Colebrook, 2010

Cris and I had made vague plans to do a mini bike tour on Memorial Day weekend, going so far as to block off that weekend on our calendars and starting to look at routes. Then we got an invitation to go to a cabin in the woods with some friends, and I asked him if we could make the cabin our destination. After some weighing of options, we decide to take the bus to Springfield and bike from there, for a 40 mile ride through the Berkshires with a fair amount of climbing. Fully loaded, as we had to bring sleeping bags, towels, swim suits, some food and pillows (inflatable camp ones at least).
Here's the full route we biked on the way out this weekend: mapped.

Saturday May 29, 2010

The goal was to get to South Station about an hour before the bus left at 10am, well, at least that was my goal, Cris was all for leaving the house at 9am. As it turned out, it was lucky that we arrived early, and it could have been earlier. I had a double breakfast, some eggs that Cris had cooked and then my regular granola, berries and yoghurt, hoping to stock up on calories. We biked from home to South Station, starting off the day with an easy 8 miles, taking the bike path along Storrow drive for part of the way. Two elevators up with our loaded bikes to get to the ticket counter, and hijinks ensued. We had to wait for them to dig out 2 bike boxes, then Cris had to run around over 3 floors of the station to try and track down tape, that was behind the counter we started at. I started taking my bike apart, as these boxes were a lot shorter than the ones he'd used on Amtrack - front and rear wheels had to come off, and the pedals, and then the handlebars had to be loosened and turned to align with the body. We were doing this right next to our gate, next to the flow of people into and out of the main station body, and the line for our bus was growing as we worked. It turned out that Cris didn't have enough time to get his bike sorted out, as the handlebars were stuck and wouldn't turn, but luckily they let us put his unboxed bike on top of my boxed one, and we threw our panniers in the hold with them.

The whole experience of taking our bikes with Peter Pan bus lines was annoying, Cris had called ahead to make sure there were bike boxes, but neglected to ask about tape. Then we were told that the Springfield depot might not store the boxes and would probably not have any new boxes to sell us ($10). The policy is that bikes have to be boxed to go in the cargo holds, but if there's a free cargo hold, one bike can go in each empty one unboxed (I think, no one seemed to agree). Anyway, hands filthy from chain grease and wheel dirt, I got my bike and myself on and Cris soon joined me. The $5 extra for reserved seating didn't do us much good since we were still frantically packing the bikes when they called the early boarding, but I was able to skip a bit of the line when I presented my ticket to the bus driver.

We both ended up dozing most of the way to Springfield, but I was hungry again by the time we arrived. I reassembled my bike, loaded it up, and the chain promptly slipped as soon as I tried to ride away from the station at around 1pm. I got filthy fixing that, then the first place we tried to stop for food only served hamburgers, so we kept biking until we found a Chinese place. Cris got us takeout and we ate on a bench by the entrance, beside our bikes. As we were finishing up, a big guy with a police badge at his belt stopped to talk to us about biking - he'd injured himself mountain biking and was curious as to how far we were going. The road started to climb soon after that, and I took it slow as I digested my vegetarian lunch. My mood picked up as well, and the weather stayed good, warmish and sunny with some clouds. We were soon enough out of Springfield proper though it took a while to get out of the suburban sprawl. Turning off into farm land was a nice break, though the wind found us soon after. I also saw a couple of small turtles as roadkill. :/ The weight of my bike kept me on my smallest front chainring while climbing, but starting from a stop sign, the chain slipped again. I thought I had it fixed, but a test ride on a dead end saw it slipping again and the pedal teeth scraping my ankle (and I think something bruised the top of my calf, no idea how else that bruise got there). My handlebars also came loose, and I had to stop to retighten that bolt. After all that, though, the ride went smoothly.

We took a rail trail for five miles through farmland, marsh and woods, asking a fast rollerblader about the small highways we crossed, trying to make sure that we turned on 189. As we were talking at one point a woman was getting into her wheelchair from the driver's seat of her van and she told us about a good ice cream and sometimes gelato place the other way up the trail, so we marked that down for the return trip. Not a huge amount of people on the rail trail, it was around 3pm or so. Then we turned off to keep climbing into CT, having passed through a pass in the ridge to get to the rail trail instead of climbing over it. We stopped at a gas station at around the 20 mile mark to stock up on water, and the rain started so I pulled the rack trunk's rain cover into place and we kept going. Now the climbs got serious, and I had to stop for water breaks a couple of times on the steep sections. On one slow slog up a steep hill, I heard a snap and my bike ground to a halt. The bungee cord I'd used to strap the 1L water bottle from the gas station to my rack trunk had snapped, and the metal hook was woven into the spokes of my rear tire and around the axel. :/ Cris had crested the hill and started down the other side, and it took me long enough to unweave the metal and get going again that he was climbing back up to meet me. I was very lucky that the back wheel didn't go too far out of true, though I could hear a bit of a thump when cruising down the (precious few) downhill sections. Granted, the downhills we got were screamingly fast, I caught a glimpse of my bike computer as it hit 31mph, and on the way home Cris said that he saw 35mph on his. That's about as fast as I ever want to go on a loaded bike, I had to really concentrate on the road, looking far ahead to anticipate obstacles. A couple of down grades (I was beginning to dread the truck on a slope warning sign) I lightly applied my brakes as I started down, trying to keep my speed under control, and when I would let it go near the bottom, it would feel as if someone gave me a huge push as I accelerated. Luckily, traffic was low when we were on steep narrow downhills. We biked across a dam at one point, and were on a scenic route that was nice. The rain eased up and the temperatures rose up, so we got some atmospheric mist during the climb up toward Winstead I think. Oddly enough, a woman slowed down her car next to me as I was spinning up a hill, head down, going about 5mph and asked if she could ask me for directions. Um, no, kinda busy, but I just said I didn't know where I was (Cris had the cue sheet out on his handlebar bag). I also got a giggle out of spotting a discarded porn DVD in the grass by the side of the road - I had been taking comfort in the fact that even though I was going really slowly, I had time to take in the sights. :) At about 5 miles to go, I spotted a liquor store and we stopped to get stuff for the weekend. I was a bit surprised when Cris managed to fit a 6 pack of beer into his panniers (still didn't slow him down much, though!), and I squeeze a small bottle of gin and one of tonic into my rack trunk. And then we climbed, and climbed and climbed. Oops. There was one fast descent into Winstead centre that was a bit hair raising since traffic was pretty heavy, but mostly we climbed steadily. We finally turned off of 44 onto the side roads leading to the cabin and were faced with some short steep rollers that almost broke my heart. After later swearing up and down that the last climb through Winstead wasn't that bad, I mapped out the ride and looked at the elevation profile. Yeah, it wasn't nearly as steep as the bits around 25 miles.

We rolled up to the cabin at 51 miles for the day, turning in right after another car that had just passed us, and we were greeted by a porch full of ladies that we didn't recognise. Turned out that Forest and Christian and Vanessa were down by the pond, and F's mom was inside, but we were expected and warmly welcomed. We started walking down to the pond and Christian came charging up the path waving oars (they'd started drinking a while ago apparently :) ) and Forest was brave enough to give us hugs and then immediately marched us back to the cabin and showed us where the showers were. Bliss. Feeling human once again, we sat and chatted for a while. And then Cris got drafted to make and grill burgers for the group. I sat quietly and didn't volunteer to do much but make sure that Forest didn't light himself on fire when he started the grill, and that his mom didn't split her head open when she tried out the trampoline in the back yard. :) We were introduced around, meeting Aaron after having had exchanged some emails on the merits and lack thereof of video games while at a cabin in the woods. :) I had grilled chicken kabobs for dinner, and then threw together a flourless chocolate cake for Caryl's birthday. Gah, after carrying the pans and cocoa and sugar and vanilla all that way, and giving Foe a shopping list of eggs and butter and chocolate, the oven was my downfall. It must have been too cool, the cake didn't set properly. :/ Luckily, chocolate hides a lot of ills, and most everyone liked it (though two were chocolate haters, but there was a white cake available for the next night, so they could have that). The others played board games, and I shot a couple of games of pool downstairs (winning by default both times, it took me a while to focus as I'd had a bit of a gin and tonic and was exhausted after all the riding). We were given a room with skylights in the ceiling, and I used that as my excuse for going to bed at around 11pm, as I knew I'd wake up when the sun hit them.

Sunday May 30, 2010

The smell of bacon wafted upstairs and eased me awake. Forest was weaving a mat from 3lb of bacon and then forming it into a log with an egg filling. I had just the egg filling and some fruit for breakfast, but everyone else seemed to enjoy the logs. :) Had some time to read and relax and take a short walk along the back roads, and eat some more, before the group got organised to take a trip to a lake house that one of the women had just bought. Swimsuits and sunscreen and bug juice and towels and toys and people all got sorted out and Cris and I got a lift with Christian and Vanessa. We retraced some of the route we'd biked the day before, turning off just past the liquor store where we'd stopped. The last bit down to the lake was a bit hairy, but we saw a baby raccoon and that made everything better. :) We were the first to arrive and waited until we were sure we had the right house before settling in to swim, sun bathe and read. I got some tips on how to lift myself up out of the water before throwing a football, and took a break on a float anchored not too far from shore when I got tired. Luckily we were playing far enough from the dock that Caryl couldn't hit us much with nerf water gun she had sitting beside her. Plus no one pushed me in, and I was offered a hand up out of the water (you had to climb up on fairly slimy rocks to get onto the dock again), so all in all a good relaxing time. I read for a bit in the lounge chair that I'd helped carry down from the cars, the dogs sitting in the shade underneath them, and sometimes digging for cooler earth. Then someone mentioned the hot tub at the cabin and we formed a group to head back and soak at around 3pm. Took a quick shower to get the bug and sun juice off me, and then eased into the hot water. Bliss again, should have done that the day before after biking, but it still helped a lot.

Chris had done a grocery run, and Cris put in an order for two whole chickens and they got turned into beer can chicken on the grill. I tried to read on the porch but the smoke was engulfing me so I moved inside. Christian's ribs smelled really good, but I passed on trying them. It was a quieter night in, we watched a pair of DVDs as a group. I joined some people for a session of night trampoline bouncing, skinning my elbows a little bit when I fell off my feet and the three others in the "cage" kept bouncing. Then Cris and I played a game of Scrabble while Forest, Vanessa, Aaron and Christian played poker, all in the screened in porch next to the hot tub. I think I lasted until about 12:30, watching the play for a bit after finishing our game, and then collapsed into bed.

Monday May 31, 2010

I was up and in the kitchen first this morning, so I made up a double batch of whole wheat pancakes from the mix I found in the supplies. Couldn't find anything to put in them, so they were plain and a bit dry, but they still all disappeared. Finally found the whisk after I didn't need it any more. Also had some leftover chicken, and the chicken cheese frittata that Cris made, trying to store up calories for the ride back to Springfield. Helped clean up the cabin, adjusted the front brakes on my bike, and said a quick round of goodbyes. We rolled up the drive way to the road at a bit past 11am, and Cris promptly got a flat tire. Luckily it was the front one and he had a spare tube, unluckily his air pump was missing a piece, but with some fiddling he got my schraeder-set-up pump to fit his presta tire. Forest caught us just getting ready to go again as he rolled the big garbage bin out to the road, and waved us off again. Cris had mapped out a route to detour around the big climb on 44 out of Winstead, but it turned out to be hillier than expected and was a bit longer. We wove our way through Winstead center and the parade they were setting up for and soon began pedalling in earnest. We had a nice coast for a while, undoing the last of the climbing we'd done two days ago, but then we got into the rolling hills and a few nasty climbs. Lots of motorcycles on the road, it was warm and sunny. We also passed and then were passed by a pair of road cyclists, and a lone one passed me on an uphill section before stopping at the top to make a phone call. I was going about 1mph slower on the uphills than I was on Friday, but my chain wasn't slipping and my brakes weren't rubbing, so I just kept spinning. The laughably annoying thing was that a car full of young people almost pulled in front of me as one guy yelled out if he could ask me for directions. I yelled back to not get in my way (I think I was under 4mph at that point, weaving a bit as I climbed) and that I didn't know where I was and they accelerated off up the rest of the hill, cruising right past Cris. We crossed back over the dam with the stone tower, and the route seemed to go faster as I recognised turns and landmarks. No wrong turns this time, just unwinding our route. Once we got on the rail trail, it felt like we became the fast moving heavily weighed down cargo carries that had been passing us on the roads, barrelling along like a freight train, just slowing down when we passed little kids weaving on bikes w/o training wheels (though one almost took me out as he veered toward the centre of the path after Cris passed him). I was nervous about getting to Springfield with lots of time to sort out bike boxes, so I vetoed the stop for gelato up the rail trail, but we stopped at another ice cream shop when Cris said that we were only 14 miles away from the depot and it was only about 2:30. Black raspberry frozen yoghurt with chocolate chips replaced my 35 mile Clif bar, and it was well worth the stop. We moved on with renewed energy, and faced the outskirts of Springfield with equanimity, marking the Chinese food restaurant as we blew past it, getting downtown at around 4:15pm, in lots of time, or so I thought, for our 6pm bus.

We went to the Amtrack station first to see if Cris could buy a bike box from them, but no luck. I spent the time by our bikes waiting for him by stretching, and it was good that I did, since I didn't have any down time once we got to the bus depot. The bike box that I'd put my name and the date on for my return trip was gone. And they didn't have any new ones to sell us. And the dispatcher said we had to box the bikes to go into the cargo hold. But then someone else said that if the driver and the baggage handler didn't care, the bikes could go in bare. But he never came back to tell me so, so I continued making Frankenbox from the discarded pile of boxes that the Mcdonald's had thrown out back. I had to go and buy a roll of duct tape after the packing tape Cris bought wasn't sticking. I finished up just as the driver started milling around, but Cris hadn't had a chance to finish his. All this while various Peter Pan employees wondered what we were doing but didn't actually clear up the confusion for us. I sweet talked the baggage handler (who turned out to be the guy who looked everywhere for my original bike box) into letting Cris throw his bike in on top of mine. Cris had a chance to grab a sandwich from Subway, but I ate a Clif bar on the bus. We were able to use our reserved seats to board first at least, though we almost got caught in a people jam as passengers were coming off and going to another bus.

After all that, the ride itself was uneventful, we slept most of the way, and I was able to pull my Frankenbox off the bus with Cris's help without it disintegrating. His bike seemed to have survived unscathed as well, but Cris was a bit impatient with the time needed for me to reassemble my bike in the station. He got ride of the pieces of Frankenbox for me, and I was soon ready to roll again. The only problem was that once we got outside, the air was nigh on unbreathable. It turned out that huge forest fires in Quebec had led to a pall of smoke engulfing downtown Boston. I wondered, and was right, if an air quality warning was in effect, but we didn't have much choice about getting home at that point. We took the 8 mile ride fairly slowly, and I was amused that certain hills from my commute looked positively puny after the rollers we had climbed in CT. We got home at 9pm, a few coughing fits and watery eyes later, and I wolfed down some pasta, had a quick shower, then lay in bed reading just long enough to finish my book, and then concked out.

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