Monday, January 30, 2012

England - Shakespeare, Back Roads, and a Birthday Tart

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Click here for the Introduction.

Canal boats.
Monday, July 25

After saying goodbye to the community of cyclists in the campground we set off on foot for downtown Stratford-Upon-Avon. There, a lovely park with fuchsias and roses amid statues of Shakespeare and Lady Macbeth lined both sides of a canal. It’s common to rent a 60-foot boat for a holiday and cruise the Avon River or any of England’s numerous waterways. Part of the charm is operating the hand-cranked locks. We watched two teenage girls hop off their boat, turn the lever letting the water rush out before their parents moved the boat into the lock. Because of the difficulty and strength required to push against the foot braces, spectators jumped in to help. It’s an intriguing way to spend a vacation, much like what we do, maneuvering and keeping your wits about you. I thought about how much my father would enjoy this simple pleasure on water, his fishing pole dangling overboard during quiet times.

Boaters operate the hand crank locks.

We stopped at two bakeries for pastry then bought a few other items along with a miniature clothesline. I looked forward to drying the bulk of laundry at a campsite rather than strung on our panniers like a rolling dryer, with undies on public display.

Stratford was very crowded, especially the properties associated with Shakespeare. The famous playwright was born, lived, and also died in the city in 1616. Unfortunately theaters were closed with no current plays in progress. We took a train 3 miles to Wilmcote where his mother, Mary Arden, grew up. It was another sultry day but from the train station we only walked a short distance to the property.

Downtown Stratford-Upon-Avon, Henley Street. Photo credit: Panaramio
It was a delightful tour of a 400 year-old house; the age itself is astounding to anyone from the U.S. We ducked inside the dark and short roofed home. Our guides were captivating, describing how it was to live in a house with dirt floors. I especially enjoyed the clichés born of the time period. A wife was often beaten, but never after sundown when the neighbors would hear. She was thrashed with something not larger than the man’s thumb, thus the “rule of thumb” or “under one’s thumb” was derived. The thick slab of plank used for a kitchen table was removable; the rough side used for meals then turned over so crumbs fell to the dirt. Dogs cleaned up the mess, often licking the underside of the wood. The smooth tabletop was reserved for guests and for playing games, thus keeping one’s hands “above board”. A household kept a single armchair, usually by the fire, where the husband sat because he was the only one who had the leisure to rest his hands. Local meetings were held at the table, the man pulled his chair near the wood, originating “chairman of the board”. Also, the smooth side of plank was placed on the dirt floor for guests to sleep on, “room and board” being a literal derivation. I never would have guessed how important the table was in those times and that the phrases we use today came from hundreds of years ago.

A man in the 16th century commonly consumed sixteen pints of ale a day while a boy and a mother could each drink eight. The pottery measuring jugs sitting upon a nearby chest were carefully measured, doling out the proper amounts. It was hard to imagine that a boy then became a man at age 12.

Since the 1500s a second story was added to Mary Arden’s home. We carefully climbed the stairs where the wide planked oak flooring waved like an ocean, rising and falling 12 inches. Calming fears, the guide assured us the building was perfectly safe – it had only settled in some places and not others.

Mary Arden property buildings and museum. Photo credit: Visual Poet
Outside, the walk continued through the rest of the grounds. A “glebe” house and outbuildings was once owned by the church then leased to tenants, now a museum of 1800 - early 1900s, complete with a stable full of bicycles. A falconry was set up in a corner where a woman was training an owl who squawked and screeched. Falcons and owls perched on 6 inch stumps tethered by leather anklets and leashes. I wanted to set them all free.

Later in the center of Stratford-Upon-Avon, we meandered by Tudor style buildings, enjoying the beautiful village. Tomorrow would be my 32nd birthday. Andy bought me a tiny book of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, upon my request; it was small enough to carry in our bags and read while on the road.

50 miles, Tuesday, July 26

I woke too early once again because of doves cooing in the trees above our tent. It never bothers Andy, who is an early riser, but it annoys me and I’ve come to dread that incessant call even though I normally love birds. Even with that I felt a small book in my hands, remembering the book of sonnets. I opened the blue cover and read my love’s personal message. I would cherish those words forever.

As we pushed off that morning it was without a larger scale map that we’d hoped to locate. Fellow travelers Frith and Jens had suggested we follow the “single track” or one lane roads. Andy and I had never considered the prospect, figuring narrow lanes might lead to dead ends, but it isn’t so in England. Using the southerly headwind as a compass we went southeast then south and it was much more pleasant. We passed through some towns that weren’t even on our map, rolling on the quiet streets between buildings that nearly sat upon the sidewalk. In this delightful manner we picked our way through the lower Cotswolds, traveling the likes of Hook Norton, Enstone, Charlbury, Witney, and Ducklington past open wheat fields, skirting to the west of Oxford.

Gypsy camp. Photo credit:
We passed a few gypsy camps in turnouts beside the road. Mounds of trash littered the site. Clothes dried on bushes while nearby a pen full of chickens clucked. A lawn chair held a cracked and wrinkled faced woman. A Doberman Pincher strained at its leash and we kept our distance, swerving clear of its mouth. The gypsies took us by surprise, appearing around a bend or over a slight rise. Andy and I thought we’d encounter them in Eastern Europe, but not in England.

Blackcurrent tart. Photo credit: okaycheckitout
Another fighter jet screamed low over us today. We do not know where the RAF’s air bases are located and we are often surprised by their low flying aircraft. It’s a good thing we are mostly by ourselves on these lanes as we couldn’t possibly hear an automobile.

Just before arriving at the campground we picked up a 6 inch blackcurrant tart to devour for dessert. Happy Birthday to me.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

On Battery Street

It was a rare 40 F day in January and I wanted to ride. I stuck to cruising quiet neighborhoods and a bit on a busy artery—anything to avoid the icy waterfront path. I experimented filming with my camera perched atop a flexible tripod that was secured around the handlebars. While it's certainly safer than hand-holding the camera, there is some jumpiness and clattering in the footage (due to the cement sections). The squealing brakes couldn't be helped; Battery Street pathway is a steep one. It was pretty windy too as you can tell from the noisy video. It sounds like I'm just another mumbling fool on a bike!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Local Bicycle Shops

There are three bike shops in Burlington that are fixtures in the cycling community. Each has a niche, establishing themselves within that context so well that I patronize all three.

Skirack is the oldest. What started as a ski-only shop (hence the name) has become a respected retailer of numerous sports: running, skiing, kayaking, swimming, and of course bicycling. It was this store that helped me years ago with free bike maintenance clinics. Their bike section is huge, complete with wonderful, qualified mechanics that will fix my bike on the spot. I can always count on this shop. Because of their status the store has long been sponsors and supporters of sports related events.

Across the street, literally, Northstar Sports is a tiny store in comparison, specializing in winter sports and bicycles. Someone is always anxious to help, and I can get in and out with efficiency. Like its competitor the store rallies behind the community with generous donations. It amuses me that I often have a vast array of touring experience compared with the youngish workers these retail businesses mainly attract, but I bow down to their mechanical experience—the likes of which I could only dream about.

Photo credit: Bike Art
And in the past 15 years, Old Spokes Home has made a name for itself in wider circles, appearing in Bicycling Magazine. The shop combines bicycle museum and store with an array of mechanic support. Purveyors of the recycled/refurbished bikes, the unheated attic is filled with second hand bikes for the whole family. There is definite Bike Love here. Set at a distance from the other stores, this is where cycling-capped mechanics come out to greet you and work on your bike if need be. I like this shop because they appreciate the older bikes and willingly work magic on cottered cranks and the like. With it's creaky floors, walls of commuter gadgets, new Surleys and Brompton folders squeezed together, and antique bikes hanging above all that, it begs a coffee corner. I've joked and asked the owner about putting one in but he can be a cranky sort, often busy. He replies, "go down the street and get yur' coffee". Behind his back the mechanics smile and give me the thumbs up.

As a cyclist who rides a myriad of bikes it's uplifting to see these shops thrive—truly a sign of how popular cycling is becoming in Burlington and beyond.

*There are respectable shops in neighboring South Burlington. That may be fodder for another blog post.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Winter Gloves

Snug cuffs. Warm, fuzzy Thinsulate inside. Gortex exterior.

Leather palms for grip. Gotta move those thumb shifters!

I purchased these gloves at Performance Bike many, many moons ago. But they're still hanging in there, keeping my digits warm.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

3 Foot Rule is Not Cool

Louisiana signage. Photo credit: Biking Bis
Last summer Vermont added a "Safe Passing" law which stipulates (among other things) that "motorists are required to pass cyclists and pedestrians with due care, increasing clearance to pass the vulnerable road users safely". In the past few years 19 other states enacted a law called the "3-Foot Rule" which requires drivers of vehicles allocate at least 3 feet in passing a cyclist.

While these rules sound well and good, intending to protect the cyclist, they've bothered me to a large extent because what seems like common sense had to become a legality for people to suddenly pay attention. Will a driver now pass a cyclist with more care than before just because it's a law? I think not.

Since the law took effect, I haven't noticed any increase in the space allotted from passing motorists. Most do go by with ample room—by ample room I mean 6 feet—but I'm concerned when a motorist is too close. In that frightened moment I am forced to hold the bike as steady as possible or escape onto the shoulder (or heaven forbid into a ditch) until the vehicle goes by. Many times we are unaware that a vehicle is even behind us until it's too late.

Only 3 feet? What if cyclists want more? Photo credit: Velo Village
And for those who think 3 feet is enough room to safely pass a biker, think again. I sit on a bike seat that is nearly 3 feet high with the top of my helmet at about 5.5 feet. If I fall to the left for whatever reason (a pothole, debris, fright from a motorist) just as a vehicle zooms by, clearly three feet is not enough of a buffer. Because of this when I get behind the wheel of a car I allow a pedestrian or cyclist at least 8 feet of breathing room or slow until I can safely get around.

I think drivers come from the mindset that motorized vehicles have the right-of-way. And to be fair these same operators (mostly) are also not regular cyclists. Case in point: I occasionally catch a lift with my boss who exceeds the speed limit by at least 10 m.p.h. This is the same road that I bike commute on. One day we were cresting a hill with a cyclist slowly climbing ahead of us. My boss intended to pass the bicyclist so I spoke up, "What if you meet a vehicle coming over the hill? Your only recourse is to swerve to the right, forcing the cyclist off the road". Or, I thought, hit them. Fortunately he listened and waited. Yes, my boss is not a bike rider and was clearly not thinking from that viewpoint. I encounter similar situations while a passenger in my family's cars.

Yikes, too close! Photo credit: League of American Bicyclists
originally from
So, I believe, therein lies the problem. If you are not attuned to how a cyclist rides how can you know what constitutes safe passage? Think about it. We can't have separate bike lanes everywhere. It's not practical here in Vermont, nor can we afford it, period.

I think the ultimate solution has to come from a more basic level: education. Teach the youngsters to ride. Teach safety skills. Teach children that cycling can be transportation. As our kids grow, teach awareness, respect, and share-the-road skills even in Drivers Education at the high school level. And teach that driving is not an entitlement but a privilege. While some of us regular cyclists already instill these skills in our youngsters it needs to be addressed in a broader scope, so all children receive this education. After all, children are the caretakers of our future—as drivers and as cyclists.

Education in the schools. Kids must educate their parents and ask to ride to school.
Photo credit: Local Motion
While Vermont's "Safe Passing" law does raise awareness—and I applaud their efforts—it's still a band aid approach to the overall problem. Let's think outside the box of creating rules that are futile to enforce and get to the heart of the situation.

I'd love to hear others' thoughts on this subject.

Click here to see a PDF of the new law.

Monday, January 23, 2012

England - Farming & Tour of the Cotswolds

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Click here for the Introduction.

England - 55 miles, Saturday, July 23

Golden and amber wheat fields whispered in the slight breeze as we cruised the Wye River Valley past Hay-On-Wye, Blacksmere, and Madley towards Hereford, England. Top heavy trucks ladened with hay bales continually chugged along and overtook us. England is currently in a dry spell. We sit under a shady tree for lunch noticing the earth is cracked in spidery patterns.

Farming near Hereford. Photo credit: 4 Hotels
As in Wales, it’s our custom to stop at a store for lunch goodies and pick up a fresh loaf of bread. Bakeries deliver daily to these convenience stores, loading shelves with unwrapped rolls and bread still cooling, the aroma overwhelming and comforting. We look forward to this every day.

Hereford was a busy area and we didn’t stop other than to consult signs. I thought it odd to not see the brown and white Hereford cows, but rather the city is a market center for cows of any kind, sheep, and pigs. It was less hectic east of the region where hop fields lined the flattening landscape. We reminisced about riding the Willamette Valley in Oregon, the pungent aroma of hops a fragrance we both love. So much of everyday life in the British Isles revolves around the local pub that it was somehow fitting, riding alongside the loaded vines.

My allergies have been acting up in the drier air. A steady wind whips dust and straw from the hay trucks along with stirring bugs from the roadside. Stopping to purchase groceries, we are suddenly covered with loads of tiny insects. Many follow us indoors and we swat and brush them from our limbs in the grocery aisles.

It is often tiring to navigate at the end of the day. Tempers are short and directions often misunderstood. We stopped at the wrong campground first then reorient ourselves and plugged up a half mile hill. Ready to knock on someone’s door to get further directions, we spied a tiny black and white sign on a tree.

Downtown Ledbury. Photo credit: Ledbury England Flickr

The campsite is in a backyard complete with shower and washroom facilities. It was odd a first, feeling like trespassers as we’re the only campers, but it’s deliciously quiet. The owners run an outdoor activity center, like Outward Bound, and expect students arriving soon.

England - 40 miles, Sunday, July 24

The morning humidity settled like scorching pea soup as we continued east to Tewkesbury then north. We lunched at a roundabout in Broadway sitting at the base of a WWI monument so common in every town. As we prepared to leave a guy alerted us to a major bicycle race that would be passing through in another hour. Since our day’s destination was only 20 miles away we hung out and retrieved a cold drink from a store.

We chatted with a young member of a local bicycle club. Their group was hosting the Tour of The Cotswolds. 100 racers entered the 120 mile race which loops the mountains. Andy and I’d been looking at a rising ridge in the distance all morning, apparently this was the renowned Cotswolds. On the other side of us a guy stood holding a glass pint of ale. He’d strayed from a nearby pub to take in the race.

Broadway village, Cotswolds. Photo credit:
A motorcade of police, an ambulance, and team organizers lead the lead pack of riders. We remained in the middle of the roundabout watching the colorful racers corner the turn, shift in their seats much like Andy and I after many hours in the saddle, then spin off in the distance down a flat road. Our beer buddy helped out in the street, diverting traffic. When there was a lull he rushed back to the green to take a drink.

After three packs went by the motorcycle police sped off to the next intersection, we presumed, to manage traffic again. The local who’d told us about the race remained in the roundabout with a neon green vest, alerting pedestrians and drivers to the remaining straggling racers. Due to heat, hills, or other problems many cyclists had dropped out.

The thunder bugs were thick on our arms and legs, not biters thankfully, but annoying just the same. We’re told that the insects swarm just before a storm.

English 3-Wheeled vehicle. Photo Credit: Flickriver
All morning we’d seen 3-wheeled vehicles much like a VW Rabbit with one front wheel, limping along. They appear unstable, listing in both directions before coming to a halt. The pub guy compared the car with our Polish jokes; they take the brunt of many a funny chat. After the racing excitement finished, the two guys said, “Cheerio,” and we went on our way.

We cruised through quaint brick and tan stone villages before arriving in Stratford just as thunder rumbled. Without warming rain pelted us and we quickly pulled over and shoved our backpacks inside green garbage bags then re-strapped them to the rear rack. The storm wasn’t going to let up anytime soon so we ducked under a hotel awning and waited out a half hour of lightning, windy gusts, and sheets of rain, then hail. At the first crack of thunder car alarms went off. People ran into the streets to their cars, shirts soaking in seconds as they hopped the rushing curbside torrent. And then as quickly the storm disappeared, leaving a steaming roadway.

My wonderful biking buddy. He's a keeper.
At the campground we joined a group of cycle tourists tenting on the lawn near a hedge. Jens is a young German man pedaling around England for a month and Frith hails from New Zealand. She spent the last two years in San Francisco and is cycling through Europe before returning home at Christmas time.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Acquiring a Bridgestone MB-2

My husband owns one bike that he regularly rides. It's his commuter, touring machine, and all-around go-getter. In other words, it does it all. It's been that way since he bought the bike new. It's a 1992 Bridgestone MB-3. It even brought him around the world.

Eventually it became sun-faded, turning an awful shade of pink. I believe it was a failing of that particular metallic red color. My older, but equally used, Trek is still a brilliant red. 5 years ago The Hub had the Bridgestone's frame repainted and it's once again an attractive crimson.

My husband and his Bridgestone MB-3 in it's glory years.
Yes, that's a goat. They peruse the streets.
Photo taken in Malaysia, 1995.
While he loves this bike he also was searching for an alternative steed to ride. He was given a skinny tire racer, then an antique green Raleigh, and my brother's Peugeot—all beautiful—though he couldn't see himself riding any of those on a regular basis. He loves the stability and fat tires of a mountain bike.

I suggested he look for another Bridgestone—little did we know it would turn into a two year hunt. Bridgestone mountain bicycles were made from 1985-1994. At the helm in design, Grant Petersen created a rigid steel-frame style that was copied by other manufacturers. When Bridgestone pulled out of bicycles altogether, Petersen went on to found Rivendell Bicycles. Between bike guru, Sheldon Brown praising the MB line and Petersen's name becoming synonymous with a well made bike, the Bridgestone MB series became an iconic classic, fetching premium dollars.

Not exactly what we wanted to learn, but it confirmed the MB series was worth pursuing and—though my husband's experience was enough to satisfy him—he might pay more than he initially intended.

I follow Craig's List on a regular basis. I found a bike for my sister-in-law and I'm currently searching for a new girly bike for myself. When I spy the Bridgestone name I pass this information onto my husband. I located one last summer locally but the sizing was too small. He would've been happy with a mid-80s Specialized Rockhopper (he once owned and loved this style too), but those are rarer than the Bridgestones, at least in this region. Go figure. Two weeks ago I found a possible match and as a family we drove to the other side of Vermont.

And came home with this. It's a 1986 MB-2 in original condition, except for the seat, tires (they're new!) and possibly the pedals.

This photo best shows the unusual color.

Of course there are scratches, but that's to be expected from a 25-year-old bike.

Oh, those lugs! Beautiful. His current bike is TIG welded so this frame is new territory for him.

With Biopace chain ring—remember those? The oblong style was promoted to enhance pedaling efficiency, but the technology never caught on. With little wear, my husband will use the current set-up and only replace it when he has to.

That's the beauty of this particular bike. All parts are interchangeable and up-gradable.

I dig the black and red cable housing.
We love thumb shifters, especially because they are separate from the brake levers. This allows for customized hand-positioning. The frame color is one of a kind. The catalog describes the colors as earthy red and moss green. The only immediate drawback, according to my husband, is the wheels lack quick release. The sealed bearing hubs and rims are in impeccable shape though, which I view as a plus. The bike weighs 29 lbs, three more than his MB-3, but not of great concern as he regularly hauls panniers and a bathtub-sized toolkit.

Already he's cleaning the parts, accessing the condition—clearly he is smitten and excited at the prospect of an alternative bike and it's myriad possibilities.

Friday, January 20, 2012

I'm Lovin' The Mag

Maglianero Cafe is growing on me. What used to feel cavernous is now enjoyable spaciousness. At 8:30 in the morning soft music played and a sense of calm permeated the place. With an inch of fresh snow, it was the first time that I arrived on foot.

With coffee in hand I turned to set my backpack at a table and was immediately drawn to this bike display on a wall.

Wow. A single speed Mixte with purple hand grips. But wait, there's more.

The frame is decorated with comics and magazines—an amalgam of color and texture. Stunning. The bike looks impeccable all decked out in shiny chrome. And fully functioning too. I'm in love.

Two bikes are on display by Hunt Manley. He's a studio artist who also wrenches at Old Spokes Home. More photos of this bike here. In case you're inspired, drop Hunt an e-mail:

Later when I went outdoors I realized the snow threw me for a loop. I am now at peace, no longer feeling compelled to pedal whatever the cost. My personal meter is whether it's fun to ride as opposed to scary. Fright = cold + slippery. The sun is shining (hallelujiah!) and the fresh air feels good, whether it's enjoyed by two feet or two wheels.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Ron Manganiello, The Man

Pour yourself a cup of coffee and enjoy a peek at what's happening in our town. It'll give you a nice warm fuzzy. Ron Manganiello started Bike Recycle several years ago, allowing low income Vermonters an opportunity to own a bicycle for transit and recreation. This video says it all, from eTown on Vimeo.

To support the organization they offer jewelry fashioned from recycled bike parts. Add a bit of bike style to your day.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Socks I Love

I haven't been a huge proponent of wearing wool garments while on a bike, mainly because I own a lot of fleece. I love fleece for it's spectrum of colors, its washability, and, frankly, price. But when it comes to socks I'm a big fan of wool. I wear wool year-round, though a lighter style in the summer. It's breathable and nearly smell-proof even after repeated use. It's ideal for touring and, in a pinch, can also double as mittens.

A friend introduced me to the Darn Tough brand made here in Vermont. They are constructed of tightly woven fibers and are very durable. The short-ankle style is great for jogging or wearing under my cycling sandals.

The only downfall is they are expensive, ranging from 15.00-20.00 a pair so I often request them as gifts.

I discovered an alternative brand that perform equally well, Teko, from Sox Market. Because they are irregular, the cost is half, yet they are just as form-fitting as the Vermont brand.

Now I can afford many styles and colors of socks.

My toasty tootsies thank me!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Wheeling Through Snow

And you thought it would be me, right? Not this time. We were on way to the library.

The Christmas vacation was too long and, of course, there'd been lots of scrabbling among our boys. We all could appreciate some air.

Sometimes four wheels work better than two.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Wales - Brecon Beacons & 5th Anniversary

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Wales - 50 miles, Thursday, July 21

We encountered a bit of rain this afternoon as we climbed and descended some ungodly graded hills. With the hope of seeing more castles we crept on and were eventually rewarded with ten miles of a tailwind, winding down two valleys.

We're in the town of Llandovery on the edge of Brecon Beacons National Park. If the weather holds we'd like to hike for our 5th anniversary.

Photo credit: Traditional Games
Photo credit: Wikipedia
In town we watched lawn bowling. The playing field is a green rectangle, a suitably hard surface. The black balls are asymmetrical. Players underhand pitch the balls trying to hit a tiny white ball at the far end. As the ball closes in on its target, it curves and falls on its flat side.

We now set up the campsite with efficiency. Andy and I each have our designated sides of the tent. I throw my stuff in my area and his on the other. Within a half hour the tent is erected, bedding set up, bikes locked, and the stove is hissing, waiting for water to boil.

Wales - 35 miles, Friday, July 22

We left the campsite by 9 a.m., earlier than some days. After talking with fellow English campers who touted Monet's Giverny Gardens and the Impressionist works in Paris we left with lofty thoughts of France as we climbed a road along a river. We look forward to our first country on the European continent.

Anglican Church.

On a plateau in the morning sunshine, an old stone church begged exploration. One end is a square castle tower. We poked around the property, gingerly stepping among the early 19th century gravestones, so commonly sighted around these old edifices. Some markers are broken and propped against the walls. We read epitaphs and are struck by the close proximity of gravesites, as if burying space was at a premium. The old churches in Wales are still in use as evidenced by the shiny plaque listing all pastors past and present.

Typical Welsh scenery - a patchwork of farming.
After buying lunch food and extracting money from an ATM to get us through the weekend, we cycled to Brecon Beacons National Park. The visitor's center was located on an open slope with a view of the balding Brecon mountains. Once covered by forest, the land was timbered in 1300 for grazing. Cattle and sheep still roam the hills. The summit ridges are colored in red soil, reminding me of the Painted Hills in central Oregon.

Scenery from the visitors center. Photo credit: Europe a la Carte
Unlike U.S. National Parks, this one is relatively new, started in 1957 and encompasses existing farmland with right-of-ways over three mountain ranges. Our walk followed tractor ruts, a bushwhack through a young forest, a newly mown path through a swath of ferns, over stiles, etc. - a civilized hike, you might say, commonplace for long walks in Britain. As we tread through sheep pastures, the animals bleated from the ruts, apparently taking refuge from the hot sun.

Fishermen's Pie. Photo credit: Travel in Wales
To celebrate our anniversary we had dinner at a restaurant in Brecon. Andy had spinach lasagna while I tried a regional dish - fisherman's pie. It was a delicious soup bowl of fish, potatoes, and mushrooms in a creamy wine sauce. On the side I had vinegar chips (French fries). It was a fitting end to a wonderful day; cycling and hiking are our loves and an inherent part of who we are as a couple.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Backyard Skiing

15 F

What to do when the roads are icy, but fresh snow has fallen? Why skiing, of course! Get out the skinny skis and shush through the backyards.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Intervale Bridges

In the Intervale, where I ride often as an alternative or in conjunction with the waterfront trail, there are a few interesting bridges, unique in their own way. The one below has character with its rusty framework, built solely for bike and pedestrian travel. An arm of the path swings to the right, elevating to bridge level. More pictures here of its wooden decking.

Another option further on is a crossing on a flat "road".

It's also a right of way, allowing a CSA (community supported agriculture) farm access to their land. Other then that, it's traffic free and a pleasant crossing back into Burlington neighborhoods.

On the same route there is the bridge to nowhere. Below is an aerial view to show it's position over busy route 127. Between Ethan Allen Homestead access and the road is the bike path. Look closely and you'll note the lack of connection on either end. In the foreground the bridge butts right up against a steep bank as if never intended for use. Both ends are cordoned off with chain link fence.

Photo credit: Google Maps.

At street level, notice the architecture and all-wooden construction.

Up close it's composed of multiple layers, extremely well built - a beauty and my aesthetic favorite. The odd thing it that it has never, ever been open to the public.

Built in the 1970s along with the highway bypass, here-say has it that federal funding paid for the bridge, but pedestrian access was a stipulation, possibly to appease the neighborhoods above. Why it was constructed up against a 50-foot high wall of woods is anybody's guess, making it virtually impossible to ever be of use. Instead we pedal and drive by it all the time, wondering the why and the how, reminded of the wasted effort on this beautiful structure. It's a shame.

Quirky bridge aside, all of the Intervale is preserved for future generations and is managed by the City of Burlington and the Intervale Center. Its appealing features, from bridges, farms, single track, paved alternate route, and wildlife along the Winooski River attract some folks, but the region is under used. For those seeking solitude, it's a perfect place for a bike ride.