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Formula Femme, Author at Formula Femme

15 Nov

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FFYEAH Bike Touring: Camping the Champlain Islands in Vermont

November 15, 2016 | By |

Team Captain Kelly toured Vermont’s Lake Champlain Islands, a well-known destination for Canadian cyclists with rolling hills, incredible views – and a 13% grade climb or two.

Once October hits, a few crisp 50-degree days always remind me of the impending winter weather. Itching to fit in one last trip, I searched for must-ride bike trails in the New England area and stumbled across this:

Just a few hours from Brooklyn was the Island Line Rail Trail, stringing from Burlington, Vermont over Lake Champlain to a network of pastoral islands. Located halfway between Montreal and Burlington, the mostly flat trail promised a relaxing trip after a tough season of racing. I quickly recruited a friend to join me and my dog for a weekend of easy riding after sending her that photo and booked one of the last remaining campsites open in mid-October.

We stopped in the bustling college town and stocked up on cider and s’mores supplies at a local grocery store with more spots for bike parking than cars. Passing a lone cyclist tackling a long incline up U.S. Route 2, we pulled into our campsite at Grand Isle State Park around 3pm – a lean-to perched atop a hill looking directly out onto the lake.

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We quickly collected the firewood we’d need to keep warm through the chilly night, set up camp, and geared up for a short ride before sunset to East Shore Vineyard’s tasting room a few miles away.

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We tackled a couple short hills, me with an extra 15 pounds in tow since my bike was outfitted with a Blackburn rack and carrier to tow my eight-pound Chihuahua on her first ride outside a messenger bag or front basket. The Champlain region, surprisingly, hosts an international wine trail ranging from New York to Quebec, the lake’s deep waters producing a microclimate perfect for growing grapes and apples.

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Camping lights came in handy for our ride back on dark country roads on our ride back. We seemed doomed to freeze after a few failed attempts to light the fire, but we ventured over to the campsite next to ours (which seemed well-prepared with tiki torches and a standing tic-tac-toe game). They taught us a new log stacking method (lattice stack instead of a triangle) and loaned us a firestarter. We warmed up by heating cider and whiskey in camp mugs over the campfire, watching lost marshmallows at the bottom of the pit swell and char under the flames.

Day 2

We woke up chilled the next morning, with temperatures dipping just below my sleeping bag’s 35° rating, but the sun provided a bit of extra warmth to offset the lakeside winds. On a cold, early morning at the campsite, there’s no sadder sight then a broken French press shattered in transit. We headed off to find coffee and breakfast at Wally’s Place Bagel & Deli on South Hero Island. Being New Yorkers, we were skeptical of how these bagels would hold up to our standards, but the breakfast sandwich and hummus bagels delivered.

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Bean hopped into her carrier, ready to roll, as we packed up the campsite. Originally I wanted to ride right up to the Canadian border (and possibly pop over it), but an old injury flared up that limited my ability to tackle hills and tough terrain. We planned an easier route around historic Isle La Motte in search of a cidery, bypassing the busy traffic along Route 2 for a quieter ride, stopping at a an honor system farmstand on North Hero Island called Savage Gardens.

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We set off along the Western shore of the island, with miles of red and orange trees along the New York coast in full view. Small cottages reminiscent of seaside towns lined the left side of the road, with private steps leading down to small waterfront porches. A few of these small decks even had benches beckoning for us to rest, with engraved messages and signs encouraging us to take a seat and seemingly designed with cyclists in mind.

We stopped at Fisk Quarry Preserve which hosts the world’s coral reef, the 480-million year Chazy Fossil Reef.

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Next we hunted down Hall Home Place, known for their ice cider (which is made by leaving apples on the tree until they freeze). You wouldn’t think you could get lost on a tiny, ten-street island, but we managed to pass unmarked cidery, which was sadly closed. We sprinted down the flat expanse of “Main Street” for fun, passing a snake sunbathing and a group of Canadian cyclists in hi-viz gear.

 

After circling the island we embarked on the last leg of our trip, the part that brought us to Vermont in the first place: a short jaunt along the Island Line Rail Trail.

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Sharp winds hit us as we cleared the trees and emerged onto the jetty, drowning out the sound of anything besides the wind whipping over the water and narrowing my senses to the pre-dusk colors all around me. We watched the sun set over the Appalachians in New York, darkening the sky over the Vermont shore to the east into deep purples and pinks.

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We circled the jetty a couple of times until the sun dropped fully below the horizon, then headed into downtown Burlington for hard-earned burritos after a windy day of riding. I’m eager to revisit the islands again when I’m fully recovered and explore beyond them to the rest of the Champlain Bikeway – and maybe steal a QOM from a Canadian.

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If you’d like to plan your own trip, start here!

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01 Sep

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FFYeah Bike Touring: Becca’s California Coast Tour

September 1, 2016 | By |

FF rider Becca Book toured the California coast this August, embarking on a five-day trip from San Francisco to Santa Barbara ending at her friend’s wedding. Read more about her travels below!

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Solo bike touring as a woman challenges many societal assumptions – when passing you at a rest stop or serving you at a fruit stand, tourists and cashiers often crane their neck to look in front of you, searching for a male companion. The plus side is that afterwards, they usually give you a snack. And thus 45 miles and one jaunt over the Santa Cruz Mountains into my most recent bike tour, I ended up with a handle bar bag stuffed full of strawberries and avocados. I pulled over in Watsonville, CA, a farm town more welcoming to chickens than cyclist as soon as I saw a sign for 6 avocados for $1. I  had already passed up a “4 avocados for $1” and a “5 avocados for $1” (you know… California) because I honestly could not remember which pannier I put my pocket knife in, but this one I could not pass up. A young girl, maybe 15, was inside the fruit stand and her mother was taking a break in the sun nearby. I gave them a quarter for the ripest avocado I could dig out of the bin as the mother looked down the road for my caretaker. ‘Are you alone?’ she asked, and then gave some version of the advice ‘watch out for ‘those people’’/ ‘what if something happens?’ which I have become familiar with. The daughter just stared longingly at the world outside her quaint town and said ‘Wow… that’s so cool!!’. When I explained that I was heading out to Monterey that evening, I got a worried stare and a full basket of sweet ripe strawberries.

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I followed a series of country highways through an alternating pattern of bright green, fragrant strawberry fields and dusty yellow hills, past marshes and over creeks, straight to a well-deserved plate of fried artichoke hearts. Refueled, I continued on to the internationally beloved Pacific Coast bike route which follows Highway One from Canada to Mexico. I had ridden portions of this route before, but this was my first time following it solo. The frequency of small towns to refuel or, if need be, repair your trusty steed, not to mention the breathtaking scenery, make the California 1 particularly popular. This adds an ever-amusing parade of bike tourists to the route, from seasoned married couples who never forget to pack their folding chairs to ragtag crews of recent college graduates and Australians on gap year who carry nothing besides a can of chili, a flask of whiskey, and possibly a ukulele for a three-month trip. The state of California sponsor $5 per night ‘hike or bike’ campsites to assist in the melding of these seemingly disparate populations (Oregon and Washington sponsor similar programs, too).

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My first destination was Monterrey Veterans Memorial Park, a luxurious retreat in the center of the City of Monterey, minutes from the aquarium, the historic wharf, and most importantly a TRADER JOE’S! I spent the rest of the evening cooking gnocchi with fresh tomato sauce on my alcohol stove, aka empty spam can filled with paint thinner, chatting with a young couple, one guy on a beater bike determined to bike north along the One, into a stiff head wind for 18,000 miles of the costal route, and two Flemish girls who had decided to tour California by public transit (‘It’s just not like Europe…’) with frequent interludes from few locals who seemed very permanently encamped at the far end of our site.

Day 2

Seals!

Seals!

After packing up camp, I headed down the mountain upon which Veterans is perched, along a seaside bike path which dipped down to the old wharf before rising up to a bluff overlooking a harbor seal colony which continued down the coast – then realized I was heading the complete wrong direction. So I reversed back past the adorable seals and over the $!#$$%#@ing hill where I had camped, until I rejoined Highway One. Soon enough the local commuter traffic fell away, and I entered the jaw-dropping vistas of Big Sur… where commuter traffic was replaced by rental cars and tourist from points as far-flung as Japan and France. This portion of the coast has a relentless series of hills, but each is crowned with a spectacular view. It was slow going – not because of the hills but because it was so gorgeous I kept stopping to take photos.

Each vista point had a smattering of tourists trying to get a photo where they could crop out all the other tourists, so I figured I would stop and add my camera to the fray. I asked a couple in a minivan if they could take my picture – and then they pointed out that there was a whole pod of humpback whales breaching maybe 100ft off of the coast line.

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Not too far down the coast is McWay Falls, which I would wager the majority of readers have received a postcard of at some point. It is distinguishable by its proximity to the ocean and the large line of rental cars parked in front of it. I pulled up to the packed parking lot to confirm with a young French couple that these was indeed the trail to that waterfall from the postcards, but it turns out that they had also just pulled over because they saw the giant line of cars parked on the side of the road. They politely reminded me that I was woman biking alone, and then gave me a bottle of fruit punch, Gatorade, and some chips.

After a full day of climbing I was getting hangry, with no one to take out my feelings on except for passing cars and the the few convince stores in Big Sur that can get away with charging $4 for a popsicle because the area is so remote. I was cursing an SUV for passing me too close when a hand reached out the window with a granola bar. As soon as a realized what was going on, I grabbed the tasty treat a waved to the driver. When I reached the next turn out, the driver was waiting for me, holding an even BIGGER, CHILLED container of orange Gatorade (which happens to be my favorite flavor). It turns out he is a forest ranger as well as a host on Warm Showers, where he offers his seaside ranger house to touring cyclists. He let me play with his three-month old black Lab puppy as he recommended the best taco joints south of Big Sur. My cycling bonk was successfully broken. That night I spent at Plaskett Creek campground with an older couple who bike from San Francisco to San Diego every summer, and a crew of 20-somethings that had met somewhere in northern California as they headed down the coast.

Day 3

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I woke to a solid layer of fog as well as a brisk 1000ft climb which quickly took me above the marine layer. The road hovered above the fog for only a second before diving back into the clouds, making for an exhilarating start for the day.

After exiting Big Sur, the landscape quickly changes from the misty forests of Northern California to the golden hills of the Central Coast. The road flattens out here, and all the tourists exit somewhere, leaving me to whizz past elephant seals and the collection of zebras at Hearst Castle.

I was enjoying the flat roads and tailwind so much that I almost didn’t notice when I got a flat. This happened, conveniently enough, in the town of Cambria, which is best known for hosting the first 4G network south of the Monterrey area. A little bit of mechanical trouble as well as research into camping options was sufficient to convince me I should take the easier option for the day, a 60-mile route to Morro Bay. There was a winery close to where I stopped to fix my flat, and so I figured why not. The worried bartender quickly realized that I was a woman – ALONE – a problem that is best treated with free wine, and poured me an extra glass. I ended up rolling into Morro Bay State Park just as the sun was setting, and quickly hung up my hammock and passed out.

Day 4

I had a 100-mile ride ahead of me, so I quickly packed up and rolled into town for hearty diner breakfast. I headed into San Luis Obispo to enjoy all the benefits of city life: a floor pump and a 7-11 selling extra large bags of peanut butter-filled pretzels. I continued down towards Pismo Beach, a self proclaimed ‘Classic California’ town, crowned with a thick layer of ocean fog peaking up from behind the hills, then a row of giant sand dunes in the distance.

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I followed the One through a series of quaint beach towns, each filled with a selection of Mexican restaurants and differing mainly in their ratio of RV parks to motels. After about 10 miles, the One turns inland again, into the Central Valley. Large industrial farms suddenly dominate the landscape. Rows of farm workers dotted the fields, each of them quickly picking strawberries or artichokes and then sprinting to the end of the row when their basket was filled, because most workers are paid by the amount of fruit they pick rather than by the hour. The monotony and the frequent rush of trucks zooming by made for a rather depressing ride, but I was keeping a steady 20 mph pace over the flat road.

I eventually reached the town of Guadalupe, and stopped to fill my water bottles up. The only available water was from large tanks that had to be shipped in, located in a busy gas station at the edge of town. The shop was bustling with troupes of workers from the field with empty water coolers, women dragging their children past the candy isle with one arm and holding several gallon canisters with another, and me, with just two half-filled water bottles waiting in the back of the line. I slathered on another layer of 85+ SPF sunscreen, rubbing the road grit even deeper into my skin and then headed down the road. After several more miles of eerily green fields with advertisements for ‘the first high speed Internet in this area’ hung from all the roadside fence posts, I began the climb up past Vadenburg Airforce Base. There was nothing but dry grass and an relentless sun until I reached the top of the climb, where I found more dry glass, sun, and a pleasant breeze.

I quickly descended into the Town of Lompoc, known for the Federal Correctional Institution, The United States Penitentiary, and the Federal Prison Camp. When you hear the term ‘Prison Industrial Complex’, think of this dusty town, inexplicably situated between pastures and aircraft testing fields. Exhausted by the heat (not to mention the 73 miles I had already ridden that day), I scarfed down a particularly enjoyable Super Veggie burrito in under 10 minutes.

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Satiated, I continued through some more golden hills dotted with craggy rocks back out into the country. Comfortable in the pastoral setting, I took off my jersey, hoping in vain that I could even out my cyclist tan before the wedding I was heading to. Soon afterwards, I was whizzing past the tail end of Santa Barbara rush hour, a row of sports cars heading out of the city and into the seemingly empty wilderness behind me.

My frustration with my new traveling companions was quickly tempered with the knowledge that this meant I was almost done with my 100 mile day! Just one more 1,000 ft climb between me and my camping hammock. This knowledge gave me my 15th wind, and soon I found myself overlooking the Pacific again from the crest of the hill.

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The descent follows the 101, a legitimate freeway complete with rest stops and impatient truckers. The freeway cuts through cliffs such that when you are riding in the shoulder, the rock wall literally leans over you, and shot me down to the beach side campsite at Gaviota State Park where I was staying for the night. Not only did I finish the 100 mile day before sunset, I made it in time to grab beer before the camp store closed! My campmates for the night even had a huge bowl of leftover, made from scratch, spicy rich and delicious coconut curry and quinoa waiting when I rolled in!

After savoring my home-cooked meal, I slung up my hammock and headed down to the beach to watch the last of the sunset with my amazing adopted camp chefs. We got to the water’s edge just as the colors started fading from the sky, and a pod of dolphins sped through the water right in front of our campground.

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Day 5

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On my final day of touring, I slept in, not waking up until the sea breeze swayed my hammock ever so slightly. My new camp friends were already packing up, a few of them heading just a few miles to wrap their tour up in Santa Barbara, while one guy hope to make as much ground as possible to get to Mexico and finish his entire tour of the Pacific Coast. I slowly rolled out of bed and went to go ask the park ranger about the hot springs I had heard about. They were just a 6 mile ride away – straight up the hill I had bombed down the previous night. I was able to ditch my panniers and quickly get up to the sulfur-laden little creek.

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I soaked for about an hour before rushing down the hill to pick up my panniers and change into my ‘city clothes’ (aka the same dirty bike shorts I’d been wearing all week plus some mascara) and finish up the final 30 miles to my friend’s house in Goleta. After washing all the sweat, grease, and now sulfur off my skin, I can empathetically say that this was a successful, beautiful and generally  amazing bike tour, filled with amazing people, incredible scenery, delicious burritos, and concluding with the beautiful marriage of some of my favorite people!

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06 Aug

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Hitting the Track at Trexlertown

August 6, 2016 | By |

Marcy wrote about Formula Femme’s first time at the big track – Trexlertown in Pennsylvania. Visit this link to read the full post and thanks to Kenji Edmonds for taking such great photos!

 

25 Apr

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Ladies Day at 6 Days of Kissena

April 25, 2016 | By |

We shared our experiences racing at Ladies Day at 6 Days of Kissena, which was sponsored by our team sponsors Pretty Damned Fast and King Kog! Check out the full write-up by our team member Kelly over on Pretty Damned Fast.

28 Mar

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FFun’raiser Recap

March 28, 2016 | By |

Our fun’raiser was a huge success! Thank you to everyone who came through and supported us, bought raffle tickets, donated feminine care products for Food Bank For New York City (we have 2 big boxes filled to the brim), to Lock Foot Posi for hosting the goldsprints, to all of our sponsors and friends who contributed to our cause.

Thank you so much to DivaCup, MER Bags, Babeland, Justin’s, The Athletic Community, Juice Press, Boombotix, Aloha Laser Services, Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Fringe Salon NY, and Squid’s Ink Tattoo for donating such amazing prizes!

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Congratulations to the goldsprints winners Chelsea & Jesse, who had the fastest overall sprint times!

You can view all of the photos from the night here or check out the hashtag #ffunraiser on Instagram.

THANK YOU ALL AGAIN!!

21 Mar

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Koochella Interview with Our Team Captain Zoe

March 21, 2016 | By |

Anna Schwinn from our mentor team Koochella recently interviewed our team captain Zoe for their blog on the inspiration behind and challenges of starting a new team from the ground up. We’re also stoked that All City shared it on their blog as well!

Be sure to check out the full interview over on Koochella’s site!

06 Mar

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FF Fundraiser! Save the Date!

March 6, 2016 | By |

 

Formula Femme is here to party hard and race harder! Our first season kicks off April 3 at Kissena, and we need your help to get there. Come out to support us on March 24th at 8pm at East River Bar, grab drink specials, and snag some swag…AND RACE GOLDSPRINTS courtesy of Lock Foot Posi!

Don’t forget cash for raffle tickets because we have TONS OF SWEET PRIZES from our sponsors and supporters. We’re talking bags, components, even fun stuff like vibrators from Babeland.

A big part of Formula Femme’s mission is ending period stigma and getting menstrual supplies to New Yorkers in need. If you bring a box of pads or tampons for us to donate to Food Bank for NYC, we’ll give you 5 raffle tickets! It’s a better deal than buying them outright (but we won’t complain if you do both).

Thanks so much to our team sponsors for helping us make our dreams come true:
All-City
Silk Road Cycles
King Kog Brooklyn
Pretty Damned Fast
RZ Designs

If you can’t make it to the fundraiser but still want to support us, we’ve also got a Gofundme. $10 or $20 does more than you think!
https://www.gofundme.com/formulafemme

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