Eliot and I had been plotting a bicycle mission to Walden Pond for a while now, and the day finally came. I was up early in the morning. Eliot met me over my apartment and we looked at the map on the big screen. Street view did not do justice to what happened when the Minute Man Bike Path ended and raw tracking and survival instinct took over. Actually, I jotted down directions on a scrap of paper. For turbo juice, I French pressed some yerba mate from San Mateo. It looked and tasted vile, a pot of bitter, stagnant swamp water. We were off.
I got us lost (in Cambridge, right down the street from where I live) before we could reach the first leg, and we ended up at the Vortex. These pictures show the very beginning of our forty mile journey. Eliot’s face conveys the knowledge that the scrap of paper in my pocket is not going to save us from the Vortex, and also a lingering shock that I served him the gross yerba mate. My downward glance is out of shame, and slight amusement. After some backtracking and the crossing of major motorways, we hit the Minute Man trail and managed to ride our way to Concord, MA.
On Google Maps street view we had spied a restaurant called Helen’s Cafe; this is where we ate lunch. It was so freaking good (and hunger is the best sauce). We both got the Helen’s Special… a 1/3 pound burger with bacon, two kinds of cheese, pickles and onions on a sesame seed bun, and we split a coffee ice cream frappe. I behaved like a black hole and my gravity well sucked in not just my sandwich but also French fries, pasta salad, the rest of Eliot’s burger and cole slaw, and a large Diet Pepsi. I loved it so much that I gave the waitress my lucky two dollar bill. Also, Helen’s is cash only. We needed it to cover the check.
At long last we arrived at Walden Pond, and walked through Thoreau’s bean field… “It was no longer beans that I hoed, nor I that hoed beans,” reads the plaque. With our bikes, we circled the 1.7 mile loop around the water until we got to the beach. With our gear safely inside the encampment of an extraordinarily hairy Massachusetts man (a mane of trust, I called it) we waded into the pond for a swim because its not summertime in Massachusetts if you haven’t gone for a dip in Walden Pond. We swam far out in the middle of the body of water, back to the edge, and then rested on submerged wooden benches bolted to the stone wall. The sun came out. Drying off on the beach, I busted out my shortwave radio and picked up some bursts of Quebecois jazz.
On the ride back home we stopped at two farmer’s stands and bought string beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, peaches, homemade fudge and whoopie pies, and the first local corn I’ve seen all summer. By a field of wildflowers I took a picture of Eliot and me. I left the scrap of paper with our directions there by the side of the road. Getting out in the country with a great friend in the summer… doesn’t get any better.