Saturday, May 31, 2014

Longing for the Open Road

For a while now I've felt out of sorts. I've felt hemmed in by work, family obligations, too many kids' sleepovers, and not enough free time with my husband. It's life, some would remind me. And yet the lure of warmth, sunshine, and longer daylight, fuels the urge to be somewhere other than at home.

As I watch dandelions turn into white puffs, lilacs lose their wondrous fragrance, and the first wave of mosquitoes hatch, I know I must sneak away for an early June bike overnight before summer's humidity rears its ugly head.

Plans fused, and this time a girl friend is tagging along. We both like history and taking our time. Hopefully she'll enjoy the camping too. It's been a long time since she's slept on the ground, but she's game for just about anything. That's good enough for me.

We leave tomorrow, a day earlier than planned, because a rainy period is moving in mid week. We're expecting to get wet on the third and final day of our adventure. It's futile to obsess too much about it, otherwise we may never leave home. We are lucky to get two good days.

I know I needed a bike overnight when I started considering stealth camping at places close to home. The shelter is in a city park. I'd envision ducking under the ramp at right. There's just enough grass space to lay out a sleeping bag, hide the bike, especially at dusk. No one would be the wiser.
I'll be ready to pack the bike in the morning. A day ago I regreased creaky pedals (that's a blog post in itself!). I'm anxious and excited. And thrilled to share this trip with a friend. Wish us luck.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Get Out and Ride Burlington

Graphic photographed from Seven Days newspaper.
Burlington is rocking the bike love. Burlington is not content with silver bike city status. Our city is Going for Gold, ramping up for the future. Current programs include: North Avenue corridor study and resident input; the first ever statewide bike summit was recently held in downtown to resounding success; a two mile section of the waterfront path will undergo a makeover this year - and that's just for starters. In mid June the causeway bike ferry will operate daily, taking visitors across The Cut. Bike Party evening events are ongoing. Elly Blue is coming to town. There are green drinks discussions (free food and beer) highlighting a soft launch of a new Burlington bike map. The sky's the limit when it comes to choosing which fun event to participate in. In fact, the amount of events is overwhelming, finally!

There will also be another Women's Ride Series, courtesy of yours truly, loosely based on Let's Go Ride a Bike's Bike Brunch picnic crossed with Coffeeneuring Without Walls option, resoundingly loved by fans of Chasing Mailboxes, D.C.'s 2014 Coffeenneuring Challenge. If you like picnicking and riding a bike, stay tuned for event dates and venues published on Local Motion's website or Facebook page.

Not to be outdone, the surrounding cities of Colchester and Shelburne are getting in on the act, prioritizing walking and biking infrastructure.

It's nice to live in a bike riding, happening place. Portland, eat your heart out.*

*I can say that. I used to live in Portland, where my love of bike commuting got its start.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Thank You Bicycle

Ross Mount Saint Helens with new handlebars and new seat.
Thank you bicycle for who you are and what you stand for in my life. You give me freedom to discover wild bunnies zigzagging across fileds. You provide storage for those trips to the hardware and grocery store, especially on this long holiday weekend. You are the wheels beneath me, spinning freely northward, in spite of thunder and grey skies, which opened up and dumped as I sought refuge beneath a tree. You encouraged me to ride in the rain, just so I could smell wet pavement - a first for 2014.

You are transportation in all it's forms: bypassing thousands of runners during our Vermont City Marathon, pedaling neighborhoods and dirt trails to arrive at a party, or escorting a son to a sleepover.

Italmanubri lightweight bars with a slight bend - perfect for me.
Thank you bicycle for teaching me patience. I needed quiet when four loud teenage boys descended upon our house. What better time to work on swapping the Ross's handlebars? In the garage! In two sessions, I wrangled the mustache bars from difficult single-piece stem and slid in the new, lighter bars taken from the Peugeot. I reused the Ross's original brakes, but with new cables. The transformation is nothing short of amazing. Handlebar height is spot on; brakes stop more efficiently, and addition of ergonomic grips was worth every penny I spent to acquire them at a local shop. The Ross now rides like a dream. She may not be the Terry Burlington or a Breezer, but with this recent rendition, she's become my new found friend.

Thank you bicycle.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Terry Burlington

The Terry Burlington - going, going, gone? Unfortunately, I have yet
 to see this model  around town.
With growing interest in commuting, options for ready-made commuter friendly bicycles are truly astounding. From inexpensive Public Bikes to middle of the road Breezers to outrageously expensive bikes in this list (I'm swooning over the Le Flâneur d'Hermès), I'm totally digging the plethora of bikes available. There's a commuter bike to meet every budget.

The frame's paint job is lovely, including "burlington" written next to the logo.
How many cities can lay claim to their own bike model?
A recent Performance Bicycle e-newsletter advertised a Terry bike, one I've run across before (Terry Bicycles and Budnitz both now hail from Burlington, my city). The ad caught my eye, mainly because it's the first Terry I've seen in their "catalog" plus the price is deeply discounted, from $750 (and no longer available on Terry's website) to $450 on Performance's sale section. Unfortunately, it appears Terry's commuter bike line is discontinued.

I like a lot of the Burlington's features: Altus big wheeled derailleur (recently touted as big bang for your buck on Rivendell's blog), step through style, sealed bearings, Terry saddle, dual front fork eyelets, 8 speeds (plenty for Burlington's hills), Kenda Kwest white tires, double chainring guard, fenders, rack, and built using 26" wheels - what I consider the cat's meow size for easy replacement and capable of handling mini off road adventures.

It's beautiful (see close up above), basic, functional and a steal for 450.00, especially since it's shipped free to a local Performance bike store. Also available on And will become a collector's item in, say 20 years. At least in Burlington, Vermont. Maybe.

And the fact that Terry's Burlington visually resembles my
Ross, or vice versa, er, has nothing to do with anything.
It's heartwarming to find so many commuter bikes available. However, from a business standpoint, with the selection of bikes flooding the market, not all companies or bike models will survive the glut. It will be interesting to see what commuter bike styles will be available 10 years down the road.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Flowers are on My Mind

With trees in Burlington awash in color and  fragrance, it's a perfect time to be out on a bike.

 Tulips are blooming. Lilacs are just opening, casting their heady perfume.

So it comes as no surprise that I headed to a nearby garden center, loaded up with flowers (for newly purchased flower boxes), tomato and basil plants, and two packages of vegetable seeds. I gently wound a bungee cord through the stalks and secured the cardboard box to my rear rack, then cautiously rode two miles home without a mishap. Here's to more garden adventures!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Ride with the Mayor - a Multi-modal Tour

A couple spaces for bikes aboard the bus.

With bleak skies and showers forecast, I set off to meet up with a group at city hall. This was set up as a multi-modal tour to highlight transportation alternatives around Burlington with, of course, the mayor.

Many of us rode the 2 miles to the first stop at The Bagel Cafe; some took the bus, while their bikes were towed in a van. The group consisted of city employees integral to the transportation network, bike and pedestrian advocacy members, volunteers, and a handful of people like me who have an interest in safe streets and bike paths. A Friday morning is not ideal to attract multitudes, but perhaps it wasn't intended for the general public as much as to garner support and publicity among city and county departments for further implementation.

Cones temporarily placed along North Avenue to depict a complete streets scenario.
The mayor tweets at one interlude, reminding me that it's still a working day for many: giving little speeches, handing out information, stopping at businesses to display how the North Avenue corridor was bound to grow, thus the need for better bike lanes.

A new coffee and ice cream shop.

A brief stop at the police department. Beansie's Bus, a landmark, is in its usual spot,
serving up burgers, dogs, fries and creemees in Battery Park.
I liked the myriad of bikes ridden by attendees: a Schwinn Suburban that Hotel Vermont loans out to it's residents, a folding bike, a Budnitz titanium bike, a Spot belt drive machine, a one-rider tandem (he'd dropped his kids off at school), and many older commuter bicycles like my own.

Another stop at a bagel shop to highlight where a busy street will soon get a badly needed pedestrian crosswalk.

There is a new level 2 and 3 electric vehicle station.

I learn there are van pools between Burlington and state government offices 35 miles away in Montpelier. Some vans are equipped with bike racks.

There are many agencies involved and committed to regional planning for alternative and multi-modal transportation. Way to Go Burlington!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Dirt, Bugs & Mindful Thinking

As I cruised down the now dusty dirt road at 5:15 p.m., dried from a morning shower that had let loose five minutes before arriving at my workplace, I braked, listening to brake pads scrape dry gritty rims. Then I noticed how filthy my bike had become from the short downpour. However, I didn't have much time to lament the status of my bike because at that moment a bug entered my mouth...ack, gasp, spit to no avail, ugh, cough, oh yuck. I somehow swallowed my first bug of the commuting season.

It was a humid afternoon. To the south blue sky; to the north dark streaks hovered; to the west sunshine streaked earthward through more grey clouds. It felt like unsettled summer weather. The heavens might open up at any minute and douse me once more. But this time I would welcome the relief. And perhaps the rain would clean my bike too.

And so it was that I noticed the tree frog trill, a lone dove resting on a wire, a crow atop my favorite shag bark hickory tree as I continued homeward. My thoughts continued as such, alight to the natural world, yet also listening to lawnmowers making their first cut in the grow-mow cycle. A glance in my rear view mirror when rumblings stir from behind and ever mindful of oncoming traffic in case an ansty driver decides it's safe to pass when it's only an incoming cyclist approaching at a snail's pace.

I got to thinking about the word "mindful". How it's popular with the overtaxed or over-texted crowd. Or those seeking clarity in their life. I suppose it's kind of like yoga, which I do occasionally practice, but it's the stretching I find is most beneficial, though I presume others also enjoy the quiet relaxation.

But as my thoughts churn along with my wheels, I realize that mindfulness is what I do on my commute. I'm aware of my road situation, yet my mind is free to wander, to be creative, to observe, mull, concentrate, write, listen, and focus. To be present. A practice that opens my mind. In a rain shower, sweating in humid afternoon, or breathing hard, spinning.

Ah, I believe the word can conjure many I leave you with this thought: at least be mindful and respectful of insects. I nearly inhaled a second one by the time I arrived home.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Turkey - Saint John's Basilica Ruins and Buying Turkish Pants

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

Saint John's basilica ruins. Photo credit: Wikipedia
Tuesday, November 8

The morning was warmer, windless, and pure sunshine greeted us as we set out on foot. Days off the bike are adventures in themselves. We aren't content to rest with a book. Rather, we take advantage of more exploration and revel in walking or hiking; this time we aim for high ground, intent on visiting another early Christian site, and discover we are its sole visitors.  

Atop a Selcuk hill stands the ruins of Saint John's Basilica. It was constructed in the 5th or 6th century over his burial site. The Turkish government is working on excavation and renovations and – as we are beginning to learn, due to current economy – many projects are funded by American foundations. In it's time the cathedral was enormous, 7th compared with today's cathedrals. Only the basic framework remains: column bases and some floor tiles, are exposed so travelers can imagine the once massive structure. And, as Ephesus's importance as cultural landmark grows – it was an early Asia minor Christian capitol, major center for cultural and medical sciences – so does tourist interest in the region. Hopefully, an infusion of capital will continue to improve these historic sites.

Before returning to the pansiyon, Andy and I step inside Efesus's museum. Like many historic sites on our journey, the most precious excavated relics are preserved from further decay by placing them indoors. Larger than life statuary from the Temple of Artemis are on display.

At lunch we sit on the pansiyon's rooftop. We ask Anna and Daryl about trekking in Nepal and also meet a young Scottish cyclist. He'd stored his bike in Marmaris and bused to Selcuk. He's on course for Syria, Jordan, and Israel. It's a reminder that we are on our own separate journeys and it's a flip of the coin whether we cross paths.

Modeling new pants (traditional style is below) with a Turkish tailor.
Afterward we set off again, perform necessities: purchase stamps, phone card, ATM withdrawal, pick up more food, then return to a tailor shop I'd previously seen. Various colorful pantaloons hang outside the shop above the sidewalk. I'd fallen in love with these flowing pants adorning full-figured Turkish women. The unique feature of these pants, I would later learn, is a gusseted crotch that hangs to the knee, adjusting to women of any size. Between the patterned colors, draped material, the whole effect is gyspy-like. If there was any memento of our travels in Turkey that I desired, and could afford and eventually mail home, it was to own a pair of these special pants.

My drawing of common Turkish pants.

Andy's drawing of typical Turkish tea service.
I choose a couple patterns I liked, priced at 250,000 lira (7.50 USD) and step inside the tiny shop, searching for a dressing room. I planned to bargain the price, once I determined the fit was okay. With the 3 of us squeezed inside, the shop itself is approximately 12' x 20', just enough space for two sewing machines, a counter, a few shelves, and three chairs. But before business takes place, the tailor summons tea from an adjacent restaurant. A moment later, a man delivers a tray with three clear glasses, spoons, and sugar cubes. The tailor spoke some English. We chit-chat. He is Yugoslavian born and specializes in custom pantaloons. Also, the restaurant owner sometimes performs the call-to-prayer worship we hear amplified from mosques.

My prized Turkish pants, dreamy and drapey. The colors go with
 many solid color tops. Twenty years later, I still wear these 
With our business transaction completed with help from our dictionary, the tailor takes my arm and leads me behind the counter. He is all smiles. He tugs at the waistline of my skirt. I glance at Andy across the counter. He sits on chair by the door. It's then that I realize I am in for the entire experience. I must have the pants. The shop is empty except for the three of us. I remove my skirt.

I am standing in my t-shirt and underwear. The proprietor helps me into the garments, gently pulling the elastic ankles into place. He has me stand and inspects the pants. Indeed over the next hour, I repeat this process as he takes in the side seams on both pants. We continue to sip tea, smiling. I grew comfortable in underwear and t-shirt as the tailor completed alterations. The tailor was obviously proud of his craft. He showed us his license, tacked to the wall. After the first few minutes, I realize how foolish I'd been to question any improper conduct on his part.

By the time he finished, I didn't have the heart to negotiate the cost of the pants, as is the expected custom. He insists we take his photograph and I happily oblige. I'm glad I did. Later, the picture would remind me of a much-treasured experience.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Google and Mother's Day

Anyone else notice the wonderful graphic Google used for Mother's Day? Whether you saw it or not, not to worry. Go celebrate with your Mom, wife, or daughter. It's a beautiful day here. I'm signing off and going for a bike ride.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Trolling for Miles

A metal "A" and a special troll are two objects that personalize my office space. The troll has been my friend for many years. Her dust-flecked pink hair is showing her age and her helmet straps are losing their elasticity. Perhaps she needs a little attention.

What kind of bikey objects sit on your desk?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Conversation About a Kickstand

I came home with another bike.
It all started innocently enough. A neighbor and I met at the same bike swap. He had found a bike for his daughter and was currently looking for one for himself. Later, at home, I went over to check out his daughter's new bicycle. I sat astride her saddle, complimenting her on her choice when her dad and I started talking. And as neighbors do, one topic leads to another and I mentioned that I came up empty handed at the swap because all I really wanted was a kickstand.

"A kickstand? Heck, I have one for you in my garage."

The neighbor disappeared and came back with a bike, minus its seat and seatpost. However, it had a kickstand.

"Here. Take the bike. I don't need it. It originally came from the Canes." (Another neighbor.)

I had to smile. I didn't need another bike. Yet, here was a decent 1980s mountain bike. The kind I gravitate towards, it seems, because their value to me is in the parts, though I know the steel frames will also last forever. In my mind, newer mountain bikes are dysfunctional for commuting, but try convincing someone who isn't commuter savvy about that, which, unfortunately, includes the very neighbor who gave me the Peugeot. It's my little secret.

So, I've got another sweetie. Squared Weinmann rims, Shimano thumbshifters, straight top tube, cantilever brakes, plenty of braze-ons - this one had two on the fork - and clearance for fenders. Anyway, all I needed was the kickstand, but I took the bicycle off my neighbor's hands, promising to deliver what I couldn't use to Bike Recycle. It's the line I used on my husband as I wheeled the Peugeot up our driveway.

"Don't worry," I said, with a sheepish grin. "It's just for parts."

Of course, the last time I said those exact words was when I brought home the Ross, which has become a favored bike for errands.

Both of our sons thought it was cool to cruise around on a bike without a seat.
So with the kickstand transferred to the Trek, I inspected the Peugeot more closely. Wheels look good. They could be back up for our current bikes. I recognized the Blackburn Mountain rack, same as on my Trek and worthy to keep as a spare. Plus, with a quick Internet search, this model is a 1988 St. Laurent Express. What I'm especially tickled about are the Shimano thumbshifters, and while they're missing the top silver-colored caps, they still function, so I'm inclined to keep them for parts. These thumbshifters are not made anymore, but are highly prized; it would insure that my husband's and my mountain bike shifters (same model) remain viable for years to come.

Despite my intentions, I still struggle with knowing I will dismantle a perfectly acceptable bicycle. It feels like I've turned my back on the Peugeot's heritage. And, I admit to admiring the mint and white color scheme plus the lugged frame. On some level this bike would fit me better than my Trek, but the emotional baggage of parting with a bike that's taken me around the world is too much to bear.

And so it goes.

On the other hand, there's plenty to recover for parts. Did I mention the curved aluminum handlebars (Italminubri - Italian, it seems)? They might be perfect for the next iteration of my Ross.

The blue bicycle went home with a 10 year old boy and his dad.
It turns out that storing on additional bicycle in our garage is not going to be a problem. Two days after I brought the Peugeot into our lives, we sold one of our children's outgrown bikes. Bye bye Raleigh Mountain Scout.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Happiness is Scilla

I have random scilla in my flower beds, but nothing resembling a carpet.
Tiny blue flowers line the banks beside the bike path. What a delight!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Garlic Bread-Powered Stroke of Brilliance

I love this bike in more ways than I ever thought possible.
Well into my fourth week of Spring commuting, I'm gaining a toehold in biking fitness. Moreover, I'm relearning measures that when done consistently in the afternoon set me up well for the ride home: drink lots of fluids and restock on calories after 3 p.m. Despite still carrying a few extra pounds—I like to call it my winter weight—starving myself while trying to get into riding shape has never worked for me. Instead, maintaining consistent energy keeps the crankies at bay; extra weight slowly disappears, and thus with the body's necessities taken care of, my thoughts can wander at will, where clear thinking reigns.

If you're an avid bike rider or runner, you know what I mean.

If I could solve world peace or feed hungry nations with such profound moments, believe me, I would. However, I confess to no such strokes of brilliance. My free-thinking time hovers on contemplating family life, work, vacations, and of course everything regarding bicycles.

And so with garlic bread-induced energy (I saved a hunk from lunchtime to consume in the afternoon) I rode my Trek home. I stared at the handlebars, those slightly curved beautiful bars that came with this bicycle, never having succumbed to later straight bar mountain bike style. I've always loved the feel of this shape. And so it was that I realized what would work on the Ross Mount Saint Helens. To gain the extra handlebar height necessary for comfort without buying a new stem, I can shift the similar handlebar from the Peugeot (which doesn't work well on that bike anyway for other reasons) to the Ross. I don't understand why this solution never occurred to me before.

And though this revelation is not A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius—it's perhaps far from it—it means I've found a solution to a problem, one that makes me giddy with relief.

What kinds of bicycle problems have you solved with two wheel-thinking?