Saturday, December 30, 2023

2023 Rewind

2023 was the year that, finally, felt normal again. But, a new normal, which, if I've learned anything from the pandemic, it's easier to adapt when things go sideways. I still went on vacation - two in fact - and a couple overnights, but they weren't without hiccups, that were replaced with equally fun plans.

2023 Highlights

With a warmer winter, January and February was all about cruising at night on studded tires, and equally riding the Dahon on dry paths, while dreaming of spring adventures.

I concentrated on major upgrades to the Dahon in March, and April/May were a flurry of getting the Rachel ready and riding the Erie Canal Trail!

My husband and I made an effort to ride different trails in both Vermont and Canada, because July's record flooding wiped out sections of the newly opened cross Vermont's Lamoille Valley Rail Trail, canceling that planned weeklong July cycling vacation. We hope repairs are made in time for a 2024 second attempt.

In August, I drove to the Northeast Kingdom to ride my favorite mountain bike trails. While there, our bike mechanic son let me know a prized Specialized Hard Rock was available. You bet I said "yes"!

September's vacation turned out to be a perfect assortment of riding in Canada with a friend, then turning towards New Hampshire and the Atlantic Coast. Again, we pivoted in one day, initially planning to ride several Pennsylvania rail trails, but the weather was atrocious south of Vermont. It's always worthwhile to have alternative ideas.

In the autumn, because it's my favorite time of year, I ride more often, completing the Coffeeneuring Challenge, enjoying foliage rides, and adventures with friends.

On the creative front, I sewed a monster tote bagrepurposed a purple bag, and started painting again.

As 2023 comes to a close, I'm proud that I followed through with 2023 intentions. I also proved that my 61 years old body is still capable of hauling camping gear on longer bike tours, and partly because of that Erie Canal adventure, I surpassed an annual mileage milestone, breaking the 4K barrier (~4150).

Friday, December 22, 2023


As we roll into the holiday season, I can't do what I do without the support of those around me. To my gracious, loving, helpful, and supportive husband, thank you for all you do to keep our lives in balance, for having coffee ready every morning to prop my eyelids open and get out the door to help support my mom in her home. I'm thankful for both sons, the eldest flying home for a weekend to celebrate his dad's birthday, the younger for his patience and bicycle knowhow, for upgrading my fleet, not laughing when I ask stupid questions, for slowing down when we ride together. For the beauty around our home, river view, two bike paths, wildlife, spotting deer on night rides, eagles and herons, turtles butting against our home that we gently guide on a different path, and the colorful diversion that I'm finding within myself, exploring painting again. The role that the bicycle plays in my happiness is another constant, a steadfast companion that keeps me on even ground - to you I'm eternally grateful.

Friday, December 15, 2023

Mileage Goals - How Far Can I Go?


A segment of a mileage tracking spreadsheet that I started in 2021, reflecting 2023 current stats.

With my annual mileage currently at 3875 - the highest it's been in 10+ years of tracking - I would like to know if I can top 4000. The number has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? With ten days to go in a fickle Vermont December, I should be happy with 3875. Indeed, I attribute the increased mileage to two cycling vacations. Can I average 11 miles per day from now until the end of December? 

Monday, December 11, 2023

Separation Anxiety or is it Just Winter?

The Trek Marlin 7, Specialized Hard Rock, and Bassi Rachel in dry dock until spring.

Late fall, my husband organizes our garage to accommodate both vehicles, which means deciding which bicycles must be stored in the basement. I primarily use the Peugeot commuter  (eventually shoed with studded tires) and the folder as backup throughout the winter. I like alternating between a heavy but sturdier bike and a lighter, small-wheel counterpart because of riding diversity, plus the latter is easier to clean in wet weather.

And so, every time I descend the stairs to our basement, I see my most colorful bikes and I'm wistfully longing for the day to ride them all again! It may be I'm not ready for winter, or each one is a reminder of adventures to come. I've only ridden the Hard Rock a handful of times but it's scheduled for a 2024 tour. The Rachel is a magical touring wonder and my hardtail reminds me of fun times in the woods. 2023 infused me with hope, the first time since 2020 that my husband and I rode bikes on two vacations in one year - it's no wonder I'm dreaming of the same for 2024!

Friday, November 24, 2023

Coffeeneuring 2023 - Learning to Paint with Gouache, Rides 5-7


#5 - This mug was a hostess gift at wedding shower - the hostess was a potter.
To recap, I'm learning to paint with gouache by completing mini paintings of special mugs used in the challenge. A complete painting usually takes two days; one for sketching and painting a base layer color: the second for completing the mug portion, then adding a complimentary background color. I'm happy with the results - love bold colors - and plan to hang a framed collage in our kitchen.

Coffeeneuring #5 was a special event, heading out for my first ride on my newly built Specialized Hard Rock. I set up the Jack-the-Bike-Rack for immediate utility so I could carry coffeeneuring supplies. 

Stunning afternoon light at Bayside Park.

5. The Place: Bayside Park, Colchester
Date: Sunday, November 12
Drink: English Breakfast Tea with maple sugar & milk
Observation: The maiden voyage of my Specialized Hard Rock. It's fun!
Total Miles: 12

#6 - a 2019 gift from a dear friend. The petroglyph characters are throwing spears at a SUV (out of view)
This was my only evening ride of the challenge. With high winds, I pedaled around a bit and finally found a well-lit, sheltered spot behind a community center. 

6. The Place: Picnic tables behind the Miller Center, Burlington
Date: Wednesday, November 15
Drink: Green Tea with honey
Observation: I rode around for a while, seeking a well-lit spot sheltered from the strong breeze.
Total Miles: 10

#7 - a pottery mug adorned with three dimensional maple leaf, a gift from my brother.

On the last day of the challenge, I rode to the nearest beach at lunchtime and sat for a moment on a log, sipping tea and admiring the view. It was very peaceful.

7. The Place: Rossetti Park Beach
Date: Monday, November 20
Drink: Tulsi Tea
Observation: Lunchtime scamper to the nearest quiet beach, avoiding a cold, dark evening ride, just making the event deadline.
Total Miles: 3

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Specialized Hard Rock Ultra - Great Utility, and Then Some!

1993 Specialized Hard Rock Ultra: unique pink and purple fade.
I didn't know I would replace my much loved Trek Antelope so soon! I have always admired 1980-1990s rigid mountain bikes for their relaxed geometry and utility - they make great all around bikes, whether that's commuting, touring, riding with family or, in colder climates are adept as winter beaters - add studded tires and don't worry too much because it's an old bike. Added bonus: frames are upgradeable with new components.

Amazing shape for a 40 year old frame! I feel very lucky.
Our youngest son is a bike mechanic at a shop that accepts bikes and parts donations - they rehab older bikes for resale or to help lower income folks get decent transportation at nominal cost. I happened to mention months ago that if he ever came across a certain model and color in my preferred 20" size, then give a holler, expecting it was like finding a needle in a haystack.

Granola handle bars set a little higher than my seat. Stem is at maximum height. I expect there will be tweaks down the road like a taller stem or bars with more rise, non-traditional fenders, etc.
I got a text and photo while I was just starting a solitary mountain bike weekend. "Hey mom, look what I found." When he said it was in great shape, it didn't take long to give him the green light. I was ecstatic of course, thinking about the possibilities, then, if I'm honest, wondering how I could personally justify this new addition, bringing what I thought was a perfect number of bicycles from 4 back to 5.

From August to November we started collecting parts. I bought the VO Granola bars as an alternative, though aligning width-wise with much loved Soma Oxford and Ritchey Kyote bars. Had the VO Crazy bars been narrower, that would've been my first choice. I also chose a loved saddle - the Terry Topo - at least for starters. 

Between our son's knowhow, sourcing new and used parts, and my industry discount - I work for Terry Bicycles - we saved money, and honestly I wouldn't have considered this project on my own otherwise. 

He put together a 2X assortment of components that would play nice together. The only hiccup was configuring the V-Brake setup, necessitating ordering a top tube clamp to correctly guide the rear brake cable. He also added his signature two colored spoke nipples, bordering the valve, when building wheels.

Immediate riding impression: I felt at home! I've missed this kind of comfort, 2" plush tires, and diamond frame. I immediately transferred the Jack-the-Bike-Rack for needed utility, and more recently, repainted an older, discontinued Blackburn Mountain rack, installing it fairly easily - saved from the Trek Antelope, so that old beauty lives on through this recent reincarnation. And, I have now fulfilled a dream of owning a purple bike!

Rack and my commuter pannier makes this bike more useful.

And I shouldn't have worried about the Hard Rock's place in my collection. Shortly after acquiring the frame, my husband and I rode a rugged Northern Rail Trail where my Rachel, unfortunately in her current setup, wasn't the best choice. I kept thinking how the Hard Rock would be a perfect complement, lending comfort to rough terrain.

For those seeking build details...

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Dahon Boardwalk and Amtrak to the Glens Falls Area Trails

On my radar since the successful Amtrak excursion to Albany in April, the weather gods aligned to provide another weekend getaway - November no less - this time to explore more of the Empire State Trail in conjunction with the Glens Falls regional network of paths. 

Fort Edward, New York Amtrak station, housed by Evergreen Bicycle Works. There are no facilities or inside waiting area. I took note of this for Sunday evening boarding.
Like before, it's an easy roll to Burlington's Amtrak Station, folding and storing the bike inside a large tote, then hop on board. Sometimes I get lucky and staff hoists the bike up the narrow steps, but not this time. A 3+ hour journey and I start pedaling in Fort Edward.

Saturday was overcast but with light winds so 50sF was certainly doable. I bundled up and set off northward to explore the Empire State Trail's segment to Fort Ann. 

Narrow, older canal at left.
The Amtrak station was situated on the Empire Trail route so it was easy navigation.

The wide Champlain Canal, formerly tugboats towed barges, but this portion also serves boaters long distance cruising from Lake Champlain to New York City! We learned about Loopers while riding the Erie Canal. 
Between paved and gravel trail, plus a segment of dirt road, all following either a narrow mule lead former narrow canal (currently either dry or filled with mallards) the varied surfaces reminded me of our adventure on the Erie Canal Trail.

Canadian geese filled the waterway.

I never found this segment boring. There were walkers, geese honking, and even curvy sections.

What's this on a nearby road, beefing up wet areas for snow machines?

Interesting trail portion through the former canal. I appreciate the historical signage!
With waning daylight, I turned around in Fort Ann and beelined it back to the Glens Falls Feeder Canal junction, turning west.

The initial climb past the beautiful locks was lovely. However, it was hard to ignore the adjacent mountain, a former dump, now classified as a superfund cleanup site...
I continued following the rather quiet Feeder Canal trail, sometimes riding through leaves, dirt, or paved sections along, between neighborhoods, or beside closed mills - some converted to housing in Hudson Falls.  It was very parklike, a gem within former mill cities, that I presume have seen lots of transformation in recent years, especially after GE left, unfortunately contaminating portions of the Hudson River. I felt safe though, and resorted to using lights the last five miles until arriving at my reserved hotel in Queensbury around 6 pm.

I had done my homework, though, and had a pleasant hotel experience. The staff made me feel safe, which as a solitary traveler, made a big difference. 

I also have been participating in the Coffeeneuring Challenge. I'd brought a special mug, filled it with hotel coffee (rather tasty too), and toted it about a mile to a park on the Hudson River, but not without a near disaster. The mug with silicone top seemed fairly secure, but the lid popped off and flew away as I gently coasted down a hill - I stared at the hot coffee, snug in my stem bag, until I managed to stop, avoiding as many pavement cracks and bumps as possible. I jogged back to retrieve the lid - fortunately without traffic - and secured it in place. Phew.

What a grand spot to sip coffee! Overlook Park is the confluence of the Hudson River and the beginning of the Feeder Canal Trail, the portion I had not visited the previous day.

I chatted with three people on a triple Commotion bicycle who were laughing and obviously trying to figure out how to maneuver together. 

I photographed them later when they caught up with me.

A few miles later, I crossed downtown Glens Falls and connected with another trail system to Lake George. I'd ridden this section about 15 years ago, but had forgotten how hilly it is! I struggled a few times and walked a couple short stretches where the trail arcs over a busy road - probably better suited to a lowered-geared bike - but I made it. 

Lake George is nostalgic for me and I wistfully thought of my father who has been gone for several years. We camped as a family with my parents a few times when our children were young. 
As it turns out, it was mostly uphill to Lake George. I rested and snacked on the shoreline, enjoying the emerging sunshine.

Exploring Roger's Island in Fort Edward and the Roger's Rangers monument.
Sunday was also the day we turned clocks back, so I had ample time for riding. The difficult part was the train didn't leave until 6:20, now in complete darkness. But the sun felt nice and I tried to find a lunch spot, but failed, not wanting to add extra miles. I made do with a Stewart's convenience store, had a warm place to hang out, recharge my phone, fill water bottles, and use of a bathroom. I also stumbled on a dollar store, bought a warmer hat (thinking of sitting later on the train platform), replaced threadbare gloves, and got snacks for the journey home.

Slickfin Brewery - what a local gem! Their flagship IPA is yummy.
By early afternoon I had retraced the Feeder Canal to Fort Edward and wondered what to do for the next several hours, besides basking in glorious warmth. I took advantage of pedaling around a bit, visiting Roger's Island, and relaxed in a lovely town park on the Hudson. For travelers, finding a public bathroom is critical and the singular one was closed so I resorted to the local, yet again, Stewart's Shop! 

Fort Edward is a sleepy town, but I did locate the hot spot after hearing a band, Googling, and discovering Slickfin Brewing - and only two blocks from the train station! Perfect. I sat outdoors next to a heater, and chatted with locals, eventually retreating inside to enjoy warmth when the sun went down. Though the brewery officially closed at 5, it was okay to stay until 5:45, when I helped stack chairs on tables. 

The return journey went off without a hitch and I pedaled home in the dark. Each day was about 38 miles.

Friday, November 10, 2023

Coffeeneuring 2023 - Learning to Paint with Gouache, Rides 1-4

#1 - This mug was a gift from a brother.

Learning to Paint with Gouache

Leaning into my eleventh year of the Coffeeneuring Challenge, I've come up with a theme that might fuel the flames a little longer - painting! Lately, I've been exploring Gouache's bold, flat colors, a medium that appeals to the beginner. If a mistake is made, let it dry, and repaint areas of concern. Surely, gouache and I will get along fine! A 4" x 4" simple layout, using my mug of choice, is an easy size to practice color mixing and brush techniques without feeling overwhelmed by a large project. I also love that Gouache adapts well to detailed or loose brushwork.

Impromptu tea drinking, joining neighbors that I found resting near a bridge.
Coffeenuering #1 was a family affair. After I finished my tea, my family rolled up and I set off with them. We made up the route as we went, eventually cresting Ethan Allen Park for peak foliage peeping. Oh, the colors!

1. The Place: Pedestrian bridge over the Winooski River
Date: Sunday, October 22
Drink: Tulsi Tea
Observation: I planned to drink my tea in another spot but joined neighbors sitting on a bench near the bridge.
Total Miles: 14

#2 - I acquired this mug from my employer's holiday party.
The second outing was a typical after-work scramble to get outside before sunset. It's relatively easy to fill a thermos with hot beverage, grab a mug, bike lights, and wear layers for an autumn evening ride - insert bike of choice - then stop somewhere interesting before adding more miles. I'm comfortable with riding in the dark, and most days I prefer the solitude of an empty bike path.

Dahon Boardwalk, my trusty small wheeler.

All alone on the beach. I like to stay a while to see how the sunset morphs. Is the color better right at sunset or several minutes later?

2. The Place: North Beach, Burlington
Date: Monday, October 23
Drink: Wild Sweet Orange Tea
Observation: Geese were flying overhead and a small contingent frolicked on the shoreline nearby.
Total Miles: 9

#3 - Our eldest son sent this mug for my birthday, acquired in Mexico on a recent vacation. It's fun because the circular top morphs into a square bottom. It's a Mara design.
For Coffeeneuring #3, I set out to meet up with Adele, both on folding bikes, to attend the Halloween Bike Ride. Adele's costume was too hot and she eventually left as the route swung close to where she lived, where I continued on. Burlington did a great job keeping the riders moving by blocking intersections plus leading and ending with a police escort. Despite 40 F temperatures, I dressed well for the event.

On the way home, I stopped in Lakeview Cemetery near a lovely hydrangea tree for tea.
3. The Place: Lakeview Cemetery, Burlington
Date: Sunday, October 29
Drink: Ginger Tea
Observation: After attending the Halloween Bike Ride, I stopped to admire my favorite umbrella-shaped colorful hydrangeas that are abundant in Lakeview Cemetery.
Total Miles: 14

#4 - I found this beauty at a dollar store.

Coffeeneuring #4 took place during a weekend excursion to the Glens Falls region of New York. I brought my mug with me, stored safely between clothing articles in my front bag. I filled the mug with hotel coffee and hightailed it to Overlook Park, a lovely spot on the Hudson River.

Afterward, I continued exploring many trails before taking Amtrak home.

4. The Place: Overlook Park, Glens Falls, NY
Date: Sunday, November 5
Drink: Holiday Inn Coffee
Observation: Such a peaceful place with a view of the Hudson River. It's the confluence of the Feeder Canal Trail and the Hudson River, and where I began following trails for most of the day.
Total Miles: 38