Monday, March 31, 2014

A Trial Run

Narrow Dorset Street. Road edges are pretty clear.
It seems contradictory to practice riding to work, but my commute distance is long - 11 miles each way. Throw in a couple of good sized hills and a mile long dirt road at the end, which could be frozen at best or a muddy slog at worst, then folks may understand why it takes the right conditions for me to start off in Spring.

South Burlington is dramatically thinning tree lines. I wasn't sure why
 because power lines lined opposite side of street.
Riding around town is easy. Bringing home a sackful of groceries, no problem. However, I must gain some fitness. I acclimatize to longer bike seat time, preview crater-sized potholes on road's edge, and get a feel for what clothing I should wear because snowy fields cast a frigid dampness. I take all of this into account on my trial run. I rode partially to work, looping back towards the waterfront for my lake view fix.

South Burlington Bike Path, fortunately not on my commuting route

Lakeside bike path bridge. I ended up walking the snow packed sections.
Also not on my normal commuting route.
If all goes well, I'm aiming for riding to work this week. As in past years, I start out on the Trek (easiest on my body) and later on switch to the Miyata (faster tires).

If you don't commute in winter, what is your approach to getting ready for Spring?

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Dreaming of Spring

Photo credit: Local Motion's Facebook page
I stumbled on these photos of last year's Cycle the City event. That's me in pink fleece top, grinning from ear to ear as I ride beside my husband (in blue).

Photo credit: Local Motion's Facebook page
With an approaching storm, forecasting 2-6" of heavy snow in our region, I'm dreaming of warm, sunny days to come.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

What is the Heroic Era?

A lady is about to cross the street  in the 1928 Tour de France when the peloton comes
streaming through. Photo credit: The Guardian Photograph: Collection Laget

The more I read about the Heroic Era the more I like what what the Tour de France used to stand for: strength and perseverance. Resourcefulness was everything. You powered your own single speed machine, fixed it as best as you could, fed and clothed yourself, and struggled onward pedaling over mountain passes caked in mud or snow. Grit, determination, and self sufficiency were characteristics that earned respect.

That was when the race consisted of epic journeys, like in 1920 when Honore Barthelemy lost his eyesight after a crash where his eye was struck by a flint. He still finished the race. And went onto compete in more Tour de France events with a glass eye he removed when dust became a problem. Eugene Christophe broke his fork in 1913. Since outside assistance was forbidden, he rebuilt the forks, starting with raw tubing. At one point Christophe asked a local boy to operate the bellows, because his own hands were occupied with a hammer. Later he completed the race, but was docked two minutes because he had accepted help.

1920 Tour de France, 5000 km. I like that early routes circumnavigated France. 
Photo credit: Wikipedia
The early tour days remind me of how I view bike touring. You are pretty much on your own—granted not as much as early 1900s—but ingenuity and struggling up mountain passes relies on attention, wit, and pedaling for the long haul. There is immense satisfaction in unassisted accomplishment—much like what I imagine the heroic riders felt.  After the late 1920s, rules relaxed and derailleurs aided climbing and, sadly, performance drugs entered the scene. And by then, also tragically, several riders were lost to WWI. By the 1950s riders were sponsored and supported, completely changing the face of the Tour de France.

1913 Photo credit: Cyclopunk

Maybe that's why I appreciate the old stories and photographs so much. It was a different era, certainly heroic. And long before the theatrics of glamour girls kissing winners, before mandatory helmets or clipless pedals. Fortunately, one thing still remains the same, then and now: bicycling fans support the greatest race on earth.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Slippery Conditions

Last week I anxiously drove through very slippery conditions. When I arrived at my workplace I was shaking, pacing, talking with my employer, realizing that with my lack of driving skills in poor weather (and without a desire to improve) I was relieved I was standing in their home, holding my cup of tea.

Earlier, I'd passed the rider in the above photo, a guy who regularly commutes in single digit weather. When he walks his bicycle, I know roads are in terrible shape, which was precisely when my anxiety took a turn for the worse.

As conditions waffle between sunny and biting cold, and blustery precipitation, March really does resemble a ferocious feline.

I maneuvered—slipping and sliding can't be called driving—the mile long driveway today after I left work. The dirt road is still 85% ice and snow covered, yet temperatures had risen to a mild 39F. My thought process starts with "maybe next week", referring to possibly cycling the 11 miles. If more dirt reveals itself, even a yard or two a day, Spring biking can't be far behind.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Beautiful Bikes at the Boston Flower Show

A yarn bombed beauty.
In honor of the first day of Spring, I'm sharing a few images that my sister-in-law and niece took last weekend at The Boston Flower Show.

There is a topiary dog on the rear rack. And a Provencal picnic in the front basket.
Obviously, they thought of me.

Spring biking...bring it on!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Errandonnee - Day 4

I braved 6F for the quick jaunt to school and discovered my cable lock doesn't work well in cold weather. Like me when I forget to stretch out my back early morning, it was difficult to unwind, thread through the bike frame, and secure again. A herculean task!

By noon the day had warmed, I visited the lake, bought beautiful earrings for a friend, and treated myself to a delicious mocha and chicken with brie sandwich—all after riding loops on quiet residential streets to pad mileage. Then I swam a half mile, rode some more before returning home. I finished the errandonnee—just barely—ending with 9 miles for the day, 30 miles total.

Errandonnee Scorecard
March 18
Category: Coffee or dessert- New Moon Cafe for a mocha, plus lunch.
                Personal care & health - YMCA to swim
                Work - School counts too. I went to class again.
                Any store that is not the grocery store - Apple Mountain to buy earrings for a friend
Observation: The cable lock doesn't work too well when it's 6F. I wrestled with the coil, struggling to unwind it enough to wrap around my bike frame.
Miles: 9

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Errandonnee - Day 3

Shredded pork burrito at Chipotle. The meat was a little tough. Next time I'll stick with chicken.
I waited until early afternoon when the temperatures climbed to the teens, then scampered to a local outdoor shop to buy several more chemical handwarmers. We are still in winter's clutches and having warm hands and feet are integral to my participation in the Errandonee.

Fortunately the sun is bright and wind is nil. It's certainly invigorating, pedaling in such cold. My throat felt raw when I exerted myself climbing hills, so I took it easy and dropped into lower gears. The errands are easy; it's the miles that I find difficult. I'm riding circuitous routes, just to tack on as many miles as possible.

Errandonnee Scorecard
March 17
Category: Breakfast or Lunch - Chipotle for a burrito
                Store that is not a grocery store - Outdoor Gear Exchange
                for chemical hand warmers
                Grocery Store - Price Chopper for cereal
Observation: It seems odd to be buying more chemical hand warmers in Mid March, but Spring is far from here.
Miles: 11

Monday, March 17, 2014

Errandonnee - Day 2

I left home at 8 a.m. to get to school on time. It's not far, 1.5 miles, however school is at the bottom of a steep hill and with melting snow the day before, morning temps hovered near 10F. I'm nothing if not adventurous! I made it without having to dismount and walk; the roads remained dry. I pulled into the covered bike parking area with plenty of time to spare.

While locking my bike, I noticed the cigarette butt litter. Seems the bike rack is also smoking area. Go figure.

The Ross outside City Hall.
When I left class three hours later, it felt like Spring. I shed heavy gloves, unzipped my down parka. This time around I made it to the Police Department to renew our resident parking pass then stopped by City Hall during open hours to fork over city taxes. How I dislike both deeds!

I lug the basket inside the store and fill it as I go. That way I won't buy more than I can carry.
Then I tootled to City Market for groceries. As I left, I realized I'd forgotten to use my Bicycle Benefits sticker for a discount. I'm out of practice.

My Ross is a strong, capable bicycle, perfect for errand rides, a perfect step through style to keep my center of gravity low for grabbing the bars to stabilize a mountain of groceries. She's my hero.

Errandonnee Scorecard
March 11
Category: Work - School counts too. I rode to my class.
                Wildcard - Police Department for a parking pass
                Wildcard - City Hall to pay taxes.
                Grocery Store - City Market for eggs, milk, vegetables and such
Observation: You never know where you'll run into neighbors. I chatted with an elderly lady (I shovel her front walk during snowstorms) while waiting in line at the Police Department.
Miles: 7

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Upcycled Bike Bags

Playing around with Tumblr.

While I'm not exactly out ticking off bike miles, not all of it has to do with our recent onslaught of 18" of snow. Instead, I'm learning about marketing and website analysis. Upcycledbikebags has grown from these two classes, following my love for refashioning interesting bags into stylish and practical carriers for bikes, which many of my readers have seen on this blog. The site is not "real" per se—I'm not currently selling bags—but I am writing content that I hope will attract subscribers. It's a Tumblr blog also—a prerequisite for one course. It would tickle me to no end if my regular anniebikes' readers would take a look. Or even better, make a constructive comment or reblog, share on social media, etc.

Now, back to Errandonneering...

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Errandonnee - Day 1

View from Battery Park
Errandonnee! Here I go again, giving the errand chase another whack this winter. And March this time around is unusually snowbound. Unfortunately I got a late afternoon start for my first errand ride, too late to complete two stops at city offices (they close early), so I'll get to those items another day.

En route to city hall I swung down my favorite alley, squealing my brakes at the bottom in hopes of alerting and hopefully avoiding a collision with pedestrians possibly exiting the parking garage at the exact same moment. I really like these urban routes. I feel like a super hero, flying by tall buildings with a single bound.

I'm was glad to finally have my camera in tow this time to capture the Airborne Jellyfish Project by Abby Mannock. I'm not sure what the monstrous marine animals are made out of, but they're glorious, catching the breeze with tentacles swirling like grass skirts.

I especially adore the big bulbous eyes. The exhibit was listed as remaining through the end of February, so I feel lucky that it still graces City Hall Park. I like the splash of color in an otherwise dismal landscape.

I donated a book at the library before heading home.

Errandonnee Scorecard
March 10
Category: Library, to deliver a book
Observation: I'm glad I photographed the Airborne Jellyfish Project.
Miles: 3

Slideshow Rescheduled

With the impending Vulcan Storm, our area is expecting 1-2' of snow today through Thursday. The GAPCO slideshow will be rescheduled. But not to worry, I've been promised it will be shown later in March.

Snowflakes are starting to fall so keep your shovels handy.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Clever (and not so clever) Bicycle Ideas

Use zip-ties to convert tires for winter use. Photo credit: Todd Boulanger on
While working on an assignment for class, I stumbled across this innovative collection of bicycle ideas. There are 80 bicycle accessories highlighted. I especially like #2, poor man's studded tire. You've got to admit it's a clever and inexpensive solution...for bicycles without rim brakes.

EVO, manly bike basket. Sold on Amazon
This one also caught my eye: #31, a bomb-proof rack integrated into the handlebars. It takes away the guesswork - what size basket, how strong is it, will it hit my fenders or tire, what front rack works on my bike? Since I've succumbed to these very questions, it's a simple solution for grocery hauling commuters or any rider looking to replace drop bars for upright comfort while also getting instant hauling capacity. A brilliant upgrade for a sloping top tube bike or that old mountain bike you don't know what to do with.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A Slideshow Presentation

Cycling the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal
When: March 12, 7:00 pm
Where: ArtsRiot, 400 Pine St. Burlington
Annie F and Patty C
    From Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C. is an incredible 335 miles of rail trail and canal towpath. Ideal for cycling, it's an opportunity for a versatile adventure – one can ride the trail in segments or traverse its entire length in one experience. Join an organized group, stay in B&Bs, hotels, or hostels, or do-it-yourself like Annie,Andy, and Patty did in September 2013, combining camping and indoor accommodation.
    Join Annie and Andy as they recount their eight day journey on the longest traffic-free cycling route in the U.S. Find out what makes The Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal unique adventures, from their distinctive trail surfaces, tunnels, viaducts, and bridges, to incredible history, free campgrounds, trail towns with amenities, and wildlife. Learn why both routes are attracting a growing number of travelers.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

March Madness in Vermont

Bike path on the right is what I will use when I start commuting to work,
possibly by the end of March?
March Madness is... bitter cold, cold such that I wear long underwear when I walk outdoors and don't bother removing them when I go back inside.

March Madness is crusty snow, conditions too poor to ski on and enough white stuff to render bike riding a frigid, difficult endeavor—for me anyway.

March Madness is hours deep into two computer courses, which means less time for blog posts and world tour writing.

Empty bike racks along waterfront path.
But...I've started an interesting bike-related Tumblr blog, if only for class.

There's been lots and lots of blessed sunshine. Daylight grows by one hour very soon. Hallelujah.

People are enjoying frozen Lake Champlain.
Robins and cedar waxwings are congregating in trees, gobbling frozen cherries, filling the air with song.

It was below zero last night though by Friday it should be in the mid-30s.

And, there's an upcoming Errandonnee Challenge, just in time for this bike starved soul.