Saturday, May 24, 2008

Noho For Coffee. Leaving Now.

The above was a text message I sent out to Tony Costa on Saturday morning, as I sat on my idling motorcycle at home, warming up the engine. He arrived in Northampton, not two minutes after I got there.

We got a couple coffees and sat on the Town Hall steps, chatting and watching the morning foot traffic mill by. Tony Costa is an old friend we used to hang out with, years and years ago, beginning around senior year of high school. At some point, our paths diverged and we lost touch, as often happens. Then, a couple years ago, I ran into him again in Northampton on a motorcycle ride. Since then we occasionally meet up and go riding, whenever possible.

He's got one of those new i-phones from Apple. Amazing.

Can't wait until the price drops, and this technology is available to everyone (read: available to me)...

After the coffee, we needed an excuse to go riding somewhere, and blow off all other commitments for the time being. So I suggested going to Amherst, to check out Laughing Dog Bicycles (where I bought my trusty Trek 6500 several years ago); I needed new grips for the bicycle.

Good enough. To Amherst we went. Their Farmer's market was still going on when we got there.

I'm one picky customer, and Laughing Dog unfortunately didn't have the kind of grips I was looking for. Hmm. Ya' know, Greenfield has a good bike shop; Bicycle World, I think it's called....

Off to Greenfield we went. Kind of. We headed north from Amherst on Rte. 63, through Leverett. There, the eastern side of the Mount Toby range looms over farm land, in one of my favorite valley scenic spots. I had to pull over and get a pic; Tony zoomed on ahead and out of sight, oblivious that I had stopped...

As I got back on the road, he came zooming back the other way, looking for me. I now had to pull over and wait for him to turn around. He rolled up and said "Picture for the blog, right?" I nodded sheepishly. Sorry, I thought, better get used to this...

On we continued, through Miller's Falls, one of the villages of Montague.

From there, we were supposed to take a left some where, and cross the Connecticut River into Greenfield. We missed the turn though, and just kept motoring north, quite a way, until the next crossing in Northfield. There, we stopped for a second and discussed the situation. We were maybe 20 minutes from Brattleboro, Vermont now. I know a couple bicycle shops up there that might pan out; we can always stop in Greenfield on the way back down.

At about this time, between Northfield and Brattleboro, I discovered a new way of taking pictures from the bike. My old camera was very small, and it was pretty easy to hold it and shoot with my left hand while riding. My new camera is a little bigger, and tougher to maneuver one handed. But through careful experimentation, I discovered that if I hold it underhand, like throwing a softball, I could now control the power and shutter buttons without dropping it, and without me ending up as a smudge on the pavement. This opens a whole new door:

I can now bring you, faithful viewers, along for the ride. (Road conditions permitting , of course.)

Eight Bucks Worth

We got to Brattleboro, which was buzzing with activity,on this Memorial Day weekend.

A short walk around, revealed no adequate bicycle grips, at least not the type I was looking for. Walking on, I noticed a group of people milling about a little corner park, called Pliny Park. The sound of accordions and bells drew me nearer...

I crossed the road, and saw this going on:

What in the Sam Hill is going on here....?

I asked one of the people dressed in white what was going on. It's Morris Dancing, an old type of English Folk Dance, dating back to the 15th century. There are groups all over the U.S. that do this kind of thing. This particular troupe was from right here in Vermont. The suspenders made me think it was some kind of Bavarian or Swiss thing, but no, it's British.

Here's the full effect:

I know, I know, you crave it is with sticks:

I think I now know where the boys from Stanley Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange" got their styling cues...

On Tony's recomendation, we headed over to McNeill's Brewery.

It's a cool old fire house that's been transformed into a no-frills, home brewed pub. They physically pump the brews from downstairs with the taps. No carbon-dioxide here. Against one wall is a chair fit for a king, or someone who might feel like a king, after a few...

We downed one tasty brew each (motorcycles, you know) and were just getting ready to head out, when guess who came jingling in.

They tried to sneak up on us, but those dang bells...we heard them coming down the block. And they kept coming, until they filled the place up. The two bartenders kept up with the sudden flood of medieval British dancers with calm, cool proffessionalism. Not one of the bell and ribbon festooned dancers waited for their brews, for any inordinate amount of time. The bartenders even found a second to pause and ask me and Tony if we were all set. Now that's good service. We left there as the 'Brits' began singing a chorus...

We walked back down the street, and passed 'The Weathervane'. According to Tony, a great music venue for local talent, akin to the say, the Elevens in Northampton, or the Flywheel in Eashampton.

It was time to head back down to our side of the border. Unfortunately, getting back to the bikes, we found a parting gift from the city; D'oh!

Hmmm. Eight bucks. About the cost of a pair of bicycle grips...

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