Tours, Trails & Group Rides

Early AM to NYC: Amtrak and Coffee

I love catching the train to New York City.

When Basil and I went on a blitz trip recently, all I took was the Brompton S bag — along with Basil’s ever-present saddle bag, of course, and my helmet.

Most of our regional stations are in pretty awful shape, which is too bad.  The tracks work, though, which is what really counts.

When I see other trains passing, or stopped in a station, It makes me think of model train layouts, with trains placed in careful juxtaposition.  This is  a case of life imitating art, maybe.

Accommodations on Amtrak are much nicer than the decrepit condition of the stations suggests they might be.

Basil  wasn’t the only Brompton on the train; this orange B was snugged into the luggage compartment. It’s always thrilling to see another Brompton bicycle!

Once we’d touched base in NYC, and left off the luggage, the first stop was a coffee shop. Basil’s so small that it’s surprisingly easy to get him in and out of even a crowded shop.

It’s not obvious here, but there’s a long line out of sight, to the right.  (This is New York —  of course there’s a long line!)  Basil’s tucked neatly out of the way while I fix my iced coffee.

See the bottle on the counter?  It’s leak-proof, and perfect for water or iced coffee on the run.  It opens just above the purple sleeve, and conventionally, at the top.

I hand in the bottom portion to be filled, and then add milk through the top once I’ve screwed it together again. Silicone seals keep it from leaking.  Its only defect?  It’s not green or yellow!

Fortified, we headed out, this time taking the subway and then a bus, to get cross-town, ready to start the day.

Basil, En-Scène

Basil, En-Arbored

Basil likes to pose near trees:

However, sometimes he essentially disappears if the entire tree is included:

Northwestern Massachusetts grows some serious trees.

(Williamstown, Massachusetts)


Gear Luggage Tours, Trails & Group Rides

T Bag by Train

This is all the luggage Basil and I required for six days we  spent in New York City earlier this summer:  Just the Brompton T bag and an admittedly large ancillary bag. And helmet.

My clothes for the week, as well as the hip pack and my cycling gear for the 5 Boro Tour, are all packed neatly inside.  The T bag makes traveling with Basil easy, even though we go by train, not by cycle; it slips onto my Brompton’s luggage block, so Basil carries the weight, not me.

We were traveling a lot more lightly than some on our train. I’m pretty sure you could fit a Brompton into two of those suitcases — along with an over-stuffed T bag.

Basil and gear nearly disappear behind various other bags.

Next to bicycles, trains must be the best way to travel, ever.  Windows!  Leaving New York, the sky was overcast.

But not for long:

The sky, like the scenery, changes as the miles fall away:

Travel. It’s such a good thing.

My Brompton

Basil’s Brompton Bungee

It’s a good idea to keep a couple of extra bungee cords around in case of need; most recently I used one to ensure that a cooler in Basil’s basket didn’t go flying.

Any old bungee will do — but, naturally, I was thrilled to find these remaindered somewhere.  Basil’s colors, and at a bargain, no less!

Short Trips & Errands

Saving the World, One Errand at a Time

Riding a bicycle means you don’t have to feel terrible about wasting gas, depreciating your car, or destroying the earth’s atmosphere just because you run out of bananas.  Riding my Brompton means that I can zip down to the grocer’s on any trivial errand that appeals to me, and feel positively virtuous about it.

Basil’s cue sheet clips are handy for shopping lists, which I write (rather sloppily) on index cards. This keeps the list front and center while Basil is in shopping mode, and I’m collecting the groceries.

Since, on this particular trip, I was picking up a few things for Mr. Diarist, who is a carnivore, as well as Risler Square cheese for raclette, I popped a cooler into Basil’s wire basket.  (As it happened, we didn’t need only bananas.)

Of course, the other advantage to committing this socially responsible act is that Basil and I get a far better look at the scenery that I could from the car, especially since our cycling route is partly on a trail.

Recent torrential rains meant that there were mud puddles everywhere, many of them reflecting the sky, clouds and trees with nearly mirror-like acuity.

I once hated these small errands, but no more.  Now these excursions seem like having one’s bananas, and eating them, too — better than cake, and better than cars!


An Asian View

It isn’t really very Japanese, but this view reminded me of bridges I’ve seen in every Japanese tea garden I’ve visited in North America.

No respectable Japanese gardener would ever allow such rampant overgrowth where discipline should rule, but Basil and find it a very pleasing spot to ride.


Basil, En-Scène

Basil Among the Blackberries

An encounter in Williamstown, along a long driveway:

It’s the best of summer’s bounty — mechanical and gustatory — all in one image!



Miscellaneous Tours, Trails & Group Rides

Little Free Library

I had read about the Little Free Library, but had never seen an installation until Basil and I rode by one in Williamstown, Massachusetts.

The idea is that you are welcome to take any book you wish — and to donate as well.  The LFL is kind of a literary community-building effort.

This one had quite an eclectic collection of reading material on offer, ranging from Uncle Tom’s Cabin, The Orwell reader, and Krugman’s The Return of Depression Economics, to Cooking the Vietnamese Way and Making the Most of College — along with a bit of history and some more frivolous works.  There’s also a copy of Lance Armstrong’s War — presumably without the final chapter, since written.

It’s a college town — can you tell?

Tours, Trails & Group Rides

Late Afternoon in Williamstown

In the late afternoon, before a late dinner, Basil and I took another tour around Williamstown, Massachusetts on our recent visit, this time exploring a neighborhood, and a different area of the college.

Houses in these small towns are so much more interesting that those in suburbs that have been “developed”.  For one thing, they tend not to be cookie-cutter versions of one another.

I may not find every house I see to be aesthetically pleasing (and often I don’t!), but I do appreciate the variety of styles, whether they seem misguided or not.

Though I’m no fan of lawn ornaments, every now and then I spy a new iteration that strikes my fancy. (I hope there’s some family planning going on here; otherwise, it might be worrisome to have a stork constantly arriving in the garden!)

There’s a cute little porch attached to this house, matched by a cute little garage at the back –and will a rather less cute little extension between — but all of it well tied together with a neat job of paint and trim.

The red accents here are unexpected, as are the flamboyant Adirondack chairs on the porch — and oh, what a porch! Though it’s not obvious here, it wraps around the considerable length of the house, as well as across the front.

This home has a garage on a grander scale — in this case, as in many, it’s undoubtedly a converted barn. No more room for livestock, but plenty for vehicles and gear.  The garage is painted to match the home, but not nearly as colorfully; instead of red trim, the edging is done in a darker blue.

This structure has double-tiered faux bay windows, and glorious double porches — just the place to be on a sultry summer day.

After scouting the neighborhood, Basil and I headed over to a new (to us) section of the Williams College campus. We learned later that this is where former professors and spouses are buried.

It’s a tiny cemetery, but apparently there is a supplemental one elsewhere.

Though irrelevant to the permanent residents, the view is lovely.

I gathered from the bunting and banners (“Williams 1948”) that a reunion weekend was in the offing.

The dorm may be high-density, but the landscape behind is strictly bucolic.

This small vehicle was parked in a maintenance area, attached to a power source by what looked alarmingly like an umbilical cord.  It’s electric, of course — maybe a catering truck?

The license plates are “LS” for “low speed”.

Then Basil and I headed down toward the athletic fields.

They’re a little more spectacular than at some colleges.

We lapped the fields and then returned to town, where I took a few last snaps.

Once a church, this building was converted, like so many now, to another use (though I’ve forgotten to what), and is now apartments, I believe.

I’m assuming this was once the bell tower. I’m quite sure it is stone, but it has a lovely burnished-copper sheen.

This was another stunningly beautiful, temperate, day in Williamstown, and another rewarding bit of exploration with Basil.  Travelling with a Brompton: Is there anything better?


Tunnel and Tracks

Basil and I (and sometimes, Mr. Diarist) occasionally ride past this abandoned passageway, which goes under the train tracks that run from western Pennsylvania to Philadelphia.

Disused now, and neglected, it has provided an opportunity for some to use up a lot of spray paint — and passersby can still cross the tracks beneath them, even if there is no longer an operating station in the immediate vicinity.

This area was once heavily industrialized, and is now near a terminal point for a regional rail line.  The tracks have a double rail here, so that trains can be shunted off the main line and moved elsewhere.

A train can be reversed this way, too, by pulling it off the main track, down a central one, and then re-routing it on the other side so that it can return to its original starting point.

The mechanism is very simple — jut a series of levered joints.

This building has been spruced up a bit, and is now an office, but I suspect from its size and location that it was once a depot.

Down the road, a traditional red caboose has been preserved.  It was once an ice cream shop, but, sadly, isn’t in use any longer, except as scenery.

If I recall correctly, these were little homes on wheels for conductors and porters. Those jobs have changed considerably, and, in any case, anyone working on our surburban rail lines is probably sleeping at home.

An old-time water tower sits behind and above the caboose; there’s not much call for these any more, either.

Nor for this railroad crossing sign, of a sort that once was ubiquitous.

Basil and I frequently travel on trains; I think we’d rather like to travel the country — any country! — in a nicely  kitted-out little red caboose, popping out to cycle and explore along the way.

Ice cream optional — but preferred, of course.