Wednesday, May 21, 2003

The Long Ride Home

Last night and this morning, I made my first bicycle commute between Marlborough and home, a 48-mile round trip. That means that in the past 15 hours I commuted further than I did in most weeks when I worked in Cambridge. I don't think I'll be doing this every day, but once a week isn't so bad. I drove the bike out here yesterday morning, along with a change of clothes and anything else I might need today, then rode home last night and back out this morning. Thank goodness for the fitness center and its towel service, so all I had to do was drag my sweaty carcass into the locker room and shower, without having to pack all the toiletries in and out on my bike.

For the record, I thought of doing this to make my long commute manageable before Bicycling magazine suggested it. And while I realize that Bike to Work Week was last week, I opted for Bike to Work in the Sun Week, instead. I am a fair-weather activist, at best.

I learned a few things on my long ride there and back again, which will be presented, as always, in bulleted form:

  • 24 miles is a long way to go first thing in the morning.

  • While Route 20 may be the only east-west route from Marlborough into Boston, it is not the prettiest. It's like riding on the edge of a highway. Wait, it is a highway! That would explain some of the honking when I took the lane.

  • All of Eastern Massachusetts slopes down toward the ocean. This may not sound profound, and I know that all land masses tend statistically downward from the mountains to the ocean. Eastern Mass, however, has a perceptible tilt to it.

  • When you're hungry, you forget that a Clif Bar looks like a foil-wrapped turd and you start to think of it as the greatest treat you could put in your mouth. Not that this makes it any easier to choke down when you have no saliva left. (Hey, I didn't promise these would all be pretty.)

  • The Sudbury River stinks, especially when it has been left out in the sun all day. Ditto for large raccoons.

  • There is a lot more roadkill out there than you notice going by in a car.

  • Big trucks would rather crowd a bike than oncoming traffic. I guess I already knew this, but the lesson is driven home in a new way when the truck in question is going 50 mph (don't tell my wife that one).

  • A reverse commute is not as advantageous on a bike as in a car. At least when the traffic is heavier, it also moves more slowly. I suspect that many of the cars on my side of the road were so enjoying taunting their jammed brethren with their speed that they forgot to look ahead. That, or people are idiots no matter which direction they are driving.


I also got to see some interesting scenery. Until now, I had the impression that the further west you went, the nicer the towns were, by virtue of a sort of general suburban effect. Turns out I was wrong, and there is a fairly seedy section sandwiched between the historic burbs of Sudbury and Marlborough. According to the map it's part of Marlborough, but you wouldn't know it from riding through it. They even spell the name of the town differently: "Marlboro." I figured that either Philip Morris (pardon me: "Altria") got a sweet endorsement deal or else the folks on the lo-rent side of town couldn't afford the extra silent letters. Either way, I plan to stop in at "Psychic Readings by Cindy" on my next ride and ask her if she can sense a more scenic route that won't take me 10 miles out of my way.

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