Photo by Jason DeVarennes

Monday, May 21, 2012

Misguided Angels - Flèche

Warning: It was a long ride. This is a long post! But it is mostly photos...

Last month I blogged that my favorite randonneuring event is the Flèche Vélocio. This past weekend, The Misguided Angels had an awesome flèche ride. The team this year included members from several previous teams. Dena and I have now done 4 flèche rides together. Norm and David had each been on one flèche (with me) prior to this one. This meant that everyone was quite familiar with the drill. Although it would be a first meeting for Norm and David, which means they would have plenty to talk about over the 24 hours!

This route had some striking differences from my previous routes. First, it had some complicated travel and logistics. It was much more urban, and it was much flatter than any previous route.

We had a new finishing point in Portland, Maine. As Dena and I discussed various route options, we came up with the idea of taking the ferry out to Provincetown and riding on the Cape overnight, heading thru Boston and up the coast to Portland. My previous experience on the cape involved lots of traffic. So the idea of riding along traffic-free cape roads in the wee hours was appealing for me.  

Of course, what we neglected to think about was that riding downtown to catch a 5:30PM ferry might be a bit stressful! Fortunately we all survived our journey, and boarded the ferry right on time.

Ferry service for the season actually started that Friday. So our timing was perfect. Being the first day of the season, the boat was full, but the weather was good, and the crossing was fairly mild. No episodes of sea-sickness.

Although Norm doesn't look so good here as we are departing the Ferry in Provincetown.


It was quite a bit cooler than in Boston. I was shocked to see Dena put on leg-warmers! It may have had something to do with our freezing cold 300km the weekend before, or my numerous emails warning of cold temperatures overnight. Norm stayed true to form though, and kept his knees exposed - even at 40F.

David and I share a need of extra insulation and we were both well bundled up.

We got off the ferry and looked for an open restaurant where we could get a quick meal. It wasn't gourmet, but the servings were big, and we got out in relatively short order, rolling out of town at 8:15PM.

We had plotted out our route, using Dena's memory of many previous rides to P-Town, and the Rubel map. Apparently I had selected a few roads near the beginning that looked interesting on the map and in reality were definitely interesting as one climbed a bit and turned to dirt. I've got a reputation to uphold.

The route profile looks a bit choppy, but it is important to point out the scale, sea level to 226 feet! Amazingly most of the tough climbing was at the beginning and later close to the end. We did manage about 15 miles of lovely flat bike path along the cape, but still managed to hit the highest elevation point of the ride while on the cape.

The is some construction going on currently on the Sagamore Bridge, which has been making the news for the traffic backups. Fortunately we crossed it around 1AM, and had no traffic issues at all. We should have planned a control on the far side of the bridge at the 24 hour McDonald's, but instead we had planned to press on to Plymouth.

Norm and Dena decided to reject my dirt road going up to Plymouth, and instead suggested heading up Long Pond Road. Just as the road crossed the highway, we spotted an open gas station with a Dunkin Donuts, and headed in.

Sadly the Dunkin Donuts was not actually open or stocked, but we managed to find some interesting convenience store food. I found a delicious turkey club wrap, inside a hermetically sealed package. It really was better than it looks!

Norm went for Hostess cupcakes. Yummy!

Norm checked us in on Facebook, and I finally thought to ask David if he was on FB.. So at 2:30 in the morning, in a gas-station convenience store, much to the shock of our young friend, Dena, two fifty year olds friended each other on Facebook, using their smartphones!

The descent from that control was the coldest of the journey, and even Norm was chilly.  Dena finally zipped up her jacket. Dave and I tried to keep the shivering under control and not crash our bikes. We all hoped for some climbing. We got a little and fortunately dawn also started to break, and the temps slowly rose. The first open shop was a Dunkin Donuts in Abington, which we made our next control. Just imagine a vacuuming sound accompanying the above photo. Much food was consumed quickly, and we were soon back on the road and heading for Boston.

Norm and Dena and I live very close to Boston, and are all pretty comfortable riding in city traffic. David, on the other hand, lives in the Berkshires. But he coped with our urban route quite well. We didn't go downtown, but we did head up through the various parkways south of town and did technically get into the Boston City limits and even managed to catch a brief view of the skyline. I accidentally threw in a completely gratuitous hill near Boston College, but did manage to pick a nice route up through Arlington and passing within a few hundred meters of Dena's house. I had suggested prior to the ride that we could ditch some clothes there, but Dena feared she might not leave if we did that.

We arrived at Barismo in Arlington to find the hours had changed and it was not yet open. Fortunately Quebrada, just across the street was open and had awesome pastries.

We rolled out of Arlington up the Mystic Valley Parkway and back across Rt 128 where the roads became a bit quieter, that is until some state patrol man blared out something unintelligible on his PA. The only words we really got were single file, and since we were riding in single file, I must assume he was complimenting us!
Our next leg was a bit longer than planned. We should have stopped in North Reading to refill liquids.  I'd marked West Newbury as the next stop, but hadn't looked carefully enough to determine where the CBD was and we bypassed all stores, which meant we didn't find food and drinks until Amesbury, where we had a great meal at the Hollow Cafe.

Norm really was much more lively than the photos show. For hours on the cape, he gave Dena a history lesson on the Peloponnesian War, proving that it doesn't really matter what you talk about in the wee hours, just talk.

I think Dena was thrilled that Norm wasn't talking about the Peloponnesian war!

David seemed to be enjoying himself as well.

But it was here that I got a bit fuzzy. I had printed out the schedule for each control with distances, and we had been ahead of schedule for a while. But when I looked at the next few, I saw that I had labeled the final control 22:00 and 24:00, and somehow panicked that I had miscalculated and since we were suppose to finish at 20:00, so I must have a 4 hour mistake in there. Our route was longer than required and I had put in an optional shorter finish, but we'd still have to ride from there to Portland, where we were due to stay with Dena's aunt.

Now at some point, I looked at the GPS and saw we had 7 hours to do 130km, which we should have no problem doing, but I still couldn't reconcile the times on the schedule. Please don't anyone tell the university that gave me a math degree that I can't do conversion between metric and statute distances and 12 and 24 hour time and some simple division!

Even knowing the 7 hours and 130km, I was still feeling under pressure to keep up the pace. And then the road got icky. A friend had recommended a more inland route, and sadly we found ourselves on a high speed busy road for a long time. My reaction to these conditions is to get it over with, and I put my head down and hammered. When we reached Dover, I was stressed and David was cooked.

It was also getting quite warm. We took a quick break there for cold drinks and popsicles. At some point, I redid the math and realized we were well ahead of schedule. Good thing. David needed some recovery time.

We left Dover and once we crossed the Maine border, we picked up the Eastern Trail. This is part of  the East Coast Greenway. It is signposted in southern Maine, and started out along lovely quiet backroads, and was welcome after our busy road.

Once things were quiet again, I finally remembered to get a few on the bike photos!

David is coming back to life.

Dena hasn't stopped smiling all day.

I have food smudges on my cheek.

And Norm must be cooking alive. He barely wore more than this when it was 40F!

The only bad thing about the Eastern trail was how rural it was. When we finally spotted this coffee shop, I worried it was a mirage!

But it was real. It had great comfy leather sofas, and a basket full of salty potato chips, and awesome espresso drinks, which we took with ice!

When mapping out the route, I had used various paper and online maps, and the links to the Eastern Trail, but somehow got us on a wee section of narrow path. It was only a few feet. We could see the bridge ahead so we continued on.

Although Norm looks in doubt!

For the last 30 miles, we were mostly on a dirt pipeline trail. It was awesome.

And well supplied!

The final 1/2 mile to Dena's aunt was up a mountain, but we were so thrilled to be there!


After taking brisk showers in the outdoor shower, we devoured a great meal, made by Dena's Aunt Donna, and headed off to bed at 9:30PM.

We were all awake by 6AM, and headed off to a local bakery for breakfast #1, followed by the ride into The Good Egg, for brunch with the other teams.

Our train wasn't due to leave until 3PM, so we did some shopping in the Old Port.

I wonder if the shop for Adventurous Adults has bikes and lights and racktop bags?

But being truly adventurous types, we headed into the candy store instead where I bought enough Jelly Beans to survive the 2.5 hour train ride back to Boston.

Leading up to the ride, I was a bit stressed and kept saying never again. During the ride I said never again. The next morning I said maybe, and a few hours ago I said definitely, but it has to be on fixed!


  1. "...much to the shock of our young friend, Dena, two fifty year olds friended each other on Facebook, using their smartphones! "

    Hilarious. I enjoyed reading this.

    I have a gear question, what glasses do you have? I like them a lot and think they even look vintage.

    1. The glasses are Oakley Half Jackets. They have progressive lens, so I can see down the road AND read a map or cue sheet, or the best-by-date on a hermetically sealed Turkey Club Sandwich. They are also transitions, so they go clear inside and at night. Outrageously expensive, but for me, well worth it.

    2. Thanks, I'm going to check them out. I just got my first fixed and it is so much fun. All of my other bikes are being neglected!

  2. Wonderfully engaging post. Amazing that you guys do this, just, kind of, off the cuff, so to speak. So impressive and so generous of you to share along with the great photos. Will say, that, looking at that map route, out here it would be called the scorpion stinger ride for sure! One question: That adorable pix of you in front of the jellybeans: are you really, truly, over sixteen:)?!! Jim Duncan

    1. Well over 16, and I have the AARP card to prove it! But thanks for making my day!