Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Highlights

Living in the present is difficult for me as I'm constantly evaluating the past so I can use that experience to improve the future. 

A year ago today, I reached a goal that I'd thought impossible: I rode the nearly 46 mile round trip from my home to the western trail head of the W&OD trail.

January: Flexed connections by busting a delivery driver for aggressive driving and received an apology from the regional director and a promise of educating area employees.

February: Attended the Stop, Swap, & Save event and enabled a friend in the purchase of her very own bicycle. Purchased the speedy Specialized Dolce so I could ride farther faster.

March: Started using clipless pedals on the Dolce. Purchased the adorable Trek Cruiser because I was overcome by the cute. Went to BicycleSPACE for the first time and test rode a Pashley Sovreign.

April: Rode the "Arlington Triangle" during a 40-mile training ride from Sterling. Rode in Paul's Ride for Life. Watched as the space shuttle Discovery was flown directly over my building during its tour of the DC area before being parked at the Air & Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center. (My employer's campus is directly north of Dulles Airport and Udvar-Hazy.) Crossed paths with a turtle during the morning commute. My first turtle!

May: Rode the streets of DC and Arlington with Scott and several hundred of our cycling friends during the Bike DC event. Met a couple of bike commuters I pass every day at the Sterling stop for Bike to Work Day. Hopped the Metro with the Ariel and rode the streets of DC by myself  to test ride upright bicycles from District Hardware, BicycleSPACE, and City Bikes. Visited New Orleans, took photos of nearly ever bicycle I saw there, and noted the presence of bike lanes and sharrows throughout downtown.

June: Rode 55 miles in the American Diabetes Association's National Capital Area Tour de Cure and raised $1200 thanks to generous friends, family, and blog readers. I cannot say THANK YOU enough. Purchased the Public Bikes C8 and immediately began customizing her.

July: After reading so much about the Memphis/Shelby County Greenline, I rode from the eastern trail head in Germantown to the western trail head and then braved the mean streets of mid-town Memphis to ride to my best friend's house (where I promptly collapsed from heat exhaustion). I look forward to doing that again, minus the heat exhaustion.

August: Took a couple of rides with Bike Me DC and broke a spoke during the last one. Most of the month was too blasted hot for being on a bike.

September: Another commuter I recognized from Bike to Work Day (and had been calling Bike-to-Work-Day-guy in my head) turned around and rode a couple miles with me so we could become reacquainted. Rode the 30-mile route of the Backroads Century with Scott and a couple of friends. Rode both the C8 and Cruiser on the Outer Banks.

October: First cold ride of the season.

November: Met another bike commuter while waiting at the stop light at Waxpool. Met him again at the bike rack in the garage for my building.

December: Completed the upgrades to the C8 and turned her into my dream upright bike. Completed the polka dot taping of the Ariel. Took many solo and accompanied-by-Scott nighttime rides through Sterling to look at Christmas lights.

My riding has slacked off considerably at the end of this year. My bicycle resolutions for 2013 are to ride even more in 2013 and not buy any more bicycles. I hope that all of my readers are able to get out and ride in 2013 and enjoy a safe and prosperous new year.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Two out of three "Top Gear" presenters like bikes

Captain Slow, aka James May, endorses bicycling while lamenting the miserable attitudes of fellow cyclists he encounters.

And there is, of course, the infamous race across London by The Stig via public transportation, Hammond via bicycle, May via car, and Clarkson via boat.

This is probably my second favorite race/trek episode right after the drive across Botswana. OLIVER!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Cruisin' on a Saturday and Sunday afternoon

Saturday was fairly pleasant in the mid-Atlantic region and I took advantage of the mild weather and sunshine to run my errands via bicycle. Everyone -- pedestrians, fellow cyclists, and motorists -- seemed to be in good spirits and I noticed lots of smiles and waves. A couple of ladies outside the grocery store even complimented Beatrix and my fairly casual outfit. To be honest, I felt casually elegant on Bea with her spiffy new handlebar and grips. I love the way they look and feel. Oh, and it may not be a Christmas tree, but I did manage to haul the twenty-pound container of cat litter home via the rear rack. Boo-yah. Granted it did make climbing that last hill home a little bit more difficult.

Sunday, on the other hand, was chilly and overcast in the mid-Atlantic region and I took advantage of the poor conditions to put in a few miles on the W&OD trail. The trail wasn't empty by any stretch of the imagination, but it wasn't clogged with families and dog-walkers like it was on Saturday. I made it out to Battlefield Parkway in Leesburg and attempted the hill that climbs up to a park off that road. My coworker who occasionally bike commutes has mentioned that climb a few times and won't do it. I made it about a quarter of the way and had to push Lily the rest of the way up. Even walking up the hill was tough.

Oof. I've gotten so out of shape.

The ride back down that trail was pretty terrifying and I squeeze the brakes with nearly every bit of strength in my hands. Good times.

The Weather Channel said that the air temperature was 49F, but I beg to differ. I was FREEZING by the time I got home and could see my breath during the last half of the ride. It was a great ride, but it took a while to warm up.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Bargaining chip

This is my brain.

Id: I want cookies!

Ego: We don't need cookies.


Ego: All right. We can have a cookie if we ride our bike to get it from the grocery store.

Super-ego: You don't need a cookie. You need to do crunches, squats, and eat some celery.


Ego: Look, I said we could have a cookie if we take the bike instead of the car. Not only will we get a teensy bit of exercise en route, we could also ride around the neighborhood and look at the new Christmas lights that have been put up since the last night ride.


Ego: There. It's settled. Saddle up, body.

Super-ego: I think we should ride to Leesburg and back for that d@mn cookie. It's only twenty miles...

COOKIES! (Not from Leesburg, but I did get in nearly ten miles riding through neighborhoods.)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

I'm trendy?

Oh, PUBLIC Bikes... you silly minxes!

You loved what I did to my Ariel so much that you copied it -- after a fashion -- onto your cute little C7. Bless your hearts. ~MWAH~

Monday, December 10, 2012


Beatrix the C8 is now decked out with her holiday cheer. To be honest, the basket has been cheery for a week and a half, but without a handlebar there was nowhere to hang that basket.

~record scratch~

Kitty photobomb! Margie is the pair of yellow eyes floating next to Oreo.
Without a handlebar??

Yes, Dear Reader, I swapped out the flat-ish stock handlebar for a Velo Orange Tourist Handlebar which now gives me the full upright posture that I've wanted from the C8. The whole operation was a lot easier than I thought it would be aside from initially ordering the wrong handlebar (anybody need a slightly scratched Velo Orange Postino Handlebar that I can't return because my brake handles left marks?) and non-artistically cutting down the right hand faux cork grip so that it would fit with the shifter knob thingy.

Cheer! (And VW photobomb.)
In the process, I swapped out the humongous bell for the slightly more diminutive one that came with the bike and adjusted the position of my rear view mirror.

I can sit almost bolt upright, but I can also lean forward to tackle the hills in my neighborhood and the approach to the 20-hate bridge. The saddle needs a little bit of adjustment backwards and then this will be the exact bike that I wanted when I started shopping for a city bike. At least until I come up with something else to muck around with.

With the new handlebar, Beatrix feels like such an elegant ride, and she's already gotten compliments on the basket decor. The holly garlands have been in my tub of Christmas greenery forever and the lights are two battery-operated strings I purchased at Target last year. Cheer!

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Admission is the first step

The main reason behind my not commuting recently is that I developed a fear about riding home in the dark. More specifically, I was terrified of riding the unlit 1.25 miles from the campus to the trail. My headlight is more than adequate for seeing the road ahead and my taillight is also powerful and (hopefully) attention-grabbing. Plus, I have multiple weights of reflective outerwear. However, I've had so many close swipes in daylight from jackhole drivers in that distance that the thought of riding in the dark on those streets made me panicky.

It's skeery out there.

The weather yesterday was so beautiful that I HAD to take advantage of it. And you know what? The ride home was actually more relaxing than the ride in. I felt so calm and happy when I got home that I cajoled the Hubs to come out and ride around with me to look at Christmas lights. We cruised up and down neighborhood streets and my love for riding at this time of year was renewed.

I light up the night.

Monday, December 03, 2012

I'm baaa-aaaack

It's been almost a month since I was last on my bike. Shameful. Shameful, I tell you! But that doesn't mean I haven't been tweaking my bikes. Oh no...

So, remember when I used to fret about being taken "seriously" because I'd personalized my bike? Allow me to condescendingly pat my past self on the head and mutter, "There, there..."

It's pretty and silly.

Check out that pattern matching.

The stars are this year's holiday cheer.

I love that the (inch wide) tape is translucent enough that the manufacturer's stickers still show through. This project took the better part of six hours; although, I'd taped the seat stay and chain stay before the Backroads Century in September. During that ride, Max, one of my favorite Spokes-people, passed me and complimented my "unusual" bike before we recognized each other. He laughed and said that he thought it looked like an Ariel, but he'd never seen one with that paint job. Heh. I told him the red polka dots were to help me learn to love hills. Maybe now that the whole bike is polka dotted, I'll actually get there.

Friday, November 09, 2012


Not much riding lately nor have I even been able to keep up with the blogs I read. Oof. Work- and home-life have been crazy busy. It's not letting up, either, as I'll be in Dallas next week on business travel and the mountains of North Carolina for Thanksgiving week. When I get a chance to breathe, I will make some updates but I've got to upload and edit photos. Maybe I can sneak in some time in the hotel next week instead of being distracted by housework, etc.

Good times.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Are you gonna go my way?

I spied him -- I assumed it was a him -- when I was a quarter mile from the stoplight at Waxpool and Smiths Switch. Another bike commuter! Riding in the same direction as me! I hoped that the light would stay red long enough for me to catch up to him. Luck was with me and I smoothly pulled up beside the male commuter. We chatted a bit during the remainder of the red light and then I wound up beating him off the line because it took him a few extra seconds to clip into his pedal.

There was, presumably, safety in numbers and cars gave us a wide berth as we rode single file in the right hand lane. He was more daring than I at entering the campus among the turning vehicles while I waited for the cars to clear before I made my own entrance. He cut through a parking lot while I continued on the street and through the garage. I had parked and was locking my bike as he pulled up to the rack. We bid each other adieu and headed to our respective destinations.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A study in scarlet

Red is a powerful color and one that I work to incorporate into my wardrobe and accessories so that I don't drown in an over-abundance of my go-to blues. Monday's commute made me especially observant of the reds about me:

Blazing in the morning light.
The crimson of dying leaves in the trees and shrubbery along the trail,

The scarlet of the cardinals who flitted away before I could snap their photo,

The vermillion of my new trench coat,

The ruby of a passing cyclist's backpack,

The write-me-a-ticket red of the SUV which passed me on the two-lane portion of Smiths Switch,

The rosiness of my cheeks, nose, and forehead after the morning commute.

Red. It's not just for tail lights any more.

Monday, October 22, 2012

How I spent my Sunday afternoon

I love October because it holds not only my birthday (only five more shopping days!) but also Halloween. Halloween has always been my favorite holiday and I love decorating inside and out to celebrate. I typically  wait until the weekend before Halloween to deploy the cemetery, but this year I threw caution to the wind -- literally: today was GUSTY -- and built my little yard of horror.

Welcome to the Cemetery.

Enter if you dare. Muahahaha!
The neighbors are quiet.
But we have a bit of a giant spider problem.
The masterpiece which delights and terrifies the neighborhood children.
This is definitely one of the better parts of being a grown-up.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Fear the bicycle

I'm afraid of my Specialized Dolce. She's a beautiful bike and satisfies my need for speed, but she's so light and twitchy that I never feel fully comfortable on her. It's not because of the few falls I've had from her: I've suffered more, and bloodier, crashes on the Ariel. Nor is it the function of being clipped in: my clipped falls on Circe were at a near stop while my clipped falls on Lily were at speed (see "bloodier" above). I don't feel like Circe is under my complete control and it makes me hesitant to ride her.

A local friend has a Dolce, which is two years older than mine, and she feels the same way about her bike. She's not the collector like I am and this is her only bike. At least I have a choice when I want to hit the road for a bit of two-wheeled freedom.

Anybody else? Do you have a bike that gets neglected because it gives you the heebie jeebies?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

An out-of-the ordinary commute

I hit the trail thirty minutes later than usual because 1) I stayed up too late reading and wasn't ready to bounce out of bed the third time my alarm went off [I am way too fond of the snooze button] and 2) it took a while for me dig out my cold weather gear and suit up for the commute. I'm good with a light cardigan, scarf, and gloves in the 40s, but once the mercury dips into the 30s, I want my helmuffs, arm warmers, and at least a windbreaker. After bundling up and ensuring that I had all the needed bits and bobs, I took off for work.

As I pulled my bike over the curb separating the neighborhood street and small hill to the W&OD trail, two lightly bundled cyclists on heavily laden bicycles cruised by in my planned direction. I overtook them after half a mile and realized they were on a bike tour. The fully loaded panniers and bedroll each had attached to their rear racks gave it away. I called out for them to enjoy their trip and the woman of the couple assured me, "Oh, we are!"

More joggers were out than I normally see in the morning and fewer commuters/trainers. I'm sure that was due to the lateness of my ride. I was surprised that traffic on Waxpool was lighter at 8:50 than 8:20. It certainly feels heavier when I'm in the car. Crossing two traffic lanes to get into the left turn lane for the campus was a breeze. It was also nice not having to fight for a parking space what with several parking lots and access to one of the garages being closed off for repaving and repair. One of the many perks of riding on two wheels.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Flying in the dark

I needed to ride last night. It wasn't a want; it was an actual need. A need of movement. A need of freedom. A need of solitude.

I grabbed Lily and hit the trail just as the last of the sunset lit the sky. By the time I was a mile from home, I needed my headlight to see instead of just to be seen. I passed many cyclists without lights who I saw only because of the reflectors on their pedals and several joggers in dark clothes who were merely shadows at the periphery of my light, but I was alone in my lane neither overtaking nor being overtaken by other people.

I startled too many rabbits to count who were cropping the grass close to the trail. I, apparently, sneaked up on a ginger cat who didn't turn to see me until I passed it. I heard peepers singing the entire length of my ride.

At the base of the Town Center overpass in Reston, I turned around because I didn't feel like battling that long, shallow climb. Shortly afterwards, my light warned me that its power was low. Turning around was the right idea.


My imagination took over on the return trip. I still had enough light to barely illuminate the canopy of trees between Herndon and Sterling and I felt as though I were deep in the woods on some mission or quest. I kept my eyes wide for deer, but even the rabbits had moved elsewhere. I was completely alone, flying in the dark.

When I'd completed my nine miler, I was sweaty and clear-headed. My dark journey was exactly what I'd needed and I realized how much I had missed the experience. With the closing of the year, I look forward to more dark rides.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


My general feeling about October. Source.
I needed a scarf in addition to my thin wool gloves for this morning's commute. Egad, I love this time of year!

However, because I love to borrow trouble, I'm looking ahead to the dark, damp months and wonder how well Beatrix the C8 will handle slick roads. Her tires aren't nearly as narrow as the Dolce's, but are significantly thinner than the Ariel's. I feel more confident in the hybrid's handling of rough weather -- as if I ride that often in such conditions, but you never know -- than the upright's.

But the practice of that particular theory is at least two months away (unless we get another freak Hallowsleet this year). In the meantime, I look forward to fall's riot of color and chilly mornings. Yum!

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Drive by (ride by?)

Backroads Century was fun.
OBX beach time was fantastic.
Work week has been crazy busy due to out-of-commission laptop and boss visit.
Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Howl-o-Scream at Busch Gardens on tap for this Friday through Monday.

There will be actual content and lots and lots of photos next week. Promise!

Kate on the sound-side boardwalk in Duck, NC.

Friday, September 21, 2012

So excited!

I'm practically bouncing in my office chair. Sunday is the Backroads Century which will have us rolling through the gorgeous horse country around Berryville, VA. My friends, the hubs, and I are riding the 30 mile route and I hope to take lots of pictures this year. I'll be riding my beloved Lily again.

I also hope not to be quite so exhausted after the ride. Part of the exhaustion, I think, is because I'd never ridden that far before and part of the exhaustion was from getting up so dadgum early on a Sunday morning. I love sleep so very, very much.

The main reason I hope not to be so worn out after the ride is because directly afterwards I'm driving down to Duck, NC, for a Girls' Getaway on the Outer Banks. Whoo hoo! A friend and her sisters-in-law rented a smaller house than what we've used in past years and, when it turned out that there were more bedrooms than people, I received an impromptu invitation. Hooray for good friends, having spare vacation time, and a flexible work team! Kate the beach cruiser is definitely going and Beatrix the loop frame may go as well. (One of the sisters has given into the temptation of riding and since I have bikes to spare...) I have only one bike beam and two bikes without top bars which means I'll need to send at least one bike down with my friend who has a platform bike rack on her CRV.

Since we'll be in Duck proper, rather than five miles further north on Pine Island, I'm looking forward to exploring a little further south into Southern Shores and maybe even Kitty Hawk. Can't wait!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Spoke too soon

The deer are back. Despite the broad daylight overcast but still bright skies yesterday afternoon, the first doe of the season jumped onto the trail in front me shortly after Smiths Switch. She stood in the other lane as I slowly approached, and then ambled off to the side of the trail. We eyed each other warily as I passed. I thought about stopping and snapping a photo, but I'm pretty sure she would have dashed away by the time I wrestled my phone from the pannier.

Now that I think about it, I should have quickly looked to my right to ensure that she wasn't a harbinger and several others were lying in wait to ambush me. I'll remember to do that next time.

In other news, the facilities staff is trying to kill me by nearly dropping spent compact fluorescent bulbs on my head. He missed, thankfully, but I shan't be hanging out barefoot in my cube anytime soon.

Monday, September 17, 2012

An unexpected treat

The day was bright and chilly when I left the house and I wound up needing both my sweater and gloves when I set off. It was another friendly morning on the trail and most of the passing commuters said "hi" or "good morning". After I passed under Pacific Boulevard, I saw Bike-to-Work-Day guy heading my way, slow down, and wait for me to approach. He said that, if I didn't mind, he'd like to ride with me for a bit. I didn't mind at all.

I apologized and told him that I couldn't remember his name and I'd been calling him Bike-to-Work-Day guy. He reintroduced himself and said that he'd been referring to me as "Flower Girl". Heh. We chatted about our families and bikes and commutes as we rode into a dense fog just past Loudoun County Parkway -- I'm so glad I brought my headlight this morning! -- until he turned around at Smiths Switch to head back towards Reston.

How fun! Definitely not an experience you can get with a car commute.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

This is how I roll...

...when I shop, that is.

Friday was SUCH a gorgeous day.
This is Beatrix loaded down after work and a quickish stop at my favorite boutique, a.k.a Target. In addition to my lunch bag, the basket holds a bag of miscellaneous groceries, the bike lock, and a bottle of water. Pannier is holding a few more groceries, the neon gloves shown in my last post, my personal effects, junk mail, and the sweater I wore at work. Strapped to the rack are two Lego Monster Hunter sets.

Accessories and bicycles aren't the only items to which I'm addicted.

Sorry about the cat butt. I didn't realize that Margie photobombed me.
This is Beatrix loaded down after a  not-so quick trip to Safeway. The basket holds a 6lb bag of cat food, a 1/2 gallon of milk, a box of trash bags, and a bunch of bananas. The pannier is full of frozen lunches, fruits & veggies, and some other groceries. Strapped to the rack is a 14lb container of cat litter. I never thought I'd be so grateful for the rat trap thingies integrated into the rack, but they have been SO helpful for unconventional loads. The double bungee from Public has been a fantastic tool as well. Also? While I had to brace the front tire to keep the front end from swinging around while loading up the bike, the double kickstand kept Bea balanced and upright. I am SO happy with that purchase. Oh, and the little bag attached to the "wrong" side of the handlebar is my Po Campo wristlet which, thanks to its novel strap system, kept my wallet, phone, and keys safely contained to and from the store (although, it was in the basket on the outbound trip...)

Cat litter was one of those items I didn't think I'd be able to haul on a bike. And, to be perfectly honest, I did carry the smallest container but I couldn't remember the rack's weight limit. (It's 55lbs according to the Public website.) Next up, the 21lb container! And then landscaping goods! One of these days I might even get up to a Christmas tree. Muahahaha!

If loving monster Legos is wrong, I don't want to be right.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

New stuff

What is it "they" say? The first step to solving a problem is admitting you have one? I love love love accessories. For my person: jewelry, scarves, fun and funky shoes. For my home: quirky artwork, colorful pillows, candles. And for the bikes: baskets, panniers/rear bags, bells, mirrors. Here are some items I've added to lovely Beatrix.

Electra Butterfly Ding Dong bell.
As I noted when I first got the Public C8, I wasn't in love with the bell. There was nothing wrong with it, per se; it even matched the colorway of the bicycle. It just wasn't exactly what I wanted and I wasn't fond of the ring. Also, the mirror I've been using hasn't been all that great with this bike's handlebar. It's slightly more swept back than the hybrid's bar and while the Mirrycle Bar End Mirror provides me with an excellent rear view on Lily, the same mirror gave me a view of my hip and waist mostly on Bea. Not terribly useful. Today, I swapped out the items which vexed me with items that please me.

Sunlite Deluxe Bicycle Mirror.

The colors in the Butterfly bell are so dadgum cheerful it's almost ridiculous.The bell is huge at nearly the size of my fist. The ring is so loud I think Margie lost one of her nine lives to terror when I gave the bell a test while inside the house. If its ring doesn't get through to zombie joggers, I fear only an air horn will affect them.

At first, I didn't think the Sunlite mirror would give me a decent view, but it surprised the heck out of me. The attachment to the handlebar is fairly soft metal and I'm a bit worried that it won't stand up to rigorous commutes. Everything else is great, though, and I'm pleased with the inclusion of a reflector on the back. I feel comfortable with removing the reflector that came with the bicycle thus decluttering the cockpit.

Velo Orange Porteur Double Kickstand.

Beatrix isn't the most steady when parked and loaded down. The front end has a tendency to fall to one side or the other and, on more than one occasion, the bike has threatened to fall over. With the other changes I made to Bea today, I decided I may as well swap out the kickstand as well. The Porteur is a little stiff when kicking up, but it does a fantastic job of balancing Beatrix when she's parked.

At this point, I've swapped out hand grips, bell, seat, pedals, and kickstand. The handlebar, frame, rear rack, wheels, and tires are all original so I suppose I can say that Beatrix is still the bike that I originally ordered.

Oh, and in non-Beatrix related gear, I found neon stretch gloves at Target yesterday. I've found very few non-black cool/cold weather gloves which I think is insane because how are cars, peds, and other cyclists supposed to see your hands when you signal a turn? I think these guys will do the job just fine. And at $3 a pair, I won't shed a tear when they inevitably get filthy from use.

My phone camera couldn't capture the eye-searing neon of the yellow pair.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Other observations

The majority of my bike commute is via the suburban "countryside". Okay, it's countryside on one side of the trail and car dealerships, a golf course, and an office park on the other... Anyway, during the morning commute, I'm by myself much of the time, at least as far as fellow humans are concerned. The local wildlife, though, gives me something else to enjoy observing along the ride.

The kamikaze rabbits haven't been around lately; they may be more of a spring phenomenon. And the deer haven't begun spooking me as I'm riding home well after dawn and well before dusk. In another month, though, I'll need to keep a careful eye out for the does.

Yesterday morning, I noticed dozens upon dozens of funnel webs nestled in the grass shoulders of the trail. The dew glistened in the morning sun and I was made aware of just how many spiders live along the trail. I'm not a fan of creatures with what I consider the wrong number of legs and I'm now leery of pulling over into the grass between Pacific Blvd and Smiths Switch. ~shiver~

Squirrels are, of course, ubiquitous but they're outnumbered by groundhogs. The groundhogs are fairly brazen: I passed a couple of guys cropping (spider-filled) grass right up against the trail the other day. Scott's even nicknamed a couple of groundhogs "Allen" and "Steve".

I haven't seen any foxes in many months and hope they'll pop back out. The chipmunks have been absent, too. Like the deer, I suppose both fox(es) and chipmunks will reappear when autumn is in full swing. My most favorite discovery -- aside from the fox, that is -- was the lone turtle trundling across the trail and into the grass toward the golf course. It was quite beautiful and much faster than I'd been led to believe that turtles could be.

Ground-dwellers aren't the only creatures about, of course. The trees and bushes along the trail are visited by cardinals, blue jays, red-winged blackbirds, robins, mockingbirds, crows, turkey vultures, and many other birds which I don't recognize. Bird song is a wonderful soundtrack to my morning commute and I am quite aware of its absence in the afternoon/evening.

What critters, aside from the typical household pets, do you see on your rides? Do they pop out at different times of day or in different seasons?

Added later... G.E.'s comment reminded me about the skunk that spooked me a few weeks ago. I also had a butterfly smash into my basket during Sunday's ride. I was going to pull over to free it, but it managed to untangle itself and fly away to menace another cyclist. :)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


There's a post I want to make about helmet use and clothing choices amongst the cyclists of various races(?)/nationalities(?) I see in my neighborhood and along the local trail, but fear of offending folks is keeping me from typing it out. I don't want to start a  flame war -- not that I have enough readers to get into a debate -- about helmet use: wear one or don't; it's a personal choice. I wear one when I commute but sometimes I go without for errand-running. The more touchy issue may be one of race.

Oh, heck. I may as well jump in.

I may live in the sticks compared to those closer to DC, but my neighborhood is extremely diverse. On my block alone there are black, NE Asian, SE Asian, Hispanic, and white families. With the exception of myself, all the white folks wear helmets and "bike clothes". Occasionally, Scott will wear shorts and tee, but that's pretty rare. The black and Asian adults also wear helmets. They all wear regular street clothes. The Latinos also ride in street clothes but helmet-less . Most of the kids in the neighborhood don't wear helmets despite that being a Virginia law. Again, all are in street clothes.

It's a curious observance. I don't know if the whites see cycling as more of a sport while everyone else uses their bike for recreation and transport. I seem to be the only non-Latino who shops via bicycle, except when Scott joins me, of course.

I repeat, these observations are for my neighborhood and commute ONLY. When I ride farther afield, clothing choices and helmet use vary. I'm curious, though: do you notice any trends amongst the cyclists you see in your neck of the woods?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

More weather induced bliss

Another glorious commute. Oncoming cyclists and pedestrians returned my "good morning"s and Bike-to-Work guy -- I wish I could remember his name! Dave? Doug? Craig? -- hailed me as we crossed Ruritan Circle in opposite directions. Maybe tomorrow I'll holler out "I'm sorry, I've forgotten your name!" Too many syllables, probably.

I remembered to wear wool gloves this morning and my fingers didn't freeze. My chambray shirt, cotton tank, jeans, and boots kept me comfy without overheating me. I'm still working on keeping my speed down when riding Beatrix to work. As I sloooowly approached a jogger, I thought to myself that I could've blown past him on Lily. But Beatrix deserves a gentler pace. I do wish I'd caught up to the cyclist at Waxpool and Smiths Switch, though. I just missed the light.

Traffic was again gentle on the two lane surface road section of my commute and heavy but considerate on the four lane section. I've been too chicken to dive into the left turn lane into the campus ahead of cars and have instead turned right onto a dead end and then dashed across all four lanes when there's a break in traffic, which is something I've rarely done on Lily or Circe. I guess the less aggressive posture of Beatrix makes my riding in traffic less aggressive.

Something else I've been doing is whipping off my helmet once I enter the campus so that my hair will dry some while I still have a bit of a breeze before parking in the garage. So far, so good, and I feel like a rebel. Rawr.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Good things

I'm a little high on life this morning. It's a welcome change from how I've been feeling over the past month or so. Here are the good things from this morning's commute:
  • The weather! Blue skies with wispy clouds, bright sunshine, and a temperature of 55F when I left the house.
  •  Polite cyclists! Every person who rode around me called "on your left!" as they approached. Plus, a guy I met at the Sterling Bike to Work stop in May waved and yelled "Hi, Melanie!" as we passed in opposite directions. Luckily, I was smiling as we approached each other and he won't think I was a jerk for not yelling "hi" back. I was too surprised and he was already too far behind me to have heard a reply. See Melanie rationalize. Rationalize, Melanie, rationalize.
  • My new pedals. Last month, the delightful Dottie of Let's Go Ride a Bike reviewed Dimension Curved Pedals and has been very happy with their grippiness when she wears heels while riding. The stock pedals that came with Beatrix the C8 are slippery as all get out if I wear anything other than sneakers. I swapped out the pedals yesterday and enjoyed a slip-free ride in my heels today.
  •  My outfit. Sleeveless purple with cream polka dots knee-length, A-line dress; gold chain and big honking pearls necklace; dark red, faux gator Mary-jane heels. Oh, and a thigh-length, cream, open-weave cardigan for when I cool off and start freezing because of the AC vent blowing on my neck and shoulders.
  •  My make-up. Benefit They're Real mascara and Too Faced Vanilla Glow (because I am glow-in-the-dark pale) Beauty Balm. I have searched high and low for a mascara that a) doesn't smudge because of my oily eyelids, and b) doesn't flake into my eyeballs. This is my Holy Grail mascara. It survived last week's humidity and this morning's commute like a champ. The BB is great because it didn't smear and run despite my sweaty, sweaty face.
  • And last, but certainly not least, Beatrix the Public Bikes C8. She is finally set up so that function is just as beautiful as form. Granted, I had to change out a lot of stock parts to get to that point, but I can now ride like a lady when the inspiration strikes.

I hope that you have as wonderful a day as my morning has been.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

So beautiful

Autumn weather has descended upon the mid-Atlantic region, and the hubs and I took full advantage of it this morning with an impromptu ride to Leesburg and back. I'm proud of Scott for making the 24 mile round trip considering he hasn't been on his bike in probably a month. With a few rides over the next two weeks, we should be ready for the 30ish mile route of the Backroads Century on September 23.

Still looks like a vintage Doctor Who location.
The ride itself was fairly easy. There were a lot of folks out on the trail, but it wasn't nearly as crowded as I would have expected. I'd planned to take it easy on Scott so I suggested that we turn around at the Luck Stone Quarry.

Once we'd arrived at the quarry, he still felt energetic and wanted to continue on to Raflo Park in Leesburg.

Lookin' good and feelin' great.

The only spot of trouble happened as I rounded the base of the Route 15 underpass and spooked when another cyclist popped out from the other side. Luckily, I'm used to getting startled there and was already at nearly a crawl. I yelped, hit the brakes, and slid off the seat to stop moving just before clipping the wall. I've got to stop being so high strung.

The gazebo at Raflo Park is approximately twelve miles from our house and the first rest stop of the Backroads is at twelve miles. Now, we'd stopped a couple of times en route for readjustments and little breaks, but we didn't want a significant break until that point. We wound up visiting for a while with another cyclist who'd ridden from the eastern side of Herndon and compared stories of experiences with the various trails in the area and interactions with other cyclists and pedestrians. Oh, and he also hated the approach and climb to the Rte 28 bridge. Heh.

The ride back to Ashburn is mostly downhill and we needed no breathers along the way. We did, however, stop at Ashburn Road and snack a bit outside of Carolina Bros. BBQ. That stop was approximately eighteen miles into our ride and the second rest stop of the Backroads is at mile twenty. But back to the BBQ. As a native of the Memphis area, I am practically powerless against BBQ'd pig. While His Nibs kept cool in the shade, I trotted over to the restaurant for a take-away sandwich platter and slice of pecan pie which fit fairly well in my basket.

Lookin' good but feelin' the burn.

Not as busy as I'd suspect on such a gorgeous day.
The ride from Ashburn to Sterling is mostly uphill and I rode at an easy pace. Scott pulled ahead and sailed up and over 20-hate at which point his quad seized up and he massaged his leg until I caught up. Poor dear. The last mile and half was trouble-free, though, and we both felt pretty good when we pulled our bikes into the house. We just need to get a few more rides in over the next couple of weeks and we'll be good to go. Also? It's going to be 55F tomorrow morning. I can't wait to ride to work!

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

I don't quite get it...

But as the Skipper would say, "Just smile and wave, boys. Smile and wave."

(Edited to add: Ah! It's Freddy Mercury's birthday. All is made clear.)

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

If it's not Scottish, it's craaaaap

On Saturday morning, one of Scott's facebook buddies posted about the Virginia Scottish Games and the hubs proposed we take a looksee and let him get back in touch with, as he calls it, "the home country". I'd never been to a Highland Games event and was keen to see what the hoopla was about. With that, we headed down to The Plains, VA, for an afternoon of fun.

My first impression, as we hiked from our parking spot in BFE to the gate, was this event felt like Renaissance Faire meets a ball game. I could see tents with pennons flying in the distance and hear bagpipers plying their trade as we passed people tailgating in the parking area. Oookay. Plus, there were a lot of dogs. The volume of dogs seemed greater than the volume of children, actually. And then we passed through the gate into a little piece of Scotland with Virginia weather.

Kilts! Kilts everywhere! And pipers. Good ones, thankfully. Scott spied the antique and vintage automobiles on the hillside and we window shopped. He wanted Roger Moore's Volvo from "The Saint". I was perfectly happy to settle for the powder blue Austin Healey 3000.

My stomach decided that it was lunchtime -- because it was -- and I followed my nose to a vendor of meat pies. No, I did not try the haggis. Scott didn't eat the haggis, either. He said he wasn't hungry and that he'd eaten enough as a child. My beef meat pie was seriously delicious and I savored every last crumbly bit as we watched the professional division of the caber toss competition.

I had no idea it was a professional sport.
Apparently, the bout had been held up because the first caber broke. How embarrassing. Luckily, a stunt caber was located and the first competitor to the field threw a perfect 180 degree toss. The next closest competitor threw 80%. After the pros, the amateurs were let on the field. We left when a first timer nearly squashed the judge by losing control of the (much lighter) pole.

The next tent over was full of young girls participating in a dance competition. Scott says he can remember some of the steps but, out of respect to the girls, didn't dance along. When I could no longer stand baking in the sun, we moved on to the vendor area.

Oh, the luck we had there! I've been searching for the perfect red purse for AGES and, wouldn't you know it, I found it there. Perfect size, drop, color, shape, and price. I could've walked on air. We also found a pretty silver thistle brooch as a gift for Scott's mom. Scott's score of the day was a new kilt from The Kilted Nation. He has several Utilikilts -- and I was surprised that he didn't wear one to the event -- but none of them fit at the moment. Plus, I think his olive Utilikilt is too long. So now he's got a knee-length olive Kilted Nation utility kilt. And, uh, I have a khaki one. Scott said that I'd look good in a kilt and I didn't want to get the wrong tartan...

No kilt pictures. Have a fried Twinkie, instead.
We continued down to the race track for the sheep herding demonstration. The lady running the demo had three sheep and two border collies. Because the weather was so hot and humid, she didn't want to stress out the animals with a high energy demo but it was still an interesting watch. Every time she'd call off the dog with "that'll do", someone in the audience would coo, "That's just like the movie!" I wonder if that grates or pleases sheep herders.

As we made our way towards the exit, Scott ran across a couple of his historical martial arts buddies from the Virginia Academy of Fencing. We watched their demo for a bit and chatted a while. Scott was happy to play with some of their swords and show me the sword he wants next: a montante (I'm going on faith that this is the actual sword; work is blocking this site because its content categorization is "Weapons").

Our very last stop was at the Northern Virginia Sheltie Rescue tent so I could pick up a brochure. We've been thinking about getting a smallish dog and Shelties are high on my list of possibilities. With that, we bid Scotland adieu and hiked back into the real world.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

PSA: Stolen bike in Baltimore

A friend in Baltimore, MD, found his bike stolen this morning.

Some enterprising soul has stolen my 2008 Electra Ultra Classic off of my front porch. Happened during the evening of September 1st (2012) on the 2600 block of Calvert Street. They stole it by wedging off the bannister that it was u-locked to, so unless they figure a way to cut it off there'll be a u-lock attached to it.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Group ride, interrupted

The Bike Me DC group met up at the Herndon Depot yesterday for a casual ride to the Vienna Depot and back, and I rode the three miles from home to Herndon to meet the group for the ride. We had lovely weather despite one member wearing his cursed jersey again. It rains every time he wears that jersey (the Reston Century riders can thank him), except for last night. Hooray!

We took off shortly after 6pm and the speed demons left six of us in the dust. Eventually, another woman -- Rebecca -- and I pulled ahead of the last four folks. Rebecca and I had wound up pushing our bikes up the final hill during last year's Great Pumpkin Ride and discovered that our cruising speeds are compatible. We rode side by side and chattered happily about upcoming group rides, vacation plans, and bicycle maintenance. We even continued chatting as we rode up the hills that both of us find troubling. It felt great to have a riding companion with similar strength.

A couple of miles outside of Vienna, I hit a pothole. It jarred me and Lily, but she seemed okay. I heard an odd sound and thought that I might have damaged one of my tires, but they weren't losing air. Rebecca pulled ahead of me and eventually left me in the dust. I couldn't get any speed and momentum was nil. My body was starting to hurt, too: hands, back, sides, tush, and feet. I was only ten miles in, with fourteen to go, and I was miserable. As I approached the Depot, two ladies from the far behind group passed me. When I joined the group, I examined my back tire and realized that the brake clamped down on the rim at certain points. I told the ride leader that I was going to take my bike up to the Vienna branch of Spokes, Etc, and have them take a look. The guys, of course, flocked to my bike and tried to fix the problem. I stepped back and let them tweak to their hearts' content. Despite the team's best efforts, my brake still wouldn't let go of the tire. One of the guys did notice that the tire was slightly out of true and that was most likely causing the problem.

The group didn't like leaving me behind but I told them I'd be fine and would have my husband come rescue me if the bike couldn't be fixed this evening. With that, I walked my bike the half mile or so to the bike shop. The diagnosis was that I'd broken a spoke and, happily, the fix was quick and cheap. I phoned Scott, who was halfway to the shop, and told him I was good to ride back home. Since he was in my car, I didn't feel too guilty about his burning gas and toll road money for the wasted trip. He was concerned about the fading light, but I assured him I was okay with my blinky headlight and do-not-look-into-laser-with-remaining-eye tail light.

And I was okay. At least until I got out of Vienna proper when I realized that I'd left my water bottle at the service counter of the shop. Guh. Reston wasn't that far away and I could snag a bottle of water at the McD's next to the trail on Wiehle. I chased the fading light and was in full-on darkness as I approached Herndon. The ninja joggers and cyclists were out in force and I gave my bell a workout warning folks of my passing. I'm VERY happy not to have found any deer on the trail since my spotlight-the-next-county headlight was on the kitchen counter at home. I'm also VERY happy not to have hit the skunk which trundled out of the underbrush just before I got to Sterling Blvd. I don't think I've ever seen a live one in the wild and I'm glad that we passed each another without physical or aerosolized contact.

I thought that I'd be exhausted when I got home, but coasting for a mile or so revitalized me. I was tired and hurting because it's been a while since I've ridden over twenty miles, but I did manage a total of 24 miles in just over two hours, plus the twenty minutes or so of bike repair. And one of these days I'll get to complete a Bike Me DC ride with the whole group.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

So dirty

Lily and I got in two very soggy rides this week: Monday evening's commute and Wednesday evening's group ride from Herndon to Ashburn. Monday wasn't planned; I left work slightly later than planned and the rain started just after I unlocked the bike. A couple of coworkers kindly offered to drive me home because I'd mentioned in the past that I was nervous about slipping on wet streets. I figured, though, that since we'd had a fair amount of rain on Sunday, oil and whatnot on the roads would have washed away. Plus, I had my lights and I was fairly sure I wouldn't melt. It turns out that I wound up being only slightly more damp from the evening's commute (rain) that I'd gotten from the morning's commute (sweat). Funny, that.

Grimy grimy.
The whole of Wednesday was pretty nice, but as soon as I hit the trail to meet the bike club at the Herndon Depot, the drizzle started. Skies were clear in Herndon, but our plan was to ride west to Ashburn and into the wet. Our little group got to Church Road and took sanctuary under the bridge to wait out the rain. A couple of folks turned around while an intrepid few continued west into the chilly and stinging rain. We crossed 28, arrived at Pacific and decided that even we had had enough. Of course, as soon as we got back to Sterling proper, the skies cleared. The other three continued east and I turned toward home to dry off and warm up. Fun, but chilly.

The back rack saves me from a skunk stripe but doesn't protect the seat tube or stays.
The result of all these rainy rides is that Lily is FILTHY. I know that she needs a good cleaning, but I'd rather ride than clean. I guess that since Sunday is supposed to be a wash-out, I'll use the cooped-up time to give my beloved steed a much deserved wipe down and lube. And maybe Circe will be my bike of choice for tomorrow's 20+ miler to Leesburg and back.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Getting a jump on things

Gussied up for the event.
This past Saturday evening was the Champions Dinner for the 2012 Tour de Cure. I was pretty inspired by all the great folks in attendance, especially the Red Riders (the participants who have diabetes) and the Youth Ambassadors. I'd been on the fence about riding next year but now I'm motivated to not only ride but also captain a team. I've put a call out to my bicycle-loving SCA friends to join the Hula Bears* and ride in memory of Tom B./Tirloch.

*We're Hula Bears because Tom was "the Bear" and loved Hawaiian shirts.

Monday, August 20, 2012

A break

There's been a break in the oppressive heat here in northern Virginia and I took advantage of that blessing by getting in a few miles in the saddle. Saturday was the quintessentially perfect summer day and, after we'd finished cleaning the house, I hopped on Lily the hybrid and did a spin around the neighborhood and a quick grocery shop. The number (and diversity) of cyclists on the roads made my heart leap with joy. There were lots of kids along the quiet neighborhood streets and a few other cyclists who were carting shopping or laundry bags. We smiled and waved to one another and all felt right with the world. Even car traffic was patient and considerate. Like I said: perfect day.

The mileage though -- all three miles of it -- just about killed me. Oof. So out of shape. I  hopped back on for a quick jaunt on Sunday and, happily, those four miles didn't quite kill me. And despite today's oppressive humidity, I rode to work -- I'd have to look in the archives to see when I last did that :/ -- and the five miles absolutely did not kill me. Again, car traffic was patient and considerate. I'm actually sort of looking forward to the uphill ride back home.

Not much new about Beatrix the C8 as I haven't really been in the mood to ride her. I have to tell myself that this is okay and there's no need to feel guilty. She fills a certain niche, just like the Dolce and the cruiser do, and that niche isn't in use at the moment. She's too pretty and stylish to languish for long and I'm sure I'll be champing at the bit to put her rubber to the road.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Olympic cycling

The hubs and I managed to miss all of the Olympic road and track cycling events, but we caught the women's mountain bike race and both men's and women's BMX semis and finals this past weekend. There is, apparently, some controversy surrounding the inclusion of mountain biking and BMX as Olympic evens.

I'm not going to weigh in on either side of inclusion or no -- I do have strong feelings about rhythm gymnastics and handball, however -- but the theatricality of mountain biking and BMX certainly held my spouse's and my attention. Scott said that my constant crash practice made me a shoo-in for either sport. Ha. Ha. He also longed to get a BMX bike and join the circuit. I told him he could do so after he makes sure that his disability insurance is set up.

The women's mountain bike course did look kind of fun except for the rocky bits. I could see myself flipping over the handlebars, much like the German competitor, on the rocky descent. Unlike Sabine Spitz, however, I didn't see myself getting back onto the bike and taking the silver medal. Scott decided that he'd rather get a mountain bike and take up that sport. The insurance rider was again a pre-requisite.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Out of touch

My pavilion during last year's Pennsic War.
I'm headed off to the wilds of northwestern Pennsylvania for an extended weekend camping trip with 10,000 of my closest friends for an event known in the SCA as the Pennsic War. Yes, I'm one of those people who dresses up in funny clothing. I don't try to speak in a "ye olde" way; although, I do sing Middle English, Latin, and Italian songs on occasion.

Hopefully there will be actual bicycle content on this bicycle blog fairly soon. I've put the Velo Orange saddle and matching grips on the C8 and I'm still getting used to that new arrangement. Review coming soon. Plus, there's a beach trip in the works which means my sweet little cruiser will get to roll in her appropriate environment. Lots of group rides are coming up starting in late August, and I just received notification that this year's Great Pumpkin Ride is on the same day as my birthday. The Backroads Century kind of spoiled me for other group rides and I wasn't that thrilled with last year's Great Pumpkin, but I'm willing to give it a second chance. Plus, I get to wear my Halloween jersey again!

Punk rock Venetian, y'all.
So. Y'all be good while I'm camping like medieval royalty.

(Seriously. My persona is a Venetian noblewoman of the late 15th century. She never would have camped in a tent -- not that I can really call what I do "camping" what with my queen size bed, closet, dressing table, and plush rugs; Scott says I camp like a 19th century Briton on safari -- in fact, she probably would have left her casa for only social calls. When people ask if I'd like to have lived back them, my quick answer is "Oh, hell no.")

See you next week!

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

"Bicycle" by Nora and One Left

Source: Nora and One Left.
Nora and One Left is a DC-based band who have just released a new album titled Bicycle. They were kind enough to send me a CD, and I have to say that I'm enjoying their music. The songs are bright and poppy and feel like 10,000 Maniacs meets Belinda Carlisle meets Leslie Gore.

I can see myself singing along to the album while out for a leisurely bike ride. Right this minute, though, I have satisfy my need to groove along by quietly dancing in my office chair.

If girl-pop, bicycles, and the occasional ukelele and banjo sound appealing to you (I am NUTS about banjos), head over to Nora and One Left's Bandcamp page and give 'em a listen.

Full disclosure: I have not been asked to endorse this album, but I did receive a free CD.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Endless Velo Love is riding for charity

My friend G.E. of Endless Velo Love is riding in the Venus de Miles at the end of August and would be extremely appreciative of donations to support the Greenhouse Scholars who provide support -- both personal and financial -- to under-resourced, high-achieving college students. She's even offering incentives and prizes to people who donate. Please take a look at her page and help her out. She's a good egg. :)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Let the group rides begin

The Back Roads Century is a mere two months away and I've registered the Hubs and myself for the thirty mile route. Yeah, my goal this year was to ride either the metric or full century but 1) I suck at goals and 2) my friends (and more importantly, Hubs) want to ride the shorter route. I'm an agreeable sort. I do hope our weather is as conducive to an enjoyable ride as last year's.

A foggy start for Bel, Cat, myself, and Scott on last year's ride.