Bill Barrett of Concord said he knew his mother, Jane Barrett, was a "remarkable woman" long before she rode her bike 1,453 miles from her home in Concord to Amelia Island, Fla.
"She has always been a woman of quiet grace who believes that she can do just about anything that she puts her mind to," Bill wrote in an e-mail.
"Things like taking a sledge hammer and blowing down a side wall in our house to put on a new room, going back to school at the age of 40 to finish her degree, starting her own real estate company with no prior business experience, and biking by herself to Florida at the age of 73 are not that surprising to me because that's what she is like."
Jane, however, didn't link her recent adventure to fund-raising for charity because she wasn't at all sure she could make it. In fact, she credits her success to the logistical as well as emotional support of her family.
Jane's husband, who pulled over his rented RV every 3 miles so she could catch up, was her near constant companion. Her three daughters calculated her route on maps, cared for her dog, and made hotel reservations when Jane called at the end of each day to report her location. Her son coordinated the blog that her husband updated almost daily to ensure that while Jane was out of range, she was never out of touch.
Over the course of her 24-day trip, Jane averaged 55 miles per eight-hour biking day. She rode through all kinds of temperatures, got chased by dogs, but only missed one day due to rain. Her children joined her in biking the final 36 miles before the entire family celebrated at the Ritz-Carlton in Amelia Island.
"After working all these years, I enjoyed feeling so free," said Jane, who founded Barrett & Co. Real Estate in Concord.
"I'd love to bike down the Mississippi, or maybe to the Canadian border. Don't tell my husband, but I've already looked at the maps."
Community opera: Chelmsford resident Susan Julian Gates is not opposed to "The Nutcracker." In fact, she has taken her own children to see the ballet, which has become a holiday classic. Through her effort, however, a new alternative is available: community opera.
Gates, a mezzo-soprano who cofounded the Illumination Opera Company with Maggie Marshall of Chelmsford, is executive producer of the organization's inaugural performance. She will also play the role of Hansel in "Hansel & Gretel," which will be performed at 2 p.m. Dec. 6 and 7 at Chelmsford High School's Performing Arts Center.
The Illumination Opera Company focuses on intergenerational projects, both by involving young actors as well as welcoming all ages to its performances, Gates said.
About 15 children from the community are in the Gingerbread Chorus of "Hansel & Gretel," which is being sung in English.
"We felt strongly that in order to successfully introduce opera to people who haven't been exposed to it before, it needed to be in English," said Gates, who is also a member of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, which performs with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
"We want everyone to enjoy this family fairy tale."
To order tickets to "Hansel & Gretel," visit www.illuminationopera.com or visit the Chelmsford Community Education Department at 170 Dalton Road on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. The cost is $10 for adults and $5 for children and seniors.
Boy band: Fifteen-year-old Michael Nuzzolo of Andover and his band mates decided last winter to get more serious about their music. He found the missing link - lead vocalist Adam Carrington of Andover - while sitting in the audience of the Andover High School performance of "Titanic" last February.
"I was surprised when Michael approached me because I didn't know him that well," said 16-year-old Adam, "but I went to a band practice and was very impressed."
In addition to Adam and Michael, who plays bass, One Step Away is made up of 16-year-old lead guitarist Terence Healy of Wilmington and 14-year-old drummer Greg Rickenbacker of Andover.
The band, which performs at clubs, charity events, and private parties, has received even more requests since recently winning the Boston Music Festival in the category of alternative rock.
In between juggling school, jobs, sports, music lessons, and other commitments, the band members have produced their first recording of original and cover songs.
They will hold an EP release concert at the Sad Cafe in Plaistow, N.H., at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 6.
For more information, visit onestepawayband.com.
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