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Posts from the ‘bicycle’ Category

I Love Lucy

The essence of the reddest of red-heads … I am calling her Lucy.

Six months of collaborative creating which began with my bike fitter, Eddie at Cycology, to the actual fabrication of her bones by Natalie Ramsland at SweetPea … and finally home for the final build and “dressing up” by my most awesome local bike guy, Charles at Trailhead – who knew exactly what she needed to become the thing of my dreams.  There was considerable tweaking along the way, a few hiccups, several re-do’s (some easy, and some not-so), but in the end I have to think she is my perfect bike.  She fits me like a hand tailored Little Black Dress, for sure.  And yeah – she loves me back as much as I love her.

I love that she is a perfect mixture of function and aesthetics.  She rides like a dream, she is lovely to look at (and photograph, of course), she is a little sassy and a lot of serious; she will go the distance, yet has enough practicality for commuting and camera-toting adventures.

Each piece of her was thoughtfully and deliberately chosen, and I am very proud that most things were chosen from smaller and US-based independent designers – Chris King, Paul Components, White Industries, Bike Thomson,  Velo Orange, Sugar Wheel Works, and of course SweetPea.

Drivetrain selection ended up being one of the biggest headaches, and the biggest challenge in trying to put together a bike from across the country without seeing it.  Aesthetically, the Shimano group I originally had chosen ended up looking wrong.  In the end, at home, we stripped the Ultegra group and dressed her up with some divine Campagnolo – which is exactly what she needed (and will always take me back to the bike I rode in Italy).

We topped things off a Brooks Ladies saddle, a set of Pitlock locking skewers, a Light and Motion pairing of lights, and a very sweet Tubus Titanium rack which will will hold my wonderful custom designed and hand-sewn North St. convertible pannier (thank-you Curtis), the perfect custom home for my camera gear and other “stuffs” I schlepp around.  More about that bag to come; it’s amazing.  Still doing some decision-making on fenders (or not) … we’ll see.

So these are some of the first of what I am sure will be many, many glamour shots of Lucy – some of her beautiful details, and her charming RED personality.  She certainly won’t get lost in the landscape.

And speaking of  Lucys … for any of you old enough to remember, did you know that there was an old episode of the original I Love Lucy (i.e., Lucille Ball), where she convinces Ricky, Ethel and Fred to ride bikes from Italy to France?  I kid you not.  Lol.  The best part is the comedy of mishaps at the border crossing – and, of course, seeing Fred and Ethel on a tandem.  If you’re up for a dose of 50’s sitcom humor, it’s worth a watch (heheh) – viewable for streaming online here, or this clip on YouTube.

quantum cycling … and the butterfly effect

It begins with a butterfly on a thistle plant along the side of the road as I ride by.  I think about a book I am reading and discussion of Edward Lorenz’ Butterfly Effect, as in chaos theory … and things like quantum mechanics and other principles of physics that I will confess I have a miserably inadequate understanding of – quite unlike my son, the soon-to-be-physicist.

We’ve had a brief window of opportunity to do some riding together before he leaves again to continue his summer research in Nashville.  I love having the chance to ride along and talk.  On quiet roads, we are relatively free from distractions and interruptions (except, of course, when I make him stop so I can take pictures).  The conversation unwinds like the curve of the road, rolls along, changes direction, circles back.  Sometimes serious, sometimes not.  Laughter almost always manages accompany us.

Recently I asked him to help me better understand the different branches/disciplines of physics – kind of a “Physics for Dummies” type of explanation.  While I have a very rough understanding of the research he is doing and where his interests lie for grad school – theoretical/computational high energy particle physics  –  I will confess that I am mostly clueless about the different fields of study within the physics world.

And, of course, he absolutely knows this – as he rolls his eyes, sighs, and tries once again to explain it to me.  I listen as he patiently tries to describe and define – and eventually I get lost.  Again.  So in the simplest of terms (yeah, even a cavewoman like me can understand – kind of… maybe?) this is roughly how he described a few concepts to me (and I hope I am recalling this correctly?) :

Classical/Newtonian Mechanics:  big slow things

Relativistic Mechanics:    big fast things

Quantum Mechanics:   small slow things

Field Theory:   small fast things

String Theory/M-Theory: un-testable things

Do I have any better understanding of any of this?  Probably not.  If nothing else,  I may have at least figured out that I am probably not a Quantum Cyclist (small and slow), but more of a Classical/Newtonian Cyclist (big and slow).   I hear you laughing, Mason…

I will keep reading, I will continue trying to learn more and understand.  In the meantime, I will just take a photo of the butterfly, and let my son figure out the rest.

Random scenes from recent rides – big, small, fast, and slow… all the usual suspects. Happy Memorial Day.

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.

benediction

Clusters of daisies along the side of the road brush gently against my shin as a ride by; it feels like a sign, or even a benediction.  The pastures are full of flowers –  yellow buttercups, blue cornflowers, fuchsia clover.  Field crops are greening in rows, the air is scented with freshly mown hay and honeysuckle.  Swifts and swallows spiral in the air around the eaves of old barns.  My mind  is quiet, calm, even meditative as I listen to the soft whrrr of my wheels against the gentle curve of the road.  I give thanks for the solitude, for the peacefulness  of slow travel on my bicycle.  The daisies have blessed me.

trails and TNT

It’s been a while since we’ve done much mountain biking, but today we decided it was a good day for a change of pace from the road.  We dusted off the knobby-tired bikes and headed down to the Enterprise South Nature Park in Chattanooga to explore some of the mountain bike trails.

But first, a little history…

In the early 1940’s the Army Corps of Engineers built the original facilities for the Volunteer Army Ammunition Plant.  The plant was originally built to support World War II military efforts, and operated as a TNT manufacturing facility through 1977 – producing up to 30 million pounds of TNT per month during peak production years in the 1960’s.

Within the past decade, the state of Tennessee and Hamilton County turned the site into a combination of industrial property and the 2800-acre Enterprise South Nature Park, which opened to the public in 2010.  The Park is adjacent to the recently opened state-of-the-art Volkswagon manufacturing facility.  Along with bringing several thousand jobs to the area, the VW plant has achieved the world’s first LEED-Platinum green building certification for an automotive plant, making them a great environmentally responsible partner for the public access parklands.

Within the 2800-acre Nature Park is an extensive multi-use trail system – from pedestrian hiking paths, to both paved bike routes and single-track mountain biking trails – in a wide range of difficulty levels.  There are also plans to include equestrian trails into the mix.

One of the more fascinating things to see as you ride the trails are the collection of abandoned munitions “bunkers”, big caverns with concrete walls with huge steel doors, many of them built into hillsides.  I think there are close to 100 of them, some locked and sealed, but we came across at least one that was open.  A little creepy, in an interesting way.  Mark’s theory is that most of the trail system evolved from the bunker access roads and pathways.  Definitely possible.

We rode two of the intermediate/advanced mountain biking loops – the TNT Trail and the Log-Rhythm Trail – and Mark had some fun playing on the bridge course.  The trails are wonderfully maintained, and even “enhanced” in places.  There are a couple of log and bridge courses, along with a number of fun (engineered) “whoop-y” sections of the hillside trail (I am sure that is a technical mountain biking term).  Enough rocks and climbing to make you work, and some great descents. Yeah, fun.  And a nice reminder that mountain biking uses a very different skill set of increased agility, weight-shift and balance than road biking.  Actually, it often reminds me of skiing, especially through the tighter turns in the trees.

We are definitely going to do this again…  And if you are in the area, it is definitely a place worth visiting – biking, hiking or however you choose to explore.

stealing second

Riding home, I stopped to poke around the local ball field up the road.  Little League season is in full swing this time of year, but the park was empty and quiet when I arrived – an hour or so before the after-school practices would begin.  One of these nights, I’m going to go to watch a game.  It’s always entertaining to watch the really little kids play – cute, earnest, and usually with a sprinkling of comedy.

I let the Xtracycle steal second base… and I am wishing my beloved a very happy fifty-second birthday today, and many more wonderful miles ahead!

rain game

The name of game this week seems to be Beat the Rain.  Today, I won … for a change.

caught

Riding by the old cemetery, I stop to look.  I love the quiet.  Stillness is broken by a rumble of thunder, wind stirs the branches.  A drop of rain.

Then, deluge.

Sometimes you just get caught in it.  And despite the soaking, it is all ok.

small change

I leave on my bicycle and often think: same roads, same fences, same old barns, same bike, same me … nothing changes.

And then I open my eyes and realize that nature, the natural world, is changing all around me.  Beautifully.  From minute, to day, to week, to season.

The same road is different each day in small and subtle ways.  It is all the change I need.

bike the boat

Yesterday I worked; today I played.

Even though it is the first official day of spring, it felt more like summer.  Eighty-plus degrees and sunny.  The heat makes me want to ride to the river, and I figured I may as well try to do a little paddling.  I have a nice set-up to tow my boat with my Xtracycle, and it’s a happy combination to be able to ride and paddle on a beautiful day.

My put-in is just up the road from our house, about 4 miles.  Getting there was a breeze, literally.  Gently rolling with an overall downhill grade, and I had a nice tailwind.  It was definitely the easy part.  Arrived and locked the bike along the guardrail by the bridge, and was reminded again of the mess that has been made of this river by Olin and their mercury dumping – which thankfully will be ending soon, with their commitment to converting the plant to mercury-free processing.

Meanwhile, I still cannot comprehend how people are still willing to fish – and keep their catch – despite the clearly posted warnings of high levels of carcinogens in the fish.  Completely baffles me.  I’ve discussed it with several fishermen before, but I have learned to just keep my mouth shut.  There is no changing their minds; they perceive the risk as negligible.  (And I secretly shudder and shake my head).

I paddled away most of the afternoon, exploring and trying to navigate the very shallow water.   In places, I was paddling in only inches.  The Hiwassee River levels are regulated and controlled by TVA, and at this time of year they don’t typically release water upstream for recreational use in this inlet.  Hence, the lake that is filled and sparkling blue in late spring through summer, is filled with stumps and shoals and islands over the winter and into early spring.   The locals call this inlet Stump Lake.  A fitting name.

Dozens of Great Blue Herons were my company; I love to just sit and watch them fishing in the shallows.  Turtles were out sunning on stumps and logs, but would quietly slip into the water as I raised my camera lens.  One of the fishermen said he had seen a Bald Eagle near the bridge.  Sadly I missed it.   It was peaceful, quiet, and a beautiful afternoon to be on the water … and “pedaling” my arms rather than my legs for a change.

Having had enough sun and with fatigue setting in on my shoulders, I headed for home in the late afternoon – this time against a headwind, with a more uphill grade, requiring a bit more muscle to tow the boat.  I will confess my wimpy-ness by saying it felt good to get home.   Dinner was salad and veggie pizza.  Not fish.  Definitely not fish.