Monday, August 29, 2011

Velomobiles Visit Vienna

It's taken me a few days (okay almost a week) to write about this, but better late than never, right?

Last Wednesday, the Roll Over America cross-country velomobile tour paused in Vienna for snacks and lemonade on their final leg into DC. The group left Portland, OR, on July 29, and arrived in Washington on August 24th, averaging 125 miles a day.

So what's a velomobile? It's a human powered recumbent tricycle, with a "fairing" or shell which completely or almost completely encloses both rider and machine. Combining lightweight construction and high quality components with an aerodynamic shell produces a remarkably efficient vehicle capable of great speed.

The point of the ride was to raise awareness of alternative forms of transportation, specifically the bicycle. With fuel costs inevitably rising, concerns about our environment and climate change being discussed everywhere, and traffic congestion growing worse by the day, all manner of alternatives are going to be debated and explored. The folks who rode ROAM feel strongly that the bike is an important part of the picture, and their cross-country tour was meant to make folks think about it. I have to imagine the sight of these sleek, unusual vehicles zooming across America prompted some thought.

I've seen a few velomobiles before,  mostly at trade shows, but never have I been surrounded by a large group of them. Nor have I ever been amongst so many riders and fans of them before. They are pretty remarkable machines, ranging pretty widely in complexity and expense. Some were truly custom, one of a kind vehicles, while others were production models, most notably the Quest from BlueVelo. The riders were a genial bunch, and clearly have enjoyed themselves riding across the US. None of them looked at all ragged or tired from their travels, which at 125 miles a day is pretty remarkable.

Check out my Flickr album here:

Velomobiles in Vienna, VA 8/24/2010

And also follow these links below for more info:

Thursday, August 25, 2011

I see interesting things while riding...

... but this one has me perplexed.

This morning, as I was starting out on a short bike ride, I passed a woman on her triathlon bike. Now, I'm not a very fast rider, more of a "gosh, look at the pretty scenery" sorta guy, so I don't often pass people who are all decked out for speed on a tri bike. In this case though, I flew past her as if she were standing still.

The simple reason being that she WAS standing still! Yes, you can see in the picture, she was riding her tri bike on a stationary trainer, about five feet off the edge of the trail. I was surprised... and puzzled. All I could figure was that she was performing some sort of warmup ritual before heading out on the trail.

But no... when I returned 45 minutes or so later, there she was still, deep in concentration, still spinning away in the same spot.

Me, I really don't enjoy stationary bike riding. I like being outside, in the elements, seeing the world go by. I'll even ride in weather most folk stay home in... I have studded tires on one bike for snow and ice. So the thought of spinning my pedals 'round and 'round while going nowhere is anathema to me. I hate being cooped up inside and staring at a wall while I pedal.

Maybe this was her way of avoiding the monotony. I can understand not wanting to be stuck in a room while riding. But if you're going to take the step of transporting your bike (and trainer) to a spot by the bike trail... um... why not skip the trainer and just ride on the trail? I could understand wanting to avoid coping with cars, perhaps, but this is a long (35 miles from here to the end), smooth, pleasant multi-use trail.

I guess to each their own, but I'm stumped.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Well, I'm going to try to get into a habit of writing again, with some regularity, and what better excuse to start than the earthquake we had in Virginia yesterday?

Yes, that's right... an earthquake in Virginia. By now it's well nigh impossible to have not heard about it, so I won't bore you with the stuff you've heard in the news, aside from the fact that it measured 5.8 or 5.9 on the Richter scale, a fairly strong quake. Oh, and the epicenter was northwest of Richmond, so southwest of where I live.

While I think the DC area is indulging in its tendency to get overwrought about natural events ("Snowmageddon" ring a bell?), I have to admit, it was a little unnerving, as I generally find earthquakes to be. I've been in six or seven of them over the years... and while I've spent some time in California, none of them were there. No, "my" quakes were here, and Portland, OR, Flagstaff, AZ, Salt Lake City, and New Haven, CT. If I had to rank them, the most unnerving was the one in Portland (centered in Seattle, 2001 or so), because it felt like the earth was rolling like surf. Very disconcerting.

But I have to admit, yesterday's was in second place on disconcerting. I was in the bike shop, sitting at the front counter when the big rollup door in front of be began to sway. At first I looked to see if a gust of wind had kicked up, but when the building and ground began to distinctly rock side to side, I knew what it was. The good news is there wasn't any damage at the shop or in my apartment. The bad news is that my cat was very freaked out for hours and hours afterwards!  Ah well, he seems to be back to his old self today.

There's news about some minor structural damage here and there in the area, but no fatalities that I know of, and no major injuries or damage. They were talking about the possibility that what we had was a "foreshock", meaning worse was yet to come, but so far we've just had some small aftershocks, none of which I've noticed.

Monday, August 8, 2011

FloydFest X!

It's taken me a week to get around to writing this, but it's been a busy week.

Last weekend, my girlfriend and I headed down to Southwest Virginia for FloydFest, an outdoor, multi-venue music festival now in it's 10th year. If you don't know (and I didn't until a couple of years ago) SW VA has long been a hotbed of fine bluegrass music. FloydFest had a huge array of musicians over 4 days, but we only made it down for 2 days. Still, a wonderful time.

I can't possibly touch on everything we did and saw, but here are a few highlights -

Taj Mahal on Saturday evening was a truly fun way to end the day. His energy and presence on stage, the way he works a crowd, all of it... just incredible. A consummate performer, and a very talented musician. And the crowd just loved it.

The Tony Rice Unit was amazing! Truly gifted musicians playing Tony's signature mix of bluegrass and jazz on guitars, bass, fiddle, and mandolin. Tony's guitar playing was delightful to watch... he's one of those guys who makes great playing look easy, and he seems to be enjoying himself so much as he plays. 

At the end of that set, David Grisman came out on stage and joined in on mandolin. Very cool, and a nice lead in to the next set, which was the David Grisman Sextet.  Aside from the truly great musicianship and Grisman's stage presence (he is a character, I have to say), this set was fascinating because the weather took  a major part. The day was full of changes, and the Grisman set saw sunshine, rain, and a truly mystical, beautiful fog that rolled in at one point. 

The last act we saw was the last act of the whole event... the Del McCoury Band.  I'll confess, coming late to the world of bluegrass, I really didn't know anything about them, but I am so glad I got to see Del and his sons and band live.  Wow! Some truly amazing playing and singing. Much more "old school" than some of the other acts, and a lot of fun to watch on stage. And at one point, Del's GRAND son came out on stage to join in on guitar. I have to imagine it's wonderful to share the music you love across three generations of family.

Late in the Del McCoury set, Peter Rowan (who we had seen earlier in the day and is also a great act) and David Grisman came out and joined in, making for a really lively, fun, brilliant finale to a terrific four day event.

Part of me wishes I'd been there for the whole thing, to get the "full experience"... but honestly, I'm not sure it wouldn't have left me feeling overwhelmed. Guess I'd have to try it to know for sure.

One thing that worked out brilliantly for us was bringing our Brompton folding bikes. The event had remote parking lots and shuttle buses to the venue, but we zoomed back and forth, over the rolling hills of SW VA on our Bromptons, while others stood in line for the buses. Great fun, and very convenient. Oh, and the bike rack on the back of the car? Just there because we didn't bother to take it off. The Bromptons folded up and tucked into the back with the rest of our luggage.

Oh, and speaking of lines... we had earlier discussed possibly camping on site, as that's an option offered at FloydFest. Upon seeing the actual grounds though... and the VERY long line for showers (you know it's bad when they install benches), we were just as happy we'd found a great hotel with a last minute cancellation. A lovely, big room with jacuzzi and porch, and on our last day there, one of the other guests was playing banjo softly on the deck as we packed up.  Very nice!

More photos and a few videos can be seen at:  FloydFest X