Photo by Jason DeVarennes

Monday, December 26, 2011

December 26 - Disgrace and Redemption

To translate Robbie Burns,  "The best laid schemes of mice and men / Go oft awry"
Seeking the Abbey of Sisters of Divine Mercy of the Assumption of the Immaculate Epic Conception, we found this one

Followers of the blog may be aware that we made some ambitious plans last week for the Ride to Redemption challenge, completely ignoring the fact that it is actually late December in New England, a time and place that is often much more suitable for cross-country skiing than cycling.

Today's planned route to Mt Grace is a challenge even in the best of conditions. It has loads of climbing and descending, and is a bit on the long side for the amount of daylight we currently have. We had shortened it with a remote start, but this did mean loading up and driving to the start. We further complicated logistics by arranging to test-ride a Seven tandem, which we'd need to pick up on our way out of town.

So between the distance, the drive, and the stop to pick up the test bike and get espresso, we had an early wake-up call, so early that I think the cat was still asleep! Alarm silencing was first order of the day, then petting the cat.  Dragging ourselves out of bed and filling our bellies with porridge came next. We were thrilled to see blue skies and sunshine again, and delighted that our thermometer indicated temperatures above freezing. However, we were a little concerned by the amount of frost on the car and moisture on the ground. So we checked the forecast for Westminster, our starting point for the day, and it was to be above freezing and sunny for the time we'd be riding. We were still expecting a chilly ride, given all the descents and the elevation, so we dressed in warm clothes, and packed lots of gloves, and those toe warmers that had been so valuable a few days ago.

We arrived at Ride Studio Cafe shortly after 7. Rob started pulling shots of espresso, while we put our pedals on the 007 tandem that he was so graciously letting us try out for the day. We joked that this time, we weren't even leaving our own bikes for collateral, but Rob reminded us that he knows where we live and that Patria knows the combination to the garage. And he also knows that like Norm on Cheers, I am a fixture at the coffee bar at the Studio. To paraphrase the Governator, he said, "You'll be back!"

Now properly caffeinated, and with a cool tandem to ride, we merrily headed off to Westminster. Traffic was non-existent, due to this technically being a holiday. American merchants were thrilled that The Holiday to Honor Consumerism fell on a Sunday this year. Unlike most if the rest of the western world, normally the professional ranks in the USA just get the one day off. But with the Sunday holiday, most folks not involved in retail got the Monday as well, which would mean Sunday was just a day of rest for the retailers to prepare for shopping mayhem on Monday.  So long as we didn't try to ride near a shopping mall, this was great for us too. And unlike the kickoff to the season of gluttony and consumerism that starts in the wee hours of Black Friday, the day after the day when Americans feast on turkey and then fall asleep in front of their giant 92" televisions watching games played with odd shaped balls, today's shopping frenzy did not start early or cause heavy traffic at the time we were heading out.

We made good time to Westminster, but were alarmed when we took the exit off the highway and saw white stuff on the side of the road. As we continued up the main street into the center of town, we saw more white stuff all over the road. John started making noises about not wanting to crash a very pricey borrowed bike. I recalled last year when John took a fall on ice in Ireland, and had to take advantage of Rapha's crash repair policy to stitch up his very pricey torn tights and jacket. I noticed he wasn't wearing the patched tights, but a brand new pair. We knew we'd be on much smaller roads that this main one through town, and the elevation of Mt Grace was well above where we were now. We've also done this route a few times and the descents are screamers. We hopped out of the car and headed into the Dunkin Donuts for a conference. I pulled out my smart phone and looked for local conditions, as if I'd get any more info than the icy, snowy parking lot was providing. It was then I saw the black ice warnings to drivers. Still I was optimistic that we could be graced with better conditions. We decided to check out the first few kilometers of the route, and much to my dismay, we turned on the first small road and found it white, likely hiding lots of black ice. We've not had a proper snowfall since the freak October storm, and none of the roads have any leftover salt or sand. If we had studs and were riding our own single bikes, it might be different, but we just couldn't justify the risk, so we turned home in disgrace!

But all was not un-salvageable. We decided to go back to Lexington and do one of our favorite rides from there. Salvation from our Disgrace would come on a ride to Harvard. In Concord, we crossed paths with Henry, our riding companion from Saturday. He was surprised to see us, given our plans of grandeur out in central Massachusetts, but we told him of our disgrace and plan for salvation.

Why do I keep standing at the airport, dreaming of flying somewhere warm?

maybe with real flamingos...

We were blessed with sunshine and dry roads. The temps dropped a bit as we gained elevation and rebounded once we were homeward bound. We had a disheartening moment when we discovered the folks who run the Harvard General Store were seemingly out taking part in the shopping frenzy or maybe out on a bike ride of their own, as our hoped for source of coffee and sandwiches was closed for the day. Lack of cafes is the only disadvantage of riding on such quiet roads. Fortunately we were prepared with Probars and such, so we didn't starve, but we did start to fantasize about baby back ribs on the way home, and Redbones was the beneficiary of those cravings, as we bee-lined there after returning the tandem and getting hot chocolate and telling tall tales.

Sad face reflected in the window of the closed lunch spot!

Lovely views from Fruitlands

I will mention that shortly before we got back to the start, we came upon a sad cyclist with a serious mechanical. He'd managed to break the spring in his rear derailleur and in the process wrapped the chain around his botton bracket in a knot! I tried to free the chain, but needed some extra slack and thought of pulling the crank, but I only have an 8mm allen key in the toolkit on my single bike, so the crank remained in place. But we did have a chain tool and quick link, so we split the chain, freed it, put it back together with the quick link and got him onto the large chainring and a large cog, taking as much slack out of the chain as possible with the broken rear spring. With this setup, he could at least ride down to the nearby airport and wait for his wife to come rescue him. This should get us some redemption points, eh?


Tomorrow's ride to Paradise Lost Lake is on, starting at 10AM from Ride Studio Cafe.  John is happily going to work, but Pamela will continue to clock up big kms.

So far - Pamela-390 km,  John - 369 km 
Dec 26 - Pamela 96km,  John - 100km
Dec 25 - Pamela - 75km,  John - 75km
Dec 24 - Pamela and John - 164 km
Dec 23 - Pamela - 55 km, John 30 km

1 comment:

  1. Was indeed a nice surprise running into you in Concord. Looking at your tallies you are almost there. I'll be watching the weather from the inside of my office rest of the week.

    Good luck the rest of the week.