Monday, July 28, 2014

Hopeful for Better Pedestrian/Bike Access

The busiest intersection in Vermont.
I frequently navigate, cross, or ride the sidewalk beside this four lane highway. It connects to a shopping district and is the only route over an interstate, of which there's a cloverleaf style of on/off ramps - the nemesis of bike and pedestrian access. This region has been the bane of cycling advocacy for years. Band aid "green lanes" fill a block long section, but as with the nature of cloverleaf design butted to shopping centers, cross points double, creating dangerous pedestrian/cycling transportation. Most of the time I ride cautiously on the sidewalk.

I was hopeful to find road construction in early summer on a particularly dangerous section, leading to the cloverleaf. The sidewalk was a horrifyingly narrow 3 feet, bordering heavy traffic on one side and a hip high concrete wall on the other. Needless to say, pedestrians waiting for a bus vied with bicycles for minimal space. However, I often negotiated this sidewalk in both directions, favoring the lesser of two evils: it had less entrances/exits to be wary of.

Red marks construction zone.
The concrete wall is gone and heavy equipment operators are digging deep trenches. I stopped and chatted with a lady construction worker. Unfortunately, this whole mess will extend one exit ramp to alleviate traffic congestion back up onto the interstate. In the future, I'll have to cross five lanes of traffic to get to Staples Plaza. However, the worker confirmed the sidewalk will be put back against the treeline (in first photo). Whether it has a green strip buffer, this time around, or creates safer zones for cyclists, is anyone's guess. Construction is due to finish in November.

Friday, July 25, 2014

What's Up with Black Caps on Bicycle Tubes?

For a pretty price you can order all kinds of interesting Schrader and Presta caps.
Most of these are courtesy of Amazon, in case any in this collection appeal to you.
A hula girl on your bike, perhaps?
It's inevitable that whenever I pump a tire or change a tube I misplace the black valve stem cap. The cap is camouflaged on asphalt or, in the case of on the road repair, lost among grass. I'm often in a panic, running late for an appointment so I extract the stand up pump (heaven forbid I leave without adequate air pressure!), unscrew the cap, toss it on the garage floor, and quickly inflate my tires. It's no wonder caps are lost.

I understand why tubes are black. But could suppliers provide colored caps? They wouldn't have to match between wheels, just be offered in another color, not black or grey. And, for that matter, would you pay extra—presuming colors cost more to manufacture—for this option? I'd gladly pay 50 cents more per tube to keep caps on my bicycles.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Women's Ride on the Causeway

Picnicking in  the shelter of a bridge for a brief reprieve from the wind.
I didn't know what to expect for attendance for the second event in the Women's Ride Series. It  was a gorgeous morning for the inaugural ride. However, two ladies appeared but were uncomfortable with a small group. They decided to ride by themselves - which left just the co-leader and myself. Undeterred, we picnicked, pedaled an hour together, chatted, realizing that other ladies' events may be held on the same day.

I was prepared this time around.

Each leader invited a friend, then three ladies pulled up, making a cozy group of seven. And it was a blustery day, promising to be a challenge on the nearly treeless causeway.
But oh, the conversation! We paired up. I introduced my sister-in-law to my co-leader, who lives a stones' throw from her house. Brunch was delightful with eggs, muffins, fruit cups, and coffee. Clearly, some women had already eaten.

The 20 mph gusts were too difficult for a couple ladies so they retreated back to their vehicle. However, the rest forged ahead with wind at our backs. At the turnaround, we had our first glimpse of the new ferry, capable of hauling 20 passengers and 16 bikes. Operating 7 days a week this summer, I plan to use it for an overnight in the Champlain Islands.

I'm curious: is 231 miles to Boston by major highway or back roads?
My sister-in-law talked with a  ferry volunteer; she was signed up for a shift later that week. I chatted with a new found lady friend, a bike overnighter and tourist like myself. (I can never have enough friends like that!)

A new sign greeted us when we pointed our bikes into the wind. Mileage to local points is helpful, though you may want to pack a pannier or at the very least, a credit card if you plan to cycle the distance to Boston! And yet, I must admit the tall signage is unnerving. A smaller replacement would provide ample information and not resemble those multi-tiered highway signs visible on Vermont's interstate. There are similar informative signs at other locations along the Burlington Bike path, propped at eye level and easily read. I'm also skeptical of it's longevity, exposed to wind and frozen winter conditions.

Cycling on the causeway is popular. So despite my general grumpiness at "progress": adding concrete sidewalk section near ferry dock, picnic benches, wrapping a cycling map around a pole, paving the last 50 feet, obliterating what soil could've supported wildflowers and grasses, I suppose a freeway type sign is par for the course.

For now though, I have to laugh. Pedaling a raised pathway, with water on both sides, for 3 beautiful miles makes me smile. And smile. And smile. I'm sure Canadian travelers will love distances measured in kilometers, and if they need to use a restroom, well, it's all there on the sign.

The causeway regularly has windy days and knowing you just need to use easier gears one-way is part of dealing with headwinds. I said goodbye to the main group at the end point then set off for another two miles with my new pal, pleased as punch to have grown my network of like-minded, adventurous souls.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Sunset Ride

Mailboxes lined up at entrance to camps.
When we stay overnight at camp I steal moments of alone time. Nothing like a short jaunt, after dinner, just before the sun sets. It's that in between time when I'm restless; dinner dishes are washed and it's too early to go to bed. My in laws are parked in front of the TV; kids are on digital devices; husband deep into a project or ensconced in a chair with a magazine, too relaxed to head out with me. 

On this evening I spied the warning signs along the path.

And relished the ethereal light. Leaves dotting the cement portion. There are other folks who ride in the evening also. Like me they ride by themselves. We are solitary souls, seeking the last rays of sunshine, together.

Turnaround point is the entrance to the causeway.

The sun dips lower. I love the sound of my tires rumbling over the bridge; they rattle, pleasingly so, as boards rock within their framework. It's become the Winooski River Bridge alarm. If a person is standing on the bridge, staring at the lake, their peace is momentarily interrupted by the clatter of a passing cyclist.

There are other riders that momentarily pause at several of the overlooks, waiting for their own personal view of sunset. At the camp, if my timing is right, I roll onto the deck and plant myself westward, enjoying a quiet calm before mother nature lends her spectacle. Then all is right in my universe.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Family Ride and a Big Surprise

Big surprise: a hot air balloon is about to land.
It was a perfect evening for a family bike ride. But to where? My husband's been contemplating replacing an aging Honda, so a Mazda dealership became the destination. No better time than the present to check out the Mazda 3, a car we've all admired for many years. After hours is the best time to look in windows and ponder sticker prices. Nothing like the prospect of a new automobile to entice boys—big one included—to get out on bicycles.

As we neared our destination, we spy a beautiful hot air balloon, low in the sky. The air is pretty still. The balloon's engine roars, blasting minimal air to raise the balloon over one last bank of trees.

We follow a few cars, plus the balloon crew's two vehicles and trailers to where the balloon lands, amazingly in a grassy island between a road and a building. The landing is so tight that one guideline hangs up in a tree. There are 10 people on board. One couple remains in the basket for photos; the two became engaged during the flight. I wish to hang around, watch the balloon deflate, see if they open the traditional bottle of champagne—a balloon ride is on my bucket list—but we must continue our own journey in the fading light.

BalloonVermont.com - pretty obvious where I can make my own hot air balloon ride happen!
We got to the dealership, oohed and ahhed over shiny chrome—four wheels instead of two—then went the quickest route home, following my husband's diversions through parking lots, on sidewalks, dirt paths, lush lawns, and behind stores—his own obstacle course to bypass riding beside a busy highway.

Pedaling, pedaling, I dreamed of that balloon...