Sunday, August 16, 2015

Voyage dans L'obscurité

Is it wise to drink a beer halfway through a 200k night ride?

There was some debate about this as we approached Sandwich. Some riders worried it might compromise their fortitude and strength, while others expressed no concerns. A consensus was reached that if we ALL had a beer the consequences would be felt equally, nullifying any risk. Demonstrating both a penchant for dubious justification and a one-for-all and all-for-one attitude, everyone had a beer.

This was the first running of the Dunes Dynamo--but the third in a series--the first two being the Dirigo Dynamo in 2012 and 2014 which ended in Portland, ME. (The vision going forward is that the ride will alternate between Portland and Provincetown annually, hence the slightly different names, based on destination.)

A convivial start from the Bartlett St. Cafe in Jamaica Plain

Smiles as we make our way out of town. Geoff led the way for the first ten miles or so, since he came up with the route

Jake and Brian. Check out Brian's home made fenders!

We left Jamaica Plain on Saturday around 5:30PM bound for Provincetown. Fourteen in all at the start, one rider planned to veer off to make his way home to Providence, while others planned to join us further on in the ride.  I was excited and a little nervous, as I tend to be before a long ride. Will I be strong enough to stay with others? Will I have enough food and water? Will I be okay without sleep? I packed two sandwiches, various nuts and bars, and had three bottles of water. In the end I never touched the sandwiches and may have ended the ride with one of my bottles full. That's fine, I'd rather be over prepared.

Despite these concerns, I have a basic faith in my ability to cycle long distances and go without sleep, although I don't take it for granted that I can just fly endlessly. I can't. Miles and hills take their toll and reality eventually subdues willful enthusiasm into a sustainable pace. Gladly that pace was fine with this bunch of riders.

Sun grazing the treetops as the day started to cool down

Emily, Geoff, James and others

As evening came on we passed numerous marshes and bays, making for some lovely twilight views. Glancing back, the array of high-powered LED bike lights was brilliant. We must have been a somewhat unusual and perhaps confusing sight to drivers as we approached. Somewhere around Wareham, Brian peeled off to make his way home to Providence, another 40 or so miles.

Together we travelled though rural suburban towns towards the Cape, reaching the canal in Bourne around 11:00 or so and getting to the British Brewing Co. in Sandwich in time for us to have that round of beer and pizza.  Elton was waiting on the lawn and rode the rest of the ride with us from here. Three or four riders who were well fed and had negotiated a flat tire on the canal decided to skip the meal and ride ahead. We didn't see them until morning in Provincetown.

The last light of day

Coming into Bourne

Approaching the Bourne Bridge. Once we reached the bridge, we walked our bikes.

Long awaited sustenance

As for that beer, I pointedly ordered a Guinness--low alcohol content and seemingly high in nutritional thickness. We were glad for the food and rest, but the air conditioning had us shivering as we ate, so we were glad to be outdoors again. We filled up our water bottles at the public fountain in the village and began rolling for the second half of our journey.

Geoff filling up in Sandwich village

Emily taking in some of the nuttiness in Onset (?), while Jake catches a wink on the pavement. We saw all sorts of capers: cops, cars full of lost travelers, cars with their lights off, cops with lights speeding by... all on one corner. 

There was eleven of us now. Almost as a unit we moved together through the picturesque villages along 6A, coursing along dark quiet roads, each with our own thoughts.  We'd been together long enough that conversations had started to subside. Though not articulated, we were now bonded, quietly glad to be cycling together through the night. I know I was.

It was along this stretch I felt somewhat weak and discouraged. I was moving along fine, but I wasn't feeling as strong as I would have hoped on the numerous small hills we encountered and I started to contemplate drifting off the tail-end of this group, a thought I didn't relish. Perhaps I wolfed down a little too much pizza; perhaps the beer at midnight wasn't the smartest idea... I don't know, but I know I felt a little bummed, like I had to press a little more than was coming naturally.

I was glad when we reached the bike path in Brewster. It meant many miles of easy pedaling. It was around this time too that we, as a group acknowledged that we were going to stay together to the end. It would have been inconsiderate to leave anyone behind having come this far together.  We also consciously slowed down a little since a couple of folks had begun to drift off the back--I guess I wasn't the only one feeling the effort. I noticed too on the bike path that we had started talking again. Perhaps being off the roads encouraged our banter or maybe the lack of sleep starting to inflict a bit of chattiness.

The path carried us up to Wellfleet and soon we were cruising atop the high bluffs that overlook the Atlantic--a view that to my mind is one of the great wonders of New England, mighty and endless, although in the pre-dawn dark I could only see that stunning view in my mind's eye. I knew the road we were on led to Newcomb Hollow Beach so I was surprised as we passed the last turn off.  Geoff, who had scouted most of the route, led us down what seemed like a private driveway into the most unlikely warren of small rutted and sandy lanes through the dense scrub oak forest. Cue sheets and GPS devices were weak guides in this collection of driveways and paths. Once or twice Geoff had to double back to gather those who had become lost.

Somewhere along the Cape Cod Rail Trail 
(Photo: JPTwins/Flickr)

Escape from the scrub oak forest at dawn!

I felt delight at the utter unlikeliness of the moment. Here I was at 5:15 in the morning having ridden a good 110 miles or so, in the woods with ten other souls pushing our bikes through barely recognizable sand tracks on a quest to reach the sea at sunrise. Geoff later announced "I'm sorry and you're welcome" directed at the riders who either enjoyed or were annoyed by this sojourn through the woods so close to the end of the ride.  I for one was so happy to have this unexpected adventure. A couple of the riders who had ridden ahead from Sandwich but arrived in P'town after our group mentioned they had become lost in the "sand trap".

Arrival at Coast Guard Beach

The quarter moon greeted our arrival
Jake and Emily taking in the scene
At the beach 
(Photo: Jeff 0728/Flickr)

Our goal was reaching Coast Guard Beach in Truro for sunrise. With visions of a nap following a brilliant sunrise we were a bit underwhelmed to find the scene chilly and mostly overcast--there would be no sunrise for us this time around.  Some of us took off our shoes, laid down and relaxed for a while but somehow getting to P'town felt like it would offer greater relief, so we soon headed out for the remaining few miles into town.

As you may know, Provincetown can seem like a perpetual party along Commercial Street on a summer's day, but there was no sense of celebration when we arrived. Drizzle greeted us on empty streets as we waited for the first breakfast place to open up. The food and coffee were welcome and it felt good to be done. After breakfast we waited a few chilly hours to catch the ferry home. Daydreaming about the ride beforehand, I had visions of a brilliant morning return to Boston across a serene Massachusetts Bay, but in fact we faced a surprisingly storm-tossed and rainy ride back. More than one passenger found need for a vomit bag. Geoff and I sat together and talked with a well-rested couple who were eager to talk about bikes and our ride and all the details. I tried to muster a normal conversational effort, but the tentacles of sleep were pulling hard on me...

Commercial Street in Provincetown

Post breakfast chilax

Last year's ride to Maine was magical, shared with Nancy and Douglas. I will cherish that experience for a long time,  but what made this year special for me was the bond with my fellow riders --some old friend, some new acquaintances. I really enjoy this aspect of a long ride: the hours one gets to spend talking with friends. We joined together in a unique journey and had fun, only to disperse in the morning with tired brows and muscles, but happy for the experience.

Awesome patch designed by Jon Doyle

I'm looking forward to next year already!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Radar Mountain

A little breather half way up

Nancy and Adam coming down the back side of Victory Mountain

Our pal Adam joined us for a re-ride of Pamela and John's Victory Mtn. Loop, which leaves from East Burke and travels into the heart of the Northeast Kingdom over into the next valley with a healthy amount of climbing--in keeping with anything John and Pamela come up with. After the first climb out of town we were passed by maybe 5-7 vehicles for the next 6 hours.

Taking a food break at the bottom of the East Mountain climb

A Waxwing Bag Co. convention

The loop is great, but the coup de grace of this ride is the spur up Radar Road to the top of East Mountain, the site of a cold-war era radar installation. Becoming outdated even before it was finished, the USAF outpost once housed 150 servicemen complete with bowling alley, theatre, commissary, etc.. The facility was closed in the early '60's and has suffered slow but steady decay and dismemberment ever since. What remains is a post-apocalyptic corrugated monolithic mountaintop temple. Getting there requires miles of logging roads and a significant climb that is unusual in that it is paved and the pavement is in good shape despite decades of disuse.

Cresting the plateau on the way up to the radar station

Making her way up the paved section

Its great to be in the company of fat-tired randonneuring bikes. Nancy on her Matchak, me on my Stag and Adam on his Polyvalent. Much of this route is washed out or loose gravel back roads, so skinny tires would be really tough in this terrain. We all had lights too, and numerous times throughout the day I was glad to see the bright glow of a light behind me or the zing of a red taillight ahead of me. Built in lights are awesome!

Getting to the radar station is actually kind of counterintuitive; the closer you get, the better the roads are. Once there, the station is spooky. Its a no-mans land; aside from a spectacular location, there is only broken glass, graffiti, metal sheet, and rusting structure to welcome you.

Looking out from the 7th story of the largest building on the top of the mountain

Industrial debris on a remote mountain top


Adam went up the ladder to the roof!

We took it easy through out the day, with a few stops for food and water and taking pictures. It was really hot when we started but moderated a bit as the day wore on. Having left in the early afternoon, the 43 miles of the ride took a healthy 6.5 hours with the climbing, exploring the radar station, and resting along the way.

I love chasing this gal around

Some folks avoid hills when they ride their bike. Me, I find the climbing is what puts the real fun into the experience. Its hard, and can be dreadful at times, but there is a feeling of having accomplished something and having worked that I really enjoy. Flat riding is fine, but some climbing is satisfying. Throw in some amazing scenery, some good company, and a little bit of creepy mountaintop and you have the ingredients for a great day out on two wheels.

Mmmn... back in Burke for some food and drink