i woke up at 9 this morning to find john and deanna already packed to leave, one million years b.c. playing on the television. they left once the movie was over, visiting dan and cymara first to deliver their wedding present before driving back to new york city.

soon afterwards dan instant messaged me about coming down to his place to hang out. i ate a bowl of cereal, got dressed, then took the motorcycle over. i thought maybe i was being invited to a swanky after-party party, but what i walked into was dan's family (about a dozen members) huddled around the living room, figuring out how the hell to drive out of boston and back home to pennsylvania. i left soon after they left.

i went to belmont to fuel up at my usual self service gas station, before riding the length of route 2A all the way to fitchburg, 45 miles outside of boston. it's the farthest i've traveled on 2A, prior to that i've only gone as far as shirley, to the giant mohawk indian landmark. along the way, i must've waved to probably 30+ other bikers. i thought the ride would clear my head, but i came back just as confused as i ever was. for the most part i was going 45-55mph, but there's a stretch of road where route 2A and route 2 converge (near walden pond), and that was a little bit scary, 65-70mph. at 55mph, the wind is blowing so hard, my keychain remains horizontal. at 65mph and above, teardrops well up and spill to the sides of my face. unless you have a full-face helmet (which i don't), you really can't go very fast. i can only breathe when i'm facing forward; if i have my head turned, the wind is rushing by so fast, my nostrils doesn't have the strength to breathe in the air. it's loud, as the air rush into my earflaps. occasionally flying insects hit me in the face with a loud "splat" at whatever combined velocity bug plus bike comes out to. it hurts, but usually i'm just glad it didn't fly into my eyes. the bike vibrates when i'm riding it, and after a long ride, it usually takes a toll on my back. i was also chewing gum, blowing large pink bubbles that'd get pressed to my face. i'd forgotten about all these things, but it only takes one long ride to suddenly remember everything.

i ride through some pretty scenic vistas along route 2A. grazing cows on farmland, rolled up coils of hay, crushed stone refinery, magenta fields of purple loosestrife, hidden streams through forest thickets. but on the highway it's still pretty hard to just stop and pull over to take a photo, even with something as small a footprint as a motorcycle. arriving in lunenburg i did stop the bike to take some snapshots from a bridge overlooking a stream.

bridge view

horse nettle

butter and eggs

fitchburg was the point where i decided to head back. 2A became less highway, more commercial and residential areas. going towards fitchburg i remembered passing a sign for some sort of nature center in lunenburg, and when i went back i made a note to stop by and investigate. off of the highway, sort of hidden, is a sign that reads, "henry e. cowdrey nature center: this land has been set aside by the town of lunenburg for the benefit of its inhabitants and to protect and preserve its natural resources." there was a small empty parking lot, and just when i parked my bike, a car showed up, an overweight man wearing a jogging outfit stepped out along with his toy dog, who immediately ran to my legs. i held back an involuntary desire to kick. he sprayed himself down with bug repellent then ran into the forest with his dog. although originally i wasn't planning on doing any sort of naturing today, it was still early (around 1pm) and i couldn't pass up the opportunity to explore the wilderness of lunenburg, a town that up to today i didn't even realize existed, much less having "nature centers" that i can visit. so after spraying myself down as well (the mosquitoes buzzing in my ears was reason enough to coat myself with DEET), i entered the forest.

not far into the trail i came across a small wooden footbridge that goes across a woodsy stream heavy with dragonfly activities. i walked down to stream's edge, trying to get closer to the dragonflies. there was a row of half submerged boulders that i was hopping on from one to another, when something quickly caught my eye that wasn't quite right. what is that black ribbon thing lying on the rock? it took my brain a few seconds to process the information and realized it was a snake sunning itself. i almost stepped on it! i stopped immediately, not wanting my vibrations to scare it away. it was a northern water snake, which i was able to identify from the black-white-red patterns on its body (particularly on the bottom), and it looked like the dead water snake julie had found back in october of last year. it was dark, which meant it's an old snake (water snakes live to 7 years), but i wasn't sure whether it was a trick of the light. i couldn't tell how long the snake was (part of it was submerged), but at least 12" was on the rock (fun fact: in the photo on the right, the row of rocks near the top of the photo, on the right side you can see the snake, i didn't realize it when i took the photo). after taking some photos, i slowly backed away and left the snake alone. not sure what it is, but within the past few weeks i've seen no less than 3 snakes in the wild.

i went deeper into the woods. the trails were marked, but since i didn't have a map of the place, i wasn't sure how far i was going or even in what general direction. there wasn't very much to see after i left the stream, much of the same things i've seem in other forests. there appears to be some dried vernal pools, and because the forest floor has natural covering (pine needles instead of crushed rocks), it's a good place to find eft activities. there were of course mushrooms, but nothing particularly new. i could do with less mosquitoes though, as i was buzzed nonstop as they probed my chemical defenses for weaknesses.

(chicken mushroom)

(chicken mushroom)

variable russula button

strangulated amanita

i got a little bit lost and i couldn't get enough of a clearing to get a read on the GPS, so i just followed the trail markers, hoping it'd loop around and take me back to my starting point, which it finally did. crossing back across the foot bridge i was hoping to see the snake again, but it was gone. determined to get some good dragonflies photos still, i went back down to the stream and did some rock hopping. arrggghhh! snake! i almost stepped on it again! it had relocated, now it was entirely out of the water in a full body sunning posture. i took as many photos as i could before it slipped back into the water, feeling vulnerable from being so exposed. i think snakes are fascinating, but they kind of scare me. they're a lot bigger than the usual critters i encounter, which makes me anxious. they also play upon my fears of wormy things (snakes, to put it bluntly, are just very large worms).

green frog (young female, 2")

getting back on the motorcycle was such a good feeling. no mosquitoes, and the wind cooled me right off after i was sweating from walking around the forest. eventually i got back into town, went to the cafe to show my father some photos, then went to belmont. the grapes are fuller than previous seasons and the tomatoes are already out, still green, but just weeks away from ripeness (i've yet to see a single flower on my tomato plants in cambridge, but at least the squirrels seem to be leaving my plants alone now). i was dead tired. riding a motorcycle takes a lot out of you, it requires more concentration than driving a car. the wind is also a factor, you're constantly pushing against it. on top of that, my trip into the forest also sapped out a lot of energy. did i mention my aching back? after dinner (chinese chive omelette, fried fish, cucumber salad, stewed tofu with beef), i quickly hurried home before it started raining. i watched another brand new episode of 4400 followed by the dead zone, part of my new sunday night ritual.