Sunday, November 23, 2014

Coffeenering: My First Year

For the first time I participated in this fall's Coffeeneuring Challenge. I was encouraged by Rebecca Olds of Velovoice. Established by Mary Gersemalina, of Chasing Mailboxes, the event has been growing in popularity each year. You can read about it's history and basic rules here

What follows is an account of each of my 7 (plus 1) coffeeneuring excursions this fall. I expect to do this again next year, and having gained some perspective on  both the experience and the coffee offerings in our area, I will chart out my "events" a little more closely next year. 


Coffeeneuring # 1

Destination: The Sweet Spot, via tha Appalachien Gap
Miles: 20

My first miles out on my first Coffeeneuring ride I realized with a joyful clarity that I, in fact, enjoy a game; I enjoy the fun of pursuing a goal realized on two wheels. I like the idea that gets me moving on my bike, being a part of something, thinking creatively about where to go and where I'll get a coffee...

These thoughts got me thinking that randonneuring rides themselves are really just a game or a mental construct that fools you into riding distances on a bike that you'd never do otherwise, at least I'd never do otherwise. Its an addictive game. 

With the sun out and the fall foliage in peak display I rode up to the pass of the App Gap with the notion that I'd stop for coffee at the Mad River Glen base lodge, which was open for the leaf season chair-lift rides to the top of the ski area. It was a good idea, but when I arrived at the lodge it was way more of a late afternoon bar scene and just didn't fit the bill of a contemplative mountainside cup of coffee that I'd imagined. I snapped a few photos and rolled off down the rest of the mountain road. 

I found myself back in town and had a great coffee from the ever-generous and friendly Johnny at The Sweet Spot, sipping my coffee and overlooking the Mad River and the adjacent covered bridge. A great start to my Coffeenering season. I was glad I'd found a reason to be out this afternoon.


Coffeeneuring excursion #2
Miles: 7
Date: Columbus Day October, 13, 2014 (Tara Rules)

Tara rules: Despite an active weekend outdoors, I wasn't able to manage time on two wheels, so I was happily saved by the holiday weekend. After two sunny days, Monday turned overcast and I believe I even spotted a few flurries up in the mountains this morning. 

Yes, the Big Picture Theatre serves yummy coffee, but so much more...movies, food, an awesome atmosphere and all around community gathering spot. 

The Coffeeneur's Dilemma: To be naturally drawn to the best of the limited coffee options as each week unfolds, but knowing all the while that there are limited choices in the small town. To maintain the draw of quality, a coffeeneur must ride farther or dig deeper.


Coffeenering #3
Destination: Red Hen Bakery & Cafe, Middlesex, VT
Miles: 18
Date: Sunday, October 19

The Coffeeneur's Paradox: There seems to be an inverse relationship between crappy weather and a really fun ride.

My excursion this morning was not particularly inviting looking out from inside a warm house: the temps were in the upper 30s and there was intermittent rain falling. Undeterred, I got myself ready and rolled out. 

I coffeeneured my way to Red Hen Bakery & Cafe in Middlesex and then continued onwards to pick up our car in Montpelier --about a 18 mile trip altogether.  I added in a brief detour to my sister's home to visit the gang (and have a bonus coffee) en route. This added some lovely back roads and hills, which is just what I wanted. It was an exciting, beautiful, crappy day out on my bike.

Red Hen is a cyclist's haven. Great food, a very cosy atmosphere, and expertly made coffee. Besides that, there are many dedicated cyclists on staff and bikeyness is just part of the place. On this particular day I felt lucky to be the guy who'd been out on his bike in the bad weather rather then one of the cozy folks who were missing out on the fun in all their easy comfort.


As fate would have it we had a vacation planned in the middle of the Coffeeneuring season. Happily this opened up some nice options in contrast to the limited choices at home. We spent almost a week in the Marin County area, just outside of San Francisco.

Coffeeneuring #4

Destination: Cafe VerdeLarkspur/Corda Madera, CA
Distance: 3-4 miles
November 1, 2014

It was a bit of an --um-- adjustment to get into cahoots with a clunky beach cruiser.  Compared to our slick wheels at home this thing was a challenge. But hey,  the thing worked and it's good to be reminded that every bike has a degree of virtue by simply being a bike, especially if it's reasonably functional. I'll even go so far as to say that these tanks are kinda fun.

Anyway, it's great to be in the Bay Area and the best part of today's ride was Coffeeneuring with my sweetness, rather then on my own. We rode down to Corde Madera via bike paths to a lovely coffee place called the Cafe Verde. Latte for Nance and an Americano for me. We enjoyed the warm drinks as the sun was setting and the evening chill was coming on. Great to be riding bikes and sipping coffee in such a beautiful part of the world. Thoughts of chilly Vermont were far away...

(Note: This ride not being submitted for credit, although it might qualify, since we walked the last mile or so there and then walked again for a while upon leaving)

Coffeeneuring #5 version 1 (see version 2 for credit) 
Larkspur to San Francisco multimodal trip
November 2, 2014
Miles on bikes 3-4 ish

We took the ferry over to San Fran and promptly signed up for SF's bike share bikes. I had hopes that we could rent some slightly more interesting bikes along the lines of Public bikes or Civia, but no luck.  Anyway, we made-do quite well on the bike-share bikes and made our way down Market Street towards our destination. Unfortunately the docking stations are not extensively distributed, so we had to dock and then walk for a while (a mile maybe) to actually reach our destination, The Mill. The Mill is a somewhat famous for serving toast baked in conjunction with Josie Baker of Josie Baker Bread. You can be charmed by Josey in this video.

The cafe was packed with a line out the door on this nicely warm Sunday morning and our excitement to be there was rewarded in ambiance, hipness, and yummy food and drinks. The music (Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys) coming over the sound system was in fact from an LP playing on a record player. How cool!


Coffeeneur #5 version 2 (for credit)
Destination: Trouble Coffee and Coconut Club Outer Sunset, San Francisco, CA
Miles: 18, give or take
Date: Novemeber 4, 2014 (vacation rule)

We multi-modaled it from Larkspur on the mighty weighty beach cruisers to the ferry, rolled on...rolled off, and rode to City Rides Bike Rental and rented some nice quality lightweight rides. My bike was a Globe Roll 8; I loved it. 

We made our way out through Golden Gate Park almost to the ocean, where we turned and entered the Outer Sunset neighborhood. Our destination was Trouble, a somewhat famous coffee shop started by a woman, Giulietta Carrelli, who was featured in a Pacific Standard article about how the shop and it’s offerings became a vehicle for bringing balance to her life after years of chemical/emotional struggle.

“Carrelli called the shop Trouble, she says, in honor of all the people who helped her when she was in trouble. She called her drip coffee “guts” and her espresso “honor.” She put coconuts on the menu because of the years she had spent relying on them for easy sustenance, and because they truly did help her strike up conversations with strangers. She put toast on the menu because it reminded her of home: “I had lived so long with no comfort,” she says. And she put “Build Your Own Damn House” on the menu because she felt, with Trouble, that she had finally done so.” –John Gravois

(You can listen to the story on This American Life here.)

Arriving, we found what we knew would be a very small little coffee shop. Great coffee, a punky-hipster atmosphere and an interesting story. We contemplated this as we gazed down the street at the mighty Pacific Ocean, and then headed back into the city.


Coffeeneuring #6
Destination: From home in Waitsfield, VT to Moretown General Store, Moretown, VT
Miles: 12
Sunday, November 9

Today's ride was somewhat unremarkable but fun enough. My challenge lies in the fact that there are a limited number of quality coffee establishments in our small rural locale, so by week 2 or 3 I was through the easy and desirable choices. It's been a little harder since. I contemplated a challenging ride to the to of the Appalachian Gap to do a coffee-in-the-wild but decided on the easier option of riding to a fairly standard roadside general store in the next town over.  On the way there I stopped to use a friends grinder to smooth the ends of spokes I plan to re-thread and build up into a new wheel with a generator hub, thus adding bikeyness to an already bikey event. 

Happily, the store had some Vermont Coffee Company coffee in addition to the more common Green Mountain Coffee Co. offerings. Despite the chilly temps in the low 40's I sat comfortably on the porch chairs and enjoyed my warm drink. I was curious to notice a little box made to be a house with an openable roof. Inside, I found a notebook where you could list you name, town, date, etc, but alas I had no pen so I didn't sign. I wondered who left this there and what the idea is.

The day was grey, chilly, and a bit dreary but I was glad for a reason to be out on my bike. The ride home was fine. I stopped by the covered bridge for a photo.


Coffeeneuring # 7
Destination: Mix Cupcakerie and Farmers Market Bandstand, Waitsfield, VT
Distance: 7 miles
Sunday, November 16

This afternoon I found myself sitting happily alone in a windswept bandstand sipping my coffee. It was late in the day on a cold Sunday in November and I felt grateful to have been a part of the Coffeeneuring community this fall. I simply wouldn't have found myself out at these random places sipping coffee and contemplating life like this otherwise. Hats off to Mary for creating this little game --this structure-- which had me riding my bike more then I would have at this time of year. It's been a fun and engaging challenge.

As previously mentioned, quality coffee options dwindle quickly within a 5-10 mile ride from home, but I managed a nice offering for my finale. Mix, a cupcake shop in town, does single-cup filtered coffee, and it's quite good. So this afternoon I got a cup to go in my travel mug (and a cupcake too) and rode about 400 feet down the road to sit in the lovely gazebo where the farmers market happens in the warm months. This structure was built some years ago by a class at the nearby Yestermorrow Design/Build School (where I also teach periodically) and it made a very suitable abode for my late fall reverie. 

Sitting there I felt content, comfortable, and glad for bikes, shelter, cold fall days, coffee, adventure, and a warm home to pedal back to.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Miles and miles of beauty

Passing under the majesty of Mt. Mansfield, somewhere around Jericho

With the completion of last Saturday's Vermont Fall Classic 200k (and the 114k for those who chose the shorter route) another brevet season comes to a close. And what a way to end it! It was a spectacular day with temperatures in the upper seventies and clear skies throughout.

Departing from Burlington in the cool of the early morning

Hints of morning fog hung low in the fields as a large group of riders departed from Old Spokes Home at 7:00am. There was no mass rush to get out on the street and the beginning felt almost hesitant, but start we did, and it was fun as usual to ride out in the mixed jumble of bikes and faces, some familiar, many not. 

I've noticed that as time has gone on and I've ridden more of this kind of ride that I am more relaxed about the whole thing; preparation, starting, getting to controls, etc... Now that I have a pretty good sense of what to expect I'm less anxious about the details--given that I've covered the basics. I still run through my night-before checklist and give my bike a look-over for any neglected tune ups. I'm a little less competitive about the whole thing at this point. Sometimes I think I'll try to make a particular ride a best-time effort, but in the end tend to fall into the company of other riders and am much more focused on just being out there and having a good day. 

Matt and Tyler

Such was the case when, within just a few miles, I'd fallen in with Emily O'Brien, with whom I had the pleasure of riding this same ride two years ago. She rides fixed gear which slows her down on hill climbs and also means I can keep up with her. Somewhere in the first few hours Tyler and Matt also fell in and we had a little group that stuck together for the rest of the ride. Other than riding the spring 200k pre-ride by myself its been a long time since I've ridden a brevet alone and I have to say I enjoy company. 

Given the range of weather that might have been on tap for the day, the cool morning leading into the hot-ish afternoon was tailor made. I rode this same ride two years ago when it was overcast and raining much of the day. Although that ride was great, I was stunned by the views and scenery I missed last time out. Coming around the untouched backside of Mount Mansfield was something of a revelation since I live within an hour of where we were riding. I experienced a certain wonderment at just how beautiful and dynamic this state we live in can be. Overlay the peak fall foliage and the experience was top-notch.  From broad mountain valleys, to small twisty tree lined back road and later open farmland vistas, the ride covers a wide spectrum of classic Vermont backroad beauty.

I remarked to Emily about how Velouria had written such a glowing post about her ride experience in 2012 and how little of the mountainous drama was actually visible that day. Not that I doubted in the least that it was a wonderful experience for her, but I wondered what she'd have made of the ride were she doing it this year. Much of the ride felt new to me. Going into the day I thought I remembered the lion's share of the route, but in fact most of it was unfamiliar, and that was an unexpected and pleasant surprise.

Coming down the back side of Shaker Mountain Road 

It was a wonderful day. Our little gang took some nice rest stops, particularly as the afternoon became hot, and then a bit latter after climbing over Shaker Mountain Road and descending into Starksboro village. At The Lewis Creek Farm stand we found canned dill pickles and rapidly split a jar between us. I drank the leftover juice and munched on the garlic pieces... I couldn't resist, in fact I kinda wanted to buy another jar, but we had to move on. Perhaps I wasn't fully up on my salt intake?

Stopping at the Post Office in Starksboro

A welcome rest in the cool shade at the Lewis Creek Farm, with dill pickles on offer

Somewhere along the second half of the route my right crank started to make a distinct click with every revolution. I wasn't too alarmed since it didn't seem to be accompanied by any noticeable movement, and I didn't have either a pedal wrench or crank extractor to do any real work on it anyway, so I just kept going. A silent bicycle is a experience of grace, while a noisy bicycle can be a vexing irritant. Luckily my riding companions didn't seem overly bothered by my monotonous click click click. I determined that it was simply a loose pedal when I was able to check it out later.

Greenbush Road in Ferrisburg as the sun was starting to set

Noticing that we had to keep moving if we were going to make our controls, we picked up the pace a bit for the last couple of hours home. We were now traveling north along the shores of Lake Champlain and the long rays of the setting sun bathed the scene in golden light. We reached the penultimate control at the covered bridge in Ferrisburg (or Charlotte?) just as the sun was setting. After a few photos we moved on and kept the pace up until we reached the finish at the Old Spokes Home. By this time it was dark and it was good to have lights, although I hadn't imagined we'd need them coming into the day.

Sunset over the Adirondacks

Pausing before the last push back to Burlington

Not an especially swift ride, but no sweat, it was a fun day

Brevets are satisfying on many levels. They provide the framework to do a ride that is certainly longer than anything I'd do on my own, they typically favor back roads and great scenery, and there is just enough of a competitive element that I feel challenged and happily tired at the end. There is also the camaraderie and simple fun of being out with like minded riders riding bikes. Its good stuff. As I remarked to a friend it was "a spectacular ride through amazing foliage in good company for a long time on a beautiful day".  

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Northeast Kingdom 300k

June 14, 2014

It's 10:30PM the night before the 300k and I am drying my sneakers in the oven. I've been anxiously focused on doing the 300k all week and by late in the afternoon on Friday I had pretty much let myself off the hook--I wasn't going to do it. I even said so to a coworker. My internal dialogue was going something like this:

"I don't need to do this.."
"It's fine to do it, but there's no shame in NOT doing this.."
"But you'll be psyched if you DO do it!"
"Nobody cares if I do ride it, nobody cares if I don't. It's my deal--do what makes you happy."

When I got home after work I found myself setting up my aero bars and giving them a quick test; they were were fine. With the bars in place I knew the only serious obstacle to doing the ride was my anxiety.

By that point the game was over. I was doing it. It wasn't long before I found myself hurriedly getting my stuff together and feeling that jittery amped up feeling that I get the night before every brevet.

The early morning start took us north out of Montpelier in a steady 
rain up through Maple Corner towards Hardwick

It's been 2 years since I've ridden anything longer than a 200k. Going into the 300k I just wanted to show myself that that year wasn't a fluke. Plus, I just get really excited at the prospect of a challenging brevet. I fear them and love them. 

This year's route was a new ride Anthony Menona schemed up that takes riders north out of Montpelier up around the Northeast Kingdom. The new route was appealing too; riding through territory in an unfamiliar part of the state.

There was no time to clean the bike--I just gave it a quick look over to make sure there were no glaring issues. With the decision made, and my bike in reasonable shape, Nancy and I enjoyed a quiet dinner out. It felt nice to just relax and put the ride out of my head for a while.    

At 4:30am my alarm went off and I arrived at the start with only a few minutes to sign in and get going--poor planning on my part. I was glad to see some familiar faces there, including Josh, Emily, Jake and a couple of other folks I'd seen on earlier rides. It would have been nice to get there with a little more time to socialize!

There was a steady rain as everyone flew north out of Montpelier. We were soon on muddy dirt roads heading towards Woodbury. The truth is I hadn't ridden much distance since I rode the 200k pre-ride back in May, so I was slightly anxious about my capacity for endurance, but as the day wore on I was feeling as fine as I could hope.
Emily and Tsun

The rain started to let up somewhere around the time I was climbing Stannard Mountain and it was around this time that a rider named Harvie and I talked about doing the rest of the ride together. I was a little hesitant to make this commitment so early in the day because it can be stressful to either feel the need to keep up with a faster rider or to need to slow down for a slower rider. Hence I was slightly noncommittal, but also glad to know there was someone I could stick with through the long hours of the ride. After the 400k a couple of years ago I decided that it didn't feel good to be alone in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night after 20 some-odd hours of riding. It's good to be with other people for many reasons, not least that it is safer, but it also helps pass the time and allows for some interesting conversations.

Traveling with Harvie

Riding past Lake Willoughby. The weather had eased and it was even starting to warm up a little

I think this was somewhere before reaching Derby Line; Holland perhaps?

The weather moderated as we reached Derby Line sometime in the afternoon with the sun coming out. It was fun to see this unique town which abuts the Canadian boarder. Little streets had gates across them, but the US and Canadian houses seemed to be part of one neighborhood. I've heard that the library is situated over the borderline itself and is open to residents of both countries as a gesture to international harmony. I'd enjoy checking it out sometime. Derby Line led towards a decent unpaved stretch on the Mempheremegog rail trail into Newport. The level grade without the distraction of cars on the roadway was a welcome change of pace. 

Approaching one of the boarder crossings in Derby Line. It is fascinating to see what is essentially a 
large village separated by an international boundary

Whatever ease was felt on the rail trail soon gave way to a climb out of town headed west on Rt. 105. I hadn't studied the route well enough to realize we were headed towards the longest climb of the day over the ridge adjacent to Jay Peak. The grade was never brutal, but it just seemed to keep going and going. Just as I was about to stop for a rest I could see the top was within reach, so I reached the high point and rejoined the other riders who had got there first. The ride down was a fast, dramatic, and beautiful descent through wilderness and great views. Although I didn't realize it at the time, the route briefly took us over the border momentarily in a heavily forested area. Now I can say I've biked to Canada!

Reaching the top of the day's long climb. Altogether the ride was about 14,000 feet of climbing for the day

Harvie, myself and two or three other riders had pretty much coalesced into a small group and we cruised the miles westward into Richford together. Food and a rest put us back in shape to head for the next control in Morrisville. As we climbed out of town, ominous clouds seemed to be moving back in, but they did not immediately threaten rain. Somehow the latter part of the ride started to feel a bit easier than the earlier part of the day. Perhaps it was having the major climbs out of the way, or cooler weather, its hard to say, but a fellow rider and I both noted that it now felt easier. Who would think that 130 miles into a 190 mile ride things start to feel less effortful?

Leaving Richford, the clouds started to gather after a sunny afternoon

Our little band churned out the miles. At one point we collectively waited while one rider fixed a flat, which was a nice unplanned break; I took the time to casually walk up a hill rather than ride it. The fireflies made a great light show as our hub-powered lights joined in the flickering display. We soon got rolling again and finished the rest of the miles to Morrisville. We had traveled over 150 miles at this stage with quite a lot of climbing, so I was starting to want to be done, and this can make the distances seem long. After a while we arrived in Morrisville; pizza and coffee were what I needed to take the edge off the chill and sustain me for the remaining miles. The rain had started again and the air had cooled so I adjusted my clothes to keep warm and dry. This turned out to be a wise choice since it rained the entire 27 miles back to Montpelier.

Those last miles were something of a dream-like blur. Seeing only the beam of my light on the road and Harvie's taillight off ahead I felt the maniacal nature of what we were all up to: speeding though the rain with nearly 200 miles of riding behind us in the pitch black, and yet it was so thrilling at the same time. Tired, wet, and completely happy. The grade was slightly downhill most of the way and we were now on familiar terrain. The end was is sight.

As it happens we arrived with only half hour or so before the close of the control, but we made the cut off with time to spare. I guess I had taken for granted that we had plenty of time and didn't really concern myself with it. Needless to say food and drink at Anthony's were greeted with great appreciation.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Dirigo Dynamo 2014

"I think for me it's more about the magical adventure - adventure that overrides the occasional pain and effort of it. I mean come on - riding my bike from Boston to Maine under a full moon? Beyond my wildest dreams, plain and simple." -- Veloria, Lovely Bicycle, 2012

On July 12,  Nancy and I rode the second ever run of the Dirigo Dynamo and it was a night I will long remember.

Some years back I heard about the Dunwich Dynamo, the inspiration for the Dirigo, on The Bike Show (a podcast/radio show based in London). The vision of a long overnight ride to the sea captivated me. Images of pub stops and salt air mixed with the delirious sensations of sleep deprivation just sounded too fun, perhaps even transcendent. Nancy and I have even kept the Dunwich in mind when thinking about possible vacation journeys. It would be great to ride it one of these years. So when word came via the NER'ds email list of the Dirigo, I knew I wanted to do it immediately. 

Nancy and I have done some hard work on our bikes over the last month or two. Despite this baseline, the prospect of riding 140 miles, and staying up all night to do it, were daunting for Nancy, even though she was excited to give it a go. Looking at the elevation gain (~3,200vf) we knew the Dirigo ride was relatively flat with modest gains spread out over a long distance. Nancy has been riding a bunch and I had no doubt in her ability to do the ride, although I too was unsure of what it would be like to ride overnight. I've ridden until the wee hours on brevets, but I experienced that as staying up really late, somehow different from staying up all night long. 

Oh yes, I also was initially a little vague on the distance of this ride. I thought it was a 100 mile ride based on some hazy recollection, and that false information was what hooked Nancy in. It wasn't until about a week before the ride that I clarified that it was in fact 140 miles--not an insignificant difference. To her credit, she didn't let my weak possession of the facts diminish her commitment to the ride, though a bailout plan was hatched: return at the 100 mile point by picking up the train in Wells, Maine if need be.

An added bonus was that our friend Douglas had been intrigued about the ride and after taking some time to make a decision, committed to joining us. We were excited to have him along. He's a good guy with a great attitude and we looked forward to the adventure together. I spent a little time trying to help him get ready with bags and whatnot since he'd never ridden over 100 miles. The mileage would be new territory for both him and Nancy. 

Getting sorted out as we were about to start

My primary excitement was for the ride itself, but I was also looking forward to meeting or reacquainting with some folks I had met or ridden with on past brevets. An added bonus upon arrival was seeing the deluxe bag I had just completed for Geoff put into service for it's maiden journey on the front rack of his 650b Boulder Bicycle.  When we were working out the details of Nancy's Matchack frame, Anton was very helpful in some of the decisions we made regarding wiring and it was good to finally meet him in person. I think something like nine or ten people started the ride, with a few more joining along the route.

The bag I made for Geoff, mounted for it's maiden journey

Nancy and I managed to get a solid night's sleep on Friday and took it easy on Saturday, trying to keep our kinetic excitement as subdued as possible.

We arrived in Union Square with ample time to get a cool drink and wait for folks to arrive. Alarmingly, Douglas called saying that some last minute morning bike repairs had resulted in a messed up front wheel. We briefly thought that he was going to have to ditch, but getting himself to a different bike shop resulted in a new front wheel and he was ready to go in short order.

Good spirits and nice pre-ride chat (l.-r. Geoff, Jon, Nancy, Douglas)

Brian, one of the organizers, made an effort to instill a bit of order to a pretty casual event. His aim was to have riders re-group periodically along the route. I was glad at least to know that we would be led the first few miles out of Somerville, since it is challenging to be navigating right off the bat in an unfamiliar area. Its much easier to go with the crowd for a while until the ride settles in and you can begin to organize your mind around the route. 

Heading out through Medford. Other riders joined along the route, like a neighborhood gang of kids picking up friends along the way

As we gathered and were about to head out we learned that our 100 mile bail out plan was foiled! Bikes can no longer get loaded onto the train at the Wells train station, or anywhere else between Boston and Portland. We now knew we were heading the whole way to Portland. 

Anton and Brian

During the early miles, the pace was quick and I was feeling the tension of wanting to socialize with folks ahead but feeling aware that I wanted to be attentive to Nancy and Douglas behind. Brian, Anton and us three Vermonters fell into a subgroup for the first 25 miles or so up to Melinda Lyon's house, where the other riders were resting and refilling their bottles. At this point it was decided not to try to maintain a single group, easing the pressure so everyone could go at their own pace. 

Much of the riding in this section of the route was through small wooded lanes, so even though sunset was still a while off, our lights were already doing their work. Sudden breaks into the sun came as a bit of a surprise. The cooler evening air felt good after a fairly hot afternoon.

A rest stop at Melinda's house. We broke into sub-groups from here out, although everyone reconnected a couple more times before the finish

Douglas, leaving Melinda's

Nancy and Douglas

The miles rolled along and the route was a dream of small back roads through forests and wetlands. Traffic was minimal. We rolled into Newburyport to find the lead group ready to head out, so we all rode off together again. It was a joy to see all our lighted and fendered-randonneuring bikes rolling together in a bizarre nighttime procession. Many onlookers called out--and in return we rang our bells. I wonder what they made of us? 

La lune!

Rolling through Hampton

That clutch of bright lights is a group of riders

Although this could be an Echo & the Bunnymen album cover,
it is in fact the moon over the Atlantic as we passed through Rye

Ahead lay a few surreal miles through Salisbury followed by the dazzle of Hampton Beach, NH. Suddenly we were zooming through a hot mid-summer nighttime carnival of drinking parties and porch dwellers with fireworks, arcades, pedestrians and vehicles everywhere. It was fun, in stark contrast to the secluded miles in the woods. Hampton Beach gives way to North Hampton, which in turn leads to Rye, each progressively quieter and calmer. With a tailwind at our backs and the super full moon hanging low over the Atlantic, these were some of the most thrilling miles of the ride. It felt exciting and effortless.

Food, rest and chat in Portsmouth

Brian, Nancy, myself, and Douglas (photo courtesy of Jon Doyle via Flickr)

Portsmouth, NH is the halfway point at 70 miles. We rolled in at around 11:30 and found the others sipping beer, eating nachos and chatting at the Portsmouth Brewery. The ride had been smooth so far, although two of the riders decided that they weren't feeling well and opted to catch a 3AM bus ride back to South Station. 

Crossing the bridge over the Piscataqua into Maine

At this point Douglas, Nancy and I rode on our own. Douglas had never even ridden a 100 miles previous to this, so he was dragging a bit already and had many, many more miles to go.  We settled in for the second phase of our adventure.

Of course it's a challenge to photograph a night ride, but the generator hub/LED headlight combo makes
riding at night a non-issue, almost unremarkable in it's ease

Leaving Portsmouth we immediately crossed the bridge into Maine towards a slightly inland course. The route took on a gently rolling quality, leaving the long, flat stretches behind. The moon was bright above us and the countryside was quiet. Cars were almost non-existent. The route from the Maine border nearly to Portland follows the Eastern Trail (ET), which is well signed, making navigating very easy. Nonetheless, we missed a turn somewhere around South Berwick, but luckily stopped for a rest and noticed our mistake. We were able to reconnect with the route in short order. Somewhere outside of Kennebunk we reached "105" on the cue sheet and high-fived Douglas for his first-ever century. 

The first light of dawn

Nancy, as we arrive in Old Orchard Beach

We decided that at Old Orchard Beach we would take a longer rest. Somewhere in these miles on the rail-trail the sun came up. Reaching Old Orchard, we happily found Brian sitting on a bench waiting to make sure we were okay. He sped off to Portland while we went down to the beach and took a doze for about an hour. 

I took this moments before happily dozing for about a hour. Such comfy sand..

Beautiful tidal zone through Scarborough

The rest did everyone a world of good and the last 15 miles into Portland were back up to speed and uneventful. Rolling into town we camped ourselves at The Good Egg for breakfast and started to feel the full measure of our night. As chance would have it, the Good Egg is directly next store to Dean's Sweets, owned by friends of ours from our days in Boston. Kristin gave us a tour and some amazing truffles for our trip back home.

Two good eggs at The Good Egg

I have long dreamed of the day when I would be able to bring my bike on the train. It is painful to me that this sensible option has been unavailable for so many years (although I am hopeful that we might see the situation change in the next year or two, fingers crossed).

Our bikes ready to board

Rolling to the baggage car

Loading was easy and the conductor was confident in his manoeuvres. Our bikes were in good hands

Happy and full of stories and thoughts about the next itteration

With this in mind, I had the pleasure of riding to the Portland train station and loading my bike onto the train on for the first time in my life. For some blessed reason, the Downeaster allows bikes on trains, although only from the Portland to North Station stops. No on loading or offloading in between. The experience was smooth and uneventful, just as it ought to be. Brian, Nancy, Douglas and I settled in for the 3 hour ride back. Although we tried to doze, in truth we were excited and had much to churn through from the experience. In retrospect I was grateful that Nancy and I had each other to to keep talking to over the next day or so, since the experience had stirred so many thoughts and ideas. It would have been hard to have to hold them all alone.

This experience proved to be almost more magical then I could have imagined. The lack of sleep was nearly a non-issue. I guess our bodies just knew the plan was to keep going. Barely a small yawn was uttered between us until we were on the train homewards. More then anything I was so grateful to share such a wonderful experience with Nancy and Douglas. It would have been a weak approximation to try relay in words. We shared a rare blend of effort, pleasure, and magic on a full moon night along the New England coast that I will recall fondly for years to come.