Sunday, August 26, 2007

MassBike Festival 2007

It was pretty hot. I mean it was sweltering. In the parking lot of Verrill Farm where the festival was, our thermometer read 98 degrees. Pretty hot.

It was the day we'd been looking forward to for a long time - the MassBike 5th Annual Bike Festival. A large menu of organized rides to choose from, barbeque, and "bike expo". Despite the forecast, we stuck to the plan: I would ride out early with the Christiania, and Kim and the girls would meet me there with the car and Kim's bike on top. Then we'd do the 8ish-mile Canoe Ride with a nice paddle down the Concord River in the middle. Then barbeque, see the sights, and home.

Everything went more or less to plan, and everyone had a great time (except for a bit of crankiness on Gem's part on the first leg of the bike ride, which I attribute to the excessive heat). Our ride leader was John Allen, one of my favorite writers of yore from Bicycling Magazine in the 1970s & 80s. There was another very nice guide riding sweep, and two more families - one with a child on a trailer bike, and another family with four kids, three on their own bikes (including a small girl who had just learned to ride!)

The ride out was nice despite Gem's mood, and we arrived at the South Bridge Boat House to hear the supposed managers stomping around, slamming doors, and using the F-word before directing us to leave our bikes here, no there, NO, over here! In the end, we were dealt with by reasonably helpful high-school students, but our brief experience of the older folks would deter me from returning.

The canoeing was very, very nice indeed. Beautiful scenery, the river was nice and quiet, and Gemma in particular liked dangling her hands in the water and helping to paddle. Elsie kept Kim occupied the whole time, though, so it was up to Gem and me to do the paddling. Our guides John and Liz were great throughout.

The ride back was also very pleasant - even more so because the girls were really enjoying themselves by this time. We were the last ones to leave the river due to my slow paddling, but we caught up with most of the peloton on the way back.

Then we queued up for our Redbones Barbeque, which was identical to the spread they laid on during Bike Week this year: beef, pork, and mushroom sandwiches with cole slaw. We sat on the grass under one of the tents and had a fine time eating with our fingers.

We left before the Pie Race, though I have vowed to compete in it with both girls next year, when they're both at their pie-eating peak. We did have a chance to ravage the few vendor tents that were set up, including lots of free Glaceau water, Snapple samples, and nutrition bars from a maker I can't remember.

My ride home through Concord, Waltham, and Belmont was significantly tougher than the ride out, probably because I'd already humped 20 miles on the Christiania and paddled up and down the Concord River single-handedly... and it was still in the high 90s. It was a genuine struggle on some of the hills, especially on Trapelo Road. By the time I returned home, the girls were all sitting out front waiting to greet me, and I felt more exhausted than I did after my 110-miler just a few weeks back.

All in all, it was a really nice day... but it could have been better. The rides were great, it was very well organized, the food was very good, but it just didn't have an air of "festival" about it. There are so many local bike makers and shops, why didn't any of them turn up to show off their wares? Did I imagine the publicity about kids decorating bikes? There were certainly enough kids there, which was wonderful - just nothing much for them to do. I can't help wanting to compare this to the big bike culture gatherings in the UK - like York for one, and also the Regents Park bike fairs that are so much fun and a real draw.

I don't mean to be too critical of the event by any means, but I do think it could be so much more. If Kim and I can manage it, I really hope we can get involved next year to help make it happen.

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