Sunday, November 22, 2020

Coffeeneuring 2020 - Seventh Cup at the Fishing Pier

Focusing on Gratitude

I'm trying to be positive in a world upended by chaos, by concentrating on little things, like being thankful for still being able to ride a bicycle. This is at the root of who I am as a person: I find joy in moving slowly, smelling leaves, listening to bird calls, gazing at Lake Champlain in all its year-round moods. Isn't it amazing that a simple machine can provide so much joy?

Thank you bicycle! 

And thank you MG for hosting the 2020 Coffeeneuring Challenge.

7 full cups of gratitude:

  • Special time with son exploring area's mountain bike trails
  • Spending time with a cycling friend
  • Personal comfort in solitude 
  • Grateful to be living near water
  • Ample time to explore our new community and autumn's colorful foliage 
  • Very thankful for any sunshine on my face
  • Gratitude for the power of two wheels

The Place: The Fishing Pier
Date: Friday, November 12
Drink: Barry's Tea with milk and sugar
Observation: When the temperature drops below 50F, thankfully the hordes on the Greenway disappear.
Total Miles: 15

Monday, November 16, 2020

How to Revive Beloved Panniers

Before and after images: at left, original Overland system: top hooks with straps and tension buckles (and tiny rings that are supposed to hook under rack)  - difficult to use, though secure once placed. At right, the improved replacement Lone Peak system: locking top hooks with easier to remove common bungee and hooks.

Both Lone Peak front and cavernous Overland rear panniers have been rugged companions for both my husband and myself on a yearlong trip. Since then for local commuting and occasional short tours, we've worn out the smaller and easier to use Lone Peak pair, because their top hooks lock onto the rack - a brilliant design - but are easy to remove, using typical bungee and hook design secured to the rack bottom.  

Before tossing panniers (and helmets) I remove any hardware to repair future projects or to keep our existing equipment in decent shape. My husband needs rear panniers. Good panniers are expensive. I discovered that Lone Peak still sells their wonderful parts so in conjunction with a few pieces in my stash, I drilled additional holes in the rear bags, and with a lot of patience, I replaced the difficult Overland system with new Lone Peak hardware.

After a good wash, the Overland panniers look almost new!

High quality, made in USA, 1994 Overland panniers, We own a third back up pannier (the 4th was attached to a bike that was stolen) and another set of locking top hooks should we need to press an additional pannier into service.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Coffeeneuring 2020 - Sixth Cup at Battery Park

This photo says it all: sunshine and a perfect Lake Champlain view.

Benches for everyone.


Sporting a new longer length, windproof jacket and toasty, lined helmet.

Tea and dumplings. I like that the new coat has a two-way zipper. 

Round two: teatime at North Beach, sheltered from the wind.

Focusing on Gratitude

When the colder weather sets in, exacerbated by multiple cloudy days, it's a gloomy time of year. An extra boost of vitamin D often helps take the edge off - that - and getting outside as much as possible during the day. I'm very thankful for any sunshine on my face, especially this fall!

It was a blustery 35F degree afternoon. And so, I bundled up, testing a new jacket, winter helmet, newly completed handlebar bagalong with a return to riding the Dahon for the first time since July. I picked up tasty Hong's Dumplings and picnicked at Battery Park, one of Burlington's prime Lake Champlain vistas. It turned out to be a tough location to avoid the wind altogether, so I gobbled my lunch, sipped tea, then headed towards home, with an impromptu detour to sandy North Beach where I found a relaxing, sheltered spot to finish my drink. 

Ah, thank you sunshine. I'd needed your kiss.

The Place: Battery Park
Date: Friday, October 30
Drink: Barry's Tea with milk and sugar
Observation: After a hiatus, I love zipping along on the versatile, highly maneuverable folder.
Total Miles: 17

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Dahon Boardwalk DIY Custom Handlebar Bag

One of the main reasons I created a custom handlebar bag for my Dahon is because my particular model, a Boardwalk from 2003-4, lacks an integrated front truss block. I would prefer a Brompton- or Tern-style type of luggage option secured to the frame, but it is not possible without a built-in frame connection. But I had an idea. Much like the current snack bag/water bottle solution and rear panniers, which both are easily removeable, I knew I could also construct a front bag that would take advantage of the elongated handlepost, distribute more weight up front, plus have similar properties for portability (train travel, stowing inside a vehicle, etc.). I purposely avoided adding a front rack to keep the bike as lightweight as possible.

I used a purple Jansport laptop case for basic structure, but because of small carrying capacity, it was necessary to add additional pockets - thus the "rucksack" idea to include top zipper flap, lower easy to reach pockets plus one rear pocket to hold tent poles or whatever I could stuff in there. I used one buckle (gleaned from an old helmet) that's easy to clip, and with a long enough cinch strap who knows what else could be tucked onto the exterior?
I also required further prerequisites - enough to make my head spin - but I view those challenges as an opportunity to further customize the bag: a space to carry tent poles, plus include easy-to-open pockets and fasteners (I have weakened, arthritic thumbs). In the back of my mind I'd like enough cargo space to tour on the Dahon and to maximize it's potential, the items I needed was more upfront capacity. 

Thus, this was my first project that required multiple drawings and revisions. I eventually settled on a rucksack style in the front, and daisy chain webbing (for maximum attachment points) plus one pocket in the rear to hold tent poles. 

The purple colors are slightly mismatched (and do not photograph accurately) but I suspect all will fade in time. Once removed, the bag also doubles as a hand bag by simply attaching a shoulder strap to D-rings (as shown in upper right image) .
Over the course of a month, I finished, pausing in between steps to make sure I sewed each step in the correct order. As with other projects, I place the bike near my sewing space for continual adjustments and measurements. 

I experimented with stuffing items inside main pocket to understand volume.

I also checked out how including tent poles will work. They fill the curvature of handlebar nicely, one of the funny little aspects of the Dahon's bar. without compressing space in main pocket. and do not stick up dangerously high, approximately 4".

A side view for overall impression. Not too big visually, but extends capacity on a folding bike.

I tested the capacity on a recent Coffeeneuring outing, happy there's little sway without additional hook and loop fasteners - but the option is available should I need to add more attachment points in the future. Because most of the weight is suspended from the handlebars, I probably wouldn't lug more than 5 pounds, but that's 5 pounds less on the rear wheel!

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Coffeeneuring 2020 - Fifth Cup at Macrae Farm Park


Overlooking western flatlands of Colchester with Lake Champlain in the distance.  

It's a cliff, so best to be cautious when taking photos.

Old road leads to fields. 


Macrae Farm Park. Water is very low. 

Another favorite mug.

Focusing on Gratitude

Setting off mid-afternoon on my mountain bike, I headed for the nearby hills again to explore more trails. I swerved around golden trees, bumped over roots, and discovered yet another route to the top. The summit overlook called me and I spent a few minutes taking in the scenery.

I kept going, however, because a coffeeneuring girl is always on a mission!

The maze of forest trails is often confusing, however heading downhill either ends up at a sandpit, a ridgeline above the bottoms lands, or an exit to a neighborhood, where then I get my bearings so I'm not concerned about getting lost, I heard motorized dirt bikes for the first time, so it was clear I was headed for the sandpit. After I skirted their antics - they kindly gave me right of way - I traveled a recently pockmarked track, chewed up by horse hooves, towards Macrae Farm and it's namesake park. The multi-use trails are a gem, not overused, and I'm curious about the public land and it's history. 

In the bottomland I aimed to see where Old Town Road ended up. A friend said it connects with Pine Island Road. During high water the Winooski River floods portions of the park, but 2020 has been a very dry year, so it was an opportunity find out where the road led to. 

As I hopped the bike over multiple tree roots, I wondered whether the road had once been more of an artery - clearly there's more history than meets the eye. I ended up in a bright green grassy field, double-tracked, with mountain bike tire tracks in the puddles. Enticed, I kept riding and stopped to admire a temporary shelter full of colorful chickens, photogenic in autumn sunlight.  I followed the track for a short uphill stretch, quickly morphing into a nice gravel road, exiting into a farmyard full of outbuildings. I recognized the area as the end of Pine Island Road, as my friend suggested, a place that had raised goats, and where we once brought old Christmas trees to feed the goats. What struck me though, was the thousands of chickens squawking, strutting around fenced off areas, but for some reason a smaller number were housed in the field below. 

I didn't see or hear any goats.

As the sun was low on the horizon, I headed back to Macrae Farm Park and enjoyed hot tea on the riverbank. Coincidentally, I also visited Macrae Farm Park in 2019, and it was also my fifth outing!

Though I'm currently unemployed, which adds a certain amount of stress, I'm very grateful to get to explore our new community and the wonders of autumn. From enjoying walking loops with my husband beneath golden, crimson, and ruddy oak trees - especially colorful this year - to riding and exploring area trails and roads, to watching birds in our backyard, I'm truly trying to make the best of it. 

The Place: Macrae Farm Park
Date: Sunday, October 19
Drink: Stash Lemon Ginger Tea
Observation: The park was quiet at sunset. I want to come back with my husband for a walk.
Total Miles: 11

Friday, October 23, 2020

Coffeeneuring 2020 - Fourth Cup at Rossetti Natural Area Beach

Days later, I'm still shaking sand out of my shoes...

After riding a gravel path, entrance to the beach is just beyond the walkway. The natural area is a wetland, home to rare Back Oak trees.

Finding a perfect spot to lean my bike.

Ah, good place to relax on the sand and nurture the soul.

I'm glad my girlfriend taught me how to use the phone camera timer! 

Clams have been slowly disappearing from Lake Champlain due to a zebra mussel infestation., so I'm happy when I at least spot clam shells. 

I'm unsure if this an example of the protected Black Oak tree.

I've been using favorite pottery mugs so far in this challenge.  Around this particular mug is a series of figures, including one on a bike, throwing spears at a SUV.

Focusing on Gratitude

I'm scrambling to pack in as many coffeeneuring outings as possible during peak foliage! With that immediate goal, I zipped to Rossetti Natural Area and spent a lovely half hour sipping coffee and watching Canadian geese paddling off shore before completing a circuit homeward.

I was in the mood for coffee instead of tea, so I brought along my Stanley Thermos, using the coffee press apparatus, pressed at home with added milk. I leave the grounds in the bottom though, which makes the best strong brew. 

I'm very grateful to be living near water.  I'm very lucky to have a backyard river view. but we're also a  five minute walk to Delta Park and a 10 minute ride to Rossetti Natural Area (also visited in 2017). Over the years, if it's not clear by now, I've gravitated towards Lake Champlain in all seasons because it sustains my soul like nothing else.

The Place: Rossetti Natural Area
Date: Monday, October 19
Drink: Espresso with foamed milk
Observation: Autumn colors are stunning!
Total Miles: 7

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Coffeeneuring 2020 - Third Cup in a Wooded Clearing


A beautiful clearing near a little used trail.

Glorious golden-leafed 360 degree canopy.

Relaxing in comfort.

Focusing on Gratitude

I packed a lunch, thermos, mug, small table cloth, and a chair in a backpack for more woodland exploration aboard my mountain bike. Plus, its peak foliage viewing - always a reason to get outside!

Like in year's past my coffeeneurng outings have been afternoon wanderings to take advantage of the warmest part of October days. I'm a coffee drinker at heart but prefer herbal tea later in the day.

I took my time, pedaling towards the woods. Each time I head that direction, I search for a new entrance, or turning down (or up) a different path. This time I bushwhacked through brambles but eventually connected with a better trail, then sought a clearing on a side path, ringed with golden-leafed glory. Wind whispered through the canopy. The earthy smell of leaves, pines, and decay is intoxicating. A perfect spot to drink tea. In a half hour of relaxing, only one family walked past. Afterwards, I dropped my ballot off at the town clerk's office and returned through the woods and eventually home. 

I'm grateful for comfort in solitude. I feel totally at home having a picnic in the middle of a forest! Aspects of my life are stagnant -  it's 2020 after all - but I'm currently happy to take one day at a time, one trail at a time.
The Place: Somewhere in Colchester Woods (no official name that I can tell, but a place nonetheless I'm keeping under wraps for obvious reasons)
Date: Monday, October 18
Drink: Stash Lemon Ginger Tea
Observation: I like using the wild spaces as a cut-through to other parts of town
Total Miles: 9

Friday, October 16, 2020

Coffeeneuring 2020 - Second Cup, Slow Rolling with Adele

I brought a thermos of tea with mugs to share at our lunch spot.

We take a 5 minute ferry across The Cut (open water), linking two sides of causeway.

On board the ferry.

We negotiate a headwind on return trip.

Focusing on Gratitude

I jumped at the chance to ride with Adele when she proposed an outing involving the Causeway Bike Ferry. And, it seemed fortuitous that it was exactly one year since our last foliage-rich Canadian adventure, our typical foodie/bike rolling/impromptu way of meeting-Canada-head-on way of doing things - we'd looked forward to every year - but of course could not repeat in 2020. 

I'm very grateful to have Adele in my life. In addition to a great travel companion, we are both creative people, are often flexible, and learn to seize opportunities when they come. Because she is more outgoing than I am, she lends a friendly ear and often suggests a different path to follow. I am forever thankful to be her friend. Since Adele will not be spending the winter in Mexico this year, it's my mission to make sure we get out for winter walks.

The Place: South Hero
Date: Saturday, October 11
Drink: Tazo Wild Sweet Orange  Tea
Observation: I'm delighted to spend time with a special friend
Total Miles: 20

Monday, October 12, 2020

Coffeeneuring 2020 - First Cup at a Colchester Overlook

I return to this spot periodically to monitor the changing foliage.

I love his smile.

Focusing on Gratitude

This is my eighth year of the Coffeeneuring Challenge! It seems appropriate - especially in 2020 -  to dedicate this year's miles to all the important things in my life. For all the angst/weirdness/personal challenges, I'm still thankful for so much.

For the inaugural sip, our youngest son and I rode out to nearby wooded trails and climbed to a favorite lookout. The foliage is progressing! As a high school graduate this year without future plans, he's had his share of setbacks, including thwarted vacation plans to attend bike mechanics school in Colorado. I'm delighted that we're sharing special time exploring the area's mountain bike trails.

The Place: Colchester Overlook
Date: Saturday, October 10
Drink: Tazo Sweet Cinnamon Spice Tea
Observation: Wooded trails are close to home and a perfect spot to avoid crowds.
Total Miles: 5

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Trek Marlin 7 - My First Mountain Bike

I've been wanting a newer mountain bike for a while. The timing was right this summer, especially after avoiding a busy lakefront trail and seeking solitude, feeling settled in a new house, and beginning to search for a new job. Plus, I had pared down to 4 bicycles (possibly deleting one more depending on upcoming job location. It also seemed fortuitous that we have a nice local wooded trail system 2 miles from our house. After experimenting with 1X gearing on fat bikes and a rented mountain bike, I wanted easy peasy shifting. Only prerequisites: 1x gearing, hardtail, and a colorful frame. Our youngest son, who loves mountain biking, was back up support, and technician (to help me learn disc brakes at the very least). He has a full suspension bicycle, so, of course he's an all-around ace to help me choose a quality, beginner's mountain bike. I love when our children teach us about new things!

My new toy: a Trek Marlin 7

I was prepared to wait a long while before finding the right bike. I'd heard about low inventory, backorders, etc. Maybe I'd get one sometime next year...

Kind of weird that I got rid of one Trek and bought another in 2020.
However, the last bike in a local shop that met my criteria - in the best colorway ever - in my opinion was available. With my son's blessing, I came home a day later with a Trek Marlin 7. 

I immediately swapped the seat for a more plush version, added a water bottle cage, and squeezed in a frame bag - all items from my stash. 

Now that it's cooler, and autumn splendor has arrived, I get out 2-3 times a week, plodding and exploring, sometimes with my son, but often alone - sometimes it's better setting my own pace on gentle trails. Lately, I tell my son about areas he's yet to explore!

Monday, September 28, 2020

Cycling in the Northeast Kingdom

Happily aboard Miss Clementine, climbing and descending mostly dirt roads around East Charleston.
In early September, my husband and I escaped from busy Chittenden County and his full-time basement office drudgery, fueled by the promise of 4 days of idyllic, traffic-free, Vermont's Northeast Kingdom roads. 

A favorite pastime: inspecting tiny cemeteries.
We spent 3 nights in a cozy lean-to, serenaded by loons, owls, and breezy solitude. Not all campsites were open, which lent comfortable space between campers. Brighton State Park also has a series of hiking trails that came in handy to further stretch our legs.

By day we cruised paved roads that danced near the closed Canadian border.

Funny sign at a crossroad to greet Canadian's heading into Vermont (in normal times).

In Canaan's town square, fall foliage was just beginning.

Canaan's lovely library - open for business!

We stumbled on a very interesting monument!
Most afternoons we had time to also drive and explore some more. The extreme northeastern part of Vermont has always intrigued us. It's remote small towns are often reliant on tourism, and connections with New Hampshire and Canadian towns are important for commerce or family ties. Needless to say, lack of travel across the border has devastated summer tourism.

The entire Connecticut River is within New Hampshire, which means New Hampshire is responsible for upkeep of all bridges spanning the river.

The Connecticut River originates from small lakes in Canada (another area to someday explore) and runs the eastern border between Vermont and New Hampshire. As we were driving a winding, lovely Vermont-side road I offered to drive so my husband could enjoy some more carefree cycling miles. 

At Columbia Bridge, my husband starts his trek further south. I pick him up 10 miles later.

Home away from home for a few nights.

After a few morning showers on the fourth day, we traversed the Saint Johnsbury to Danville section (out and back) of the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail. Even on a Friday morning, the trail, which we thought was remote, was seeing frequent use. However, we all had plenty of space.

The renovated Danville station was a nice place for lunch.

A pedestrian and 4 wheeler/snowmobile bridge in Danville.

The western terminus of the section ends at Joe's Pond. It was nice to see that at least the tracks are gone for future LVRT connections. Someday the trail will run across Vermont.

It was a most welcome 4 day getaway, inspired by my husband's one week vacation. I'm glad we were able to choose the best weather days. Sleeping long hours on a camping mattress was tough on our bodies, especially with lack of daylight in September (and nowhere to hang out after hours because of you know what) but we thoroughly enjoyed our time away and got to explore more of our home state. What's not to like about that?