Monday, November 29, 2010

South Burlington's Recreation Path Improvements

It has been a pleasure to see all of South Burlington's recent path improvements, from adding separate bike paths in newly constructed neighborhoods, to widening roads to accommodate a pedestrian/bike lane, to repaving already existing bike paths. The city is actively working on filling in the gaps to create a cohesive recreation path. I stopped recently to inspect a wonderful sign celebrating the past and the future of their recreation system.

Way to go South Burlington!

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Sad Schwinn 5-speed

I have an affinity for old bikes. Maybe it's the simple beauty of the bicycle as pure art and pure function, back when the frames wore lusciously crafted lugs even on mass produced low end bicycles. Maybe it's the classic colors: cherry red, brown or teal. I especially like the metal fenders that come with the bike. The old style bicycles were basic, functional commuting machines that you could pedal to the market, even in the rain. 

And so it was that I attempted to rescue an old Schwinn 5-speed from a friend of a friend's garage, but sadly the bicycle has been badly neglected. Check out the bubbling warts on the tires, like crusty hard gobs of tar. And notice the incredibly rusty derailleur. The frame isn't in bad shape and the seat looks usable, but overall it's beyond my bike wrenching skills. To fully restore this red wonder I would imagine it will require some TLC and new parts. I'll donate it to Bike Recycle Vermont and hope they can perform some miracles or at least use some of the Schwinn's parts.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Stylin' Bag

I like to add a little style to my ride, whether it's wearing a skirt over my tights or with a wicker front basket decorated with flowers. My newest addition is a sturdy double nylon carrying bag with leather handles that I found at the Salvation Army. I sewed in button holes and used two skinny belts (also recycled) to hold the bag to the handlebars. I look out for discounted or repurposed plastic flowers and, when necessary, replace the flower decoration. The tote can also be hooked to the back rack. Total cost = $5.00

Sew button holes to hold in the leather straps.

This tote came with a loop to attach
 a flower, but you could add your
 own button hole to serve the same purpose.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Chilly this Morning

It was nippy this morning, about 32 degrees Fahrenheit with a chilly north wind. Big fat snow flakes swirled around us. You know winter is on it's way when the north wind blows out of Canada. My youngest boy went with me on his in-line skates (he loves being outdoors) and had the pinkest cheeks when we arrived at his school. I pedaled on and soon arrived at the water's edge and caught the steam rising off the lake. The lake temperature is still warmer than the air.

But as I extend my riding season my feet are achingly cold. Such was the case this morning after only going two miles. I warmed up with a mocha latte and fortunately found an inexpensive pair of boots. I rode home in them and my tootsies are soooo happy!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Classic Miyata 610 Touring Bike

I've fallen in love with an old friend again. It's my beautiful blue Miyata 610 touring bicycle. I'd almost lost her too. She sat dusty, only ridden a handful of times in the last 20 years, stored away in the basement, then the garage, then almost given away to a friend. But the bike held so many memories: I researched and bought it with my own  money in 1983 and  rode it  across the country with  my boyfriend (now husband) putting on 6,000 miles. I put it way for a while, entering the early mountain bike craze and then saw no reason to go back to the bent over position of the Miyata's handlebars.

Fortunately, I couldn't part with it either.

This past spring I updated the handlebars with Nashbar's mustache version, allowing multiple hand positions for long rides. I mull over things—sometimes for years—before making purchases. I guess it's the Vermonter in me. Since seeing these bars in England 15 years ago I knew that someday I'd like to try them. And since I'm cheap too, I had to figure a way to use it on an existing bike.

So here she is, making me smile, and we are burning up the miles together. She was my primary commuter this year on my 22 mile round trip ride to work in Vermont's countryside. We saw the foliage together. It's a pleasure to experience how comfortable a bike she still is after 27 years.

I get compliments too. She's in good shape—a real classic beauty.

I'm now looking for a simple low cost front rack, and not the low rider variety. Just a simple silver platform to hold a tent or sleeping bag, just enough to offset the weight of the rear panniers.

Here's to you my blue Miyata... We'll soon be touring together again.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Oh, Can-a-da!

Mississquoi Valley Rail Trail

My husband is the organizer of this September trip to Canada. We are in love with our neighbor to the north's Route Verte system of bike trails. They are well signed, do not leave you slumped over your handlebars, wondering whether to turn right or left, and in Canada a bike tourist is not an oddity. Many folks bike tour.
Our four day trip, on a map, was shaped like a lollipop, out and back on the stick end in northern Vermont with a loop into Canada.
 With a car parked in St. Albans we pedaled the 26 miles of the Mississquoi Valley rail trail to the Canadian border then followed signed back roads to the city of Bromont. We were befriended by a wonderful man who found us, for once, consulting the map. He offered his lawn for tenting. Little did we know that we'd end up sleeping in his tree house, complete with electricity and bunk beds. It was the best accommodation of our vacation!

A 6' by 6' treehouse

The second day was very hilly, but we whooped up and down the gravel roller coaster of trails in Mount Orford National Park. We'd wanted to end the day with a quick ride into Magog, and find camping, but there wasn't any close accommodation. Located on the northern shore of Lake Memphramagog this little city rivals Burlington for waterfront trails and lakeside dining. Reluctantly we left for a lovely, but tiring ride south to Lake Massawippi (love that name) and set up the tent in a campground near the lake. I'd been there 14 years ago. At 2 a.m. we awoke to scratching noises. Two raccoons pawed around our bikes. My husband threw my shoe at the rascals, then we tried to sleep, but were awoken again. My husband looked at me to deal with the next round, but I gave him that whimpering look and he crawled outside again. Andy had discovered our trash bag was ripped into. He brought that into our tent and we slept soundly. Thanks, hubby!
Camping at Lake Massawippi

The third day was a beautiful cruise south on Tomifobia Nature preserve's rail trail. Beaver, a crane, herons, and many Canadian geese cruised the nearby waterway. I had stumbled on this little trail (20k) with a quick Internet search only two days before our trip. It turned out to be a highlight. At the border crossing in Vermont at Beebe Plain the border guard told us the trail continued into Newport. The next five miles was a lovely cruise next to Lake Memphramagog, by plush waterfront homes, but the no-lake-access private signs were disturbing. A public rail trail without access to the water, or signs of where to gain access, left me with feelings that the owners might have reluctant of the rehabilitation of this right of way.

In Newport we enjoyed lunch at a health food store, warming in the south facing windows. It was hard to leave knowing we had to have had hills ahead. We lived in Vermont, after all, where the green Mountains cut the state in half, north to south. Struggling up hills west of Newport we decided to head northwest with hopes of finding a campground or bed & breakfast in North Troy. In North Troy a resident offered his lawn for tenting, but we did locate a campground back in Quebec only a few miles farther, amazingly along the portion of the Mississquoi River that arcs for 15 miles into Canada before it runs south into Vermont. It put us in line for a shorter day for the 4th day, the return trip on the Mississquoi Valley Rail Trail. It was a miracle that we avoided crossing the Green Mountains near Jay Peak.

The campground was at the end of a 1 K dirt road, but unfortunately straight up a hill! We pushed our loaded bikes the distance to Au Diable Vert, had to take a breather before talking with the lady at reception, then decided on a campsite at the far end of a meadow with incredible views. The interesting part of this place was a huge Auberge (not sure it was currently open), they also offered tree house accommodation, cabins, and canvas sided square tents. All of this was on a high meadow with at least 15 k of trails. It looked like a nice place to ski in the winter. That night a storm rolled in, soaked the bottom of our tent, but ended by daybreak.

The last day was an easy cruise back over the border into Vermont, then retracing the Mississquoi Valley rail trail back to our car. There was light rain, but we stayed warm. Chipmunks had dug holes in the middle of the trail and occasionally popped their heads above ground. Watch out for the chippys! We also saw deer, foxes or coyotes, not sure which, scampering across from one cornfield to the next.
The biggest surprise was how far the Mississquoi River meanders from it's source before it empties into Lake Champlain. I still can't believe there was a way to avoid crossing the Green Mountains. I'll remember that for the future.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Halloween Bike Ride

Ben Sarle for The Free Press

Despite sleet and snow Burlington held it's first ever Halloween Bike Ride. Over a 100 people, including families, met in City Hall Park before meandering on a one mile course through downtown, ending in Battery Park. Led by a police cruiser, we whooped, hollered, rang bells and honked horns while various Burlington Bicycle Coalition members blocked adjacent streets so our contingent could stay together.

I showed up decked out in a vampiress costume with as many warm undergarments as possible underneath my costume and placed a lighted plastic pumpkin on my back rack. I led my youngest boy who sported a ninja costume and his friend who went as Darth Vader, minus the face mask, thank goodness so she could see, to the starting point. My husband unexpectedly showed up just before we set off. 

At Battery Park a stiff north wind grew in intensity, but we ate Ben & Jerry's ice cream--only because it was free--then headed home as soon as possible. My son had pedaled the route without socks and my husband ended up giving him his own before cruising the mile back home.

What we do to celebrate Halloween and ride a bike...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Welcome to Annie Bikes

Welcome to my bike ramblings. I live and breathe bicycles—much to my family's dismay—so this is the reason for my blog. I am a commuter, tourer, and love to do errands by bike. I hope other bike fanatics will appreciate my musings, and better yet, comments are always welcome.

I own three bikes; the one here is a Ross Mt. St. Helens from 1984 or 1985. It's "girly style" or split frame, is as heavy as a tank, and riding it is the best work out. It was a garage sale find. I added fenders, leather hand grips, toeclips, a rear rack, and a front basket. It's my main errand bike, and can haul anything from paint cans to groceries. A friend of mine in Oregon has the men's version of this bike, also with the same distinctive kelly green handlebars.

I went to a wedding last weekend and had some free hours between the service and reception. It was one of those awesome autumn days where the crisp air and clear day lent itself to a cruise along our waterfront bike path. The foliage was peak and I stopped and took lots of photos. With a clear view across the lake to New York, the day was a beautiful gift.
Burlington's waterfront bike path