Friday, August 31, 2012

The Mouse Mailbox

Just this week I've noticed the drone of cicadas, the waning afternoon light, and swallow tail butterflies drifting around the cedars outside my workplace window. It reminds me that fair time is just around the corner. Nearly sweater weather. My favorite month is almost here. Now is the lull before early morning franticness descends upon our household with both kids attending different schools. I'm going to savor this last week before I leave, go to a museum with our children. Chaos begins soon thereafter, especially for my husband who fills Mom and Dad duties while I fly the Atlantic, faster than any non-motorized bird.

Last week, listening to the loud August cacophony, I cruised the dusty dirt road to work and stopped at these mailboxes, delighted that this funky Mouse Mail box finally made its appearance. You see, it was my idea, but with my boss's execution. They'd often found nests inside their mailbox with half eaten envelopes as presents. Jokingly, I suggested they build a little mailbox for the mouse. Well, they ran with that idea, aided by their granddaughter's color choice.

Swiss cheese wedge styles the knob and flag. If you look underneath the box there is a hole with pipe cleaner ladder. Any gymnast rodent can surely find his way inside.

*I will be unplugged for the duration of my adventure.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Chocolate & Wine

I love this little sign given to me from a cherished friend as part of my birthday gift this year. She also included the appropriate two items listed. My family and friends know me pretty well; I received numerous chocolate bars, all with varying ingredients like chipotle, cinnamon, or caramel. Some of my favorites are ginger, lavender, even sea salt—of course, not all mixed together.

Chocolate & Wine happens to coincide with Switzerland & France, the two countries I am currently hiking and pedaling through. There should be lots of the above mentioned things going down the gullet while I'm away, so stay tuned for future photos and blogposts.

*I will be unplugged for the duration of my adventure.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Around the World - Posts Postponed

No room for pedestrians on Budapest's sidewalks. Cram those cars in!

Regularly scheduled posts will resume late September.

*I will be unplugged for the duration of my adventure.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Au Revoir for Now...

I will be looking for a Swiss patch to add to the backpack. 
I'm nervous and ready to start the adventure. The backpack is full of hiking/biking items. The trekking pole handle sticks out, but I think it's okay as is. I can't walk though the airport with it because of its sharp point, which I presume is a security risk. You may recognize the carry-on satchel. It's the one I retrofitted for a handlebar bag. The small pannier is an additional item that contains my helmet, tights, and fleece hoody. I figured I could use the extra warmth in air-conditioned airports. A friend is bringing the tent so I'm traveling light.

Piles of stuff littered a corner of our bedroom for two weeks.
I'm going for a walk before my hubby comes home to transport me to my flight. I'm too keyed up to remain still. I have posts scheduled ahead to fill in the 3-week gap, though I plan on remaining unplugged for the duration.

I will be in the air when you read this. Wish me luck.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

What's His Story?

When you are a regular bicycle commuter you see the seasons come and go, a farm field transformed to full-fledged house, or—if you are a city rider—a business blossom or change hands. Along my route, I've watched with interest, this plot of land on the former site of a small maple sugaring operation. 

The land sat idle for a couple years (Palmer's is still in operation; they moved up the road into bigger digs.) until one summer a small RV with a lone guy took up residence.

The Hooter's sign was an unusual touch. I happened by when a woman in a red convertible pulled up, got out, took a snapshot with her phone and got back in her car and sped off. The sign didn't last long, disappearing a month later.

And then there was the fake bear that was "moved" around. Sometimes his head was in a tipped over garbage pail; other times in a tree or a stuffed bird perched on his head. I enjoyed the bear's antics. Sadly, the bruin was gone this summer.

This guy is nothing if not industrious. He's hearty too. He spent the last two winters living in his tiny abode, I imagine, with a source of heat. He keeps busy, taking down old wooden fence posts that fronted the property, back-filled low areas. This year he put up a new mailbox.

I like the sugar house look. The "venting" is really a metal syrup container. The post rests in a milk can. Ingenious.

The man is slowly dismantling the exterior of the shack. At first I thought he was restoring the building to someday call it home, but I can't tell now. It would make for an interesting remodel, like those folks that renovate old churches and one room schoolhouses into habitable structures.

I sure love his humor. Behind a tree, in a sheltered spot from the road, rests a single chair facing his oasis: plastic fencing looping a single sunflower—not real, of course, which fits his style.

Oddly, I hardly ever see the man outside or else I'd engage him in conversation. I'd love to know his story...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Taking the Front Derailleur for Granted

de·rail·leur noun 
gear-shifting mechanism on a bicycle that shifts the drive train from one sprocket to another.
Origin: 1945-50; <French dérailleur literally, a device causing disengagement or derailing, equivalent to  déraill  (er) to derail +-eur -eur
(It's kind of fun to look up words in the dictionary every now and then. Try the paper kind, too.)

Over the past months, my Trek's left thumbshifter was getting kind of cranky. It was hard to move, even a bit creaky. At the time I didn't think anything of it. I pushed harder, then the cable eventually leaped over the front chain-rings.

Last week it occurred to me that maybe the cable housing needed lubrication. So I tried that, but it didn't help. Then I followed the wire down to the front derailleur. Uh, when was the last time I cleaned and oiled that thing, I wondered? A bike mechanic had once said the front derailleur should last a bike's lifetime. In my mind, I suppose I took that to mean it's also maintenance-free. Oy vey! After two minutes of wiping and with dripping oil on the pivot points, the lever moved with ease. I had taken this mechanism—so integral and critical to the front cogs—for granted. Jeesh, I learned an important lesson.

What simple tasks do you easily forget?

*Dictionary spelling and origin borrowed from

Monday, August 20, 2012

Slovakia - Bratislava Castle and Onward

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Click here for the Introduction.

40 miles Friday, September 9

How pleasant to wake surrounded by sheets instead of a sleeping bag! Despite the comfort, we still rise with the sun. We inhale the small breakfast provided: instant coffee, a banana, and croissant with apricot jam, then retreat to our rooms balcony to cook round two: oatmeal with more coffee. Weve grown accustomed to a huge morning meal.

We visited the large fortification, Bratislava castle, perched above the Danube River. It was the center of the Kingdom of Hungary for 200 years, but since has undergone deterioration, two world wars (used for barracks), until the 1950s finally saw its value and eventual restoration for public viewing and tourism. It certainly has a commanding presence on the horizon, capturing our attention at dusk the previous evening. We spent a while in its magnificence, ducking into the gift shop amidst periodic showers before pushing the bikes through narrow cobbled streets then rejoining the bike path towards Hungary.

Old town and Bratislava Castle, 2006.  Photo credit: Wikipedia

Four countries in four days: Czech Republic, Austria, a night in Slovakia, and now Hungary. Its mindboggling. The flurry of languages, swapping currency, with only glimpses of cities and countryside. We love our slow mode of travel, and yet there is so much more out there than we have time to explore.

Todays route was away from the river. Light rain teased the smell of sage from the roadside, immediately reminding me of central Oregon. Eventually the moisture let up. Navigating the Slovakian and Hungarian bike route is a test of patience and map reading. Gone are dedicated bike lanes. We pedal small country roads and use a fan-like Magyar/English dictionary. German is also widely spoken, fortunately, so we get by with simple words. Campingplatz steers us in the right direction for evening accommodation.

The Hungarian Florint exchanges at 101 to one U.S. dollar. Andy and I are delighted to be back among cheaper lodging with the nightly fee only 410 florints.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

When Garage Sales Reap Rewards

People place "Free" signs on items all the time, leaving their "trash" for others to pick through. Sometime ago I stumbled on a 1980s Shogun bike. Since it was near my workplace and I was pedaling myself, I continued on and my boss and I went back with his truck to retrieve the bike and store in his garage until the next time I drove a car. I wasn't interested in the bike per se, but the handlebars and tool bag. I also stripped the pedals with toe clips also—I could picture a use for those later. I love this Cannondale wedge bag. It's just the right size for tools, rag, and oil—all I need when traveling or touring. It comes with straps to hook it under the seat, though I often shove it in a pannier. I donated the rest of the bike to Bike Recycle. I knew they could do their magic and get it running again, providing someone with a sweet, steel-framed ride.

I've found all sorts of stuff this way, like a bike rack and fleece coat.

But the most recent treasure came from a garage sale. At least once a month I tootle on my bike with the purpose of following Garage Sale signs. It's the thrill of the hunt. I don't usually have any particular things in mind, other than to look. I straddle my bike if it's on a lawn, deciding if something captures my eye enough to get off and investigate. If they offer outdoor gear, that's an immediate dismount and whack the kickstand kind of perusing.

For a dollar—yes, one dollar—I got a trekking pole. It's made in Austria (EMS brand), expands to double it's size, and has the most comfortable handle. I was giddy. For one dollar I would have my own hiking pole for the hut-to-hut part of our adventure. I could leave it behind, should I need the space later, and not think much of it. But, because of how nice it is, I'll probably bring it home. Did I tell you it only cost one dollar?

What kind of bargains have you found at garage sales and giveaways?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Squash & Panniers - An Unlikely Couple

I am often the recipient of nature's bounty. I get tomatoes, cucumbers, yellow squash and zucchini. I do put my foot down on baseball bat-sized zucchini though; it can't be longer than 16". My cheapo Delta panniers have withstood all kinds of loads—veggie runs included. I'm impressed. These are the same panniers I will take with me to France. After a couple short tours with them, I know they'll be adequate. They could stand a wash, especially after several years of commuting. That's next week's project, plus I'll blast them with waterproof sealant. 

One yellow squash fit inside one bag. The other looks like a nose sniffing for his lost friend.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Downhill all the Way

Photo credit: Edward Enfield
I love this whimsical drawing. This guy is clearly enjoying his ride through back roads filled with sunflowers. I also like his minimalist approach, with leather pannier, baguette sticking out behind, and a little duffle bag up front—it's all one needs to enjoy a trip on two wheels.

Photo credit: Edward Enfield
Though I'm taking Downhill all the Way along with me on my trip I couldn't resist a peek inside. But I shouldn't I found I started laughing right away. It's Mr. Enfield's account of cycling the width of France, and as he puts it, from Le Manche to the Mediterranean. It was hard to put down. I scanned the book to get a feel for the prose. It's chocked full of these delightful illustrations too. It'll be very appropriate for our lady trio to read while we're pedaling, but the only problem is: it's too short. I'll bring another interesting novel—if I have room. Fortunately, Edward Enfield has written many other cycling books. I'll keep this author in mind.

One week until departure...

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Take Stock in Bikes

Playing around with my retirement account, I've come out ahead on some investments and lost on others. What's become clear is that I do much better when I listen to my gut. I look around—here and in Canada where I am a frequent traveler—observe what people buy, are excited about, the general trend in the economy. I'm not a stock broker, nor am I an avid reader of financial magazines. In fact, I dislike them. There are too many facts and figures that turn my brain to pudding. So, I don't even go there.

I listen to my inner voice. Local stocks have served me well. People love purchasing on the Internet. I've found success with ventures there. And a while back I dipped my hand into Shimano. If you are a bike rider you may know that Shimano has equipped medium and low end bikes with components since Suntour left the market in the 80s. In fact, Shimano graces 70% of bikes (or is that 70% of most bikes?), plus dabbles in fishing and golfing. You get the picture. They have a commanding presence in the bicycle industry. And, because of renewed interest in cycling for recreation and commuting, I believed the stock was poised for growth. A year into this investment, the stock is doing very well.

When I recently investigated into the next promising bike-related stock, I came up short. Either companies are privately held or on a foreign exchange or part of an unwieldy conglomerate—by that I mean the bike portion was a minuscule slice of their pie. I like the idea of bike share programs. They are growing in popularity. Yet they may be too small to be bought out by a larger company, paving the way for investors, leaving no chance for a little fish to swim in their pond.

As I continue researching stock, it's still heartwarming to watch the proliferation of riders outside my door. I just overheard a neighbor girl pedaling with a friend. She was explaining how easy it is to ride to the waterfront and place your bike on the free shuttle bus to come back uphill. It's instances like that that have me firmly believing the biking trend will pedal onward and upward.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Austria - Nakedness and the Donauradweg

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Click here for the Introduction.

Set of maps that helped us navigate the route from Vienna to Budapest.
 70 miles Thursday, September 8

As we set off, pedaling the bike path along the Danube river in the cooler morning (days had been rather warm), I noticed how smoothly and quietly my bike felt beneath my feet. Finally. We were 100.00 poorer, yet the peace of mind from a repaired and updated bike (all 36 rear spokes were replaced plus the installation of a new bottom bracket) had been worth every penny.

Weve picked up a wonderful map of the Donauradweg (Danube bike path). Though it is in German, it covers a route across the entire width of Austria, and had we known, we wouldve headed directly there and been able to follow more than our intended route from Vienna to Budapest. A group of folks my parent's age had just completed the stretch from Passau to Vienna. They highly recommended that itinerary and stayed in hotels. Because of frequent accommodation, including gasthouses, youth hostels, etc. you do as little or as much as you want. And because it follows the river, it is flat. It seemed like heaven on wheels. In fact, as we searched the map it was clear that traveling eastward past Vienna, our first day, was bereft of frequent campsites. Later, it looked more promising.

Vienna (Wien) and eastward on Donauradweg, marked in green.

As we neared Vienna we crossed the Donau to cycle the main path through a park. And it seemed we had a choice of upper and lower levels. For several miles there was a single lane by the water, a level of picnic tables, then an upper more main trail that had "Rad weg" signs (bicycle way).

We tooled along, pumping against an increasingly hot headwind, thinking nothing of a few topless women sunbathing. Indeed, we'd gotten used to campers walking to restrooms in only a t-shirt and underwear. But as the sun worshippers increased, the clothing decreased until everyone except us was nude. Andy and I were uncomfortable, clearly in the middle of a nudist park, and yet there was nothing to do but continue on. We rode the lower level until bronze bodies were, literally, littering the pathway.

After a while the nudists became a road hazard and we found ourselves weaving, avoiding them like potholes on a New England road. We retreated to the upper level where we were able to observe. All ages and all sizes reclined on a towel or chair, picnicking. Some, we thought, were better off leaving their clothes on. By 2 p.m. it seemed a quarter of Viennas population were basking on the grassy banks or swimming in the Danube River. And, as it was only Thursday, and with the proximity to downtown Vienna, we wondered if some folks bathed on their lunch hour.

Its a startling contrast to prim and proper Americans. The Austrians were obviously at ease, scratching body parts Andy and I wouldnt touch clothed in a public place. And, they climbed to the upper level to the restaurants, lining up to buy drinks. The inhibition startled me, and yet was refreshing too. Not that I was ready to stop and undress, but I found it curious. We passed several cafes where the patrons were brown from head to toe, relaxing on white lawn furniture. I jerked my handlebars to avoid a man who quickly turned to a restaurant. All I could think of was I didn't want to flatten him. I know my German would have failed me, not to mention my embarrassment!

In a less congested area we stopped for a quick snack. Then we left and soon after I realized Id left my bike gloves behind. A few minutes later, I returned to Andy where he gave me that you did it on purpose smile.

Parts of the marked Donauradweg leave the Danube for long stretches; we bicycled on a levy, elevated from the ground on either side. In areas the route turned to smooth gravel or a two-lane tire-wide track.

Bratislava, capitol of Slovakia.

Then we crossed the Slovakia border, aiming for a campground. I exchanged $20 of Austrian currency, enough for camping. But then the sky was turning dark; car headlights illuminating city streets. With the campsite 4-5 miles further, fortune smiled upon us in the guise of a youth hostel in downtown Bratislava, Slovakia's capitol city.

Entering Slovakia.

And they had a private room left! Our bicycles are locked away. We're in an old student housing dorm room, complete with two bunks, toilet, shower, sink, and desk.

As we ate peanut butter curry on rice (a favorite meal) washed down with a small bottle of Austrian red wine, we're gazing upon the city from the 7th floor. Street noise is a dull murmur. We spy part of the castle on a hill, a fortress cradling the city below. Now its all lit up in golden glory. And overhead, a crescent moon cups a shower of stars. We are tired from a long day in the saddle, the wine numbing our tourist legs, ready for nothing more than a good night's sleep.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

A Feathered Friend

The loft resembles a light down sweater as opposed to a down comforter.
 I contemplated the more expensive but warmer version and realized
 it would've been nearly as heavy as my old synthetic companion.
In my quest to lighten adventures, I purchased my first down sleeping bag. I only intended to investigate at the first store, but the 1.5 lb weight, the compact packability, and the price was too hard to resist. Birthday gift money covered 95% of the cost, easily justifying the expenditure. The new bag comes with a compression bag and over-sized storage sack.

I'm ecstatic with the tiny package. It mimics the inflatable mattress size to the right.
I'll be able to pack sleeping bag and pad into one small pannier, plus room for other things.
A feather-filled sleeping bag is new territory for me. If the 40 degree rating holds true then it will cover most of my summer camping needs, replacing the worn Northface Cat's Meow. And, if the thermometer dips lower in the near future, I may even get a chance to test its merit before the European trip. But I'm not holding my breath with the way this summer's been.

With two successful lightweight bike tours already, on the Trek and Miyata, I'm looking forward to more of the same. It'll be interesting to see how we provision rented bikes on the Provence tour.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Did You Know...about the Gold Bike?

I can't imagine getting this baby dirty. Photo credit:

Just when I thought I'd seen everything, along comes this ornate specimen: a gold bike with crystal lugs. Whoa. It's pretty flashy. Not my idea of a practical bike, but that's not its intent, I'm sure. I don't suppose you'd take it out for a spin, even on the Olympic oval. But...if someone said to, well, how could I resist?

So, who buys a bike like this: the eccentric, the well -to-do, a collector? I guess if you've exhausted your charity allowance, why not purchase extravagance, especially if you're a bike aficionado?

 How utterly divine...Photo credit:

The back-story: this limited edition track bike is by Aurumania, a Scandinavian design company who uses gold on functional items to create an exquisite, ethereal effect. This is their first product. One of ten has already sold. Really. More story at

So if you have a spare 80,000 Euros, go for it. With the Euro's current exchange rate and lagging U.S. economy, who knows...investing in gold and crystals might be the next best thing.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Perfect Timing

They say timing is everything.

I couldn't agree more...

Boaters commonly spend the night moored off North Beach.
...especially when it comes to sunsets.

On the left there is a bulbous, ghost-like cloud,

Coast Guard harbor.
while to the right the sun is perfectly poised for sleep. Ah, bike rides a la sunset...

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Chicken Descents

Photo credit: Simple Life Journey
As a child I was a cautious rider. I bypassed the dirt hill jumping that the neighborhood boys delighted in, coming back scraped and bruised, proudly wearing a smile. I cruised with friends, up and down driveways, back and forth on the dead end road. I never purposely skidded like many children, testing brakes, seeing who could lay the longest black line on the asphalt. Then, I was more like my oldest boy, enjoying the outdoors as opposed to my younger son who will ride a skateboard headfirst down the hill in front of our home, just for the thrill. I cringe at the thought.

And so my tentative physical personality carried over into adulthood. I tried rock climbing, but didn't like the concentration it required. Wedging fingers and feet into tight, knuckle scraping cracks and hanging from ledges wasn't my idea of exercise. Or fun. Cycling aside, I love hiking, cross country/back country skiing, and swimming. They can be solitary endeavors or shared with a friend. It's not competitive. It can be as difficult or  as easy as you define, all within the realm of individual comfort.

All this brings me back to my big outdoor love: riding a bike. Over the years and thousands of miles I've ridden—across the country and around the world—I'm a chicken on descents. I dislike screaming downhill. Tried it, yes, but it's rationale escapes me. I can only go as fast as I am capable of stopping or slowing within a reasonable amount of time. People pass me. All the time. I can't handle the speed, for fear of toppling out of control on an unforeseen crack, dead animal, sandy shoulder—whatever. And the fear of a car zipping dangerously close just as I'm flying, well, that would put me over the edge.

So if you pass me on a hill, I'll be the one gingerly pumping the brakes.
So be it.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Austria - Vienna Sights

Follow New Posts in the Around The World series on Mondays.
Click here for the Introduction.

Wednesday, September 7

The campground is a 30 second walk to the Donau River. Last night we strolled on the path beneath the stars. We reflected on our accomplishment and trials, pedaling from bicycle/English friendly Netherlands across clean and ordered Germany, navigating the roughened former East Germany, surviving poor Czech villages set amidst the most breathtaking scenery and now back to a cleaner, bike path friendly environment. I welcomed the change.

Today, we’d decided to stay an extra night. We needed a break from the seat after a week’s toil, plus I left my crippled bike in the care of an English speaking bike shop mechanic. I left directions to rebuild the wheel after they suggested it was the only way to insure its stability. The Trek will also get an updated bottom bracket, the cartridge type. I was confident and relieved - finally the bike would function properly for the next leg to Budapest.

Then we went to Vienna. The train was easy to navigate then Andy and I switched to the metro for a straightforward ride into city center. We surfaced, blinking into sunshine on a busy street, like a chipmunk peeping above ground.

I neglected to label this one. Any ideas?
For the first time in a metropolis, we walked without a specific goal. Baroque-styled buildings mingled with offices, coffee shops, banks; bustling office workers and tourists filling the streets. Like any urban environment there was a lot of asphalt, concrete and stone. Vienna felt a bit claustrophobic, but that’s likely due to city-overload on our part after visiting Paris, Amsterdam, and Prague, all within a month. We only spent a couple hours on foot before retreating to Tulln.

Burgtheater (National Theater)
But our rambling coincided with an opportune moment. As we rounded a corner we stopped. Leather suited policemen on motorcycles puttered in and surrounded a building. Chauffeurs stood next to Mercedes, obviously waiting for someone. Then army personnel stood at attention, their green helmets and holstered guns prominently displayed, guarding the same structure. We lingered on the sidewalk. A reporter carrying a TV camera on his shoulder trotted closer to the massive structure (later identified as the Hofburg Palace), shouldering a TV camera.

A few minutes passed. Salutes erupted from under the carport. Soldiers stood erect, walking police shuffled about, talking into radios, while a small crowd of suited men briskly traveled the sidewalk near us, their entourage of guards and bodyguards scanning the gathering crowd.

And then they were gone.

Andy and I swapped bewildered looks. Obviously, an important person or persons went by. Andy asked a lingering reporter. It was the Austrian president and Hungary’s prime minister. As the reporter put it, “Austria and Hungary have been aligned for years. Since the passing of communism from Hungary, its prime minister has been after the president for money. Austria is a well off country.”

With that fascinating reference and scene etched in our minds we continued on, wondering exactly which two men were the VIPs.

Exterior of Saint Peter's Church, tightly packed within Vienna's
towering buildings. Photo credit: Wikipedia
We also went inside tiny Saint Peter’s Church. The building’s 1700’s Baroque stone exterior was capped with a green dome, and squeezed between taller structures. It was the classic case of ancient building surrounded my newer construction. There is something about churches that I find inviting: admittance is free, often filled with surprises, and the quiet space relaxing amidst chaotic city life. Inside, the compact space was filled with a mass of golden statues. It was a feast for the eyes. Arched ceilings adorned with paintings, dazzling every space overhead. The pews were solid benches flanked with elaborate carvings of clustered heads, animals, and saints.

Interior of Saint Peter's Church. Photo credit: Wikipedia
Common with other Catholic churches, there are special side chapels behind the main altar. We explored further, surprised by glass caskets with skeletons perched inside. But these weren’t just any skeletons. It was a shrine to martyrs or parish priests from what we could discern from the pictures and German inscriptions. The head was covered in elaborate costume; ribs wrapped in ornate jewels; feet clad in velvet boots. The entire skeleton was beautifully encased, the whole effect rather gaudy, yet mysteriously enchanting.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

A Rumbling... Come On, Rain!

Amidst our second summer heatwave, I rode home the other day beneath thunder and dark skies. Humidity, combined with 90F degree temperatures, are an oppressive mix. I hoped for a rain shower, but only a few drops fell. It was tantalizing.

Fragrant cornfields.
I kept looking over my shoulder at the beautifully clustered clouds—a storm I hoped would eventually come—when the cornfield nearby aroused my senses. There is a time every summer when the tall stalks are ripening; the fragrance is like steaming ears of husked corn. The smell signifies the essence of Vermont farming to me, and despite what I suspected was a dry year, has been prime for growing and harvesting corn. 

I kept pedaling towards home. The sky still echoed it's beautiful, longed-for music. I listened for the wet crescendo. My dad refers to a thunderstorm as,"God is moving furniture." Unfortunately, by the time I got home, the sofa and tables never fell through the roof. I changed and dove into the neighbor's pool.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Did You Know...about The Leap of Faith?

Two men ride penny-farthings in Los Angeles, California, 1886. Photo credit: Wikipedia
I have a fascination with high-wheelers. Because of its monstrous front wheel, the absurd perch in the saddle, and it's significant role in America's ridership/bicycle manufacturing heyday, this bike holds a special place in my heart. The multi-spoked big wheel also makes for an intriguing icon—recognizable the world over.

But the bizarre and unfortunate aspect of the penny-farthing is the rider sits over the front axle at an ungainly height. When the front wheel hits a rock or rut (remember, roads were not paved) it was common to be vaulted forward. Riders died from these "headers". What's also odd is in lieu of this extreme hazard, the bicycle quickly gained an audience; clubs were formed, races held. High-wheelers were even ridden around the world.

To counteract the high-wheeler's peril, riders coasted down hills with their feet over the handlebars, ready to leap should an obstruction pose a problem. Can you imagine doing that on every pleasure ride?

Students of Chalmers University of Technology in GothenburgSweden,
riding a penny-farthing and a quadruplet 
bicycle during the Chalmers Cortège of 2006.
Photo credit: Wikipedia
Even with the danger, I'd like a go on a big wheel bike. I may fall, get bruised or—heaven forbid—rocket over the wheel like an Olympian gymnast (okay, maybe not that gracefully), but at least I'll have satisfied my curiosity.

Have you ever ridden a penny-farthing? If so, what was it like?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Ode to the Rag Bag

In my effort to keep three bikes clean and performing smoothly, it's necessary to have something at hand to wipe with. In the garage, hanging near my bikes, are two bags chucked full of rags. T-shirts work perfectly. I raid my own drawers for old or holey t-shirts. But that alone doesn't fulfill my needs as I tend to be fastidious. When the supply runs low I raid my children's dressers, extracting their too small, stained, or unfavored garments. Of course, that also leads to cleaning out their rumpled piles—a side benefit.

Also inside the sack are zipties, my oil can, and extra plastic flowers for decorating the girly bike.

What do you use to clean the bike?