Friday, October 31, 2014

Wheels, Sing Me a Song

As I pedaled my bicycle back and forth to work this week my wheels sang a hollow tune. It came out of nowhere, once again, like a warm breath of contentment. The next day the rolling song disappeared. It's a phenomena that I first noticed a few years back, front wheel (as near as I can detect) emanating a steady hum and—as close as I can describe—sounding like a cross between a hot air balloon's engine blast and a purring cat.

Singing with me through Autumn.
I mentally tried to decipher it's cause. Did the sound emanate from a particular bike, tire pressure, tread, tire width, recently greased bearings, type of rack, panniers, gravel or pavement, wind direction, weather? However, after a few years, my sleuthing abilities came up short. There was no determining factors that accounted for the noise (I'm pretty proud of that fact that I keep my drive-train fairly clean and attend to annoying rattles)—in fact the resonance occurs on all my bikes, with the exception that it happens more often on my Trek Antelope.

A painted scene in the waning October light. A horizontal cloud streaks
above Mount Mansfield's summit.
I also pondered the possibility that the hollow melody was always there. Perhaps a quiet mind and environment opened my eyes. However, I don't think that's true. Cycling for me sparks reverie and creativity like nothing else can. Surely, I would have noticed the beautiful sound long before now.

Sunset glows highlight the remaining color like nothing else can.
It's been a breathtaking week.
And so, with a wistful longing I've finished another year of bike commuting to my countryside office. For the next few months I'll drive and watch out for brave souls who pedal through darkness at 5 o'clock. I'll still ride my bike on weekends—nothing, short of ice, snow, and below zero temperatures (okay, maybe 10 F) can stop me. The depths of winter is still far off. Until then, I'll be listening for the peaceful sound in my wheels. It's time to quit analyzing and just enjoy the journey. That's what the noise means to me now: contentment, acceptance, and a smooth running bicycle.

Wheels, sing me a song.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Coffeeneuring - Fourth Cup

Hankering for a ride after several rainy days, I set out to check
on our family's summer camp. 
 I decided to dress up for coffeeneuring this time around. Just because.

I also wanted to try out my new floral tights. Multi-colored tights must be all the rage in Italy - my girlfriend bought them on vacation and she presented them to me as part of a birthday gift package at our last Girls' Night Outing. The tights are comfortable, even while riding several miles, though the skirt tended to hike up after a while. Good thing the coat provided adequate coverage.

The best bike parking - visible in front of store.
On the way home from a well-deserved ride after too many wet days in a row, I decided to try Scout's coffee. Scout is a new shop that's sprung up along a main thoroughfare, but book-ended by housing and far from a commercial district. I rather like their location. The shop seems out of place in one respect though, appearing empty behind huge glass panes. Indeed, once inside, the furnishings are industrial and spartan - stools, chairs, a few tables - and could accommodate twice the amount of seating if needed.

I'm giddy over the blue cup and tiny spoon - and that's before I taste the coffee.
More shops should pay attention to tableware and coffee presentation.
I clipped my helmet around bike frame and rack - this time not because I'd forgotten my lock! On the contrary, I could easily keep track of my bicycle from anywhere inside the coffee shop. Now that's my type of bike parking.

I was in the mood for cappuccino. While I waited I wandered along the counter, wishing I had enough cash to try a scone or muffin, I stumbled upon a man holding a two gallon ice cream carton. I started reading a listing of interesting flavors, "corn with lavender, caramelized walnut, etc."

"Do you make your own ice cream?" I asked. I suddenly remembered patrons eating ice cream cones at outside seating this past summer, though with brisk autumn weather, cold treats were the furthest thing from my mind.

"Yes, we do. Wanna sample?"

That's how I tasted the aforementioned flavors. Bike riding and ice cream go together like, well, bike riding and coffee. Or, better yet, bike riding and coffee ice cream (I salivate over mocha chip). I will certainly return to Scout to eat a dish of ice cream at some point.

The cappuccino was very smooth, dark, and arrived in the cutest blue cup with saucer. Coffee tastes better when presented in charming glass or ceramic dishes. If a shop only serves coffee in paper cups they lose a notch on my coffeeneuring scale.

I wonder: would Scout consider indoor bike parking? They have the space.

Just the facts:
The Place: Scout & Company
Date: Friday, October 24
Drink: Cappucino
Observation, Bike Friendliness: Highly visible bike parking. A neighborhood coffee shop away from the commercial fray ranks high on my coffeeneuring list. 
Total Miles: 12

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Peugeot UO 14 - Adjustable Handlebars

Inspired with the Peugeot St. Laurent's new 5" riser handlebars and their versatility,  I put similar bars on my brother's old Peugeot. I rode for several miles, testing height and set back just to be sure of position before re-installing the Wald basket.

The new bars made a world of difference in terms of width (for leverage on hilly terrain), ability to lower a short stem (common in 1980s bicycles), and dial in a proper height and reach. Reach has been an ongoing problem for me on most of my bicycles - I'm taller than the average woman, riding bikes made for the masses - and I've learned to solve fit issues with versatile handlebars and seat position.

Walmart has stopped offering the Zefal seat for sale.
If only I'd bought two, but who knew?
And, as much as I love the leopard print saddle cover, the seat has got to go. Positioning on the Peugeot is fairly upright, resembling the Ross. I'd like to find the same Zefal seat - or something similar, wider than my other saddles - as it would round out the Peugeot quite nicely.

I still can't fathom how much I'll ride this bicycle. It's strictly a fair weather machine and one I invested little expense and effort in to bring it up-to-date. It does not duplicate what our other bikes can handle in terms of racks and touring potential. That's the beauty of a simple set up. Without toe-clips but with the ability to carry goods up front, on zippy tires, perhaps the Peugeot will fill a niche as an easy going, approachable ride. For visitors. For quick trips to the store, or as an alternative, old school beauty.

Again, squealing brakes necessitated replacement, this time with Grey Matter rubber. However, I can't get rid of my collection of Peugeot metal shoes (Mafac and Shimano). My husband says I'll never go back to metal - they're a hassle to resole and cost a lot more. He's probably right. Yet, I can't get rid of them either. Perhaps they'll make great Christmas ornaments? 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Coffeeneuring - Third Cup



My mission was two fold: to experience the Burlington waterfront in peak foliage and coffeeneur.

Even the garden grasses were filled with autumn color.
My son had a card for a free cookie at Great Harvest Bread company, which I offered to cash in for him (anything with chocolate, mom!) so my coffee shop of choice it became. After I'd had my fill of leaf peeping I steered inland and pulled up to my destination.

It wasn't until I found the rack, helpfully placed a good distance from the road, that once again I'd forgotten my bike lock. I can change a flat tire en route—no problem—I remember to transfer pump and tool kit, but apparently I'm scattered when it comes to insuring a lock gets stuffed in my front bag. Again, I secured my bike with helmet and bungee cord. I would step inside the store, purchase coffee and goodies and enjoy them at the picnic table near the bike rack.

Of course, any bread shop smells like heaven! I picked up a chocolate oatmeal cookie, a loaf of farmhouse bread, apple crunch bread sample, and sadly only coffee again in lieu of a latte. But at least the coffee was locally roasted—in fact, Speeder and Earl's Coffee is literally right around the corner.

Just the facts:
The Place: Great Harvest Bread Company, Burlington
Date: Friday, October 17
Drink: Speeder and Earl's medium roast
Observation, Bike Friendliness: It's pretty embarrassing that I seem to forget my lock on coffeeneuring outings. Adequate bike rack on patch of grass next to gardens.
Total Miles: 18

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Oh, the Autumn Color!

Friday morning is brisk but also sublime. River valleys are ablaze in color - indeed, this is nature's last hurrah.

Checking out North Beach for possible Coffee Shop Without Walls setting.
Could I be lucky enough, second time around, to encounter as lovely skies?
It's a great impetus to get outdoors...

...before glorious leaves are but a puddle.

There are lots of yellow and orange colors, with sumacs a stunning red...

...and evergreens for contrast.

A perfect marriage all together atop dark tree trunks.

At the Winooski River I detour to check out a pocket park. A fisherman is transferring his poles and tackle to the picnic table.

It's a different vantage point. Usually, I'm buzzing across the bridge, listening to the boards rattle under wheel.

It's good to shake things up, so-to-speak, insuring common routes remain fresh and pleasurable. In fact, I'd forgotten about this sign. Soon it will be completely covered in leaves, and eventually snow.

Looking back towards the bridge, I noticed an old utility pole and wondered if it dates back to when the railroad was in use. Funny how I'd never noticed it before.

Leaves collect atop the bridge arches...

...and pool on the decking.

Further south as I pedal over the barge canal, I delight in new rail decoration: stenciled autumn leaves!

Lake level is unusually low. There are sand bars everywhere. I spy Canadian geese and something else.

I push my bike across the sand...

...and I'm pretty sure people have been stacking stones on a rocky ledge. They look like little monuments.

There is an ending to this bike ride. It involves coffee, of course, Words for another time...