Monday, December 15, 2014

Beach Riding and Exploration

Is this shoreline rideable, I wonder?
I suppose I was feeling smug. Along with desiring to ride through the cold plus wearing thick mittens and praising the balaclava, I felt ready to tackle anything.

Lake Champlain's water level is still unusually low for this time of year, creating beautiful glass-like icy conditions on the shoreline. There are vast stretches of sandy beach too, tempting and luring me off the asphalt path. I negotiate twigs and fallen leaves to arrive at water's edge.

I dreamed of riding through tundra-like conditions: firm sand with rideable pockets of shallow, breakable ice.

However, the reality was my 2" wide tires were no match against sharp clam shells, a hazard I hadn't anticipated.

I turned around almost as soon as I started, unwilling to risk a flat in 20F temperatures, but not before encountering a web of stumps, visible above current lake level, creating a tentacle-like twisted maze, like art hovering above the sand.

I'm reminded that curiosity fuels our wanderlust. Taking one step in that direction: turning down a road never ridden, a trail never taken, may not divulge what you expect, but something just as satisfying: surprising, hidden gems.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

In Praise of the Balaclava

When it's below 30F, nothing retains head heat like a balaclava.
I misplaced my neck gaiter thingy that I'd normally stretch over my head, which fits comfortably inside my helmet, so I grabbed the next best thing—or so I thought—my son's balaclava. The sizing was a bit snug, but I'm sold on it's design to cover my face and neck! I'll have to unearth my old balaclava—one I've had for 30 years —and adapt it (if I recall it had extra material that formed a widow's peak, partially blocking my vision) for use on the bike.

Between windproof mittens, a balaclava, and Ugg-type boots, I'm learning how to extend my riding season.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Turkey - Riding in Ataturk's Shadow

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Goat herds, wide valleys, and evidence of Western civilization's influence (note the Pepsi sign) are common sights as we navigate Turkey's back roads.

Wednesday, November 9 - 31 miles

We leave the pansiyon early, head south and are walloped with headwinds. However, it feels good to be back on our bicycles. It's funny, but home is on two wheels, wherever we roll. After I fix a flat, we keep our spirits up as rain showers – a first in Turkey – threatens to beat us down. A roadside shelter made of rushes becomes a lunch sanctuary. I surmise it's shelter for goats while Andy claims it's a makeshift produce stand.

Every small community proudly displays serious-looking portraits of Ataturk, father of Turkey. His prominent face, dark eyed with bushy brow, graces their currency, bus shelters, stamps, and posters in restaurants. He was a general in WWI, defending Constantinople (Istanbul) from Allied attempts pushing into northern Turkey. I also overheard that any verbal slander towards Ataturk, even today, is cause for being thrown in jail. As with other interesting trivia, I mentally note this information for further research upon our return home. The more we travel, the more I want to know.

I struggle up a long hill, already gaining 1000 feet, when the pain in my gut (our diet lacks sufficient fiber) causes me to dismount and push my bicycle the remaining yards up to the summit. I am in tears. The road surface is rough asphalt, wearing as much on my morale as my indigestion, which is only alleviated by walking.

We coast into a large agricultural valley planning to find accommodation so I can rest, but Soke is an overwhelming city of 50,000 citizens. A choking thick sand cloud rises house-high while horse drawn carts, automobiles, bicycles, scooters honk, whiz around us, dodging parked vehicles. We concentrate on keeping a straight line. “Hello, hello!” pedestrians shout. We smile and respond “Merhaba!” but I am not in the mood to stop and converse. We consult a few pansiyons but they are full or too expensive. I start to feel better so we head out of town; we will make do with tenting if needed.

Later the sky looks ominous. In Gullubache we haggle with a pansiyon owner and secure lodging, complete with breakfast for 400,000 Lira. It is near Priene, another historic site. Over dinner we discuss our coastal route towards Greece's Isle of Rhodes and wonder about current news: Turkey and Greece are at serious odds over fishing territory. Turkey wants to expand their rights to 6 miles offshore, which impacts Greek islands situated close to Turkey. It seems like an age old problem, this animosity between the Greeks and the Turks. We can only hope this recent escalation is only verbal. Rain fell while we prepared dinner and thunder and lightening continued all night. I was happy to be indoors.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

I Want to try a Fat Bike!

As a family, we were excited to attend Global Fat Bike Day, plop down 20.00 a head to demo bikes, eat food, and enjoy a bonfire. It sounded like a great opportunity to enjoy quality family time outdoors.

But mother nature had other plans. As rain, sleet, and snow are falling outside, creating dangerous riding conditions, the event has been postponed to tomorrow, Sunday. Forecast is for weather dropping into the teens, which hopefully means we'll actually have snow to ride on.

I'll get out my snow pants, Sorel boots, down parka, and use hand warmers. I may look like the female counterpart to the Michelin man, but I can't pass this opportunity to try something totally different. Here's hoping my family feels the same.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Desiring to Ride Through the Cold

Once in a blue moon wait for train maneuvers at Burlington's Electric's wood-fired generating plant.
Train delivers wood chips twice a day.
As the days get shorter, landscape turns grey, and colder days set in, I find it odd that for the first time I'm choosing to ride a bike for exercise in place of long walks around city streets. There are two reasons why: I've learned to dress accordingly to extend my riding season plus driving a car is simply something I abhor - at present I only drive to work. There will come a time when driving and walking are necessary to get errands done in winter, but for now, I still vote for two-wheeled commutes.

Intervale kale farm. Owners must be bike aficionados; notice bike frame supporting sign.
Cruising on trails, far from asphalt, crowds and normal walking range, I experience up close and personal things I don't even notice the rest of the year. The adage "can't see the forest for the trees" is suddenly the exact opposite. With trees stripped of foliage one can see through the trees and locate three squirrels at a time, scampering away from my wheel, shooting up tree trunks. Birds roost in trees; my presence scares chattering flocks to leapfrog from tree to tree ahead of me.

Deeper into kale farm (I ride the field perimeter) I find bike forks stuck in stump. Stacked wood is  ready for later bonfires?
 I pedal by a rusted automobile sunk door-deep into the earth.

Near the fire pit, a pile of junked bikes.
Riding when it's 30F has become a visceral challenge. Long underwear beneath blue jeans, thick windproof gloves, scarf, headband, and lightweight insulated jacket are generally enough to keep me warm. But barely. If I stop too long, or snap too many photos, requiring bare hands, my fingers quickly grow cold. I've learned to keep moving.

Drawn to the trails in the Intervale.
I could overdress, start out with many layers, discard as I go. In some respects that would suit my often frigid body temperature much better. Yet, I've come to appreciate the challenge of moving as fast as my feet can turn the pedals, building core heat that eventually radiates to my fingers. Or momentarily dismount, lift my bicycle over a log, or push up a too steep incline, pumping blood back into stiffened feet.

New bike path surface complete with striped lanes
Until the roads are dicey, I choose to ride.