Sunday, October 31, 2021

Coffeeneuring 2021 - Second Cup at the Local Overlook

Guard dog and stellar leaves continue to make me smile during coffeeneuring.

A clear day provides views across Lake Champlin to the northern Adirondacks.

Art for art's sake

Taking advantage of weekend sunshine, I set out on my mountain bike and headed to nearby trails that lead to a special promontory, a place I visited also in 2021. A clear view, the clouds nearly kissing the distant Adirondacks, I noticed the color has not quite peaked in our region. I hung out for 20 minutes, investigating the spotty lichen covering the rock, then descended down a different route and pedaled home. I was looking forward to a bike date with my husband!

The Place: Colchester Overlook
Date: Saturday, October 23
Drink: Ginger Lemon Tea
Observation: The autumn color wasn't as pronounced as I had expected.
Total Miles: 5

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

The New 3-Ferry Bike Overnight

On Columbus Day Indigenous People's Day weekend, we rolled out for an afternoon ride, the easy segment, crossing two ferries, and eventually against a headwind as we made our way to the Ausable Campground in New York.

Last weekend of bike ferry operation.

Snacking at the Sam Champlain monument in Plattsburgh, New York.

Interesting to spot the Empire State Trail signage. This is part of a bike route from Montreal to New York City.
The brisk, but sunny weather, of course, was spot on for the culmination of bike ferry service and campgrounds still open. We felt lucky in many respects; the colorful foliage was more advanced on the New York side than anticipated.

A pick of tent sites, we chose a grassy, large area close to the bathhouse.
After 35 miles and one surprise steep hill at the end, we made it by 4 pm. With early darkness, we had called ahead for reservations, confirming the use of an indoor space, allowing evening comfort before retiring to the tent. A well-lit and heated laundry room with table and chairs was a perfect solution.

We came back the following weekend with our mountain bikes and explored the trails. They were easy for a beginner to complete 10 miles.
Unbeknownst to us, the campground was surrounded by a system of mountain bike trails! We saw many riders weaving through the woods, eventually exiting to their camp site.

The second day was difficult, both of us not having ridden this hilly section in several years, especially hauling a loaded bike. The foliage distracted us, however, and each turn revealed a beautiful view, a lovely farmhouse, or brook. I have developed a different strategy regarding steep terrain: if my pace is equivalent to walking, then I walk to baby tender knees. It also gives my backside a break. My husband eventually joined me in this practice, though I could tell it hurt his pride. But I think he understood the wisdom in what I was doing.

I call this route the new 3 ferry loop because the Burlington-Port Kent ferry has ceased, due to lack of ridership. The route used to be 45 miles of mostly flat or gentle hills, easily ridden in one day. By using the Charlotte-Essex ferry further south, the loop has extended to 80 miles. The new route is better as an overnight, especially with the addition of hillier sections. 

These Lake Champlain loop rides are very scenic and worth making the extra effort. And what's not to like? Any time I can do a bike overnight, I feel over the moon.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Coffeeneuring 2021 - First Cup Under a Full Moon

A windless, warm evening, listening to geese honking overhead, sipping tea and watching the full moon
rise over the Green Mountains, the glow reflecting on Lake Champlain.

I was surprised when I gazed westward and the camera flash captured all my bike's reflective bits
plus the western glow.

Mug of choice with companion Guard Dog, surrounded by maple and ash leaves.

Art for art's sake

This is my ninth year of the Coffeeneuring Challenge! I'm dedicating this year's miles to beauty in the natural world. Building upon coffeeneuring queen Mary, who places artful leaf designs on the ground and shares them via Instagram (@coffeeneur), I am opting for a similar arrangement surrounding my coffeeneuring mug. There is so much beauty in the world and I plan to revel in it!

For the inaugural sip, I set out after sunset - a practice that's necessary with long work days - to embrace night riding, heading for the causeway (former rail corridor across Lake Champlain) because of it's expansive views both west and east, this time to, hopefully, watch the full moon rise over the Green Mountains. The evening was a balmy 60+F and windless! I cruised out just far enough to park and scrambled down onto a flat marble block, my perch as the moon rose, ducked behind clouds, then eventually glowed, reflecting on the lake. Such a beautiful, rare evening. 

Reluctantly, I eventually headed the other direction to pick up groceries. As I crossed the bridge toward home, the full moon lit up the river. 

The Place: Colchester Causeway
Date: Wednesday, October 20
Drink: Ginger Tea
Observation: There were walkers and other cyclists in the darkness, including a guy with a tripod, capturing the moonrise.
Total Miles: 12

Thursday, October 14, 2021

2021 Pedaling Vacation in Greenport, NY

Despite initially feeling ambivalent about planning a 2021 vacation, once I made camping reservations, all the other steps fell in place, including my husband tagging along for a new experience.

That first day was an amazing adventure in itself, further heightened by the scenic Amtrak's Vermonter route and spacious seat (my husband would catch up a couple days later) within view of the vertical bike rack. My Rivendell Clem-entine exceeded Amtrak's stated maximum by 3", but it didn't pose any problems - I'm thankful employees hefted and removed my baby on both ends of the journey, 6 hours later rolling the bike onto the Hartford, CT platform. The only mishap occurred when I started rolling, stopping to inspect a rattling noise. The rear fender had pulled away from the bolt, scraping the wheel, but once I put it back, friction kept it in place. It held up for the entire 10 days, fortunately, because to re-secure it with a washer meant also removing the kickstand for Allen wrench access to the bolt head - a future project for sure!

Once on two wheels again, a heavy shower began and I ducked under an amazingly huge Gingko tree which acted as an umbrella for the ten minute deluge that eventually stopped, then navigated 20 miles of hilly terrain (thank you cue sheet), arrived at a prescribed spot (with my son's last minute texting help with route finding) at dusk where he then shuttled me and my loaded bike the last two miles (and 700 ft. elevation gain!) to his place. Phew.

On Sunday my son, his girlfriend, and her sister (who kindly put me up for two nights) went hiking on adjacent state forest trails - a spot where they also mountain bike. Later, we all went riding on the Farmington River Trail to Canton and back. Eventually two of us climbed the steep route back to their house - I made it unladen this time around - fortified with a drink and a brownie, initially to save an extra car shuttle, but it was also a worthwhile challenge. I'm glad I made the effort to visit our son on his home turf. He has lots of outdoor opportunities nearby!

My husband arrived on Monday then we drove to his brother's home close to Long Island Sound, leaving the car behind for the next week. Not only was this vacation about ocean views and beaches, but it was also a chance to visit family en route. As we set off to pedal the 10 miles to New London's ferry dock, we promised to spend more time  with his family upon returning. The direct route was hectic but the ferry ride was relaxing. After 1.5 hours, we disembarked at Orient Point where the 10 miles to Greenport was an easy ride, watching shore birds, the salty air reminding me how much I missed being near the ocean. Later, we set up our homes away from home (two small tents for comfort and organization - a first for us) for the next week at Greenport's municipal campground. When I initially planned the vacation, I imagined traveling by myself with freedom to possibly bike tour homeward - Amtrak one-way - but this thought also carried forward as a pair. With two full weeks off, being self-contained meant I had the liberty to follow through with solo adventures if I felt like it.

Lots of space to organize gear. I washed a couple items daily, letting them dry inside the tent on top of a yoga mat if rain threatened (I had hopes of continuing my daily yoga practice, but early darkness and getting plenty of daily exercise meant yoga practice fell by the wayside.)

My Cosmic Quilt set up - comfortable, loose fitting insulation on top, with a sleeping bag liner, cinched over a mummy-shaped air mattress, acted like a sheet. It's my new solution for more sleeping freedom.

After five years without an ocean fix, daily rides included hanging out at at least one beach, barefoot in the water, collecting shells. Late September weather was a perfect 60-75F day highs, with lows in the 50-65F range. 

Beaches varied. Some were pristine, sink your toes sandy; others were approached by stairs, with the beach composed of small ocean polished stones, often with boulders on guard like sentinels.

A heavy soaking rain storm was in the forecast, which arrived a day early. All indoor accommodation is expensive on Long Island so we opted for a night's stay in an RV - another first! Better than a motel for the same price, and self-contained - my husband's brilliant idea - so we quickly battened down
the tent hatches, pedaled quickly just before dark to a nearby private campground and enjoyed the luxury of the Treasure Ship, with our bikes safely stored beneath an awning. Afterwards, we were pleased that our tents and gear survived the downpour, with only minor puddles in the tent corners.

All bike touring vacations will have mechanical weirdness. After the initial fender problem, my front rack came loose, presumably from the ferry's vibration, but was easily fixed. On the other hand, my husband's rear tire developed a lump, which quickly grew worse. It was an older tire which needed replacement, so we discovered a bike shop a 15 mile ride west of Greenport. It ended up being fortuitous because we pedaled through the heart of the North Fork's vineyard region. Vines were heavy with grapes. After my husband swapped tires outside the shop, we returned to Greenport by a different, quieter route, looping behind the vineyards and vegetable farms, and eventually along the northern coast.

Greenport Harbor is also a fishing village...

So many unusual and wealthy vehicles used the ferries.
...And has frequent ferry service to Shelter Island. We spent a couple days pedaling around Shelter Island and took an additional ferry once to North Haven Island, continuing further by bridge to historic Sag Harbor. We visited the Whaling Museum, the only indoor touristy thing (for obviously reasons), but in the end it was a worthwhile visit. We also discovered a long distance walk/hiking access trail, which was fun for to ride for a short distance, though it's better suited to mountain bikes! 

I had high hopes to visit Montauk Point, but the distance/time from Greenport made it unfeasible as a day trip. The rainy forecast further upended the idea. Traveling with a companion has it pluses and minuses. I was thrilled to be with my husband, of course, but he is more frugal. Had I been alone, I would've sprung for a couple hotel nights closer to Montauk just to meet my goal. Also, we mostly shopped/cooked to save money. The last day I treated myself to take out fresh fish & chips plus we had a snack at an outdoor café - the extent of  restaurant-type meals. I also longed to visit a vineyard or two and enjoy the area's special vintages.

The boat in the foreground is normal size.
Greenport is a destination for yachts! There are large piers, open to the public, so it was an amazing sight to see them up close.

A lavender farm in East Marion.
We spent six nights in Greenport, leaving a day early because we'd run out of bicycle exploration ideas within a 30 mile radius.

Guard dog kept me company.
Parting Thoughts
Riding a bike to explore the Greenport region in the off season was an excellent mode of transport. We explored back roads and there was always room for us on the ferries. 

It's possible to camp to keep cost down with an occasional indoor splurge if necessary for comfort.

September, despite early nights, was a perfect time of year to avoid the tourist rush, especially mid week. Weekends were a bit busier and we shared the roadways with bicycle groups. Beaches were never crowded; often we were one of two couples enjoying the sand. 

Averaging 30 daily miles allowed enough time for exploration.

Other than a cartoony map provided at the campground to get around, information centers were closed or non-existent. We love printed maps, but needed to relay on phones for navigation. In the future, I would pre-print maps to have on hand because it seems counterintuitive to enjoy the outdoors and have digital devices as a necessity.

Next time I'll leave the yoga mat behind.

Since I loved the flattish terrain and coastal environment, I've investigated another Long Island adventure. With ferry service from the same New London port, it's possible to visit Block Island and end up in Montauk Point - a future adventure!

East Bay Bike Path.
On a side note, Connecticut is full of rail trails. We stayed with my husband's brother for two nights after navigating a safer and scenic route to his place. With a day to explore another region, we initially considered the Airline Trail, but it would require figuring out which segment was manageable for a day ride. Instead, we opted for an excursion on the Hall of Fame, East Bay Bike Path in Providence, Rhode Island. With it's bayside views, abundant marine wildlife, and wooded corridors, ending in coastal town of Bristol, it was an absolute pleasure!

We drove home the next day, planning to complete another scenic bike overnight during the rest of my time off, but weather thwarted plans. However, it happened the following weekend. Stay tuned for a future write up.