In the ancient, earth-based religions, May 1st was a very significant moment in the turning of the calendar. Called Beltaine by some traditions, it's a cross-quarter day, occurring half-way between the start of two seasons, and in those days, it marked the beginning of farmable weather, supremely significant in that deeply agrarian time. Celebrations got raucous and lusty, involving food, spirits, and running ribbons around a Maypole (phallic symbol, anyone?). Christians later morphed the celebration into May Day, the name more familiar to us Post-post-moderns.
Currently in Velophoriaville, it's a supernal spring morning. Sun-kissed, dewy, and chilly, but with a promise of warmth later on. Delicate white violets are scattered like confetti on the front lawn, and new greenness is everywhere, banishing memories of the long, hard winter. The steam rises from a mug of freshly-brewed coffee nearby. And I'm prepping for a dirt/gravel adventure.
One weekday morning last month, I turned off my usual road to work, Route 9, which blessedly runs through the Quabbin Reservoir nature reservation, a gigantic swath of woods and water in Central Massachusetts. I'd always been curious about a certain little side road on the Western edge of the town of Ware. Not least alluring is the name of the road: Enoch Sanford. (Who...?) The paved part runs down a beauteous part of the small, picturesque Swift River, and then ends quickly at a dirt turnaround; however, right there some double-track runs off into the woods.
I made inquiries with a local about that double-track one morning this week before work, and learned that it runs at least four or five miles, and is supposed to be pretty. Google maps more or less confirms this, and says it is part of the Swift River Wildlife Management Area. However, most of the satellite view of the road is hidden in trees (promising...!) so the precise truth is unclear. I have a Salsa Vaya now, and discovering the exact truth down a stretch of disused double-track is just exactly what it was made for ("...designed to take on any surface that someone might consider a ‘road’," the company says on their site). Hand-crafted steel and 35 mm tires will pave the way -- so to speak.
I have an additional reason to ride in the woods today. I received some very challenging news about my father's health yesterday. I'm 47, and he's 77, so it doesn't come as a total surprise, but you're never fully ready to get that call. He's my Old Man, you know? He's going to live forever. Anyway, this means it's time for some serious nature therapy, and my prescription is to ride deep into the woods, on a new bike, on an old road, by a pretty little river.
How are you going to celebrate Beltaine, a day of passing and of rebirth? I'm going to find out what's down the double-track at the end of Enoch Sanford Road. Email me quick if you want to come along.