Saturday, September 8, 2012

Fruitlands: a Ride of Passage

Fruitlands View, Harvard MA
It was a remarkable day that I want to be sure to remember. Pamela must have sensed this before I did, because she offered to take a picture at the top. I didn't even know there would be an "at the top." I thought we were riding to yet another small town in the next county over. Nobody warned me it would be so beautiful.

Fruitlands View, Harvard MA
It seems like sooner or later, every roadcyclist in Greater Boston does the ride to Harvard. Not Harvard the university half a mile from my house, but Harvard the town in central Massachusetts. Depending on the club or event, these rides are called things like "Hammer to Harvard" or "Hills of Harvard" or "the Harvard 100K." There are several routes and all involve some climbing at the end. I guess it's a rite of passage of sorts. The ride reports I'd read tended to stress the distance, pace or climbing. But Pamela's attitude was nonchalant. "I'm going to try out a new lunch spot in Harvard on Thursday, would you like to join me?" She was essentially just inviting me for a bite to eat. Well, why not. A girl's got to eat.

Fruitlands, Mountain Map
So here is the straight dope about the Harvard ride from a cyclist of my meager abilities: Forget milage, speed, climbing. Just forget that stuff for a second. What you need to know about this ride is that it is a gorgeous destination. You will be stunned. You will be grateful. Take one of the harder routes, take one of the easier routes, hammer, meander, ride however you like. But know that the destination is worth it. And for the love of the universe, don't stop at the Harvard General Store and turn around - you will only be cheating yourself out of a breathtaking view. Continue to Fruitlands, which is the true destination. Adjacent to the former utopian agrarian commune (now a museum) is a scenic overlook with a view of every mountain in proximity. That's six mountains!

Fruitlands View, Harvard MA
As we lunched at the surprisingly fancy Fruitlands Cafe (patio seating with a view, pretty silverware, reasonable prices) I was almost too stunned to make conversation. Pinch me, was I dreaming? Why did nobody tell me what a glorious place this was? The land, densely forested, spread out in front of us in shades of blues and greens. There was Mt. Wachusett, a flat-top stodgy thing. And there was the Monadnock range in New Hampshire, hazy and delicate. They all seemed so close, so inviting. The special thing about this destination, I realised, is that it inspires to ride further. It turned out to be an 80 mile day for me, a distance I'd never before done so casually. And though we rode home after lunch, one day I'd like to keep going - toward and across those other mountains. 

25 comments:

  1. We did a mini tour last weekend - 106 miles in all. Back on the bike to ride to work on Monday and was amazed my muscles weren't shouting at me. It always amazes me at how fast you can built your bike stamina (I'd been off the bike for over a week with the lurgy so had expected the weekend to feel much harder than it did).
    Thanks for sharing those lovely pics - always love to see where people ride round the world.

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  2. You are right about this ride, it is a right of passage of sorts. After riding to and around Harvard on CRW rides, I found my way out to Harvard on something called the Fruitlands ride. It was printed out on a card as partof a series of other rides. I forget the author/publisher. For a while I did it frequently enough to remember the route. And it is beautiful out there. A couple of years ago went out there to see the tree people at the museum and I was lucky enough to ride my bike back into town. That is a great ride but it isn't the same as riding from town.

    How many bikes does Pamela own?!

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    1. "How many bikes does Pamela own?!"

      (n+1) -1?

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    2. and what would be the one thing they have in common?

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    3. Fixie Pixie - I have one of each as well, if you count the kind of bikes that I might use.

      From seeing you on the road, reading your blog, and reading this blog, I would count 3 shifty road bikes but there are probably differences to the discerning eye, which I likely don't have. I ride a fraction of what you ride so n bikes, or 1 of each, is fine for me. Enjoy your rides!

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  3. That's the great thing about hills; when you get to the top you can see all the others. Sounded like a good ride.

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  4. I often ride to or through Harvard (I live about 20 miles to the southwest), and I always stop at Fruitlands and take in the wondrous view -- refreshing! I just wish that long stone wall wasn't all spiky stones -- makes it very tricky to sit and snack while you gaze!

    Charlie

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  5. This is, I think, what it's all about. The ride and the destination, not (for most of us) the time. Back in the '80s, it was common to use the term "quality time," with the idea that if you squeezed a lot in, that could make up for not *taking* time. BS.

    Sometimes, setting aside a day for lunch isn't a bad idea.

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  6. I envy you. Looks stunning. How do you manage so much time for cycling? My lunch breaks are only 30 minutes!

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    1. Working as a consultant allows me to make my own schedule, within reason. Very handy for cycling!

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  7. Any place on the web to reference best route? Thanks

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    1. Here is a good one from Pamela, that our club also uses. 62 miles from Lexington, MA.

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    2. That's probably the most common route up from Lexington. Here is a variation on it with some bonus climbing - and in the opposite direction, so you get the nice preview - view coming down W. Bare Hill.
      http://ridewithgps.com/routes/916515

      I have links to many of my routes on this page on my blog
      http://blayleys.blogspot.com/p/routes.html

      Most have nice sit down lunch destinations, good scenery and quiet, off the beaten track roads...

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    3. That is probably the nicest sit-down lunch destination I've gone to in a while, cycling or otherwise!

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    4. New England Randonneurs' "Populaire" this past spring went by the view:
      http://nerandonneurs.org/nersite/?p=11
      http://ridewithgps.com/routes/1094843
      (The view is even marked on the second link)

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  8. well, you've sold it to me. i'm setting off from london tonight !

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  9. Many a wedding I've performed jazz for at Fruitlands; it is a lovely, lovely place, as you say. And the fall is the best time to go, I think.

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  10. Looks lovely.

    I've been needing a new destination to bike to; I'll put Harvard on the list... I'm definately in the 'meander' category of how to get there.

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  11. Wonderfully written and simply photographed. You have captured the ride and entertained with your post. Thanks very much. Cheers.

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  12. Fruitlands is one of NE's deeply spiritual places. Great that you got there, and on such a fine day. Route?

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  13. last time I was there, my commune with nature (and with japanese tourists who were obsessed with the book "little women") was punctuated by sub-machinegun fire across the RR tracks from devens. absolutely beautiful place, though - did you hit up the apple orchards about a mile up the road?

    if you're looking for a nice leisurely ride to the other famous transcendentalist site... not a serious ride - and there are a few detours in there through beautiful JP, Rozzie, and West Rox. alternatively - head up to allandale (just north of the arboretum) on the way back for an actual working farm in the city of Boston and some fresh produce/eggs/honey.

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  14. It seems to me that I remember reading in the Globe years ago that Harvard benefitted handsomely from Fort Devens while suffering rather little. Because most of the base's land area was in Harvard, that town got the lion's share of the impugned taxes from the Feds, while poor Ayer,which hosted the main gate, got the pawn shops and trailer parks. Harvard got great schools, low taxes, and multi-acre zoning.

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  15. Never heard of this but supper psyched to learn of it. Will look into a route from my home in Rhode Island. Maybe an overnight tour?

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