Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Women's Ride on the Causeway

Picnicking in  the shelter of a bridge for a brief reprieve from the wind.
I didn't know what to expect for attendance for the second event in the Women's Ride Series. It  was a gorgeous morning for the inaugural ride. However, two ladies appeared but were uncomfortable with a small group. They decided to ride by themselves - which left just the co-leader and myself. Undeterred, we picnicked, pedaled an hour together, chatted, realizing that other ladies' events may be held on the same day.

I was prepared this time around.

Each leader invited a friend, then three ladies pulled up, making a cozy group of seven. And it was a blustery day, promising to be a challenge on the nearly treeless causeway.
But oh, the conversation! We paired up. I introduced my sister-in-law to my co-leader, who lives a stones' throw from her house. Brunch was delightful with eggs, muffins, fruit cups, and coffee. Clearly, some women had already eaten.

The 20 mph gusts were too difficult for a couple ladies so they retreated back to their vehicle. However, the rest forged ahead with wind at our backs. At the turnaround, we had our first glimpse of the new ferry, capable of hauling 20 passengers and 16 bikes. Operating 7 days a week this summer, I plan to use it for an overnight in the Champlain Islands.

I'm curious: is 231 miles to Boston by major highway or back roads?
My sister-in-law talked with a  ferry volunteer; she was signed up for a shift later that week. I chatted with a new found lady friend, a bike overnighter and tourist like myself. (I can never have enough friends like that!)

A new sign greeted us when we pointed our bikes into the wind. Mileage to local points is helpful, though you may want to pack a pannier or at the very least, a credit card if you plan to cycle the distance to Boston! And yet, I must admit the tall signage is unnerving. A smaller replacement would provide ample information and not resemble those multi-tiered highway signs visible on Vermont's interstate. There are similar informative signs at other locations along the Burlington Bike path, propped at eye level and easily read. I'm also skeptical of it's longevity, exposed to wind and frozen winter conditions.

Cycling on the causeway is popular. So despite my general grumpiness at "progress": adding concrete sidewalk section near ferry dock, picnic benches, wrapping a cycling map around a pole, paving the last 50 feet, obliterating what soil could've supported wildflowers and grasses, I suppose a freeway type sign is par for the course.

For now though, I have to laugh. Pedaling a raised pathway, with water on both sides, for 3 beautiful miles makes me smile. And smile. And smile. I'm sure Canadian travelers will love distances measured in kilometers, and if they need to use a restroom, well, it's all there on the sign.

The causeway regularly has windy days and knowing you just need to use easier gears one-way is part of dealing with headwinds. I said goodbye to the main group at the end point then set off for another two miles with my new pal, pleased as punch to have grown my network of like-minded, adventurous souls.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Sunset Ride

Mailboxes lined up at entrance to camps.
When we stay overnight at camp I steal moments of alone time. Nothing like a short jaunt, after dinner, just before the sun sets. It's that in between time when I'm restless; dinner dishes are washed and it's too early to go to bed. My in laws are parked in front of the TV; kids are on digital devices; husband deep into a project or ensconced in a chair with a magazine, too relaxed to head out with me. 

On this evening I spied the warning signs along the path.

And relished the ethereal light. Leaves dotting the cement portion. There are other folks who ride in the evening also. Like me they ride by themselves. We are solitary souls, seeking the last rays of sunshine, together.

Turnaround point is the entrance to the causeway.

The sun dips lower. I love the sound of my tires rumbling over the bridge; they rattle, pleasingly so, as boards rock within their framework. It's become the Winooski River Bridge alarm. If a person is standing on the bridge, staring at the lake, their peace is momentarily interrupted by the clatter of a passing cyclist.

There are other riders that momentarily pause at several of the overlooks, waiting for their own personal view of sunset. At the camp, if my timing is right, I roll onto the deck and plant myself westward, enjoying a quiet calm before mother nature lends her spectacle. Then all is right in my universe.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Family Ride and a Big Surprise

Big surprise: a hot air balloon is about to land.
It was a perfect evening for a family bike ride. But to where? My husband's been contemplating replacing an aging Honda, so a Mazda dealership became the destination. No better time than the present to check out the Mazda 3, a car we've all admired for many years. After hours is the best time to look in windows and ponder sticker prices. Nothing like the prospect of a new automobile to entice boys—big one included—to get out on bicycles.

As we neared our destination, we spy a beautiful hot air balloon, low in the sky. The air is pretty still. The balloon's engine roars, blasting minimal air to raise the balloon over one last bank of trees.

We follow a few cars, plus the balloon crew's two vehicles and trailers to where the balloon lands, amazingly in a grassy island between a road and a building. The landing is so tight that one guideline hangs up in a tree. There are 10 people on board. One couple remains in the basket for photos; the two became engaged during the flight. I wish to hang around, watch the balloon deflate, see if they open the traditional bottle of champagne—a balloon ride is on my bucket list—but we must continue our own journey in the fading light.

BalloonVermont.com - pretty obvious where I can make my own hot air balloon ride happen!
We got to the dealership, oohed and ahhed over shiny chrome—four wheels instead of two—then went the quickest route home, following my husband's diversions through parking lots, on sidewalks, dirt paths, lush lawns, and behind stores—his own obstacle course to bypass riding beside a busy highway.

Pedaling, pedaling, I dreamed of that balloon...

Saturday, July 12, 2014

How Much Attention Do You Give to a Child's Bike?

New saddle for a reluctant commuter.
Since I often ride with my children, I listen when they complain about their bike woes. Sometimes it's a simple fix: oil the chain, tighten the front quick release, loosen and realign the handlebars. I'll do most anything—barring buying them a brand new expensive bicycle—to upgrade their enjoyment and safety.

Our oldest son whined about his sore butt so, at his request, I got him a wider, more cushiony seat.

This bike now sports the traditional short bar ends.
Our youngest son is a daredevil: jumping curbs, descending a rooty, narrow dirt path—I can't watch him perform some of his stunts. I am thankful that we've, so far, escaped a trip to the emergency room. I'm forever inspecting his bike, making sure quick release hubs are secure and stem is tight. When I spotted that his bar ends were dangerous, lacking end caps, and one bar was misshapen, I offered to remove them altogether. However, he liked the alternative hand position. The crooked bar didn't bother him or me, frankly, but the sharp ends were, unfortunately, oval-shaped—not easily plugged with standard rubber caps or corks. So, I replaced those longhorn cattle spikes with more traditional bar ends.

Now, if I can only get this same active kid to stop stretching his chain (smallest front chainring to smallest freewheel cog) he'll figure out that his chain will quit rattling and skipping. Ah, the challenge of raising a 12-year-old!

Friday, July 11, 2014

My Favorite Hot Weather Cycling Dress

When the dog days of summer arrive, I gravitate towards wearing sundresses. Sundresses at work. Sundresses on weekends at our family's summer camp. Forget a t-shirt and shorts. Riding in a sundress, well, that's the best.

My favorite sundress is a button-front tank style affair. It's pretty unusual also, and elicits numerous comments just about every time I wear it. With dark blue background, madras colored flower print, pleats down to waistline, and a flowing skirt, it billows when I wear it on the bike.

It's long enough for ample coverage, (I don colored underwear just in case an errant gust of wind comes my way) doesn't require a slip underneath, and the neckline exposes only my collarbone.


Probably the best part is the open back with ties, which someone else must fasten. I often wear a colored bra to blend in with the fabric, or, to at least not stand out. So many people have asked me where I bought the dress and I have to explain that it's easily 25 years old, purchased at a Filenes (I think) bargain basement in Portland, Oregon.

This dress begs to be paired with sandals, perfect for flip flop rides.