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.