October 7, 2012

Coffeeneuring Ride 1, Cup 1

Back from France for exactly a week today, and out for the first ride since returning. It was a rainy week, the only sunny non-work day dedicated to catching up on tasks in my neglected and overgrown garden. Today dawned grey, a chilly 42F, with the forecast promising rain.

Coffeeneuring is the month's cycling challenge and it requires 7 weekend rides, all including a stop for a cup of coffee, tea, or chocolate, all completed before Nov. 11. This holiday weekend is the only weekend permitting 2 rides. Simple arithmetic tells me that in order not to fail before starting, I need two successful rides right now, one today, one tomorrow. Today I rode to my nearest coffee shop, in the nearby town of Dalton, about 11 miles north. (There are some general stores closer by that will count in a pinch, since they will sell me a cuppa.)



Sometime while I was in sunny southern France, summer departed the chilly, northern, Berkshires. Trees lost their leaves, summer flowers disappeared, the sun lost much of its warmth and the days are short. Apple season is here, and the roadsides are loaded with fallen fruit. This young porcupine wasn't the least disturbed by me or my bike. If you look carefully, you'll see the remains of its apple on the ground.



The Canada geese are still here, and will be until the ponds and lakes freeze solid. They are handsome dignified birds on water ... until they tip down to browse for food, when they have something comical about them.



This is the flattest ride possible from home, and after riding in the Pyrenees it did seem very flat, without hills altogether. One day while riding near Arrens-Marsous, on terrain I thought flat, I noticed that without touching a pedal I was moving forward at just over 15mph. That doesn't happen here. Guess it wasn't so flat as imagined, but it did provide a good commentary on how geography can influence perspective and understanding.


Friends who visited Amsterdam not too long ago regaled me with stories of bicycles in that city, stories which I suppose have helped to open my eyes to other bikes here. I usually notice loaded bikes, since there are relatively few of them. Stopping to take a look at this one, there were a few surprises: little wheels that I associate with Bike Friday, pedals out in front like a recumbent, a seat midway between a recumbent and a road bike, four water bottles, and a drive train like none I've seen. And very loaded. This bike has a story to tell, but it was keeping its secrets.


Dalton did provide a cup of coffee, so the day's goal was met. The town is the home of Crane and Company, a paper mill that uses cotton to manufacture paper for US currency, along with that of several other nations. Crane is a good player in the Berkshires: with 200+ years here, it continues to support its local community's environmental, education, recreation, and other social needs, as well as provide jobs. 


Observing details missed when travelling by cars is a joy from a bike seat, though photos do require multiple stops. When people's hands and heads are paying attention, they can transform details from the mundane into the beautiful. This footbridge and terraced petite waterfalls link two houses. Unnecessary, and beautiful.


The visual world here is returning to somber shades of grey, dark green, browns. Soon snowfalls and ice will dominate the palette with whites. In the meantime sumac, an invasive species, lights up roadsides with its leaves looking like prayer flags in the breeze, or perhaps color studies for some design.





And turning a corner, these berries, in front of a blown-out cattail in the swamp, did their bit to add color.


Tomorrow hopefully will bring another coffee-inspired ride. Number one of seven was a good excuse to get out and riding again.

13 comments:

  1. It feels like a much more manageable challenge than 30 days of biking so I'm already very buzzed about it. I've only ever completed 30 days of biking once - last month when I was out of the country on a holiday based around cycling. It usually gets too wet & windy here & I'm no martyr - sometimes those conditions are just too dangerous on our little narrow twisty roads. So this challenge is perfect for me - it's already something I do most weekends - ride my bike & get a coffee somewhere.
    Love the autumn colours. October is my favourite month. Returning from a holiday to find the crisp mornings and beautiful colours is lovely.

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    1. Hi Georgie ... I look forward to reading your posts ... and photos! October would be lovely here in New England also, if only it would stop the grey, drizzly, chilly routine. Crisp, sunny, colorful sounds lovely.

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  2. Coffee-inspired rides...I wish we had cafes in France like you do back home (how strange is THAT comment!). Love the photos. Next time show me some Joe!

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    1. Didn't someone say something about the grass being greener? In any case the cafes in the US are probably better in urban areas or university towns. There are a very few in my largely rural area that are the exception to prove the point ... but only a very few.

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  3. That loaded bike is a short wheel base recumbent. I can't make out the manufacturer but I really like the underseat rack and panniers. I just installed an underseat rack on my long wheel base recumbent and it does wonders for weight distribution.

    The ride on that bike is to die for. And so are the hills when you climb them. No arms or abs, all legs and painfully slow. The downhills are scary fast, tho.

    I'll have to thank Gypsybug for the link to your blog.

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    1. And I thank you for reading and commenting... welcome! Is that higher seat typical on short wheel base recumbents? That bike looked like it was on a long trip, and I didn't think it started hereabouts. I see people on recumbents occasionally, but usually on mixed use paths. This was the first loaded one I've seen.

      Now I'll go chase back to your link, if here is one.

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  4. I've always felt that true cycle touring is about using a bike to move between tea-rooms. Here in Scotland they vary in quality and frequency greatly. Enjoyed your blog and in particular you French trip.

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    1. Tea rooms work ... or sometimes maybe true cycling involves moving from bistro to bistro ... the French trip(s) are certainly the most extraordinary cycling for me! Thanks for reading, it is always good to learn someone is "out there."

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  5. I couldn't agree more...riding in France is fantastic! Happy riding! Have you ever tried Mallorca - another blissful riding destination!

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    1. Hi, and thanks for reading. No, I haven't ever been to Mallorca, though my hostess for several nights in France had lived there for 3 years, and had great things to say about it.

      Thanks also for taking the time to comment, now I'm off for a look at your site.

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  6. Excellent photos, Suze, and welcome home to the New World. Hemmingway said that a bicycle is the best way to learn the contours of the land and I cannot argue with him. I'm always amused at the placement of historical markers in Virginia - right next to roadways where cars zoom by without a hope of reading them. There's a lot going on out there that cannot be appreciated in an automobile.

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    1. Hi Steve, and thanks! It is in so many ways good to be home, and in so many ways I miss those incredible mountains!

      If there is any length to the Hemingway that you mention, I'd love to have the reference if you can think of it. I have no argument, for me it really is a good pace, and level of intimacy from which to see the world. Faster than walking (and I simply cannot run) and a totally different world than the car.

      Agreed also about the historical markers. I thought of you and your site specifically when I posted the sign about WW2 that was on Col de Marie Blanque.

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    2. I have seen the following quote attributed to Hemingway in many places, although I generally do not see the citation:

      "It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle."

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