Photo by Jason DeVarennes

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Follow me to the End of the World and Back - With Snow - Festive 500

Last year, we did our Festive 500 rides with quite varied temperatures, from well below freezing to almost balmy. But we had no snow to make our rides appear tough enough to even register on the Rapha Epic Scale*. So we were very excited to wake to snow this Christmas morning, with the road in front of the house completely covered. There actually was enough snow on the roads to cause me to switch bikes, changing to one that could take a studded tire. But first I had to put the fenders back on it. I've been using it lots for dry dirt road and trail rides, and the fenders were stored away somewhere in the basement. Once fenders were re-mounted, I grabbed a wheel to take a studded tire - for standby. I was certain it wouldn't be needed, but our road was still covered in snow, so that certainty was tempered. John graciously offered to let me use his winter (non-studded) tire and handicap himself with the studded tire. He is such a stud and a gentleman! I was still thinking the studded tire might not be necessary, but do also have vivid memories of falling on black ice a few times last year. The temperature was just above freezing, and since we've had no real snow this year, there is no salt residue on the roads. Hmm, caution...

We'd gotten a few emails over the previous few days from folks who were planning to come, but it seems most were put off by the snow that had me so excited. I hadn't received any further communication from folks cancelling, so we figured we'd just see who would show up.

Mary arrived first bearing gifts of cookies and chocolates and a lovely cannister, labeled "Catnip". Izzi and Cocoa came out to meet our very thoughtful friend, and made quite the impression with their leaping and running.

Next Geoff arrived with his bike sporting studded tires- front and rear. This gave me pause. Geoff had seen the road conditions on the way over. It might be a good idea to use some caution and ride with those winter or studded tires afterall. The route takes in lots of tiny residential streets that may have seen little to no traffic and could still be snow covered like our own.

We stalled for a while and checked messages to give any late-comers a chance. But we finally had to get going so we'd finish in daylight. John and I did a quick wheel swap, with me taking the easier to propel winter tire.

from Mary's iphone

We took the obligatory starting photo, and then headed out. There were still a few patches of snow in the road, but it was much better than an hour earlier, making those studded tires overkill. The fenders on the other hand were appreciated! We headed out through the neighborhoods after warning Mary and Geoff that we live in the Death Valley of Greater Boston, which is to say the lowest elevation around, with climbing required to go anywhere. The climb up and through Newton definitely got all our attention. It also helped get us warm. We continued to climb all the way up to Bellevue Hill Park, the highest point in Boston. This was followed by a lovely long descent down Turtle Pond Parkway with a nice view of Great Blue Hill along the way. In a rare show of sanity for me, I had not thrown in a gratuitous climb to the top of Great Blue Hill, but we did still climb up into the Blue Hills Reservation and got a lovely if cloudy view of Boston from the Chickatawbut Overlook.

We were quite warm at this point, but the descent down to Quincy took care of that. I'd managed to find a reasonable way to skirt around the south side of Quincy, but couldn't pass the chance to climb up to Braintree Heights. From Weymouth Landing out to World's End was a bit flatter than the first part of the ride, but mist was started to fly and by the time we reached the End of the World, it had started to snow again. We headed out along the trails and took in another cloudy view of Boston, before beating a hasty retreat, as it seemed it was really snowing again.

from Mary's iphone

Next up was a search for an open Dunkin Donuts, which proved fruitless. A few had been open earlier in the day, but now, it seemed, all were closed. We finally found refuge in a 7-11, where I did my best to make our friend Ted Lapinski proud, by microwaving a giant burrito and egg and sausage sandwich to share with John.

from Mary's iphone

from Mary's iphone

from Mary's iphone
from Mary's iphone

We then headed back through Milton toward Jamaica Plain, followed by a jaunt through the Arnold Arboretum before making the final assault on Mount Newton, followed by the magnificent descent into Watertown, where soup awaited. I'd made an traditional Christmas Day orange-colored soup from sweet potato, butternut squash and carrots. It went down a treat.

It wasn't epic snow, but it was enough that kids could call it a white Christmas, and it did enhance the scenery along the way. Admittedly I'd be happy to have any other storms hold off until the new year though. We have a lot more riding planned!


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