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Posts from the ‘bicycle culture’ Category

beginnings

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The beginning of 2013.  New ideas, new projects, new roads to discover.

I’ve taken some time to think about blogging, biking, photographs, the whole narrative.  About what I do and why I do it.  Early last year I read a post by one of my favorite artist/illustrators, Tommy Kane (who is often on his bike, looking for things to draw).  When I read the post, it felt as if he had pulled words right out of my head … he said:

“Why do I keep going, you might ask?  Well, the answer is simple, I just can’t stop.  The truth is, when it comes to my art, I have no real goal in mind.  I’m not really heading anywhere.  I’m not sure what I’m trying to achieve.  Maybe I’m just searching for a brick wall to run into.  Once I do that, then I can take a long needed rest. … So for now I ‘m going back to what I do best, making drawings of buildings and objects for no apparent reason whatsoever.”

While I hesitate to think of myself as an artist, or even a “photographer” (in that official label-y kind of way), I know that I am compelled to create, like Mr. Kane – “for no apparent reason whatsoever”.

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My family can attest to this habit that often drives them nuts; I have to make things, I have to have a camera at hand, I have to take photos, I have to write down little bits of thoughts, observations and ideas.  Some of it has appeared on this blog, much has not.

Keeping a diary was something I started when I was a child, and I’ve never outgrown the habit; the format has just evolved.  My great-grandmother was a diarist, my grandfather was a painter and prolific letter-writer who kept carbon copies of every page he ever mailed.  I am now custodian of these things.  I suspect I have inherited a genetic component.

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My photos and other “bits” (including this blog) have just been added to the archives, and my now hoard includes of boxes of prints, shelves of journals, notebooks and albums, clouds and hard drives filled with digital files – evidence of an addiction to creating and recording, and a compulsion that I am sure some psychologist might have a field day analyzing.

There are likely as many reasons to start a blog as there are individuals.  I think it is often a combination of exploring a topic or subject, and the urge to create something.  “Putting it out there”, so to speak,  may be inherent to the creative process;  it is the voice of the creation.

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In the beginning, I think I justified my own decision to “go-public-and-blog-about-it” with the the idea that maybe I could inspire someone to get on a bike.  I’ve come to the conclusion that if you want to ride a bike, you will; if you don’t, you won’t.  I don’t think pretty bikes, pretty pictures or just the right words will change a mindset.  If you happen to be leaning over the fence of “could I/should I?”, there are many vocal and more effective advocates and cheerleaders out there who can provide advice, reviews, instruction and analysis on every aspect of cycling to help you decide.  There are groups and clubs to join (real and virtual), lists to subscribe to, pledges to sign, rides and events to partake in … it’s a very bike-y world out there.

Whenever I find myself in very bike-y cities – places with lots of people on all sorts of bikes – I most admire the everyday-ness of the cyclists I see.  It’s just a way (granted, sometimes a necessity, but usually a more enjoyable one) of doing something, getting someplace.

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When I have watched cyclists in these places, or when my husband brings home photos of people on bikes in China, I always think:  I seriously doubt this guy writes a blog about schlepping big loads of stuff on his rickety old bike, even though I find it incredibly fascinating.  To these people, it’s nothing extraordinary.  To these everyday cyclists, to photograph or write about it would seem as ridiculous as writing a blog about doing laundry or brushing your teeth.  (Although I have no doubt someone could put an incredibly creative and artistic spin on either of these… and find a way to blog about it).

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Over time, my enthusiasm to get a message across through blogging transformed into, well … whatever it is now.  Kind of a jumble of photos, thoughts and personal narrative on the beauty of what I see out there; an extension of this lifelong habit (obsession?) to create and record.

Most bloggers, artists, photographers, writers, etc., want to have their work noticed.  Most want to be known, at least to some degree or within some social or professional circle.  They want their work to be recognized for an endless range of reasons – from being able to make a living,  to personal or professional validation, to inspire change or action, or simply (and sadly) for personal notoriety and self-promotion.   The irony for me is that I have always been averse to much of this.  I have no agenda and recognition typically makes me uncomfortable.   I don’t need validation; I could care less whether it’s good work or complete crap – I just need to do the creating, the recording.

All of this makes it pretty ridiculous for a person like me to even have a blog in the first place.

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So.  Maybe I have found my brick wall.  I have decided that I simply want to ride my bike.

I will always take pictures, I will always be fascinated by bicycles (and cows and old barns).  I will always be compelled to create “stuff”, and will continue to fill boxes and bookshelves with my cycling (and my life’s) flotsam to be entertainment for some future curious grandchild who may be induced to become the new custodian.  But I don’t need to publicly blog about it or illustrate it, or to advocate, review or analyze something that is ultimately so simple and so basic – just riding a bicycle.

Keeping a blog has been a wonderful exercise; I have learned much and I have grown.  But it has also taught me that the narrative I am compelled to keep can be archived in a less public space.  It is enough for me to write privately on paper, to stash the results in journals and albums on the bookshelf, and I think it may ultimately be more liberating, more honest, more creative.

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I now understand the things that will always be a part of me – and those I can let go of.  This is the beginning of a new chapter for me – as just a cyclist, a person with a camera and a notebook, and not as a blogger.  I’m retiring.   I’ll leave the site up  … until I don’t.  For my friends who still want to see bike-y and other pictures, I intend to continue with my Flickr stream and you are welcome to come and look; it’s a convenient repository and organizational tool (and remains a compulsion).

To my friends and family who have read and looked at these posts over the years … thank you all for all of the kindness you have so generously shown to me.  Thank you for seeing things in my pictures that I had never noticed.   Thank you for understanding my words even when I didn’t always know what I was trying to say.

Thank you for riding along.

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of music, mountains, and folktales…

I am not an exceptional cyclist.  Yet somehow, I have managed to have extraordinary and exceptional journeys.  Slowly.  Purposefully.  Sometimes accidentally.  On two wheels.

For me it is the love of slow travel.  It is not about pushing through to a destination, or about arriving. Rather, it is a conscious savoring of each meter, each mile along the way – under my own power, and to the beat of my own heart.  It is about letting the day unwind before me as it will.   It is about the diversions and accidental discoveries.  It is about seeing the beauty through all of the senses – through touch, sight, sound, smell and taste.

We – my beloved and I – spent mid- through late September traveling and cycling through three magnificent countries – Austria, Slovenia and Italy.  We began in Salzburg and finished in Venice.  And in between, we fell in love with the mountains, the people,  and the villages of Slovenia.  We were in the land of the Julian Alps, a region whose heritage is rich in music, folklore, and mountaineering.  It often looked and felt like something taken out of a fairy tale … and in a way, I suppose it was.

It is difficult for me to write, at least publicly and impartially, about this adventure.  There is so much that goes beyond even the best words and photos.  But for the benefit of our boys (who are spread far and wide right now), our families, a few close friends – and anyone else who may be interested in a glimpse of this region as seen from the saddle of a bicycle – I will share briefly and as well as a I can.  I will spare you all a day-by-day, blow-by-blow account, and instead provide a few posts and a few photo galleries about each of the regions.  Just to give you a taste.  Just to (hopefully) inspire you to visit this region a create your own journey…

We arrived in Salzburg several days before we were to begin cycling.  Salzburg is a picturesque city, surrounded my mountains and watched over by the old fortress – the Festung Hohensalzburg, or the “High Salzburg Fortress”.

At the heart of Old Salzburg are magnificent baroque churches and architecture, the meticulously manicured Mirabell Gardens, and the gentle blue-green ribbon of the Salzach River.

The city is rich in its musical heritage, with Mozart being the biggest draw for me.  It is the birthplace and childhood home of Mozart – and the resting place for his wife and father.   It is home to the renown Salzburg music festival and the Mozarteum University.  And more recently, it was the home of conductor Herbert von Karajan – as well as being the setting (and home of Maria von Trapp ) from The Sound of Music, which was filmed in and around the city and continues to be a major tourist draw.

Like many other old European cities, Salzburg is wonderfully bicycle-centric.  In the heart of the city, bicycles are the rule, rather than the exception.  The streets are mostly void of vehicular traffic, with the exception of a few delivery trucks and a network of electric buses.  People walk or bike, or use some combination of the two – coupled with public transportation when needed.  It is a beautiful thing to see.

After three days of walking and seeing Salzburg on foot, we were ready to get on our bicycles … but that will have to wait for another day, another post.

To be continued …

thirty

#30daysofbiking … riding each day for the past thirty days,  the entire month of April.  Is there really a finish, or a completion – or is it just the continuation of  a routine?  To me it is collection of snapshots –  memories of moments on a bike each day, not unlike all of the other days throughout the year.  I don’t keep statistics (distance, hours, speed, etc.); I prefer to keep the images as reminders of things seen along the way, because these are ultimately the only things meaningful to me.

I posted a 10-frame gallery containing one snapshot for each of the thirty days of riding, condensed into the classic snapshot format of the “Fauxlaroid”  Some images you may recognize from prior posts; the collection of originals are in my Flickr set.

Tomorrow begins the next thirty days … and beyond.  Cheers.

no pretty tulips

image credit: samhDOTnet, Flickr

Apparently these graphics come from a Bicycle Safety booklet that was distributed to elementary school children back in the 1950’s or 1960’s.  It boggles my mind.

While I am typically not an advocate of re-blogging, reposting material from other people, I’ve been captivated, fascinated (?!) by a set of scanned images posted by one of my Flickr contacts (samhDOTnet) and felt the need to share.

The propaganda  – the illustrations and accompanying captions – are nothing short of … crazy, terrible, horrific, mind-numbing, innapropriate, and countless other adjectives that I won’t list.  As a child of the 60’s, I remember some crazy stuff from back in the day in elementary school (a booklet I had as a school “safety patrol” crossing guard comes to mind) – but nothing quite like this.

Most of all, it makes me contemplate the evolution of attitudes towards cyclists vs. “the rest” (cars, trucks, rights to roadways, even pedestrians), not to mention the image some people continue to have of people on bikes.  And the fact that culpability for cycling fatalities and accidents in this country – for as long as we’ve been sharing the road – is often not well investigated and blame still seems to be placed on the cyclist rather than the driver of the motor vehicle more often than not.  It’s a little hard to think about, really.

The entire set can be seen here (if you want to hurt your eyeballs), in his Set titled “A RIde of Death”.

image credit: SamhDOTnet, Flickr

image credit: samhDOTnet, Flickr

image credit: samhDOTnet, Flickr

cycling, interrupted

The month of March feels kind of like a vinyl record with a scratch in it; there is still a lot of music, but there are skips, repeats, and the tracks don’t always play as they should.  For now, I am starting at the present, and moving backwards – in pieces.

Our son Mason came home from school for a brief weekend visit, as we had missed him over his Spring Break.  We got to catch up, get back on our bikes after too many days absence, and do a little leisurely riding in the incredibly balmy temps that have been setting records across the country.  Mason had spent his break with a team of students from his university; they travelled to the islands of Trinidad & Tobago to work on a Habitat for Humanity Global Village project –  mixing concrete, shoveling sand and helping lay the foundation for a family’s new home.  There was a cement workers’ strike on the islands, so they really had their work cut out for themselves – mixing everything by hand with shovels and a lot of muscle.

He had some wonderful stories (best listened to while we were out on our bikes), made some new friends, got some running in (lol), and I loved that he took some time from his busy schedule to do some giving back.  (Photos from my son’s camera).

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Habitat for Humanity Global Village, Trinidad & Tobago … the cement mixing

While Mason was off getting dirty and building houses, the rest of us headed to the mountains for our annual week of skiing in Colorado.  It was a well-needed break for all of us.  The snow was wonderful, the skiing fantastic, and like in years past, it was hard to come back home – I always tend to leave a part of myself in the snow and mountains, and someday may be staying for good.  My plan is to post a gallery of snow-mountain-ski pics of this place I love, my second home, later this week.  But for now I’m just including a few of the bike-y ones (and a snowy one … because it’s been so warm everywhere else).

I love the active mountain culture in Steamboat, and especially that they are so bicycle friendly – they are an LAB Gold Level community.  Skiers on bikes, bikes loaded with everything from groceries to snowboards to dogs and kids.  Weather, altitude, snow-covered roads are never a deterrent.  One of these days my dream is to have a little house along the Yampa River, riding on the Core Trail into town for breakfast or lunch, and loading my skis on my Xtracycle for a trip to the slopes.  Oh, perfect life.

And then there was all of the tornado and Red Cross stuff that I had left off with.  Sigh.  I am relieved to report that the damage was not as massive in scope as last April – which is still little consolation to the people who have lost their homes – and we are all grateful that no lives were lost.  Our local Red Cross chapter joined with folks from Chattanooga and Knoxville, and the relief efforts went very well, as you can read in detail here.  (Photo credit for these two shots from my volunteer friend, Sandy; my camera stayed at home).

But very sadly, in the midst of all of the disaster response, our chapter suffered another major blow; due to continuing reorganization and personell changes, we now no longer have a Disaster Services Director in our chapter.  My friend, mentor, and “boss”, Michele – a 10 year Red Cross veteran – is no longer with the organization.   This change in addition to the other personell cuts made earlier in the month, I can’t help but think that the writing is on the wall, so to speak.  It appears our small local chapter has effectively been dismantled at this point, and I am greatly saddened … I honestly don’t know what my own volunteer future will be.

Most frustrating, no one from the upper echelons seems to be providing any communication/direction to the volunteer base.  It reminds me of sitting in an airplane on a runway with no pilot … are they going to cancel our flight?  Are they going to send another pilot?  Or do they just expect one of the passengers to take the controls?  Like I said, it’s just incredibly frustrating – which made my decision to leave for some skiing during Spring Break a little easier.

I am back to my bike, my silly routine.  I am sorry to have not been able to finish the Utilitaire games, but I take my hat off to The Old Guy and my other friends who finished successfully – I applaud you all.  And I thank MG for the dreaming up the whole idea, for I had great fun participating for the weeks that I was able to – which, for me, is what it was all about anyway.  It made me re-think variety in destination riding, and I look forward to incorporating the goals into my riding routine.

Hopefully the remainder of March will be a little more normal, a little less interrupted, no big scratches.  We’ll see.

bicycle games

I love creativity and fun – especially when it involves bicycles.  From #30daysofbiking to #cyclingcaptuesday, I have always enjoyed the fun of bicycle games, the conversations they start, and the enthusiasm they kindle.  And when the bicycle games get more people, new people, out riding their bikes more of the time, it’s even better.

My Flickr/blogger/Twitter friend and radonneur extraordinaire, Mary G,  who has an excellent cycling blog, Chasing Mailboxes, cooked up a grand idea for some winter cycling fun.  She is calling it the Utilitaire 12, and you can read all about it here and here.  My own heads-up for this project first came from another great cycling blogger/friend, the “Old Guy” (and don’t let that moniker fool you – this guy can out-ride most 20-somethings) – and he’s already a few steps ahead of some of us on the Utilitaire challenge.   Of course.

I won’t try to repeat all of the guidelines to the challenge which you can read for yourselves, but basically it involves making at least 12 destination trips by bike over the course of the next six weeks.  There is a very do-able minimum mileage for each trip, and you can’t simply make the same trip over and over (like go to the grocery store 12 times).  I think this is what I love about it most – it’s going to make me mix-up my destinations, maybe bike to a place or an event that I might not normally bike to, head to a variety of locations for different reasons.   Go to a concert, attend a meeting, cycle to breakfast … and lots more (with a little wiggle room for a substitution if you need it).    You can only officially log two trips per week, spreading the project out for some consistency, and you have to photo-document part of the journey.  Cool beans, eh?  Good for everyone, good for cycling advocacy – and I hope everyone will give it a go.

Today I got to log my first trip for my control card – a trip into town to the bike shop.  Also stopped for coffee and to my optometrist to fetch some new contacts, but my project destination was the shop.

I love my bike shop – it’s kind of like a really great coffee shop, only with bikey stuff rather than caffeine.  It’s got a certain “ambiance” – camaraderie, color, and conversation.   And I had a great conversation with my bike shop guys, Charles and Andrew, had them looking over the Utilitaire project in the shop.  We enthusiastically decided that this would be a fantastic advocacy tool for local cycling in our little town, and it looks like plans are into work to make a modified community event sponsored by the shop.  How great is that?!

Meanwhile, got my errands done on what began as a foggy-soup morning but turned into an incredibly beautiful day – still no sign of winter, cycling in a tee shirt.  Checking off one on the control card.  Hope you will join in the bicycle game fun.  😀

foggy morning

#CyclingCapTuesday

the recycled Pendleton shirt cap

And just when I said I wanted to be brief….

Well, this is simply a shout-out to a bunch of my cyber-cycling pals, and especially to my twitter friend from Seattle, @SognRider, who started a great campaign to encourage cycling and showcase cool cycling caps.  Every Tuesday has officially become #CyclingCapTuesday.  And I look forward to it each week (even though I wear my caps on other days as well).  But I loved the idea – a fun and creative way to promote cycling – and I always enjoy seeing some of the fine cycling “millinery” being worn by my friends.  You can too … just visit the Tumblr site, or follow the hashtag on Twitter.  And put your cap on!

I really like wearing cycling caps.  They’re light and comfortable, they offer a non-obstructive little sun visor, they can provide a little extra warmth on cool days (especially with earflaps), or rain protection (if you have a waterproof cap), and of course you can’t help feeling a little bit “jaunty” while wearing one (lol).

today's #CyclingCapTuesday ... in pink

While I have some really great caps that I’ve acquired over the past several years, I recently decided to try an make one of my own.  I just happen to have a ridiculous accumulation of “salvaged” wool from … well, let’s just say another “pastime”.  (My friends LP and MaryLou know of what I speak – because they will end up inheriting the excess someday.  😉 )  The pattern came from one of the best cap-makers out there, Little Package.  It’s a simple sewing project; you can easily make one in less than an afternoon with average sewing skills.  And what better way to up-cycle that old wool shirt with a hole in the sleeve?

So @SognRider, thanks for the fun each week (and also for helping me make a dent in my wool stash) – I applaud you!  🙂

yeah, I have an obnoxious amount of reclaimed wool ... as is, and overdyed

yeah, I have an obnoxious amount of reclaimed wool ... as is, and overdyed

another Pendleton shirt ready for cap-making & the Little Package Cap pattern

the pieces

the sewing

finished!

and finally the best part ... the wearing! (altho a pretty sorry shot; I apologize)