Friday, December 26, 2008

Shrink Not From The Pale Icy Grasp Of Winter

A multitude of nice sledding hills can be conquered within a two mile radius of Casa Del Hoffa Norte. It occurred to me that The Longbike would be a suitable conveyance to take Jasper and a sled and, lo! it is. The photo above was taken after our first foray into the world of xtracycle sledding, and it was a hoot. Just today we took trip #2 and it was even more fun.

Last Tuesday I had to return an empty keg and a pair of keg pumps. The Longbike, once again, proved completely up to the task. The 18 mile round trip was easy as could be and The Longbike handled better with the load than without. I'm strongly considering carrying two small bags of sand for winter traction, just like I used to do with my 1984 Chevy S-10.

I Shall Shrink Not From The Pale Icy Grasp Of Winter!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

So We Kicked Winter In The Ass

A hardy group of fellows gathered Saturday to kick winter in the ass, eat a hearty breakfast and scatter to the snow-driven winds.

My camera shot craps half way through the ride, but I rather liked the blurry, surreal photos it took so here they are.

First our "paceline". The photo was taken just after I used my hot breath to thaw out the camera so it would function. It is a blurry photo, but captures the essential character of the day. Wind driven snow and all that.
Second is Ron humping his orange Bianchi up a drifted path. Monte made it the furthest up this hill, but nobody made it all the way.
And finally we see The Mighty Jim, Stumpjumper hoisted on his shoulder as he mutters his way straight up the hill. As to what he was muttering, I can only guess. The blades of the lens protector did not retract fully in this shot. I like the effect.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Bike Life: Florida Edition

Having to be in Florida for work-related meetings and such, I've taken the opportunity to bike a few times. Rentals are easy to find, often in beautiful settings, and not very expensive.

DeAnn and I rented beach cruisers (which, curiously, were not allowed on the beach) at Fort De Soto Park, a really nice free county park south of St. Pete Beach. It's got a magnificent beach of its own and ample opportunities for kayaking, swimming, fishing and such. Because of geographical constraints, the paths tend to run very close to the roads, but since we can't ride on the beach it's the best we can do. Notice the incredible Road Warrior semi-truck of pedaling that this family was able to rent:
We pays our money and picks our bikes—big heavy three speed aluminum jobs and wobble off. The wind blows directly into our faces which makes it tough for DeAnn, an infrequent rider. It's cold and sort of miserable. As we tack into the wind, I notice a "hammerhead" dude about a half mile behind. I warn DeAnn that he will likely pass soon, but a few minutes go by and nothing. Glancing backward again, I can see that my "hammerhead" is really slow. As in ridiculously slow.

Over the next few minutes a scenario unfolds which I have since seen a lot in Florida: guys with racing bikes, racing duds, racing helmets and racing sunglasses that are S L O W. Finally this guy overtakes us going a whopping 12 miles per hour, if that. He's in the drops and very serious. So obviously I kick my bike into second gear and draft him for a half mile or so. Well, to be honest I could not have drafted him if I wanted to as my head sticks up a good two feet above his back. At any rate I hang with him effortlessly.

Now, lest you think that I place some sort of value on speed, I can assure you that I do not. It is of no consequence. However, if somebody goes to all the trouble to dress like a racer, ride a racer bike and has a serious, this-is-work-no-fun facial expression it seems like the least they could do is go fast. That or embrace the pace and smile. Although in this case it's hard to imagine him going much slower without toppling into the sand on the side of the trail.

Once we turn around and ride with the wind, it's obviously easier on DeAnn. She's having fun now, and we both laugh and smile. We stop to visit with a group of kayakers that are taking disabled veterans on a day trip. They have ingenious rigs for para and quadraplegic paddlers which enable them to enjoy the quiet backwaters of the park. Everyone is having fun here.

We return the bikes at the end of our short hour and explore the fort and beach. It's a terrific park and we are glad that we took the time to visit. The ambling pace suited the day and palm trees beats the hell out of snotcicles anyday.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

With apologies to vegetarians and avoiders-of-alcohol, I am so very tickled PINK with the meal I made myself tonight that I have to share.

Pauwel Kwak Belgian Ale
Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Freshly Baked Bread
Braised Brussels Sprouts
Smoked Lamb Ribs

Some kinda nice. . .

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Riding In Snow

Today I had to visit my doctor's office, which is about 8 miles away. It's a cold day at less than 20ºF and breezy. The wind chill is 8ºF. Moving forward on my bike I'm pretty sure that it's closer to NONEºF. Still, I work up a sweat getting to visit the doc and my wool clothes have a decidedly ovine aroma. The receptionist plays it cool and pretends not to notice that I'm the One that is Not Like The Others. A gentleman named Gary looks me up and down and comments quietly to himself. I know he's Gary because he proclaims it to the receptionist upon arrival.

It's curious that the clinic has no facility for bike parking. You'd think that they would encourage deviants like me to exercise our troubles away. Hmm.

While I am inside, snow begins to fall in big, lazy flakes, swirling in the northwesterly breeze. I've invested in snow goggles for winter riding and I am glad I did. Pushing off into the squall, I can't help but delight in slicing through flakes of white. Most slide by my face, but a few briefly stick to the lens. It's feels uncannily like swimming. Because no skin is exposed no snow makes contact. I feel slightly removed from the weather swirling around me.

I am exhilarated to cut across wide expanses of fresh white snow, leaving behind only a thin, wandering trail. The hiss of studded tires on pavement is silenced in the deepest drifts, giving the impression of sudden tiny hops of flight. It's an airy, untethered and pleasant sensation.

How enjoyable it is to turn a routine errand into a journey of discovery.