On June 10, I headed home from the Boston area. I had decided not to set the alarm clock in my room, and so didn’t wake up until 8:00. I ended up checking out at 9:30, and then hopping on my bike to pedal for home. Whereas I had ridden to downtown Boston on the way out, then taken a bus up to the hotel in Revere, to go home I headed westward straight from Revere.
My route did angle a bit southward, taking me through communities such as Malden, Belmont, and Arlington, until I reached Waltham, where I linked up with the route I had followed before, and started following it backwards. This first meant a long stretch on highway 117 (angling a bit north now), which took me through Concord and Sudbury. In one of those towns (I think it was Concord), I saw this pretty little waterway:
In Sudbury, I saw that there was a trail project, which not everyone in the town is happy about.
In looking at some google hits on the subject, it’s unclear whether these signs were leftover from votes the town took earlier in the spring (in which the trail was affirmed), or there was some new vote scheduled later in the year.
I made better time on this road than I had on the way out, which I mainly chalked up to being fresher for riding, since I was covering this stretch earlier in the ride. Before too long, I was in Bolton, the town in which I would leave 117 and start heading through a series of different back roads. In Bolton, I stopped to photograph the public library building:
It’s an interesting building – I’m not sure how often I’ve seen a tile roof on a stone building.
I continued to make good time, and stopped off for lunch in the town of Sterling. The place I picked to eat had a sign outside saying that they served breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but once inside I discovered that on Sundays it’s only breakfast all day. So I had an omelet, toast, and home fries.
Soon after that I traveled back along the small section of bike trail in West Boylston, made my way through Holden and Rutland (in the latter town I stopped to replenish my water supply), traversing Central Mass and getting nearer the Quabbin Reservoir. I didn’t take any more pictures until I was headed through Gilbertville (a section of the town of Hardwick), right near the Quabbin. Here’s the library there:
and an adjacent church:
I headed south from there, to downtown Ware. On the way into Ware, I saw this view:
That would be one of the Quabbin hills.
I had dinner in Ware (a tuna grinder at a pizza place), and then headed on for the last 2 hours of riding. It started to get dark when I got within an hour of home, so I put my lights on. Just before home I passed through the Hampshire College campus, and stopped by this bus shelter with an art project in it:
As you can see, the colors of the light change. I had seen this exhibit on a previous evening ride, but did not have a good camera with me that time.
I made it home a few minutes after 9pm, making my total travel time 11.5 hours. Interestingly, this is less time that it took me to go out to Boston, and I had even traveled a longer distance coming back, having ridden all the way from the hotel. The most likely reason for the difference is that, on the way out I had to refer often to the directions and maps I had printed out, while on the way home I remembered most of the turns, and didn’t need to stop as much.
Thus concluded my longest bike trip to date, and my 40th year on the earth.
The second half of my birthday in Boston involved a lot of aquatic life. After having lunch I headed to the waterfront, and the New England Aquarium. I had bought a combo ticket in advance for the aquarium itself and a trip on their whale watch boat.
The aquarium had a new exhibit (though the whole place was new to me, as I’d never been there before) – a touch tank. That is, you could stand by the side of a big, shallow tank, reach in and touch rays and small sharks. There were a couple kinds of each swimming around in the tank.
If you can’t tell from the photo, the background is painted on the wall.
Here are some of the rays:
Those are cownose rays, which I got to touch a couple of (you’re only supposed to touch them on the middle of their backs – otherwise you might freak them out). I also touched a bonnethead shark and an epaulette shark (for them it was more like petting a cat). All of these animals are about a foot or so long, I should add. It was pretty neat – the rays felt pretty slimy, whereas the sharks were rougher.
Moving into the main part of the aquarium, there is a large central tank that takes up multiple floors, and on each level there are smaller tanks around the periphery. Below the ground floor are various kinds of penguins:
They have a lot of rocks to sit on, surrounded by water for swimming.
Before heading up the various levels, I took a detour to the seal and sea lion area:
I then made my way past various tanks on my way upward. Some highlights included the sea dragon tank:
At first I thought this next one was a piece of seaweed floating around. That would be its camoflage:
It was hard to get a good picture, unfortunately.
When I got to the top level, I was able to look out over the surface of the large ocean tank. They have a big, fake coral reef in the middle which goes up to the surface. I saw (but failed to take a picture of) a moray eel swim upward and (mostly) hide itself among the convolutions of the reef, then sit there with its mouth opening and closing, as morays are wont to do.
There was an aquarium employee at the top talking about the big tank and some of the animals in it. In particular, it was mentioned that their large green sea turtle (named Myrtle) is about 80 years old.
As I headed down the spiral walkway along this tank, I got a good view of Myrtle, just after she’d come to rest:
When I finished going through the place, I headed outside to line up for the whale watch. It was an early evening boat trip, starting at 6:00. Here’s the aquarium as seen from the boat:
And looking back at the building once we got underway:
I had figured that the boat ride would be chilly compared with the city, especially as it was so late in the day. So I had worn jeans instead of shorts for the day, and brought a long-sleeved shirt in my backpack. I’d been hot at points earlier, but dressing warmly was well worth it once the boat got going (with its attendant wind).
Here’s a view of the harbor once we were a ways out:
The boat headed about 30 miles east from the harbor to get to whale feeding areas. We remained in Massachusetts Bay the whole time, and at our farthest point out we could see the tip of Cape Cod just to the east.
The boat slowed down once whales were spotted, and a crew member called out whale appearances at various angles around the boat. There were a number of appearances I couldn’t get on camera, as I wasn’t quick enough, or the whale was too far away, or other passengers were in the way. But I got a few good shots:
We saw 2 species: humpback and minke.
After about 45 minutes in the whale area, the boat headed back, and soon the sun was setting ahead of us:
It was dark by the time we returned to the dock. From there I hopped on the blue line train and headed back up to Revere, then took the bus to near my hotel (and walked the last few blocks).
On my birthday bike trip, I spent my birthday itself in Boston and its suburbs. I decided to give myself a break from the bike seat for the day, so I got around on foot and by public transit. After breakfasting at my hotel, I walked a few blocks through a residential neighborhood to pick up a bus to the Revere Beach train station, where I bought a day pass that’s good on all buses and trains. It was a bargain at $9 (though the price went up to $11 on July 1).
I rode the blue, green, and red lines to get out to Cambridge, and went to a fun secondhand clothing store, The Garment District. Specifically, their by-the-pound section (formerly known as dollar-a-pound). For those that haven’t had the experience, they have a large floor area covered with clothing that you go through, and then you pay $1.50 per pound for whatever items you want. The only thing I found that I wanted was an additional moisture-wicking shirt for biking (bringing my total of such shirts to 2).
I then took the train out further to Harvard Square, and hit a few stores, including a very good comic shop, Million Year Picnic.
I headed back into Boston after that, and walked around the Public Garden. The best aspect of the Public Garden is the many ducks that make their home by the large pond there (ducks that inspired a famous book).
Ducks and ducklings:
I like how you can see the beads of water on this one’s feathers:
The ducks will come right up close to people in hopes of being fed (and several people were tossing the birds food). There were some birds who were kept separated in this fenced-off area, though:
Here the swans are building their nest:
After hanging out with the park’s waterfowl for a while, I exited to the south onto Boylston St., where a crowd was gathered along both sides of the street. This was in anticipation of the Boston LGBT pride parade, which was scheduled to come by soon (I took my place in the crowd around 12:30). When I got there, there was a nearby church playing, for some reason, ‘Danny Boy’ on its carillon. When that ended, I was surprised and intrigued by the next piece of music that played – it was ‘Happy Birthday’. I wonder how they knew…
Before too long, the parade came through. This was the first time since the mid-90′s that I had been to a big city pride parade, and it was neat to see.
It started out with the mayor riding in a car, along with other dignitaries, such as the Pride King and Queen:
There were pink flamingo balloons:
There was, of course, a lot of rainbow-colored stuff, including this…interesting hat:
A gigantic rainbow flag is de rigueur:
There were a bunch of men in purple priestly vestments:
Cool balloon sculptures:
and The Price is Right!
It also wouldn’t be a pride parade without some leather men:
And their flag looked bigger than the large rainbow one:
This might have been the largest headdress I saw:
But this was a more impressive outfit:
Star o’ teal wig:
There were a number of politicians marching in the parade with groups of supporters. They were mostly city councilors or candidates for state legislative districts in the area. Toward the end of the parade, though, I did see my favorite U.S. Senate candidate:
After the end of the parade passed by, I went back through the Public Garden toward Boston Common. I caught the last parts of the parade again as they came up Arlington St., and got a good view of this vehicle:
I went off in search of lunch, and found a Turkish place east of the common where I got a very filling falafel, hummus, and tabbouli sandwich.
Those in the know (and to be in the know, you only need to have read this page) will be aware that I turned 40 last month. I had been thinking for a while about a special way to celebrate, and I decided that, given my increasing bicycling prowess, that I should take a long bike trip. So, I took a long weekend and rode to Boston and back.
I had to prepare for the trip by getting some luggage that would fit on the bike. A backpack wouldn’t hold enough stuff for a weekend, and I ideally didn’t want to be carrying stuff on my back anyway, as that would make me tired and sore sooner than necessary. After looking around in local bike shops, and then finding cheaper stuff online, I ended up getting this set of bags. The 3 bags held plenty of things, and the top bag can be used as a backpack, so it’s good for walking around without the bike. I also mapped out directions online and printed them out. It’s true that my phone can look up maps, but you never know when you’ll be lacking signal.
I headed out from my house in Hadley on Friday, June 8, about 8:45am. For the first 1.5 hours or so, the ride was familiar, as I headed through Amherst and Belchertown into the town of Ware, climbing some good-sized hills on the way. Before getting to downtown Ware, I passed this marsh, where one can often see herons, and that day was no exception:
I stopped briefly to rest in downtown, and put on sunscreen (it had already been sunny, but there were several shady areas). At this point, I was about to head into unfamiliar roads.
I headed north out of the town center, then started bearing northeast, coming to state highway 32. There I saw this pond:
and just past the pond was the next road I was supposed to ride on, heading east. However, that road had a “Dead End” sign at its beginning, so I thought it probably wouldn’t help to go that way. Instead I consulted the direction sheets, which had some small maps of various stages, and elected to head further north on 32 before taking a more major side road.
I found the road I wanted, headed east (and uphill), and before too long was back on my official mapped route. I made my way through the town of New Braintree, which involved more hills, and then followed an odd route toward the center of the town of Oakham (odd because I had to keep turning at various intersections, but the name of the road I was on always was the same).
After Oakham center I got to do some nice downhill riding for a while, then passed by Rutland state park and into the town of Rutland. Here is some nice waterway by the park (looking to either side of Route 122):
I had to head up a longish hill after the park (on Route 122A), and my legs were starting to feel weak. At this point, I’d been on the road for about 4 hours, and was in need of a longer break. I pressed on, having a couple more slow climbs as I headed into the next town, Holden, where I was planning to stop for lunch.
I did get lunch in Holden, at a place called Ethan’s. I allowed myself plenty of resting time, staying there for an hour and 15 minutes. It was 2:45 when I got on the road again, and while there was still sun shining, a good bit more clouds were in the sky.
I rode out of Holden on some residential side streets, passing into the town of West Boylston. Here I encountered the Mass Central Rail Trail – that is, one of the few sections of that trail that has been built. I rode on this trail section for its 2.5 mile length, and was surprised to find that much of it is not paved – it’s hard-packed dirt. Still, it’s a nice trail, with a couple of bridges over creeks:
Here’s a waterway that flows near the trail:
And the trail passes underneath Interstate 190:
After leaving the trail, I headed into the town of sterling, as the sky became overcast, and I started to hear thunder. A chance of storms had been predicted for the late afternoon, so I had brought a poncho for myself and a rain cover for the luggage. Pretty soon it started to sprinkle, so I put the rain cover on the bags and continued. Just after I passed Sterling center, rain started to fall more earnestly, so I put on the poncho and kept going, heading east on highway 62.
The rain got really heavy just after I put on the poncho, and it was getting hard to see. I saw a garden store/nursery on the side of the road, and pulled off to wait out the worst of the rain under their generous wooden awning. They sold bottled water, and I was just about out of water, so I refilled there.
After about 20 minutes, the rain stopped entirely. I continued into the town of Clinton, still wearing my poncho to help dry it out. I made my way a bit northward again, and got up to state route 117 in Bolton. This was the road on which I’d spend the most time that day – it made up more than a quarter of my mileage for the day.
There were some hills to ride up on 117, but overall it was a pretty quick ride. In Bolton it took me past the outer beltway of the Boston area (I-495), and through a number of other towns (including Concord and Sudbury).
Eventually, I passed over the inner beltway (I-95) and headed into downtown Waltham. Here I was able to go a few blocks down to the Charles River, and start riding on riverside bike trails toward the city. The trails were a little hard to follow, though, as the directions indicated changing sides of the river several times, but there were often trails on both sides, so it wasn’t always obvious where the turns were. While heading along the trails, it was starting to get dark, so I put on my lights. Eventually, I did get into Boston itself, and walked my bike on a footbridge over the turnpike, ending up near the Public Garden. I rode over to Boston Common and called home to indicate that I’d made it. It was just after 9:00pm.
I then went and had dinner at a nice taqueria, and after that, I and the bike caught a bus up to the city of Revere, where my hotel was (I’d gotten a deal on the place online). I took a much needed shower and went to bed. Total riding for the day was about 97 miles or so.
Catching up with a few photos from the past few months.
Back in January I was flying home from a visit to Michigan. As I waited in the Detroit airport, I noticed something moving through the air in the concourse. Then I saw more than one thing. It turned out that there were birds that had gotten into the building somehow. They just kept flying around, sometimes resting on the windows and some times in the rafters.
They clearly wanted to get outside again, but I didn’t have any way to help them. Hopefully they were able to do so later on.
Here’s our cat Mr. B doing his best impression of Monorail Cat:
(…except he has some visible paws.)
Finally, here is Deodat, lying one pillow lower than she usually does in this stack of pillows:
There have been a couple of times that she was completely sandwiched in there, without even her head poking out.
In February, we celebrated our anniversary by going to visit Magic Wings, a butterfly conservatory in the town of Deerfield, Mass. I had passed by the place before, but never been there. After living in this area for more than 6 years, it was about time to check it out.
Once you pay admission and are let in, you start out in a room full of terraria. There are various bugs, reptiles, and amphibians kept in here. Here is a yellow frog (I didn’t note what type it is or what its native region is):
And here are 2 specimens of one of a few varieties of walking stick type bugs they had:
Hint: the bugs look like yellow leaves amid the green leaves.
Once we finished with that room, we headed through a positive-pressure chamber and then into the conservatory proper:
What you see in that picture is only about 10-20% of the space. There are lots of species of butterfly and moth in the place, just flying around free. Fortunately, they land a lot, which makes it easier to get pictures:
This is called a glasswing, for the obvious reason:
The big, red object that it’s perched on is a feeder, filled with nectar of some kind. There are a lot of these around, as well as actual flowers for the insects to feed on.
In the middle of our visit, one landed on my leg:
It slowly walked upward, and I had to just let it do its thing, as they have a strict rule against touching the animals (because of potential contamination). Once it got near my hip it decided to take off again. You might think that the butterflies would often land on people in this space, but it’s apparently a rare occurrence.
Here are 3 ricepaper butterflies at a feeder:
This is some type of moth:
An owl butterfly:
IIRC, below is a blue morpho. The inside of its wings are the really vibrant, blue side, but it only showed that side when in flight (and it was hard to get a good picture of them in motion):
Here’s a video of one feeding, and not sitting still:
The place also had birds in the conservatory. This is a Gouldian Finch:
There were a bunch of them perched in a few trees, and some more (younger ones, maybe) in a couple of cages.
Also, running around the ground were these little quails:
They were funny to behold. They mostly kept to the dirt areas under the bushes and trees, but would occasionally hop down into the walkway, run across, and hop up into the next dirt area.
Not pictured, we also were able to look in some windows at their nursery, where they’ve lined up bunches of cocoons, and you can occasionally see one break out as a newly-winged organism. Also, apparently when they’ve recently finished metamorphosis, their wings are a bit too wet for them to fly. We encountered one on the path that was having a hard time getting off the ground. An employee said it was probably newly released from the nursery and still needed to dry out a little. He picked it up by letting it walk onto a foam paintbrush (no touching, after all), and then he deposited it on a nearby branch so it would be out of harm’s way.
That was pretty much it. If you like butterflies, or insects in general, the place is well worth the $12 admission. I might like to visit again in the summer, when they’ll have their outdoor garden in bloom, attracting native species to it.
One thing I did not mention from my Las Vegas trip was that, during my walk along the Vegas Strip, I had stopped in at a mall to use the bathroom. I didn’t think it very worth mentioning here that I had visited a shopping mall, nor was it worth photographing, as it looked pretty much like other malls.
However, I had missed one important aspect, which was pointed out to me the other day: the place is a Strip mall.
On Wednesday, the conference wrapped up at noon, and I soon left the hotel to head for the airport and my 3:15 flight.
I took a couple of last daytime shots of the hotel:
I took those from the bus stop as I waited for the airport bus.
The ride to the airport was uneventful. The line was particularly long at the check-in counter, as the self check kiosks were down (at least, the ones at the counter that allow you to check bags, which I needed to do). I got checked in eventually, and they gave me a security pass, rather than a boarding pass. For some reason, they couldn’t issue a boarding pass there, and I would have to get one at the gate itself.
Fortunately, security took me almost no time to get through, and I proceeded to the gate. There was another flight scheduled to go out before mine, and it was listed on the gate screen. I went to get the boarding pass, and as I did so, I heard a ticket agent other than the one who was helping me talking on the phone about my flight being delayed. The person helping me printed my boarding pass and handed it to me without saying anything about the delay. I asked her about it, and she confirmed that the flight was now expected to depart at 5:45 instead of 3:15. That’s Pacific time, so instead of landing in CT at 11:20pm, I’d be getting in at 1:50am. Oh boy. This meant rearranging my ground transportation, so I worked on that while waiting around.
I took this picture out the window of the mountains with the last of the day’s sunlight on them:
A while later, the departure estimate was changed to 5:40, but when we actually boarded, it was past that time before everyone was on the plane. It was about 6 when the plane backed away from the gate.
The jet stream must have been strong at our back, though, because the flight ended up taking less that 4.5 hours, and I was on the ground around 1:20 in the morning. Still, I ended up finally getting home at 2:30 or so. Unsurprisingly, I went into work late on Thursday.
The conference I was attending had useful presentations and discussions during the days, but on the Tuesday evening, there was to be something called the “Client Event”. There had been no information published in advance about what went on there, and when I asked some people about it, I found that the content of this event is normally kept secret each year at the conference. What I was told was about some of the past ones, many of which had been concerts with surprise performers. The conference materials did indicate that it would be a concert, and that there would be 2 headlining acts, plus a house band.
News did leak out about the bands, though. Just a few hours before the concert event, I was talking to a trainer (who shall remain nameless), who told me that supposedly the acts would be Styx and Sammy Haggar. I was excited to see the former (not so much for the latter).
I got to the concert during the house band’s first set. This was a group called Liquid Blue (note: a video will start to play automatically when you load their website) who do covers of all sorts. They were pretty decent, though not super interesting. I eventually made my way near the stage, hoping to be close by in case Styx were the next act. Here’s a pic of LB just as they had finished a song:
When they finished their set, the video screens, had the Styx logo appear on them, and the crowd moved over to the larger stage near this small one. I ended up in the front, but over on one side, as the band came out.
Here’s the crowd, just as excited as me, I think:
Eventually, I discovered that the current incarnation of the band only contains 2 of the members I know from the ’80s. Here they are – Tommy Shaw (left) and James Young (right):
Flailing away on the drums is Todd Sucherman:
This is current bassist Ricky Phillips:
Better picture of Tommy:
On the left below is the keyboardist, Lawrence Gowan:
He sang lead on several of the songs, with others led by Shaw.
James Young closer up:
Lawrence at the keyboard (which he was able to spin completely around on its stand):
For a few songs, the band brought out its original bass player, Chuck Panozzo, who doesn’t perform with the band too much because of his health:
I had a lot of fun seeing them, as I’ve liked their music since I was a kid, but never saw them in concert before. Songs they played included:
Come Sail Away
The Grand Illusion
Too Much Time on My Hands
Blue Collar Man
After Styx left, Liquid Blue came back for another set, and I made my way to the seating area farther from the stage, as my feet were still hurting from walking the Strip the night before. During this LB set, there were various odd (and kind of lame) computer animations playing on the video screens in the arena:
I stayed in my seat when Sammy Haggar came on stage, as I’ve never been a really big fan of his. Mostly the only music I know by him is from his years with Van Halen. He did do a few VH songs, unsurprising since his stage band included Michael Anthony, the bassist from VH.
One interesting thing about the stage setup was a platform on which several fans from the crowd got to stand during the performance:
You can see them in the center of the stage. The musicians are in the spotlights below that. Since I was so far from the stage, I mainly watched the screens, which usually were showing Sammy.
I stayed until the end, only somewhat appreciating the Haggar set. He finished up just after midnight, and I headed back to my room to get some sleep before the last (half) day of the conference.
Continuing where my previous post left off, here are things I saw as I headed back south on Las Vegas Boulevard (aka The Strip).
I don’t recall for sure which hotel/casino this belonged to, but it may have been the Riviera:
Here’s the front of the Riviera:
Here’s a ship at the casino Treasure Island:
It is floating in actual water. Near it, “carved” into the “rock face” is this:
Then at the other end of the Treasure Island lagoon is another ship:
As I was leaving the sphere of influence of TI, I passed these statues, which I believe are related to TI:
It seemed to be popular for tourists to be photographed with their head in the lion’s mouth (I saw at least 2 people pose that way).
Soon I came upon Caesar’s Palace, which I think is one of the larger casino complexes. It has a lot of statues and fountains:
Here are the main fountains, with a couple of the buildings in the background:
Around this point, I took a picture looking south:
One thing I found fascinating about walking around this area is that it looked like everything was very close together, but then it would take quite a while to walk to a landmark that I’d been able to see for the whole time. I suspect the reasons for this are the large size of some of the buildings, as well as the flatness of the area (so you can see a long distance.
Here are some features of the Flamingo:
Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall:
Here is the Bellagio:
This place has famous fountains (at least I’d heard about the fountains). Specifically, there are water jets submerged in their lagoon/moat/whatever, which put on a show every 15 minutes. I waited a few minutes and got to see it:
I took some video of that show as well, so you can see what the motion of the water is like:
While I found the show impressive, I can’t help but wonder about all the water usage in an area that’s essentially desert.
Back down at Tropicana Blvd., kiddie-corner from the MGM Grand is the Excalibur:
I continued south from there, and came to the Luxor. That’s the one that’s basically a big pyramid:
With its sky-polluting light on top. They also have a sphinx and an obelisk sign:
Near the base of the obelisk:
South of the Luxor is the Mandalay Bay, which had one feature worth photographing – these creature statues:
The big casinos peter out at that point, but a ways further south is the Las Vegas welcome sign:
That’s the side you see if you’re headed north. Going south, you see this:
By this time, I’d spent a few hours walking, and my feet and hip were hurting. I headed back north to get back to my hotel room. On the way I passed a motel that had this statue:
Before I made it back to the Tropicana, I spotted a cat:
I had to bump up the brightness on that picture to show something besides the cat’s eyes. I moved to take a picture from a different angle, and another cat jumped up on a nearby cinderblock wall to get away from me:
I think these cats were feral, as this one jumped into a nearby tree when I got a little closer to it:
I then left them in peace, and ambled back to the hotel.
The following morning I got on the computer and mapped the distance I had walked. I had spent a total of 4 hours walking and taking pictures, and I had actually travelled nearly 9 miles in that time. Taken together with the walking I’d done during the day at the conference, it was no wonder my feet hurt. It took 2 days for them to feel normal again.