Monthly Archives: April 2012

The pirates of the Androscoggin

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21APR12

 

Mike bought an inflatable Kayak. An inflatable kayak. Let that sink in for a moment, if you will.

I mocked him mercilessly for being impetuous with random purchases, but to be honest I was amazed that he had found something that awesome and then had the foresight to actually acquire it.

When I first saw it on Friday, I was impressed first at how small it packed down, for a full Kayak, and secondly about how heavy the damn thing way… this isn’t some small air-mattress material, this Kayak was made out of some pretty stern stuff. Thirdly, I was impressed with how much stuff came with this Kayak… oars, a sail, inflatable seats, a pump, and a whole bag of extra goodies that you may or may not need someday, such as spare valves and rope and a patch kit. Anyways, we packed it all up into Mike’s tiny little Eclipse and headed up North to the Loj.

For the launch point of the Kayak’s maiden voyage (it was still unnamed at the time), we picked a small pull-off by a reservoir that was separated from the main Androscoggan river by a small set of train tracks. We figured that it’d be easier to launch and get used to the kayak itself in the calmer waters of the reservoir, instead of trying to navagate a river right off the bat. So we pulled out the pump and unrolled the kayak, filled up the seats and snapped the oars together. In all, I think it took us about half an hour to actually get the kayak from a “fully packed” state to a “totally sea-worthy” state… not bad, when you think about it.

And so we launched out into the clear water. At first our biggest challenge was learning how to paddle together, instead of simply smacking each others oars out of the air every time we tried to dig deep into the water. Once we had that figured out though, we went about getting used to the other unique things about an inflatable kayak – moving out seats around, re-adjusting the placement of our gear, and making sure that the camera we brought along wasn’t constantly towing behind us in the water (yes, it was waterproof).

Once we were finally settled in and used to the kayak, it was time to break out of the protected reservoir and start exploring the mighty river before us. Portaging the Kayak over the train tracks was actually quite easy, since it’s just filled with air, and so we were tearing down the main river in no time, Eastbound for the ocean. Except… we didn’t want to go to the ocean, and there was a huge dam set up across the river in front of us. Hmm. So after trying out the sail quickly (there wasn’t really enough wind to make it work), we stowed the mast away again, broke the paddles back out, and continued on our exploration of the river Westbound from where we had launched.

We paddled for a bit before noticing a pretty nice little portion of the bank that could work as a perfect boat launch, and decided to get out and stretch our legs a bit. We pulled the kayak up onto the bank, made sure it was far enough up and wouldn’t float away, and then hit the dusty trail. We didn’t hike too far, but it was a nice little excuse to work our legs instead of our arms, and there was some rather pretty scenery that we got to check out on the way around. But this is a kayaking adventure after all, and so before long we were back at the Kayak.

We ate a quick lunch of packed sandwich wraps, drank down some water, and relaxed in the sun for a little bit before pushing off the bank and back into the river. The exploration was getting a bit dull, until we noticed a little inlet off the starboard bow… either a stream or a little river feeding into the main river that we were on. Unfortunately, the first few stream-heads that we checked out didn’t go very far before either pettering out or becoming too choked up with branches and vines. But on our third attempt, we finally found one that appeared deep and wide enough to actually go a good ways in. And so, like all the great adventurers before us, we aimed the bow towards the stream and ventured inland.

We paddled and poled, using our oars to push ourselves along and to push submerged logs out of our way. We moved at a snails pace, but we did move… slowly but surely farther and farther into the bog that we found ourselves exploring. The stream kept alternating between open brackish waters and tightly claustrophobic sections enclosed by vines and fallen trees… but we pressed on until we finally came to the end, where the bog was fed by a few small mountain streams running in over the rocks. Here we moored the Kayak off a fallen tree, and disembarked to venture a bit farther on foot.

Our adventure inland didn’t go too far, but we did make it in far enough to find a few rather interesting cliffs, an inland marsh, and a whole ton of spent shotgun shells and a slew of destroyed pigeons (not the bird ones, but the clay things that you shoot with a shotgun). The area was connected to a small dirt road that some of the locals obviously use to come out, get drunk, and shoot stuff… and by the sounds of people yelling nearby, we had a feeling that Saturdays like today were their favorite time to come up and fill some random area’s with bird-shot. So, after maybe half an hour on land, we headed back to the kayak yet again, pushing off just as we saw a truckload of teenagers with shotguns rolling past above us.

By this time, the kayak had been officially named: “Bogmaster 3000”. Getting out of the bog proved to be much easier than getting in, probably because we had already poled away all of the main sunken logs, and smashed away the low-hanging dead branches that had blocked our path earlier. Before long we were back on the open waters, pushing westbound again.

We wanted to get as far west as we could before turning around, since the wind was heading east and we hoped to set the sail and let it take us back to where we had left the car. We still did a bit of exploring though, and had a few interesting run-ins along the way. First off, came my personal favorite quote of the weekend:

<upon seeing an inner-tube from a car tire washed up ashore>

“Avast Capt’n! If’n we commandeer that vessel, ye can be a Commodore instead of a Captain!”

Second off, we ran aground. Thankfully not completely, but we did run into shallow enough water that the current was too strong to keep us going, and the water wasn’t deep enough to really dig our paddles in… so we had to bail overboard and haul the kayak along. Yep.

After we finally brought ourselves out of the shallows we decided we’d come far enough, and so set the sail up and got ourselves ready to shred down the river. We were as ready as we thought we were, but when the first gust hit us, we didn’t know what to do. Mostly because that gust didn’t do anything. The sail billowed a bit, pulled on the ropes, and…. we barely moved. Actually, the Bogmaster spent more time spinning like a leaf down the river than tearing down like a sailboat. We never gave up on the sail completely, but to be honest we did spend move time steering the kayak back to straight than we spent having the wind pull us down the river… I think the current really did that.

But it was fun, and it was relaxing, and before too long we found ourselves back by our original launch point. We had hoped that coming back into the reservoir, without the current from the river, would let the wind carry us a bit better, but no such luck was to be had, and we ended up paddling our way back to our impromptu dock. We found some tree roots that formed perfect stairs, and so before long we had the Bogmaster 3000 all the way on the grass, ready for deflation and re-packing. A fun end to a rather stellar adventure-filled day.

A memory from the Midnight Marathon

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The title to this entry is a bit misleading… instead of a memory that I formed during the Midnight Marathon, these are memories that popped back into my head while I was riding. The ride up to the start line in Hopkinton was a rather remeniscent ride, to be honest, mostly since it was dark and there was really nothing to do besides pedal my way to Hopkinton. I rode, I thought, and I kept a little dialogue going on in my head in order to pass the time.

While riding to the start line, I had to do through a section of Medway that I hadn’t been in for ages… a section right near where my first real crush used to live. It’s a long story, but suffice it to say that we did something between hanging out and dating for two years, which alternated between amazing and hellish for me. When I finally manned up and told her that I couldn’t do it anymore unless we could actually be a couple… well, she went off and started sleeping with one of my oldest friends. But, fortunately, that is not the story that I remembered while riding through her old neighborhood. Instead, I remembered Halloween.

Stacy’s Mom has a fan.

Cut to Halloween of… 2002? 2003? I don’t really remember, but I do remember that it was amazing. I went trick-or-treating (shut it, even high-schoolers can and should go!) with a few good friends, and we decided to go around Lauren’s house, since it was a fairly nice neighborhood, and would likely give out great candy. We were a group of at least four – Myself, Lauren, a random girl, and two other guys who we used to hang out with. The costumes weren’t too important overall, except for what one of the guys was wearing – he was dressed as a woman in a towel, going as “Stacy’s Mom”. If you don’t know it, “Stacy’s Mom” is a song from around that time, where some kid is singing that his girlfriends (Stacy’s) mother is clearly hotter that her, and totally wants in on him.

So this kid (I think his name was Pat? Maybe?) was dressed up with fake blonde hair, fake breasts, and a tiny little towel. He was obviously a guy, and obviously doing a horrible job as a drag queen… but it looked funny to us. The problem arose when we ran into an older gentleman who couldn’t see very well, and thought that poor Pat was actually a girl walking around without any clothes on.

We went up to this house, did our usual “merry Christmas!” scream (we were so witty back then), and proceeded to accept candy. The strange thing here was that, while we usually got the evil eye for being “too old”, instead this man was being genuinely friendly. Very friendly. And mostly to Pat… offering extra candy. Not too creepy, but enough to be a bit… “umm what?” Until, that is, the other shoe dropped and the guy asked if Pat wanted to come inside to hang out for a little. He even went as far as to walking outside and trying to put his arm around poor Pat to usher him into the darkened house.

Needless to say, we all ran away screaming with laughter, assuming that Pat was following right behind. When we finally collapsed in a pile of giggling idiots a house or two away, we finally took a minute to get our bearings and start making fun of Pat for being mistaken for a girl. And that, right then, was when we realized that he wasn’t with us. That instead, he was still on the porch of the old man’s house, chatting animatedly with him. This, of course, brought more peals of laughter from us, continuing on until he finally shook the mans hand and walked back over to us.

“So, how was your date?”

“Ohh, you know… he’s a nice guy! We chatted for a bit about stuff…”

“Did he tell you how pretty you are?”

“Oh of course! I am the prettiest flower! Or at least better than ‘those flat-chested girls you hang out with’… according to him.”

“WHAT?!? I’M GOING TO KILL HIM! AND YOU!”

And then it was Pat’s turn to run, screaming with laughter.

The Boston Midnight Marathon

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15 APR

The Boston Society of Spontaneity. Also known as BostonSOS. A group that some people have heard of, but who’s exploits almost everyone has heard of – The annual Pillow Fight, the Ministry of Silly Walks day, and the subject of my latest adventure… The Midnight Marathon.

Pretty much everyone knows about the Boston Marathon. A run from Hopkinton to Boston, which is technically not considered an “official marathon” due to its slight overall downhill slope and the fact that it’s a nearly-straight line, thus allowing wind to have a major affect on a runners time. I’ve never run it, and honestly have no intention on running it… but when I heard about the Midnight Marathon where a whole slew of people bike the Marathon… well now, that’s something I decided that I could get in on.

And so, at 11:15 on a Sunday night (April 15th, to be exact) I drank down one last glass of water, ate one last banana, and hopped on the bike. The first leg of my ride was a quick 10mile ride from my folks place to the starting line. Not the shortest ride ever, but right at that perfect distance that I would have felt silly getting a ride. I figured that it would be a good way to warm myself up and get my muscles ready for the 26+ miles of the actual marathon. That, and I knew that I’d have at least 15min from when I arrived to when the rest of the pack arrived via train from Boston.

The ride went nice and smoothly, though I will admit that the sheer number of hills between my folks place and the start of the Marathon got very old, very fast. I dislike hills… especially when I’m riding on a bike that I had packed down with a full overnight kit: sleeping bag, pad, first aid kit, water, rain gear and clothes. It’s a failing of mine, but I always make sure to pack pretty much everything that I think I may need – I’d prefer to arrive at my destination out of breath, than not arrive at all because there was an emergency on the trail and I didn’t have what I needed.

Even with the extra weight, my bike and I made good time out to Hopkinton, arriving just a bit before midnight. A fast 10miles, and something that I was quite proud of when I arrived. After picking a spot by the starting line to stash my bike, I went on the prowl to make a few new friends. I met people, I chatted, I joked around about how slow the train was taking, and generally just relaxed and et my legs take a quick rest before the main event.

That rest ended up going clean from 11:50 through until 01:15, when Daniel finally arrived with the main pack. I learned that the train had been over-filled WAY past capacity, and it took them nearly an hour to simply unload once they finally reached their destination. But thankfully the train seemed to have let people off in stages, and so by the time Daniel and I were ready to hit the starting line, there wasn’t much of a line ahead of us to go.

One of the cops nearby must have started the official timer clock, and so Daniel and I logged our starting in at exactly 01:18 on Monday morning. We took off at a fairly leisurely pace, trying to save our energy for the major hills nearly the end of the track. I had trouble with this though, since I’ve never been good at pacing myself, and so we found ourselves rocketing past huge packs of cyclists as we tore towards Boston. For my defense, most of the people doing the Marathon besides ourselves were your standard-issue hipster – people riding slow and chilled, and very likely more stoned than a heretic in ancient times.

And so… we made good time. Slowing down every so often to chat with people that we knew, Daniel and I shot the shit and pedaled onwards, ever closer to the finish line. We were going strong… that is, until we hit the I-95 belt surrounding the city. That was when the hills started, and when I realized that I was running very near to empty on energy. Don’t get me wrong, I am a strong cyclist… but it’d been months since I’d biked regularly, and a few weeks since I’d done any real long rides. And when I realized how far we still had to go… well, I started crapping out. My legs burned, my lungs ached, and I could barely find the reserves to push on anymore.

Thankfully, I wasn’t alone, and I was NOT going to let some useless hipster finish a race that I could not. With Daniel always slightly ahead of me, and the enemy always slightly behind, I kept pushing. Over heartbreak hill, through Boston College, and even past where I used to live, I pushed. I just kept pedaling until I found myself right in front of that last turn, where the Marathon moves into its last few hundred yards.

And there, I burned. I knew the finish was at hand. I knew I had barely any energy left. And I knew that I was NOT going to give up. I kept telling myself, “Leave nothing on the table… burn those last bits of energy on the finish”… and so, I sprinted. I went from a crawling 5 or 6 mph to nearly 17mph (I’d guess) in a block, and kept that pace until I finally crossed the finish line.

One Hour, Fifty Seven Minutes, and Twenty One seconds.

01:57:21.

Starting at 01:18, and finishing at 03:15. I had beaten my goal of two hours, and I could barely move. But ohh, was it worth it. As I sat there catching my breath, Daniel and I joked about the harder parts, talked about some of the cool bikes we had seen, and just rested in our accomplishment. After I could walk again (Be quiet, it only took a few minutes) we started circulating with all the other finishers, chatting and seeing who we knew. I got a chance to catch up with a few awesome NUHOC people, talk with some other cyclist friends I hadn’t seen since I got back from New Zealand, and even make a few new friends; some of which traded me a partial bag of Doritos for me taking a few pictures of them. Nice.

After a bit though, we started looking the high from finishing. Daniel started taking fewer pictures, then started walking slower, and by that point neither of us wanted anything more than a glass of milk and a warm bed. So we said our goodbyes to everyone, turning down more than a few “post marathon dinner” offers, and headed back to his place where I had a couch waiting for me. I took a quick shower (one of the best I’ve had in months), and was asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow.

16 APR

When I woke up, it was just about 10:30. We had planned on meeting a friend of ours, Emma, for breakfast at 11:30, so Daniel and I quickly got dressed, stretched sore muscles out, and got ready to get some well-earned pancakes. Unfortunately the place we had planned on going to was closed for “Marathon Monday”, AKA Patriots Day (A Mass-only holiday celebrating the battles at Lexington and Concord). So we picked up Emma at her place, and headed out of the city to find somewhere open. We ended up at an amazing diner that’s supposedly one of Bostons iconic places… though for the life of me I can’t remember the name. No matter what it was called though, it was delicious.

I had the usual massive breakfast of Pancakes, Bacon, Eggs, Toast, and Potatoes with Coffee… Though instead of not being able to move, like normal after I finish a breakfast of that size, instead I felt like I needed a bit more. I didn’t want to over-eat though, especially since Leg 3 was still ahead of me – getting back to Medway. You see… I could have taken a train back out, but why? It was a holiday Monday, and I didn’t have any reason to rush home.

Combining an amazing day, with a whole slew of new books that Daniel had lent me for my Kindle, and adding in a nice long bike ride… well that’s my definition of excellent. A ride that would usually take me less than two hours took me nearly four hours that day, leaving Daniels place around 02:00 and arriving right before my Step-Dad got home at six. It was heavenly.

I split the ride into three parts – Boston to the Arboretum, Arboretum to the Bridge, and Bridge to Home. At the Arboretum I took a nice long break and did some reading in the sun before popping my iPod on and pushing onwards again. Didn’t I mention? I had found an iPod speaker system and made a special “marathon play list”, but hadn’t been able to use it because of some drizzle at the start of the race the night before. So thanks to this, I had a nice soundtrack to rock home to – starting out heavy with Metallica and Rise Against, and then getting a bit more mellow with Live and Angels & Airwaves near the end. I have to say, I made one hell of an excellent soundtrack for the ride, even if it wasn’t the ride I had intended it for.

The second leg of the ride went just as nicely as the first – I took my time, didn’t press myself hard, and generally took the time to admire the scenery. As strange as it sounds, I wasn’t tired… My legs were a bit sore, but nothing too bad, or too distracting… just enough to remind me that I had just biked 36miles less than 18 earlier.

And so I kept up the pace of biking, reading, and the biking some more. I ran into a few… unique… situations, such as when a woman in a black Chevy kept pace with me for nearly a mile, yelling something out her window to me, before motioning me to pull over. Needless to say, I ignored everything and just kept biking… almost always the safest bet I’ve learned, especially when you can’t tell if she’s hitting on you or yelling at you. To be honest, I’m still torn between whether she was propositioning me, or telling me to ride on the sidewalk… She was making a lot of slightly unique gestures, but none of which made sense when combined with the other ones, so I’m just going to assume that she was a bit nuts, and move on.

Aside from Chevy-lady, and an old Grandma who literally stopped and stared at me as I rode by, I didn’t have any trouble with the ride back to Medway. I did take one extra stop near the end to get a bite of lunch though… and no matter how good of a writer I become, I will never be able to explain how delicious those chicken wings were, or how quenching that Gatorade was. It was heaven… and I spent a good twenty minutes extra just enjoying the sunlight on my happily-stuffed face.

But all things come to an end, and so did this ride. On lightly-cramping legs I coasted into the garage back home, and after saying hi to the parents and giving them a quick synopsis of the ride, I quickly went to get changed, get showered, and get ready for dinner.