Sunday, November 29, 2009

I'm being followed by a Moonshadow

La Lune

110 North out of Chelsea

Yours truly

The stone carver statue in Barre

Long exposure view of the traffic on I-89 and Rt. 2 from River Road

Sunday afternoon I drove our Volvo down to Chelsea, Vermont for some expert TLC. I was a bit anxious because Chelsea is quite a distance from here and my plan was to bike the roughly 45 miles home. With guests here this weekend, I wasn't able to head down until the afternoon and by the time I'd arrived and was ready to pedal out, it was about 4:00, maybe a little after. These days it is dark before 5:00, so most of my ride home was in the dark. I find there is a fine line between excitement and fear and the prospect of doing a 45 mile bike ride in the dark on my own through some very rural areas of Vermont; it is both tantalizing and a little scary, though I think it wouldn't be as compelling if there wasn't an edge of fear around it. As often happens with situations like this, once I'm out there and engaged, I'm just psyched; I'm rolling along, I'm warm, I'm making progress, and I'm seeing and experiencing a million little memorable events that make it so worthwhile. I'm riding my bike and going on a little adventure.

The trip was great, with a slight chill, but I was comfortable for the first couple of hours. There's a big hill out of Chelsea and into Washington that warmed me up nicely. At the top I put my cap back on and zipped up for the ride down the other side. Coming down the long hill into Washington village, I started to wonder if my headlight was a bright as it should be, so I stopped at the little store in the village and bought some new batteries, and found the lamp light much brighter. (I dream about bikes and bike parts and building up a great bike some day, but this little episode reinforced the wisdom of purchasing a dynamo hub sooner rather then later. A dynamo hub is a small generator built into the hub of the bicycle wheel which powers the lamp mounted on the bike. You always have a source of power for you lights, and the light produced is impressive.)

I felt progressively chillier approaching Barre. Usually downhills are a welcome rest, but this night they were more a source of feeling cold, so I found myself semi-wishing there wasn't such a long decent to Barre. Not wanting to stop, I decided I'd adjust to warmer mittens, shoe covers, and wind shell once I reached Montpelier. I stopped at the Hunger Mountain coop in Montpelier and was pleased to find that they have a free phone, which I used to call Nancy to let her know where I was; that I was doing fine; and that I was continuing on my way home, most likely with a stop in Moretown to visit Liza and Randy.

With a slight haze, I had moonlight all the way.

Leaving Montpelier better dressed for the cold, I rode River Road from Montpelier to Middlesex and only crossed paths with one car. River Road follows the river and is a great dirt road just out of town. It was a nice quiet interval on the trip. The traffic on I-89 and rt. 2 is pronounced when witnessed from the vantage point across the river.

By the time I was rolling through the flats in Moretown I was warm again. The slight incline along the Mad River was enough to turn the tide; off came the mittens and outer shell. I stopped at Lize and Randy's for a nice visit and a little nibble, and then continued the last few miles home.

I never feel so grateful for home as the times when I come home tired, maybe cold, probably hungry and just so glad to see my sweetness.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Blue car blues

When I bought my Volvo 240 wagon with 165,000 miles on it about 11 years ago, the guys at the local Volvo repair shop said "It'll go to 300,000 if you take care of it."

We'll the car is now at 297,000 miles and I think it would be a not fully accurate to say that "I've taken care of it", but I have invested a lot along the way and the car has been a good friend in return. This car has seen me, and us, through many miles and many adventures, from solo trips with my little sailboat in tow to Welfleet on the Cape, to romantic camping accommodations with my future wife, to escape-the-city trips out of Boston, to doubling as a can-do utility vehicle with hay bales on the roof and excessive amounts of timber weighting down the lot.

Its a truly great car, and if I were the king of car manufacturers, I'd decree that the Volvo 240 should be built and made available in perpetuity, with the one qualification that it aim for better gas mileage. They stopped making the 240 in 1993. A sad passing.

If all this sounds like an obituary, it might be, but then again it might not. For the last three weeks the car has been sitting in our yard, parked askew with a flat tire. For months, the shifting has been a bit rough, and reverse was getting progressively harder to engage, particularly for Nancy. One morning, Nance was having trouble getting it into reverse and I strutted out and thought I'd get it in gear as I always seem to have been able to. Well, this time was different. I couldn't get it. I tried and tried, even going forward onto the lawn a bit to see if that loosened things up--to no avail. Since we couldn't get it in reverse, we would need to tow the car backwards if we wanted to get it out the driveway.

So we left it there. In the meantime, the rear right tire went flat and we just got used to it.

Today, finally, Joe and I towed it back enough that we could point the bow up the driveway and park the car out of the way. Now we can go somewhere if we need to, as long as there is no backing up required. The tire is still an issue. The next move is to get it to a garage and see if maybe, just maybe, this car is worth getting to 300,000.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A day on a bicycle in Boston

Nancy had a day of work in Boston on Friday and I had the day to myself to do with whatever I wanted.

Having brought my bike, I parked in Cambridge just down the street from the new community center that replaced the old VFW, home to Thursday night contra dancing in Boston. The new building looks cool and was as good a starting point as anywhere. I headed into Harvard Square and then up Mass Ave towards Central Square, basically keeping an eye out for a non-corporate morning coffee place to settle into with the New York Times. Passing through MIT I crossed the river and headed down towards the South End. I knew I'd found the right spot when I came across the South End Buttery. With a neat little breakfast and a cup of coffee and settled into a window spot and indulged in a couple of hours of in-depth reading.

From my morning coffee I headed toward the Downtown Crossing area and searched around until I found Windsor Buttons, where I checked some cool sewing stuff, but walked away with some Bee buttons for Nancy.

Back up through Back Bay, I crossed back over the river and headed to the MIT press bookstore which is always a treat. I didn't buy anything, but enjoyed browsing. From there I went to the Cambridgeside Mall and bought a watch strap and some socks, having left the key in my bike lock while I was wandering around inside. Doh!

From the mall I headed up to Central Square, got a sandwich at the 1369 cafe and then crossed the street to browse around at Rodney's Bookstore. This place is extensive, but for whatever reason, I was challenged to find anything that really caught my attention. They have a really cool selection of vintage posters that are fun to check out. At this point it was getting on in the day, so I made a brief stop at the Broadway Bike School just to go in and check out the used parts and just be there for a minute since I think its such a cool place. Up through Harvard from there I then zig-zaged through Davis and Porter Squares and made my way up and around to the Fresh Pond area where I returned to the car.

It just felt wonderful to be on my bike for the first time in a long time and to enjoy the warm air, the fun of just wandering, and the invigoration of riding in the city amongst the lights, cars, cyclists, signs, sounds and traffic. Its a wide awake feeling that you just don't get around here.