Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Hazen's Notch/Lake Carmi Bike Overnight

Leaving at 5:30 a.m. to catch bus.
Dry, summer-like temperatures and peak foliage in the Green Mountains are a perfect match. With the impetus to visit Hazen's Notch and Lake Carmi - two Vermont regions I'd longed to explore - no time like the present for a bike ride.

At 7 a.m. I stepped off the commuter bus into dense fog.

East Cambridge cemetery. Beautiful solitary trees.
I donned a reflective vest and started pedaling.

In Johnson I made sure to photograph the cool bike racks.

Hard to take a bad photo in the fog!
After coffee and a delicious breakfast sandwich I started climbing.

Socks and sandals, tights, lightweight insulated coat. Colorful. Need to stand out.

Queen Ann's Lace and purple asters complement autumn color.

Smiles. Happy to be on this adventure.

The only downside: ten mile section included logging and delivery trucks. It is Friday morning, after all.

Fog lifted in Eden.

A sublime view of Lake Eden.

There is a cross Vermont route, mostly dirt road, that I'd like to do
someday that takes in this pass.
At mile 30+ I leave Lowell behind and head west on Route 38, a section of Bayley-Hazen military road. 

It's growing warm, but trees shade most of the climb.

Sugar houses have stockpiled wood for spring.
I leap frog a couple of Quebec motor tourists. We wave and smile, acknowledging the lovely day, lovely scenery.

Some sections are steep, others not so. It's doable in my granny gear.

A spring where I fill my water bottles.
The summit is anticlimactic. It's all wooded. I pass the Long Trail (Vermont's border to border, north-south hiking route) and the Catamount Trail ((similar ski route). In fact, my clue is when the road suddenly descends.

Minimal baggage. Tent and jacket are stashed on rear rack.

The road dips and flattens, fortunately, alleviating a squealing, hand hurting descent.

Heading into Montgomery Center, farms and contemporary houses fill the landscape. A mix of the old and the new.

In East Berkshire I enter Missisquoi Valley farmland and ride the rail trail. Burger, coleslaw, and lemonade in Enosburgh Falls renews my energy for the climb up to Lake Carmi.

I make it by 3 p.m., 50+ miles.

Lake Carmi, a large lake in northern Vermont, known for small mouth bass
and a black spruce bog
With hours until nightfall and little to do before a long night in the tent, I go for a walk.

Sunrise on the shoreline at my campsite.
Twice I shoo a determined raccoon from my picnic table. The crafty animal had partially unzipped my handlebar bag, looking for treats. I drag all my panniers and cook stuff inside the tent. I can't afford to lose what little food I have to get me to the next town.

Franklin County farmland. Dairy farms are vast with thousand of acres planted in corn.
It's chilly and I look forward to hot chocolate or tea at breakfast time. I scramble inside the tent, but don't come up with the bag where I stowed matches and drinks. I recall where the raccoon had retreated the evening before and find the bag 20 feet into the woods. There are teeth marks in the hot chocolate packet and brown sugar, but, thankfully, everything else is intact.

At 8 a.m. I am back on the rail trail, heading towards Sheldon and eventually Saint Albans. I have an evening dinner to get home for, which shouldn't be difficult with the early start.

There are new signs on the trail, since my husband and I were last out this way. Close to Saint Albans, I ride alongside a committee member for a while. He clues me in on recent improvements: signs are new in 2014 and a map which highlights Franklin County bike routes. I grabbed one at a trail register and made sure to include my comments.

River crossing in Sheldon. The wooden surface was chewed up by snowmobiles.

High Bridge on Arrowhead Lake. 20 miles from home.
After coffee and yogurt at a convenience store in Saint Albans, I leave the trail behind. Oakland Station road, Arrowhead Lake Road, and East Road in Milton/Colchester were among the new-to-me pleasant, rolling back roads I explored before arriving home at 2:30.

All in all, the adventure renewed my wanderlust. I enjoyed new roads, new places, during spectacular foliage. I can't think of anything that would've improved my journey. Can't beat that!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Re-Tired Table

The table is a perfect 26" diameter for tires.
After I wisely gave up on the idea to re-use old tires on a bicycle, I put the old rubber aside for a while. I considered heaving them out with the garbage, donating them to Bike Recycle - they make belts - or refashioning them into something useful. Except, I didn't particularly want to create extra work for myself either.

I was able to smooth the puckered tire so it rests flat against the glass.
So, I revisited a creative idea, one that came about because we purchased used outdoor furniture earlier in the year to adorn a new deck. I suspected the table's diameter might be mountain tire width at the time of purchase, but my husband rolled his eyes at my suggestion. So, with instant rejection, I put the "silly" idea aside.

We lived with the set for the summer. Previous owners had left paint splatters on the table. I was able to clean it off the glass, but spots remained on the green edge. It wasn't terribly noticeable and I could've lived with it's "character" or eventually sanded and repainted. However, when used tires entered the equation I put my "silly" idea to the test. My husband also wasn't around to offer an opinion.

I cleaned up the flexible tire; the other being a stiffer, flat-proof version I presumed wouldn't lend itself as easily to the task. First I tried folding the tire around the rim - exactly like you would on a wheel rim - but the 1.5" height was too thick. One last try: I cut the wire bead (1" into gumwall) off the rubber. This was just enough to stretch the rubber in place. The cut side is down. And, if I need to deal with rainwater collecting underneath, I have a leather hole punch that should do just the trick, adding unseen drainage holes.

When my youngest boy came home from school and admired my handiwork, he smiled and gave me a high five. Then I called a neighbor over - who also loves bikes. She gave her approval and immediately invited her husband to admire what I'd done. I felt better.

That's when I decided my husband is living with the "new" table.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Knobby Tire Lasagna?

Aaron Stein is in love with using found items for his art. He is also in love with the automobile. And their positive and negative influence in our lives. This quirky image made me laugh. Thank goodness I spied a bicycle tucked inside his office.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Deadheading Flowers - A Change in Plans

Osteopermums, my new favorite flower. I have purple and white variety in my
window boxes. They love cooler weather.
It's a beautiful, crisp morning. I've made a thermos of coffee and applesauce muffins. I show up at 10:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning, ready to lead a group of women. It will be a 1.5 hour jaunt along easy, flat trail and neighborhoods.

Except, no one shows.

Undaunted, I call my husband, a prearranged back up plan. No sense wasting a bike ride. We have sustenance. We love to ride. Chilly weather means we don coats and gloves.

As I wait, I watch couples slowly ride by, deep in conversation. I watch women in groups of two pedal by. Walkers, joggers. Hockey parents, shuttling loud rolling carts of gear past me to the nearby rink. An out of town bus operator loops behind building and exits on pedestrian path, realizing his mistake too late. A pole planted mid-trail prevents such dangerous intersection with Burlington's busy bike path. I don't envy the driver's recourse, backing a behemoth bus in reverse. The beeping alarm slices a sunny, brisk morning filled with birdsong and quiet thoughts.

Sipping coffee, I decide to deadhead Osteopermums near park sign. Pretty the place. Ponder why women are not drawn to this year's Women's Ride Series. Is it the Sunday morning venue? Too casual a ride? Do beginners tend towards impromptu arrangements? Should we include men or reclassify schedule as family rides?

Clearly, I must consider what riders - new and seasoned - would like to experience. Or perform a survey.

Meanwhile, I just ride.

Friday, September 19, 2014

How to Create More Bike Commuters

Bike Commuter 101 classes lean heavily on safety. First, it's all about the bike. Are tires properly inflated? Do your brakes work? Is the chain oiled? Do you know how to change a flat? Lights? Reflective clothing?

Once the bicycle's condition is addressed, other questions must be answered: What's the safest route to follow? What happens if it rains? How do I carry my stuff? Where do I lock my bike?

There are so many steps and options for a first timer, it's enough information to give many a headache. No wonder most wannabe commuters resort to their usual transportation - the automobile. It may not be the healthiest solution (for body and planet), nor the cheapest, but it's comfortable. As adults, change does not come easily.

Make no mistake, commuting by bike is a big lifestyle change. But do bike commute workshops have to be fraught with does and don'ts, scaring away potential commuters? These meetings are held with the best of intentions: to get more people on bicycles. However, I wonder if harping on safety (bike- and road-wise) has an underlying, adverse affect, much like the helmet debate wars.

I think instructors are missing the point, one that might stick with folks at least amenable to the idea of riding a bike. FUN. Teachers are focused on accounting for every dangerous situation - and they would be remiss if they avoided the subject altogether - that they forget to emphasize the obvious, "Just get out there and have fun."

We should all recall what it was like to ride like a kid.

Remember the first taste of freedom, pedaling through woods, down the street, with friends, pumping roller coaster style in a sandpit? Or riding with no hands? Danger was the furthest thing from our mind. We had wheels. We had transportation.

If I had my way, transportation cycling classes would be held outdoors, for starters. I'd preach by example, bringing an old bike. Together, we'd ride on the bike path, detouring in the woods, through parks, weave on the sidewalk, taking not necessarily the most direct route, but the most enjoyable, avoiding narrow, litter and pothole riddled bicycle lanes. Then I'd suggest decorating our bicycles: finally putting reflective spoke beads on my own wheels. And what's wrong with playing cards in the spokes? Tassels on handlebars? Wire or ziptie plastic flowers on a rack? Pinwheel on a handlebar? (Give me back my banana seat bike!)

The inevitable questions would come, unique to their situation, whether it's riding at night or in traffic. One by one. Not presented like the big bad wolf looking over your shoulder.

This post was inspired by Bicycle Times' Ride Like a Kid article, by Andrew Titus. Issue 031, October 2014.