Thursday, June 22, 2017

Enjoy the Journey, Life is a Beautiful Ride

My girlfriend stopped by to share lunchtime together...and gave me this beautiful mug. I'm tempted to bring it along on our next adventure together!

Happy weekend. :)

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A Women-Only Overnight to Grand Isle State Park

Sometimes you have to seize the good weather, pack panniers, and hit the road with like-minded girlfriends. And there's no better destination than Grand Isle State Park because of it's easy proximity to Burlington and relatively flat terrain. Not only is it a perfect route for novice bike tourists, but midway you pedal across the Colchester Causeway where there is jaw-dropping lake scenery.

Pausing on the bridge for a look at the Winooski River.
Paula and I started from my house and met up with Carmen on the waterfront. I'd reconnected with Paula recently after 6 years (I loaned her my panniers) and Carmen is a new friend I met through Queen City Bicycle Club rides around Burlington. After the same overnight ride organized by the Queen City Bicycle Club was cancelled due to weather, I proposed that we do it on our own once mother nature was in our favor.

The smooth, stone dust causeway trail is 4 miles long.
We left at 4 pm. and headed north. the only deadline was catching a ferry ride across The Cut (opening in the causeway to allow boat traffic) by the 6 pm scheduled closure.

The ferry crew rolled our loaded bikes on board for the 3 minute crossing.

The captain got a kick out of the fact that I was bringing Jiffy Pop - visible beneath my cargo netting - and joked that he'd meet us in our campsite for a few handfuls.

On the South Hero side, we dodged a potholed dirt road among late afternoon shadows - a tricky feat - then struggled through a construction zone riddled with chunky, rocky gravel, and were finally relieved to be pedaling on asphalt once again. 

With a warm evening, we stopped at Keeler Bay Store - a haven for travelers - and bought sandwiches, micro-brews, and fruit, bread, and in my case, also an avocado for breakfast. 

Three tents fit easily onto the spacious, grassy site.
The state park was half full and we had our pick of sites, but just in case I had called ahead to confirm their no-turn-away policy for bicycle travelers. In the busy season, the park will accept two-wheeled campers (as I experienced last August) and in the case of full campground, the rangers reserve group sites to handle the overflow cyclists. 

We were hungry and tired by 7 pm arrival, we took their suggestion and set up on #84, close to water and bathhouse. Of special note, all of us were self contained travelers: carrying tent, sleeping gear, stove, pots, and food - by design - because all three of us were trying something new. Paula wished to be independent, hauling her own gear for the first time; Carmen is a veteran camper, but has only ever traveled by tandem - this was her initiation into being independent; and I was using a loaded front rack on my Clementine for her first camping trip. We ate dinner then set up tents, then munched on greasy, tasty Jiffy Pop until we retired around 10 pm.

On Sunday morning I woke by 5:30, well rested, but too early for Paula and Carmen, who had a restless night and crawled from their tents around 8 am. It's amusing to watch what other travelers have for breakfast. I drank tea because I hadn't located my coffee filter at home, while Carmen reheated yesterday's coffee and milk (great idea) and Paula brought instant coffee. Carmen ate oatmeal; (I forget what Paula had!); and I ate an apple and a roll smothered in avocado. 

New this year: three dinosaurs!
By 10 am we set off, crossing the island for a alternate route back to the ferry. The morning was lovely, mostly shaded, rolling by farms, near bays, with a welcome headwind because the day would warm into the 90s.

One of our favorite stops was near the hundreds of crayon-colored birdhouses opposite White's Beach. Every year the birdhouses multiply, and according to Paula and Carmen I missed where the owners had a road side display stand where you could buy your own brightly painted birdhouse, payable by the honor system.

The birdhouse forest is taking on a life of its own, with the addition of dinosaurs roaming the woods.

At the public beach I just had to take my inaugural dip into frigid Lake Champlain. Paula and Carmen probably thought I was nuts and documented my "swim". It's the best way to cool off, wearing wet clothes and riding a bike!

Back on the causeway we take the ferry back to Colchester. By 1 pm the day is toasty.

Seven miles from home Carmen proposes we stop at Charlie's Boathouse. I wouldn't have given the idea a thought because I'm so used to heading to our camp - only a mile away - so it's never been on my radar as a destination, but I've also learned to be flexible. As it turns out, this place is Americana. Step back in time, eat a hot dog, buy worms for fishing, rent a canoe, chat with friendly octogenarians, proprietors and siblings, Christine Auer Hebert and Charlie Auer. And, if you're lucky, Charlie will have made sauerkraut to have on your hot dog.

We eat our hot dogs on the large swing, watch people putting together a dock, pet Charlie's new adopted three-legged beagle resting in the shade, admire overloaded boats unload passengers onto the sandy shore, and become a part of this unique summer community at the mouth of the Winooski River.

Would I do this trip again, even after the hot slog up the hill home?  You betcha!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Queen City Bicycle Club June 2017 Tour

You know that good weather is coming, especially when 30 women show up for the monthly ladies-only, bell-ringing, fun ride around Burlington.

I noticed this sweet house, only after I inspected my photos! It's typical Canadian architecture - a sweeping roof with symmetrical A-line peak. 
We stick to quiet streets, mostly, but who doesn't like to head downtown, rock and roll to loud tunes, and wave to smiling bystanders?

Lately, I've been digging our dizzying loops around the fountain in City Hall Park.

There was a lot more, of course, including a cruise along the waterfront trail. before heading over to Zero Gravity for our complimentary drink. Gotta love that Cone Head! And...of special interest, I have tentative bike overnight plans with one of the ladies for this coming weekend. Weather, are you on my side?

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Encouraging the Gift of Freedom Aboard a Raleigh Grand Prix

Our 15 year old son chose Bicycle Touring as his YES (Year End Studies) program for the last 10 days of his freshman year in high school. Last summer he completed a week-long Bicycle Mechanics summer program and loved it so we should have seen it coming, but 15 year old teenagers aren't  as forthcoming and communicative as parents would like, and he sprang this surprise on us at a time when I was an acting single parent - my husband was on a business trip - which meant I had to help whip his bicycle choice: the Raleigh Grand Prix, into shape, according to our son's plan.

We prefer to wrench in the kitchen - the lighting is good and clean-up is easy - so the Raleigh was put into the stand. The previous day, I'd purchased a new tire - a Panacer Pasela no less! - locally to replace a blown tire, plus I surprised my son with bicycle shorts, a well-deserved treat for his 30+ mile daily jaunts. This particular son struggles in school, so for him to embrace a sport, and for his passion to align with our own, well, I will support him as much as possible! As for the bicycle, he likes a lean, lightweight bicycle, which, in his mind, means without racks or fenders. He removed the quick release rear wheel, stripped the tube and blown tire and had replaced the tube and tire himself, mostly, with my additional help cinching and securing the new tire back onto the rim.

Once we finagled the wheel in the dropouts, he adjusted the rear brake pads so they clamped the rims instead of the tire - initial cause of the blowout. He also inspected the front brakes and made similar adjustments, then removed a front fender. He also cleaned up the frame and wiped the chain. I was proud that he's taking pride in his work and improving the Raleigh, a bicycle he seems to have adopted as his own.

The Raleigh Grand Prix lacks bottle braze-ons, but I creatively used rubber gaskets leftover from unused lock brackets, strong zip-ties, and wide velcro to further secure rack to the frame, which had the added advantage of covering sharp, clipped zip-tied edges. I also added a seat wedge bag filled with tiny pump and patch kit.

Three days into his program, our son is enjoying the long rides  He brings home printed maps of each ride and seems to be enjoying himself!