A Canal in Almost-Spring

Whenever I take a road trip, Dr. Diarist always suggests that I take Basil with me, however unlikely the opportunities for cycling may seem.

pt-dm

This practice always pays off.  There’s no down side:  After all, if no chance presents itself, we’ve lost nothing.  On the other hand, if there’s any chance of a bit of a ride, Basil and I are ready to go.

So when we found ourselves in upstate New York, just after our own last snow, but before New York was quite finished with winter, we were able to do a little exploring.

pt-gsWe rode in the opposite direction to the one we usually take on the Erie Canal towpath.  Snowy banks in spots along the canal looked like the last remnants of winter; certain geese were gearing up for spring nesting defense work.  Not persistently, though; we passed without incident.

pt-bbr

It was a fine day to be out, and both Basil and I were overjoyed to be moving once again.

Parts of the towpath were looking more spring-like than others.  That russet blush was a treat to see, even if the hues are more usually associated with autumn.

pt-rt

I’d never seen these stone bridges before; they’re not a typical feature of the towpath in the opposite direction where we usually cycle.  This view looks like a CAPTCHA; in a month the bridge will be completely obscured.

pt-sbThat lovely arch, all stone, is echoed further down the canal by a matching bridge, and reflected in the water below.

pt-cv

Not-winter, not-spring is such a good time of year, if only because of what trees look like, just before blooming, against blue skies.

pt-ts

A massive amount of work was being done along the canal, including some housing construction, trail improvements, and various repairs.  New docks were going in, too.   Basil liked the view over the desiccated (and perhaps still frozen) mud flats.

pt-bv

Later in the summer, the canal will be completely full, and those banks will be entirely submerged.    Further down, we saw an entirely different view:  The canal looked like over-salted asphalt.

pt-st

That was no saline deposit of course, but ice, and plenty of it, in spite of the sunny day, and in spite of so much of the canal being clear elsewhere.

We rode alongside part of the Genesee Riverway for the first time, and even explored a short spur that led to  .  .  . Costco?

pt-gt

Yep, directly to a Costo retail warehouse, currently under construction.  Could I transport a giant bale of paper towels  on Basil?  Hmmmm .  .  .

pt-rf

That kind of experimentation is for another day, perhaps. In the more forbidding seasons, especially, it’s easy to forget how close urban amenities are when cruising beside a nearlly-empty canal.   On this day, that was a good thing: Costco can wait for another time and another day.

Categories: Travel Tags:

By Horse, Not Brompton (!)

April 16th, 2015 5 comments

Dr. Diarist had a meeting recently in Lancaster County, about an hour from our home.  I went along, as I often do, and since I’d have to occupy myself during the time he was busy, I planned to take Basil and tour the countryside for the first time in months.

lvf-wk1
(This photo: Wikipedia)

But, as it happened, the day was going to be an infelicitous one for cycling, so I did a little research and found Landis Valley Farm and Museum nearby. (That URL hasn’t worked for me for weeks, but you may have better luck?  It does appear to be the correct one. I reported it; no one seemed interested, and it still doesn’t work for me. )

I reluctantly left Basil home, and quite unexpectedly had a very different sort of transportation adventure.  It was a particularly cold day, and few visitors had made their way to the farm.   While strolling around, I saw a woman driving a fairy-tale carriage, and, on a whim, asked if she took passengers.

lf-wc

She did!  She is a volunteer at the farm, and was practicing handling the horse and buggy for an upcoming wedding.  We took several turns around the grounds while she patiently answered my questions.  Nettie May, named for the sister of the founding Landis brothers, gently pulled the carriage.

Another wagon was making the rounds, pulled by Hank and Henry (named for the brothers themselves).   My guide suggested that I should hop on board, as a more experienced guide was settled in the back and might be able to provide more information about the farm.  Naturally, I did!

lf-dr

But my questions were soon forgotten; the driver asked me if I’d like to a chance at the reins . . . Would I?  Would I?  Oh yes, indeed!  When would I ever have an opportunity like this again?

Let me say for the record that huge, powerful, well-trained horses are responsive, but not as responsive as a Brompton.  Also, squeaky voices are not necessarily authoritative in a horse’s ear.  But what a wonderful experience!

lv-hhwg.jpg

I drove the team (with a vigilant genuine driver right by my side) around the farm several times.  Then I mentioned that I had to leave (Dr. D’s demo was over, and he was waiting to be collected), and asked to be dropped off.  It was suggested that I might like to drive the team right to my car:  Never has traversing a parking lot been such an unfamiliar pleasure!

I wasn’t very happy about having left Basil home, but the end result was most unexpected, and most extraordinary.  Another time, perhaps Basil himself would enjoy a ride in the carriage or wagon?  We’ll have to see; I’ll be back.

There’s lots going on at this “living museum” even if you don’t get a chance to drive a team of horses:  demonstrations; events; classes; re-creations; a heritage seed project; heritage husbandry and more.  As a side note, the requisite shop is the most intelligently stocked of any I’ve seen at similar venues; it’s well worth a visit all on its own.

Categories: Miscellaneous Tags:

Basil’s Events Bag

April 13th, 2015 6 comments

When I made Basil’s “M” bag, I made the flap removable so that Basil could wear whatever sort of ornamentation struck his fancy.; naturally, he was going to need an Events Bag to mark his formal cycling adventures.  He’s been sporting this new bit of luggage for a few rides now, and it’s worked out very well.

eb-315

For this iteration of the M bag, I made a new flap, and added a few modifications to the original bag, based on how I’ve used it.

eb-fpThese front flaps are basically shaped like chubby letters “U”.  The tabs at the top have soft hook-and-loop closures on the reverse side, which connect with the bristly hook-and-loop sections sewn to the back of the bag.

ev-vcWhen assembled, the front flap wraps around the Brompton frame, and the flap sides are secured around the frame’s handle.  (The frame is a cut-down Brompton S frame.)

eb-frHere’s how the new flap looks attached to the bag.  (Those two “ears” on each side are open pockets, just large enough for snacks, dog repellent, and the like.)

eb-fr

The original M bag flap was  asymmetrical with a buckle underneath; the inner bag was completely open.  The new one attaches around the handle with the same hook-and-loop fasteners , but there’s no buckle in the front.

mbg-ws

Magnets are now sewn to the underside of both flaps to hold them in place when Basil flies down the road.  This particular bag is designed to collapse at the top when it’s not full, so I modified the bag body with two rows of magnets on the front of the bag, corresponding to the larger and smaller positions.

The bottom row of magnets is visible when the bag is fully open, but that’s not a concern:  Function before form!

eb-mg

I’ve been using the M bag in its original configuration with no problems, but decided that I’d like to have some way to close it completely under the flap, to make sure that small goods didn’t go flying, and to allow over-loading it when I might be tempted to do so.

This go-round, then, I added a nylon ripstop cuff, with a drawstring,  When it’s not needed, this extension tucks into the bag around the inside edges, leaving the opening quite accessible.

eb-cf

All in all, this version is a lot more functional than the earlier iteration.  I’ve become a big fan of magnets as closures — they connect automatically and stay put, whereas the chunky buckle I had used previously was sometimes a pain to close, and always a bit of a bother, due to being hidden under the flap.

About Those Patches

Finding embroidered patches isn’t always as easy as you’d think — the 5 Boro doesn’t sell them, for example, so I had to get creative to snag these.

At the 2013 5 Boro Tour I spied an embroidered luggage tag, and snapped it up.  In 2014, I bought a baseball cap (!) (at a clearance price, go figure) from which I cut that lovely embroidered shield.

MG supplies great patches for her Coffeeneuring and Erranddonnee events; those were much more easily acquired.

I somehow always get patches slightly lopsided when I sew them on, but have decided it’s a feature, not a bug.  It’s the human touch!  Patches always seem kind of rambunctious anyway, don’t you think?

eb-bd

That Victory patch?  Oops. I’d sewn it on before I remembered that we’ve failed to make Victory’s PASA event every year so far.  (It usually occurs when I’m out of town.)  I bought the patch reflexively when we saw them in the Victory store.

I don’t actually drink beer, so I’m declaring that the “event” for this badge is the run Basil and I make to pick up Victory Brewing Company’s Hopped Up Devil ice cream.

Trust me, there is no better ice cream (cayenne! coffee beans! chocolate!); acquiring and consuming it is an event-worthy experience, and a much more worthwhile activity than wrestling with removing a bunch of tiny stitches that hold an admittedly slightly illegitimate patch on Basil’s new flap.

In fact, I think I’ll just find my way to the freezer right now; Basil and I can pick up more on our next  trip nearby.  It’ll be an event!

Categories: Luggage Tags:

Errandonnee 2015: DNF

Well, that was a bust:  we Did Not Finish. I had high hopes, though.  Schedules were tight, so I knew that succeeding at Errandonnee 2015 would be tricky.  To start, Basil and I set out to knock off as many errands as possible on a very short ride.

err15-mgFirst we headed to a bookstore, and checked out the biking magazines (Errand 1).  (We weren’t too impressed; they seem to be getting less relevant and less inspirational every month.  Of course, Basil is a Brompton, so why would I need a buyer’s guide.  Heh, heh.)

err15-libThen we headed to the library (Errand 2), where Basil shared our books with a couple of very cold children outside the front door.

err15-cofWe stopped for coffee (Errand 3) — iced coffee on a cold day, my favorite! — and then rode a nearby trail for a bit, stopping to admire the end-of-winter scenery.

err15-aqAfter popping into a sporting goods store (Errand 4) in search of a wool Buff (a fail; they’re hard to find in stores; also I forgot to take a photo), we got lunch (Errand 5) at a pizza place.  (“Mediterranean Salad”, yum!)

err15-pzOn the way back, we stopped to admire the icy waters of a pond.  Ice: that was this winter’s theme, all over our world.

err-15icWe managed five errands, covering only about six miles/9.6 km.  Unfortunately I had only one day free left during the challenge period to complete the full slate of 12 errands and the remainder of the 30 miles/48 km required.

All would have worked out fine if that particular day hadn’t coincided with our final storm of the season.  That storm was a doozy — a doozy which vanished in 24 hours, but, even so, that was a day too late for us.

No matter; Coffeeneuring is next up, in the fall, and next March we’ll give Errandonneuring another go.

Categories: Errandonnee, Events Tags:

Whoops

Something tells me that today, Day 1 of Erranddonne 2015, isn’t going to happen around here.

wtrmx

Snow still falling.  Last week temperatures of up to 47 F/8.3 C were predicted for today.

Also, the header on the post just before this one (“Spring Approaches!“) isn’t looking too accurate either.  Bah, humbug.

Categories: Miscellaneous Tags:

Spring Approaches!

February 25th, 2015 1 comment

Or at least must be on the way:  MG has announced the dates for this year’s Errandonnee.  Mark your calendar:  March 5, 2015 to March 16, 2015.

err2014bd

For the uninitiated, the Errandonnee is an eccentric event designed to get people out and about on bicycles, doing ordinary things that perhaps might otherwise be done using a planet-destroying motor vehicle.

There are rules, which are sometimes peculiar, and always entertaining.  There are records, which participants must file.  There is reporting, at the end, with maps, and a spreadsheet.  And, for finishers, there has traditionally been a small premium in the form of a commemorative patch, which some of us covet.  (That’s 2014’s, above.)

Details have been promised, once this year’s rules have been finalized, and will appear on MG’s blog, Chasing Mailboxes.  Gentlemen, gentlewomen and gentlepersons of all sorts, prepare to shift your pedals!

Categories: Errandonnee, Events Tags:

Accessory Mount for a Brompton

February 20th, 2015 6 comments

When I added my custom water bottle holder to my Brompton bicycle, the straps took up the space I’d used for my GPS, which formerly rested on the lower part of Basil’s M handlebar.

gm-ft

A lot of diligent searching turned up the accessory bar that my Garmin is attached to in the photo above.  I found it buried on a rack in a small plastic bag at a brick-and-mortar bike shop, without much in the way of distinctive labelling.

This little device is as simple as it can be:  just a tube that connects with a loop to the handlebars; the “clock face” you see above is the connector for the Garmin.  It’s a Profile Design New Universal Computer Mount (model ACUCMXL1, according to the package).

pd-1

This compact bar installs without tools and stays in place flawlessly.  For my small Garmin, it was a perfect fix.

Do beware that there are two sizes:  I think it likely that mine is the XL (60mm); a Brompton’s bars are relatively thick.  In a burst of unusual efficiency, I tossed the wrapper before double-checking. (The “XL” in the model code above may be a clue.)

pd-hb

This is what I see when riding — a pretty sleek cockpit!  If anything, my GPS is even a little more accessible than it was.  At around $10 (USD), I am very pleased with this device.

It may be hard to find:  The link above is to Amazon because I couldn’t locate it on the Profile Design website, which lacks a useful search function.  Poking around at every random LBS you are near could pay off, though — it always does for me!

Categories: Gear Tags:

5 Boro Tour: Registered!

February 3rd, 2015 4 comments

We may not be getting much cycling done around here, but we’re looking to the future.  Basil and Argyll (and Dr. Diarist and I) are registered for the 5 Boro Tour, set for May 3, 2015.5borotRegistration was an arduous process; it took nearly two hours to complete, with constant failures along the way.  (In other words, it took more than half the time it takes to ride the Tour itself!)

This will be Basil’s third 5 Boro, and Argyll’s second:  It’s an absolutely fabulous ride through all five of New York City’s boroughs (Manhattan, Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island) and across a variety of bridges.  Best of all, roads are closed to cars (though you do have to do battle with 32,000 other riders of radically varying skill levels).

Judging from the apologetic notes sent out by the registration group, we weren’t the only ones pained by the process on Day 1 of registration.  Since, though, all slots are sold out except for VIP spots, so the bugs must have been addressed before too many people gave up.

The remaining (and pricey) VIP level includes a $76  donation to Bike New York, so there’s that, if you itemize. But the experience, as they say, is priceless:  When else are you ever going to be able to fly down a NYC expressway, unimpeded by motor vehicles, and under your own (and your Brompton’s) power?

Categories: 5 Boro Tour, Events Tags:

No Visible Means of Support

January 18th, 2015 5 comments

I love taking photos of Basil and his sidekick Argyll.  Sometimes it’s tricky to find something to lean them against, though, and sometimes I get a little bored with the uright folded pose, with the Brompton rear wheels tucked under.

ks-blSo I was intrigued when I ran across the Click-Stand, a portable kickstand meant for bikes without integral stands.  Our Bromptons don’t need them to remain upright, but I thought this might be a good tool for photos.

ks-wr

It’s basically a rod that lets a bike “stand” without requiring any hardware.  It looks like a promising solution for a lot of bikes, but I was a little dubious about how this would work for a Brompton, so I sent a question along to the company.

Tom sent back a picture showing a Click-Stand in use on a Brompton, but set in the middle of the cross bar.   The bike’s frame slips into the cradle, and then geometry does the rest.  (It’s critical to put the foot on solid ground; Click-Stand offers a bigger food for mushier situations.)

ksarg

I use ours in the underseat triangle, though, to minimize the chance of slipping.

ksbslstGetting the angle right is crucial, too, for good support.  That’s Basil, above, standing tall using the Click-Stand, and Argyll, below, ditto.

ksargst

The Click-Stand is available in custom sizes (instructions on the website), and folds up compactly for carrying on a bike or in a bag. Following the website instructions, I ordered the Mini-4 with a contact height of 19.25 inches and the x-large cradle size.  (These measurements may be different if the Click-Stand is used elsewhere on the Brompton frame.)

The Click-Stand comes with restraints to hold brakes in place while using the device.  That’s critical; if the bike rolls with the Click-Stand in place, over it goes!   The loops supplied weren’t long enough to go over Basil’s Ergons and across the brake levers, so I improvised my own, which were not as powerful as the ones that came with the Click-Stand.

My improvisation was a huge fail; the brakes slipped and Basil . . . well, let’s just say I hope he’s forgiven me.

Now I use a vinyl-wrapped wire cable tie, and wrap it well around the brake lever and the grip.  Works a treat.

clbk

The Click-Stand is a little fiddly, and does require some careful placement on the ground, but it’s light and sleek, and I like the options it offers for photos.

(Incidentally, Click-Stand’s Tom is responsible for Argyll’s color scheme:  It’s the same one as in the Brompton photo Tom sent to us.  We hadn’t seen that combination before, and Dr. Diarist liked it a lotAfter hours on the Configurator, it was amusing to have found Argyll’s colors in this most unexpected way!)

Categories: Gear Tags:

Not precisely on topic . . .

January 8th, 2015 9 comments

The last couple of months or so have been a bit unusual around here, and, as a consequence, poor Basil (and his blog) have suffered a (large!) measure of neglect.  Things are not yet back on track, but at least the various distractions are winding down.  It shouldn’t be too long before things settle, and, weather cooperating, Basil and I are back on the road again.

sg

Our first and toughest challenge came when Sally, our little grey-and-white cat, suddenly developed diabetes, which proved uncontrollable, and a host of associated symptoms.  We lost her after a valiant fight to stabilize the disease.  She was, surprisingly, mostly un-fazed and un-bothered by her difficulties, fortunately, and her end was peaceful.  Our little herd numbers only four felines now; that’s quite a change, as all five had been with us for many years.

Then Dr. Diarist had a stretch of vacation time available, which he coupled with the various holidays, and we decided to dismantle most rooms of our home and put them back together in a configuration that best suits the way we use them now. That was a lot like moving house, but without, fortunately, the agony of actually packing.  I’m allergic to dust, though, and it turns out that when you don’t move floor-to-ceiling bookshelves for a decade, dust bunnies proliferate.  My lungs are gradually recovering; by the time we’ve finished with the house stuff I should be able to breathe normally again and put those pipes to the test on two wheels once again.

gb-tp2

The Brompton Garage:  the only untouched room in the house.  The Brompton Brothers:  bored.

At any rate, we’re through the worst of it, and I’ll be back posting now, albeit perhaps a bit infrequently during the next few weeks.  By mid-February all should be resolved, and Basil and I (and Dr. Diarist and Argyll) should once again be as active as Bromptons, and riders, are meant to be — just in time for early spring!

Categories: Miscellaneous Tags: