Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bicycle Book Corner

Bicycle books come and go in our household. I've read short stories, chronicles of touring cyclists - even touring uni-cyclists. The following is our current selection:

Bicycle Diaries - David Byrne
Off-beat look at cycling, art, and music in many of the world's large cities. Recent review here.

*Miles From Nowhere - Barbara Savage
In my opinion this is the Bible of bicycle touring adventure writing. I have two copies because I feared I'd lost ours (which had an inscription from my then boyfriend, now husband) and when I went to replace it discovered that this book is no longer reprinted in hardcover. With frantic resesarch on dealoz I was able to locate a used copy. Miles From Nowhere inspired our tour across the country and, later, around the world. This says it all.

The Man Who Rode His 10-Speed Bicycle to the MoonBernard Fischman
Fourth book in, purple and green cover. A sweet, lyrical account of a ride through NYC and beyond. Let your imagination run wild. The only fiction tale out of the bunch. I stumbled on this gem in someone's giveaway box of books. My review.

Bicycle Touring InternationalKameel Nasr
A guide to world-wide cycle touring, including invaluable facts such as prevailing wind direction, monsoon season, customs, and idiosyncrasies of individual countries - all very helpful when planning an extended tour.

Rails-to-Trails - New England Edition
Compilation of Northeast rail trails published by Rails-to Trails organisation. I've been a longstanding member of this fantastic group that converts rail right-of-ways into linear parks.. On my bucket list: to complete the C&O and GAP rail trails.

Bicycle Love - Various Authors
I love the graphical illustration on the cover, leading one to believe it's a bicycle comic, though it's not. Written by various authors, young and old, and why each loves their particular mode of  two-wheeled transit. The hub gave me the book a few birthdays ago.

The Lost Cyclist - David Herlihy
An account of two around the world cyclists in the 1800s and the interesting circumstances each encounters. Riding ordinaries and safety bicycles, it's a time when the bicycle was celebrated world-wide. I review the book here.

Riding The Desert Trail and Riding to Jerusalem (two books) - Bettina Selby
Bettina's lovely one-way quests that lead her to the source of the Nile river and from London to Jerusalem. I love how she recounts her travels with a historical flair, educating the reader in the process.

Europe By Bike - Karen Whitehill
A guide to traveling in Europe and rding with children.

*Full Tilt - Dervla Murphy
It's the best written travelogue of a woman pedaling alone in Europe and the Middle East. She's one gutsy lady and I stand in awe of her daily exploits. I want to read more of Dervla's books. Don't you just love her name?

*Books I will go to great lengths to replace. I highly recommend these.

When the weather turns dreary and cold I search for another bike tale to help me through the winter. What is your favorite velo book?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Bricks and Bow Wow

Over the Thanksgiving weekend I went for a girly-gabbing walk along the waterfront bike path with my relatives. A pile of bricks caught our attention, mainly because children were clambering all over it. Then we spied the sculptures on the grass (yes, lush green and it's nearly December!).

Someone's creative juices flowed... A cute little robot man stood proudly, looking Lego-like.

And a nifty doggy, and upon closer inspection, revealing authentic doggy-doo under his tail. Eeeew!

It was good for a laugh.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Scotland III - Ben Nevis and the Unexpected

Follow New Posts in the Around The World series on Mondays!

Wednesday, July 6

Andy and I climbed Ben Nevis today. While we ascended the stone path with 200 others, we heard that Mel Gibson was in the Nevis Valley filming another movie. (Back in the U.S. a year later we saw Braveheart and recognized the Scottish scenery.)

Summit of Ben Nevis, highest mountain in the U.K. Photo credit: barbon
The summit was socked in, a common occurrence 9 times out of 10 and can be quite dangerous. Due to poor visibility, last year alone 50 people died. Andy and I are no strangers to climbing scree filled trails, having hiked in the Cascade Mountains. At the top we didn’t wander and eventually turned around for the long walk back to our bikes.

Ascending the stairs on Ben Nevis. Photo credit:

Adding a summit patch to my backpack.

50 miles, Thursday, July 7

By now I understand how the currency works. One pound is approximately $1.61 U.S. There are 100 pence to a pound. One pound notes are the same value as one pound coins. Only Scotland honors the notes as they’ve been issued by Scottish banks. We’ve been advised to swap to coins when leaving the country. The fifty pence coins are huge, the pound smaller, and the 2, 10, and 20 pence quite tiny. We fumble with the coinage, inspecting each for the denomination because the sizes are so confusing.

As the autos rattle past, we comment on how many of them use diesel – at least half. R.V.s or “caravans” as the Scots and English call them are everywhere, but half the size of the monstrous U.S. variety.

We left Fort William at 9 a.m. – our earliest start – and the northern most point of our journey. Under blue skies once again – unbelievable for such a rainy country – Andy and I head south along the coastline. Soon we will visit an island, but there is a vast choice before hopping a ferry to Ireland.

Scottish Castles - I had film for this one!

Braking on a hill, we spied a castle perched on a tiny island at the mouth of a bay. It was idyllic, quintessential Scotland. With a sigh, I sadly realized our camera was out of film.

Germans on holiday invade this country. They’ve been on Ben Nevis, in each campsite, and on bicycles. Because of their affluence and proximity they often visit the United Kingdom. Ferries connect the British Isles to all points on the European mainland.

As Andy and I pumped up a short steep hill my granny gears rattled. This was a niggling problem which I presumed could be cured when I switched the thumb shifter from index to friction mode. No luck. If anything, the grinding noise worsened. I bailed out in a muddy pull-off. We worked on the derailleur for a few minutes with a screwdriver adjusting the screws, but it wasn’t addressing the problem. Just then a blond-haired German hopped off his heavily loaded bike. With his few English words and hand signals it was obvious that he knew what to do. Andy handed him the tools. Within moments he‘d fixed the problem: one screw needed tightening. Then, like the anxious Scotland traffic, he hopped on his bike and continued up the hill, gone before we had much of an opportunity to say “thanks”. My German angel!

What I love about bicycle travel are the unexpected pleasures. The least likely thing happens when you take a wrong turn or decide to stop and smell a flower. All morning we’d been urinating – every hour it seemed. Early afternoon we halted again, this time at an abandoned quarry. Andy went behind a bush for a bit and then yelled to me. I didn’t understand what he said. He returned and pointed at the cliffs where an owl glided from the trees. White with a dusting of tan on its wings it disappeared in a moment, like a feather of hope, sailing into a hole in the mine’s wall.

The amount of bed & breakfast places is astounding. In every town, no matter how small, there are at least two. In Fort William every other house was a B&B. I bet you could fill a phone book with all the ones in Scotland.

As our appetites increase food becomes paramount and variety is critical. Today we tried medium white cheddar cheese - creamy and tasty - very similar to Vermont’s Cabot. Yesterday’s selection included an onion and parsley Edam wedge. Yum.

Because of the latitude (54 N) it is light from 4 a.m. to 11 p.m. It’s currently 10 p.m. and I am writing inside the zipped up tent without a flashlight.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Snow and the Post Office

I love doing errands by bicycle, especially when every 50 plus degree day feels like a gift during November. My youngest boy and I set off for the Post Office via sidewalks to mail a bikey thing to a friend. It may be a while before little guy's riding skills are safe enough to be on the roads. I keep a verbal and hand signal conversation with him as he follows.

"Stopping at the intersection."
"It's slippery. Better walk."
"Pedestrian up ahead."
"There's a hole."

There were melting snow humps on the walks leftover from the plow. It was fun to crash through them.

At the Post Office we lock our bikes to the fence. It"s not just any fence either, but one constructed of wrought iron. It probably was not intended to be a bike rack, but functions well as one, considering there is not any official bike parking.

 This son is turning into quite a character. He makes me laugh!

Have a nice "smiley" day!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Bicycle Diaries

I had put off reading David Byrne's Bicycle Diaries because my husband tried to read it and didn't finish. "It wasn't what I had expected," he said. With that comment I let the idea of reading the book slide for months. Recently, I needed something to be immersed in and it was the one book I hadn't picked up yet from the "bike section" on our shelves.

I was immediately taken with the screaming orange cover. It was worth a look.
I was instantly captivated. It's not the usual chronicle of someone's bicycle travels, but a different approach altogether. Like many of us who cycle for that balance in our life, David has traveled with a folding bike for several years on many music gigs and art projects which take him all over the world, and back to NYC. It's his unique perspective of several cities from an on-the-ground vantage, which includes an area's politics, rough underworld, housing, art, roadways, and of course all from a musical bent, which plays a heavy part in all of this. I can see why it didn't captivate the hub, who often needs adventure/escapist novels.

The author does get a bit winded in sections, but overall it's a nice diversion from common bike genre. David Byrne is a genuine bike commuter too, riding in his hometown of New York City and has become an advocate. I respect someone - infamous or not - who is actively working towards more bike friendly infrastructure.

I leave you with an interview with David, as he pedals the streets of NYC.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Stick Season

35 F, sunny

We enter one of two uniquely Vermont seasons: Stick Season. This time of year is notorious for frigid greyness (my least favorite month), so the green grass and last glimmer of golden autumn trees are a welcome relief.

The following video is a two mile section of a brisk, sunny ride. You'll see why November was dubbed with a nickname. Excuse the heavy breathing - at least I'm getting a workout.

On Wednesday morning I woke to four inches of snow, and the rumble of a snow plow on our street, so this video is particularly bittersweet.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Versatile Ross Mount Saint Helens

A post on Lovely Bicycle! titled: City Bikes with Mountain Bike Heritage recently struck a personal cord. As with all Velouria's writing she is eloquent and brought up an idea - that to me at least - made so much sense that it's brought clarity to something I've pondered for quite some time. I'll explain.

While the women's style Ross was meant to be a parts bike, instead I ultimately used it for errands around town. I also ride it for pleasure up to 20 miles. Because it became my favorite "go to" bicycle, I added a front rack.

I love the step-through style, the bomb proof tires that glide on sidewalks and light trails, it's sturdy steel frame, and racks that can haul gobs of stuff. It's scuffed, which is perfect for grinding on the Intervale Trail or at the Catamount Family Center.

I've toyed with wanting a beautiful Mixte, but unless it's new like the Betty Foy, Linus, or Public, it will not have clearance for fenders. And, I believe, these couldn't accommodate 2" wide tires. Buying new is out of the question not only because of cost, but then the bike becomes a liability and I would not feel comfortable leaving it locked to racks around town.

The Intervale Trail diversion. I can duck under this fallen tree.
So, with Lovely Bicycles! explanation of the Pilen and chunky looking Urbana as having "mountain bike roots" I had an epiphany. I love the looks of those bikes. They have fat tires, are great commuters, sport fenders, racks - all the features I desire - just like the Ross.

My view is unhindered now. I will replace the Ross with another women's style mountain bike. Ideally, it would be lighter. Hefting the Ross onto our car's racks has been awkward and challenging. After leaning a bit too far forward for many years, I know the frame is too small. And add to that, there is an inherent problem with the tubing. The seat post opening has been stretched, according to one mechanic. To prevent the seat post from slipping, I've removed most of the grease, and with enough torque and hand-hurting leverage on the quick release lever, I've secured the post.

It's fun riding the Ross through the woods.
Thanks to Velouria, I now have a clear vision of my perfect Girly Bike. The hunt is on.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Riding in the Chill

45 F, windy

Sometimes my husband and I go for an hour ride...alone if we're lucky! But often our youngest son wants to know where we're headed. If it sounds interesting, he'll tag along, but in this cooler fall weather we insist he dresses well (my husband will throw extra items in his panniers). I like our boy's choice of fleece-lined sweatshirt and hand-knitted mittens. The hood is enough head coverage. Often the mitts or socks are mismatched, which makes him all the more endearing.

My husband takes a different approach, requiring only bike gloves when the temps hover in the 40s. He is also very colorful and coordinated with bright yellow helmet, coat, and fenders. I bought him this rain jacket years ago when he was commuting during the darker months. He refuses to use a reflective vest or mirror, so I'm happy he took a shine to this coat.

That green bandanna you see dangling from his handlebars...he ties around his ears - when he needs it. The hub's never been the height of fashion; frugal would be an apt description (who better to offset my, ahem, cafe addiction?).

As for me, I'm more traditional in my clothing. I prefer a fleece headband under my helmet as it's less constricting than a hat or hood. I love tights, especially Under Armour's cold weather-weight style. The only cycling specific clothing I own are stiff soled shoes and sandals, but they're in the closet waiting for spring. Currently I'm clad in lightweight hiking shoes with thick wool socks. I gravitate toward multi-use items that can double for walks in the woods and cross country skiing.

I use fleece gloves, sometimes one pair inside another. I'm always snuggled in a fleece coat (around the house too) with a nylon coat for added warmth and wind protection. Colorful skirt, not required!

With the right outerwear I can extend my riding season. As you can see, there's a broad spectrum of comfort levels when it comes to cycling in the cooler months.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Scotland II - Midges, Mountains, and Mutton

35 miles, Monday, July 4

Going north with periodic sprinkles, we pedaled beside Loch Lomond, a 22 by 1 mile wide freshwater lake. Between the hillsides of sheep a castle appeared and we imagined it was the 200-bed hostel we’d been told about.

Loch Lomond, Photo credit: teamroberts
Scottish drivers are appalling, passing on curves. With all the weight on our bikes, we’d appreciate more room to waver as we get used to pedaling on the left. I cringe as each car goes by, realizing we can’t afford to wobble as a car mirror zips past, frighteningly close.

Along the north end of the lake Andy has a flat. He swore. There is never a good time to repair a leak. I helped pinpoint the hole by pumping his tire, then listen for the hissing sound. With the noisy traffic it takes a couple tries. I offered a chocolate cookie bar to keep his spirits up.

Much to my delight chocolate is less expensive than in the U.S. Cheese also. We bought brie to add to our lunch and ate on the banks of Loch Lomond swatting at an insect called midges. Like a flea, they are a nuisance when we rest or camp, little ferocious biters. They go for my hairline and ankles–anything that is exposed.

Jim gave this to Andy.
We pulled into Tyndrum in the rain and set up camp beside three older Scotsmen beneath, thankfully, a shelter in the campground. The men are walking the Highland Way, an intriguing long distance footpath from Milngavie to Fort William. All of us retreated to the local pub (the only place open after 6 p.m.) to drink a pint of beer. George, Jim, and Brian have climbed numerous mountains. Brian claimed to have summited Ben Lomond 49 times, saying it took him that many attempts before he had a view. The three men clearly dislike English rule; the Scots have been passively protesting and working towards their own freedom.

45 miles, Tuesday, July 5

The dismal weather broke this morning. Andy and I walked with the guys a mile or so along their track. As we passed through sheep pasture the animals with splotchy black and white faces dressed in striped socks trot towards us then skittishly back away. Dead sheep are left where they fall. One appears to stare at us with gruesome empty eye sockets.

Returning to our bikes we pedal onward, cresting a small summit then coasted downhill beneath a ceiling of puffy clouds and sunshine. Scottish Highland cattle roam the valley; their brown shaggy coats reminding me of miniature wooly mammoths.

In Bridge of Orchy we meet Jim, Brian, and George again. Jim had returned home because his wife broke her ankle. The others plan to continue, ending in Fort William later in the week.

Rannoch Moor, Photo credit: Mogens Engelund
Passing road construction, we ascend into the highlands of Rannoch Moor. The moors are nearly treeless with lakes oozing rocks like small warts. Snowfields dot the nearby ridges reminding me of Colorado’s high country. It’s incredibly peaceful, despite the heavy traffic cruising by. The smell of water permeates the vast openness. Ancient stone buildings and white stucco walls date to the 1500s. I expect medieval knights with lances to come trotting down from the hillside.

Descending into Glencoe (a glen is a valley) the rocky summits and cliffs fall to the river. The Highland Way passes through here, following the old stone road. As I gaze up at the rocky edges of the path I envision the MacDonald and rival Campbell clan and the famous massacre that took place between the families.
Scottish sheep, Photo credit: David and Cheryl M

Again, sheep outnumber humans, crossing the road, bleating from the hills, ambling after on another. I am struck by the earthy colors: grey rock, vivid green pastureland, white buildings. Only tourists dressed in teal and purple on similarly pigmented busses, zoom the roadways, infusing color to an otherwise stark landscape.

We reach the western coast of Scotland and head north to Fort William. Ben Nevis’s rocky top hangs over the town. If the weather holds, we plan to explore the trail tomorrow.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A New Toe Clip

I depend on toeclips to get up and down Burlington's hills so when one of mine broke, I limped along for a few days with only the leather strap tethered to the pedal. Which, by the way, doesn't work well at all! The pedal kept flipping upside down, exposing the convex underside. It felt uncomfortable under my shoe.

I haunt a second hand store about once every two weeks and peruse the aisles. To my amazement there sat one lonely toe clip.

It appeared to be new and included the attaching hardware.

It takes a true bike nut to get excited about the little things. What a lucky find for a quarter.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

This and That

Below are photos that didn't warrant an entire blog post, but are too good to tuck away. Enjoy.

Blogging at a cafe.

This is a keyhole cutout in the pillar of the Earth Clock. Do you think the heart shape was cut on purpose by a bored granite drillperson? Or is it a coincidence?

There has been a profusion of  SPEED HUMPs, replacing SPEED BUMPs  in Burlington and South Burlington. The humps are longer like a miniature plateau as opposed to the jolting quick up and down of a bump. The humps are fun on a bike, like riding a roller coaster. Of course, the humps and bumps (sounds like a dance) are there specifically to slow down cars, but I wonder what decides using one over the other. The photo below is in a residential section, prone to less traffic. I presume humps are easier for the snow plows to navigate. Then again, I tend to get carried away with semantics...

Lovely "fingery" shadows along the Island Line Trail.

Here's wishing all, a splendid day!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Stone Stackers

High water last spring brutalized the Lake Champlain shoreline. This promontory used to be quite shady. Recently, the city removed the fallen trees, which all summer had reminded me of Pick-up sticks.

Up close, it's pretty ugly. On the bright side, cyclists and pedestrians are treated to sweeping water views.

And the stone stackers have come back. In 2009, during the 400th anniversary of Samuel Champlain's discovery of the lake, this rocky shore was graced with a multitude of elaborate stone sculptures. Whether these are constructed by the same artists, is anybody's guess.

The top stone is balanced perfectly.

A monument on elevated roots. (Poor trees...)

Incorporating beach debris.

"Y" are people creating these?

Maybe because they are a cheerful spot on a scarred shoreline...

I love these. If they make me smile, can you imagine how they affect others?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Core Strengthening

It's no secret that strengthening your core improves cycling efficiency and enjoyment. For me, it never became important until I developed lower back pain. My problem stemmed from birthing two children and worsened over the years. I was an avid runner, competing in local races. Because of creaking hips and stiff back I eventually cut back mileage, which mostly helped. When I began to feel similar discomfort while cycling, I visited a physical therapist.

We concentrated on easing the tension in my lower back. Heat and repeated stretches helped. Then we started strengthening my belly, which meant repeated versions of lunges. Eventually I gave up the appointments and continued the exercises at home.

For the past year I've developed my own core workout. Before I get out of bed, I complete the back stretches, and move on to - get this - bicycle crunches! Lie on your back. Lift and "pedal" your legs, while both hands are behind your head. Move an elbow to the opposite knee, pull back and continue with the other side. I never loved the traditional sit ups and these are much easier, yet I feel the improvement in my belly. I started with 20 reps and now I'm up to 150. When that became too easy I replaced some of those with crisscrossing sit ups, using stationary bent knees.

It's a mere 10 minutes to complete the entire routine yet it's made a huge improvement in my health. While I have given up running, I can now ride without painful twinges. Sometimes you do what you gotta do - especially when it interferes with cycling!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Scotland I

July 3-4 - 20 miles

My stomach was full of butterflies as our friend, George Biehl, dropped us off on July 2, 1994 at SeaTac Airport in Washington. Saying goodbye was tough.

For nine hours we sat in front of a chain smoker on the British Airways flight. Though we were technically in a non-smoking section, the row behind us­­ ‑ the last on the plane - is reserved for smokers. I grumbled the entire flight, already worried about whether we’d packed everything, and now we’d get little sleep. I fanned a flight safety card whenever the cloud of smoke drifted between the seats. We asked about moving, but the plane was full.

At noon-time on Sunday, July 3, we landed at London’s Heathrow Airport. Clutching our passports and money to our chests we went through customs and took a stuffy shuttle bus 5 miles to a British Air satellite wing. Intercom announcements warned to watch luggage so we took turns going to the restrooms. While Andy was away I sat, gazing at the melting pot of travelers: a woman sheathed in cotton and silk, only beady dark eyes peered out like a fox in a den, copper-toned Italians, Spanish students with “Miami” baseball caps, even a myriad of British Isle accents from ivory white faces. Andy returned with a smile. The condoms sold in the men’s room were called “mates”. We chuckled and boarded the plane for Glasgow, Scotland.

We set our watches nine hours ahead and ate the small lunch offered on the flight. Andy munched cheese and scones while I devoured 3 triangle sandwiches filled with egg salad, corned beef, and a delicious cheese spread.  Tea is the drink of choice in the Isles so we carried on the tradition. Also of note: clotted cream (looks like melted and cooled butter) was served with the scones, though I didn’t try it - strawberry jam sounded more appetizing.

At first we were slow.
The sky was overcast when the plane landed in Glasgow at 3.p.m. We claimed a corner near the terminal entrance near tall windows, unboxing the bikes. It took an hour and a half to place handlebars, seats, screw in pedals, set, pack, and load panniers, etc. With a deep breath, we were ready to begin - except we didn’t know how to get out of the airport!  Straddling the heavy bikes we asked a policeman for directions. He said it was really quite easy, “A left here, here, and here. No problem”. I was scared, wobbling, trying to negotiate several turns, our first nervous foray on the left side of the road. Roundabouts proved to be the most difficult. We were cautious, unsure which lane we were supposed to be in, reflexively checking the mirror on the left before correcting and looking on the right. My mantra was “left, keep left”.

Confused again –the grey sky gave no clue to the sun’s position – we waved to a cyclist. The man had scrambled from the bushes back to his bike and came across the road to where we’d stood. I smiled, knowing how difficult it is to ride when your bladder is full. The cyclist got us back on track. Fatigued and sleep deprived, we just wanted to make it to a campground.

Narrow roads, yes.
A few miles later we were lost again and pulled into a gas station/car wash/store. Two mountain bikers hosed themselves and their bikes with the pressure washer. “Just came down from the mountains, riding over that hill,” one guy said. The two had pedaled through farmers’ fields, explaining that you can mountain bike anywhere. “It’s against the law to post land.”

We followed the cyclists over the Erskine (pronounced “Air skin”) bridge to a cycle path along a canal. It’s one thing to negotiate left side riding in traffic and another to only watch out for cyclists. I pedaled beside one of the guys. He admitted that he doesn’t normally ride a bike. I kept a keen ear to the Scottish brogue and I had to laugh when he said, “I got a fractured fanny (pronounced “fonnie”)”.

On the far side of the bridge the two men left us. We worked our way west towards Dunbarton, enjoying the grey stone buildings – indeed every place was of this construction - many with red tile roofs.  Houses were often connected together with tiny fenced yards.

Scotland was green – much like you’d expect. A steady mist fell. The pathway snaked through cow pastures. I’d never seen such clean Holsteins, as if the constant drizzle preserved their whiteness. We dodged manure piles and the cows ambled off the pavement. We proceeded in this welcome manner all the way to our destination of Balloch.

At 9 p.m. we pulled into a campground; the evening astonishingly still light at this latitude. After a quick dinner of Wheetabix cereal, yogurt, and honey, we walked into town searching for fuel for our stove.

Back at the campsite we visited with fellow travelers, Ann and her son Max, from Connecticut. They were on a 3 month tour of Europe. The pair pedal 20-30 miles a day, taking trains and busses too. We chatted well past dark, when suddenly Andy got up and bolted for our tent.

We all followed with flashlights. He’d spied a creature disappear under the vestibule. Andy unzipped the nylon entrance. In the glow, a hedgehog had curled itself into a bristly black and tan ball. Andy prodded it with his foot but the animal remained still. It’s an unfamiliar sight to Americans. We left it alone and the hedgehog unfurled and scurried away.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Around the World - Introduction

Home away from home for a year.

Inspired by Miles from Nowhere, an around the world bicycle adventure by Barbara and Larry Savage, Andy and I cycled from Vermont to Texas in 1984. We worked and saved during the winter and continued the journey through the Rockies and westward, eventually settling in Portland, Oregon.

Oregon’s majestic outdoors, from canyons to Cascade mountains, bike commuting year-round, to delicious microbrew pubs, captured our hearts and we bought a house.

But always at the back of our minds was the growing excitement of a one-year worldwide bicycle trip. We saved for ten years. Just when the planning began Andy broke his hip pedaling to work one morning, slipping on an icy patch of pavement. Waylaid by the mishap, Andy researched and worked out the general scope of travel, using Miles from Nowhere as a guide and Bicycle Touring International for critical information.

By spring of 1994 real estate prices in Portland were growing by a thousand a month, especially in the starter home market, so instead of selling we took a leap of faith, rented our home, storing most of our belongings in the spacious basement. Before the trip actually began, we placed our finances in the care of family and, for mental assurance, set up automatic payment on the house mortgage.

I was attached to my Trek 830 Antelope, having pedaled it for nine years. To replace the drive train and both wheels required hundreds of dollars – replicating the initial cost of the bike – but I went for it rather than having to spend even more and find a satisfactory substitute. Andy’s Bridgestone MB3 was only a year old and in fine shape - unfortunately because of two previous stolen bikes.

We outfit both mountain bikes with low rider front racks, using Lone Peak panniers on the front and larger Overland bags in the rear. Along with the usual sleeping bags, ground pad and tent, we carried medium-sized backpacks and hiking shoes for treks along the way.

Because of months planned in Asia we had vaccinations galore; some required boosters halfway through the year.

We purchased a one year around-the-world airline package with three carriers: British Airways, United, and Air New Zealand for a set fee. The airfare required that you travel east to west or west to east. A wad of tickets, preprinted with predestined airports - the logistics (but not dates) worked out in advance – along with travelers checks and some cash, were stuffed inside a pouch hanging from our neck, safely tucked under our clothing.

And so begins the journey, July 2, 1994.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Riding for Chocolate

When I'm out of chocolate at home I've been known to go for a get some! Ghirardelli 60% Cacao is my chocolate of choice. The chips are larger than other brands - about the size of the end of your finger. Perfect for popping one or two at a time into my mouth.

I discovered this style years ago. I munch on them at work. At home. They even go with coffee. Because I ride my bike a lot I can get away with the extra calories. Or do I consume chocolate and then have to get some exercise? It's a never-ending cycle and I'm not sure what came first - kind of like the chicken and the egg.

As I said, I was out of chocolate (blasphemy!) and I met my youngest boy at his school. A quick detour was in order to replenish my stock. It was a windy, chilly day too so the plan was to also buy ingredients to make chocolate oatmeal cookies (I'm not above bribing the children). I purchased an extra bag of chips: a semi-sweet variety more conducive to cookies.

If I had added walnuts my mom calls these Cowboy Cookies.

And today I went on another chocolate run, but this time to deliver truffles to my brother who was kind enough to support my son's school fundraiser. I don't think my brother's a choco-fanatic though, like moi.

The 10-mile round-trip was a welcome ride, especially after I felt like a slug all day, driving our children around, then typing, drinking coffee, and slipping you-know-what out of the cupboard, quickly down the hatch.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Whimsical Shirt

I found this shirt on a clearance rack at Old Navy. I was attracted to the lovely graphics and scoop neck style. It had my name written all over it.

It's lightweight cotton and the color is somewhere between coffee and cocoa (you can see where my mind gravitates). The top is long - which I like - so it can cover a thickening waistline. This style looks good with a black skirt and with bike shorts too - just don't pair it with polar bear pajamas like I did for this photo! I'm not in love with the frilly pink flowers - and I may remove all but three - but that can wait until Spring.

A Flat Tire and Unexpected Bike Commute

It was providence that I was able to cycle to work during two balmy Indian Summer days, yet leave early in the afternoon to ride home in daylight. What started as putting air into our Mazda's tires, turned into a leaky valve, which ended up being a flat tire only an hour later. I had 15 minutes to spare before I set off with my youngest son to get him to school. He was a good sport and grabbed his scooter and helmet while I scrambled to redress and organize for an impromptu but welcome bike commute. Oh the trials and tribulations of car ownership and a parent all rolled into one...

A flat bicycle tire is much simpler, especially if you own more than one bike. On occasion when I discover a flat on my Miyata I can easily adapt panniers to the Trek and set off for work. Not so with a car.

The following video shows the last mile of my daily bike commute, the only bit on dirt road.

On the way home the stars aligned. I was treated to a full moon rising over the Green Mountains.

I love rolls of hay as opposed to bales.

Ahh, can't beat this view.

There were more bike commuters at 4 p.m. as opposed to 5 p.m. I rode with a fellow cyclist for a couple miles. Actually I drafted him because this guy can haul!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Commuter Profile on EcoVelo

I finally got around to submitting my commuter profile to EcoVelo's blog. See  November 8. All the commuting stories are quite varied and make for interesting reading. There is also a Bicycle Gallery section - a compilation of bikes that are special to someone. I encourage everyone to join either or both of these groups. Share the Bike Love!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Riding with Long Shadows

54 F, strong southwesterly breeze

We set our clocks one hour back this morning. While it will be easier to get up with daylight, it also is now way too dark in the late afternoon. At 3 p.m. I set out for a loop ride, meeting my family at my sister-in-law's house. The sun hung low on the horizon, casting these elongated shadows.

Flattering shadows! Mother nature can make anyone appear long and lanky.

After a short visit with family, raking leaves, and digging out two cement bases from leftover fence posts, I excused myself and continued with the ride. The sun dipped below the Adirondacks. But not to worry - I cycled on the waterfront bike path.

Shadows grew fainter. Can you see me?

Burlington recently announced they would be enforcing the use of headlight and tail light on bicycles. I didn't think to bring anything to clip on the Ross... okay, I admit I considered it, but told myself to be home before dark.

I turned uphill and made my way through the city center then pedaled on the University paths where I encounter little contact with traffic. The moon was quite pretty, promising another frosty night

We are in the midst of Indian Summer. The next three days are forecast to be 60 F. Unfortunately, because of the time change and darkness at 5 p.m., I no longer will ride to work. Instead, I will switch to the cold weather routine: up at 5:30 a.m., walking and jogging on well lit streets.