Tour de Newton

Tour de Newton

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

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

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

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

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

map

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

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

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

Wheelmen

wheelmen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was wrong; He was lying.

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

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

Hub on Wheels 2013

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On Sunday, I rode in the ninth annual Hub on Wheels, Boston’s biggest bicycling celebration. The big draw for the event is being able to ride on a car-free Storrow Drive. From there, you can complete a 10 mile, 30 mile, or 50 mile ride through the neighborhoods of Boston.

Hub on Wheels

The early weather forecast called for rain, heavy at times, for Sunday. At least it was supposed to be warm. When I spoke with my riding companion, MW, on Saturday night, she was having second thoughts about riding in the rain. My response was that we could turn and ride the 10 mile route instead of the 30 mile route if the weather was really bad.

The weather was really bad when I woke up Sunday morning. The local weather showed a big thick band of red and yellow on the weather radar. But it did look like it would clear up.

By the time we reached City Hall, the rain had let up, diminishing from a heavy downpour to merely raining. Standing in the starting corrals, it stopped feeling so warm and seemed more like a ride to survive, than enjoy.

The wetness continued as we splashed through the puddles littering Cambridge Street. Then the fun began as turned onto Storrow Drive, passing under the sign “Cars Only.” By the time we reached the turnaround by the Eliot Bridge, the rain had stopped and there was blue sky on horizon. That blue sky never made it to us.

After Storrow Drive, we exited into Fenway and followed Park Drive through the Emerald Necklace. I nudged MW to the right as we neared the cutoff for the 10-mile route on the left.

“30?”

“30.”

The roads were closed as we passed behind the Longwood Medical Area, crossed Route 9 and pedaled along the shores of Jamaica Pond. A few maples had already turned flaming red, harbingers of fall.

The first reststop in the Arnold Arboretum was chaos. It felt like every rider had decided to stop. We did also. But the food and drinks were far down the path, so we remounted. Then we conquered a long climb up the back of the Arboretum and onto the streets on Boston.

The next destination was the Forest Hills Cemetery. It’s a historic 275-acre cemetery, greenspace, arboretum and sculpture garden rolled into one. It lacks the famous dead of Mount Auburn Cemetery, but rivals its greenscape.

From the cemetery, it was a climb through the back section of Franklin Park, then exiting from the forested streets of the Emerald Necklace to urban cityscape of Boston. We passed through Codman Square and Ashmont leading to the coastal pathways along the harbor.

The wind never picked up and the sun stayed behind the clouds so we didn’t have to battle a sea breeze. We could enjoy the water views as we passed around UMass and the JFK Library heading into South Boston. At the Carson Beach rest stop I was starting to feel the ride. MW looked a little stiff. That was the 25 mile mark. That’s longest I’ve ridden since last year’s Hub on Wheels and longest MW has ever ridden.

The last 5 miles was relatively flat as we passed through South Boston and the Seaport and headed towards the Financial District. We hit the heaviest and most difficult traffic as we passed over the Moakley Bridge. We had to navigate up Atlantic Avenue, filled with tour buses and tourists, then cross all the lanes of traffic to make a left up State Street to City Hall.

We passed under the finish line banner as we hit the bricks of City Hall Plaza.

Hub on Wheels is a great event and a great way to show your support for cycling in the City of Boston.

Our 30-mile route:

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Dr. Paul Dudley White Bicycle Path

Only Cambridge takes credit for the Dr. Paul Dudley White Bike Path in the 1,000 Great Places in Massachusetts. Watertown, Newton and Boston failed to take credit for the portions of the 17 mile bike path that loops around the Charles River Basin. It stretches on both sides of the river from the Museum of Science to Watertown Square.

As one of the many defects in the published list of 1,000 Great Places(.pdf), the place is identified as the “Dr. Paul W. White Bike Path” in Cambridge. I suppose “W.” and “Dudley” sound similar.

Who was Dr. White?

He was an international famous cardiologist. He was probably most famous for acting as President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s physician following his heart attack in 1955. He was one of the founders of the American Heart Association and became the organization’s president in 1941.

Dr. White was a staunch advocate of exercise, diet, and weight control in the prevention of heart disease. It’s no surprise that he was a bicycle enthusiast

“We must establish more bike path and trails throughout the country. I’d like to see everyone on a bike – not just once in a while, but regularly as a routine. The bicycle should become a superb resource for the whole family to enjoy the beauties of nature, whether in our national parks, along our seacoasts, or simply in our beautiful woods and fields the country over.” American Cycling, August 1968, 200,000 Miles of Bikeways!(.pdf)

In riding the path, I only found one small sign (pictured) that indicated it was the Dr. Paul Dudley White Bicycle Path. That was in the Boston section, at about where Exeter Street would intersect with the bike path.

He would be disappointed in the current condition of the bike path that carries his name. (Maybe that’s why there are so few signs.) The quality varies from nice wide cycling boulevards with center stripes to narrow stretches of broken asphalt with dangerous drops at the edges. In some places it is barely wide enough for one bicycle to pass another safely.

The road intersections are particularly poor. The intersections largely ignore the bike path, forcing you into some dangerous traffic interactions. I find (1) the Boston intersection with Western Avenue, (2) the Boston intersection with Arsenal Street, and (3) the intersections with North Beacon Street in Boston and Watertown to be dangerous. Not just for bikes. Pedestrians also dread these intersections.

The Department of Conservation and Recreation extended the path into the Auburndale section of Newton, weaving back and forth across the many road intersections and bridges that cross the Charles River.

Here is what I have so far on 1,000 Great Places in Massachusetts:

[catlist id=454 numberposts=1000]

Vive Le Tour!

Today, the 97th edition of the Tour de France starts in Rotterdam, kicking off three weeks of bicycle racing. Twenty-one teams of nine riders each will have to endure 3,600 kilometers of racing and 25 mountain passes to reach the finish line on the Champs-Élysées in Paris.

I spruced up my Top Ten Reasons That Geeks Should Love the Tour de France for GeekDad.

Here are some of my recent posts on GeekDad:

  1. Find an ER With findER for the iPhone
  2. Whales Tohor? Comes to Boston’s Museum of Science
  3. We’ve Got Worms in Our Basement: Composting With the Kids
  4. 100 Geeky Places to Take Your Kids This Summer (GeekDad Wayback Machine)
  5. Lego Bricks and Felt Tip Pen Become a Printer

The Tour de France

le-tour-de-franceThe Wife and I are big fans of the Tour de France. Yes, we started watching it during the lance Armstrong years like many others in the U.S. (Well, at least many of those who started watching during the Lance years. The Tour lacks a big TV audience.)

We loved the Tour just as much during the years Lance was retired. Maybe even more so, because the competition was wide open. We really liked the competition, the images and stories wrapped around this incredible race.  We also love the announcers: Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen. The Tour coverage is better than the reruns and other dreck on television during July.

We are both excited for the Tour to start on Saturday for the 96th time. This year the Tour starts in Monaco for a prologue time trial. This year also marks the return of the team time trial stage.

To celebrate my thoughts, I put together another article on GeekDad: Top Ten Reasons That Geeks Should Love the Tour de France.

Bay State Bike Week: May 11-17

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May is National Bike Month and here in Massachusetts we’re doing our part to celebrate this event with Bay State Bike Week, May 11th -17th, 2009.

In Newton, there is the second annual Bike Newton Rally and Ride on Sunday May 17 from 12:30 to 3:00. The ride will be a gentle 3.5 mile loop down Commonwealth Avenue., up Temple Street (past Pierce Elementary School) and back by Prince and a few side streets to Comm. Ave. The pace will be leisurely, and there will be a police escort & rolling street closings for added safety.

There are three key events in Boston:

  • 250,000 Mile Pledge – Join Bay State residents as we try to collectively cycle more than 250,000 miles between May 11th-17th
  • MassCommuter Challenge – A friendly competition amongst Massachusetts businesses and institutions. Support your workplace or institutional team by pledging to bike for all or part of your regular functional trips.
  • Mayor Menino’s Bike Week Festival – Celebrate Bike Week with hundreds of cyclists and enjoy our FREE BREAKFAST, BIKE EXPO AND MUSIC on City Hall Plaza in Boston on Friday May 15th from 7 AM to 10 AM. Ride home with your gift bag and water bottle.