Short Trips & Errands

First Farmers Market of the Season

One of the local farmers markets features a student harpist, who plays quite nicely while everyone shops.  The music is lovely.

fm1-hpSo is her harp, which sports this unusual decoration:


We love the idea of a local farmers market, but this one traditionally offers very little in the way of produce.  There are soaps, local goat cheeses (yum!), some meats, pies and baked goods, packaged pasta, flowers, some prepared goods, and so on, but limited choices in vegetables from local farms.


Oddly, though it’s in a town with a hard-scrabble side, the prices (and goods) tend to be on the “artisan” side, which must limit the local appeal.  So, probably, does competition from a larger, more diverse, and less-expensive farmer’s market in a more upscale town only a few miles away.  We’re wondering how long this one can survive with this focus, particularly now that it’s moved from a weekday night to being in direct competition with the other one on Saturday mornings.


Hidden under the turnips in Basil’s basket are cupcakes we shouldn’t be eating, but which are both the best I’ve ever eaten, and unexpectedly reasonably priced.  They’re from  Dia Dolce.  I don’t really understand the cupcake craze — or why people like cakes in general — but these are deliciously different; they’re flavorful, not merely pretty.

fm1-mbDr. Diarist waited with Basil and his mountain bike while I handled the commercial side of things.  The cupcakes were a last minute addition; we were on our way out when the impulse control system failed completely.  Basil and I went home with the goodies, and Dr. Diarist headed for the trail.  We saved a cupcake for him, even though he unwisely left them in our custody.


A Well-Loved Brompton

. . . spotted on a train by Dr. Diarist, who was on his way to a professional meeting in Philadelphia:


It’s an apple green M3L with a Brooks saddle. The folding pedal looks original, but is the other one?  It’s black; I don’t know if the non-folding Brompton pedal was an original style, at one time, or if this is an owner customization.


Trackside, with Cheese

The trip to New York for Bert’s Cebular’s memorial ride was a quick turn-around for Basil and me.  Nonetheless, we did manage to stop at Fairway before catching our train home.  There’s one conveniently located just a couple of blocks from NYCeWheels, on 86th Street.


Fairway’s produce is to sigh over, but I had in mind other fare:  cheese and rainbow cookies.  You can fit a lot of both into a Mini O bag, and still have room for an e-reader and a bunch of miscellaneous stuff, too.  (The cheeses are Le Fournols, Appenzeller and a third one I don’t remember.  Maybe a Gruyère?)


Thus fortified, Basil and I headed for Penn Station, and hopped on our train.


This time, Basil rode in the luggage rack.  A Brompton would fit upright in the lower section, but Amtrak had pre-empted the space for a box of stuff.  That’s OK; Bromptons are nothing if not adaptable, and Basil is no exception.  My seat was just across the aisle, so we were in full view of each other for the entire trip.


Unsurprisingly, the scenery, when leaving the city, along the tracks, is quite industrial.  The unusually clear sky made a reflecting pool of the waters we passed.


I loved spotting this giant yellow beast.  It’s a track-laying machine, I think. Dr. Diarist and I saw one in action recently, but I don’t believe I was able to take pictures at the time.


A historian could make much of all the abandoned buildings along the NYC-Philadelphia route.  I don’t know the specifics, but it’s easy to speculate on how changing manufacturing patterns render formerly thriving businesses moot.


Sometimes towns grow right down to the tracks.  Or maybe it’s the other way around?


It’s common to see junk yards and abandoned equipment next to the tracks, but not usual to see anything as colorful as this pink bus!


This is the Handy Street Laundromat in New Brunswick, New Jersey. (“Transportacion Gratis 7 Dia a la Semana”.)  It looks huge; I’m guessing they do linens for businesses, too, rather than simply offering access to washers and dryers for the public.


North Philadelphia is pretty gritty, most of all near the tracks.  Tagging is still a popular art form; there probably isn’t enough money in any transportation budget to keep up with graffiti removal, so it just becomes part of the landscape.


Once out of Philadelphia, heading west into the suburbs, things become much greener, even where light industry is located next to the tracks.

rt-tnThough we suburbanites deal with our own bits of grit.  This is an ancient (and frequently smelly) tunnel under the tracks at a local train station.  It’s all part of the experience!


Well, this is amusing . . .

Apparently Basil and I are in New York City enough that we are beginning to recognize, even amongst the teeming millions, bicycles we’ve spotted on previous visits.  Early in May, we spotted this Strida in Chelsea.


Then, at the end of May, we saw it again, this time on the Upper East Side.  Apparently, Bromptons aren’t the only eccentric little bicycles that get around big cities with ease!

(I love the Strida concept, but there’s no denying that a Brompton is a lot more compact, and folds far more practically!)

Tours, Trails & Group Rides

Bert Cebular Memorial Ride

One month ago today (yes, I’m that far behind on blog posts!), Basil and I went to New York City to ride with other Brompton cyclists in memory of NYCeWheels‘ founder, Bert Cebular, who died unexpectedly last December. bcm-amWe caught an early train.  I loved the light, especially over the industrial areas, but it was pretty nice everywhere, even as the sun rose and washed away the early, deepest, hues.


Morning shades are never exactly like those of the late afternoon, even if the scenery is similar.  That makes sense, I suppose, since the direction of the rays would inevitably affect the tones perceived. I rarely see these landscapes tinted in this particular way; it was a pleasure to experience it on this day.


This was a one-day trip, so Basil and I had no real luggage.  Without a T bag, or other passengers’ luggage to keep him upright, Basil lay decoratively on his side in the baggage area.

bc-laOur car was virtually empty.  Basil could have had a seat of his own, or stretched across two, if he’d wanted to.

bcm-qcWe arrived at Penn Station in good shape; Basil is carrying his Mini O bag, and my helmet.

bcm-pstWe were a little early, so we spent a few minutes enjoying Riverside park before meeting up with Cathy, of UnfoldedNYC.  We had a delicious breakfast and a lovely visit with Cathy and family (including two beautiful Maine Coon cats — feline fix, first thing in the morning, oh yeah!).


We all gathered at NYCeWheels, where Bromptons Basil and Maggie had a chance to continue getting acquainted.  Maggie is a M3L Brompton; she’s sporting her own blue and black Mini O bag.  Cathy’s helmet is a strong red; Maggie is all-black.  The red, black, and cobalt color combination manages to be striking, chic, and bold all at once!


You can see Basil’s custom Brompton yellow chain guard in the image above this one; Maggie was sporting her own brand new polished Tiller chain guard. Some of us are working on Peter, managing director of NYCeWheels, hoping he’ll be able to stock these in the USA.


The store wasn’t open for commerce, but Peter and crew served pizza and a Bert favorite, coconut water, to the crowd before we started out.  It’s always interesting to see what’s stocked on those vibrant green walls!


NYCeWheels regularly offers free Brompton tours in NYC, and has a fleet of yellow Bromptons that riders can use if they don’t have their own yet.  These were set out for cyclists who wanted to borrow one for the ride.

bcm-mbThe sidewalk in front of NYCeWheels was covered with Bromptons.  The H model in the foreground is an unusual (and rather nice) color combination:  That’s a claret frame with cobalt blue extremities.  (Basil and I remembered it from our first encounter with it at the 5 Boro Tour, earlier in the month.)

bcm-pyPeter set the tone for the ride:  Like the best of tributes, this memorial event focused on affectionate recollections of the unique avocations and eccentricities of the one who was no longer with us.  Bert, it seems, had more than a few quirks, and a fine a sense of playfulness.

Peter has a few eccentricities of his own. His raw lacquer Brompton has golden cables (!).  There’s no mistaking this B for any other:

bcm-cbThat golden glow complements the lacquer finish perfectly.

bcm-cb2It became immediately obvious that herding Brompton riders is a lot like herding, well, for example, Maine Coon cats, but eventually everyone was rolling, and we took to the streets.

Sometimes these group rides become social in unexpected ways:  When we all pulled up at a traffic light, one of our party had a friendly exchange with a small dog who was in the vehicle beside him.


We were soon in Central Park.  Peter stopped at various points to let us re-group, and to regale us with tales of exploring there with Bert, and stories about the videos they filmed there.


The surprise of the day, though, was a hidden gem that Peter described as a favorite spot of Bert:  a waterfall in a small wood where Bert often went with Mr. Bailey, his canine companion.


Amusingly (or at least ironically), we had to walk our Bromptons through trees and a bit of meadow next to the site.  One could feel the astonishment and — dare I say it? — concern, when Peter announced that we’d be briefly on foot.


I heard more than New York city denizen exclaim once the sylvan surprise appeared; apparently this pretty locale wasn’t familiar to at least a few people who know the rest of the park well.

bcm-clWe crossed a field beside a stand of trees and gathered by the road that runs through the park.  Summer had finally arrived, and the day was incredibly beautiful and almost too warm — not that anyone was complaining.

bcm-eqIn Central Park, “share the road” can mean something a little unexpected.  Fortunately, neither Bromptons nor horses were at all disturbed by each others’ presence.


Equine creatures are just fine, but there’s really nothing like a Brompton (or a fold of them) is there?  Just look at all those small wheels, and the elegant curve of those distinctive frames!

bcm-icOnce we left the park, we stopped for ice cream.  Parking such a large number of Bromptons was a mad and fun activity, and the line-up a fitting tribute to Bert, who did more than anyone else to bring Bromptons to New York.


There were Bromptons all over the place; Peter and his crew kept an eye on things while the rest of us went in and ordered our treats.  Then we returned to NYCeWheels and said our farewells with a nod of thanks to Peter, his crew, and the memory of Bert, whose enterprise and eccentric vision was largely responsible for the current, easy availability of the best little folding bike on these city streets (and elsewhere, too!).  Small wheels and unexpected discoveries:  that’s not a bad legacy at all.

Short Trips & Errands

Pennsylvania Dreamin’

Although I’m loath to put the brakes to the vibrant discussion engendered by the recent chain posts (!), move forward I must.  Thanks to the press of ordinary life, the lassitude that is summer, or perhaps innate disorganization, I’m still trying to publish posts from more than a month ago.  Basil probably expects better from his amanuensis, as indeed, he should.  Onward, then!

When I decided, late one afternoon, that I wanted to run an errand, I took Basil, my Brompton bicycle, from the coat closet, and set off with no fanfare at all.

lla-grWe detoured a bit just to enjoy the greenery.  Is it “dappling” when the shadows form stripes instead of patches?  Beautiful, just the same.


Basil and I rode to a local bike shop, and picked up this chain cleaner, which fit neatly into his Mini O bag.  The Mini O has turned out, most unexpectedly, to be my go-to bag for short trips; it holds far more than you’d imagine, and is small enough to be unnoticeable on the bicycle.


Nearby streams were still quite swollen from the recent torrential rains.  California is suffering one of the worst droughts ever, and we have more water than we can use.  Where’s the justice?


What a lovely mess of branches reflected in the water!  Actually, it is quite a mess, what with so much debris left by the storms.


We stopped in at a local “natural foods” store where I had a drink — non-alcoholic, though is there anything inherently unnatural about, say, vodka, for example?  It’s just potatoes, right?  (Though I’m pretty sure the co-op doesn’t have a liquor license.)  The magazine was full of enterprising people saving the world, one block at a time.


Hordes of adults were out getting fresh air and exercise in a park.  Bicycles aren’t the only way to live well, it seems!  Green space goes a long way toward making a community feel friendly and liveable.  I’m guessing we owe virtually all of our local green spaces to people like the ones in the co-op’s magazine:  those who save the world, one park (or trail) at a time!


Further down the road, a train zipped by, and left me dreaming.  Late afternoon light; trains, and Basil . .  .  what a perfect confluence, evoking worlds of possibility!


Chain, Chain, Chain . . .

Who knew that a simple post about Basil’s new chain cleaner would inspire such lively discussion?  Or such plumbing of  psychological concepts and philosophical musings?  Now we do!


Saul, formerly representing the Saul-ist crowd (as identified by Ian) has, despite his impassioned defense of Basil’s right to dirt (I am not mentioning the dreaded “f” word Saul himself employed*), has nonetheless admitted the importance, even the Zen-like bliss, of achieving a clean chain.  Above, the chain on Saul’s 1994 Cannondale, before cleaning.


Above (and below), Saul’s Cannondale’s chain, in all of its newly pristine glory.  It’s a thing of beauty, non?


Basil would agree, I’m sure, that dirt has its place, but one cannot look at such a perfectly manicured chain without noting with pleasure the lovely glow of the links, and knowing, with a marvelous certainty, how beautifully they will flow through their paces when the steed is ridden once again.  Zen, one way or another: That’s what this is all about!

* “funk” (shudder!)

Basil, En-Scène

He ain’t heavy . . .

.  .  .  he’s my Brompton!


Dr. Diarist hefted Basil recently — Basil with his Ergon grips; his Zefal toe clips; his sleek water bottle cage; and his stocked under-saddle bag (all weighing mere ounces!) — and Argyll, still lacking any customization at all.

“That Basil’s really a porker, isn’t he?” said Dr. Diarist.

(I carry Basil on stairs unfolded.  For a short person like me — and sometimes for others, too — that geometry is just right.  And easy. And would be even if Basil were a little zaftig!  Which, just for the record, he is not!)


A Cleaner Chain

I kind of love the post-ride currying Basil gets.  I wipe down his rims, removing any brake dust; give the spokes a swipe; carefully inspect and brush his tire treads with a soft manicure brush; and generally tidy and look him over.  Every ride, or every thirty miles, I also clean his chain, carefully, with rags, brushes and devoted attention.


I thought I was doing a brilliant job of maintaining his most important mechanical component.  Oh fool I!  Between the brushes in the image above is a slurry of muck dredged from Basil’s chain by a mechanical cleaner after I’d done my bit.

I’d read that the Park Tool Chain Scrubber did a rather nice job on bicycle chains, and did it faster than a human with a rag, a brush, and so on could manage.  Basil and I had cycled down to an LBS and picked it up, and I put it to the test, with these distressing results.

This is what Basil’s chain looked like before I used the Scrubber, and all that muck was extracted:


Really, it doesn’t look terrible does it?  (We had just gone through a couple of puddles on a short run just before I took this photo.)  And yet the Scrubber managed to pull that sludge, and who knows what else (that stuff is right above the magnet meant to catch metal particles so they won’t abrade the chain in use or while it’s being cleaned)  from Basil’s [theoretically] clean chain.  The horror!  The shame!

This was quite shocking, and I felt a bit of a failure.  There I was, confident that I was doing my best by him, and what?  It was as if I’d done nothing at all!  The evidence is incontrovertible — here is how Basil’s chain looked after:


The Chain Scrubber, that far more efficient cleaner, attaches to the lower bit of chain, and just fits on a Brompton.  You either use degreaser, or a bit of detergent mixed with water, and fill the device to a well-marked line.

Then you turn the bicycle’s pedals backwards thirty times.  I was initially clumsy at this, but soon got the rhythm right.  Steadying the device is necessary; allowing it to tip even slightly results in a puddle on the floor.  Also, pedalling too rapidly results in a slight fine spray.  Both mishaps are easily avoided, however.

You go through the process once, then rinse and refill the scrubber, attach it to the chain again, and pedal backwards thirty more times. Sadly, the Scrubber also managed to extract yet more sludge on the second go-round, though noticeably less than on the first go-round.


Then you dry the chain and lubricate it.  I can’t deny it:  Once the Scrubber had done its stuff, Basil’s chain glowed.

I’m solacing myself by noting that Basil is a sturdy soul, and not at all concerned with small failings in his cyclist.  He’s the type who always looks forward:  In this matter, I’ll take my cue from him.  And I’ll make sure to haul out the Scrubber regularly.  Lesson learned.

Short Trips & Errands

Multi-Tasking of the Best Sort

On a recent ride, this sign greeted us:  A local trail will be closed for most of the summer.  According to the crew setting up these signs, it’s a public safety issue while nearby gas lines are being repaired.


Basil is unimpressed. That’s really infelicitous timing, and this is a favorite trail for a fast ride.

On the other hand, Basil couldn’t help but admire this fellow.  Nice colors, don’t you think?


We were out riding with Dr. Diarist and his mountain bike, before his recent accident.


That pretty little garter snake wasn’t the only bit of fauna we encountered.  This Blue Heron was wending his way down the middle of the stream.


The swamp cabbage is now triumphant, and has carpeted the banks next to the trail.


Dr. Diarist continued on to do some off-road cycling while Basil and I went grocery shopping.  He was carrying his basket, because a Brompton bicycle transforms into a perfect shopping cart:


We examined a fig display, and chose chocolate dipped figs over that large and traditional fig cake. That was a mistake; later, I discovered that the figs were plump and delicious, but the chocolate with which they were enrobed was quite dreadful — waxy and flavorless.


Then we rode home, and arrived refreshed and relaxed:  Recreation, exercise, and errands all-in-in one!  Wonderful Brompton bicycles; you do everything well!