Monday, August 29, 2011

Irene's Aftermath

We took our boys to the Champlain Valley Fair the day before the storm. To get some much needed exercise, afterward I rode my bike back to my in-laws' camp on Lake Champlain where we would wait out Hurricane Irene. Saturday evening my husband stowed the deck furniture in a safe place. We all had books to read and numerous videos and movies to occupy us for an entire day.

Sunday morning the rain started and by 1 p.m. the winds howled. I kept an eye outdoors on the bending trees, but the gusts were, fortunately, not as bad as predicted. No limbs came down. Leaf debris littered the deck, then the hurricane was downgraded to a tropical storm. By evening we decided to stay another night at camp after a brief check on our home, where the usual small branches from our huge sugar maple lay scattered all over the backyard. In town the wind was considerably less than along the lake so we felt safe enough to leave for another night. By 5 a.m.Monday the wind left and we woke to sunshine and a clear view across the lake. I set out on the waterfront path to inspect storm damage.

Lots of leaves and small branches carpeted the trail. Parks and Recreation vehicles cautiously moved back and forth, while the crew used small chainsaws and blowers to clear the debris.

At the mouth of the Winooski River I stopped on the bridge for an amazing view of the strong chocolate-colored current carrying rafts of material out to the lake.

Later, I  brought my boys to the beach where a 10 foot swath of accumulated grass blanketed the shoreline, swallowing remnants of the storm and strangling dock supports. The lake had risen 3-4 feet.

We walked the beach, pulling out planks of wood from the grass and hauling a neighbor's sunfish further away from the rising lake.

I found this interesting mountainous-like formation that the waves molded against a retaining wall.
Up close, the water dug out a grooved channel. In places the water-soaked grass piled to nearly two feet.

While clearly there will be more cleanup and restoration of power, especially for residents who were evacuated from waterlogged homes in the rest of Vermont, Burlington escaped major damage. I am very thankful.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Things I See and the Duct Tape Bike

I like this flower on this blue bike - so pretty with its petals flapping in the wind. The funny thing is while I proceeded on my errands around town, I saw the bicycle two more times.

This spoke card could be a nice touch to any bike. It was plastic. I also liked the wide rims and purple/pink color scheme. I often see these bikes at the bike polo gatherings on the waterfront.

And finally, the best one (drum roll here), it's the Duct Tape Bike!

This guy has been around for a few years. I finally got a close-up view. The bike is entirely covered with duct tape in every imaginable color. Currently he wears a wig and sports big duct tape glasses over his real ones. He pushes his bike up and down our main shopping district. Odd as he is, his bike is a work of art.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Bull Family Rides Bikes

Photo credit: from the Bull's Fuzzy Travel blog
We have friends through our children's school that are very adventurous. This summer they cycled the length of Great Britain and blogged about their travels.

Monday, August 22, 2011

A New Basket and Chinese Dumplings

I went with one of my sons to ReStore to check out a Mixte, but it was sold. I did find a sturdy basket, though, that's a perfect match for the back of my Ross.

Carrying handles flip up to become a market basket to bring into a store. And much cheaper than buying a bike.

A few blocks away we wait in a line for fresh dumplings from an outdoor cart.

 That's my bike and new basket to the right.

Photo credit:
Ah, yummy bliss. Fresh pork and chicken, and crab and cream cheese dumplings piled onto a plate. Mrs. Hong adds a complimentary one as she recognizes us a repeat customers. I squirt a puddle of her homemade cranberry sauce and duck sauce for dipping later.

Mrs. Hong's Dumplings have been a staple on the Church Street Market Place for a dozen years. WCAX recently interviewed Mrs. Hong. It's a nice exposé of her one-woman operation.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Bicycle Stamp

A lovely friend recently sent me a packet of beautiful cards.

They are almost too pretty to use! I may frame one and place it beside my Ride a Stearns poster (the one I use for my icon).

Inspired by Simply Bike, I attempted to find a bike stamp to use for my own craft projects. I searched but couldn't find anything so my oldest son suggested I make my own. It's incredibly easy too. Here's how: Buy a sheet of craft foam. You can make numerous designs with it as it's 8.5 x11 inches. If you make a mistake - no problem. Start again. I cut my design, using an X-acto knife, then glued it to a block of wood with a glue-stick.

Voila! Do you like my Mixte bike? Now just press the picture onto an ink pad, and then onto paper...

Now I can have as many bikes as I want...on a card anyway.

Imagine this technique with fabric paint. I could personalize a cotton hoody or handbag. Oh, the possibilities!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Evolution of the Miyata 610

In my quest to make the Miyata 610 more tour ready with easier gearing, last September I bought a wheel to accommodate a 6-sprocket freewheel with low 32T cog. For months, it worked well. I could ascend hills without standing - at least not as frequently as before. The shifting was finicky, but a small price to pay for the added benefit.

But then, the freewheel had a problem; in July I also broke a spoke; two weeks later another one failed. I brought the bike back to the Old Spokes Home. The mechanics ogle my classic bike. It apparently is highly revered by Sheldon Brown, a bike guru of sorts. For me the Miyata is more than a treasure, and I wanted to fix or replace the unreliable rear wheel.

Original back wheel and freewheel.

I spent nearly an hour with Harris, a mechanic I often request and respect. We considered replacing all the spokes and rebuilding the wheel (the owners suggestion, not Harris'), but the shop would not honor the fact that it was a bum wheel to begin with and rebuild the wheel without cost. To Harris' credit he was a patient listener and helped me reevaulate what I ultimately wanted from my bike: lower gearing, spend as little as possible, and have a reliable rear wheel.

I was happy to return to the old original wheel that came with the Miyata, even though it sports a 28T 5-speed freewheel. It has many years life left, without worn cogs, as I had at one time replaced the rear sprocket (before I kept a maintenance log).

Old middle chain ring moved to the large (outside) position.

I opted for a new middle front chain ring. I hardly used the large (outer) front sprocket, preferring instead to coast at these fast speeds, so it made sense to move the middle ring to the large position and add a smaller middle ring.

The new middle chain ring is hidden.

After a week of riding, I'm happier with the middle gears. I have a broader range of possibilities with smoother transitions - something that wasn't possible with the 28T freewheel and larger front sprocket. Sure, I do not have as low a granny gear, but in reality it was only one cog lower. In the long run, should I care to, I can replace the back wheel (or still have the new one rebuilt).

I think it pays to have a mechanic that you can trust. In hindsight, I wished I had compared the tooth counts on the new freewheel with the old one. It would have saved me money. It's also worth getting another shop's take on the situation.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Good Old Summertime

I recently submitted several photos and posts to LGRAB's Summer Games. I started thinking about what summer means to me and composed these lines while pedaling to and from work.

Summer is :
waking early to a bird ruckus
cycling barefoot in sandals
wildflowers bending in a warm breeze
the sweet smell of ripe cornfields
a waft of cow manure
the thwack of insects on my arm
bike camping with someone I love
a margarita, a good book, and a lawn chair
wearing a wet bathing suit all afternoon
thunder and lightening excitement
maple creemees
drinking from a water bottle, miss your mouth and get an unexpected, refreshing shower
the metallic ping of a spoke breaking - ugh
cicadas buzzing
kissing sleepy boys goodnight
falling asleep to the whir of a fan

Monday, August 8, 2011

Bungee Cord Power

A bungee cord has to be one of a bicyclist's most liberating and useful gadgets. I always have one with me as it can make the difference between running one more errand or returning home earlier that I would've wanted.

On my work commute I can add a few more things to the top of the rack. I've stopped at "FREE" piles and brought home four white 5-foot lengths of plastic fencing to use in my garden. I rescued and secured (rather dangerously, I admit), a blue recycle bin on the rear rack just because I could and needed an extra one at our house.

Lugging paper towel cores home for our animals.
For those unexpected trips to the grocery store (where I spend minutes in the frozen food aisle to cool off) I tend to buy more items than I might have intended. One time I stacked plastic and paper picnic goodies on the rear rack only to find a few moments later that the paper plates cartwheeled in the road.  I retold this story to my son as I was carrying two dozen bagels in the same fashion. The bags were similarly tossed in the grass next to us where, fortunately, the ties held the plastic bags closed. We laughed about that one as my boy said, "Mom, you jinxed yourself." I guess my bungee fastening skills could use some practice...

Carrying a watermelon two miles to camp. And, yes, it did not fall!

On a multi-day tour, an extra bungee is as invaluable as an adjustable wrench. It comes in handy to fasten broken panniers together or to the rack, or lug the extra grocery sack to the campsite, even as a replacement to a tent cord. It can also double as a laundry line.

Don't laugh - I like to coordinate bungee colors with my bikes. Now, why doesn't someone produce bungees in leopard print, zebra stripes, or flower patterns?

What ways have you used a bungee cord?

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Ramble Ride

The Old North End of Burlington is an eclectic mix of college age folk, families and an increasing number of African refugees because of it's status as a resettlement city. The demographics of the city is changing and growing more colorful - the housing is being repainted lime, purple, fuschia, some all mixed together on one building. Inner city community gardens are sprouting; small bakeries, eateries, world markets, parks, and new signage adds to the vibrant collage that is now the new Old North End.

There is a celebration every year of this inner city neighborhood called The Ramble. 

There are arts events throughout the area. I showed up for the bike ride which took place at 5 pm. on a street blocked off to vehicular traffic. There was a truck which housed plants, promoting the use of gardens, a barrel with huge pickles in it, and a woman cutting hair.

 A tuba band played marching tunes as people gathered on bikes.

It was a hot day and some were scantilly clad. I liked the innovative scooter- mobile.

It was a festive affair with ladies in feather boas, folks with radios, dyed hair and lots of tatoos.  What struck me was the lack of people wearing helmets - only about 10 out of  nearly 200 people. And the demographics too. For all the diversity of the Old North End the bike riders were distinctly caucasion, mostly in their 20s with a few families.  

The crowd started slowly and picked up speed. People whooped, rang bells, and sang songs. One lady carried a red drink in one hand. We took over the whole road, if not an entire lane on busy downtown streets as a couple riders stopped to block vehicles at corners and intersections. I've been in one other ride like this and still have mixed feelings about the purpose of these rambles. Whereas many drivers were courteous and even yelled words of encouragement, I wonder how serious they would take us a bicyclists. 

Sure, it's fun to take over a whole road when normally one is squeezed onto the shoulder, but we didn't have a police escort either, with city representatives like the Halloween Ride. It felt rather mobbish and on the fringe of society. I also overheard a bit of a conversation where folks bragged that they hadn't paid rent in 6 months. I found that news disconcerting. On-campus housing cannot hold all the students in the many colleges here, forcing high rents, with laws favoring the renter. This population though is why Burlington is a lovely city with lots of arts, restaurants, and festivals like The Ramble.  So despite my misgivings I cheered with all the riders as we went the wrong way down one-way streets, listened to the whir of our wheels and changing gears, as we rambled 3-5 miles around the city.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Comforting Clouds

I am glad it is August and the heatwaves will soon come to an end. The summer has taken a toll on this mid-life body. I get to work in the morning, clean up with a wet towel and change clothes, turn on the fan for a half hour at my desk, then finally cool down. Later, I pedal home and water the garden or wander and pick vegetables on the pretense that I really need to do these things, but in reality I am looking for any excuse before going inside the stuffy house. I require a period of cooling before I feel human. Cleaning the bike always works too. Sometimes I peek inside the screen door and briefly greet my family, notifying them that I have arrived home and not to call out the troops.

Last weekend I was having a cocktail in the afternoon heat, relaxing on the deck at camp in one of the two new Adirondack chairs which put you in such a position that you can't help but notice the clouds. Wispy tails of white were floating by. The next day I commented to my mother-in-law that the sky had changed and the cotton ball clouds were strikingly pretty. I've nicknamed the furniture the "cloud watching chairs".

Today, it was such a relief to return home under mostly cloudy skies and, dare I say it, against a pleasant headwind. It was definitely cooler and a welcome relief. I look forward to September weather, my favorite month of the year.