posts tagged with 'biking'

adventure time

As well as all the other excitement last week we went on a couple outings close to home and discovered some fun surprises in areas I thought we new pretty well! The first one was last Wednesday, when we brought bikes to Walden Pond so we could ride and get hot before we went in the water. Instead of going on the road (the idea of which made the boys nervous) we took to the paths behind the parking lot, aiming for a spot where OpenStreetMaps suggested that there might—possibly!—be a tunnel under the highway linking up with the Hapgood Wright Town Forest in Concord . After a few wrong turns and some fun short hills, we reached the road... and there it was!

Harvey biking out of a tunnel into the bright sunshine

into a mysterious new world

Thrilling as it was, the tunnel wasn't the only exciting part of the outing. We've explored Hapgood Wright lots of times on foot, but bikes always let you see trails differently. This time we noticed lots of amazing downhill runs that we definitely want to go back to do some more! Of course, downhills require uphills, and there were certainly some doozies. Even before we got back to the pond to swim we were glad of a midway rest stop.

Harvey and Elijah cooling themselves and their water bottles in a brook

cool for feet and water bottles

(If you want to explore the tunnel yourself, just follow our track as shown here.)

Thursday's adventure was a post-strawberry trip to Lowell-Dracut-Tyngsboro State Forest, but that one didn't go as well. Elijah was tired out from the picking, and the other boys have bad memories of riding that woods from when, the last time we tried it, they were feeling a little sick. So their energy wasn't high to start with. The only new discovery we made there was that the paths on the ground are difficult to reconcile with the map—and not knowing where we were or where we were going didn't make Lijah feel any better about the outing! Even though the older two boys had recovered and were having fun, we cut the trip short after just a couple miles.

Then on Friday we were back in Concord for a hike with friends in Estabrook Town Forest. We know it well too, though I will say every time we walk up Punkatasset Hill (88m) I'm surprised at how steep that trail is! Being there with other people let us notice some things more—like stick houses—and some things less, because lots of the time we were deep in conversation. But by far the outstanding discovery of the trip was that they spillway where the pond drains into Sawmill Brook makes a fantastic natural waterslide... but that's a story for another post!

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lost week

Last week was rough. On Monday morning—before breakfast, even!—I made a poor life choice going over a jump and smashed into a tree. Besides cutting up my face wonderfully, I did something to the nerves in my neck that left my hands numb and my arms sore. That slowed me down some, I can tell you! Then just as I was feeling better on Thursday it was time for our second Covid vaccine. Welcome, of course, but when I woke up on Friday I found that the post-vaccine fever had combined with the nerve damage to leave the about the most uncomfortable I've ever been. Sleeping especially has been really hard. And then on top of all that, adding insult to literal injury, the woodchucks and rabbits have been absolutely destroying the garden. It's extremely discouraging.

me, bloodied and bruised

trying not to let the bastards get me down

But we're alive, and enjoying seeing more and more friends in person, and I imagine I may one day start to feel better again. My shoulders don't hurt so much I can't type, at least!

morning workout

On Sunday afternoon I went out to Russell Mill Pond for a ride. I was looking forward to getting some time on the trails by myself—and I did, seven miles worth!—but the reason I drove out that way rather than stay closer to home was that I saw on a friends' Strava that the pump track was open. The pump track is what draws the kids to Russell Mill, but when we went earlier this spring our expectations were cruelly dashed: it was closed for the winter. But that red line snaking through it on a Strava map on Saturday let me know that it was maybe open again—and indeed it proved to be! I was excited to tell the boys and they were excited to hear about it, so when Leah suggested we go Monday morning we were enthusiastic. Of course, if we want to ride somewhere 20 minutes away and get back in time for breakfast we have to get up pretty early! So I made hot chocolate and brought it along in a thermos. I always wanted to tailgate at a trailhead!

the boys drinking hot chocolate in the parking lot at Russell Mill Pond

warmth and energy

The waking up process completed, we got right over to the track to start doing laps. Harvey was a little tentative at first, having not ridden jumps all winter; Elijah was not tentative at all on his new bike and almost did a forward somersault on his second go around. Everybody soon settled in to an appropriate level, and we rode around and around for over an hour. We all got better, and then we got tired and got worse, but I think overall we all pushed our skills forward. And the best part is we were back home for breakfast not much after 7:30! Now to get some friends to come out riding with us...

Harvey jumping his bike on the pump track

jump!

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rides with boys

Harvey riding in front of the rising sun

sunrise ride

The last couple weeks I've been trying to get out on rides with each of the boys separately. It's always fun to take adventures all together, but there's also something to be said for letting each of them ride at their own level. And also I appreciate having more chances to get out! For Elijah and Harvey, the best time is in the morning before breakfast. This past Monday it was Lijah's turn; he wasn't super enthusiastic, so I got Harvey to come with us. We did a couple miles on the paths around our house—delightful and relaxing for Harvey and me, reasonably challenging for Elijah (not too challenging because our neighborhood is dead flat: Strava tells us 0ft of elevation gain over 2.45 miles). Then Tuesday Harvey and I went to Landlocked Forest for a slightly shorter but rather harder ride on the hilly trails there. He, too, wasn't enthusiastic to begin with, but when he warmed up he was glad to be out. Both rides were under half an hour: what a fantastic use of time first thing in the morning! For Zion, though, first thing in the morning isn't really an option. He doesn't get up until second thing at the very earliest. So I need to find other moments. Like today after supper, when we rode up to town on an errand and then spent a half hour riding stairs and curbs around the high school together in the drizzly rain. I may make them do it, but at least I force them each into their favorite kind of riding!

bikes take us farther

We had plans yesterday to meet up with friends and go exploring on bikes, which seemed like just the thing with the forecast calling for sunny skies and temperatures touching the 70s. So we were surprised to wake up to cool drizzle (especially since I had left the car open!). The unexpected gloom and wet was too much for our friends, who preferred to stay cozy at home. But we get plenty of coziness and laziness, so we pushed on with the expedition—and we were glad we did!

Zion and Elijah sitting by a misty pond

what could be finer?

Our target was the Estabrook Woods in Concord. We've been there before, but on foot we can only get so far so there was lots we hadn't been able to see. Of course, there's some question how much faster the four of us can move on bikes on a wet spring day over some serious hills! There were certainly some spots where Elijah at least was pushing his bike up a hill because it was too steep to make progress, and then back down the other side because it was too scary a descent. But we was working hard and trying his best, and he got some great practice in! And then of course there were spots where we all needed to walk our bikes. The four serious water crossings we had to do, for example.

the boys pushing their bikes across a wide rocky stream

when you have to walk it's a real expedition

Of course, it wasn't all riding and pushing: we took our time and made plenty of stops. There were big rocks to climb and vistas to admire, and we found a great spot to have lunch by the side of a giant shallow pond (pictured above). The most exciting part of our lunch spot was the goose drama that played out on the pond as we watched, with one pair harrying another all around on the water and in the air, with plenty of noise and dramatic take-offs and landings. But the best wildlife sighting belonged to Elijah: he was the only one to notice a tiny newt clinging to the side of a tree. When he called us all back to look the little guy very obligingly held still for a picture.

a little red newt on a tree

the boys wished they could bring him home as a pet

Even though we only went about four miles, it was a challenging ride and the boys were plenty tired when we made it back to the car. But we didn't see all of the woods, so we'll have to go back soon! Though maybe when it's a little less wet...

the boys riding through a giant puddle on the trail

the pond was invading the trail

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so that's why they invented pavement...

In the bright afternoon sunshine yesterday we headed out for a ride down the dirt railway line to Concord to visit the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. The bright sunshine was delightful, and so was the almost complete lack of snow on the path, but unfortunately those two things combined to make the surface more than a little muddy. It wasn't all a complete quagmire, but even where there wasn't three inches of squishy ooze much of the surface was distinctly tacky. Enough that we felt plenty of increase in rolling resistance, and the flat path took as much energy as if we were going uphill the whole way. So we certainly appreciated those few short stretches of pavement!

the boys riding along the Reformatory Branch Trail

I could only take pictures on the drier spots

I do wish I had taken some pictures of the deep mud; it was really something. Folks out for a walk in shoes they cared about had to make their way through the trees on the side of the path, and cyclists on gravel bikes found themselves unable to make any headway at all. With our big tires we could plow through the mud pretty well—even Elijah only had to get off and push a couple times—but it was certainly a challenge!

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missed opportunity

This is a tough time of year as an off-road cyclist. The sun is shining brightly, the birds are singing, and the world is returning to wonderful life—all things that make me want to get out and ride! Only all the trails, this time of year, are all mud (where they're not still snow, that is). So we have to wait for things to dry out. But the last few mornings have offered an alternate possibility: both last night and the night before the temperature was down into the teens, so if I could have gotten out before, say, nine or ten in the morning I could have ridden on the most delightful concrete-like surface (delightful unless I fell, I suppose...). Of course, there are other things in my life besides cycling, and those things—housework, my job, spending time with my family—kept me from hitting the trails while the conditions held. Good thing the days are getting longer... maybe next week I'll have time for all the things!

kicking off adventure season

At the end of last week we took three bike rides in three days, covering a total of more than 15 miles. Saturday saw us journeying up the bike path to Lexington, where we played on a skate park and a playground and a mountain and bought some Pokemon cards. On Friday two sevenths of our school population was absent, so after lunch we took off for an easy ride through the woods up to the center of town where we rode some stairs and ramps and then played at the playground (the kids took part in a fantastic tag game that deserves its own post). But it was our Thursday off-road adventure that was the most epic! Not for mileage—we went twice as far on the smooth pavement Saturday—but certainly for difficulty. And it's always thrilling to penetrate into the wilderness to reach the remote waters of Fairhaven Bay!

the boys dipping their feet in Fairhaven Bay, wearing bike helmets

testing its soothing waters (is it called soothing when you can't feel your feet?)

At the beginning of the week Thursday's forecast called for warm weather, so we gleefully scheduled our first mountain bike exploration trip of the year—and Elijah's first ever on his new bike. As the week passed, we only got more excited, and it was with lots of enthusiasm and supplies that we set off at mid morning (you have to time these trips for the optimal picnic lunch experience). We got off to a good start when, with his brand-new gears, Elijah was able to surmount the steep paved hill that leads from the parking lot to the trailhead. But then, when we reached the woods, we were dismayed to see that the trail was still a sheet of ice with snow stretching as far as the eye could see on either side. I'd like to say we pressed on undaunted, but a certain member of the party was very daunted indeed. (It's because he fell first that Zion had such a hard time; that, and the fact that Elijah didn't fall.)

But I refused to turn around and go home, and riding over the slightly slushy ice—and the kids actually did wonderfully well!—we soon came to a stretch of clear, dry trail. What a delight! Then more ice, but at least we knew that the ride wouldn't be all slow and terrifying. It was interesting: on the way in we were heading south, so all the uphills—north-facing slopes—were icy, but the downhills mostly clear. Of course on the way home it was the reverse. There was also some just plain snow, which was almost impossible to ride on even on the flat. Certainly Elijah also got lots of practice pushing his new bike too.

Elijah pushing his bike uphill on a snowy trail

hike-a-bike

What that picture doesn't show is how warm it was. At the beginning of the ride it was actually a little chillier than we anticipated, under cloudy skies, but after lunch the sun came out in it was soon positively spring-like. Perfect weather for adventuring, and adventure we did: besides the riding we got to explore the marsh around the boathouse, play hide-and-seek and tag, and climb dangerously high in trees.

Zion way up high on a fallen tree

good thing he's wearing the helmet?

With the sunshine we hoped the snow would go quickly and ease our way home; when I said that, in the heat, it was melting "as we speak" Elijah made sure to do lots of talking to hurry it along. But there was still enough left to make the homeward leg (on a different path around Fairhaven Hill because of course we like to do loops) pretty tiring. Especially for Elijah. And when the road through the woods, hoped and dreamed of as an easy mile, proved to be muddy and slow he was almost undone. He actually revived a little bit when we got back on the snow and ice and did some really fantastic riding. But when took a spill into a puddle about a quarter mile from the car and got actually soaked, he was done, and it was with great difficulty that I persuaded him to get back on the bike at all. Then he abandoned it in the snow about 100 yards short of the parking lot, but that was find. I got it for him; he had done enough!

It was tiring for everyone: Strava says I put in 6.1 miles, which includes some running around and also the extra riding I had to do when I realized I'd left my water bottle behind at the lunch spot, so the boys must have done about 5. And they were hard miles! But despite all that, I think we might be game for another big ride soon. These kids are fine cyclists. And at least the snow should be gone by the end of the week!

the boys pausing on their bikes on a snowy trail

accomplished adventurers

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upgrade cycle

Today I drove to Landry's Cycles in Natick to pick up a new bike for Elijah for his birthday (I did the online shopping and the pickup, Grandma paid for it; we're a good team that way.) While I was there I also got some new pedals and new tires for my own bike. That wasn't a luxury purchase: my old right pedal was so worn down and broken that my foot barely fits on it, and my tires are practically bald. But the new parts are still definitely an upgrade. As I put the new pedals on (as soon as I got home, I was that excited!) I reflected that this may be the first time I've ever bought something new to make my bike better. Yes, I've gotten new tires before. You need to do that. But only when I didn't have any more not-quite-broken-down tires I could pull off another bike. And it made me worry a little bit! The new pedals are so much better, I'm already starting to wonder what else I could buy to improve my riding. This is how it begins...

appreciating the bike path

Heading into March we're thinking about cycling a little more seriously again. The snow is going fast! One day the trails will be dry again! But yesterday, when I set out for my once-a-week solo outing, they were not. And unlike last Sunday when I was able do some serious snow biking, the snow yesterday was too soft to ride on top of but too deep to ride through. So when after starting from home with no plan in mind I found myself on the Minuteman bike path, I decided to go with it. It seemed to be working for the 200 other people riding, walking, and running on it, anyway! For most of the pandemic we've stayed off the Minuteman because of the crowds—plus I certainly did my time on it over all the years I was using it to commute, first to Lexington and then to Cambridge. But maybe at the end of February it has something to recommend it.

Certainly, despite the crowds it was lovely being able to ride steadily without thinking about where I was going; and before I knew it I was almost to Lexington Center. That seemed like a fine destination, so I pushed on the rest of the way. When I reached it I almost kept right on going, such was the thrill of the ride, but I restrained myself with the thought of walking around in civilization—that is to say, a bustling commercial center—for the first time in months. It was momentarily delightful, but there wasn't actually much to do, so before long I was back on the homeward trail. It was cheery passing some of the same people walking or running that I had seen on the way up, almost like we were getting to know each other. I'm really looking forward to getting back onto the real trails—the ones in the woods—but you know, at the end of February the old bike path isn't so bad after all!