Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Last Canal Walk of 2009?

Probably. It's not likely I'll be on the C&O Canal again before the new year.

I won't use a lot of words here. Suffice to say it was a cold and breezy and wonderful walk. Many birds, different ones now... we're into the season of juncos and titmice. Also saw a beautiful red-tailed hawk and a pileated woodpecker. I'm always taken aback by just how big those pileated woodpeckers are.

Photos from today are at:

December 29, 2009, C&O Canal

Our Winter Wonderland Last Week

I didn't find the gumption to sit down and write about it, and it seems a little silly more than a week later to spend the time, but I did want to post one picture and a link to more, from the lovely snowfall we had on December 18th, here in the DC area. A rare event in this region, a heavy snowfall before Christmas, and in this case, apparently record-breaking, with reports of from 16" to 22" or more.

This picture is from the woods behind my place. More can be seen at:

December 18, 2009 ride home from work

December 19, 2009, walk to work

Dec 19, 2009 walk home

December 20, 2009 walk to work

December 21-23, 2009

It Ain't Macy's, but...

... the only real "decorating" I managed to do this Christmas (aside from my mom's lights) was to put a few strings of battery-powered lights on the bike I built, the Goshawk. The shop was scheduled to do our annual Christmas Eve Luminaries Ride (in which we ride around a local neighborhood that puts out the little candles in bags for the holidays)but due to ice and snow on the roads and on lawns, John decided it was best to cancel. This came about, of course, AFTER I had decked the bike out with lights! So John suggested I put the bike up in the front window of the shop to join our spiffy new "Open" sign and the Christmas lights I had already hung there.

So the only question now is, what is the correct protocol with a decorated bicycle in a shop window for the holidays? Does it come down at the Epiphany or sooner? Later? Decisions, decisions.

Might require serious thought. I know! A walk along the Canal would help with that! On a blustery, cold winter afternoon. Delightful.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Vienna, VA in snow

The old train station, taken as I walked to work Saturday morning.

Snow ride!

One of my favorite and rare treats since moving back to the DC area seven years ago (where did that time go????) is a night ride in freshly fallen snow. And tonight I had the chance to do that for the first time in a few years. We've got what promises to be a major storm going on here right now, and it started before I left the shop tonight.

Once I headed out in it, I just couldn't make myself go straight home... I just had to stay out and enjoy it a while, so I rode past my usual cutoff point on the local rail trail. All told it was probably about a six mile ride, which isn't much, but it was lovely. Saw one other cyclist and a couple of walkers, including one guy with his dog, but mostly I had the trail to myself.

I did have one fun wildlife encounter... a fox trotted across the trail not far ahead of me. I passed where he ran across, then doubled back and took some pictures of his tracks in the snow, crossing my tire tracks.

All in all, a gorgeous night out there, and a pleasure to enjoy the snow before others tramp it down.

My Miyata 210, with studded tires, out in the snow tonight. More pics at:

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Very minor moment of not quite fame

Okay, I'm a geek, but I have to share this... today I had an email I wrote to the Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU, (DC public radio station) read live on the air!

They were doing a show on things to do outdoors in winter and ways to dress for it and such, and I wrote in my experience with winter riding in Lake cycling sandals, with layers of some combination of silk, wool, neoprene, and nylon, depending on conditions. I was kind of surprised they read it, but they did.

The text of what I wrote:

"It may sound crazy, but my favorite footwear for winter cycling is the cycling sandal, available from Lake or Shimano. The advantage of these is that the straps are nearly infinitely adjustable, so you can add layer after layer of liner sock, wool sock, neoprene bootie (such as Sealskinz), and if it's really cold or wet a nylon wind/waterproof shell. I've been riding this way for 6 winters here and have never found it inadequate. The problem with conventional shoes or boots is that the more layers of socks you pack in there, the poorer your circulation, and it actually makes your feet colder."

And a link to listen to the program:


It's funny, because I had just been discussing that very thing with a customer, and then the show came on and I decided to write in.

A Little Christmas

I haven't really done anything in the way of decorating my place or
anything, but yesterday I ran a string of lights on my mom's house.
I've done that most years since I moved back to the DC area in 2002,
and it's a nice little ritual for me. I like helping my mom (that's
her standing there) and it's a little bit of Christmas spirit for me.
And it's kind of cool that I get to decorate the house where I grew
up. How many can say that at 48?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

A Noble Boy

On Friday I had one of those interactions that warm my heart. I was working at bikes@vienna when a woman and her young son (oh, probably 9? I'm terrible with guessing ages) came in. At first I assumed I was going to have to disappoint them and tell them we no longer sell children's bikes, something that happens fairly often this time of year. However, this visit was different. The mom asked if we were still involved in taking donated children's bikes and passing them on to a local charity that gives them to needy children at the holidays. It seems the little fellow had outgrown his bike, and they wanted to donate it. The whole process was really very sweet... mom told her son that he didn't have to do it, but that it would give another child a chance to have a bike for the holidays, and that would be a good thing. The boy was clearly torn... he loved his bike, but wanted to do something generous and good. All in all he was very brave about the it... he straddled the bike one last time before letting it go, and he seemed to really "get" it that what he was doing was, well, noble.

It reminded me of my time at the Community Cycling Center in Portland, OR, a non-profit bike shop that had a number of programs to put kids as well as adults on bikes and teach them about bikes. I started there in the fall of 2000 as a volunteer, fixing up bikes for their annual Holiday Bike Drive, where donated bikes get fixed up and given to needy children. That was a much larger operation than our local group here in Vienna, but it's not about size, it's about doing good in this holiday season. I told the little boy and his mother about my experience at the CCC, including the day I helped give out the 700 or so bikes we'd recycled that year. It's an amazing thing seeing that number of children receive a bike they probably never figured they'd have. Sure they were used, not new and shiny, but you'd never have known if from the smiles and looks of awe.

So the little boy and his mom yesterday brought back fond memories for me and gave me a bit of a needed holiday boost. Another good deed done, even if they didn't realize it.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

First Canal Ride on Brompton

Well, I finally took the Brompton out on the C&O Canal, one of my favorite places to ride. It was just a short ride, totalling 15 miles, a simple out and back from the Carderock area, a really convenient place for me to start. The bike handled the dirt towpath with aplomb, although I have to admit the few really muddy patches I hit were a bit tricky. Then again, they're not that fun on a bike with full sized wheels either.

It was Tuesday and a day off for me, and I was due to visit my mom over in Maryland, but I had a little time of my own, so I decided to stop at the Canal on the way. I'm really glad I did, because it was a beautiful day, and I had a GREAT time. I always find the towpath a joy to walk or ride, and having some quiet time alone to enjoy it was a good thing. The air was clear and fresh, the sky was blue, and the ever-changing light was beautiful. And it turned out to be a good day for wildlife as well.

The first thing that really struck me while riding was the amazing reflections on the surface of the canal. The air was clear and calm, so the water was like glass, mirroring the sky, the trees, and rocks. I don't know when I last saw it so mirror-like... take a look at the pictures below and see:

I also had the good fortune to see a number of birds... vultures, cormorants, a couple of kingfishers, and several great blue herons. I spied one of the latter out of the corner of my eyes while zipping along the path, almost missing it entirely. Much to my surprise, the heron stayed put while I took photo after photo. In the picture to the right, you can see how well he blends into the background. Herons are among my favorite birds, so I'm glad I spotted this one.

And while I was busy snapping pictures of the heron, I heard a rustling sound in the underbrush near him, and shifted my gaze just in time to see a rather large red fox pop out of the brush and trot along the opposite bank for a while. He was pretty skittish, so I didn't get a good shot of him, but take a look at the picture to the left and you'll see him. If you can't see him, click on the small image to see a larger version. (Actually, that works with all of the images here.)

Finally, as I was making my way back to my starting point, the moon swung into view above... a big, beautiful, full moon! It was stunning the way it just appeared, shining through the bare branches of the trees, and reflecting on the still waters of the canal. All that was missing was a figure on a broomstick to complete the image!

All in all, a glorious afternoon! Quiet solitude and fresh air, gorgeous scenery and interesting wildlife. It all gave me a bit of a needed boost, and made for a great day off.

And the Brompton worked out just fine on the towpath. So much so that I might try to use it for an overnight trip there sometime, perhaps taking a train to a start point and riding down into the city. I'd have to pack lighter than with my full size touring bikes, but that might be part of the fun of it!

Sun setting over the Potomac River. More images at: C&O Canal, Dec 1, 2009

Riding by Moonlight!

Riding home tonight on the rail-trail, I thought to myself "I wonder if this moon is bright enough to see by?"

So I turned off my head light.

And the answer was yes! I even went so far as to ride up the dirt path through the woods solely by the light of the nearly full moon. Very fun! Shafts of clear light through the dark trees. Beautiful!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

First Yoga Class in over a Month

I just came back from my first yoga class after about a month of missing classes due to helping out my mom after her recent knee replacement. It was challenging, to say the least, having had such a long break from it, but it sure felt good! So good, in fact, that I'm probably just going to climb into bed and sleep very soundly here tonight, which will be nice. All in all, I've had a good couple of days off... some solitary time on my bike on the C&O Canal, a nice visit with my mom (including a "reunion luncheon" for patients who've had joint replacements at that hospital) and a good yoga class that left me feeling well stretched and relaxed for the first time in a while.

Tomorrow I'll write about my Tuesday ride on the Canal. It was the first time I've tried it on the Brompton folding bike, and it was a very nice ride. Stay tuned!