Every year, she makes the same terrible miscalculation:
(She’s much easier to spot from a bicycle than a car!)
Basil arrived just in time for me to ride in a final few events before the weather becomes more challenging. I thought it would be smart to cycle in a group (and with support, in case of problems) when first tackling country roads on my Brompton. That’s not exactly how things turned out, though. I arrived early, with my cue sheet already printed, and was told that there really wasn’t a start time, and that I could just head out, solo.
So that’s what I did. It was a great ride, too, on a perfect, just slightly cool, fall day through lovely countryside. We were on asphalt roads for the most part, but the road above was hard-packed dirt (macadam?), which was a new experience. Basil took it like a pro.
I’ve been very curious about how I’d be able to handle elevations in this part of the world. (Basil’s an M6R Brompton.) This route, an easy one by almost any standard, didn’t pose any exceptional challenges, though I didn’t make it over a couple of the most attractive speed bumps I’ve ever seen.
The incline was borderline for me, getting used to new gears, and not fully fit, so I walked over the bumps. I’m new enough to the 6-speed gears that I don’t always anticipate when I should shift in time. That will improve, I’m sure, with experience.
The course went through a farm, offering classic bucolic views. Basil did his part by posing by a fence:
It may not be obvious from my photograph, but this is one of the most beautiful bovine creatures I’ve ever seen. Kind of a Golden Retriever beauty it has, that one:
All the members of this herd wore collars around the neck, with traditional cow bells dangling. Charming!
The chickens on this farm seem to be doing rather well, too. When I stopped to take a couple of pictures, they gathered by the fence.
Their caravan could put many an RV to shame:
Take a look at that hipped roof — and the excellent shingling job. Nice!
This part of southeastern Pennsylvania is famous for its covered bridges. Though this was a relatively short ride (my GPS clocked just about 11 miles), Basil and I rode through three.
This requires some care, as most are essentially single-lane.
Why do covered bridges seem so romantic? These are really just crude boxes set over creeks . . . but there’s no denying that they add a great deal to the landscape. Is it because they’re wooden? Hark back to a day when trees were felled, and buildings constructed, by hand? In any case, it was great fun riding through them, and into the views framed by the “windows” on the other side.
The two jersey-clad riders seen blasting over the bridge here were riding a bit more aggressively than I was, and were essentially the only other cyclists I saw on the road. In the end, I rode the course solo all the way, which seemed a bit odd. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. It was a lovely day, and I like the solitude of the countryside very well.
My Brompton and I polished off our mass transit experiments with a trip on Amtrak. I was really curious to know what it would be like to traverse Penn Station with a Brompton. I needn’t have been concerned.
Trolley mode! (Taken next to a trash can. Finding a spot in Penn Station to take a photograph isn’t easy.) The rear rack, and those wonderful little Eazy Wheels make it really simple to push Basil all over the place. Basil carried the S bag, too, so I didn’t have to.
When we boarded the train, I used the Brompton Rack Sack (that’s it attached beneath the saddle in the photo above) to cover Basil. Apart from collecting my Brompton, the previous few weeks had been really rough, and I was too tired to deal with anybody at Amtrak who might give me grief over bringing a bike on board. (Amtrak actually is very enlightened in terms of allowing bicycles, so maybe this is only an indication that I’ve heard way too many airline horror stories. I probably won’t worry about this in the future.)
So Basil boarded incognito. That’s him in the rear, in the black bag. I don’t think I would have attempted to put him overhead — too risky if I lost my grip — but another option would have been the cargo area at each end of the train cars, where he could have tucked in with the suitcases.
I travel light — the S bag (with the yellow flap, on the right) and the khaki grip (in front) are all I packed for what was planned as a five-day trip. It wasn’t easy to haul Basil, the duffle, and the S bag around, but it was doable. The Eazy Wheels are worth every cent they cost.
The Rack Sack has one flaw: the ties for the drawstring below drag on the ground if you expose the Eazy Wheels while the Brompton is covered. On this trip, I knotted them together and jammed them between the zipper and the knot, but that wasn’t a very satisfactory fix. I’ll sew a little pocket at the hem to tuck the laces into in the future.
Basil fits easily and neatly in the rear seat of my tiny car. (For short trips, though, Basil usually rides in the front seat, next to me. Of course.) Naturally, he wears a seatbelt. It’s not a good idea to risk having 28 lbs. of metal flying through the cabin.
The Rack Sack looks color coordinated, here, with the gray interior of my car, but that’s a weird trick of photo lighting; it’s really black, just as it looks in the photo on the train, above.
The day after I picked up Basil wasn’t really a good cycling day, since no way was I crazy enough to ride my brand-new Brompton on NYC streets, and I was dealing with some time constraints. I did get a lot of practice taking my Brompton on mass transit, though, going from 168th to 81st (subway); across the park (bus); down to 14th/Chambers (subway); back up to 59th (subway); across the East River (tram); and back again.
First thing (after stop back at NYCeWheels because I’d forgotten to get a receipt for Basil) was Chambers St./City Hall, where I had a lunch date. Here’s Basil, next to a park bench:
Bromptons don’t have kickstands; Basil is resting on a luggage rack. If he didn’t have the rack, he’d be sitting on a couple of small wheels that would hold him upright.
As a side note, the plaza was sunny, so we ate Korean from a kiosk, which was surprisingly good, though not as spicy as we make it at home. Chapche dupbap.
Basil fit neatly by the table. Have I mentioned yet how nice it is to grab a quick bite without locking up a bicycle?
Then I headed to Roosevelt Island. It’s possible to cycle across the bridge, and one day I may, but I was enchanted with the idea of taking a tram across the river, Brompton in tow.
Here’s the tram, preparing to dock in Manhattan:
And a view from inside, of traffic coming off the bridge. Yep, I was just as happy that I wasn’t riding in that. Newbie caution isn’t all bad. (Though the traffic doesn’t look particularly terrible, by NYC standards.)
This is the bridge of the famous 59th Street Bridge Song of Simon and Garfunkel; the tram runs along side. The structure isn’t quite as airy-fairy as the tune.
Roosevelt Island itself? Hmm, what to say? It’s a tiny strip of land, densely populated by skyscrapers.
It is possible to ride around most (and possibly all) of the perimeter, and it looks as if efforts have been made to make it pedestrian-, wheelchair-, and bike-friendly, though parts of what was apparently the path were closed off, and, in other places, the path seemed to peter out. At one end is a lighthouse:
At the other end is a hospital, which explained the huge number of motorized wheelchairs that were apparent all over the island, especially in an area near the lighthouse, which was formally designated as a park, and decorated with a sign expressly forbidding alcoholic beverages. It was a beautiful day, and the men in wheelchairs were taking full advantage — some of them zipping about at high speed. What can I say? It felt like spring, though the sky was occasionally overcast.
In spite of the rather forbidding and largely unimaginative landscape, someone has left a bit of whimsy on the asphalt near the visitor’s center, which is best viewed from the tram:
What does it mean? I have no idea, but that looks like a squashed pedestrian, and a fallen bicycle. And is that a lizard, on the lower left, eating another pedestrian?
Moving right along, the views from the tram are amazing, though a bit tricky to capture if said tram is full of people, restricting a photographer’s movements.
From the tram, Manhattan looks weirdly less dense than does Roosevelt Island, thanks in part to the East Side Greenway, the waterfront, and cross streets.
The previous day, when I’d ridden down the Greenway, I’d gone up a ramp that goes under the tram lines, next to this edifice. I have no idea what that stuff on the roof is. Is it art? Is it left-over construction bits? Is it both? Hmmm.
Ah, Manhattan, you look so unreal to an insignificant human, hanging by a cable, high above you:
This lovely little park wouldn’t look out of place in a train set, would it?
Obviously, I couldn’t take a picture of the tram I was in while it was docking, so here’s a shot of one landing on the Roosevelt Island side:
The cycling was fun (though the island was much smaller than I’d thought), and it was great to see New York from the air — or, rather, from an altitude considerably lower than that afforded by an airplane. Today was primarily notable for having learned that hauling my Brommie around the city was perfectly feasible, even for a smallish, wimpish person like me.
It wasn’t until several days later that I noticed that my Brompton-hauling technique needed revisiting: I had been cluelessly bumping the bike against my right leg, and had thoroughly bruised it. Don’t do that. I’m taking measures, in future, to avoid this particular result. (Yes, I’m somewhat impervious to pain; otherwise I’d have noticed earlier.) People with longer arms, and more self-awareness, will undoubtedly avoid this particular hazard.
I was still a bit in shock when I picked up Basil — all the way over to the East Side I was thinking “Is he really here?” (Shell-shocked from September’s experience, no doubt!). But when I arrived at NYCeWheels, the right-sized box materialized.
Alex unbundled Basil, and went over the fine points of folding, shifting, and so on. He was very thorough, and answered all my questions patiently . . . but when he turned Basil over to me, I was momentarily horrified. “You’re going to trust me with this beautiful machine???” I thought. A moment of panic ensued; I felt as if I’d been handed a newborn without a manual!
I took a deep breath, though, and determined to meet my responsibilities to the best of my ability. Because I was too chicken to ride my shiny new Brommie on New York streets, we walked over to Carl Schurz Park, and commenced immortalizing our first few moments together.
Here he is, as yet unridden (by me, at least), sitting on that wonderful rear rack.
I’d dropped everything to return to NYC suddenly once I knew Basil had arrived, and by the time all the formalities had been completed, it was rather late on an overcast day, so I settled for this shot, and just one more, from the front:
That’s my customized flap on Basil’s S-bag, finally on a Brompton, where it belongs.
After the photo op, we headed down the East Side Greenway, but only made it about three miles or so before the rain began. I’m sure a little water won’t bother me a bit once I’m used to the idea that Basil is really mine, but it was already late, and he was so shiny new, so we packed it in for the day. I knew there would be many cycling trips in the days (and years) ahead.
I rode back to Carl Schurz Park, took the M79 bus across Central Park to the West Side, and the subway up to Washington Heights — for the very first time with my Brompton in tow!
It’s really stunning how well hauling around a Brompton works. And I can now report that a 117-pound weakling with no upper body strength really can carry a fully-loaded M6R Brompton up four flights of stairs in a hundred-year-old Washington Heights building and survive. Whoo-hoo!
(For those keeping track, I picked up Basil ten weeks, to the day, after he was ordered.)
Ten weeks to the day after I ordered my Brompton (and after some agonizing drama), I picked it up! I’ve actually had him (yes, he has a gender; doesn’t yours?) one week ago, but Internet issues have made a mess of my web life, and this is the first chance I’ve had to post.
Here’s my Basil:
He’s an M6R, which means that he has the “M” handle bar configuration, six gears, and a rear rack — with Eazy Wheels. (That’s the not-very-elegant, but extremely useful Brompton Basket on his handlebars.)
What can I say? I’m in love! I’m also far behind on posting . . . I’ll be catching up this weekend, after I’ve taken care of everything that’s been ignored during the connectivity crisis. (And maybe get a few more rides in, too.) Whoo-hoo!