Friday, April 29, 2011

Flooding and More Flooding

We should feel lucky that we do not live in the tornado or hurricane belt. Vermont only encounters minor earthquakes too. In fact, I believe we live in one of the safest places in the world. So, why worry about a little flooding?

I wanted to share a few pictures of this morning's record setting flood waters lapping Burlington's shoreline. You remember this photo (below) from April 20.
The water continued to rise to over 102 feet, setting an all time record. This is today's view from a nearby vantage point. Notice that I couldn't pedal to the same spot. As it was, I walked my bike through some rose bushes to get this close.
A ferry dock and businesses are also underwater. The low building in the distance is a restaurant and where you get on the ferry (only open in summer). People are out in row boats and hip waders, accessing the damage.

Lots of debris floated down the rivers and eventually into the lake.
The Coast Guard building (blue roof) has its share of problems too as water rises to the ground level of the building. Bucket loaders are clearing debris away from the docks, creating huge wood piles.  
Battery Park overlooks the waterfront just above the Coast Guard. It's a unique view of the flooding. The lighthouse is at one end of a mile long breakwater, currently several feet below the surface. Bike path is in immediate foreground.

As the snow melts and more rain falls (expected this evening) the water levels may continue to rise. Clearly, we are now into uncharted territory.

After the water recedes let's all pitch in to lend a hand in the cleanup. Burlington and it's beautiful waterfront deserve our immediate attention to restore the beaches, the park land, and the bike path so we all can enjoy it this summer.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Easter Afternoon Bike Shop

64 F, light wind, sunny

Easter afternoon the kids were scattered throughout the neighborhood and my husband decided to go for a walk. I needed to be around so I set up the driveway with bike tools and stand up pump. First, my old seat on my Trek had to go. I put the old one (but still very usable with a slight tear) on my kid's bike, replacing a very hard saddle that my son had been complaining about for nearly a year.

New seat is on the right, men's style. The leather Miyata seat is longer and slightly wider, women's style. Usually a woman's saddle is shorter and wider, but for some reason this one is different.

Next up for replacement were two front tires. The Miyata now has a tire with less profile. Hopefully I will have a quieter commute without gravel and dirt scratching the inside of the fender. The Trek's front tire had cracked, showing the red color of the inner rubber. I checked my bike log. I can't believe the tire lasted five years.

While I struggled with removing both tires a neighbor came by to borrow tire levers and pump. He was removing his studded tires. I guess it's really Spring!

I also added a bell to one of my son's handlebars, a gift in his Easter basket.

Then, my husband returned. Our youngest boy went to a neighbor's home to play with his friend. Her father was happy to keep an eye on both kids for a while, and my husband and I went our for a bike ride. Our neighborhood rocks!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Flower Power

I like the contrasting color of this sunflower. It's the new addition to my green bag.
And while we are on the subject of  flowers...check out this beautiful carpet right beside the waterfront bike path.
Flowers make me smile!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Riding Bikes with the Family on Vacation

Once a year we get away from Burlington for a 4-5 day family vacation. This year's adventure included two days in Boston and two days on Cape Cod. Traveling in a car for hours at a time with our two boys is a trial in patience, at times, and a study in family dynamics. In the end the trip is all worth it for a glimpse at other cities, bike trails, museums and the ocean.
Lunch break in Boston
A rare warm afternoon in Boston found us scrambling to get the bikes off the back of our van. I wanted to add air to my Trek's front tire, but our pump wasn't able to connect well with the Presta valve, quickly draining too much air. I was a bit beside myself, anxious to get on the road when my husband suggested stopping a cyclist. Fortunately I was able to flag down two cyclists on folding bikes. One was towing oars on a trailer. It turns out these guys cycle to their boat. Interestingly, he slipped his seat and post from the bike frame and brought it over to my bike. He flipped the seat upside down and extracted a tube, valve clamp, and handle lever from the post end. A stabilizer sprang from beneath the seat. In a typical stand-up pump fashion he stepped on the foot tab and breathed life into my tires. I'd  never seen that style of pump!

We followed the wharves and brick-lined sidewalks, even a bridge crossing, the three miles to the U.S.S. Constitution. Our children sometimes balk at having to ride bikes, but this day I think our kids even had fun.

Cape Cod Rail Trail
A ferocious wind  blew us northwards on the Cape Cod Rail Trail as we took advantage of another beautiful day. This trail is a blessing for families as there are numerous signs, side dirt tracks, grocery stores with picnic benches, even a bike rotary which our children looped three times. It was still early spring on the Cape, but the cranberry bogs colored many, many fields just off the trail. I was pleased that most of the cross traffic stops for cyclists.

Our boys went happily back through the tunnel so I could capture their photos. At about 8 miles the boys were wondering how much further they needed  to pedal. It was then that I agreed to turn around and bike against the headwind back to retrieve the car while my husband and the boys could continue their journey one way.

My oldest son said this was an interesting mystery. The BigBelly ate your trash, but he wondered why there was a solar panel also attached to back of the box. Hmmm.

The following day we cycled part of the Bourne Canal Bikeway. We were all thrilled with the sighting of a barge and two tugboats.
This 7.5 mile pathway on each side of the canal is connected by two bridges, the Bourne and Sagamore.
Wanting to pedal the loop we had to cross the bridges. We all walked because of the proximity to the heavy traffic screaming by at 55 m.p.h. creating a buffeting wind. Had it been just my husband and me we would've pedaled, but our youngest boy is rather a reckless cyclist, though very determined and strong. Just the day before he had a collision with another boy on the CCRT. It was still a harrowing 20 minute bridge crossing on foot, but at the high point a tugboat blasted its horn as it passed by underneath. We grabbed the railings to brace ourselves against the bridge shaking and wind blasts, for the unique view below. I wouldn't recommend the loop to families. It's best to stick with one side or the other and just return the same way to your car.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Handlebar Real Estate

You've heard of home real estate, and even desktop real estate (that's when you have too many windows open or too many icons) but have you heard of handlebar real estate? At least that's my term for what happens when there are too many items lined up on the flat bars of my bike.
Picture this bar with the addition of bell and light bracket - phew!

A bell, thumb shifters, a re-purposed wire frame from an old handlebar bag used for supporting the green front bag (connected with leather straps-one more thing on the bar), a connector to house the front light, even a mirror. All this cluttering my bar. When I go ring my bell I have to search for where it is. Ringing a bell should be second nature.

I'm keeping the shifters and the mirror - a mirror is a necessity. I disconnected the light bracket. I can easily attach it should I ride after dark. After some experimenting I moved the bell lower, relegating it to a more prominent position (albeit further from my hand) on the stem.

In this new position it's much easier to flick with my thumb, though usually I roll the bell with one hand.
handlebar without the front bag

I'm working on getting rid of the black wire frame - I have, as a replacement, a simple front rack in mind. Once I install one on the Miyata (already purchased) I intend to put a black one on the Ross. This will then support the weight of the front bag.

I'm not sure how I ever got to this point of so much stuff on the handlebar bar, but I guess it's like anything else, it's easy to accumulate things. I love the handy front bag so that will stay.

Does anyone else have this problem with their bike?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Flooded Bike Path

Lake Champlain is at flood stage. Currently an area of the bike path is underwater. This happens every few years, especially at this spot in front of the benches. It's the path's low point, often only three feet above the normal waterline. I'm sure that part of Green Up day will be spent clearing the debris from the path once the water recedes.
I love this view. Both left and right sections are underwater, creating an "island" effect with the lake water in the background. The rocks are the border line between path and lake.

For more current flooding photos see:

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Strange Occurence and New Freewheel

As I pedaled away from my son's school on Thursday morning I was looking forward to my commute. It was one of those glorious spring days. The sun was shining and I hadn't ridden my bike since Tuesday. I turned a corner by the university and started to pick up speed. And then, just as suddenly, my pedals spun freely as if the chain had come off. I pulled over to the sidewalk to inspect my bike. Weird. The chain was fine, but the freewheel seemed disconnected to the hub. Mind you, not falling off, but clearly not engaged with the hub. Very strange. I shifted the gears, hoping that would help but it remained unattached. I groaned, realizing I wasn't getting to work by bike that morning. Rolling and pushing with one leg I rode the bike like a scooter back home.

On Friday I brought the bike to Old Spokes Home. Their mechanics had put on the new wheel and freewheel in the fall. According to Harris, a soft spoken and very knowledgeable bike guy (who I always hope works on my bike) the pawlings (new word for me) were not consistently connecting to the holes inside the freewheel. The freewheel mechanism acts like a ratchet and when properly working creates the friction for pulling the hub forward, or loosen when we pedal backward. Though he got the freewheel working again with lubrication, he didn't trust it and put on a new one on my bike. All without cost. Though Harris might see this problem if one rode through the winter and corrosion built up in the mechanism, clearly that was not the case this time.

So my Miyata is sporting a shiny freewheel, yet again. Anything for you, my big blue!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Slideshows at The Spot

Among all the wonderful restaurants in Burlington there is one fun and funky place called The Spot. It's a neighborhood restaurant serving good food in a renovated garage. As you can see it retains the same look - part of it's appeal. They also have a pull-down screen, convenient for hosting presentations. Bike racks overflow on Local Motion's Travel Talk series evenings, held six times this winter/spring.

Thursday night's entertainment was Ross Guberman's two months of cycling in Japan. Ross's wanderlust began in the Peace Corp, then touring Europe, and onto the Japanese Islands. His wonderfully interesting and down to earth encounter with the culture and surviving a typhoon held a rapt audience. I'm sure there will be more travels in Ross's future.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Colorful Girly Pannier

As many of you know I like to reuse items when I can. My latest venture delves into reusing old Lone Peak pannier hardware, favorite fabric, and odds and ends of buckles that I've collected over the years. I wanted to create a fashionable pannier/bag that functions like a pannier, yet looks like a bag when slung over the shoulder.

I like the look of it on my bike. Because it's long and not wide there is plenty of heal clearance.

The back lifts to expose the Lone Peak clip system through sewn button holes. I've always liked how the top knob folds over to cinch the pannier securely to the rack tubing. Inside, I reused Lone Peak's internal plastic stiffener, but encased in coordinating flowered fabric to give it pizzazz.

At the bottom of the bag I sewed a webbed cinch strap. This also has a plastic piece with a hole that can attach to the base of the rack if needed.

Off the bike I can flip the red fabric down, secured with hook and loop (Velcro) to cover the rack attachment. I carry the bag using the black handle...

or sling it over my shoulder. The long strap tucks inside the pannier when on the bike.

I've always loved to sew and create things. I purchased the tan sling bag from Michael's craft store because I liked the style, color, and satin lining and could not locate the type I wanted from a second hand store. The flowered fabric is from a tablecloth; the red upholstery fabric is from ReStore (local re-use place) for 50 cents. The bicycle button comes from an old handbag that I no longer use - it is sweet!

This pannier should be ideal for short trips to the coffee shop or library.The stability and functionality have yet to be tested. This bag won't replace my sturdy Overland panniers or the smaller Nashbar black ones that I use to commute to work. This pannier is certainly one-of-a-kind and just plain fun - definitely a nice addition to the girly bike.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Pleasant/Pheasant Surprise

35 F, sunny

On Friday morning, after dropping my youngest son at school, I pedaled north along the waterfront bike path. I wanted to check to see if the path was free of snow. There was some still built up along the edges in the usual place.
A bit north of here there were three short patches of crusty snow completely across the pavement, but I was able to pedal through them.

The morning was very pretty without a blustery wind which is very common along Lake Champlain. I was able to listen to the gulls and geese. I always enjoy early spring and late fall on this trail. Leaves have yet to obstruct the view of the lake.

Up ahead in the shadows a big bird strutted onto the path.
At first I thought it was a Canadian goose. Then it ambled into the sunlight. It wasn't a Great Blue Heron. It had long tailfeathers with a greenish and colorful body and a distinctive red waddle on its head. It made it's way off the path and quietly disappeared into the brush. As I slowly went by I couldn't locate the bird in the undergrowth.

I mulled over what I had just seen as I made my way to my turnaround point at the bridge across the Winooski River.

I wondered if I had seen a turkey. But something about it wasn't quite right. As I made my way back the bird was there again! I stopped and watched it for some time then slowly pedaled. The bird started running and amazingly stayed just ahead of me for about 150 feet before taking flight for a few yards. Then it disappeared once again off the trail never to be seen (by me) again.

As soon as I got home I looked it up in my Birds of North America book. It was, unmistakeably, a male ringed-neck pheasant. There was no other bird quite like it, especially with the beautiful long tail.
photo credit: George F. Mobley, National Geographic
This bird is common across the northern regions of the United States. In 1857 it was introduced from Asia into California as a game bird. Other states soon followed California's lead. I knew there were many in Vermont, but I had never seen one before.

It's truly miraculous and often inspiring what you can see from a bicycle. This pheasant made my day!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Vermont in April

30 - 45 F, sunny

It's nice to be on the road again, so-to-speak, riding to work. Vermont in April is a fickle time of year. It could be snowing or raining. But we get a glimpse of spring. Maple sugaring takes place and the birds light in my backyard, creating a ruckus each morning.

I wanted to share a few photos of my commute.
It's very brown this time of year. I like the wide open spaces of the Champlain Valley.

I love this barn. Later in the year I often will be stopped so the cows can cross the road. I was lucky to catch another commuter going by.

The dirt road I turn down into for the last mile. I love the view of Camel's Hump in the distance.

On the way home the dirt road thaws and the mud builds up in the front fender.
This is near home, a mile of paved path beside a golf course.

I love my commute.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Commuting to Work

25-45* F, snow flurries

I started riding to work this week, a full three weeks later than last year, but to be expected with the record setting winter we've lived through this year. In Vermont this carries over into our 5th season - Mud Season!

Miyata's front tire with mud. The fender is a tight fit,
but there isn't room to move it out anymore, short of
finding a new tire with less height.
My commute is an 11 mile one way ride, 10 of which are on paved country roads with the last mile on dirt. I start each morning by cycling with my youngest boy to school; he uses his transport of choice - this week it was his inline skates. Afterwards it's a steep three block ride to the top of the hill, past the fields of the University of Vermont, then the rest of the miles are on country roads south of Burlington.

The fields are still a brown mat from the months of snow, but overhead the Canadian geese are honking, flying in V-formation on their commute northward. I pass two dairy farms where the cows are outside now, but still penned until the grass grows in the pastures. I am thankful for the trill of red winged black birds, my constant companions for the entire ride. I see a few other bike commuters, but the main traffic flows north while I cycle south. I pass a small vineyard, now sprouting solar panels alongside the grapevines.

The last mile is a quiet pedal on dirt, firm in the morning, but a slow wheel-sucking trial in the warmer afternoon. Moisture in the road reeks havoc with rutting from the autos. My front tire is tough to steer and I watch, somewhat horrified, as the mud collects in my fender and oozes out in clumps. As I leave the dirt road each afternoon I often stop, grab a stick, and dig out the greater part of the mud so it won't end up on my feet or the crank set as I pick up speed on the pavement. I find it odd that this doesn't happen at all to the rear tire.

Neoprene socks as shoe covers.
I added new leather toe straps to
the Miyata. I like them!
I've adapted neoprene socks as shoe covers by cutting slits in the bottom and reinforcing the seems with zigzag stitching. For the most part they keep my feet warm, or at least as warm as can be. I still suffer cold toes and have to stamp life into my feet when I get to work. But finally I feel complete, able to ride to work again.

See Commuting to Work Redux.