The Northeastern crew reunited: Dee, Chris, Karen, Josh, Kelly, Jessica, Lisa and Bob
One of the treats of this two-month adventure has been the chance to connect the dots of so many of my past lives. I enjoyed a wonderful dose of reconnecting Thursday night, thanks to a reunion of former Northeastern University colleagues.
Jessica Treadway organized the evening and hosted us at the Lexington home she shares with her husband, Phil. Three decades ago, I was editing the university’s alumni magazine and Karen Feldscher was editing the faculty/staff newspaper. We hired Jessica as one of our staff writers. We had good taste; Jessica has since published five novels to great acclaim and teaches writing at Emerson.
We shared lots of laugh last night, including rehashing the stories Bob loves to hear about me stalking That Guy Bob down the hall in our office building and reporting back to my coworkers on our brief hellos when we passed in the hall.
Thanks for a great night of laughs and memories and catching up, Jessica
This morning we said goodbye to Mark and Laurie, our hosts these last two days in Belmont, and rode off with another dear old friend: Andy McClurg. I met Andy at my first job in Boston, at the Metropolitan Area Planning Council. He and I and a few other MAPC guys took great bike rides out of Boston. Dee joined us for s few once I had left MAPC for Northeastern and met her.
Andy is now the transportation planner for Sasaki in Watertown. He told us about his latest work in Ho Chi Minh City when we stopped for coffee in Assembly Square, after a leisurely ride along the Charles River and along a beautiful new Greenway connection to Charlestown. It’s fascinating work involving modern skyscrapers and preserving urban housing for the working class.
When I think of my brief time at MAPC, I picture shelves and shelves of regional urban plans growing dusty with no means of executing any of them. I’m happy to think that Andy and I are both in more satisfying workplaces these days.
We said goodbye to Andy when the Northern Strand Community Trail, also known as the Bike to the Sea Trail, turned to gravel, too rough for his tires. The rest of our ride, a total of 35 miles to Salem, was largely on greenways, paved and dirt. In Lynn we rode on a Greenway along the water with a view back to the Boston skyline. On yet another stunning dry and bright day, it was a beautiful ride.
Dee on the Greenway in Lynn, with the Boston skyline behind her
Dee’s friend Arnold is our host in Salem. He’s holding Windex, proof that he cleaned the window in our guest room. He took us to dinner in Beverly with friends of his this evening; he can’t believe we are desperate to go to bed at 9:30 pm.
Morning at Truro Harbor
My husband tells me these blog posts are becoming too predictable. “Let’s see,” he told us this afternoon at Mark’s house in Belmont. “You’ll say, ‘It was a glorious day, and we met these Greenway people who were nice to us.’”
Bob’s pretty much got it, although we barely met anyone today, sorry to say.... But it was another spectacularly beautiful day as we headed up to the top of the Cape and on to Boston via the ferry.
Chairman Bob obligingly got up early and led us up the last six or seven miles of the Cape Cod Rail Trail and then on up to Provincetown, with our friend John joining us for the ride. It was beautiful, even when we turned onto the roads — they were quiet and pretty, twisting and turning and giving us views of the ocean, ponds, and cottages.
The ride from Eastham to the Provincetown ferry is almost exactly a marathon, 26.2 miles. We stopped with seven miles to go at Savory/Sweet Escape on Route 6, another of Bob’s favorite coffee shop/ice cream/pizza places for coffee and scones. We will have to come another time for the lavender and fig ice cream.
The high-speed ferry — 90 minutes to Boston — was a treat, as most ferries are. I sat out on the front deck for the last half hour and took in Boston Harbor: the islands, a fishing boat, a few sailboats and a big schooner, another ferry, and planes landing at Logan Airport.
Our ferry pulled into the pier area, much built up in recent years. Mark led us deftly through the noontime weekday traffic, up to Boston Common and down to the Esplanade paths along the Charles River. People were out everywhere— office workers on lunch break, tourists visiting downtown.
Riding the bike path on the Charles on such a gorgeous day nearly overwhelmed me. This was where Dee and I ran at lunchtime from our jobs at Northeastern and trained on weekends for our first marathon, Boston in 1985. This is where I walked and ran with Bob as we started dating, and where I pushed Kate in a baby stroller when she was just a few weeks old. So many memories, such an accessible city.
Loading our bikes on the ferry in Provincetown. Chairman Bob left a phone message for me that, although most people do it incorrectly, we were supposed to park our bikes rear first. Next time!
We hit the streets of Beantown. The temperature was easily 10 to 15 degrees warmer in the city than on the Cape.
We spotted the East Coast Greenway sign as soon as we hit the Charles River Bike Path, a warm welcome from an old friend.
We rode on up the river to Harvard Square, also a long familiar playground for each of us three over the years (Bob worked at Harvard years ago, Mark’s wife Laurie works there now, and Dee visited the square often— including our dinners at Au Bon Pain before a concert or movie.) After a perfect lunch of salads and lemonade, sitting in the shade in a park, we rode on to Mark and Laurie’s home in Belmont. Total miles travelled today by bike: 37. Years, decades, life phases revisited: too many to count.
Bob flew in this morning to Boston. I’m looking forward to two nights and a day of visiting with him at Mark and Laurie’s house, with Dee, before we begin our last week of riding. Yikes! The emotions!
We said goodbye to Poyee today after she rode with us to Eastham. Her three days of riding were her first back-to-back days on a bike; we think she’s hooked.
How can a day with a short ride, 37 miles, be so full? When it’s full of friends and laughs, I guess.
It was another gorgeous day on Cape Cod. The air felt like fall again, dry and clear and breezy. It’s actually the calm before the start of the summer season here, a fine time to visit.
It was a treat for me, Dee, and Mark to start our day with a short yoga session led by Poyee in the living room of our Cottage. Then we cleaned up the house and headed out, with Mark leading us on a tour of Hyannisport to point out the Kennedy compound. It made me surprisingly sad to ride by the grey shingled homes, thinking about our current administration and where our country is headed.
A view of the ocean from Hyannisport
We stopped near the Bass River in Dennis to say hi to a couple who went on Semester at Sea in 2017 with Dee. Just down the street from their house we turned onto the Cape Cod Rail Trail, a beautiful Greenway with plenty of bike traffic on a Tuesday morning in June.
A few miles down the trail we met Bob Spiegelman, who chairs the board of the East Coast Greenway Alliance — my boss’s boss. We’ve been referring to him as Chairman Bob, to distinguish him from my Bob. Poyee, who is Chinese, told me this morning, “I’m afraid I’m going to call him Chairman Mao.”
We told Chairman Bob we were hungry, so he led us down the trail another four miles or so to a terrific cafe and bakery, Eat Cake 4 Breakfast. Halfway there we had the fun surprise of meeting John Blakeslee, a friend of Dee and Sally’s from Providence who we had talked about meeting up with tomorrow.
In true Forrest Gump fashion, John rode along with all of us to the bakery, then another few miles to his house. The John Knowles house, circa 1700, has been in John’s family all those years. He showed us around the house, including the small building where his grandmother once sold candy and postcards to travelers passing by.
Visiting the John Knowles house with John, a descendant
The lovely stand-alone screened porch at John’s house
We rode on to Bob’s house, our stay for the night, where we said goodbye to Poyee, who has to teach yoga in Providence tomorrow. I tagged along with Bob to run a few errands by bike — the fish store and ice cream shop for dinner.
Bob kindly invited John for dinner. It was a lovely evening with Bob, his wife Truda, Mark, John and Dee. After dinner we walked to the bay to watch the sun set over the water— beautiful, but the gnats were frightful — and home for ice cream and more laughs.
Laughing with Chairman Bob. His bad jokes are a little funnier in person than they are by email at work.
With Truda, Bob, and Mark at the beach
Underneath the railroad bridge, beginning the five or so miles of greenway along the Cape Cod Canal before we crossed the Sagamore Bridge
When New Englanders think about taking a trip to Cape Cod, they have to factor in the time of day they will be driving and what that will mean for bridge traffic. “The bridge” for travelers from Boston and points north is the Sagamore, which crosses the Cape Cod Canal from the mainland to Sandwich. It’s only two lanes each way and clogs easily. Our concern for crossing to the Cape today was not traffic — we were the only cyclists taking the bridge — but that it’s a high bridge with one pedestrian sidewalk and some of us don’t really enjoy that experience. Check the photo below and guess which one of us — hint, it’s not Dee, who snapped photos the whole time she was crossing. Another hint: Most people who don’t enjoy high bridges tend to look down, to a place a few feet in front of them, while telling themselves reassuring things like “at least there’s no open grating on the sidewalk.”
Dee met Kevin on the canal path, who had just caught this striped bass and was winded from climbing with it up the hill from the water’s edge.
We had a pretty ride this morning from South Dartmouth through New Bedford, the one-time whaling port. We rode across a bridge (a nice flat little bridge) with a great view of the city’s fishing fleet and on into Fairhaven. There we picked up a delightful greenway for about four miles, paralleling Route 6 with a view of the water and sweet-smelling wildflowers. A rest stop at a Dunkin Donuts in Wareham gave us the energy to tackle the bridge at about mile 37 — not that any of us was studying her odometer as another distraction to cross the bridge.
In all honesty, I got a little tears crossing that Sagamore Bridge, thinking back to the dreaded Seven Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys on the first day of this trip. We have come so far — roughly 2,300 miles — and seen so much. The green, nauseous, and slightly delirious cyclist I was that day in Florida feels seasoned now, stronger and more grounded about challenges like headwinds and bridges. Of course, it was helpful to walk across the Sagamore —walking adds to the grounded sense, less challenging than balancing on two wheels while imagining you could fall off the edge.
So we have made it to the Cape. We rode 56 miles today, the last 10 or so on a service road paralleling Route 6 with no traffic and nice rolling hills. I think we are going to eat our way from west to east. We stopped for lunch and coffee at a cafe in Sandwich, ice cream at Mark’s favorite place in Centerville, and now the grocery for provisions for Mark’s sister’s house. She has a sweet 1930s wood-paneled cottage in Craigville, a little village in Centerville within walking distance of the beach and close to Hyannis. A gusty wind has been blowing all afternoon and clouds are moving in, setting up for the possibility of falling asleep to a nice rainstorm. After dinner, of course, and maybe dessert.
Leavjng Providence on the Greenway: Dee, Sabra, Mark, Kristen, Linda and Poyee
After a delightful rest day at Sally and Dee’s in Lincoln, Sally sent us off this morning with an amazing spread of food and the company of more than a dozen friends that she welcomed for breakfast.
In fine Forrest Gump fashion, seven of us biked away from Dee and Sally’s house bound for Providence and the start of the East Bay Bike Path.
The day was sparkling, it couldn’t have been more beautiful — the air dry, the sun bright, the smells of flowers and saltwater sweet and strong. The East Bay Bike Path was as stunning as ever — I’ve biked it a few times over the last 25 years or so and if remains a favorite, with pretty views of Narragansett Bay and tidal ponds.
We said goodbye to Sabra and Linda at Warren, where we left the bike path and headed east for Massachusetts (state 13!) and Fall River.
Our picnic in Fall River at mile 25 featured morning glory muffins and other snacks from Sally
The rest of today’s 50 miles were mostly on quiet roads taking us through Westport to South Dartmouth, just west of New Bedford. We are following the Greenway’s complementary route to Boston via Cape Cod. Riding with us the next few days are Mark Neylon, a friend of 35 years from my UMass days, and Poyee Oster, a running and yoga friend of Dee’s.
The four of us are staying at the home of Mary and Peter Kavanaugh. It’s a gorgeous place looking out over the river to the village of Padanaram. Mary is the sister of Joan Fontaine, a friend of Mark’s and mine from college. Mark and I visited the Fontaine house in New Bedford a few times in college and after.
Peter and Mary drove us into New Bedford tonight for dinner, sparking memories from three decades ago that are good for my brain, I’m sure. I love the interconnections: Mary went to Providence College, where Dee taught for decades. And while telling stories over dinner, I realized it was Peter’s connection that helped me land my first job out of college at the US Yacht Racing Union in Newport, RI.
It’s a small world. I’m grateful for all the opportunities I’m having on this trip to connect the dots of my past. Along with all the new friends we’ve made, it’s a heady, rich experience.
Dinner at Moby Dick with Mary and Peter and the view from their backyard (below)
A highlight of our day off yesterday was an 8 am yoga class on the dock at India Point, taught by JoEllen Hockenbrough of Providence Power Yoga. It was yet another beautiful day. More than sixty of us gathered at the river to stretch, breathe, and feel the sunshine on our faces. A few years ago JoEllen led a PPY yoga retreat in Costa Rica that I tagged along on with Dee and Sally, so it was fun to see her again — and my hips and IT bands appreciated her class.
* Our friend Barb Amodio in Connecticut suggested that we skip the day number that comes after 44 in protest of our nation’s current leadership. We thought she made a good point.
Rainy day on the Trestle Trail headed for Providence
Our amazing lucky streak of avoiding rain broke today. We were in and out of light rain from the time we left our motel this morning through the afternoon. Rain makes navigating more challenging because we don’t have covers for our phones. But we have rest stops, of course.
You can almost hear the squeak of our brakes to turn off our route because, Cumberland Farms: a dry place to check our navigation and 99 cent coffee.
In all other respects, however, we are lucky ducks. Of our 58 miles today, more than 25 were on greenways: the Quinebaug River Trail in Connecticut and 19 miles of the Washington Secondary Rail-Trail stretching from Coventry to West Warwick, Warwick and Cranston. It made for easy, pleasant riding despite the cool rain. Of the 15 states along the East Coast Greenway, Rhode Island has the highest percentage of its miles complete — 63 percent. Today we experienced what that feels like: riding for nearly two hours without worrying about traffic or navigation.
Much as we work to stay in the present and savor each day, a sign like this reminds us we are closing in on our destination.
At about 26 miles, feeling cold and wet and hungry, we arrived at the home of M’lyn, a friend of Dee and Sally’s. She lives a mile off the route and just over the Rhode Island line. What an exquisite treat: she handed us towels to dry off, let me throw my wet clothes in her dryer, and invited us to her dining table laden with banana bread, cheddar cornbread, yogurt and fruit, and a big pot of coffee. And fine conversation. We reluctantly pulled ourselves up from her table after an hour and a half. It started raining again a few miles after leaving M’lyn, but we were warmed and well fed.
Our lunch host M’lyn with her friend Jonathan.
Quintessential Rhode Island scene: beautiful old factory seen from the greenway
Our route into Providence took us down Broadway, where Dee was delighted to see Leo of Dash Bicycle, the shop where she bought her Kona Rove for this trip.
Headed into Providence
Coming home! Greeting Sally at the driveway in Lincoln. It’s been almost six weeks since we said goodbye to her in Florida. We’ll enjoy a rest day in Lincoln with Sally before heading out for our last two weeks of riding.
Click the link below to watch an animated map of most of our route today:
Passing the state capitol in Bushnell Park in downtown Hartford with Rob early this morning
Well, I guess riding the East Coast Greenway can’t always be fun and games like it has been of late, and like it was for most of today. That’s what I was thinking as we started riding the last 25 or so of our 68 miles today. We were suddenly alone after having riding company — at one point as many as seven of us — since we left Rob’s house with him this morning. People, all of them strong cyclists, had warned us this was going to be a tough day, perhaps the toughest hills of all on the Greenway. Those kinds of warnings can do a number on me, mentally, even building a knot in my stomach.
Sure enough, when we left our last stretch of greenway with our new friend Donna and hit the shoulder of busy Route 6, we started climbing. She turned back home a bit later and we turned on to Old Route 6 and started climbing more. After a sparkling sunny morning, clouds were building and the wind had picked up. Finally, at mile 60, we stopped for a breather at the gates to an old mansion, part of Pomfret Academy. We thought we had 10 more miles to go and the hills must get really bad, because so far they really had only been rolling climbs. Google bike map gave us the good news that we only had seven miles to go, not 10, and we rolled into the little town of Putnam both thinking, that wasn’t so bad.
Years ago, Dee and I did a week’s ride around Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks. We did some serious climbing then. One climb I remember well was ascending a small mountain to get to the town of Lake Placid. Rolling into that town, where flags were flying like they must have been when the Olympics were held there, felt victorious, and transformational. I learned to stop doubting my strength on the bike, because every day and every hill made me stronger. By the end of that week, I knew I could bike up anything (except those stubby little hills that come up too suddenly and make me feel like I will fall over; I have walked up a few of those on this trip).
All of which is to say, today was no Lake Placid, I’m happy to report. And if today’s route had the hardest hills on the Greenway, then Dee and I are golden for these last two weeks of our trip.
Greenway people are the coolest. Dee felt bad for sending her greenway shirt on home early in our trip so she couldn’t be cool like us today: Greenway Ambassadors Barb Amodio, Rob Dexter, and Beverly Duncan with me and Bill O’Neill, an early leader in the East Coast Geeenway’s formation, at a park on the Charter Oak Greenway in Manchester, CT — one of the earliest designated segments of the ECG.
But about the fun and games! Rob gave us a great tour of downtown Hartford along the Greenway on a sparkling early morning, another day that felt like fall, the air bright and dry. We crossed the Connecticut River on a beautiful pedestrian bridge and rode along the river on the East Hartford side on a pretty greenway. We hit the Charter Oak Greenway soon after and met up, at mile 20, with Barbara Amodio and Beverly Duncan.
What fun these two women are. They truly love the Greenway. They met as teachers and started taking adventures together; their bike trips have only increased since their retirement. They have been loyal riders on the Greenway’s Week a Year Tour and they have traveled to attend regional East Coast Greenway Alliance meetings. They travel and ride together so often — now on matching bright orange Surly bikes — that they respond when people call them by the other’s name.
Barb is clear, however, that the Hop River Trail on the Greenway belongs to her, and that it’s the best segment of the whole route. I love the passion and ownership that Greenway volunteers assume about their favorite sections of trail. They monitor its condition, plan rides and other events to get more people out on it, and advocate tirelessly for any missing connectors to extend the route. But I have to say, Barb’s Hop River Trail really is spectacular, with a firm crushed stone surface and towering trees on either side, stone walls and ferns off in the woods. We got a sneak peek (by ignoring the “construction, don’t enter” signs) of a beautiful new entry to the trail that will open this fall, cutting off a major hill on the road through Bolton Notch. Clean living.
Barb shows us her bulletin board at a trailhead on her trail, the Hop River, which truly is a wonderful stretch of greenway.
The Forrest Gump phenomenon was in full effect today. At the start of the Hop River Trail, Don Lomnicky from Willimantic joined our group of five. He has discovered bike riding as he recovers from a bad motorcycle accident. He has lost 60 pounds as he gets ready for hip surgery. He rode with us to Willimantic, telling us that our trip inspires him to try bike touring.
Then, a few miles before Willimantic, Donna Koenig joined us on the trail. Donna lives in Lebanon, CT, and chairs her town’s committee that built and now monitors its seven miles of the Air Line Trail South. She is friends with Rob, Barb, and Bev from past Week a Year tours. She missed last fall’s tour because her husband died suddenly just before the trip. And now she is caring for her mother. That’s a lot to handle in a year, but Donna is a retired phys ed teacher and struck me as strong, inside and out.
A few of our Forrest Gump gang: Barb, Don, and Donna.
Barb and Bev at lunch in Willimantic — in their cool Greenway jerseys, which Dee could be wearing if she hadn’t lightened her panniers load weeks ago.
After a fun lunch in the former post office building in Willimantic, we said goodbye to Bev and Barb. Rob rode on a bit more and then headed home after checking out the blue heron rookery that Donna pointed out for us at the start of the northern Air Line State Park Trail. And Donna rode on with us to the end of that trail, turned onto Route 6 and headed north with us a while before turning back to catch the trail home.
So there we were, suddenly alone after so much fun company, and climbing hills that we believed would just get worse. And we were headed to a roadside motel that our friends kept telling us would be sketchy, from their Week a Year experience. Turns out the place has had a fresh facelift and we are comfortably settled here. So you just never know.
Tomorrow we enter our 12th state, Rhode Island, and Dee’s home in Lincoln. Exciting! Hope we can sleep!
Rob with one of the hundreds of Greenway signs he has installed across Connecticut. He’s particularly proud of this one because he came up with a way to hang it on the chain link fence.
Our hero today was Rob Dexter, an East Coast Greenway volunteer extraordinaire in Connecticut. Rob left his home in West Hartford at the crack of dawn to meet us on the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail. The trail began within our first mile of leaving Sarah’s house in New Haven, right on the Yale campus, and stretches some 80 miles north to Northampton, Mass., with just a few gaps along the way. It’s a remarkable stretch of greenway with a nearly steady canopy of tree cover and amenities just off the trail in the small towns we passed.
But back to Rob. I met him last fall when he biked a number of long days for the Greenway’s East Coast River Relay. His relay legs were about the only ones with bad weather, yet he always had a smile on his face. A great athlete, he races on skis in the winter and bikes and plays tennis in the summer. He teaches boy scouts to bike and coaches young skiers. On bike tours for the Greenway, he often rides sweep, making sure slower cyclists don’t get lost — or discouraged. And he has singlehandedly installed Greenway directional signs across the state, a painstaking job that we benefitted from as soon as we crossed into Connecticut a few days ago. In short, he’s a good guy.
We were happy for Rob’s cheerful company and his local trail knowledge. That is, until he starting telling us about the hills ahead of us, today and tomorrow. That’s enough of that kind of talk. He’s aware of how much coffee we’ve been drinking on this trip so he led us to a couple rest stops. One of them was a newer store backing up to the Greenway. Rob thought it might be a Dairy Queen, with just a connecting path and bike racks visible. Turns out it was a Cumberland Farms convenience store. You should have seen Dee’s delight! She has “Cumbys” at homein Rhode Island and has their phone app for special deals. And coffee, all sizes, $1!
Happy camper at a brand new Cumberland Farms on the Greenway
All day we dodged rain, amazingly, but we couldn’t avoid a few hills. The Greenway turns east at Simsbury and leaves the Farmington Canal trail. One large hill (“just remember the little engine that could,” Rob told me) took us up, then down into Bloomfield. We rode through the edge of Hartford before turning to ride to Rob’s home in West Hartford, including a quick tour of the downtown, which seems to be thriving.
We had one more big hill to climb to get to Rob’s house. It was worth it when we saw the view from his back deck, part of the home renovation work he and his wife, Claire, took on over the last few years. Looking east, they have a stunning view of the Hartford skyline and a ridge of hills behind it.
And yes, that ridge of hills is where we are headed tomorrow. Slow and steady, like the little engine.
Claire and Rob served dinner with a view on their deck, with the Hartford skyline in the distance
A small stretch of Greenway and (below) the largest tree in Connecticut, a sycamore