One Hundred Two

Around this time last summer, I decided I needed a new bicycling goal. It had been over a year since I surpassed my goal of biking to work every day for a year. For the past few summers I’ve aimed to (and reached or exceeded) ride 100 miles a week in July. And while there are certain hills I look forward to incorporating into my routes each season, and particular roads I enjoy returning to, without a goal it sometimes feels as though I’m merely going around in circles.

While I do accumulate many miles each year, I am not fast and have no desire to race. As I see it, this leaves me with repetition and distance. Cue Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams and the voice saying, “Go the distance.”

Each summer I manage to do at least one 50-miler. Occasionally I have done a 60 mile ride. I’m fairly certain that at some point I said I would never do a century, but it was starting to feel right. A century for cyclists is about what a marathon is for runners. I’ve been at this for a while; it seemed to be time.

I had certain parameters, though. There are many supported century rides to select from, but they don’t have rain dates. While I’m willing to ride less than three miles to work in the rain, I have no desire to pay for a ride and then be in wet spandex for dozens of miles. Many of those rides also have a fundraising component, and that is not for me. Did I want to invite someone to ride with me? Sure, it would have been nice to have someone along to chat with, to help change a flat tire if necessary. However, I didn’t want anyone struggling to keep up with me, nor did I want to struggle to keep up with anyone else. More importantly, the date chosen for the ride needed to be a date when my body, with its various and sundry limitations, was ready. I wanted to reach my goal without hurting myself in the process. I concluded it was best to ride alone.

Where did I want to ride? I could start at home (another advantage to riding alone) and ride round trip to the Connecticut shore, or do a loop in the central part of the state. At some point I decided I wanted something more adventuresome than repeating the roads I’ve been riding for two decades. I wanted to make it an event; to start at home and go in one direction or another for 100 miles.

Sitting in a coffee shop one winter day, I shared these thoughts with a good friend. How we got from my “I want to ride 100 miles in one direction” to her “my family’s house is 100 miles from here,” I no longer remember. But between then and now I spent copious hours on mapping websites, calculating any number of possible routes between Chez CyclingArchivist and the Homestead of the Family W (century routes – one, two, three – and 50 mile routes for the area where I’d be riding are publicly available).

The goal was set.

I found a training plan that would be a good model for me. When spring arrived, I started pedaling. As spring became summer we started discussing dates. The chosen date made its appearance in the 10-day forecast, sunny at first, then progressively rainier. At the 11th hour we postponed from Tuesday to Thursday.

Thursday morning arrived and the weather was perfect. The ride itself was better than I had imagined. The Connecticut portion was quite familiar. I had tried out the segment between Lake Congamond and Northampton, MA once before. The rest was entirely new. The Connecticut River Valley in Hadley was green with ripening corn, with equally colored,  tree-covered hills in the distance.  Move over Filet Mignon, the first protein bar I ate, at almost 39 miles in, was the most delicious food I’d ever encountered. I’m pretty sure that was situational. An employee of the Sunderland Corner Store generously let me use the sink to refill a water bottle. The one portion of trail I wasn’t sure actually existed, was in fact in place, and was followed by one of the more unusual buildings I’ve seen in a while.

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Your guess is as good as mine.

Back along the river, Turners Falls provided a scenic snack break, my second of three.

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Protein bar with a view.

I sent a selfie to my co-workers when I crossed the Vermont state line.

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Say cheese!

At that point I still had over 20 miles (uphill!) left to ride, but it was an accomplishment nonetheless. My penultimate stop was a photo-op with the West Dummerston Covered Bridge.

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Longest covered bridge entirely in VT.

A few more miles of climbing, and I was there.

My bike computer was set to display the number of miles left to ride. I tried not to read it too often, but it surprised me how the numbers seemed to melt away. 89! 49! 34, I can do that after a full day of work! 17! 2.9, that’s my commute to work; think how quickly you get down Park Street!

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Yay, I made it!

I arrived with a smile on my face. I didn’t get lost, or have any mechanical issues. Perhaps I should have had more water, but I wasn’t parched. Mentally, the last seven miles were toughest. But I made it.

Total mileage: 102.11 Moving time: 7:11:38 Elapsed time: 8:15:37

My friend had driven up just to meet me and bring me back home. When I first discussed this with her, I’d envisioned meeting her there at the end of one of her stays. I never expected she would travel all that way for me. After I got cleaned up, we enjoyed some time on the porch and walked around the property (the house is amazing, and there’s some manuscript material I’d love to see some day). We had burgers at a local restaurant, then drove back home.

Two days later I remain elated. My training had been effective. I accomplished another goal, on a beautiful day with a spectacular route. And I enjoyed the absolute best of friendship.

 

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How I planned a bike ride and ended up with an adventure (or, Bike-cation 2012: Waterside Edition)

Gillette Castle State Park, East Haddam, CT

I tend to ride the same roads repeatedly and, having a break from my usual group ride, decided to embrace change. At the same time, having a week off from the group ride is a great time to get some culture. High on my culture-to-do list of late has been visiting Gillette’s Castle. As I do not usually ride the roads surrounding the Castle, it seemed like a match made in cycling-culture heaven. All I planned was the route. The rest of it fell into place, making it a fabulous, full day adventure.

Posted in every stall, Visitor’s Center, Gillette Castle State Park

Not having any desire to ride a century, I decided to put the bike in the car and drive to Gillette Castle State Park. They do not charge for parking, and have restrooms, making it that much more attractive to the Cycling Archivist. Well, I’m not really sure “attractive” and “restrooms” should be in the same sentence.

Moving along, my route took me over the East Haddam swing bridge (cool article from 2007), along Rt. 154 to Essex, and down to Old Saybrook. Though my aunt recently sold her cottage at Chalker Beach, I asked the guard/attendant if it would be ok for me to dip my toes.

The dip, Chalker Beach, Old Saybrook

The water temperature was fabulous; I could have gone all the way in. Next it was over to Indiantown, where I sat in the shade and had snacks with friends. I continued along Rt. 154, through Katharine Hepburn’s part of town. I have to go cliche here and say that if you haven’t biked this stretch, you are missing out. My phone’s camera wouldn’t really capture most of the beauty, so I took few photographs. Heading north, I had an impromptu watermelon stop with cousins before reaching the Chester-Hadlyme Ferry (as my ride last Sunday also included watermelon, I am now completely convinced all summer rides should include this treat). Being a native of Glastonbury, my ferry of preference tends to be the Glastonbury-Rocky Hill, but after the budget woes of late, it is so great both ferries are still running. From the ferry ($1 for bicyclists), my final destination was in clear view.

Gillette’s Castle, as viewed from Chester-Hadlyme Ferry

Being in the business, I can be rather critical of house museum tours. This one ($6 adult) was self guided, with story telling docents in the rooms. On a scale of yes or no, I would say that yes, it was worth it. The castle interior has incredible woodwork and you get to hear stories about the practical jokes William Gillette, “America’s Sherlock Holmes,” would play on his guests.

Chester-Hadlyme Ferry, as viewed from Gillette’s Castle

With both cycling and culture achieved, the only thing left to really make this an adventure was the requisite ice cream stop. I had thought about the James Gallery and Soda Fountain earlier in the day, but ended up at Hillside Sweet Shoppe ($2.75, single scoop, Gifford’s Mint Chocolate Chip, sugar cone). Though lunch mysteriously disappeared from the agenda, I was rather pleased to have a full day of close-to-home fun for less than $10. It was truly a full day. I left my house at 9:00 AM and didn’t get back till 6:00 PM.

I saw the Essex Steam Train go by twice. I passed sheep along one road, and there were egrets and swans in the water as I pedaled over the causeway. Even though I was cycling alone, I spent enough time with other people to make it a social event. I’m amazed at how, with so little planning and effort, I ended up with such a wonderful bike-cation.

Friendship II

I was amazed at the support I received after posting about Friendship a couple months ago. One friend even told me that another conversation, in another medium, was based partly on the post. Wow!

I have done a few things differently over the past two months. Another friend and I try to take a walk together once a week. We have been thwarted several times by our schedules and the weather, but if nothing else, it means we get in touch with each other weekly.

A third friend generously gave me tickets to an event recently. Knowing a blanket invitation to all of Twitter would not be fruitful, I emailed people individually until I found someone who could go with me. It ended up being a great evening with an old friend. She had never previously been to one of these events, but as we sat in our seats reading over the list of future events, she said, “These two sound neat. I’ll go with you if you’d like.” Awesome.

I still enjoy using social media, and am enormously grateful for the people I have met through it. I get so much more out of friendship, though, when I throw off the limitations of 140 characters.

 

Friendship

How do you define “friend” and “friendship”? I have to say, this is one of few times even the Oxford English Dictionary doesn’t really help me.

1a. ‘One joined to another in mutual benevolence and intimacy’ (Johnson). Not ordinarily applied to lovers or relatives (but cf. senses A. 3, A. 4).

Ok, I can work with that, but let’s see what else they have.

2. Used loosely in various ways: e.g. applied to a mere acquaintance, or to a stranger, as a mark of goodwill or kindly condescension on the part of the speaker; by members of the ‘Society of Friends’ adopted as the ordinary mode of address (cf. A. 7). Also often ironically.

Great. Even the OED has succumbed to the Facebook definition. A friend is now a stranger. I also particularly like the part about how it’s used ironically. I don’t dare look any further (the definitions for ‘friendship’ require knowing the definition of ‘friend’).

The second definition, though, is pretty much why I’ve been thinking about this. In my mind, a friend is a person you want to spend time with, as opposed to those you have to spend time with (co-workers, people on mass transit, etc.). Over the past few years, the majority of the people I have encountered who I would like to spend time with, I’ve ‘met’ via social media, particularly Twitter. The problem is, in 140 characters or less, my friends leave me feeling more like I’m 13 than 35.

I was having a bad day last summer and in reply to something said by Friend ‘A’, I commented sarcastically, “Well, I don’t have any friends, so I don’t have to worry about that.” ‘A’ didn’t pick up on the sarcasm and asked, “Who do you think you’re here with?” An interesting question, considering I don’t think ‘A’ has ever directly invited me to do anything, which is one of the characteristics I associate with friendship. I have met, and spent some time with ‘A’ in person, in addition to conversing online. Does ‘A’ actually care if I exist, though? I can never tell.

I have grown far too uncomfortable to directly ask one person if they want to do something/go somewhere with me. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time someone actually said yes. That never leaves me feeling good, and I’d rather avoid it. I have tried putting out blanket invitations on Twitter, to no greater success. What hurts more in those instances is not that people can’t/don’t want to do whatever/go wherever, they simply don’t respond. For me, communication a key part of friendship. I am grateful to Friend ‘B’ for at least telling me after the fact that, in their case, it was just bad timing. It still leaves me wondering if these people are truly my friends.

I know I am not alone. Friend ‘C’ occasionally takes a break from social media. I always notice when ‘C’ doesn’t tweet or update a Facebook status, but do others? Often, upon returning from hiatus, ‘C’ expresses disappointment that no one has remarked upon their absence. As in my situation, ‘C’ actually knows these people in real life. If they are truly friends with ‘C’, wouldn’t they check-in during a prolonged silence?

I guess I’m scared of what it means if the person who never invites me to an event, the people who rarely communicate, and the person who doesn’t check in on the silent tweeter,  actually are my friends. Does this mean I’m doomed to live in this Junior High atmosphere for the foreseeable future? Is there a way out? I didn’t like it then and am disappointed that those who told me it would go away when I grew up, were evidently wrong.

No one can just declare that another person is their friend, but how do you find out who your friends really are? I’m not sure there are answers to any of these questions. It’s also possible I don’t want to know the answers. The other day I approached Friend ‘D’, who gave me a hug and commented, “I haven’t seen you forever.” A hug, to me, indicates the mutual benevolence in the OED’s first definition of friend. Yet many of the aforementioned thoughts were going through my head, and I found myself (whether justifiably or not) wondering if it was friendship or simply politeness.

To avoid spending my time in a padded room, I’m going to assume ‘D’ was being friendly. I’m going to assume ‘A’  does enjoy spending time with me, that ‘B’ isn’t a mind reader and had no idea an online reply would have made me feel better, and that we are all so busy and have extra long Twitter feeds, that we honestly don’t notice when it is short a few updates from one person. I am also going to continue making the attempts I have been making, because it is so much more than I’ve done in the past. In the meantime, I will hope someone reads this and randomly calls me up some time soon with an invitation.