Super Spreader Saturday/Roxbury Ride

The first home football game of the season. 80,000 maskless and screaming fans packed together. It’s foggy, so little airflow. What you exhale, I inhale. Once the air gets hot enough, it will rise out of the stadium. Since the air is already saturated with moisture, the droplets will be left behind. The good news is that 90% of the university community has been vaccinated. The bad news is that the university community makes up less than ½ of the audience.

These were my thoughts as I headed out of town, sort of fulfilling a long-term fantasy. As I ride to work, I fantasize continuing on out of town instead of stopping. Today I did that. I was on the road at 9:30 AM, nearly 4 hours later than if I were riding to work on a Saturday morning. I had the day off for the holiday weekend – one of the perks of working every Saturday for 20+ years is that I get a three day weekend when holidays roll around. Of course, so does everyone else, except that they have to work one holiday weekend/year and I don’t. The sidewalks were packed. Traffic through campus was bumper-to-bumper. It was good to get out.

I rode to the once-iconic Roxbury Tavern. Tom had taken over an old roadhouse and decided he wanted a new clientele – people who would sit and eat and talk, with drinking incidental to that. He got rid of the TVs, the video games, the pool table, and the piano. He instituted nightly specials – not the usual bar food, but a Cuban night and (on Wednesdays when we stopped in after rides) an Italian night among them. Spaghetti with Italian sausage and garlic bread was on the menu. Victor was more prone to the mushroom burger and homemade fries, which came with Tom’s own garlic or jalapeño ketchup. Homemade pickles were on the table as an appetizer. The beers were from a small brewery just down the road. Tom was a curmudgeon, and I mean that in the best way. On the other hand, on Paul’s birthday, he serenaded him with “Happy Birthday” on trumpet, guitar, kazoo, and nose flute. I probably told that story here before, but it seemed worth repeating.

Tom retired and there were hints of small changes with the new ownership. Perusing the menu, it looks like a typical roadhouse with the bar food usual suspects. I haven’t been inside. They do have a couple of goats living in the backyard, so it isn’t totally a typical roadhouse.

I stopped to say hello to the goats and have a snack. The bar wasn’t open yet. The goats had less to say than the sheep a few miles down the road. The cattle tend to just watch, sometimes with what seems like idle curiosity, and sometimes looking like they wonder about those humans sometimes. While I anthropomorphize, do they bovimorphize? The town roads were quiet. The fog slowly lifted and the grey was just a little higher off the ground. I had in mind 70 or more miles, but at about 50 the clouds started leaking. Rather than wash off the fresh wax-based chain lube from this morning, I cut the ride short, ending at 61 miles. I froze some cherries earlier this year, so Sunday I baked a Labor Day cherry pie in lieu of riding.

Breaking news! I just learned that the early discount for Cycle America‘s coast-to-coast tour in 2022 has been extended to September 18! Now’s your chance if you want to see the continent the way it was meant to be seen – by bike!

A great Vuelta a España comes to an end. Primož Roglič gave up the red jersey for the middle stages when he didn’t need the pressure. When the chips were down, he answered every challenge. He won the final time trial for his 4th stage win, to go with his Olympic Gold Medal in the same event. It was his third consecutive victory in the Spanish tour. For those who need people from the US in order to feel a connection, Sepp Kuss of Colorado rode brilliantly in support of Roglič, frequently setting the pace in the mountains to narrow the field to the elite climbers, and finishing 8th overall. Lawson Craddock of Texas rode well in support of his teammate Magnus Cort Nielsen, who won three stages. Joe Dombrowski of Virginia finished 39th overall. Thanks to NBC for great coverage, beautiful shots of the scenery, and daily updates on YouTube for those of us who don’t pay their subscription fee.

The Euskaltel -Euskadi team from the Basque region of Spain was invited to the tour. The bikes they ride come from Orbea, a worker-owned co-operative in Mallabia, Spain. In my youth, we dreamed of a co-operative commonwealth; a world in which the production and distribution of goods were owned by the people – not by the government in the name of the people, but by co-operatives owned by the people they served. We worked to build such a system, with co-ops providing food, books, bikes, housing, taxi service, engineering, banking, health care, and car repair; but we fell short of the yogurt production facility we wanted to start. Not all of those co-ops survived, and the association was loose. We discovered that the co-operative commonwealth exists in Mondragón. Mondragón is a network of 96 co-ops employing 81,000 people and divided into four sectors: finance, industry, retail, and knowledge. Orbea is one of those co-ops, owned by the workers who build the bikes.


The Roxbury Tavern to Crystal and Fish Lakes is a long-time favorite loop. It works better on a kayak than a bike this year.

Photo by Pam Fornell

Notice the speed limit sign just right of center. This is a road. A detour was required for the ride this week.

The Roxbury Tavern was not your typical country roadhouse. When Tom took it over, he wanted to change the atmosphere and the clientele. He banned smoking, back when banning smoking in a bar was like banning singing in church. He threw out the TV sets, the juke box, and the pool table. He wanted people to sit at tables, eat, talk, and drink, probably in that order. When the kitchen closed, the bar closed and he went home. It closed earlier than any bar I’ve seen.

On tap was Esser’s Best, from nearby Cross Plains. Bud Light and Miller Lite were gone. He served Sunday brunch, with live bluegrass on the back porch. He had nightly specials – his pasta night, with Italian sausage and garlic bread was a favorite (and it was on Wednesday nights, when we ride). He made his own spiced ketchups and served homemade pickled vegetables as appetizers. Burgers and fries were still available, and better with garlic ketchup.

If we stopped for dinner after a ride, we called ahead so Tom knew he’d have a bigger crowd and keep extra staff on hand. He didn’t like surprises. Tom has retired and I haven’t been inside the place since the new owners took over. I’m kind of afraid to, wondering if it looks like a typical country roadhouse again. When the new owners took over, the headline on the newspaper story said “New owners… trade tradition for game day crowds”. They brought back the TV, juke box, and pool table.

P.S. I forgot to mention the car that played chicken with me that evening. I was riding down a flat, straight, open stretch of road when an oncoming small black sedan drifted into my lane. I was riding as close to the edge of the road as a I could. I thought about dismounting and running off the road. I checked the edge and saw that it was grassy and level so I could escape on the bike if necessary. We made eye contact and the driver continued to aim for me. She was clearly not on her phone or distracted. Her left wheels were about three feet off the edge of the pavement. If she kept going straight I would survive. If she swerved further left, I’d head off road or die. I didn’t think she really wanted to kill me, just intimidate me. Just in time, she eased back into her own lane – late enough for intimidation, early enough for it to be a smooth move. I guess you could say, as a game of chicken, I won. It did not feel like a victory. My pants stayed dry.