Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Smug Mug

After the last post I began thinking more of my good friend P. and how many thoughtful gifts she has sent my way. For our birthdays we mail each other a stack of books that we've read with little sticky notes inside each one with a brief message about the book. An interesting chocolate bar usually accompanies the package. At Christmas we do the same thing plus P. usually inserts her special candy which I hoard from my family and consume within two weeks.

One time P. sent this wonderful mug.

At first glance I thought, neat, a bike mug, but upon closer inspection the people are toting spears, poised to throw at an...


This mug makes me laugh every time I drink my coffee.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Card Across the Miles

I received this card from a dear friend that lives in Portland, Oregon. P. and I share the same birthday month, we went through high school together and have also become kindred spirits over the past 20 years. Because she knows I sometime miss Portland she sends me the best "bicycle" gifts.

The card also contained thoughts about how we might celebrate our big birthday year in 2012. It will mostly likely be a bike tour, but she and I also enjoy hiking and long walks.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Causeway Revisited

Now that the lake level has receded to below flood stage, I took another ride out on the causeway on a gorgeous day in June. Of course, damage cannot be undone and signs were still posted.

The first mile is on land and then...

...the causeway continues on water. This part is still in good shape. What a treat to have a profusion of wildflowers.

What beauty among such devastation.

A half mile out on the lake the trail is closed. But being the curious sort of cyclist, I went beyond the barrier. But within a few hundred feet the trail is impassable by bike. I walked a bit, tried to ride some more, and soon turned around.

Again, I got to enjoy the voluptuous paradise of flower and water...

...and the amazing power of the natural world.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

What's In a Name?

I am fascinated with the names that folks give their bicycles. There is Sue's Harriet, Dottie's Coco, Trisha's Kermit Allegra and Linda and the beautiful Constance by Velouria, Simply Bike's Bee and Fiona, and Knitting Lemonade's Adelaide. The list could go on...

Some bikes come with their own name like the Betty Foy and Oma.

Which leads me to the subject of this post. I wonder what's in a name... I've never thought about giving my bicycles a title (and I haven't branded our cars either). I am fond of all my bikes. I bought the 1984 blue Miyata 610 Grand Touring bike to travel across the country. I purchased the red 1986 Trek 830 Antelope because I wanted an upright style of bike with fatter tires. It has been around the world and many of its parts have been replaced. I bought the black 1984(?) Ross Mount Saint Helen's at a neighbor's garage sale only five years ago, ostensibly to use for parts (ha ha). I've fallen in love with the Ross because it's made me appreciate the ease of a step-through frame. So it's the Red Trek, Black Ross, and Miyata. So simple.

I name my pets (does that count?): Chippy and Smoky (don't ask what kind of pets they are...) We also have Sinbad and the Duke, and Hershey.

So why do you name your bikes? I'm curious.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


As I rode home in the light rain yesterday I spied a worm on my frame. Yuck. I would spend time in the garage wiping down my bike and re-oiling the chain. I started thinking about how different my husband and I are with bike cleanliness. His only bike is always a mess, with the rims a perpetual dark grey, while I own three bikes and are pretty fastidious about each one.

My bike mess.
I can't say my house is pristine. In fact, my hubby is way more clean when it comes to the kitchen, the laundry, and the lawn. He is a perpetual working whirlwind, always at one project or another. If he wants a dirty bike then that's his prerogative.

Grease, dirt and wet rims. This is the perpetual state of my husband's bike.

I haven't always been this particular about my bikes. I believe it stems from having to hoist my bike on and off our car's rack and getting tired of having greasy hands or even a grime covered shirt. Now I don't have to worry about it anymore.

How fastidious are you about your bicycles?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Montreal Mixtes

I began photographing every Mixte that I saw and eventually stopped after I realized that Montreal has an abundance of these beautiful machines. Burlington has no such claim to Mixte madness so I was in seventh Mixte heaven.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Bike Camping

What to do when I have a week off from work? Hmmm…how about a bit of bike camping!

I picked out a two-day route that started in Waterbury, just a short drive from home where I could catch a ride with my hubby to his work place and start from there. I also chose the best weather days of the week.

Planned route in central Vermont. Lake Champlain at left.
All packed and ready to roll, I was a bit wobbly at first. I hadn’t ridden the Trek since an early spring ride with the hub.

I wanted to explore dirt roads north of Montpelier. I stopped at a cemetery to eat a snack under the shade of a huge maple tree. I pressed on, confirming turns with whoever was outside their homes. I wanted to just wing the directions  – I’m not a big fan of Google maps. But it is a bit precarious having to depend upon the kindness of strangers…because, as I found out, you might just miss a turn. I did, and soon I was descending a 6-mile hill, right back into Montpelier.
To backtrack up another long hill to stay on my route is out of the question when one is hauling 30 lbs., so I adapted and started following the Cross VT Trail because I knew it basically headed eastward. I needed to be at a certain camping area by the end of the day to continue the loop on Thursday.

In Montpelier the Trail follows an unused rail road corridor for a half mile. I loved this sculpture of a mish-mash of bike parts. Look closely and you might find something in that jumble that you recognize. I found a Mixte frame.
At a general store in East Montpelier I was advised to try out a rail trail that would lead me in the right direction. It started as single track…
Then there was a major washout. I managed to get around it following a treacherous path, already trampled by others.
There were sections completely denuded of gravel where old rail ties were exposed like pick-up sticks. I walked those areas, but at times the path was beautiful too.
I was later to learn that only two weeks earlier a tornado-like torrential storm dropped 11 inches of rain in 24 hours in central Vermont. Roads were still closed, bridges non-existent and some towns still were in the process of reconstruction.

After 55 miles I was tired and set up my tent at a state park. A shower always feels great and afterward I wore my rain gear and hat to ward off the black flies. I had forgotten my utensils so for dinner I ate a can of ravioli with my pocket knife, stabbing one ravioli at a time.  At dusk I retreated to the tent where I easily fell asleep, listening to the loons on the nearby lake.

Morning mist and cool weather drove the insects away. I drank my yogurt (did you know you can do that?), wiped the muck off my rims from the previous day’s trail ride, and left early. I always enjoy tenting. For this short trip I was able to fit tent, inflatable mattress, and sleeping bag all inside panniers.

Because Vermont’s mountains run north to south, my route ascended and descended most of the 2nd day, sometimes traversing 3-4 mile hills. It was tiring even though I was expecting the difficulty.
I met this man along a dirt road. He was stooped over picking up stones. It turns out he sorts through the road side rocks to discard the sharp pointed ones so they won’t give his son flat tires (from a bike, cart, or motorcycle I never found out).  A retiree from a nearby granite quarry, he spends his time now welding interesting sculptures from old farm equipment. He had that classic old Vermont accent “ya can’t get theyah from heya”. I talked with him for 20 minutes as he also showed me his rock collection, all lined up on split rail fencing.

By noon I was done with the day’s mileage, ending back in our capital of Montpelier. I locked up my bike at a bus stop where I would later take a commuter bus back home. With nearly four hours to spare I grabbed an iced mocha and changed into a skirt because the day was downright hot. It was fun to browse the main shopping streets. Montpelier is one of the right-sized Vermont cities where I could picture myself living someday. I sipped a margarita and ate a quesadilla in an outdoor restaurant.

Again, I found another sculpture. I seem to recall that two years ago there was a special bike art exhibit and the art must have been donated to public spaces.
I tried to relax in the shade on the capital lawn, but all the benches were taken so I gravitated to a nearby state building with white rocking chairs on the porch. When I discovered that it was the Vermont Historical Museum, and I hadn’t been there since I was a teenager, I spent the next hour in air-conditioning, reliving Vermont’s past.

The displays were a delightful treasure and rounded out my trip with many thoughts to ponder on the bus ride home.

Actual route in orange - 100 miles

Things I learned:
  • be flexible if traveling dirt roads - it’s part of the overall adventure
  • you can get by without using utensils
  • general stores have much to offer, often with deli counters
  • a soda tastes refreshing, especially if you haven’t had one in a year
  • a shower at the end of the day is rejuvenating
  • take time to smell the flowers
  • take lots of pictures 
  • an overnight trip is worth the effort

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

New Front Rack for the Ross

I now have a front rack on the Ross bike. It looks pretty good too. There was more space to work with than on the Miyata so the installation took a mere 30 minutes.

Even with the front bag the bar is less crowded...I can find the thumb shifters!

For the price, this has been one of my better bike investments. Bike Nashbar currently has this rack on sale for 10.00.

Also, I can overload the bag and carry the weight on the rack versus only dangling from the bar.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

VerMontreal - Day 4

On our last day in Montreal our group merged with two other VerMontreal tours, totaling 140 people. Most riders attended the famed Tour de L'ile while some followed my alternative tour of Montreal's paths.

 A small group meets in front of the hotel after the mass of riders has left.

We set off north across the island, following a map of bike trails. A quick side trip to sample at the Jean Talon market, then travel through northern neighborhoods, over wooden bridges. 

I made a couple wrong turns, but folks are usually agreeable to a bit of exploration. And I had to (unfortunately) hold an impromptu flat repair clinic because yours-truly had a flat on the return trip. Thank you, Pierre, for your added input and help.

After 20-25 miles we got back to the hotel and took showers.

Some had already returned from the Tour de L'le and were rehydrating on the outdoor patio...

and eating these yummy baguette sandwiches.

Think roasted eggplant, chicken with a spicy mayonnaise, and croissants
It was really easy to just keep eating after 4 days of wonderful cycling.

The tough pedaling of day one was only a distant memory.

And it was difficult to think about returning home.

But home we must go.

We made some new friends.

There is always VerMontreal next year!

I enjoyed meeting all of you, especially Lindy the wonder and Barb the younger. What great smiles.

Happy Cycling.

Friday, June 10, 2011

VerMontreal - Day 3

Saturday was a "free" day, a day without any plans if you chose. Some people decided to meet relatives, go to museums, or shopping. I decided to go with our Montreal guide, Wayne, for one of his 30+ mile jaunts on the bike paths in Montreal.

First stop was to see the lady of the harbor. That's her on the left.

"And the sun pours down like honey
On our lady of the harbour
And she shows you where to look"

 Leonard Cohen

Then a 30 minute stop at Atwater Market for lunch fixings and a photograph beneath these physical specimens.

A mile long jaunt on the ice bridge - a concrete structure that spans the river. Because of it's proximity to the nearby Pont Champlain (auto bridge) the current breaks the ice against this ice bridge, alleviating the stress on the auto span.

As you can see, another beautiful day.
 A picnic in a park with a nice view of the Saint Lawrence River rapids.

Near the end of the ride I made my way to Velo Quebec's headquarters, ostensibly to research a Montreal to Ottawa route, but then I was looking for nice t-shirts for my family, and then the coffee corner was too attractive. I sat outdoors with an iced coffee and a slice of chocolate gateau. It was nice to be alone for a few minutes.

I followed Rue Rachel's bike lanes back towards the hotel. I like how they are separated from the auto lanes by a concrete barrier. There are bike traffic lights that signal bicycles to move ahead before the traffic starts.

After a few hors d'œuvres at the hotel, I bowed out of an invitation to go out for Chinese food with a group because I wanted to ride a BIXI.
BIXIs are Montreal's transportation bicycle system. You use your credit card, and at 5.00 per day, it's a bargain - the catch is you must dock your bike every 30 minutes, otherwise it adds another 1.50 and gets more expensive the longer you retain the bike. This encourages people to use the cycle for short trips, strictly for transport to the office, or for shopping, cirulating the bikes so everyone can use one.

My first trip went very well. The bikes are 3 speeds, easily handling Montreal's hills. Racks of BIXIs are every two blocks in a five mile radius of downtown. I docked my bike about 2 miles from the hotel, planning to get another one for the return trip. But I encountered trouble with the key punch code to unlock the next bike. I got help from some friendly locals, but still was not able to take out another bike. After trying several bikes and re-entering my credit card, I gave up and walked back. There had to have been something very simple that I was not doing right because friends had used one the day before and they raved about the bikes. I'd like to try them again someday. The BIXIs are clearly a hit with the locals. We saw them everywhere.