Thursday, October 21, 2021

Coffeeneuring 2021 - First Cup Under a Full Moon

A windless, warm evening, listening to geese honking overhead, sipping tea and watching the full moon
rise over the Green Mountains, the glow reflecting on Lake Champlain.

I was surprised when I gazed westward and the camera flash captured all my bike's reflective bits
plus the western glow.

Mug of choice with companion Guard Dog, surrounded by maple and ash leaves.

Art for art's sake

This is my ninth year of the Coffeeneuring Challenge! I'm dedicating this year's miles to beauty in the natural world. Building upon coffeeneuring queen Mary, who places artful leaf designs on the ground and shares them via Instagram (@coffeeneur), I am opting for a similar arrangement surrounding my coffeeneuring mug. There is so much beauty in the world and I plan to revel in it!

For the inaugural sip, I set out after sunset - a practice that's necessary with long work days - to embrace night riding, heading for the causeway (former rail corridor across Lake Champlain) because of it's expansive views both west and east, this time to, hopefully, watch the full moon rise over the Green Mountains. The evening was a balmy 60+F and windless! I cruised out just far enough to park and scrambled down onto a flat marble block, my perch as the moon rose, ducked behind clouds, then eventually glowed, reflecting on the lake. Such a beautiful, rare evening. 

Reluctantly, I eventually headed the other direction to pick up groceries. As I crossed the bridge toward home, the full moon lit up the river. 

The Place: Colchester Causeway
Date: Wednesday, October 20
Drink: Ginger Tea
Observation: There were walkers and other cyclists in the darkness, including a guy with a tripod, capturing the moonrise.
Total Miles: 12

Thursday, October 14, 2021

2021 Pedaling Vacation in Greenport, NY

Despite initially feeling ambivalent about planning a 2021 vacation, once I made camping reservations, all the other steps fell in place, including my husband tagging along for a new experience.

That first day was an amazing adventure in itself, further heightened by the scenic Amtrak's Vermonter route and spacious seat (my husband would catch up a couple days later) within view of the vertical bike rack. My Rivendell Clem-entine exceeded Amtrak's stated maximum by 3", but it didn't pose any problems - I'm thankful employees hefted and removed my baby on both ends of the journey, 6 hours later rolling the bike onto the Hartford, CT platform. The only mishap occurred when I started rolling, stopping to inspect a rattling noise. The rear fender had pulled away from the bolt, scraping the wheel, but once I put it back, friction kept it in place. It held up for the entire 10 days, fortunately, because to re-secure it with a washer meant also removing the kickstand for Allen wrench access to the bolt head - a future project for sure!

Once on two wheels again, a heavy shower began and I ducked under an amazingly huge Gingko tree which acted as an umbrella for the ten minute deluge that eventually stopped, then navigated 20 miles of hilly terrain (thank you cue sheet), arrived at a prescribed spot (with my son's last minute texting help with route finding) at dusk where he then shuttled me and my loaded bike the last two miles (and 700 ft. elevation gain!) to his place. Phew.

On Sunday my son, his girlfriend, and her sister (who kindly put me up for two nights) went hiking on adjacent state forest trails - a spot where they also mountain bike. Later, we all went riding on the Farmington River Trail to Canton and back. Eventually two of us climbed the steep route back to their house - I made it unladen this time around - fortified with a drink and a brownie, initially to save an extra car shuttle, but it was also a worthwhile challenge. I'm glad I made the effort to visit our son on his home turf. He has lots of outdoor opportunities nearby!

My husband arrived on Monday then we drove to his brother's home close to Long Island Sound, leaving the car behind for the next week. Not only was this vacation about ocean views and beaches, but it was also a chance to visit family en route. As we set off to pedal the 10 miles to New London's ferry dock, we promised to spend more time  with his family upon returning. The direct route was hectic but the ferry ride was relaxing. After 1.5 hours, we disembarked at Orient Point where the 10 miles to Greenport was an easy ride, watching shore birds, the salty air reminding me how much I missed being near the ocean. Later, we set up our homes away from home (two small tents for comfort and organization - a first for us) for the next week at Greenport's municipal campground. When I initially planned the vacation, I imagined traveling by myself with freedom to possibly bike tour homeward - Amtrak one-way - but this thought also carried forward as a pair. With two full weeks off, being self-contained meant I had the liberty to follow through with solo adventures if I felt like it.

Lots of space to organize gear. I washed a couple items daily, letting them dry inside the tent on top of a yoga mat if rain threatened (I had hopes of continuing my daily yoga practice, but early darkness and getting plenty of daily exercise meant yoga practice fell by the wayside.)

My Cosmic Quilt set up - comfortable, loose fitting insulation on top, with a sleeping bag liner, cinched over a mummy-shaped air mattress, acted like a sheet. It's my new solution for more sleeping freedom.

After five years without an ocean fix, daily rides included hanging out at at least one beach, barefoot in the water, collecting shells. Late September weather was a perfect 60-75F day highs, with lows in the 50-65F range. 

Beaches varied. Some were pristine, sink your toes sandy; others were approached by stairs, with the beach composed of small ocean polished stones, often with boulders on guard like sentinels.

A heavy soaking rain storm was in the forecast, which arrived a day early. All indoor accommodation is expensive on Long Island so we opted for a night's stay in an RV - another first! Better than a motel for the same price, and self-contained - my husband's brilliant idea - so we quickly battened down
the tent hatches, pedaled quickly just before dark to a nearby private campground and enjoyed the luxury of the Treasure Ship, with our bikes safely stored beneath an awning. Afterwards, we were pleased that our tents and gear survived the downpour, with only minor puddles in the tent corners.

All bike touring vacations will have mechanical weirdness. After the initial fender problem, my front rack came loose, presumably from the ferry's vibration, but was easily fixed. On the other hand, my husband's rear tire developed a lump, which quickly grew worse. It was an older tire which needed replacement, so we discovered a bike shop a 15 mile ride west of Greenport. It ended up being fortuitous because we pedaled through the heart of the North Fork's vineyard region. Vines were heavy with grapes. After my husband swapped tires outside the shop, we returned to Greenport by a different, quieter route, looping behind the vineyards and vegetable farms, and eventually along the northern coast.

Greenport Harbor is also a fishing village...

So many unusual and wealthy vehicles used the ferries.
...And has frequent ferry service to Shelter Island. We spent a couple days pedaling around Shelter Island and took an additional ferry once to North Haven Island, continuing further by bridge to historic Sag Harbor. We visited the Whaling Museum, the only indoor touristy thing (for obviously reasons), but in the end it was a worthwhile visit. We also discovered a long distance walk/hiking access trail, which was fun for to ride for a short distance, though it's better suited to mountain bikes! 

I had high hopes to visit Montauk Point, but the distance/time from Greenport made it unfeasible as a day trip. The rainy forecast further upended the idea. Traveling with a companion has it pluses and minuses. I was thrilled to be with my husband, of course, but he is more frugal. Had I been alone, I would've sprung for a couple hotel nights closer to Montauk just to meet my goal. Also, we mostly shopped/cooked to save money. The last day I treated myself to take out fresh fish & chips plus we had a snack at an outdoor café - the extent of  restaurant-type meals. I also longed to visit a vineyard or two and enjoy the area's special vintages.

The boat in the foreground is normal size.
Greenport is a destination for yachts! There are large piers, open to the public, so it was an amazing sight to see them up close.

A lavender farm in East Marion.
We spent six nights in Greenport, leaving a day early because we'd run out of bicycle exploration ideas within a 30 mile radius.

Guard dog kept me company.
Parting Thoughts
Riding a bike to explore the Greenport region in the off season was an excellent mode of transport. We explored back roads and there was always room for us on the ferries. 

It's possible to camp to keep cost down with an occasional indoor splurge if necessary for comfort.

September, despite early nights, was a perfect time of year to avoid the tourist rush, especially mid week. Weekends were a bit busier and we shared the roadways with bicycle groups. Beaches were never crowded; often we were one of two couples enjoying the sand. 

Averaging 30 daily miles allowed enough time for exploration.

Other than a cartoony map provided at the campground to get around, information centers were closed or non-existent. We love printed maps, but needed to relay on phones for navigation. In the future, I would pre-print maps to have on hand because it seems counterintuitive to enjoy the outdoors and have digital devices as a necessity.

Next time I'll leave the yoga mat behind.

Since I loved the flattish terrain and coastal environment, I've investigated another Long Island adventure. With ferry service from the same New London port, it's possible to visit Block Island and end up in Montauk Point - a future adventure!

East Bay Bike Path.
On a side note, Connecticut is full of rail trails. We stayed with my husband's brother for two nights after navigating a safer and scenic route to his place. With a day to explore another region, we initially considered the Airline Trail, but it would require figuring out which segment was manageable for a day ride. Instead, we opted for an excursion on the Hall of Fame, East Bay Bike Path in Providence, Rhode Island. With it's bayside views, abundant marine wildlife, and wooded corridors, ending in coastal town of Bristol, it was an absolute pleasure!

We drove home the next day, planning to complete another scenic bike overnight during the rest of my time off, but weather thwarted plans. However, it happened the following weekend. Stay tuned for a future write up.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Bike Overnight Aboard the Dahon Boardwalk


Loading up the Dahon Boardwalk for an overnight bike camping trip has been on my radar for a while now. With an upcoming vacation, it was one of my goals to access the viability of traveling by folding bike. 

The primary factors to figure out were baggage space and and bike handling. Could I carry enough gear to be comfortable plus ride without the added weight affecting steering?

I allowed two hours to pack my bike, loading the front purple bag several times, shifting straps, but eventually the solution was to add lightweight bulky items inside, tent poles and stakes in the rear sleeve, plus strapping the ground sheet on the exterior. I looped an extra webbed strap over the handlebars for extra support because all the weight is suspended from the handle bars. I'm happy that I had the foresight to add daisy chain webbing to the bag during construction as it allows maximum versatility. With the remaining portion of the tent compressed, it fit nicely behind the seatpost, snugged against the rack and attached with only one strap. I used a favorite short, lightweight duffel bag for most clothing and a sleeping quilt (more on that later), and stuffed the panniers with stove, pots, and remaining items wedged inside the panniers.

My husband and I set out from home - he, carrying his own gear - and crossed the causeway via the bike ferry, and cruised for the mostly flat 13 mile ride to Grand Isle State Park, a place I've camped at a few times. I was pleasantly surprised at how well the bike handled the weight. The front system didn't sway; the tent stayed in place and my legs cleared it fine. Obviously, the bike was slower, so riding in lower gears meant the bike handled like a touring machine!

We arrived at the campground without mishap, set up our tents, awkwardly as it turned out because the ground was basically all gravel. My husband used rocks to secure most of his free-standing tent while mine needed staking. Fortunately, I had brought new aluminum pegs that worked well enough, pounded with a rock. Next time, we'll ask for a grassy site!

We cooked dinner using both stoves. I had initial trouble with mine, a 25 year old Coleman screw onto gas cannister model, because it was in pieces, literally, when I collected gear the day before. But my son and I were able to put it back together, but didn't try it until camping the following day. With the second stove as backup, my Coleman functioned fine and we used both stoves for two meals.

It was a warm and humid evening, never dipping below 60F, so it wasn't an ideal climate to try a new sleeping arrangement, but my new Cosmic Quilt and repurposing a sleeping bag liner as a sheet, should be a better system for colder weather going forward. As it turns out, by trying to save weight with a super lightweight down bag which then was eventually supplemented with a liner, essentially a sack with drawstring opening, that in turn wasn't appropriate for my particular needs. I would often frantically throw off the covers to cool off and/or struggle to extract myself from the liner. The things we learn! The Cosmic Quilt was an inexpensive solution. It is synthetic and thicker, rated to colder temperatures, compressible, has a toe box to keep my feet warmer, and secures in place beneath my blow up mattress with adjustable and removable cords. I was able to toss and turn all night without the bag or liner sheet moving - a sleeping revelation! The quilt can also function, more or less, like a sleeping bag (because of the toe box) but, of course, without a zipper. This system should provide more warmth and versatility on future trips.

It rained early the next morning so I was thankful to have covered my front handle bar bag and panniers. But I began to think about rain and camping/traveling on a folding bike. How would I keep gear dry when traveling? The front bag, especially with external attachments and pockets, would be a challenge to cover. And the small panniers? What would I do, short of taking up internal space by stuffing items inside a plastic bag? The more I thought about it, the more I came to the conclusion that a multiday camping journey, which may include inclement weather and the need to carry extra clothing, was not suitable on a folding bike with my particular set up. 

My September vacation, which now includes my husband (yay!), and the real probability of riding dirt roads to avoid the more heavily traveled routes, means I'll be taking my Clementine. But I have proven it's possible to bike tour on the Dahon Boardwalk. My specialized baggage might be better utilized for carrying extra clothing and if staying indoors, and if needed, would have the opportunity to dry out. So many possibilities for future adventures!

We arrived home safely and thankfully avoided a rain shower - a successful adventure.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Dahon Boardwalk 6-speed vs. Eco 3 7-speed

I have ridden my Dahon Boardwalk and Eco 3 almost exclusively for the past two months. Swapping between the two periodically has allowed me to compare their differences and similarities, their unique qualities (rack, fenders, handle bars, folding mechanisms) plus, the most important factor: road handling.

From a riding perspective, the Boardwalk has always been a comfortable bicycle, I suspect, primarily because of it's steel frame. However, the Eco 3 has been surprisingly smooth and zippy. I haven't burdened the red beauty with as much baggage, so initially I suspected it's spritely ride feel came from a lighter aluminum frame with added steel fork to dampen stiffness. Or was it a combination of all three features with seemingly decent, if old, tires?

After getting to know the Eco 3, it impressively felt like a larger bike. How could that be? The wheels seemed larger, the top tube larger, and of course, without the front bag I was used to on the Boardwalk, I could visually watch the front wheel zip around corners - what I especially love about folders, their nimbleness.

While both bikes are low end 20" wheel Dahon folders for their respective eras, it means the newer Eco 3 (model offered in 2010-11) has updated characteristics that are especially appealing. I like the cockpit comfort, which feels more upright and has a more ergonomic, slightly curved handlebar with telescoping handle post for maximum adjustment. The pedals are grippier; the rear rack is aluminum; the fenders are either aluminum or a stiff, molded plastic that neither rattles nor shifts even when folded. I presume the Eco 3 weighs at least 3 lbs less. While the components are lower end compared with the Boardwalk, the easy shifting, better braking (could be newer brake pads), and similar if not the same low gearing, and secure hinges, means this shiny, barely ridden folder holds a lot of appeal.

Interesting that the center of crank distance to ground and the crank arm length are the same - considering frame geometries and style are quite different.

Riding impressions aside, it was the actual dimensions that shed more light. The Boardwalk's wheel base, seat post to handlebar length, and lower top tube show how it's a longer touring machine compared to the Eco 3. In the photo, the Boardwalk's seat and head tubes are obviously at slacker angles. 

While I generally enjoy the classic Boardwalk style, the red Eco 3 captured my eye, and upon further observation, it's clean lines, chrome accessories, and a curved fork, which I, in hindsight, obviously, couldn't resist - it oozes vintage Dahon. And who could resist a bike that was in pristine condition?

My first love.

There's room in my heart for this one too!

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Allowing a Little Light In

The ups and downs of this year have been overwhelming. I'm trying to find glimmers of hope, and sometimes that's in unexpected places. Like this beach scene above. In sweltering heat, I've donned a swimsuit and bike shorts and hightailed it after work to swim at different beaches, several days in a row. The rainbows and sunsets have been incredible - I even tried to view a sunset and full moonrise in the same evening, but unfortunately clouds obscured the eastern sky.

I've primarily been riding both folding bikes. It's been a fun comparison because each have their strengths and I'm fixing to measure key details so I can assess why they perform so differently. One of these days I'll fix the flat tire on my commuter bike...

Riding with the Queen City Bike Club has provided a social outlet - my only social network, other than monthly get togethers with two dear friends. 

As we all navigate this new normal, it's important to have goals  - close to home if it feels right or further afield, whatever is within our comfort zone. It's okay to ride a roller coaster, so-to-speak, but oh so important to remain positive. Go ride a bike!