Short Trips & Errands

Alleyways and Windvanes

Basil and I took a spin around the alleys of a suburban town, as we are wont to do, and here’s what we found this time.

al-vwFirst, one of the alleys.  They’re just narrow lanes running behind houses — a relic of the way homes were once built in the area.  Most of the garages that open onto the alleys were once carriage houses, first for horses and later for horseless carriages.  And, even later, for anything at all.


On these streets, there aren’t any driveways at the front of the homes, or running beside them. Parking and housing vehicles is usually done at the extreme back of each lot, where these buildings often still stand.

Almost all have been re-purposed, though most seem to be used as tool-and-garden storage.  I like to think that the one above is a backyard study, though, since the curtains are so home-like.


The hits of this excursion, though, were the decorative plaques and windvanes.  The former carriage house above is decorated with this delightful fish, the significance of which is best known to its owner.

aw-gnI suspect that this particular outbuilding was originally something smaller — say, not much larger than the width of those doors.  (A homeowner’s compulsion to add-on may extend to the alley on occasion.)  The shutters and flower boxes are charming, though.


The windvane is designed after an old schooner; I confess to liking the cupola, with its slightly curved roof, arches, slats, and boxy footing, just as much.

aw-tnNot every outbuilding is precisely “quaint”; decorative approaches are as varied as the owners must be.  Here, the dark green trim, shutters, and shingles liven up what would otherwise be a quite plain shed.


Those side lamps are interesting, and totally modern: they are motion-activated security lights!  (Basil and I were curious about the obviously elderly building to the right, but we draw the line at clamouring into other people’s yards uninvited.)

aw-bnNot every building we encountered resembled a small-scale dwelling.  This one must originally have been either the largest carriage house in the county, or (rather more likely?) a kind of barn.  Or possibly housing for vehicles, a chauffeur and cook?


Whoever selected its windvane has a sense of humor: Pigs fly!

Across the alleyway, however, so do dragons:

aw-dgFurther along, someone else went with a different unconventional windvane motif, describing a traditional, though non-agrarian, past-time:


This vane is teeing off perpetually into the wild blue yonder.  The building he’s standing on looks like a bit of a twist itself:  I think someone may have crafted an actual garage onto a carriage house, in an inversion of the more typical situation.

aw-orAmusingly, the double garage is nearly the size of the original structure.

A final plaque caught my eye.  It had apparently slipped from its moorings, but was still interesting.

aw-pqYou can probably just make out the circle above in which it once fit, before dangling on a single pivot.

aw-p1I think it’s meant to be oriented as below, at which point a tree of life kind of theme becomes much more obvious.

aw-tl2 (If only home repair were as easily accomplished in real life as in a photo editor.)

aw-cbBasil posed beneath a burst of spring blooms before we wrapped up, and then we headed home.

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.

Short Trips & Errands

Valdeon, Amusingly Squashed

When Basil and I took another trip to the Exton end of the Chester Valley trail, we discovered some competition for the road on the way to the parking lot. There was no one behind us, so I parked on the access road and immortalized the wait.


Then we took a ten mile ride on a third saddle — a Specialized I already owned.  The test went well, and I may have finally found Basil’s new saddle.  Details to come!


This was the last trip before the strap on my Mini O failed, but more on that later, too.  Am I the only one who relies heavily on the strap on that most useful of small Brompton bags?


The Mini O is an odd duck.  It’s kind of crudely put together, with nubs on interior.  The Brompton frame is bolted on, with no cover plate or anything designed to disguise or mitigate the lumps made on the inside by the bolt heads.  Given the Mini O’s size, that may be a good thing, since it maximizes useful interior space — though maybe flat head bolts would have been a better choice.


I was amused to see that the bolt heads dented the cheese during the ride down the trail from Wegman’s.  (Excellent reason to ride this stretch of the Chester Valley Trail:  The Wegman’s Cheese Stop at the grocery along the trail.)  “Room temperature” cheese . . oh yeah!


We picked up a cheddar and a provolone for Dr. D’s lunches, and a Valdeon, which got consumed on Cheese Night, an important weekly event.

The Mini O is by far my favorite everyday bag when not traveling (and sometimes worth taking along even when on a trip) but the strap has failed;  that’s an issue that’s more important than dents in cheese.  More on it later; resolution may be at hand.


Mini O

Argyll’s Brompton Mini O Bag


Short Trips & Errands

Slow Progress, on Various Fronts

Basil and I checked out the new parking area at the Exton end of the Chester Valley Trail the other day.  The expanded lot is painted; it looks as if they’re only waiting to put the occasional tree in place before opening it.


They’ve added fencing to keep the riff-raff out.


Later, Dr. Diarist, Argyll, Basil and I returned on a weekend.  That new parking section can’t come a moment too soon.  It’s too far to see clearly, but most of the cars in that front row are parked on grass, not the existing lot.


That sky!  I love the raggedy extension of the trail here, coming up on King of Prussia. (It’s a town.  I know, I know . . . . )


Well, the trail’s not actually raggedy, but the environs are definitely industrial for this short stretch.


It think this is an old rail bridge, but I forgot to double-check.  It was about time for pizza, which was only a couple of miles/3.2 km away.


Basil and Argyll were pleased to get a chance to roll together.  Things have been a bit mad around the Diarist place, what with a lot of (good!) changes, and all.  The Bromptons have been feeling neglected.


Be patient, little guys — the new phase is almost over. Proper (and more frequent) riding will commence soon.

Short Trips & Errands

A Family Ride and a Brompton Encounter

The parental units are cyclists, too, so when they came for a visit we all went out together.

rr7-bkMountain bikes are a whole different breed!  All four bikes did just fine on the Struble Trail, in Chester County, before it closed for most of the summer.

rr7-mtPaul’s father’s bike is a mid-90s Cannondale, from the same era as another one we know well — the steed ridden by awesome ride leader and frequent commenter Saul.


Much to our surprise, we met a Brompton — and rider — at the far end of the trail.  We’d never before seen a Brompton in Chester County!  This one is a beautiful M6R with a raw lacquer finish.   We had a nice chat with the cyclist, and then headed home; this was just a quick ride before a day full of other events.

Short Trips & Errands

Cupcake Picnic

The day before the French Creek Iron Tour, Dr. Diarist and I went for a short ride, and stopped at a farmers’ market.

fm-bbThe amazingly capacious Brompton basket is just made for errands like this one.

fm-enIn fact, it threatens to dwarf Basil.  Argyll looks twice as slim, unencumbered as he is.

fm-ckConsuming cupcakes the day before a somewhat hilly 30 mile/48.2 km event may not have been the best strategy, but it was a tasty one.

fm-opWe had company in the form of a small opportunist.

fm-ntEvidence all over the picnic pavilion suggested that other forms of wildlife had previously been resident.  Presumably the parks department had issued the usual eviction notices.


This was such a short ride that Dr. Diarist and I were both wearing street clothes, which is unusual for us.  Say what you will about spandex, it does make long rides far more comfortable than anything else!


We took an unusual route back; Dr. Diarist had discovered a hidden alley neither one of us had known about.  It was paved here, but a tangled path further along, which was probably why we’d missed it.

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.

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!

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!