Today was my fourth time riding and third time acting as a ride leader for Bike Newton‘s Tour de Newton. Unlike my usual weekend bike rides, this would be short We were riding the shorter Petite edition of the Tour de Newton, designed for younger riders and their parents. Instead of the 20 mile route running thorough all 13 of Newton’s villages, the Petite edition runs for a much shorter 3 miles.
It’s a great Father’s Day event because I get to ride with my kids and Mrs. Doug.
The morning kicked off with getting riders signed in and getting them into their blue T-shirts for the ride. Bikes ranged from small kids’ bikes to a monstrous tandem with a trail-a-way trailer.
Many bikes needed air in the tires, but there were no obvious mechanical deficiencies. Some seemed dusty enough that they may not have been ridden since last year’s Tour.
I had a grabbed a handful of bike bells at the store yesterday and attached them to kids’ bikes until I ran out. Kids need bells on their bikes.
We spent a few minutes talking about safety and hand signals, including a special signal for bell ringing.
Then we were off. Sixty+ riders of all shapes and sizes and experience, celebrating being on a bike.
The first stop was Newton City Hall. I gave a warning to the group that this stop would be about bike advocacy and they could stay to the side if they did not want to participate.
I call this picture in front of Newton City Hall: We Bike and we vote.
Then it was an incident free ride for the three miles.
There were four ride leaders. We had one at the front and one at the back. Two of us were “corks” blocking the intersections and stopping traffic for the procession to get through.
The corking probably made a few drivers grumpy, causing them to be a few minutes late for where they were heading on a Sunday morning. How mad can you really get at a huge pack of kids and parents riding their bikes and ringing their bike bells?
One driver did pull up next to me, I was expecting anger, but instead I got love. She thought the ride wonderful and was happy to wait a few minutes to pull into her driveway.
There was a short hill on Terrace Avenue that caused a few young legs to reach their limits. Our rest stop at Newton Highlands’ Hyde Center was just a few more turns of the pedals down the road.
This is going to be the last Petite ride for us. The Boy said he wants to ride the full ride and of course The Girl is going to follow her brother.
On June 10 I rode in the 17th annual edition of the B2VT ride (formerly known as the B2B). It’s one of the most challenging single day rides in New England. It starts near the Revolutionary War battlefields in Lexington and rolls over 130+ miles to Okemo, Vermont.
I was all smiles at the start. But that was before the pedaling started and before I had my morning coffee. The camera over-adjusted for the lighting. It was dark. The sun was barely over the horizon.
It turns out I had forgotten my morning coffee because it was a very early start. See the clock. Yes, 5:18 am when I rolled out from the start line. (I never did manage to get that iced coffee.)
The first 30 miles were rather uneventful, along typical New England roads. Then, we came into Willard Brook State Forest and started going uphill for ten miles. That’s just the warm-up, nicknamed the “Primer.” The ride organizers call it merely “irritating.” At this point there were still big, organized groups of riders on the road. Plenty of company for brief chats with new friends and some familiar faces.
Then it’s just undulating roads through southern New Hampshire. Unfortunately, there were several Trump-Pence bumper-stickered trucks “rolling coal” on the riders. One would be too many. But I saw four myself. That’s when trucks slow down and then step on the gas to release a plume of exhaust onto a cyclist.
The course hits the hard stuff at mile 75 when you take a hard right-hand turn and head up the “Leviathan“. It’s a category 3 climb up a ridge into the Pisgah State Park. It’s a timed segment.
And no, I was not king of the mountain. Not even close. It took me 25:37 to do the climb, according to my computer. The winner came in at 14:57. [Official results: me at 25:20, with the winner at 14:49. I can’t even claim age, since the top three were all in my age division]
After that big climb, I got to enjoy some downhill and rolling roads through beautiful southwestern New Hampshire.
By this time in the ride, cyclists were strung out along the course. There were a few small groups of organized riders. Clearly, riders were either fading or digging deep by this point. The question was how much did the Leviathan take out of my legs and energy reserves.
Crossing the Connecticut River meant the ride was shifting from New Hampshire to Vermont. It also meant we had crossed the 100 mile mark on the ride. That’s a key mark for me on a ride: a century.
After a rest stop, there was a right-hand turn to climb “The Petro“, another timed climb. It’s a 3 mile long category 3 climb. This one adds in a mile of dirt road to keep things more interesting. For me it took 18:48, while the King of the Mountain crushed it in 11:17.
The next challenge was the long grind from Chester up to Proctorsville. The ride organizers call this section “like having a stone in your shoe.” It’s annoying and at times painful.
At this point, it’s the lure of barbecue and beer at the finish that was driving me. Clearly, some cyclists were starting to crack. For me, it was all about passing more riders than passed me.
I just emptied the tank and turned the pedals to hit the finish line. All smiles once I was able to get off the bike, knowing I was minutes from a refreshing shower.
If you want an eagle-eye view of the ride you can watch this Relive video from the Strava data: B2VT 2017.
Bikes Not Bombs is a great organization based in Jamaica Plain. Each year it collects roughly 6,000 used bicycles and used parts around Greater Boston. Most of these bikes are shipped overseas to economic development projects through International Programs in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Bikes that don’t get shipped often land in the BNB Youth Programs where teens learn bicycle safety and mechanics skills in the process of earning bikes to keep for themselves.
Each year BNB puts on a Bike-A-Thon as it’s largest community gathering and fundraiser of the year, bringing in over 700 riders. Riders could choose to ride 10 miles, 30 miles, 50 miles or the new 100 mile route.
I thought this would be a great opportunity to combine a long bike ride and support a great organization. I put my fundraising energy into the Pan Mass Challenge, so I just wrote check myself for the fundraising part of the ride.
With the B2VT coming up the following week, I thought the 100 mile route would be an excellent training ride. By adding 10 miles to get to the start and 10 mile back, I would have a long day in the saddle.
The 100 mile route meandered all over the place, making lots of extra turns to avoid being on main roads.
Fortunately it was well marked with the BNB road paint to keep us on course.
The ride warning stated that riders needed to average at least a 12 mph pace on the 100 mile route. The ride rules also said no pace-lining. There were two ride leaders in front, with a warning to not pass them or risk getting lost on the course. So, I was expecting a mellow day in the saddle.
Certainly, the first 10 miles were going to be limited by the traffic, stop signs and traffic lights within I-95. It was. Though the starting pack quickly thinned out. It was me, the two ride leaders, a guy in full Rapha kit, a few others by the time be got to I-95.
Once we hit Westwood, several other riders joined the group. I saw two Crack O’ Dawn kits. And the pace picked up dramatically. After a few rotations, I took the front of the line along most of Hartford Street keeping the pace above 20 mph. The guy in the full Rapha kit blew off the back. $500 worth of bike clothing does not make you faster.
It was not going to be a mellow day in the saddle. The pace stayed high, with the group working well together for a bunch of unaffiliated riders. That got us quickly to the mile 20 rest stop. Everyone pulled in, but seemed itchy to get back on saddle quickly. A few stragglers managed to catch their breath before we headed out with same vigorous pace.
That strong pace continued. We rolled through great roads in Medfield, including Causeway Street. The next rest stop came up quickly at mile 35 at a park on the shore of Holliston’s Lake Winthrop.
By now the sun was out and arm warmers were off, so it was time to apply and re-apply sunscreen. There was a lot more food consumed at this rest stop and we stayed a few minutes longer to shove food in our mouths and our back pockets.
Then it was back to mashing the pedals to keep things moving. There were about a dozen of us staying together at this fast pace. A few would crack and find their way back after a climb.
The mile 60 rest stop came up quickly and was a welcome respite from the heat of the day in Sherborn.
There was an ample supply of pickles. Those are one of my favorites on a long, hot ride. Science has not proven pickle juice to be any more effective than Gatorade, but it may be just as good. It just comes down a matter of taste. I find the briny, sour taste with a good crunch to be a welcome change from snack bars and Gatorade.
The lead group managed to stay together for a group picture before rolling out of the rest stop.
Soon cracks start forming as we went through familiar roads of Dover. I blew the group apart when we reached Claybrook Road in Dover. That smooth, new tarmac and car-free roads put me into time trial mode. One other rider and the two leaders, Mars and Addison, were all that were left by the end. And I barely made it to the end myself. My enthusiasm had gotten the better of me and cracked in the last stretch, coming to the end after 4:30, averaging a 22 mph pace. A half minute slower than my best time.
We waited a bit for the some of the other riders to re-group, but they went right, while we went left. We met again at the last rest stop: Powisset Farm. That was a conflict between wanting to rest and wanting to get the ride done.
Mars, Addison and I regrouped with Bruce and Carl from the Crack O’ Dawn to finish off the last 20 miles of ride. There was little pep left in us and we were pedaling at a much more mellow pace as we rolled through Newton, Brookline and into Stony Brook for the finish line.
At the finish, I was able to relax with delicious Tex-Mex food. There was a fun band playing music. A great end to the day… Then I realized I still needed to bike home. I wasn’t done yet. Ten more miles on the bike to get back home for relaxation.
A while back, I decided to get back in the saddle and ride my bike more often. That continued into 2016, with both bike commuting and recreational cycling.
I set my goal early in 2016 to at least match the distance I rode in 2015. I passed my goal and ended up with 4,783 miles. That distance was split just about equally between weekday commuting and weekend recreational cycling.
I used Strava to track my rides and it creates this heatmap to show where I have cycled and the routes that I have ridden most often. Very light blue shows one ride, with the blue getting darker and turning to red as I bike a route more often.
The blob of red around Boston is mostly commuting routes. If you zoom in, you can see that I did a chunk of riding on the streets of Allston, Brighton, Back Bay, and Downtown Boston.
Last year I set a goal to bike all the streets of Newton. In 2016 I shifted my focus east to the streets of Boston. But Boston is big, so I took it one neighborhood at a time. I was working my way through the South End and Fenway when the year came to an end.
I definitely came to appreciate the ban on overnight parking in Newton. Boston’s neighborhood streets are clogged with on-street parking making it very difficult to get through on a bike or a car.
Most of my rides were bike commutes. I still find that to be the best way to get to and from work. Yes, it takes longer. But all of that extra time, plus the commute itself, is exercise time. How well do you spend your time trapped in a car for your commute? I get two hours of exercise each day that I bike commute.
It was a big year in books for me in 2016. My goal was to read one book per week. I smashed through that goal and ended up with 87 books “read” for the year.
I say “read” because of those, I consumed 47 as audiobooks. I found it to be a great way to read some extra books while doing housework, yardwork, walking the dogs, walking to the train and riding the bus. I found extra time for reading.
This was a tremendous work following an escaped slave from Georgia. Mr. Whitehead crafts the escape route from a metaphor into physical existence, with engineers and conductors operating a secret network of physical tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil.
Overland Base Camp sent out this call: “The Formidable is the toughest road ride in Massachusetts. Join us and find out why The Formidable is Massachusetts’ best trial of your riding mettle.” I answered the call.
The Pavé 160 Mile version promised 160 miles of paved roads and at least 9000 feet of climbing elevation. It would start at dawn at the Ride Studio Cafe in Lexington and end somewhere Northhampton. The route would not be disclosed until less than 12 hours before the ride.
At dawn, we began pedaling down Mass. Ave. in Lexington, heading west. The sky was mostly blue, just enough to be called dawn.
I positioned myself near the front of the pack with a few riders to paceline behind. The group looked strong and rode at a brisk pace. I felt good and thought I could hold on to this group.
We blazed along some roads in Lincoln that I had ridden many times. Looking back at my Strava data for the ride, I see that I set personal records on almost all of those segments. I was doing fine and holding on to the group.
We hit the first climb near I-495 and I had no problem keeping my position in the group. Then we hit the second climb near I-190 and I started slipping further back in the group. The danger light was lit. We hit the third climb near Mt. Wachusett and I slipped to the back of the group. I was just holding on to the back. I was just a few bike lengths from the rider in front of me.
Then we hit the next climb and I was gone. The lead group was off in the distance. I was by myself at mile 40 working my way up the foothills of Mt. Wachusett.
I knew there plenty of riders behind me. I was not the lanterne rouge. At least not yet.
On the descent, I met with another group of riders. They happened to have my wind vest that must have blown out of my jersey pocket. We rode together into the first rest stop at mile 60 and then back out on the road for the next 100 miles.
Then it happened again. We stayed together on the first climb, I slipped back on the second climb, further back on the third climb, and popped off on the fourth climb.
I was by myself at mile 80 coming downhill and hit a hole in the road. Hard. The bike shuddered. I shuddered. I wondered if the tire hit hard enough to cause a pinch flat.
The answer came quickly as I heard a hiss come from the rear wheel and the bike got squirmy. I pulled to the side of the road and pulled off the rear wheel for a tube change. In the middle of changing the rear wheel, I hear a pop and long hiss from the front wheel.
A double flat. Bad news. I had two tubes so I could get back on the road. But that was it. If I got another flat, I would have to hope for the service vehicle or another rider to help me out.
I was at the halfway point and tired. The break was good for me physically. But now I was worried about a mechanical failure.
The route continued along the tranquil roads around the Quabbin Reservoir. I met up with two riders that were riding the Terra Dirt version of The Formidable, covering 100 miles that went out of its way to find dirt and gravel roads. They had bigger gravel tires so there was no point asking them for a spare tube.
I made it to the second rest stop without incident. I was hurting. That was a tough hundred miles. The rest stop was a beautiful setting at the Red Bridge between Ludlow and Wilbraham. I made it almost without incident. Approaching the bridge, the road was partially blocked with signs saying the bridge was closed. I was blindly following the route directions on my computer. I was afraid to be one of those casualties who blindly followed the GPS navigation into a river or lake. The bridge was opened for pedestrians and bikes.
Thankfully, there was well needed nourishment on the side of the river. Even more important, I was able to get a spare tire tube.
While enjoying a bowlful of chili, I pulled out the emergency paper copy of the map and looked at the route profile.
I traced my location to mile 100. That put me at almost a third of the way done. But I still had 60 more miles to go.
What lay ahead on the road?
Two huge climbs, back-to-back. Now the ride was going to get hard.
Pedaling along, I kept peering ahead to see if the road started going up hill. Then it came hard at mile 120.
I had to pull over and rest halfway up the climb. After 120 miles, I was not about to quit. My legs were jello. They had no power. Back to pedaling. The same thing happened on the second big climb.
Then I got to enjoy a rapid downhill into the Connecticut River Valley. I needed the relief from climbing.
Up ahead I could see Mount Tom as the rail trail headed generally in that direction. The route profile showed a sharp uphill at the end of the ride. I assumed that meant the ride ended by going up the side of Mount Tom.
It was a cruel end to the ride. My strength was gone. I had nothing left. But there was no way I was going quit after 160 miles and come up 1 mile short of the end.
So I pedaled. I stopped to breath and pedaled some more. Repeat to finish.
I was bent, but not broken. Bent and twisted into a pretzel, but not broken.
The ride has a soft start. You can begin at anytime on either Saturday or Sunday. Or both days. Besides the century, there are routes for 25,50, and 63 miles.
That means there are riders of all different speeds that left at different times than you. You are just as likely to get passed by a faster moving group of riders as you are to pass a slower moving group of riders.
There were no big packs of riders to navigate through. But there were enough riders on the route that you were usually in sight of another rider.
That gave me the feeling of safety if I had a mechanical issue or crash on the road. (I didn’t.)
That many cyclists on the road also keeps motorists aware. When there is a cyclist on the road every few hundred meters, I think drivers pay more attention.
We came up to a group of cyclists pulled over. One cyclist had crashed into the side of a car on the turn. According to the motorist, he was stopped at the stop sign and the cyclist went wide around the corner into the side of his car. It sounded like a cyclist error.
If you are thinking about a riding a century. The Seacoast Century is a great option. It’s well organized and well supported.
It’s also very flat. Strava said I had about 2500 feet of climbing elevation. It felt like less. I only remember a handful of spots where I had to downshift for a climb and they only lasted for a very short distance.
It started with pain. I expected to have pain in my legs. Ahead lay almost 300 miles to pedal over three days, to get from the New York border to Provincetown.
But I didn’t expect this kind of pain.
I had barely turned my pedals once when a bee (or maybe it was a wasp) flew right into my face. Wedged itself under my sunglasses. And punched a big stinger right into my eyebrow.
Fortunately, I’m not allergic to bee stings. At least I didn’t think I was allergic. It had been decades since I’ve been the victim of a bee sting. I was stopped by this point, sunglasses thrown on the ground and yelling at the tiny insect that had moved on.
Teammate C1, came along side and checked to make sure my face was not swelling into the shape of watermelon. Okay. Not allergic.
Day Zero – Friday
Hillsdale NY to Sturbridge MA
That was the start of Day Zero, our Friday ride from the New York border to Sturbridge on the day before the Pan-Mass Challenge begins.
Day Zero was largely a tribute to Danno. The Team Kinetic Karma riders were wearing Danno’s Sheldonville Bike Repair jerseys. We were joined by a few dozen other riders for the 90+ miles.
The morning is a grinding climb up and over the Berkshires. There are no spectators. No road signs. Just a ride that stretches the Pan-Mass Challenge all the way across the Commonwealth.
After the climb, we were rewarded with a long descent. For me, that was a screaming downhill losing 1000 feet of elevation to the Westfield River. At one point I almost got up to a speed of 50 mph.
After we were off the mountain we met up with a series of police escorts that would take us through Westfield, West Springfield and Springfield.
One of the challenges with cycling from the Berkshires is getting across the Connecticut River. There are only a few places to cross. In Springfield, you need to take a highway to get over the waterway. That’s no problem with a police escort.
Yes. It is really strange to be riding a bike on a highway. I’m sure the drivers in the left-hand lane thought it was even stranger.
The strangest part of the ride is the final rest stop of the day at the Magic Lantern.
That air conditioning felt great on our over-heated bodies. The proprietors put on a great spread to refresh us for the last leg into Sturbridge. No dancers were on the scene. The Champagne Room was full of sweaty cyclists looking for the energy to get those last few dozen miles out of our legs.
We pulled into Sturbridge with a full day in our legs, while most of the other 6,000 riders of the PMC were just getting ready. Yeah, that feels good.
Day One – Saturday
Sturbridge MA to Bourne MA
The Pan Mass Challenge starts at dawn, My muscles were aching from the previous day’s miles. My heart was aching from the loss of Jeff earlier this year.
I was on the road with 6,000 other rider; 22% of them were first time riders.
It’s hard to describe the emotional roller coaster of the Pan Mass Challenge. Physically, your body is pushing you up the road. Emotionally, the road is populated with supporters, cheering you on. Many are cancer survivors or family members of those who have battled this disease. Even a hard guy like me has trouble keeping back the tears when you see a kid holding a sign that reads Thanks to you I’m 15 .
One of the many highlights is the Pedal Partner rest stop. Team Kinetic Karma connects with a kid fighting cancer through the PMC’s Pedal Partner program. Anna has been the Team’s pedal partner for the last few years. Anna just completed her cancer treatment. <Fingers crossed that she has beaten back this disease.>
Stopping for the day at the Mass. Maritime Academy means it’s time for some beverages and good meal to fuel up for another long day on the bike.
Day Two – Sunday
Bourne MA to Provincetown MA
Day Two starts with the slow roll out of the Mass. Maritime Academy to the Bourne Bridge. The crowd of riders is dense and there are only two lines of cyclists. You can only ride as fast as the slowest climber at the top of the bridge. You get a beautiful sunrise as you touch wheels on Cape Cod, then there’s a series of hard fast turns onto the Cape Cod Canal Trail into the blinding sun just rising over the horizon.
One highlight of the last day is the cruise past the hedges at the Cape Cod Sea Camp. They bring a raucous crowd. All that energy went straight to my legs. We gave them a champagne toast, thanking them for coming out.
At the end it was the celebration of those fighting cancer that kept the power in my legs to keep me going over the Provincelands Dunes. My focus was on finishing and bringing as many of my teammates along with me as I could.
The End of the Ride
I print a list of my sponsors and any words of encouragement just before the PMC ride and tuck it into my jersey pocket to power me through the three days. Thank you to everyone who sponsored my ride.
Timeline for Day One and Day Two
This is largely for my reference so I can remember next year when I ended up at the various rest stops. You will note the excessive amount of time spent in most of the rest stops. It’s not a race to get to the finish. We ride fast and rest luxuriously.
Unfortunately, I have another reason to ride this year:
Jeff was diagnosed with cancer just before Thanksgiving. This terrible disease killed him just after the New Year. He was a big, strong, brash guy. We grew up together, went to high school together, went to college together, snowboarded together and climbed mountains together.
Cancer took him.
I can’t think of a better way to remember him than to to ride for him and raise money to fight what killed him. Maybe we can help save the next person.
Jeff and I grew up with Dave. After Dave’s mom died of cancer, Dave formed Team Kinetic Karma and I first rode my first Pan-Mass Challenge.
I came back to ride again when Dave was diagnosed with cancer. He fought back and won. The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute helped him beat back the disease.
Then my dad was diagnosed with cancer. He fought back and won. The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute helped him beat back the disease. But his sister, brother, and mother (my aunt, uncle and Nana) did not win and lost their battles with cancer.
100% of your donation to my PMC ride with go the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
The Pan Mass Challenge ride is 192 miles over two days from Sturbridge to Provincetown. If I hit my fundraising goal, I’m going to add on another 100 miles and a third day of riding from the New York border over the Berkshires to Sturbridge.
Donations can be made by clicking below, or sending a check to my mailing address:
15 Lockwood Rd
West Newton MA 02465
That is the headline given by Richard J. King to himself in Meeting Tom Brady. Mr. King is a lecturer in Literature of the Sea with the Williams College at Mystic Seaport Maritime Studies Program and the author of scholarly articles. He does not seem like the typical stalker of Tom Brady.
The book traces Mr. King’s efforts to meet Mr. Brady and come up with interesting questions for him. This includes hanging out in Boston’s South Station with a sign saying asking “What would you ask Tom Brady?” And yes, his solicitations work and people stop to tell him what they would ask.
Mr. King’s efforts take place during the 2013 football season. The ups and downs of the season are mixed with the ups and downs of Mr. King’s quest.
I won’t spoil the questions you are asking “Does he meet Tom Brady and what does he ask him?”
I’m a devoted Patriots fan, so I took a copy of the book when the publisher offered me a copy for review.
I’m not sure the book will appeal to anyone but Patriots fans. If you are a Patriots fan, it’s a fun book to read.
Newtonville Books published a 2015 Reading Challenge. The goal was “something fun to get you out of your comfort zone.” I read and I was up for a challenge.
The challenge definitely had me read books that I would not otherwise have picked up. I surprised myself to be reading Shakespeare and Maya Angelou. I even read, or at least started reading, a few books I was supposed to have read in college. Mrs. Doug stared quizzically at some of my reading choices.
The challenge also meant that my “To-Read” stack of books remained tall while I queued up books that fit into the challenge categories instead.
Of the 39 categories on the challenge, I finished 36.
I tried getting through Robinson Crusoe, the book I picked for being over 100 years old. It was so boring. I put it aside to grab something else on the list. I never got back to it. And I don’t think I will.
I had trouble finding authors with my initials. At least anything interesting by an author with my initials. I thought I had found something with Went the Day Well?: Witnessing Waterloo. I was wrong. I didn’t finish that book either.
I had a book ready for the “autographed book” category. I never got to it. But it’s still in my tower of to-read-books on my nightstand.
Early in 2015 I decided to get back in the saddle and ride my bike more often. Since then, I have managed to tuck a few feats into my jersey pocket. One of those was biking the streets of Newton. ALL of the streets of Newton.
This feat began with two things.
1. Strava. A fellow member of my PMC bike team showed me the Strava app to track my rides. One of Strava’s features was a heat map that tracked the routes I biked.
2. Bike Commuting. To keep my bike commute more interesting I began riding different routes. I thought it was a good idea to see the conditions: traffic, road surface, lighting, distance, ease of crossing, etc.
With those two combined, I was painting pictures of my bike routes through Newton, Brookline, Boston, Watertown, and Cambridge.
I don’t remember when it happened, but at some point I noticed that I could not only fill in streets, but could fill in street grids.
Then my habit of making the insignificant into the significant kicked in. I really wanted to cover all of the streets of Newton with my bike trails. I made it significant. At least for me
This past weekend I finished the task. (See below)
One of the things I discovered was that Newton has lots of stubby dead end streets. Land is very valuable in the city, so carving out a few lots can be very lucrative. That has clearly happened over the years. Trying to get my bike on to all of those stubby streets was time consuming.
A surprising thing I discovered was how many dirt roads there are in Newton. I didn’t expect so much poor infrastructure in an affluent suburb like Newton. However, all, or at least nearly all, of those dirt roads were private ways and/or dead ends. I would guess carving out those few lucrative lots did not extend to building city-worthy roads.
I saw lots of redevelopment in Newton. Buildable land in the city is expensive. The quickly and cheaply built post-war houses are an endangered species. In many neighborhoods, it’s easy to spot which houses are being targeted by developers for whenever the current owner decides to sell. Large houses loom over the smaller post-war ranches.
It was great to see the diversity of Newton. There is a wide range of housing, neighborhoods and settings.
It’s easy to get lost in Waban. That was one of the last sections for me to complete. I kept missing unridden streets, as the curvy roads twisted and turned unexpectedly.
Was it worth it?
Yes. The reward was merely self-satisfaction from completing a task. Of course, it was not a particularly meaningful task. But life is complicated. I like to have tasks that have clear endpoints for success. It was a clear goal and it would be clear when the goal was reached.
At least I think I finished. There are lots of roads on the map, but some are paper roads, and some are private roads and some are gated private roads. I did not get to all of those because. I’ve poured over the Strava map and Google streetview and I deem the task complete.
I don’t need much encouragement to get on my bike for a long ride. Fat Cyclist threw out a challenge to ride 100 mile race to benefit Camp Kesem, a nationwide community driven by passionate college student leaders, supporting children through and beyond their parent’s cancer.
Or not ride 100 miles. The “100 Miles” part of 100 Miles of Nowhere is more a guideline than a rule.
It’s not so much a race as nobody is required to be in any one location to race.
To keep with the odd nature of the “race” I decided to make it part of my own odd goal: to bike on every street in Newton.
I’ve become obsessed with the Heatmap feature of Strava. It tracks where you ride and marks those streets in blue. As you ride on them more often, the streets turn a darker blue and eventually pink.
I’ve been altering my bike commutes to work so that I travel over different streets. On the weekends, I try to get out to some of the more distant streets without the time limit of the commute. Slowly, I’ve been turning the streets of Newton blue and pink.
I thought the 100 Miles to Nowhere would be a perfect fit for riding more streets in Newton and turning more of them blue.
I wanted to ride 100 miles, but all the twists and turns of going up and down the streets makes for a very slow pace. I would be quickly burning through time, but not mileage.
I had a hard stop at noon. Mrs. Doug insisted. I was not going to use up more husband points to squeeze in a longer ride.
Noon was the stop. So that means the start had to be early. I was off at dawn.
With an early morning weekend start, I could tackle a dangerous road that I have until now avoided: Route 9 / Boylston Street. It’s a fast moving divided highway that funnels traffic from Interstate 95 to the shopping centers of Chestnut Hill. Saturday at noon, a cyclist would risk being roadkill. Saturday at 6am, the traffic would be sparse enough for me to feel safe.
I was quite surprised to see signs targeted at cyclist at the few traffic signals on Route 9. I’m sure very few cyclists have seen the signs. I dutifully stopped on the mark to request the green light. I assume it worked.
After a getting some speed traveling the westbound side and then circling back eastbound on Route 9, I detoured south and began targeting a few streets on the south side of the city that have been evading my bike tires. Then I planned a circumnavigation of the city before tackling more of the untraveled streets.
But then I did something stupid.
Autumn in New England is beautiful. After the leaves turn brilliant shades of red and orange, they fall on the streets. As pretty as the leaves are, they provide poor traction for bike tires.
I had traded messages earlier in the week with C4, another rider on my Pan-Mass Challenge team, about the danger of leaves. I knew the danger.
I was coming downhill with a right-hand corner to take. I saw the leaves covering the street. I should have braked harder before I got to the leaves.
But I didn’t.
My tires hit the leaves, the leaves left the street. My tires went with leaves, leaving me on the street. I landed hard on my side, knocking the wind out of me. Fortunately, the leaves were deep enough that I slid on them like a Slip n’ Slide.
After a few minutes of cursing at myself, I dusted myself off and felt an oozing wetness on my side.
“Great,” I thought, “I’m bleeding all over the place.”
I touched the sore spot and came back with sticky brown fingers. Did I poop myself on the fall? I think I would have noticed that. And the sticky brown stuff smelled pretty good. Like apples and brown sugar.
Then I realized that my right-side pocket was filled with snacks and energy gels. I had crushed them and popped the packages, sliming my back and pocket with gooey carbohydrates.
At least I was in one piece, even if my food supply was not. I was sore, very sore, but got back on the saddle.
The rest of the ride was unremarkable. I biked a circumnavigation of city limits of Newton. Or at least as close I could manage with the street patterns. I may have wandered across the Newton city line at a few points into Brookline, Waltham and Watertown. And I filled in a few more streets on my heatmap.
I arrived back home right at noon and Mrs. Doug had just arrived as well.
I managed to bike for 75 miles, with 2,000 feet of climbing. All but a few of those miles were in Newton. That means I had passed the 100 kilometer mark in the City of Newton.
Boston Bikes’s Hub on Wheels has two great features: (1) a ride through parts of Boston I would not normally ride and (2) a car-free Storrow Drive so you can ride right down the middle of the highway. I was in for the 2015 edition.
I rolled out at dawn heading to Downtown Boston for the 2015 edition of the Hub on Wheels. The sky was dark and gray with clouds blocking the stars. I felt a few raindrops and doubted the decision to leave my warm layers and rain gear at home. As the sunrise came, the drops dried and the sun threatened to break through the clouds.
I sat at the Bill Russel statue waiting for some friends. A nearby resident told me how great the bike racing was on Saturday. “Those m–ther-f—ers were flying around the street. It was awesome. Those m–ther-f—ers were awesome. I saw the Tour de France when I was in the Navy, but these m–ther-f—ers were awesome.” I was sorry I missed the race. I asked him to cheer me on. “You got it brother.”
I met two of my Team Kinetic Karma teammates for the ride. We cut off the start of the ride to Cambridge Street in an attempt to stay in front of the hundreds (thousands?) of riders in the crowd.
We cruised down Cambridge Street, passed MGH and onto the Storrow Drive ramp. We rode fast, but slowed down for a moving group picture.
At some point I realized this was a unique opportunity to put the hammer down and ride as hard and as fast as possible.
I didn’t have to worry about cars. We had three lanes of car-free tarmac.
I didn’t have to worry about many bikers. We were in the first 20 bikers.
I lowered my hands down to drops and began cranking the pedals. A quick glance behind. I saw the flash of blue and yellow. At least one teammate was in my slipstream, coming along for the ride.
We blazed past another paceline, dipping under the Guest Quarters overpass.
My quads were burning. My lungs were burning. I kept turning the pedals.
The Harvard Bridge came and went. The Northeastern boathouse flashed by. We hit the turn around and I slowed.
Dan G. had managed to stay in my slipstream, but I had lost the other two. Dan G. continued on at a fast pace to meet a deadline. I slow pedaled waiting for Mike and Christine. When we re-grouped, I slammed the hammer down again, taking advantage of the open tarmac.
The rest of the ride would be on city streets, with car traffic, bike traffic, signals and the urban experience. The pace would be much more moderate.
I had ridden the Hub on Wheel’s 30 mile route in the past, but never the 50-mile route. The 50-mile route adds great roads through Stony Brook and up Bellevue Hill, the highest point in the City of Boston.
The sun was out and it was a beautiful day to ride through the streets of Boston.
It was a cool, wet, and cloudy day, but hundreds of people gathered across Newton to see all thirteen villages of Newton by bicycle. This was the re-scheduled Tour de Newton. (The original date in June was rained out by remnants of Tropical Storm Bill.)
In West Newton, we had several dozen riders starting out for the 20-mile ride.
The nice folks at Harris Cyclery helped some riders with a last few fixes and tweaks. Then we rolled out in a long line to Auburndale. You can just catch a glimpse of me in this video:
It was a short ride to Auburndale, where the Auburndale Community library hosted us.
We encountered our first hill as we rode from Auburndale to Lower Falls. It’s a long climb past the Riverside MBTA Station and up over Route 95.
From Lower Falls we split the large group into two. I decided to fall back and lead the less fast group with kids. From Lower Falls we had the second big climb as we rode onto Washington Street. It’s a long climb up to Beacon Street.
The Waban Community Library was our rest stop in that village. A few riders needed it after the climb.
It was a short ride from Waban to Newton Highlands. The Hyde Community Center is a turn-around point to head back to the rest of Newton.
One of the big barriers to cycling in Newton is Route 9. Safe passage for a bike across the highway are few. Tour de Newton takes advantage of the pedestrian bridge at the Eliot MBTA station to get across the river of cars. That gets us to Newton Upper Falls.
It’s a tough stretch from Upper Falls to Oak Hill. First you need to get across Needham Street. That’s tough to do in a car. It’s even harder on a bike. We aggressively took charge of the intersection and got the riders across safely in one bunch. Then it’s a long climb up to Oak Hill.
The Oak Hill stop is at Newton South High School. It doesn’t have much of a village feel. But then neither does Thompsonville, the next stop at Bowen Elementary School. Jerry Reilly, one of the founders of Tour de Newton was there to tell us the story of the most-often-forgotten of Newton’s thirteen villages.
The next stop was bustling Newton Center. A traffic challenge for cars and bikes.
Of course Chestnut Hill earned it’s name because it is a hill. This was the last of the big hills for our group. Some struggled, but they all made it. We had the safety of the bike lane on Beacon Street to help.
We earned a long downhill for those tired legs, heading down the carriage lane of Commonwealth Avenue to the Jackson Homestead in Newton Corner.
One last village to visit: Newtonville. It involves another tricky crossing of Washington Street. I used the pedestrian signal. There was no way inexperienced cyclists could cross the intersection any other way.
Then it was time to the finish in West Newton. Washington Street is two lanes in both direction, but the cars don’t need both so we took one lane for ourselves.
The West Newton village greeters had just about given up on us, but we arrived just as they were packing up the supplies. That means we each got our “finishers” buttons.
Here is me giving instructions at the start:
I’ll have to prepare the speech ahead of time for next year. Keep an eye out for the ride next June.
On the cab ride from Cap’n Dave’s house we saw a few early risers pedaling in the dark over the Bourne Bridge before the cones were set down. We were back at the Mass Maritime Academy at dawn ready to roll out. Not completely awake, but ready to ride.
There is a big slowdown as the line of bikes approach the Bourne Bridge. It’s tight. There is just enough room to ride two abreast, but no room to maneuver. It’s a long climb to get up to the crest of the bridge. Some of the riders ahead of us were up for the task; others a bit less ready.
It was a slow descent with brakes on, into the sharp right turn, 270 degrees around and onto the Cape Cod Canal bike path. I pulled onto the front and we strung along a good paceline charging past a few Team Goodwin Procter riders. From there it was the long stretch on the rollercoaster of the Service Road.
It was a bit of a blur. My legs and mind were tired. It was all about turning the pedals and getting to Provincetown.
Lance’s family was kind enough to set up a stop for us in Wellfleet stocked with Twizzlers and Red Bull. Just the recharge we needed.
I really needed it. The winds and hills of Truro and Provincetown were grueling after almost 300 miles on the road. But the end was near. I just had to keep turning my pedals.
Time to pull out the champagne flutes. A toast to the crowd at the finish line.
It was gatorade and not champagne in the flutes. I needed electrolytes more than I needed bubbles.
One last team photo to prove that we accomplished the physical task.
I was able to check into my fundraising account and saw that a few more donations had come in and pushed my fundraising total over $5,000 and Team Kinetic Karma’s total to almost $300,000 for the year.
Thank you to all of you who sponsored me on the ride. We are winning the fight against cancer and getting “Closer by the Mile.”
Donation are still open through the end of September so there is time to make a donation if you have not done so yet.
My legs were tired and my head was groggy after biking here from the New York border on the Day Zero ride. This was the main show. Thousands of bikers were gathering at the Sturbridge Host Hotel to start the 112 mile ride to Bourne.
We had been working for months on fundraising and training. It was time for action. I tucked my list of sponsors and their words of support into my back pocket, and clipped on my Soul Train name card.
The parking lots were a sea of purple, teal and yellow. Nearly every rider had donned the official PMC jersey for the ride. That included Team Kinetic Karma.
We were ready to roll out as the sea of purple flooded onto Route 20 behind the police escorts. Well, not completely ready. Cap’n Dave could not get to our rally point for the team picture at the start.
Chris, Lance and I needed some coffee so we hit the first Dunkin’ Donuts at a 1/2 mile into the ride. Once again, I popped a large ice coffee into my bottle cage. It seemed to entertain the spectators when they saw a PMC cyclist thanking them with a wave of the big ice coffee instead of a water bottle.
Now we had to hunt down the rest of the team. It’s not easy to do so while keeping your eye on the movement of other riders and obstacles in the road. The three of us quickly stopped at the first break area in Whitinsville, jumped back on the saddles and rode on.
We pulled into our team rest area at Sheldonville Bicycle Repair just past the main Franklin water stop. No other team riders were there. Our first reaction was that we so far behind that they left without us. Then we realized we must have missed them in Whitinsville.
That meant more time for my family. My dad, Mrs. Doug and my kids had all come to SBR. My dad battled cancer last year and is one of the reasons I’m riding. The rest stop allowed me to re-charge my body and my soul.
After re-charging, Team Kinetic Karma re-gathered and we were off toward Bourne. Or at least toward the lunch stop.
Riding into the lunch stop is hard. The street is lined with pictures of kids battling cancer. One of those was Anna, our Pedal Partner. We would meet up with her at another stop later in the day.
Also waiting at that rest stop, was Dave R.’s mom with picnic basket full of home-made linguica sandwiches. There was also a Del’s Frozen lemonade. Yet another rest stop to recharge our bodies and souls before the final stretch into Bourne.
The miles came and hills were climbed. You could smell the sea air as we got closer to the finish line at the Mass Maritime Academy.
We showered, ate, drank and relaxed before gathering for a Team Kinetic Karma team photo. But we got photo-bombed.
This one worked out better.
After a wait for a cab, I luxuriated at Cap’n Dave’s house in Falmouth. Handlebar Doug had prepared a feast for us. Thanks Doug!
I rolled out of bed on Friday and was 280 miles away from Provincetown. The entire Commonwealth of Massachusetts was between me and there. I needed to be there by Sunday afternoon. No car. I had my old yellow Bianchi bicycle. It was time to start my Pan-Mass Challenge ride.
My hotel roommate Lance mustered up and we packed our bags, our bikes and our jerseys. Our sag vehicle, generously driven by Handlebar Doug, would take us and Cap’n Dave from Great Barrington over to the New York border. There we would meet up with the five other riders from Team Kinetic Karma: Dave R., C-4, Chris M., Danno, and K-Feel. Our team would merge into Brielle’s Brigade who helped organize the 90 mile Day Zero ride from New York to Sturbridge.
At the rest stop assembly point, the 50 riders gathered, pumped air into our tires and clipped into our pedals. We coasted downhill, past the border to an important sign.
Of course we needed proof that we started in New York.
Unfortunately, that meant pedaling back up hill across the state line. There would a lot of pedaling uphill on Day Zero. After all, we were in the Berkshires. We had to get over the top of the Berkshires to make it the 90 miles to Sturbridge.
It was early in the morning and we were riding east into the sun. It made visibility tricky for us looking ahead. I assume it made us harder to see for cars coming up behind us. Hopefully our pack was big enough and the shirts bright enough for cars to see us.
I decided to hold on to the large ice coffee for the start of the ride. I tucked a water bottle in my jersey pocket and put the coffee in the bottle cage. It made for casual riding. No need to ride hard. We had many miles ahead of us for the weekend.
I had barely finished my coffee when we reached the first rest stop was in Monterey.
After getting up over the Berkshires, we rode through Russell and stopped at the city line for Westfield. Ahead was our police escort, who would take us through the city, through Springfield, and into Sturbridge.
That is one of the great aspects of the Day Zero ride with Brielle’s Brigade. They lined up police escorts in each city. As we reached the city line, the cruisers handed us off to the next city’s cruisers.
The police escort was especially strong in West Springfield and Springfield. They led us along a highway, shut down the rotary and took over the Memorial Bridge. These were roads I never would have taken on my bike without the flashing blue lights up front.
Lunch was at LaPlante Construction. It’s the LaPante’s daughter, Brielle, that the group is named for. Unfortunately, Brielle did not win her battle with Leukemia. Hopefully, the money I’ve raised and the PMC has raised will help the next Brielle win her battle.
One of the organizers of the Day Zero ride owns an establishment in Palmer. It has air conditioning and “entertainment.” We were there for the air conditioning.
The champagne room at the Magic Lantern was refreshing. After many hours on skinny saddles, we were more interested in the fresh fruit, gatorade, and air-conditioning, than the entertainment in the main room.
We stopped at the Dunkin’ Donuts a mile out from the Sturbridge Host Hotel. The goal was to re-group and ride into the PMC center as a pack, celebrating Day Zero. Brielle’s Brigade slowly grew larger sitting in the DD parking lot under a shade tree. After the last rider had a chance to catch his breath, the police motorcycle fired up its engine and blue lights. We came into the PMC start in celebratory fashion.
I was staying in the Super8 next door. I pulled off my shoes and the gear from my jersey back pockets and plunged into the pool in my cycling shorts. It felt so good.