Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Coffeeneuring 2017 - Second Cup at Texaco Beach

On Sunday the weather is still sublime, sunny and in the 60's. I pack up my new toy bicycle - it's hard to take the Dahon seriously - but I'm tickled that my coffeeneuring basket fits well with ample clearance for my heels. I pressed an old versatile Eastsport pack into service as a handle bar bag.

Texaco Beach is easily accessed from the waterfront trail. A wide, sandy beach invites one and all. Two people with bikes made tracks in the sand and are huddled against rocks and trees in their own private oasis.

The wind howls from the south, but I've found an inviting clump of trees to hide behind. Sunshine. Warmth.

I fire up my 20 year old Coleman stove. It hisses.

I make herbal tea. yet again, because I didn't venture on my bike until mid-afternoon. One of these days coffee will be welcome.

For now, I sit on the log, sipping tea, admiring the lake. That's what I've come for. Calm. Water views. Foliage.

The Place: Texaco Beach
Date: Sunday, October 15.
Drink: Celestial Seasoning's Red Zinger Tea
Observation: The warm weather won't last and soon I'll be brewing coffee! 
Total Miles: 13

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Coffeeneuring 2017 - First Cup on the Long Trail Bridge

View from Long Trail Bridge above the Winooski River.

My husband challenged me to expand my Coffee Shop Without Walls horizons this year to include tributaries to Lake Champlain. For two years I've brewed coffee and tea on the shores of our beautiful lake, which has been great fun and is close to home, should I need to keep brew ups short and sweet on a frigid morning. I have a few more scenic spots in mind. My husband, however, is bored with my usual coffeeneuring routine and he wants to accompany me on more outings further afield, which, I am over-the-moon about, plus I will have a built in photographer, making documentation easier.

Or should make photography easier...except I made a coffeeneur's faux pas: at the car park as we assembled our bikes, I realized I'd left my camera and phone at home!

So, readers, use your imagination. Here's Miss Clementine loaded with my usual basket of goodies: camp stove, cup, tea, table cloth, chair, water bottle, and lock.

A coffeeneaur's bike set up reenactment, sans bungee cord tie downs. I collected the bunch of red clover on the return to the car as treats for our animals!

I snagged these photos the following day, returning with our family as part of a driving foliage tour.
Our boys are walking on the bridge.
Two years ago the Green Mountain Club built a suspension bridge over the Winooski River to aid Long Trail through hikers over a major river in their quest to hike the length of Vermont. It's easy to access each end of the bridge either by car or bicycle.

In fact, we rolled our bicycles onto the bridge where I brewed tea while observing spectacular water views. Rivaling a momentous Ethan Allen Tower adventure, the Long Trail Bridge brew up was my husband's idea as our first coffeeneuring stop. Way to go husband!

The Place: Long Trail Bridge
Date: Saturday, October 14.
Drink: Celestial Seasoning's Wild Berry Zinger Tea
Observation: Epic fail, forgetting a camera or phone, but we recovered by returning later to take photos and introduced our boys to the bridge.
Total Miles: 14

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Dahon Boardwalk 6-Speed - An Opportune Purchase

Adding a Dahon Boardwalk to my bicycle quiver.
A folding bicycle has been on my radar for sometime, not because I need one, but because I've long admired their simplicity, lightness, and of course their utility. I'm the last person who could benefit from owning a folder: I fly infrequently, have ample workplace parking, sport bike racks on both our vehicles or otherwise have a specific need for folder, but I've been intrigued by the design. And, I freely admit, I think folding bicycles are cute!

When two multi-speed Dahons were advertised on Craigslist for 75.00 each, I followed up, test rode one of the 6 speeds, impressed with their impeccable condition, despite their 15 year old age, and bought it. My only prerequisites for a folder were multiple gears, 20" wheels, a reputable brand, and inexpensive cost. That the Boardwalk model came with fenders and a rack, a clean drive-train, and came with Dahon canvas bag and documentation, was like cream in my coffee! How could I pass up this opportunity? Interestingly, after talking with the owners, I'd seen their bikes before (scroll to end of post).

Of course, when my husband saw what I'd done, he rolled his eyes!

There are worse habits I countered...and he followed up with wondering if it would fit inside his Miata's trunk...

I test rode the bike on a Queen City Bicycle Club ride, a perfect low key stroll around the city. I'm impressed at the comfortable ride, low enough gearing, and frankly, how well the wheels roll!

What happens next?

Longterm, I'm unsure how this bicycle will fit in my life, though I'm  currently dreaming of taking it on Amtrak for an overnight, or pedal around New York City, or Montreal, etc. Then there's hauling gear, which poses it's own set of challenges, which when I think about it, why not pay the extra baggage fee to bring a normal sized bike?

For now, it's an unforeseen but welcome addition to our varied fleet and takes up little space in our garage. If the novelty wears off, I can easily sell it.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Looking Forward to Coffeeneuring!

Stellar views from Railyard Park.
As I cruised by a small lakefront parklet at sunrise this morning, I thought of past Coffee Without Walls spots - of which Railyard Park was one - and how I have accumulated a list of 7+ waterside brew up locations ahead of me - without repeating the past 2 years of coffee outings!

Nancy has pledged a similar theme, but with tea.

Rock on, coffeeneurs! Let the challenge begin...

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Good Bye Ross Mount Saint Helens

I've said so long to the Ross Mt. Saint Helens. Between stripping her of fenders, racks, and a front wheel to build the Peugeot into my current commuter, there wasn't much left. However, I've saved the rear wheel, seat, and seat post for spare parts, but replaced the distinctive green handlebars back on the Ross for it's next recipient.

I donated what's left to Bike Recycle, leaving the frame hooked on their outside rack, because the shop wasn't open. Coincidentally, our youngest son happened to volunteer his time with a friend, repairing flat tires, etc. in their work space and saw someone working on the Ross.

I haven't been emotionally invested in this bike like my others, but because this was my first step through, and one I've ridden throughout the winter, the Ross has been instrumental in expanding my cycling horizons. It's time for this bike to help other folks less fortunate experience what it's like to ride a stable, strong commuter bike.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Thoughts on 1980's Mountain Bike Fit and the Trek Antelope as a Winter Bike

I find it interesting how one bicycle can have multiple lives. The Trek Antelope's early life was as a versatile commuter/dirt road rider/sport bicycle. In the mid 90s it functioned beautifully as a world tourer, climbing steep inclines and holding it's own on rough, third world roads. Since 2000, this do-it-all machine morphed into a daily commuter again with an occasional multi-day tour thrown in for good measure. But, it some respects, I've moved on, mostly, to riding step through bicycles, so the Trek has lately served as a loan to relatives or our youngest son has ridden it to a mowing job when his bike has a flat.

What I find particularly interesting, is the suggested fit for bikes of this era. I went from riding a 20-21" touring bike to the recommended 19" mountain bike. I believe the rationale went like this: ride a smaller frame so you'd have clearance on rough trails, making it easier to dismount or put a foot on the ground.

In hindsight, and from the wisdom of age, a 20" mountain bike suits me better. The reach is perfect without the need for bar ends, which, on the Trek has become a necessity for optimal comfort.

So, what to do with the Trek Antelope?

Now that I've found a perfect-sized Peugeot step through for commuting - a size that's proven difficult to locate - it occurred to me (after Ryan suggested I use the Ross as a winter bike) that I should press the Trek into cold weather duty, small or not, and keep the Peugeot for the long haul and not subject it to salt-crusted roads.

The Plan - Transform the Trek into a lean, functional machine*
  • remove front rack
  • add wider gumwall tires
  • beef up the worn hand grips, perhaps with a funky wrap job
  • replace toe clip pedals with simple platform type

*Of course, all this means I also don't have to deal with getting rid of a bicycle that has memories up the wazoo...

Thursday, September 28, 2017

New Shoes and Generosity

Gotta love these Nashbar sandals! They look great with socks.
Because of a relative's kindness, I put a lot of thought into spending designated birthday money. It's too easy to pocket the gift, forget the money was intended to be spent on oneself, plus ignore the loved one who has generously given. This year I treated myself to a new pair of Nashbar sandals plus new tires for an upcoming winter bike project.

These shoes replace a 6 year old pair.
It's difficult enough living in a 91 year old body, much less knowing what to buy for family birthdays. My mother-in-law's simple acting of giving has never wavered throughout the 34 years I have known her. And so, I will do what I've always done to show my appreciation. I will stop by for a visit and show her my new shoes and describe the new chunky tires that will grace my winter bike, and she will once again, say how she always loves that I tell her what I bought, because seldom does anyone else remember to.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Autumnal Equinox - A Changing Landscape

After a wondrous hiking vacation it's taken me a few surreal days to acclimatize back into my biking routine. And what a beautiful time of year! There are purple, magenta, and deep red wild asters lining the bike trail...

Contrasting with goldenrod...

and sumac trees turning orange and red.
There's even early color in a maple grove, appropriately gracing the Maple Research facility's front lawn.

My wheels roll over leaves, the crunch and crackle welcome sounds.

I glide past a storm water pond where a menagerie of plants and trees were planted a year ago, but are already an established, colorful part of the fall landscape.

As the days grow sadly shorter, a kind of special, if fleeting, beauty has replaced the heat of summer.

This is my time of year!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Two Loops North of the Border - Along the Richelieu & Saint-Armand

Riding the farm roads on the return trip to Auberge Harris.
On the heels of riding with Adele near Sherbrooke, my husband and I staged a bike getaway from Auberge Harris in Saint Jean sur Richelieu. Most of the rain showers had passed by the time we made it through a 30 minute wait at the border and arrived in St. Jean and checked into a cramped hotel room (next time we'll spring for the suite). Auberge Harris is familiar from years passed, riding VerMontreal trips, plus the hotel welcomes cyclists, has safe bicycle storage, and provides maps of potential riding loops.

My husband wanted to ride on the Chambly Canal path again, a beautiful, crushed stone dust towpath beside a canal that once saw barges, but now allows pleasure craft, run by Parcs Canada. It had been several years for both of us but the scenery was still lovely as waterfowl from both canal and river nearby squawk and flap wings. We were even privy to a large fish leaping beside us, creating a big splash.

In Chambly we sat outside a health food store, enjoying panini and salad then began our return journey on the other side of the Richelieu River on new roads to us, through flat farming country, a nice loop mapped for us on Auberge Harris's free map.

By late afternoon we returned to the hotel and enjoyed the outdoor, warm, salt-water pool as showers sprinkled our heads, the sky clearing to reveal a rainbow.

We checked out of the hotel on Sunday morning and headed south, close to the Vermont border to explore the region around Saint Armand. We began our ride from the village green in a parking lot, surprisingly beside two other Canadian groups who were also setting off on bikes.

The horizontal line is the border with Vermont. The dark mass is Lake Champlain's extension into Canada.
We followed back roads on a vineyard map, eventually passing through Bedford then looping southward by Dumaine du Ridge where my husband snagged a vineyard map for a neighbor. We also paused for an extensive exploration of the same cemetery I stopped at a few years ago because of Corey family graves that were relocated to the Ridge Cemetery. I had no idea there were 50+/- stones with the Corey surname. 

We took a side road to ride through a covered bridge, the Guthrie Covered Bridge, built in the 1880's. I never thought about Quebec having covered bridges, but I realize Vermont doesn't hold a monopoly on this architecture and living so close to the border, we have lots of things in common, like maple syrup production and beautiful foliage season.

After dancing near another border crossing, Morses Line, we ended our ride back in Saint Armand, picnicking near a Pentaque court (that I later discovered is what we call Bocce). It was a lovely two days away from home and a chance to reconnect with my wonderful and favorite travelling companion.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Riding with Paula to Kamp Kill Kare State Park

I reconnected with Paula (an old friend from long ago book group) just before we set off on a wonderful overnight ride earlier this summer. With that success we kept in contact, and after running into her once again at Terry's tent sale (great minds think alike), we set up a time to meet, and start a ride from her country home 30 miles north of Burlington.

I invited my husband along, who's always looking for new places to ride. I didn't know it at the time but Paula and I had bought the same style of Terry saddle. Hers was the leather and white version, which was rather becoming on her blue Trek 520 touring bike. (sorry, no pictures)

Paula took us on paved country roads, eventually descending to Saint Albans Bay, a region my husband and I are somewhat familiar with, having ridden around the lake in recent years. The day was perfect: a light breeze and warming temperatures, and spectacular lake vistas.

But I'd never pedaled completely around the bay, which we did together, climbing rolling hills, coasting down the other side to delightful snippets of kayakers, people gardening, views of tiny islands, all the while taking in bayside cottages and farmsteads among mature oak and maple trees. I was pleased with my new saddle, Paula also.

We stopped at Kill Kare State Park, surrounded by three sides of Lake Champlain (weird I know, but that's what the website says) on the grounds of an old boys camp. The house still stands, turned into offices, a visitor's center, and bathrooms. A delightful respite on sweeping lawns in the shade and we returned on the same road until looping back on another hill to Paula's place for a total of 20 miles. My Clementine and I climbed efficiently, keeping up with my husband - I still marvel at her low gears - and now with a proper saddle I feel confident she'll handle loaded ascents with ease.

On the ride back I schemed with Paula about doing an overnight from her house, staying at Lake Carmi, a park she hasn't visited. If our luck holds we'll squeeze in this adventure before the snow flies and/or the state park closes. It's a slim window, due mostly to my September vacation, but who knows? If we're lucky the ride might occur on her birthday and during foliage season. Fingers crossed!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Bargains at Terry's Tent Sale

Several years ago Terry Bicycle company relocated to Burlington, Vermont. I've admired their saddles for close to 20 years, but as with many seats, I find the cost prohibitive to take a chance on a saddle that might not provide long-term comfort.

Terry holds an annual tent sale, and after buying a black wrapper skirt (a leftover from the sale) at Goodwill and loving the style, I made sure to attend Terry's sale this year. I was immediately drawn to a basket of touring saddles and picked out a 20.00 Butterfly. There were beautiful leather versions also (for twice the price), but I generally avoid them because of the care involved and the need to cover leather saddles in inclement weather.

I'm fond of cut-out saddles.
The new saddle adorns Miss Clementine and is a big improvement over the stock saddle!

I like the two front slits lined with reflective tape plus hidden zipper pocket.
The fun was just beginning! I found a blue/grey version of my favorite wrap skirt. My shorts selection is getting threadbare so these skirts provide coverage and style, and come in handy wearing into my workplace or doing errands. I've also worn them on pleasure rides, really, almost anywhere. On longer jaunts I hike the skirt up in back so there's no bunching or extra seams to cause discomfort.

These skort wrappers are constructed of nylon and polyester.
I left with two items, but on the last day - in fact the last hour -  of the sale I cruised by on my bike, turning in to take a second look. It was my lucky day! The remaining merchandise was marked down 50%. I left there with a green wrap skirt plus a pretty, grey-patterned fleece skirt.

The wrap skirts have side zips with two-snap fasteners to secure a wide, comfortable waistband.

The black and blue versions have adjustable rear closures, which I like. The green style in the same size has some flexibility in the back elastic, but is a bit snug and is slightly shorter in length - the difference in yearly models.

 I'm pleased to have a fleece skirt, if only to wear walking in winter or over tights for office wear.

Easy to wear.

Provide ample coverage over shorts or a flattering look over tights.
I'll be sure to check out Terry's tent sale in 2018.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Slow Rolling with Adele - Sherbrooke Bound

Crowd pleasers during an outdoor festival in Sherbrooke.
On Adele's and my annual Canadian bike adventure, I suggested we explore east of Lake Memphremagaog, a region we hadn't visited together, and in my case, not in 10 years. In addition, we'd planned to investigate Sherbrooke, a new place for both of us and the major city for that part of Canada.

Adele took fabulous circus pictures!
With torrential rain forecast for the first day of our 3 day sojourn, due early afternoon, we drove directly to Sherbrooke, plus there was also a hiccup in our reservation. W'ed be staying further outside Sherbrooke than we'd originally thought, so it made sense to have the car available during our stay.

Taking advantage of help at the information center, we spent a rainy afternoon at the historical museum, but learned of Sherbrooke's early English settlement, it's mill based roots, county seat growth and eventual exploding French population. The history explains why Sherbrooke is primarily a French speaking area, though we didn't have any trouble communicating in English.

When the rains cleared, we enjoyed an outdoor festival, and especially the modern circus acrobats!

The two bed dorm room was spacious and easily accommodated our bikes.
We stayed in a Bishop's University dorm, and though not as nice as Adele would've liked (Sherbrooke hotels were either full or too expensive) the rooms were clean and the campus was quiet in early August. I would stay there again. I didn't mind the 4 mile separation between Lennoxville and downtown Sherbrooke, easily accessed by bike path, and, as it turns out, right on the 51k Sherbrooke to North Hatley bike loop that I suggested we ride!

Past North Hatley the trail followed a series of low traffic, rolling dirt roads.
With snacks as back up, we rolled out the door the following morning, and cycled 12k on a smooth, dirt packed rail trail to North Hatley, a beautiful community on Lake Massawipppi. The Eastern Townships are full of lovely back roads and marked cycling routes, one of the primary reasons Adele and I return again and again to Canada. We breakfasted at a chocolate shop/restaurant, a yummy hot breakfast that included a sample pot of warm chocolate to dip our spoons into.

Afterwards, knowing we had the whole day to complete 30 miles, in typical Annie/Adele fashion, we followed a garage sale sign along the opposite side of the lake than our map indicated we needed  to go! As often is the case with these diversions, our encounters provide more insight into the region: the sale was in a two-story boathouse where proceeds benefited the community's young population who attended sailing classes. I rummaged and found a pair of blue fleece socks while Adele picked out a scarf - two easy items to stow in our panniers.

Photo credit: Adele
Continuing on, dirt roads morphed into a fun, roller coaster-type stone dust packed trail, reminding us of a favorite cycling loop around Yamaska Park.

I would love to also ride this circuit someday with my husband, so I took mental notes (and photos) of nearby campgrounds. I was intrigued by the tee-pee set-ups.

Alter at OMG restuarant.
Adele and I eventually cruised back into Sherbrooke along the Magog River. Like many of the Eastern Township's routes, the route is well signed, and free maps provide back up. We had to stop at OMG, recommended by a friendly cafe attendant (who made the best cappuccino) as a great place for burgers. We weren't hungry, however, we were intrigued by the former church turned into restaurant and investigated the interior, plus drank a pick-me-up (but not as stellar) cappuccino.

There was lots of chrome and wood with alcoves of comfy chairs, a bar, and dining sections segregated by wall panels. I loved the interior, but the devil logo seemed a little weird to me, opposite of any religion, but that was possibly intentional. It certainly is a hip place though and set up for special occasions - a place to check out in the future.

Food photos credit: Adele
Later that evening, after a shower and rest in our dorm room, we ventured back to Sherbrooke for dinner at Resto L'Empreinte. Adele had a few possible restaurants in her quiver, and this quiet, quaint, fabulous, foody place certainly expanded my gastronomic horizons! I will try most anything and we shared many dishes (7 or 8?), the likes of raw venison, pork medallions, fish, lots of interesting sauces, with numerous herbs and fresh vegetables, and finished with a plate of chocolaty panna cotta. Adele called it molecular cuisine: using ingredients in a new form. It was an experience I will never forget.

After dinner we noticed that downtown Sherbrooke is pretty quiet. I guess it's like many other cities, but I've become used to lively Burlington and Montreal, where something is always going on and people walk around in the evening.

Riding through the Narrows of Fitch Bay.
The third morning we drove to Ayer's Cliff, breakfasted at a local diner, and set off on a hilly but spectacular loop by Lac Lovering, Fitch Bay, and pedaled an undulating road before climbing a hill and discovering Blue Lavande lavender farm.
The covered bridge at The Narrows.

At Blue Lavande, we first enjoyed the aromatic gift shop because we weren't sure we wanted to pay 10.00 for the tour or spend another hour walking the grounds. However, Adele talked with someone in the entrance booth who gave us free passes because we cycled there!

What a beautiful spot!

The fields reminded me of southern France. The owners have experimented and developed a system to protect plants during harsh Quebec winters, and are continually planting and trying out new varieties.

Near the start of the Tomifobia trail, Adele investigates the town of Stanstead for future eating establishments and possible places to stay.
Near the Canadian border we hopped on the Tomifobia rail trail and pedaled 19 kilometers back to Ayer's Cliff.

The Tomifobia spur line once hauled granite and passengers between Stanstead, Ayer's Cliff and Lennoxville (where we bunked for two nights), a rather fitting historical tidbit to learn about our journey in Canada. Quebec, we'll be back!

PS. The Clementine handled the hills quite well, though because of our itinerary change, I didn't carry more than 10 lbs. during any part of the hilly day. I have, however, found a more comfortable seat (more on that) and the front bag is a gem. Rock on, Clementine!