The next day I slept in, chilled out for a bit, then headed out way too late (shock) to attempt to mountain bike, swim, and get to the ashland fireworks pretty much all in fast forward. If there's one thing I can do well, it's cramming a lot of good things into way too little time, so I was up for the challenge.
It took so long to get to Franklin Falls, but once I got in there, I was instantly so happy. Even though I was still far from having biker butt, it felt so great to be on my mountain bike again at such an awesome place. Oh yea, biker butt is what it's called when you've biked enough that your butt doesn't kill the entire time you're sitting on that god awful bike seat. It takes awhile to set in.
something about just following a thin trail through the woods...
The bugs were atrocious- somehow worse than my visit a few days before, and I realized that I had completely forgotten to bring the bug spray when someone leaving the trails told me how horrible they were in the parking lot. "Just go fast" she said. I did my best, but when you stop to take pictures nearly as often as you stop to wheeze uncontrollably, they find you. SO, I went all Bear Grylls on their collective asses and smeared dirt all over my legs and arms.
and it actually did help a little bit. Plus, I looked AWESOME.
I started on the trail I first rode there, and realized it flowed pretty perfectly into the best trail there- Mighty Chicken. It felt so awesome and terrifying to be back on it. For new readers, it's basically a ravine with the trail going up and down the sides the whole way, like a half pipe. It rules.
I almost exploded in the middle of it, but that allowed me to take a hasty panorama while getting attacked by bugs. This of course doesn't really illustrate the steepness of it, but it's still neat to see.
I was super happy and immediately scared to see that the end was not only steeper and harder, but Kevin and NEMBA had designed a berm turn followed by a decently sized roller to make the trail even more awesome. I wish the whole place was like this.
I then went down a trail I swear I've never done before and continued to follow the map to get out in about an hour. I did somewhere around 5 miles and had the time of my life. I was practically screaming "I FUCKING LOVE MOUNTAIN BIKING!" It was one of those rare times where I felt outstanding, it was shady while being super humid and warm, and I was just panting and pouring sweat while not tiring out at the level I usually do. I rode very aggressively and was just attacking everything (except uphills). What a great day to ride.
I then B-lined it the hell out of there, practically threw my bike in the car and floored it to Webster Lake. I had extremely limited time, but I wanted to wash the stink and dirt off just as much as I wanted to be able to say I did everything I had planned on. I figured if I got limited traffic, I'd have a few minutes to swim, and I pulled it off. I forgot to take a picture, but I swam for a few minutes, changed behind my car, and started flooring it back past Franklin Falls and towards 93. It was absolutely worth it.
When I got there, I was absolutely astonished at the amount of cars. Based on going years ago, I knew that Ashland took their fireworks seriously. But this was when Kevin and Gina lived in town and all I had to do was walk a quarter of a mile to a good spot. I wish I had taken pictures, but I was too in panic mode trying to find a spot. There were more cars jammed into a small space than I think I've ever seen. They lined both sides of the road, filled every parking lot, were parked in people's yards, etc. Both on and off ramps to 93 north and south were lined with cars practically to the highway.
I had a lightbulb moment and decided at the last second (as I realized I was beginning to drive out of town) to park on the on ramp to 93 south, and get back on my bike to ride into town. Going in wasn't too crowded, but I could already tell this would work great as an escape route too. My bike started to jump gears right as I reached the top of the hill Kevin told me he was stationed at with Gina. Someone said "Good for you, I wouldn't have even gotten that far" and I turned to see Kevin not even 30 feet away. It had all worked out perfectly, minus the fact that I was now sweating pretty hard again.
We were forced to move from our perfect spot because some moron in the center of a town that spends all of its money on fireworks didn't want people sitting on the 4 by 15 section of dead grass crap across the road from their apartment, but we still had basically the space we wanted. And within 15 minutes or so, the fireworks began.
They were shorter and less mega than they had been years ago (which may have been the best fireworks experience of my life), but they were still awesome. That previous time, we had a big crew, I had a calzone from Ashland House of Pizza in my lap, and I listened to music for the first time while watching, playing Caspian and Explosions in the Sky while lying down on the edge of woods and realizing that beautifully epic instrumental music worked fantastically with fireworks.
So, Caspian was my soundtrack again.
the correct way to do fireworks
Afterwards, I said my goodbyes as Kevin and Gina were in an unknown lot in the opposite direction. I flew down the hill and into the mess of the road, and then became extremely awesome.
There were thousands and thousands of people walking down the middle of the road and through cops directing stopped traffic, all going to their cars which were generally all closer to them than mine was to me. BUT, I had a bike.
I have gotten quite good at riding incredibly slow and balancing on my bike over the years. I have a weird love for riding through crowds- it's very scary as I feel like I'm going to tip over every time I get going too slow, or I am going to ride directly into someone or a car. I only had 1 super scare where I almost sidelined a little kid, but other than that, I weaved in and out of the crowd like a pro, hearing lots of "whoa, watch out!"s and "look at this friggin guy"s. And within 5 minutes, I was taking my front wheel off and putting my bike in my car, hopping in and driving past like 8 cars to be on an empty 93 south, all while thousands and thousands of people were still walking to their cars or sitting in them, swearing at the unmoving traffic. I was eating McDonalds in Tilton while the majority of them were still most likely sitting in the center of Ashland. All because I have a bike and a brain. I have seldom felt as awesome as I did that night.
The next day I decided to take Irwin to Rich's parents' house as I would be out super late or gone in the next few days. He would be way better off with them, and they were psyched to have him. Here's an awesome picture of us singing in the car:
he might be high
I had planned on swimming again at Fernal, but the doomclouds looming overhead made me change my mind half way there. Plus, I had a party to get to.
Earlier in the week, I had texted Phil from Caspian, asking if there were any good fireworks up near him (Beverly, MA) and if he was going with a crew, could I join. He said there are lots of good ones, but he was having a party at his parents' house and invited me. I've gotten to know him and a few of the other guys in the band fairly well over the last 8 years of being a fanboy, so this wasn't a crazy idea, but I was still a bit nervous about going to a party at someone's parents' house where I would know 5 people at best.
I decided that if I was going to live a life more awesome, why the hell wouldn't I go? I like those dudes and had wanted to actually hang out in a different setting other than at or after a show, and this was my chance. If it was too weird, there is always alcohol.
I got there at around 8, right when it was starting to get dark, and right when the sky was finally starting to get messy. The first people I saw were carrying beer and clothing items to their cars saying something along the lines of the party being put on hold for fear of the thunderstorms. "um.. is this Phil's house?" I asked.
People were very worried about the rain, and it was a weird, semi frantic time to show up. I wandered around aimlessly, and realized that yup, I knew 4 people there. Luckily, the few I did were social and introduced me to others. I decided to do my best to be social and got weird fast. In a few hours, I was standing around a table with 5 other dudes (only 1 of whom I knew before coming) dancing like a piece of crap and singing along to R&B classics like Boyz II Men and this gem of a Rhianna cover. Strangers asked who the hell I was and told people I had really good dance moves. And I may have been a bit off mentally, but I swear these random dudes and I sang pretty damn well. It was magical.
The night continued to get better, as a few hours later, when enough people had passed out or left, Phil decided to put on some new Caspian songs. I had told him earlier that I didn't even want to hear them- that music I really loved and was waiting for deserved to be listened to in the perfect setting. I had owned the last Caspian album for a month before I played it, waiting until after I had mountain biked, putting it on as dusk settled in on an end-of-summer-beginining-of-fall, windows-rolled-down night. I didn't want to listen to new Caspian songs while drunk at some party.
But it turned out to be the absolute perfect setting. A new friend named Forrest pulled out a telescope and we looked at the moon. It was dark enough that the pool was glowing perfectly against a black sky. I started taking pictures of the pool using that app I have that stacks pictures on top of each other, and stood there being blown away by the new songs while one of the guys who wrote and recorded them talked to me about how much music meant to him. It was a weirdly beautiful moment. Here's a shot I liked a lot, with ghost outlines of moving people in front of the pool.
And here's a shot I was able to get of the moon, through the telescope:
As an iphone-only purist of instagram, I had always called bullshit when people posted pictures of the moon. There was no way to get a picture of the moon with an iphone camera that didn't just look like a blur. Well, we figured out a way- very steady hands and a telescope were all you needed. Here's what the above picture looked like with some touchups. I'm still psyched about this picture.
The night ended with 4 of us playing beer pong on a super long table at 1:30 in the morning and me sinking 3 shots in a row to end the game. My partner was some dude from Germany and we kicked Forrest and Phil's asses. Then we all jumped in the pool and swam, jumped off the diving board into floats and passed the beer cooler the German dude threw in around, until probably 3.
The whole night kind of had a special, movie-like quality to it. I went to a party where I only knew 5 people I had never really hung out with before, and ended up singing along to Boyz II Men songs with strangers, having fairly meaningful conversations about the power of music with people I really respect musically, blasting new songs of my favorite band while looking at a perfect moon through a telescope, and playing beer bong with a dude from Germany and swimming in a pool with a floating beer cooler while 15 or so people slept upstairs. I'm so happy I went. It was just one of those weird nights where things just ended up awesome.
I ended up leaving at 4 in the morning and driving home instead of attempting to sleep in a hot house with a bunch of other people. I knew I wouldn't sleep, and I would be able to A LOT at home, so I fought sleep the whole way back and was disappointed to learn that the 24 hour McDonalds stops serving double cheeseburgers at 3am. Who knew?!
I slept really late and then went back to basically the same area the next day to mountain bike at Willowdale. I didn't really take any pictures, but rode probably about 8 miles- most of the first half, or the first third in the way my mind organizes Willowdale. It was tough riding, but it felt glorious to be back at the place where I fell in love with mountain biking.
into the deep woods
I did get a nice shot of the swamp you pass about 4 miles in, which of course got a lot of added color from being an HDR:
I rode out the last 2 miles of fireroads in almost complete darkness. WEIRD. I had a nice little moment of horror and hilarity when I got back to my car and changed in the woods. Right when I got my bike shorts off, I stepped on the button that locks and unlocks my car, hitting the panic button and sending my car into a seizure of lights and horn honking. I was standing half naked 50 feet from my car, on a huge trail that crosses a fairly major road. Attention was not what I wanted. Once I got that settled and started taking my shirt off too, I heard rustling in the woods. Well, I had heard it before and figured it was a deer (there are a LOT of deer at Willowdale and I've gotten used to hearing them run through the woods while I bike past them in the dark). But this was closer rustling, and it was followed with a heavy exhale/grunt- almost like a challenge- a "I don't know what you're doing out here, but I'm in the mood to fight" grunt. SO, I went all Bear Grylls again and started making grunting/yelling noises myself, at a pitch black woods while standing naked next to a road. Just to make the story better, I kind of wished that this was the exact moment another biker turned his lights on, to see me yelling like an animal, naked and caveman-esque in the middle of the woods, trying to scare a deer.
Luckily that didn't happen though, and I got the hell out of there and rode 8 miles in the wrong direction for one of the only things worth driving that far in the wrong direction for: Nicks' Roast Beef.
I tried to get Phil to meet me, but he was roast beefed out. I got 1 there, and 1 for the road (which I ate as soon as I got home). Good sweet heavens was it glorious.
large 3 way. the only way.
I pigged out when I got home, then promptly collapsed while still being filthy from riding. The next day, I'd be driving to New York and Vermont for 5 days.
currently listening to: The Lonely Forest- "We Sing The Body Electric!"