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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

Want to Buy a House in Newton?

After years of planning, Mrs. Doug and I have decided that we are not real estate developers. That means we have scrapped our long-running plans to renovate our house. We moved out in anticipation of the renovation. Instead, we have put it on the market for sale.

If your looking for a grand, old house to renovate in the Greater Boston area. Take a look.  There is an open house on Sunday April 3 from Noon to 1:30.

Listing on Redfin: 321 Central Street, Auburndale.

You get a 30,000 square foot, wooded lot, with long rows of raspberry bushes and four big blueberry bushes. The house is over 2,700 square feet, built in the 1870s. There are beautiful striped hardwood floors in the hallways and dining room. Great hardwood in the library and family room. There are marble fireplaces and beautiful period detail.

What you don’t get are a good kitchen or good bathrooms. They are in desperate need of gut rehab. You’ll also need to re-shingle the roof and paint the outside.

It will be a great project if you have the stamina for a renovation.

New Trash Collection and Recycling in Newton

The City of Newton delivered us shiny new barrels for trash recycling. Blue for trash and green for recyclables. The barrels are huge; bigger than our old enormous barrels.

The new barrels allow for automated trash pickup. No more shakers riding on the back of trash trucks. It also limits the trash each week to the size of the barrel. (It’s plenty big enough for us.)

Now I just need to figure out what to do with our old barrels.

Newton And The Charles River

The Boston Globe West has a story from the Newton History Museum at The Jackson Homestead focusing on the impact of the Charles River on Newton: Pages From Newton’s History.

The City of Newton is defined by the Charles. It has the river on its borders in the south, west, and north, and it was on the river’s banks that the city got its start — not as one unified town, but at first as a string of villages that grew up along the watercourse that provided abundant power for mills and manufacturing efforts. Improved transportation — first roads, then rail — gave those factories better access to markets. It also tied together the villages of Newton and brought the 18 square miles of farms and woods bounded by the Charles into a closer relationship with the metropolis at its doorstep, Boston.

. . .

The Charles today is slow and civilized, tamed by dams that have turned it into a series of elongated, picturesque lakes that make the river a marvelous resource for recreation and natural beauty. The original purpose of those dams was almost the opposite. They made the Charles a very hard-working river.