Thursday, January 25, 2018

A Gift: Riding the Minuteman Bikeway in January

Signage on Minuteman Bikeway
A warm mid 40s break in weather coincided with a trip to Boston - it was a lucky weekend! Arriving early afternoon on Saturday and learning the Minuteman Bikeway might be clear enough to ride, my husband and I headed directly to a parking area near the trail.

Lexington portion of Minuteman Bikeway
Walkers and cyclists were coming out of hibernation - but not too many yet, considering the Minuteman is one of the busiest paths in the east - to make for clear sailing along the wet path.

Restroom and benches on Minuteman Bikeway
Restroom stop at the Lexington visitors center.
I opted to bring my folding bike for easy storage inside our vehicle. My husband removed his front wheel which enabled both bikes to avoid slushy, salted spray on the back rack. And, considering our city accommodation, it was a good decision for safety - storing the bikes without transfer to a hotel storeroom.

Dirt path next to Minuteman Bikeway
It had been 15 years since our first visit to the trail, so the sights rekindled our love for this amazing 10 mile linear park that spans Arlington, Lexington, and Bedford. There were numerous side footpaths, a winding trail already tracked by a bicycle, and lots of marshland.

Snow flanks the Minuteman Bikeway in January
We spied a group of 20 wild turkeys in the woods behind someone's house.

Bedford, end of Minuteman Bikeway
At the Bedford Depot, official northern end of the Minuteman Bikeway, we were set to turn around, but after inspecting signs and my husband talking with another Bridgestone owner, we continued onward to investigate a dirt connector trail that leads to Concord.

Minuteman Bikeway logo
Minuteman Bikeway signs.

Reformatory Branch Trail to Concord
The 4-mile Reformatory Branch Rail Trail, unfortunately, was still snowed in, though there were fat tire tracks and foot prints. We turned around, opting for a quick side spin on a quiet road then bolting back to our car, as the time was growing short to get to a function in Boston.

Nashua River Trail under snow
Nashua River Trail
On our drive northward the following morning, we found what sounded like an interesting trail near Nashua, New Hampshire, called the Nashua River Trail.* It too, was still packed with snow - too slippery to walk on. However, a system of walking trails, Nashua Conservancy Land, provided ample space to explore on foot. Nashua River Trail - we'll be back!

*Trail Link is an excellent resource to locate trails near specific regions.

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Evolution of Accepting a Winter Without Riding

Groomed ski trails in Finland.
Photo credit: Timo Newtom-Sym on Wikimedia, and converted to black and white by anniebikes.

This Phase Cannot Last
Between cycling for the last time on the solstice, sitting and visiting relatives over the holidays, and frequent precipitation, I figured the snowfall was too good to be true. It wouldn't last. The 2016 winter had prolonged dry spells where, sporadically, I rode on dry pavement for errands or round trip to work once a week, just enough to get my cycling fix.

Frustration & Denial
Then just before the new year, a 7-10 day deep freeze descended upon New England. Below zero and snow fell! It was too cold to go outside. I was stir crazy from lack of exercise, though yoga helped loosen stiff joints and protect my sanity. A gym membership is lost on me. I want to be out doors. I sat near the window, reading, watching movies, trying to absorb daylight. It was the first time in a long time that I considered buying an indoor bicycle trainer. Instead I gazed outside.

My heart hurt when my husband removed my son's and my bicycle from the garage to open up space for our vehicle.

Once the terrible weather spell passed, frequent precipitation is the new normal. I have resigned myself to leaving the car at home during the work week and despite my dislike of the bus, I've re-calibrated my mindset, using the bus as link to more exercise. I walked the 4.5 miles one way home and fell once and nearly slipped numerous times due to icy paths (not to mention arriving home late), so the bus allows me to shortcut the miles but still get exercise walking on plowed and salted sidewalks - as much as I need for sanity.

The transition feels complete. I've shoveled driveways, embraced the beautiful powder snow, and adopted a new elderly neighbor's driveway as my new project because, sadly, another older gentleman who we've helped for many years, had recently passed away.

This past weekend I brought out my cross country skis for two days of local skiing: through backyards and shushing in an unplowed cemetery beneath tall evergreens heavy with snow, plus a lovely sunset ski with my husband along the waterfront path. Ice is forming on the shoreline. Surprisingly, I kept warm in single digit temperatures, donning a down parka, wearing winter weight bicycle tights, and the warm mitts I'd purchased last year for cold weather riding. The irony, of course, was that cycling garments were also great for skiing, on the same waterfront path that's my favorite place to ride.

When we returned to the car after dark, I looked up and smiled at a sky full of stars. The transition was complete. I'd come full circle, from angst, frustration, to acceptance. Though cycling is never far from my mind, I've decided to embrace winter while it's here, in whatever mode of personal transport gives me peace of mind.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Going Bikeless Crazy 2

taking advantage of fat bike demo day at Catamount
Early December, I attended a fat bike demo event with our youngest son.

As I wrote the title of this blog post I knew it sounded familiar and discovered I'd previously had a similar experience during a bout of rain. Winter, so far, has been difficult for me as I imagine it has been also tough for other northern dwellers who crave outdoor activity. Regular precipitation, ice, and arctic-like temperatures means roads are snowy, too scary to ride a bike, and too cold to be on skinny skis.

On the positive side, I am riding the bus more because, despite the cold, I force myself to walk the mile each way to the transit center.

I've had ample time to research one adventure for 2018, and because it also appeals to my eldest son he wants to accompany me!

I have a couple sewing projects on the agenda, plus I picked up a small duffel bag that can easily be strapped onto a bike rack.

When all else fails, I do yoga.

The growing daylight is also taking the edge off. And the promise of milder temperatures, starting tomorrow, is the brightest star on the horizon.

What do you do when extreme weather prevents you from being outside?