Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Slow Rolling with Adele - Sheldon to Swanton and Back

Highlights included beautiful foliage, a smooth section of trail, and wonderful conversation.

Slow rolling with Adele is a highlight of autumn riding. Even though our adventure this year was truncated to a single afternoon in mid-October, after 15 years of friendship, I marvel that we still enjoy riding together.

My commuter bike has new shoes.
It started with me frantically pumping a soft front tire while waiting for Adele's party vehicle rendezvous. I managed to install two new tires the evening before to combat a rash of recent flats, a new rear tube, though I retained the front tube with two patches. Somehow the tire held air and soon we were on our way north to Sheldon Center. I suggested we ride a segment that Adele hadn't explored of Vermont's 93 mile Lamoille Valley Rail Trail, turning around at the western terminus in Swanton.

Swanton's ReStore signage. Bikes were outside in the weather and we forgot to ask where the accessories were located.
In Highgate Center, eagle-eyed Adele spotted a yard full of pumpkins for sale, potted sunflowers, and upon inspection, also investigated sheds full of antiques. We eventually left with the seller's business card, for later purchases. It's okay to browse while on a bike ride, but it puts a crimp in purchases, though on the upside, what better way to limit useless spending? Unlike Adele, I could care less about about browsing, but always oblige my friend.

However, several miles later, Adele knew about Swanton's Habitat ReStore and we both enjoyed one of the most organized thrift stores we've ever browsed! I bought a twin sheet set and an electric cup warmer, all of which fit in my large panniers along with painter's suits for Adele (for making costumes). It was a hilarious sight, including the stand-up pump that I decided to carry - because I could - in case I had another tire problem. 

By the time we reached the end, we were chilled and ate warm sandwiches at a pizza place before turning around for a warmer, gab session riding 10 miles back to the car.

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Canadian Rides, Northern Rail Trail, and Salt Water

My annual September vacation took a radical turn, due to a rainy forecast, from exploring Pennsylvania's rails trails to pivoting to Canada, New Hampshire, and a bit of Massachusetts where miraculously, 9 of 10 days were dry.

A friend tagged along for the Canadian adventures, first riding the famed Grandes Fourches loop, a route I did years ago with Adele, and worth repeating, for it's variety of urban/dirt rail trail/dirt road scenery.

I've always admired Catherine's Miyata.
Lake Massawippi in North Hatley was a beautiful spot for a break. Friend Catherine was midway in her  quest to ride 500 miles in September, raising money for childhood cancer.

Beautiful sculptures in a Sherbrooke park.
The route follows three rivers, also part of the route's appeal.

One connection across a river takes advantage of a bridge beneath a busy highway.

Soybean fields.
Another day we pedaled a strenuous loop from Compton, with grand vistas of farmland.

We appreciated the public facilities and parks, amazingly in the smallest of towns.

East Standstead.
An intentionally flatter route from Bedford eased tired legs. The stunning scenery of vineyards, orchards, golden maple lined corridors, and farm vistas (lots of Pelletier family farms).

Loving my Bassi Rachel's climbing ability.

On the right, July's floods wiped out a section of trail. Otherwise this part of Canada escaped
the destruction that occurred in Vermont.
Another day's ride included the Tomofobia Nature Preserve, a rail trail I've ridden many times, yet keep coming back. We looped towards Lake Memphremagog on an ungodly steep climb - I walked part - before heading back to the car.

Our friend returned home while my husband and I regrouped before heading off to New Hampshire. We are fans of rail trails and always have ideas in reserve. Riding a portion of the 59 mile Northern Trail in 2022, I knew I wanted to complete the entire route. We learned that while some parts of New Hampshire were affected by earlier flooding, the trail was rideable.

Left photo, we detoured around the bridge initially, as a crew was resurfacing the wood, but was efficiently finished upon our return. The center line has additional plywood to handle snowmachines.
While it would've been preferable to ride one way, camping overnight, we couldn't locate a nearby campground nor find a shuttle. Creative groups might utilize 2 cars and indoor accommodation, but having two cars for this 5 day portion of our vacation didn't make sense. Instead, we found a comfortable campground 10 miles away in Newfound Lake and did out and back segments, riding double the miles!

Mount Cardigan.
What makes this trail special are the lack of frequent road crossings, various terrain, unique vistas and interesting historical markers. It's never dull.

A visit to a nearby facility, seen from the trail. Loons were paddling on the lake.

A couple of rest stops.

Remnants of a tiny roundabout. Initial train engines were small.

Potters Place, a restored rail station.

I swapped the tire and patched the tube while my husband investigated the source of the mishap. Near the gate crossing, I must've scraped a protruding cement knob.
With smooth tires, my bike wasn't an ideal companion on this trip. I had two front tire flats, but managed, making sure I patched the spare tube. There are many bridges, some rougher chunky surfaces, etc. At one point, I thought about trying to locate more suitable tires, but I'm also in the midst of building another bike that will excel on variable terrain.

A trailside dirt playground! This stop made me laugh.

Six miles from finishing (12 roundtrip) I was chilled, after enduring a steady rain for an hour in low 50's F. Since the forecast would improve later, we left the remaining miles and finished a couple days later, on our return home.

The East Coast Greenway appeals to me...a good retirement project.
Meanwhile...we visited our nephew and his fiancé in Newburyport, Massachusetts, pedaled to Plum Island, and then camped a night near the coast.

An all-around spectacular vacation! 

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Thoughts on Online vs Local Shopping


As I hunt for parts on my current build, I discovered that shopping in 2023 isn't much different than in 2020. I'm reusing as many parts from our current basement stash as possible. Tires were sitting around - our youngest son is a bike mechanic so he accumulates lots of everything! He found a used group set, but of course cables and housing are new. Saddle, rear rack, and water bottle cage are rehomed, and we're piecing a former triple crankset into a 2x setup; one ring is used, the other is new. I'm picky about handlebars so I ordered them online, using my industry discount. 

Even though the bike inventory is no longer problematic online, local shops can't carry everything. The situation is the same with other items. Take computers, for example. I ordered a refurbished model online at Best Buy to save money, even though their store location is 10 miles away. Their online outreach is broader. I tried to buy gouache paint at our local Michaels craft store - they told me to get it online! The same thing with fabric - I was looking for a particular color of rip-stop nylon for a project. I pedaled to a Joann's store but came up short. At home, I easily ordered 1 yard and it's getting delivered in a week, combined with other items in my cart to save on shipping. 

I'm not sure how I feel about shopping locally anymore for hard goods. I don't mind searching in one store, but my browsing days are over. Gas is expensive and visiting shopping malls across town, in my opinion, is just not worth it. Sure, I can still bike there, but the pandemic has altered my shopping habits. It's easier to shop from home and be done with it. 

Have your shopping patterns changed?

Friday, October 6, 2023

Branching Out - More Local Riding Adventures

Bassi Rachel in her home environment, her curves blending in with a water-themed railing along the Saint Lawrence River.

Much like earlier in 2023, we're making an effort to ride in different areas. With the Canadian border an easy crossing, we headed to Montreal, pedaling a much-loved route: riding the Lachine Canal then looping back through the wonderful parks and trails along the Saint Lawrence River.

Free parking on the street means documenting where you left the car!

Nearby, I spotted another purple fade Specialized specimen - likely a similar year to mine.

I loved this art installation.

We hung out to watch a lock in operation.

LVRT- Cambridge to East Fairfield and back.
In Vermont on a solitary ride, I pedaled out and back on a newly re-opened section of the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail. 

My husband and I hope to tour the entire 95 miles, once the whole trail is repaired from July's devastating floods.

This trail will be a treasure to locals and tourists.

Another adventure included a friend, biking from our house, and looping Grand Isle.

Purple asters were gorgeous on the roadsides.
I've ridden portions of the island but never a complete circumnavigation. There were stunning vistas on West Shore Road and East Shore Road of Lake Champlain.

Our friend Catherine, who would later join us in Canada.

Close to home, mountain bike forays included lovely mossy meanderings... 

discovering safer features over an irrigation pipe...

and the beginning of fall color.

September and October have made up for a hot, humid, and wet summer. There's so much more to explore!