Monday, November 28, 2016

Lamoille Valley Rail Trail - Cambridge to Morrisville

Official Cambridge starting point on the LVRT.
Over two afternoons, a couple weekends apart, my husband and I completed a 17 mile section of the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail (LVRT). This trail, when completed, will stretch 90+ miles across Vermont and link many small communities.

We had to check out the nearby covered bridge!
A couple miles east of where we parked our vehicle is the official Cambridge Jct., now a wonderfully designed parking area with maps, bathrooms, a caboose style covered picnic area, and a kid-friendly train that houses a slide, sand box, tunnels, and a place to pull the rope to ring the bell.

Step inside the caboose and choose a picnic table!

What a brilliant user friendly train! I had to ring the bell. The smooth gravel trail runs beside the train.

There was still a bit of autumn color as we made our way toward Johnson, turnaround point on the first day's ride.

Unlike the Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail that frequently crosses a highway, The LVRT is more rural, passing farms, beside a lumber mill, over small bridges, across fields, over quiet dirt roads, through woods - distinctly altogether a different feel as the trail follows the Lamoille River. I can imagine riding during peak foliage, in the hot summer, taking breaks to cool off in the easily accessed river, or using the trail for a bike overnight.

The brewery provides bike racks or you can store your bike beside the outdoor beer garden in the warmer months..
On our second outing we stumbled across the trail side Lost Nation Brewery and split a pint, just because we could! The brewery, which also serves food, could easily be a destination in itself for a well deserved break before heading back to Cambridge.

An interesting slop roofed bridge.
Each community has a similar depot, bike racks, and map, unifying the trail and lending a unique flavor. I can't wait to ride the Danville to St. Johnsbury segment, which I imagine is just as nice.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

2016 Coffeeneuring Map

Using Google Maps and Paint, I easily labeled coffeeneuring stops.

For an interesting exercise I labeled my 2016 coffeeneuring stops. I live near the blue dot so all Champlain View, Coffee Shop Without Walls trips were started from home with the distance between #2 and #5 approximately 10 miles. I mixed up the miles traveled with loop trips or out and back excursions, plus I included company on 3 adventures.

The Run Down - Links to blog posts and documentation

#1 Leddy Park
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

#2 Bayside Park
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

#3 Second Overlook Beach
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

#4 Starr Farm Beach
The Place: Starr Farm Beach
Date: Sunday, October 30
Drink: Yorkshire Gold English Breakfast Tea 
Observation, Bike Friendliness: This is a private beach community where my husband's family owns a camp, so we had free reign to pick the best beach spot. I need to wear warmer clothing the next time I venture out. 
Total Miles: 14

#5 Rail Yard Park
The Place: Rail Yard Park
Date: Saturday, November 5
Drink: Celestial Seasonings Bengal Spice Tea 
Observation, Bike Friendliness: The waterfront trail passes by this tiny, but well situated peninsular park.
Total Miles: 5

#6 Bank Near the Fishing Pier
The Place: Near the Fishing Pier
Date: Saturday, November 12
Drink: Vermont Coffee Company, Dark Roast 
Observation, Bike Friendliness: There is a bike rack, should anyone require it to use the fishing pier. I love this relatively secluded spot behind the water department building.
Total Miles: 17

#7 Battery Park
The Place: Battery Park
Date: Saturday, November 19
Drink: Vermont Coffee Company, Dark Roast 
Observation, Bike Friendliness: Family friendly park. A sweeping view of waterfront where American troops once defended attack by British during War of 1812.
Total Miles: 4

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Coffeeneuring 2016 - Seventh Cup at Battery Park

The stars aligned for the last two Coffee Shop Without Walls adventures! So much for failing and spilling milk - now a minor hiccup on my coffeeneuring 2016 experience - because I've more than made up for my carelessness. I've learned to store milk in a mason jar, pack the stove in a baggy, put matches and a lighter in separate containers - in short - relearn my kitchen camping skills.

With temperatures climbing into the 60's on Saturday and plummeting to the 30s on Sunday, I planned ahead to take advantage of a spectacular morning at nearby Battery Park, a wonderful spot overlooking the Burlington harbor. Like the exquisite Ethan Allen Tower coffeeneuring experience with my husband in 2015, its nice to remind myself that not all Lake Champlain vistas have to be located on the beach.

There were lots of people strolling, relaxing on benches, likewise enjoying what could be our last warm fall day.

A flock of geese flew overhead, my stove provided hot water in record time, and I unzipped my jacket - all indications of a spectacular morning. I became fascinated with the large tree in the foreground, admiring its toothy trunk.

And so, my coffeeneuring challenge is complete. Along the way I've learned that I do not need the complications of including my camping chair, I may need to replace my stove, and I have a long list of additional lakeside brew up spots - enough to finish out a third year without repeating a venue.

Long Live Coffeeneuring!

The Place: Battery Park
Date: Saturday, November 19
Drink: Vermont Coffee Company, Dark Roast 
Observation, Bike Friendliness: Family friendly park. A sweeping view of waterfront where American troops once defended attack by British during War of 1812.
Total Miles: 4

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Sometimes You Gotta Take the Closed Bike Path

Sometimes You need to explore what's on the other husband leads the way.
With an integral section of our waterfront path closed since mid-September - and the detour involved: a grunting ascent up the steepest street in the city, along a busy corridor, then braking descent back to the path through a public campground - the arduous detour has grown old. By mid-November it's no wonder that commuters and runners are circumventing the fencing, taking their chances with encountering workers and construction vehicles to save time and effort.

For a while I went through this routine twice a day when I was living at our family's camp in northern Burlington. However, once I moved home I tended to bypass the closed section, entering the waterfront path on either end and avoided the detour altogether. But on a coffeeneuring run with my husband we returned, heading south and stopped at the fenced perimeter and looked longingly at the newly paved path. We contemplated getting around the fence because I'd been watching groups of runners easily scooting around and barely breaking stride. Before I knew it my husband had pushed his bike through the woods, said it was pretty easy, so I followed, my pots and stove clattering in the basket on my rear rack.

And what a smooth ride, indeed! After a quarter mile the pavement gave way to packed gravel with a new cement sidewalk spur leading to Texaco Beach.

There has been much earth work: shoring up an eroding bank, toxic soil removed or covered over because this section of the waterfront used to be an oil port, relocating path close to the lake, plus many new trees planted. There will be pause places with information signage and exercise equipment. In short, it will be an amazing improvement, but a long time coming!

It is difficult to be patient when construction seems to take forever, all this on the heels of last year's 2-3 month closure in a similar location, with the very same awful detour! But wait, we will, because , there isn't another choice...except for the times when we can't stand it, to take a peak at the progress.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Repairing the Blackburn Central Shopper's Pannier

Adding an extra strap saves the day.
After using Blackburn's Central Shopper's Pannier almost daily for six months, the latch hooks that secure the bag to the rack broke - both failing within the same week. Some folks might rant to Blackburn: others might just throw the bag away and call it quits, never to purchase anything by the company, ever again. I love to fix things, if only to extend their life, and if it involves sewing, well it's worth it to try fixing the item rather than sending it back.

The left hook shows the broken latch whereas the right hook still has the secure latch.
A couple days later this one also came apart.
The hooks are still usable, but now without the extra security measure, the slightest jostling could dislodge the pannier off the rack.

Another view. I added plenty of strap length for when I use the extension sleeve so I can cinch a large volume to rack. Ideally, I would've preferred to pull and tighten the strap so it dangles the opposite direction, away from the wheel, but when unbuckled, the long strap tucks into the same pocket as the hooks, hidden by the zippered panel.
  Refer to previous  blog post. 
For sometime I've been wondering how to fasten the top opening plus hold the bag closer to the rack to prevent sway - indeed, when I first started using the pannier (reviewed here) it was the one feature I wished the bag came equipped with. If I add more volume I cinch the drawstring extension sleeve, but because of the bag's slightly wedged shape (wider at the top) it would come in handy to have extra protection holding items closer to the frame.

Once the hooks broke it was imperative to quickly come up with an idea to secure the pannier to rack. My solution was simple. I used a Fastex-type clasp and black strap, which when looped around the rack close to the hooks, secured the pannier and when pulled tight, the strap closed the bag opening. This simple idea also keeps the shoulder strap from slipping or coming unlatched altogether and dangling near the wheel. I love that the added buckle and black material looks like it was originally part of the design (Backburn, are you reading this?).

I'm pleased I figured out how to save this otherwise wonderful bag. I'll cross my fingers that the remaining hooks stay intact or I'll be undertaking a more difficult solution and potential repair. I really love the bag's quality material and features.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Coffeeneuring 2016 - Sixth Cup on the Bank Near the Fishing Pier

A day like November 12 was the quintessential Coffee Shop Without Walls experience. I didn't intend to do my brew up on Saturday - Sunday was forecasted to be 10F warmer, near 50F -  but by the time I'd raked and bagged leaves and the morning remained windless with brilliant sunshine, I couldn't resist the opportunity for the perfect opportunity on the waterfront.

The fishing pier is located just beyond the metal wall, and is lit up at night. The pier deserves another visit, perhaps next year with a hot drink in a thermos so I can walk around and enjoy a different experience.
I set up on the bank near the fishing pier - the very place where we watch July 4th fireworks - so the location is familiar. I considered brewing up on the end of the pier, except the railings would obstruct my view unless I leaned over the rail - definitely not conducive for lounging in my chair! This time I rode Miss Clementine. I itched to take her out for a longer spin afterward.

It was nearly noon, but I still favored coffee over tea so I brewed using my usual method: a nylon filter propped up with stick.

Ah, a mug of coffee with my husband's homemade fresh roll. Gotta love it! I could sit like this for an hour, watching the lake. With intense sunshine, it was hard to imagine it was only 40F.

I am trying a new seat on Clementine.
I spent a while in my chair, but eventually I wanted to take advantage of the fine weather. So off I went, rolling beneath the last autumn foliage, delightfully cruising for several miles before looping back towards home. 

The Place: Near the Fishing Pier
Date: Saturday, November 12
Drink: Vermont Coffee Company, Dark Roast 
Observation, Bike Friendliness: There is a bike rack, should anyone require it to use the fishing pier. I love this relatively secluded spot behind the water department building.
Total Miles: 17

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Girls Ride Out, November 2016

Ride name change to Burlington Bike Babes, but I can't get into the new name - sounds like a motorcycle gang!
Girls Ride Out in November consisted of a smaller but cozy crowd. Not every woman can tolerate mid 40sF temperatures plus have lights and be comfortable riding around the city in darkness.

We start at Old Spokes Home as usual, meeting indoors, and holding drawings for several sets of lights, provided by Local Motion. I was tickled to have won a pair, which now graces my helmet, much brighter replacements than a flashlight and cracked red flasher. Add to that a handle bar light and seat post blinky, and I might be the brightest cyclist in Burlington!

Hannah (on the left) is a Girls Ride Out regular but Lauren is a newcomer. I was surprised that there were a few initiates - it can't be easy to start this time of year - but perhaps these ladies regularly commute but for whatever reason could finally attend the November event.

Hard not to notice the political statement!
I love that purses and sling bags are pretty normal attire. We women carry our stuff in so many cool ways.

One hardy lady has bare legs.

We end at Zero Gravity, enjoying our free drink (thanks Christine for making that happen). Our group splits into 2 booths. A couple of us order hot dogs - they make mean Coney Island Dogs, smothered in meat sauce, onions, and mustard.

It was wonderful to find that Zero Gravity has expanded their indoor seating. I much prefer the outside terrace where it was much easier to mingle, but of course, that won't happen until spring.

By the time I left there was a discussion about trying to set up a December event. It seems there are some who don't want to give up even if it gets cold. I wouldn't be opposed, especially if roads are dry and - as I pointed out - riding in December would encourage more winter riders. We'll see.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Coffeeneuring 2016 - Fifth Cup at Rail Yard Park

"Why do I coffeeneur? To keep the wheels turning, the mind stimulated (all the planning requires mental enterprise!), and to enjoy my surroundings." - from Coffeeneuring 2015 - Sixth Cup at the Earth Clock

With limited time, I set off for nearby Rail Yard Park, a small peninsula in front of Vermont Railway and the lakefront sewage treatment plant. Fortunately, odor is a non-issue because the strip of land juts far enough into breezy Lake Champlain.

Where's Annie's stove? Look in the center of the water droplet on the camera lens.
And despite it's tiny size, the park is pleasant with picnic tables, marble blocks carved into marine life (my favorite is the mermaid), expansive water views, and in the summer is filled with children and couples, easily accessed from the well-used bike path. In other words, a perfect coffeeneuring spot.

Mid-morning, I rolled into the park amidst a drizzle, but unlike Coffeeneuring #4 where I learned my lesson about inappropriate outerwear, I wore a down parka, double-layer tights, a scarf, and hat, plus Thinsulate-lined mittens. Better overdressed than a frozen, unhappy coffeeneuring gal!

While I waited for water to boil, hands stuffed in down pockets, I relaxed in my chair, taking in an interesting view. Rock piles led out from the point. A boat buzzed by - it seems there are die-hard boaters still cruising in 50F water.

A gull landed on a rock island.

Beyond the breakwater I could still spy color in the New York hills.

And delightful stone stacks on the shoreline in front of me.

I've learned to keep the lid on the mug to keep beverages hot.
As I sat, cupping the warm mug of chai tea I realized I've made this year's challenge theme more complicated than it has to be. I could do without the chair - the set-up and take down requires bare hands, not to mention the difficult documentation involved with self-timed camera, requiring several out takes before I get a decent shot. I've even considered using a thermos in place of stove - but those are ideas for next year's challenge. For now, I'll finish out the challenge with brew ups at Lake Champlain vistas, relaxing in my camping chair. 

One good thing, brewing tea is easier than fussing with coffee apparatus. And I still "enjoy my surroundings" - my initial impetus for joining M.G.'s Coffeeneuring Challenge. 

It was a hot sweaty ride back up the hill towards home thankfully and I unzipped my down coat en route.

The Place: Rail Yard Park
Date: Saturday, November 5
Drink: Celestial Seasonings Bengal Spice Tea 
Observation, Bike Friendliness: The waterfront trail passes by this tiny, but well situated peninsular park.
Total Miles: 5

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Coffeeneuring 2016 - Fourth Cup at Starr Farm Beach

The coffeeneuring game face.
I headed out early afternoon with my husband for a leisurely pedal, one of those amazing windless days that seems to good to be true. We meandered, checking out a couple neighborhoods and homes for sale. The foliage along the waterfront trail blazed in golds, oranges, and reds - peak color - so I reveled beneath the brilliant canopy.

So it was no surprise that the coffeeneuring wind started blowing as we neared the appointed spot: the cement dock at Starr Farm Beach, a private beach community where my husband's family has a summer camp. My husband came up with what I thought was a brilliant idea: coffeeneuring on the end of the dock. I imagined relaxing in my chair with water all around!

Looking back on the shoreline shows the spectacular foliage.
However, with the increasing chilly north breeze we resorted to plan B, using the shelter of the dock for stove set up. I was growing colder, unfortunately so cold that I left my helmet on. I realized with the weather taking a turn I had to come better prepared next time. I needed my down jacket. As soon as I was done we packed up and left. 

My husband took this amazing photo.
I set a mean pace for the return trip, trying to get warm!

The Place: Starr Farm Beach
Date: Sunday, October 30
Drink: Yorkshire Gold English Breakfast Tea 
Observation, Bike Friendliness: This is a private beach community where my husband's family owns a camp, so we had free reign to pick the best beach spot. I need to wear warmer clothing the next time I venture out. 
Total Miles: 14

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Slow Rolling with Adele - Canadian Waterways and Farm Fields, Salaberry de Valleyfield

Photo credit: Adele
Every bike tour should start with a great cup of coffee. Adele and I sipped a Kenyan brew at Lakeside Coffee in Rouses Point, New York, just shy of the Canadian border, before starting our late September bike tour. Thankfully a 3-day window of sunny, autumn weather seemed destined just for us. If this adventure proved to be as great a time as our June sojourn then Adele and I were in for another girl-powered gastronomic ride.

(For a map of our route, check out Salaberry de Valleyfield ride.)

I had problems putting a handle bar bag on Clementine without the bag rubbing on the frame or getting in the way of using the forward flat bar position. I rigged a bag, and though not perfect, it would have to do for the trip.
Adele's lime-colored custom Marinoni bike, complete with her name painted on the frame, had already been on one Canadian adventure, but this was my Clementine's maiden voyage. We'd packed light for two hotel nights - hands down my lightest panniers to date - but I included a dress, walking shoes and warm clothing for night-time strolls around Sallaberry de Valleyfield, a region Adele and I had visited several years ago as part of an organized tour and wanted to return to explore more of the area. It never hurts to pack light, in general, not only to spin the pedals as effortlessly as possible but 3/4 full panniers meant we could stash Canadian goodies should an occasion present itself.

The bike trail has wonderful signage and waysides with picnic tables.
We divide trip duties as follows: Adele researches accommodation and restaurants while I plan the route. Using Google maps and Route Verte marked routes, I printed a few letter-sized maps plus an alternative return idea for variety. That's as far as my research went. My phone doesn't work in Canada, however Adele's phone does, so I was hoping she could help with navigation once we got to the island.

Adele and I pedaled across the border, zigzagged on back roads, then connected with a wonderful surprise: our itinerary apparently included a bike path heading northwest, cutting off the usual right angles around Canadian farm fields. We still had to ride 54+ miles to reach our hotel, but we figured it shouldn't be difficult with a flat-as-a-pancake landscape.

Roadside bike maintenance near an underpass. Photo credit: Adele
A few miles along the path, I noticed that my lower bottle bracket was loose so I stopped and tightened the Allen bolts.

We observed fields in the midst of harvest: red onions drying on top of the rich, dark soil and endless acres of bright green lettuce. Adele is a gardener and was curious so she checked out the fields up close.

We were chatting about whether migrants were harvesting the gigantic fields - we could see pickers collecting vegetables - when tractors started heading our way.

This is my favorite picture of the trip!
The farm hands all waved and smiled and the tractors rumbled along the edge of the path until turning onto a narrow dirt road. Adele and I dodged the earthen tracks and a bit later we spied long rows of migrant housing with multiple doorways, like a motel.

I was leery about a forecasted headwind, especially riding upright on Clementine. By early afternoon gusts started to slow us down.

A bridge in Beauharnois.
Due to a detour, we exited the bike path, split a club sandwich at a restaurant, then kept cruising on narrow roads into Sainte Martine. By then the headwind was formidable, and I worried I might fall behind, considering my torso should've taken the brunt of the headwind, but somehow the Clementine surprisingly kept gliding with only little extra effort to get up to speed whenever I stopped. Adele slowed also, however, we stuck together, trying to make the best of it, distracted by architecture, flowers, animals, etc., and if anything we felt fortunate that our adventure coincided with the 3 sunny days flanked by bad weather. I knew we'd eventually turn west, which should help, and though it was already late afternoon, we were optimistic we'd pull into the hotel before dark.

In Sainte Martine another bike path beelined through tall cornfields, but new shrubs and young trees had yet to provide a wind break, so we moved slowly and rolled into Beauharnois, a community on the Saint Lawrence River and took a short break. By then I'd determined I was unhappy with my bicycle's stock saddle (too wide, chaffing my rear end) and apparently thirsty and tired, because while I was standing, straddling Miss Clementine, I lost control and she toppled, her weight digging into my thigh but at least I saved her from crashing to the ground. I recovered and we continued on, aided by Adele's homemade energy cookies, but as I confided with Adele, I'll feel so much better about riding a new bicycle once it receives it's first scratch, very much like the new car syndrome.

A bridge in Beauharnois that crosses a Hydro Quebec spillway that dumps into
the Saint Lawrence River. Photo credit: Adele

I imagine Adele was as delighted as I was to be pedaling alongside water again.

As we navigated fish ladders, spillways, and pedaled by a Hydro Quebec powerhouse we couldn't help but notice a ship listing in the water with cables tethered to a barge to keep it steady. I snapped a photo to identify the rusty behemoth, which later I discovered was an oil tanker, named Kathryn Spirit, abandoned in 2011, and has since caused ongoing environmental concerns.

As long shadows highlighted beautiful churches and homes along the shoreline, we decided to concentrate on reaching the hotel, which was located on the far side of the island, somewhere after following Route 132 for several miles. But lacking adequate scaled maps  - indeed that's when I wished I'd made a better effort to print out a series of maps of  Isle de Salaberry de Vallefield - we trusted Adele's phone and Google Map directions to take us there.

Miss Google's voice lead us through lovely neighborhoods, through beautiful parks, over bridges, past lakes, over a dam, and we were treated to a wonderful tour, except something wasn't quite right because we should have been heading deeper into the city center. Eventually we'd mistakenly completed a circuit and recognized with a groan we'd wasted a half hour and hadn't made any progress. We were still several miles from the hotel and the sun had long since set.

Tasty solace: chocolate pyramid and creme brulee.
The evening was beginning to chill down so we pulled over, regrouped, and put on more clothing. I strapped my bright headlight onto the handlebar while Adele attached her headlight and flashing rear light. I lead the way, navigating Route 132, which fortunately had an adequate bike lane and as we neared the confusing city center in blackness we stopped for directions. While I was inquiring with store clerks, Adele located a good Samaritan in the parking lot who was happy to guide us the rest of the way. Indeed our guardian angel drove with her car flashers on, slowed at intersections (I'm sure she noticed my bright light in her review mirror) and led us right to Hotel Valleyfield's front door The wonderful lady in the Prius said something out her window that we couldn't discern, we waved, and she drove away.

Adele and I were all smiles. We checked in at 7:45 pm. stowed our bikes in a locked conference room then dropped our panniers in our room, foregoing a shower until after we'd eaten dinner. We had originally planned to check out restaurants in town, but at the late hour we opted for dinner in the hotel restaurant, which was delicious. Adele and I toasted each other with a glass of wine, laughed at our mishap, and were thankful we'd both brought along lights. Over desserts: a chocolate pyramid and creme brulee, we decided to take it easy the following day, because we deserved it.

Stopping in the lobby momentarily, before heading out to explore the nearby trails.
I slept until 8 o'clock the next morning! After a mediocre buffet breakfast, we consulted with lobby personnel, trying to find out more about Salaberry de Valleyfield's events, but were disappointed. This confirms what Adele had found out earlier on her morning walk, that there were many vacant store fronts and the economy must be falling on hard times.

We decided to head towards Coteau du lac and investigate the historic site and meander from there. As I stopped to photograph the interesting sculptures in front of the hotel, I noticed the hotel front (a former factory) is looking shabby.

I stop on the dam to wait for Adele and listen to the water rush below the dam.
Like entering the island, exiting northwest atop Hydro Quebec dams provided safe access with more water views.

Coteau du lac historic site sits on a prominent point overlooking the Saint Lawrence, strategic in both Revolutionary War and the French and Indian Wars. It also displays interesting steel replicas of canal boats in grassy remains of Canada's first lock system, opening the way for shipping.

I liked the ingenious swivel guns.
The beautiful Solanges Canal path and pivoting railroad bridge that allowed canal boats to pass through.

Afterwards we pedaled northeast on a narrow road by beautiful homes, hugging the shoreline. However, we quickly tired of that as we'd been there before with the group in years past. Our map indicated a parallel canal path, but we couldn't find the access so we decided to turn around and head back, but Adele detoured down a side street, and I followed.

Adele and I love second hand stores and garage sales. Even when traveling by bicycle, because there's nothing like self-imposed limitations. Of course that didn't stop Adele on one adventure from hauling a free Blackburn rack for 3 days...but that very rack now graces her new bicycle - a stellar find! So, it was no surprise that we spent an hour inside a crammed junktique store. The lady proprietor offered us coffee and cookies. Adele didn't buy anything, but I was tickled to get a lovely pair of green heart-shaped earrings and a lime-colored fleece headband.

We returned to the Saint Lawrence crossroads and discovered the side spur that led us to the Soulanges Canal path (map link located after I did more more research!).  As was becoming quite evident, there are numerous safe places to ride a bicycle, yet the hotel's bike map (Adele and I booked a room with bike package) is lacking in easily navigated scale, supported by earlier research on the Web and city's Visitor Information, both failing to provided adequate information. And, as Adele and I later discussed, Isle de Salaberry de Valleyfield region is missing an opportunity for more bicycle tourism.

We turned south on the path, sticking with our plan to keep riding to a minimum. Our memories are fuzzy about the details of our group journey in this region years ago, but neither of us recall this section of the path, if indeed, we'd been on the path at all! Adele and I enjoyed discovering little things, like stumbling into old bridges and interesting historical details - canals, like the Soulanges, played a huge part in Canada's early commerce, primarily transporting grain and coal.

A pedestrian suspension bridge at one end of the Soulanges Canal where it merges with Lake Saint Francois.
In our typical nothing ventured nothing gained attitude, the path suddenly ended, dumping us onto a secondary road. However, I was determined to get to a beautiful narrow/pedestrian bridge, its wooden framework glowing in the late afternoon sunshine. We rode for a bit past smaller homes then doubled back because the bridge entrance seemed to be surrounded by a municipal campground. Leading the way, I plunged into the potholed campground road, past trailers in campsites then we pushed our bicycles over the bridge, with view of golden trees, a small lighthouse, the mouth of the Soulanges Canal and on the others side we entered a park on a narrow peninsula.

I marveled at our luck to have found this special place. But we didn't linger long, wanting to allow ample time for the return journey. A local road lead back to a bike path, which connected with a familiar trail and from there it was an easy reach back to the hotel.

One kilometer before the hotel Adele and I stopped at a waterfront park where she took a phone call, which lasted several minutes. In the meantime, I lounged in the sunshine and petted a friendly cat enjoying the peaceful sunshine.

But the cat became distracted by ducks paddling close to shore. I was amused that the feline thought she stood a chance to capture waterfowl 6 feet offshore, especially know cats' aversion to water, but this didn't stop the friendly cat from giving it her all.

I burst out laughing when the cat popped up between the rocks.

Later, Adele and I rested in our hotel room then walked to a Cajun restaurant for a nice dinner.

The third and last day of our trip was a brisk 39F at 7 am, but with lots of sunshine. We bundled up, leaving the hotel around 9 am, deciding to follow Route Verte trail signs around the southern part of the island instead of stumbling directly across the busy city. We aimed to ride more of the trails plus take a different route back to the border.

Reading signs at a viewing area of a protected wetland. Photo credit: Adele
We glided by a couple of harbors, through neighborhoods, a wooded park, then another lovely trail alongside Canal de Beauharnois. With only one blip where we asked a friendly construction worker to get back on course, Route Verte signage provided adequate route finding and Adele and I crossed the canal on a half mile long narrow, but quiet bridge. On the other side, a lovely tree-lined trail hugged the canal for several miles until we reluctantly turned away from the water and started heading back across the farming heartland.

The trail ended at Saint Etienne and we began picking our way along back roads.

Many variations of poutine at Restaurant aux Pierro!
At lunchtime we visited Restaurant aux Pierro in Howick. Adele and I split tasty chicken fajitas, certainly enough food to boost our energy, but as small town restaurants go, this one was busy with local folks, talking to each other. Adele joins in, complimenting the owner and his wife, informs them I've never tried poutine, and before we know it they had added an extra dish on our table: Poutine Pierro, the local Canadian staple with the owner's own spin.

Poutine is a rich combination of cheese curds and French fries, topped with meat gravy. There are many variations of course, and Pierro's version had smoked meat. It was very tasty, so tasty that I overate and felt full for the next 3 hours!

I can't resist trying poutine. Photo credit: Adele.

Pierro and his wife are New York City aficionados; NYC kitsch adorns their restaurant. Photo credit: Adele.

Yeah Miss Clementine, these roads are made for you. Photo credit: Adele.
We head further south and turn onto country roads. There is a slight headwind, but nothing compared to our first day's struggle, so we do what touring cyclists do: chat, admire our surroundings, adjust ourselves on our saddles everyone once in a while, and scheme about the next adventure.

Photo credit: Adele
Adele had been a bit disgruntled when we first reached our hotel. Accommodations, breakfast, and staff's general lack of knowledge about cycling in the region had colored her outlook. But by exploring on our own and discovering many hidden gems - and with more trails than we had time to explore - she was considering another sojourn.

At some point we beeline back to the bike path we had followed on the first day because it heads in the right direction, plus it allows wind protection.The sky had clouded over and we planned to get back to the car well before dark. This time, Miss Google does a stellar job and reconnects us with the path.

Photo credit: Adele
Back to riding beside nearly brown cornfields.

We verify directions with a local in Lacolle, deciding to take the path to the very end where it dumps us onto a quiet country road, only 6 km from the US border.

As we near the end of our amazing trip, I realize how much I enjoyed riding Miss Clementine, despite the uncomfortable seat. The bike rolls very well, once I get her up to speed, and maintains consistent motion with little effort. I will require patience with the proprietary thumb shifters, which, when moved, create audible clicks yet operate in friction mode. I own bicycles with both indexed and friction shifting so I understand the intricacies of both yet I know I will have to be patient when shifting through Clementine's gears as this minor difference fools me into thinking she has index shifting!

The bicycle easily handled the extra 20 lbs. on flat terrain. The true test of it's climbing ability under weight will come in 2017, when I camp and ride in the Vermont hills. I'd like to utilize a front, ideally lowrider style rack because I love carrying weight up front, which tends to calm my erratic steering. On that note, Miss Clementine turns easily, even one handed.

And, in spite of my initial trepidation with the Bosco handle bars, I have fallen in love with their functionality. My favorite position was sitting upright; the handle bar grips were perfect and I found I only reached forward on the alternate flat my bar position when my body needed a break. I love the thumbies; they are comfortable.

Both water bottle bosses worked well. The downtube version had ample space for storage, comfortably clearing my feet and the front wheel.

Sitting upright is still foreign, however, heightened by alternating between my too small Ross commuter bike and a larger, longer Clementine. Clementine feels too large versus the Ross feels too small. Ideally, I'd like to locate a 20" old step-through bike to replace my Ross, however I know this will be like finding a needle in a haystack, but if I could, this would alleviate the disparity between the two sizes - bikes I'm anticipating will be my main bikes going forward.

I am concerned with Clementines's overall weight. She is not as light as I would've liked and may be heavier than my Ross. I suspect the longer frame, larger wheels, wider rubber, large handlebar, plus fenders, etc. all add significant heft. And will the bike fit on a bus rack? I fear it won't. I imagine I will be satisfied if the bicycle and my own strength can handle climbing with camping gear, but that's a future test. All the more reason to pack lightly!

In general, I'm quite pleased with Miss Clementine on our first mini-adventure. You can bet Adele and I will plan another interesting journey in 2017. Stay tuned.

For a map of our route, check out Salaberry de Valleyfield ride.