|Date||August 11-13, 2006|
|Hosts||Chanda and Dan McKee|
|Who (else)||Judy Allison and Malcolm Boyd, Marji Brandriss and Dave Kristol, Betsy and Bernie Carlson, Marie and Dick Cochrane, Deb and Al Cudworth, Connie, Don, and Jeanie Engleke, Martha and Jim Gullo, Janice and Norman Haber, Claire Hamanaka and Walt Willard, Barbara and Mel Kornbluh, Brenda and Larry Isherwood, Susan Nicolich and Dave Snope, Cheryl Prudhomme and Mark Cook|
This year's Eastern Tandem Rally (ETR) was held in Westford, MA, about 15 miles WNW of Boston, at the Westford Regency Inn and Conference Center. The event was well-organized, as usual, the rally hotel was very nice, the cycling was excellent, and the weather was stupendous (clear skies, low humidity, daytime temperatures in the 70's). There were about 90 teams; 13 hail from NJ. The DOGS were well-represented: 12 of the NJ teams, and one PA team, are DOGS members. (I badgered the remaining NJ team to join.)
The short version of the schedule was:
A group of eight of us ate dinner in the pub at the hotel (Marji/Dave, Cheryl/Mark, Brenda/Larry, Susan/Dave), which proved to be quite pleasant, reasonably-priced, and tasty. Some of us ate conservatively, anticipating the Ice Cream Social. We had been warned the portions would be large.
So, let me tell you about Kimball Farm, the site of the Ice Cream Social. Kimball Farm is evidently a well-known local attraction, about 2 miles down the road from the hotel. They serve huge -- make that obscene -- portions of ice cream, excellent ice cream, in many varieties at reasonable prices, all made on the premises. Their smallest portion is two enormous scoops. I believe my two scoops must have comprised at least a pint of ice cream and must have weighed at least a pound. (If you're keeping score, one scoop was chocolate chocolate truffle, and the other was kahlua crunch (but spelled "kahula" on the sign).) And, yes, I ate most of it, casting aside good judgement and medical wisdom.
They also have a variety of other activities there, including miniature and pitch & putt golf, a driving range, and bumper boats. There's also a Country Store, which, amusingly, you can't enter with ice cream!
Unfortunately, for Marji and me there was no combination of rides that would let us ride a comfortable number of miles, leave us time to visit Minute Man and The Butterfly Place, and be able to reach the lunch stop while lunch was being served. So we opted for the "long" ride to lunch, 43.7 mi., and took the most direct route back to the hotel after (7.0 mi.). We weren't able to spend any real time at Minute Man, and we drove to The Butterfly Place after we got back to the hotel and cleaned up.
We planned to ride with a few DOGS, but when we got to our bike in the morning, we discovered a flat rear (of course) tire. So we told the other DOGS to proceed without us. I took advantage of the on-site sag support and had them change the tube (which I provided). I figured they could do it a lot quicker and better than I could, and my hands would stay clean.
Once we got rolling we discovered that Marji's cycle computer was behaving bizarrely, and we had to do without it for the rest of ETR. (When I got home I changed the battery, and the computer seems okay.) We pressed on, with Marji navigating as usual, but without being able to see current distance. Along the way we cycled for a time with fellow DOGS Janice and Norman Haber from Hammonton, whom we hadn't previously met, and Connie, Don, and Jeanie Engleke. Once again we were impressed by the nice roads and ever-changing scenery. We frequently saw lakes (Massachusetts is heavily glaciated), some mountains, suburban homes, and pine forests. The one exception to the nice roads was in Lincoln. I seem to recall from when we lived in MA in the 70's that Lincoln, a very wealthy community, deliberately did not keep their roads up, to discourage much through traffic.
The lunch stop was one sour note of the rally. We were provided with box lunches that comprised a meager sandwich and a bag of chips. Cookies, apples, and drinks were also available. After lunch, we took the direct route back to the hotel with Al and Deb.
We showered and changed and drove to The Butterfly Place, which was definitely worth the trip. You enter a large greenhouse-like structure which houses tropical plants that butterflies favor. And butterflies, lots of them, in lots of colorful varieties, flit effortlessly around the plants and the visitors. (One or two varieties especially seem to enjoy alighting on the visitors.) There was also a little shelter for quail, which skittered around the floor. What you won't see in the pictures is a photo of the blue morpho, a spectacularly iridescent blue butterfly that defied our wishes that it land somewhere near us. This picture will have to do.
Near the hotel on the return drive, we encountered an interesting scene. A large RV had pulled out of a gas station down a relatively steep slope. Unfortunately, the rear of the RV scraped on the exit driveway and came to a stop. It wasn't clear whether the rear wheels had stopped making contact with the road, but it looked like a messy situation. We didn't linger, but drove around the RV at the direction of the police, who were on the scene, and returned to the hotel.
The dinner banquet was everything the lunch was not. There were ample quantities of very good food, especially the vegetables. After we ate, the organizers acknowledged all the people who helped put the event together. Then there was the presentation of door prizes which had been provided by Tandems East, Co Motion, Santana, and others. At our table, three of the five teams won something. Then special jerseys or shirts were presented to teams who had attended multiple ETRs: Brenda and Larry, for 10; Judy and Malcolm, for 20.
ETR announced that next year's rally would be held in Dellroy, OH, August 10-12, 2007. Ohio has had the problem in the past of being too far west for ETR and too far east for the Midwest Tandem Rally. Thus ETR is stretching its territory westward a bit, which should allow it to draw more people from the Midwest, at the risk of losing attendees from the East.
A sizable group took off from the front of the hotel at 8:30. However, any idea that the group would stay together was laughable. We had planned to ride with Al and Deb, and we kept to the group pace for, oh, the first couple of miles. Then we dropped back to something we could sustain and watched the group pull away from us. Once again the roads and scenery were great.
We returned around 10:45, cleaned up and loaded the car, then headed to the lunch barbecue, which was held in a large tent outside the hotel. (The tent had been the site of a wedding the previous night. Some lucky couple got perfect weather for the event!) A good crowd of ETR-ers was already gathered and seated, waiting for the hotel staff to start serving at noon. Once the serving started, we tandemers swarmed the serving lines, which fortunately moved quite quickly. The barbecue comprised hamburgers, hotdogs, barbecued chicken, ribs, salad, corn on the cob, apple pie, and other goodies.
After lunch, we said our goodbyes and hit the road for the 4 3/4 hour drive home, which went smoothly enough. It was a great event.