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  1. #1
    Senior Member Papa Tom's Avatar
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    Help With Boston Weekend

    Hello, Bostonians.

    Assuming my wife and I can scrape a few bucks together between now and Columbus Day weekend, we'd like to take a short trip up your way to ride the Charles River Esplanade and maybe do some other "casual" riding.

    This wouldn't be our first ride along the Charles. I believe we did it last in the mid 1990's. At the time, we also rode a good portion of the Minuteman Trail.

    My questions:

    1. Is there still a big Columbus Day weekend festival in Boston?
    2. Is the Charles path in better shape than it was ten or fifteen years ago?
    3. Is the Minuteman in better shape than it was ten or fifteen years ago?
    3a. Is Bedford still a trailhead for the Minuteman?
    4. Can you suggest any new rides we should consider (my wife is not a hardcore cyclist - she's good for about 15 miles on a dead flat route, minimal traffic)?
    5. Any "secrets" regarding where to stay fairly inexpensively on a holiday weekend? (ie: Here in New York, we'd advise budget-conscious people to stay in the boro of Queens and ride over a bridge into Manhattan, rather than paying $400-500 for a room in Manhattan itself.

    Thanks, all.
    Last edited by Papa Tom; 09-18-09 at 05:57 AM.
    Papa Tom

    "I just need a rest...and by 'rest' I mean a really long bicycle ride."

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    1. Is there still a big Columbus Day weekend festival in Boston? Not sure.
    2. Is the Charles path in better shape than it was ten or fifteen years ago? Its nice, depending on weather it can get very congested.
    3. Is the Minuteman in better shape than it was ten or fifteen years ago? Fully paved, totally flat and 11 miles one way. Becareful here - it can be death alley with how many non-cyclist use it (roller bladers make it a russian roulette gauntlet!).
    3a. Is Bedford still a trailhead for the Minuteman?
    4. Can you suggest any new rides we should consider (my wife is not a hardcore cyclist - she's good for about 15 miles on a dead flat route, minimal traffic)? Not sure about others in the city.
    5. Any "secrets" regarding where to stay fairly inexpensively on a holiday weekend? (ie: Here in New York, we'd advise budget-conscious people to stay in the boro of Queens and ride over a bridge into Manhattan, rather than paying $400-500 for a room in Manhattan itself. Look to Cambridge, usually cheaper than being in Boston.

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    Whoops, didn't see 3a. The trail starts-ends in either Cambridge or Bedford. Nice quite roads in Bedford near the bike path terminus as well.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Jim from Boston's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Papa Tom View Post
    Hello, Bostonites.

    Assuming my wife and I can scrape a few bucks together between now and Columbus Day weekend, we'd like to take a short trip up your way to ride the Charles River Esplanade and maybe do some other "casual" riding.

    This wouldn't be our first ride along the Charles. I believe we did it last in the mid 1990's. At the time, we also rode a good portion of the Minuteman Trail.

    My questions:

    1. Is there still a big Columbus Day weekend festival in Boston?
    2. Is the Charles path in better shape than it was ten or fifteen years ago?
    3. Is the Minuteman in better shape than it was ten or fifteen years ago?
    3a. Is Bedford still a trailhead for the Minuteman?
    4. Can you suggest any new rides we should consider (my wife is not a hardcore cyclist - she's good for about 15 miles on a dead flat route, minimal traffic)?
    5. Any "secrets" regarding where to stay fairly inexpensively on a holiday weekend? (ie: Here in New York, we'd advise budget-conscious people to stay in the boro of Queens and ride over a bridge into Manhattan, rather than paying $400-500 for a room in Manhattan itself.
    1) There is a Tufts-10K road race for women that starts at Boston Common and goes over to Cambridge and back along Comm Ave, closing that area down from around noon til about 2 PM.

    2 and 3) I don't ride bikepaths much, but when I do I tolerate a lot, so they are fine with me. There are two lesser known bike paths in Jamaica Plain, one along the Jamaica Pond as part of the Emerald Necklace, and one along the Orange line subway line in the Southwest Corridor, known as the Pierre Lallement path named for the putative inventor of the bicycle, who "died in obscurity in 1891 in Boston at age 47." (Wikipedia).

    4) How about meandering through some neighborhoods? The streets have no patterns and it could be fun to just "get lost." The road surfaces are pretty good, traffic is light and the architecture and landscapes are pretty interesting. My suggestions would be Jamaica Plain and West Roxbury in Boston; and the nearby suburbs of Cambridge, Brookline, or Newton (assuming a start in downtown Boston).

    5) Try hotels outside of Boston, as Pedal Dancer suggested. Some lesser known, maybe cheaper hotels in town might be the Mid-Town Motel on Huntington Ave, the Buckminster in Kenmore Square or HoJo's in Fenway. There is also a Youth Hostel in Fenway.

    Feel free to PM for additional questions, and tell us how it goes. I'd like to know my advice is correct. BTW, we are known as Bostonians, as in the novel The Proper Bostonians.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Papa Tom's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the suggestions, so far. I'm not from the area, so I'll need to check some of these places out on the map. (cont'd below)

    >>>5) Try hotels outside of Boston, as Pedal Dancer suggested. Some lesser known, maybe cheaper hotels in town might be the Mid-Town Motel on Huntington Ave, the Buckminster in Kenmore Square or HoJo's in Fenway. There is also a Youth Hostel in Fenway.<<<<

    These sound like they may be a little funky. We're certainly not snobs or anything, but having traveled for business 3-4 days a week for eight years, I won't go any lower than a Holiday Inn Express (which is pretty nice, by the way!). Also, we are way too old to stay in a youth hostel. I should have mentioned all this in my original post. Sorry! (cont'd below)

    >>> BTW, we are known as Bostonians, as in the novel The Proper Bostonians.<<<<

    Funny you mentioned that. I've always known the proper term for a Boston resident, but I must have had a brain fart when I typed out the post. I've made the edit!
    Last edited by Papa Tom; 09-18-09 at 05:58 AM.
    Papa Tom

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  6. #6
    Senior Member Jim from Boston's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Papa Tom View Post
    Thanks for all the suggestions, so far. I'm not from the area, so I'll need to check some of these places out on the map. (cont'd below)

    These sound like they may be a little funky. We're certainly not snobs or anything, but having traveled for business 3-4 days a week for eight years, I won't go any lower than a Holiday Inn Express (which is pretty nice, by the way!). Also, we are way too old to stay in a youth hostel. I should have mentioned all this in my original post. Sorry! (cont'd below)...
    I think there is a Holiday Inn Express in Cambridge on McGrath Highway (Rte 28), close to Boston and the Lechmere subway stop. I agree that the Express is a good value. I really don't care for luxury hotels, except for their lounges, especially if I have to pay for it.
    Last edited by Jim from Boston; 09-16-09 at 03:48 PM.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Papa Tom's Avatar
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    >>>I really don't care for luxury hotels, except for their lounges, especially if I have to pay for it.<<<

    When I was traveling for business, I pretty much had carte blanche with regard to the hotels I picked. However, I always chose Holiday Inn Express. In one case, I was booked at the Venetian in Las Vegas; a primo suite for more than $300 a night. As I approached the check-in desk, I decided that I wasn't going to put up with all the big hotel snobby garbage and I managed to convince the girl behind the desk to cancel my reservation. I then took a cab to the HOJO just outside the airport entrance and stayed there for two nights at $47/night! (FYI, this was one of the rare HOJO's that was in the process of renovating, rather than going out of business, so it was in great shape. Needless to day, there was no Holiday Inn Express nearby, at the time.)

    When traveling with my wife, I need something a little better than HOJO, though. Express fits that bill. However, given that we will probably travel to Boston by train, we will need a hotel that will store our bikes - or let us take them to the room.
    Papa Tom

    "I just need a rest...and by 'rest' I mean a really long bicycle ride."

  8. #8
    Senior Member Jim from Boston's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Papa Tom View Post
    ...When traveling with my wife, I need something a little better than HOJO, though. Express fits that bill. However, given that we will probably travel to Boston by train, we will need a hotel that will store our bikes - or let us take them to the room.
    I've had good luck bringing my bike into hotels, another reason to prefer budget places. FYA, See this thread: "Wouldn't let me bring a bike into a hotel"

    Wouldn't let me bring a bike into a hotel

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
    I too like to bring a bike on trips when I go by car, not specifically for bike events, but to tour around, and I certainly prefer to keep it in my room. On my last trip, to Philadelphia, the Loew's Hotel was incredibly friendly to that; I didn't ask ahead of time. I did though make a conscious decision to take my beater mountain bike rather than my road bike.

    Frequently however, since I often travel by train, my strategy is just to rent a bike. Then I'm not so fussy about not keeping it in my room (sorry for the double negative). Actually I can't recall a hotel balking at the room option, but nearly always they will keep it in the luggage storage area. I'm a very early rider and there is always someone to open it up, though once they did have trouble finding the key. I give a tip as for any other stored item, and I usually make a friendly acquaintance with the night manager during my stay
    BTW, my local bike shop in downtown Boston, Back Bay Bikes, rents pretty good bikes. In fact I bought one of their rentals used.
    Last edited by Jim from Boston; 09-16-09 at 06:12 PM.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Papa Tom's Avatar
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    Doh!!! Once again, I've gotten all worked up to do a New England bike vacation and forgotten that AMTRAK won't take bicycles without a sealed presidential order. The idea was to ferry to New London, CT and hop on board America's railway - with our bikes - for the rest of the journey to Boston. But if I remember correctly, New London is not a station that accepts bicycles, even IF the specific train passing through has provisions for them. This throws a huge pedal wrench in our plan.

    Damn! Why doesn't AMTRAK realize how much potential new business they can gain if they stop punishing cyclists?
    Papa Tom

    "I just need a rest...and by 'rest' I mean a really long bicycle ride."

  10. #10
    Senior Member Jim from Boston's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Papa Tom View Post
    Doh!!! Once again, I've gotten all worked up to do a New England bike vacation and forgotten that AMTRAK won't take bicycles without a sealed presidential order. The idea was to ferry to New London, CT and hop on board America's railway - with our bikes - for the rest of the journey to Boston. But if I remember correctly, New London is not a station that accepts bicycles, even IF the specific train passing through has provisions for them. This throws a huge pedal wrench in our plan.

    Damn! Why doesn't AMTRAK realize how much potential new business they can gain if they stop punishing cyclists?
    We've only taken our bikes once on an AMTRAK train, from DC to Boston and didn't have to box them, but that was in 1977. I would have to be going somewhere for a seriously long (weeks) ride before I would take my bike on a commercial carrier with all the hassles of boxing it. As I mentioned, consider renting, or would you drive with the bikes if cycling were a priority? I do advise cyclists coming to Boston that I don't think cycling to see the sights in downtown Boston is a good idea because the town is really made for walking, you have to watch out too hard for traffic to see the sights, and you have the hassle of what to do with the bike when you want to visit something.

    One of the numerous joys of cycling in Boston though, is that the Commuter Rail lines and most of the subways will allow you to wheel your bike on board without charge during non-peak hours. I'm a reverse commuter from downtown outbound, so I get to ride in the morning opposite the heavy traffic flow, and then take the train home with my bike to about a mile from my house.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Papa Tom's Avatar
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    I've spent plenty of time doing business in Boston, so I don't really need to see the city. I mostly want to get back on the Charles River Path while the weather is still pleasant. And aside from feeling that eery Lexington vibe again, I can probably take or leave the Minuteman.

    One of my best memories of our last ride there was "getting lost" in the streets of Cambridge and other surrounding areas while a huge Octoberfest celebration was going on all over the city. It seemed every block we traveled introduced a new adventure, whether it was a Sam Adams giveaway, a roasted corn stand, or a guy juggling stuff. That's why I asked if that festival still takes place on Columbus Day weekend.

    Regarding bike rentals, truthfully, we're REALLY strapped for cash right now, so I'm going to have to pass on that idea. To give you an idea of what a budget vacation this needs to be, we'd be using AMTRAK Rewards points for the trip from New York and Priority Club Points for the hotel. These are leftovers from my job, which is now gone!

    I think the lack of a reasonably convenient bike-friendly AMTRAK train is going to squash the idea of training up there. Perhaps driving wouldn't be that bad.

    Let me think about this some more.....
    Papa Tom

    "I just need a rest...and by 'rest' I mean a really long bicycle ride."

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    I thought I posted this from work.....
    The Indigo Riverside is a priority club hotel and it right next to the Riverside T stop. Not sure if you can take bikes on the T but if so it's a nice spot.
    I always drive to Boston, it's only 4 hours.

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    OP: Are you committed to Columbus Day? This is going on next weekend if its of any interest: http://hubonwheels.kintera.org/faf/h...?ievent=289514

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    HOJOs

    I had to stay at the HOJO's in Boston in 1995. I was a little concerned, but was pleasantly surprised. Back then it was as at least as good as a Holiday Inn Express and very reasonable. Not sure how it has aged.

    I have a friend who has stayed at and was happy with a Best Western out aways on Commonwealth Avenue (I think in Brighton).

  15. #15
    Senior Member Papa Tom's Avatar
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    >>>>OP: Are you committed to Columbus Day? This is going on next weekend if its of any interest: http://hubonwheels.kintera.org/faf/h...?ievent=289514<<<<

    Oooh, that looks cool. But yeah, we ARE married to Columbus Day weekend.
    Papa Tom

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    Senior Member Jim from Boston's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hally View Post
    I thought I posted this from work.....
    The Indigo Riverside is a priority club hotel and it right next to the Riverside T stop. Not sure if you can take bikes on the T but if so it's a nice spot.I always drive to Boston, it's only 4 hours.
    No bikes on the Green Line at any time, peak or not.

    Riverside is the end of the Green Line.

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    Senior Member sherbornpeddler's Avatar
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    Amtrak

    Quote Originally Posted by Papa Tom View Post
    Doh!!! Once again, I've gotten all worked up to do a New England bike vacation and forgotten that AMTRAK won't take bicycles without a sealed presidential order. The idea was to ferry to New London, CT and hop on board America's railway - with our bikes - for the rest of the journey to Boston. But if I remember correctly, New London is not a station that accepts bicycles, even IF the specific train passing through has provisions for them. This throws a huge pedal wrench in our plan.

    Damn! Why doesn't AMTRAK realize how much potential new business they can gain if they stop punishing cyclists?
    BTW I think you ought to double check, I've had no problems taking my bike on Amtrak, in fact I'd say they go out of their way to accomodate my bicycle travel. My last trip from Cleveland they gave me a used box so my only charge was $5 handling. Amtrak sells boxes for $15. They are much bigger than used bike store shipping boxes and the ones the airlines occassionally sell. I only needed to loosen my bars and took off my pedals. I probably could have left the pedals on. I did leave my wheels and seat untouched (size 56cm frame). At my requested change of plans, Amtrak let me off one stop earlier and made extra sure to take my bike off the baggage car and hand deliver it to me. Try getting an Airline to do that!
    Life is like riding a bicycle. In order to keep your balance, you must keep moving. ~Albert Einstein

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    Senior Member sherbornpeddler's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
    No bikes on the Green Line at any time, peak or not.

    Riverside is the end of the Green Line.

    Agreed, no bikes on Riverside although it can be an agreeable ride in to Boston. The Marriott on Rt. 30, just north of the T is on the bike path that weaves along the river in to Watertown and on into Boston. There are decent roads to ride in as well. As mentioned, bike friendly commutor rail lines enable hotels, motels and B&Bs further out.
    Life is like riding a bicycle. In order to keep your balance, you must keep moving. ~Albert Einstein

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    The BAA Half Marathon in Sunday the 11th which will close down the area from the museum, along the emerald necklace to the zoo (all nice riding areas)
    you might want to do one of the boston bikes tours - they go out of Landry's on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston.

  20. #20
    Senior Member pocky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Papa Tom View Post
    1. Is there still a big Columbus Day weekend festival in Boston?
    I think the event you're thinking of is the Columbus Day Parade. It should be a blast: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=64353113944



    Quote Originally Posted by Papa Tom View Post
    4. Can you suggest any new rides we should consider (my wife is not a hardcore cyclist - she's good for about 15 miles on a dead flat route, minimal traffic)?
    Boston HarborWalk. http://www.bostonharborwalk.com Not completely done yet, but the parts that are there are practically brand new and gorgeous. See my answer to your question about hotels below.



    Quote Originally Posted by Papa Tom View Post
    5. Any "secrets" regarding where to stay fairly inexpensively on a holiday weekend? (ie: Here in New York, we'd advise budget-conscious people to stay in the boro of Queens and ride over a bridge into Manhattan, rather than paying $400-500 for a room in Manhattan itself.
    Given your penchant for Holiday Inn Express, I think you should definitely stay at the HIE at 69 Boston St. This is right near the gorgeous Boston HarborWalk multi-use-path that follows the coastline all the way to downtown Boston, and it's also right near the Andrew station on the Red Line, which is one of the lines you're officially allowed to bring bikes on during non-peak hours. In fact, even during peak hours, I've rarely had a problem bringing my bike on the Red Line, except at more crowded stations like Park Street or Harvard, so you will probably have no problem at Andrew at peak hours. Also, the Red Line is what South Station is on, and that's how I recommend you get to Boston in the first place. This is further from "the city" than most of Cambridge or Somerville, but it's a Holiday Inn Express, and it's wicked convenient to the T, and it's right near a gorgeous bike path, so do it!

    If for some reason you don't want to do that (I can't imagine why!), I second an earlier poster's recommendation of Cambridge, but Cambridge is trendy and has been getting quite pricey. Even better than Cambridge would be Somerville, which I'd really say more than anything is the "Queens" of Boston. Stick to the areas of Somerville that are near the Red Line -- Porter Square, Davis Square, Alewife. Stick to the areas of Cambridge that are on the Red Line (Central Square or Kendall Square -- Harvard Square will be too pricey) rather than the Green Line, since as an earlier poster said, you're never allowed to take bikes on the Green Line (unless they're folders). I'd suggest not bothering going so far out as to look at hotels that are only on the Commuter Rail lines -- the Commuter Rail schedules are terribly patchy, especially on weekends. This is nothing like the Long Island Rail Road, which practically runs on a subway schedule by comparison. Use your favorite online booking engine to scout hotels, and cross-check that with the "service around a location" tool at www.mbta.com.



    Quote Originally Posted by Papa Tom View Post
    Doh!!! Once again, I've gotten all worked up to do a New England bike vacation and forgotten that AMTRAK won't take bicycles without a sealed presidential order.
    Just hop the LIRR to Chinatown in NYC. I go from Boston to Long Island a lot, and I've done it numerous times in every way imaginable, and the Chinatown buses are by far the easiest, fastest, and most pleasant, and they'll let you take bikes for free and are incredibly nice about it, no box required, and you can lock your bikes to luggage tiedown hooks in the cargo hold. I haven't personally brought a bike on any of my trips, though I've been planning to do so at some point based on the recommendation of the people in the thread linked below.

    The trip to Boston normally takes 3.5 hours -- always considerably faster than Greyhound/Peter Pan (since the bus leaves NYC from Chinatown, it can hop directly on the highway, whereas the buses that leave from Port Authority have to meander through horrible Manhattan traffic to get to the highway) and they're also even faster than Amtrak unless traffic is abysmal. On the Boston side, both the Chinatown buses and the Greyhound/Peter Pan buses leave from the same place -- South Station bus terminal, which is right on the red line, which you can bring bikes on. Even versus taking the freaking Delta Shuttle (which I used to do a lot), the Chinatown buses are competitive, since the commute from Boston or NYC to the airport takes longer AND you have to factor in that security delay. Actually, I haven't done that since before 9/11, so I'm sure the Chinatown bus is even faster than the airplane now. You can get your tickets from http://www.luckystarbus.com/Purchase.aspx, though I always just show up there and buy it in cash for whichever bus is leaving next.

    Check out http://www.bikeforums.net/archive/in.../t-286365.html but feel free to IGNORE the poster on that thread (or any other thread you may stumble across) who talks about stupid things like live chickens on the Chinatown buses. I suspect this is all an urban legend perpetuated by people who are at best impressionable and at worst racist. (I'm a gringo myself, and can't understand these rumors at all.) I have been taking the Chinatown buses for 14 years (up to 20 times a year last year and the year before) and have NEVER had a single one of these legendary "horrible experiences". Yes, Fung Wah had some media incidents of drivers being cited for doing stupid things a couple years ago, but in all my time doing it, I've never been driven by a Fung Wah driver I thought was unsafe and I've never been in a Fung Wah bus that broke down, though I do prefer Lucky Star anyway because it's less crowded (see below). But the clincher is that EVERY SINGLE Chinatown bus ride I've EVER had has been a far more pleasant experience than ANY Greyhound or Peter Pan bus ride I've ever been unfortunate enough to have to take when I've missed the last Chinatown bus.

    The two big Boston<-->NYC providers are Fung Wah and Lucky Star. I prefer Lucky Star because they aren't as popular, hence their buses tend to be less full, hence you tend to be able to get two seats to yourself. There are a few new-to-the-scene companies which are not necessarily Chinatown-run (Megabus and Bolt bus), but I don't know anything about them or their bike policies.

    The tickets for Lucky Star or Fung Wah are $15. Not quite as cheap as free-with-Amtrak-points, but at $15 a box, it would all factor out to the same $15-per-person in the end if you had to buy Amtrak bike boxes. And then you've got all those points left over for another trip to somewhere the Chinatown buses don't go. Not to mention, that New London ferry costs a bloody fortune. I travel to New London a lot and looked into it for about 5 minutes before realizing it's far cheaper to drive.
    Last edited by pocky; 09-28-09 at 12:58 AM.

  21. #21
    Senior Member Papa Tom's Avatar
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    Wow! Thanks for the Chinatown bus info. You may have revived this whole idea for a Boston trip! I'm going to print out your post and examine it further.

    TM
    Papa Tom

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    Senior Member pocky's Avatar
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    Happy to help! Let us Bostonians know exactly when you'll be in town and what you've got planned!

  23. #23
    Senior Member Papa Tom's Avatar
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    October 9:

    After all this, it turns out both my wife and I are sick as dogs and will not be going ANYWHERE this weekend.

    Actually, I've been sick for five weeks now and have been planning this Boston trip half-heartedly, at best. I just haven't felt, at any point, that I was going to recover any time soon, let alone in time for Columbus Day weekend.

    Typically, this is the last good ride we take before packing the bikes away for the winter, so it's a tough one to skip, especially since we didn't get a heck of a lot of riding in at all this season. We had a pretty good ride in Westchester, NY last weekend, but it only made my barking cough worse. I don't want to spend all that money and time going to Boston if I'm going to feel like garbage the whole time.

    I suppose I'll just print and store all this Boston info for next year. Thank you all again!
    Papa Tom

    "I just need a rest...and by 'rest' I mean a really long bicycle ride."

  24. #24
    Senior Member Jim from Boston's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Papa Tom View Post
    October 9:

    After all this, it turns out both my wife and I are sick as dogs and will not be going ANYWHERE this weekend...

    I suppose I'll just print and store all this Boston info for next year. Thank you all again!
    My sympathies.

    I had an opportunity to go to Washington DC this Columbus Day weekend for four days to a professional meeting and planned to rent a bike. An old acquaintance even wrote me out of the blue suggesting we get together and ride. A family wedding in Michigan proved to be too much traveling in one week. So while I was stymied by more happy circumstances than you were, it would have been nice to presumably escape the early chills here in Boston and ride some new terrain.

  25. #25
    weakling beat.tk's Avatar
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    this is bumming me out!
    put the bikes away??
    aw
    hope you get better... maybe you have a minor gas leak that's making you sick.
    five weeks of sick is unfair.

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