Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Nashville!

I’m back from Trishaville, aka Nashville. Although I lived there for only three years and moved away four years ago, Nashville is my favorite city to return to again and again, simply because of Trisha and other friends.  And there’s something about the South that calls to me, although I spent my youth hatching escape plans.

My three days with Trisha were full of awesomeness, of course: used bookstores, a British sitcom marathon, a discount designer warehouse, French breakfast, fancy ice cream, duck fat tater tots, Yazoo beer and live music at the Mercy Lounge (Those Darlins!).  Plus, I finally got to meet Trisha’s brother, Charlie.  Hmmm what else?…

…oh yeah – bicycling!

I got to meet the new Kate Spade Abici, whom I keep calling Kermit Spade, to Trisha’s chagrin.  With Trisha on KS and me on the Bat, we rode downtown and crossed the pedestrian bridge for a view of the Nashville skyline.

Yeah, we’re cool.

I must share, there are a number of weirdo men loitering around downtown Nashville who were quite interested in us.  We handled them effectively with stoney silence, which we’re both really good at when we put our minds to it.

After the bridge, we rode over to Broadway, with its honky tonks and cowboy boot shops.

We really should have stopped to take advantage of the 3-boots-for-the-price-of-one deal – missed opportunity.

Bicycling in Nashville was a great pleasure for me.  The weather is not yet at Southern summer oppressiveness.  The infrastructure is quite supportive of cycling, with wide bike lanes on many medium-sized streets and plenty of winding back roads with almost no cars at all.  Drivers seemed to display the fabled Southern hospitality, although I’m prone to romaticize it now that I don’t live there anymore.  One guy in a work truck blocking the bike lane drawled, “Pardon me, ladies,” which made me inordinately happy.

Today my thighs are sore from all those hills (damn! major props to Trisha for handling those every day) but it was worth it.

I make it to Nashville at least once a year, for Trisha’s birthday, but hopefully it won’t take me a year to return this time.  Chicago is comparatively cold in all ways.

Many more photos from our Nashville adventures and Trisha’s Abici to come.

A Bicycling Tour of Versailles

The scene: Versailles, a city outside of Paris renowned for the Palace of Versailles.

After taking the RER train from Paris to the suburbs and walking a short distance, you are greeted by the imposing statue of King Louis XIV on horseback. The surroundings are a bit ominous, but don’t be scared – continue on and you will be rewarded.

You encounter the palace first.

Then turn around and gawk at the decadent and expansive grounds.

Okay, this is still a little scary. Sorry about that. No, the palace looks more like this in real life.

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Brownie on a Bike in San Diego

Hi. I go by “beany” online as I’m a bean counter. I’m a brownie who is car-free in San Diego and blog at Brown Girl in the Lane . While Dottie and Trish are off galavanting in France, eating the most delectable of meals and drinking the finest of wines, they have asked me to write a post for you. So here it is :)

I had the incredible pleasure of meeting Dottie and Trish in person earlier this year. It is easily one of the most memorable blogger meetings I’ve had because meeting women who ride a bicycle is harder than finding a pair of shoes that I want. Meeting women who genuinely love riding and ride for the sheer pleasure of riding, like I do? Well, that’s much harder than…fixing a flat in the worst of all possible ghettos in sub zero temperatures, in a hail storm while trying not to dirty a nail. In other words, a very rare occurrence in my world.

This post is a brief-ish history of my love affair with riding a bicycle.

Me and my cousin at age 5

I first began riding when I was around five years old.  My father bought me a red colored bicycle that had a banana seat and came with training wheels. To say that that bicycle became an obsession would be an understatement. My bicycle was parked close to my bed and I rode it every day  and soon graduated to riding a two wheeler like a proper cyclist would.

My bicycle became a constant and steady companion. It was how I was able to explore the city of eight million that I grew up in. My bicycle was my ticket to freedom, exploration and with it an incredible feeling of utter exhilaration. Riding through the city began to define how I viewed the world. Everything seemed possible and doable when I was out riding. It was on a saddle (or banana seat) that I was able to sort out the jumble of thoughts and contemplate about things I thought were worth contemplating over.

In my late teens, I moved to the U.S. where I found myself living in a suburb of Philadelphia. It was there that I realized the futility of relying on others for rides or the shoddy public transit system. I also disliked living in a small town. I thrive on the energy that is found in cities. So I began to date a man in Philadelphia who would one day become my husband. My dates with him all revolved around a lengthy bike ride ending at a good bar and grill. Thankfully, he rode because he loved to ride and rode everywhere. But he was unhappy living on the East Coast and wanted to fulfill a lifelong dream of living by the Pacific Ocean. I agreed to move and convinced him to make the move to the West Coast…by bicycle.

And that was what we did. We got rid of everything we owned and got ourselves touring bikes and panniers and headed west.

I would state that teddy bears provide much more visibility that wearing neon would. Because, who would want to run over a teddy bear?

This was how, in late 2008, we found ourselves in San Diego. San Diego seemed like a nice enough city so we decided to make this city our home. I found that I had become a very different person than the one who had left Philadelphia. The weeks of repeated riding had made me fall deeper in love with riding. Whereas in Philadelphia I found myself only riding because I had, in San Diego I soon found myself extending my commute daily, going out for a ride for no real purpose besides for the sheer thrill of riding.

I moved further away from my job to extend my commute. I began frequenting a farmers market located further way to have a longer ride. This was craziness. Especially in a place where the love affair with the automobile is practically a law.

But here I am. Living in a automobile-saturated culture without ever having owned an automobile. Life here without an automobile is the furthest thing from a hardship, for me. With perfect weather to be experienced every single day, the last place I want to be is boxed up in an automobile. The only place I’d rather be is on my saddle: riding, exploring, discovering and falling in love with the world around me every single day.

Visit the awesome Beany and her wickedly funny musings at Brown Girl in the Lane.

Bike Camping Trip

This weekend I took my first official bike camping trip. I’ve camped plenty of times and taken my bike before, but I’d never biked to the campsite or carried my camping gear on my bike.  Rivendell has termed this kind of small adventure the S24O, for sub 24-hour overnight trip.

The basics:

  • Packed a change of clothes, essential toiletries and some food and dishes into panniers.  Zip tied sleeping bags to racks.
  • Biked to Union Station in downtown Chicago.
  • Took Metra train one hour out of the city.  Bikes are allowed on train for free.
  • Met Melissa at the destination station and the three of us biked together to the forest preserve campsite.
  • Met Chanh at the campsite in his car.  Good for people who are not comfortable riding the whole route and/or carrying bigger items like tents and coolers (although we could have fit a tent on our bikes).
  • Biked around, played with fire, drank beer and canoed.
  • Biked to the train station, took train back to Union Station, biked home.

The details:  Once we set up camp, all four of us set out for Two Brothers Brewery. The route was a nice mix of nature bike paths, quiet neighborhood streets and fast roads with wide shoulders, with some interesting sites along the way.

After super fresh beer, food and more bike riding, we returned to the campsite to watch the sunset.  Songs, fire and more beer drinking followed late into the night.

The next morning started with s’mores – the breakfast of champions! – and Melissa’s guitar.

A quick rain shower cleared up in time for us to hit the lake.  Mr. Dottie and I took a canoe, while Melissa and Chanh chose a tandem kayak.

After packing up, we biked to a diner for lunch and then biked to the train station.  Mr. Dottie and I took the train to downtown Chicago and biked home. In our neighborhood we stopped for frozen custard, and it’s amazing how well the turtle sundae recharged my batteries.

My Rivendell Betty Foy, which I bought for the versatility of commuting and light touring, handled everything perfectly and felt wonderful.

By the end of the whirlwind weekend, I was exhausted but happy.  I want to do this more often.  The next-to-nothing cost and planning make it easy to accomplish on any given weekend.  The opportunity to escape the city and enjoy life’s simple pleasures make me want to do it every weekend!

Who else has experience with bike camping, either S24O’s or longer tours?

Back from NYC

I just came back from spending a week in New York City. Though I didn’t get to actually ride a bike during my time there like Miss Sarah (damn you, work responsibilities!) I did enjoy observing the bicycles and boring my non-cycling companions with comments on the NYC cycling scene.

Such as the dominance of front-attached wire baskets.

wire baskets were the order of the day

There were also scads of folders, not many helmets, and crazy peeps who did things like run red lights. Many crappy MTBs in midtown, but vintage 10-speeds and even a few Dutch bikes dominated Villages East & West. Also saw a some cruisers, like the one belonging to this trilby-ed gentleman in Washington Square Park.

wash sq cyclist

Manhattan riders can’t be daunted in the face of four-lane traffic.

cyclists ready to go

Then there were idyllic scenes like this one. Seriously, two dogs, a chalkboard menu, and a bike?

I got a chance to dip into the Museum of Arts and Design for Bespoke, the handmade bicycle exhibit.  Mike, your bikes looked great! I did snap a picture of the A.N.T. memorabilia before realizing that, oops, photos weren’t permitted in the exhibition.

I also took the opportunity to fall in love with the beautifully lugged bicycles of Peter Weigle. (He has a few pictures of the exhibit here.) I just love the geometry and style of classic French randonneurs, and his components and colors are perfection. I think I need to trick out Le Peug in this style.

Tried to meet up with the folks at Bowery Lane Bicycles, but after trekking all the way out to Alphabet City and chatting with their neighbors, turned out we’d mistaken the dates and they were out of town. At least I got to see a guy with two parrots in a cage strapped to his chest. Totally worth it.

Though I’ve been to NYC before, this is the first time I’ve spent more than a few hours outside the Javits Center. It’s expensive, noisy and crowded but I think it might be love.

Back From California

We are back from a trip to San Diego for our annual girlfriend reunion.  We will have intelligent stuff to say about the city and its bicycling culture later – which includes cruisers and meeting the fantastic Beany of Brown Girl in the Lane.  For now we’ll leave you with pictures.

I’ll put them after the jump to spare loading time…

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Touring the States on Two Wheels: Victoria’s Ride

vicbike

Victoria on her bike.

Last month fate (and couchsurfing.org) brought a special guest to my door. I’m normally very selective about who I choose to host on couchsurfing, perusing their profile and references with care, but when I got Victoria’s request, I couldn’t email her back fast enough. Riding from Boston to LA by bike? on her own? In four months? this was a person I wanted to have a conversation with.

Intelligent and inspiring, Victoria  did not disappoint. It only took a few minutes’ conversation for me to feel comfortable enough to invite her to a girls’ night with a good friend of mine — and to know that I wanted to share her story with LGRAB readers. So I emailed her a few questions, asking her to answer as time permitted from the road. For more on Victoria’s epic ride (as I write, she’s made it to Texas!) check out her blog.

What inspired you to take this trip?
Generally I just love adventure and long-distance feats of endurance. I’ve done a couple week-long hiking trips, a two-mile ocean swim in New England in November (brrrr!), and attempted to walk 100K in one day with my brother (I only finished half of it before my body shut down on me.)

I can pinpoint a couple of sources of inspiration for the cross-country bike tour specifically:

  1. I started using my bike for transportation when I moved to Boston for college in 1994, and found I really enjoyed getting around on a bike.
  2. I grew up just off Route 20, the longest road in the US, which goes from Boston to Oregon and has all kinds of cool little towns and tourist attractions along it. I always thought it would be fun to travel the whole thing, either by biking or driving really slowly.
  3. I have an uncle who rode horseback from our hometown in upstate New York to Wyoming. Sort of captures your imagination when you’re 8 years old.

Tell us about your touring setup (bike, panniers, etc.) and how you chose it.
I have only ever ridden mountain bikes around the city, and knew nothing about road bikes or touring when I started preparing for this trip. I got online and did some research, mostly reading other people’s blogs and equipment lists, and came up with a list of Things to Care About When Bike Touring. These included:

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When Graffiti Goes Right

Yesterday, in between thrift store visits, we stopped for lunch at the Earwax Café, where the food was much more delicious than the name might suggest.

Public bathrooms aren’t usually the best photo venues, but I couldn’t resist documenting this piece of graffiti. If you’re going to deface a wall, you might as well say something worth saying. Just one of the reasons I love visiting Chicago!

Graffiti I can agree with

Graffiti I can agree with.

Biking the Biltmore

Good friends. Wine. Wonderful weather. Mountain landscapes. A visit to a  luxury estate. Delicious food. Only one more thing was necessary to make my trip to North Carolina complete: biking!

It wasn’t hard to persuade Jennie and Kristi to get on board. $10 and a trip to the activity center at the Biltmore Estate took care of that little omission. We chose the Trek Single cruisers and set off for a quick ride to the lagoon and back, past fields of grapevines and sunflowers. It was the perfect post-lunch, pre-wine-tasting-and-concert activity.

Before we set out, we spotted these adorable young cyclists riding along the path.

Starting early

Don't worry mom and dad, we're only taking their picture to post it on the Internet!

After paying, we headed out to the barn where bike mechanic Jessica had the Treks all ready for us — complete with baskets for our purses.

And . . . they're off!

And . . . we're off!

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Biking with My Brother

The holiday weekend found me in Indianapolis visiting my brother. On Sunday, we rode the Monon Trail from his neighborhood to downtown, a roundtrip of somewhere around 14 miles. The trail, built along the path of an old railway was beautiful, the snazzy Bianchi bikes we borrowed from a high school friend were nimble, but the best thing about it was spending some time riding bikes with my brother again.

Charlie and me on bikes today.

Charlie and me on our borrowed Bianchis.

This is an old favorite hobby of ours, as you can see.

Charlie and me, with our bikes in 1987.

Charlie and me, with our bikes in 1987.

We’re no longer quite so blond, and I no longer carry a groomable dog toy with me when I ride, but other than that, things were pretty much the same as when we used to ride around our neighborhood in Minnesota, or to the convenience store from our house in Alabama: fun!

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