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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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cycling into fairytales … Slovenia

Cycling along the shores of Lake Bled, especially on a day when low clouds tease the mountain tops and mist drifts through the spruce forests, you can easily become convinced you have ridden into the pages of a fairytale.  Out of the corner of you eye, veiled in eddies of mist, small white petals of woodland flowers – like tiny wings – tremble as a drop of water falls from a spruce tip.  Something stirs the forest floor.  A medieval castle, impossibly built high on a rocky cliff, rises above the steeple and stairs of an ancient church that sits, isolated, on its own small island.

You suddenly believe in fairies, dwarves, legends, and kings.

This is where our cycling adventure began, and where I first began to fall in love with the country of Slovenia.  It was impossible not to.

Just to give some clarification and perspective on the cycling, we once again used trip planning services of VBT (Vermont Bicycling Tours) as we had such a wonderful experience previously on our trip through Tuscany.   They supplied us with our bikes, arranged our lodging, moved our off-bike bags, and provided us with two of the most wonderful Slovenian guides – Damjan and Matej.

Each day, our two guides would provide maps and suggestions of things to see, places to stop, additional cycling routes and loops – and translation help when we needed it.  On several days, they would appear en route, bringing us wonderful picnic lunches.

As lifelong residents raised and educated in Slovenia, Damjan and Matej had extensive cultural, geographical, political and historical insight – information that they shared openly with us, providing context to the often-dramatic changes the country has endured.   On bikes, they let us customize our own trip to our own desires, and at our preferred pace – yet were always there to help when we needed it.  Even though we were part of a larger group of 19 cyclists, we were free to ride on our own (as Mark and I did), choose our own route options, and make our own adventures.   On several evenings, a number of us gathered to enjoy a beer and some engaging conversation and stories from the day – it was open, genuine, fascinating and enjoyable, and the friendships we made were one of the trip’s greatest gifts for me.

Upon leaving Lake Bled, we headed to the area around Kranjska Gora and Podkoren, and the stunning mountains in the region of Triglav National Park.   The mountains here are breathtaking, with profiles and colors different than any other mountains I have seen – from Alaska to the Rockies.  They are stunningly vertical and dramatic, their luminous granite peaks rising out of deep blue-green forests.   Icy mountain streams, with beds of white stones, are pristine and crystal clear – and it is claimed they are safe to drink from (altho we did not – but I did stop and wade in).

In the village of Mojstrana, Mark and I made a side visit to the Slovenian Alpine Museum.  Here we learned about the area’s mountaineering history, along with hiking, trekking and climbing opportunities within the region, and the network of mountain huts that are available to the public.  They also cited the fact that over 75% of the Slovenian population are members of the Alpine Association of Slovenia – a testament to how beloved and culturally significant the mountains are to Slovenian people.

While our cycling was mostly along the valley, we did cycle up to site of the World Cup ski jumping area and did a brief stint on the Vrsic Pass – a popular and challenging cycling route, climbing nearly 1200 meters over 11 km, with 24 switchbacks up to the summit.  We arrived rather late in the day, and I am not ashamed to confess that my legs fell off well before the summit.  But it’s a ride I have added to my bucket list, and I definitely plan to return.

We also rode up to Lake Jasna – where a bronze statue of an Ibex stands over the stunningly clear turquoise lake, surrounded by mountains peaks.  It made me think of a story Matej shared with us, the Trenta folktale of one of the most well-known and symbolic figures of the region – the legend of Zlatorog, the golden-horned chamoix.  Rich in detail, filled with old taboos and enduring truths, is basically goes something like this…

Zlatorog is the name for a majestic white chamoix with golden horns.  He roamed the mountains with the White Fairies, helping humans who ventured into the mountains, guarding the treasures hidden deep within the mountains, and keeping the valleys green and beautiful. In a valley village below, an innkeeper’s daughter was being courted by a local hunter, who professed his love and brought her flowers from the mountain meadows.

One day, a Venetian merchant arrived in the village and tried to win the heart of the young woman with gifts of gold.  The hunter, in his jealousy, decided the only way to win back his love would be to kill Zlatorog and take the gold that was hidden beneath the mountains – treasure that was dutifully guarded by the golden-horned chamoix.

The young hunter left on his mission, managed to track down Zlatorog and took aim at him, killing him.  Drops of blood fell from Zlatorog, and magically turned in to beautiful blooms – the Triglav roses – that still flourish to this day.  Zlatorog nibbled at a few of the flower petals and miraculously came back to life – only to take his revenge on the hunter, steering him into a deep abyss and to his death.

After this, Zlatorog – in his fury – used his horns to gore through the mountainside, carving deep channels and tearing up the beautiful green hillside, leaving the steep dramatic rocky landscape and deep mountain lakes that exist today .  Zlatorog left the valley with the White Fairies and has never returned…

On the edge of Lake Jasna, looking up at Mt. Triglav, and in love with this beautiful, friendly and magical country,  I can’t help believe it is all true.

utilitaire and a little more

Trailhead Bicycle shop

Utilitaire 6.12: it began as a trip to the bike shop, #8 on the control card (for the second time).  And then transformed into a fun family-friendly community ride on the Greenway, and finally a quick stop for dinner – along with picking up a few boxes of girl scout cookies. Mmmm.  🙂

Dillon is home from school for a quick weekend visit, and we took a ride to the bike shop.  Our shop owner, Charles, had also gotten a small group of us together at the end of the day for what is hopefully the first of many more family fun rides on our local Greenway.  The idea is to bring families together for some easy and kid-friendly rides, promoting a little more bike friendliness within our community, and working on building/strengthening an advocacy network.  I think there is also a leaning toward trying to fill the rides with “bicycle variety” – fixies, cargo bikes, and other non-typical bicycle”oddities”.    As the weather warms up and the days grow longer, we hope to include other activities like themed rides, bike picnics, frozen yoghurt stops, maybe even a wine-and-cheese type of stop for the adults.  Who knows?  We’ve also talked about incorporating some of the Utilitaire-type destinations and goals into the mix, but ultimately to appeal to a wide range of cycling abilities and interests, and get more people out on their bikes.

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soon-to-be-new-dad Jeff test driving & planning ahead

We left from the shop, rode the Greenway from end to end, and stopped to a few minutes of discussion and planning within our fledgling start-up group.  I think we all had fun; I know I did.  Mostly, I hope we can grow the group and the idea … I would love to see more of my local friends join in the fun.  I took a lot of photos and am posting a few – hope these friends don’t mind, as I didn’t really get permission.

After the group ride, Mark, Dillon and I headed back, stopping for a quick bite on the way.  I didn’t manage to get a full-fledged night ride in as I had hoped … but we did get home before it started to rain.  Night rides will have to wait for another day.

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Dillon tries out Jeff's fixie

Charles, owner of Trailhead Bicycle

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.  😀

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and the winner is …

I thank all of you who took time leave a comment (entry) for the YMX jersey; I wish I could send everyone a jersey.  But the winner, by random draw, happens to be Myrna from MN – and Myrna, I am also a big fan of Bridget Jones.  😉

Myrna from MN ... cyclist, pilot, mom, wife and writer

I was thinking about other women cyclists, and have gotten to know Myrna over the past year or so from twitter and comments on this blog.  This just seemed like the perfect opportunity to profile another strong and capable “girl on a bike” – and at my request, she was kind enough to send me her bike-ography and a couple of cycling photos … which I want to share with you.

Congrats, Myrna! (And thanks for this “guest post”!)

Cassi asked me to share a bit about myself…I’m Myrna the very lucky and super happy winner of the YMX sleeveless jersey. In addition to being a happy jersey winner, I’m a freelance writer and mom of two who lives in the country about a half hour south of Minneapolis, Minnesota. I’m also a private pilot, a gardener (well, I have a lot of flowers and a lot of weeds), a quilter who hasn’t had time to quilt and a person who loves to bake.

I’m also a fledgling bicyclist. Sure, like most people I rode as a kid – I even went on a long distance bike trip from Minnesota to Michigan with my youth group when I was about 15 – but I really only started riding with any regularity two years ago.

What happened two years ago to get me bicycling? Well, my friend, an avid bicyclist, had a mechanical and his bike pedal broke when he was going uphill – fast. He crashed. His helmet probably saved his life. At that point I had a bike that I rode sometimes but I didn’t have a helmet.  My kids had bikes and helmets but they didn’t want to wear them. I figured if I should get a helmet and thought if I wore one it might help my kids wear their helmets, too.

So I went to the local bike shop to buy a helmet and I saw a flyer for a charity ride, the Jesse James Bike Tour. For some reason I decided I could manage to ride the 25 mile route even though the ride was just a month away.

Long story short, I rode the 25 mile route on my Specialized Crossroads bike with my husband. It was fun and we decided we liked bicycling enough that it would be worth getting road bikes. The next spring, March 2010, I bought us each a road bike. Yay! I planned to do a lot of biking but signing up for the first 30 Days of Biking challenge is what really got me going!

Thirty Days of Biking got me riding my bike each day, which was great fun even with the challenges. Through reading the tweets and blog entries of the many participants I learned that all sorts of people have fun with bikes and that the bicycling community is very diverse and full of neat people. I also learned the most important thing about bicycling, for me, anyway…Bicycling is not about going far or going fast – it’s about having fun along the way.

But best of all, I got to “meet” so many cool people through 30 Days of Biking –  like Cassi here at shebicycles.com and Darryl from lovingthebike.com – these two people inspired me to keep bicycling more than anyone else I met along the way.

So here I am just two years after deciding to buying a helmet and deciding to do a 25 mile charity ride – where I am now? My husband and two children, Rose is 12 and Ryan is 9, are very much into bicycling. Adding bicycling to our lives has prompted us to become active year-round and has brought us closer together as a family.

I’m doing the same charity ride, the Jesse James Bike Tour, again in one week and plan to ride the 60 mile route this time. I’m a member of two bike clubs, ride both of my bikes regularly – my old Specialized Crossroads and a Giant Avail – and want to own more bikes (I’m thinking a mountain bike and a fat bike for the snow are in my future)! I’m also doing 30 Days of Biking again for the fourth time.

Bicycling has changed my life. I suppose that sounds sort of silly but it’s true!

~ Myrna

http://www.myrnacgmibus.com

Myrna and her bike 🙂

bicycles and fireworks

Best way ever to celebrate Independence Day … family, friends, and Xtracycles packed for a picnic, concert and fireworks along the river.  😀

Happy July fourth!

Coolidge Park & the Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge, Chattanooga ... at dusk

let the fireworks begin!

#330daysofbiking & back on home turf

Xtracycle evening … #330daysofbiking Day 169

Finally … nothing Italian. 😉

#330daysofbiking has continued – missing the gelato stops and getting lost within small villages, but with beautiful Tennessee autumn weather, cooler temperatures, boys home for Fall Break(s), cruising the Riverwalk in Chattanooga, and on the road with the “fast” boys.  Riding for fun, and riding to get the job done (errands, groceries, library, bike shop).

And some important news from coming via our friend Jeff … If you live and ride in TN, or plan to visit and ride, please take a moment to participate in a quick 9-question survey from the folks at TDOT on the state’s bicycle and pedestrian program.  TDOT wants to hear from you! (And by October 30th please … my apologies for getting this posted so late.)

Although a couple of days were lost in transit (Italy), #330daysofbiking count is still on target.  As of today, have ridden 189 of the past 208 days,with 159 days remaining.  And so it goes.

(Coming soon … tales of a new city bike, “Elisabetta”. 🙂 Photos and details to come; stay tuned.)

 

 

the "fast" boys ... #330daysofbiking Day 175

 

 

the crunch of leaves ... #330daysofbiking Day 178

 

 

Fall Break ... #330daysofbiking Day 182

 

 

bicycle "gang" (heh heh) on the Riverwalk, Chattanooga ... #330daysofbiking Day 183

 

 

Irony: picking up a (car) bicycle rack - by bicycle ... #330daysofbiking Day 187