A Temporary Hiatus

The Brompton Diaries is going on break for a bit. Don’t worry; Brommie is all right, and so, for that matter, is Basil. We’re just finding that a little downtime is required as we get things back on track after our unexpectedly challenging summer.

In the meantime, we will will miss all of you, especially those of you who so wonderfully contribute to our lively comments section.   We will be back as soon as possible. (Brommie will not be able to respond to email or comments for approximately two weeks, but should be back at the keyboard, and able to respond at that point, even if posting has not resumed.)

Happy cycling to everyone, readers and commenters alike!

Missing Basil

First Trip (In Practically Forever!)

As a result of the meds I took this summer during a prolonged medical problem, I have had to avoid crowds and stay well clear of anyone obviously ill.  I’m finally getting close enough to the end of that period that I’m beginning to venture out a little bit, albeit carefully.

My first venture into the world, post-issues, was on a train. By choosing my hours carefully, I was able to ride in essentially empty cars, and also explore a little bit, off-train, when there were relatively few people around.  (I do carry anti-viral masks in case I find myself in a situation I can’t readily leave. Also, portable anti-bacterial alcohol for hands is my new best friend.)

SEPTA’s newest train  cars have lovely large windows at the front of each carriage; as a result, the view from the very first car is a train-lover’s dream.  (Though perhaps it’s some people’s nightmare!)  The engineer sits in a cab across the aisle; unlike the one in front of me, that window has a wiper blade, I was pleased to note.


A gentle rain gave a pointillist touch to the scenery, which I rather liked.

I discovered that I was riding in a Hyundai; it seems that SEPTA’s new train carriages were made by the Korean car company; nice job, I have to say.  When Hyundai automobiles first hit North American shores, they had a terrible reputation for reliability, which has largely changed since.  These are quite nice  train cars, though hardly traditional; I’m hoping they prove to be as sturdy and well-built over time as the automobiles have done.

I haven’t traveled anywhere for three months, a most unusual state of affairs for me, and I  have rarely been on a train without Basil, my Brompton, since he first arrived.  Taking a rail trip without Basil felt most peculiar — as if something were missing. Which it was, of course.

But this wasn’t missing something of the handbag sort, or a misplaced magazine, a hat, or gloves.  I felt a bit empty, actually, and no wonder: Basil has been my constant travel companion, and such a satisfying one, that I’ve nearly forgotten what it felt like to travel without him. I missed his company, and the certain knowledge that we were on our way to yet another adventure, together.

When changing trains, then,  I was  especially delighted to spot one of Basil’s kin. You’ll have to take my word for it that this bicycle really is a Brompton, since I wasn’t quick enough to snap the distinctive Brompton profile before the cyclist unfolded and rode off.  (Gotta love that speedy Brompton fold/unfold!)  It was an  S-type, and, if I remember correctly, black.  In any case, a lovely, sleek, creature!  I admit that the sight made my heart sing, just a little bit.

On the other hand, I felt a pang when passing beneath this bridge; I’m quite sure that Basil and I have ridden over it, more than once.  Thanks to my general geographic incompetence, though, I can’t be sure exactly where it is, other than “near (or in?) Philadelphia”.

While passing the Merion station, I saw this roof ornamentation up close for the first time.  I’d always though they were fleur-de-lis, but these are bifoil, not trefoil.  They are angled in ranks of three across the lower edge of the station roof.  Are they purely decorative?  Or perhaps some kind of snow guard?  Merion station is a designated historic building (built in 1914, restored in 2007);  maybe these small devices are just a bit of historical whimsy.

Owing to the vagaries of the SEPTA schedule, I changed trains at Narberth, and was fascinated to see the ranks of bicycles waiting at the station.  Ridership seems to have exploded through this region in the last few years.  I’m still not used to thinking of this area as one where people ride much; that may have to change.

I was lucky enough to end up in yet another Hyundai carriage on the next train.  The sun was fully out by this time, and the view from the front seat clear and beautiful.

I reflexively took this shot of an Amtrak train going other direction.  I wonder why it’s so thrilling to see a train passing?  Is this the legacy of lifetime  loving model trains?  (Those miniature landscapes are so thrilling and busy when there are trains continually passing!)  Or is it just that the notion of trains crossing speaks to a love of wanderlust?

Though I’m also thrilled with metal bridges, and/or any arched bridge.  Wonder why that is?  This one looks too low for a train to pass under, but that’s an illusion, of course.  (This may be why some travelers really don’t want to be in that first carriage!)

I’ll be traveling a lot without Basil in the next few months, but he won’t be far from my thoughts.  As I’m able to venture further afield, I’ll be roaming with an eye to explorations I may be able to have with him once I’m able to ride again.  I’ll be asking myself where he and I might be able to go by train as the prelude to cycling adventures next spring.

That’s not the same as traveling with Basil, but this approach does look forward to our future together, so I’m going with it.  Neither Basil nor I want to end up on a couch watching telly together, so one of us had better be out there making plans!


Do You Coffeeneur?

MG, of chasing mailboxes d. c., is the creator of a new cycling sport called “Coffeeneuring”.   There are rules — and technically speaking, there are winners — but it’s really just for fun.

This year’s rules accommodate the unusual situation on MG’s home turf, where clowns reign and there’s a consequent government shutdown.  You can read all about them — the rules, not the clowns — here.  The idea is to cycle for coffee, or a different hot  beverage, to seven different coffee shops, over the course of seven weeks. (Two qualifying trips allowed per week.) This is a weekend endeavour, but loopholes exist, for specific circumstances.

This is the third year for Coffeeneuring; Basil and I haven’t done this particular challenge, but MG also devised the spring Errandonnee, in which Basil and I enthusiastically participated last March, and which is recorded here and here.  We rode at night for the first time ever as a result of the Errandonnee; who knows how you’ll be challenged?

* Edited, per MG’s comment, for clarity. It’s not too late to start!

My Brompton

Basil’s First Anniversary

One year ago today, Basil was delivered into my awed arms under the aegis  of NYCeWheels.  This is the first picture I ever took of him:

I was thrilled and terrified in equal measures:  Basil was beautiful and beautifully-engineered. Would I ever be worthy of such a marvelously-designed creature?

I’d spent the months waiting for his arrival by feathering his nest; that’s a custom flap on his S bag, one of many bags or luggage modifications I’ d made as I waited for his arrival, and after.

Below is the second photo, taken once I realized that a face-forward picture was all well and good, but didn’t really feature Basil’s Brompton-ness at all adequately.  Lost in admiration — how was it that he was even more marvelous in actuality than in imagination? — I still hadn’t ridden him.

We didn’t know each other yet — all of that was still ahead of us.  These photos still evoke the those first, tentative moments, as we began to take each other’s measure.

This first year didn’t end as I expected it would.  Between October 4, 2012 and  late June, 2013, Basil and I logged well over 1100 miles/770 km in what turned out to be just about eight months of cycling.  (Not too  bad tally for a brand-new Brompton, and a human who hadn’t ridden on two wheels in decades!  But still . . . )

Then I had a small surgery on my leg which turned into a nearly three-month-long medical debacle, followed by a dreadfully long ban on cycling. Basil and I won’t ride together again until next spring — a fact that gives me considerable pain when I allow myself to consider it.

Here he is today, one year later; it was wonderful taking Basil out today for his anniversary portrait.  Pumping his tires felt so right — just as if I’d done it only last week. Every time I see him, I still pause in wonder, just as I did on that first day.

I don’t still don’t know the answer to question:  Am I worthy?  But Basil and I have had a wonderful history together, and we have a fine future ahead of us.  Early next spring, we’ll get about the business of finishing that first year.  I can’t wait.