Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Rewind

As 2013 draws to a close I reflect on how lucky I am to be wife and mother, friends with two awesome local ladies—whom I wish were cyclists—and one faraway friend that in spite of 3000 miles between us we share a bond that remains forever close. She is a cyclist. I am daughter to wonderful supportive parents who've contributed countless hours watching our boys so I have the opportunity to strike out on my own or go on long distance rides with my husband. I am surrounded by love.

Cycling in 2013 was a year of firsts.
It was unplanned, but I rode every month of the year, starting with a ride in January during a typical Vermont thaw.

Chasing Mailboxes' Errandonnee Challenge took me out my comfort zone. Like a bear coming out of hibernation, I pedaled to complete errands on sunshine-filled, cold February days.

This is the first year I complete a record three bike overnights. Yay!
Elmore State Park, A Simple Family Overnight, and 3 Ferry Bike Overnight.

A new bike enters the stable: Peugeot UO 14.

A first: Local Motion presents Womens Ride Series. I help women learn how to patch and change a tire. In September I lead a Garage Sale Ride.

We start GAPCO in downtown Pittsburgh at Point State Park.
I check another item off the bucket list: riding GAPCO, otherwise known as Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal.

It was the first time I failed to ride 3000 annual miles, which initially caused some trepidation. However, I had put too much emphasis on achieving a predetermined number of miles. Yes, it's nice to have a goal, but falling short is not failure. What matters is that I'm proud of my firsts in 2013.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Ride the Divide Movie Review

2010 film. Photo credit: IMDb
I had the pleasure of seeing this special documentary recently (and no, it is not new). It chronicles several riders on their first attempt (and some folks already acquainted) with the rigorous challenges of racing The Great Divide Trail. Heart wrenching and heartwarming, with spectacular scenery, it gives you glimpses into the physical and emotional hardships of such an endeavor, whether it's racing or enjoying the divide on tour. If you love adventure, mountain scenery, or camping in the wild, don't miss this flick. I saw it on Netflix.

Friday, December 27, 2013


Bikes on UVM campus are encased in 1/2" of ice.
A few days before Christmas an ice storm befell northern Vermont. We are fortunate that the air is still and crisp, preserving the fragile beauty—at least for now—even one week later. Ice ladened trees and branches are bowed, heavy; some rest precariously on power lines.

I walk by red-berry filled trees, intending to take branches to decorate holiday vase.
Branches are too fragile. I don't dare disturb them.
There are occasional cyclists negotiating the slushy roads, narrowed drastically from snow plows concerned with clearing only the automobile lanes. To be fair, it becomes a game: plows toss snow onto 3 foot wide city rights of way, burying sidewalk; sidewalk plows cut deep trenches, blocking driveways; residents and hired plows dig themselves out, often piling snow back onto curb edge—there is only so much space to place the snow. This morning I watched a city truck lead a yellow back hoe down our street; it's sole purpose to clear fire hydrants. Such is snow life in New England.

As happens this time of year, I feel sorry for abandoned bicycles left to the elements. Rusted chains, rims, frozen seats age a bike like nothing else can, yet I watch the fearless riders take to the streets studded tires or not. More power to them!

I have skiing on the brain. With 2" of powder barely covering icy backyards, I went out yesterday, immediately loosing balance, falling flat on my back. Hitting the ice made a huge noise (my husband later said he came running to the window because the sound shook the house!). I yelled, of course, laying there for a while staring at blue sky, taking stock of body parts before deciding I would live. Then I went on to enjoy sparkling runs through a shimmering, winter wonderland.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Greece/Turkey - Leaving, Culture Overload

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

Aboard a small Turkish ferry.
Thursday, November 3

Gusty winds woke me periodically. I looked to make sure my belongings were still between me and the wall, turned over, tucked the loose ends of the sleeping bag beneath my legs and settled down again. A cooler breeze lifted my bangs. I realized we were somewhere out in the open Aegean Sea.

At 4 a.m. voices announced in four languages that we'd arrived at Chios. Andy and I rolled from the boat. It was too early for shops to open. We made coffee, ate cereal as the Turkish sunrise glowed orange-red, revealing a flat landscape, ethereal, alluring. An unknown country captivates us – Turkey even more so because it would be the eastern most country in Europe for us and our first experience with Muslim religion.

We spent the day on errands: buying food, round-trip tickets to Cesme, Turkey, locating a Greek-English translation book (long overdue as we'll return to Greece later), and to our surprise are unable to convert Greek drachmas to Turkish currency. The tourist office frowns on the money, “it's worthless”, and recommends leaving it behind upon our return.

Since arriving on Greek soil, it was easy to overlook the first disparaging remarks against the Turkish people, but unfortunately animosity runs deep, often spilling over into conversation. I imagine it's difficult to let go of ingrained hostilities, fueled from early Ottoman Empire strife, inflamed during Greek independence, to current Cyprus war and disputed fishing territory. As U.S. citizens we've been insulated from war for nearly 200 years on our own soil, whereas in parts of Europe it bubbles beneath the surface, never so evident as on our Grecian travels.

As we go through Greek custom formalities, I recount to Andy a run-in with a overly friendly Greek man. I scribbled in our journal, passing the time while Andy was away on errand. The man had been friendly at first, but eventually it becomes evident he wants more than conversation. I point at the ring on my hand, which didn't dissuade his intentions, until I raise my voice and insist he leave me alone. Afterward, I kept glancing over my shoulder, waiting for my husband's return.

Cesme harbor, Turkey. Photo credit: Ferryto.ie
The Turkish ferry had arrived by 11 a.m., but sat in the harbor for several hours before it's application was accepted. It seems par for the course in Greek-Turkish relations. Fortunately, we'd been forewarned. We arrive at 3.pm., pay $12.00 each in Greek port taxes, and board the small ferry boat after 4 p.m.

The captain is a short, smiley, gray-haired man who, after helping lift bikes inside, shook hands in a fun way. I copied him, dancing around with our fingers. We laughed. He welcomed us on board. No need for language translation.

Andy and I sit top-side, befriending an American lady who has resided in Izmir for fourteen years. She was accompanied by a French and New Zealand women. Every 3 months the trio spends a day in Greece, applies for another 3-month visa, pays requisite $20.00 Turkish tax, and get their passports re-stamped, repeating the process when necessary. The American vows that living in Turkey is Asia's best kept secret.

During our conversation, the captain appears bearing a tray full of saucers holding tiny glasses of sweet black tea. I smile at the captain. I am overwhelmed. After he leaves, I exclaim my wonderment to the ladies. They tell us the Turkish people are very hospitable and love to care for you. The ladies ease our transition with helpful tidbits: Islam is primary religion, replacing Christianity in the Byzantine area; call to prayer occurs several times a day; only men go to Mosque; women pray at home. Campgrounds are probably closed, but suggests pansiyons (pensions) which are very cheap, approximately 10.00 USD. Turkish lira fluctuates on a daily basis so don't change more than 100.00 at a time.

The boat pitches sideways across the ocean rollers. In spite of the short hour ride I grow nauseous and concentrate on the horizon for the remainder of our journey. The sun sets as we enter Cesme's port. Islam's call to prayer sounds like a buzzing chant, emits from loudspeakers atop 2 or 3 mosques, enveloping the small city. I am excited, nervous, frightened and mesmerized. I am unprepared when a shipmate, only ten feet from me, drops anchor; the chain lowers as a deafening rattle, echoing, and reverberating throughout the wooden hull. I jump and nearly let out a scream.

Andy and I pass through customs, pay the 20.00 per person fee – new practice as of October 1 – from our U.S. currency stashed in neck pouches. Our travel companions point us toward lodging before heading off to Izmir. In the dark we observe shops are open with very few pedestrians. Andy inquires at one hotel, but 60-65.00 USD is too steep. Later we learn the hotel's historical significance, providing overnight accommodation to caravanserai’s many years ago. A helpful teenager directs us to a pansion. Sure enough, after checking the room with queen-size bed, private bath, balcony, priced at 250,000 lira (7.50 USD) we accept and count ourselves lucky. The young man bows, refusing any token of appreciation other than our smiling gratitude.

Before relaxing however, we must go out, locate a travel agency/exchange business to convert American Express travelers checks into local currency to pay for room, food, and a few days of travel. Again, we are offered tea, but respectfully decline, preferring to retreat to the pansiyon. I am happy to learn that I am not the only one who suffers from culture shock. Andy, normally upbeat and adaptable, also needs time to adjust and regroup to a strange, intriguing country – especially thrust ashore in darkness. We collapse in bed by 9 p.m., mentally exhausted, though excited to explore Cesme in daylight, prepared to venture on bikes the following day.

Friday, December 20, 2013

GAPCO - Antietam Creek to Turtle Run

Early risers often capture the best photos. Photo credit: Patty
Thursday, September 26, 36 miles.

It's day seven on the road. I woke to heavy fog, condensing into droplets on the tent. For a moment I thought it was raining, but I began to understand that our proximity to the Potomac meant moisture every morning—it was only a matter of how much.

The photo also shows the tunnel effect: corridors of old trees line the trail.
It's a pleasantly warm morning and gloves are removed soon after we set out. I pick up a gnarly-looking fruit, curious about it's bumpy texture. The flora and fauna are often unfamiliar to New Englanders—one attraction of the C&O Canal—so I stash the "fruit" on my front rack, determined to ask a local its identity.

Andy spied this old building with two stone ovens, off trail through the trees. We presumed it was for ash, coke, or some such industry that took advantage of canal transport.

At Harpers Ferry there isn't easy access across the river to town. We aren't comfortable leaving our bikes locked at the racks out of sight. Instead we lug heavy bikes up several stairs and walk the bridge. Andy does double duty, returning to help Patty with her load.

A lovely sycamore tree.
Harper's Ferry is Civil War central—at least it felt like it to us. You could easily spend an entire day, attending walking tours, reading historical signs, peek inside rebuilt shops, peruse museums. For us it was a chance to relax in sunshine, go on a restaurant foodie fest, and enjoy river views. I gobble a much anticipated hamburger while the vegetarians slurp milkshakes.

A museum attendant identifies the green fruit as an Osage orange. I'd heard of the name and because it's inedible though not poisonous, I cut into it out of curiosity. It's pungent with a hint of orange scent, and leaves a weird sticky residue on my Swiss Army knife, which oddly remains until returning home where I can properly clean the knife with detergent and scrubbing pad.

Fall colors are just beginning near Harpers Ferry. Photo credit: Patty
It's tough to leave the sun and picturesque confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, but onward we go, retracing the bridge-walk past tourists, hefting the bikes again to river level.

Monocacy Aqueduct. Photo credit: Patty
It's a leisurely pace. Gone is the impetus to travel 50+ miles—we only have 60 total to complete over the next 2 days, ending in Washington, D.C. The only stressful part comes in Brunswick. Being the largest town before camping we search for a food store with directions "left to route such and such, turn right, not far". However, the ride is a mile of continuous uphill on a busy road which seems to be endless, though luckily there is an 8-foot wide lane reserved for cyclists. The perception of the C&O Canal is that it's flat—and it is for those staying in hotels, eating restaurant food, one can stay close to trail for those amenities—but for campers, it can be a hilly detour to locate a grocery store.

Monocacy Aqueduct's seven arches. Photo credit: Patty
We stop to admire Monocacy Aqueduct's seven arches. It's the longest aqueduct en route at over 500 feet. It's also our first encounter with C&O Canal's Bike Patrol. There are many volunteers who ride sections—this guy's intention is to go further from D.C. where there is less likely to be patrols.

Andy admires a humongous tree.
An example of trail near turtle heaven (boggy canal on left). Photo credit: Patty
A artsy painted bike in bike-friendly downtown Brunswick.
Photo credit: Patty

Patty and I pedal a brief few yards off trail at White's Ferry to watch the only remaining active ferry crossing on the Potomac. Interestingly, it's a cable ferry. The cable winds onboard as it comes toward us.

A mile later we camp at Turtle Run. By now Patty and Andy join me for water bottle bathing. A hair wash is on order too. And just in time for company. A lady cyclist pulls in. The woman is a D.C. tour guide who is out for a long weekend; it's her one overnight before rendezvous at a church retreat the following day.

Only picnic table with such message. Giggling, we presume it's not intended for us!
A bottle of wine, nice company, and two rousing games of Yahtzee is a fitting camping finale.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Anticipating the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail

Photo credit: Google Maps
Our little state of Vermont was named #2 as the healthiest state in the country. We are an outdoorsy population, have a world class teaching hospital, and a young population—albeit helped by a high concentration of college students—plus we're only a few hours away from major U.S.cities, Montreal included.

Skiing, water sports, and cycling attracts tourists. Bicycle tourism, especially, is growing. I expect broad support for Vermont's newest long distance pathway: the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail, can't be far behind.

Photo credit: Vermont Bicycle & Pedestrian Coalition
Long anticipated—and still a few years from completion—the 96 mile trail will connect Swanton in western Vermont to Saint Johnsbury in the east, making a virtually flat cross-state option. That's something to celebrate. The Green Mountains run North to South the entire length of the state—an imposing barrier to cyclists. The LVRT (Lamoille Valley Rail Trail) traverses small towns, through covered bridges, all on rail road grade surface.

A few sections are already complete. VAST (Vermont Area Snow Travelers) manages the LVRT and currently uses trail sections in winter. With cyclists pedaling it other times of the year, it can become a year-round playground.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Greece - Pireaus Bound (Three-Ferry Day)

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

42 miles - Wednesday, November 2

We set off by 8:30, knowing we have a busy day ahead. Congested roads lie between us and the busy seaport of Pireaus.

An hour later Andy and I are at the 100-year old Corinth Canal. In the distant haze a silvery elevated bridge carries most of the traffic. I slow as we approach the small one lane bridge reserved for local automobiles and pedestrians. It looks hazardous: we must ride narrow wood between steel rails. I try to negotiate the bridge, but I can feel my loaded bicycle slip sideways and I immediately dismount. Andy and I walk the rest of the way.

We are intrigued. Up the channel a huge ship's bow comes into view. It was then we spied signage indicating the bridge lowers underwater, cautioning travelers to slick travel conditions. An operator at the booth explains it's the only bridge like it in the world. It's too good to be true. We hang out for half an hour, watch the bridge descend, slapping the aqua waters before it's ripple image fades. It submerges 8 feet. A tugboat tows a medium-sized container ship past. I was thrilled to be privy to this man-made marvel.

It's a perfect sun-drenched Grecian day. We follow the waterfront National Road once again, pedaling by a stinky oil refining area. Sharp cliffs fall to the ocean. Sandy-colored mountains rise beyond the pollution.

We guess our way to a ferry that will bring us a short ways to the mainland – only tourist-oriented signs are in English. As we've discovered, even banks and post office lines aren't bilingual. We'll wait in one line only to find we need to stand in another to make a VISA transaction. I find the alphabet and language a daunting challenge.

In the bustling city docks of Salamina, white houses stair step up Perama's hillsides, our intended destination across the bay. From there we'll ride 10 k to Pireaus – sure to be crazy and noisy. Instead, we get lucky. A small ferry is docked. The blue paint on wooden stern is chipped from footsteps. The bald-headed captain, his last strands of hair a mere formality, hefts the front of my bike while I guide the back end, lowering our heavy bikes inside the cabin.

Andy and I climb to the deck for the 45 minute boat ride. Our tiny ferry putters by cruise liners docked for maintenance, rusty-hulled container ships, and tugs lugging barges. I smile. I think of my father and his love for anything marine-related. I picture his wide grin, his thinning hair whipped in the warm breeze, much like the ferry captain's.

I admire our captain's skills as he maneuvers into a long harbor, past Navy ships, a red and yellow Spiderline hydroplane boat, and good-sized white ferries to Greek islands, of which we would later embark.

On land again, my legs wobble for a few blocks, still compensating for a rocking boat. Pireaus is as expected for a busy seaport. My stomach tightens – signs, fishy smells, honking horns, and crowds walking, are all perils to two-wheeled travel. We expect Athens – only a few kilometers further – to be as hectic when we return in a month to fly to London in preparation for Asian travel.

We purchase tickets for an evening ferry to Chios, an island near the Turkish coast where another ferry will take us the last leg to Turkey. We get dinner food and roll the bikes on board two hours before departure. We are directed to put them at one end below deck. We lock them between two beastly smelling diesel trucks.

It was interesting to note the goods being ferried to the islands: house plants, rolled up carpets, vegetables, grain sacks, furniture, soda (Coke is king!), toilet paper, and an 8-foot stack of mailbags. Everything was packed tightly. Truck tops rested against black donut-shaped bumpers, cushioning vehicles should brakes let loose. Later, when we went to retrieve our bikes there was no way to see or reach the bike until half the trucks unloaded. They were safe and snug, locked against gray rails.

On board, above on the open deck, we lug backpacks and grocery sacks. It was our first opportunity to observe Turkish families, swaddled in colorful printed loose cotton clothing. They were already asleep on blankets upon the hard floor. We step quietly past them.

While we wait for the boat to move Andy and I perch on two orange life jacket containers and make our Greek salad. We watch a hazy sunset. We are excited. The day had held many surprises, not to mention the upcoming visit to another country. We'd pedaled 42 miles yet with the help of 3 ferries we'd go 300 miles by the time the ferry docks in Chios.

The boat rumbles beneath us and begins to move from port. Like the ship that brought us from Italy to Greece, this is another overnight ferry, this time traversing the Aegean Sea. We pull out bedding, position ourselves head to head atop life jacket boxes, and plan to get some sleep.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

More Miyata 610 Love

The Miyata 610 has developed a cult following—the frame alone was exceptional for a 1980s stock modeland if you were to purchase a frame of comparative caliber today it would cost 1000.00. Yikes! So it's no surprise that folks are restoring and reselling the 610.

I am more interested in the bike's value to people for it's sweet ride, who might still have the quality rack that came with it, and pamper the bicycle because, like me, they can't bear to part with it. So while the Miyata 610 Love blogpost continues to rank high in my statistics, it seems a fitting tribute to continue the story. Without further adieu, welcome to part two.

1981. Christov_Tenn

Flat bars, V-brakes. Cycle Logical 

A lovely green color, found by djk762 in mint condition.

1982. Another one-owner beauty, fitted with 700c wheels. AZ on BikeJournal

And for a Flickr set of sweet photos (all photos are rights reserved), see SaddleUpBike.

A always, if you know of any other loved Miyata 610s, contact me and I'll add them to this collection.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Miyata Fender Blues

Left - kitchen upon initial tinkering. Right - kitchen 5 hours later.
At least it's over. I can smile, store the Miyata and know it's in good shape for Spring commutes. I can say that now. Now that the marathon kitchen session is behind me.

There is nothing quite like installing fenders to test my patience. It's a project that's never cut and dry, but becomes complicated, especially on a 30 year old touring bike. It reminds me of excitement and angst over new computer software. One thing leads to another and before you know it you've spent hours configuring existing software to play nice with the new guy. It's never simple, much like fitting fenders.

What a grimy mess beneath the kickstand!
First off, I removed the kickstand. Hidden underneath were bolt and screws used to secure the old fender (broken on GAPCO trip), which was then easy to remove.

New fender hooks in place instead of using hardware. It's one less thing to worry about, though there will be more complications. I am a realist when it comes to fenderamics.

Snaking the plastic fender under the rack and through the narrow seat stays was a bit difficult. The new tire had more profile than previous tires, but that's another issue altogether. For now, with patience, I connected rear fender stay to frame eyelet. I used the existing frame bolt, tightened it then noticed that it butts to lower rack bend—the place I always hook my panniers. (Fenderamics anyone?) Fortunately, I located older hooks, once used for panniers with O-shaped attachments. That'll have to do for alternative latch positions.

Loop P-clamp around rack then bolt to fender brace. Now why didn't I think of that?
With both ends of the rear fender secured, difficulty lay in raising the fender an adequate height, allowing enough clearance between fender and tire. It wasn't possible with provided plastic clamp (hard to see in picture) to attach in the normal frame hole. I was beside myself, muttering, which fortunately my husband heard and came to my rescue. (Whine loudly enough and they will come!) Give me any sewing problem and I can fix it. When it comes to building or reconfiguring mechanical things I need help. My husband is pretty handy so he immediately came up with a wonderful solution: use a P-clamp to "lift" the fender bracket in the exact point along the arc where it needed additional space. Secure around rear rack with bolt and screw. Done.

The genius saves the day -- again! 
Front fork clearance has been a long standing problem with this bike. Since I was dealing with existing fender, the only way to gain more space was to drill a lower hole into brace that bolts through frame. Or so I thought. I asked the household genius to do this for me because I despise power tools. Okay, a better word would be "afraid" of plug-in tools. With some wrangling over the work bench, trying to perfect the angle with drill, the genius decided bending the bracket closer to the fender would do the trick. It took a few twists with pliers. Visually, the bracket looked like it might work better. 

Before trying the genius's handiwork, I also clipped the jagged front end of fender and used the power grinder to smooth the cut. And yes, I sucked up to the power tool gods this one time, didn't freak out and smoothed out that baby quite nicely. You wouldn't know it had once been a mangled mess (see GAPCO - Day Two). 

One last look before putting the Miyata in storage. And yes, I have black rear fender and silver front one.
To put the revamped fender in practice, though, I first set about fixing a flat front tire—something I noticed had happened the day after I stopped commuting to work. I couldn't put the bike away for the winter without tending to that, which was why I ended up performing fenderamics in the first place. Like I said, one thing leads to another...

Tire patched, wheel back in position, and indeed tweaking front bracket cured the problem. The fender is a good four inches shorter, but from now on shouldn't drag/scrape/annoy me any more. Hallelujah!

Replace kickstand and I'm finally finished after five hours in the kitchen workshop—a record I hope stands for a long time.

What's your longest bike session?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Bundle Up and Go

Winooski River Bridge cameo.
Writing about my lack of inspiration got me off my duff. That, coupled with nasty weather that never materialized seemed like providence.

A views that inspires.
I took my mini tripod along and wore jeans—a rare piece of cycling clothing for me—but the snap decision to get outdoors meant I needed to go now, or else watching a movie was beginning to feel like a better option.

I noticed (look behind the handlebars) another monstrous house going up along Spear Street. 
Only two days later, I sprang aboard the Ross. I needed stability, extra baggage space for possible Christmas shopping, easier setup for lights. Plus, I love this bike. And contrary to what I might've said about eventually getting rid of her, well, I just can't until I explore more options to make her fit better.  A girl can change her mind...

Enjoying the Follett House holiday lights.
I was out past dark. It was a little creepy, what with tunnel vision, yet exhilarating too. White ice patches glowed along the shoreline—a sure sign the temperature was dropping. I discovered my headlight was inadequate in pure darkness, though I managed, safely slowing when I couldn't see a reasonable distance ahead. In spite of my caution however, I found myself atop icy puddles. It was fleeting and as long as I steered straight (holding my breath!) I was back on dry pavement in a heartbeat.

25F with footwarmers is doable on a bike. I just have to get myself out the door.