The Wine Cyclist

Rochester to Geneva, NY

by on May.17, 2009, under Cycling

Day 1: Rochester to Geneva

So I’m relaxing after a long day’s ride in Geneva, NY at the north end of Seneca Lake. Day one of the Finger Lakes tour is done.

The day started with a nice, big breakfast of eggs and home hash covered in sausage gravy, which was pretty tasty, but not quite as tasty as the sausage gravy at Lucky’s in Cleveland. Ah well. ;-)

Getting out of Rochester wasn’t too shabby. JP, the friend who I’m crashing with there, directed me to a bike path that got me past most of the city roads without difficulty or traffic. On the Erie Canal trail this morning, I encountered a few other cyclists who were great for conversation and helped direct me around some construction detours along the path. In Pittsford I hopped up off the trail and headed down the road towards Canandaigua.

Lunch on Canandaigua LakeThe nice thing about many of the roads in this region of New York is the wide shoulders they have. Many of these roads were not normally roads I would be comfortable biking on (in excess of 40 mph), but thanks to the nearly five feet of shoulder space I had, it was quite pleasant. I was catching a nice breeze from passing cars, but not enough to be bothered by their closeness.

So I stopped in at a park in Canandaigua for some lunch. Check out my view of the lake there. I sat on the park bench relaxing and eating assorted munchables (almonds and raisins, along with a bagel, I think), watching the clear waters and those on it. The water was surprisingly warm, given that it was a relatively chilly day in the area. I took my socks and shoes off and dangled my feet for a few minutes before riding on.

From there it was but 15 miles into Geneva. Breakfast was catching up to me in a less than pleasant way, but a gas station pit stop saved the day and I was happily on from there.

Geneva is a cool little college town. My generous host and I wandered over to an all you can eat Chinese buffet nearby, and then I got a quick tour of the college grounds. We moseyed on back, and he was kind enough to share with me a bottle of Dr. Konstantin Frank’s 2001 cabernet franc.

For a wine as old as this it was surprisingly bright and fruity on the initial taste. It lacked structure and was uninteresting on the finish, at first, but we came back to wine after about an hour, and found the tannins expressing themselves more (which I thought quite odd), and the wine far more balanced and interesting. The fruit had diminshed allowing a little more earth and character to show through.

Tomorrow, we’re going to check out a few of the wineries in the Geneva area, and then I have another 35 miles or so of cycling to put in. I’ll likely check in again from Ithaca in a few days time.

I’ve got some more pictures of Lake Canandaigua beneath the link.
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Loaded Up and Ready to Go!

by on May.15, 2009, under Cycling

Fully Loaded BikeLook at that bike there, all loaded up and heavy. Man, is it heavy. I’ve pared down as much as I think I can get away with, and it’s still heavy. Guess I’ll just have to suck it up and work it up those hills. My legs are going to be ripped at the end of this summer.

The weight is somewhat handy in some instances. The obvious would be going down hills, but actually, the weight is of limited usefulness there. Sure, you pick up more speed as your mass relative to air resistance is much higher, but it also makes it harder to stop the bike. The real usefulness is the added momentum when you catch a headwind. My air resistance is higher to be sure, with more flat surface area from a front profile, but those heavy panniers just want to keep on going.

Windsor Vineyards PannierOn the flip side of that big red bag is a bit of bike craftiness. I picked up the big red bag as it was not too expensive, it’s got a waterproof main pouch (complete with roll-style close top for the true waterproofing), but mostly because it zips off it’s pannier mount and become a decent sized backpack. That’ll be handy when I’m out in some national park in Montana and want to trade a day of biking for a day of hiking in its stead.

Yet, it was only one side of the bike, and I wasn’t really going to bother getting two of the backpack panniers. I found the lovely Windsor Vineyards tote bag you see there while cleaning out one of my closets. With a few bolts and zip ties, I mounted it to the rear rack and lo and behold, it’s just the perfect size for my tent and sleeping bag. To balance out with all the clothing in the red bag, I also shoved my U-lock and cable in there to give a little extra weight on that side.

So, all loaded up, I’ve been doing training rides along the towpath today and yesterday. I’m nicely exhausted, now. Tomorrow is my break day from cycling. I’m driving up to Rochester and hanging out with my buddy JP for the evening. On Sunday, the brutality begins. Eight days of up and down some crazy hills in the Finger Lakes.

I’ll be sure to check in when I can, with pictures of course, and tasting notes from when the mood strikes me to drop in a winery along the way.

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Soundtrack For A Tour

by on May.11, 2009, under Music

As you’ve probably gather thus far, I’m quite big into both wine and bicycling. There is yet a third, very important passion, that I would be remiss to exclude from my writings of the summer, and that is music. My touring gear would not be complete without an mp3 player to accompany me and provide with much needed listening enjoyment along the way (only one earbud in while riding, mind you — I must keep at least one ear to the road). This begs the question, what manner of music drives me to pedal harder, better, faster, stronger.

Hmm… I may have just answered my own question. :-)

Yes, I am most certainly a fan of house music and Daft Punk (especially their first two albums). I dig the deep, soulful house sound common to the west coast (think Dubtribe Sound System). Sometimes I find myself drawn to the harder or more jackin’ sides of house music, but less often.

I am a huge fan of jazz, especially saxophonists such as Sonny Rollins and Gerry Mulligan, but I find it difficult to cycle to jazz. It’s a very introspective form of music. Jazz inspires me to stop and think, to get lost in the music itself. It thus becomes too distracting while on a ride, but is perfectly suitable at the campsite after a long day.

Blues and blues rock drives me a lot of the way. The mp3 player in questions is loaded up with many a track from Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker and Stevie Ray Vaughan to name a few. Some 80s ska (Madness, The English Beat) for when I need to change the pace up a little bit, and a whole host of other miscellaneous tracks, artists and genres (it is, after all a 4GB mp3 player).

The artist with the biggest presence on my mp3 player, is none other than Warren Zevon. Five complete album of his (Excitable Boy, Life’ll Kill Ya, Mr Bad Example, My Ride’s Here, The Wind) are loaded up along with a several other individual tracks from other albums (tracks from albums like Transverse City, where I’m not a huge fan of the whole album, but do enjoy select nuggets). It is safe to say that Warren Zevon is my favorite artist of the moment, and more than a few songs of his will help me get through some long miles this summer.

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A Note About Creative Commons

by on May.07, 2009, under Miscellany

I know most of you are pretty web savvy, and you already know all about Creative Commons and the work they do. Feel free to skip this post. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this group, however, I wanted to take a step back and explain a few things. In the spirit of what the organization’s about, I’ll quote directly from their own About page:

Creative Commons is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to making it easier for people to share and build upon the work of others, consistent with the rules of copyright.

We provide free licenses and other legal tools to mark creative work with the freedom the creator wants it to carry, so others can share, remix, use commercially, or any combination thereof.

The nuts and bolts of this is that, while I hold a copyright on all of the original content (text and photos) of this blog, I’m putting it out there under less stringent conditions than copyright law allows.

Thanks to the same license, we have that lovely picture at the very top of the page. I did not take that picture. Instead, I found it on flickr and noticed that the photographer, ixab, had released that image under a creative commons license, allowing me to use (and modify) the image.

88x31So, for the record, all of the text content and all of the pictures on this website are released under a Creative Commons license (unless otherwise noted — by the way, that lovely Creative Commons license logo you see over to the left has been released by the organization under a CC license). More specifically, it is released under what’s called a BY-NC-SA-3.0 creative commons license. If you click on through, you can see the full deal of that license.

The basics are that you can share and modify the content on this website provided you attribute it to this website, you do not use any of the work for a commercial purpose, and you share any adaptations under the same Creative Commons license.

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Towpath on a Tuesday

by on May.05, 2009, under Cycling, Wine

Towpath Trail SignOne of the nice things about being unemployed is the ability to do things like bike along the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail on a Tuesday, when it is much less crowded than it is on a Saturday or a Sunday. It’s about three miles from the house to the Harvard Ave trail crossing, making it extremely accessible by bike. From there it’s a mere 19 miles to Peninsula, OH. Some good distance was put in today, totaling about 44 miles in all.

Looking down the trailThe Towpath Trail is really a wonderful stretch of cycling in northeast Ohio, running from Cleveland all the way down to Akron and a little further still, in fact. The stretch from Brecksville to Peninsula and through the rest of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park is fantastic, with some nice riverfront views and no shortage of gorgeous foliage, especially now that it’s properly spring around here and everything has started blooming.

Peggy and I set out shortly after 10am, having finished a nicely sized breakfast of bacon and eggs. Early on in a ride I like to push hard to really get the blood going and see how quickly I can get to the “endorphin-rush” stage of things. After that I tend to mellow out. So, I took a significantly lead early on the ride, but around Rockside Rd, I relaxed a bit and let Peggy set a leisurely pace on down to Peninsula. We stopped for a quick snack of granola bars and apples while I picked up a couple things for my bike at Century Cycles in Peninsula. Rested and restocked we turned around and headed back towards Cleveland.

Papillon Pinot NoirIt was a bit of a struggle towards the end; it’s been several months since I’ve done this many miles in a day, and there’s a decent-sized hill at the end just before we get home. We arrived to a nice potful of lentil and beef chili that was cooked up the night before. Two bowlfuls of that barely sated my voracious hunger, but it was delicious, and followed by a hot shower, we were ready to get on with the evening.

We moseyed on over to Visible Voice Books to enjoy a bottle of wine on their patio (it’s a bookstore with a wine bar — how cool is that?) and poke around a few books. The nice thing about the bottle of Papillon pinot noir we had (from Cherry Hill Vineyards), is that while it goes very well with food, it is at it’s best enjoyed outside on a warm evening. It’s not two-thirds as expensive as Cherry Hill’s main label pinot, but is almost as good, making it a much better deal. What better way to celebrate a nice, long ride than with a bottle of delicious wine on a beautiful May evening?

I’ve got some more pictures of the ride today if you just click on through.
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The All-Important Ride

by on May.03, 2009, under Cycling

img_0250Allow me for a moment, if you will, to introduce to you my trusting touring companion. I purchased this wonderful ride about six or seven months ago, and having survived the abuse of a Cleveland winter (with those very salty roads), I think it’s ready for some real mileage. Ladies and gentleman, the real star of the grand summer tour, my Trek FX 7.3. Get lost in it’s amazing bright redness.

Certainly, I’ve added a few things from the stock equipment. The rear rack is a recent addition, and I still need to mount a front rack on it and figure out the pannier/handlebar bag situation a little better. I’ll be sure to keep you up to speed on how I end up equipping the bike.

What I really love on this bike is the saddle. Like most stock saddles, I wasn’t wild about the one that came standard with this bike. Instead I dropped a nice chunk of change on the Terry Liberator Y saddle you see there. For as much as I try to be frugal, I’ve never had any compunction about dropping a hefty wad of cash on a good saddle. Having the right saddle makes it all worth it. The wrong saddle can absolutely kill your ride, whereas the right saddle can literally save your ass.

I’ll be sure to get some more bike pictures going as I get her more and better equipped in preparation.

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On Bicycling and Wine: An Introduction

by on May.01, 2009, under Cycling, Philosophy, Wine

It’s a rainy first of May here in Cleveland, but that does not dissuade me from putting in the miles. 9 miles to work and 9 miles back. It’s not exactly distance, but thanks to the many traffic lights on the route, there is no shortage of starting and stopping. Nothing gets your calves in shape like accelerating from a stop to full speed every 1000 feet or so. Waiting for me when I get home are a delicious dinner and a nice bottle of wine to accompany it. Through all the struggles and the hassles, being able to ride my two wheels home to appreciate the pleasures of some succulent vino makes it all worthwhile.

If you’re curious about the details of what’s going on here, I’d encourage you to look at the “About” page, which breaks down the plan for this here website. I’m here right now instead to just give you a warm welcome and introduce myself. I am the Wine Cyclist, but I’ve been known to answer to “Jim” at times as well. I’m here to bike a lot, enjoy wine a lot, and tell you all about it (along the way, I may very well wax philosophical and discuss my musical inclinations as well).

This is more than merely a presentation, however; this is a dialogue. Participation in the conversation is strongly encouraged.

Over the next several days, I will be continuing the introduction and taking lots of pictures of the process of equipping both myself and my bike for the coming tours. The action really gets rolling in about two weeks when I take off for the Finger Lakes to roll on some hills and visit some wineries.

Woo! I’m excited! Are you excited? Let’s get this ride a’rollin’…

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