Becket or Bust Bike Ride

With the Pan-Mass Challenge coming up, my training plan has me spending long hours and long distances on the bike during the weekends. The Boy’s camp had Dad’s Weekend scheduled from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon. How could I do a long bike ride and spend the maximum amount of time with The Boy at Camp Becket?

Bike to Becket!

becket war canoes

Planning

Google Maps (It has a bike directions option) came back with a 130 mile route. Strava came back with a similar route. Not so bad. With my training to-date, that kind of distance would be a big test of my ability to finish the Pan-Mass Challenge. (Speaking of which, it’s never too late to make a donation for my PMC ride.) I thought it was achievable.

Then I noticed the climbing involved in the ride: over 10,000 feet. Ouch!

I went back to the route builder to make some changes to see what I could do about the distance, the climbing, and the suitability of roads for cycling. I pulled out my Rubel bike maps that highlight the better cycling roads. I could not get the climbing below 9,000 feet without adding many, many miles on to the route.

Then, I did some math on timing. That distance and elevation would take about 10 hours in the saddle. Adding in a few stops to re-fuel the body would make it a twelve hour journey. Dad’s weekend starts at 1 pm on Friday afternoon, so… I would have to leave home at 1 am to get there on time. Surely, I was going to arrive tired.

Fortunately, the weather forecast looked good. Phil offered to be my domestique and drive my bags out to Becket. He was already plan to drive to Becket to spend Dad’s Weekend with his son, who happened to be in The Boy’s cabin at camp.

The Ride Begins

The alarm went off in the middle of the night. I prepared my bike, slurped down an espresso and was off into the clear, cool night.

I mounted a NiteRider Lumina 750 Bike Light on the handlebars and a NiteRider Lumina 250 on my helmet. The lights lit up the road in front of me. But just in front of me. I quickly realized that if I went above 15 mph any obstacles in the road came into the light too quickly for me to react. The lights could not illuminate far enough up the road for me to go any faster.

The pace allowed me enjoy the tranquil night. The stars were out on the moonless night. The cool night air was refreshing.

I had the roads to myself. I encountered less than a dozen cars during the first three hours on the road out to Princeton.

As the road entered some denser woods, things got a bit creepy. At times it felt like a bad slasher horror movie, just waiting for a chainsaw wielding maniac to rush out of the darkness. That would switch to concerns about large wildlife crashing into me. I could spot glowing animal eyes staring at me as I scanned my headlamp across the woods as I rushed by.

The first encounter with wildlife came in Clinton as I went under a bridge. A white bag in the middle of road twitched and as I came closer revealed a big skunk snacking in the road.
I slowed.
We both stared at each other.
I pedaled slowly past.
I hugged the curb on the other side of the road.
I twitched, ready to stomp on the pedals for a quick exit.
The skunk slowly backed up.
The skunk inched it’s way to the far curb, staring at me the whole time.

Face-to-face was good. I didn’t want the business end pointed in my direction. I exited on one side and the skunk retreated out the other side. The first crisis ended without incident.

Princeton Center stop

The next obstacle was Mount Wachusett. I didn’t need to climb to the summit, but I had to get through Princeton Center which is next to the mountain with a steep climb.

It was a tough climb. Given the darkness, I never could see how much longer and higher I had to go until I was at the top in Princeton Center.

In planning, I had wanted to get to this stop by dawn. I was ahead of schedule.

Introspection

The only sounds were the whirring of my pedals as the chain turned through the gears pushing me further down the road, and the air streaming through the vents in my helmet

There was not much to see. Most of the roads were without streetlights. There were the stars above and the halo of light surrounding me from bike lights.

Lots of time to think.

What could I do to be a better man?
What could I do to be a better father?
What could I do to be a better husband?
What could I do to be a better member of my community?

Lots of time to think.

The Second half

IMG_2414Halfway through the ride came sunrise and a close encounter with a bear.

A hundred feet ahead there was a big black bear crossing the road. My first instinct was to grab my camera. But then I thought better and kept both hands on the handlebar. I slowly approached the spot where the bear had entered the woods on the side of the road. Gone. Four hundred pounds of bear had disappeared into the dawn lit woods. I couldn’t see it, and I was not going to stop and stare.

I had beautiful views as my road snaked along the side of hills presenting vistas overlooking fog-filled valleys with the orange and purple of dawn lighting the sky.

Then the hunger came. Time for breakfast and a long stop at Ware’s Dunkin’ Donuts. Nothing better for re-fueling on a bike ride than DD. Sugar, fat and caffeine packed in easily digestible and delicious packages.

With my tank topped off, I had the energy to compete on the roads with the morning commuters. I resented having to share the roads after having them to myself during the pre-dawn hours.

The next obstacle was the Connecticut River. There are only a few bridges to the cross the river. I rode over the Calvin Coolidge Bridge on Route 9. IMG_2420 Stopping for a picture, of course.

Looking over the side of bridge I noticed an old railroad bridge upstream with pedestrians and cyclists. I had missed the Norwottuck Branch of the Mass Central Rail Trail in my route planning. That looked like a much more pleasant ride across the river.

Having never been to Northhampton, I was joyful to find a bike friendly town with bike lanes. Even better, it was full of coffee shops. That meant time for second breakfast.

I had to refuel for the next big obstacle: the hills of Westhampton. A 1,000 foot climb was down the road. The heat of the summer morning had arrived.

Unlike the climb into Princeton in the dark, I had the full sun to light the road for a fun, rapid descent after the slow, grueling climb.

The last and biggest obstacle was still ahead. Camp Becket is on the top of a mountain with 15 miles of uphill road to get there. I turned the corner after the descent into Huntington to begin that slow crawl up Route 20 into Becket.

My legs were cooked. It was all about finding a low gear and grinding it out over those 15 miles. Mile after mile gaining more and more elevation, knowing this climb was standing between me and The Boy. I had not seen him in three weeks. I was not going let a few miles stop me.

I managed to get to the top of the mountain an hour early. I pulled into the Becket Country Store & Cafe and consumed a ridiculous amount of food and drink while I waited for it to get closer to the one o’clock start of Dad’s Weekend. I could not wait quite that long and threw an exhausted leg over the top tube to finish the climb to the camp’s entrance.

IMG_2424The camp greeters were a bit surprised to see me. I’m sure that they thought I was a lost biker, turning around just before the road became unpaved.

Then I whooped out “DAD’S WEEKEND!”

They whooped in response and followed with “Are you here for Dad’s Weekend?”

I sure was. Tired, but I was there.

The Route

The final route, at least according to Strava:

Distance: 132 miles
Climbing: 9,079 feet of elevation
Average speed: 14 mph
Fastest speed: 40 mph
Elapsed Time: 11:13:34
Moving Time: 9:28:34
Calories burned: 6,428

Becket or Bust road map

Camp Becket

Of course Dad’s Weekend at Camp Becket was a great event. Great times with The Boy, other boys and their dads.

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The message on Chapel-by-the-Lake’s steps stuck with me, especially after my night of introspection.

May we know once again that we are not isolated beings
But connected to the universe, to this community, and to each other.
May we be reminded here of our highest aspirations
and inspired to bring the gifts of love and service to the altar of humanity.

That was my last big physical test before the Pan-Mass Challenge and a big emotional test. Now the fiscal test remains, as I continue to raise funds to support cancer research.


 Donate to the Pan-Mass Challenge

Pan-Mass Challenge: It’s not too late to show your support for me and cancer research. The Pan-Mass Challenge will donate 100% of your donation to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute through its Jimmy Fund.

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Update on my Newtonville Books Reading Challenge @newtonvillebks

Or: Something Fun to Get You Out of Your Comfort Zone

Newtonville Books published a 2015 Reading Challenge. I read and I’m up for a challenge. So here is my current tally.

20 out of 39. That leaves me just ahead of schedule.

Item Book Read
A book that became a movie: Argo: How the CIA & Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History
Argo: How the CIA & Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History
by Antonio Mendez
An Oscar-Winning movie
March 27
A book with non-human characters:
Ancillary Justice
by Ann Leckie.
Set in an alien world where spaceships and soldiers are run by artificial intelligence. The protagonist is a ship’s AI.
January 2
A book with a one word title:

Wool
By Hugh Howey
One word title, six word description: Civilization trapped in an underground silo.

April 6
A book of short stories:
A book from a small press:
A book based on a true story:
A book more than 100 years old:
A book based entirely on its cover: Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free
Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free
by Héctor Tobar
Saw this one on the table at NewtonVille Books
March 31
A book you’ve pretended to read:
A book you can finish in a day: Dept. of Speculation
Dept. of Speculation

by Jenny Offill
I didn’t finish it in a day, but you can.
January 23
A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit:
A book in translation: Galileo's Telescope: A European Story
Galileo’s Telescope: A European Story
by Massimo Bucciantini, Michele Camerota, Franco Giudice;
translation by Catherine Bolton
May 18
A graphic novel: The Walking Dead, Vol. 22: A New Beginning
The Walking Dead, Vol. 22: A New Beginning

It’s a TV show, but it’s a graphic novel series first
March 24
A book you own but have never read:
A book by an author with your initials:
A play:
A banned book:
A book you previously started but never finished:
A Pulitzer Prize-winning book: The Goldfinch
The Goldfinch

by Donna Tartt
2014 winner of the Pulitzer Prize
April 23
A book by a Nobel Prize-winner:
A book that takes place in the area where you grew up:
A book by an author you’ve never heard of: In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette
In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette
by Hampton Sides
May 6
A book written by an author under 30:
A book written by an author over 70:
A book of poetry:
A young adult book: Wonder
Wonder
by R.J. Palacio
A recommendation from my son.
March 21
A book set in the future or in a different world: Lock In
Lock In
by John Scalzi
Fifteen years from now, a new virus sweeps the globe.
 February 24
A book your mom or dad loves/loved:
A Newtonville Books staff pick:
A signed book:
A bestseller:
The Girl on the Train
by Paula Hawkins
‘The Girl on the Train’ is a runaway hit in USA Today
January 20
A book with an animal on the cover: Authority (Southern Reach, #2)
Authority

by Jeff VanderMeer
See the bunny
February 18
A library book: Disclaimer: A Novel
Disclaimer: A Novel
Borrowed from the Newton Free Library
June 6
A book with a color in the title Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man's Fight for Justice
Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice
 June 1
A book you then discuss in a bookclub  
I Am Pilgrim
by Terry Hayes
Discussed in a Goodreads group
 January 29
A book that came out the year you were born: The Third Policeman
The Third Policeman
by Flann O’Brien
Published in 19…..
April 13
A book with magic: The Magicians (The Magicians, #1)
The Magicians
by Lev Grossman
A Harry Potter knock-off
March 3
A book by an author that lives in Boston: Power Down (Dewey Andreas, #1)
Power Down
by Ben Coes
Wellesley is Greater Boston
 June 14
A book set in a different country:
On the Beach
by Nevi Shute
The book is set in Australia.
March 13

Visit www.newtonvillebooks.com for a blank copy of the list.

Hand in your completed (just do your best!) copy between Dec 1st and Dec 10th, 2015 to be entered into a raffle for a $100 gift certificate.

Memorial Day Weekend Bike Riding

It was the first weekend of summer and time for some serious bike riding. I will be riding the Pan-Mass Challenge later this summer to raise money for cancer research.

(I would appreciate your support: Click here to make a donation. 100% of your donation goes to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute through its Jimmy Fund.)

I needed to get in the saddle and toughen up for the long days I’ll be riding my bike during the PMC. I squeezed in three rides over Memorial Day weekend to get along in my training.

Saturday

On Saturday I joined up with my Pan-Mass Challenge team: Team Kinetic Karma. It was a 56 mile trek through the South Shore and along the coast. If you remember, it was a chilly morning. There were lots of long sleeves, and even a superman onesie to stay warm.

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We rolled through Wompatuck State Park and the back roads out to the ocean. The ride included a brief stop at the Scituate Lighthouse for another group photo.

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There was a stiff headwind coming off the water, but we had great views of the ocean on large parts of the ride. Nantasket Beach was deserted. It was sunny, but too cool for a beach day.

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[More cycling details from Strava on the ride]

While not a beach day, it turned into a great day for cycling.


Sunday

After the long ride on Saturday, I was looking for a short ride in the early morning. Melissa W. was up for the challenge and joined me on the ride.

We rolled through the streets of Weston and Lincoln while most people were just getting out of bed.

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[More cycling details from Strava on the ride]

It was a beautiful morning for a 26 mile ride.


Monday

For the third day out of three, I was planning a short and sensible ride just to get a few dozen miles in the saddle. Melissa W. was initially up for the ride. But she wasn’t able to go. That removed my sensibility limiter from the ride.

Early in the morning I was sitting at the kitchen table getting ready and staring at the Greater Boston Bike Map trying to decide where to go by myself.

Nahant, sticking out of the North Shore, caught my eye. So I was off. I failed to measure how long the ride would be,

It was an early morning on a holiday, so I was sure that traffic would be light. I charged along the river, out Rutherford Ave., through Everett and onto Revere Beach Parkway. Shops were just starting open, early-morning walkers were strolling along the sidewalks, and there were just a few early-rising beach denizens. My bike joined them for a brief moment before heading back onto road.

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Heading North, I found Nahant and circled the peninsula. The approach from the left to Nahant was along a busy industrial street. To the right was a more pleasant looking Lynn Shore Drive. I turned right.

When I came into Swampscott I realized that I needed to find a way home. The route there, along the beach and through the city, would now be getting busy and would be less bike-friendly. I needed a different way home through an area of Greater Boston that is out of my area of street knowledge.

I pulled out my trusty bike map and found a few routes marked in green as bike friendly. They would take me west and back towards home. I have to admit that I’m not familiar with the North Shore and I’m not sure exactly where I was. Peabody, Lynnfield, and Wakefield were common names on road signs.

I had to stop at one point because the route was blocked by a Memorial Day parade. I think this was Stoneham.

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After that break, I pedaled on, looking for bike friendly roads that kept me inside 95, but kept heading west and south. That was the way home.

I turned a corner a one point, realizing I was in Lexington, but was surprised to see the Lexington Battle Green. It was great to briefly see another Memorial Day celebration.

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I finally found familiar roads and a good way home. In the end it was a 79 mile ride.

Fullscreen capture 5272015 52743 AM

[More cycling details from Strava on the ride]

The weekend mileage was about half of what I will need to do for the Pan-Mass Challenge. I hope this was a good start.


Thanks for reading about my rides.  Please donate to my PMC ride at one of the following links:

Riding the Boston Marathon Midnight Bike Ride

While marathon runners were sleeping in anticipation of the race on Patriots Day, I joined hundreds of cyclists to bike the 26.2 miles in the middle of the night. The Midnight Marathon Bike Ride was back for its seventh year in a row. Short of actually running, I thought it was a great way to honor the marathon tradition.

The roads were still open to vehicular traffic, but only a few cars passed me on the road. The midnight ride is not a race. Although more pacelines went past me than cars. My pace was on the leisurely side. The road were mostly recovered from the winter stress and were spruced up for the marathon’s start several hours later.

The ride actually starts in South Station, where you could load your bike into a truck, while you jumped on the commuter rail to re-join your bike at midnight. I convinced Mrs. Doug to drive me and two fellow riders out to Southborough instead.

start of the midnight ride

There were dozens and dozens of riders at the train station who had also been dropped off.  That’s lots of riders with an assortment of lights, bikes, skill levels and motivations.

It was cold. We were dressed to ride, not stand around in the cold. So we jumped on our saddles and rode off just before midnight and before the train arrived. As we left the the parking a lot, a half-dozen moving trucks full of the train riders’ bikes pulled into the parking lot.

midnight marathon route

It was a few miles from the train station to the Marathon’s starting line in Hopkinton. A few miles that went mostly uphill, with a nasty half-mile stretch in excess of a 5% grade. It’s a tough enough hill that there is a plan B route that goes around the hill.

At the start line we found several hundred cyclists already in place waiting for midnight or the train riders to come. We kept pedaling.

And pedaling and pedaling.

It was a continuous stream of bikes from start to finish.

Marathon security was nice enough to leave the finish line open for us to take pictures.

end of the marathon ride

Boston Common Coffee Company hosted a charity pancake breakfast after the ride. Pancakes taste great after 30 miles in the saddle.

More Coverage:

Newtonville Books 2015 Reading Challenge

Or: Something Fun to Get You Out of Your Comfort Zone

Newtonville Books published a 2015 Reading Challenge. I read and I’m usually up for a challenge. So here is my current tally.

Item Book Read
A book that became a movie:
A book with non-human characters:
A book with a one word title:
A book of short stories:
A book from a small press:
A book based on a true story
A book more than 100 years old:
A book based entirely on its cover:
A book you’ve pretended to read:
A book you can finish in a day:
A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit:
A book in translation:
A graphic novel:
A book you own but have never read:
A book by an author with your initials:
A play:
A banned book:
A book you previously started but never finished:
A Pulitzer Prize-winning book:
A book by a Nobel Prize-winner:
A book that takes place in the area where you grew up:
A book by an author you’ve never heard of:
A book written by an author under 30:
A book written by an author over 70:
A book of poetry:
A young adult book:
A book set in the future or in a different world:
Ancillary Justice
by Ann Leckie.
Set in an alien world where spaceships are run by artificial intelligence.
January 2, 2015
A book your mom or dad loves/loved:
A Newtonville Books staff pick:
A signed book:
A bestseller:
The Girl on the Train
by Paula Hawkins
‘The Girl on the Train’ is a runaway hit in USA Today
A book with an animal on the cover:
A library book:
I Am Pilgrim
by Terry Hayes
Borrowed from the Newton Free Library on Jan 10, 2015.
January 29, 2015
A book with a color in the title:
A book you then discuss in a bookclub:
A book that came out the year you were born:
A book with magic: The Magicians (The Magicians, #1)
The Magicians
by Lev Grossman
A Harry Potter knock-off
March 3, 2015
A book by an author that lives in Boston:
A book set in a different country:

Visit www.newtonvillebooks.com for a blank copy of the list.

Hand in your completed (just do your best!) copy between Dec 1st and Dec 10th, 2015 to be entered into a raffle for a $100 gift certificate.

My 2014 Year in Books

As you can see below, it was a big list of books for me in 2014. My goal was to read one book a week. I smashed through that goal and ended up with 75 books read for the year. There were a few great ones, most were good, but there were a few duds.

Best Book I read this year

Station Eleven

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

It’s hard to describe what you should expect about this novel. The writing is great and the story links between people around the time a global pandemic disrupts society. The main protagonists are a Hollywood actor performing in a Toronto play and a traveling band of Shakespearean actors and musicians performing at human settlement along he shores of Lake Michigan.

GoodReads versus LibraryThing

I’m still tracking my books in two parallel systems. Library Thing has a superior platform for cataloging books. GoodReads has a better platform for interacting with other readers, sharing reviews, and sharing booklists. That’s the way I use them.

Now I’m looking for reading suggestions for 2015. Do you have recommendations?

Have you joined GoodReads?

The full list:

The Children of Men Year Zero: A History of 1945Ponzi's Scheme: The True Story of a Financial Legend Soon I Will Be InvincibleValley of Bones (Jimmy Paz, #2)A Giant Cow-Tipping by Savages: The Boom, Bust, and Boom Culture of M&AIngenious: A True Story of Invention, Automotive Daring, and the Race to Revive AmericaThe Undercover Economist Strikes Back: How to Run-or Ruin-an EconomyDefending JacobTour de France 100Wheelmen: Lance Armstrong, the Tour de France, and the Greatest Sports Conspiracy EverInflux
Sycamore Row (Jake Brigance, #2)The Escape (Snowpiercer, #1)My Dog: The Paradox: A Lovable Discourse about Man's Best FriendThe Book ThiefDetroit: An American AutopsyDoctor Sleep (The Shining #2)Old Man's War (Old Man's War, #1)Long KnivesMagic for BeginnersThe Maze Runner (Maze Runner, #1)Snowpiercer, Vol. 2: The Explorers (Snowpiercer, #2)Best Practices under the FCPA and Bribery ActBomb: The Race to Build--And Steal--The World's Most Dangerous WeaponHolesI, ZombieThe MartianThe Walking Dead, Vol. 20: All Out War Part 1Private Equity at Work: When Wall Street Manages Main StreetThe Sea and Civilization: A Maritime History of the WorldThe Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar WaoBorder Insecurity: Why Big Money, Fences, and Drones Aren't Making Us SaferDragon's Triangle (The Shipwreck Adventures #2)Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh ShermanEnder's GameA Time to Attack: The Looming Iranian Nuclear ThreatWe Were LiarsCity of StairsI Am LegendBusted: A Tale of Corruption and Betrayal in the City of Brotherly LoveThe Walking Dead, Vol. 21: All Out War Part 2Flash Boys: A Wall Street RevoltCaliforniaCapital in the Twenty-First CenturyThe Massive, Vol. 1: Black PacificAccidents in North American Mountaineering 2014: Know the Ropes: Snow ClimbingThe Handmaid's TaleGaza: A HistoryAnthem's FallHouse of Debt: How They (and You) Caused the Great Recession, and How We Can Prevent It from Happening AgainPredator: The Secret Origins of the Drone RevolutionAttachmentsTimebound (The Chronos Files, #1)Little BrotherThe Skies Belong to Us: Love and Terror in the Golden Age of HijackingI Am Number Four (Lorien Legacies, #1)Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World's First Digital WeaponThe Map Thief: The Gripping Story of an Esteemed Rare-Map Dealer Who Made Millions Stealing Priceless MapsKilling Floor (Jack Reacher, #1)Trapped Under the Sea: One Engineering Marvel, Five Men, and a Disaster Ten Miles Into the DarknessWar of the Whales: A True StoryDoing ComplianceDie Trying (Jack Reacher, #2)Stories of Your Life and OthersAll You Need Is KillThe SonKidding Ourselves: The Hidden Power of Self-DeceptionDead World ResurrectionMy Sister's GraveStation ElevenThe Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin OlympicsOn Such a Full SeaTripwire (Jack Reacher, #3)Book de Tour: Art of the 101st Tour de France

Sliding Down the Sudbury River

We picked a beautiful summer day to start our exploration of the Sudbury River.

I’ve driven over parts of the river a few times. You have also if you’ve every driven on Route 2 by Emerson Hospital. That’s where the Sudbury River passes under that highway.

We started the day in Lincoln, near the Concord border on route 117. There is a parking area east of Lee’s Bridge and the Sudbury River. The river is easy to see from the bridge, but the parking area is a bit harder. It looks like it’s in the Mount Misery woods.

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From the parking area, there is short haul down to a bay on the river. That bay is a hundred yard long slot that leads out into the Sudbury River itself.

The Boy once again was paddling on his own. We rented a Wilderness Pungo 140 from Charles River Canoe & Kayak. We taped up his thumbs to prevent the blisters he got last time.

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Shortly, we paddled into Fairhaven Bay where the river widens. According to Thoreau’s journal, he accidentally set fire to the woods around Fairhaven Bay in 1844. Far across the bay is a beautiful stone boathouse.

Fairhaven Bay

As you turn the corner out of the bay and head downstream on the river, you will definitely see a huge modern house perched uphill above the left-hand bank. I believe Hassan Ahmed bought the estate in 2009 after leaving Sonus Networks.

The Sudbury River is slow and flat through this section. It would be easy to paddle round trip. With Natascha along, we were able to shuttle cars and only paddle a downstream trip.

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<insert obligatory waterfowl picture.>

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The most unusual sight on the river was this pontoon boat.

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It was a lunch cruise on the Concord River. Martha’s Catering & Concord River Cruises runs the operation out of the South Bridge Boat House.  This is a good spot to rent a canoe or kayak if you want to explore he nearby sections of the Concord, Assabet, or Subbury Rivers.

There were several casual fishermen along the river. Based on the sign below, I hope they were just doing a catch & release.

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At the end of the paddle, we came to Egg Rock, where the Assabet River merges with the Sudbury River to form the Concord River.

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From the merge it was just a short distance to the Old Calf Pasture landing spot on Lowell Road in Concord. This paddling trip was a little bit over five miles.

subdury river 1

Canoodling on the Concord River

We put back in the Concord River where we had last left. “We” this time also included Natascha.

DSC_0096She took the little yellow kayak, I took The Girl in the big red kayak, and The Boy took a rental to paddle by himself.

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The weight balance is far off in the red kayak with me in the back and The Girl in the front. DSC_0077

The Concord River continues it slow flow through Billerica towards Lowell. The day was partly cloudy with almost no wind. The river was glass smooth at times.

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Of course there were plenty of birds to see. <Insert obligatory picture of waterfowl.>DSC_0088

What we did not expect to see was a killer frog.

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I had read that bullfrogs were carnivorous, but I had never seen one eating a mouse before. Until now.

The end point was the Faulkner Mill in North Billerica.

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Dams at this location can be traced back to the late 1600s, at first to control flooding and grind corn.

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This is also a waypoint for the Middlesex Canal which flowed from Lowell to Charlestown. The mill pond helped feed the canal.

Casting Along the Concord River

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The Boy and The Girl ready for paddling

The Concord River forms from the merger of the Assabet River and Sudbury River. The two upstream rivers flow into each other at Egg Rock which is just upstream from the boat launch at Lowell Road.

This is a large boat launch area with room to pull the truck down to the water and drop the big red kayak in the water. We were there on a pleasant, sunny Saturday afternoon. There was a stream of cars pulling in and out unloading canoes and kayaks into the river.

The Boy brought his new fishing rod, hoping to get a fish bite. He wanted to work on his casting skills.

The highlight of the trip is passing under the Old North Bridge. (Actually, it’s a replica of the original bridge.) You get a great view of the bridge and the minuteman statute from the river.

Old North Bridge from the Concord River

This was the spot where the “shot heard round the world” was fired. The minuteman were on one side of the bridge and the British regulars were on the other side.

Most of the right bank of the Concord River is protected land: the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge.

Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge along the Concord River
Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge along the Concord River

With all of that protected land, there is some great birdwatching. We saw five herons perched along the riverbanks and felled trees in the river. Unlike the Charles River herons, the Concord River herons were nonplussed by the approaching kayak.

Bird Watching on the Concord River
Bird Watching on the Concord River

The Concord River is wide and flat during most of this stretch. It’s wide enough and deep enough for motorboats. There was a jetski buzzing around us. He was a thoughtful rider and slowed to a crawl leaving no wake to upset the kayak.

Broad expanse of the Concord River
Broad expanse of the Concord River

This is supposed to be a great stretch of the river for fishing. We saw several tricked out fishing boats with serious fishermen aboard. Sadly, our fishing was unproductive. I did see a big fish jump out of the water, but that was the closest we got to a fish.

The takeout is at Bartlett’s Landing. There is parking lot for a handful of cars. The landing is a sandy beach just after passing an island in the river. There are several private sandy beaches upstream from the landing.
Bartlett's Landing on the Concord River

The Route:

concord river
July 26, 2014

Tour de Newton

Tour de Newton

It was a glorious early summer day. The sun was shining. The sky was blue. I was wrapped in a bright orange shirt for my ride in the Tour de Newton.

The Tour de Newton is a casual ride though all 13 villages of Newton. It’s a shotgun start, so the ride starts simultaneously in all 13 villages. It ends up being about 20 miles and takes about 3 to 4 hours. You earn a pin at each village stop.

I signed up late so the only village still open for riders was Chestnut Hill. That meant I had to add on five miles at the beginning (and end) to get to the Boston College start.

John led the group out at a leisurely pace, while Lucia swept up the back of our pack of 25 riders. We were across the age spectrum, with a half dozen teenage boys exercising their freedom of adventure, a few under-ten, and pack of those comfortably in their middle age, like me.

From Chestnut Hill we coasted down Comm Ave and Centre Street to the Jackson Homestead for our first stop at Newton Corner. The downhill was a great way to start. But it also meant we would have to get back uphill at the end. Then on through the rest of Newton.

map

The Newton police set up cones for our left-hand turn through Newton Corner. They also set up cones on Washington Street to set up a bike travel lane as we pedaled over I-95 and blocked off-ramp traffic for us.

There was only one driver who acted like a jerk to our pack. He thought we were too much of an inconvenience and couldn’t wait the extra two minutes for us get through Auburndale. At least he was well-behaved enough to not actually hit any of the cyclists. He just made it more treacherous for us.

The Tour was extremely well-organized and well-supported. I’ll need to remember to sign up earlier next year.

Ghost: The Paradox

ghost my dog the paradox

Matthew Inman, author or The Oatmeal, wrote a tribute to his dog, Rambo. My Dog: The Paradox

It’s a meditation on the reckless, impulsive, and completely lovable mortality of man’s best friend.  It’s funny and touching.

That’s Ghost, my paradox. A 150 pound beast who is afraid of pugs and cats. He fell asleep while guarding the house from people walking past our house.

 

Influx by Daniel Suarez

influx by daniel suarez

Imagine that there is a sinister Bureau of Technology Control that has been suppressing technology advances. Nuclear fusion? Perfected in 1985. Cancer? Cure discovered in 1998. “Immortal DNA strand segregation”? Accomplished in 1986. Control gravity? Now (at least in Influx by Daniel Suarez).

The Bureau kidnaps the revolutionary scientists that have developed these breakthrough technologies and is withholding their discoveries. The Influx hero has developed a “gravity mirror” that controls gravity. The Bureau deems it disruptive and kidnaps him.

I had very high hopes for Influx. The Wall Street Journal thought that Influx could be Suarez’s “breakout book and propel him into the void left by the deaths of Tom Clancy and Michael Crichton”.

It’s good. I ripped through it quickly, wanting to see where the story went. But setting the bar as high as Clancy or Crichton is too high.

I mostly got hung up on the futuristic technology. It was too advanced. I bought the gravity mirror. But I couldn’t put my belief in a fusion reactor the size of a softball. That ultimately distracted me from the rest of the story.


Wheelmen

wheelmen

Lance Armstrong was one of the best cyclists in last 20 years. But his wins were built on a foundation of illegal doping and performance enhancing drugs. It’s not about the bike; It’s all about the needle.

I first came to road cycling during the rise of Mr. Armstrong. His story as a cancer-survivor coming back to win the biggest race in the world was an inspiration. But, it was all built on lies. The United States Anti-Doping Agency has stripped him of all of his cycling wins since his recovery from cancer.

Reed Albergotti and Vanessa O’Connell write a devastating tale of Mr. Armstrong’s rise and meteoric crash. Wheelmen is very well-written and well-researched. We only saw Lance on his bike. The book takes us through what was happening on the team bus and hotel.

I remember watching his epic battles with Ullrich, Mayo, Beloki, and himself. Lance answered all the challenges during his seven Tour de France wins in a row. His team was stacked with great riders: Hincapie, Hamilton, Landis, Eki, Heras, Leipheimer, and many others. The team was run by a Bruyneel, a master tactician. Those great riders and those tactics were reliant on a widespread campaign of illegal doping.

It’s clear that most of the top cyclists during the Armstrong era were also doping. There are no Tour de France winners during those years because the men next to Armstrong on the podium most years have also been implicated in doping. It begs the question of whether Armstrong was the best cyclist or merely the best doper. Or perhaps a combination of the two.

I was sadly disappointed when the charges came out against Armstrong. Given that he had faced death, I did not think he would risk his health by doing.

“Armstrong said he wouldn’t be stupid enough to take drugs after cancer. ‘I’ve been on my deathbed,’ he said.”

I was wrong; He was lying.

The doping was not the worst part. It was that Lance Armstrong had viciously attacked anyone who tried to tell about his doping. He wrecked the careers of people merely trying to tell the truth and clean up cycling.

Wheelmen is great book to read if you have an interest in cycling or Lance Armstrong.

The Searchers

the Searchers

John Wayne is at his most “John Wayne-ish” in this classic western from John Ford. Wayne plays a middle-aged Civil War veteran who spends years in western Texas chasing the Comanches who abducted his niece. He rides on his quest with his adoptive nephew.

This is a great movie to add to your Netflix queue.

The film’s scenery is stark, desolate, and beautiful. The sandstone buttes of Monument Valley puncture the horizon in every exterior shot.

In 2008, the American Film Institute named The Searchers as the greatest Western of all time. AFI also rated it 96 in the top 100 movies of all time and rose to 84 in the 2007 edition of the list.

Curling in the Park

curling and compliance

The Olympics are over, but your dream of being a curling champion may not be. I took part in a curling mini-league many years ago. The closest analogy is a combination of bowling and shuffleboard, but much, much harder. The stones are heavy, the ice is slippery, and the playing surface is very long.

Modern curling has precisely measured indoor ice sheets, timing clocks, Teflon-soled shoes, and high-tech brooms. But like hockey, it started as a pond sport in its early days.

Above is a photograph of outdoor curling in Central Park in New York City. I love this picture, so I thought I would share it. More 1890s curling photos.