Monthly Archives: September 2012

Bike Bumper Stickers

Over the years, I’ve considered getting a bumper sticker for my bike.  Something fun and positive like, “Thank you for seeing me!” or “Have a nice day!” or “Put the fun between your legs!”  (I am not that forward!!).   But this is the first bike bumper sticker I’ve ever sported:

The sticker is not made specifically for bicycles, of course, but my Velorbis has a convenient license plate-like area perfectly fit for such a sticker.  Instead of peeling off the backing, I stuck some electrical tape on the back side and so far it’s holding up well.

I’m ridiculously proud of/smug about this bumper (fender?) sticker.

Have any of you ever sported a bike bumper sticker?  If so, what did it say?  ;-)

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Park(ing) Day Downer

So Friday was Park(ing) Day, a day when cities around the country take over parking spots and turn them into urban parks. When my friend Whitney said she was volunteering at the one downtown, I immediately begged to tag along with her for her 7-10 pm shift. Our ride downtown was pretty pleasant, featuring Minnie Pearl impersonators outside the Country Music Hall of Fame:

Minnie Pearl lives, in Nashville anyway!

 

Blocked-off streets due to a downtown music festival (no problem for bikes!):

 

And a few hills:

Here’s what we were expecting to find, thanks to the Nashville Civic Design Center’s Facebook page:

Here is what we found:

 

The Flik sadly contemplates the dusty remants of an ancient civillization

 

No green stuff, but lots of traffic!

I guess Nashville can’t give up a parking spot for more than a few hours? I won’t lie, we were pretty annoyed—especially Whitney, who had volunteered her time and was not contacted about the event ending early.

We salvaged the evening with a progressive ride to the Nashville Night Market, dinner at Silo in Germantown and a beer at the Taproom.

Anyone have a more positive Park(ing) Day experience than I did? Hope so.

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Review: Bird Industries Bike Garter

When I saw bike garters from Bird Industries available in one of those email flash sales a few months back, I decided to give one a whirl. This particular bike garter had been recommended a few times in our comments section, and I have a few skirts I like to wear on my bike that give me occasional modesty issues. The bike garter is pretty simple: It’s a garter with a clip much like an actual garter, but the clip is meant to grab your skirt, not a stocking. The Bird Industries garter I chose was a bright pink and size large since I wanted to make sure it was not too snug. The inside of the garter has a silicone grip, and it stays put on my leg without pinching (though it’s not the sort of thing you really forget you are wearing).

The clip is not difficult to use, but the way it works was not intuitive to me: instead of pinching the end of the clasp to make the end that opens open, you push it up to open the clasp.

The first time I wore the garter, I fixed the clasp to the hem of my skirt, on the side. It made a bit of a bubble hem, but looked pretty normal.

Skirt with garter clip clipped to the hem—note the slight bubble

You can also attach the clasp to a spot on the underside of the skirt.

rear side of skirt clipped to garter

skirt with the garter clip clipped to the underside of the skirt

Both clasp methods worked to keep the skirt from flying all the way up, and did not impede my pedaling ability. However, neither kept the garter from showing. This is clear on the Bird Industries store, so it isn’t like they’re misleading anyone, but I was surprised by the way exposed garter made me feel. It still seemed that something was showing that ought not to be—and that “something” was bright pink! I didn’t take pictures of this situation for that reason. But it was easily resolved by tucking a small portion of my skirt hem under the edge of the garter at the side. I am not sure I would feel comfortable wearing this garter with a shorter skirt, like the ladies in the Bird Industries photos. Which is odd, because I don’t consider myself that shy about that sort of thing—it took me four years to buy one of these, after all.

Garter clip in action, with garter safely covered.

As I mentioned, I bought my garter clip on super clearance through one of those “final sale” flash shops, but the normal retail price is $12. Overall, it is an effective method of keeping your underwear under wraps, as long as you don’t mind flashing a garter instead.

Do you use a bike garter?

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Fashion Friday: Foxy Fall

The crisp fall weather has officially arrived in Chicago (see here) and this week I wore gloves and a light scarf for the first time (see here).  Fall is my favorite season and I love dressing for it.  Lately I’ve been thinking of boots, burnt orange, brown leather, dark denim, and – yes – sweaters emblazoned with foxes.  A spritz of my favorite fall scent, Burberry Brit, and I’m ready to go. Since I was talking about alien baby folding bikes recently, I added a Strida to the mix: quite possibly the most alien of them all.

Now all I need is a big pile of colorful leaves to jump in.  Who’s with me?  :-)

P.S. I totally want to follow this DIY to embroider my own fox slippers.

{Collage details here.}

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What Not to Wear, Bicycle Edition

We’re big believers in the fact that riding a bicycle doesn’t have to mean compromising style (and when we say style, we mean YOUR personal style, not any sort of catwalk ideal). So we’ve tried wearing just about everything in our closets on our bicycles, and have found that there are very few items that absolutely won’t work (or aren’t worth the trouble of hacking). Here’s our very short list.

  • Pencil skirts (without slits)—the tight, hobbling skirt doesn’t allow enough freedom to pedal, unless you convert them.
  • Bellbottoms or extremely long or loose pants—the flares can get caught in your chain or crank, and the extra material slapping against the chain case or frame as you pedal can be annoying. Of course, binding the pants at your ankles can fix this, but for simplicity’s sake we prefer to just go for an alternate pants style.
  • Miniskirts—unless you don’t mind being known as the girl who flashes people on her way to work. If you love miniskirts, try leggings, tights or bike shorts underneath, or get a big ol’ basket for the front.
  • Evening gowns—this is as much a safety issue for the gown as it is for the individual! But long trains, gauzy overskirts, etc can be especially challenging on a bike.
  • Platform heels—there just isn’t enough sole surface area at the ball of your foot to make contact with the pedal.

Readers: where do you draw the line when it comes to bike-friendly clothing? Tell us in the comments!

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David Byrne + St. Vincent

While some in the bicycling world may think “bike advocate” when they think of David Byrne, he is also a pretty big deal in the music world.  :-)  Last night, David Byrne and St. Vincent, along with a brass band, played a sold out show at the Chicago Theatre to promote their new collaborative album, Love this Giant.  They are the epitome of cool and the show was as energetic and wonderful as their album.

After the show, I biked into the beautiful Chicago night with my friends.  Too bad David Byrne could not join us – I think he would have enjoyed himself!

In Byrne’s 2009 book Bicycle Diaries, he talks of cycling in different cities when he is on tour, so I kept my eyes peeled for him around town all day, to no avail.  But I know someone who ran into him Monday in a bike shop – he was buying a basket!  I like a man who appreciates a good bike basket.

Here is the first single from Love This Giant, Who.  Great song, awesomely weird video.  Makes me want to booty dance like David Byrne and stomp my feet like Annie Clark.

I know Trisha plans to see them play in Nashville.  Anyone else catching the tour?  I highly recommend it!

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Fun with the Folding Flik

When I visited Nashville a couple of weeks ago, I used the Jango Flik, a nifty folding bike that Trisha reviewed a while ago.  The bike was a lot of fun!  I zipped all around town, at least 12 miles, and the Flik was right there with me, handling up-hills and down-hills with ease.

The size of the bike fits both me and Trisha, despite our height differences, because the handlebars and seat tube are highly adjustable.

The Flik is also light and easy to carry.  I simply locked it up outside at my destination instead of folding it, but yeah – it folds, too.

I have not heard much about the Flik in the last couple of years, which is surprising because it’s such a cool little bike.  Most people with folding bikes seem to go with the classic elegance of a Brompton or similar, but the cute baby alien look of the Flik is kinda awesome.

At one point, while riding with a group of about 6 others, a pedestrian called out: “I like your bike the best!”  Ha.  My companions had some lovely bikes, but the Flik is an attention-getter, for sure.

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How to Conquer Your Cycling Fear: Tips for Beginning Cyclists

We get occasional emails from first-time or beginner cyclists, asking us for advice on conquering their fear of sharing the road. In the past, we’ve doled out bits and pieces of advice on this issue, but have never really consolidated it all into one step-by-step post for those who are just starting out on a bike. Here are my recommendations for how to become confident in sharing the road (just stop before you become one of those reckless bike messengers who are giving us all a bad name!).

First: It’s homework time. If you don’t know the rules of the road, learn them! Learn how to signal a turn. Learn what your rights are in your city: is there a three-foot rule? Are you allowed to take the lane on all roads? Under what circumstances? Check out this hideously ugly but extremely informative site to find out what errors are most likely to lead to a car/bike accident, and do not make them!  If there’s a bike safety class in your area, take it.

Second: Get a helmet. I am not taking sides on the helmet debate here (please, Internet, I mean it), but studies show that if nothing else, they make you feel safer. This is important for beginners. Also, purchase lights, especially if you will be riding after dark. The brighter, the better. Use them.

Dottie’s Nutcase Helmet

Third: Take your bike out! But don’t ride to work yet. Choose a greenway or bike path near your house, or a quiet side street, preferably with a bike lane. Any street with minimal traffic or some sort of separation from cars. If you absolutely do not have bike lanes or greenways or bike paths nearby . . . cry, and then write your city council or Congressperson. Or move. Or, for the less proactive/drastic personalities, just get up early on a weekend morning and ride. Guaranteed traffic-free!

Don’t let the fear-mongering culture fool you—bike paths are a good thing!

Once you have done all these things, and feel completely comfortable puttering around the neighborhood on two wheels, it’s time to try your commute—but not on a workday. Remember those magical weekend mornings when no one is driving? Pick one of them, and head to the office. (Painful, I know, but you don’t have to actually go in!) Google Maps has biking directions for most cities, and while they are not perfect, they’re a good jumping off point if you’re not sure what route to take. See how long the trip takes. Figure out how to deal with any complicated intersections or disappearing bike lanes. Find a place you can lock your bike near your office. If you didn’t feel comfortable on the ride, repeat this step, or alter the route to go around any spots that are keeping you from feeling comfortable. It’s OK to take the long way!

Finally: Bike to work for the first time! Revel in your accomplishment, and enjoy your time in the fresh air. Feel, for once, that you have earned your happy hour beer.

I know most of our readers are well beyond the beginner stage—what tips helped you build your bicycling confidence? Share in the comments.

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Bike pump advice?

I need a new bike pump. It shouldn’t take 10 mins to top off two tires, right? But my cheap Bell pump needs a converter to work with Kermit Allegra’s presta valves, and it’s so poorly constructed that the hose keeps disconnecting from the valve in mid-pump. It would also be nice to have a pump with a pressure gauge.

Proof of the pain the lack of a bike pump can bring. (click image for source)

Can anyone suggest a quality double-header pump that won’t break the bank? I suppose this is a question more properly posed on Twitter, but it’s easier to refer to the comments section than pore through @replies.

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Fashion Friday: Almost time for tights!

So it’s starting to feel like fall, and that means one thing to us on LGRAB: tights! With dresses or skirts, they’re the perfect riding combo. As soon as it gets a little bit cooler, I plan to rock my bright blue Riyoko lace leggings with a plain black dress like this one. But since we’re in the realm of fantasy today, I’m going to imagine wearing this outfit while riding a Republic Plato Bike. We keep getting asked if they’re any good and it would be nice to have a vague idea!

Black and blue (with bicycle too)

Black and blue (with bicycle too)

 

What are you most excited about when it comes to fall?

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Cyclist Hot Chicken Happy Hour

Last night a few of us in Nashville met up for some hot chicken & beer at Hattie B’s in Midtown. YUM.

 

For those of you who haven’t had hot chicken, this Nashville delicacy is unique among foods. The spice mix is dry, not wet like hot wings, and though the exact formulas used in places like Prince’s & Bolton’s are top-secret, any fool can tell it’s cayenne-based. The chicken is served on a slice of white bread with a few pickle chips. Purists eat it without dipping sauce, but I learned last night that hot chicken and honey is the absolute best! The honey calms the heat without muting the flavors.

The remnants of my hot chicken

Lauren and I went for the second-hottest spice level (Hattie B’s offers mild, medium, hot! and damn hot!), and it was more manageable than I feared—in fact, it wasn’t too much hotter than Jessica and Sten’s “medium” chicken. I’d say the heat levels here are more mainstream than they are at either Prince’s or Bolton’s, if any locals are curious.

Jessica, Sten & Lauren

Whitney & me

Whitney’s bike with a Basil flower garland on the back

The Flik sat next to me

As is pretty much par for the course here in Nashville, there was some huge live music event going on. Whatever it was, it was going on behind Chuy’s (Loser’s?) and we could hear it all the way where we were.

After dinner, Lauren, Whitney and I hit Pinkberry.

Bikes parked by Pinkberry

Then I led them astray for just one more drink at the Broadway Brewhouse, where no photos were taken but fun was had.
:)

 

If you’re a city cyclist in Nashville and want to come to our next happy hour or brunch, please join our Google Group. We’d love to have you! I often post about other bike-related events in Nashville there, too—things that don’t necessarily appear on the blog.

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See you in London

So as I mentioned a couple of months ago, Dottie and I will be traveling to London, Paris and Amsterdam together this fall. London readers, would you join us for the Very First LGRAB Overseas Happy Hour at The Harp Bar in Covent Garden* for a pint on Sunday, October 14? We’ll be there between 5pm and 7pm, most likely on some sort of two-wheeled conveyance.

:)

 

We’re so excited to have the chance to meet more of you in person! Let us know in the comments if you can make it! Cheers.

 

{ Related: our post on the NYC reader happy hour last summer at Adeline Adeline. }

* Thanks to reader Liz for the rec! Pint on us if we like the place.

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Out of Line

While I continue with yoga class every morning to improve my alignment, Oma’s alignment has gotten way out of whack.

No, it has nothing to do with stuffing her pannier full of Chipotle and wine.  One unfortunate event caused her current crooked state.  On Sunday, I stood Oma up on a grassy area in the park.  Due to rain the night before, the ground was saturated and soon Oma toppled and fell on her side with a crash.  I think this was the first time she has ever fallen like that, since her double-footed kickstand is super heavy-duty.

I picked her up, dusted her off, and went on with my business.  But later while biking home, I noticed a problem after about a mile.  (Obviously, I am not very observant.)

See how the handlebars are squared to the front, but the wheel is tilted to the right?

And how the wheel is pointing straight to the front, but the handlebars are off to the side?

Yeah, that’s not good.

And this morning I noticed that my pedals are out of alignment.  The right side is pushed way in and the left side is sticking way out.

Funny enough, Oma continues to ride pretty normally.  Knowing me, I could continue riding her like this for at least a year or two, but I’m determined to fix this problem in a respectable timeframe.

But this is not like when Betty Foy falls and knocks her fenders out of line – that’s a problem I can fix easily and quickly. Oma’s solidness is a double-edged sword.  She refuses to budge from this new position.  I attempted in vain today to kick the pedals and push the handlebars back in line.  I suppose I will enlist Mr. Dottie’s help in the morning or just drop Oma off at the bike doctor in the afternoon.

Has your bike ever gotten out of line?   If so, how did you fix it?

{Please pardon the puns and gratuitous use of my camera’s tilt-shift feature.  A nerdy girl’s gotta have her fun.}

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Early Fall Fresh Air

I have been feeling road fatigue lately and the best antidote is always the fresh air of Lake Michigan and the open space of the Lakefront trail, which is once again a calm and pleasant place to ride a bike, now that the summer crowds have dispersed.

Can’t you almost feel the sunshine and crisp, early fall air?

The absolute best music for a fun and stress-free bike ride like this is Janelle Monae’s Archandroid.

Here I am, being unprepared for my camera’s self-timer once again.  :-)  I wore a skirt and cardigan over my t-shirt for work, then traded those out for shorts and kicked off my heels for the ride home.

I hope everyone is having a beautiful Monday!

Now try to listen to this song without dancing. Impossible!

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Fashion Friday: Patriotic

I am all pumped up from watching the Democratic National Convention this week – mostly from Michelle Obama’s speech!  You may notice this influence in my Fashion Friday outfit.  ;-)

Happy weekend!

{Collage details here}

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Betty Foy Lately

I’ve been riding my Rivendell Betty Foy almost exclusively all summer long.  She is so light and smooth and fast and happy.

One morning, an SUV slowed next to me and – just as I was giving it the side eye – a woman in the passenger seat called out the window, “I love your bike!”  Complimenting my bike is the quickest way to win me over and I called back with a big smile, “Thanks, it’s a Rivendell!”  Her response: “I know; I’ve never seen one in real life before.”  Viola! my arms motioned and then she was gone.

But not all has been rosy with Betty lately.  My fault, not hers!

Last week, I stopped at the grocery store on my way home to pick up a few things.  When I returned to the bike rack ten minutes later, I realized that Betty was not locked.  She was merely sitting next to the rack with the u-lock in her basket.  Yipes!  How horrible to think that she could have been swiped so easily.  (Please tell me I’m not the only one who has done this!)

The next morning, I set out on Betty only to realize quickly that her front tire was totally flat.  This was Betty’s very first flat tire ever, birth date April 2009, and also the first flat on any of my Schwalbe tires.  So sad.  :-(  I do not have a 650B tube and have been too lazy to buy one in the past week, so I have been riding Coco and Oma.  But I miss Betty, so I need to get my shit together.

Sometimes bicycling is so easy breezy and sometimes life throws hurdles in the way or you just do dumb stuff.  As with life in general, amirite?  It all evens out in the end.  :-)

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A Concept Comes To Life: People Spots

A fun concept has popped up in Chicago this summer: people spots!  These public areas, also called parklets, are created simply by reclaiming two to three on-street parking spots and setting up tables and chairs to encourage community.

I happened upon this people spot featured below while biking down Lincoln Avenue, conveniently located in front of Heritage bike shop and cafe.  This people spot will be a permanent feature, except during winter for snow plowing purposes, and you can read more about this parklet here.

What a lovely addition to my neighborhood!  I’m so happy that the Alderman and the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce are embracing the vision of a people-centered community.  Surely more of these people spots would help local businesses and property values, in addition to bringing residents together.  Cities need more of this forward-thinking and action.

Have you seen people spots popping up where you live?  Isn’t this such a fun idea?!

 

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Yoga and Bicycling: Pedal, Stretch, Breathe

A wink and a smile.  Peanut butter and jelly.  Gin and tonic.  Some things just go well together.

Such is the case with yoga and bicycling.  Trisha and I discussed this lovely combination in 2009, and I mentioned recently that I’ve begun practicing yoga every weekday morning.

So when I read about Pedal, Stretch, Breathe: The Yoga of Bicycling, a new ‘zine written by Kelli Refer of the blog Yoga for Bikers and published by Elly Blue of Taking the Lane, I decided to order a copy.

While the 44 page booklet is not a comprehensive guide, it outlines interesting links between bicycling and yoga, beginning with the importance of breathing fresh air and ending with the ability “to invite meaningful change into our communities.”  In between is practical information with action steps for integrating the practice of yoga with bicycling.  While some of the information is aimed at those taking long, sporty rides, much is applicable for those – like me – who simply ride for transportation.

The first half of the booklet provides several different yoga poses that either integrate a bicycle into the pose or are especially helpful for bodies subject to the repetitive motion of cycling.  Each pose is presented with a sketch and a description.  The poses can be performed either directly on the bike while waiting at a stop light or with more space pre or post-ride.

My friends Chika and Sara were cool enough to experiment with and demonstrate the poses when we met up for a free yoga class on Lake Michigan.  Below are their thoughts on a few of the poses.

They started with Dancer’s Pose: Natarajasana:  a little hard to balance while standing over a bike, but otherwise easy to do while waiting at a stoplight.  Good for the thigh and ankle, which both get a lot of strain from bicycling.

Heart Opener:  feels good! especially after leaning over handlebars.

Turn Around Twist: not much of a twist feeling…

…but they achieved more leverage by putting the front hand in the middle of the handlebars, allowing for a fuller twist.

Down Dog with your Bike:  feels good, would work as a pre or post-ride stretch, but obviously not at a stoplight.

Down Dog Twist: even better!

The booklet offers several different flow variations for these and other poses.  After completing this series of poses, Chika and Sara said they felt warmed up and ready to go and could see themselves enjoying these poses on their own.  Two thumbs up from my testers.  :-)

The second part of the booklet contains a basic guide to chakras “for you and your bike.”  Some of this I’m not really into, such as “true your wheels and repack your hubs to feel more freewheeling in life.”  But some is inspiring, such as bicycling as a moving meditation.

Consider your bike ride to be a moving mediation.  Notice all the sensations: Air on skin, steady breath, sweat rolling down your brow.  Move with keen awareness of your body and surroundings.

I need a recording of those words read in a calm, yoga-teacher voice to play whenever I get frustrated by heat, cold, potholes, or drivers.

Overall, Pedal, Stretch, Breathe is a unique and thoughtful read for those interested in both bicycling and yoga.  Definitely worth $5, especially considering the money supports cool, entrepreneurial women.  You can buy the ‘zine HERE and read more about the topic at Yoga for Bikers.

Now that I find myself doing heart openers at stoplights, I’m curious: do any of you incorporate yoga into your bicycling routine?

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My Trip Around Scotland

As I mentioned before I left, in March I went to Scotland for a week with my friend Tanya and my husband.  I had not gotten around to blogging about the trip, since it was no epic bicycling adventure.  In fact, quite the opposite: we traveled all around Scotland via rental car with the express purpose of visiting as many whisky distilleries as possible.  We were successful.  :-)

We flew into Glasgow and immediately picked up the car and set out for the countryside, traveling to a different town every day, staying at a different B&B every night.  I would not necessarily recommend this itinerary for a week’s trip because driving time was much longer than estimated (and scary! with being on the left and curvy roads and cliffs and all) but we got to see a lot of this beautiful country and meet lots of very friendly residents.

Slowed down a bit by a flat tire…

And now prepare for gobs of photographs, showing our daily adventures.  I hope no one still has dial-up internet!  (All photos by me, unless I’m in them.)

Day 1: Oban

B&B: Strumhor

Distillery: Oban

Every B&B we stayed at served breakfast, of course.  The menu never changed: always the traditional Scottish breakfast.

I was happy to see that in addition to tea every place served delicious french-press coffee.

 

Day 2: Isle of Skye

B&B: Grasmhor

Distillery:  Talisker

I think sheep are so funny and awesome and I was thrilled to see them everywhere in Scotland.  The sheep roam entirely free on the Isle of Skye, since the only way off is a bridge, and the shepherds separate them at the end of the season based on color markings on their wool.  The result is a bunch of punk-rock sheep wandering around, with hot pink and bright blue and neon green tufts sticking up.

Ratagan Pass for a beautiful view.

Inveraray Castle

Day 3: Dufftown

B&B: Morven House

Distillery: Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, Glen Grant

 This B&B had the coolest house cat.

Day 4: Pitlochry

B&B: Roseburn

Distillery: Macallan, Dalwhinnie

Macallan is my favorite distillery and I brought back two bottles: a special edition 1876 replica and a 22 year.  Yum!

Queen’s View for the most beautiful view.

Castle whose name I cannot remember with beautiful but scary peacocks wandering around.

Day 5: On the road to Edinburgh

Distillery: Erdradour

A hike at the Falls of Bruar, which my fear of heights made nerve-wracking, but the views were worth it.

Day 6: Edinburgh

B&B: Ayden

It rained pretty much the entire time, which we took as a sign to spend most of the day poking around used book stores and drinking in pubs.

My Lululemon rain trench came in handy.

While in Edinburgh, we were thrilled to meet up with Jennifer both nights, a fab woman and LGRAB reader whom I hung out with when she visited Chicago two years ago.  So handy to have a local to bring us to the best restaurants and bars!  :-)

Day 7: Glasgow

B&B: Alamo

After Glasgow, we flew to Dublin for 2 days/3 nights.  I’ll post about that part of the trip separately.

The single malt whisky I brought home with me!

Half of these bottles are empty by now.  :-)

 THE END

Other trips we’ve taken over the years:

St. Petersburg, Russia (with some interesting bicyclists)

London, England (with cycling infrastructure)

Littlehampton, England

Paris, France (with Velib and bicycling around Versailles)

Alsace, France

NYC, New York

San Diego, CA (twice!)

Montreal, Canada

And we’re very excited about our planned trip to London/Paris/Amsterdam next month!

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