Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Sudden Joy

Do you ever have moments of sudden joy?

I had one this morning ... at the kitchen stove, of all places. Scrambling eggs yellow in the skillet, clear blue sky outside, a Bach keyboard concerto sparkling from the radio. Sunshine, outside and in, combined with bright music to make an inexplicably perfect moment.

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In keeping with Knitsofacto Annie's dictum that every blog post should have a photo of some kind, the above is a detail from my tulip mini quilt. Since we don't have any real tulips yet, I am enjoying the ones on my wall.

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Many thanks to Paul of Seasons Full Circle for giving me the Liebster Blog Award. Paul is a new blogging friend with an impressive array of talents: running for New Zealand; cycling (much faster and farther than I); writing and recording his own music. He's going through a rough time right now as he recovers from a serious cycling accident, so drop by and leave him a cheery word. (To my fellow LOTR fans - be sure to check out his Hobbiton post.)

In passing on the blog award, Paul asked some great questions, one of which inspired today's post. (Thanks again, Paul.)

Here's the question:

When are you at your happiest?

The comment box awaits. :)

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Monday, April 29, 2013

A Perfect Ride

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WI--Scientists were mystified Sunday by satellite images of what appeared to be a rhythmic flashing light emanating from a rural area of Wisconsin. With the help of the satellites' powerful zoom capabilities, the bursts of light were traced to an unlikely source: a lone cyclist.
Analysts determined that the strange flashes were in fact caused by the sun reflecting off the cyclist's legs as she pedalled.
"Wisconsin enjoyed some pretty nice weather this weekend," said Barry Shimano of the National Climate Association. "I'm sure a lot of cyclists, including this one, were riding in shorts for the first time this year. She probably had no idea how bright those legs can look from space. Let's hope she eventually acquires a tan."
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It's a lovely Sunday on the cusp of May. All the ingredients seem to be present for a perfect ride: warm sun, pleasant breeze, blue sky, singing birds, green grass, rolling hills, scenic barns, budding trees, rippling water, new shorts....

Iris and I (with Tallulah of course) set out at 4 pm to catch the day at its warmest and most idyllic. Gone are the restrictive tights and jacket - it's 70º out (!) and we are blissful and carefree in jersey and shorts.

We pass a favourite line of trees on the road just south of town, and note with satisfaction a certain cloudiness in their outline, delightfully suggestive of budding leaves:

We pass the first of many appealing barns:

A few miles on, we cross paths with two cyclists. One turns his head and stares at Iris (whether in shock or admiration I cannot say - but perhaps he is a connoisseur of vintage bikes). I wave; they don't. Oh well.

Today's route follows some new-to-us roads which wind through lovely rolling farm country towards the Wisconsin River. So lost are we in the sheer pleasure of sun, breeze, and freedom of movement, we barely remember to take photos.

A very handsome farm appears across a valley:

The closer we get to the river, the hillier the terrain becomes. Our road turns north, winds up and down and around a sharp slope or two - and before we know it, we've reached our stopping point. We park the bike and walk over to a small pier for some river photos.

Running about on the rocks to our right are five friendly robins who seem to be trying to get our attention.

They hop closer and dart meaningful glances our way - are they expecting a snack? (Perhaps they've been fed in the past by humans from the restaurant just behind us.) I can't feed them, so I take their photos instead.

Tallulah, meanwhile, is itching for a closer look at the river. She crawls towards the end of the pier while I watch with anxious eyes.

"Ooh, it's deep," she says. "And dark." (Please don't fall in, I'm thinking. What would I say to Snowcatcher if you got washed away?)

She climbs onto one of the pilings and gazes downriver. "Look how the water sparkles!"

Then (to my secret relief) she crawls back into my hand. We turn to look upriver:

Tallulah's sharp eyes spot some bright bits of red on the bank - a few berries left over from last year. "Those look good. Can we take some with us?" she asks. "Better not," I say. "I'm afraid they'd get squashed in my pocket. But I'll make you a salad when we get home." (She sighs at this but I pretend not to notice.)

We walk back to the bike, where Tallulah sits on the handlebar stem while I take few more sips of water.

"Why can't I ride up here?" she wants to know. "Because the wind would push you right off," is my answer. She sighs again (rather pointedly this time, as a turtle whose every wish seems to be thwarted). "I may as well take a nap, then. I'll be in my shell if you need me," she says as she climbs back into my pocket. "Pleasant dreams," I reply.

(I don't know Tallulah's precise age, but I begin to wonder if she's a teenager. A Teenage Crochet Cycling Turtle....)

We turn for home, the sun and wind at our backs.

Birches everywhere are sporting ghostly grey catkins:

A few miles on, we approach a long fence, the posts of which are adorned with birdhouses. Tallulah (obviously still wide awake) is fascinated by the birdhouses and asks if we may stop for a closer look. She peeks in at the door of this one...

...but no one is home.

"One advantage of carrying my house with me," she remarks, "is that I'm always at home when people drop by." (Do I detect a soupçon of smugness in her tone? Surely not.)

We refresh ourselves with a short rooftop photo shoot...

...then it's back to the bike for both of us.

Shadow shot:

We pass again the lovely barn we passed on the way out. I try not to repeat barn photos, but I'm very fond of this one:

Some favourite trees (one of which also appeared in last week's post):

And a final shot of an empty corn crib, looking rather like a rustic (or rusty) gazebo:

We reach home, tired and happy with our afternoon's ride, as nearly perfect as a spring ride could be.

Only one thing is lacking: we still haven't seen any leaves. We lean Iris against the front steps and walk across the yard to the lilac bush, hoping against hope....

And there they are. Baby leaves!

Now the ride is complete. Definitely the best ride of the year (so far).

Today's mileage: 30.3
Miles this year: 234.3

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Friday, April 26, 2013

I Must Be Dreaming

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Too warm for a sweatshirt
Somebody pinch me
(on second thoughts, don't)

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tallulah Visits the Yellow Jersey

For some time now, I've been foolishly riding without a spare tire. (The one around my middle doesn't count.) This scanty tire situation was rendered critical by a vicious flat which occurred last Saturday, so on Sunday we set out for Madison to buy some bike tires.

Tallulah begged hard to come with us, as she imagined a bike shop must be a delightful place. (A very intelligent turtle.) So I put her in my pocket and away we drove down the snowy road (which didn't stay snowy for long - by the time we reached Madison, the sun was shining).

Our destination was the Yellow Jersey, an iconic bike shop located on eclectic State Street. Madison is full of bike shops, so why the Yellow Jersey? For one thing, they stock the kind of tires Iris needs - tubulars, also known as sew-ups. And they never try to sell us something other than what we want. (The polar opposite of some large, glitzy bike stores staffed by scornful young men working on commission. This may sound dreadfully peevish and middle-aged of me, but if I ask for sew-ups, I want sew-ups - not a lecture on the superiority of clinchers from someone who looks about 12.)

Yellow Jersey has a front door, but I don't think I've ever entered by it. Here's the door we use:

(State Street has no parking, so we park behind the store.)

Notice the ancient sign:

The owner obviously believes in using things up and wearing them out - a great way to keep the overhead low and the prices fair. I like the sound of a "People's Work Area" - it has a delightfully communal flavour, highly reminiscent of the 70s (when this store opened).

If you did enter by the front door, here's what you would see:

A glorious jumble of all things cycling. Bikes, of course - lots and lots of bikes - as well as clothing, tools, and accessories of every kind.

Tallulah and I like the colourful selection of lubricants...

Can you spot the turtle?

...the fun and funky T-shirts (yellow, of course)...

...and the tempting woolen jerseys hung with friendly warning signs (I can see why - I would like nothing better than to open up that package and feel the fabric):

The store has lovely old stamped tin ceilings...

...much-painted, and covered with ancient posters.

Tallulah decides to do a little bike-shopping. She tries one on for size, but finds (to her dismay) that she can't reach the handlebars:

She tries another...

...but can't reach the saddle. "Can't we buy it anyway?" she pleads. "I might grow into it." I explain to her that a) she is unlikely to grow any larger; b) we can't afford it; and c) we have too many bikes already (here I drop my voice to a whisper lest Mr. M should overhear this heresy).

Tallulah nods in sad comprehension and tries to make the best of it. "Oh well. I suppose that white handlebar tape would get awfully dirty...."

We join Mr. M, who is lost in silent contemplation of some priceless Italian art:

(Cue the heavenly choir....)

Dazed and slightly drunk with colour, we toy with the idea of new bottle cages for Iris. Mr. M thinks I should get lavender to match my handlebar tape, but Tallulah falls in love with the rose-pink:

(I'm tempted, but decide that my current bottle cages will do me for a while longer.)

Mr. M and the shop owner fall into abstruse bike-building talk - all about horizontal rear dropouts and lug brazed forks and suchlike mystical things - while Tallulah and I take a final look round.

My new tires, with some tire cement, new brake pads, and a replacement hose for our floor pump, are waiting on the counter. The shop owner adds two little gliders for free. "Because it's spring," he tells us. "Or at least it's supposed to be."

Thinking of Iris's upcoming trip to Colorado, I ask if they have any spare bike boxes. "Sure," the owner replies. He calls an assistant, who fetches one and offers carry it to the car for us. What a nice bunch of people. (And Iris has a free box to travel in! Hooray!)

Business and bike-talk equally done, we thank the friendly staff and leave.

A truly classic bike shop, and always a pleasure to visit.

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Monday, April 22, 2013

Another Windy Ride

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Cresting a hill in spite of the wind
Train whistle blowing across the fields
Musical rumble of wind in the pines

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Wind, wind, wind - we can't seem to get away from it. (Even the Three Great Things are permeated with its icy blast.) Am I going to whine about the wind again? Yes, I am. At 20-24 mph, it's utterly dispiriting. All those times last year I nearly fainted from the heat seem like some faraway dream. Will it EVER get warmer? Will the wind ever diminish?

There. It's out of my system for the moment. :)

It snowed Sunday morning - large, cold, damp flakes blowing sideways across the yard - but the weather cleared by the afternoon to overcast skies, temps in the mid-40s, and wind as aforementioned.

Tallulah and I are heading south, then circling around to catch a few of the area's short hills. Our photo breaks are few, as the coldness of the (ahem) wind makes stopping undesirable.

Four favourites in this photo:

Fencepost, field, tree, and that farm in the distance. I love them all, and always pause for photos when I pass this spot.

Tallulah explores the craggy fencepost:

Then we're on our way again. What I see when I look down:

(Sharp-eyed readers who are also cyclists will notice that Iris, my vintage bike, retains her vintage toe clips.)

Many miles on, we reach a favourite marshy lake, the haunt of red-winged blackbirds who fill the air with perpetual song.

Exciting moment: the sun appears, and with it my shadow.

Brrr ... despite the sun, the wind is still very chilly. The next photos, of a handsome barn and silos, are taken from the saddle:

I love the mottled red paint on the barn boards.

Miles more, up the long gradual side of a hill and sharply down the other side, past fields criss-crossed by long straight streams.

Stream with dry grass and red-twig dogwood:

Turtle with stream:

Scrubbed by the wind, the air sparkles beautifully now. One last barn photo...

...then we put our heads down and ride for home. It's getting colder by the minute as the sun sinks into the west.

We come to a railroad crossing. I look hopefully up and down the tracks, but there will be no train photos today. Ten minutes and a few miles later, we hear a train come through, but the tracks are already out of sight. The melancholy whistle floats across the wind, making me long for the warmth of home and hot supper.

A cold and windy ride. Still no leaves on the trees, but there's grass all around, and the birds have obviously decided to stay. If they can stick it, so can I. Perhaps next Sunday will be warmer.

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