5.5.14 Lexington, MA

by Carolyn Johnson


Photo by Chris McIntosh

It was around the North Street Pits that I realized we had pedaled into another world. We were on the bank of a placid pond. The damp chill of a typical New England spring day hung over the improbably sandy beach we had to cross to stay on the trail. An alien-looking Muscovy duck paddled by with a bulbous red wattle around its head. A steep climb lay ahead -- one long switchback that would climb up to a wooded ridge above the pond.




A few of the faster riders in our group were already at the top, watching with amusement as other people moved away from the pond and caught sudden sight of the uphill. A cheering squad began to chant support. I made it partway up on bike, laughed, and then pushed my bike up the rest; then I joined in yelling support to my teammates.

We were about 15 miles into our ride, but only two miles from our starting point, Ride Studio Cafe in Lexington.



Photo by Rob Vandermark 

The Diverged ride is a 45-mile ride that zig-zags in and out of our backyard, hosted and designed by the route masterminds at Ride Studio. It takes the world we ride in all the time -- the landscape we think we know really well -- and chops it up and rearranges it in ways that are surprising, delightful, even witty. We'd emerge from the woods and find ourselves on a bike path we've all ridden dozens of times before, or crossing one of the most familiar streets in the area from a really weird angle for the first time ever. We'd head into a conservation area we'd ridden before and emerge somewhere completely new. More than once, we'd blow by our turn, only realizing too late that the narrow little unmarked dirt strip that barely even looked like a footpath was the "road" we were meant to take.

"We're here?" became the incredulous refrain, repeated many times over.

At times it almost felt like our bikes were playing with space and time in odd ways; we'd follow a rocky path up a hill, hit pavement, hit dirt again, take mincing steps over slippery boardwalks, and navigate a rock garden. Then, 20 minutes later, we'd find ourselves spit out on the road again -- seemingly in sight of the place we'd entered.



Photo by Rob Vandermark 

"We're here?" became the incredulous refrain, repeated many times over.
It's been a tough winter in New England, and we were excited to finally get these magical mud spaceships where they belong -- out on the trails. We needed our Vittoria mud tires, and we needed each other -- for motivation and learning. More than once I followed Cindy or Leah's line over a rock pile and, amazingly, didn't fall over. Every time I looked back at Darcey, she was smiling despite the damp chill.



Photo by Rob Vandermark 

After a few hours of riding, most of the group was ready to turn back, but I couldn't help myself. I was addicted. With the expert navigation skills, unbreakable endurance, and warm encouragement of long-distance rider John Bayley, a small group soldiered on for a few more hours. We toured urban skateparks, skirted farm fields being readied for the growing season, stumbled on knock-kneed llamas, passed by wetlands, and crossed even more of those nerve-rackingly treacherous boardwalks.

By the time we arrived back at Ride Studio Cafe, I was exhausted and elated. It was nearly dusk when I hopped on my bike for the last leg of the trip -- crossing back through the portal that seemed to have opened, to go back home.

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