We’d been to the Madison Cafe once. The service was bad and the menu was bereft of options for the compassionate set so we never went back. Ten years have passed and I read about imminent closure of The Brakes Coffeehouse in All Over Albany and Keep Albany Boring. Both mention that the space currently occupied by The Brakes will soon be the home of Berben and Wolff’s Vegan Delicatessen, and that Berben and Wolff supply seitan to a number of local joints including the Madison Cafe. Madison Cafe, it turns out, now has a dedicated vegan menu. Not bad! Might very well be the most extensive vegan menu in town hiding within walking distance of our home. Someone needs to sell a list of local vegans to joints offering to cook for them. That’s a menu I’d be happy to receive.
On weekends, there are large groups of people waiting at the Madison Cafe for a table. Maybe it is worth the wait for us too, so we drove over to give it a go. As we passed, there were about twenty people waiting out front. We didn’t even park. That’s the thing about cars, right? No reason to wait in a line to eat–just keep motoring. Further down Madison we parked one block shy of El Loco and walked the rest of the way there. Closed until the afternoon. I’ll bet they’d do good brunch business on Sundays. I saw this on the facade next door.
We walked from there to The Brakes. The place was packed, with space remaining on the couch only. We took it and had a delicious vegan brunch. So sad they are closing. Anyone know the back story? Always seemed to have a good supply of customers. Probably not enough, though. Sigh.
Drove home, napped an hour, and then read about George A. Wyman and his grand tour. In 1903, Mr. Wyman was the first to cross America by motor bike, traveling from San Francisco to New York City in just over 50 days.
I am as interested in the machines as the journey. Mr. Wyman was riding a 1896 Marks Motorcycle made by the California Motor Company, often cited as the first US production motorcycle. A nice picture can be found here. Specifications are here. Highlights: 90 lbs. 1/2 horsepower. He had to pedal at times, particularly while going up extended steep grades, to help the laboring motor.
On July 4, 1903, day 49, George found himself in Albany, NY, with a badly worn machine. He stopped at 456 Madison Avenue, former home of an Indian motorcycle shop and more recently the home of Little Moon, where he made an effort at putting his motorbike in order. Sadly, he wasn’t successful. Albany, NY marked the end of the motor assisted portion of his journey.
Mr. Wyman watched the fireworks in Albany, slept overnight, and on the 5th set out for NYC under pedal power alone. It doesn’t say he removed the motor from his bike, so I expect he didn’t. I cannot imagine pedaling from here to NYC on one of my modern lightweight machines. I know others can do this with ease, but I am not among them. Mr. Wyman pedaled his 90 pound bike along Route 9 through the night and arrived in NYC on July 6, 1903. Turns out he was also an accomplished bicycle rider and racer. Among his motorless accomplishments was being the first to pedal around the whole of Australia. Quite a fellow.
The stats aren’t all there, but I wanted to do some math. I assumed he left Albany at 5:30 am on the 5th and arrived in NYC at 5:30 pm on the 6th. 36 hours. 148 miles. That’s 4 miles per hour. Fast walking pace. Brutal.
Mr. Wyman made his way into Albany on Route 20. Did you know Route 20 runs from Newport, Oregon, to Boston, Massachusetts? Did you know that in New York, Route 20 runs through no major city except for Albany?
Route 20 enters Albany from the west on what we know as Western Avenue, and then forks right onto Madison Avenue. That’s how Mr. Wyman found the Indian Motorcycle shop. That’s the route I would pedal when I wanted to get a haircut at Duke’s or lunch at Bread and Honey (RIP). That’s the route for which the city is considering a road diet to reduce the number of lanes from four to two in order to discourage high speed motoring with the attendant negative impacts on the neighborhood and non motorized road users. This is a good thing, and you should attend a public meeting covering just this proposal on Wednesday, March 9 at 6:30 pm in the Lally School building (1009 Madison Avenue) at Saint Rose.
One other fun Route 20 fact–I met a man on Saturday that intends to walk the length of America starting in May. He is giving himself a year. He’ll walk Route 20 until it intersects Route 66 (in Chicago). Quite a journey, no?
Frida walked half a mile today but was limping enough that we rolled her home. Every day is different. We are gentle with her, sometimes stopping her even when she wants to continue. I believe George Wyman would have been impressed by our tenacious little traveler. Raise a glass to Frida and send her your wishes for many more walks this coming Spring.
Take care, okay?