Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Sigh. A little lack of progress on this front

I have had numerous conversations with FedEx, UPS, other delivery and Wheelchair van drivers about not parking in the bike lane. I explain it is illegal. I explain that they force me into traffic approaching from the rear. 
They ask what I want them to do instead. I tell them to park illegally in front of someone's driveway (though often there is a space they can pull into 10 feet ahead or behind them).  But ultimately my response should be, "what would you do if there was no bike lane"? Because they would all admit that they would block the traffic lane.

Monday, August 11, 2014

And on to Lake Champlain

A new trick (for me).  I drove to Lake Champlain at Port Kent, left my car there and took the ferry across. $9.  The crossing took 1 hour, during which I was free to read, look around and NOT drive. Pleasant. FYI there is also an Amtrak station in Port Kent, within walking distance of the ferry dock. Unfortunately the train is slated to take 10 hours to get there and it is only 6 to drive.  Given my previous report of Amtrak usually being an hour or more late, it was not appealing. But the FERRY! Highly appealing. The ferry is so large that you don't feel the swells and a bike doesn't need to be secured to keep it from falling over. So I packed all my panniers on the bike and off I went to Burlington, where I was to meet up with Jamie.

We stayed at North Beach campground, a Burlington park. This park does not have a "no turn away" policy for cyclists, paddlers or hikers, which is a bit of a travesty. When asked why not, the woman at the office exclaimed "If we are full, where would we put them?"  Answer; on the unused volleyball court. Really.  How many could there possibly be? I should write a letter... maybe tomorrow... We rode in to downtown Burlington to their fabulous Co-op to gather supplies. The easy thing about this route is that there are very good re-supply stores all along the way. We carried no stove for this trip. It is warm, neither of us drinks coffee and we usually bought a sandwich to eat for dinner at one of the numerous grocery stores. 
The Lake Champlain Bikeway map is a really good start, but the routing had many odd misdirections and mileage errors.  We should have kept better track of these and given them some feedback to correct the map, but we were ill equipt to do so.  Part of the problem is that the map is available in PDF only (no hard copy) and formatted at a really odd size for home printing, so it was difficult to keep in a map case.  Really, I do have no excuse for not making corrections right on the paper copy I had printed out.  It would help them to get the feedback. On the VT side, the bikeway is marked at regular intervals (though not necessarily intersections), but in NY it is marked as Bike Route 9, I believe. Other than those minor problems, the route is pleasant (but not the most direct- which is fine). Adding camping info would also be helpful.

The second night we stayed at Crown Point, a DEC campground. These DEC CG are staffed by really good, smart people, who are constantly thinking and analyzing.  The night before the ferry, I had stayed in a NY DEC CG and was looking to do some hiking, but wanted to get to the trailhead via bike, having driven for 6 hours. The attendant took the road surface, shoulders and type of trail into consideration and pointed me to a nice trail with great views.
Anyways, this time, the attendant knew the weather forecast and asked us if we wanted to pitch in the only available lean-to. No wet tents in the morning.  Sweet.  There was an amazing thunderstorm that night!
We spent the next night at Ausable Chasm (pronounced Aws-Able Chasm, with the Ch sounding like chicken).  Although this was a private campground, it was pretty nice.  You have to purchase a separate event ticket to travel on the Chasm trails and we didn't think it was worth it, considering we were there for such a short time.
The NY side of the lake is much hillier overall and the route we used was quite, shaded and heavily wooded.
My Bike Friday New World Tourist scored 11,000 miles. Kind of astonishing to me, though I have been watching the milestone approach for a while. Totally missed the 10,000 milestone. I think it occurred on a commuting day.

Plattsburg is working on being more bike friendly, but they have a ways to go. It is obvious they are working on a bike path that hugs the lake, but it is not yet complete.  All in all, I didn't feel harried going through the city, except at a construction zone, when I am sure the drivers also felt harried.  There were several bike tours we crossed paths with along the northern end of the lake, all inn to inn tours.
We crossed the mouth of the Riviere Richlieu, the outlet of Lake Champlain, at Rouses Point and could see the Canadian border crossing just down the road.


The bridge took us back into VT and we headed down to North Hero, hoping to camp at North Hero State Park, but the CG had been closed due to bad flooding a couple of years earlier. There was nothing else, public or private that we could find until way down on Grand Isle at Grand Isle State Park. Long day.  Our 50 mile day turned into an 80 or so mile day, but again, they found us a lean-to and again there was a thunderstorm during the night. That was pretty much the only rain we experienced (except another incredible, but short lived downpour when we had instant access to shelter).
Both the DEC and VT state CG hold a "no turn away" policy for hikers and cyclists. Nice job.

Last day: we left Grand Isle via the "bike ferry". We had some difficulty locating the beginning of the northern part of the causeway.

I had some weird idea that this was a pretty long jaunt, but it turned out that it was a tiny ferry ride to cross a gap in the old railroad causeway. The gap allows boats to move from one part of the lake to another.
Ignore the amateur finger in the photo- mind the gap. Really.  That is it. The dock on the other side is the ferry dock. I'm serious.

I understand the causeway was damaged by the same storm that took out the campground, but am unsure if there was a bridge previously. The ferry fee is by suggested donation; $10 (actually more that the Lake Champlain Port Kent to Burlington ferry, but I don't begrudge them the money). Then you travel along the rest of the causeway.  It was pretty heavily used by pedestrians and cyclists, but we were the only touring cyclists around. Lots of young kids.

We stayed at the North Beach campground again that night. All around a pretty decent place with a lovely beach.  We spent the next day renting paddleboards, which was way more upper arm work than I am used to.
Bike repair station with basic tools and a simple repair stand- on the Bikeway.  Very cool.

This finished our journey, which I had miscalculated the mileage for, leaving us 3 unused days.
We returned to Burlington and rode the 60 or so miles to Jamie's house and spent those extra days kayaking on Lake Champlain and camping at primitive paddling access only campsites.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Talk is sweet, especially when accompanied by action

Again, GO Bike Buffalo was involved in something inspirational. The Buffalo Bicycle Master Plan, a city/Go Bike Buffalo venture in conjunction with the Alta planning firm, involved city residents in an informational meeting to explain and answer questions about the plan. It was a fabulous RahRah mtg, encouraging citizen participation by having people draw on a big map of Buffalo to illustrate where they wanted more bike lanes and problem areas.  City officials were present, including the mayor and representatives of the streets department. We (mostly Dwight) have had exposure and interactions with the streets people before and they seem to have a genuine interest in people's opinions. 
The turnout was varied age and sex wise, but poorly represented those who rely on a bicycle for financial reasons.  It does appear that that group is being considered; traffic registering devices in lower socio-economic areas are able to discern the difference between a car and a 2 wheeled vehicle, allowing the streets department to see current bike routing patterns.
Afterwards, many retired to Ulrich's for dinner or drinks and I was pleasantly surprised to see a group who arrived via bikes with panniers.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

How bike friendly is NYC?

I took Amtrak to NYC for a weekend. They get a pretty good grade on cost and service, but they have gotten pretty bad about being on time. Since they seem to be struggling with this problem regularly (1-2 hours late), it would really behoove them to simply adjust their schedule to reflect it. I have never tried to take a full sized bike on board, but it seems those are still restricted to trains with baggage cars, a rarity. Also, Buffalo still has no platform, requiring a very steep climb up train stairs to the car's interior. 
 In NY, I found the traffic and bike lanes exhilarating, traveling from Penn Station almost to Battery Park. My daughter and partner did not necessarily share my perspective, considering the pedestrians in Manhattan to be a severe impediment to travel. I plan to return to cycle the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway trail. Hopefully this will redeem the city, at least in the eyes of my daughter.
Brooklyn was a different story. The routes are convoluted and you have to plot out a complicated route to get most places. I found this annoying, but survived by writing the streets and turns on a piece of paper I stuck in the leg band of my cycling shorts. Dresses over my shorts helped me not stand out like a sore thumb.  Most of the spandex crowd only appeared on the weekends or in the parks.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Another sign of progress

This is a new hardware store I patronize occasionally near the corner of Main and Summer Sts. Although there are some eligible posts nearby to lock to, they opted to install this bike rack.  It may have been precipitated by my (and probably others) locking our bikes to the railing, but instead of yelling at us, they saw the need and reacted nicely, placing the rack close to the entrance and pretty well protected from the parking. Yay!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Easing into the first tour of summer

A friend has committed to cycling all of the Finger Lakes in NY and she is almost finished, Cayuga being one of the last. Her and another friend and I joined on the eastern shore of the lake, left our cars and circumnavigated the lake counter-clockwise.
The weather was beautiful, not too hot, not too cool and no rain. The total distance is just short of 100 miles, so we had decided to try to stay in Ithaca.
I contacted a Warmshowers host there, who agreed to host us for a night. This was a fantastic initial exposure to Warmshowers for both Linda and Patty.  The hosts were sweet, engaging, and provided an optimum intro into the WS concept. Patty actually hosted their next night's guests when she got back home.  WS is such a great idea and it has never failed to pair me with both great hosts and great guests.

A fun end to a fun ride; we all jumped off the dock and Patty's friend's house into the lake. It was a terrific way to get clean and cool off, though the neighbors may have had to avoid drinking the water for a while : )

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Ah, summer. And the very first Skyride.

The Very First Skyride!
Slow to start, but then excellent. Pretty amazing for a first try, this event was put on by GO Bike Buffalo.  I am very proud of them and thrilled to have them in our city.
It was unfortunate that riders were not able to stop on top of the Skyway, which is normally a car only expressway bridge that soars over the city and the shipping canals and dominates the skyline. Rumor had it that someone had attempted to commit suicide by jumping off City Hall and the police/politicians were worried one of the Skyriders might do the same.

With the event came one free beer, which they lovingly poured into my empty water bottle : )

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Atlanta, GA- escape from the North

Back in January, we decided to head south to escape Buffalo's cold for a spell (it has been uncharacteristically cold).  The Virgin Islands are pricey, but maybe more importantly, it takes a lot of precious time to get there and subjects you to multi-plane trips where you are more susceptible to weather related delays...
We scheduled a trip to the South, where we have spent little time.  A brief brainstorm suggested Atlanta or Savannah and further research recommended Atlanta for a week long visit. Little did we know that I would end up having hernia surgery 2 days before we left. No worries; it just prevented me from doing drywall or construction work during recovery.

Atlanta was quite enjoyable, even if your bend is industrial reuse and Portland-esk style hippie venues.  It took a long time to find a great coffee shop, but when we did, it was all we I could have asked for.

On the 3rd day, we headed out for a bike tour with Bicycle Tours of Atlanta with Robyn and her intern : )  The tours start at a revitalized industrial warehouse site, which incubates (and obviously also retains) small businesses. The site still retains many of its more charming industrial attributes, such as sliding fire doors, but the roof has been pulled off down the center of the building to offer natural light to the remaining portions.  Extremely well executed.

We also visited a mill conversion to condos.  The greatest thing about it was that much of the huge infrastructure was left.  Hoppers and overhead rail tracks were meshed with a swimming pool.  Pretty fabulous.

Robyn customized our tour based on our architectural and art interests and led us through neighborhoods which saw deep economic slumps and managed to rebound without losing too much of their architectural heritage.  The ?city? promoted a mural painting bonanza, which manifests as fabulous and varied murals in diverse areas.

We really enjoyed the tour and it was not stressful on my recent stitches.  The bikes were better than the ones we rented in New Orleans; less wide saddle and more practical. Robyn was very knowledgeable and we learned a lot.

BTW the most hipster coffee shop vote goes to...drumroll... Octane, 1009 Marietta St NW.  Great mocha, clean tables, industrial bldg reused, they make designs in your foam. I know, I know.  Don't lecture me, this is my one flaw.