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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Purchase a replacement for Miss CatEye (my odometer), and have that installed.
- 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.
- 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.
- Test my map reading skills when bicycling home from Holliston to Quincy, using only my bicycle maps…and no electronic devices.
- 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
If your would like to donate to Liz’s Bike to Build at NBSS Fund, click here.