Sunday, December 6, 2015

Early Winter Riding

Persistent Valley fog despite the afternoon sun

It's the 6th of December and the weather has been a mix of proper December weather with frequent and confusing bits of September thrown in. I keep going for rides with the thought that "I gotta take advantage of these last warms temps...".  It keeps happening, but that's okay. Just last week I was kind of resigned to it being winter, right and proper and it was time to switch over to my sedate but winter worthy upright bike with a new set of studded tires. I want to forestal the inevitable, but gladly the inevitable is taking it's time this season. I think also that the Coffeeneuring rides keep me thinking "bike" further into the fall then I would otherwise.

I'm fully aware that this can turn on a dime any day now, but so far so good. And, when it finally does snow and the roads are icy, I'll rediscover the fun of slow adventures in cold weather.

Long afternoon shadows

Nancy climbing up German Flats. There's snow on the slopes behind

New studded tires will be put to use any day

Monday, November 16, 2015

Coffeeneuring Challenge 2015

Here's my Coffeeneuring Challenge 2015 recap. I didn't pick a theme-within-a-theme but I did notice a positive trend; with two exceptions these were all social rides, not solo journeys. I didn't plan it that way, it just happened. You'd think getting out once a weekend for a cup of coffee would be a no-brainer, but it's easy to let it slip or not make it happen. Gladly, I did manage to come through. 103 miles all told.
Like randonneuring events, the challenge creates a game --a framework-- that gets me out on my bike at a time of year when I would probably not ride so much, so I'm grateful for the excuse. Thinking ahead to next year, I think I might make architecture a theme to orient around. Thanks to Mary for making this happen!

Coffeeneuring Ride #7
Destination: City Feed and Supply
Location: Jamaica Plain, MA
Bike friendliness: nothing worth noting
Miles: 35

My favorite ride of the coffeeneuring season! I met up with a few fellow New England Randonneurs for a recommended no-fenders ride (advice I ignored) that took in a meandering course around the shoreline in Dorchester, the hills and ponds of the Blue Hills, and various pathways and abandoned roadways in the area.

Coffee was the fuel that started the day, drank somewhat hastily with our collective desire to get moving. The day was pretty chilly, but so much fun to be adventuring through the woods and paths.

Coffeeneuring #6
November 8
Miles: ~5 miles all told
Bike Friendliness: spot on
Destination: Mountain View Farm, VT

A short sweet ride on a chilly morning with friends to the ever affordable cafe-without-walls, namely the upper fields at a neighbors farm a few miles down the road.
With a short walk up the hill we had a nice hang out with coffee at the top of the meadow, looking over the great views across the valley. The wind was brisk and chilly, but the sun was warm.

Coffeeneuring #5
November 1
Destination: The Warren Store, Warren, VT
Bike friendliness: Good enuf, nothing special
Miles: ~16

Nance asked what my coffeeneuring ride plan was. Truth was I didn't have much of one, envisioning a solo ride to check #5 off the list. She responded why don't we ride down to the Warren Store, get lunch and ride back. Yes! A ride with my sweetness is way more fun then heading off on my own.

Coffeeneuring #4
October 31
Location: Field, Waitsfield, VT
Bike Friendliness: Quite acceptable 
Coffee: Home brew..all good.
Distance: 11 miles, under chilly haze

Today's ride was semi-uninspired. The available retail options are more or less mediocre and so I opted for a Coffee Without Walls locale that was quite nice at the top of the Rolston Road in Waitsfield, VT with a view that looks west across the Mad River Valley. If you love narrow, small, steep dirt roads, Rolston Road is a fun one.

Coffeeneuring # 3

October 25
Distance ~16m
Destination: Maglianaro Cafe, Burlington, VT with a ride out to the end of the Colchester Causeway
Bike Friendliness: excellent

If there were a Coffeeneurs's perfect destination, I'd nominate Maglianaro as a top contender. The cafe has been both bike themed (notice the handlebar"M" logo) and bike-centric from the start. (In their old location they even had showers available). There are no bike racks out front because bicycle parking is INSIDE, right through the front door! The coffee is some of the best in the region, and the space is open and light with deep window sills. A previous art display was a variety of antique bikes on loan from the nearby Old Spokes Home.

Our coffee stop was the launching off point for an adventure out to the end of the causeway on the Lake Champlain Island Line Trial. With 30-40 knot winds we enjoyed riding through the craziness.

Coffeeneuring‬ ride #2 with my brother-in-law Brian. 
October 11
Destination: East Warren Community Market
Roughly 13 miles round trip.

This morning's ride took us from home to the East Warren Community Market in East Warren. The route travels along the spectacular Waitsfield Common and East Warren roads, providing broad views across the Mad River Valley which is at the height of fall foliage. Coffee was fine, the company great and the tailwind home just right.

Coffeeneuring Ride #1

Sunday October 4th
Destination: Big Picture Theatre & Cafe
Miles: 7
Bike Friendliness: Indifferent

My first outing was an enjoyable late afternoon ride to town for a cozy cup of coffee at the Big Picture. Although a cool day, the late afternoon made sitting outside not only do-able, but quite pleasant. From my seat I could see the ridge of the Green Mountains off in the distance. The mountains evoke a sense of wildness for me. There will be cold and frost, even snow up there before long, but for now the warmth remains and it was nice to have a causal easy ride to check off this first ride of the Coffeeneuring season. Jess, who works at the cafe was kind enough to brew a new pot o'decaf at the late hour of the afternoon, and it was quite good. Truth be told, I may have opted for a more fermented option given the time, but being a dutiful Coffeeneur, I stayed within the available options for the event.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The (New) Vermont Fall Classic 200k/100k

Update: Derek made this great little video from the ride. He and his friends arrived late for the start but met up with other riders in Randolph. See it here.

Frost and fog greeted us excited riders as we tackled the "hidden" hill not more than a half mile out of the start in Montpelier. On one hand, it helped to warm us up after standing around in the cold morning air, on the other, it was an abrupt end to any casual banter as we dug in. The hill sorted us out according to our eagerness for a stiff climb. And it just kept going....

Anthony addressing the riders at the start

Bikes wondering where the riders are

Marianne on her new Matchak bike, built by her partner Tom

Near the top I heard the lovely clonking of what I imagined to be Swiss bells on a couple of cows ambling about in the morning mist. The city of Montpelier rapidly gives way to countryside and quiet dirt roads. At this point it was icy fingers and a sweaty brow for me. At the top of the hill I grouped up with some others and we continued on. Sweeping past Berlin Pond would have been a treat if we could have seen it--its a beautiful spot for sure--but the fog was so thick that I suspect most folks didn't even notice it.

Climbing up Hill Street (how's that for a name?) out of Montpelier

More and more, it's the social aspect of riding brevets that keeps me on the hook, coupled with great scenery and a satisfyingly challenging ride. Saturday's event checked off all three in abundance. I used to worry more about controls and finishing than I do these days, which allows me to relax a bit and take the ride in whatever way feels right.

Headed towards Brookfield; I enjoyed talking with Eric (on the right), who completed PBP in August. I was curious about his nifty Soma, including 
the fork, which just looked a little too refined for a Soma, as it turned out to be. 

I almost didn't bring gloves and as it was my fingers were pretty cold

I stayed with this little group until reaching Floating Bridge info control in Brookfield and marveled at the beauty of the mist rising off the pond mixed with serenity of the warm morning sun. I decided to hold back and wait for whomever showed up next before pressing on; it turned out to be more of a wait than I anticipated, but that was okay. It was fun to join up with a new crowd for a little food and chat on the bridge and then a nice ride down to Randolph.

Morning sun on the Floating Bridge in the village of Brookfield

Coffee and caffeinated gummy bears are just the thing sometimes

The next control was the Randolph Depot. After a cup of coffee and a muffin, I made a short little side trip to my friend and fellow randonneur Harvie's place to say hello. When I noticed Emily scurrying off I got myself together and followed her up Rt. 12, catching up to her a few miles out of town. We rode the rest of the 100k route back to Montpelier including passing through the infamous (albeit brief) Devil's Washbowl, where even on the sunniest of days the light barely penetrates. Coming down off the top of Moretown Mountain is always a rush, and the decent on Howes Road is simply iconic.

Emily cruising through the Devil's Washbowl

Coming down Howes Road towards Moretown Common

The final control was at the ever-amazing Red Hen Bakery and Cafe. A home for cyclists, bread, and coffee lovers alike, it was a good place to kick back for a bit, leaving only 5 or 6 flat miles to finish off the day back in Montpelier at Onion River Sports. I knew I wasn't drinking enough when the only thing that I wanted was more chocolate milk after I'd had a chocolate milk.

A social jumble of bikes and people at the Red Hen Bakery

Marianne and Nancy nearing the end of a great ride 
(photo: courtesy of Tom Matchak)

Being the final ride of the Vermont portion of the New England Randonneurs season, there was a relaxed and fun get-together at Anthony's house later in the afternoon. A number of folks who were going to do the 200k switched gears and finished at 100k, allowing for an easy transition to the party. It was satisfying to chill out and chat with some good friends. I'm really glad to be a part of this little world of cycling and I'm looking forward to next year's rides already!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Voyage dans L'obscurité

Is it wise to drink a beer halfway through a 200k night ride?

There was some debate about this as we approached Sandwich. Some riders worried it might compromise their fortitude and strength, while others expressed no concerns. A consensus was reached that if we ALL had a beer the consequences would be felt equally, nullifying any risk. Demonstrating both a penchant for dubious justification and a one-for-all and all-for-one attitude, everyone had a beer.

This was the first running of the Dunes Dynamo--but the third in a series--the first two being the Dirigo Dynamo in 2012 and 2014 which ended in Portland, ME. (The vision going forward is that the ride will alternate between Portland and Provincetown annually, hence the slightly different names, based on destination.)

A convivial start from the Bartlett St. Cafe in Jamaica Plain

Smiles as we make our way out of town. Geoff led the way for the first ten miles or so, since he came up with the route

Jake and Brian. Check out Brian's home made fenders!

We left Jamaica Plain on Saturday around 5:30PM bound for Provincetown. Fourteen in all at the start, one rider planned to veer off to make his way home to Providence, while others planned to join us further on in the ride.  I was excited and a little nervous, as I tend to be before a long ride. Will I be strong enough to stay with others? Will I have enough food and water? Will I be okay without sleep? I packed two sandwiches, various nuts and bars, and had three bottles of water. In the end I never touched the sandwiches and may have ended the ride with one of my bottles full. That's fine, I'd rather be over prepared.

Despite these concerns, I have a basic faith in my ability to cycle long distances and go without sleep, although I don't take it for granted that I can just fly endlessly. I can't. Miles and hills take their toll and reality eventually subdues willful enthusiasm into a sustainable pace. Gladly that pace was fine with this bunch of riders.

Sun grazing the treetops as the day started to cool down

Emily, Geoff, James and others

As evening came on we passed numerous marshes and bays, making for some lovely twilight views. Glancing back, the array of high-powered LED bike lights was brilliant. We must have been a somewhat unusual and perhaps confusing sight to drivers as we approached. Somewhere around Wareham, Brian peeled off to make his way home to Providence, another 40 or so miles.

Together we travelled though rural suburban towns towards the Cape, reaching the canal in Bourne around 11:00 or so and getting to the British Brewing Co. in Sandwich in time for us to have that round of beer and pizza.  Elton was waiting on the lawn and rode the rest of the ride with us from here. Three or four riders who were well fed and had negotiated a flat tire on the canal decided to skip the meal and ride ahead. We didn't see them until morning in Provincetown.

The last light of day

Coming into Bourne

Approaching the Bourne Bridge. Once we reached the bridge, we walked our bikes.

Long awaited sustenance

As for that beer, I pointedly ordered a Guinness--low alcohol content and seemingly high in nutritional thickness. We were glad for the food and rest, but the air conditioning had us shivering as we ate, so we were glad to be outdoors again. We filled up our water bottles at the public fountain in the village and began rolling for the second half of our journey.

Geoff filling up in Sandwich village

Emily taking in some of the nuttiness in Onset (?), while Jake catches a wink on the pavement. We saw all sorts of capers: cops, cars full of lost travelers, cars with their lights off, cops with lights speeding by... all on one corner. 

There was eleven of us now. Almost as a unit we moved together through the picturesque villages along 6A, coursing along dark quiet roads, each with our own thoughts.  We'd been together long enough that conversations had started to subside. Though not articulated, we were now bonded, quietly glad to be cycling together through the night. I know I was.

It was along this stretch I felt somewhat weak and discouraged. I was moving along fine, but I wasn't feeling as strong as I would have hoped on the numerous small hills we encountered and I started to contemplate drifting off the tail-end of this group, a thought I didn't relish. Perhaps I wolfed down a little too much pizza; perhaps the beer at midnight wasn't the smartest idea... I don't know, but I know I felt a little bummed, like I had to press a little more than was coming naturally.

I was glad when we reached the bike path in Brewster. It meant many miles of easy pedaling. It was around this time too that we, as a group acknowledged that we were going to stay together to the end. It would have been inconsiderate to leave anyone behind having come this far together.  We also consciously slowed down a little since a couple of folks had begun to drift off the back--I guess I wasn't the only one feeling the effort. I noticed too on the bike path that we had started talking again. Perhaps being off the roads encouraged our banter or maybe the lack of sleep starting to inflict a bit of chattiness.

The path carried us up to Wellfleet and soon we were cruising atop the high bluffs that overlook the Atlantic--a view that to my mind is one of the great wonders of New England, mighty and endless, although in the pre-dawn dark I could only see that stunning view in my mind's eye. I knew the road we were on led to Newcomb Hollow Beach so I was surprised as we passed the last turn off.  Geoff, who had scouted most of the route, led us down what seemed like a private driveway into the most unlikely warren of small rutted and sandy lanes through the dense scrub oak forest. Cue sheets and GPS devices were weak guides in this collection of driveways and paths. Once or twice Geoff had to double back to gather those who had become lost.

Somewhere along the Cape Cod Rail Trail 
(Photo: JPTwins/Flickr)

Escape from the scrub oak forest at dawn!

I felt delight at the utter unlikeliness of the moment. Here I was at 5:15 in the morning having ridden a good 110 miles or so, in the woods with ten other souls pushing our bikes through barely recognizable sand tracks on a quest to reach the sea at sunrise. Geoff later announced "I'm sorry and you're welcome" directed at the riders who either enjoyed or were annoyed by this sojourn through the woods so close to the end of the ride.  I for one was so happy to have this unexpected adventure. A couple of the riders who had ridden ahead from Sandwich but arrived in P'town after our group mentioned they had become lost in the "sand trap".

Arrival at Coast Guard Beach

The quarter moon greeted our arrival
Jake and Emily taking in the scene
At the beach 
(Photo: Jeff 0728/Flickr)

Our goal was reaching Coast Guard Beach in Truro for sunrise. With visions of a nap following a brilliant sunrise we were a bit underwhelmed to find the scene chilly and mostly overcast--there would be no sunrise for us this time around.  Some of us took off our shoes, laid down and relaxed for a while but somehow getting to P'town felt like it would offer greater relief, so we soon headed out for the remaining few miles into town.

As you may know, Provincetown can seem like a perpetual party along Commercial Street on a summer's day, but there was no sense of celebration when we arrived. Drizzle greeted us on empty streets as we waited for the first breakfast place to open up. The food and coffee were welcome and it felt good to be done. After breakfast we waited a few chilly hours to catch the ferry home. Daydreaming about the ride beforehand, I had visions of a brilliant morning return to Boston across a serene Massachusetts Bay, but in fact we faced a surprisingly storm-tossed and rainy ride back. More than one passenger found need for a vomit bag. Geoff and I sat together and talked with a well-rested couple who were eager to talk about bikes and our ride and all the details. I tried to muster a normal conversational effort, but the tentacles of sleep were pulling hard on me...

Commercial Street in Provincetown

Post breakfast chilax

Last year's ride to Maine was magical, shared with Nancy and Douglas. I will cherish that experience for a long time,  but what made this year special for me was the bond with my fellow riders --some old friend, some new acquaintances. I really enjoy this aspect of a long ride: the hours one gets to spend talking with friends. We joined together in a unique journey and had fun, only to disperse in the morning with tired brows and muscles, but happy for the experience.

Awesome patch designed by Jon Doyle

I'm looking forward to next year already!