast for Saturday is calling for some snow to arrive in the afternoon. We have a special 105 mile ride planned out to Mount Wachusett, along with a 60ish and 30ish mile option. Mount Wachusett got about a foot of snow yesterday and there is a lot of sand on the roads out that way. We've also gotten reports that the dirt road around the back could be a real mudfest! I am thinking it would be wise to go for one of the shorter rides to avoid getting caught in a blizzard far from the mothership.

RSC will open early at 7AM and serve coffee and free porridge. A couple of folks from Rapha will be joining the fun, and we leave at 8AM. 

I have winter tires mounted and plan to do the 60 at a moderate social pace. John has also mounted winter tires and will lead a fast group, also planning on the 60. It should be an awesome day! Hope to see a good turnout.