Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Ride to Wachusett: Climb to the Clouds Century (7/15/12)

atop Mt. Wachusett

"The needles of the pine 
All to the west incline"
~Thoreau "A Walk to Wachusett"

Ride: Climb to the Clouds Century
Route: Lincoln-Sudbury High School -> Mt. Wachusett -> Lincoln-Sudbury High School
Distance: 100 Miles (104.98 with various side stuff) / 144 miles on the day
Goal Time: 7:30:00
Actual Time: 8:33:21

Mountains sit upon the horizon and and rest upon the sky like indistinct signs of the gods embrace.  Throughout the pages of history and myth mountains have been allusions to grandeur and sacredness.  With Homer we have sat upon Mt. Olympus and with Virgil we roamed the Apennine Mountains between Rome and Ravenna.  Myths carried us to Qamata's giants at Table Mountain and reminded us of Zhang Sanfeng and ODB in the Wudang Shang. While in more modern days, Mallory attempted to climb Everest "because it's there."

170 years ago this week, Thoreau wrote of his journey to Central Massachusetts' great mount:

But special I remember thee,
Wachusett, who like me
Standest alone without society.

So on a sunny warm July morn I mounted my trustee steed bearing the name of one of Homer's Olympian era heroes.  Ajax Telemon carried me from Cambridgeport up the not so mighty Charles.  Riding up to Waltham along the beautiful but sleep trails of the still river and Blue Heron trail.  And then over hills and past the farms - with many a huggable sheep - of Concord and Lincoln into the high school.

After signing in I was ready to make my pilgrimage.  I set out on my hajj to the Massachusetts cyclist's Mt. Hira.  I passed rapidly through Sudbury, Hudson and Bolton.  And at twenty miles on from the start of the official ride while climbing George Hill Road overlooking the valley of Lancaster, a POP and a hisssssss forced me to stop.  My tire had popped again.  Fortunately for me there was a mobile bike mechanic parked not 200 yards ahead.  For 30 bills and 45 minutes lost, he replaced my tube and tire and repaired my gears so I could make the ride.

Losing the group which whom I'd been during my mechanical stop created both a physical and mental block.  Hindered without the drafting wind physically slower I went.  Now at the end of the pack, mentally I was lost on the alone on the road.  At the general store in Sterling Center I watched those on the shorter 80 mile ride turn away from the mountain hajj as I purchased Gatorade and Oreos.

At the foot of Mile Hill Road with Wachusett Lake upon my left, I caught two others stopped who were on the ride.  "Look," one said, "Mountain."  And there stood the imposing 2000 foot monadnock.  In its apex of summer verdancy, the ski slopes looked as gashes torn out of the old growth for now quiet chair lifts leading to the summit.

I could get no farther into Kabir than
"the impossible Pass of Ram"
Away from the lake bearing the mountain's name, Mile Hill Road was a relentless climb.  Past the ski area's sleepy lodge, still I climbed.  Past another rider red with sun and sweat, still I climbed.  And upon the right the entrance to the State Park and summit road I took to the visitors center.  

After a quick refueling of water and chessy crackers, I prepared for the summit ride.  In due time I began my ascent of the mountain.  Passing through the sugar maple woo, and still I climbed.  With brief respites of flat or dips until another spike toward the chair lifts or denser wood, and still I climbed.  I passed a woman 2/3 up walking her bike now, and still I climbed.  The last bit - picinic area straight but summit left - I turned once more toward the sky, and still I climbed.  The fire tower came in view and the parking lot atop flattened out, but a trail lead further up, and still I climbed.  Where the tower meets the Mid State Trail I finally stopped, finally atop.

At two thousand feet above the level of the sea but removed and remote as being in another world from the valley below.  I might as well have been in the black forest of Mt. Ainos as but 40 miles from the suburbs of Boston.  I enjoyed a respite, but knew this would be the point to make up time.  So quickly I hopped on the bike and headed back down the mountain toward Princeton town.

Coming down the mountain I broke my top speed record - taking Ajax Telemon to 42 mph!  Taking another water stop at the Visitor Center, I rode off in my return - a winding path passed Wachusett Reservoir (which is NOT Wachusett Lake) and stopping to take a picture at Burpee Road, Sterling.  Then into Berlin I rode and the rest/water stop.  I spoke with Adena who was volunteering here a bit before continuing on.

Through Stow and Boxboro and Acton the road became less wild more suburban and more dull.  The last 10 miles were a bear.  After 90 miles running this week and already 110 on the bike today, I really needed the ride to stop.

As I pulled into the High School, Urvi was the first to greet me with a picture and a smile.  We rode home and she made awesome Saag and chicken rice - a perfect end to a great day.

So while that monadnock still looms in my mind I wonder why our desire is to climb.  Is it because we have a spiritual desire to be in the sky like our gods?  Do we like the challenge? Or, is it just "because it's there"?

Tino Pai,


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