Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Hill Slugs Ad Hoc, Saturday, October 29

26 October 2016

Who: social B riders

What: Chocolate Eyeball Ride to Lambertville

Where: Hopewell Valley Administration Building, Main St, across from Ingleside, Pennington, NJ; extra miles from my house (RSVP)

When: 9:30 a.m; extra miles 9:00 a.m.

Why: Union Street. 'Nuff said

How: some hills, coffee

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Autumn in Upper Bucks County

Fleecydale Road, Carversville, PA

23 October 2016

Tom wanted to get some hills in and catch the changing leaves in Upper Bucks County. He'd planned for Saturday, but high winds and heavy rain pushed it to Sunday. I'm happy for that, because I spent all of Friday trying to stay awake, slept for ten hours that night, and woke up congested and coughing. Sunday was much better. 

"I forgot that today is the Covered Bridges Ride," Tom said as I got out of my car. That would go some of the way towards explaining why I was the only one who could make the ride. "It's windier than I thought it would be," he added. "We'll get a tailwind home."

"Mrm. Dunno about that. Not with me here."

As we were about to push off, I asked, "No Holy Kickstand?"

"Nah. We'd probably both end up dead."

We walked across the Bulls Island Bridge. When it's just me and Tom, we stop a lot for pictures.

We could feel the wind bouncing the bridge as we stood to take pictures of the river.

I zoomed in on a lonely boat moored in a mat of floating plants:

I coughed along behind Tom as he led us up Fleecydale Road. We were under a golden canopy. I didn't want to stop on the hill, so I didn't take any pictures. Maybe I'd come back in my car after the ride.

The wind was out of the west at a steady high teens, gusting somewhere in the mid twenties. Our bikes jolted sideways more than a few times. I think it startled Tom more than me; after my adventure on Cadillac Mountain, I knew what might be coming. Damned plastic bike. Damned bladed spokes.

We went uphill into the wind to the center of Doylestown, all but deserted at this early hour. I hacked my way up and down rollers to the crest above Peace Valley Park and Lake Galena.

We took the paved path around the lake, stopping every few minutes for pictures.

Tom noticed the bright orange tree behind the row of primary color canoes on the far shore. I hadn't noticed, and my camera's zoom would have been pixellated and blurry. (I've zooomed in at home instead; it's not much better. Check Tom's blog; maybe he got it to work.)

I'd remembered the canoes from the last time we were here. "We'll be down there in a few minutes," I said.

When we got to the tree, we saw that there was too much distance between it and the boats to make the photo work.

Not that I didn't try. I dismounted, leaned Miss Piggy against a picnic table, and trudged down the slope to the boats.


Cropping doesn't help, does it?

A bluebird box along the road above the lake caught my eye:

We had a long climb out of the valley, and a handful of miles to our rest stop at Down to Earth in Perkasie. Along the way we crossed paths with the Covered Bridges riders. 

After the rest stop, and a bucket of coffee, I wasn't coughing as much. We passed through, and were passed by, groups of unruly carbon Covered Bridges riders.

We also had a tailwind. Now that we could look up, we noticed the sky, and found a field with an unobstructed view.

I'm writing this before Tom has posted the route, so I'm not sure where we were. In or near Plumsteadville, as best I can remember.

Aha!  Now we're getting some good color.

Tom said that our return route would take us down Fleecydale again. Yay!

"I'm going to take a lot of pictures," I warned him.

The afternoon light, through the clouds, lit up Bulls Island as we walked back across the bridge.

The lonely boat was still there.

There was a glow on the Pennsylvania riverbank too.

Below us, yesterday's leaves floated on the water.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

A Perfect Autumn Day in the Pinelands

Chatsworth Lake: This is the Pinelands.

15 October 2016

We were 40 miles in when I remembered that I hadn't been on a weekend ride in three weeks.

Tom, Jack H, Jim, Bob, and I made up the usual Hill Slugs. Because Gordon and Rajesh were there, though, Tom performed the ritual Blessing of the Bikes with the Holy Kickstand.

We left the Mansfield Township Park on the newly-opened segment of the Kinkora Trail, a former rail bed now paved wide and smooth with asphalt. The surface was so good that we were able to reach typical road cruising speeds as we looped around, avoiding Mount Pleasant and a chunk of Island Road.

Which was good, because Island Road is pretty much chunks right now.

I'd swiped the route from Tom, written myself a cue sheet, and dutifully given the route to Alan, Jim's Garmin Touring (get it?), should I lose my way. Tom, though, said he'd made some modifications in order to bring the distance up to something close to 62 miles.

We were heading south, into the Pinelands. Rajesh had never been there before, and as a punishment he had to listen to me spout off about forest fires, how the pines and oaks have adapted, the sandy soil, the two varieties of blueberries, cranberry bogs, and how I've forgotten the scientific name for cranberries.

Our true rest stop would come late in the ride, so we stopped at the Ranger's Station in Lebanon State Forest. Those of us who are old enough still call it that. I summoned Rajesh over to a map posted at the edge of the Cranberry Trail. It was old enough too. It still said Lebanon. He and I spent a good five minutes geeking out over the map. That was fun.

Tom's diversion took us through Chatsworth, population nil. We were not expecting throngs of people and lines of cars through the main intersection. They were there for the Vaccinium macrocarpon festival. We passed a booth selling Vaccinium macrocarpon chili. Ick, I think.  Tom suggested we could stop here instead of in Tabernacle. I said, "No. I just want to get out of this mess."

So we did, and around the corner was this, Chatsworth Lake, in all of its quintessential autumnal Pinelands glory. We all stopped for pictures.

From there it wasn't far to Nixon's in Tabernacle. Outside the general store was a row of tables and a few volunteers holding a bake sale for rescued kill-shelter dogs. Bowser, a beautiful mix of something or other that I've forgotten, laid at the feet of one of the volunteers. "He was a day away from being killed," his owner said. I skipped the desserts and gave them a donation. With all the layers of clothes I'd stripped, I'd run out of pockets for food.

Besides, there was rice pudding to be had inside the store.

Rajesh and I walked across the parking lot to the field where Nixons has set up picnic tables under a shelter. The tables were occupied, though, by a group of serious-looking elders. We sat on the grass.

"I can hear that they're singing," I said, "But I'm half deaf. I can't hear what they're singing."

"Ave Maria," he said.

"Jim should be here."

I told him later. "Which Ave Maria?" he asked. "There are dozens of them."  Shows what I know.

Ten miles later, Jim pulled over with a mechanical problem. One of his rear derailleur pulley wheels had seized. After some mucking about with a screwdriver to loosen it, the wheel spun again. That he was able to fix this within five minutes is a testament to his mechanical ability. Whether or not the Holy Kickstand had a role in this (either through help or through inadequacy), we'll never know. (Jim later reported that the pulley's bearings had been ground to smithereens.)

We made it back to Mansfield with a metric century-ish distance. In the clear blue sky's afternoon sunlight, Kermit was looking especially sparkly:

I left Kermit in the car overnight, with plans to do some sort of flat riding on Sunday. Unfortunately, my choices were a leaderless B out of Vaccinium macrocarpon, a C+ ride from Etra (but I wanted to be back home early), or Marc's B+ from Etra. I decided that I'd rather be dropped by the Fastboys than wind up leading from Vaccinium macrocarpon, so I chose Marc and hoped he'd be merciful. I don't recover as quickly as most of my riding buddies, for whatever reason.

Fortunately, there were only four of us. Marc had done a double metric the day before, so my metric excuse was dead on arrival. He'd done the ride with Mary, who was leading her C+ ride right next to us. Instead, I said, "Feel free to drop me." Marc announced that, since we were only four, we'd wait for each other. Waiting isn't mandatory on B+ rides.

Sal and Rudy could have left me in the dust in the first half mile, but they didn't. Marc could have too, but he didn't. Sometimes I was a quarter mile back. Sometimes I was in front. Mostly I was right behind Marc, wherever he was in the group. When in doubt, keep the leader in sight.

We were fighting a headwind out of the southwest, and we were looking forward to being pushed home.

We stopped in New Egypt. So did Mary's group.

On our return trip, the wind shifted to the west. So much for the push.  I was losing steam.

I only checked our average when we got back to the park. It was a solid B. "There were more hills than I thought," Marc said by way of explanation. There was also wind, and me, but I'm being redundant.

There aren't going to be many perfect-weather weekends left before we have to start burying ourselves under balaclavas, booties, and lobster-claw gloves. Get out there while you can.

If the weather holds, I'll be leading a Halloween ride to Lambertville in two weeks. I hope some Flatlanders come along.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Hill Slugs Ad Hoc, Saturday, October 15

12 October 2016

Kermit has done fewer miles this year than my bike commute total. This cannot stand. Plus, he just got a complete cleaning and a new cyclometer. To rectify the first thing and test the second, we're going into the flatlands on Saturday.

Meet for a 9:00 a.m. start at the Mansfield Township Park, 24594 East Main Street, Columbus. Be prepared for 60 miles with a rest stop in Pumpernickel Tabernacle.

We'll maintain an honest B pace.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Finger Lakes Day Four: Sun on the Lakes, Sun on the Vines

Riesling grapes, Fox Hill Vineyards

2 October 2016.

I pulled back the curtain on the hotel room door. Sun!  I opened the door. Wind!

The gulls, geese, and ducks were elsewhere, save for a lone sentry on top of the buoy.

I wandered towards the inlet to stretch from the maple branch again.

Back Owl was still at his feathered post. Front Owl's head moved with the breeze.

After breakfast, Jack and I sat on the patio and read. Across the inlet, a couple tossed a floating toy to a dog who plunged into the lake after it, hurried back, shook the water off, and, tail wagging, waited for the next toss. The pooch did this over and over for at least twenty minutes.

There were motorboats and kayaks on the lake today.

We hadn't made plans. I suggested we stop at an orchard for some New York State apples, which we did, at a farm on the other side of town, at the top of a steep hill.

We retraced our steps to the western shore of Seneca Lake, and drove up the long gravel driveway at Fox Run Vineyards.

Few wineries give tours anymore. We didn't know that this one still did, nor that we'd arrived in time for one. We had a few minutes before it started, so I wandered around taking pictures.

Jack, in his natural habitat, a winery:

As luck would have it, the winery owner was giving the tour. In front of Riesling vines, he paused to preach his version of grape gospel. If we're going to go with a Bible analogy, he's very much a New Testament guy.

From up on the hill by the vines, we could still see Seneca Lake:

At the winery, grape collection boxes were stacked well over our heads.

There was a refrigeration problem with a fermentation vat; a repairman was working on fixing it.

Stainless steel fermentation vats:

Oak barrels aging red wines:

A bottling machine, left, and a labeling machine, right. Pure steampunk.

On our way back down the hill, I asked if there are deer up here. There are. He once lost an entire vineyard plot overnight when a herd found the grapes he and his crew had planned to pick the following day. That was $30,000 worth of fruit those deer snarfed down; he put up an 8-foot fence for $18K to solve the problem.  There are also turkeys, who are smart enough to know how to shake the vines to knock the ripe fruit to the ground, and also stupid enough to be scared off the vines permanently with one shot from a flare gun.  He also uses a sound cannon to keep birds away, as well as a recording of various species of birds in distress.

The sculptured front gate:

We drove around the northern end of Seneca Lake again, through Geneva, and down the eastern side, to Boundary Breaks Vineyard.

Here, the growers focus on Rieslings. We were greeted by one of the owners, who talked with us for a good long while.

Stumbling upon this winery, Jack found a winner, and came away with a mixed case and a membership that will see half a case of Boundary Breaks wine at his door twice a year.

The winery name comes partially from the two ravines, one on each side of the property, known as "breaks." The name "Ravine" has already been taken by another Finger Lakes grower. International winery law requires unique names. The bottle labels show stylized topographical maps.

The tasting room had only opened in June; the winery itself is only a few years old.

We decided to finish our circuit around Seneca, which brought us to Watkins Glen at the southern end of the lake. We decided to walk around town. The first thing I saw was a hill so steep it reminded me of a straightened Fiddler's Elbow. This photograph makes the road look half as steep as it is.

There was nothing to look at on the main street; most shops were closed, and none were interesting. Jack suggested we take a peek at the harbor.

As soon as I set foot on the dock, I felt a little bit of Bar Harbor coming back to me. Would I get my zen after all?

Rocks, harbor, still water...

As close to zen as I could get without the smell of salt water and being in Maine. Close enough for now.

Gad. I almost look like one of those naked ladies on 18-wheeler mudflaps.

As the sky clouded over, we drove back to Penn Yan, where I finally got a picture of this thing that stands across the street from the hotel. It's a fine example of the sort of thing that it is.

Tomorrow we drive back to Jersey. First, though, we're returning to Corning, where I'm going to make a few blown glass pieces. None will be a pumpkin,