Basil Makes Some Friends

Basil and I didn’t just Coffeeneur in Suttons Bay; we did a little exploring, too.


The town is something of a tourist destination, but it’s also a little arty and quirky in a very Northern Michigan way.  It’s a little rough around the edges; a little hardy, as opposed to twee or cute.


Well, OK, maybe it’s a little cutesy.  These days, too, the unusual craftings might turn out to be made elsewhere, even if they’re designed locally.  But the whimsy is still a lot of fun, and Basil was particularly pleased to see that yellow and black creature, which reminded him of his London compatriot, Brompton Bumble B.


I think they chatted a bit while I looked around inside the shop.  Off-season, especially, there’s room for a Brompton even in the smaller shops that have been converted from buildings that once were homes.


Most of the shops are rather modest affairs, with their interesting wares discreetly displayed inside. This one has a stunning exuberance, though.  Do they leave every bit of this extravaganza outside during the winter?  Imagine all this bursting forth from banks of crisp, sparkling snow . . ..


Most of the shops, like these, and the one Basil and I visited, are re-purposed along what must once have been a residential main street.


There’s something interesting to see nearly everywhere you look: gables, trellises, walkways, and all kinds of roof peaks, along with a variety of exterior colors and trims.  A fine abandon is in evidence all over the few blocks of the town center.


Michigan is sometimes called “the Great Lake state” which undoubtedly refers to the Great Lakes surrounding it, but the state is covered with lesser waterways, most of which could be fairly described as “great” on their own.


Sutton Bay’s little marina has become more polished than it once was, and it’s quite a sight in summer when all the boats are in residence.  On this day, it was simply pretty, with all that blue water sparkling in the autumn light.


The old train station has become a law office.  (I guess even as heavenly a place as Northern Michigan needs its lawyers.) These particular attorneys have a fascinating garden, round to the right of the building as shown above.


Look at that stunning beast!  It ought to be fearsome, but it’s got an awfully cheery expression, in spite of all those scales and a truly terrifying set of chompers.


He (she?) and Basil hit it off right away.   Travel is so enriching!


We were loathe to go, but the riding home was another wonderful experience.  So much to see!  So much to experience!

Basil and I are headed to a completely different part of the USA for the next week or so, and may have limited Internet access. Posts will go up through the magic of automatic scheduling, but response to comments and email may be slow, or even non-existent, until we return home.

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.)


Back to New York

Argyll and I returned to New York together to get his gears looked at again.  We started out from a different train station.

ny-mParking was a challenge, but if it hadn’t been, we would have missed this wall of green, as well as the back of the abandoned stationhouse.


Not to mention an up-close look at an electrical tower complex.

nym-twWe weren’t all that early, but we also managed to watch a few trains go by.

nym-sptThe one above is regional rail, and below, Amtrak, headed westward.

nym-amThis was a turn-around trip:  I was carrying Basil’s O bag (or, rather, Argyll was) and just a day pack with a change of clothes.  (The day pack is wearing my high-vis vest — that’s what “city chic” means to me!)

nym-lgI was sitting directly across from Argyll when I took this picture; we’re practically alone in the quiet car. nym-tnk

I always forget how industrial is the approach into Philadelphia.


After all, why wouldn’t it be?  Rail-yards are the essence of industry.

The last few times we went to New York, water levels were at record highs; this time they had ebbed to more usual levels.

nym-flThe sky can be surprisingly variable during the relatively short trip to New York City from Philadelphia and points west — a journey of only two to two-and-a-half-hours.


Though I often read on the train, I love the view outside the windows, always the same and ever-changing as it is.

nym-fpMy first stop, even before I head out to The Manhattanites’, is always here, at “Around the World“, an international magazine store specializing in “Fashion Publications”.  Fashion magazines do nothing for me, but I do sew from European pattern magazines, and this is the only place I can buy them.  (Also, I like the proprietors.) nym-tn

I couldn’t get the train I wanted, so Argyll and I had a few hours to noodle around on the Greenway, and to enjoy my favorite tunnel view, at 181st Street.

nym-orArgyll is getting as used to going to Fairway Market as is Basil.  We picked up a baguette, some grilled artichoke hearts (to swoon for!) and cheese:  a “Great Hill Dairy Blue” bought solely because it is made “on the shores of Buzzard’s Bay 50 miles south of Boston” because who am I to resist the call of buzzard’s bay? and a Gloucestershire offering called, horribly, “Slack My Girdle”, which I bought in spite of the name, and which turned out to be an excellent cheese.


I couldn’t get the baguette into the O bag, and Argyll still didn’t have his saddle bag,  Fortunately, I always carry a shopping tote and I had already attached the straps for his (future) bag, so I tied the tote to the straps to anchor it.  The tote was bungeed to the rear rack, too, but of such amorphous shape, and of such slippery material, that I was unsure about its ability to keep from shifting.

nym-pvThe Greenway detour just north of Fairway is no more; in its place is this gleaming new pathway, so it’s smooth sailing all the way to the market now.


Argyll posed with the George Washington Bridge in one of the little byways that dot the Greenway, and also stopped to check out the flowers, just coming into bloom in early June.


The next morning, we returned to The Sign of the Brompton(s), aka NYCeWheels, and whatever was still misaligned in Argyll’s gearing was set right — and has been so ever since.


(Really, best trade sign ever, don’t you think?)

Argyll was quite please to be in proper running trim.

nym-pDr. Diarist was equally pleased once I got Argyll home to him.

nym-cThen Argyll and I hopped on an evening train and said good-bye to New York (for now).

We waved to night-time Philadelphia, and its hideous screaming-blue-neon advert as we went by.


That neon blue reflects nicely in the Schuylkill River, but I can’t help thinking of this kind of willingness to let business dominate the landscape as a form of civic dysmorphia.

And then we were home.

7/7:  Various edits, due to complaints on the home front: capitalization, correction of British spelling because, uh, we’re not in the UK.  Note to self:  coffee first, blog post second.


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!


Along the Canal

My Brompton bicycle Basil and I found ourselves in upstate New York recently, and returned to a favorite haunt there:  the Erie Canal towpath.


This time, however, we found obstructions:  traffic cones, a torn-up trail, and heavy equipment where Basil’s tires prefer to be.

We shot a longing  glance down the canal, and then headed out on surface streets until we’d bypassed the construction.


This was the first time we’d ridden on streets in this area, or over any of the rather wonderful steel bridges.


There’s a walkway along the canal in the village of Pittsford, which we viewed, also for the first time, from a nearby bridge.


I stopped in at a bike shop next to the canal to replace a patch kit that had been depleted on a recent group ride.


In former days, tradesmen used to hang signs that signified the profession practised within their shops:  In this case, a bicycle chain is embedded in the entry-way.


Some strip malls are a little different in this part of the world.  I think most of these buildings have been re-purposed since they were built during the days when the canal itself was far more active than it is now.


This little “mall”, too, looks as if the buildings once served radically different needs — relevant, probably, to the kind of commerce that was once canal-driven.

We did eventually get a little bit of cycling in on the towpath, once we got past the construction.


The trail surface is a bit rough-and-ready; it’s mostly crushed stone.  Basil, and his Marathon tires, don’t mind a bit, though:  We’ve ridden many  miles on it in the past.  Those Bromptons look small, but they’re strong and adept!

Argyll Travel

Argyll on the Greenway

I did a little fabric shopping when I went to New York City with Argyll.  The next morning, he and  I set out to take the bundle to UPS so that it could be shipped home.


This was another first for Argyll, and a Brompton first for me, too; I’d never used Basil’s rear rack.  The built-in bungees worked just fine, and Argyll was easy to ride, even with a pretty heavy bundle on the back.

rn-gbdTalk about spring!  This what the sky looked like outside the Manhattanites’s apartment.

Then we turned the corner.


Well!  I couldn’t figured out what I was seeing at first.  Why were all those vehicles covered in fluffy stuff?  It reminded me of a conversation I’d once had with a woman on a train:  She’d funded an “art installation” composed of a Hummer covered in crocheted cotton.  That memory didn’t help; this was serious cognitive dissonance.  The previous day had been all blossoms and greenery; today there was a fine dusting of snow all over the place.

We got to UPS just fine, where, in a first, I was thrown out of the store, but my Brompton bicycle was allowed to stay.  There’s a rule, it seems, against packing a box inside the building.  The UPS guy and I usually get along well; maybe he was having a bad day.

Argyll was just as happy to stay inside while I packed my box on the sidewalk.


Sadly, there’s nothing I want to buy here, but I love seeing this store front next to the UPS store.  “Moscow on the Hudson”:  Now that’s evocative!

Argyll and I went next door and got coffee before heading out for a ride.  A Brompton bicycle tucks nicely out of the way, even in a cramped big-city coffee shop.


Outside, the sun was shining, but hadn’t quite vanquished the snow.


There’s always something new to see, even on familiar New York streets.  Someone had added these airy boots to the landscape since the last time I’d been to UPS.


There was only a tiny patch of snow left under this tree.  That wasn’t the case on the Westside Greenway, where Argyll and I headed next.


There was less snow on the train tracks below, but there it was, the Greenway was another first for Argyll (and without his own cyclist, Dr. Diarist!); this was also his first trip under the George Washington Bridge.

The previous night’s snow hadn’t discouraged all of the blooms, though it’s possible that the real damage didn’t show up until later.

gn-rvThe temperature was much colder than I’d anticipated, and my hands were feeling it.  I had fold-over cuffs on my cycling top, but the are a bit clumsy to use, particularly for braking, so I stopped in at Fairway hoping to find something to keep my fingers a bit happier.


Argyll in a Fairway cart:  Made for each other!

Inside, we encountered one of Argyll’s distant kin.  Bicycles are au courant, everywhere, these days.

gn-bcIn the cosmetics department, I found cotton gloves, which bought me some warmth — just enough — and some dexterity, when installed under my cycling mitts.  Frozen fingers in mid-April:  most unexpected!

gn-glArgyll still didn’t have his saddle bag, but I’d already attached the straps that would hold it in place, once I finished making it.  They proved to be just the thing to use to tie the grocery bag under his saddle.

gn-lpWe left the Greenway at this point, and I got lost looking for Broadway.  I ended up on Martin Luther King, but, hey, why not?  It’s difficult to get so lost in New York that one can’t find a way out, and there’s always something interesting to see.

gn-mkThe aerial view of the street is pretty cool.

Later I realized that this station is at the intersection of MLK and Broadway.  Sigh.


Once here, I couldn’t resist the lure of catching the subway above ground.  Also, Fairway-on-the-Greenway didn’t have rainbow cookies, so Argyll and I headed for the East Side, via the MTA.


Argyll ended up visiting two Fairway Markets, on two different sides of Manhattan, in one day.  Another first!


Rainbow cookies:  I doubt they’re natural, and I know they’re unhealthy, but they are very like marzipan petit fours someone used to give me when I was a child.


Unlike the blue bag of the previous day, this orange bag didn’t stain my hands.


We rode over to a park next to the Museum of Natural History, where I snacked on tasty, tasty cookies.  A day’s work, well done.


A Rainy Day at Union Square

On one afternoon on a quick trip to New York City, I popped downtown sans Brompton.  It was wet and cold, and I hadn’t brought good rain gear with me, so I hoofed it (and rode the subway).

rn-stI headed down to Union Square.  All that water made for nice color saturation in the park.

It does the same thing for the streets and buildings, too, but the effect isn’t quite as vibrant.


New York babies get used to the elements early.  A carapace like this one helps.

These rather glorious blossoms were in for a rude shock:  the next day, it snowed.


Generally speaking, when I head to Union Square, I’m going to Paragon Sports just to see what’s up, but I always like stopping in at this Barnes and Noble.  Though it’s large for an NYC bookstore, I think what I like best is the building exterior, and all those Citibikes out front.


If chain stores must exist in cities, it’s a good thing when they fit so relatively discreetly into the existing infrastructure.

I enjoyed a long conversation in the sports section with a cycling advocate, and ended up buying a couple of books designed to improve my cycling fitness.  We’ll see how that goes; neither one had any advice on how to extend a day past 24 hours, which is possibly what I actually require.


A Chelsea Morning (and Early Afternoon)

While we were in New York for the 5 Boro, we met up with family for brunch.  We tried the Grey Dog at first, but decided it was too noisy (ha, ha . . . as if there’s such a thing as “quiet” in a NYC restaurant!).


I’m a sucker for signboards like this one.  I wouldn’t know a proper pub if I found one (and I don’t drink beer, either), but something about the (admittedly faux) antiquity of a sign like this calls to my Europhile soul.

The family set off in search of other comestibles, loping, but determined.  They’re a causal lot, but they get things done.


Eventually we settled on an unnamed diner a few blocks away.   I didn’t take pictures; there was construction all around, and no sign on the building, which looked as if it had been recently sand-blasted.

The diner’s cooks weren’t just slinging hash; two of our party had eggs Benedict, which they pronounced to be just fine.  Gotta love New York. The place was, in fact, a lot quieter than the Grey Dog, so that worked out well, too.


It was a beautiful day in Chelsea; no one minded walking.

Then we headed to the Chelsea Flea Market.  This institution, a used-goods sales haven, is located on two floors of an ancient, decrepit garage which has apparently been sold.  The Chelsea Flea is closing in July, possibly so that it can be turned, once again, into a garage.


It’s an institution in the neighborhood, and makes for fun, if not bargain, hunting.  I failed to buy a linen tunic I loved, owning to its missing buttons (about 8 of them, hacked off) and a price that would have been right if it had been new, intact, and offered in a luxury shop.

We each brought a small treasure home:  a vintage sewing pattern, a vintage printed monograph on a favorite subject, and a tome on a special interest.

The day involved some velocipede-spotting, including this Brompton, a bright red one with a trunk bag, and its equally burdened cyclist:

br-bpA few blocks away, a Strida was locked up.  We were hoping that we’d discover that the fenders were wood (bamboo would have been OK!), but realized, up close, that they were a nicely-done take on wood. but not the real thing.  They look quite nice with the vanilla color, though.

br-sdThe first Strida I ever saw was downstairs at the MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) store.  It appealed to me tremendously (so quirky and clever!), but I’ve still not ridden one.  Gears are too important in my world, and so are long rides.

br-cgThen there was this adorable little cargo trike.  It may not be much in the sleek department, but it definitely gets points in the quirk category.

All in all, a lovely day.  And it didn’t snow once.