Monday, August 22, 2016

The Sunset Ride and Feeding the Soul

Many of my summertime rides involve skedaddling home and, more often than not, completing errands en route. It is summer, after all, when we try and fit in as much as possible before cool weather sets in. So, when I find a little free time before sunset, I like to relax and pedal a few miles, enjoying the evening along the lake shore path (with eye wear for bug protection!).

It's time for quiet reflection, time to feed my own soul. There's something about the calming influence of rhythmically rotating the pedals as the sun goes down that brings a hectic day to a proper close. Bright, low angle light illuminates the lake, the trees, and eventually as the sun kisses the Adirondack Mountains in the west, the sky turns gold, then orange, then purple.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Noteworthy Improvements to the South Burlington Bike Path

As I exit Farrell Park at the T-intersection with Swift Street (photo above), the bike path seemingly shares the same asphalt as the automobile lane. Until two weeks ago, the white striping was non existent and with summer leagues and families using the park, especially around 5:30 pm, the intersection was becoming dangerous with increased traffic entering and exiting the park. Automobiles cut dangerously close to me while I waited, some drivers leering at me, as if wondering why I wasn't getting out of their way. Fortunately, the problem has been taken care of and should not be an issue going forward (until the paint wears off again).

At the same intersection (mentioned in first photo) where I turn left onto Swift Street I must quickly move to the bike lane then make a quick right turn (just beyond utility pole in above photo). The bike lane has worked fairly well, except when a stream of automobiles also turns right, each driver managing through the green light, except for the last few vehicles which cut the corner close trying to get through the intersection before the light turns red. Along with re-striping the bike lane, the city also adhered 3 white flexible poles onto the pavement (one is discernible in the photo above next to the large vehicle's front bumper), bordering the bike lane all the way around the corner, creating safe passage for cyclists.

Between the re-striped lanes and addition of flexible delineator posts, I am reminded how simple and inexpensive projects in key areas can make a huge difference to cyclists's safety. Thank you, City of South Burlington.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Pedals and Going Au Naturel

I've been thinking about removing the toe clips on my commuter bike for sometime, but when I was out on an evening ride and my foot slipped around on the pedal, I discovered a screw was missing on the plastic clip, which became the sign I needed to follow through and remove the dang things altogether.

It might seem like a no-brainer to most people. I imagine most commuter cyclists have never used toe clips or clip-in style either. Why complicate a commuter bicycle, you might ask? In stop and go traffic, it doesn't make sense, I know. So why all this fuss and angst? Why did I ride for years around town with a finicky, flip-pedals-backward-at-every-take-off style of riding?

The short answer is: it's been a habit since 1983. 33 years! It's how I rode across the country; it's how I rode around the world. It's how I commuted in Portland, Oregon for 10 years and here in Vermont for the last 20. With my feet secured to pedals, it's supposed to be efficient, but as I look back, I wonder if that's technically true. I am not a fast rider - never have been. I average 10 m.p.h. so I presume toe clips were a security blanket, a necessary appendage on all my bicycles.

Removing the toe clips has also become symbolic. Like shedding parts of my past, I am ready for a new adventure, riding mainly step through bicycles, without clips. I have let go of my emotional attachments to the Miyata and Trek, ready to part with one and part out the other.

After one week without the toe clips, I have come to embrace this new style of riding. My sandaled feet can breathe better. I like easily planting my feet on the ground. I feel faster without the extra step of removal or inserting feet inside the clips (nominal increase in speed, I'm sure!). On the flip side, it is awkward unlearning a 30+ year old habit and I'm afraid my feet may slip off the pedal and cause injury to my shin. It is clear I will need wider and/or longer pedals to truly make this transition become more comfortable.

At the moment I am awaiting the arrival of my Rivendell Clementine, a bike I plan to tour with, going au naturel, truly immersing myself into the world of platform pedals. Or that is at least my hope. I will give touring without toe clips a heartfelt try.

Have you ever experienced something similar, something you once considered integral to cycling, but have decided you can do without?

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Girls Ride Out, August 2016

Thirty women are ready for a bicycle stroll. This time around we are accompanied by Eva Sollberger and crew who are filming, pedaling, and interviewing for an upcoming Stuck in Vermont edition (here now). That means awesome press for Girls Ride Out.

First off, we head down North Avenue to experience and introduce the pilot project: re-striped auto lanes to now include a two-way bike lane.

Then it's time to turn around and we regroup along the waterfront trail.

All that woman-powered bicycle goodness.

For many ladies, this is their first time with Girls Ride Out.

And I have it on authority that it won't be their last.

We convene at Zero Gravity again, a good place for interviews and photographs.

Half the group sticks around for conversation and cheer. Four of us stay until dark, where organizer Christine leads a mini Girls Ride Out, complete with more loud tunes, until we split off and make our individual ways home.

Thank goodness I remembered my bike light.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

3 Ferry Bike Overnight, Just Because

Camping on lush lawn at Cumberland Head State Park.
It's a rare occasion for my husband and I to have 24 hours together on a weekend, so we took advantage of our good fortune, and crossed Lake Champlain on the 3 o'clock ferry to New York.

My partner in last minute mode, stuffing odds and ends in his panniers. 
It was also a celebration and experimentation of sorts - leaving our teenage boys alone overnight for the first time. We left a 2 page to-do list, just so our sons would remember to feed our pets, and pick up the kitchen, among other basic household chores that teens are notorious for forgetting. Both boys have become fairly independent and get along well together so it was time for the next step.

Taking a short break to eat.
My husband and I love this route, a fairly easy 40-45 mile loop that most people ride in one day, but it's also a scenic journey that can be enjoyed as a simple overnight, with easy access midway to a very nice campground. I completed a similar route 3 years ago, then, tacking on additional miles to get in shape for an upcoming longer trip. However, this time we pedaled the direct shoreline road, gazing at calm lake water for most of the journey.

Our boys would've loved watching this mower.
We stopped for a snack break beside a property that had a robotic lawn mover. As we munched, we were captivated by the black stealth-like handle-less mower on a seemingly erratic course, zigzagging, disappearing behind the house, cruising out front again, bee-lining diagonally across the lawn towards me then backing up and heading somewhere else. We wondered how such a contraption could be an efficient machine, tracking all over the place...

However, what a fun little diversion! 

My husband loves to bring everything but the kitchen sink, whereas as I age, I'm leaning
toward the minimalist approach.

Cumberland State Park campground borders a good-sized beach, complete with cement boardwalk and swimming area, however, the beach water when we visited, unfortunately, was full of slime...
hope it's not always so.
Arriving near 7 pm, we set up in a nearly full campground, but our site is spacious and full of thick grass - important to cyclists wanting a good night's sleep. Then we hightailed it to the beach for the remaining daylight.

My husband's in the white shirt.
Walking barefoot in the sand, we admire the calm lake, and unusual views of Vermont's Green Mountains...

and eastern views of New York's Adirondacks.

In the morning, my husband, (an early riser) had gone to get milk for our coffee and oatmeal. Gotta love a partner who surprises me with a donut!

Then it's 4 fast miles to the ferry docks...

walking the bicycles on-board next to motorcyclists (heading from Ontario to Nova Scotia). It's a 20 minute crossing and we depart by 9 am, quickly pedaling along a wonderful dirt road with more glimpses of Lake Champlain.

Of special interest: a Bike Stop at a farm barn. Free water fill up with ice cream and snacks for sale plus farm produce. As more cyclists ride the flat, low trafficked back roads in South Hero, the community is embracing bike tourism.

The causeway bike ferry is late for their first 10 am run, so we relax, watch the sailboats and power boats navigate the narrow opening. Then, the final ferry ride is quick and we ride the familiar 11 miles home.

A sub 24 hour bike overnight is a satisfying adventure, allowing solo time with my husband, doing something that we both love - perfect on a weekend. We arrived home to discover our boys managed quite well without us and the kitchen was clean. Yeah!