Posts from the ‘bicycle’ Category
Summer is sweet.
With their summer research projects wrapping up, the boys briefly returned home for a couple of weeks before heading back to university life. It’s been pleasant days of biking and playing around – morning runs for coffee, paddling on the river, family bike rides, catching up with old friends, dinnertime humor around the table. Summer is sweet.
But eventually, as the sunsets come a little earlier each evening, it begins to feel like time to return to familiar routines. Back to school, back to friends and regular schedules … all as it should be. And as much as I love them and will miss them as they leave, I think we are all ready to turn the next page, to return to the story.
I have enjoyed the break of being away from things – putting down the camera more often, leaving the computer to sleep, and spending more time in one-to-one conversation rather than cyberspeak. I’ve loved the warm, lazy days with my family … and yet as the weather begins to cool, and the books and bags are packed for the semester ahead, I happily anticipate rides yet to come, and the return to routine.
Meanwhile … scenes from summer days.
My summer days tend to follow a different rhythm. Morning swims. Evening rides. Abbreviated daytime trips to avoid the air that feels like being stuck in a convection oven, or avoiding the heat-induced thunderstorms.
Daytime hours have been filled with books, reading, and the other (often ignored) exercises in creativity. While I miss long daytime rides, the wandering and exploring, I feel good about the time I’ve spent on these other things, the expanded productivity … all while waiting for cooler, dryer weather to return, and resuming my more rambling ways.
And – as evidenced by my lack of posts lately – I have enjoyed taking some time to unplug and disconnect. I’ve been reading a fascinating book, Fast Media, Media Fast, by Dr. Thomas Cooper, professor of visual and media arts at Emerson College in Boston. It’s about making a conscious choice to disengage – to fast – from the barrage of always-on mass-media, the distractions of the e-world, and the devices that we are increasingly becoming dependent and even addicted to.
I appreciate that he does not take an “anti-” or negative approach; he does not want eliminate media any more than someone fasting from food wants to eliminate food. Rather, he wants to use the break – the diet or full-blown fast – to re-evaluate and examine how we approach and use media. The goal behind the experience is to examine our thinking and opinion-forming process without the influence of 24-7 breaking news and 1,000 channels of cable television; to take stock of our lives outside of e-mail, text messaging, twitter, facebook, instagram, youtube and blogging – and to physically experiencing the world directly rather than thru secondhand sources and without an electronic screen in front of us. Which for me, would eliminate the use of not only my television, radio, and iDevices but also my camera. My bike stays.
While I have not yet started a full-blown fast, I have gone on some degree of a media diet, and plan to attempt a full, fasting, disconnection – if only for a week or two – within the next month. I just want the experience, even briefly or temporarily.
I want to hear myself think again. I want to re-evaluate the “ratio, quality, enjoyment and originality of what I ingest (as a consumer) versus what I express (as a creator)”. I want to lose some “unneccessary mental weight”. And I guess I want the challenge of finding “a Walden in my own mind.” I want my daily off-bike routine to have more moments like those I experience while on my bike – the direct experience, the mental clarity, the sensory balance, the perspective.
Wish me luck…
Day after day, year after year, I ride past an old grandmother. She is greying and stooped, her old bones are weathered and tired – yet she is sill beautiful, even sacred. At least to me.
For many years she stood … tall and proud, solid and steadfast, quiet and imposing, yet welcoming and kind. She was a dependable storehouse, a nursery, a warm and fragrant embrace for man and animal. She is a landmark, a sentinel, a piece of the landscape as much as any creek or any mountain. She has seen many years, and she is filled with her own stories.
I have known her for only a small portion of her life. I have tried to listen for her stories. I have touched her bones. I have felt her embrace.
When the tornadoes of April 2011 set upon her quiet valley, it was more than she could bear in her old age; she submitted and bowed down. I confess that I cried when I first saw her afterwards.
Yet still, even in collapse, she sits; her skeletal remains are always a comfort to me when I ride near. I stop. I see her, decaying in her bones and stories, settling gently down in the quilt of her soft field. Slowly, slowly, she sinks into the land, taking her stories with her.
She is an old grandmother. She is most beloved.
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.
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.
#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.
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.