Maps; Cold, Windy, and Wet

March 1st, 2012

A few days ago while driving with my fiancee on Putnam Ave in Cambridge, she remarked on the epiphanies one has when first discovering a new place. “This Putnam Ave (at the intersection of Mass Ave and Mount Auburn) is the same as that Putnam Ave (in Cambridgeport).” Having those Aha! moments is so much fun; I imagine what fun it would be to sit down and draw your “world map” every week after moving to a new place. I recall in my first months living in Harvard Square running to Inman Square (exotic!) or biking over the Somerville line on Beacon Street and feeling as though was on the verge of falling off the end of the world. (My bike broke right in front of Johnny’s Foodmaster and I had to walk home.) Now, of course, I have to bike 30 minutes in some direction to find a map connection not yet made.

The other map discovery is by route following. I’m old fashioned and own a couple of atlases of Massachusetts that I have used to plan (but rarely ride) bike tours in Central Massachusetts. It is very challenging to put together a coherent route between two points which is suitable for biking and also direct enough, especially because one never knows the road conditions in a foreign place. The challenge is similar for using a mapping tool such as Google’s: while they suggest bike routes, I generally find them painfully indirect (go over the Longfellow Bridge to get to Back Bay Station?) or overly emphasizing “bike routes” which are usually just, um, streets. Over time, of course, you gather others’ route suggestions and combine them with your preferences to develop unique directional habits. As much as I’d love to collate that information, somehow I think it’s too idiosyncratic to bother.

Weather

Last night was an unremarkable ride in the rain/snow mix: the snow didn’t stick, and falling snow is as pleasant or more so than freezing rain… which brings me to this morning’s ride. I would say it was one of the most extreme bike commutes I’ve had. Freezing rain and temperatures, driving rain, and heavy wind. I took it slow and covered myself head-to-toe and it was mostly just a little inconvenient. On the other hand, I do like riding in the rain for the solitude and smugness; I hope the look on my face communicates that to the drivers sitting in traffic.

Temperature: 35 degrees

Road conditions: Wet, clean; they didn’t put down much or any sand for the storm yesterday

Clothing: Rain shell, sweater, rain pants, timberland shoes.

Comfort: Warm! I had the odd experience about five minutes from my house when my thighs felt noticeably cold – I think it was the cold rain sitting on the rain pants before I had worked up any heat from riding. I wore the hood up under my helmet and pulled it as far over my eyes as possible to avoid getting too much water on my glasses. The rain wasn’t falling too heavily, so it wasn’t as much of a factor as the wind.

2 Responses to “Maps; Cold, Windy, and Wet”

  1. Weather Out There » Blog Archive » Five Items for New Transportation Cyclists; Hot and Dry Says:

    […] Figure out routes that work for you. You’re going to be taking different roads than if you were walking or driving. While Google Maps has biking directions, I find them to be generally pretty bad because of their slavish devotion to marked bike routes (a nearly meaningless distinction, usually). Find what works for you be trial and error and talk to other bikers. […]

  2. Radey Shouman Says:

    For route planning I have found the Rubel bike maps to be very useful — bicycle oriented, including secondary roads, and at a useful scale. When touring in central Massachusetts these maps were my main resource.

    There is, of course, a fly in the ointment: the central and western maps have been out of print for several years. So, if you’re reading this Andy Rubel, please just reprint the old editions of these maps. They may be a bit out of date but I’ll happily buy several of each.

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