posts tagged with 'biking'

looking forward to school

I wrote most of the boys' homeschool plans today. Two of them this time! We're all excited to get started with the school year; a couple days ago Harvey groaned when he heard that school in Bedford starts September fifth, because that seemed like much too far away for him. We probably won't make it that long. It may be kind of silly for us to follow an academic calendar, with all our big unschooling talk, but we do like new beginnings. There are high hopes for this one on all sides.

I can't speak to the hopes or excitement of the public school kids, but at least in this town they're heading off to a school that has some right ideas about transportation. A press release published in the local independent paper recommends kids get to school by bike or by foot as a first choice, or by school bus if that isn't possible. The last couple paragraphs take up the less preferred option: "If your child cannot walk or bike or ride the bus, DRIVE, BUT ONLY IF YOU MUST" (emphasis in original!). The piece mentions the dangers cars pose to kids, congestion, and air pollution as reasons to leave the car at home. I think we have a long way to go before everybody gets the message, but it's great just to have it out there so prominently! Almost enough to make me want to send my kids to school so they can bike there. But no, we're keeping them here: there's so much fun in store!


the other camp

Lijah on the shore of Spy Pond, the other kids in the background

idyll in the heart of the inner suburbs

We're not running day camp this year, but friends of ours are taking up some of the slack and putting on a once-a-week camp out of their house in North Cambridge. We missed the first session last week, but we were happy and excited to be there this morning!

the kids on their bikes ready to go

always a good scene

It was a biking day, and while I was disappointed not to have a way to bring the blue bike in the car Zion and Lijah were happy enough with the trailer and seat. And of course Harvey was raring to go. The group rode well together, though there were lots of stops—for repairs, drinks, and just to take in some of the beauties of the natural world.

Zion and Matthew climbing a fence to look at a pond

eager observers

It was a fairly short ride (by our recent standards), and it didn't take us long to get to Spy Pond, where the kids could have played for two or three days. Especially once they found a tree they could all climb at the same time, "even Zion!".

lots of kids in a tree with plenty of room for them all

it's a party up there

Of course, Lijah was a little left out (though I did help him up it and leave him there for almost three seconds) so he was happy a couple minutes later to find his own tree to climb... sort of.

Lijah sitting in the tiny branches of a small tree

I think he's stuck

It was all lovely, and we look forward to another adventure next Friday... after we get back from "real" camping, that is!


almost summer camp

We're not doing our day camp this year, which is both a relief and a disappointment to all concerned. Since we miss a lot about the things we did the last two summers, it was nice to get together last week to reprise the fun with a slightly more manageable crowd.

boys and friends walking across the Old North Bridge

out and about

Well, I say reprise; but with fewer kids—and each of them a year older—we actually blew any of our previous camp adventures out of the water with a cycling trip down the Reformatory Branch Trail to Concord to visit some of the historic sights. I figured it would be a tough ride for the kids (though I knew it was possible, since Harvey rode it a couple weeks ago)—but as it happened they just about rode away from Bridget, Leah, and I! We were plenty hot and winded by the end... though in our defense, we were all carrying the weight of at least one other human. Zion very much enjoyed the ride.

Zion smirking at the camera

that's his camera smile

The Old North Bridge is always a nice stop on an outing—there's the history and the water and lots of space to run around.

Leah and Bridget with the kids up on the bridge

Old North Gang

And room to chill and relax with friends too.

Zion, Lijah, and Nathan sitting on a stone wall above the river

outing buddies

Actually, we didn't plan for the day to be like a summer camp adventure; we barely planned it at all. Nathan was the first one to point out how much it felt like "Camp Archibald", and then we all went with it.

Since the kids rode so well on the way out we took a longer route home, with stops to check out an old cemetery (oldest grave we found, 1726) and Louisa May Alcott's childhood home (where we worked really hard to learn the maypole dance). They weren't unstoppable though—when I offered the choice between yet more distant adventures and a shorter way home, most of them definitively chose the latter. Zion and Eliot's votes to the contrary didn't count. The revised route—for 11 1/2 miles in total—led through some agriculture.

a tractor at work in field as we ride by

scenic Concord

To be as much like camp as possible, we ended our adventure by turning on the sprinkler (also because it was super hot). But there were only two takers among the kids—without twice a week camp they don't get to see each other enough, so they wanted to use all the time they did have at home doing important things like building with legos! The adults went in the sprinkler, though; we can cool down and talk at the same time.

It was fun; we'll have to do it again soon!


PMC successful

Harvey among lots of other riders heading out on the course

a few among many

We had a great time at the PMC ride this morning: it was a success all around. It was just the first element of a very busy day, so more pictures will have to wait.. but I wanted to thank all of you who contributed to our fund-raising efforts. Our $1000 goal was ambitious (and totally arbitrary), so I was delighted with the $490 we raised. Thanks for chipping in! We (probably) won't be taking up another charity collection until this time next year.

charity ride begging post

We're doing this PMC Kids Ride thing again and we need your support! We had intentions of starting our fund-raising earlier this year than we did last time, but as with so many of our plans these days we never got beyond the thinking stage. But it's not too late—there's still almost a week for you to donate to the cause. Act now and be the *ahem* first one to make a pledge!

our family cycling in the woods

Team Archibald on the move (last year)

We're going to totally rock it, by the way. Harvey has a new bike that fits him; Zion is going to be riding a full half-mile; both Leah and I are volunteering so we'll get shirts too. It'll be awesome, and you totally want to be part of it by donating money. Plus it'll go towards helping to stop cancer or something, which is good too.

Here's that phone number pledge link again. Don't delay; pledge today!


and the parade

It's been two years since we got to attend a Patriots Day parade, so we were determined to enjoy this one to the fullest—those of us who didn't have more important concerns to take care of, at least. In Leah and Lijah's absence we made sure to invite lots of friends along.

eight or so kids sitting on the curb waiting for the parade

not pictured: parents

I came up with the idea of inviting friends to park at our house and bike up to Lexington for the festivities last year, but in the event rain forced a change of plans. This year the scheme was back bigger and better than even, so we had five families all together at the parade route—six if you count Grandma and Grandpa as distinct from us Bedford Archibalds. Having so many friends to talk to was interesting, since it served to abstract me a little from the direct experience of the parade... in the best of all possible ways. Harvey and Zion were insulated by their friends too, and additionally their focus on ingesting as much parade-grade sugar as possible.

Harvey and Zion slurping up the last of their shared blue raspberry slush

sharing the sugar

The biking part of the trip—with the best part of three families—was lovely; the four kids on their own bikes did a fantastic job, and I had fun hauling a couple more in the blue bike. Having it makes packing for an outing a lot easier. Bring a soccer ball? Why not?!

Zion and a friend in the back of the full blue bike, Zion making a face

filled to capacity with supplies and silliness

We managed the 4.5 mile trip up in about 40 minutes, plenty of time for a relaxing lunch—and a little soccer!—before the parade.

all the bikes, many of the picnicers

Other folks joined us by auto and foot, including some little guys, who weren't sure what to make of all the excitement. But parents knew how to enter into the spirit of it all!

look at their patriotic outfits!

For their part Harvey and Zion are parade pros, and even distracted by friends and food they enjoyed it all to the fullest.

Zion and Harvey waving little US flags

happy Patriots

So that was that—then those of us with bikes went back to our house and kept the party going with beer and Indian food—and mac and cheese for the kids—for another three hours, but that's another story. Let's do it again next year!


first "spring" outing

With the winter as warm as it's been we've been able to expand out outings a little bit beyond the usual suspects of museums, libraries, and indoor play spaces. But so far this year we've been making wintery choices: playgrounds, sure, but by car and with indoor destinations as well. Today wasn't super warm but it was bright and sunny, with a distinct springlike feel, so I thought we'd try out our warm-weather outing model: pack some bags, hop on the bikes, and see where we end up!

Harvey geared up for a cold-weather cycling expedition

ready to go

After a brief stop at the auto-parts store (trying to get the van ready to be inspected next month) we ended up by the old reservoir, where we dropped the bikes and took to the woods.

the three boys in a tree

another tree pose

It was great to be hiking again. And naturally, every hike needs a snack break! I'm working on distributing responsibility, so Harvey got to pack the snacks. That meant store-bought chewy granola bars for everyone! (plus a muffin for himself).

Lijah eating a store-bought granola bar

less chewy when it's cold

Just as the water is a big draw in warmer weather, the ice was today. Given the insane warmth over the weekend I was surprised to see it looking pretty solid—and of course we had to try walking on it.

Harvey and Zion standing on the ice at the middle of the pond

still bearing

As much as we enjoy snow, it's absence meant we could roam wherever we wanted, including up some startlingly steep slopes.

Harvey and Zion scrambing up a steep, leaf-covered hill

hard-working climbers

That one was steep enough that sliding down in on the leaves made a satisfactory sledding replacement!

After that I was ready to head home for lunch—I didn't get a muffin!—but the big boys wouldn't leave until they at least tried to cross the ice on the lower pond to the pump house, or whatever it is. Ice that was somewhat softer than on the reservoir proper—but don't worry, Harvey had a plan: send Zion first. They were very proud when they made it, and of course Lijah insisted on joining them. Then we went home. By that point we were all ready for a rest.

Lijah and Zion apparently asleep in the blue bike, heads hanging over the edge

outside wears you out

Of course, Zion was just pretending to be sleeping. But he was ready to sit on the couch and listen to three stories before lunch and another four afterwards. Spring is tiring!


our stories and winds

Back when I worked at schools with lots of people who didn't know me very well, every winter brought near-daily comments about winter cycling—most of which were about how I managed with the cold. As I've mentioned lots before, the cold isn't really the problem, and as I rode in to work yesterday morning I concluded that 20°F was about the perfect temperature for cycling: not to hot, not too cold, and I didn't have to stop once to adjust my outfit! On the way home, though, I ran into the real hazard of cycling in winter: the wind.

I've never paid enough attention to notice if winter winds are stronger overall that what you experience other times of year, or if it's just that there's less vegetative matter to provide ground-level shelter—probably a combination. Whatever the reason, I totally noticed when the wind was against me almost the whole way home. There were moments when I felt like I could barely make any progress at all: I had to work so hard to move so slowly I was just about ready to give up and walk.

The funny thing is, it was about as windy in the morning, but of course then the wind was at my back. And that way I didn't notice it particularly; I just figured I'm a really strong cyclist so naturally things were easy and quick! I wonder how much something like that dynamic plays out other places in my life. When things are going well, it's easy to take the credit myself: I'm naturally gifted and well-prepared! If work is tougher, I may be more likely to notice the external causes for my troubles. Of course, it can go the other way too: lots of times we can fail to notice the conditions we can't control that are holding us back, instead attributing our failures to our own faults. In both ways, the stories that we tell ourselves might be totally removed from an objective consideration of the situation, a consideration that would have to show that sometimes the wind is blowing our way, and sometimes it's against us. Maybe knowing that can help us relax a bit.

And anyway, as windy as it might get here this winter I don't think it'll top what the folks in this video experienced—"Watch riders battle 100kph headwind". The only upside of that much wind—besides that it's probably kind of cool to feel your bike blowing away—is that you can't fail to notice it. Sometimes, no matter how strong or skilled you are, you just aren't going to be able to make progress. And when you're faced with that much opposition, maybe the only thing to do is laugh, turn around, and try again another day.

Yesterday wasn't that bad; I made it home, and after an hour or two I had even recovered from the effort!


slippery cycling

Now that I'm not on a school schedule I find that I have to work a little between Christmas and New Years, but with the weather finally turned wintery I was happy for my chance at the first ice cycling of the season. I only fell twice!

my bike and backpack fallen by the side of the icy bike path


The path was plowed yesterday but not down to pavement everywhere; and even if it had been it wouldn't have mattered because more freezing drizzle fell overnight, so the whole thing was pretty much a skating rink. In order to stop without falling I had to put a foot down, but even then I slid a good 10 or 20 feet. It was a little surprising the first time, but then I was ready for it.

If the whole surface were flat, I wouldn't have had any problems; once you get used to the disconcerting sensation of the back wheel sliding out from under you you realize you can pull it back in and keep yourself going forward. As I said a couple years ago, ice biking is easy as long as you don't have to speed up, turn, or stop. When the icy ground is uneven, though, things get trickier—and it was just warm enough in the middle of the day yesterday for other cyclists to have left shallow tracks in the ice. It was one of those that brought me down on the way in to work. But the whole thing was so slow—I knew I was pretty much out of control and heading for the side of the path, but I had plenty of time to think about it and my landing was charmingly soft. And all the moments I didn't fall I was reveling in the challenge of the operation.

Unfortunately, I had a deadline to get to work, so in Lexington I abandoned the path in favor of the better-plowed and salted road. And on the way home I was feeling tired and again went most of the way on the streets. But the last little bit was back on the ice, giving me the opportunity to fall one more time just before I got home. Again without damage, so I can look back on the day with nothing but pleasure.

That said, having done it once... I won't complain if conditions are a little better by next week when I have to do it again!


weekend long ride

On Saturday Luke finally got me out to do a long ride with him. He started the day off by riding up here from West Roxbury, so he already had a lot of time in the saddle by the time I joined up; but with plans to go almost 50 more miles I wasn't sure if I was going to make it! We were headed out to the Haystack Observatory out in Westford, which meant plenty of fine fall riding along quiet rural roads.

Luke riding down a country lane

he knows the way

After 25 miles or so (and only one major wrong turn) we made it to the base of Haystack Hill and, eventually, to the top. It turns out they like to put observatories up high.

Luke riding towards a towering white ball

I think we found it

It being a Saturday the place was closed to automotive visitors, but there was a sign pointing to a pedestrian cut-through around the gate. We thought that could go for cyclists too.

Besides a pair of giant white orbs (the Haystack Radio Telescope proper, pictured above, and the Westford Radio Telescope) and one smaller orb (Haystack Auxiliary Radar; only a 40-foot dish) the site is also home to a couple of much more visually interesting exposed metal antennas.

the Millstone Hill Steerable Antenna and the Zenith Antenna, seen from across the parking lot

I'm sure they all do something

We deemed the Millstone Hill Steerable Antenna as the most photogenic for the purpose of our official posed bike shots; though I was challenged to get both bicycle and antenna in the frame.

my bike leaning against the fence in front of the Millstone Hill Steerable Antenna; with Luke and warning sign

proving I biked there

Because we kind of had to sneak in we were the only visitors, but the site seems like it would be at least moderately welcoming to visitors during work hours. Outside one of the buildings they had a pair of parabolic dishes with platforms in front of them; standing on one platform you could hear a whisper from the other, 30 yards away (just like the one at the Discovery Museum only bigger and better!).

They also had an apple tree, and, as is always the case, I couldn't resist trying one. I had some thought it might give me super-powers—you know, the radiation and all—but no luck. It was pleasantly sweet but soft and mealy, so I didn't finish it (the only disappointment of the whole outing).

me holding a red apple in front of the Haystack Radio Telescope


Then it was time to head home. We chose a more southerly route in order to make a loop, and it took us through picturesque Concord.

a red barn (or garage) amidst fields and stone walls

well-kept rural landscape

We crossed the Concord River by way of the Old North Bridge, which merited another stop for a photo.

my bike leaning against the rail of the Old North Bridge

almost home

Then home, for a total (for me) of about 45 miles. There were definitely moments along the way when I thought I wouldn't be able to make it up the next hill, but after finishing up with three flat miles on the dirt of the Reformatory Branch Trail I was feeling good and would have been happy to keep going even further. And I didn't even get sore afterwards! So... 75 miles next time?

Thanks, Luke, for getting me out there!