Friday, September 13, 2019

D2R2 2019

Last month I rode another D2R2.  It was Saturday, August 17, and it was a pleasure to ride.  And I had a fun weekend around it, too.

Let's start at the beginning.  I actually signed up ahead of time, the first time since 2013 when I rode the Green River Tour with a few friends, including a couple who had a stake in Franklin Land Trust - one of their families owns land with a conservation easement on it purchased by the trust.  That was my second D2R2. I rode participated in the 100K version in 2009 but in 2010 it got difficult with a second child.  Since 2013, I rode the 2014-15 and 2017-2018.  If my addition is correct, that makes this year my seventh D2R2.  I've shied away from the 100K, mostly because I never quite seem to be in shape.

I finally felt in like I might be in shape and a neighbor, David, asked if I wanted to ride with him, on the 115K. Well, why not?  I signed up and immediately moved and then got sick and lost whatever fitness I had.  And David didn't have the best summer of riding and then his 9 year old daughter decided she wanted to do the Green River Tour with him.  I flailed around some but eventually decided that I'd ride the 100k by myself. But then, a few days before the ride,  David said everything changed and I had a riding partner and we'd figure out if the 100K or the 115K would be best and that we could decide on the morning of the ride.  That worked for me, even if it was still uncertain and all very last minute and I wasn't in the best shape.  Also, I didn't have a car for the previous 3 months (my nephew borrowed it to get to his summer job) but it was delivered back to me on the Thursday before the ride.  And my friends who relocated to Shutesbury were happy to have me stay over the night before the ride.  That sounded like it was all working out.

I had a great evening with my friends in the valley (or above the valley as it were), and enjoyed the landscape that I grew up near.  It's remarkable how home can be a place.  I grew up in a hard city and my home was pretty hard too.  Somehow I managed to gain a sense of home from a place, writ large.  The western Massachusetts hills are familiar as are the roads up through those hills.  So coming back for this ride is a pleasure and a homecoming.  And it's now the usual yearly occurance that I go out for the D2R2. (That remains true but I'm now committed to being somewhere else for the 2020 edition.  Don't worry, it's worth missing one D2R2 in this case.)

Mount Toby, whoever he was.  I've climbed it, skied up it, and ran up it countless times in my youth.  And it is visible from my friends' deck.

Mount Greylock.  My friends promised that, if the weather cooperated, I would see it.  This mountain also figures prominently in my personal history.
The ride went well.  I picked David up before 8 and we headed to the start in time to pick up our papers and grab some breakfast.  While were weren't early, there was still ample food for us.  I ran into several people, GeoJoeK and MoreSkyBetter.  We somehow weren't all that fast in getting out but we weren't late and had a lot of company to encourage us on.  That wasn't a problem until, on Old Albany Road, when some racer type decided to pass me, and others, on a gravelly hill.  Shortly after he announced his intent to pass on a narrow stretch of road, on a hill, the person in front of us (who happened to be on a spectacular bike that he made) slowed down and stopped, slowing us all down and causing that racer to stop.  Good thing, too, since there really wasn't room to pass me and the others I was riding with.  We didn't experience anything like that at any other point in the ride.

And that road was, for the route we took, the hardest and narrowest part of the ride.  I recall that it was far easier last year, riding with GeoJoeK, after the month of rain.  There was one incline that I walked but it was the only one that I even thought I might need to walk.  With the dry weather before this year's edition of the D2R2, there were ample places where riders of my ability needed to use use caution and give the folks in front of you space to slow or stop if they needed to.  But this was restricted to Old Albany Road.  The other two long uphill stretches on our version of the 100K, Cooper Lane Road and Franklin Hill Road/Amidon Road, weren't nearly as soft and sandy and the riders were a lot less concentrated by then.

It was on Amidon that David and I shifted gears and decided to meet, as planned, his wife and daughter at lunch.  We took the Jacksonville Stage Road cutoff, which got us to lunch within a couple of minutes of when his wife and daughter got there.  And it was a nice, long downhill run that happens to coincide with the after lunch slog for the 115K cyclists.  And it looked hard for them.  In fact, I saw a decent number of people walking their bikes and a great number clearly working hard on a number of stretches of that road.  I was happy that we were missing the 115K.  Maybe I was in shape for it but maybe I wasn't.

Lunch was great.  We found a place in the shade and listened to David's 9 year old recount her ride.  Both of my boys know her and maybe will be inspired to ride next year after they talk with her.  I mean the year after next.  It wasn't the bike show that it has been in past years but I did see a few very nice bikes.  We took it slow riding south from lunch to ride with with David's family back to the family ride parking area, and along the way decided that we would skip peaches at Apex Orchards, one of the highlights for David on last year's D2R2.  We also decided to skip navigating over to Hawks Road for a rough finish to the ride.  I recall that we rode into the finish with a number of other riders, including a family with dad pulling a couple of children in a trailer.  It was a spectacular day of riding and I think both David and I enjoyed each other's company and our laid back attitude about what we needed to do that day.

I may one day say: I will ride the 115K or 160 or 100 or even 180 but finishing some certain distance turns out to be an odd goal when there are multiple routes of comparable beauty and light traffic to get back to where you are going.  It's much different when I'm at home and there are busy ways home and less busy ways home and I really have to get there on my own power.  And thinking about sticking to routes, I recall talking with Sandy Whittlesey at lunch in 2015, when I was using one of his extended routes.  He said that many long time riders do their own mixing and matching of routes.  They just need to know where lunch and snacks are and organize their ride around those, or know where stores are and bring cash.  I know that I really enjoyed my 2014 and 2015 solo rides that took me on quiet roads with no one else riding and few cars.

Perhaps the best part of a D2R2 day is getting back and getting dinner.  The food is not amazing but it is good and plentiful.  I found a seltzer (no Polar Cola for me!) and sat down with David and enjoyed a quiet dinner.  After dinner, I greeted a few friends friends and acquaintances: VeloCB, Steve Jablonski, and Hilary Coolidge, with whom I rode the 2009 D2R2.  It was an early day for me.  I had time to get David back to his parents' house and then drove home, getting there before 8.  Good thing too, I really needed a shower.

All of my D2R2 routes:

The 2009 100K route is in red and my 2019 version is in orange. The rest of the rides are in black. There is some overlap, especially on the Green River Tour roads.
Leaving Massachusetts, heading north.  This was on a dirt road.  I saw the marker on Green River Road heading south but didn't stop for a picture.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Mapping open space in Massachusetts, including private parcels

I have been thinking about access issues since I first noticed the signs in Estabrook Woods, warning trail users that the trails may be closed if people don't follow the rules (which are reasonable rules, in my opinion).  I have been walked, running, skiing, and biking in Estabrook since I first discovered the trails in 1998, not long after I moved to Boston.  I knew that the land there was largely private and I would love to have these trails remain open for the long term.

Someone recently asked me if a map or data of Chapter 61 exists and I looked and found one, held by MassGIS, the state agency charged with maintaining and distributing public geospatial data for the state.  (Find the links to the data and explanations at the end of the post.)  The map below uses this data.

Estabrook is primarily private land.  If you know where to look, it's a big patch of yellow on the map (P, for Private for profit) and outlined in blue.  A lot of that land is owned by Harvard University.  There is also the Pippen Tree Farm (L for Land Trust, color is sort of orange, depending on your screen), which has been the most emphatic about limiting which trails can be used on their land.  All of the private land is protected, and open, under Chapter 61, the Massachusetts law that gives favorable tax reductions if the land is managed for forestry and/or open to passive recreation.  Also see this explanation of the Chapter 61 regulations.  And the Town of Concord owns some parcels in the area.

After looking at Estabrook, I added my GPS track from the 2016 Diverged Ride out of Ride Studio Cafe in Lexington.  You can see this as a red line on the map that turns into red dots as you zoom in.  You can see that the ride largely stays on public land and sometimes on land protected by Chapter 61 (P and L among other categories - a full list of categories is below the map in this post).  At other times it is on roads or public right of ways.  I've been on several of their rides:

and always wondered what land we were on and how legal is was to be there.  The short answer is that the rides were either well researched or lucky in that they all seem to follow public or otherwise open land.  Check out the map.

One thing to note is the many small parcels that make up Minuteman National Historical Park.  Any guesses as to why the Park Service had to buy many small parcels to make this?

Another oddity: The land that the Reformatory Branch Trail runs on is public.  But the Bedford section of the Minuteman Path is owned by the town.  And the Lexington section is privately owned, at least according to the map.

The codes (FEESYM) in the map are likely to be unreadable on their own.  Here is what MassGIS says in the metadata (see link below):

F- Federal
S - State
C - County
M - Municipal
N - Private Nonprofit
P - Private for profit
B - Public Nonprofit
L - Land Trust
G - Conservation Organization
O - Other / None of the above (e.g.joint ownership)
X - Unknown
I - Inholding (a piece of unprotected property surrounded on all sides by a protected property or a recreational facility)
1 - EOEEA or alternate state agencies
2 - EOEEA or non-profit
3 - EOEEA or municipality
4 - EOEEA or private landowner

You can download this data from MassGIS here.  And here is how they constructed the data model.  It isn't new data - I found a 2008 version that has fewer private parcels in the Estabrook area.  It is nice to know that these data are available to plan mixed terrain rides, if you aren't like Vandermark and have all of them memorized already.

And you should be aware that the final arbiter of boundaries are the survey descriptions and not these lines on a map.  As MassGIS said in the download/metadata page:

"These data are very useful for most statewide and regional planning purposes. However, they are not a legal record of ownership, and the user should understand that parcel representations are generally not based on property surveys."

And I will add that your GPS tracks are from an instrument with an accuracy of 3-5 meters and less under dense foliage.

The map on this page was made with Carto.  It is pretty easy to use although I couldn't see how to make layers transparent on the free version (please let me know how to if you know how to do this).  I can make a better map using Qgis but I don't have access to a server to make it public.  But you can download Qgis and export your Garmin tracks to GPX format and make custom maps at home.  Let me know if you want some help doing that.