Sunday, November 16, 2014

Lanterne Rouge: My Coffeeneuring Wrap-up


To say that the Coffeeneuring Challenge was not my highest priority this fall does not convey my fondness for this unique and growing phenomenon. I feel honored to be one of the original coffeeneurs and set out this fall with plans to build upon my past accomplishments to take this challenge to a new level. The trouble is that life simply got in the way. To begin with, October has become a harried month in my calendar with school accreditation visits to supervise as well family demands that have grown rather than lessened now that my daughter has begun her first year of college. With a few six-day work weeks and a trip to Ohio, it's been nearly impossible to squeeze in even the most rudimentary coffeeneuring excursions.


Yesterday, for instance, I was committed to riding a 100K permanent populaire to keep my monthly streak going after dropping off my wife to teach a workshop for childbirth educators in New York City. I selected JB's Yorktown Heights 100K, which begins and ends in Yonkers. The route itself is both pleasant and challenging with over 20 miles of rail trail and additional miles along sleepy (hollow) backroads throughout Westchester County. The only way I could fit in a coffeeneuring ride while staying true to the challenge rules, however, was to add on a two-mile loop after completing the permanent ride. 


Today, with the curtain closing on the 2014 Challenge, I managed to fit in a five-mile loop beginning and ending at the state park where my son was playing in an Ultimate Frisbee tournament. While I was able to succeed, I did not excel -- and this, sometimes, has to be good enough. Out with a whimper rather than a bang. Lanterne rouge it would be.


I can tolerate a Dunkin' Donuts coffee, but I typically don't enjoy it unless I've ridden several hundred miles before drinking one. This was not the case here, it was simply the best I could do under the circumstances. As with randonneuring, not all rides are inspired, but the satisfaction of completing a series is very sweet indeed. So with gratitude and humility, I thank MG for her fine organization and inspiration and promise that I will put in a superior effort in 2015. 



#6
November 15
Dunkin' Donuts, Yonkers, NY
Dark roast coffee and a Pumpkin Pie donut
2 miles

#7
November 16
Dunkin' Donuts, Arlington, NY
Regular coffee
5 miles

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Coffeeneuring Round-up: Chasing the Dream


It's Veterans Day here in the Hudson Valley and I seized the opportunity to enjoy the mild temperatures to ride around the Shawangunk Ridge imagining a hot cappuccino at the end to complete my fifth ride in the Coffeeneuring Challenge. Unfortunately, the "barista" at my chosen cafe decided not only to neglect to create a fancy cream design on top, but also served me the drink in a Styrofoam cup. It was as if I passed through the Looking Glass and into the 1980s. It was a lovely ride, but the drink left a lot to be desired.


I had the inverse experience last Saturday with a short and barely legitimate coffeeneuring ride that ended in an absolutely fabulous brunch with my daughter and several of her friends. It was parents weekend at her college, so as loving parents, we packed the car and headed west for a chance to see our first born in her new natural habitat. Since this is her first term away, there was a little delay with the acquisition of a bicycle, but we were sure to throw mom's old beater onto the roof to deliver it in person. 


The brunch was a highlight of the weekend as it provided us the chance to meet our daughter's delightful new friends, which went a long way to helping us imagine her in her new surroundings. We also had the chance to see her perform in a dance concert, which further warmed our hearts.



Post Script - a week earlier, I discovered a new breakfast spot in Kingston when the cafe I planned to visit was not open when I arrived.



Coffeeneur Ride Details:

#5
November 12
The Mud Puddle, New Paltz, NY
Cappuccino
32 miles

#4
November 8
The Feve, Oberlin, OH
Black Coffee
One pancake, two eggs and three slices of bacon
2 miles

#3
November 2
The Frozen Rainbow, Kingston, NY
Hot Cider
Toasted Corn Muffin
23 miles

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Walkway Over the Hudson 108K Permanent Populaire is Open!


All of my permanent riding has been on 200K routes until this past August when it occurred to me that adding regular and routine 100K training rides to my monthly calendar would help to maintain my general fitness and aid in my training for PBP 2015 over the "off season," whatever that is. So now I'm in search of the RUSA P-12 award to keep that goal in focus. Until this month, my permanent popluaire riding has been done on the routes of others. With the grand opening of the Walkway Over the Hudson 108K permanent populaire route, though, this is no longer the case.


For those of you unfamiliar with the amazing Walkway Over the Hudson, you are in for a real treat. Opened in 2009, this repurposed rail line 212 feet over the Hudson River is one of the most exciting and dynamic pedestrian parks around. The Walkway itself is the longest pedestrian bridge in the world at 1.28 miles long and connects with two rail trails on either side of the river. A great recent development is the installation of a glass elevator that connects the Walkway with the Poughkeepsie Metro North railroad station making the route highly accessible to those arriving from New York City by public transportation.


The route is almost entirely comprised of quiet back roads that meander through Ulster and Dutchess Counties, cross the Hudson River twice and pass by the lovely Bard College campus and four historic Hudson Valley estates including the Vanderbilt mansion, the Mills mansion, Wilderstein and the FDR Presidential home and library. All this in 108 kilometers!


My first go-round on the Walkway loop took place on Halloween so there were signs of festive merriment in every direction I turned. This ghoulish server brought me a delicious egg and cheese sandwich and a piping hot cup of coffee at the fantastic Historic Village Diner in Red Hook.

So shoot me an email if you'd like to give this permanent populaire a try. Here's a link to the map. Additional information is available on the RUSA site.

Up next: keeping the coffeeneuring spirit alive.



Saturday, October 25, 2014

'Tis Time for a Little Coffeeneuring


I have been SUPER busy this month. So busy, in fact, that today marks only my second ride in the 2014 Coffeeneuring Challenge. If you're not familiar with coffeeneuring, a) what?, b) where have you been?, and c) check out MG's great Chasing Mailboxes blog on the subject or take a look at the posts in the active Facebook group. I'm proud to be one of the original coffeeneurs and while several weeks have passed without my participation, I'm now eager to join the party.


Today I decided to keep it local and sample the wonderful fall fare at the bountiful Apple Bin Market where I was surprised to find not only fresh apple cider donuts, but also a new pumpkin-apple cider donut variety. Needless to say, I had to stage a taste test. Results: pumpkin wins by a neck.

Coffeeneur Ride Details:
October 25
Apple Bin Market, Ulster Park, NY
Costa Rican Coffee w/ sugar and half & half
Apple Cider Donuts
17 miles

My first coffeeneuring adventure this fall was on October 12 when I went for a quick ride to check out a new combination art shop/cafe in Kingston's famed Rondout district. The coffee was tasty and the location quite lovely.


On my way home from Kingston, I spotted a new historical plaque on a familiar street corner. I've known that abolitionist and women's rights activist Sojourner Truth had ties to this area, but I did not realize the complex depth of the connection. After seeing the plaque below, I decided to do a little research. It turns out that Truth was born into slavery in 1789 on a farm within 10 miles of my home, sold at the age of 9 with a flock of sheep for $100 to a man in Kingston, sold at the age of 11 to a tavern owner in Port Ewen with whom she lived for the next 18 months until she was sold to yet another slave owner two doors down from my house in West Park. At the age of 29, Truth finally escaped from slavery by walking over ten miles one night over the road I now use as a major training route directly across 9W from my house. Since the farm house I live in was built in the 1770s, it's likely that Truth knew or visited it during her time in this town. While I've known that slavery was present in all of the northern states in the 18th and 19th centuries, it is still a shock to learn how embedded in New York society it once was.  I don't think I'll look at this training route in quite the same way again.


Coffeeneur Ride Details:
October 12
Olivieri's, Kingston, NY
Espresso
Fig Newton
22 miles

Saturday, October 11, 2014

How I Got a New Bicycle for the Price of a Pair of Tires.


I remember feeling the transformative power of a new set of high quality tires when I first upgraded to a set of Conti GP 4000s. My current upgrade to a set of Clement X'Plor USH tires is a bit different, though, as these not only enhance my ride, they also bring me places I was not able to travel on my road bike until this week. Riding through the Shawangunk Ridge has long been an interest of mine, but until I converted my Indy Fab Club Racer to a bike capable of riding on the trails and carriage routes, my exploration was limited. Each of these photos was taken either from the seat of my bike or while standing on the trail itself. No hiking required.


One of the great joys of working from home is that some days I can arrange my work schedule to allow me some flexibility on the bike. So today, while thousands of New Yorkers were fighting traffic in their cars heading out of town for the three-day weekend, I was exploring the trails along the ridge more fully. Parking again at the West Trapps parking area, I picked up the Trapps Road trail and headed west toward Minnewaska State Park. After arriving at the park entrance and confirming that an entrance fee is assessed only on those who arrive by car, I chose the Lower Awosting trail and proceeded to climb, climb, climb up to Lake Awosting deep in the state park preserve. The road itself at this point is crushed stone and the only challenge was to maintain a grip on the road surface with my rear tire on a few the very steep sections as I had to climb out of the saddle to create enough momentum to push me up the hill.



Once I arrived at Lake Awosting, I took a right turn to enter the Awosting Lake Carriageway to circle the lake counterclockwise. Here the trail became quite "technical" in places as large and sometimes loose rocks took the place of crushed stone. While there were a few moments I wished I was not using clipless pedals, my new tires enhanced my confidence. After circling the beautiful alpine lake, I took another right to enter the newly restored Hamilton Point Carriageway. This route is absolutely spectacular. These photos don't fully give justice to the expansive views from the trail literally cut into the edge of the 1000-foot cliffs. The smells and sounds of fall, circling hawks and overall isolation gave the ride an otherworldly quality that made it seem as though I was far more than 15 miles from my home. This trail climbs to over 2200 feet and then drops back down to 1200 at the park's entrance where I rejoined the Trapps Road trail to return to my car.



Now that my second bike is equipped with this new set of spectacular tires, I see no need to remove them any time soon. Until the snows arrive, I'll be including a few days of off-road riding each week in my routine to keep my spirits and fitness up.




Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Riding Along the Shawangunk Carriage Trails (with my new Clement X'Plor USH Tires).


For years, I've been thinking about swapping out my road tires for something better suited to riding on the local carriage roads and today it finally happened. These carriage roads, that weave through both the Mohonk Preserve and Minnewaska State Park along the Shawangunk Ridge, are stunning artifacts of an earlier time. Built in the 19th century to accommodate the carriage traffic from New York City and elsewhere to this spectacular mountain destination, these roads are carefully maintained today for use by hikers, cyclists, rock climbers and cross-country skiers. While I spend a lot of time riding on the roads over and along the ridge, I've spent precious little time riding on the carriage roads themselves and never with my preferred road bike.


Last year I bought a pair of 35 x 700 Clement X'Plor USH tires to expand the range of surfaces on which I can comfortably ride with my road bike. These Clements are rated highly for gravel grinding and other off-road pursuits so I knew they would be a wise choice for the local carriage roads. It turns out that you need to do more than just buy the tires, though; you actually need to install them to reap the full benefit. Happily, the tires fit perfectly on my white Indy Fab and afford just the right amount of plush traction to instill confidence in a road rider like myself out on the trails.


Now admittedly, these roads are covered with fairly smooth crushed stone, so the riding is not what I'd call technical. Still, with a bright covering of fall leaves, one needs to use some caution so as not to hit a stray rock, stick, root or hole. This afternoon, I pulled out my trusty Shawangunk Trail Companion to map out a route with easy access to my car that would give me a nice introduction to the terrain. I entered at the West Trapps trailhead, a favorite of climbers throughout the Northeast who come to enjoy the dramatic rock climbing along the ridge-line. This afternoon, I began by riding down the Undercliff Trail passing five or six groups of climbers on belay enjoying the cool afternoon.


Upon reaching the end of the Undercliff Trail, I took a left to connect with the Overcliff Trail that climbs gradually and runs parallel to the trail I had just ridden to return to the West Trapps trailhead, but affords a view to the northwest of the full Catskill range in the distance. Once back where I began, I shot out towards neighboring Minnewaska State Park along the trail known as Trapps Road that brought me deeper into the peaceful afternoon forest. I wish there had been enough time to take in the loop out to Lake Awosting, but that will have to wait until another day.

In all, my afternoon was quite enjoyable, filled with peaceful, solitary riding without any cares or cars to consider. While I did not find the gradual slope of the carriage trails terribly challenging (it was hard to raise my heartbeat, in fact), the views and serenity more than made up for the loss. This will surely become a feature of my off-season and recovery riding in the future.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Princeton 200K: A Tale of Rainy Mechanicals

Once on a fleche, after riding 240 miles through hours and hours of rain in the chilly northeast, my rear tire developed a flat. Luckily, I was less than a mile from the finish and managed to hobble in without busting the final time barrier for the team. My flats yesterday on the Princeton 200K were not quite so dramatic, but the timing was almost as bizarre. But I am getting ahead of myself.

The Princeton 200K is a great route and this year the event was well-timed to coincide with the beginning of fall as the NJ weather becomes far less humid and (on most days) one can expect crisp blue skies. The forecast for this running of the Princeton 200K was not quite so ideal, however, and as the day arrived it was clear that riders would be well-advised to pack rain gear and slap on some fenders. After a string of glorious weather, this news was a bit disappointing, but this is why we spend so much time fussing with rain gear and fenders, right?


Several weeks ago, I made plans to ride with Jon L. and Robin L. as we thought our paces on this day would align and provide us with the opportunity to catch up and enjoy a nice day of fall riding. Sadly Robin was unable to join us, but Jon and I clipped in as planned and set off to enjoy the day. Soon after the start, we were joined by Paul G. who was riding his first brevet ever (leaving us only one Ringo shy of the Fab Four). For most of the day, we were part of the lead group that included Chris S. and then Dougin W. who each had some fire in their legs for sure.

We were welcomed at the first control by volunteers Steve H. and the venerable Leroy V. It was great to catch up with these NJ Rando stalwarts and top off our water bottles, but it was after Janice C. arrived with two containers of homemade brownies that the fun really started! After each of us inhaled a brownie, we knew we were ready for the looming Adamic Hill climb ten miles down the road. So we clipped in and formed a pace line of sorts to build some confidence for the suffering ahead. The thing about Adamic Hill is that it's both not as terrible as people make it out to be and worse than you remember at the same time. Watching that windmill appear as we neared the top, we were grateful that the worst of the day's climbing was now in our rearview mirrors.


The next 22 miles of the route involved some glorious descents and a few choppers along the way to keep everyone's legs awake.  This section was generally enjoyable and we stayed relatively dry with only a few light passing showers to annoy us. The turnaround control at mile 70 was a welcome opportunity to enjoy a slice of pizza and a chocolate milk and we were soon on our bikes again heading home. Our one missed cue came as we exited the parking lot by turning left instead of right. While we quickly identified the error of our ways, I now see this as as omen for the events just a bit further down the road.


After adding some gas to our tanks, we settled into a nice pace that included some pace line riding along some fairly flat sections of road. It was in this section that the skies opened up a bit more so we stopped to put on rain gear and it was not too much further down the road that I felt that telltale softness in my rear tire that can only mean one thing. I had apparently picked up something sharp along the side of the road and luckily this happened as an ice cream shop, complete with protective overhangs, appeared where I could change the tire and sort things out.

Jon and Paul were a couple of mensches and held my frame as I did my best to manipulate the wet and messy rear wheel. Why is it always the rear wheel that needs to be changed when it's raining? Thankfully, my Gran Bois tires are pretty easy to remove from the rims so the whole job did not take very long, but since I was unable to locate the sharp cause of my misfortune, I was not convinced that this was going to be the last of my mechanical mishaps for the day. . .

One of the pleasant byproducts of the time we lost changing the tire was the arrival of three riders we had last seen arriving as we pulled out of the turnaround control. The infusion of some good additional rando energy was just what we needed to ward off the disappointment of messing with mechanicals in the rain and so the miles passed quickly as we chatted with our new companions Avri S., Chris K. and Mike S. It was not too long before we were smelling the barn and realized that dry clothes were getting closer and closer with each turn of the cranks.

As we turned the corner at mile 124.3, I felt a strange lopsided feeling in my rear tire and moments later heard a loud BANG. While I'm not sure how the second flat was related to the first, it was clear once I pulled over to the side of the road that I was going to need to do something quickly to fix the problem in order to finish the ride. Close examination confirmed a sidewall blowout rather than a puncture. Since I threw out my last flatted tube and this one had an inch-long rip in it, Jon was kind enough to share one of his spares with me. Does RUSA award a medal for riders who experience mechanicals within the last 1% of the ride? if so, I want one for my collection.

So after putting the wheel back on, I inflated the tire to what seemed like the minimum pressure to ride the final 1.5 miles to the finish. While the end of the ride was not quite as triumphant as I had imagined with the six of us riding in together arms raised, it sure was nice to make it in without further trouble after my makeshift repair. Jon and I even arrived within the 10 hour goal we set for ourselves at the start. Go figure.


Luckily I have a spare Gran Bois tire in the basement, so I'll be back on the road with mechanical confidence in no time. Thanks to ride organizer, Jud H. and all of the wonderful volunteers who made the Princeton 200K such an enjoyable event, despite the nasty weather.

Up next: a local 100K permanent populaire to complete my September P-12 quest.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

When in doubt, #alwaysbringthebike.


I was reminded this afternoon that it's always a good idea to have the bike close by in case an opportunity opens up for a serendipitous ride. Today I made the trip to Cooperstown to visit a school and found myself with a little extra time on my hands in the early afternoon.


Since I am not a baseball fan and the thought of walking through the Fenimore Art Museum on a lovely September afternoon did not really appeal to me, I was grateful to have had the foresight to throw my bike into the back of the car along with a bag of my gear before heading out the door this morning. After my meeting, I simply popped into a local supermarket bathroom to change my clothes and fill my water bottles and I was off.


Cooperstown is an amazing little town on the banks of Otsego Lake in upstate New York pretty far from just about everything. The architecture is simply stunning and the 20 mile loop around Otsego Lake was both beautiful and exhilarating. I really must read Alan Tayor's book William Cooper's Town to figure out how this frontier outpost from the early national period came to be. 


The Federalist homes that line the lake and fill the town are simply breathtaking. In fact, since so many of the houses are in such fine shape, it feels a bit like stepping back in time. The photo above was taken of a home built in 1803. 

Up next: the Princeton 200K on Saturday.