Gone Fishin'

HEY!

I'm not actively blogging here anymore. But if you got here because you were searching for something about bikes, you might want to check out my latest project, Vermont Goldsprints. In summer of 2014, I bought a used goldsprints racing setup and have made it a mission to get more bikes in more people's faces by putting on fun races in unexpected places. Come join me!

12.30.2011

Apricity

One of my favorite blogs to follow is Futility Closet. One of their features is "In a Word." Yesterday's word was "apricity," which FC says means "the warmth of the sun in winter." What a lovely word for such a fleeting and unique sensation. May our new year and especially the next three months be filled with this apricity.

I always get to the end of the year feeling like I'm about to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel. The holidays, beginning with Halloween and continuing through New Year's Eve, provide a distraction to the dropping temperatures and lengthening nights. But there is no mistaking that there are three long months of winter ahead now. I used to be a big skier. Last winter, not at all, this winter, probably not so much. Downhill skiing is expensive and time consuming, but all of that sun and motion and sensation sure is a good antidote for the winter blues. Without a regular weekend commitment to speed and snow, quieter pursuits take over, like pulling my son in his sled along our quiet streets, maybe a little snowshoeing at his grandparents' house in the country. Maybe some writing. Certainly, if I keep it up, the toughest three months of bike commuting. There are no more real holidays, the tree needs to go to the dump, the lights need to be coiled and stored.

At home and in my office, I do my best to de-clutter. I think about what I want to accomplish in the new year and I'm too often filled with regret about what I didn't do in the old.

2011 has been different in that regard. The first full year with my son. The year I dumped Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr from my digital life in an effort to de-clutter there. The year I lost almost 50 pounds. The year I rode 100 miles on my bike for the first time (albeit in the basement!). The year I emptied half of my closet. I'm coming into 2012 and those dark months ahead with some good momentum and I feel more hopeful than usual.

"Maybe a little writing." I look at that phrase in the paragraph up there. The writing has always been a challenge. There was a moment, back at the end of my college career in 1999, when I wrote in a final essay for a class that I was finally ready to accept the title "poet." I'm not so sure if I should still have that title. I struggle with the fear that maybe I just wanted to be a writer, but not to actually write. I struggle with the way inspiration and time and a clean desk all seem to pass one another so fleetingly, like that winter sun. I struggle with the glaring vividness of the dreams I have in the morning, so many of them seeming to allude to a greater thing out there that I am supposed to be doing, and the first step is to write it down.

Apricity. Little accomplishments in the new year, born in the cold and the dark. Maybe a poem whose first line enters my head while I'm shoveling out the car. Maybe an idea for a novel that comes as I grind my way up the hill to my office, rear wheel slipping in the sludge and frozen breath clouding my lenses. Maybe the first day in March when there's a bare rock in the woods big enough to sit on, melting the snow at its margins with the retained heat of brief winter sun.  


12.15.2011

Getting Hit By a Car

So, last week I was involved in a minor collision with a car while I was on my bike. Although my body hitting the car's side made a pretty healthy thump, there was no damage to the vehicle or myself, and we both continued on without skipping a beat. I'll be lucky if it's the worst bike-car collision I'm ever a part of in my life.

It was a classic "right hook."
Goofus turns in front of the bicycle, Gallant waits until the bicycle has cleared the intersection to make the turn.

The woman in the black ford Focus (North Carolina plates, a rental perhaps?) came up behind me to my left. By the time I noticed her, she was in front of me, partially turned to the right, and slamming on her brakes. I didn't have time to stop, and I didn't have room to swing out around her. I didn't have space or time to maneuver to my right into the curb.  I had time to realize I was going to hit her, and I leaned in to take the brunt of the impact with my shoulder, judging that that position would give me the best chance of staying upright and not ending up on the ground or under her wheels. 

Then the thump. 

I didn't come to a stop with that thump, though. My shoulder and upper body kind of smeared along the passenger side of the car, and I came to a stop even with the front window. I looked into the car. The middle aged woman, blond, with glasses, gave a meek smile and said "I was stopping so you could go by."  I'm sure that's what she thought she was doing. What she was really doing, of course, was she was beginning to engage in a "right hook" maneuver, realizing that what she was doing was bad, then reacting by slamming on the brakes. In fact, if she had simply completed her turn instead of slamming on her brakes, I might have been able to get around her to the left. We'll never know. I smiled and rode on. 

Interestingly enough, right after the incident I read that the same sort of "right hook with brake slam" has recently been happening to the author of 327 Words. Hmm. 

Brewing Journal: Batch 11 Kegged, Batch 12 Tasted


Kegged Batch #11 Hard Cider and tasted Batch #12 British Bitter. 

British Bitter is nice and mild, more of a caramel aftertaste than I would like, no hop aroma, just gentle bitterness and carbonation on the tongue at the end. I did try for natural carbonation in the keg with a generous half-cup of sugar, but even after two full weeks followed by extensive chilling, there were not enough bubbles to my taste. Perhaps the basement is too cool for vigorous fermentation at this point. Anyway, that’s what C02 and a kegging setup is for. A few weeks at 36 degrees on 12 pounds of pressure carobonated the beer to 2.67 volumes- high for the style but balancing whatever un-fermented malt is in there. Very easy drinking and a good pair with roasted meats and other winter fare. 

The cider was an adventure. I boiled 2 pounds of lactose in 32 ounces of water and tried to add it to the fermenter to ensure good mixing before putting it all in the keg. The cider in the fermenter immediately foamed up and I lost a pint or three as I worked to get it under control. I put the rest of the lactose solution into the keg and topped it with the cider- so I have a full keg with more lactose than last year but it may not be the full two pounds. I have chilled the keg and put it on 20 pounds of pressure at 36 degrees. I’ll bottle some of it from the keg.

12.14.2011

A Celebration of Crud Weather

The weather has been cruddy of late. Near freezing, dim, foggy, grey, a little wet, etc. etc. Who cares? I've been on my bike to and from work every single day since we changed the clocks. This time last year, (OK, the end of November 2010) I was lamenting that I had already been off the bike for some time. Grey weather isn't a problem at all. A little snow on the road just makes it interesting.

I have my morning routine down. Kid in the high chair, cereal in the tray, bike clothes off the peg and on, work clothes in the bag. Coffee. Kiss the wife, wave goodbye to the kid through the dining room window. He waves back, I turn to go. One time another cyclist came down the street after I left and he got all excited thinking it was me, then disappointed when it wasn't. Cute, in a bittersweet sort of way.

So the weather. Just above freezing with no wind most mornings, wet on the roads. Insulated tights, a base layer, balaclava and shell seem to do it. Light shoe covers and full-fingered summer gloves inside the bar mitts (review pending, but so far I love 'em). I alternate between my bike helmet and an older ski helmet equipped with clear-lensed goggles. There's a little bit of snow on the wooden bridge I cross in the morning. At 7:40, mine are the fifth set of tracks across. Good to know I'm not alone. I'm too sweaty if anything by the time I get to the office. VPR on the radio, hot shower, awake and at my desk by 8:00. Every morning.

Back in June, I wrote about it being the best time to get started bike commuting.  I'd say that right about now might be the worst, at least if darkness is what you dislike the most. If what you you hate the most is cold and snow, we've got a whole other three months coming up for that. But darkness? The sun will set on Friday this week at 4:13 PM, and at 4:14PM the next night. The days will continue to shorten until the 21st, but the afternoons will get a little longer. In a month from now, if I'm still riding (and I plan to be!), I'll be riding home in the daylight.

I know that what's coming will be harder. Cold and snow. Cold, I can dress for. Snow? I can leave a little earlier in the morning and ride snowy road shoulders, but I can't make the drivers around me any less reckless (or just plain freaked out by a cyclist on the road in front of them in the snow). I really want to make it through the whole winter on my bike. It's going to be a challenge. The snow rig is holding up well so far, though the rear wheel needs to be trued and I don't really have a good place to clean the thing as it gets crusted over with winter grime and liberal applications of WD-40. Connoisseur bike lubricants are for the nice road bikes, the winter rig gets whatever's cheap.

But mark my words: if I make it though this winter, I am seriously going to consider buying a snow bike for next winter. The Salsa Mukluk is at the top of my list right now, for reasons that I may go into in a later post.
Sweet inspiration.




12.12.2011

In the Chair

Traveling Light

I have eliminated my Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Diaspora accounts. I have been wasting too much time on the first three, and the last one never really got off the ground. I'm still on Google+.

11.28.2011

Spinning on the Beach


Aside from family, friends and four days of the most amazing food I'll eat all year, Thanksgiving was wonderful for an amazing sunset walk we all took on Nauset Beach this weekend. The tide was approaching dead low, there was no wind, and it was about 50 degrees out. The entire sky was pink and the yellow grass on the tops of the dunes was gold as the last rays of sun lit it up. There were numerous birds and seals out on the water, a few surfers, and lots of people like us out for an evening stroll to work off their meals. People say "hi" to each other, and share a knowing look: this is the place.

If my description seems clunky or inadequate, it is because it is. This place on the edge of the earth is different every time I come to it. If you have never been, you need to go there. If you can find a calm sunset on a low tide, all the better.


11.23.2011

The Benefits of Commuting by Bicycle: More Road Find

Anybody who says they have enough clamps is a liar. Found this one on the road yesterday:

11.21.2011

The Winter Bike in Pictures

The complete winter rig. It's my old mountain bike from college, with extensive modifications for winter riding.  This thing weighs well over 40 pounds and is a total pig compared to the usual bikes I ride. It makes winter riding tolerable and even a little bit enjoyable, though.  Details in the following shots:
Bar Mitts. These things are horrible in a crosswind, but they mean warm hands in light gloves on sub-freezing days. Hope you like riding up on the hoods, because the drops are useless. Note, I have medium hands and bought medium mitts. I'd probably go for large if I had it to do again. 
Cockpit. Shimano bar-end shifters, all cables under the tape, El Cheapo LED flashlights, and a view into the warm caverns of the Bar Mitts. Local Motion "Pedal Harder" stickers as finishing tape for motivation. 
In addition to the normal front and rear lights, I have a strand each of white and red battery powered  Christmas lights on the milk crate cargo box. Red only in the back, white only on the front, and a mix on the sides. Say you didn't see me there in the dark, just try and say it. You can't. Also zip ties. 
A little hacksaw time rendered these cable guides full-housing-run compatible.  Yes, that's another zip-tie.
I am the zip-tie king, I can do anything. That's a 9-speed 11-34 back there. Full cable run all the way from the shifter to the rear derailer. 
Studded Rubber. These Innovas are about the junkiest studded tires you can buy, but they are fairly cheap. Just plain steel, no carbide, half of the studs are gone after a couple of seasons. Surly steel fork replaces the bombed-out Rockshox that originally came on the bike.  
The super-high straddle cable means lots of modulation but not a whole lot of braking power. At least it clears the fender. See also the plastic clamp holding one side of the rack stay because the bolt on the frame was frozen in and I gave up even trying to drill it out. 
I inexplicably had these really nice Salsa rings in my parts bin(s) amongst all the usual garbage I hold on to. A 36-46 double up front is just fine for what I need. That's the original crank and front derailer for the bike on there.

 

11.17.2011

Brewing Journal: Batches 11 and 12


Racked Batch #11 Hard Cider to a 5-gallon secondary vessel with an airlock. Did not take a gravity reading but did taste a sample. Very similar to last year’s batch so far, a little stronger on the apple esters and maybe a touch more sulphurous. Clarity should be improved by secondary, I may also cold-crash the secondary before racking into the keg to avoid more sediment. I’m still thinking about two pounds of lactose (milk sugar) for this batch instead of one, like last year, for more body and a little more sweetness.

Racked Batch #12 British Bitter to a keg with 1/2 cup cane sugar for natural carbonation. It smelled great but I did not take a gravity reading or taste a sample.

My schedule on these brews is a little slower than planned, so I doubt we’ll be drinking Bitter in a week for Thanksgiving. Oh well, time always seems to help rather than hurt.   

11.08.2011

Further Machinations

It was supposed to be a pretty simple project: Build up an old mountain bike frame with a wide range of gears, studded tires, fenders, and a rack.

It's never that simple. A bike with that much "stuff" on it gets pretty cramped. Derailers run into fenders. Chainrings want to hit the frame. Brake straddle cables hit fenders. Then you get the whole thing together and the riding position, (with the saddle at the "right" height) ends up resulting in a 15 centimeter drop to the handlebars, which is, shall we say, a wee bit aggressive for a bike that is meant to be mashed through a season of Vermont roadside snow.

Anyway.

I got most of the thing together. Ran out of electric tape to finish the bars off. The front brake is wonky. The shifting on the chainrings sort of works.

Here's an in-progress picture:

Final pictures to come.

Meanwhile, in minivelo-land, I wrote a long post recently about all of the changes I made to it (mostly cosmetic, changing cable housings and bar tape from black to white to match the saddle). But I didn't get a picture of it until this weekend:

Sadly, though it isn't visible in the picture, the rear tire is flat. Again. Even though I put a rim protection strip in it. I'll have to take a look at it. The little bit of riding I did with the bike this weekend was a joy though, and the new gearing (with the big 56-tooth ring up front) is excellent. Too bad nasty weather season is about to be upon us.

In other news, I'm back up on the rollers indoors and the nice weather has held such that I can stay on the 460 fixie for another week or so before the winter rig truly needs to be put to use. Even though we did have a little crankbolt incident the other day that resulted in a hasty office-supply repair to get me home:
Yeah, that's a zip-tie.

It's all better now.

If course, the basement is a total wreck now, with bike parts and bits of cable slung every which way. I'm looking forward to getting the shop all cleaned up, and I hope to build an actual workbench over the winter.

10.21.2011

Wrenching and Meditation

It had been a long day in a string of long days. With Austen to bed and Kate on her way out the door to do some grocery shopping, I headed into the basement to see if I could get a little time on the rollers. After the summer ended, I had finally set things up again: Rollers on the carpet, centered under our low basement ceiling's floor joists, tires pumped, old laptop on a stepladder ready to boot into Netflix, headphones with long cable threaded above, through the skis and tent poles stored in the ceiling.

I looked around the rest of the basement. Five gallons of British Bitter and another five of hard cider bubbled merrily away in fermenters. A drop leaf table I refinished years ago dropped one of its leaves too far when a hinge broke and I had moved it into the work area. Then some bike parts I ordered showed up, and the table became a workbench, as horizontal surfaces in the basement are wont to do. The minivelo was in the workstand. I had already rearranged the crankset and installed the new cassette. The bike had come with stock gearing for a normal-size road rig, but the 20-inch wheels threw it off, made the gearing too low. I had replaced the 52-tooth big ring with a 56-tooth one, and the new cassette has an 11-tooth small cog and a 32-tooth large one. Big range.

The next task to undertake on the minivelo was born of functional need and vanity in equal parts. I needed to adjust the shift cables and move the front derailer to make the new gears shift smoothly. I also wanted to replace the stock black cable housing with white housing, to match the white saddle and white handlebar tape I plan to put on the bike.  I pulled the cables, cutting each one cleanly with a satisfying crunchy snip. My Park Tool cable cutters are sharp and are reserved only for these two tasks. Cut cables. Cut housing. I removed the old housing and retrieved a bag of ferrules from the drawer I have for such small bike parts and uncoiled the new white housing. I made the new pieces shorter, for a more elegant "no reverse curves" layout that should make the shifting smoother and more precise. Even with the nice cuts made by the tool, some of the wires that stiffen the housing come out a little uneven. I ran each piece over a file a few times until all of the cut ends were perfectly flat, ensuring that the bare cable end would nest into the ferrule as tightly as possible.

I returned to the toolbox again. In the top drawer, there are a few tools that came from my grandfather's basement after he died. Calipers my grandmother used every day in her job at the Clarostat factory. Old wrenches, smelling of engine oil and the basement dirt of my grandfather's cellar.  An ice pick labeled "Dover  Ice Company." Think about that. A tool used to chip manageable pieces of ice that were delivered to the house from some other place, packed in sawdust after being cut from some winter pond. I use the ice pick to neaten and widen the holes in the cable housing, to pick bearings out of the unreachable places they sometimes end up in, to clean gunk. This time, I used the sharpened tip to pen up the housing, again ensuring a smooth interface.

All of these little things. All of these little things combined to do such a little thing. Someone else on the street is doing the same thing in their basement, slow, methodical, Doing it Right. Maybe fixing a lawnmower, maybe sanding a bookshelf, remembering to wipe the new wood with a tack cloth after, remembering a time when they didn't know to do that. Wisdom in the feel of the right tool, findable and maintained, the hand planes on my bench, each wrapped in an old section of inner tube, keeping the cutting edges keen. The right kind of oil stored just for this purpose of loosening one nut someday, waiting in the cabinet. 

The ferrules and cable housing slide over the cable with a little resistance, then effortlessly once they are fully on. I put everything back together. I go back to the toolbox. Top tray: Tools of Measurement. First Drawer: Tools that Cut or Abrade. Second Drawer: Tools that Push, Pull, or Drive. Bottom Drawer: Attachments, Tape, Solder. I take my "third hand" tool from the second drawer. I use it to put just the right amount of tension on the derailer cables before I tighten the fixing bolts. I adjust the shifting a bit here, a bit there. I plug  the soldering iron in and let it heat. I don't have any new crimp-on cable ends. I heat the freshly-cut cables with the iron. The solder is a solid, then it isn't as it melts and flows into the fiber of the cable with a sputter and a puff of smoke.

It all clicks, the new cable housing is bright, different. The tools all go back in the box, the bags of small parts are closed and returned to their proper places. The bike stays on the workstand. Next time I'll do the brake cables and bar wrap.  I can hear the car in the driveway as I head back upstairs to wash my hands. I never made it to the rollers, but I felt deeply satisfied, and my mind was clear.


10.18.2011

Brewing Journal: Batches 11 and 12, Entry #1


Batch #11. Purchased 5.5 gallons of unpasteurized apple cider from Boyer’s Orchard. Allowed it to warm to room temperature overnight and pitched a pack of the Wyeast 4767 the next morning. Last year’s cider had an original gravity of 1.051, I’d guess that this years’ was close to that or a little sweeter, but it is whatever it is and I’m not too hung up on worrying about the alcohol content on this anyway. Looking over my notes from last year when I made cider, I can’t believe that I only let it go two weeks in primary and then kegged it, and that I was liking the taste of it two weeks after that! That is way, way too quick for good cider. The best of the cider from last year was the bit I drank in April before the keg finally blew. This year’s plan is more conservative. I’ll give it two or three weeks in primary, then rack it to a secondary for further clarification. I got too much sediment last year going right from the primary to the keg. I also think the cider could have benefited from a little more sweetness and body, so I am going to double the lactose addition from one to two pounds.  Same sugar and maple syrup additions for natural carbonation in the keg, more sugar if I decide to go ahead and put this in Belgian bottles.

Batch #12. British bitter. I brought 2 gallons of my boil water to 170 degrees with my steeping grains in the pot and allowed it to sit for a few minutes, then to the boil with the DME and LME included in the kit, 1 ounce of Kent Goldings hop pellets at 60 minutes and another ounce with a minute left to go in the boil. Chilled the wort to 100 degrees in about 10 minutes in a water bath in the kitchen sink and added it to the fermenter with the rest of the water to make just a hair over 5 gallons. Didn’t bother with a gravity reading, it is supposed to be around 1.035. (Not like I’m really doing a mash here, so as long as the right amount of water is in the fermenter and I put all of the malt in, which I did.)  I pitched the yeast when the wort had cooled to 78 degrees and observed slight signs of fermentation 12 hours later. 24 hours in there was a fluffy krausen about an inch thick and my blowoff tube was bubbling away. This is supposed to need a two-week primary and two weeks of bottle conditioning (fast, low-gravity, low alcohol brew) so I should be able to rack it to a keg for natural carbonation on 10/31 and be ready to consume by 11/14 (at least taste). looks like we’ll be pulling drafts of cellar-temp British Bitter for Thanksgiving if all goes well!

10.13.2011

The Cold

We all have the cold. Austen snuffles all night and wakes periodically to protest the way a stuffed-up nose interferes with the use of his pacifier. Kate has had it for a day or two now. It started for me last night, a grating feeling down one side of my throat and now a pressure behind my right eyeball that makes me want to check the mirror to see that it is staying in.  An all-day regimen of tea (to soothe my gravel throat) means waking up all night, every two hours, to pee. Like an old man. Last night at some unnamed hour we all awoke and hauled the little humidifier out of the basement for Austen. I don't remember when that was. Its little ultrasonic element that vibrates the water into vapor was dried out or clogged or something, so there we were, the three of us in Austen's room, Kate rocking him in the chair and me stabbing at buttons, the electrical outlet, stabbing at the little ultrasonic thing with a Q-tip trying to coax it back to life. It's making the noise but no vapor.You wouldn't know Kate had the cold if she didn't tell you. Austen, though tired and off his normal appetite, smiles and laughs the same, giggling through his perpetually running nose. I'm the real baby. I can't stand it, the reduced lung capacity, the fatigue. Kate recommends a decongestant, a vitamin."I hate pills." I say. What I mean is that I hate that the pills are not a miracle cure, their efficacy more imagined than measurable. I get the vapor going in the humidifier. At 5:30 Austen is up again, and I have the sensation that I have been wakened from a more peaceful sleep than the rest of the night brought. He's back to bed, we all sleep. Fifteen minutes before I need to be on my way to work he wakes again. I feed him, make the coffee, try to eat something myself. I get my bike stuff on and roll out the door, knowing Kate has had a frantic shower and is half together herself. I'm leaving her with more work than she should have to do. I have the fenders on, the lights, the shoe covers. The raindrops hit my thighs just the same. Wet wool. The first hill comes and I feel like my lungs stop an inch below my neck. Short breaths, try not to upset the delicate balance in my throat. There's a gremlin tugging back on my wheel, resistance like a flat tire but I can see there isn't one.  Later, spinning, trying to find a rhythm, the cough comes, the sharp sandpaper throat follows, the grimace. At the top of the hill is the Poplar that drops leaves and sticks into the road. On a rainy day like this, I slow and go around. The leaves wouldn't crunch today anyway.

10.09.2011

Surveying the Harbor

It may be Fall, but it is basically beach weather down here.

10.06.2011

Colchester Ave 'Complete Street' Approved!

Note:
I don't normally just reblog stuff here, but this is really excellent. After a demonstration period, a local street that was once a 4-lane has been reduced to a three -lane "Complete Street" with accomodations for cyclists, pedestrians, and cars. I truly hope that this sort of "4 lanes to three lanes with bike lanes" approach will be considered some day for Williston Road, at least from the airport to I-89.
-Matt

Colchester Ave 'Complete Street' Approved!: From Localmotion
After a year-long demonstration, multiple public meetings and continued advocacy from nearby residents, the City of Burlington has officially committed to keeping the 3-lane design that was installed last September!
Colchester_Ave
On September 28th, the Public Works Commission unanimously approved the 3-lane design with bike lanes and enhanced crosswalks. As long as weather cooperates, the final coat of asphalt and the striping should be in place by winter.
The Commission referenced the City's newly adopted Transportation Plan that calls for 'Complete Streets' as an important reason to approve this demonstration project. As Commissioner Maggie Gundersen rightly noted "It will take time to transition to our complete streets plan" and added that she sees the benefits. "As a driver, I feel much safer on Colchester Avenue now -- it's much calmer."
"This process wasn't easy, so I want to specifically acknowledge the strong leadership from Public Works (Erin Demers and Nicole Losch), the CCRPC (Eleni Churchill), CATMA (Bob Penniman), RSG (Joe Segale), the City Council Transportation Cmte (Kurt Wright, Vince Brennan, Dave Hartnett), City Councilor Sharon Bushor and the entire DPW Commission," said Local Motion's Director Chapin Spencer.
The City started the 3-lane demonstration in September 2010. The road had previously been 4-lanes and was a high-crash location. The 3-lane design has been working well, even with the 18,000 to 20,000 cars a day. Now that the City will make the 3 lane design permanent, it will allow for bike lanes and enhanced pedestrian crossings. When Public Works initially asked for public comment on the redesign, comments were 160 in support and 10 opposed, but a few critics persisted in questioning the complete street.
If we weren't able to get the 3-lane design passed on Sept 28, another year would have gone by without the final coat of asphalt added on the street or the formal bike lanes. The successful demonstration ran for a full year, and the continued support of Burlington residents helped convince policy makers to make it permanent. The Department of Public Works has led the way with forward thinking work on Colchester Avenue and we should thank them! Click here to send a thank you email to DPW staffer Nicole Losch.
The City and many stakeholders have completed a final draft of a long-range plan for Colchester Avenue. It also shows a 3-lane 'complete streets' vision, and it will be presented to the full DPW Commission in October 2011.

10.02.2011

Rainy Fall Days

-are made for baking. This sky-high Apple pie is on its way into the oven right now.

10.01.2011

Sometimes a Great Notion

Austen has this sort of Pacific Northwest thing going on here while I am sporting the classic "rumpled Vermont municipal employee at the end of a long week" look.

9.27.2011

Year One

Austen, one year old, eating an apple while sitting in an apple tree.

Today is Austen's first birthday. The time has dragged and flown simultaneously, in that way all people and certainly all parents talk about.  It is a birthday for me too. It's a year of being a different kind of in love than I ever have been before, and a year of unraveling. A dissolution of the person I was for the first 33 years of my life, and a reconstitution into someone a little different.  I feel a little wiser and also dumbfounded; more flexible yet empowered to be unbending when necessary. The depth of field changes constantly, the focus changes constantly, but my grip on the camera is firm.
Austen, less than a month old. He drags this pillow around with him now. 
Of course, any changes I have observed in myself pale in comparison to what Austen has done. I feel a little sad that we are in the part of his life that he will remember almost none of, at least consciously.  What an odd thing. I'll have to tell him about it, take pictures and keep notes like this one.
One month old.
Austen, you came into the world with a clear and piercing voice, one I'll never forget.  When your mother needed rest, I walked miles up and down the halls of the maternity ward with you in my hands, curled against my neck and shoulder and chest. Getting you home, to bright fall sun spilling through our picture window onto all of us in the living room was one of the best days of my life.
Two months old, at Nauset Beach.
Our time at home, unencumbered by the constraints of work, was all too short. By the new year we were both back at work, and for a time, you were in day care. We saw you flagging there, coming home every day unrested and vacant, and we felt like the worst people in the world for deciding to have you and not being able to have you home with one of us for the first years of your life. We found a nanny we could share with a few other families, bit a big money bullet, and went for it. I hope you'll remember Brenna someday, but if you don't you should know that you and she got along wonderfully, and that you smiled in the mornings when you saw her and you were happy and engaged with us at the end of the workday when we would see you again.
Four months old. 
I hope you know also, that your smile and squeal of delight upon my return home every day has been the best moment of each and every one of those days. Except for all of the other best moments, all caused by you. I remember in the first few months of your life that there was ceaseless rocking and sung lullabies as I tried to get you to sleep. And I remember a little bit of sweet sadness this spring when you couldn't be rocked to sleep anymore, and I would read to you in your crib instead- not until you fell asleep, because you wouldn't, you'd just become docile and then snuggle into the side of the crib with a sigh. And I'd close the door, exhausted and needing a break, but again a little sad at taking my leave from you for the night. One night, not that long ago, you woke in the middle of the night, inconsolable. While I held you and swayed, you cried.  Then you stopped, and buried your little head under my chin. I knew it was time to put you back down but I really didn't want to.
Six months old. A total smile and laugh machine.
We took you to the ocean as soon as we could travel that far with you. It was late fall and cold and windy, but we still plunked you down on the sands of Mayflower Beach for a few moments. You clenched some of the fine sand in your fingers, and I could practically see the neurons firing in your little brain when you did. Over the spring and summer, we would return to the ocean, both the calm, gentle waters and marshes of Cape Cod bay, and the roaring embrace of your anagram beach, Nauset. You were mesmerized to watch me and your uncle skimboarding into the surf there. I'll have a skimboard made for you by next spring, I promise.
Nine months old. 
You should know that your mother has worked very hard to nourish you. First, with all of the struggles that come from nursing, and now as she goes and picks out fresh vegetables and whole grains and cooks them for you and mixes them. I've never seen so many little containers of food in our house, but you like it all and you have been growing big and strong all along.
10 months old. Loving the swing. 
I'm proud of you. There's no such thing as being "just a baby." You dream, you analyze, you move and you hear. Most of all, you love, joyfully, unconditionally, bravely.  You inspire your mother and I to love you back in the same way, and believe me, we do.

Less than a month old. I'll never forget how little he was at the beginning. 

9.22.2011

Scratched Nanos on sale for 250 bucks

I'd love to not be the only minivelo rider I know in the Burlington area, so somebody should pick one of these up for cheap.

Save 50 bucks, you're going to scratch it eventually anyway:

http://bikeisland.com/cgi-bin/BKTK_STOR20.cgi?Action=Details&ProdID=2293

Please note:

I have a bunch of posts on the blog at this point about these bikes. Just to be clear, I bought mine at full retail and i'm not sponsored in any way by Bikesdirect. I just think these bikes are cool and applaud BD for bringing a mini to the US for such a low price point. 

9.19.2011

Another Nice Windsor Nano Minivelo Review

I've written a bunch about my experiences with the Windsor Nano Minivelo. Here's another nice writeup: http://www.dionridesbikes.com/2011/09/down-rabbit-hole-first-ride-with.html .

I'd echo everything the author has to say there. Also, as he mentions, the handlebar is indeed a 25.4. I just found that out when I changed out the stem. (Seriously, Bikesdirect could not have specced an uglier stem). My new one (Origin8 Ultimat8 120) is a 26.0. A 40 cm eBay drop bar in the 26mm size is on its way for only a few dollars more than a shim would have cost. The stock bar goes in the parts pile for now, along with the ugly stem. 

I am continuing to love the thinner, higher-pressure tires. I made a bonehead move and bought replacement tubes in the 451 size instead of the 406 size of the Nano's wheels, but I have been able to fit these tubes with only minor encouragement and they have held up well. 

I'm ready for better gearing. I'm thinking about getting an 11-34 8-speed cassette and going with just the 53 ring up front. It's a question of what kind of hills I'll be able to get up in a 53X34 more than anything, but I'd love to drop the second chaining and derailer in favor of short stack bolts and a chain watcher. 

8.22.2011

Hobbyist Identity Crises and other First-World Problems

A few weeks ago, I was ready to list all my homebrewing stuff on Craigslist.

The summer has been a hot and humid one, and with a young baby in the house who can crawl faster than I am often willing to run, my energy level has been low. Coupled with a commitment to exercise and weight loss, I found myself with empty kegs, unmade beer kits, and a kitchen that was rarely clean enough to justify dirtying it further with the detritus of brewing.

Anyway, I soldiered on. I wanted to have some beer ready for a late August birthday party, so I brewed. The first batch felt like I was wading through the malt syrup for miles, rather than boiling it with spring water and sprinkling in hops. Everything seemed to take more effort. Up the stairs from the basement with the supplies. On the stove. Down the stairs because I forgot the thermometer. Might was well use the extra sanitizer I just mixed to prep a keg. Back down the stairs. The pot meanwhile nearly boiled over. Repeat again two nights later, then clean, clean, clean and listen for the telltale glugging sound as fermentation takes off. Then forget about the brew for a few weeks until it's time to keg.  At the end of both brew sessions, I was sweaty, sticky, exhausted, and not looking forward to the 5am wakeup that Austen was sure to grace us with in the morning.

Still.

This weekend I kegged the two beers.  I didn't even check the gravity of the Cream Ale. It smelled good, like beer. Good enough. The Belgian Wit got a gravity test. I put a little of it in the test jar and floated the hydrometer. 1.011. Nice. I let it settle a bit, then tasted. Amber malt, hop-bitter and a little hop-aromatic. Fresh. Bitter orange and even the coriander came through at the end. Warm, foggy, flat- and delicious. I made this. 10 gallons of beer I made in gleaming kegs, chilling and carbonating.

I mentally deleted my Craigslist posting.

My priorities have changed. I don't drink nearly enough beer to be brewing it gallons at a time. Given the choice of an hour session on the rollers or an hour session doing brewing chores, I'm going to ride most of the time. Between nighttime meetings for work, early wakeups, and weekends that are more draining than restorative- seriously, Kate and I have decided that there should be a "new baby workout."  Lie down on the floor. Get up. Run to the next room. Sit down. bend over and pick something up that weighs 20 pounds. Get up. Over and over again. All Day Every Day. Repeat for the rest of your life.  -something has had to give and it has been homebrewing. But the joy and excitement is still there, and the wonderful thing is that much of what you need in brewing is time to let things brew, to let sediments settle out and to let the yeast do their thing and clean up after the big party they tend to throw in the presence of several pounds of quality malt. I have that kind of time.


8.17.2011

To the Driver of the Gray VW Golf with Vermont Vanity Plate "RICA"

Umm, Hi. I'm the cyclist you didn't see and could have hit this morning, as you exited Maple Tree Place while making a left turn against the a red arrow to head south on 2A.

You blew the light.  I know, because I had a green going straight across and it doesn't go green until the left arrow on the opposite side is firmly and solidly red. You were talking on your cell, not hands-free. I also know that you know the light was about to turn because you were way back from the intersection when it did and you gunned it to get through.  Good thing I was taking my time getting going, or you would have taken me out.

Finally, if you've gone out of your way to get an easily-memorable vanity plate, don't you think you might drive a little more carefully?


8.15.2011

Stuff re-turn Likes: Lower Notch Berry Farm


Just south of Bristol Village, on the Lower Notch Road, there is a blueberry and raspberry farm run by Al and Linda Lunna with a booming pick-your-own operation. Since Kate and I routinely miss every picking season every summer and thought we had done it again this summer, I was pleased to find Lower Notch on Facebook and hear that they had another 2-3 weeks of blueberry picking ahead of them, even in the middle of August.  We headed down late on Saturday morning.

Austen got his own pail, but we didn't trust him with berries.
I'll admit, before we headed down, I was already biased in favor of this place, since I had both Lunnas as teachers in Junior High and Al was my track and cross-country coach as well. They have since "retired" and now run the berry farm, selling at several local farmer's markets.

We got right down to picking. The first couple of rows had berries deep in the bushes, but the picking was kind of slow going and I wasn't sure if Austen was going to make it long enough in the backpack for us to garner any real sort of haul. Then we turned a corner.
Like Wine Grapes

The row of bushes we happened on were so loaded with berries it looked like bunches of wine grapes on the vine. We filled two pails in about 40 minutes, with me taking frequent breaks to march Austen up and down the rows and into the shade when he got bored or hot.
Patience

Our two pails of berries came to over ten pounds and we paid about 27 dollars for those berries.  They keep bees to pollinate the bushes as well, so we bought some blueberry honey.

As we were cashing out, Al came over to say hi and we spent some time catching up and reminiscing about the good old days of running at Mount Abe. Sadly, he said, the cross-country and track programs today are a shadow of what they once were as football and lacrosse have soaked up potential runners at my small alma mater. That's really too bad. Many of my best friends, people I still keep in touch with, are people I ran with back in the day.I attribute my affinity for suffering-based sports (mostly cycling, these days) to Al's workout regimes ("dump hills" for cross-country and interminable 400 meter repeats for track). Perhaps it's time to rally the old gang and start a booster's organization.

Al also pointed out the state-record elm tree, right by the driveway. It's worth checking out all by itself, with a trunk almost 8 feet in diameter. I didn't take a good picture of it.

We had a really nice time and it was good picking. Al told me he put in 17 different varieties of blueberries to ensure a long season, and I can attest that his strategy has worked. I can't imagine these bushes getting picked bare in the next two weeks, so if you haven't gotten out berry picking yet this summer, there's still time and the berries are delicious and abundant.
A Full Pail

Getting there:
1947 Lower Notch Road
Head west out of Bristol on Route 17 and turn left on to Lover's Lane- about 3/4 of a mile later you'll go through the intersection with Hewitt Road and cross the New Haven River. Take a right on to Lower notch Road and follow the signs about 2 miles to the farm, which will be on the right.

Google Maps:
<http://maps.google.com/maps/place?ftid=0x4cb566024d4bc17f:0xc2f830281f02309b&q=1947+lower+notch+road+bristol+vermont&hl=en&sll=44.099857,-73.0755&sspn=0.006295,0.006295&ie=UTF8&ll=44.104336,-73.082407&spn=0,0&t=h&z=16>

Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lower-Notch-Berry-Farm/234208049940234