Testing Myself in the Formidable 2016

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.

A tranquil setting somewhere in Western Mass.
A tranquil setting somewhere in Western Mass.

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.

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Princeton Center on the spine of Mt. Wachusett

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.

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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.

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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.

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Atop the Winsor Dam at the south end of the Quabbin Reservoir

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.

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Second Rest Stop at the Red Bridge

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?

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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.

It hurt.

I cracked.

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.

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The road sign of pain

The ride routed along the wonderful Norwottuck Rail Trail into Northhampton across the Connecticut River. Then onto the New Haven and Northampton Canal Rail Trail. Rail trail means flat. My legs could handle flat.

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.

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I finished.

I was bent, but not broken. Bent and twisted into a pretzel, but not broken.

Seacoast Century

It was a beautiful fall day. So why not ride for 100 miles through three different states? I convinced a Christine to join me.

The Granite State Wheelmen have been organizing the Seacoast Century Ride for four decades. It was a cold September morning for the start of the 43rd edition of the ride.

We headed south from the start at Hampton Beach, past the Seabrook nuclear power plant.

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I blame the radiation from the nuclear plant for distorting the picture. Surely it could not be my poor photography.

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There was a 20 mile loop south to the Merrimack River in Massachusetts. We had started early so the sun had not been able to provide much warmth.

After 20 miles of pedaling, my body was warming up. The sun was higher and warmer. We pulled back into the start and shed some layers before heading north for the remaining 80 miles.

The ride was beautiful along the New Hampshire seacoast. We linked up with a competent-looking group of riders and formed a paceline, picking up the pace as we rounded beaches and dunes.

The pace proved too much for Christine, so I pulled off the front of the paceline and we continued as a pair for the rest of the ride.

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Beautiful views along the ride

We hugged the coast heading north through Portsmouth into Maine.

The northern turn-around was at Nubble Light in York, Maine.

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Nubble Light. Scenic. Right?

Then it was back south to Hampton Beach.img_5212

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.img_5213

I only saw one incident. There was a sharp turn in Portsmouth to get on the approach to the World War I Memorial Bridge over the Piscataqua River.

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.

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I’m circling the date to ride it again next year. img_5196

Pan Mass Challenge 2016

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

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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.

Thanks to TP Daley Insurance in West Springfield for hosting us for lunch.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.>

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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

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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.

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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.

Entered Whitinsville Saturday 6:49AM
Left Whitinsville Saturday 7:18AM 00:29
Entered Franklin Saturday 8:27AM 01:09
Left Franklin Saturday 8:31AM 00:04
Entered Dighton-Rehoboth Saturday 10:48AM 02:17
Left Dighton-Rehoboth Saturday 11:32AM 00:44
Entered Lakeville Saturday 12:26PM 00:54
Left Lakeville Saturday 1:10PM 00:44
Entered Wareham Saturday 2:00PM 00:50
Entered MMA (Finish) Saturday 2:44PM 00:44
Entered Barnstable Sunday 7:02AM 16:18
Left Barnstable Sunday 7:14AM 00:12
Entered Brewster Sunday 8:11AM 00:57
Left Brewster Sunday 8:47AM 00:36
Entered Wellfleet Sunday 9:59AM 01:12
Left Wellfleet Sunday 10:30AM 00:31
Entered Provincetown PTI (Finish) Sunday 11:51AM 01:21

 

Help Me Raise Money to Fight Cancer

I’m riding the Pan Mass Challenge in 2016 and hope you will consider supporting me this year. [Click here to make a donation]

Unfortunately, I have another reason to ride this year:

jeff

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:

Doug Cornelius
15 Lockwood Rd
West Newton MA 02465

Click here to make a $25 donation

Click here to make a $50 donation

Click here to make a $100 donation

Click here to make a $250 donation

Click here to make a donation of any amount

If you’re interested in how the 2015 ride went, you can read Pan-Mass Challenge 2015.

Middle-Aged Men Who Are Officially Obsessed With Superstar Tom Brady Hits the One Million Mark

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.

meeting tom brady

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 Reading Challenge – Final Tally @newtonvillebks

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.

Here is the final list and my entries:

Category 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: Tenth of December: Stories
Tenth of December: Stories
Saunders, George
August 30
A book from a small press: Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919
Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919
by Stephen Puleo
Published by Beacon Press
September 21
A book based on a true story:
Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania
by Erik Larson
November 18
A book more than 100 years old:
Robinson Crusoe
by Daniel Defoe
Didn’t Finish
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:
1984
George Orwell
Sorry college literature class
December 11
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:
On the Beach
by Nevi Shute
The book is set in Australia.
March 31
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:
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
John le Carré
December 26
A book by an author with your initials: Went the Day Well?: Witnessing Waterloo
Went the Day Well?: Witnessing Waterloo
by David Crane
DC just like me
Didn’t Finish
A play:
Romeo and Juliet
Shakespeare
November 15
A banned book: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Mark Haddon
Picked this one up from the Newton Library’s Banned Book Week display
October 5
A book you previously started but never finished: Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II
Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II
By Mitchell Zuckoff
December 12
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: The Old Man and the Sea
Old Man and the Sea
by Ernest Hemingway
November 2
A book that takes place in the area where you grew up: Bay State "Blue" Laws and Bimba
Bay State “Blue” Laws and Bimba
by William Wolkovich.
Documentary study of the Anthony Bimba trial for blasphemy and sedition in Brockton, Massachusetts, 1926
October 22
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:

The Beginner's Guide to Bicycle Commuting
The Beginner’s Guide to Bicycle Commuting

by Mathias Rechtzigel

September 30
A book written by an author over 70: Alone on the Ice: The Great...
Alone on the Ice: The Greatest Survival Story in the History of Exploration
by David Roberts
Born in 1943; Book published in 2013
October 18
A book of poetry: maya
The Poetry of Maya Angelo
 October 28
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: Boston Strong: A City's Triumph Over Tragedy
Boston Strong: A City’s Triumph Over Tragedy
by David Wedge and Casey Sherman
Written by my cousin so the whole family loves it
September 4
A Newtonville Books staff pick: Ship Breaker
Ship Breaker
by Paolo Bacigalupi
One of Nicolle’s picks
September 2
A signed book:
Independence Day
(Dewey Andreas, #5)
by Ben Coes
Still to Read
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: The Diver's Clothes Lie Empty
The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty
by Vendala Vida
Morocco
August 31

 

Biking the Streets of Newton; All of the Streets

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.

strava heatmap

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)

strava heatmap

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.

Now it’s on to the next feat, whatever it may be.

100 Miles of Nowhere or 100 kM of Newton Bike Ride

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.

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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.

heat map
My Strava heatmap for Newton

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.

sign

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.

I crashed.

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.

The aftermath of the crash
The aftermath of the crash

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.

110 miles of nowhere
My 100 KM of Newton Route

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.

Originally, I thought that would be enough. Then I discovered that Chris Smith had ridden for 100 miles on the Wells Avenue circle in Newton on Sunday.  I changed my division to be the most miles ridden in Newton on 11/7/2015 before noon.

I’m proud to announce that I won the 100 Kilometers in Newton Before Noon Division. I crossed the 100 KM mark before noon on Saturday. The thrill of victory.

Since it was a division of one, I also came in last place. The agony of defeat.

Newtonville Books 2015 Reading Challenge – Third Quarter update @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.

27 out of 39 so far. I’m falling behind.

I’ve been doing a lot of bike commuting which has cut dramatically into my reading time. I did most of my reading on the train or bus. It’s hard to read while riding a bike.

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: Tenth of December: Stories
Tenth of December: Stories
Saunders, George
 August 30
A book from a small press: Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919
Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919
by Stephen Puleo
Published by Beacon Press
September 21
A book based on a true story:  Dead Wake  To Read
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:
On the Beach
by Nevi Shute
The book is set in Australia.
March 31
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: Went the Day Well?: Witnessing Waterloo
Went the Day Well?: Witnessing Waterloo
by David Crane
DC just like me
Currently reading
A play:
A banned book: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Mark Haddon
Picked this one up from the Newton Library’s Banned Book Week display
Currently Reading
A book you previously started but never finished: Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II
Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II
By Mitchell Zuckoff
To Finish Reading
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:

The Beginner's Guide to Bicycle Commuting
The Beginner’s Guide to Bicycle Commuting

by Mathias Rechtzigel

September 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: Boston Strong: A City's Triumph Over Tragedy
Boston Strong: A City’s Triumph Over Tragedy
by David Wedge and Casey Sherman
Written by my cousin so the whole family loves it
September 4
A Newtonville Books staff pick: Ship Breaker
Ship Breaker
by Paolo Bacigalupi
One of Nicolle’s picks
September 2
A signed book: Independence Day  To Read
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: The Diver's Clothes Lie Empty
The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty
by Vendala Vida
Morocco
August 31

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.

Hub on Wheels 2015

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.

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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.

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We cruised down Cambridge Street, passed MGH and onto the Storrow Drive ramp. We rode fast, but slowed down for a moving group picture.

Hub on Wheels

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.

hub on wheels

 

Tour de Newton

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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.

tour de newton map

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.

Nonantum is always the highlight of the Tour. The Nonantum Neighborhood Association puts out treats from Antoine’s Pastry Shop. I grabbed a few slices of delicious cake to refill my blood sugar levels.

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.

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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.

Pan-Mass Challenge Day Two

Good morning Cape Cod!

I was tired after biking from Sturbridge to Bourne on Day One of the PMC and from the New York border on the Day Zero ride. Sleep had come easy Saturday night, just not enough of it.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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.
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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.

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Pan-Mass Challenge Day One

Good morning Sturbridge!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
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We showered, ate, drank and relaxed before gathering for a Team Kinetic Karma team photo. But we got photo-bombed.

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This one worked out better.

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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!

Sleep came easy. That was 192 miles down. I had just another 80 miles to reach Provincetown on Day Two of the Pan-Mass Challenge.

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.

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Pan-Mass Challenge Day Zero

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.

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Of course we needed proof that we started in New York.Doug at the New York Border

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.

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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.

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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.

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Thanks officers.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Champagne room rest stop

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.

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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.

That was 90 miles down for one day. I still had 192 miles to go to reach Provincetown. Time to rest up for Day One of the Pan-Mass Challenge and Day Two of the Pan-Mass Challenge.

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.

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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!

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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:

An Avalanche from the Eyes of a Rescuer

James Mort was skiing with Australian ski buddies Andrew and Dan, and local friend Leonard at Les Crosets. It was great snow. Over three feet of snow in 48 hours.

They took a shortcut off the trail. Then things went wrong. Dan had a GoPro mounted on his helmet and captured it.

Read more at An Avalanche Survival Story