Sunday, April 11, 2021

30 Days of Biking: Days 10 & 11, Weekend Wrap-up

After Friday's long day, I needed a few easy rides this weekend. The weather was perfect on Saturday for an easy loop through Salem. I swung through The Point (El Punto) to take a few photos of the newest mini murals painted on Peabody Street -- all created during this past year.

Day 10
Mini Murals on Peabody Street

Artwork by GOLDEN

Sunday was "Vax Day" -- both Mike and I received our first dose of the Pfizer vaccine in different locations. He went to Danvers while my appointment was at MGH Brigham in Lynn -- not far from Lynn Woods. After my inoculation, I popped over to the woods for a ride, sticking to the easy fire roads. It was a cool, overcast day -- perfect for a low key recovery ride.

Day 11
Dozens of dog collars circle this tree near
Dog Beach as a memorial to lost canine pals

Near Dog Beach, Lynn Woods

30 Days of Biking: Day 9, The Merrimack Misadventure

Day 9 
Gosh it was a long day.

The day started out simple enough. I woke up early and headed north to New Hampshire, where I met my cousin Richard at a Park & Ride lot. We had some insurance details to take care of at the cottage in Ascutney, so decided to meet and drive up to Vermont in his truck together. I brought my bike with me, planning to ride the Boscawen end of the Northern Rail Trail when we were finished.

Daffodils were a surprise

We had a great day and got a few things done -- and even discovered daffodils blooming near the porch! (Neither of us are ever up at the cottage in April, so the flowers were a surprise to us both. I wonder who planted them?)

Herman's tractor

After taking care of some chores at the cottage, and stopping in Claremont for lunch, Rich dropped me off at my car in Bow. I typed Northern Rail Trail into Google Maps and hit "directions", which showed the trail only 9 minutes north. Wow! Closer than I thought! (Previously, I had googled the directions at home, and it was a 20 minute drive from the Park & Drive lot.)


I drove north to Exit 16 in East Concord and ended up in an out-of-the-way industrial park with what looked to be a trail, but no parking. I checked the map again and yep, "Northern Rail Trail". Weird. It was rather sketchy, so I decided to leave. As I was driving back to the main road, I saw a small trail head marked "East Concord Trails". I hopped out and looked at the map posted, and it looked like it met up with the Northern Trail... so I figured I'd check it out. I texted Mike to let him know what my location was just in case I didn't return.

Dry, dusty trail of a former rail bed

It was an awful ride. As I rode down the main trail, I passed two small trails off to the side, but kept going. The further I rode, the less interesting it got -- becoming wide and hot, out in the open, typical of an old rail line -- so I continued. Eventually the trail came to a dead end, but appeared to pick up again at the back of a field, in some woods. So I crossed the field and found what looked to be an old trail that hadn't seen much traffic. I looked at my gps and saw I was traveling almost parallel to the Northern Trail, heading in the right direction to intersect it.

I forged on, climbing a rocky hill, and turning down another abandoned, muddy, wide, brush filled trail that lead to a powerline that Google Maps labeled "Northern Trail". Fuckity fuck. It was not THE NORTHERN RAIL TRAIL

Definitely not THE Northern Rail Trail

With no way to coninue on or find an exit point, I turned around and went back through the evil scrub I'd just waded through. At the bottom of the hill, I got off my bike to recheck the gps on my phone, and found several ticks crawling up my legs. I pulled off three, thought I was clear, and then found a fourth. Argghhhh! Nasty buggers. 

Riding back to the trail head I kept checking myself for ticks, hoping I got them all. Eventually I came to one of the little offshoot trails I'd passed an hour earlier, 1/4 mile from the entrance, and took the detour. 

Lo and behold! Nice, pine covered singletrack with views of the Merrimack River! 

The Merrimack River

Sweet, soft trails

I was kicking myself. After a hot, sweaty hour on dry hard pack and tick infested non-trails, I could only spend 15 minutes riding by the river. I was beat and still had a 90 minute drive home. When I got back to my car, I texted Mike for "proof of life", (lol. His words), and headed home. It was a long day.

Day 9, 30 Days of Biking
Tough day

30 Days of Biking: Believe in Your Wings and Fly

I've been lucky so far during this year's April riding challenge... we haven't had bitter, cold rain or snow like a typical early April. Sometimes I wonder if that's a good thing or a bad thing. I'm not a fan of harsh New England winters and cold rainy springs, (who is?)... but the downside to that lack of snow melt and precipitation is a summer drought. With rain in the forecast next week, I won't complain. We really could use it!

The following are photos from the last few days -- Day 9 requires its own separate blog post.

Day 7
If bikes could fly

Believe in your wings and fly

Created by Cub Scout Pack 11, Marblehead

Day 8
Breakheart Reservation

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

30 Days of Biking: Year 8, Week 1

I wasn't sure I'd be up for 30 Days of Biking this year -- and heading out on a rainy day on the first day of April didn't boost my enthusiasm -- but we're into the first week of my annual challenge and it's actually been enjoyable.

It's crazy to think back to a year ago, when we were under a shelter at home order, with so much uncertainty surrounding Covid-19. The boys were schooling at home, Mike was working in the dining room, and I kept my rides local, within a six mile bubble. Really, not a lot has changed in the last year -- I'm still masking up for my ride, and staying local -- but the anxiety of April 2020 has eased a bit. (Just a bit.) 

Let's give this another go. 30 Days of Biking... Year 8.

Day 1
A wet, gray start 30 Days of Biking

Day 2
Took a chilly detour by Pioneer Village, Salem

Salem circa 1630


Day 3
Glorious day! Had to do some crazy rock
climbing maneuvers to get this shot

Day 4
Sunrise Coffee Ride to the beach

Easter morning

Day 5
Windy light house loop

Day 6
Sunshine and rainbows today! Salem celebrates
LGBTQ Pride with colorful rainbow crosswalks.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Great Brook Farm MTB

It's funny to think back to the days I'd be heading out the door at 5 a.m. to meet up for a 5:30 ride -- because now when the girls suggest meeting at 8:30 for a ride in Concord or Carlisle, (an hour away), I internally cringe and wonder why so early?

At 6:30 this morning, after agreeing the day before to meet in Carlisle, I texted Lila and Alison and asked, "Before I get out of bed, are we really going to ride in this wind?" To which both responded, "What wind?", "It's not windy." LOL. Perhaps it was my foggy brain playing tricks on me -- I could have sworn I heard our neighbor's wind chimes loudly chiming. I wanted to stay in bed.

I'm glad I didn't, of course. I rarely regret a ride. We had a perfect day in the woods at Great Brook Farm State Park. Fortunately, Alison runs there often and knows the trails well. (I just followed along.) Woodpeckers and spring peepers were out in force! We even caught sight of a bluebird. 

Fun day on the mountain bike. I'm glad they got me out of bed.

Cool waterfall

Monday, March 15, 2021

Rail Trails: The Good (Concord); The Bad and The Ugly (Swampscott)

Wild spaces, trees, the sounds of nature
Riding the Reformatory Branch trail with
Lila and Alison running ahead

I've not been enthusiastic about Swampscott's plan for the rail trail running over our property. I've ridden many rail trails in New England, and the trail here in Swampscott, snaking through the back yards and dense neighborhoods of town, is a poor design. Still, I'm trying to make peace with it, despite several shady decisions made by town administrators. Townie politics.

Riding the Reformatory Branch Trail in Concord last weekend reminded me of the best of public rail trails - - long stretches of natural landscape surrounded by trees and wildlife. Trees. Sigh. Trees.

The Marine Corps Marathon 17.75K was virtual this year, and Jennifer, Amy, Alison, and Lila registered to run. We haven't been together since our snowy hike in October, when I hiked the same trail (unknowingly) with a broken foot. Hard to believe it's been five months. While they ran, I rode alongside on the mountain bike, happy to be out on the trails with them without having to run eleven miles.

After their run, we returned to the parking lot where Lisa and Cate were watching Jennifer's new puppy Lili. It was great to be together, despite being masked up and keeping some distance. It felt semi-normal.

And speaking of Lili...

Earlier in the week, Amy and I rode the Swampscott Rail Trail, (near me a treeless engineered gravel path -- the opposite of the Concord trail), to meet Jennifer in Marblehead and test run a puppy pack with Lili. Ha ha ha... so funny. Lili did great -- although it was a short test run. Cute puppy!

Puppy on board

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Swedish Fam, Baking fun, Warps and Wefts (The Pandemic Distractions)

In a year without races and training and everything "normal", I've filled the gaps here and there with activities I may not have had time for, or interest in, otherwise. It's been rather low key.

King Arthur Baking School

I try to avoid wheat and grains, but I like to bake for the family. I've been taking online baking courses with King Arthur Baking Company (formerly King Arthur Flour) that have been a lot of fun. Soft pretzels, empanadas, and rugelach have been a hit... lemon meringue, eclairs and scones are in the future.

 Soft pretzels, so good!

King Arthur Baking class via Zoom
Chorizo-Chickpea Empanadas
with Cilantro Creme and Gallo Pinto


With my grandmother's (and great-grandmother, Amy's) weaving loom stored in pieces in our closet, awaiting the pandemic to pass so I can begin to restore it, I've been experimenting with weaving on a small rigid heddle loom, learning the ins and outs of warps, wefts, and pick-up sticks. (Back story, my grandmother's loom, from the Devereux Mansion, was stored in an attic for decades and is in pieces. The loom is well over 100 years old, based on a Swedish design, gifted to my great-grandmother from her mother, Amelia. I'd like to hire a professional to help make it functional again, but Covid restrictions have put the project on hold.)

Meanwhile, on my little Ashford Sampleit, I've been honing some basic skills. Scarves and towels have been my go-to projects, though sadly the 16" loom isn't quite wide enough for the towel width I prefer. The towel are a bit skinny. LOL. I'm thinking spa face cloths might be my next project.

Weaving on the Ashford Rigid Heddle Loom

Skinny dish towels 

Swedish Fam

Soon after receiving the family loom, I became curious about my great-great grandmother, Amelia. I only knew of her as a Snow, (married to my great-great-grandfather Nat Snow), but not of her life before marriage. After a conversation with my dad, the family genealogist, I discovered he had very little information of her life prior to immigrating from Sweden, so I set out to discover more. I mean, what else am I going to do with all this time during a pandemic?

With an initial assist from a dear friend from Sweden helping me break through a brick wall, (Thanks, Magnus!), I was able to put together our family puzzle, piece by piece. Immigration records, Amelia's hometown, birth records, church records, and locating the family farm... I can now challenge my father in the genealogy department. And I learned a little Swedish along the way. 

Through the help of a very-distant relative online, I was also able to get in touch with third cousins still living in Amelia's hometown, not far from the farm she grew up! It's been so fun getting to know new cousins and learning more about the area Amelia emigrated from. One new cousin, Lise-Lotte, has been especially lovely, sending me a Christmas gift from Sweden, (including the hat in my photo above). Really cool. 

Emilia Charlotta Nilsdotter
(Amelia Charlotte Nelson)

Bränna, Hjärtum, Vastra Gotaland, Sweden

Home Improvement Projects

Our house projects were put on hold during the winter, but several are on tap for Spring. Obviously home and garden chores are never ending... but with Covid restrictions gradually lifting, vaccines becoming more available, and the weather improving, I'm hoping to get a jump on some of them now so I have time for the good stuff, (running, biking, hiking, traveling, and spending time with family and friends), later. I'm feeling optimistic.

Cheers for Cocktail Saturdays