Monday, October 31, 2011

Weekend Fun

The weekend started out OK, with a the annual Canton cyclocross race Saturday. We arrived a little early to a nearly empty and desolate venue, which made us think that maybe we had slept through Saturday and it was Sunday, or possibly that it had been canceled. The truth was simply that the first race was at 9:30AM and not 8:30AM as Cathy had though. The race itself was pretty good with some course changes that dummied down some of the trickier sections. The changes gave the course a distinct power flavor, more so than before even. The dreaded run-up was also now a ride up based on a change to the entry.

Both Cathy and I had respectable rides on the day getting chances to really race with a group and both finishing in the same position on the day. Our friends and cyclocross rival couple, the Shattucks also oddly enough finished in the same position. Maybe we can make a couples tag-team match out of this except for the fact that Bill always beats me. We were also able to miss the incoming foul weather, which was a huge benefit, as it got down right miserable in a hurry Saturday afternoon.

We did have an issue with one of the members of our junior team (lets call him Crashy McFallsalot to abscond with a moniker concocted by the Mayor). The issue was that he crashed trying to hop the log that I had told him just before the race would be faster for him to run. Crashing is no strange occurrence for him as, I'm pretty sure, he has crashed just about every time he has been on a bike. To say that his bike handling is sub par is a bit of an understatement. Unfortunately what he lacks in skills he makes up for in short term strength and fearlessness. What this equates to is someone that ends up on the ground more than anyone I know. It also means he breaks a lot of equipment. Last Wednesday at cross practice he went just a little too hot around a corner and ended up plowing into a rock, denting the sin out of the Ksyrium SSL that I'd put on the bike I built for him. Ah, good times.

Speaking of weather, this past weekend was abnormally cold. Saturday made it into the low 40's early but then as the storm started to roll in, it clouded over and started to cool back down. By the time the rain started in the early afternoon it was slipping back into the upper 30's. The forecast was for a nor'easter storm that would start as rain but end in measurable snowfall. As it would end up, they were right for once. At about 5PM the rain started changing to snow and before long was just snow of the heavy and wet kind. This wasn't going to bode well given that most trees still had their leaves. At just about 8PM, we lost power. Saturday night seemed to have been punctuated by a lack of sleep. Sizzling electrical arcs and blinding flashes of light. No, it wasn't lightening, it was downed limbs striking live wires. Add to that the sound of cracking limbs and nervously rambunctious cats on an early AM tear and there was little rest for the weary.

When we finally dragged out in the AM to survey the damage and there was some for sure. It seems all of the surrounding trees dropped limbs into our yard. We had a number of big branches and entire limbs that were lost. A couple of hours work with the chainsaw and loppers cutting and blocking and then hauling slash to the back and we were done with that chore. The power company had trucks on the street first thing Sunday AM so we were all very hopeful. Hope waned when we realized that power was out on the main road as well as most of the town and much of Lexington as well. With that we looked at the powerless options for the day.

What we came up with for a way to kill some time was to pack up the arsenal and truck out to Harvard to sling some lead. getting there was a challenge with all of the downed trees and wires. The back road into the club was especially challenging as there were trees down over the narrow road which we had to squeeze under. The truck is a POS Toyota Tacoma 4WD though so I just ran it through the brush and slammed it over the limbs. reminded me of the old days of going hunting back in VT. The gate was up at the range but there were a bunch of trees down there as well.

We cleared a number of them off the roads so we could get through. Should have thrown the chainsaw in the back; not sure what I was thinking. I did have a small axe though so was able to gnaw my way through a nasty little oak tree in less than record time. We took the opportunity of having the range basically to ourselves to sight the AR in at 100 yards. I'd set it for 50 yards earlier as the 100 yard range always seems to be busy. Dial the elevation down a little a she was hitting right on target. Cathy and I ran a couple of pre-ban mags through it and then went to the 25 yard range to hit some plates with the 9mm. Well, we tried to hit some plates but mostly just missed. Typical. It's definitely a short range tool in my hands. On the way home we gassed up and snagged some coffee at Starbucks in Concord, which actually had power and was open, then headed back home.

Feeling the need to get out and do something, I thought a nice SSCX ride on the Minuteman Bikeway would be a safe alternatives. The public roadways were a mess of sloppy snow and downed wires, trees and brush so I really didn't want to be there. Unfortunately, the path in Lexington was a nightmare of downed trees making it virtually impassible. We turned back and cut off onto roads to connect to some conservation trails. There we found, as fully expected, more trees down. On some other back roads we made our way toward the Turning Mill section of town and saw the mother of all blockages. A bundle of three huge oak trees had uprooted and blocked the entire street. Fortunately we could cut through conservation land by the Estabrook School and Paint Mine to get into the PR at the power-lines. We picked our way through encountering lots more downed trees but it was good to just be out in the woods playing in the snow. Not much of a workout, at least from an aerobic standpoint and not a whole lot of miles but a good time.

Back home still no power and thus we settled in for the evening of huddling under lots of down. One thing occurs to me during power outages, which seem to be having with much greater regularity of recent. There isn't much of anything to do when it gets dark and there are no lights, no TV and no computers or connectivity. This I is a hard taste of old, when people went to bed early. This was because there literally was nothing to do without light. Today we are so dependent on electricity that this is only compounded. Sitting on the couch under a blanket with your toque and down coat on in the cold dark quickly loses its appeal. And as such, we went to bed at 8:30PM. Another night of poor sleep fretting about how to deal with the thought of a further prolonged power outage kept my mind racing.

I need to finally call about getting a wood stove insert for the ancient fireplace, which we wouldn't dare use for fear of burning the house down. I also need to look into generator options. In being out and about on bicycles I was amazed at the number of generators I heard running. I think that the general sense that the power is unreliable has convinced more and more people to go the backup generator route. I know we had been thinking about it but then held off. The main reason is that gas generators are problematic unless you diligently maintain them. Modern gasoline sucks and goes back very quickly, gumming up the carburetor and causing failing of the system when you finally go to use it. A natural gas system wired into the house is the way to go but the expense, I'm told, is crazy. Guess I need to weigh the options.

Group of three big oak trees blocking a side road in Lexington.

The bottom line I know is that we are fortunate. The power is back on for us now and so we have heat. We never lost hot water at all because we have public natural gas service. the cold was also a mixed blessing in that it allowed us to preserve the contents of the refrigerator and freezer by putting the perishable items in the cooler on the deck overnight where the temperature was in the low 20's. Many, many people are not so lucky. We really are lucky, in this and so many other ways. Hopefully some of the luck will bestow upon our friends still without power.

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