Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Coffeeneuring 2015 - Fifth Cup a la Overlook

I had ridden several miles already, enduring another gusty mid-morning ride in the south end of Burlington, but then I sailed northward, searching for a secluded spot with a lake view.

After a few false tries: fishing pier, Blanchard Beach, and Leddy Beach, all beautiful places in calmer weather, I found a quiet place complete with bench, sheltered from southern exposure.

I was just me and my hissing stove with temporary kitchen near a puddle of oak and maple leaves.

Again, I brewed black tea with milk and sugar, heating all ingredients together to create a strong, tasty, sweetened drink. I also read a few pages of my current murder mystery novel, Bury Your Dead.

Big waves rolled across the shallow, sandy shoreline.
A few cyclists rolled up to admire the view while I sipped tea. An older gentleman and I chatted, comparing our love of the waterfront trail, and as often happens we discovered we both have wanderlust, frequently riding the 7 mile length in both directions. His French accent opened a conversation about visiting Montreal (he's a local French teacher), then I asked if he'd ever visited the La Route des Vins, (and not surprisingly, he corrected my French pronunciation). As it turns out, I introduced the gentlemen to a part of Canada he'd never visited, so I briefly recounted my recent bike tour. We eventually parted, swapping first names. I hope I meet Adrienne again. 

The Place: Waterfront Bike Path Overlook
Date: Saturday, October 24.
Drink: Taylors of Harrogate Yorkshire Gold tea 
Observation, Bike Friendliness: This is a popular overlook spot with stairway access to a sandy beach. In the summer, walkers and bicyclists congregate to watch the sunset.
Total Miles: 15

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Light and Leaves

Unfortunately, I'm chronically late leaving my house each morning, but manage to pedal fast
to make up time. If I get to a certain traffic light by 7:45, I reward myself with bike path
number two - through Farrell Park. Better that than riding on a sidewalk next to stop and go traffic!
My inner foliage meter hit maximum overload last Friday. Early morning light, coupled with peak foliage has left me rather dumbstruck, so before I ride over my favorite bridge (it clatters when I cross, alerting anyone within the vicinity that a cyclist is on the way) I pulled over to photograph the beautiful color. 

And conversely, in the same park, the evening light casts a golden glow, contrasting against the dark tree trunks. I'm loving this commute!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Coffeeneuring 2015 - Fourth Cup at Perkins Pier

On a less blustery morning this parklet, next to a new Champ sculpture (our very own Lake Champlain monster),
would make a fine place to brew up some joe.
As has become my pattern, I tackle one more neighborhood in my Burlington Streets Challenge before choosing a lakefront park for Coffee Shop Without Walls, episode four.

On the heels of an coffeeneuring hiccup the previous day, whereby I was under dressed, ducked out of a heavy snow squall, frantically pedaled to our camp, and my husband placed me in front of a heater, where I brewed my tea from water heated on the electric stove—I was dressed to the nines this morning (35F), complete with long underwear beneath my tights and chemical warmers inside my shoes.

Despite the windy morning, the ten mile view across the lake to New York's foliage covered hills always blows me away. Sheltered by granite blocks and docked boats, I brewed tea at Perkins Pier.

Tea, apple cake, and a good book—perfect coffeeneuring accouterments.
Not knowing how much fuel remained inside the stove's built-in canister, I took advantage of preheating tea bag, milk, and sugar together in a stainless steel pot, which ended up adding lots of flavor. It reminded me of how Indians brew chai on kerosene stoves curbside, when tends to brew a strong cup. I'll remember that for future cups of tea.

The clouds have a big impact and often surreal effect on my lakeside photos, though I admit I don't always notice the clouds at all until I edit the images later.

I'm relearning how to dress myself once the mercury takes a dive, which of course affects how long my bike ride lasts. After my cup of tea, I continued along the waterfront, enjoying the changing colors, with delightfully warm toes.

The Place: Perkins Pier
Date: Sunday, October 18
Drink: Taylors of Harrogate Yorkshire Gold tea 
Observation, Bike Friendliness: A nice pier that houses numerous boats in the summer, with wide views of the lakeside landscape well into the fall. A grassy square with benches welcomes walkers to its mini-park that juts into the lake. Granite blocks provide shelter from a northern wind. 
Total Miles: 15

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Coffeeneuring 2015 - Third Cup at North Beach

Once North Beach has been closed to vehicles, it becomes a perfect, quiet place for anyone willing to get there by foot power. It was a blustery morning, so I chose my location wisely: picnic table beach-side but near a granddaddy tree, which provided shelter to operate the camping stove.

It's just me, the wind, and the waves with a fresh cup of joe.

A large tree provides shelter for my little stove.

It's hard to top last year's Coffeeneuring at North Beach, but nonetheless the view, the burgeoning foliage, and beautiful sandy beach draw me back year after year.

The Place: North Beach
Date: Sunday, October 11
Drink: Dunkin Donuts coffee with milk 
Observation, Bike Friendliness: Sandy beaches are still appealing in the off season. No need to lock the bike!
Total Miles: 6

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Burlington Streets Challenge - Downtown District

Another installment in the series to ride every public road within Burlington's city limits in 2015.

One of the old world gems on Tower Terrace.
Confession: I have a love/hate relationship with riding in downtown Burlington. After the relatively easy and relaxing riding of the New North End and Old North End districts, I've struggled to complete the hilly and busy region of our city. It's a beautiful place, filled with historic mansions turned into college and university buildings, three-story Victorian homes, plus businesses which make up the city core. However, it is difficult to repeatedly pedal hills and navigate heavy traffic amidst narrow lanes lined with parked vehicles. Couple that with numerous dead end steep streets and the fact that I was all too familiar with these very roads because this region is my home. Understandably, the challenge was beginning to loose its luster. 

A unique view of downtown Burlington's brick buildings and skyline.
I had to rethink my strategy. After a couple of false starts, attempting to ride homeward after a busy work day and uphill while picking off one street at a time, it proved exhausting, turning an interesting challenge into a mindless, physical chore. Enter the new agenda. If I left early a couple mornings per week I could use living at higher elevation to my advantage. Working with momentum, as opposed to against it, I began to tick off streets like aptly named Cliff Street, then Maple Street, Howard Street, King Street, and horrendous Main Street. Thankfully, this proved to be an efficient plan and through perseverance I eventually finished riding around downtown.

After finishing the streets of a nearby neighborhood,  I reward myself with a ride homeward
along the waterfront trail.
With the bulk of the city roadways behind me, it feels great to be in the home stretch! 

Completed Streets to date:
  1. South Champlain Street
  2. South Willard Street
  3. Bank Street
  4. Orchard Street
  5. Hungerford Terrace
  6. University Place
  7. Bradley Street
  8. Henderson Terrace
  9. Robinson Parkway
  10. University Terrace
  11. Edgewood Lane
  12. Clymer Street
  13. Perrotta Place
  14. Hoover Street
  15. Redstone Terrace
  16. Ludwig Court
  17. Adams Court
  18. Chittenden Drive
  19. Deforest Street
  20. Overlake Park
  21. Summit Street
  22. Harrington Terrace
  23. Jackson Court
  24. Tower Terrace
  25. Deforest Heights
  26. Iranistan Road
  27. Cliff Street
  28. Locust Street
  29. Pine Street
  30. Cedar Lane
  31. Juniper Terrace
  32. Summit Ridge
  33. Howard Street
  34. Sears Lane
  35. Caroline Street
  36. South Winooski Avenue
  37. Spruce Street
  38. Spruce Court
  39. Kingsland Terrace
  40. Adams Street
  41. Pine Place
  42. Marble Avenue
  43. Oak Beach Drive
  44. Ledgemere Street
  45. Marion Street
  46. Southwind Drive
  47. Bayview Street
  48. Ambrose Place
  49. Dunder Road
  50. South Cove Road
  51. Eastman Way
  52. Red Rocks Road
  53. Elm Terrace
  54. Hayward Street
  55. Locust Terrace
  56. Golden Street
  57. Charlotte Street
  58. Catherine Street

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Stunning Autumn Colors Equals a Stunning Commute

I see this guy most mornings, pushing a shopping cart.
One of the perks of living in New England: stunning bike commutes in October!

I am fortunate to ride on a bike path for most of my five mile ride to the office.

Lately, I tack on additional miles to ensure I meet my Burlington Streets Challenge goal. Gotta keep at it before the snow flies!

And today, as I pedaled through a neighborhood beneath a spitting shower, a rainbow appears in the heavens. Bike commutes don't get any better than this.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Coffeeneuring 2015 - Second Cup on Oak Ledge's Natural Stone Benches

Cliffside bike parking - no need for a kick stand!
I pedaled a few miles of Burlington's hill section before arriving at Oak Ledge Park. I've decided to combine my Burlington Streets Challenge outings with coffeeneuring adventures. It seems like a perfect opportunity to discover and check off new roads, ride additional miles, enjoy the beautiful autumn colors, and have a picnic brew up at a lakeside park.

Oak Ledge has a series of red rock ledges with primo lake views. Pick a ledge, any ledge! It was a blustery morning in the mid 40s F, so I explored a bit before choosing a flat rock sheltered from wind and water spray for coffeeneuring.

This time I fired up our trusty Coleman stove, bought in Australia and used extensively during the later part of our world adventure and throughout all the intervening years since. We love it's stable platform and built-in fuel tank. In no time, the water was hot and I poured it over espresso grounds in a filter resting in my cup, let coffee brew, then added premixed cocoa and milk.

As I relaxed, sipping a  lovely drink, I thought about my theme for this years coffeeneuring outings. On top of pledging to utilize all Coffee Shop Without Walls options, I also plan to have my drinks at seven unique spots with views of Lake Champlain. What do you think? Does that fall under the category of a theme within a theme within a theme?

The Place: Oak Ledge Park's ledges
Date: Saturday, October 10
Drink: Espresso Mocha
Observation, Bike Friendliness: There are plenty of quiet and safe places to use the camping stove to make coffee. I was pleased to see the guardian oak tree is still thriving. I brought my bike with me and propped it against a rock within view of my picnic spot.
Total Miles: 7

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Touring Quebec's Vineyards and Apple Orchards

Early Monday morning I scramble aboard a commuter bus with panniers, tent, handlebar bag, pillow sack, and coffee cup clustered around my feet, doing a mental check that I've loaded every piece of baggage after the driver had closed the bicycle compartment, a brilliant design to carry up to 4 bikes in horizontal trays beneath the bus. The bus is nearly empty and after I feed my 4 dollar bills into the machine, I settle in for the 40 minute interstate ride, smiling at my luck with the forecast for the 3 day vacation: sunshine and mid 70s F with cool nights. It's ideal weather for September, my favorite month for a bike tour.

Inspector Gamache is a central character in mystery books by a favorite author, Lousie Penny,
who resides just over the Canadian border in the region where I was heading. Oh, the irony! 
I have used these longer distance buses on other trips, recently on last year's Hazen's Notch/Lake Carmi Bike Overnight. It's an efficient way to start riding in more remote areas while leaving the car behind and I've come to prefer this method rather than the added hassle of locating a safe place to park the car for a couple nights. An hour after I got on the bus, I exit and repack my bike, then set off northeastward, following one of two predetermined Google Maps routes, as opposed to the more commonly traveled Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail - a route I biked last year.

Rolling through Franklin County farmland has magical moments: back roads are fairly quiet, the terrain is reasonably flat for long stretches, and corn fields are king. It's common to notice silos in the distance before cruising by the actual farmhouse and barns. In most locations, farmers are harvesting corn, with the outer perimeter mowed first. Cow manure, coupled with full wagon loads of ground corn, filled my morning ride with appropriate Vermont perfume.

Morses Line border, a huge farm appears to straddle both countries,
At some point the farmland gave way to more hilly terrain and I got off course, but was able to realign myself in Franklin, aided by a friendly construction worker. I took the opportunity to ask more questions about the area, as I would be re-entering two days later using an alternate border crossing.

Morses Line is one of several small US/Canadian crossings. However, the Canadian patrol appears more serious, with larger buildings and a remote rolling chain link fence that opens and closes between each traveler. I always want to snap photos to document the peculiarities of each, but don't ever want to raise the patrol's ire or jeopardize my vacation in any way.

In Canada I follow a bike loop prescribed by La Route Des Vins, Quebec's signed winery route and the inspiration for this adventure: to visit and explore this farming region during harvest. This encompasses vineyards, but is also prime apple growing region. I stop to inspect and photograph one orchard, and the wooden boxes in particular, because the growers names identify each farm and I imagine shipment is key advertising.

I was putting my camera back in it's case when the proprietor cruised by on his lawnmower and stopped to chat. As with most of our northern neighbor's, Canadians easily switch between French and English, gladly conversing in whichever language is appropriate, which entices me - considering my French consists of 50 words - to include Canadian travel whenever I can. It turns out that the orchard owner was awaiting cool nights for the Macintosh apples to redden before calling in his Mexican harvesting crew.

You know you are in Canada when roads commonly take 90 degree turns, which I presume is to loop around farm fields and drainage ditches.

Pedaling the Route Des Vins, as I mentioned, means also enjoying surrounding farmland, never more evident than a vineyard route sign standing in a cornfield!

Cemeteries are fascinating places, often lending historical significance to a region. The landscape is often serene, a nice place for a picnic, or private meanderings. I've never viewed cemeteries as creepy or morbid, but calm, peaceful spots to enjoy thoughts about loved ones, or in the case of foreign cemeteries, a peek into another culture.
Taking a break at a cemetery, leaning my heavy bicycle against a fence for support, I notice a cluster of old stones set uncommonly close together.

There are multiple generations of the Corey family, once a family cemetery in East Stanbridge. Due to mining operations, vandalism, and neglect (according to an inscription on a monument), their graveyard was moved to the current Ridge location in 1995 for further preservation.

I was rather taken with the ingenious use of mountain bike wheel as gate-helper.

I visited one winery only a few "clicks" (Canadian reference to kilometers) from my intended campground, sampling then buying a bottle of seyval white plus a smaller bottle of black current aperitif. I was quite tired when I arrived at the campsite and though it was only 1:30 pm, I decided to stay put and make due with camp store food for dinner. The next town and grocery store was 6 km further and I wasn't up for double the mileage - not to mention unfamiliar terrain - to hopefully, vary my diet. Because I was unfit for long miles in the the saddle - my regular 10 mile round-trip commute inadequate preparation - I gave myself permission to relax on this adventure and stop when I felt fatigued. From past experience, I know there's a fine line between enjoying a tour and pushing one's physical limits to exhaustion for the sake of saying I've cycled "X" miles.

I relaxed in the sunshine for an hour, lying on a bench in the sunny part of the campground, exploring the facilities, then returned to my site, pulling on warm clothing, the chill already settling in my shady site. I sipped a bit of the sweet black currant wine pre-dinner - my stainless steel pot doubles as mug - and it's 19 percent alcohol immediately warmed my belly.

The rice dinner was going to take a while to cook so I studied my maps. And studied. Then studied some more...all the while wondering how I could sip more of the delicious currant drink. I considered taking swigs from the bottle, but dismissed that idea. Surely, I'd planned to share the aperitif with someone else when I returned home.

I devised a simple cup from my water bottle cap. I could only pour a bit of liquor, drink it, then put is down, a self regulation device, except one sip plus one sip, well, plus one more led me to a happy state, and eventually I'd consumed a quarter of the bottle, finally capping it and placing the remains beneath the tent vestibule to get it out of my sight.

There were many interesting features: a cement pot (in above photo), tiny red signs to denote the perimeter trail as opposed to feeder trails that directed one on a beeline back to the campground, rough-cut wooden benches.
and wild camp sites.
After dinner I explored part of the perimeter trail that encompasses La Foret de Freli campground. It would be an unusual sight in Vermont, and I suspect it's a managed forest - in many places through the open woodland I spied occupied campsites in the distance - so I felt safe and roamed for a half hour on an easily graded trail, knowing I couldn't possibly get lost.

Breakfast in a public space in Frelighsburg.
It was a long, cool night - the downside of September bike tours - and I was thankful to have added a newly purchased sleeping bag liner to my camping gear. With a couple cups of tea to warm my fingers in the morning and after pecking a few e-mails to family (another first: toting a lightweight laptop as an experiment as I knew my phone wouldn't function in Canada), I packed a few items for the day, leaving the tent set up for my return to spend a second evening.

Downtown Frelighsburg.
I'm glad I waited until morning to pedal into Frelighsburg; the route was undulating, with two steep hills.

Enjoying breakfast at a public picnic spot.
However, Frelighsburg is a delightful community situated along a river with public spaces, a well stocked market, and a few restaurants. It's also a cross roads of sorts and particularly for bike riders as it seems to be a stop on a circuit - I spy a few souls, standing over their bikes, sipping from water bottles. I inspect the signage that will eventually lead me back to the U.S. the following day via another border crossing (only five miles away), then buy local apples, a baguette, cheese, and coffee for breakfast.

A chilly, cloudy morning! I enjoy the ride around this lovely lake.
Fortified, I head off on back roads after a difficult 12 percent rise out of town. I have a wonderful map (provided at the campground) that identifies all the vineyards, every back road, complete with route numbers. There is no differentiation between paved and dirt roads, however this doesn't pose a problem as the dirt variety are well maintained and my old mountain bike can certainly handle both. The beauty of riding bikes in this region, as I'm learning, is there are numerous ways to get somewhere. I have a general idea of where I want to go, leaving vineyard visits for afternoon (places don't open until at least 11 am) but I also know I can alter my route at any time and head back when the mood strikes me.

I have a grand time, pedaling past a lovely lakeside community, quickly riding through busy Dunham, then past more orchards, "U.P." (u-pick) places, farm stands, and huge cornfields amidst harvest. Large tractors often pass, hauling full wagons yet giving me a wide berth. Farmers bouncing high in their cabs swap waves and smiles.

 Plump grapes ready for harvest.
It's noon when I slowly stop at one crossroads. There are two large vineyards with huge buildings on either side plus more vineyards indicated within a half mile on my map. It's a grape lover's jackpot and as I later learned, this hillside is warmer than surrounding land, perfect for growing grapes. I'm overwhelmed and cannot decide which place to visit when a "Cidre" sign across the street sounds interesting.

An apple orchard and house and barns above the Union Libre property with a stunning panoramic view.
Union Libre Cidre turns out to be primarily a business producing sparkling and concentrated ice ciders, using various methods for unique flavors. A lovely young lady pours 6 samples for me, giving me a general overview of the cider business, then a more detailed explanation of each sample. Ciders are modeled after the popular ice wine business where frozen grapes are harvested and pressed to produce a sweeter wine. I'd tried ice wine before, not exactly smitten with the flavor, but the ice cider is exemplary! I particularly love the fire cider version - it's lighter than the caramely, thicker dessert-type ciders - and more affordable. I buy a bottle, stow it in my panniers, then eat my lunch at a picnic table on the cidery's grounds.

Rose is commonly produced in the Monteregie region.
I pedal more back roads, enjoying the sunshine that was slow to show itself on this day, then head back to Frelighsburg along an alternate river route. It proves to be less taxing way to go so again I stock up on groceries (touring cyclists should never be without some kind of sustenance!), and retrace the riverside route towards an alternate way back to the campground (the preferred route when leaving the following morning).

I still had energy by mid-afternoon so I detour along a dirt road to visit Domaine du Ridge. It is a huge vineyard, less personal than Domaine de l'Ardennais that I'd visited nearby on the previous day. I bypassed the taste testing in favor of a glass of their specialty: rose. I'm not normally a fan of this variety but it was smooth and delicious, especially drunk on their outdoor terrace with the ambiance of plump grapevines creeping on the trellis overhead.

The Ridge's fields were in the midst of harvest: pickers line the fields (difficult to see in above photo) while periodic canon blasts kept the birds away.

A typical sprawling farm: numerous silos, a conglomeration of barns, with mega farmhouse. It's common to see the same family name on nearby farmland spread throughout several kilometers. Farming is done on a much grander scale that what we are used to seeing in Vermont and there seems to be much more affluence.
Lots of farms have in-ground pools beside the house.

A favorite ride and view of distant Sutton region.

Many inns and campgrounds align themselves with the Route des Vins. This where I stayed.

I enjoyed the early sun on my site on the third day and slowly packed. It took some effort to rearrange my gear to accommodate three extra bottles.

The evening before, while I was using the recreation room, an animal had helped himself to a baguette, cheese curds, and pepperoni that I'd left inside my tent. Unfortunately, I learned the hard way what destruction an animal can do to a tent. There was a gaping hole. What I didn't know until the following morning was the full extent of the damage.

After I emptied the tent I inspected the floor and walls. Fortunately, the only casualty is the 8" gash in the horizontal screen section. I cannot simply restitch the screen - a chunk of material is missing - however I plan to repair the gap by sandwiching the hole with ripstop nylon.

A brief stop on the north end of Lake Carmi in East Franklin. Like Lake Champlain, there are numerous camps and houses on the shoreline.
Late morning I set off amidst totally blue sky. The border crossing proved simple and easy and when I confessed to hauling a few bottles of wine, the guard wasn't the least concerned. It appears there is not necessarily a quota as previously mentioned at the cidery. However, I struggled up hills, feeling the additional weight and I was certainly taxing the hardware on my inexpensive panniers.

It's not my normal practice on bike overnights to head home carrying more weight than when I initially set out, so for future wine tasting tours, it will be a better idea to use four panniers, instead of two, to evenly distribute added purchases.

Hanging out at Saint Albans Bay for 1.5 hours.
Again, using my printed Google maps and Vermont highway map I was able to return to Saint Albans on a completely different route, bee lining for Lake Champlain to hang out for while before catching the bus ride back to Burlington.

This adventure has resonated with me, even three weeks later as I write this post. Even if one is not a fan of wine tasting, the network of back roads with little traffic has tremendous appeal, And with a central campground as base, it's possible to ride numerous loops, and stock up on groceries in Frelighsburg each day. As I pedaled, I was thinking of my husband (trip partner extraordinaire) and Adele who accompanied me last year on Tour de Ticonderoga, and of my dear friend, Patty who was forever on my mind because our love of wine reminded me of our trip in Provence. I know I'll return to La Route des Vins region in the future and hopefully the next adventure will include a companion.