For You light my lamp;
The LORD my God illumines my darkness.
For by You I can run upon a troop;
And by my God I can leap over a wall.
Please help me raise money for the MS Bike Tour Cape Cod Getaway. Donate today on my MS Participant page.
…And yet nothing blogworthy has happened until today. I’m trying to cut down on the posts in which I announce that I’ve just ridden my bike in 6°F temperatures (which is what I would have talked about on Wednesday), or how typically New England-ish it was for the weather to go from 12°F one morning (Thursday) to 38°F the next. I also felt that a post mentioning that on the coldest days I wear 9 extra pounds of clothes* (plus 5.5 additional pounds with my bag) seemed a little lacking in material. I’m avoiding all that because, after what feels like a full year of winter, everybody — including myself — is tired of hearing about stupid cold, snowy weather and details pertaining thereto. Especially after Monday.
So. Today being a balmy, spring-like day, I decided to do the 30-mile ride suggested by the STP training schedule. I accordingly planned out a route which, coincidentally, went to a camera shop about 15 miles from our house (to my dismay this truly is the closest camera shop — the next closest is in Worcester). I wanted to look into getting a small point-and-shoot to carry on my bike rides, so I could share pictures as well as words with all you long-suffering readers. Part of the plan also involved bringing my old camera, to show the shop owners what I already had.
I rode off cheerfully, basking in the dazzling sun and the delightfully clear roads. I even saw other people on bikes (almost all going much faster than me, since I still have studded tires and leaden hiking boots), and we waved at each other. My GPS mapped course worked, the arrow on my screen pointing me to the correct turns. Things looked pretty fabulous, and I expected to reach the camera store in no time.
I’m sure I would have, if the road through the Sudbury State Forest and the adjoining military reservation hadn’t been, well, not a road. What do you mean?, you may ask. How could Google maps show a perfectly good road no smaller than the other surrounding roads:
And yet when I get there, I find this:
Of course, it didn’t start that way. It first went through a parking lot — already a bad sign — and then it slowly went from asphalt to ripped-up asphalt chunks to mud. The mud might have warned me, but I felt adventurous, and besides, I figured that mud through there wasn’t so bad. I kept up a decent pace, considering, and I knew it should only be for a couple of miles. I actually felt proud of the strides my bike-handling confidence has taken this winter, since a year ago I would never have thought of riding through anything resembling off-road conditions.
The parking lot and bad road might have been warning signs; then, too, the very strange look I received from a ranger cleaning the road off should probably have warned me. He was hauling blowdown off the extremely ragged kind-of-paved road (it switched between muddy road-width track and more-cracks-than-road paving) and gave me a very surprised look as I went by. Little did I know then that he was probably wondering what I’d do in another 400 feet when the cleared road ended and a wall of snow marked the beginning of the unplowed section. I bet he was thinking I’ll be seeing HER again in five minutes!
But he didn’t because, for some impossible-to-fathom reason, I decided to try to ride it. This decision grew partly from a strong desire not to call Ian for help on my first long ride of the season and partly from the overweening pride that said You’ve ridden in snow all winter. You can do this. I couldn’t. That became eminently, abundantly clear almost immediately. Clearly, my snow biking skills stop after snow passes the one- or two-inch deep mark. Poorly plowed roads – yes. Unplowed, heavily tracked paths – most definitely no. At that point, I should have turned around and found another way. But I looked back towards the faux-road I had just come on (If you look closely, you can see the big pile of snow at the end of the plowed road, where the snowy part begins.) and saw this:
For some reason, I thought, Nah, I don’t want to have to go all the way back there. I’ll walk the rest of the way I planned on going. Looking back, I see that this makes no sense. But at the time, the logic worked.
If only I could have slapped myself right then. What was I thinking? I knew it was at least a mile, possibly closer to two! But instead, I walked, and dragged my bike along. I dragged from the right, from the left, pushing the handlebars with both hands, then pushing the handlebars and the seat with one hand each. Eventually the wheels stopped turning because so much snow had packed on the wheels that they got stuck in the fenders. This happened several times, and necessitated gentle but firm kicking of the offending wheel, which cleared it for a bit. Wet snow in abundant quantities slopped into my shoes, to dampen my poor feet. For a while I felt it was a fun adventure, and I took a picture of what I now know is Puffer Pond.
That was the last picture I took: after a while the snowy, leafless woods with the ski- and snowshoe-marked track became monotonous, and after a while I became frustrated. Frustrated barely dips into the feeling, though; by then I had walked half a mile or more, and immediately entered into the age-old conundrum of whether it was farther to go back or farther to keep going. There was no way to know. I called Ian, who valiantly offered to pick me up, but I’m not sure what I thought he could do — airlift me out of my snowy misery? He couldn’t and I hung up and hollered at the top of my lungs into the empty woods (maybe somebody skiing out there heard me and was alarmed, but I never saw anybody and it did actually help me feel better). Then I kept trudging, and pushing, and getting snow in my shoes, and kicking accumulated snow off my tires, and praying for it to end. At one point I tried to ride, but I couldn’t even get enough momentum to stay upr
ight, so I tipped slowly over — so slowly I had time to get my foot out of my clip and catch myself.
When I finally exited the woods, exactly one mile and what had to be 25 minutes later, I encountered to skiiers. The guy told me that bikes weren’t allowed in that “wilderness” area, and that rangers would fine me if they caught me there. I told him that I had been pushing my bike, not riding it, and asked if that counted. He didn’t know. I returned to asphalt, rutted with frost heaves, marred with potholes, and covered half an inch deep in sand though it was, with soul-deep pleasure.
The camera store I will sum up as a bust, for reasons you will soon understand. I spent a good hour there looking at the Canon SX10 IS (a vast upgrade to the S1 IS I currently own, but extremely bulky) and at an Olympus µ1050 SW. Eventually I settled on the Olympus, which you can drop, get wet, or operate to -10°C without harming it. The store owner, who showed me the two different cameras, was very nice (mentioned that he has done the Pan-Mass Challenge every year for the last 15 years and let me park my bike inside), but he seemed easily confused and rather vague. He pointed out little icon pictures on the box to indicate features. He showed me some features, but didn’t know how to do others; I ended up fiddling around myself to satisfy my own curiosity. Eventually I purchased the camera and rode home a different, snow-free way.
It was on the way home that I began to severely suffer for my foolishly embarking on a ride >20 miles long without bringing water or food. By the time I had crept up the hill on Route 85 and struggled through Marlborough, all I could think of was my dry, thirsty mouth and how much orange juice I would consume when I reached that sweet, sweet juice repository known as home. Turns out I drank 2 pints right down easily, followed by another couple of water.
When I got home, but after satisfying my thirst, I passed the camera to Ian to satisfy his New Technology curiosity. We found the battery, and then the charger, and then noticed that the charger had a separate cord to plug into the wall. When we pulled that out, we found that the plug was European-style rather than the correct American style. Then we looked and found out that the µ1050 SW is the European version of the camera; the American one is called the Stylus 1050 SW. Then we looked at the box and noticed all the units were metric, that it had all blurbs in five different languages, that the Olympus branch name printed on the box was Olympus Europe Ltd., that the warranty note on the box had “in Europe” written real small underneath, … In short, that I had clearly received a camera intended for a European country. Everything seemed fine, except I had no way of charging the battery.
I called the camera store, and the vague salesman was shocked to hear it was European. He had no clue — none at all. I could have told him that I had found a severed finger in there, and I doubt he could have expressed more surprise. He told me to return the camera and we would figure something out. Here I was thinking maybe I could just get an American-style power cord and call it good, but “something” ended up being a full refund and the promise that he would call me back. As I left, he put the camera back on the shelf after muttering that he had gotten it from a shop going out of business, and maybe that was why they were so cheap. I think I’ll just hold off on any new camera purchases for a while…
Of course, all that happened after Ian and I tried to leave our apartment, only to have the key break in the lock. It snapped, Ian said “Oh dang!” and we spent a while staring at it stupidly. The door was locked, our apartment was secure — and we were outside. This is where living in an apartment complex comes in handy. I simply walked over to the office, explained the situation, and the maintenance guy came right away. He removed the key fragment, gave us a new key, and voila. Problem solved.
Oh, and while Ian was waiting for the maintenance guy to rescue us, I went off in the car to pick up my newly-altered bridesmaid dress. It should fit, assuming I don’t gain even one ounce in the next two weeks, assuming I eat extremely lightly on the actual wedding day, and assuming I don’t need to take any deep breaths while wearing it. Corsetlike hardly begins to touch the tightness of the gown. Fortunately, I don’t intend to ever wear it again — fortunate, because I can’t imagine ever fitting it again once I wear it on the 21st. Also I don’t intend to frequent formal gown stores in the future, either. This time it was full of obnoxious, demanding, witchy high school juniors and seniors who all wanted perfectly attentive service RIGHT NOW! Also fortunately I restrained myself from smacking — physically or verbally — one particularly horrible specimen.
After all that, we ended up bowing out of the surprise party we’d planned on attending. Instead, I laid in bed with the lights out and my eyes closed, hoping to avert the pre-cold headache coming on. It could just be exhaustion. I wouldn’t be surprised.
* Seriously. I weighed 109.6 lbs with only one base layer on; 118.4 lbs with all the clothes, boots, helmet, etc.; and 123.8 lbs with the bag on top of everything.