Spring may finally have arrived in southern New England, though, as has been characteristic the last few years, we’ve gone straight from a disappointing winter into early summer, apparently somewhere between Friday afternoon and Saturday morning.
Friday, I finally said “Y’know what? I’m a cyclist. Why aren’t I riding my bike more?”
Answering, I said “Uh, ’cause it’s cold-ish, and may rain?”
“But I live in New England. Possibly the only place on the planet with weather that can make a person whinier about the weather than old England. There are places where it is much, much warmer. And places where it is much, much colder. Sure, it’s not 75 and sunny all the time, but who wants to put up with Californians? Point is, you could ride outside almost 330 days of the year and be in no risk of the weather killing you. On the other 30 days, you can almost certainly get in a few miles of XC skiing. Bad weather is an entering argument, but shape means you can treasure the amazeballs days. And you can’t get shape by whining.”
“Self, you make an excellent point. Giddyup.”
Friday, I was back from a trip to our Nation’s capital, trodding the halls of power, and weaving my way among the throngs of teenagers from the heartland out in DC to see that socialism can actually build a pretty good lifestyle; that walkable cities with transit are pretty stinking cool, and that robust public support for the arts and humanities provides a really interesting way to spend a few days wandering among the collective artifacts that have shaped our history, our art, our sense of self, and our technology.
Mostly, tho, it looked like almost any middle school outing – the adults pretending that they had a shred of cool; the children actively ignoring anyone over 18, the vendors trying desperately to pry hard earned spending money out of the kids’ wallets in exchange for red, white, and blue trinkets made in China.
But the runs was good. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to say that without hesitation; this week felt like a breakthrough. Cranking out 6 on Sunday, and hopefully running one of the legs of the Vermont City Marathon Relay next weekend. Woot.
Enough running, tho. What I really want to talk about is the bike.
There are few things quite so transcendent as the first few rides in the spring, regardless of one’s state of training coming out of a deep winter. The combination of the turn from grey of deep winter, to the brown of mud and very early spring, to the first hints of color from the daffodils and tulips, the first greens from the skunk cabbage and elephants’ ears and fiddleheads. The sounds – the first spring peepers; the hoot of the owls, the deeper ribbets of the leopard and bull frogs, and the terrifying screeching of the fisher cats. The smells – from the damp of melting ice and snow, the earth as it starts to wake, the dead skunk that’s been under a snow pile or frozen mid-puetrificaiton for six months, and finally the flowers and grasses, and blooming trees – amazing.
Then there’s the transition of bikes – last ride on the winter bike, with the bullet proof tires to ensure that cinders don’t end your ride prematurely with a tire change in freezing rain (or a call to a significant other, more likely). The first time when you, against better judgement, take out the summer bike, with the good wheels and tires out on roads that might not be completely salt and cinder free and feel again the joy of a beautiful bike under your seat…
I’d made that first ride on the good bike back in April – we had a couple weeks of steady rain, with one 40 degree sunny day that fell on a weekend. I could tell that the fitness wasn’t where I want it to be, but the bike absolutely did not let down.
Fast forward back to this weekend. Friday, my afternoon meetings were cancelled, and, well, I cashed in some hard earned leave in order to ride my bike around Newport.
The ride was, actually pretty good – breezy and cool, but not cold. Shorts, wool jersey, and wool undershirt kept me pretty comfy. I’ve been letting my hair grow – managing bangs that stuck out under my helmet was more of a PITA than I anticipated; but partly, I didn’t want to stop in order to rearrange my helmet.
Having ridden around Newport for a while, I’ve gotten pretty good at reading the winds, and figuring if I should do Ocean Drive counterclockwise or clockwise. Today was a counterclockwise day, which meant I started out by heading through downtown. It’s the start of tourist season, but the road improvements aren’t yet finished, so closures and construction made it a bear.
I’ll also never quite understand why the middle of downtown is a two-lane, dead straight, divided highway for like half a mile, with only two pedestrian crossings. This is not shared-use friendly design. Were I on the Newport town council, I’d open every meeting by proposing cutting this down to two lanes, and relclaiming the other half for mixed-use commercial/residential to help out with the bike-able/transit housing shortage for both Salve Regina and the NAVSTA.
Anyway, fought against the wind until I hit Brenton Point State Park, then crushed it eastbound on Ocean Ave. The one gripe I had was the dude on the e-bike who stayed JUST out of touch – wished I’d caught him to have a draft on the way back.
When I hit the end of Ocean Drive, I thought about going back, but a mile into the wind on legs that aren’t yet accustomed to riding, and I turned around, rode past the Gilded Age 1.0 mansions, wishing that the robber barons of today had the common courtesy to place their unbalanced gains on such public display, and took the short way back home. 21 miles and happy.
Saturday was like the actual day of summer that we’re going to get this year, apparently. Fortunately, our troop had enough adults at the Zombie Camporee that I was able to break free for some miles. Reminded me of EVERYTHING i love about riding in eastern CT. Highlights:
- The corner of Plains Road and Under the Mountain Road in Franklin – no real sign, just two roads coming together in a wood, in which case I couldn’t tell which one was the less traveled…
- Robinson Hill Road – Nutmeggers didn’t know sarcasm – if a road has “Hill” in the name, it’s going to be a hill. That said, Robinson Hill Road is extreme even for this rule. I rolled into it at about 10 miles, so should have been plenty warmed up, and should have been able to crush this. More later
- Jerusalem Road – On the east bank of the Shetucket River. One of the quintessential New England roads – forest, farms, homes. Two lanes, next to no traffic, turns and whoop-de-doo hills. Short climbs to crush – man.
- A “town” every 5 miles or so, which is great to catch the breath.
Chris Case had a pretty good bit capturing much of this in a reprint at the end of this month’s VeloNews. You get to read about it, I get to live it.
Anyway, enough. Got three weeks to finish up school for this quarter, and, as always, I’m way behind the eight ball.