I don’t remember the first time I pulled my bike over and parked it in the rack in front of Fern’s Country Store. It was some time in the ’90s. How many times I’ve been there since, I couldn’t tell you either. Fern’s sits one side of the ancient rotary that serves as the center of Carlisle, MA, a small, leafy, affluent town in Boston’s western suburbs. On any given weekend, hundreds, maybe even thousands of cyclists swirl past Fern’s. Many stop. For the bathroom, some water, some rest, more food, to meet friends, to talk, to recheck their routes. Fern’s is good for all that.
The road to the Haystack Observatory only hints at the lunarscape at its end. A pocked and deteriorating pavement stretches through woods. It is lined with odd, official looking buildings, the sort you look at and wonder who could possibly work inside. Someone must. The complex contains giant radar towers, antennae, telescopes, all of it right out of government documentary on the space race. At the top is the giant, orb of the radio telescope, an Epcot looking, white sphere. You dare not turnaround until you’ve made the top. It is 45kms out of town, and so a worthy turnaround point.
Closer to home is the Belmont Woods Water Tower, atop Mackerel Hill. There isn’t much here, but graffiti artists have turned it into something more than the hub for a network of trails that snake up and around the hill, some of them steep, some of them twisting. There are few New England mountain biking spots I’ve seen more pictures of than that water tower.
This week’s Group Ride is about the iconic spots in your cycling life. Where are they? Why do they attract cyclists? As nearly as I can tell there are three main categories of iconic cycling geography, 1) the really good places to refuel, 2) the really beautiful places, and 3) the weird spots that are just hard enough to get to to make them attractive. Do the iconic locales near you fit into any of these?