Argyll Miscellaneous


. . . and it feels so good!


Basil and Argyll, together again.

Argyll has been sidelined for months, waiting for the moment when Dr. Diarist got the OK to ride again.  This past weekend, his patience was rewarded.


Dr. Diarist was pretty happy to get his buddy back, too.  (Actually, he was ecstatic, but this was a formal portrait, so they’re both standing tall and looking serious.)


By Horse, Not Brompton (!)

Dr. Diarist had a meeting recently in Lancaster County, about an hour from our home.  I went along, as I often do, and since I’d have to occupy myself during the time he was busy, I planned to take Basil and tour the countryside for the first time in months.

(This photo: Wikipedia)

But, as it happened, the day was going to be an infelicitous one for cycling, so I did a little research and found Landis Valley Farm and Museum nearby. (That URL hasn’t worked for me for weeks, but you may have better luck?  It does appear to be the correct one. I reported it; no one seemed interested, and it still doesn’t work for me. )

I reluctantly left Basil home, and quite unexpectedly had a very different sort of transportation adventure.  It was a particularly cold day, and few visitors had made their way to the farm.   While strolling around, I saw a woman driving a fairy-tale carriage, and, on a whim, asked if she took passengers.


She did!  She is a volunteer at the farm, and was practicing handling the horse and buggy for an upcoming wedding.  We took several turns around the grounds while she patiently answered my questions.  Nettie May, named for the sister of the founding Landis brothers, gently pulled the carriage.

Another wagon was making the rounds, pulled by Hank and Henry (named for the brothers themselves).   My guide suggested that I should hop on board, as a more experienced guide was settled in the back and might be able to provide more information about the farm.  Naturally, I did!


But my questions were soon forgotten; the driver asked me if I’d like to a chance at the reins . . . Would I?  Would I?  Oh yes, indeed!  When would I ever have an opportunity like this again?

Let me say for the record that huge, powerful, well-trained horses are responsive, but not as responsive as a Brompton.  Also, squeaky voices are not necessarily authoritative in a horse’s ear.  But what a wonderful experience!


I drove the team (with a vigilant genuine driver right by my side) around the farm several times.  Then I mentioned that I had to leave (Dr. D’s demo was over, and he was waiting to be collected), and asked to be dropped off.  It was suggested that I might like to drive the team right to my car:  Never has traversing a parking lot been such an unfamiliar pleasure!

I wasn’t very happy about having left Basil home, but the end result was most unexpected, and most extraordinary.  Another time, perhaps Basil himself would enjoy a ride in the carriage or wagon?  We’ll have to see; I’ll be back.

There’s lots going on at this “living museum” even if you don’t get a chance to drive a team of horses:  demonstrations; events; classes; re-creations; a heritage seed project; heritage husbandry and more.  As a side note, the requisite shop is the most intelligently stocked of any I’ve seen at similar venues; it’s well worth a visit all on its own.



Something tells me that today, Day 1 of Erranddonne 2015, isn’t going to happen around here.


Snow still falling.  Last week temperatures of up to 47 F/8.3 C were predicted for today.

Also, the header on the post just before this one (“Spring Approaches!“) isn’t looking too accurate either.  Bah, humbug.


Not precisely on topic . . .

The last couple of months or so have been a bit unusual around here, and, as a consequence, poor Basil (and his blog) have suffered a (large!) measure of neglect.  Things are not yet back on track, but at least the various distractions are winding down.  It shouldn’t be too long before things settle, and, weather cooperating, Basil and I are back on the road again.


Our first and toughest challenge came when Sally, our little grey-and-white cat, suddenly developed diabetes, which proved uncontrollable, and a host of associated symptoms.  We lost her after a valiant fight to stabilize the disease.  She was, surprisingly, mostly un-fazed and un-bothered by her difficulties, fortunately, and her end was peaceful.  Our little herd numbers only four felines now; that’s quite a change, as all five had been with us for many years.

Then Dr. Diarist had a stretch of vacation time available, which he coupled with the various holidays, and we decided to dismantle most rooms of our home and put them back together in a configuration that best suits the way we use them now. That was a lot like moving house, but without, fortunately, the agony of actually packing.  I’m allergic to dust, though, and it turns out that when you don’t move floor-to-ceiling bookshelves for a decade, dust bunnies proliferate.  My lungs are gradually recovering; by the time we’ve finished with the house stuff I should be able to breathe normally again and put those pipes to the test on two wheels once again.


The Brompton Garage:  the only untouched room in the house.  The Brompton Brothers:  bored.

At any rate, we’re through the worst of it, and I’ll be back posting now, albeit perhaps a bit infrequently during the next few weeks.  By mid-February all should be resolved, and Basil and I (and Dr. Diarist and Argyll) should once again be as active as Bromptons, and riders, are meant to be — just in time for early spring!


Shirk’s Bike Shop

Almost in the middle of nowhere — well, actually in East Earl, Pennsylvania — is an amazing bike shop.  Located in the rolling hills of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Shirk’s is in an area populated by Mennonite and Amish families.  It’s not uncommon here to see horse-drawn buggies, and men, women, and children getting around on bicycles and scooters, as modern conveniences are shunned by many members of these groups.


I’d gone past Shirk’s when participating in a couple of cycling events.  Shirk’s is closed on Sunday, not surprisingly, but water in coolers and snacks were left out for cyclists who were passing by during those events.  I’d wondered about a bike shop that would provide refreshment to cyclists during hours when it wasn’t even open.

A couple of months ago I saw a woman wearing a fluorescent helmet with the features I wanted, and asked where she’d gotten it.  “Shirk’s” she said, and that was the impetus I needed to finally check the shop out.  Also, Lancaster County is beautiful, and the drive through it, particularly when it’s not tourist season, can be very rewarding.

shr-tlIt turns out that Shirk’s has the stock density of an old-time urban hardware store, but without the space limitations.  Looking for bike tools?  Shirk’s has everything from the basics to all kinds of very modern mcro-multi-tools.

shr-t2Want a quality saddle?  Shirk’s carries Brooks, Bontrager, Selle Anatomica, Terry, and more — and a full selection of women’s and smaller sizes, too.shr-sdThere’s plenty of spandex for men, women, and children, along with baskets, grips, cell phone mounts and all kinds of bike accessories. And bikes themselves.  Lots and lots of bikes; it’s an entire warehouse, in fact.


No Bromptons, though; if you live in East Earl, your need for a folding bike is probably minimal.  If your buggy breaks down, presumably you ride the horse home.  (If your horse gets into trouble, presumably that’s a whole different issue.)

shr-b2Old school approaches haven’t kept Shirk’s from adapting:  There are shelves of gels, bars, energy drinks and more.


Including a wall of helmets, which I failed to photograph because I was busy buying one.  The fellow who helped me expertly fitted mine, so I went home without dreading doing the sizing ineptly myself.


I also picked up a multi-tool, the women’s florescent, short-fingered cycling gloves I can’t find anywhere else, and another sunscreen skull cap for under my helmet.  A day’s work well done!

Shirk’s is a good distance from major population centers, but oh, what a drive!


That’s the view from the store’s parking lot, looking left, above.  Below is the view looking to the right.


Befitting its Mennonite origin, the store has no website; Shirk’s is one huge Internet secret. But when noodling around online for the address and directions, I did come across a great article about Shirk’s in Bicycling Magazine.  It’s very much worth a read.

The store’s address, which, happily, was included in the article, is:

Shirk’s Bike Shop
1649 Ligalaw Rd.
East Earl, PA 17519

Phone:  717/445-5731

There’s a large, active, repair shop on the premises; truing wheels is a speciality.  It’s kind of a dream bike shop — nearly perfect!  Well worth the trip; come during clement weather and explore the area, too.  There are tourist traps a-plenty in Lancaster County, but also hidden gems just like this one.


We Have a Winner!

The “True Random Number Generator” at has chosen a winner of the drawing for the Vincita Sightseer bag:

sightseer-randomThe winner is commenter number 33: Alexandria.  Congratulations to Alexandria, and thanks to everyone who entered — and to Vincita for providing such a great prize!


The Deadline Looms!

12/5/2014:  The giveaway is now closed. 

Thanks to all who entered; the winner will be announced within the next day or two as soon as feasible.

As frequent commenter Saul has noted, the clock is ticking: There are just over 24 hours left to enter the drawing for the Vincita Sightseer Transport bag.


The drawing ends at midnight (USA EDT) on December 4, 2014!  Click here for details, and leave a comment if you’d like to be included!


Life Before Basil

I can hardly remember it, but people ask a lot, so I wrote down the story, and posted it as a new page here on the blog.  It’s kind of a The-Path-to-Basil post.


The best part is the way it ends:  Irresistible, irrepressible Basil changes my life!

(tl;dr for the Before Basil page: It’s never too late to find your bliss.  Or to get moving!)


Stolen in NYC: Black M3L Brompton

Last weekend, a friend’s well-loved Brompton was stolen in New York City.  Recovery seems virtually impossible, but, just in case anyone suspects Maggie — a black M3L Brompton with an unusual polished stainless chain guard —  has been spotted, or in case this particular B ends up in honest hands, here are the particulars:


  • Black 2012 Brompton M3L, serial no. 1209219098, frame no. 380949
  • Brooks B17 Ladies’ Saddle
  • Ergon handlebar grips
  • Light & Motion front light
  • Planet Bike Blinky rear light
  • Brompton toolkit
  • Monkii water bottle clip
  • Tiller polished stainless chain guard, not the usual black Brompton guard
  • Ortlieb Mini O bag (blue/black)
  • Carradice zipped roll bag (green canvas)

A police report has been filed; the theft has been registered with Brompton Bicycle, BikeWatch has been notified, and the information posted to BromptonTalk.

This is a heart-breaking loss of a good friend and fond companion; the sad specifics can be read here:

Loss, remorse and (expensive) redemption



Basil, Bored

Poor Basil’s been languishing.  Due to an unfortunate decision I made, some travel, and other complications, I’ve only taken very short rides with him during the past weeks.

Just before going to this year’s US Brompton National Championship, I’d been thinking about raising my seat post height so that my leg would be more fully extended — but not completely extended — while peddling.   I like not having to dismount when stopping, but I decided that I wanted to see if I could gain some more cycling power by adding some leg extension.

Wisely, I didn’t make this change right before the Brompton weekend.  Instead, I focused on teaching myself to dismount when stopping Basil.  I actually don’t like the full stop/dismount process, but learning to do it went well.  All for the greater good, after all.

Unwisely, I came back from the BNC, hopped on Basil the next morning, raised the seat post and then blithely set off on a twenty-mile ride with Dr. Diarist.  It was a lovely ride, and, though it was unclear that my Garmin agreed, I seemed to be riding faster and with greater ease.  That was thrilling!

The aftermath was less so:  Though I felt no pain at all during the ride, I came home with saddle sores.  Not minor saddle sores, either.  Also plenty of pain.


I had cleverly used twine to mark the right post height, once I’d found it.  Then I less-brilliantly failed to adjust the previously perfect angle of the seat to fit the new geometry.

When I first got Basil, it took at least ten attempts before I found the saddle height and angle that worked best for me.  Once those metrics were set, the result was a very comfortable ride.  A year and a half later,  I’m not exactly sure why I thought I’d get such a relatively major change accomplished in only one go .  .  .

TL;DR: Made a major adjustment to my Brompton, rode for twenty miles, suffered the consequences for nearly two weeks.

Don’t do that.  When making changes, pessimism isn’t called for, but judicious testing is.  Lesson learned — at least until next time.