Thursday, February 27, 2014

Cheviot, My Love

Betty Foy. Both photos, credit: Rivendell
Reader Ryan brought the new Rivendell Cheviot bicycle to my attention. For years, I've been in love with the Betty Foy and now this orange beauty has lured me in, frame, handlebars, and all. To my eye, the Mixte frame looks exactly like the Betty, though that can't be, otherwise the Betty would now be available in an alternate color. Perhaps the Cheviot's wheel base is longer. Whatever the flavor of reason, like all Rivendell's bikes, the Cheviot has great utility.

Then again, maybe it's just the color.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Look What I Won!

The advertising and message is okay by me. I went on this VerMontreal 2011 ride,
 but never wanted to pay for the jacket. Funny how things turn out...
I was pretty tickled to win this cycling jacket in a raffle. It's a little flashy for my taste, but then again I'll be lit up like a Christmas tree when I start cycling to work this spring, which does have it's merit. What I love is the artsy pattern and—go ahead and laugh—it wasn't until I tried on the jacket that I noticed the apple graphic. And, I'd like to think it's a Macintosh. We're proud of our apple orchards here in Vermont, especially the iconic Macintosh, which thrives in our climate and when pressed into cider, well, my mouth's watering just thinking about it.

It's not too shabby from the back either. It has underarm zippers for ventilation and two-way front zipper. From a touring standpoint, I'm digging this jacket. It's lightweight and folds compactly. Considering I could've won a horn, blinkie lights, or beer glass, this is the best prize!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Summer in Andalusia - Movie Review

After falling in love with the adorable creature on My Neighbor Totoro and enjoying Ponyo I'm often game for other anime films. Enter my pick for this weekend: Summer in Andalusia (Vimeo), featuring Pepe, a likable Spanish bike racer riding in the Vuelta y Espana. It's a light-hearted look at Spanish culture, families supporting racers,  and contrast between two brothers who rode together as children but went their separate ways as adults. The only odd thing—at least to me—was listening to Japanese language (the film is made in Japan), while looking at a hot, arid Spanish landscape, and reading English subtitles. Nevertheless it's a worthwhile film, presented in a manageable timeframe—45 minutes.

After I finished the movie, I discovered there's a sequel: Suitcase no Wataridori (on Youtube, pick subtitles). Pepe is still racing, but deals with a Marco Pantani-esque character, briefly introduced in the first film. I'll watch the second film at another time.
  • Thursday, February 20, 2014

    Skiing on the Causeway

    Fall provides easy going riding on the causeway for beautiful lake and mountain vistas.

    But winter on the trail provides its own magic.

    Especially trading two wheels for two skinny boards. And if the surface is windblown? No worries, now that the lake is frozen. My husband and I vary the out and back trail, skiing sometimes at lake level, then across a bay, exploring a frozen marsh, then breaking trail through woods.

    Very few people venture onto the causeway in winter. I like being out there in the quiet, observing ice fisherman in the distance, and dreaming. Dreaming about that stealth overnight we'll get to this year, biking to the end of the trail, where a break in the barrier allows boat traffic to pass through, but we'll be the only ones there at dusk, ready to crawl in our sleeping bags, for a night under the stars, listening to the sounds of water all around.

    Tuesday, February 18, 2014

    A Friend Rides on Frozen Lake Champlain

    You gotta see this video. It's rare that Lake Champlain freezes over and a friend took advantage of riding on the lake. My hat goes off to him. Due to technical difficulties, you'll need to click on the link "Burlington just got bigger".

    Sunday, February 16, 2014

    Parking Bikes in Winter

    As the snowplow clears the latest snowfall from the roads, I've been pondering what it's like to be a winter cyclist, navigating less than ideal conditions. It's tough enough, traveling and sharing narrower lanes with vehicles. But what happens when a rider arrives at work or stops to do errands? Where do they lock their bikes?

    Walking around town, I've noticed that uncovering snowbound bike racks is the furthest from most business owner's minds. Whether it's city-owned racks or the YMCA, it seems that people aren't quite used to the idea of winter commuters—not to mention providing a safe place to lock bikes.

    How long until 3 feet of snow melts?
    So while some riders have abandoned their bicycles at racks—now buried beneath 3-4 feet of hard-packed snow—the same fixture is not available for use by others until the snow melts. Really. Racks remain buried until mother nature lends a helping hand.

    But getting back to businesses and parking. There is one place that treats cyclist the same year-round: City Market. They have covered bike parking right in the front of the store. In fact, it preempts car spaces, and if you present your Bicycle Benefits sticker upon checkout, you score a discount. How's that for celebrating bike commuters?

    On the other hand, I can think of two bicycle shops that have less than ideal parking, even for employees. I would think these particular businesses would be the first to encourage commuters—the least of which is a safe place to store their bikes. The first business provides two racks in front of their shop, which is great for customers, but employees are reduced to sharing the same racks. To their credit, racks are at least kept clear year-round. The second shop has no racks in front of the store, instead, preferring to offer a 50 foot line-up of bicycles for sale across the entire front of the store (usually in warmer weather). It's mystifying... I showed up one day and had to lock my bike to a tree. It was only later, when I exited out a side door, that I noticed one small rack against a windowless expanse of the warehouse-sized building. Another time, I discovered employees park their bikes outside a back door in a secluded spot with woods a few feet away.

    So, I propose that bicycle shops—you know who you are—set an example and offer inside accommodation for employee owned bikes. And, go one step farther and supply a rack in a visible location for your customers. This simple message goes miles towards promoting cycling as transportation.

    Friday, February 14, 2014

    Fat Bikes in the Olympics?

    Fat Bikes are allowed one day a year on Wisconsin's Birkebeiner ski trail.
    The Fat Bike Birkie doubles as this year's U.S. National Fat Bike Championship.
    Photo credit: Kelly Randolph on Travel Wisconsin
    I've been fascinated by the BBC recaps of daily Olympic events. I love the biathlon, snow boarding, skating; I even marvel at the tactical aspects of curling.

    But something is missing: the fat bike.

    Biking events, of course, are traditionally found in the Summer Olympics. Not too long ago BMX riding was added as a sport. I watched, fascinated with the bobbing heads of riders as they zipped around the dirt course. When the riders went airborne, well, what a fantastic spectator sport.

    This year the Winter Olympics introduced Slopestyle Skiing and Luge Relay as new venues. With the growing interest in fat bikes and competitions, and as our perceptions and perspectives change to accept that riding on snow is here to stay, then all things are possible. Is it so farfetched to imagine an Olympic snow bike event?

    Picture a biathlon on fat bikes or a bike-only loop course similar to a summer mountain bike event. Or, freestyle downhill. Fat bike polo, anyone?  The location could be a cross country course or ski slope after those respective events come to a close.

    What do you think? What Olympic fat biking events would you like to see?

    Tuesday, February 11, 2014

    Turkey - A Visit to Ephesus

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

    Sanctuary built upon Virgin Mary's last resting place. Photo credit: imaginative traveller
    Monday, November 7

    Included in the hostel accommodation, the proprietor's son, Harry, drives us plus another couple to Virgin Mary's House then to Ephesus historical site.

    We walked around a one story stone structure claimed to be Mary's last resting place. Rebuilt in the early 1900s, the dark edifice is non-descript, however, it's appropriate for Mary's humble lifestyle. There is strong evidence that she actually lived in Ephesus. Jesus placed the care of his mother to Saint John, whose basilica rests on a hilltop in Selcuk. Plus a woman in the 1800s had a vivid vision, pinpointing the exact location. 

    Amphitheater. Photo credit: Ephesus
    Library. Photo credit: Ephesus
    Ephesus is the main attraction. It's a well preserved city of buildings climbing up a hillside, once the heart of a thriving commercial seaport. We have to use our imaginations to picture a city perched on water; today the Aegean Ocean is approximately 5 kilometers due west. We walk down a mosaic road, which leads to a surprisingly intact 1,500 seat amphitheater. It's a veritable outdoor museum. Again, we tag along with an English speaking tour, a practice that reveals more historical information than otherwise gleaned from a guide book kindly loaned from our pansiyon. A tall columned library front remains, lending scale to this Roman city.

    Latrines at Ephesus. Photo credit: Ephesus
    Of particular amusement was a long row of toilets, a series of holes in a stone bench. We learned that a musician serenaded the users. It was also a place to swap gossip. I mused about how the Western world has placed so much emphasis on privy privacy that a group “effort” paints a comical picture. And of course, Daryl (other hostel traveler) and Andy posed on the toilets, clothed, but quite literally cheek to cheek while Anna and I took pictures.

    Back in town we bargained for produce and picked up other essentials. Our diet is sometimes a struggle. Bread is white. We consume yogurt, tahini spread, feta and Turkish cheese (I believe a mild sort of feta), fruit, and vegetables. On the way by a park we greet a man who's helping himself to a satsuma tree. He smiled and tossed two oranges to us. It's that type of friendliness that defines the Turkish people.

    Friday, February 7, 2014

    The True Winter Heroes

    Rider in Madison, Wisconsin. Photo credit: Michelle Stocker, The Cap Times
    I see brave souls, taking the lane, bundled up against the cold.

    They often ride without studded tires, on any style of bike.

    Getting from one place to another.

    Flashing lights, backpack, panniers, or messenger bag.

    The true heroes of winter are the everyday riders, braving the elements.

    Tuesday, February 4, 2014

    Aw, My Bikes are Dusty!

    Road through the Intervale. Crusty snow.
    So there you have it. I found lots of dust on my bike. But that's to be expected when it sits, snuggly beside my other bikes, like ducks in a row, stored on our back porch for a couple weeks. Or longer.

    Winter isn't regular riding time for me. Unless... Unless there's a lack of snow for skiing. And, I came up for air after pecking away at the computer, finally finishing a big homework assignment. Outside it's nearly windless and hovering near 30F. With an approaching storm, it's best to take advantage of a calm window of weather.

    Change into long underwear and tights, complete a cursory wipe down of my bike—in the kitchen, of course, where it's warm. Quickly oil chain, pull on my fake Ugh boots, warm gloves, pullover, headband, helmet, grab a handful of chocolate chips for energy, and head out the door before I change my mind.

    I immediately head to the Intervale for some quiet. Conditions could be bad there, but I'm in luck. I roll and bump over hard packed snow, pock marked from walkers and dogs. We haven't had significant snow for 3 weeks. The cross country trails are, sadly, bare in many places.

    A blue jay sweeps in front of my wheel, making me smile. Cool air. Sunshine. I feel alive again.

    I stop to navigate a tricky, narrow section of trail close to the Winooski River that overhangs the bank. I haven't seen the river frozen over like this in sometime. Peaceful. And, there's some kind of animal skeleton in the middle, on top of the ice. Something pretty big. But my hands are cold, so I bypass using the camera's zoom lens to figure out what it is. Or was.

    I get back on bare roads, quickly warming when I pedal faster again. Then head to the waterfront trail. In places many trees have been taken down in preparation for widening the trail this year. It looks kind of barren now. Utility poles are exposed, resembling a power company right-of-way. Adding width to the most popular pedestrian/bike trail in Vermont will have it's advantages. I'm pleased that this trail is such a boon to the area, attracting people from all over new England, and especially our Canadian neighbors. And for all of us locals who regularly use it.

    I am taken aback, excited as I near the lake. Ice! And lots of it. It reaches at least 3 miles west, towards New York.

    I detour to North Beach, Coffeenering #2's location, because I have to see the ice up close.

    If Lake Champlain is going to freeze, it happens in February. And it rarely occurs every year, more like 1 in 5. At my feet there's a ten foot swath of ice chips, then a big crack, then plates of ice as far as the eye can see. Sun is low, reflecting on the surface. An eerie sound, like  someone hauling a metal row boat over the ice, though it's muffled and happens randomly. That's the sound of ice cracking.

    The ice plates up close, resembling a glossy puzzle.
    As I near downtown, sun lowers and casts beautiful light on the lake's surface, shimmering on a rough, frozen section.

    And, amazingly, as I get to the boathouse, there are people skating, with others standing atop the rocky breakwater, a half mile off shore. I've thought about getting a pair of skates; this would've been the winter to use them.

    Saturday, February 1, 2014

    More Blog Love

    It's time to reacquaint readers with a new batch of blogging friends. Four of my initial 10 featured blogs no longer exist, however most of my second round of writers are still going strong. I'm pleased to share a good sampling of guy bloggers this time around.

    Trailer Park Cyclist
    "Life ain't that bad when you're happy with what you have." Tim's tagline says a lot about his take on everyday happenings and cycling. This Florida blogger has been around the block, but I've recently discovered his witty writing. Posts are few and far between so I tend to savor his rambling, lengthy posts. This is the only blog where I don't mind a lack of photos, because I'm absorbed in his lovely prose.

    Ryan's Rebuilds
    Ryan hails from Seattle and loves reconditioning old bicycles. Like Hugh, Ryan can't resist restoring old bicycles from yesteryear. He's especially fond of old Peugeots.

    Randy & Nova ride Kansas's rail trails. Randy tends the blog, a variety of bikes for himself and grandkids, shares a house full of bike kitsch (he beats me in that department), and makes some funny videos. He likes bike movies as much as I do.

    Pennine Pedalling
    Georgie loves pedaling hills. Georgie loves sharing landscape photos. Georgie resides in the English countryside.

    Chris rides dirt roads through little Texas towns and brews coffee in the wild, sometimes camping overnight in the most picturesque places.

    Derrick at family//bike//words does occasional bike overnights (sometimes with his boys) and tinkers with his fleet of mostly black-framed bicycles. He's the only cyclist I've come across that rides at lunch time, often toting a thermos of hot coffee and eats his picnic lunch in an interesting spot. I love photos of his bicycles propped against Kentucky's farm fences.

    Susan takes super photos of the natural world, especially when she's out tooling around western Massachusetts. She'd rather be cycling in France. (Me too, Susan.)

    Rebecca covers a lot of ground with her interesting array of bicycles. Her blog is fairly new, but her clear writing and varied topics have gained Velovoice lots of readership.

    Mary from Chasing Mailboxes D.C. is an upbeat and prolific writer and can endure mega miles on a bike. She, also, has quite a fleet of bicycles. Her Errandonnee and Coffeeneuring challenges are gaining in popularity.