Sunday, October 30, 2016

Coffeeneuring 2016 - Third Cup at Second Overlook Beach

The Coffeeneuring Where's Waldo Edition - Can you find Annie on the beach? Photo credit: Lizzy.
On the heels of my Don't Cry Over Spilled Milk blog post, I returned to the same waterfront location the following weekend - this time with a girlfriend. I successfully brewed tea, after momentarily panicking because my stove was in pieces, but I managed to put it back together and it functioned fine. (Note to self: don't forget to store stove in a plastic bag, instead of letting it rattle around in the basket.)

Once again, storing bike on last stair landing. Photo credit: Lizzy.
I brought my Ross commuter bike this time around because she is lighter than Miss Clementine and easier to lug down a few flights of stairs.

Annie with a cup of tea, admiring the Lake Champlain vista.
I especially enjoyed catching up with my friend, Lizzy. She also brought her dog, Ollie along, who amused himself on the beach. At one point Lizzy and Ollie walked out on the sand flats and took the photo of me relaxing on the sand. 

The Place: Second Overlook Public Beach
Date: Saturday, October 22.
Drink: Celestial Seasoning's Wild Berry Zinger Tea 
Observation, Bike Friendliness: Plenty of places to lock a bike to the railing. Coffee Shop Without Walls outings are better with a partner. This is the only beach that is sheltered from both north and south winds.
Total Miles: 14

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Coffeeneuring 2016 - There's No Point Crying Over Spilled Milk

The rain held off by Sunday afternoon and with a warm breeze, I was itching for a bike ride. I also wanted to take advantage of another Coffee Shop Without Walls coffeeneuring outing a day later than number two. However, chilly weather can descend anytime - so I count my lucky stars when I can.

I pick my spot, the second public staircase access to a beautiful sandy beach, and amazingly protected from yet another stiff southern - and what I've come to realize is a coffeeneuring - wind! I carry my heavy (and heavily ladened) Clementine down several flights and prop her on the last landing to keep my eye on her, trying not to think of the return ascent.

With my coffeeneuring basket in tow, I smile as I hop on circular log steps at the bottom, someone's little project to make footing a bit easier.

This year's Coffee Shop Without Walls furnishings: a chair, a stove, picnic basket of goodies, and a view of Lake Champlain.

I settle in and marvel at my secluded, but more importantly, sheltered spot.

With the low lake level I counted 7 duck blinds this year, a record on northern Burlington's shoreline. 

I rummaged through my basket only to find that my container of milk had spilled on my stove, my matches, my lock and tool pouch...everything. The matches were completely soaked, though I tried to dry and strike a couple before giving up.

As everyone knows, there's no point crying over spilled milk. I laughed out loud at my own very appropriate use of that phrase, then sat back and relaxed. Nothing else to do!

Was this afternoon destined to be a dry run?

As it turns out, had I been able to light the stove, a cup of tea would be only a fantasy. I returned home to discover I had left my tea bag and brown sugar on the kitchen counter.

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Real Signs of Autumn - A Bike Commuter's Perspective

At the beginning of Autumn, it feels much like summer, and if it wasn't for the date we couldn't exactly tell when the season changes. But by mid-October the temperature plummets and will hover in the mid 50s for highs - that's when Autumn truly begins in Vermont.

On the same note, I've noticed bicycle-related seasonal shifts, those signs that a commuter cyclist deals with when the weather takes a dive.

Sadly, I can no longer wear sandals, even with socks. I rummage in the closet and dig out my hiking footwear.

I wear a head band beneath my helmet to keep my ears warm.

I don fleece gloves, daily, and sometimes windproof mittens.

I need a windproof jacket, every day, and often on the ride home.

Shorts? Brrrr. I can't imagine wearing shorts until next May. Under Armour cold weather tights are essential.

A cold cable lock is stiff. I struggle to unwind it to wrap it around my bicycle.

I no longer need sunglasses for either direction of my commute. The sun is so low in the sky that I wear clear safety glasses for eye protection.

Lights! Gotta have 'em and prepare to keep the USB headlight charged.  And with a cloudy sky today, I used my headlight for the first time, as I pedaled home.

And lastly, with snow flurries forecast this week, I am wondering how long I can keep commuting this year...and on weekends for pleasure, hopefully at least through the coffeeneuring challenge!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Foliage Overload - The Best Part of My Commute

The best part of commuting in October:
Riding on the gravel-line trail beneath a row of vibrant color maples - a better alternative to the nearby high-traffic road.

Admiring the leaves beneath my wheel...

...And the canopy overhead.

A mile later, the dazzling color is a corridor, guiding me onward.

The leaves barely hit the ground and a crew is managing the fallen leaves, blowing nature's crinkly companions into neat rows. Hold on a moment, I want to say, Let me enjoy it for as long as I can.

At mile 4, I pass through a mystical forest, lit from the rising sun.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Platform Pedals - A Cure for Knee Pain?

In August I transitioned from toe clips to a platform pedal on my Ross commuter bicycle. I didn't make this change out of necessity - I was looking for easier footing to accommodate flip flops, sneakers, or monstrous winter boots. After the switch, my nagging knee pain lessened, considerably, a benefit I did not expect. And while I generally spin at high cadence - that simple remedy learned from past long-distance tours - the new pedals have made a noticeable difference. My foot naturally falls more forward on the platform pedals, approximately 1-2" than previously wedged into toe clips. I've been wondering if my body wanted to stretch and lengthen to account for a too small bike frame, in addition to the adjustments I've made - namely a longer seat post and slightly upright bars. Whatever the reason, platform pedals are here to stay!

Has anyone had a similar experience?

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Coffeeneuring 2016 - Second Cup at Bayside Park

I love coffeeneuring with my spouse. It's like a bike date and a picnic all rolled into one awesome outdoor adventure. And a bonus: I have a willing person who can take a snapshot of me relaxing in my camping chair - a self-imposed chore that's proving difficult with self-timing cameras limited to 10 seconds. (If anyone has photography tips, please reply in the comments. Otherwise, it's a good thing my readers can't see me perform this comical maneuver!)

My husband and I shared a bagel and watched s few sailboats zip across the bay. With an unusually hot summer and lack of rain, we'd heard that some sailboats are stuck in the sand, which would explain why, in mid-October, so many boats remain in the water.

I set up the stove behind a public building to heat tea water. What's up with all these windy coffeeneuring days?
I've been riding Miss Clementine lately for joy rides and for coffeeneuring - outings where I can keep my eye on her. We are getting to know each other.

The Place: Bayside Park
Date: Saturday, October 15.
Drink: Yorkshire Gold English Breakfast Tea 
Observation, Bike Friendliness: The beachfront park has a beautiful grassy lawn overlooking Malletts Bay. 
Total Miles: 21

Sunday, October 16, 2016

A Blast of Vermont Fall Foliage

Heading towards Smugglers Notch.
It's no secret that I love Vermont in autumn. I will drive to see the changing leaves...

I will pull over to experience the ambiance: the smell, the whisper of wind moving the canopy, the vibrant explosion of colors.

Grist Mill covered bridge, Jeffersonville, VT.
I love to visit covered bridges.

Peak foliage is nearly at lake level currently, so I'm devouring my surroundings via riding my bike to work...

And plowing through crackling leaf puddles on the way home.

My son has even been getting into the act, filming Stowe's peak color over the Columbus Day weekend.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Coffeeneuring 2016 - First Cup at Leddy Park

Using my ancient Ben & Jerry's mug, easily 30 years old.
Again, I plan to complete the Coffeeneuring Challenge, using the Coffee Shop Without Walls option. Since there are numerous public spaces to brew hot beverages, all with Lake Champlain vistas, my goal is to locate 7 additional scenic spots without repeating last year's list. 

To make it easy to organize the coffee accouterments, I pack everything inside a basket in our kitchen then bungee the goodies onto my rear rack.

Commuter bike, weekdays. Coffeeneuring bike on weekends.

As I pedal on the waterfront path, I notice the fall color is just beginning.

True to form, much like last year, the wind is howling during coffeeneuring, so I bypass the beachfront view at Leddy Park and opt for a somewhat sheltered spot on the bank. I set the water to boil beside a tree and put together my new coffee companion, a Helinox Ground Chair. The chair immediately topples over!

Mr. Pondero, how do you make coffeeneuring look so calm and relaxed?
I get the water to nearly boil then pour it over a drip filter. It's a slow process and the coffee turns out luke warm - not the best tasting drink, but by then I'm chilling down and gulp the coffee. Clearly, I need to reclaim my screen filter back from my husband who's taken it to his workplace. I also attempt a couple self-timed photos and realize I either look silly sitting in this miniature chair or I need to master some photo skills. However, I enjoyed the lovely view and there's always next time to improve my coffeeneuring experience!

The Place: Leddy Park
Date: Saturday, October 8.
Drink: Vermont Coffee dark roast 
Observation, Bike Friendliness: Tourists tend not to visit Leddy Park because the beach is hidden from the bike path by an indoor ice rink. 
Total Miles: 10

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Loving the Helinox Ground Chair

The Helinox Ground Chair is easy to put together.
I've been lightening my bike camping gear, little by little, but this year I've added a 1 lb. item that I can't live without: the Helinox Ground Chair.

I was seeking a foldable, compact, lightweight chair that I could relax in at campsitea, and/or as an alternative to spending long nights in a cramped prone position inside the tent. Helinox's Chair One has garnered rave reviews. I was close to considering purchasing the Chair One when I stumbled on the Ground Chair version, a relative newcomer. While both versions are reputable, I liked the stability, lighter weight, and smaller package of the Ground Chair. Both chairs have their pros and cons. The Chair One is slightly less compact, weighs 2 oz. more and is a normal chair height, yet the separate legs may sink into the ground. The Ground Chair has a stable base, but sitting position is low and it's more difficult to get up out of the chair, a feature I can live with.

The Ground Chair is a brilliant piece of engineering. It has aluminum shock-corded poles that once unfolded, practically put themselves together. Just check that all poles are securely fastened then place the sling-style cordura and mesh panel in place. And just in case you need help, directions are conveniently printed on the backside of the fabric.

The chair dimensions are surprisingly small, but once I was seated, I felt very comfortable. I've sat in the chair at events and on one bike overnight. I hadn't intended to use the chair inside a tent, but to escape insects (and admittedly to feel less vulnerable sitting outside alone in the dark) I was, quite amazingly, able to wedge the chair inside my one person tent and read for an hour.

A compact package, about the size of a 3-season sleeping bag.

The chair is a perfect addition to my bike camping adventures and can double as coffeeneuring seating for this year's Coffeeneuring Without Walls adventures. Think about it, what could be better than sipping a cup of joe, while relaxing in comfort and staring out at beautiful Lake Champlain?

Friday, October 7, 2016

Girls Ride Out, October 2016

Just what the doctor ordered: another fun-filled, hooting, bell-ringing ladies' ride around Burlington. 60 attendees. Way to go fabulous females!

A lap through Battery Park at sunset.

Waiting to cross the street, obeying traffic rules.

Fortunately, a local reporter happened to capture our laps through the parking garage on video. What a hoot!

Ending once again at Zero Gravity Brewery. After drinking Vermont's fabulous cult-status Heady Topper beer the previous night with family, I begged off another party night and high-tailed it home.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Commuting Beneath a Colorful Canopy - Autumn is Arriving Fast!

Since mid-September the days and nights have grown cooler - more typical of autumn in Vermont. With the shift in weather I have been more myself. I appreciate my surroundings, the sound of geese honking overhead, admiring various shades of purple asters edging the trails, puddles of leaves forming...

In the Champlain Valley peak foliage is at least a week from becoming that burst of color that makes me sigh, and linger, and stop my bicycle just so I can gaze overhead through an amazing canopy...

I have glimpses of the spectacle to come...

Pockets of brilliance already have arrived along my commute to work. I hold these moments close.