Sunday, October 30, 2011

Stamping Bicycle Gift Bags

Just a slice of my creativity...

...using the bike stamp that I made a while ago. I like art that is a bit whimsical or off-kilter. That's why one bike on the orange bag is doing a wheelie.

Up close and personal with the black one. I added shiny black ribbon along the top edge for a bit of class.

For fun I created my own "business" card.

These cotton bags are small and could be used for a lunch satchel or diddy bag.

And what am I going to do with 10 of these little pretties? I'm hoping to sell them cheap during the Halloween Bike Ride. I'll dangle them off my basket with a sign.I plan to solicit extra cash so I can donate it to Local Motion. We'll see how it goes.

Dress Up to Buy a Bike

Years ago when my husband and I wanted to buy mountain bikes, we took advantage of The Bike Gallery's Halloween discount. If you purchased a bike on October 31 and came dressed in costume, then you received a 10% discount. I was tickled to see that this program still exists. The catch for those folks living in the East - this shop is in Portland, Oregon.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

So Many Bicycle Signs

I noticed these new signs sprouting in South Burlington. I like the clear graphics and earthy color scheme. They're a welcoming presence.

This corner portrays the various signage used over the years. The wooden posts with sideways lettering were the first with the added benefit of displaying distances. They blended in well with the environment - though maybe too well. Then there is the common green and white variety found all over the state. Throw in the Cross VT Trail oval emblem and suddenly we are bombarded with signs - all for pedestrians and cyclists.

Add the new sharrows design on Burlington city streets and suddenly there is a variety of signage that not only cyclists and automobile drivers have to digest, that no wonder this support sign appeared at the same time. I think people are confused, myself included.

It appears that Burlington is accommodating cyclists on its main arteries by any means possible. This street does not have enough room for separate bike lanes, so thus the "Share the Road" billboard.

South Burlington is a growing community and has the land to incorporate paths on new roadways and neighborhoods. With the waterfront path as an anomaly, Burlington, on the other hand, has been a fully populated and established city and struggles with welcoming cyclists on it's narrow streets. It's tough for Burlington to slowly change, but the recent approval of "Complete Street" design on Colchester Avenue is a victory in the right direction. That, and the fact that the Public Works Commission voted to lower the city wide speed limit to 25 mph shows that Burlington is clearly on the move. If unified signage were part of citywide planning, then I, and I'm sure others, would be even happier.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Guardian at Oak Ledge Park

In Oakledge Park a massive English oak tree spreads its gnarly, twisted limbs skyward. I often coast downhill to where it stands as a sentinel on the water's edge. I like to see that it still has firm footing, because this is not just any tree; it is over 200 years old.

In fact, this tree is recognized as living during the American Revolution. I envision this beautiful, elderly oak as a young sapling, watching the gun boats of our first navy sail north. The historical significance of all that this tree has witnessed, boggles my mind.

Unfortunately, this tree is often overlooked and taken for granted. Sunbathers walk by this tree in summer to claim space on the beach or ledges, some under the tree's canopy. In my Internet research of this big oak I found one write-up and that was buried in state arbor listings, displaying height and branch spread. It gets short shrift compared with a handicapped accessible tree house only a few yards away.

Look at this beauty. She has a splendid view of the Burlington harbor. With a sigh, I admire her girth and look overhead at her brown leaves then get on my bike for the steep climb back to the bike path.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Intervale Trail

52 F, overcast

Because of Burlington's relatively small population and access to parks, there are several interesting options for a peaceful one hour ride. The Intervale Bike Trail is one of my favorite starting points - only a mile and a half from home. It begins on a dirt road.

Small vegetable and chicken farms thrive here, all part of the Intervale Center. I recall viewing footage of franctic harvesting during Hurricane Irene, salvaging produce in the wake of the rising flood waters.

It's easy single track for the first two miles.

 At one point it hugs the Winooski River...

...and enters Ethan Allen Homestead land. Hiking is also encouraged here with separate pathways. In the winter all trails are open to cross country skiing.

This bridge crosses a deep creek. In years past this bridge is often under water or is shifted due to the strong current. If it's been wet for prolonged periods, I avoid this trail.

More quiet, comfortable riding.

The bike portion ends at the Homestead and I pedal on a paved path to a bridge.

 Cross the well-made wooden structure.

Climb a short, steep hill and enter Ethan Allen Park. Most trails are paved here, and it's always a beautiful ride for a mile through a hardwood forest.

Then it's a quick hop over to the waterfront bike path.

Two miles later, I arrive home.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Boo Ride

Think ghouls on wheels. This Sunday, Burlington holds it's second annual Halloween Bike Ride. I am excited because this event promises to be more family friendly with the ride escorted by city police. There will be a costume contest and post-ride party, complete with refreshments and games at Maglianero Cafe. The 2-mile route cruises Church Street, usually reserved for pedestrians only, then zigzags around the North End until zipping down Battery Street for the cruise into Maglianero's parking lot.

The weather looks promising (remember the snow and wind last year?). Bring the family. Dress in costume if you desire. Hang out for games in the parking lot, led by yours truly. Pumpkin Bocce anyone?


Monday, October 24, 2011

A New Route and using Map My Ride

60 F, periods of light rain

It's that time of year when we know our riding days are numbered, so my husband and I took advantage of a hour and a half of free time. Tired of our usual loops, we set out pedaling eastward for a change. It's a low traffic, urban route north of the Burlington airport, following the Winooski River basin. We linked Burlington, South Burlington, and Williston. I had forgotten how beautiful it is and though I didn't take any pictures (had to keep up with my faster bike date), I'll share some taken this past week.

Along the way, I made sure to show my partner Lou's Crossing.

I like this tractor collection.

Neighborhood trees.

Since our ride wasn't one we'd done before, I mapped the route on Map My Ride. I use this site whenever I need to gather mileage on a particular route. I keep track of yearly cumulative miles so, if I haven't a clue because we've been gabbing or it's hilly and may take longer, this way I can log more accurate data.

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Cider Press and a Night Ride

Over Columbus Weekend we learned how to press apples into cider, using an old time machine. As a Vermonter, I am no stranger to fresh cider, but somehow I had never made my own. A neighboring camp owner was having a harvest party. I was stopped on my bike as I was pedaling the last few yards to our place at the end of the road, and invited for the festivities: complete with everything apples, and a live band.

Photo credit: Old Timey Dave
The cast-iron cider press was 100 years old. One person turns the crank (two hands work best), while people throw in one apple at a time into the hopper. Kids were lined up for this part, some children so short only a hand holding an apple periodically appeared above the machine. The crowd had contributed bags of apples: beautiful Macintosh, yellow something or other, and gnarly spotted ones from two trees located near the group of camps. Anything goes when it comes to pressing; nothing is wasted.

Photo credit: Whizbang Cider
Bees hovered around - a nuisance more than a threat. My husband shifted the bucket of apple mulch a few inches to beneath the screw press and slowly turned as the cider seeped out and drained through a screen into a 5-gallon bucket. Someone lifted the full container and carefully poured into a funnel suspended over plastic jugs held by another helper. In this manner, we worked for over an hour. 

Our children liked the cranking and tossing apples. Our youngest boy also loved to heave the used mulch into a wheelbarrow. It's a sticky and chaotic process: kids are running around, adults are drinking beer, everyone tests the cider, and someone regularly pours cider in a kettle on a gas grill for those wanting something hot. The only rule is: don't touch anything "black" - warning the little ones about the dangerous gears on the press. Meanwhile, people are inside baking apple pies, bringing out or d'oeuvres, and a band is on the lawn playing funky, fusion jazz - at least that's what I think it was.
Photo credit: Happy Valley Ranch

I've discovered that you can still buy this exact type of cider press. The design proved so efficient that it's still being sold today. It's not cheap and, at 840.00, might be better purchased and used by multiple families.

Later that afternoon our family pedaled into town to watch a free showing of Cars 2. Afterwards, in the glow of the university streetlamps, I attached lights to each of my sons' bikes. I always carry extra ones because - well they're boys and - they never remember to bring their own (if they even know where they are). The green duct tape came in handy. I also gave my erratic pedaler my special one: a blinking wheel light.
Photo credit: GetOutdoors
This was a fabulous find at Toys R Us (I perused the bike section on one of those days when my son took forever to decide on something). It is rubberized and fits any bike. It wedges into the spokes with grooves to keep it in place. It has three modes: continually glowing, flashing, and off. It's very effective and I need to get another one or four. They were only 7.00 each. This brand is Nite Ize, but I know there are similar types on the market.

Photo credit: Pack Your Bags Travel Store
Our ride back to camp was on a beautifully warm evening. Crazy son rode up and down peoples' front lawns and split off from safe son and me for a diversion with his father through a parking lot. We met on the other end where my husband told us how the wild one hit the curb (couldn't see it), went over the handlebars, but came out unscathed. I'm always relieved when we get somewhere safely. And, after all that, the wheel light still works.

When we got to the waterfront path, expecting pitch darkness, I was surprised to discover the almost full moon lighting the asphalt. For the next four miles we didn't meet any other cyclers, though a few people were out walking dogs. What a treat.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Last Blast of Foliage and a Contest

As I pedaled home last evening I was awestruck by how intense the colors were just then, especially with the cloud cover turning the sky a moody shade of pink. Some trees are losing leaves while others are yet to be peak. I've been watching a stand of old maples in front of a Bed & Breakfast starting to turn. Their driveway is full with cars - a sign that the leaf peepers have arrived. Mother nature fooled us this year and made us wait.

Below are more photos for fellow foliage lovers. (Try saying that line fast.)

I love the farm equipment in the field with Camel's Hump in the background.

Ahhh, cows and autumn leaves.

Rear view golden maples.

Bike path foliage.

The following are my ideas for a photo (as per rules, single tree only) to enter in RANTWICK's annual foliage contest. Thanks to PaddyAnne, I heard about this event just in time. I can submit only one photo so - if you have a preference - let me know.

#1 - It has character, especially with the keyhole opening in between the two trunks. I'm afraid the photo loses its uniqueness though, as the hole is not visible.

#2 - Nice colors set against a stormy background. It has good contrast.

#3 - A young tree, though I've lost the sky color. I like the tree's triangular shape.

#4 - All-round beauty, especially with the background trees.

#5 - My husband planted this now 10-year-old sugar maple in our backyard. I like this photo for all the texture that is going on here - even with our compost bin! For me, a solitary tree in a photo is too lonely. I prefer the overall aesthetics in this image. The tall, skinny maple sheltered by it's surroundings appears to "dance".

#6 - I love this unique perspective of a maple tree.

 #7 - The ubiquitous photo with my bike.

I'm leaning towards  #5 or #6, but I'd really like another opinion. Help!

By the way, I'm entering the contest just because it's fun and not for the prize of maple syrup. I enjoy observing the awesome changes in our landscape. If truth be told, my husband consumes a gallon of syrup a month - he eats pancakes every morning. No kidding. And I thought my chocolate habit was expensive...

Monday, October 17, 2011

Walk and Roll Week

Last week was Edmunds Elementary School's Walk and Roll Week. I still ride to work until the time change - our pattern is to drop number two son off at school and I continue my commute.

This is my youngest son's preferred way to get to school. He is an okay bike rider; he can keep a good pace but is rather erratic about holding a straight line. I'm always yelling "look up!" as he often crosses over the imaginary center line. He loves inline skating, however, especially cruising down a hill in front of our house with his arms straight out behind him (I try not to look) or whooping it up on the half mile descent to school (sidewalk only). Fortunately he brakes effectively, enough to make me comfortable following him on my bike.

I haven't noticed more scooters, bikers, or skaters traveling this week, but the usual crowd is always there, converging on the crossing guards at busy corners. Recorded attendance, however, placed the rollers and riders at over 50% for the week. In the school yard, my son scrambles to remove his skates while I grab his shoes from his backpack in an effort to hurry him into school.

On Friday, sheets of rain fell and I overslept. With umbrellas sheltering us, we ran to catch the bus. We were too late. I sighed and was frustrated, ready to wait for the next bus, but my son, ever the optimist, asked to walk. Either way, he was going to be late. We set off through the University campus, across grassy fields, beneath autumn's colorful canopy, and arrived at his school more relaxed.

After he went inside, I walked away with a smile. We are late for his school day more often than I care to admit, but we no longer rely on our car for transportation. Years ago I instilled into both children that we live close enough to their schools to walk, ride a bike, or take the free shuttle bus. Our youngest boy embraces this idea to the point of walking in the rain - I admire his approach and attitude. It's times like this, I feel like I'm doing something right as a parent.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Stop Ahead or Ahead Stop?

Am I the only one who doesn't read these signs the way they were intended?

As with most signage painted on the road or bike path, you should read it in order as the words appear, ie. STOP AHEAD. My brain doesn't work that way, though. Since I was a little kid, learning to formulate the simple vocabulary in Dick, Jane, and Spot (that dates me), I read from left to right and from top to bottom. No amount of pedaling or driving can force me to interpret it otherwise. Fortunately, this simple message can be understood either way.

But only a mile later on the same path, I came across this:

In this instance, reading it from top down, it makes sense - KEEP RIGHT. This works for me. But, if you read it as with most signs, it should be translated as RIGHT KEEP, which is a bit baffling though certainly  acceptable. Either way, I wish there was more consistency.

Automobile drivers blazing at 60 m.p.h. might decipher words better as they appear on the asphalt, and the signs are spaced accordingly. Cyclists, however, are riding at a much slower pace and might benefit from more readable messages (at least the way I understand them). It would also aid children as they learn to read and negotiate bike paths.

Egads, what to do when confronted with this?

I couldn't resist this photo, found on the Internet.
I am so confused. (It's a good thing I wear a helmet.)