Errandonnee Events

Errandonnee 2015: DNF

Well, that was a bust:  we Did Not Finish. I had high hopes, though.  Schedules were tight, so I knew that succeeding at Errandonnee 2015 would be tricky.  To start, Basil and I set out to knock off as many errands as possible on a very short ride.

err15-mgFirst we headed to a bookstore, and checked out the biking magazines (Errand 1).  (We weren’t too impressed; they seem to be getting less relevant and less inspirational every month.  Of course, Basil is a Brompton, so why would I need a buyer’s guide.  Heh, heh.)

err15-libThen we headed to the library (Errand 2), where Basil shared our books with a couple of very cold children outside the front door.

err15-cofWe stopped for coffee (Errand 3) — iced coffee on a cold day, my favorite! — and then rode a nearby trail for a bit, stopping to admire the end-of-winter scenery.

err15-aqAfter popping into a sporting goods store (Errand 4) in search of a wool Buff (a fail; they’re hard to find in stores; also I forgot to take a photo), we got lunch (Errand 5) at a pizza place.  (“Mediterranean Salad”, yum!)

err15-pzOn the way back, we stopped to admire the icy waters of a pond.  Ice: that was this winter’s theme, all over our world.

err-15icWe managed five errands, covering only about six miles/9.6 km.  Unfortunately I had only one day free left during the challenge period to complete the full slate of 12 errands and the remainder of the 30 miles/48 km required.

All would have worked out fine if that particular day hadn’t coincided with our final storm of the season.  That storm was a doozy — a doozy which vanished in 24 hours, but, even so, that was a day too late for us.

No matter; Coffeeneuring is next up, in the fall, and next March we’ll give Errandonneuring another go.

Errandonnee Events

Spring Approaches!

Or at least must be on the way:  MG has announced the dates for this year’s Errandonnee.  Mark your calendar:  March 5, 2015 to March 16, 2015.


For the uninitiated, the Errandonnee is an eccentric event designed to get people out and about on bicycles, doing ordinary things that perhaps might otherwise be done using a planet-destroying motor vehicle.

There are rules, which are sometimes peculiar, and always entertaining.  There are records, which participants must file.  There is reporting, at the end, with maps, and a spreadsheet.  And, for finishers, there has traditionally been a small premium in the form of a commemorative patch, which some of us covet.  (That’s 2014’s, above.)

Details have been promised, once this year’s rules have been finalized, and will appear on MG’s blog, Chasing Mailboxes.  Gentlemen, gentlewomen and gentlepersons of all sorts, prepare to shift your pedals!

5 Boro Tour Events

5 Boro Tour: Registered!

We may not be getting much cycling done around here, but we’re looking to the future.  Basil and Argyll (and Dr. Diarist and I) are registered for the 5 Boro Tour, set for May 3, 2015.5borotRegistration was an arduous process; it took nearly two hours to complete, with constant failures along the way.  (In other words, it took more than half the time it takes to ride the Tour itself!)

This will be Basil’s third 5 Boro, and Argyll’s second:  It’s an absolutely fabulous ride through all five of New York City’s boroughs (Manhattan, Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island) and across a variety of bridges.  Best of all, roads are closed to cars (though you do have to do battle with 32,000 other riders of radically varying skill levels).

Judging from the apologetic notes sent out by the registration group, we weren’t the only ones pained by the process on Day 1 of registration.  Since, though, all slots are sold out except for VIP spots, so the bugs must have been addressed before too many people gave up.

The remaining (and pricey) VIP level includes a $76  donation to Bike New York, so there’s that, if you itemize. But the experience, as they say, is priceless:  When else are you ever going to be able to fly down a NYC expressway, unimpeded by motor vehicles, and under your own (and your Brompton’s) power?

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


The BNC: We Go to Washington (DC)

Basil and Argyll, our Brompton bicycles, Dr. Diarist, and I have just returned from a fantastic weekend in Washington, D.C., participating in the USA Brompton National Championship events.


So many pictures!  So much to write!  All will unfold (so to speak) in due time, beginning (probably) tomorrow.  I’m planning to write a series of posts about the whole weekend — after all, I’d want to know everything if I’d  never been!

In the meantime, suffice to say it was an excellent event, from start to finish, and we’d do it again (and again and again!) every time we get a chance.

We loved it so much that we went out early this morning and took a 20 mile/32 km ride on our home trail, an activity which I hope our regular readers will forgive.  I should have been writing posts, but we just weren’t quite ready to stop celebrating all things Brompton.

Events Iron Tour

French Creek Iron Tour 2014

Last year I unwittingly rode the French Creek Iron Tour in only two gears, having failed to notice that Basil’s gear indicator had slipped.


This year, all six of Basil’s gears were fully functioning, and I also had a much better idea of how to use them.  What a difference!


This year, Dr. Diarist and Argyll joined us for one of the prettiest rides around:  Thirty-plus miles /49 km in the rolling terrain of Chester county, Pennsylvania.


Mile for mile, it’s the prettiest long ride we’ve taken, which is only right, as the tour benefits open space preservation.


The entire route is on open roads, but occurs on a quiet Sunday.  Motorists were relatively few, and, for the most part, considerate when dealing with the 1500 or so of us who did this ride.


Riding on public streets meant that we saw our share of private homes, most of them with at least a little rustic, or historic, charm .  (Or both!)


The county has plentiful creeks, burbling quietly alongside.  I’m sure we failed to see quite a few; hidden, as they often are, in the shadows of the greenery all around.


There were two rest stops on our route:  At the first, a friendly Alpaca was soaking up admiration in the parking lot, while these much tinier guys were frolicking in open pens — and posing very nicely!


Southeastern Pennsylvania is dotted with old stone buildings, many of which date from when the area was first settled by Europeans, and which are still lived in; we spotted them all along the ride.


Covered bridges are another hallmark of the geography, though there were only two on this route.


Sometimes the woods and the earliest buildings meld until the structure almost disappears, and sometimes it’s hardly possible to spot the farm across the fields.


This abandoned out-building looks a bit Potemkin, with an almost one-dimensional aspect.  It’s not just that the windows are gone, but, I suspect that the whole back wall has collapsed, allowing that perfectly-aligned glimpse into the field beyond, through the building.


Rolling hills, woods, flowing water, centuries-old architecture, covered bridges, stone walls and the bluest sky — it was a perfect ride!


We were relieved to see that this sign said “no peddling” instead of “no pedalling”, which, at this point, we’d been doing for quite a while!


Montana has nothing on this landscape; this is Big Sky Country, Pennsylvania-style!


Decrepit small-scale farms probably shouldn’t be so appealing, since their demise is almost never a good thing, but the organic way the old silos weather and the structures decay has an inherent appeal.


Not all covered bridges are aesthetically pleasing, but they, too, all have a certain charm, regardless.  And they’re a lot of fun to ride through.


The second rest stop was at a pavilion behind a school, only about 10 miles/16 km from the finish.


Argyll and Basil enjoyed comparing notes, and I took a picture of a happy Dr. Diarist.  He’s gotten used to longish rides on new Brompton Argyll, but this was his first cycling event.


Based on my experience last year and this year, I can state unequivocally that the Iron Tour has the best snack support ever and the nicest volunteers, too!   The organizers have also mastered the art of real-food cycling fuel:  providing little bites of tasty carb treats like brownies, cookies and so on, but also bananas, tiny sandwiches and a variety of fresh fruit (and lots of it!), as well as chips and pretzels for the salt-depleted.


This is the event where people are the most surprised to see my small wheeled Brompton bicycle, and where people ask the most questions.  It’s not just Bromptons that seem to be new art, but also the concept of folding bikes in general.  I’m guessing this is because it’s so far into the suburbs (exurbs?);  here, road bikes rule, everyone has a spacious garage, and mass transit hardly exists.

it-wtI met a man who recognized basil from last year’s Iron Tour; that was fun!  I think he was a little stunned that I’d ridden the tour not once, but again, on my little Brompton.

Since Dr. Diarist handled the photos for this tour, we’ve got documentation of some of those hills that vexed me so last year.  There are quite a few like this one — not steep, but with a steady incline.


Quite a few cyclists gave our Bromptons a thumbs-up, but one fellow, dressed in expensive road-racer kit from head to toe, and, I assume, riding the equivalent bicycle, did a bit of sneering and snarking.

I was more than a little amused when I saw him by the side of the road on one of these hills, catching his breath, and wearing an incredulous expression as he watched Basil and Argyll zipping past.  Heh, heh . . . never underestimate a Brompton bicycle!


But I wasn’t zipping everywhere.  I didn’t  walk the incline below, but did stop near the top, as did Dr. Diarist, along with others a lot fitter than the two of us.  This climb came after a long stretch of open sun; we were all feeling it, and the day was getting a lot warmer.


Later on, during a long run of inclines, I resorted to zig-zagging up a hill; it may be just as much exertion, but it’s exertion of a different kind.


That road looks so innocuous; what could be the issue?  My posture suggests that I’m working hard, though!


Dr. Diarist burst up this hill — he’s passing me, here.  You can just barely see Basil’s mirror in the lower right corner.


I did walk on one very short section, but I was back on Basil before I got near the top.  Still, I was a bit crushed:  I had hoped to ride the whole tour without making that particular concession.


We were on the home stretch surprisingly quickly.


Seven Stars Farm, home of exceptionally good yoghurt, is near the starting/finish point, so when we saw this building, we knew we were close.


Coming into the last turn, into the village of Kimberton, there’s a slight incline, and then one final one after the left turn at the intersection ahead .


Then we spied one last burst of flowers on the left, in front of a building that grew rather oddly, and we were back at the starting field.

And that was it!  I’m always sad when these rides end, even if I’m feeling well-challenged.

On a sartorial note, I wore a skirt this time, over my padded shorts.  It billows a little and I thought it might be cooler to wear than my blousy biking over-shorts.  I’m not sure it was, but, in any case, I missed the pockets in my shorts legs where I keep my camera and anything else I want to grab quickly.


Lunch (provided as part of the event) is fresh, flavorful and generous with a vegetarian mains option (they ask at registration), tasty salads (not just the usual options, either, but also a wonderful one of leafy greens), fruit and dessert.  Real food!  It’s the best after a long ride.

Dr. Diarist and I sat outside and picnicked next to Basil and Argyll.


We rode over 32 miles/51.5 km on a beautiful day, in countryside we don’t usually explore much, and loved it; it was a treat of a day!


The Bromptons were ready for another romp.  I’m afraid we only took them to the parking lot, once we’d finished our meal.  Bicycles can play all day, but sometimes people can’t!  There will be other rides — and another Iron Tour next year to look forward to.

Iron Tour 2013, Part One

Iron Tour 2013, Part Two

Errandonnee Events

and the winner is . . .

. . . everyone!  Not only do the participants get to meet an excellent, real-life challenge by participating in chasing mailboxes d.c.’s Errandonnee , but once it’s over, a splendid little reward shows up in the mail:


MG’s patch and photo arrived this week, evoking happy memories of the best (only?) good moments of the horreur that was  the ever-lasting Winter of 2014.

If MG keeps this up — she produced a wonderful coffeeneuring patch, too — Basil may need an awards sash, à la the ones worn by scouts (or decorated warriors)!

(Basil and I are out of town again this week, so response to comments and email will be slow — well, to be frank, non-existent — until our return.)


Brompton USA 2014 Championship

The dates and location have been announced:  July 11-13, in Washington, D.C.  That’s close enough that Basil and Argyll may have to consider giving it a go.

nclgHowever, participation is not to be taken lightly.  Proper attire is required:  collared shirts, ties, jackets (flasks optional).  No spandex permitted.  Sequins allowed, apparently.  (Who says sport can’t be elegant?)

No word yet on the venue; I’m devoutly hoping it’s going to be scenic, and not a motorway track.

Edited 3 June 2014 to insert BNC logo.

Errandonnee Events

Errandonnee: Part 3

What’s an Errandonnee?  Click here!

The pick-up errand:  I accidentally completed 12 errands in 7 8 categories on my previous runs — but failed to rack up sufficient mileage.  That was remedied today, at the very last minute possible.


Basil and I went grocery shopping, and padded the trip with a few miles to make up my missing 10 (16 km).

Errand 13Category (6th 7th, second use):  Grocery Store.  Cheese, lovely cheese.  Oil. Potatoes. Italian meats for Dr. Diarist. Leeks, yummy leeks.

Learned/Observed:  Today felt like spring, and time to say good-bye to root vegetables.  Also, I’m glad cheese is a year-round food!

And that was it — thanks, MG, for another excellent event!  Is there any better way to say good-bye to winter??

Mileage:  10.54/16.9 km   Errands: 1   Total Categories:  1

Cumulative Totals for Errandonnee:

Total Mileage: 30.66 miles/30 miles  (49.3 km/48.2 km)

Total Errands:  13/12

Total Categories:  7/7 8/7

Edited almost immediately after publication, due to incompetence at filling out the control card.  Sigh.