Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Two Loops North of the Border - Along the Richelieu & Saint-Armand

Riding the farm roads on the return trip to Auberge Harris.
On the heels of riding with Adele near Sherbrooke, my husband and I staged a bike getaway from Auberge Harris in Saint Jean sur Richelieu. Most of the rain showers had passed by the time we made it through a 30 minute wait at the border and arrived in St. Jean and checked into a cramped hotel room (next time we'll spring for the suite). Auberge Harris is familiar from years passed, riding VerMontreal trips, plus the hotel welcomes cyclists, has safe bicycle storage, and provides maps of potential riding loops.

My husband wanted to ride on the Chambly Canal path again, a beautiful, crushed stone dust towpath beside a canal that once saw barges, but now allows pleasure craft, run by Parcs Canada. It had been several years for both of us but the scenery was still lovely as waterfowl from both canal and river nearby squawk and flap wings. We were even privy to a large fish leaping beside us, creating a big splash.

In Chambly we sat outside a health food store, enjoying panini and salad then began our return journey on the other side of the Richelieu River on new roads to us, through flat farming country, a nice loop mapped for us on Auberge Harris's free map.

By late afternoon we returned to the hotel and enjoyed the outdoor, warm, salt-water pool as showers sprinkled our heads, the sky clearing to reveal a rainbow.

We checked out of the hotel on Sunday morning and headed south, close to the Vermont border to explore the region around Saint Armand. We began our ride from the village green in a parking lot, surprisingly beside two other Canadian groups who were also setting off on bikes.

The horizontal line is the border with Vermont. The dark mass is Lake Champlain's extension into Canada.
We followed back roads on a vineyard map, eventually passing through Bedford then looping southward by Dumaine du Ridge where my husband snagged a vineyard map for a neighbor. We also paused for an extensive exploration of the same cemetery I stopped at a few years ago because of Corey family graves that were relocated to the Ridge Cemetery. I had no idea there were 50+/- stones with the Corey surname. 

We took a side road to ride through a covered bridge, the Guthrie Covered Bridge, built in the 1880's. I never thought about Quebec having covered bridges, but I realize Vermont doesn't hold a monopoly on this architecture and living so close to the border, we have lots of things in common, like maple syrup production and beautiful foliage season.

After dancing near another border crossing, Morses Line, we ended our ride back in Saint Armand, picnicking near a Pentaque court (that I later discovered is what we call Bocce). It was a lovely two days away from home and a chance to reconnect with my wonderful and favorite travelling companion.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Riding with Paula to Kamp Kill Kare State Park

I reconnected with Paula (an old friend from long ago book group) just before we set off on a wonderful overnight ride earlier this summer. With that success we kept in contact, and after running into her once again at Terry's tent sale (great minds think alike), we set up a time to meet, and start a ride from her country home 30 miles north of Burlington.

I invited my husband along, who's always looking for new places to ride. I didn't know it at the time but Paula and I had bought the same style of Terry saddle. Hers was the leather and white version, which was rather becoming on her blue Trek 520 touring bike. (sorry, no pictures)

Paula took us on paved country roads, eventually descending to Saint Albans Bay, a region my husband and I are somewhat familiar with, having ridden around the lake in recent years. The day was perfect: a light breeze and warming temperatures, and spectacular lake vistas.

But I'd never pedaled completely around the bay, which we did together, climbing rolling hills, coasting down the other side to delightful snippets of kayakers, people gardening, views of tiny islands, all the while taking in bayside cottages and farmsteads among mature oak and maple trees. I was pleased with my new saddle, Paula also.

We stopped at Kill Kare State Park, surrounded by three sides of Lake Champlain (weird I know, but that's what the website says) on the grounds of an old boys camp. The house still stands, turned into offices, a visitor's center, and bathrooms. A delightful respite on sweeping lawns in the shade and we returned on the same road until looping back on another hill to Paula's place for a total of 20 miles. My Clementine and I climbed efficiently, keeping up with my husband - I still marvel at her low gears - and now with a proper saddle I feel confident she'll handle loaded ascents with ease.

On the ride back I schemed with Paula about doing an overnight from her house, staying at Lake Carmi, a park she hasn't visited. If our luck holds we'll squeeze in this adventure before the snow flies and/or the state park closes. It's a slim window, due mostly to my September vacation, but who knows? If we're lucky the ride might occur on her birthday and during foliage season. Fingers crossed!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Bargains at Terry's Tent Sale

Several years ago Terry Bicycle company relocated to Burlington, Vermont. I've admired their saddles for close to 20 years, but as with many seats, I find the cost prohibitive to take a chance on a saddle that might not provide long-term comfort.

Terry holds an annual tent sale, and after buying a black wrapper skirt (a leftover from the sale) at Goodwill and loving the style, I made sure to attend Terry's sale this year. I was immediately drawn to a basket of touring saddles and picked out a 20.00 Butterfly. There were beautiful leather versions also (for twice the price), but I generally avoid them because of the care involved and the need to cover leather saddles in inclement weather.

I'm fond of cut-out saddles.
The new saddle adorns Miss Clementine and is a big improvement over the stock saddle!

I like the two front slits lined with reflective tape plus hidden zipper pocket.
The fun was just beginning! I found a blue/grey version of my favorite wrap skirt. My shorts selection is getting threadbare so these skirts provide coverage and style, and come in handy wearing into my workplace or doing errands. I've also worn them on pleasure rides, really, almost anywhere. On longer jaunts I hike the skirt up in back so there's no bunching or extra seams to cause discomfort.

These skort wrappers are constructed of nylon and polyester.
I left with two items, but on the last day - in fact the last hour -  of the sale I cruised by on my bike, turning in to take a second look. It was my lucky day! The remaining merchandise was marked down 50%. I left there with a green wrap skirt plus a pretty, grey-patterned fleece skirt.

The wrap skirts have side zips with two-snap fasteners to secure a wide, comfortable waistband.

The black and blue versions have adjustable rear closures, which I like. The green style in the same size has some flexibility in the back elastic, but is a bit snug and is slightly shorter in length - the difference in yearly models.

 I'm pleased to have a fleece skirt, if only to wear walking in winter or over tights for office wear.

Easy to wear.

Provide ample coverage over shorts or a flattering look over tights.
I'll be sure to check out Terry's tent sale in 2018.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Slow Rolling with Adele - Sherbrooke Bound

Crowd pleasers during an outdoor festival in Sherbrooke.
On Adele's and my annual Canadian bike adventure, I suggested we explore east of Lake Memphremagaog, a region we hadn't visited together, and in my case, not in 10 years. In addition, we'd planned to investigate Sherbrooke, a new place for both of us and the major city for that part of Canada.

Adele took fabulous circus pictures!
With torrential rain forecast for the first day of our 3 day sojourn, due early afternoon, we drove directly to Sherbrooke, plus there was also a hiccup in our reservation. W'ed be staying further outside Sherbrooke than we'd originally thought, so it made sense to have the car available during our stay.

Taking advantage of help at the information center, we spent a rainy afternoon at the historical museum, but learned of Sherbrooke's early English settlement, it's mill based roots, county seat growth and eventual exploding French population. The history explains why Sherbrooke is primarily a French speaking area, though we didn't have any trouble communicating in English.

When the rains cleared, we enjoyed an outdoor festival, and especially the modern circus acrobats!

The two bed dorm room was spacious and easily accommodated our bikes.
We stayed in a Bishop's University dorm, and though not as nice as Adele would've liked (Sherbrooke hotels were either full or too expensive) the rooms were clean and the campus was quiet in early August. I would stay there again. I didn't mind the 4 mile separation between Lennoxville and downtown Sherbrooke, easily accessed by bike path, and, as it turns out, right on the 51k Sherbrooke to North Hatley bike loop that I suggested we ride!

Past North Hatley the trail followed a series of low traffic, rolling dirt roads.
With snacks as back up, we rolled out the door the following morning, and cycled 12k on a smooth, dirt packed rail trail to North Hatley, a beautiful community on Lake Massawipppi. The Eastern Townships are full of lovely back roads and marked cycling routes, one of the primary reasons Adele and I return again and again to Canada. We breakfasted at a chocolate shop/restaurant, a yummy hot breakfast that included a sample pot of warm chocolate to dip our spoons into.

Afterwards, knowing we had the whole day to complete 30 miles, in typical Annie/Adele fashion, we followed a garage sale sign along the opposite side of the lake than our map indicated we needed  to go! As often is the case with these diversions, our encounters provide more insight into the region: the sale was in a two-story boathouse where proceeds benefited the community's young population who attended sailing classes. I rummaged and found a pair of blue fleece socks while Adele picked out a scarf - two easy items to stow in our panniers.

Photo credit: Adele
Continuing on, dirt roads morphed into a fun, roller coaster-type stone dust packed trail, reminding us of a favorite cycling loop around Yamaska Park.

I would love to also ride this circuit someday with my husband, so I took mental notes (and photos) of nearby campgrounds. I was intrigued by the tee-pee set-ups.

Alter at OMG restuarant.
Adele and I eventually cruised back into Sherbrooke along the Magog River. Like many of the Eastern Township's routes, the route is well signed, and free maps provide back up. We had to stop at OMG, recommended by a friendly cafe attendant (who made the best cappuccino) as a great place for burgers. We weren't hungry, however, we were intrigued by the former church turned into restaurant and investigated the interior, plus drank a pick-me-up (but not as stellar) cappuccino.

There was lots of chrome and wood with alcoves of comfy chairs, a bar, and dining sections segregated by wall panels. I loved the interior, but the devil logo seemed a little weird to me, opposite of any religion, but that was possibly intentional. It certainly is a hip place though and set up for special occasions - a place to check out in the future.

Food photos credit: Adele
Later that evening, after a shower and rest in our dorm room, we ventured back to Sherbrooke for dinner at Resto L'Empreinte. Adele had a few possible restaurants in her quiver, and this quiet, quaint, fabulous, foody place certainly expanded my gastronomic horizons! I will try most anything and we shared many dishes (7 or 8?), the likes of raw venison, pork medallions, fish, lots of interesting sauces, with numerous herbs and fresh vegetables, and finished with a plate of chocolaty panna cotta. Adele called it molecular cuisine: using ingredients in a new form. It was an experience I will never forget.

After dinner we noticed that downtown Sherbrooke is pretty quiet. I guess it's like many other cities, but I've become used to lively Burlington and Montreal, where something is always going on and people walk around in the evening.

Riding through the Narrows of Fitch Bay.
The third morning we drove to Ayer's Cliff, breakfasted at a local diner, and set off on a hilly but spectacular loop by Lac Lovering, Fitch Bay, and pedaled an undulating road before climbing a hill and discovering Blue Lavande lavender farm.
The covered bridge at The Narrows.

At Blue Lavande, we first enjoyed the aromatic gift shop because we weren't sure we wanted to pay 10.00 for the tour or spend another hour walking the grounds. However, Adele talked with someone in the entrance booth who gave us free passes because we cycled there!

What a beautiful spot!

The fields reminded me of southern France. The owners have experimented and developed a system to protect plants during harsh Quebec winters, and are continually planting and trying out new varieties.

Near the start of the Tomifobia trail, Adele investigates the town of Stanstead for future eating establishments and possible places to stay.
Near the Canadian border we hopped on the Tomifobia rail trail and pedaled 19 kilometers back to Ayer's Cliff.

The Tomifobia spur line once hauled granite and passengers between Stanstead, Ayer's Cliff and Lennoxville (where we bunked for two nights), a rather fitting historical tidbit to learn about our journey in Canada. Quebec, we'll be back!

PS. The Clementine handled the hills quite well, though because of our itinerary change, I didn't carry more than 10 lbs. during any part of the hilly day. I have, however, found a more comfortable seat (more on that) and the front bag is a gem. Rock on, Clementine!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Colchester Streets Challenge - Lake Views, Dirt Roads, and Neighborhoods

I've been plugging along, ticking off more Colchester miles to, hopefully, fulfill my quest to ride all of Colchester's public streets in 2017. Sometimes I encounter the Mr. Ding-a-ling truck, it's driver passing out ice cream treats to anxious cyclists.

I get a kick out significant street signs. Will Superman fly overhead?

Colchester has a lot of dirt roads, this one jutted onto a peninsula, lined with quaint lakefront homes on Porter's Point.

Sometimes I feel like I'm pedaling on private land, but my map indicates otherwise.

My husband accompanies me on several outings, looping neighborhoods and a one-way ride towards a Winooski delta park, except we turned back because of deep water.

I have nearly finished one section of Colchester, though there are many more to go. So far I am surprised at the number of duplexes, Entire neighborhoods consist of duplexes. Others have single family homes, one has a neighborhood pool. One interesting neighborhood sported an abnormal share of homes angled outward on corner lots.

Riding Colchester's roads has been a sporadic affair. I've been busy with other summertime events, but once the weather cools off, I'll get back on a regular agenda.