Saturday, October 25, 2014

'Tis Time for a Little Coffeeneuring

I have been SUPER busy this month. So busy, in fact, that today marks only my second ride in the 2014 Coffeeneuring Challenge. If you're not familiar with coffeeneuring, a) what?, b) where have you been?, and c) check out MG's great Chasing Mailboxes blog on the subject or take a look at the posts in the active Facebook group. I'm proud to be one of the original coffeeneurs and while several weeks have passed without my participation, I'm now eager to join the party.

Today I decided to keep it local and sample the wonderful fall fare at the bountiful Apple Bin Market where I was surprised to find not only fresh apple cider donuts, but also a new pumpkin-apple cider donut variety. Needless to say, I had to stage a taste test. Results: pumpkin wins by a neck.

Coffeeneur Ride Details:
October 25
Apple Bin Market, Ulster Park, NY
Costa Rican Coffee w/ sugar and half & half
Apple Cider Donuts
17 miles

My first coffeeneuring adventure this fall was on October 12 when I went for a quick ride to check out a new combination art shop/cafe in Kingston's famed Rondout district. The coffee was tasty and the location quite lovely.

On my way home from Kingston, I spotted a new historical plaque on a familiar street corner. I've known that abolitionist and women's rights activist Sojourner Truth had ties to this area, but I did not realize the complex depth of the connection. After seeing the plaque below, I decided to do a little research. It turns out that Truth was born into slavery in 1789 on a farm within 10 miles of my home, sold at the age of 9 with a flock of sheep for $100 to a man in Kingston, sold at the age of 11 to a tavern owner in Port Ewen with whom she lived for the next 18 months until she was sold to yet another slave owner two doors down from my house in West Park. At the age of 29, Truth finally escaped from slavery by walking over ten miles one night over the road I now use as a major training route directly across 9W from my house. Since the farm house I live in was built in the 1770s, it's likely that Truth knew or visited it during her time in this town. While I've known that slavery was present in all of the northern states in the 18th and 19th centuries, it is still a shock to learn how embedded in New York society it once was.  I don't think I'll look at this training route in quite the same way again.

Coffeeneur Ride Details:
October 12
Olivieri's, Kingston, NY
Fig Newton
22 miles

Saturday, October 11, 2014

How I Got a New Bicycle for the Price of a Pair of Tires.

I remember feeling the transformative power of a new set of high quality tires when I first upgraded to a set of Conti GP 4000s. My current upgrade to a set of Clement X'Plor USH tires is a bit different, though, as these not only enhance my ride, they also bring me places I was not able to travel on my road bike until this week. Riding through the Shawangunk Ridge has long been an interest of mine, but until I converted my Indy Fab Club Racer to a bike capable of riding on the trails and carriage routes, my exploration was limited. Each of these photos was taken either from the seat of my bike or while standing on the trail itself. No hiking required.

One of the great joys of working from home is that some days I can arrange my work schedule to allow me some flexibility on the bike. So today, while thousands of New Yorkers were fighting traffic in their cars heading out of town for the three-day weekend, I was exploring the trails along the ridge more fully. Parking again at the West Trapps parking area, I picked up the Trapps Road trail and headed west toward Minnewaska State Park. After arriving at the park entrance and confirming that an entrance fee is assessed only on those who arrive by car, I chose the Lower Awosting trail and proceeded to climb, climb, climb up to Lake Awosting deep in the state park preserve. The road itself at this point is crushed stone and the only challenge was to maintain a grip on the road surface with my rear tire on a few the very steep sections as I had to climb out of the saddle to create enough momentum to push me up the hill.

Once I arrived at Lake Awosting, I took a right turn to enter the Awosting Lake Carriageway to circle the lake counterclockwise. Here the trail became quite "technical" in places as large and sometimes loose rocks took the place of crushed stone. While there were a few moments I wished I was not using clipless pedals, my new tires enhanced my confidence. After circling the beautiful alpine lake, I took another right to enter the newly restored Hamilton Point Carriageway. This route is absolutely spectacular. These photos don't fully give justice to the expansive views from the trail literally cut into the edge of the 1000-foot cliffs. The smells and sounds of fall, circling hawks and overall isolation gave the ride an otherworldly quality that made it seem as though I was far more than 15 miles from my home. This trail climbs to over 2200 feet and then drops back down to 1200 at the park's entrance where I rejoined the Trapps Road trail to return to my car.

Now that my second bike is equipped with this new set of spectacular tires, I see no need to remove them any time soon. Until the snows arrive, I'll be including a few days of off-road riding each week in my routine to keep my spirits and fitness up.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Riding Along the Shawangunk Carriage Trails (with my new Clement X'Plor USH Tires).

For years, I've been thinking about swapping out my road tires for something better suited to riding on the local carriage roads and today it finally happened. These carriage roads, that weave through both the Mohonk Preserve and Minnewaska State Park along the Shawangunk Ridge, are stunning artifacts of an earlier time. Built in the 19th century to accommodate the carriage traffic from New York City and elsewhere to this spectacular mountain destination, these roads are carefully maintained today for use by hikers, cyclists, rock climbers and cross-country skiers. While I spend a lot of time riding on the roads over and along the ridge, I've spent precious little time riding on the carriage roads themselves and never with my preferred road bike.

Last year I bought a pair of 35 x 700 Clement X'Plor USH tires to expand the range of surfaces on which I can comfortably ride with my road bike. These Clements are rated highly for gravel grinding and other off-road pursuits so I knew they would be a wise choice for the local carriage roads. It turns out that you need to do more than just buy the tires, though; you actually need to install them to reap the full benefit. Happily, the tires fit perfectly on my white Indy Fab and afford just the right amount of plush traction to instill confidence in a road rider like myself out on the trails.

Now admittedly, these roads are covered with fairly smooth crushed stone, so the riding is not what I'd call technical. Still, with a bright covering of fall leaves, one needs to use some caution so as not to hit a stray rock, stick, root or hole. This afternoon, I pulled out my trusty Shawangunk Trail Companion to map out a route with easy access to my car that would give me a nice introduction to the terrain. I entered at the West Trapps trailhead, a favorite of climbers throughout the Northeast who come to enjoy the dramatic rock climbing along the ridge-line. This afternoon, I began by riding down the Undercliff Trail passing five or six groups of climbers on belay enjoying the cool afternoon.

Upon reaching the end of the Undercliff Trail, I took a left to connect with the Overcliff Trail that climbs gradually and runs parallel to the trail I had just ridden to return to the West Trapps trailhead, but affords a view to the northwest of the full Catskill range in the distance. Once back where I began, I shot out towards neighboring Minnewaska State Park along the trail known as Trapps Road that brought me deeper into the peaceful afternoon forest. I wish there had been enough time to take in the loop out to Lake Awosting, but that will have to wait until another day.

In all, my afternoon was quite enjoyable, filled with peaceful, solitary riding without any cares or cars to consider. While I did not find the gradual slope of the carriage trails terribly challenging (it was hard to raise my heartbeat, in fact), the views and serenity more than made up for the loss. This will surely become a feature of my off-season and recovery riding in the future.