Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I want an alien for Christmas

So... the irony continues. It appears that there is something I want this year for Christmas. It occurred to me the other night while working at EMS. One of our patrons got the most puzzled look on their face, apparently in response to a song that was playing on our musac disk. The song, "I want an alien for Christmas" by Fountains of Wayne, is a catchy, upbeat, slighly off beat little Christmas tune that I thought was somewhat mainstream. Well, it appears I've been working the holidays at EMS a little too long. The public is not familiar with this endearing Christmas tune. A tune more classic and generous in its Christmas spirit than "Silent Night". This tune is about universal, even global getting.

It is in that spirit that I have nominated this song as the offical EMS - Waterford theme song, and the best Christmas song of 2008, and in that spirit, I would like to share this song with you.

Adventures of a Nomad

Ironic that the previous post to this one, and this new series of adventures is one listing things I want, because right now what I want most is to get rid of stuff. Looking into the crystal ball (another thing I have to get rid of) it looks like I'll be moving for at least the coming 6 months, if not more.

Looking around the apartment, my home for the last 9 years, I realized there is a lot of stuff. Even considering that I brought little, and even went through clear out phases every year or so. Still there is stuff. More stuff than a nomad can reasonable carry along. One the one hand I could almost (almost) just walk out and leave it all. On the other, I've been giving select items to folks who would obviously enjoy it, and well, I've been packing some books, clothes and toys. Selecting the best of the years accumulations. Will be interesting to see how much of that is persistent. How much is the same stuff I brought and therefore thought was important 9 years ago and remains so today. Aside from some furniture I doubt there is much of that.

But the immediate question, the bigger question, is what to do with what's left. How to best pass that along to more landed folks. It's good stuff, and somehow there is an attachment to it and finding it a good home seems necessary.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

International Ficus Rescue Association

Mr. X,

Each year millions of innocent baby ficus trees are purchased by well-meaning, but unprepared 'plant lovers'. Plant lovers who have no idea of the amount of time, attention and resources necessary to sustain a ficus tree from a fragile twig to the robust, strong, sheltering tree we all know and love. Plant lovers who, in the midst of their busy days, do not make the time to water and feed their charges. Plant lovers who eventually abandon their plants.

Plant lovers? Ha

I am writing on behalf of abused and abandoned ficus trees around the globe. It has been brought to my attention that you are presently the caretaker of one of the millions of ficus trees abandoned every year. And while you think it may be too late for your tree, let me tell you that ficus trees are incredibly resilient. They have been known to suffer through weeks and drought and deprivation and, with the return of loving care, thrive once more.

Mr. X,

We are asking you to take a long, hard look at that ficus tree in your office. Does it not deserve water? Does it not deserve sunlight? Does it not deserve more than the tragic fate of withering and dying?

But do not despair at the enormity of effort. There is help.

International Ficus Rescue Association does provide a number of services for those unable to care for their ficus trees. These range from home care visits where cheerful volunteers provide pruning, and revitalizing food and water as well as care training for the owner to placement services where the tree goes to a carefully selected home.

Please be a real Plant lover and love your ficus! Let us know how we can help!

Cash donations also accepted.

Rosales Moraceae

International Ficus Rescue Association

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

American History as Travel Writing

This weekend while reading Sarah Vowell's The Wordy Shipmates
it occurred to me, American history is, at it's heart travel writing. i.e. I went here, it's like such and such, I did so and so, and met this and that person. (Putting aside that in American history the next step generally was, "I then wiped this and that person and all their relatives off the face of the map.") Take, for example the folks discussed in Vowell's book, John Winthrop - went to Massachusetts, its got a great hill upon which to build a city, there's also lots of natural resources. Roger Williams - went to Massachusetts, met some well intentioned people but they didn't really have the right idea so he sailed somewhere else, saw a bigger bay, met a lot of interesting new people, hung out with them for awhile, then got together with Winthrop and others and wiped them out. Next traveler, Anne Hutchinson. She sails to Winthrop's city, meets some people, and is forced to visit Roger Williams but finds even his company a bit much so head off to New Amsterdam. Nice place - until the natives get a bit upset.

And so it goes throughout American history. Take The Journals of Lewis and Clark. Adventurers? I don't think so. Really they're just travel writers in disguise. If they'd had some help writing it might even have been a best seller.

Even the Civil War was treated as a travel adventure (although mostly for Northerners.)

And so two streams come together. My love of American history and travel writing converge. (And I get to write a corny concluding sentence before running off to work.)

PS The Wordy Shipmates is a very good read. Strangely inclusive of all of American history while focusing on the Puritans. Brought me right back to my college years and while it may be too densely packed with references only a scholar of that period could understand, still it lends a new perspective.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Adventures in Used Car Shopping: And He Shall Be Called Moby

Last night I purchased Angela's replacement. But no, Angela can not be replaced and despite what the insurance company says I know someone will buy her at auction, fix her up and set her back on the road. Moby is her successor.

Moby is a 2004 Pontiac Vibe. I was looking for a small car that was:
  • In my price range - no car payments thank you
  • Had less than 70,000 miles
  • Could fit a bike or two in the back (a hatchback)
  • Was in good shape
  • Got decent mileage
After 2 weeks of searching the web, reading reviews, taking harrowing test drives, fielding calls from salesmen, and making some really low offers - I purchased Moby at Bald Hill auto. Delivery is Saturday.

The name fits - doesn't it?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

- G. K. Chesterton

An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered.

And another

When preparing for a trip there is always one type of book I look for. Technically, it's not a travel book but it is a book that's good for travel. This book, or these books, if you're lucky are set in the place you're going. Fiction or non-fiction, really doesn't matter. What does matter is that the setting, and the character of the area people is an important part of the story.

The recent passing of Tony Hillerman reminded me of this. Best known for his works about the American Southwest, more particularly, the Four Corners area, it was Hillerman's works that introduced me to the area and it's people. (Not to mention that his books are all in paperback and are easy to stuff in a backpack.) It's hard to say which book is my favorite, and I can't even pick between Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn. They're all good and all good reads for traveling to the area.

Apparently, they are such good reads, and so descriptive that there are books for people who want to visit the places described in the book. Tony Hillerman's Navajoland: Hideouts, Haunts, and Havens in the Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee Mysteries is probably one of the best. And I have to confess while driving through the Northwest corner of New Mexico I was drawn to Shiprock - just because it features so prominently in Hillerman's books.

But back to the topic...books for traveling that are not necessarily travel books. Sometimes they can make the trip.

PS. The next big trip will be to western North Carolina/Tennesse - anyone have any recommendations?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Defining the field

The thing about librarians (although I prefer Information Scientist) is that we have an innate drive to organize, categorization and define things. Travel writing is no exception. And so, without further ado here's my first attempt:

Definition: Travel writing is a broad category of writing concerned with various aspects of travel.

Types of travel writing:
The more I think about it, the more I realize it's travel literature that draws me. Books where the place is an important character within the author's journey from ignorance to knowledge. Place, setting, location - go a long way to forming who we are, for some even more than their social setting. Going somewhere else, i.e. traveling, exposes us to other places, other potentials of who we could be, even as it exposes us to who we are based upon where we've lived. I never realized how American I was until I went to Europe, never knew that the dense forests of New England kept my perspective local, until I hiked in the Southwest deserts, never felt Connecticut's reserve until coming to a four way stop in Iowa and waiting for everyone to signal everyone else through. There are some writers who can convey this - and those are the ones I like to read.

Vicarious Adventures - Travel Writing/Reading

In the words of Neil Young, "Comes a time when you're drifting, comes a time when you settle down." And it appears, I'll be in the settled down phase for the next six months. Hard to believe I won't be flying off to Utah, or Arizona, or Colorado, or any of the other warm, sunny, states this winter, but baring some kinda of miracle conference, that's the case. Oh sure I'll get in some weekend hikes. Hey, maybe it'll even snow and there will be skiing, or winter camping, but no Big Adventures are in the future until late spring when I'll be heading down to western North Carolina, and swinging through Tennessee (got to keep adding to the state list, and even a chance to section hike some of the AT!).

The inevitable question arises. What then to write about? Last year during this time there was the ever popular "Adventures in Retail." While I will be working retail this year, at the same store, with many of the same folks, I suspect there will also be mostly the same stories. Aside from the fact that there may be fewer considering the recession, or rather considering that this year people have to admit there is a recession, there's probably won't be many new stories.

And yet there is something, especially about winter, that makes we want to write. Cozy up with a cup of tea (coffee is out for the time being) and typing away. Right now it's raining out and the wind is starting to pick up. Listening to the cars drive by and typing, just feels nice, really nice. (So nice, it really doesn't matter what I write so feel free to stop reading.)

But back to the question. What to write about? Beer also seemed a good topic. Not in the sense of reviewing it, but in it's history. A few years ago I realized that I liked beer. Much more than red wine, which gave me a headache, or white wine, which didn't give me anything, or harder liqour, which gave me more than I could handle, it was really the clear, crispness, or heavy heardiness (depending upon the season, or mood) of beer that I enjoyed most.

A few weeks ago Bethany was processing a manuscript collection and came upon an 1857 receipt for a shipment of IPA and sparked my newest interest - the history of Beer!

But no - research is a private pursuit, and long one too.

And then it hit me. Write about other travel writing. Every time I go on a trip, I try and read about the area before going, and as faithful readers know, book selection for trips is a key part of every adventures success. But it was on the trip to Portland, Oregon in that bookstore of bookstores, Powell's, that I became truly aware of the Travel Writing Genre, its pros and cons, and realized too that some of the best travel books, really aren't. Check out the travel section at Amazon and you'll know what I mean. Or, read on as I'll be trying to figure that out as well.

Friday, October 24, 2008

.5mile You're on the Cape Cod Rail Trail

A few weeks ago, in celebration of Columbus Day, S introduced me to the CCRT. There's a lot written about it on the web so I won't talk too much about the 22 mile, ex-train line, now bike trail that runs from South Dennis to Wellfleet Mass. I will however talk about the people on the trail.

Even on the cool fall day there we're lots of people, of all types. Not many regular road riders (the kinds you hammering out the miles on the side of your average road) but lots of more recreational types, on all types of bikes. Couples, families with kids on tryks, three-wheelers, and even a spider bike. And then there was the boy scout troop. What we thought at first was a pack of 8 dedicated, hard-riding, teeth-gritting male teens was followed by a larger group of 20 silent, somewhat sullen teens. A few minutes later a smaller group of obviously annoyed teens, followed by 3 scout leader types brought up the rear. All in all the group gave off the appearance of either being on a race at which the future on humanity was at stake, or their very existence depended upon surviving this near-death trek rather than that of the Boy Scout troop that they were. On the return trip we passed a very different group of 20 girls, all together with their leaders, all smiling, and SINGING. The Girl Scouts appear to have a much different view of bike riding, the trail and perhaps life? Couldn't help but note that the difference between the Boy and Girl Scout Troops reflects the differences in men and women's approach to life.

Oh and the title - for the first 10 miles or so the words ".5mile" appear at regular intervals. "Funny" I noted to S., "that someone is so intent on having us enjoy the trail that the feel its necessary to write smile on the pavement." S looked at me rather strangely. "You mean .5 miles?" And darn it all thats what it really said. I'd mistaken the .5 for an s. But hey, it was a nice day, so Smile, you're on the Cape Cod Rail Trail.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Mt. Madison, last ascent into the alpine zone, last trail of cairns

James Madison was the fourth president of the United States.. At 5367' Mt. Madison is the fourth highest, and also the northernmost peak in the northern Presidentials. It was also the last peak of the vacation and by the 4th day I recognized the progression to the Presidential ascents.

Leaving the parking lot there is always a bit of relatively flat hiking the length of which varies depending on the trail and the mountain. The longest flat was Eisenhower, the shortest Madison via the Pine Ridge/Howker/Osgood trails. Here the trail immediately begins climbing. Which really isn't so bad on the way up. It's on the way down, when you want a few feet or so to stretch out your legs that you miss the flat.

After ascending for a mile or two, whatever it takes to reach an elevation somewhere around 4000' the trail enters the Alpine Zone. There is always a sign somewhere in the area to warn you that "the area ahead has the worst weather in America many have died there from exposure even in the summer. Turn back now if the weather is bad." (kinda like waving a red flag in front of adventure junkies). Soon after the trail breaks into the open areas of the zone, so it would be hard to miss. The thing about the Alpine Zone that I love is the contrast of the bigness, and harshness of it, with the tiny plants that live there.

Simultaneous with entering the Alpine Zone, or because of it, the trees disappear and trail markings change from blazes to rock cairns. On the trails around Adams and Madison these were particularly interesting. Someone has taken a great deal of care to top them with a large piece of white granite and many of them looked much like stone lighthouses, and they stood out clearly against a sea of gray rock. Pretty, but also potentially lifesaving. In the heavy fog that often sits on these peaks you need all the help you can get to stay on the trail.

Once in the land of cairns the trail switches, basically from a walking trail to a rock hopping exercise. Once again the value of good gear, in this case boots, is a welcome thing. Hopping across rocks, following the cairns to the Big Cairn which marks the summit can be heck on your feet. But as with the others the summit of Madison was worth it. The view was a little hazy but really its not just the view. It's the sense of accomplishment, of being in the clouds, in the sky that just makes it all worthwhile. I especially like looking back down the mountain, picking up the hints of trail we hiked, seeing where we've been, and feeling just great that only a few hours ago I was way over there and that now here, under my own power(and with the help of some awesome hiking poles) I stand.

Mt Adams

Peak fever and Pole adoption continue apace. Today the peak was Mt. Adams (at 5,774 feet the second highest peak in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and the one with the greatest elevation gain by any of the standard routes.) During the whole hike we only saw one other person. A few off in the distance of what are often the most overcrowded peaks in the world, but we met up with only one hiking the same trail we were on. Seemed kinda strange.

Ascending on the Airline Trail, an impressive 4.3 mile, 1000 to 5600 ft trial leading in a straight line from the Appalachia parking lot to the summit via a stairway cut from stone, a mile-long knife edge ‘walk’, and a .9 mile scramble up a rock pile we arrived at the summit just as the clouds lifted off the peak. As we enjoyed the traditional applebutter and peanut butter sandwich the clouds also lifted, east to west off Mt. Madison, Jefferson and Washington. The sun really didn’t shine but it was nice this time to see the view. Reading over other posts of Mt. Adams ascents it appears we were lucky. This peak is often in the clouds for days.

Leaving Adams to the east via the Lowe Trail with a much shorter .3 mile rock scramble we arrived at the AT, aka the Gulfside Trail. Here as with all the other trails on this hike it was maintained by the Randolph Mountain Club. Someone has arranged massive granite boulders into a level walking path. The work done by the RMC all over the mountain is amazing, making for easily walkable, well marked trails in an often hostile environment.

From Gulfside we descended to the AMC Madison Hut. It was closed now but looks like a good base for future area hikes. Speaking of which, while the plan had been to climb the .5 mile to Mt. Madison, it was now 2:00 and really not a good idea.

We descended the mountains via the Valley Way. A bit slippery for the first mile of the descent it was a relatively nice hike. Toward the last mile the trail followed along a beautiful stream with falls and pools that looked especially inviting - come some warm summer day.

During the hike (down - on the way up, between trying to catch my breath, and stop myself from getting vertigo) I developed and perfected the hiking pole draw. The art of pulling the poles from the pack without breaking stride. It’s really very easy. By inserting them individually, one on the left side of the Gregory ISO pack, one on the right, thru the compression straps and into the water bottle pockets – handles up – you can draw them in a second. Also developed two new uses for the poles, fencing sword, and javelin. S. introduced one as well – drying rack.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

And on the third day

Today we rested. Well kinda. To be honest, even with the wonderful poles I was a bit sore. The legs just weren't holding up to the sudden jolt from spending 8 hours at a desk to hiking 8 hours on the trail. In my work at ACO I often wonder at the folks who come in and announce they're going to climb some huge mountain the next day, with no preparation whatsoever. And now I know why they do it, and I know how they feel. Exhilarated and perhaps more than a bit sore.

But it was a beautiful day, and while none of us liked shopping, it seemed that a trip to North Conway and Eastern Mountain Sports, than driving North around Mt. Washington would be a good way to recuperate.

Ah, EMS. Way back when, when I was just a little girl. Mad as heck that my parents dragged me up and down mountains (preferring to explore them at my own pace) we used to stop in at EMS. For those of you who missed the original North Conway store, it was located in a huge Colonial Revival building. The biggest structure in town at the time, and the most imposing. I'll always remember how walking in, no matter how often, I'd be expecting some grand, almost museum-like atmosphere. I'd have to stop and take a minute every time just to adjust to all the gear, and the smell. (Gear has a very distinctive smell - not describable - but once you smell it, you know it).

But we only stopped briefly at the old edifice. EMS has moved and I don't want to see what's in the old one now. Probably some foo foo shops of some kind. The kind that smell like new mall stuff. Eww.

The new EMS is down the road to the South. A nice enough building. A big enough space. And no matter where you find it, techwick is always the best. That and shot blocks. I love shot blocks.

After that we headed North on RT 16, then West on Rt 2 and back to the little cabin. Not so sore anymore...and ready to climb another day! Only one question remained. Which mountain(s)?

Mt. Pierce and Jackson and I've got Peak Fever

It’s Day Two of the Presidential New Hampshire vacation. The sun is shining and we’ve selected a slightly less ambitious hike. Still two peaks but instead of 5300, and 5600 fters we’re gearing down to 4100 and 4500 ft. The idea being to take it a little easier today but still bag a few peaks and enjoy some fantastic scenery.

Parking at the Crawford Notch parking lot we started up on the Crawford Path. The sign at the trail head informed us that this was the oldest, most continuously hiked trail in the United States. Initially established as an easier means for Victorian tourists to summit Mt. Washington it was at one point expanded to a horse trail (making it even easier), until replace by the Cog Railroad, which was replaced, or put into competition with the road. (Can it get any easier to get to one of the harshest places on the East Coast? And why do so many people want to go there?)

But back to the Crawford Path. It is a nice 3.3 mile trail up to the summit of Mt. Pierce with a steady incline and no technical sections, but still an incline that was made more enjoyable with the use of hiking poles.

…and the view from the summit of Mt. Pierce is stunning. We arrived around 11:00, just as the higher clouds had lifted off Mt. Eisenhower to the North. The air was so clear we could almost see the cairn on the top clearer than we could yesterday when we were standing right next to it. As we stood and watched the clouds lifted off the top of the next mountain. We debated which mountain was Monroe, which Washington, which was Jefferson. With the final lift however, it became clear. Mount Washington stood tallest and we could figure the rest out from there. And it was then and there that I really decided...well, why not climb them all? See what the world looks like from each and everyone of them. Join the community that knows that, that shares a common language of peaks, of New England weather knowledge, an intimacy with the many trails that leads to each and every one of them. Be here in this part of New England, playing, peak after peak.

The view was so nice, so well deserved, especially after yesterday's fog fest that we decided to have lunch there on the rocks where we could take it all in. Two other hikers were there, a rabbit, a weasel (I believe one had lunch on its mind also) and two Gray Jays that were definitely in feeding mode. We enjoyed our peanut butter and apple butter sandwiches, and they enjoyed our raisins and peanuts. Right out of S’s hand. They’d sit in the firs right next to us and wait until he held out his hand with some goodies, then they’d take turns flying in and snacking. They weren’t in any hurry and would just sit in his hand and fill up taking as much as 5 good sized peanuts in the beaks (pouches?) before flying off. When we decided they’d had enough the continued to eye us but smart enough to not be fooled by and empty hand.

After lunch we headed east on the Webster-Jackson Trail realizing that in our calculations for today’s hike we (or maybe it was just me) hadn’t figured in the fact that’d we’d need to descend, then ascend between the two peaks. But it wasn’t that bad. The AMC's Mitzph hut, a trailside grouse that wasn’t phased by our passing, and a nice mountain bog added to the hike. Once on the summit of Mt. Jackson (named not for President Jackson, but rather for Charles Jackson a 19th century New Hampshire state geologist) we had another nice stop and some more amazing views of the Presidentials. I attempted to shoot a 360 degree panorama. We’ll see how it comes out.

On the summit we crossed paths with what could possibly be the last of the thru hikers. Four young guys on their way to Katadin, in a bit of a hurry).

The trail down, the Webster Jackson connector, was a bit steep, but have I mentioned that I have hiking poles?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Mt. Eisenhower, and Mt. Monroe - I Join the Hiking Pole People

For many years I’ve literally cursed the clickitty clackitty of hiking poles and those people who use them. The number of times I’ve been out enjoying the pristine quiet of the woods, or the desert only to be disturbed by the clicking of hiking poles striking against rock. And for what? I questioned. Really how much can two sticks really add to the hiker’s abilities?

Today I got some learning and some converting. It all began back there on Mount Hancock a few months ago. It was only fitting that the end would be the next 4000fters – Mt. Eisenhower, and Mt. Monroe. We left the trailhead at 8:00, and began the gentle climb up the first 1000 ft. When the climb got a little more serious I decided, “what the heck, I’m carrying the darn poles, why not use them?”

“But wait” you ask, “where did you, curser of hiking poles get hiking poles? And not just any poles – Contour Elliptic Shock Trekking Poles by Black Diamond

“Ah” I reply. “Good question. Back when I was climbing – or rather descending – Mt. Hancock. S. lent me his – just in time to save my knees. And so it came to pass that for my birthday S. bought me a pair, and not just any pair but Black Diamond Contour Elliptical Shock poles.

But back to Mt. Eisenhower which we climbed expecting the fog to lift after we cleared the tree line. It didn’t. At the peak, marked by a very nice, very large cairn, it still hadn’t. Walking the Crawford Trail north along the ridge to Mt. Monroe was nice, the trail nice. We assumed the view would have been fantastic – but honestly there were times when it was hard to see the next cairn. Still, it was our first 4000 fters since July.

And the question is raised – can you count a peak if you can’t see it, or anything from it?
(We’ll leave that for you – our valued reader and perhaps peak bagger, or another day – to decide)

Presidential Week

One month before what could be the biggest Presidential election in recent United States history I too spent the week talking about Presidents. But while the tv announcers babbled on about some guys named McCain, Obama, and Bush, I was dealing with Washington, Adams, Monroe, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Pierce and Jackson...and I added a new obsession to my list (1. Hike the AT. 2. Visit all the states) and now number 3. Hike all the New Hampshire 4000 fters.

The remaining question - how many peaks would I "bag" in the coming week?

Bon Ton Roulet: Roundup

...and now for a song. Pedaling along all those miles one song rotated through my mind - almost endlessly. As the miles rolled along, the lyrics evolved and now for your future riding enjoyment I present:

Rollin' Rollin' Rollin

(sung to the tune of Rawhide - (an old tv western)

Rollin' Rollin' Rollin'

Keep movin', movin', movin',
Though they're disapprovin',
Keep them feet a movin' Pedal On!
Don't try to understand it,
Just saddle up, click in and hammer it,
Soon we'll be riding high, decending wide.
Boy my heart's a calculatin'
The miles til my tents a waitin', be waiting at the end of my ride.

Move 'em on, head 'em up,
Head 'em up, move 'em out,
Move 'em on, head 'em out Pedal On!
Set 'em out, ride 'em in
Ride 'em in, let 'em out,
Cut 'em out, ride 'em in Pedal On.

Full Lyrics

Rollin', rollin', rollin'
Rollin', rollin', rollin'
Rollin', rollin', rollin'
Rollin', rollin', rollin'
Pedal On!

Rollin', rollin', rollin'
Though the streams are swollen
Keep them feet a rollin'
Pedal On!
Rain and wind and weather
Hell-bent for lycra and leather
Pushing Cannondales and Specialized.
All the things I'm missin',
Clean pants, dry cloths, beer, and a kissin',
Are waiting at the end of my ride

Move 'em on, head 'em up
Head 'em up, move 'em on
Move 'em on, head 'em up
Pedal On!
Count 'em out, ride 'em in,
Ride 'em in, count 'em out,
Count 'em out, ride 'em in
Pedal On!

Keep movin', movin', movin'
Though they're disapprovin'
Keep them feet a movin'
Pedal On!
Don't try to understand it
Just saddle up, click in and hammer it
Soon we'll be living high and wide.
My hearts a calculatin'
The miles til my dinner's waitin',
It's waitin' at the end of this ride.

Pedal On!
Pedal On!

7/26 - Last Day of the Bon Ton Roulet

It was drizzling when we woke and that continued on and off on our last ride of the tour. The views along Cayuga Lake were still beautiful, and typical of the entire ride. Our final rest stop had all the fixings. From Gatoraide (whether green, orange, yellow or blue no longer mattered) to fig newtons, cheese, crackers, bologna, nuts, sugar wafers, etc. all the goodies we'd come to love were there.

After 50 miles we rode into the parking lot where it all began 7 days ago and greeted Angela, we were tired and dirty but triumphant.

Bon Ton Roulet: 7/25 There is a Bike Shop in Burdett

One of the really excellent features of the Bon Ton Roulet was it's mechanic. At the final night gathering everyone gave him a huge round of applause and he quietly tipped his beer back at us.

Until the tire episode(s) I had only watched the going on at the green van from afar. Seeing the folks gathered round while picking up the bags, going to the head, or checking on the route. The Van was usually parked near the center of things, with a bike stand, or two, set up and a lost riders flocking around. When the time came to ask if he carried kevlar tires I waited while he spun a hapless derailer, clicking it through the gears and trying to determine the problem while a man, seated in a chair asked him how he got into the business. Politely (although distracted by trying to do his job) he replied that he had intended to be a finish carpenter and had set up his shop in Burdett, NY. When business was slow, and it often was, he'd sit on his front porch and work on this bike. Being on the main drag, and there being no other bike shops short of Ithica, people would stop, ask his advise, or ask him to work on their bikes...and so it came to pass...there is now a bike shop in Burdett.

Burdett, NY was the first town where I ever say a dead deer hanging from a front porch. It's a small town and it could well have been on that porch that the mechanic now repaired bikes. Things do change in 2o something years, I do not believe that in the entire year I lived there I never once even saw a bike, let alone a bike shop.

To be honest - I didn't even ride while I lived there. Have you seen the hills? Huge! Mile long climbs, followed by brake burning descents. And apparently - the need for armored tires which coincidentally the mechanic was out of. He did however have these 'tuffy stips' which he could put inside the tire, and those should protect the tube and save us from another 3 flat day.

And so it came to pass that on 7/25 I headed up, up, up and out of Watkins on a 75 mile ride. We took rt 14 south through Montour Falls and up. I'd seen the route before we left, and I knew the 'hill'. I knew I would be walking. I was wrong! As I rode up the monster, admittedly slower than, hmmm, a mountain goat, I couldn't believe it was happening, just pedaling along, climbing the mile and half long beast. Yeah!!!! After that the route turned North along the ridge, than down then up, then down, then up, then down. I was hurting but pedaling. The reststop at Wagner Vineyards was welcome and extremely hard to leave.

Crossing over to Cayuga Lake we stopped for some ice cream. Very good ice cream, then climbed an agonizingly steep road to the top of Trumansburg Falls. Looked at the Falls then crawled into camp where we commenced the nightime routine, rather sentimentally, for this was the last night.

Bon Ton Roulet: 7/24 Layover Deja Vu

Today is the layover day and it's morning in Watkins Glenn. Sleeping in a tent at the High School below the ridge where I first saw a real live pig roast, and walking down streets that look pretty much the same as they did 20 something years ago, its hard not to feel like I'm in some sort of time warp where the 22 year old and the 46 year old meet.

Watkins Glenn is a very nice town. Between the Falls, the Race Track and being at the edge of the biggest Finger Lake, there is a lot going on but somehow it stays relaxed. Still a bit of a farm town. Back when I lived here and now that I'm visiting, it always strikes me that it is at once 'backwards' and also way ahead of the curve. For instance, I was in desperate need (again) of good coffee and we went into a coffee shop. The little shop was on the main street and also, very modernly, doubled as a book shop. Once again, we were not the only people on the tour in need of coffee and waited patiently inline with other bike rides to place our order. The attendants carefully and in a rather relaxed manner filled the orders. The person behind me grunted, and I got a bit anxious. Not like I had anywhere to go or that the atmosphere in the shop wasn't nice, I just felt like we should all be in a hurry somehow. At the very least you'd think that the shop owner, knowing there was a huge influx of people in town (and we were hard to miss) would put a few more people on. But then I remembered, this was Watkins. It didn't work that way here. Money was not the bottom line. I never really figured out what was but people would repeatedly close shops on Sundays, or for little league games, or weddings or whatever and opportunities to make the big bucks, or rather that extra buck, would pass away. Kinda an interesting way to live.

After that we walked some more around town, hiked the falls, took the group charted boat tour around the Lake (OH- saw a Bald Eagle) and generally relaxed. There was a century option but considering the only way out of town was up, up, up, and we would have to do that tomorrow - we opted out. Also it was time to deal with the tires!

Bon Ton Roulet: 7/23 Three Flats and Still Rolling

Have I mentioned that I love my new bike? I do. More and more every day. I am, however a bit pissed at my tires. In all fairness, it's not the only bike suffering from these road, but 3 flats in 50 miles is a bit much to bear, even more to repair!

Luckily for this trip my personal mechanic can also patch a tube and we've perfected the 5 minute flat change and repair routine. (Changing the tube while repairing the old one, or...repairing the tube without even taking it off the rim).

Meanwhile I'm looking to either modify the tires, either with entirely new kevlar ones, or with the addition of "Tuffy strips". It appears that the type of stone dust on the roads here has a tendancy to work into the tires, especially when they are wet. And have I mentioned that it's been wet on this ride?

Today we rode/flat fixed our way from Canandagua to Watkins Glen. Lots of farm land, and vineyards.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Bon Ton Roulet: 7/22 The Routine and Variations Thereon

It's now Day 3 of the Bon Ton Roulet (Seneca Falls to Canadagua via Geneva with a side trip down Seneca Lake) and the routine is second nature.
1. 5:00-5:30 - wake up
2. Breakfast
3. Gear up - bike clothes, food, etc.
4. Pack personal stuff and remove from tent
5. Pack tent
7. Carry tent and luggage to van (Being sure to note whether we're throwing our stuff into Van 1, or Van 2.
8. Check bikes
9. Check route
11. Roll out and ride!
12. Ride
13 Rest stop (ie Snacks!)
14 Ride
15 Rest stop (more Snacks!)
16 Arrive at camp site
17 Site perfect tent spot among 300 other tents and various ponds, marshes, outhouses and assorted obstacles.
18 Set up tent
19 Hang up cloths to dry
20 Shower
21 Locate info for night events and next days ride
22 Dinner
23 Check out event
24 Sleep

And there are the Variations on the Theme/Routine

Today's first variation came around mile 12. It was a Real Coffee Shop in Geneva. About 50 of us stopped and luxuriated in a cup of real Coffee. Ahhh. It was excellent! While we were sitting outside enjoying the drinks, a break in the rain, and conversation with a couple from Middletown, CT, a large group of riders heading east rode by. The Bon Ton Roulet was crossing paths with FANY. Several stopped for coffee also (guess poor coffee is a common hardship of these tours)

From there we headed South alongside Lake Seneca, then turned West and up, across the land between the lakes. Lots of fields, corn, fruit, vegies. It's hard to stop once the bikes get rolling but we did stop at one farm stand for some fresh apricots, and once again at a bike shop. We needed lube and a map holder.

When, what had been one of the sunniest days of the trip so far suddenly turned cloudy we picked up the pace. Pedaling the last mile through a solid downpour we arrived at rest stop number 2 where we spent 1 and three-quarter hours waiting out the rain. (And eating Lebanon Bologna!)

And now, with the tent all set and dinner eaten, we're watching a thunderstorm approach. Seems just like old times in Hector where we'd sit on summer nights and watch the clouds sweep in from the West.

Bon Ton Roulet: 7-21 Downhill Day

After a small 300 ft climb this morning on the Bon Ton Roulet the day pretty much went downhill. Literally, we ended 700 ft below where we started. Figuratively there were other downhills as well.
  1. The biggest and steepest downhill ever descended (not just for me but for many of the others. It felt like my rear wheel could just lift up and over the handlebars at any second.
  2. Millard Fillmore, the 13th president of the United States was born just outside Morovia, NY. Along the route. He was the 1st president not elected to office but once in the whole thing went downhill from there.
  3. Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge - where we took refuge from a huge downpour.
  4. Tylenol PM - At night I discovered why I haven't been feeling as energetic as usual. (Also why you really should read the label of the medicine you take). Seems I've been taking tylenol PM, instead of regular tylenol.
All in all however, it was a great day. We ended at Seneca Falls. A lovely little town with a bit of history.

Oh - and another funny downpour story! When we arrived at the camping site for the night it was nice and sunny. Our bags and those of 500 others lay in the field waiting for us. As we sorted among them the sky darkened. As I went to put the bikes under the bleachers and S. carried the bags out to our spot on the field - surprise! - it started to pour - torrentially. I looked out from the bleachers to where S. should have been but saw only a blue blob in the field. A moving blue blob. From which a head them popped out. S. had grabbed the floorcloth from the tent bag and covered himself and all our gear! We were saved from a very wet night.

Tomorrow, after about 24 miles of relative flats we climb 500 ft in 5 miles. (Real flats to follow.)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Bon Ton Roulet: And so it came to pass

At 7:45 the rain started.

At 8:00 the Bon Ton Roulet (2008) started. 499 bicyclists hit the road from Auburn, NY to Courtland, NY. And what a group of bikes it was! In addition to hundreds of 'regular' bikes there were several recumbents, lots of tandems, I think I even saw a recumbent tandem! Brandwise there were Lemonds, Fujis, Scotts, Lightspeeds, Treks, Specialized, Cannondales and lots of others - hardly two of the same brand. Some as old as a week (that's me!) and some nice bikes with down tube shifters (could have been me).

The people also came in all shapes, sizes, speeds and characters. From 3 to 82 years old, from sprinters to "what the heck we have all day" types. People from the area, and riders from just about every state in the country.

I soon learned however, that riding with a large group means there are some things we all had to share - skill, teamwork and communication. "Car up", "Car back", "on your left", "You okay?" all day long. Lots of conversation too. Since every bike was required to display a 'license plate' stating our name and hometown there was also lots of talk about towns, especially Mystic. Everyone has been to Mystic.

The folks on the sides of the road were pretty nice also. Curious about us too. "Where are you from?", "How many of you are there?", "Where are you going?", "Where?!"

The highlight of today's ride, apart from the riding and the excellent company, was an unexpected stop at Frog Pond Farm http://www.ferroart.com/. A gallery featuring sculptures made from recycled steel.

After another downpour we arrived at the fields of SUNY Courtland. After riding through two good storms, and setting up the tent in a thunderstorm, stringing a clothes line from the bikes to the fence and hanging up the gloves to dry, it's now time to kick back, and listen to the Travis Rocco Band. Good night!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Bon Ton Roulet: Foreshadowing?

On the last night party of the Bon Ton Roulet they read off the entries for the 6 word stories. Try as I might during the tour and after I cannot fit the "Bon Ton experience" into 6 words. While entries such as "Crotch on fire, not heart's desire", and "Sleep, eat, pedal, shower, eat, repeat" do capture some of the essenence, I will try, and maybe not even succeed to do it in 6, or maybe 8 posts.

Sunday 7/26

While on the way to the Bon Ton Roulet, just east of Syracuse, NY we drove through a line of thunderstorms. Rain so hard you couldn't see the road. Of course we also had to stop for gas and in the run to the rest area got completely soaked. Later at the camp site however, the tent held up well against the next line of showers and we stayed dry. According to the weather report there is only a 20% chance of rain today. With tomorrow's forecast for a 60% chance of rain - looks like we're going to doing some wet camping and riding in the upcoming week.

Dinner was on our own at the Green Shutter diner. Definitely a local restaurant with a little vegetable/herb garden out back and curbside service (if you honk) out front.

Now, 499 other people and myself are settling down for the night in the field behind the Auburn High School. Can't say I've ever camped at a high school before but thats where this soon to be mobile camp is tenting tonight. Looking out over tent city there are distinct neighborhoods. Located closest to the bathrooms, staked, corner to corner is the high end neighborhood. For between $385.00 and $500, In Motion Events - Camptel services supply, set up and break down your tent every night. Mostly Eurekas. Radiating out from this upscale tent Levittown is an interesting mixture of tents randing from single person TNF bivy tents to 6 person L. L. Bean palaces. One guy, has a Kelty 4-person sun shade set up with numerous chairs. Lots of his friends, and people's he's ridden with on these types of rides before are stopping by to say hello. These supported rides seem to be the way a lot of people spend their vacations.

From this vantage point, inside a palatial L. L. Bean tent complete with blow up mattress, chairs, standing room etc. I'm guessing the upcoming week will be:

1. Wet
2. Full of lots of different people, tents and bikes.
3. Covering more than a few miles.