The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn,
shining ever brighter till the full light of day.
Today I scheduled to take the REI Intermediate Cycling class at the REI in Boston. Originally I had intended to take this class on May 31, but it was canceled because everybody else in the class canceled except for me. I rescheduled for August 8, but then decided that with my unpredictable gastrointestinal system, it wouldn’t be fun to do an all-day, outdoor, no-bathrooms-guaranteed bike class. Both of those classes were at the Framingham REI a mere 10 or so miles from our house, and I planned to ride my bike there and back. When I rescheduled, the next one that worked for me date-wise was in Boston; others at more distant REI stores in Rhode Island and elsewhere were also an option. I compromised and did the class today because it was the only other one within riding distance of our house. Not such easy riding distance — my route ended up 25 miles one way. One way 25 miles is more than doable, but I worried a bit about 50 miles round trip plus an unknown number of miles ridden for the class itself, which was planned to run from 10:00 to 4:00.
On Thursday I got an email from the REI instructor. He wanted our phone numbers and told us that he might cancel the class if Hurricane Bill or thunderstorms made the weather too bad. He said:
Hurricane Bill will be swinging up towards New England on Sunday, so the possibility of rain has increased! If the weather is too bad on Sunday we may end up cancelling the course. PLEASE REPLY WITH A NUMBER OF BEST CONTACT so that we may reach you Sunday morning (by 8am at the very latest). Please stay current on the weather, we will be doing so too! (emphasis mine)
I gave them both our home number and Ian’s cell phone number, since I would be taking his phone as added insurance. This added an element of uncertainty to all our weekend plans that made it difficult to decide what to do, but by Saturday night we had not heard that it was canceled, so we went forward assuming it was on.
Sunday morning I woke up very early and spent far too long worrying: What if they called and I didn’t get it? What if I was too tired from the ride there to finish the class? What if I got lost in Boston? –You get the idea. I got all ready to go, checked my email and Ian’s cell phone before I left. By 8:05, I had not heard anything, so I took the instructor’s email at face value and assumed the class would happen. I left, bringing Ian’s phone along. It was on. I had a very nice ride in to Boston; once I got off Route 20, Ian had done a great job taking me through very pretty, ritzy neighborhoods with jaw-dropping Victorian-era houses and a minimum number of confusing intersections. I missed a couple of turns, but nothing a few Masshole bike maneuvers couldn’t resolve.
I got to the REI at 9:45, precisely on time, since they asked us to get there 15 minutes early. The store was locked and dark. No people or group of bicyclists standing around. No indication of any class happening at all, in fact. Suddenly I knew the class had been canceled and I hadn’t heard Ian’s phone ring. When I took his phone out, my worst fears were confirmed: I had missed a call from an unfamiliar number at 8:35, and that person had left a message (that I couldn’t listen to because I didn’t know Ian’s voice mail password).
At that point I started to panic.
The intersection around the REI is quite complicated, involving a number of road islands with cut-throughs, and I had taken a wrong turn to get there and so had no clear idea of which street I had come out on. I couldn’t easily backtrack. I don’t know the smaller roads in Boston at all. In a car I would have simply gotten on Route 2, which was right there, but Route 2 is far too big and freeway-like for bicycles. I had to find my way back to the route I had come in on, or find another road I knew, like Route 9 or Route 30. I realized that Ian and I had never even considered that I might need not only a route there, but also a route home.
I tried to call a friend who was at church and could get ahold of Ian for me, but as I placed the call, an REI employee came out and confirmed that, yes, the class had been canceled. They were afraid it was going to rain. She apologized and said they tried to call me. I’m ashamed to admit that I was very short with her when I pointed out that they had called at 8:30, not by 8:00 as promised. Perhaps something about the phrase “by 8am at the very latest” misled me into thinking that I would, oh, hear from them before 8:00, and that leaving after 8:00 would ensure that I could safely assume the class was on. At that point, although I didn’t say this to her, I decided I just wanted my original fee back. No more REI Outdoor School for me. Three times, with two REI cancellations, was too much. She apologized again, disavowed any participation in the Outdoor School program, and looked helpless (and maybe a little confused, perhaps asking herself, “How did you get here, if you don’t know how to get back?”) when I said I didn’t even know how to get home.
So I panicked a little bit. Then I left the REI and started riding, knowing that Ian couldn’t come rescue me — he was doing slides at church and wouldn’t get to our apartment until after 1:00. I was on my own. Here is the route I ended up riding. REI is at mile marker 25.
As you can see, I randomly wandered around, unwittingly passing incredibly close to my incoming route a couple of times. Eventually I stumbled upon Route 9 and rode on that for a while. Then, because Route 9 quickly becomes extremely bike-unfriendly, I turned off onto what looked like a promising road called Reservoir Street. This eventually lead me back to Beacon Street, which I joyfully recognized from my incoming trip.
The rest of the way (here is the route) I was actually able to follow my incoming tracks on my GPS, so I knew where to turn based on which roads I had taken on the way in. When I got over 128 (a road that is often considered to delineate Boston from near-Boston suburbs), I breathed a huge sigh of relief. The rest of the ride I simply endured, not really appreciating the pretty houses and flowing golf courses nearly as much as I had on the way in. Fortunately I had brought two full water bottles along, both of which I had finished by the time I got home.
When I passed Sudbury Farms, about 6 miles from home, I stopped and finally emptied my bladder; I had had to pee for about 46 miles at that point. On the way out I kept telling myself that I would handle that at the REI. Then I was so discombobulated I forgot to ask to use their bathroom. The positive side of stopping at Sudbury Farms was that I also bought and immediately consumed two of their really excellent croissants by way of recompense for all the misery I had just suffered.
I struggled the last 6 miles home — after a month and a half of rides no more than 30 miles long, 54 miles feels amazingly difficult — and was deeply grateful that Ian had reminded me to bring along a house key. I had almost forgotten, and that would have been really, truly miserable, waiting in
the 90°F, humid weather for an hour until Ian came home. I let myself in, showered, and consoled myself with The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay and taking pictures of the gladiolas I got with our CSA this week.
Oh – and by 4:00, despite a 50% to 70% chance of rain all day, not one drop of rain has fallen. It has been mostly sunny.