Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 Rewind

The Minuteman Bikeway, barely snow-free in January.
2018 was a year of discovering new trails and spending time with family - sometimes both aligned to create magical moments.

It all started in January...
After a long hiatus off the bike, a winter thaw coincided with a company party in Boston, which opened up a wonderful opportunity to revisit the Minuteman Trail.

The winter bike.
February was bittersweet, losing my gracious, endearing mother-in-law, yet I witnessed how her children came together to honor her long life. I also began commuting to work again, discovering that linking dry neighborhood streets and back roads in lieu of snowy/icy bike paths opened up possibilities.

March and April dumped the most winter snow, yet I persevered through a rash of unexpected flat tires, completed the Errandonnee, spruced up a rusty Peugeot frame, and thought about what I'd hoped to accomplish in 2018.

Sinking my toes into Coney Island sand.

May, by far, satisfied my wanderlust, plus opened up new experiences by traveling with our eldest son on Amtrak to New York City. We spent 5 whole glorious days riding, exploring, eating, and realized we were great traveling companions!

My husband on the Nashua River Rail Trail.

In June I sold a beloved, but little used Miyata 610 touring bike, then looked ahead at how the Dahon could fit my current lifestyle. Attending a wedding also provided an opportunity to explore two new-to-us New Hampshire rail trails.

Ferries on Lake Champlain open up riding loops between Vermont and New York.

July, August, and September - July and August particularly - were the hottest months ever recorded in Burlington so I spent lots of time in the water, and joined an open water swim club - albeit too late to improve much - but it's a sport I aim to continue in 2019. However, I also spent time with my husband in Canada along with my annual pilgrimage with Adele exploring Canadian back roads. I also shared a beloved 3-ferry loop ride, twice, yet with two different friends completing the loop in opposite directions to keep the route fresh.

Revisiting the Lachine Canal.

October and November were filled with Coffeeneuring rides and I discovered the antidote to keeping the challenge fresh this year: using a thermos for impromptu rides and quiet, contemplative resting spots. It was also a refreshing change to coincidentally open the challenge along Montreal's Lachine Canal. My family and I also tried out our first e-bike: a Rad Mini.

A crisp, clear winter afternoon on the Colchester Causeway.

Winter weather came early this year, but switching to the winter bike means I continue to commute when I'm confident with road conditions. In addition, I'm learning to push my limits, with occasional pleasure rides that are surprisingly punctuated with sublime, spectacular views.

I failed to complete even one official bike overnight in 2018 (outside of simple but fulfilling forays at our nearby camp) and have given up on the challenge of riding all of Colchester's public roads. Spending meaningful time with my mom has filled the gaps on weekends, and I stayed close to home, rounding out any "free time" with our children and my husband. I immensely enjoyed and lived vicariously through Rootchopper's frequent blog posts as he crossed the country by bicycle. As I age, I'm increasingly thankful for the role that bicycles play in my life, whether for solace, commuting, or exploring - bikes take me where I need to go.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Why I Ride

Testing my winter boots by venturing on a long ride to visit the Colchester Causeway during a sunny and
windless 23 degree afternoon.

Cycling is my chosen speed to move through the world.
At 10 m.p.h. I notice flowers, animals, and caterpillars. I notice ice sculptures, snow sculptures, sometimes melting, dripping, and morphing.

Because I have bike toured and camped extensively in my 20's and 30's, I'm comfortable traveling on my own. I much prefer a partner - my favorite companion is my husband - but I am confident planning solo cycling and hiking adventures. Sometimes, simplicity is key to following your own dreams, and traveling alone is worthwhile and necessary.

The ice formations were spectacular. I danced around icy patches before turning back due to treacherous surfaces.

Solitude and Contemplation
Like many riders who feel the need for two wheeled ramblings, rhythmically spinning is a journey to understand our place in the world, to work out life problems, and clarify our soul.

I brought a thermos of hot ginger tea to keep myself warm. I found a perfectly flat marble slab (of which the entire
causeway is constructed) for a brief break. 

I love riding because I dislike driving.
I often rode my bike to high school, which set the groundwork as a bike commuter. And later, I sold my first car so I could afford to move into the "big city", another example of the lack of importance that driving had meant to me. I'm thankful to have a spouse who enjoys driving, because an automobile is necessary for many Vermont journeys. If anything, more than ever, I rely on my bicycle for transportation, and in recent years, when weather permits, even throughout the winter.

The Green Mountains were cloaked in a fresh layer of snow.

Cycling has also become a creative outlet.
As a youngster, I loved to draw. As a teenager, I quilted (and occasionally still do) and sewed clothes in to my late 20's. I still dabble on the sewing machine, mainly repairing clothes, and of course for creating cycling accessories. I like to upcycle pannier parts, decorate handlebars, re-purpose bags for tool pouches, handle bar bags, or sew and design useful pouches and accessories from scratch. It gives me great satisfaction to solve baggage problems by breathing life into old equipment.

A serene moment before turning back.

Riding a bike is who I am. And will always be.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Photography & Legacy in a Digital Landscape

Digital imagery: left is phone capture, right is taken with my camera.
At a dinner time discussion with our teenage sons, I brought up the topic of digital photography and storage in the ever changing world of technology. And as background: my husband and I have recently been handed an overwhelming treasure of family photos at a time when we are beginning to downsize our belongings for an eventual move into an easier living situation. And as an added weight, I have always chronicled our life's journey, which has included outdoor adventures and the growth of our children.

For many years I have embraced digital photography for it's merits: to capture and keep the best images then store them on a CD while printing a few for the album. Of course, technology advances and soon - if not already - that system is obsolete. Instead of transferring to the latest, greatest storage system, and revamping, worrying, etc. I thought I'd revisit my role as photographer, from the view point of our children who will eventually become the heirs of family "photographs".

As it turns out - as I expected - children of the digital age could care less about stacks of family albums. They take lots of photos for instant sharing then keep their images on Google Photos or transfer the best to Google Drive - our eldest son claims Drive has lots of free online storage while keeping photo resolution intact. I am concerned and skeptical of online storage, yet also realize continually printing photos for their legacy is a moot point.

After condensing the last two years of photos from my laptop - the keepers that I would upload to Google Drive - I realized that it's the human connection, ie. photos of loved ones, that are worth keeping for the long haul. I snap a lot of photos, especially to illustrate topics for Anniebikes, but sadly I've decided they're not worth holding onto well in to the future.

Lately, I've been using my phone more to record blogging images because I also use Instagram (annie.bikes) though the quality suffers a bit when transferring the same images to my blog, but only because my digital camera currently has better quality. I still like the physicality of my camera (touching buttons, the sound of the lens opening) plus it's much easier for timed shots, and for processing through software, though I suspect in the future I will eventually resort to solely using a phone camera.

Reconciling the past and present through a legacy of photographs, images, ephemera - heck even furniture - is a difficult journey for any family. And when you throw in technology advancements and the younger generation that has only grown up since it's evolution, it's reasonable to expect the tech savvy youngsters may have a different take on what's important to keep going forward.

I have accepted that my husband and I will need to make some difficult decisions in the future when we move, not the least of which is what to to do with three feet width of photo albums on our bookshelf.
*Lately, I've had a high instance of spam. If you comment as Anonymous I may inadvertently delete your comment. I'm considering changing the settings to only accept people who comment with a Google address.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Coffeeneuring 2018 - Seventh Cup for the Historical Win

Colchester Merino Mill, built in 1880, extended in 1902. Ice forms first above the falls (to the left in the photo).
Over Thanksgiving weekend I squeezed in the seventh coffeenuring outing, miraculously, because New England in general has plunged into wintry-like weather with regular snowfall. If I had tried brewing hot drinks on my camping stove, like previous challenges, finishing the event would have been a test of my will, and I daresay I would've given up due to frozen fingers!

Looking the other direction, I also admired the underbelly of the Winooski Bridge and Chace Cotton Mill on Burlington's riverbank  The previous bridge was washed out in the 1927 flood then rebuilt, though the disaster signaled the end of mill production as the buildings sustained heavy damage. The mills closed in the 1950s. Today, the bridge is slated to be rebuilt within the next decade to accommodate wider lanes and safer sidewalks and bike lanes.
But, toting a thermos opened up more possibilities for exploration and I often stopped at two historic venues, my theme during this year's challenge. The Woolen Mills in neighboring Winooski have always fascinated me. Most of the mills were constructed in the late 1800s for, er wool production of course, but during the cotton famine in 1860, some of the mills switched to producing cotton.

My bicycle started falling (captured here!) and toppled into the snow.
My personal connection with the mills is my maternal grandfather. I recall him saying that he worked in the power station. Culturally, the mills were significantly responsible for populating Winooski and Burlington with French Canadians and Irish, the population - especially young girls, apparently - were preferred to work in the mills.

Since 1980, the mill buildings have been restored into housing and business space. Perched over or near the Winooski River, there is ample park space to hang out, fish, investigate the fish ladder, or picnic, especially during the warmer months, where cascades drowns out bridge traffic.

Looking south on Burlington Greenway.
As the morning was rather blustery (a pattern on my coffeeneuring outings this fall) I had the freedom to quickly stow the thermos in my pannier and continue riding. The lake front draws me like no other place in Burlington, so I headed directly to Leddy Park Beach.

Looking north.
I knew the Burlington Greenway path was treacherous and as I crossed it - sure enough - there were icy surfaces in both directions.

The beach, however, was deserted - for good reason. 25 degrees and 20 mph winds means you really have to want to be at the lake shore! I was dressed for winter riding though and only had frozen fingers while taking pictures. Otherwise, I enjoyed the view while sipping more coffee, walked on frozen sand, and observed ice chunks at the water's edge.

It had been a week since I'd ridden a bike (insert slippery conditions) so the inaugural 2018 ride on my winter bike meant I could test tire pressure, use the new front rack, and generally assess pannier fit, of which everything worked out fine; just need to eventually install a mirror.

History of Leddy Park:
It is assumed that Abenaki frequented the beach prior to the 1770s. At the end of the 1800's the Roman Catholic Diocese granted land for access to the Rutland Railroad (today's bike path). In 1902 they sold more land to Consolidated Rendering Company (my husband recalls this place) later known as Corenco. In 1970, Burlington acquired the property by eminent domain. Park was originally named Wabanaki but was renamed in 1972 after Judge Bernard Leddy who was a Park Commissioner and crucial to acquiring the land for a park. 

Leddy Park is a gem, in my opinion, as it has an ice rink, tennis courts, ball fields, ample parking, access to a public beach, wooded trails, and of course direct link to the Burlington Greenway.

And just like that, I'm done with the coffeeneuring challenge. By the skin of my teeth!

The Place:  Woolen Mills & Leddy Park Lake View
Date: Saturday, November 24
Drink: Coffee (Equal Exchange though bean type is of unknown origin) in a thermos
Observation:  Originally wanted to visit the Causeway, but due to icy paths I sufficed with nearby Winooski Historic District then tacked on extra miles to visit the lake shore.
Total Miles: 12

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Coffeeneuring 2018 - Sixth Cup, a 2-fer on a Blustery Afternoon

Snow-filled clouds and strong winds howl and stir up Lake Champlain.
Early to mid November can be rainy or snowy or extremely blustery. Sometimes it can be all of the above. This year November is chilly, below average, I figure, just to make up for July and August's record heatwave. But the lure of the lake is strong, and spinning wheels the perfect instrument to sing rhythmic solitude, so I bundle up in down parka and my warmest mittens and set off on my folder, just because I can't get enough of my brilliant little bike - time is limited before I trade it for the chunky tired Trek Antelope. 

A thermos of tea can heal the grumpies, and with a historical venue in mind (to keep with my theme), I set off to explore one of the Burlington Traction Company's buildings. The former trolley maintenance building was built about 1900 with four large bays, then re-purposed as a Vermont Translines bus facility until 1999.
Vermont Translines' logo is prominently displayed on the building.
In recent times, the bay doors were glassed in and the building converted for commercial use. Fortunately, it still retains enough original architecture, and fits Burlington's historic character of mostly brick construction, and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004.

I liked the rusty decoration, which turned out to be a fire alarm cover. Since this discovery, I've located one other example on the side of a downtown building.

I balance a cup of tea on the seat and snap photos. Interesting to later see my reflection in the windows! After quickly downing the tea - cooling off in the chill - my bike falls over in the breeze. I rescued Miss Dahon - no harm done - and decide to keep riding, heading for the waterfront.

Oh how I enjoy being by the lake!
I automatically include lights on any ride these days, which lends comfort, and I can stay out as long as I want.

Adjacent to the waterfront path is Lakewood Cemetery. With abundant trees, winding paths, 200+ year old oak trees, and sweeping views of the water, this place was once on the outskirts of the city and built in the late 1800s when the fashion was to enjoy burial grounds like parks. Previous to 1830 only small family plots existed, until Mt Auburn Cemetery in Massachusetts changed how people view burial grounds. It was also a time when there weren't many city parks, thus cemeteries functioned as picnic grounds. I think Lakewood Cemetery is one of the prettiest places in Burlington.

It's also the resting place of my father's family and many of my husband's relatives, including his parents who we recently laid to rest. I discovered beach stones lovingly placed on my mother-in-law's gravestone, a perfect spot to enjoy my remaining tea, and contemplate those wishing stones which came from their camp's rocky shore, a place she dearly loved. The visit was short-lived however, as the wind continued it's blustery howl. I packed up and rode north a few more miles before turning back towards home, toasty and satiated and full of family warm-fuzzies.

The Place:  Burlington Traction Company & Lake View Cemetery
Date: Sunday, November 11
Drink: Chai tea in a thermos
Observation:  I know that Burlington is steeped with history but it's fun to learn about one place at a time. Each year Preservation Burlington holds a history tour in Lakewood Cemetery. I hope to make next year's event.
Total Miles: 15

Friday, November 16, 2018

Rad Mini - Overkill or Practical E-Bike?

The Rad Mini is cute! Our neighbors - who we don't know very well - have a Rad Mini. We've watched the young family all summer zipping by our house, sometimes towing their child in a trailer. We admired the fun little folding bike on steroids! I mentioned to my family that Local Motion quite possibly has a Rad Mini in their lending library and we might have the opportunity for test rides, much like my experience with the Yuba Boda Boda that I'd unexpectedly fallen in love with a couple years ago. As it turned out, our eldest son jumped on the idea, discovered a Rad Mini available, signed us up, and a few weeks later rolled the bicycle into our garage.

On the first nice weekend day we biked as a family, first rolling through the dirt roads and trails of the Intervale while my sons and I hopped on and off the Rad Mini. With 7 speeds, 5 electric assist modes, and a powerful throttle, there's no problem moving the 4" wide 20" diameter tires on any terrain. It's very easy to get used to the handling and assist modes.

The little bike is comfortable, quiet, and just plain fun.That is, until you turn off the electric assist. On flat paved bike trail, the bike is heavy and sluggish (it's 60+ lbs. and remember those 4" tires!) and because I'm a regular bike commuter, I wanted to pedal and get exercise! This is not an easy feat, so I kept e-assist minimal (mode 1), cruising at 14 mph - faster pace than I usually ride - necessary, otherwise the beast becomes a knee-hurting, heavy fat bike.

Assist modes on the left, screen to check battery power, mph, and distance. On the right, 7 speeds and with the push of the red button, rotate the throttle for instant boost up hills. Also, the front rack can haul heavy items.
My first impressions were that the bike is too heavy for my personal taste plus the bicycle, in my opinion, has an identity crisis. What type of person is the bike marketed to? It's an off road fat bike, a folding bike, and a boosted cargo bike. My assessment was also shared by our oldest son. His feeling was that the Rad Mini should be 2 of those 3 options, but not all 3 at once, creating an unnecessarily heavy machine. A folding fat bike, a folding cargo bike, or a fat-tired cargo bike - any of those options might reduce the weight. I also wondered if 2" tires would be more appropriate, yet still provide off-road traction, reduce friction on pavement and have the added benefit of lightening the overall load.

Sturdy rear rack, but with fat tubing that does not fit traditional panniers.

Despite our impressions, The Rad Mini is a popular model, especially for a well made, affordable e-bike. At 1700.00, it sports a sturdy frame, long battery life, front and rear racks, front and rear lights, clearance for fenders, all from a reputable company. Just for comparison, Tern's cheapest folding e-bike rings in at twice the price.

Big grin after throttling up Burlington's very steep Depot Street hill.

If I was in the market for an e-bike I wouldn't want to be dependent on electric charge for mobility. In my opinion, e-bikes should be light enough to pedal unassisted, at least on flat terrain. Also, because of it's hefty package, when folded the bike is awkward to lift into a vehicle - ask me how I know!

In the end, test riding the Rad Mini was a fun little experiment. It may not be my cup of tea, but this reputable solid framed e-bike might be an affordable solution for those folks who can't handle a bike without electric assist and/or need extra stability, especially if you have the option to roll the little monster into a garage.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Coffeeneuring 2018 - Fifth Cup on the Camp Deck

We made the most of a rare November sunny weekend day, packing in coffeeneuring, exercise, quality family time, test riding the Rad Mini, and moving boats off the beach at camp.

Youngest son isn't content to stay on trail, and explores bumps and jumps.
What a glorious day! We headed through the Intervale dirt roads and trails, eventually climbing out on paved pathway to arrive on the waterfront about 7 miles later.

I split time between riding my son's quite comfortable Peugeot (diamond frame counterpart to my step through commuter) and the borrowed Rad Mini. At camp I sip coffee from a thermos on the deck, then help move kayaks and canoes off the beach.

As we headed south towards downtown, our eldest son was fading and we stopped at Dunkin Donuts so he could spend his gift card. I stood outside in the sun and watched the bikes; out of the wind the warmth was incredible. I realized how much I missed the sun as it's been pretty grey and rainy for the last two weeks.

The History: My husband's family has lived at the seasonal campers' community on Lake Champlain since the 1920s, his grandmother living in a camp just down the road. The current green cottage was also built in the 1920s, with renovations over the years, including a solid L-shaped deck that spans two sides.  

The Place: Starr Farm Beach
Date: Sunday, November 4
Drink: Cafe Bustelo in a thermos
Observation:  The summer camp is my favorite place in Burlington. We stay many weekends through the summer months, and I often stay during the week because the nearby waterfront trail provides easy access to downtown and a couple miles further to my workplace.
Total Miles: 15

Friday, November 2, 2018

Coffeeneuring 2018 - Fourth Cup with Foliage and Family...

Tea time with my deceased father and grandmother in beautiful cemetery grounds.
Late October in weather in Vermont can be fickle; this year it's rainy and cool, but the spectacular Autumn colors are especially brilliant, tethered against grey skies and verdant hues. Nearly dusk, I set out with a full thermos of hot tea, gardening gloves, a trowel, and several flower bulbs all stashed in a makeshift handle bar bag on my Dahon. Plus lights, of course, because I would return home well after dark.

As I pedaled along in light drizzle, I mused over how far I'd come as a commuter cyclist, fully embracing less than ideal conditions for the sake of a bike ride. And it was these checkered weather patterns: either frosty and cold or rainy and/or blustery weekends that invariably fall during coffeeneuring time that made me leave stove and apparatus behind this year in favor of lugging instant, hot beverages by thermos. I couldn't be happier! This simple change means I can fully enjoy tootling along, sometimes setting out without a particular historical place in mind (my theme this year) as was the case when I decided to plant flower bulbs at my family's grave site. I intended to find another spot after my mission to fulfill my historical quest, but then it occurred to me that this cemetery is my personal history, home to my father and paternal grandmother (plus a slew of other relatives) and the appropriate thing to do was sit and have tea with them.

Satiated and warm, I pedaled several miles along the waterfront trail, embracing the darkness and listening to soothing waves. It's refreshingly quiet - one of the rare moments - as few cyclists ride the unlit path. To complete a loop, I eventually turned uphill for a mile - difficult on my 6 speed folder - to get home. 

The History: New Mount Calvary Cemetery is home to most of my relatives, including: great grandparents, great uncles and aunts, plus various cousins. I learned that the Valade Family farm (farmhouse and barn still exist today adjoining north end) sold land in 1936 to the Catholic diocese to establish another cemetery. I've met and enjoyed several visits with Joe Valade, who was a dear neighbor and friend to my grandparents, who I presume, is one of the children. It's a small world.

The Place: New Mount Calvary Cemetery
Date: Sunday, October 28
Drink: Trader Joe's Apple Cranberry Tea
Observation:  I treat cemeteries like parks because of the wonderful old trees and interesting gravestones.
Total Miles: 16

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Coffeeneuring 2018 - Third Cup at Union Station, Sunset Sip!

It isn't easy taking a selfie in front of a tall building!
With a miserable weekend forecast, I opted to drink tea at a historic place on a longer route home after work Friday afternoon. Conjuring up the idea after arriving at the office, I scampered home on my lunch hour to retrieve my trusty Stanley thermos and herbal tea, which made it easy to leave at 5 pm with a full thermos of freshly brewed tea.

I've always been enamored with Union Station, a stately building at the bottom of Main Street. I approached the edifice from the waterfront trail at sunset.

Look closely to find my bike and thermos sitting on the bench.
It's best side, however, is the imposing east side of the building, complete with clock and ironwork covering a window. I sat on a bench sipping ginger tea, before heading up the hill toward home.

The History:
The current Union Station was completed in 1915, composed of tan colored brick and limestone trim. Vermont marble was used extensively inside. The building is now privately-owned and the interior was carved into two stories of businesses so it has lost it's majestic train station appearance.

Winged Monkey Statues on the Roof
"Four steel statues of winged monkeys currently adorn the roof of Union Station. Created by artist Steve Larrabee, the monkeys were originally commissioned in 1976 for a local waterbed store named "Emerald City" after the capital city of the fictional Land of Oz. The two original monkey statues from the store, along with two statues of monkey children, rest on the roof of the former train station, while two more recent statues are located on the roof of the nearby Main Street Landing Performing Arts Center." -Wikipedia

Union Station, circa 1920, showing walkways extending from building (now removed).

Burlington Union Depot, 1913.
Interestingly, I discovered the first train depot had been located nearby, built just after the Civil War. Showing its age by 1910, the building was torn down to allow space for the more modern and larger, Union Station.

The Place: Union Station
Date: Friday, October 26
Drink: Ginger Tea
Observation:  It's possible to coffeeneur after work, which opens up more options to complete the challenge.
Total Miles: 10