Now that several weeks have passed since the completion of my oil stone box project, I have detached myself enough to have gained perspective on it. The oil stone box was PC 1’s (Preservation Carpentry) first woodworking assignment, and it “seemed fairly straight forward.” The box is intended  to hold my combination Chrystalon and India sharpening stone. I find it humorous that two months ago I would’ve had no idea what a combination stone was, let alone know how to use it; and now I have a protective desire to shelter it with a crafted wooden box.  My box was rather basic , measuring 8″ x 3″ x 1″ and made of two mirroring halves of Eastern White Pine married by two 1/2″ x 1/4″ dowels. We started by drafting a life size drawing of the box we planned to build, and then we ran the pieces of wood through a series of milling steps (all by hand), which I will elaborate on. The halves were hollowed out by chisel and mallet and hand planed with a freshly sharpened blade, which unfortunately demonstrated its keenness by opening up one of my knuckles. Prior to this experience, I have never drafted, nor have I ever used a plane, chisel or mallet…so the learning curve was very steep.


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At this juncture in my life, I have gotten to know myself fairly well (a couple of decades of therapy have helped with this); and one of the things I have learned about myself is that I DON’T DO SIMPLE. If given the choice between a) a freshly paved and sealed, straight, and secure road and b) one that is bumpy, and full of steep climbs, treacherous downhills and tight windy turns, I inevitably opt for “b” 99% of the time. The peculiar twist about me is that even though I have spent a lifetime taking the more challenging road, I still find myself underestimating how difficult and time-consuming my travels down that road will be.  In fact, the definition of insanity often used in the addiction world  (“doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”) rings particularly true in this case.

After drafting our oil stone boxes and having it reviewed by our instructor, we completed our stock list and started on the following basic milling steps:

  • 1. FLATTEN ONE SIDE OF ONE BOARD- (TOOLS: Bench plane #4 or #5, and Starrett Combination Square)
  • 2. PLANE BOARD TO THICKNESS- (TOOLS: Marking Gauge, Bench plane, and Starrett Combination Square)
  • 3. JOINT AN EDGE- (TOOLS: Bench plane and Starrett Combination Square)
  • 4. RIP TO WIDTH- (TOOLS: Rip Hand Saw)
  • 5. SQUARE RIPPED EDGE- (Bench Plane and Starrett Combination Square)
  • 6. SQUARE AN END- (Hand plane, Bench/Block Blane, Marking knife)
  • 7. CUT TO LENGTH- (Crosscut saw, Starrett Combination Square, Bench/Block plane)

A few weeks after making the oil stone box, we started on our second project (a pair of saw horses). This involved the same seven milling steps on every piece of wood,  but this time we had to do all our milling with power tools in the shop rather than by hand. Although I made plenty of mistakes throughout, I guess the progress is that the phrase “third time is a charm,” is solely reserved for my oil stone box and not my saw horses.  In spite of the fact that I anticipated the oil stone box project would be fairly simple, it took me starting over three times before getting it right. At times like these, I am grateful for the wisdom of people like James Joyce who said, “A man’s mistakes are his portals of discovery” and John Powell who shared, “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” The mistakes I learned from during these two woodworking projects included the following:

  • a) when flattening a board with a bench plane (step 1), check to see where the high and low spots are before just excitedly setting the plane loose on the board.
  • b) when planing to thickness (step 2), follow the previously mentioned tip because you might take off too much wood if you just start shaving willy nilly without paying close attention to your line.
  • c) triple check what line you are cutting with any saw because you might cut a line that was not supposed to be cut…especially when this is one of your final steps :)
  • d) Keep in mind Albert Einstein’s phrase, “Anyone who never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” Then adjust your expectations accordingly.

To measure my level of success in terms of my first two projects, again I will turn to the eloquence and wisdom of those who came before me…

  • I don’t measure a man’s success by how he climbs but how high he bounces when he hits the bottom.” George Patton
  • The size of your success is measured by the strength of your desire; the size of your dream; and how you handle disappointment along the way.” Robert Kiyosaki
  • Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” Herman Cain
  • “The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure.”                             Sven Goran Eriksson

As I consider how applicable these quotes are to my oil stone box and saw horses projects, I can proudly own my success. Before mulling these quotes over, I would have acknowledged my success in spite of the mistakes I made; but now I recognize that my mistakes are instrumental components of my success.  These projects were successful because…

  • I tried
  • I didn’t give up
  • I started over
  • I felt discouraged and defeated, and pulled myself up
  • I asked for help
  • I laughed and had fun along the way
  • I learned a lot
  • I didn’t give in to my fear of failure
  • I gave my best
  • I finished

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P.S. That little knuckle cut from my freshly sharpened block plane iron did a little more damage than I first thought. Another first to add to the list…1st in my class to have surgery after an injury sustained in class. Basically the equation was this…

1 sharp plane iron + 1 new carpenter (me) = 1 severed tendon + surgery to screw tendon into bone + 6 weeks of splinted finger + OT185006008009007008 (2)009 (2)007 (2)




Well, it is October 1st, one month into the school year, and I AM STILL A NBSS STUDENT. Contrary to what the unwelcomed and intrusive voices tell me when fear creeps in throughout the day, my teacher has not told me that I would be better off taking up ANY other career BUT carpentry…yet.  I am writing this blog post, which is strong evidence that I am still alive. Thus, I have not mortally wounded myself or anyone else with any sharp tools yet, which is a big accomplishment considering I was battling a cold with regular sneezing fits during the two days we were hewing with large axes at Hatch Mill. In spite of the fact that I have a mischievous sense of humor, quick comebacks, and have seen the inside of the principal’s office more than a couple of times in my school career, I have not been disciplined, suspended or expelled from school yet :) My experience at North Bennet Street School has been nothing short of encouraging, inspiring, and empowering thus far. Students, teachers, and administrators have all been kind, supportive, and accomodating. They have welcomed me  as a novice carpenter;  and one by one, the teachers are helping me build a solid foundation of skills, which I can take with me into the workforce after graduation.

I must admit I have been “slacking” when it comes to writing blog posts about school. In fact, if you pay attention to detail, you may have noticed that I started this post on October 1st, and finished it 18 days later. Part of the reason for this is because I am insanely busy, and finding time to do write blog posts has been difficult. I get a chuckle when I think about what I pictured before school started. I thought I would have ample time and space to leisurely write daily posts on my train ride home each day. I didn’t account for the crowded trains in which I am often standing. I didn’t think about needing to use every free moment to catch up on school readings. Lastly, I definitely didn’t anticipate the level of exhaustion I’d feel and how I’d be battling to stay out of a constant nod on my way home. Alas, it is 6 weeks into school, and I am submitting my first blog post about this school year. Sorry folks, but this is the best I can do at the moment.

While I am not discussing any preservation projects in this particular blog, I will share why I am making quite a name for myself thus far; and then will include some of the shots I’ve taken of my classroom, classmates, and job sites over the last few weeks.

I am quite humbled and grateful to have been chosen as a recipient of the Partners In Craft Scholarship this year, thanks to our wonderfully generous donors. Seeing my name and picture in the NBSS Newsletter feels like I am living in a dream.  Ssshh…please don’t wake me up!


Secondly, I was kindly asked by our fabulous Director of Communications Nancy Jenner to be one of this year’s “Faces of NBSS” for NBSS’s Annual Report. If I hadn’t learned some degree of tact and professionalism in my former life, I would have replied back, “OMG, AYK…YES!”

As you can see from the previous couple of examples, I have been making a name for myself thus far; and this is totally not of my own doing. While these are both incredible examples, this is not what I was referring to when I titled this post, “MAKING A NAME FOR MYSELF AT THE BENNET.” The two examples I just shared can only be attributed to some type of blessing from beyond because I have not earned these awards through my craftsmanship or creativity YET.  So what, you may ask, did I mean by making a name for myself at the Bennet? I will give you a few brief examples of how  I make an immediate impression, when it is up to me.

  • We receive our discounted T passes twice per year. The first pass started October 2nd, on our first day of school, and expires December 31st. Who lost (or thought I lost) and had to order a replacement T pass on the second day of class? You guessed it.
  • Since I work after school each day, I am not able to stay late to work on projects. To compensate, I try to get to school at 6:30 so I have an extra hour to do work before class begins at 7:30. Even though I have been early every day since I started, a few times I have ended up in red pen as “LATE” on the daily attendance sheet at our front desk because I forgot to sign in. Fortunately Lillian is a doll (and is getting to know me), so she now signs me in when she knows I just forgot to sign in YET AGAIN!

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  • When learning how to sharpen tools, our teacher Steve gave very clear step by step instructions about the process. When demonstrating the grinding process, he showed us why it is important to pay attention to the temperature of the tool and showed us how not to “burn” the edge of our chisels and plane irons on the grinder. He assured us that “there would be someone who burns their tool.” Thanks Steve for the foreshadowing because it was me who caused the first burn.
  • Speaking of “firsts,” I definitely know I was the first to create an oil slick in my drawer. Unfortunately, the cap to my honing oil somehow loosened, and it saturated every other item that accompanied it in the drawer. Weeks later, I am still wiping oil off of tools, pencils, and other miscellaneous tools. Needless to say, my first finished drafting project of an oil stone box (pun not intended) is highlighted by symmetrical oil spots sprinkled around it.
  • Lastly (for now), I was the first student in class to break into the first aid kit after slicing the top of my knuckle with my freshly sharpened block plane iron. The truth is that my teacher had just warned me not to touch the blade because he knew I had just finished the last steps of my honing process to the point that the blade could shave my arm hair with ease (yes this is how we test it). I tried to steer clear of the blade while using a wire brush to clean a little gunk off the back side of the iron, which was my last step. When I did this, the blade slipped out of my hand. Instead of pulling my hand away, I instinctively reached my hand out to catch it. Truthfully, I was in fear that the hours of work I put into this blade would be erased in one fall to the ground. When I did that, the blade not only shaved my knuckle hairs, but it opened up my knuckle like a can of soda. SO I WON YET ANOTHER FIRST!185

By this point, you can see that I am going to make quite a name for myself at North Bennet Street School. Hopefully in the future, I get recognized for the quality of my work rather than than my absent mindedness :) Until then, I will keep showing up early, studying hard, listening intently, and smiling.


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After completing my ride from Quincy to New York City (and before starting school), I had one big event remaining….none other than a meat raffle in my honor, which was held at my dad’s tavern in Hanson. I must admit that I am a meat raffle virgin, so needless to say,  I have never had one held in my honor before. When my dad first shared the idea with me about a month before, I was extremely humbled and excited. I immediately “got to work”  by inviting friends and family; and I tried my best to answer the most frequently asked question, “what exactly is a meat raffle?”

Because J & R’s crew members are so ambitious and thorough, there was not much for me to bring to the meat raffle other than some munchies, my raffle items, a homemade “Bike to Build at NBSS” sign, and  my multimedia project. The multimedia project was an adventure, to say the least. Suffice it to say, I never want to be a video editor because I cannot believe how much time Justine and I put in to compose this twenty minute montage of music and photographs from my Quincy to NYC bike ride. If someone saw us obsessively tweaking the music clips down to the fractions of a second, one might think we were fighting for a best picture soundtrack nomination at the Oscar’s. No, we were just preparing a video to be played at a local biker bar to a crowd of friends and family, and it was likely that the sound would be drowned out by the commotion from the patrons. Not unlike other projects of mine, we finished right at the 11th hour…but WE FINISHED.

My trusty administrative assistance/residence techie Justine got the computer and projector set up without a hitch, and we were able to play the video during the meat raffle. My first meat raffle was a success in many ways. Financially it helped increase my donations by pulling in $1500 for my tuition and for South Shore Habitat. Equally exciting and rewarding for me, however, was the way that my friends and family turned out to support me. I had a dozen or so friends and family who came to the raffle, stayed the entire time, bought more than their share of raffle tickets, and made my stomach muscles ache due to the chronic laughter. This was appreciated more than a simple thank you note can express, and their kindness will never be forgotten. Similarly, there was a whole crew of J & R’s staffers who came together and worked their tails off to make this event successful…and even made some very interesting donations to the silent auction…thanks Kurt!

In place of pictures from this event, I will share the Youtube video that Justine and I made to honor the ride….CLICK HERE FOR THE VIDEO! And yes, this video does break my Youtube virginity, as this is definitely a first for me. I was able to take some pictures at the meat raffle, but most are very goofy and unflattering; and my friends would slay me if they saw I put them online.  Instead, you will find two very benign pictures, including one of the cast of characters who made this meat raffle such a blast for me. Thank you to all who attended this event and made it so special!






I am embarrassed that it has taken me five weeks to write this blog post about my Quincy to the Bronx bike trek, but trust me it is not due to a lack of thought about it! For the better part of the last month, this post has been looming over me like an overdue final term paper (which I have ample experience with) . In fact, I have started and stopped, edited and re-edited, and inevitably discarded this post several times over. I have changed the name from “317.21” to “Old Faithful’s Adventures” to “Perfect End to Summer.” I am going to spare you the wide array of excuses I could dish out for why I have not written until now. Instead I will write additional blog posts on these topics as soon as I can.

If I turned the clock back 35 days, I would be one hour away from completing my 317.21 mile journey. At this hour I would have been in Port Chester or perhaps Rye, getting closer to my destination in the Bronx. I was nearly out of battery on my iphone,  my water bottles were half depleted, my pockets were emptied of power bars and peanuts, and I was riding on fumes in my personal gas tank. What continued to spur me on was the thought of seeing those rod-iron gates welcoming me back to Fordham, the traditional Gothic buildings housing the Jesuits, and of course Vince Lombardi stadium. I got a big boost in New Rochelle because my pit crew members and I played an exhilerating game of cat and mouse for a couple of miles, where it seemed for a few minutes like I might beat them to our destination. Alas, they ended up cruising past me in my Hyundai Santa Fe, colorfully and festively decorated with window markers….a highly unexpected treat orchestrated by my mom and Justine on day #2. Five weeks later, I still have not scrubbed off the congratulatory writing because it makes me smile every time I see it. I love watching people stare at the words trying to read them as I drive by, and I enjoy answering questions from complete strangers about what “Bike to Build at NBSS” means and why on earth I biked from Quincy to Bronx, NY.

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My last few miles into Fordham were eventful, and at times, scary. I was thrilled cycling the streets of New York again, totally reliving the glory of my bike messenger days and, not feeling a bit over 25 years old…(that is, until I woke up Monday morning). I was so close that I could taste the finish, turning off of 192nd Street and onto Bronx Boulevard, and having less than five miles to go. My cell phone was at about 15%, and Justine texted me to ask me where I was because they got lost on their way to Fordham shortly ahead of me, as the directions led them astray. When I received this text, I was biking back and forth on Bronx Blvd looking for Mosholu Greenway, thinking to myself that getting lost in the Bronx with a dead cell phone minutes before dusk would not be my idea of a fun finish. I composed myself, retraced my steps, and found a bike path that I assumed was the Mosholu Greenway. Who knew there was a long and beautiful biking and walking path filled with men, women and children running, riding, skateboarding, watching and playing softball and handball games, etc…right in the heart of the Bronx…no wonder my pit crew couldn’t find it with their car.


While there may not have been a fifteen piece marching band banging drums and blowing horns nor a crowd full of screaming fans chanting my name as I reached Fordham University, I saw exactly the site I wanted to see as I pulled in. Through my tired eyes, I saw my mom clapping and yelling my name and Justine wearing a huge smile and armed with her iphone in hand, ready to capture the final video image of the weekend.  It was like water at the end of the desert for me. WE did it…317.21 miles biked and driven over the course of three days, through city streets and back roads and up LOTS AND LOTS OF STEEP HILLS. We followed typed directions, read maps, and used GPS as a back up when needed. My pit crew met my every need….they stopped for ice and snacks, refilled my drinks, made my sandwiches, drove ahead of me and identified places where I could find a bathroom, and provided me with much needed support and inspiration when I needed it most. I may have been physically riding “Old Yeller” alone, but I was far from alone on this ride. As you you will see over the next several paragraphs, the “6th man,” “10th man” or in this case, my “2nd men/women” truly carried me through the ups and downs of this ride…and the 2nd men/women included all of you who supported me through texts, facebook messages, phone calls, donations, and prayers.

088 089 Day 3 Finish at Fordham 2 Day 3 Fordham at night Day 3 Fordham bringin back memories

I realize I started with the end of the story and am working my way backwards, so bear with me and come along for the ride, as this is how my brain is working at this moment.

Day 0 preparations for pit stops Day 0 Preparation

The ride preparation  was extensive, as I was packing enough gatorades, waters, and power bars to get me through the entire ride (and probably an additional week beyond that); enough sodas, fruit, snacks and sandwiches for three days’ lunches; bike clothing for all types of possible weather conditions as well as a bike pump and repair kit for small bike repairs; multiple electronic devices and power cords; and an inordinate amount of dog medications and supplies for our 14 year old blind, deaf, and diabetic dog, Jones…not to mention luggage for three women. Although we were hoping to be in bed nice and early the night before the big ride, the packing went late into the night instead. Even if I went to bed at dusk, I probably would not have slept many winks that night because of the adrenaline coursing through my veins.

Day 1 came early as I rose at 4:45, stretched in a hot shower until 5, followed by a protein filled breakfast, and was on the road at 6:15 a.m. Justine did a spontaneous pre-ride video, commenting on the weather conditions and my many bicycle gadgets; and this laid the groundwork of a weekend full of videos in the bookends of each day. Perhaps Justine missed her calling, as she was a real natural behind the camera. We said our goodbyes and good lucks, had our traditional “group hug,” and I left on my way.

Day 1 fuel for morning trip937  Day 1 at Furnace Brook

The first twenty miles were almost effortless because I was so wound up with excitement.  During this first leg of my trip I clicked onto my  Facebook app at least a handful of times. When I did, I saw that my page was flooded with messages from friends, family, and even people I have not met yet. The messages were a mix of cheers, prayers, and “shout outs;” and they warmed my heart, watered my eyes, and moved my spirit. I cannot express how much these kind words helped me over the course of my 317.21 mile journey.  There were many moments of struggle where I turned to Facebook for a lift, which I never thought I would say about a social media site.

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Some of the Day 1 “remember when’s” for me  included:

  • meeting my pit crew at my first pit stop;
  • spacing out at about mile 45, running over a street hazard, and falling off my bike so that my thigh landed squarely onto a 8 inch piece of metal from a street post;
  • my mom missing the “lunch pit stop” on the directions, so I went 32 miles between stops rather than 16 miles and ate lunch at mile 88 at about 4:00;
  • locking my bike outside a convenient store and being unable to unlock it with the combination I previously set;
  • deciding at mile 102 that I would take a different route and meet my crew at the hotel rather than at UConn, a decision I would regret throughout each of the last 15 miles because the route I picked was ENTIRELY UP HILL;
  • being greeted by Justine outside the hotel with her camera ready to videotape the final stretch of day 1
  • splitting a hot chocolate chip cookie sundae with my crew.

Day 1 Last pic before dead battery 079 068078080 085

Day 2 began at much the same time as day 1 with a 4:45 a.m. simultaneous shower and stretch. This stretch took a lot longer because of the previous day’s long ride, and I did so with flip flops on in the shower, being careful not to touch any of the walls of the shower. After riding 117 miles, I was happy to put my head anywhere, but trust me when I say, this place was far from the Ritz Carlton (not that I’ve actually ever stayed there)…and I did everything short of wearing rubber gloves, a tyvek suit, and shower cap to protect myself while I was there. Perhaps I should have investigated the hotel a little futher. If I did, I might have realized that it doubled as a truck stop. That should have been apparent to me when I took my “not so short-cut” to the hotel on day 1 because I was passed by dozens of 18 wheelers nearly grazing my bike as they wizzed by me on the shoulderless Route 74. Well, it became quite evident that we were at a truck stop the next morning when I entered the attached gas-mart and was greeted by aisles stocked full of beef jerkey, CB radio batteries, chewing tobacco, and enough junk food to harden your arteries before you exit the store. I escaped with just an OJ and a bagel and moderately clean arteries.

My day started on a downhill, thanks to Justine dropping me off on the top of a hill inside the massive University of Connecticut campus. Highlights from day 2 included:

  • grabbing some cute shots of the frog bridge and the town of Willimantic;
  • the ferrari parked outside a country store in Lyme;
  • eating lunch with my family overlooking the Connecticut River before taking the Hadlyme Chester Ferry 5 minutes across the river;
  • cornfields, farmland, watching cows grazing and feeding the horses;
  • riding along the water for the last half of the day;
  • biking less than a century today
  • entering New Haven knowing I was 2/3 of the way through
  • Justine’s filming error (forgetting to hit record on video) when I pulled in at the end of day 2, which precipitated me adding 2/10 of a mile because I turned around and rode in again.

959960Day 2 selfies at UConn at 7am before take off961Day 2 am UConn flagsDay 2 cool shots in Willimantic contdDay 2 Aint that the truthDay 2 Frog Bridge Corner Left FrogDay 2 Welcome to WillimanticDay 2 Welcoming againDay 2 Willimantic brewery at Post officeDay 2 in corn fieldDay 2 Old Yeller in corn field 096

Day 2 Lyme Horse made my dadDay 2 Lyme horse stop 1Day 2 Ferry and Castle in Background  968 969  Day 2 Hadlyme ferry stop 2Day 2 Ferry break 3 ladies   Day 2 beautiful island home Day 2 Coastal CT Day 2 Coastal Yellow  Day 2 Crab Catchers         Day 2 house with buoys     105Day 2 New Haven water approaching sunset

Day 3 had its downs and ups, starting with “downs” and ending with “ups.” The night between days 2 and 3 was one in which I was not able to catch many winks. Unlike night 1, I wasn’t feeling like I needed to delouse the room, as our hotel was markedly better. However, after more than 200 miles and 20 plus hours on a bike, my short and long-twitched muscles were cursing at me and they punished me with a major case of “restless leg.” In order to not keep Justine awake the whole night as I tossed and turned, I moved to the floor. I slid Jones over next to me, as he was cuddled up on my (now his) Red Sox blanket. I tried to wrap myself in the part of the blanket he wasn’t laying on, which wasn’t much. At this point I did not care a bit about being wrapped in a dog-hair blanket on a hotel room floor because it was 2 a.m. and I just wanted to sleep for a couple of hours. Needless to say, this contributed to feeling overly tired, cranky, and pessimistic on the morning of day 3. This feeling wasn’t helped by the fact that I was not sure how to get from my hotel to the University of New Haven, where my directions were starting from that day; and so I got a little lost. I started my day later than I had the last two days,  and I was stressed because I wanted to make it to the Bronx early enough to be able to tour around Fordham and eat in Little Italy. With my late start, this was looking less likely. The weather was overcast and before long it started to sprinkle, and this was the figurative straw that broke this camel’s back because I began to break down shortly thereafter. The combination of physical exhaustion, negative thinking, and fear of the challenges that lay ahead at school overcame me for a few minutes and I had myself a good cry. I caught this on video because if I ever do a documentary on the experience, I want it to offer the full range of mood and experience.

One of the most powerful lessons I have learned through grieving a variety of losses, from the deaths of my grandmother and brother to the multitude of losses we’ve experienced through infertility, is that no matter how painful the feelings, they will pass. Because of that, I knew that these feelings at the start of day 3 would dissipate as the day went along; and so they did. Within an hour of me crying into my iphone, the sun was shining and I was videotaping a much happier and hopeful version of myself.

Consistent with the Connecticut of the first two days, there were plenty of hills on day 3. In the beginning of the day Shelton greeted me with a steady 3 mile incline, but that could not hold a candle to the climb in Greenwich, which was only 1/3 of a mile long, but was as steep a hill as I have ever cycled up. I stuck to my personal promise to not walk my bike unless absolutely necessary, but this hill almost made me buckle on this commitment. I was traveling at a swift pace of 3 miles per hour, a rate which will generally cause a bike to sway side to side and almost tip over…BUT AGAIN, I DID NOT WALK!

My favorite landscapes were the miles of farmland, and the water views were a close second. The most “other wordly” area I traveled through was Greenwich, CT. I say “other wordly” because I have never seen mega-mansions like these in my life. Every house came equipped with an enormous rod-iron gate, stone wall spanning the width of the expansive yards, and high-tech video cameras and security systems. Most had tennis courts, golf holes, and pools; and these were only the amenities I could see over the towering walls. My overwhelming sense when I traveled through Greenwich (besides awe), was one of separation because the idea of chatting with one’s neighbor while mowing the lawn or getting the mail seemed out of the question…and this made me sad for some reason. I also use the words “other worldly” because when driving through the outer edge of Greenwich, I passed our version of the automile, BUT NOT….as the dealerships included Maserati, Ferrari, Bentley, and Astin-Martin, just to name a few.  What made this more strange (besides the fact that I have never laid eyes on these types of cars before) was that about 1/2 mile down the road in Port Chester were beat-up Buicks and project apartments…”other worldly.”

Day 3 Golf hole in Greenwich yard Day 3 Greenwich 1 Day 3 Greenwich 2 Day 3 Greenwich 8 Day 3 Greenwich 10 Day 3 Greenwich 11 Day 3 Greenwich 15 Day 3 Greenwich 16

Day 3 Greenwich dealerships 2 Day 3 Greenwich dealerships Day 3 Greenwich Ferrari

Once leaving Greenwich and heading into the likes of Port Chester, Rye, Mamaroneck, New Rochelle, and Pelham, I was getting closer to accomlishing my goal, and I knew it. The idea of jumping in my car in Greenwich and hitching a ride to Fordham had now left me, and I was fully determined to get to the Bronx on two wheels, not four. Seeing the “Entering New York” sign propelled me forward, as did the Bronx ones; and they gave me the second wind that I needed. Before long, I was weaving in and out of cars like a bike messenger, cycling up Southern Boulevard, peeking at the top of Lombardi Stadium, passing the Botanical Gardens, turning through the iron gates into Fordham University, and looking for my dedicated pit crew members who were offering up my final welcome. After five months of physical training, fundraising, publicity, and thank you writing, it all came down to these final miles in the Bronx where my former and current lives collided. Although I didn’t arrive with enough time to dine in Little Italy, I had about forty minutes to show my partner Justine where I became the highly intelligent, worldly, and responsible woman whom she met and fell in love with years later…or at least where I thought I was all of those things after a few pitchers at Clark’s Bar…how times have changed, Thank you God!

Day 3 Happy Sign Day 3 Happy moment Day 3 Interesting angle Day 3 Lifted at pit stop

Day 3 New Roc City Day 3 New RochelleDay 3 Bronx Blvd Day 3 Remember whenDay 3 Botanical GardensDay 3 Fordham gates




Three weeks overdue for the Back ICU

To Donate to Liz’s Bike to Build Ride, click here

For those whose second language (or perhaps 3rd or more) IS NOT Facebook, I apologize for paying more attention to Facebook updates than to my precious “bike to build blog” updates the last few weeks. If you are not sure if you are FB-lingual, check yourself to see how often you’ve used words such as “newsfeed, liked, posted, commented, shared and tagged” recently. If these do not flow regularly out of your mouth, my guess is that you have not read my FB status updates ad nauseam about bike riding. Well, there is a lot to catch you up on then!

As a result, I have decided to break up the last few weeks of adventures into three to five “small” blog posts…rather than compete in length with War and Peace.  The first incident, which was noteworthy and anything but timely, occurred right after our week long dual destination vacation to Vermont and Long Beach Island. It was Thursday August 7th, and right around the time that the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was going viral. I was nominated by my lovely niece Haley sometime that week; and although I did not abide by the 24 hour rule, I was not going to wimp out of this one.

Anyone who knows me well, knows I do not go very far without a beverage in my hand or at least at arms length, and typically it is a very cold beverage. For road trips, especially those over a couple hours, I generally bring a fairly large cooler filled with several bags of ice and far more drinks than is necessary. I mention this because this factors into my ice bucket challenge story. I chose to wait until I got home from vacation because I did not want to make a spectacle of myself while on the Coogan family vaca. We loaded up the cooler, which had about 5 pounds of ice in it, with an additional 16 pounds of ice before leaving New Jersey. This not only kept the sodas and waters at the perfect temperature for my liking, but it also provided a perfect prop for the challenge.

When we left New Jersey the temperature was probably 80 degrees, as it had been most days we were there; and by the time we arrived in Quincy seven hours later, it had dropped about 15 degrees. In other words, it wasn’t so scorching hot out that I longed to be doused by cold water. Nonetheless, I was challenged…and I have never been one to back away from a challenge. Being the neurotic person I am,  I wrote out the words I planned to say before doing “the challenge” because I did not want to mess it up…for it was not the type of video I wanted to do a second take on. I changed clothes so I was no longer wearing a white tee (gotta keep it clean), and I took the cans out to prevent a head injury.  I moved the 20 pounds of ice filled frigid water to my old trusty igloo cooler so I wouldn’t be hit by the swinging doors from the fancy new cooler…and I was ready to go. Justine got the ipad ready, began taping, and all went as planned…or so I thought. I read the script, announced my donation and people I was nominating, and dumped the ice and water over my head. The video came out well, I had a towel ready for me to dry off, and all seemed fine…that is, until the next morning.

I now have deep empathy for all the friends, family members, and acquaintances I’ve heard agonizing over “throwing their back out.” Suffice it to say that I had so much pain in my lower back the following morning that I could barely get out of bed . I attempted to bend down and take my dog’s collar off, and I could not even do it. All I could muster at that moment was to crawl to the couch and fall sideways. I definitely had some back pain from being hit by a car a few weeks before, but I had been bicycling and running since then. I was totally perplexed as to the cause…never giving the ALS ice challenge a second thought. It was not until showing my mother the video a couple days later, that light dawned on marble head.

This would not be a big deal if the injury occurred a month or two before. Unfortunately, I had a little plan to ride my bike 300 plus miles in seven days, and I did not factor “healing from a back injury” into my plans that week. I am notorious for being a bad patient when the prescription is REST, but in this case, I was willing to do absolutely anything to be free from the pain long enough to do my ride the following week. If I lived closer to Medjugorje, I would have been praying to the Blessed Virgin for miracles. I thought of turning to some new aged healing techniques, but I passed up the crystal chakra healing, channeling, and shamanic drumming and headed instead to a local Chinese massage parlor and then to a chiropractor.

The masseuse wasn’t the traditional Western young woman with soothing energy and a soft serene voice, and the parlor was neither aesthetically pleasing nor particularly sterile; but suffice it to say, this woman knew what she was doing. It was slightly unorthodox and not what I was accustomed to. There was no wind chimes or ocean waves playing through the Bose speakers and no soft pillow or comfy sheets to welcome my aching body. In fact, there were no “sheets” to speak of and nothing covering my body. I walked in to see a massage table that looked like a hospital bed with the crinkly paper sheet on top, and I was instructed to take my clothes off and cover myself with the yard of crinkly paper available to me, which could not have covered me if I tried. Uncomfortable? Initially yes, but I was willing to do anything. Anything? Yes, anything, even if that meant not giggling or questioning why the masseuse was jumping up on the table and straddling me while she was pressing her elbows into my back. Yes, anything, even if it meant not asking questions about the poles going across the ceiling to help the massage therapists keep their balance while they walked across the clients’ backs. Just get me better, I am at your mercy! After 90 minutes with ShaSha, I was not pain-free, but she did a great job loosening up some of the muscles that had knotted up in my neck, back, and gluteus maximus during my long training rides. My prescription from ShaSha was rest for the next 2 to 3 days, and I was more than happy to follow it.

My second provider consulted in the “back ICU” was Dr. Jessica at Whole Body Solutions in Quincy. The aesthetic experience of entering the office could not have been more different than the forementioned massage one, but it was equally effective. Dr. Jessica knows the skeletal and muscular systems inside and out, and offered me a treatment plan, which worked magically. She smirked when I told her I needed to be ready in seven days, and she urged me to ice and rest my back as much as possible over the next week. We had three chiropractic sessions that week, where she made “adjustments” to my back and neck, gave me ultrasound treatment in the injured area, and put me on a homeopathic cocktail of Relief-Tone and Ligaplex 1  twice per day. In total, I have seen her six times now, and the improvement in my back is remarkable. I cycled the entire ride to New York with very little back pain, and I have begun running again without pain. Sooo, for someone who was a little skeptical about chiropractors in the past, I DRANK THE KOOL-AID AND I AM A BELIEVER!

To check out the video of me tackling the ALS ice bucket challenge (and unknowingly injuring myself), click here.


To Donate to Liz’s Bike to Build Ride, click here




Hello Blog followers,

My sincere apologies…a concerned friend saw me today and asked, “How was the big bike ride because I didn’t see anything on your blog and was nervous something happened?” Mia culpa, mia culpa! I rested on the assumption that updating my social media sites obsessively for three days was enough to let everyone know the ride was successful. I had full intentions of writing an elaborate and comprehensive blog post about all of my adventures from Quincy to the Bronx in a colorful way on Tuesday or Wednesday this past week.

Unfortunately (and fortunately), I got sucked into doing another project (obsessively), which is taking a lot of time. Unbeknownst to me, my partner Justine had been working on a slide show of all the pictures of the blog, fundraising page, bike rides, etc. from the last several months…which was so sweet. Once I found this out and knew I wanted to get it finished by the meat raffle that my dad is hosting for me at his pub this Saturday, I jumped into it with both feet so I could update and finish it. I will explain more about all of this later in a post, which will be coming as soon as this meat raffle is over. Soooo, to make a long story short, sorry I haven’t written to share that I am still alive. Here are a couple of pics to wet your whistle of what is to come. Thanks, as always, for reading!


Day 1 Still standing Day 2 Aint that the truth Day 1 Weeee Day 2 warning for me perhaps Day 3 Fordham gates

20 hours and counting….

To donate to Liz’s Bike to Build at NBSS Fund, click here

By the time I finish writing this blog post (and editing it over and over), I should be 20 hours away from the start of my 330 mile trek to NYC. This might seem like a big feat to some of my readers, but keep in mind that the Guinness World Record for fastest circumnavigation of the globe by a woman on a bicycle (and other means) is held by Juliana Buhring, who completed her attempt  in a total of 152 days in December 2012. This consists of traveling the length of the equator or 24,900 miles, and 18,000 of those miles must be cycled. This fact helps keep my ego in check and gives me something to strive for. I cannot begin to imagine how incredible it must be to cycle the globe, but I can dream it. Before that however, I have a three day tri-state trek to tackle. After that, I am not sure how much cycling I will be doing because I am starting North Bennet Street School in September and will be pretty busy between full-time school and my part-time job. I am considering cycling to and from school before the inclement weather begins, but am still up in the air about that.  After this 330 mile ride, my next tentative cycling challenge is from Quincy, MA to Bar Harbor, Maine, which I am hoping to fulfill next summer for my second and final fundraiser for school (if needed).  Ssshhh….please keep this on the DL (down low) because when I mentioned this idea to my loyal and loving girlfriend recently, I think I caught her rolling her eyes before she kindly told me to please just stick to the ride to New York for now. Although I joke with her, I am thankful she anchors me and reins in my kite’s twine sometimes because I can fly away with grand ideas in a fraction of a second. For example, after my recent experience riding 126 miles solo with no ride-along support, I began thinking about when and how I could cycle across the United States at a reasonably small cost. Perhaps this is the 20 year old dreamer stuck in a 40 year old body, still yearning to have backpacked or cycled across Europe or to have joined the Peace Corps and gone to Uganda. Alas, I digress. Remember where your feet are Liz. Currently my feet are straight out in front of me  on an unmade bed from Ikea covered in dog hair due to my canine soul mate who is pressed up against me, and I am in the spare room of my 3 bedroom apartment in Quincy, Massachusetts typing one last blog post about my recent and future cycling adventures. 

I apologize for having been an utter slacker when it comes to blogging recently, and it isn’t due to the lack of material. In the last three plus weeks since I last wrote, I took a solo 126 mile ride to Provincetown, cycled some serious “hills” in the Mad River Valley area of Vermont, cycled back and forth multiple times along the very straight and flat 18 mile stretch of terrain on Long Beach Island, and was on a week long vacation where I set a personal record for consecutive days of ice cream consumption…7. I have had lots to write about, but have been otherwise preoccupied I guess.

Alas, I am back and I will share a little about my latest cycling escapades. Approximately 3 weeks ago I had the bright idea that I would put my training to the test and see how I’d fare doing a ride of 100 miles or more. How about Provincetown, I thought, as I had ridden there a few times before for various charities. Within moments of the thought crossing my mind, I jumped online to check out the ferry schedule to see when the last boat from Provincetown leaves for Boston. 8:30 p.m. is the last scheduled fast ferry out of Ptown this time of year; so I figured that would give me plenty of hours to get there if I left at 6 a.m. I talked it over with my partner Justine, who at this point is all too accustomed to my spontaneous/impulsive ideas. She said she would pick me up in Boston, which I greatly appreciated because a 10:30 p.m. ride through Boston, down Morrissey Boulevard after riding more than 100 miles was not on my to-do-list. Moments later I bought the Boston Harbor Cruises tickets for the 8:30 p.m. ferry from Provincetown to Boston… so I knew there was no backing out now.

While preparing for my ride, I decided I would bring my trusty “little” REI backpack. This backpack has an incredible knack for holding a surprising number of items in several nifty pockets, and can also  handle numerous items attached to its backside with two bottles on its hips. I brought a change of regular clothes because I did not want to  subject passengers to my sweaty heavily scented bicycle clothes on the ferry ride home, nor did I want to sit in that gear for one more minute than absolutely necessary. I brought some food for the ride (3 protein bars,  and one peach, plum, and nectarine);  ipad to keep me occupied on boat ride home, back up battery for iphone when juice runs out; wireless hot spot to relieve the 4G; wireless speaker so I grab inspiration from my tunes while cycling up big hills; power cords to charge electronic equipment any chance I could get; wallet with cash, identification and plastic; sun block and bug spray, a clean pair of socks and bicycle shorts because it feels so refreshing to put them on halfway through a long day’s ride; and makeup and hair products because after all, it is Ptown and I need to look cute when walking the block :) . I vaguely recall reading an article about cross country cycling where the author made recommendations about packing lightly for long rides because whatever you pack, you need to carry. Needless to say, I did not heed this advice.

bags Gear is ready to go

When I mentioned to my mother that I was planning on riding to Provincetown, she asked me my route. I wanted to tell her I was taking all the infrequently traveled back roads to Ptown, but somehow I managed to squeeze out the truth…I planned to take 3A to the Sagamore Bridge and primarily 6A after that. If she used titles from my Spotify playlist she would have said, “Oh sweet child of mine, what are you livin’ la vida loca or maybe you are just knockin’ on Heaven’s door?” As always, she shared her worries, which were recently reinforced when I was hit by a woman driving her weapon of choice and oblivious to the fact that she needed to look for both cars and bicycles before pulling into her driveway in front of me. My mother gave me her blessing anyway, but not before expressing her worry about the amount of anticipated traffic because traveling to Cape Cod is a very popular thing to do on the South Shore in July and August. I tried to convince her that traffic was really a good thing for a cyclist because it meant slower cars, but I’m not sure she bought that line. She wished me luck and told me she was proud of me…and in my book, there is nothing better than a Proud Mary!

I started the ride from my Quincy apartment so I was quite familiar with the lovely pot-hole littered roads along 3A in Weymouth and Hingham, and I knew how to avoid all those. The first ten miles or so, which usually goes by without me realizing I rode them, was unusually taxing. My back was swearing at me for carrying my trusty REI pack…and I was surprised by how much this small bag was weighing me down. Ten miles in at 7 in the morning, I knew there was no way I was going to make it to Provincetown carrying that pack on my back. I am definitely not a wimp, but my back was aching something fierce because it was unaccustomed to being in that position with an extra ten or fifteen pounds on it.  After a few minutes of self-pity, I heard words of encouragement from my playlist, saying, “Don’t stop believingI’m a survivor, and I will survive three hours with a backpack.” I say three hours because I knew the bike stores would be open by 10, and I could stop and get a rack put on my bike to hold the back pack. I put the temporary backpack problem out of my head; and before I knew it I was in Plymouth…and actually considering whether I should cycle the rest of the way with the backpack on because I grew used to the pain ;).

Besides Provincetown and a bike store to get a rack, I had one other destination priority, and that was Ali’s Galley to get me a hefty rare roast beef sandwich on an onion roll with horseradish and cheese. After stopping first at Benny’s to buy some bungee cords and a bike lock and second at Starbuck’s for a coffee frappuchino while charging my phone, I landed at the Ali’s Galley for a well deserved lunch. As always, Ali did not disappoint. The sandwich was amazing, and it was topped off by a mega-sized brownie hot out of the oven.  I was able to spend a few minutes chatting with my old friend Ali, which was the best part of it all; and off I went heading towards the canal. When I asked Ali how many miles until the bridge via 3A, she said she had no idea but knew it was about 15 minutes by car and she warned me about the elevated Pine Hills section. I shoved off eagerly thinking I’d be at the bridge in about 30 to 40 minutes, forgetting how big Plymouth really is. I’m not sure how long it actually took me to ride to the canal from Ali’s Galley because I was segued into Serious Cycles bike shop and got superb service from Dennis, who fit me to an Axiom Flip-Flop LX Seatpost. A word of caution: If this starts a bicycle touring obsession, blame Dennis because he gave me “my new rack,” in a manner of speaking. Dennis mentioned that I would have to invest in a “more sturdy rack” if I wanted to do touring in the future, and that was all I needed to start me thinking about my cross-country tour. Dennis was a sweetheart, putting the rack on Old Yeller’ free of charge, and helping me to secure my backpack and seat bag to the rack with the four bungee cords I bought at Bennie’s.

alis galley old friend

serious mechanic from serious cycles all geared up for my one day tour bungeed

I was so relieved to get the overstuffed REI backpack off my shoulders that I forgot that I would still be carrying the weight, but this time on my bike instead. When I rolled my bike out of the store, I was unaccustomed to the heavy weight on the back of Old Yeller’, and she almost fell over. I figured this would just take some getting used to, which was accurate because every time I stood up to pedal, the weight of the bike shifted to whatever side I was leaning. I decided that Route 3A was not the optimal test track for learning how far I could lean without falling into traffic, and so I chose to remain seated in order to stabilize the weight of my bike when cars were driving by.

All and all, my ride to Provincetown was exquisite. Mother Nature could not have created a more perfect weather day as it was high 70’s and dry, which is very uncommon for Massachusetts in July. The scenery along the way was charming and quaint, particularly when I reached the Cape Cod Canal because after that I was able to follow the Pan Mass Challenge signs to Provincetown, which allowed me to cycle less traveled back roads and bike trails through Cape Cod rather than Rte 6A as I anticipated. I have never been so thankful for the green PMC signs and inspirational words scrolled along the roadways before because although I have done that ride in the past, there were countless bikers to follow and volunteers to guide us with directions along the route. I stopped a handful of times along the way for ice cream (of course), cash, refills of drinks, and to savor the moments by taking pictures. Other than the sizable climbs in Truro on the last leg of my 126 mile trip, which I selectively and conveniently forgot about, the ride was a smooth sail. I arrived in Ptown at 7:00, so I didn’t have as much time to walk around and check out the scene as I had hoped…but of course I had time for an incredible burger at Bubula’s. However, I wouldn’t have changed a thing because the moments I had when stopping for lunch with a friend and having a home made ice cream at a locals’ favorite in Yarmouth were priceless. I am also very thankful for the hard lessons I learned about packing lighter and choosing to disperse the weight on my bike rather than cycling with a backpack because these led me to find creative solutions, brought me to Dennis at Serious Cycles who sparked my interest in touring, and gave me increased confidence to overcome challenges along the way.

Because I have written a lot so far, I will not go into great detail about the rest of my cycling the last couple of weeks. I will just give you the highlights and lowlights.  While the 126 miler to Ptown was a great test of endurance for me, my biking through the Green Mountain State was a test for my quadriceps and hamstrings. I didn’t cycle huge distances, but the 25 and 30 mile rides felt twice as long because of the steep inclines. The speeds, which topped out at 45 miles an hour, were exhilarating and a welcomed sequel to the 4 to 6 mile an hour muscle straining climbs. It was all incredible though! I felt like I was 25 years old again, when I would pick up a bike map of whatever area I was in, and go wherever my spirit moved me to go. I wish I had more time to cycle out to Burlington and beyond, but the few rides I went on through the Mad River Valley left a lasting impression. NEXT GREAT CHALLENGE: Lincoln Gap, which will require a lot more squats, lunges, and hill training to prepare for.

The lowlights: Other than a couple of 40 mile rides in Long Beach Island and one 40 miler when I returned to Quincy, I have notcycled much this last week. This is for a couple of reasons. First, I needed to get my bike assessed and repaired, after being hit by a car more than a month ago. Second, I was forced to rest after pulling a muscle in my back doing the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge when I hoisted a cooler full of 20 pounds of ice and water over my head…no comments please. I must say it is a strange feeling going into a 330 mile ride to New York tomorrow when I haven’t sat on my bike in 6 days, run for 9 days or lifted for 2 weeks because this is the longest break I have taken since my training began in April. I have been mainly icing my back, taking herbal concoctions recommended by my chiropractor, and going for massages and chiropractic sessions this week. I am going to trust that unlike in my high school and college days when I would cram for tests the night before and pray that the information stuck in my head long enough to pass the test, I don’t need to cram for this physical test because I have already prepared adequately enough over the last 5 months. I know myself well enough to know that if my physical self feels incredibly challenged over the next three days and tries to hijack my brain and tell it to quit, my McSharry perseverance and Rice toughness will take over and carry me through. Don’t get me wrong, I will definitely be praying to my brother and grandmother for a strong tail wind when ascending the mountains in Connecticut…but no matter what challenges I face over the next 330 miles, I will not quit! Is that MC Hammer calling me…Too legit, too legit to quit…

Sayonara…you shall hear from me (God willing) upon completion. Here are a few photos from my Provincetown and Vermont rides.


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To donate to Liz’s Bike to Build at NBSS Fund, click here:


If your would like to donate to Liz’s Bike to Build at NBSS Fund, click here.

This past Wednesday my bicycle mission began at 9 a.m., a little late as I found out later in the day when I scrambled to get to my evening destination. My focus was clear and my goals included the following:

  1. Go to North Bennet Street School to take some shots of the school for the video I hope to have made for my fundraising ride.
  2. Try out Google Maps to see how well the app works in a pinch to get me from one known destination to another, and evaluate how much iphone juice it drinks in the process.
  3. Purchase a replacement for Miss CatEye (my odometer), and have that installed.
  4. Try out my new wireless  battery charger for my phone to see how long it takes to revive a dying phone and what the life expectancy is once revived.
  5. Use the directions from the first 20 miles of the ALS Ride to travel from Newton to Holliston and see how well I negotiate the roads when looking down at directions frequently.
  6. Test my map reading skills when bicycling home from Holliston to Quincy, using only my bicycle maps…and no electronic devices.
  7. Oh yeah, and bicycle 70 to 80 miles, making sure to be home by 5 so that I can get to my meeting at 6:00 p.m.

I accomplished goal #2 on my ride to North Bennet Street School. I walked out my door, entered my starting point and my destination into the Google Maps app, turned up the volume on my wireless speaker tucked into my small backpack, and let Miss Google direct me through Quincy, Dorchester, South Boston, and into the North End. I must admit it is a lot harder to hear Miss Google’s voice kindly instructing me on which turn to take when she has to compete with the wind vibrating through my ear drums, the symphony of horns blowing in city traffic, sirens bellowing from every direction, and angry Boston drivers greeting each other with their version of Boston Love, “Watch wheeahh ya goin ya mutha f*%#a.” Once I got onto Dorchester Avenue, affectionately known as “Dot Ave” around these parts, I was transported back to my bike messenger days in New York City. Unlike many of my recent distance rides, my forearms were not resting on the pads above my handlebars, and my arms were no longer stretched towards the aerobars in a relaxed manner. Instead, my hands were gripped firmly on the lower bend of the handle bars, ready to grab the brakes at a moment’s notice. My head was on a swivel taking in the cars and trucks on all sides of me, especially those who were driving close behind me and the cars parked on the side of the road whose doors swing open into traffic spontaneously. I wasn’t calmly sitting back in the saddle taking in the picturesque scenery. I was on the edge of my seat dodging pot holes, sucking in the smog, ducking under side view mirrors of commercial vehicles, and avoiding pedestrians who unconsciously walk into traffic while staring mindlessly at their electronic devices. I have to admit I got a little charge from the “riskiness” of the whole experience. This thrill reminded me why I loved being a bike messenger so much; but by the end of the day I was thankful those days have passed after    1) hitting a side mirror with my backpack when squeezing between trucks, 2) going into a store praying my bike remains in its place with all its same parts when I come out, and 3) getting hit by a driver who cut me off because she “didn’t see any cars coming.”

I accomplished goal #1 by way of goal #2, and I arrived safely at North Bennet Street School about 40 minutes after leaving Quincy. Considering this is a fair amount quicker than it takes to travel via the T, I am considering a cycling commute to school while the weather is nice, providing I don’t have to carry a bunch of tools each day. I looked like a cross between a stalker and a tourist outside North Bennet Street taking photographs from multiple vantage points, mostly of the building and surrounding quaint North End neighborhood, but I must admit that I snuck in a few selfies as well. While inside NBSS, I reintroduced myself to the receptionist announcing that I will be returning in the fall. Like everyone I have met at NBSS so far, she seems to love the students and genuinely looks forward to their return come September. While waiting for the ladies room, a much sought after commodity for a cyclist on a long ride, I happened to see NBSS’s President Miguel Gomez-Ibanez, in the waiting room chatting with a visitor. I wanted to introduce myself, since we have communicated via email a couple times and he kindly made a donation to my fundraiser, but he was occupied by another conversation and I conveniently left my courage at home. Oh well, another opportunity will come soon enough because I am starting school in less than two months.

I accomplished objective # 3 at Back Bay Bicycles, which was located conveniently on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston. The guys in the shop that day couldn’t have been nicer or more efficient. I walked out with a younger, slimmer, and wireless replacement for Miss CatEye in the form of the Sigma BC 16.12 STS CAD, and they had it on in about 20 minutes. It served me well the rest of the day because I could finally track my mileage, cadence, and speed again.

Because I had Miss Google Maps guiding me to NBSS, and I had taken pictures and video while there, I had used about 70% of my iphone battery by the time I went to Back Bay Bicycles, and I had most of my ride still ahead of me. Thankfully, I had recently bought the Phone Suit Elite Battery and Case in preparation for this exact problem. While waiting for Miss CatEye’s replacement, I hooked up the fully charged virgin battery….and SHAZAM…my iphone was slowly being revived. Goal # 4…CHECK!

Before leaving the bike shop, I made one last purchase, Rubel’s Boston’s Bikemap, which made it so much easier to find a direct path to Newton, as I was previously having difficulty reading the Boston streets on the Eastern Massachusetts Map. The embarrassing irony, is that I only needed to take one road from Back Bay Bicycles to Newton’s Boston College campus…Commonwealth Avenue…shameful to admit I didn’t know this, considering I grew up 30 minutes South of Boston.

Once I got to Newton, I used the step by step directions for the Ride to End ALS, which my partner Justine kindly found for me online. My plan is to use these directions for the bulk of my ride to NYC in August (from Newton, MA to Greenwich, CT), which will just leave me another 50 miles to map out in the beginning and end of my ride. I only used the directions for about 15 miles, but they worked like a charm. Goal # 5 accomplished.

After meeting my lovely fiancee for an impromptu lunch at Whole Foods in Wellesley, I studied my Eastern Massachusetts Road and Bicycle Map to find a route where I could cycle as many miles as possible for the next three hours but still be able to get home in time for my 6:00 meeting. I plotted out a path from Route 16 in Wellesley that took me through the beautiful towns of Natick and Sherborn, and then I turned onto Route 27 where I traveled through Medfield, Walpole, and Sharon; until I picked up Route 138 in Stoughton and cruised into Canton, where I jumped on my familiar Blue Hills path, which took me into Braintree before sliding into my hometown of Quincy. Smashed Goal #6 out of the park, and successfully navigated my way through numerous towns I had never cycled through before…and did it all without electronic devices.

Goal #7 was accomplished in the process of all the others, as I rode about 70 miles…exact amount uncertain because Mr. Sigma wasn’t put on my bike until I had already cycled 15 to 20 miles. I was making great time, the sun was shining brightly, birds were chirping, and the musical cyclist was in her glory…that is, until I was cut off and struck by a woman driving a Mazda sedan. It was startling, to say the least, as she cut a quick left into a driveway right in front of me, completely unaware that I was cruising down a hill and had no choice but to careen into her passenger side door because there was no time to stop. Now, three days later, I am grateful that I have been training so hard over the last few months because I believe it is helping this 40 year old body of mine recover from my abrupt meeting with Ms. Mazda’s right side.

Bad news: Bruised with a few minor scrapes, sprained and sore muscles, and a little frightened by how quickly life can change when drivers aren’t paying attention to what they are doing.

Good news: Alive and grateful that the accident wasn’t a lot worse. Made it to my meeting, albeit a little late, and accomplished all 7 of my goals for today!

Please be careful on the road, and watch out for cyclists!

These are the pics from today’s adventures….wound pictures not included :)

Tea Party boatsBoston Tea PartyNorth EndWater fountainBiking in front of NBSS110111092 094 095 096 097 098  100 102103105106120118      114 115State House    Arm pit shotSwan boats 2Public Gardens 2Swan boatsPublic Gardens waterPaul ReverePlantsCitgoCommonwealth AveWoodland Golf ClubWoodland Club HouseSherbornSherborn farmTractorMedfieldSharon   Canton

If your would like to donate to Liz’s Bike to Build at NBSS Fund, click here.


Picnic with Derek and Move Over Miss CatEye

 If your would like to donate to Liz’s Bike to Build at NBSS Fund, click here.

Dereks grave with me

I had lofty plans for an 80 mile ride Saturday July 5th, which was scheduled to start at 6 a.m. Having recently found an online map and pedal-by-pedal directions from Newton, MA to Greenwich, CT from the Ride to End ALS, I wanted to try out the directions and see whether I could make it to NYC with these directions and map alone. On Saturday I was planning on using my own bicycle maps to get from Quincy to Newton, and then using the ALS Ride directions to travel another 40 miles or so to see how I’d do following their directions. I figured if it worked out okay, this would allow me to save money and avoid buying a fancy shmancy Garmin GPS system. It would also give me the satisfaction of traveling to NYC the old-fashioned way…well sort of…that is, with the assistance of Google Maps when in pinch. Don’t get me wrong, I have applied for a Garmin Edge 1000 through the Garmin website, and am still hoping I can appeal to the sympathies of the corporate Garmin giants and get one donated.

Having checked the forecast numerous times the previous couple days knowing remnants of Hurricane Arthur were heading our way, it was expected that the clouds would clear shortly after sunrise,  just in time for me to hit the roads “OldYeller style.” Although I tucked in a wee bit late for a 5 a.m. rising, I dragged my soon-to-be spandex wearing behind out of bed and sleepily crawled to the front door to get a live weather update.  Much to my dismay, I saw that the clouds had not cleared, the temperature was in the high 50’s, and the rain was still coming down in drizzles. The ambitious part of my brain was urging me to suck it up, put on some warm clothes, bundle the speaker and cell phone up in a ziplock bag, and head out ASAP so I could still get the 80 miles in before I had to be back for my birthday date with my 15 year old niece Haley. The more rational and safety conscious part of my brain cautioned me to wait a couple of hours for the weather to clear because of the danger inherent in slick roads, overflowing street gutters, and big puddles. I’m not sure if it was the safety conscious part of me who won out or just the lazy part of me who wanted to sleep a couple more hours; but either way, I went back to bed for another hour or two. My final decision to go back and slumber was made once I remembered that Miss CatEye (my ailing odometer) still had not been fixed. Miss CatEye was an important part of Saturday’s ride because the directions I was experimenting with were laid out according to mileage, and it would be tough to follow along without Miss CatEye displaying my mileage.

Two hours later, I woke up feeling more refreshed, the clouds had parted ways enough to allow the sun to peak through, and Old Yeller’ and I set out on a 50 to 60 mile “Plan B ride” through lots of towns South of Boston. I didn’t need Miss CatEye because I used Google Maps to estimate how many miles away to my destination. I didn’t need a GPS or directions because I was quite familiar with the South Shore back roads and towns. My plan was to bike from Quincy to my brother Derek’s grave sight in Pembroke, and I did this by traveling through Quincy, Weymouth, Hingham, Norwell, Hanover, and Hanson before entering Pembroke. As I neared Mattakeesett Street in Pembroke, I turned my Spotify application to Lynyrd Skynyrd, Derek’s favorite band, and “Simple Man” began to pipe out of my back pocket through my JBL Wireless Speaker. The closer I got to the cemetery, the more tears started to fall, and the grief weighed me down like a heavy cloak. Although it has been more than 6 years and 7 months since my brother passed unexpectedly at age 37, the heart doesn’t always recognize time when it comes to healing from loss. When I reached my destination of Mount Pleasant Cemetery,  about 25 miles from home, I cycled across the lawn to my brother’s grave. I sat by his grave side, continued to play the songs he loved best, ate some lunch, and had myself a heart to heart with my big brother. I talked to him about all the changes that have taken place in my life since he left us; shared my longing to be able to turn to him with carpentry questions and also to talk with him about what I will learn in school; and I asked him for care, guidance and protection during my bike ride and during my studies at North Bennet Street School.  I left my picnic with Derek feeling grateful for the drizzling rain, the breakdown of Miss CatEye, and for Plan B rides because I was able to spend some quality time in reflection and connection.

After leaving Pembroke, I returned home a different route because I wanted to stop by and see my mom in Abington with some surprise Dairy Queen treats, cycling through Hanson, Whitman, Abington, Holbrook, and Braintree before reentering Quincy. The weather cooperated beautifully, as Arthur was dehydrated after the July 4th deluge.

As far as Miss CatEye, this story may be all too familiar for mature women. Unfortunately when I went to a local Quincy bike shop to assess the problem with Miss CatEye, I was told that her sensors seem to be working okay but the wiring is probably worn out because of age, loosened, and no longer functioning up to par. As a result, she will have to be replaced by a newer, slimmer, and more technologically savvy version of herself…and she will be discarded with no severance, alimony,nor even a warranty. Thank you for helping me through all those miles Miss CatEye. You’ll be missed!

Dereks grave

If your would like to donate to Liz’s Bike to Build at NBSS Fund, click here.




If you would like to donate to Liz’s Bike to Build Fund at NBSS, click here

My one yoga pose Ready Set Go Trying to be Haley Typical smile

Mother Nature could not have cooked up a better offering for the 100 riders and volunteers who participated in the 8th annual Ride for Habitat on June 21st. The weather was absolutely perfect, and the scenery along the coastline towns of Scituate, Cohasset, and Hull was exquisite. The ride started in Wompatuck State Park, and that is where about 25 riders who were doing the 50 mile route began at about 7:30 a.m. Once we exited Wompatuck in Hingham, we biked by the cows at Hornstra Farms and crossed into Norwell passing dozens of “non-affordable” but beautiful houses. Our first pass through Norwell was short because we headed directly towards Hanover, where we stopped to see one of the Habitat for Humanity homes being built. We were greeted by volunteers, some who served us fruit, snacks, and beverages, while others told us a little about their building progress. All in all, it was a poignant moment which captured the spirit of what this ride is all about.

Because there were not a lot of riders, I tried to stay close to a few that looked like they were riding at a good clip, but weren’t training for Tour de France trials. Overall, I was able to stay close to the lead pack of six or seven riders during the first couple of hours, that is, until my bike started getting a little attitude. Having one or more beacons ahead is very helpful during long rides like this because they serve as pace setters and they provide you with the inspiration to keep pedaling.  My beacon was in a yellow, orange and red Pan Mass Challenge shirt (pictured below). I figured I was doing okay if I was trailing close behind Mr. Yellow, Orange, and Red (YOR) because his shirt demonstrated his cycling stamina and prowess, having ridden the Pan Mass Challenge before. I kept within eye shot of Mr. YOR and crew for the first 30 miles or so, until my wheel decided it was time to negotiate the roads alone somewhere in Scituate. This is where the lessons from the road began…

My guide

My CATEYE Astrale 8 was doing its job for the last thousand miles or so before this ride, tracking my speed, cadence, miles per hour, etc. However, somewhere in my drive over to Wampatuck, the bike got shuffled around in the car and MISS CATEYE would only tell me the time. I could do without knowing my distance and speed, (even though I would miss the cheap thrill I get from seeing how fast I can go on the downhills), but I could not overcome MISS CATEYE’s wheel interference without an intervention. I noticed at the first pit stop that my wheel was rubbing against something, so I did a quick wheel adjustment and went on my way, still holding pace with others. Now, in a thickly settled area of Scituate with nobody around, my chain came off when down shifting too quickly; and when I put my wheel back on, it was chafing against the rubber barrier underneath one of MISS CATEYE’S SENSORS. In the fundraising rides I have done in the past, I was accustomed to a steady pack of volunteers driving in vans by the cyclists, catering to our every need. If we needed medical, sagging, or bike repair assistance, they would stop and help. As I looked at MISS CATEYE and my chain hanging off, I realized I was on my own. After getting my hands very greasy, the chain was back in business; and after using a sharp tool from my seatbag to cut away the rubber barrier, the wheel stopped rubbing and I was back on the road again…with Mr. YOR now hidden by the miles in between us.

In hindsight, I am very grateful for this first lesson from the road, which was: Have a basic toolkit to repair minor bicycle problems. It was no accident that I was separated from Mr. YOR and pack because these are exactly the situations I need to be prepared for when riding solo to NYC. I need to be able to handle quick bike emergencies (flat tires, fallen chains, rubbing break pads) like the wanna-be-bike tech that I am.

After jumping back on my bike, lesson #2 smacked me in the face because there were no beacons ahead to mindlessly follow while I took in the lovely scenic route. LESSON 2…Don’t rely on GPS technology because you may have no signal in rural areas, so use your Girls Scouts 101 map reading skillsI actually wasn’t a Girls Scout, but I can read maps. It became abundantly clear to me at this point that I have my work cut out for me in terms of mapping my route to New York City, especially because there will be no signs like these to follow:


As an adult who possesses a fair percentage of ADHD symptoms, I tend to love big challenges, I overestimate my ability to do tasks and underestimate the time the tasks will take, and I have “minor difficulty” with prioritizing tasks. So when the bolt of insight struck me three months ago, telling me to ride my bike 300 miles from Quincy to NYC as a fundraiser, I committed to this without hesitation…as easily as I would agree to taking my dog on a mile walk to Wollaston Beach. I didn’t think about the hundreds of hours I would need to train (cycling and weight lifting); how hard it would be to teach myself how to administer a blog or learn the ins and outs of Twitter; the time it would take to write dozens of fundraising letters, follow-up emails, Facebook status updates, thank you notes, blog posts, and tweets, and take way too many selfies; and/or exactly how I was going to safely map out every twist and turn along the 300 mile route through hundreds of New England cities and towns. I did not think about the supplies I would need, where I would stay, where I would stop for nourishment if needed, where the public restrooms are located, where the closest bike shops are if repairs are called for, and God forbid…where the nearest hospitals are located should injuries occur. No, when the bolt came, I welcomed it with open arms and thought only of the remarkable feelings of freedom, accomplishment, and connection with nature and with my bicycle, which I had felt many years ago when doing interstate bike rides.

Thankfully though, Miss CATEYE gave me problems and I was separated from Mr. YOR at about mile 30 because I had 20 more miles to think about all the lessons from the road, which had not been so glaringly obvious before. Now I am much better prepared for my ride…or at least I know how to prepare for my ride over the next 42 days. Happy Prioritizing!

And most thankfully, I have the best athletic supporter that anyone could ask for, who will be my volunteer crew in a Honda Accord…Thank you Justine!

Support team

More shots from the Ride for Habitat 2014:Helmet is on

Lovely poseHingham farmNorwell pond

Hanover house


tree farm too    tree farmCoastal Riding Scituate harbor Glorious day    Hull harbor boats Hull   Sailboats    Carnival in HullFishing at end of peninsulaSelfie

If you would like to donate to Liz’s Bike to Build Fund at NBSS, click here

Journey from Social Work to Carpentry via Bicycle