Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Traveling in New England

This update is overdue, but you know how it goes: It wasn't until this morning that I finally had all of my race-related  documentation finished and sent off—and yes, that included my Chief Referee report for Angel Fire (goodness, I can't believe that's just a week in the past!) and this weekend's two UCI cyclocross races in Massachusetts.
One of the men's races at the NEPCX The Cycle-Smart International race weekend
I had flown to Boston on Friday, spent the night outside of the metro area, and drove to Northampton early Saturday morning to work the two NEPCX The Cycle-Smart International 'cross races as the UCI's Doping Control Officer. You see the beautiful blue skies that greeted the athletes (and me)—a far cry from last weekend's devastating nor'easter that blanketed the region with up to three feet of wet snow, causing trees to topple and powerlines to snap. Even as I am writing this, 10 days later, parts of Connecticut are still without power! The race venue at Look Park showed signs of damage, too, but race organizer Adam Myerson and his helpers had laid out a beautiful course that was extremely spectator friendly. Hundreds of racers—amateurs and Pros—came out on Saturday and Sunday to have some brisk, fast, and not-at-all muddy fun.
The top Pro women get ready for Saturday's start
As DCO, my task was less stressful than when I am chief of a race, but there was still quite a bit of work. And just in case you are wondering: No, I do not have to watch them pee in the cup; for that we have a medical doctor. My task is making sure that proper protocol is followed and that the test is conducted with respect for the riders, confidentiality, and adherence to testing and reporting standards.

When I had received this assignment a few months back I had decided to tack on a few extra days on my own dime since I have never traveled in New England, except for one trip that Judy and I took to the immediate Boston area in 2003 or 2004. Had I arrived a week earlier, this plan would have backfired miserably. But I lucked out, and for the past two days (it seems like so much longer!) I have been traveling through parts of Massachusetts, Vermont, and now New Hampshire. There's so much history out here, at least by West Texas standards. For example, Deerfield (now it's called Historic Deerfield) dates back to 1669! Now, that's pretty old. The town has been continually restored since the 19th century, and it is as charming as it is home to real people.
Fall in Historic Deerfield, MA

Just click on the photo to read the commemorative plaque
Sightseeing makes thirsty, but this is New England, and they are civilized around here:
Seeing this growler on the side of a liquor store I had to make a U-turn!

Yep, it's not a typo: That's $6.99 for a growler! The deposit for my first growler of the weekend (Berkshire Brewing's Lost Sailor IPA) was $1.50, which I promptly received back when I traded for an Opa-Opa IPA (but I had to add another 50 cents since Opa-Opa charges $2 as a deposit). The beer culture up here is amazing. Not only are there lots of microbreweries, but even blue-collar taverns such as the After Works Bar in South Deerfield have, aside from the ubiquitous Busch and Coors, real taps such as Harpoon, Dog Fish, or even Red Hook's Long Hammer! This is heaven for a hop-head! Needless to say, I've been keeping the growler filled, and my evenings get started with a visit to the local brewery or tap room. (Tonight it was The Draft in Concord, NH, where not only Happy Hour lasted all night with $2 (repeat two dollar!!!) pints but also a 15% food discount with a faculty ID. Well, isn't it a lucky thing that I still carry my Tech ID....)
This happy moose resides ...

... in front of Madison Brewing in Bennington, VT
No, it hasn't been all beer. I've behaved like a good tourist, stopping along the way and admiring the sights. The weather (despite a few early high clouds this morning that later burned off) has been fantastic, and the fall colors and non-crowds make this trip a real pleasure. At Shelburne Falls I had a look at the granite potholes ("At 36 feet in diameter, we can boast of the largest granite pothole in the WORLD!"); in Williamstown I walked across the lovely Williams campus (you better know how to spell "New England elite liberal-arts college" to get accepted here, plus have a lot of dough for tuition); marveled at the 300+ foot obelisk commemorating the Vermontese defeat of the Brits with the help of John Stark in 1777 in Bennington; and had my first glimpse of covered bridges, also in Bennington.
Shelburne Falls' (MA) granite potholes
Old and new at Williams College (MA)

The big phallus of Bennington, VT

Henry Bridge—the bridges were covered to protect the wood from the elements
So, as you can see, I've been sampling a nice cross-section of impressions in just the past four days. There are lots of stories to tell (such as the Dead Beat band in the pub right next to my hotel the first night, dead ringers—forgive the pun—for the Grateful Dead), many more beers to discuss (for lunch there was a Smuttynose IPA...), and impressions to share of the devastation that hurricane Irene caused this summer (I had to make a 30-mile detour yesterday because a road is still washed out). But it is late, I am tired, and people no longer like to read too many words. So, I'll end with this photo, which I took at an intersection today.Says it all, I think.


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