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!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Colchester Streets Challenge - Lake Views, Dirt Roads, and Neighborhoods

I've been plugging along, ticking off more Colchester miles to, hopefully, fulfill my quest to ride all of Colchester's public streets in 2017. Sometimes I encounter the Mr. Ding-a-ling truck, it's driver passing out ice cream treats to anxious cyclists.

I get a kick out significant street signs. Will Superman fly overhead?

Colchester has a lot of dirt roads, this one jutted onto a peninsula, lined with quaint lakefront homes on Porter's Point.

Sometimes I feel like I'm pedaling on private land, but my map indicates otherwise.

My husband accompanies me on several outings, looping neighborhoods and a one-way ride towards a Winooski delta park, except we turned back because of deep water.

I have nearly finished one section of Colchester, though there are many more to go. So far I am surprised at the number of duplexes, Entire neighborhoods consist of duplexes. Others have single family homes, one has a neighborhood pool. One interesting neighborhood sported an abnormal share of homes angled outward on corner lots.

Riding Colchester's roads has been a sporadic affair. I've been busy with other summertime events, but once the weather cools off, I'll get back on a regular agenda.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Retrofit a Tech Wallet into a Handlebar Bag

A thin pouch lashed horizontally, clears frame and snugs against the stem.
I'm smitten with Clementine's bosco bars. However, because of their unique proportions, a typical handlebar bag meant either I would need to install a bracket or another alternative was to attach a barrel-shaped front bag with Velcro. With the latter, which I had on hand, the material rubbed on the frame. Both systems would be more cumbersome than what I really wanted, which was a slim-shaped bag, one that was easily detached and could double as a purse, and hold a few necessities while on tour.  This idea would also allow me to grip the handlebars on either side to take advantage of the extra forward hand positions that make the bosco bars special. In other words, my ideal bag was so specialized, I wouldn't find it online or my local shop. I had to create my own solution.

Locating a bag turned out to be the easy part. I walked into a Staples store with a 5.00 coupon, found what I wanted immediately, and walked out with what's called a tech wallet. It was deeply discounted, so much so, that with the coupon, it was free. The "wallet" is padded and decorated on the exterior with a rose pattern, but the interior is grey with pink trim. The beauty of this little beast is the exterior has one zip pocket and the interior has multiple stash areas, including a zip pocket for cash, plus a fuzzy-lined slot for a phone. The zipper completely surrounds the wallet so when unzipped, the pouch lays flat.

A central strap with buckle secures pouch in place while the longer strap attached around the handlebar, loops back through hole in strap, then clips into other end. I tuck the loose end wherever, so it doesn't dangle or flap needlessly.
I have a collection of straps and buckles just for this purpose, either to fix a purse or pannier, or to create or re-purpose an item to suit my needs. In most respects, I enjoy this type of problem. Sure, I'd love to find exactly what I want, plop down money, and have the product delivered, but if I don't find what I'm looking for, I look at the solution as a creative challenge. I can usually come up with something that will work.

Storage that's up front, easy to access. 
I thought about how to secure the wallet to Miss Clementine, then ended up hefting the bicycle into our basement near my sewing corner so I could try out straps and buckles, until an idea began to form. The bag had to be versatile, a purse and handlebar bag all rolled into one system, yet not take over valuable handlebar real estate.

Exterior pocket is handy for lots of things. My passport is a tight fit, but on a recent trip, it worked well to tuck it away, and feel secure that it wasn't going to slip out every time I opened the bag.

While attached to the bicycle, I can unzip the purse half way and extract lip balm, money, or my camera that I tucked inside.

The waist belt was an actual belt that came with pants. The first round I used the provided rubber buckle, but it kept coming apart when wrapped around metal bar. I replaced it with a black plastic Fastex-type clip.
Because the pouch opened completely flat, I placed the bag in my sewing machine and was careful not to sew through corresponding slots on the reverse side. I tacked the waist belt in place first, decided to only sew 4 vertical lines to secure wide "belt", which allowed multiple slots for strap to wind around bar and weave back through. I knew this would allow more versatility with how I might end up attaching bag to bar.

One of my requirements was to hold a camera, which fits "loose" stored, once pouch is zipped, or without it's case, can tuck inside the phone slot if I don't require a handy phone. The mesh slots hold lip balm, credit cards, whatever, while money is secured inside zipped interior pocket and passport zipped tightly in exterior pocket. The wallet is a trim 3" wide, which means plenty of clearance to grasp the handlebars in the stretched out position.

In the end, the bag is a handbag, purse, and converts into a perfect fanny pack. Because the wide strap was once a belt, it's even long enough to loop crosswise around my body for more security. I'm happy with the final product; it's a perfect accompaniment to Miss Clementine's tour-ready status.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Riding with the Boys, er, Young Men

Riding with our teenage sons is always an impromptu affair: a ride to get creemees, a cruise along the waterfront to capture the sunset, and recently, a 6-mile urban ride on sidewalks and sunny asphalt to greet a far flung family member at Burlington's airport. What strikes me the most is how well we all get along - the rambunctious 15 year old pairs off with his father, detouring through parking lots, while our cautious, college-bound son is content, hanging with his mom, pedaling the direct route. Summertime pleasure rides make me smile. 😊