There was a notice at work about a company outing at Wachusett Ski Area. Most company outings these days tend to be pot luck affairs where they provide the charcoal, and the invitees are expected to bring food. Since the extent of my culinary expertise is making toast (and I tend to burn that about 50% of the time) and since even if I were to make some barely edible dish by the time it has traveled a few miles in my messenger bag, edibility would be seriously in question, I usually blow off affairs like this. But this was an actual company sponsored event, where they provided the food, and lots of it. And it was a pleasant location, so I figured I’d go.
It went from 11 to 4 with feeding time being 12 to 3. So, my first plan was to ride into the office and see if I could get a ride out with someone. Then I could ride home, with a net elevation drop of about 900ft. Wahoo! So, very early in the game I sent an email out to my group asking if someone could give me and my bike a ride out (and maybe a ride part way home, if I was feeling wimpy). So I sat back and waited for the barrage of emails to come in. Nothing, nada, not a one, despite the fact that several people on my team were cyclists.
So, I had pretty much decided to blow it off, when I had my weekly meeting with my boss (one of the cyclists). He was part of a group that went out for lunchtime rides. He said they were planning to ride out. So I asked when they would be leaving and he said the details hadn’t been worked out yet.
So, I sat back and waited for the details to emerge. Silence. By now, paranoia was beginning to set in and I was feeling “old and in the way.”
But the gauntlet was thrown, if the lunchtime cyclists were going to ride out there, moi, super bike commuter should be able to do so. It would be sort of like a supported century, except real food at the rest stop, and I didn’t even have to ride 100 miles.
Next I had to devise a route. I considered the Climb to the Clouds route, but that was way too circuitous. I wanted the shortest route possible. So, I fired up the map program, told it I was a bike, and it came up with a very nice route, around 41 miles. Only problem was there were about 50 turns, and being navigationally challenged, chances of making them all were slim to none. The other problem was that it went through Maynard. Now, I have nothing against Maynard, but it is rather busy and there are much better roads in that neck of the woods.
Then I considered the northern route. I could take 225 to 110 out through Harvard, and practically all the way. But, it was around 45 miles, and I didn’t want the extra mileage.
So the Harvard route was too long, and the short route too complicated, and I was again close to aborting the mission. But then I looked at a state map. It looked like I could pick up 62 in Bedford, and take it all the way to Princeton. Even I could follow a numbered route. It did go through Maynard, and the mileage was a bit more than the original 41, but it seemed feasible.
So I set out. I gave myself plenty of time, hoping to arrive just after the food was set out. First unpleasantness was that there was a lot of construction on 62 around West Concord, then there was Maynard, but finally I got onto where 62 joins 117. I hadn’t really looked at the map all that closely, but I figured 62 would eventually diverge from 117 and there would be a large sign to that effect. That’s why I take numbered routes. Route 62 seems to be a closely guarded secret, since I saw no 62 signs, though I saw plenty of signs for 117, and by the time I realized Route 62 and I had long since parted ways, I was entering Leominster. Low point of the day #1.
So I backtracked. Somewhere in there, I had a flat tire. Low point of the day #2. As I was fixing it, a cyclist stopped to help. I told him I was Ok, had a spare. He asked me if I had a cell phone in case things didn’t work out, and I realized I’m probably one of the last living cyclists who doesn’t. Given my proclivity for getting lost, I, if anyone, really should have one. But then, I thought, “who you gonna call?” Mrs. D was on an outing to Walden pond, and although she does have a cell phone, I didn’t know the number, and she never turns it on anyway. Ken? I’m sure he would like nothing better than to drive 50 miles each way to save my sorry butt. At this point, I was really wondering if I should abort the mission. I had one of those baby tire pumps that require the strength of Arnold Schwarzenegger to get more than about 20 psi of pressure in the tube. But if I could limp along and avoid pinch flats, I could probably find someone at the outing with a floor pump. Not to mention the fact that I could get food and drink, since the bowl of cereal I had at 7AM was wearing a bit thin by now.
So, by virtue of standing on the pedals any time some road hazard appeared, I was able to make it to the event. Turns out the lunchtime crew had ridden out from Harvard. The son of one of them provided sag service. So I was able to borrow a floor pump from him and pump my tire to its full 100psi. Having actual air in my rear tire improved my disposition immeasurably. I wolfed down a veggie burger and some very good French fries, about four cans of beverage, and life was good again. My boss allowed as how we could join them on the ride back to Harvard. The attraction of a wheelsucking opportunity was shadowed by the fact I had given Susan a worst case scenario ETA of 6-6:30 and if I joined their merry band I would still have to get myself back from Harvard.
So, I set off by myself. I was thinking of taking 110 pretty much all the way, but then I saw some Climb to the Clouds arrows. I decided to follow them, since it was a much nicer route, with shade as it was a really hot day. But the clincher was that it was a SURE THING. I knew I could follow the arrows home. What I sort of forgot was that it does ramble a bit getting back to Concord. But I had air in my tires, knew where I was going, so I soldiered on.
Arrived home around 5:45. Mileage? 117 Coincidence?