Saturday, November 24, 2012

Terrific Meet-up With MG and Felkerino: DC in Style

DC-rando celebrities Felkerino and MG.
One of my favorite things about the randonneuring life, other than the hills, headwinds and rain, is all of the cool people you meet along the way. Having crossed paths with DC rando superstars and bloggers extraordinaire MG and Felkerino repeatedly in the cyber-randoneuring world, it was fantastic to arrange a spontaneous meet-up during my brief stay in DC this holiday week. I've long been a fan of The Daily Randonneur and chasing mailboxes d.c blogs and have participated in MG's famed Coffeeneuring Challenge for the past two years, but with the exception of the time these two came upon my lifeless body being loaded into an ambulance back in 2010, we have not yet had the pleasure of spending time together in person.

On a Thanksgiving visit to my sister-in-law's home in Maryland this week, I learned that my brother-in-law has long wanted to try out a door-to-door commute via bicycle along the famed C & O Canal towpath all the way into his office on Capital Hill, so it did not take much coaxing to arrange the details. On Black Friday, we arose before dawn and hit the road as the light filtered in through the trees that surround his suburban home in Germantown, MD.

Historic lockhouses line the canal. 

Like many long distance canals in the US, the C & O was the result of a (in this case George Washington's) great and audacious idea that was sadly eclipsed by the arrival of the railroads before it was ever able to fully function as a commercial conduit linking the Chesapeake Bay and the Ohio River. Fallow for many years, the C & O towpath has been restored and repurposed as a fabulous recreational environment that runs all the way from Cumberland, MD to Washington, DC. Note to self: it's even possible to ride all the way from DC to Pittsburgh, PA by connecting with the Great Allegheny Passage trail. This time around, my brother-in-law and I took in 25 miles of the park from Riley's Lock to Georgetown.

This year's Coffeeneur Challenge awards and a serious Cup o' Joe.
Once I arrived in Georgetown, MG and Felkerino and I met up at the Baked and Wired cafe right at the end of the C & O. Over a steaming cup of black coffee, in a surprise awards ceremony, MG presented me with not one, but two, delightful awards to commemorate my Coffeeneur Challenge achievement. The button was designed by none other than Seattle rando Joe P., whose audacious idea first launched the Coffeeneur Challenge in 2011. After enjoying some coffee and congenial conversation in the warm morning sun, we headed off to explore the city. Our first stop along the way was the amazing BicycleSPACE shop where you'll find gorgeous Pashley bikes alongside colorful Surly, Brompton and Linus machines. In addition, if you find yourself in the nation's capitol with a need for a commuter bag, light or Brooks saddle, this is the place for you.

Seeing DC in style with Felkerino on my sister-in-law's 1987 Jamis. Photo: MG
As I wiped up my drool, it was time for a bite to eat, so off we rode to find a delightful sandwich shop in central DC where we swapped stories of teenage children, bike commuting and plans for 2013. Time flew by, as it always does with friends, and soon it was time to meet up with my wife and kids, who had traveled in by Metro, at the National Museum of American History.

The Roy Lichtenstein show on through January is well-worth the visit.
After a glance at our nation's past, we took a quick spin through the wonderful Roy Lichtenstein show at the National Gallery. Here are a few more pics of the day from MG's photostream. So, goodbye, MG and Felkerino. Thanks for your wonderful hospitality. You've left me with fond memories of my trip to DC. Next time I'll bring my rando bike and we'll enjoy an even longer ride.

Goodbye, Washington!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Shoulder Season: Catching my Breath While Planning Ahead.

I do so enjoy the cyclical nature of the calendar. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why I find working in schools so comforting. It's also why I'll likely never be able to leave the Northeast where the rhythm of the seasons is predictable, provides variation and allows for built-in reminders to rest and rejuvenate before heading off into another period of training and adventure.

In the waning months of fall, I alternate between enjoying short bursts of riding with periods of planning and rest. Ever since the RUSA calendar was published last October, I've been toying with event options for 2013. The shorter, cooler days of fall also align well with my body's need for rest after a long, hard season.

I'm quite pleased with my accomplishments in 2012. In June, I completed my first R-12, having worked hard to maintain the consistency of monthly long rides that has eluded me in the past. The exceptionally mild winter helped to be sure. I am also very pleased to have completed my first Super Randonneur season since my 2010 accident. With each successful event, I became more confident in my ability to perform as a competent randonneur. While I was disappointed with my speed and climbing agility throughout the season, I look forward to making solid improvements in both areas next year.

So looking ahead to 2013, my largest goal will be to complete a 1200K with strength, speed and determination. As always, my work schedule is marked by feast and famine. Unable to take extended time away from school except when classes are not in session, there are three domestic 1200K events available to me next year: the Gold Rush Randonnee, the Big Wild Ride and the Endless Mountains 1240K.

For a variety of reasons, largely based on our family's summer schedule, I've chosen to ride in the Gold Rush Randonnee in late June. With my sister and several good friends living in San Francisco, the trip West will bring fun and adventure on several levels.

So I'll continue to enjoy the upcoming week of rest before ramping up my 2013 base training immediately following Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Coffeeneur Challenge Ends: Veterans Day Edition (Ride 7)

A tasty banana nut muffin and a black coffee at the Fresh and Easy Cafe in Kingston.

I completed the 2013 Coffeeneuring Challenge today by taking advantage of Rule #16, which allows for a qualifying ride on Veterans Day (observed). This enabled me to get in a great ride on a beautiful day, pay my respects to local veterans and learn more about my community. My ride began at the Toyota dealership where I dropped off my Prius for servicing. I grabbed my bike from the back and pedaled over to the Fresh and Easy Cafe for a muffin and coffee before heading out to visit Hudson Valley veterans from wars past.

Stopping at three graveyards within 10 miles of my house, I found quite a few gravestones from the 19th century, several of the which identified soldiers who fought with the 20th Regiment of the NYSV. Digging a little deeper, I discovered that this was a volunteer regiment during the Civil War comprised of German "48ers," refugees from the revolutions in 1848 who found a home in America and joined the Union cause in large numbers to expand the rights of working people and stop the spread of slavery into the western lands.

This man lived to the ripe old age of 88.
A comrade lies just a few yards away.
This soldier died in battle in 1865 at age 23.

And so it goes. Another great year of coffeenuring comes to a close. Thanks, MG, for your vision and enthusiasm. What a fun way to enjoy the waning light and mild weather as we head into winter.

Ride 7 by the numbers: 10 miles, 1.5 hours, 1 coffee, 1 banana nut muffin.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Coffeeneuring in The People's Republic of Rosendale: Ride 6

A mixed berry scone compliments my hot coffee. 

Today the arctic winds swept in from Canada to give us all a little taste of winter, yet my new Rapha long sleeve jersey was more than adequate to the task of keeping me warm and toasty throughout my midday Coffeeneuring Challenge ride to The Alternative Baker. This great local bakery moved to (The People's Republic of) Rosendale several years ago from Kingston and the new location is much more suitable. Rosendale is a fun little Hudson Valley town filled with odd and interesting shops, galleries and restaurants. Directly across the street form the bakery, one finds the Rosendale Theater Collective, formed several years ago as a community-supported venture when the previous owners retired. Today's ride was short but refreshing.

Red cafe tables make the scene.

In the People's Republic of Rosendale, there's always something interesting nearby.

Ride 6 by the numbers: 22 miles, 1.75 hours, 1 cup of coffee and 1 mixed berry scone.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Coffeeneuring at the Night of 100 Pumpkins: Ride 5

Each year in the village of New Paltz, The Bakery, a small locally-owned coffee shop hosts a Halloween extravaganza known as the "Night of 100 Pumpkins." Children and adults alike contribute original pumpkin designs that are judged in a wide range of categories. This year, due to Hurricane Sandy, the event was postponed until this evening. After the sun sets, the candles are lit and the drumming begins as Bakery employees distribute free baked treats and hot apple cider. I decided to pop over to New Paltz this afternoon to get a peak at the entries and satisfy the requirements of my fifth Coffeeneur Challenge ride of the season. I enjoyed a hot cup of french roast coffee and a seasonal pumpkin-oatmeal chocolate chip cookie. Below are a few of my favorite contest entries.

Ride 5 by the numbers: 25 miles, 1.5 hours, 1 cup of coffee, 1 pumpkin-oatmeal chocolate chip cookie