posts tagged with 'biking'

Patriots days

In the first half of April we celebrated nine days of Patriots Day festivities in Bedford and Lexington. Things kicked off here in Bedford with the pole capping parade; I've written before how cool it is that we get all the minute companies to start the season, and this year was no exception.

minuteman firing a volley in the Pole Capping parade

Patriots Day starts with a bang!

It wasn't all guns and aggression; there was lots of lovely fife and drum music too, and a handful of colonial women and children.

colonial women and girls walking in the parade

rounding out the picture of Colonial life

The weather was beautiful—clear and mild—so for the first time ever we actually stayed for the pole capping itself. We were there with friends, and all the kids endured the politicians' speeches without complaint (it helped that we gave them snacks). Our friend Andrew, who moved to town a couple years ago, said it was the most Bedford thing he'd ever experienced. It was especially fun cheering for our neighbor Samantha, who won an award as the most notable high school senior and had to sit up front looking respectable through all the speechifying. Then they put the hat on the pole.

the lucky minuteman atop the pole waving his liberty cap

made it!

The following Saturday was again warm and beautiful, perfect weather for cycling to Lexington to watch the big reenactment at Tower Park. I take pictures of it every year and they're all about the same, but it's such an experience I couldn't resist yet another round.

redcoats forming up in a haze of gun smoke

the fog of war

One difference this year is that, having biked, we were in position to watch the proceedings from the back side. That was great for the first part of the battle, but less optimal as the fighting moved east with a swamp between us and the action. I followed some other people into the woods to see what we could see, but the minutemen yelled at us so we had to go back. Unlike the more famous reenactment in Lexington Center, though, this one is big enough that there's always something to see.

minutemen in the woods

like watching from backstage

The weather was looking iffy for Monday's parade, the highlight of the week's festivities. It was cancelled last year due to rain, so we were really hoping not to miss it again. Morning rain led us to cancel our own plans for a pre-parade picnic in Lexington, but things looked fine for the parade itself at 2:00 so at quarter to one we gathered up our three-family group of cyclists and headed out. We were feeling pretty good about ourselves until my mom called me ten minutes into the ride to let us know that, due to more rain in the forecast, the parade start had been moved up to 1:15. Yikes!

So we hurried. Zion was feeling week (he had skipped Saturday's ride because of sickness) so I carried him and his bike, but all the other kids (and adults) did great, and we made it the five miles up the hill in just 28 minutes—in plenty of time to find a good spot along the strangely empty parade route, and fortify ourselves after all our hard work with fried dough and Italian ice. We're always glad to be out for a parade.

Lijah smiling waiting for the parade

happy to be there!

Besides the reenactors and bands—and there were some fine bands this year—the parade highlights Lexington's increasingly diverse cultural makeup. We all liked getting up close and personal with this dragon.

a chinese dragon surprising the boys at the parade

roar

We were talking smack about the Shriners as their first units rolled by, but then we had to take it all back when the mini-big rigs—pretty great themselves—were followed up by a trio of motorized tricycles—basically powered big wheels. Two of them could drift and the third could turn on two wheels. Very exciting.

After the parade was exciting too. The decision to start the parade early was an inspired one, because just as the last unit went by our spot the sky turned dark, and within five minutes the first drops were falling (the parade still had close to a mile to go past us, so sorry to those folks!). We were prepared, and got everything packed up and everyone into raincoats in record time.

Lijah bundeled up in the cargo bike, Harvey on his bike in a raincoat

good thing we're tough!

Then the ride home featured weather that ranged from drizzle to torrential downpour. It was actually pretty great. I consider Patriots Day to have been celebrated.

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NOBR AKES

Bad weather for sledding this winter at least means fair weather for cycling, and while we aren't doing any recreational rides lately our riding for transportation hasn't slipped at all. What has slipped, though, is bike maintenance. The cargo bike has a rusty chain that grinds some, Zion's bike needs some serious oiling, and Harvey keeps getting after me to fix his brakes. I want to tell him his problems have got nothing on mine! Not on the cargo bike; carrying the precious cargo that is groceries or library books—oh, and Lijah too—I need to be sure of my stopping power. But on my work commuter, that I now ride just once a week, I have no stopping power at all.

It's not so bad: most of my ride is on the bike path, which besides being straight and close to level is also pretty empty in the winter. Not a lot can really go wrong. But the first part of the trip, after I drop the boys off with Grandma, is down a big hill towards a busy street. For the last several weeks—months?—I've found that on the steepest part of the hill, pulling the break lever as far as it can go will keep me from accelerating further, but it won't slow me down—to say nothing of bringing me to a stop. Never mind, that's why I wear boots with thick soles I can drag.

My history of deferred maintenance is a long one. And I haven't come to any serious grief yet! The worst part about the current situation is that I could fix it in just a couple minutes by putting on some new brake pads. I have the technology. But I never think of it until the morning I have to use the bike, and at that point I have no time. I've got to get the kids out the door and get to work! Then by the time I get home—and the ride away from work is all uphill—I'm ready to lay the thing aside and forget about it until next week. Of course, I was clearly thinking about it this evening, so I suppose I could have taken care of the problem... but I thought writing about it would be more interesting. And now it's time for bed. So, another time!

[If you're wondering about the post title, it's from this. Hard to believe I've been reading Bike Snob for 10 years!]

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tour of Lexington

This past Thursday we continued our summer camp adventuring. We had one additional taker for our outing, Zion's friend Nathan, who signed on despite not having any advance notice about what he would be doing. Because we didn't know either! But by 8:00 Thursday morning I had a plan: to finally explore ACROSS Lexington trail system. Lexington has some good trails, and over the last ten years they've been stringing them together into walking loops of four to six miles each, connecting stretches of conservation land hiking and bike paths with well-signed routes along mostly back streets. We don't walk much, so we planned to bike the whole way. And there was some good cycling!

Zion riding down a narrow path in a field, Harvey well ahead of him

fine singletrack!

Since it was our first trip on the system, we aimed to follow Trail A (so far they go up to H). But first we had to get there; conveniently, Trail A includes a little section of the bike path that starts right by our house. Of course, we're not so single-minded that the ACROSS trail was the only thing on our minds: I was happy to stop on the way up to explore other interesting bits of Lexington.

the boys wading in a small stream

exploring upriver

The trail itself took us 5.4 miles on walking trails through woods and by streams and ponds; along a paved walking path along a narrow strip of wooded land along Lower Vine Brook; and through leafy suburban streets and one sterile new subdivision of McMansions—a subdivision that preserved one tiny memory of the farm-turned-nursery that preceded it.

Lijah in the cargo bike looking at a wildflower garden and farmy shed

Lexington scenery

There were also two little flights of stairs... and one big hill, on a soft path through the woods, that about finished Zion. We were probably about five miles in—plus the three and a half on the bike path to get to the trail—and he was cooked. Pushing his little bike up the hill with bugs buzzing all around him he yelled up to me, "I hate Trail A!" But when he made it to the top of the hill it was just one long downhill into Lexington Center; as soon as he recognized where he was, all was forgiven and he and Trail A were reconciled once again. Lunch on the Buckman Tavern lawn helped too.

I lived in Lexington for over 20 years, but lots of what we rode was surprising to me—delightfully so. There's lots more of the town to explore; even Zion, by lunch, was wondering when we could take a shot at Trail B...

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PMC report

On Saturday the boys took part in the the PMC kids ride here in town.

Zion riding with the other kids in his group

group ride

It was our fourth year taking part, and excitement was high in the days leading up to the event. Lijah kept asking if it was "this day"; he doesn't always have a clear sense of the progression of time. But eventually the day arrived, and bright and early we joined our neighbors to ride over to the middle school to kick off the festivities.

Zion, riding on two wheels for the first time in this setting, was signed up for the three-mile course. He got to ride with his friend Nicholas, and also with me, the volunteer route leader for his group (plus his little brother; Mama was otherwise occupied for the first part of the morning. It always takes a while for everyone to get organized, and energy started to flag in the hot sun. But our little team stayed focused!

Zion and Nicholas waiting on their bikes before the ride

patience required

Needless to say, once things got started Zion did great: he rode with confidence the whole way, didn't crash into anyone, and enjoyed his goldfish and ice water at the half-way point. (A snack stop in the middle of a three-mile ride is maybe not quite necessary, but it does make the whole thing feel more special; so does Mama cheering at the end of our street!)

Harvey riding under the balloon arch

the finish line

Harvey also rode with confidence, and easily finished his course despite a mechanical problem with his brand-new water bottle cage. Without a friend alongside this year, though, he was a little bored. Riding ten miles takes some time. While he was finishing up, his brothers had time to enjoy the rewards for their morning's efforts.

Zion and Lijah eating cotton candy

the real highlight of the day

Besides the cotton candy (Lijah had three) and other free foods, there was also the bounce house, slip-and-slide, tricycle obstacle course (once Lijah completed his one lap it was open to the bigger kids to enjoy too), and hula-hoop contest. And there was face paint!

Lijah showing off his face paint

tiger face

The morning ended with the raffle drawing, and for the first time in history we won something! Committing all our tickets to an otherwise unpopular item really did the trick; though I can't imagine who wouldn't want a free loaf of Nashoba Bakery bread a week for six months! Now we have that thing, plus a $50 gift certificate to a Concord farm stand. So ask us if you ever need any bread.

The ride was just one highlight of what will no doubt be a full summer of cycling. That said, now that it's out of the way Zion at least is wondering if we can, the next couple weeks, put a little more time into canoeing...

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big day tomorrow

The boys are all very excited about the day to come tomorrow. The best part is the Pan-Mass Challenge charity ride in the morning. We put in some training miles today, not that anybody needed them particularly; despite his short time on two wheels, Zion is already in peak racing shape and totally ready to dominate the three-mile course. But it was still fun to ride the part of it near our house to make sure. We also rode to the library this morning, and stopped by the bike shop to get Harvey a water-bottle cage. Absolutely essential for doing the ten-mile course on his own, unsupported by anyone except the army of route volunteers and a couple water stops (I'm abandoning him for the first time in his PMC history so I can ride with Zion; he's totally cool with that).

Then as soon as that's all over, the bigger boys will be going to one birthday party and Lijah another. The 6-year-old party has a Ninja Warrior theme, and the kids will be testing themselves on a fantastic home-built course. We got a chance to preview it this evening: it's totally awesome. There's also a bounce house. I think it's safe to say that we'll all sleep well tomorrow night.

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new frontiers in cycling

We went for a long ride with friends a couple weekends ago (notable for Zion doing over ten miles in his second week on a two-wheeler!). At our turn-around point we did a little bit of off-road riding, to make it seem like we'd gotten somewhere. Most of the kids were unenthusiastic about the rough terrain, but Harvey—on his new-to-him mountain bike—found something to love. So he asked me if we could ride some trails together. Which we did Sunday afternoon.

Harvey riding uphill in the woods

on the trails

He attacked the climbs ferociously (as pictured above), enthused about finding the best line between roots and rocks, and worked on building courage for steep descents. (His mechanic gets most of the blame for his nervousness: in typical Archibald fashion, he only has one set of working brakes at the moment.) We did probably a mile in the woods, trying to find the funnest spots, and then maybe four more riding to and from the trail. Maybe more, who knows?! We were out for two hours.

I don't know how much time we'll find for trail riding in our busy schedule, but Harvey is already a fan. On our hike on Monday he noticed a particularly smooth, rolling section of singletrack and pointed out how much fun it would be to ride it. Yes, yes indeed.

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Zion growing up

Zion learned to ride his bike yesterday. It was a tough sell on my part... it's been over a year since I started encouraging him, with two or three false starts at training programs. Unlike Harvey—who started cycling on his own at 5—he wasn't feeling very self-motivated. But now that he's 7 I'm about done with carrying him, so I've been encouraging him a little more vigorously. Yesterday I was so grumpy I told him he had to just go out and practice for half an hour, with no whining. That was enough.

Zion riding down the street

he can do it!

Most of the time I'm happy to let the kids set their own pace for their learning and development. In this case though, I knew that Zion would be so proud and delighted with himself when he finally figured it out that pushing him felt worth it. I was delighted this evening when he called to a friend, "I don't like scootering any more, I just like biking!" Despite it being a blazing hot day he headed out three or four times to ride up and down the street—that's after our mile-long ride around the big block this morning (with many stops). Next up: the three-mile course at the PMC kids ride!

Besides his cycling accomplishments, Zion also lost his first two teeth in the last week and a half. He's felt pretty grown up lately in a lot of ways, and now his grown-up teeth make it official. Of course, as the kid who declared he wanted to be the baby again when Lijah got bigger he's still holding onto some little-kid tricks too. Good thing he's cute enough to pull it off most of the time! I'm happy to let him be the baby as much as he wants; a baby who can ride his own bike is the best kind there is!

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freedom!

Lijah in the cargo bike in the snow

out and about!

After two solid weeks of below freezing (often below zero!) temperatures, and a couple of blizzards (well, almost blizzards) it was nice to feel a little warmth again the past couple days. Monday it almost hit freezing, and yesterday it blew past the freezing mark to reach the high 30s for a few hours. Positively tropical. We celebrated by getting the bikes out for the first time in quite a while.

Past time, too: our destination was the library, where we had many overdue books to return. But never mind the fines, it was lovely to be out and about under our own power again. It would have been lovely had the sidewalks been better cleared; going uphill we needed to be in the roadway or we wouldn't have been able to make any progress at all in the slush (at least the sidewalks are now plowed at all, five days after the storm). Even in our sleepy little town some drivers didn't appreciate sharing the road in the middle of the afternoon, which made me a little grumpy. I don't like being honked at. But we made it, and returned our books and got new ones, and I got to take a little nap in the children's room while the kids looked at books. Fresh air is tiring!

Harvey's bike in a snowy bike rack

a capable machine

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too warm today

I was back on the bicycle this morning, and ready to brave the arctic vortex. Yesterday it was -14°F when I got up, so I was mentally preparing for some intense riding; and physically preparing too, with my best cold-weather outfit yet. Wool socks, fleece boot socks, winter boots; long underwear, jeans, and rain pants; t-shirt, long sleeve shirt, flannel button-down, fleece shirt, spring jacket with hood (I don't like riding in real winter coats for some reason). Then I had my muffler and my extra big hat—Drumlin Farm sheep's wool and a fleece ear band—and my two layers of fleece mittens with ski mitten covers to go over them. I was so warm and cozy... disappointed to see the temperature was all the way up to 7°F.

Of course, I could still wear all that stuff; the only thing I left out was the ski mittens, since they make it hard to operate the shifter. But I didn't absolutely need them—my trip into work wasn't a desperate trek across frozen tundra, against all the odds. It was nice, though. I stopped on the way to do some sliding on the ice of Spy Pond, which is about perfect; unlike all the smaller ponds its ice wasn't so compromised with snow on Christmas day. I wished the boys were there to enjoy it with me, because it won't be perfect anymore after tomorrow's forecast blizzard! Oh well, snow is fun to play in too.

And as for cold, it'll be back too: Saturday is supposed to be the coldest day yet. So maybe my outfit will get another chance.

ice on Spoy Pond

the gleaming expanse

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a little bit off the grid

I'm reading a book called The Unsettlers, by Mark Sundeen. It's all about folks who chose to forgo most of the advantages of modern, industrial, capitalist existence, because they realize that those things are destroying any hope we have for survival as a species. In their view. Which I can't help but think has something to it. So I was very proud of myself on Sunday when I managed to travel everywhere I had to go—to church and back, to the playground, to friends' house for dinner; about 25 miles in all—by bicycle. And it was a hot day too!

Then yesterday morning our power went out unexpectedly in the middle of the morning. Unexpectedly—need I say it? I suppose one never expects a power outage, not in the 21st century United States. But in this case it was more unexpected than usual, coming as it did on a clear, calm, day. I suppose when a car hits a power pole, the electricity doesn't stand a chance regardless of weather. We figured it wouldn't be that much of a big deal; I just wouldn't be able to vacuum. Or do laundry... Never mind, we were going to the pond anyway. And the power came back on in time for me to make Lijah's chicken nuggets in the toaster oven (and not worry about letting the cold out of the freezer as I retrieved them). Ok, so I have a while to go before I'm ready to call myself real alternative...