Gone Fishin'


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!



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.  


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.


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.


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+.