Saturday, October 10, 2020

Jack-It RV bike rack

I replaced the manual tongue jack on our trailer with a new manual one (much more robust!) and installed this nifty Jack-It bike rack.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Half Marathon yesterday!

I had registered for a half marathon for this past weekend and only noticed it on my calendar last week - it was moved to next year. Instead, I decided to do one on my own. I came up with a perfect little route, starting at the Minuteman Visitors Center, mostly on traffic-free paths. It went great!

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Kim's New Rivendell

After Kim's beloved Rivendell Betty Foy was totaled almost exactly a year ago on our way to Acadia, we collected about $1600 from insurance. About $800 shy of the replacement value (hard to calculate, since we got Betty built up at a local shop, and Riv doesn't make that frame any more), but it was just about enough to cover a replacement.

So, after a wait of close to 5 months, we received a big box from Rivendell last week containing her brand new Clem Smith Jr. (L for "Ladies"). It came literally the day before setting off for this year's Acadia adventure (largely unconsummated though, due to my back injury.) It's gorgeous, with some lovely details (lugs with heart cut-outs!), nearly rivaling her last one. 

But better still, it's a more appropriate ride for her. With 26-inch wheels and a nice long wheelbase, it's a tip-of-the-hat to mountain bikes of yore and rides like a dream.

Very much looking forward to lots of fun family rides!

Convalescing at Patten Pond

Patton Pond. I am down by the water and it's a beautiful day. It's Thursday, but this is the first time I've been down here this week. I had planned to go to Acadia every day… But that plan was scuppered the moment I felt my back go out loading bikes onto the car when leaving the campsite in Wiscasset.

Major bummer, trying to make the best of it. This is actually the first day I feel more or less human health wise. Kim and I got up at the ungodly hour of 3:45 AM and drove to the top of Cadillac Mountain to see the sunrise this morning. 

We often joke whenever we are on our way somewhere that all the cars we see around us are probably going to the same place… And this morning that turned out to be true. We couldn't quite figure out who all the other cars were on route three at 4 AM, and it turned out that a great many of them were indeed on their way to the top of the mountain as we were.

We arrived at 5 AM and our steady stream of traffic more or less came to a halt about a quarter of a mile from the summit. Everyone just pulled off to the right, turned off their cars, and walked the rest of the way. I wasn't about to do that, as my back is a serious liability at this point. Instead, we just drove all the way up very slowly and double parked behind some extreme early arrivers. We sat on a wall along with literally hundreds and hundreds of other sleepy sunrise enthusiasts and waited for the sun to come up.

Miracle of miracles, just before the sun made its appearance, I saw someone backing out of their parking spot right next to where we were squatting, I zipped right in and we were set!

We stayed probably another 20 minutes or so and joined in with the rest of the sleepy, chilly crowd in applauding when the sun peeked over the horizon. We were also among the first to get back in our car for the dissent, and I am glad we were. There were cars parked on both sides of the road, leaving only enough room for a single lane of traffic going down. We got out of there relatively easily, but I'm sure it was a real nightmare for many of those who followed.

We then took a circuitous route to bar Harbor, stopping at a few points along the way for more views on this beautiful clear morning. We ended up at Two Cat Café and ordered breakfast to go, which we ate in the park overlooking the harbor. Gorgeous!

So, while my back is feeling much better today, this morning's excursion is probably the most ambitious I will be this week. So no hiking, no biking unfortunately. But this morning's adventure is enough.

Friday, July 03, 2020

Best Berkshire Ride

I really love my new-ish job at Nuance Communications. Lots to like about working there, including a bonus day off for the 4th of July! Since the 4th is on a Saturday this year, we have the 2nd and 3rd off. And because our annual Berkshires retreat with Nana and Papa is cancelled this year (for the same old reason....), I decided to treat myself and drive out to Lee and do one of my favorite rides.

I left the house with my Raven around 6am and arrived in Lee just two hours later. I parked near the venerable Oak N Spruce, where we usually stay. 

My route (shown on Strava, along with photos!) was all familiar territory. I started by riding south, and rode up Jerusalem Rd, with my favorite view of all at the top:

My descent into Tyringham was steep and quick (almost 50mph), with lovely views of the cemetery and church steeple to the left - but it's nicer in the fall. From there, the hill up to Monterey was long and torturous as usual. At least I did it early in the day, so maybe I had a little of my morning caffein left in my system. 

In Monterey, I was reminded that the General Store was still out of commission, but it looks like construction is continuing. I really hope it'll be open by this time next year! I've had lots of nice early morning snack breaks there. Heading out of Monterey, I passed the Roadside, which, surprisingly, was open. But I passed it by and proceeded on to Great Barrington. 

GB was bustling - lots shops and restaurants seemed open (as was the case pretty much everywhere around there). My longest uninterrupted stretch of quiet road followed, north through Alford to West Stockbridge. I was planning to have the lunch I'd brought with me at Olivia's Overlook - after another long climb. So in West Stockbridge, I took a break at my favorite coffee place in the world, No Six Depot. 

That gave me sufficient energy to make it up the hill to Olivia's Overlook, and I had a nice turkey sandwich and potato chips overlooking Stockbridge Bowl far below. 

The descent from Olivia's Overlook took me past Tanglewood, right into Lenox. I felt like I was in the home stretch after that, and continued along Housatonic Rd to the little footbridge behind the old Lenox railway station. 

From there, I took the gravel road along Woods Pond to the October Mountain State Forest campground, where I gratefully used a restroom.

(I'd been dreaming of camping there since the day we got our camper.... but discovered that there are no hookups available - boondocking only! So we'll need to get to be a little more experienced before tackling that. And maybe get a generator.)

So after that, I rode into Lee and took Fairview back to the car. NOTE TO SELF: Fairview is brutal, with a couple very steep hills, and is ALWAYS a regrettable approach to my starting point... but I never seem to remember that.

All in all, a GREAT ride, about 51 miles, including over 4200 ft of climbing! 

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Weekend on the Cape

For our second trip with the camper, we decided to go to the seashore. We hadn't been to Cape Cod really since our infamous Nickerson camping trip 10+ years ago when everybody came home with ticks. The drive to Truro reminded me why: the traffic was horrendous, and it took almost 4 hours to get there. Ugh. Plus, the AC in the Pathfinder broke during our last camping trip, so it was very hot indeed.

We camped at Horton's "Camping Resort" in Truro. The campground wasn't bad, all things considered I guess. It's a spin-off from a chain with another campground near by. The main one is ridiculously jam packed and totally unappealing. Horton's has much more space, but no more personality. It's pretty big, including one whole bit that's disused, and scattered with carcasses  of abandoned RVs. We never did see anyone working there, except (I think) for a woman with two giant off-leash dogs that scared the bejesus out of us when we arrived.

Our site was fine. I was able to reverse in (with Kim's help!) without much trouble. There were some tent sites across the way, and the spots on either side of us were empty when we arrived. Once we were settled in, a nice family came in with a beautiful, brand new trailer - a Flagstaff E-Pro. I have to admit that I was briefly obsessed with it... it has many more deluxe features than ours. On the other hand, it was much more expensive, so I really can't complain! The mom is the proprietress of The Painted Pastry, a cookie baking enterprise on the North Shore. Here's some more info about them - and their trailer!

The next day, a couple checked in on the other side of us with a Scamp - an eensy weensy trailer, very cute. I also became briefly obsessed with that, but I it was a passing fancy. Our next trailer will be an Airstream anyhoo.

The best thing about the campground was the location - an easy walk to Highland Lighthouse:

And a very easy bike ride to Coast Guard Beach, where we spent several hours baking in the sun, wading in the surf, and watching the seals!

One day, we ventured into Provincetown for a walk around, and even ate out for the very first time since the pandemic hit. It's an adorable town, I'm sure it's utter pandemonium when evening rolls around. But it wasn't terribly busy when we were there. We enjoyed our early dinner at Patio, where they had good food and very nice outdoor seating with plexiglass dividers between the booths.

We debated bringing the bikes.... since we're using the trailer hitch to pull a trailer, we don't have a good place to put our four bikes. I'm debating getting a roof rack for the car ($1000+!!!), but we loaded all four into the camper and that worked just fine!

So we had some nice family rides around the campsite, and to the beach. And I did an epic ride down to P-town, around and back. Gorgeous! The bike paths are a little bit of a hodgepodge way out there, but there were lots of them, and I barely had to be on the road at all. All the paths are exceptionally well maintained, and I barely saw anyone else. Paths went through thick forest, sand dunes, and along the beach. Couldn't be better! Here are the details on Strava.

And then on Father's Day, I did a fantastic 8-mile run around Truro, including views of bay and ocean!

Sunday, June 07, 2020

Christening the new camper

Our New Camper

I've been fascinated by RVs since middle school. I used to get RV mags and read them when we were on family trips each summer. More recently, I've enjoyed going to the RV show each Februry at the Boston Convention Center. Until this year - the car show has been at the same venue at the same time for ages, but not this time for some reason. I chose the car show this year, I guess figuring that I was more likely to actually buy a new car long before I'd even consider a camper.

Until the pandemic hit, anyway. By the beginning of May, all of our travels and summer camps were cancelled, and we figured this would be the ideal time to think about a camper. I was reluctant (could we afford it? where would we put it? how much would we really use it? will our car pull it?) but relented after finding the brand new Coleman Lantern 17b. It was a total bargain, relatively speaking. For around $10k, we got everything we need, weighing in at around 3100 lbs dry, well below our supposed capacity of 5000 lbs.

It's got bunks for the girls, a mini-queen for Kim and me, a little dinette that converts to another bed, a bathroom with shower, AC, electric fireplace, and a bluetooth stereo with speakers in the ceiling. It sat in our driveway for three weeks or so, while we waited for campgrounds to open.

Our Weekend in Littleton

So campgrounds in state parks won't open until July, but private campgrounds could open this weekend (June 6-7). Since we really had no idea what we were doing, we wanted to do something as close to home as possible, and it really couldn't be much closer than the Boston Minuteman Campground in Littleton Mass. 31 minutes away, in fact - straight out Rt 2.

We reserved a pull-thru site (no. 14) with 30 amp electric, water, sewer, and cable (we didn't use the cable) to arrive on Friday and leave on Sunday. Kim and I both had super busy weeks at work, so our packing was a little haphazard. We got all the basics in the car though, including food and drink for three days - the highlight being a pound of lobster salad from Fresh Pond Seafood for lobster rolls on Saturday nite. Mmnmmm!

Day One

The staff were super nice and super duper helpful! On arrival somebody escorted us to our site and showed us how to hook everything up. It's complicated! We spent the next few hours unpacking provisions and implements into the cabinets, making our beds, and setting up our camp kitchen and Coleman stove.

Dinner our first night was going to be hot dogs and hamburgers (with veggie facsimiles for Gem) but stuck to hamburgers instead since it was getting late and we'd been snacking. Of course we topped off the night with a couple rounds of s'mores, then everybody slept well.

Day Two

I was up early the next morning (as usual) and had a cup of coffee in our camper-size Keurig. (Our little kitchen even has a handy place to store the pods!)

Finding a good route to run in a strange area can be a little nerve-wracking, and it was this time. I was just going by a Google map of the area, so my route the first day ended up taking me through a quiet-on-the-weekend industrial area and a long gravel road through forest and some wetlands. Fine, but nothing breathtaking. Here's the route. 4 miles at a pretty good clip.

The girls (and I, to be honest) were a little anxious about how we'd spend our time, since the clubhouse and the pool were closed. That turned out to be not an issue at all. We spent a good part of the day on Saturday making and eating breakfast, walking around the campground gawking at other campers and their rigs, and reading or whatever. (I went thru a 6-inch stack of back-issues of Bicycling from the early 1980s.) Also had a nice time playing Taboo and Bob's Burgers Clue (which I won, for a change). We had dinner around 6, consisting of sandwiches for the girls and lobster rolls with cole slaw for Kim and Me.

Then more s'mores, and inside just as it started to rain hard.

Our movie night (thanks to Amazon Prime Video streaming on a laptop) consisted of the classic RV film RV. It was no good of course, and we lost the girls halfway through and ended up watching a classic ep of Bob's Burgers.

Day Three

Our last day started a lot like the second one - coffee and a run. This time I stuck to this side of the tracks - both literally and metaphorically. No more factories or fallouts - it was all beautiful houses with big lawns, horses, and cows. I ended running a good way into Harvard Mass before turning around and heading back for about 5.4 miles at a great pace - 9:29 / mile. It was another out-and-back, but I figured out later that I could have done a circuit, which only would have added another 0.4. Next time!

We had some nice scrambled eggs and veggie sausages for breakfast, loaded everything up, and were home in a half hour!

The Ins and Outs

One of the more daunting aspects of RV life is all the technical ins and outs. Apparently, you're supposed to figure everything out based on one flimsy user manual and a 45-minute walkthru when you drive off the sales lot. Good thing we have YouTube and Facebook! There's an active FB group for Coleman owners, and I posted lots of questions over the weekend, from how to turn on the water heater to how to undo the hitch. It's complicated because there are so many manufactures and models, that they're all a little different. Answers to the water heater question were all over the place until somebody chimed in who has the same exact model. (Turns out you just have to run the water, then turn on the heater. And voila!)

The really scary thing is all the hookups and hoses. But the sewage dumping thing was awesome! Gross, but awesome! No spills or leaks, and I think we got everything cleaned and emptied just fine, no issues.

The thing that really stymied us was the fact that we couldn't figure out how to unhitch it from the car easily. It was a big rigmarole, with cajoling and scootching back and forth. Then Kim figured out that there's a little locking tab on top of the ball, and we hadn't been pulling it out all the way. Fine, we'll get it right next time.

The shower and toilet worked really great too.

The biggest worry had been how it would get along with our car. And it went just fine. Gas mileage was much better than it had been on the way home from the dealership - right around 21mpg. I think it's because this time I pushed the "Tow" button and a little corresponding light came on in the car. I have no idea what the difference would be, since I think the lights and brakes work regardless (as long as the electrical cable is plugged in.)

We're hitching straight up to a ball connected to the 2in receiver that came with the tow package on the car. There's lots of talk out there about getting extra stabilizer and load balance bars installed, but I really don't see any point in doing that at this point. (There were lots of people at the campsite with bigger trailers and similar tow vehicles.)

Next Time

We're already looking for a campground for Father's Day weekend. Can't wait!

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Memorial Day 2020 - Family Ride

What can you do during a pandemic on Memorial Day Weekend? Well, I did a good run yesterday (6 miles in Minuteman National Historical Park. I'll probably do the same tomorrow.

Today, though, we did a family bike ride, all four of us. And what a ride! The day was gorgeous, if a little chilly. We left the house right on time at 9am and rode up the Minuteman trail to the end. It was pretty crowded between Arlington and Lexington - sometimes uncomfortably so. We were all masked up and still warming up a bit, and I wasn't sure how the day would go. But once the crowds thinned out, we picked up the pace, everyone was having fun, and it was clear that we were in for a nice day.

From the end of the bike path in Bedford, we rode up Railroad Ave towards Concord, which eventually merged onto Rt 62 into Concord Center, and then another short shot to the Old North Bridge Visitors' Center. We had a short diversion to the Great Meadow Lookout tower and admired the lovely views there. There seems to be an easy, direct route to our destination from there, but no bikes allowed unfortunately.

We found a great shady spot under a tree and set up our picnic. There were a good number of people there, but not crowded by any means, and everyone kept their distance and pretty much behaved as far as I could see. I'd filled one entire pannier with goodies, including pretzels, sandwiches, Wegman's Picnic Chicken, Fig Newmans, carrots, grapes, and apples.

We stayed there eating and relaxing for about 90 mins before finally heading home. The ride out was about 15 miles, and everyone did really great! It was another 13 home, and some of us struggled a bit - but no substantial complaining, and everyone was very pleased with themselves at the end.

All the bikes also behaved well - and Kim was on her 18-year-old Fahrrad Manufaktur, which I dusted off just the other day! She'll have her new Rivendell soon - then we can avoid lots of the roads we were stuck on today by using the Narrow Gauge Trail and the Reformatory Branch Trail.

What threatened to be the biggest challenge of the day was all the public bathrooms being closed. I was super worried about that, but we managed fine. I unreservedly made use of hidden spots off the side of the road, and the girls held out until finally succumbing at the Lexington Cumberland Farms.

Awesome day all round!

Friday, May 22, 2020

The Christiania's New Home

So, it was only a matter of time before we outgrew our wonderful Christiania cargo trike. The girls were too big to ride in it, and it really wasn't practical to use it around town. I knew another family would make good use of it, so I tried selling it here and there.

No results for ages. But then in February of 2016, I saw an email on a Boston family cycling Google Group:
Anyone out there looking to sell their Christiania cargo bike (or similar trike) this spring or summer by any chance? It's a long shot, but I thought I might get lucky with this group.
What? Incredible. And a dozen or so emails and $1200 later, a nice young family pulled up with a rented van, and it was gone.

Then six months later, I got a lovely email from them with a handful of pictures.
Hope you and your family are well! I just wanted to drop you a line to say we are LOVING the Christiania. We are all moved into our new place in Pittsford, NY and ride the trike to the library, bakery, dairy, and up and down the Erie Canal daily. We get all kinds of nice comments and questions (as I'm sure you did too!)--a great conversation starter in a new place. It's been so much fun--and man, a great thigh workout too! I'm sharing a few pics so you can see what your old ride is up to these days. Thanks again!
I'd love to ride the Erie Canal path with the fam. Maybe we'll make it up to the Rochester area one of these days and run across these guys.

What? A new post!

After AGES, I'm back. I'm also going to start focusing on cycling again. And some running I guess.

One bright side of the ridiculous quarantine situation we're in is that (like many others) am eating better, sleeping more, and getting a lot more exercise. Which has included running every day since February (3-9 miles per day). I did a nice ride last weekend and a really good one today before work - so I'm hoping to get 20+ miles on the bike in at least 3 times per week starting today.

I've been really inspired recently because:

It's springtime (okay, now summer!)! It's relatively easy to run a few miles in gruesome weather, but sunny skies and dry surfaces are really much more conducive to biking.

I've been helping Gemma clear out the attic, which includes literally hundreds of back issues of cycling mags. Turns out we brought at least 5 years' worth of Cycling Plus magazine back with us from London. It's such a good magazine.... I had a lot of fun last weekend poring over back issues - including March 2004, with the first full review of the Raven Adventure Tour. That's the review that sparked my obsession with the Rohloff derailleur and ultimately ended up with me going up to Somerset and being fitted for my very own Raven.

The girls are now both reasonably cyclists, and they have nice Specialized hybrid bikes - they should be able to keep up with me on most any adventure I should dream up, I should think.

And I just (minutes ago!) ordered a new Rivendell for Kim to replace her beloved Betty Foy. (Why? It's a long story, which I hope to tackle another day). I'm sure that she's going to LOVE her new Clem Smith L, when it arrives in July! Rivendell put them on sale at 3pm today, and I'm pretty sure I was one of the very first buyers. No need for a seat or pedals - Betty will be the organ donor. Here it's a pic from the Rivendell website - what a beaut!

More to come!