Recreation Travel

Greilickville to Acme

Basil and I took advantage of our stay in Northern Michigan by joining Dr. Diarist’s father and his mountain bike on a ride.   We started at Greilickville, nominally just north of Traverse City, and rode down past the grounds of the old Traverse City State Hospital. Once an insane asylum, it’s now undergoing renovation as part of the  Historic Barns Park project.


We cycled past, and over, the Boardman River, and eyeballed a wonderfully rickety old railroad bridge.  It looks impossibly ramshackle, but, as Dr. Diarist’s dad pointed out, it did the job for a very long time.


The one we crossed looked far sturdier, and though handsome, lacked the essential character of the older one.  The trend in these pedestrian/cyclist bridges is to build them pre-rusted.  I’m unclear on why this works, but it’s certainly aesthetically pleasing.


Overcast skies made for glossy reflections in the water.


I wasn’t the only one snapping away.  Dad is a far more dedicated photographer, and gets much more artful results.  Logan’s Landing is in an area of the city that is mostly light industrial; having all that lush greenery, the teeming lake, and a slew of well-maintained bike paths in such a mixed area is quintessentially Northern Michigan.  There’s so much to see, and so much of it is purely beautiful, sometimes where you’d least expect it.


These branches brought Japanese brushwork to mind, though that’s definitely not a Japanese scene.


The Boardman is home to a substantial swan population, and to signs warning humans to avoid feeding the fowl.  Those delicate, graceful, birds can snap a finger with one crunch of a powerful beak — and it’s not a great idea to get in the way of those wings either.  Think Arnold Schwarzenegger with feathers.


Otherwise, it’s not a violent scene.  Basil and I were lucky to arrive before all the autumnal hues had completely faded.  Not that there’s a bad season in Northern Michigan; some are just whiter than others.


We turned around in Acme at Bunker Hill, thrillingly marked with a railroad crossing, though train-less while we were there. Passenger trains may be coming to the area though; this was the week passenger service began from Chicago to Grand Rapids, and there’s a concerted effort underway to run a line from Ann Arbor to Traverse City.


Across the street stood a fantastic reminder of how enduring the flamboyance of fall can be; a tree can lose a phenomenal number of leaves and still be stunning.


Back in Traverse City, we ran into a precursor of the season-to-come.  In Northern Michigan, pre-winter preparations are taken seriously.  A skiing exchange and demonstration was scheduled for the next day.


Straw was laid down, and snow brought in by a tractor trailer.  An end-loader collected the snow from the truck, and brought it around to the field.


That was a fine end loader, and, as repetitive as it was, the job looked like fun.


I ask you, who wouldn’t want a pet end-loader?  Look at that form!  (Also, it’s red!)


Basil was focused on the actual store, just across a parking lot.  He knows that Brick Wheels, sponsor of the event, is now a Brompton dealer — but our visit to his compatriots there would have to be another day; rain was threatening, and none of us were really geared up for the change in weather.


On we went, back to the  Leelanau Trail Head, its wonderful caboose, and beyond.  We rode along Grand Traverse Bay, but I didn’t stop for pictures, as the storm was gathering with some speed.


This was a perfect ride, and notable for the many surfaces we traversed.  (It is Traverse City!)  Basil rode on asphalt, loose gravel, packed gravel, tiny gravel, packed dirt, packed mud, oil-packed dirt, cement, wooden ties, grass, trails, streets, roads, a highway and maybe more.   He certainly encountered more textures than he’s ever experienced on any previous single ride.  I nearly spilled on loose gravel, but was saved by my Brompton, and found that deep thick mud slowed Basil’s tires considerably, but nothing stopped him.

That Basil — he can do anything!  (I think Dad’s mountain bike was impressed, though he kept it to himself.  Or herself.  Hard to tell when a bike isn’t a Brompton.  Dad’s not talking, either, though I like to think that we may bring him over to the Brompton side eventually.)


Coffeeneuring: Day 6

Basil, my Brompton bicycle, and I are in Northern Michigan.  We rode from Traverse City to Suttons Bay (and back) to do our Coffeeneuring this weekend.  (And tried out a new GPS tool, but more on that later.)

c5-cfWe had hoped to stop in at an actual coffee shop, but this is now officially the off-season; many shops were open on Sunday, but our intended destination was not.


I had my latte at the aptly named 45th Parallel Cafe.  Basil tucked behind my chair, but I did get told later (nicely) that if they’d noticed he was a bicycle, they wouldn’t have allowed him in.  (The question didn’t come up until two cyclists asked to bring their full-sized bikes inside the cafe, well after I’d been seated.)  Tourist areas have their own sets of issues; staff here was very nice, but maybe a bit worn after a long summer season.

Day 6 Observation (for Basil):  A Brompton is a fine stealth companion.

Tally for the day

Day 6 Location (for Basil):  Cafe in Suttons Bay, Michigan

Mileage today (for Basil):  30.01 miles/ 48.2 km

Total Mileage for Coffeeneuring 2014 to date (Basil):  63.81 miles/  102.5 km


Back home, Argyll and Dr. Diarist were keeping up their end of the Coffeeneuring challenge by stopping in at a local Wawa — a much-loved local institution that, in another geographic location, might be described as a mini-mart.  To its many fans, though, Wawa is something else entirely. Wawa started as a local dairy and is now a favorite of thousands who swear by the coffee, which Dr. Diarist enjoyed al fresco.

Day 6 Observation (for Argyll):  That Argyll has an excellent sense of balance!

Day 6 Location (for Argyll):  Wawa Coffee (it’s beloved!), enjoyed alfresco.

Mileage today (for Argyll): 2.9 miles/4.6 km

Total Mileage for Coffeeneuring 2014 to date (Argyll): 36.7 miles/58.9 km

Trip: 6/7


Off Yer Bike Handle Update

This is just a quick follow-up report on the the Off Yer Bike handles sported by our Brompton bicycles, Basil and Argyll.  We’ve been using the handles for several months now; they’re holding up beautifully.  Dr. Diarist and I both recommend them wholeheartedly — they make a big difference in both ease of carrying and in

Dr. Diarist has never had trouble transporting two Brompton bicycles at once — he actually claims it’s easier than carrying one.  Even so, he says that the OYB handles have made this kind of weight-lifting much more comfortable.

We’ve also discovered an additional benefit of these smart handles: Should you happen to recklessly shove your folded pedal past the restraint click, an OYB handle will absorb the blow.


Not that you would.  But if you did, somehow, in a moment of utter madness, your Brompton would survive unscathed.

Also, an OYB handle will prevent scuffing of your Brompton’s yellow main tube.  Not that anyone here would ever have done that.  Not at all.  Or, if it did happen, everyone’s forgotten.  Trust me.


Coffeeneuring: Day 5

With little time to spare, and some complicated plans in the offing over the next few weekends, Dr. Diarist and I took a brief, but exploratory, route to a chain bookstore’s coffee shop. We admit that this was a shameless ploy in order to get in a second Coffeeneuring trip, this weekend, as a hedge against an unknown future.

On Sunday, we set off on Basil and Argyll to check out the wild side of the asphalt wonder that is our largest local shopping center.


We’re short on cycle-able independent coffee shops where we live, and long on shopping malls, strip and otherwise — and, sometimes, pockets of unused land behind or around said malls. We discovered these retention ponds — formerly unknown to us — behind a huge Big Box store, well-hidden by an appealing overgrowth of various kinds of flora.


We drank very good coffee and shared an adequate, but only just, apple tart.

Day 5 Observations:  1) Say what you will about chain coffee shops — and there is much bad to be said of them — it is a good thing to find a predictably flavorful mug of coffee on a too-busy day on an unexpectedly stressed weekend and 2) hurray for Coffeeneuring, which got us out of the house for a second day in a row, when otherwise we’d never have considered it.

Tally for the day

Day 5 Location:  Chain Bookstore Coffee Shop

Mileage today:  2.6 miles/ 4.1 km

Total Mileage for Coffeeneuring 2014 to date:  33.8 miles/  54.3 km

Trip: 5/7


Coffeeneuring: Day 4

Day 4 didn’t go as planned.  We had a serious cat emergency, and shot off to the vet very early in the morning.  Our girl — a grey and white shorthair rescue — is OK, but will be on meds the rest of her life, which was a bit of a shock to all concerned. Once she was safely at home, we headed off.


We got back to the house nearly too late to get to the farmers’ market.  There was no time to change; we wore street clothes, or, in my case, tattered and furry cat-wrangling clothing.  Dr. Diarist made coffee while I pumped up Basil’s and Argyll’s tires.  This trip, we did Coffee Shop Without Walls, in which Coffeeneurs sip out-of-doors.


We made it to the market just before closing.  A lot of the stalls had already packed up, and there weren’t any food trucks in evidence.  Even so, there was no lack of variety in the vegetable department.


Basil was laden with goodies in no time; however, Argyll took the basket home.  I think I heard Dr. Diarist say something about Basil being a wimp, but I’m sure my ears deceived me — particularly as the bottom of the basket was filled with Dr. Diarist’s own potatoes.  Naturally he and Argyll would only be happy to haul them home, right?


The winds were very high:  Poor Argyll was blown over, after which I lay each Brompton, respectively, against tree and bench.  A vendor’s canopy blew down, too, and the vendor next to it spent a few minutes holding onto his lest it sail away, too.

c4-tpWe found a bench beneath a tree and drank our coffee.  (We might have had a bit of a treat, too.  Dr. Diarist chose a ham and cheese croissant from one booth, and I ate the best lemon pie I’ve ever had from another one: butter crust! tart, fresh, lemon with a minimum of sugar!)

c4-cfWe were a bit stressed from the morning’s events, and still a bit in shock, but we were pleased that our Coffeeneuring plans meant that we got out when we might otherwise have stayed home and fussed.  Drinking hot coffee amidst fall splendour was a much better way to reset our Saturday.

Day 4 Observations:   1) (From Dr. D) Farmers’ markets are so much better in the fall (!) and 2) (mine) Chemex coffee is the best ever!

Tally for the day

Day 4 Location:  Farmers’ Market

Mileage today:  2.4 miles/3.8 km

Total Mileage for Coffeeneuring 2014 to date:  31.2 miles/50 km

Trip: 4/7


Testing the Brooks Cambium Saddle

Back in September, after altering my riding geometry to allow for a longer leg extension, I borrowed a test saddle, a Brooks Cambium C17S, from a bike shop.  I liked a lot about the Cambium, but it didn’t turn out to be right for me.


Until I changed the distance from pedals to seat, I’d been quite happy with the original Brompton saddle — more than 1800 miles/2 896.8 km worth of happy.  Then I took a longish ride and discovered that the Brompton saddle wasn’t going to work any longer.

Brompton riders tend to love the traditional Brooks leather saddles, but I was leery of the break-in time, and uncertain that I’d find a good fit.  The Cambium is Brooks’ “vegan” model — it’s rubber with a linen-like cover, which comes in this light-colored version and a dark gray.  I decided to start with The Cambium.  Testers are marked with a Brooks credo:


The Cambium has a different shape to the Brompton, and a shorter nose.  This women’s model — or the “S”, for “shorter” — has a broader seat surface, too, and lacks the indentation at the back of the Brompton.


The width turned out to be a problem:  The Cambium seat is too wide for me. Maybe that’s not surprising; I’m a smaller woman (5’2″/157 cm) with a slight bone structure. Brooks offers just two saddle sizes, nominally one for women and one for men; I’m definitely to one end of the scale rather than comfortably in the middle range when it comes to cyclist size.

The rail placement is a bit different, too.  In spite of that, I was able to install the Cambium effectively on Basil, though I had to place it at the extreme end of the rails to sustain the arm/leg/seat geometry I required.


The Cambium ride was excellent; I loved the very natural feel of the cushioning provided by the rubber, which was easy without being soft.  And I particularly loved the fabric cover; it was impossible to slide around at all on the saddle. The Cambium, appropriately enough for a “vegan” product, felt quite organic — like a natural part of my Brompton.

However, my personal anatomy requires more of a cut-away at the front, so that my legs move more freely.  Returning the saddle to the shop was a sad moment; I’d love a Cambium that fit me, and I’ll probably always wistfully remember the comfort of the seat itself.  It’s a wonderful saddle; it’s just not right for me.

Coffeeneuring Short Trips & Errands

Coffeeneuring 2014: Day 3

For Coffeeneuring Day 3, we took a circuitous route to a coffee shop on a somewhat distant highway.  Happily, we were able to take trails most of the way.  There was a certain amount of hill-climbing involved; we arrived hungry.  Dr. Diarist had coffee and a grilled cheese sandwich; I had a soy latte and a less-photogenic egg salad sandwich.


We unexpectedly discovered a car show as we headed out:  Basil checked out this stunningly immaculate 1939 Oldsmobile.  Nothing we own has ever been so pristine — not even our beloved Brompton bicycles!


Dr. Diarist wore street clothes; he’s working out the details of multi-modal commuting (train/bike).  This excursion turned out to be much longer than he’d calculated — he was missing his padded shorts by the time we returned home.


The shop was quiet, and we found a comfortable corner in which to fit ourselves and Bromptons.  We then proceeded to continue the weekend’s primary task:  configuring our smart phones.  It was not relaxing.


I’m a Luddite when it comes to phones:  this is the first smart phone I’ve used, a circumstance which didn’t exactly facilitate the process.  I’m getting used to the thing, though, and I like it.  It’s a lot easier to haul around than even a very small tablet.

We saw lots of fallen leaves, but colors were mostly muted. Argyll’s and Basil’s hues looked subdued, too, under this tree.


I forgot to take the protective film off the lens on the phone, but that doesn’t seem to have mattered much.  This phone’s camera may actually be better than my specific-use camera, which is a sobering thought.  (Maybe I should have joined the 21st century sooner?)


We noticed more earthy tones than bright ones, though autumn has just begun; this won’t be a flamboyant fall.  The weather, though, has been perfect:  cool and crisp.

Day 3 Observations: 1) Smart phone photo aspect ratios are all wrong!  and 2) Our usual coffee break conversations are a lot more invigorating than spending time programming phones.

Tally for the day

Day 3 Location:  Starbucks on Route 100

Mileage today:  19.8 miles/31.8 km

Total Mileage for Coffeeneuring 2014 to date:  28.8 miles/46.2 km

Trip: 3/7

Short Trips & Errands

Householdly Duties, With Pecans. And Brie.

It’s been a very weird and frantic week around here, punctuated by short rides and errand-running on Basil, which, at times, involved coffee and possibly other treats.  That’s a pecan tart, below.  It was tasty.


We own three driveable motor vehicles, and all three of them were in the shop this week.  (They are ancient; this goes with the territory.)  The shop is distant both from our home and from anything resembling useful public transportation.  In the old days, Dr. Diarist could run me up to the shop, but that’s all changed now that he has a far more rigid schedule.

And just to complicate matters, one vehicle made return trips to the shop; time constraints meant that riding Basil home on death-defying roads, and then returning the same day to pick up each car wasn’t practical.


I made the best of the wait on another day and had Brie, also with pecans, for brunch.  (Oh, the sacrifices one makes!)  It was delicious, though next time I’d skip the bread and ask for more apples.  The Brie requires a few minutes to fix; it’s oven-baked, just the way it should be.


The charming little restaurant was once (I think) a tea shop.  It’s hidden away in a dismal little strip-mall-cum-shopping center, which just goes to illustrate that making assumptions based on appearance isn’t always a good thing.  (The only wrong note inside the cozy shop was struck by the cheap paper napkin tucked inside a perfectly nice metal napkin ring.  That was kind of sad.)


Even cute little over-stuffed shops often have room for a Brompton.  If it weren’t for my screaming yellow helmet, Basil would be almost invisible.

Dr. Diarist pointed out that I should really have taken quite a different bicycle all together — my little vintage folder.  Photo here; in the text beneath the image you’ll see why he pointed this out — the café and Basil’s predecessor share a name.

Disclaimer:  It has been pointed out by an astute regular reader that this looks suspiciously like a Coffeeneuring post, without the usual tag marks.  Appearances can be deceptive (see above)! 

This is not a Coffeeneuring post . . . weekday Coffeeneuring is allowed only under specific circumstances.  The Diarist gang does not meet the exception rule.

This post is just evidence that I’ve spent way too much time in coffee shops this week.

Coffeeneuring Events

Coffeeneuring 2014: Day 2

The day did not start out with Coffeeneuring, but stay  with me; it ended up that way!  Dr. Diarist, Argyll, Basil and I joined Bicycle Club of Philadelphia leader George’s Sunday ride, along with five others.


Our route took us through parts of Fairmont Park in areas neither we nor our Bromptons had previously ridden, on a lovely crisp fall day.

George pointed out a community project on the way:  It looked oddly like an over-sized ant hill but turned out to be a ramped dirt track for stunt bicycling.


We eventually cycled through the Bala Cynwyd train station — one we hadn’t seen before — and rode on the Cynwyd Heritage Trail.  Downhill, as it happens, all the way to Manayunk, coasting all the way; Dr. D  pointed out that the reverse trip might have been a lot more arduous.


On the way we were treated to a spectacular view of Manayunk, which is in the northwestern section of Philadelphia, with an identity all its own.


George shared local lore along the way, mentioning, among other things, that the trail we had ridden goes past West Laurel Cemetery.

c2-ftWe had seen stone gates as we’d gone by; George explained that the entrance had only been discovered, buried in overgrowth, when a old rail bed was cleared to make the trail. The tracks were formerly used for funeral trains.

We stopped at a coffee shop in Manayunk that I will always think of as the Salon Coffeehouse; it has a stealth location beneath this awning.  The first time I went there — on a different BCP ride — I thought that “Salon L’Etoile” was a most peculiar name for a beverage business.


This was a correct assessment: it’s actually called Volo Coffeehouse, and a fine place it is.  However, Dr. Diarist and I did not have coffee here.  That would have been a violation of both the regulations and the spirit of Coffeeneuring:  Group rides may not be used to fulfil the requirements!


After some light snacking, the group headed out.  Kelly Drive was closed to traffic, which made the last stretch of the group ride blissful. The ride started and ended at the Azalea Garden, beneath the Philadelphia Museum of Art, a traditional cyclists’ meeting spot.

That part of our excursion wasn’t Coffeeneuring . . .  but we are permitted to count cycling either to or from a group event, as long as the ride is at least two miles/3.2 km, and, of course, we indulge in coffee or similar beverage.

Therefore, we rode two full miles, not exactly directly, back to 30th Street Station (which is under a mile from the art museum), and drank chai at Saxbys.


We’ve been to other Saxbys locations and liked them very much.  Sadly, this one was a bust. One of the employees (a manager?) fought with another employee in an attempt to get her to serve us, while simultaneously managing to never acknowledge us, himself, at any point during the prolonged and wretched transaction.


We got our chais, eventually, from a highly distracted server who was having a loud discussion with a friend, and two napkins from the guy, who tore them grudgingly from a dispenser that was jammed into position facing the inside of the kiosk, and inaccessible to patrons.

So:  ewww. Not quite the experience we had hoped for.  Clearly, Volo would have been the better choice!

Day 2 Observations:  1) The chai was excellent.  (Go figure!)  2) Worst customer experience either of us could remember having had in a long, long time.   It’s a toss-up as to who claims which observation — two Coffeeneuring teams are involved here — but, since Dr. Diarist and were in complete concordance, it hardly matters who claims which.

Tally for the day

Day 2 Location:  Saxby’s at 30th Street Amtrak Station

Mileage today:  2 miles/3.2 km

Total Mileage for Coffeeneuring 2014 to date:  9 miles/14.4 km

Trip: 2/7

Brompton Duo Coffeeneuring Events

Coffeeneuring 2014: Day 1

Basil and I have never done Coffeeneuring, owing to a scarcity of coffee shops within reasonable cycling distance.  This year we’re taking advantage of some flexibility in the rules, and stepping up to the challenge.  Also, we’ve drafted Argyll and Dr. Diarist.


We got our alternative Coffeeneuring beverages (hot chocolate on the left, chai on the right) at an alternative coffee shop — a “café” inside an upscale grocery store.  (Yeah, we live in a suburban wasteland.  Not our fault!) (Maybe our fault a little, actually, but hey, cut us some slack, OK?)


This was Day 1 for both teams, and a lovely, first-of-fall day it was.  (That’s observation 1; we need two, since there are two human/bike teams participating here.)  Observation 2 is that the faux patina on the faux copper in the faux courtyard in the faux coffeehouse in which we drank our beverages is pretty amusing.


Observation 3 (not required):  That was decent cocoa, and not made from powder.

The Brompton Brothers posed for fall portraits on the way back.  Here’s Argyll:


Basil hopped up on a stone wall overlooking a pond:


Tally for the day:

Day 1 Location: In-Store Café

Mileage today:  7 miles/11.2 km

Total Mileage for Coffeeneuring 2014 to date:  7 miles/11.2 km

Trip 1/7