Pushing the Season

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I wore gloves because the steering wheel was so cold. My daughter, in the passenger’s seat, covered herself in a blanket as we drove out the driveway. A couple of miles from home I glanced at the car thermometer. It had warmed up to -5ºF. Then I glanced in the rear view mirror. Following us was a guy on a motorcycle.

We were driving about 45 miles per hour at that point. It was hard to tell exactly what the guy was wearing but he was wearing white shoes–running shoes, tennis shoes, something like that. At a stop sign he pulled over to adjust his helmet, right behind us, so I could tell it was a he. At least he was wearing big fat mittens. One hardy guy, ready for spring.

A few more miles up the road I had to swing wide to pass a bicyclist. This person wore a  reflective vest similar to the one on the motorcyclist, so at least he was going for high visibility. In warm weather along that stretch I feel a sense of bafflement at why so many people on bicycles do not ride on the bike path, which is right next to the road. Why skirt auto traffic when there is a smooth and safer path right there? But today that bike path was covered in snow and ice. It was not smooth or safer. So I passed widely and offered a Godspeed. That dude was just as hardy.

I am looking forward to spring as well (although I have enjoyed skiing the field lately) but below-zero biking? Imagine standing out in below zero temperatures facing a sustained 45 mile per hour wind. That was the motorcycle dude. And a bicycle isn’t much warmer, despite the self-propulsion factor, when the temperature is so low.

Hats off to those two hardy fellows, but I have news for you. Wanting spring does not make it arrive. Acting like it is warm does not make it so. Still, I have to admire them. Even if I had extra time to bike, or was crazy enough about fuel efficiency to choose a motorcycle, I don’t think I would push the season quite so. For activities such as that, I will wait for spring to actually arrive.

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Another Perfect Day

View Toward New York From the Bike Path

We had a bit of a spontaneous morning. We tossed bikes and helmets into the van and drove to Burlington. We had breakfast at Penny Cluse which, frankly, is hard to beat (those home fries are pretty much to die for), then pulled out the bikes and headed toward the lake. My wife needed air in her back tire, but when she tried to fill it with the pump we had brought along, it went flat–busted valve. Rats. We had just loaded the meter with quarters–enough for three hours–but she had to bring her bike to the Ski Rack to get a new tube. Somebody got a great parking gift after she pulled out of that spot.

The kids and I walked our bikes down the sidewalk to the Ski Rack. The tube was replaced in no time and we were off to the bike path. We rode for a couple of hours, slowly making our way to Winooski. We turned around at the bridge over the Winooski River, which was a big hit with the kids. And, I have to admit, for myself, even though I had been there before. The river spilling into Lake Champlain, the water shining in the sun, the Adirondacks glowing in the distance–really, it was spectacular.

As we rode back to town I thought about how amazing is this place. We live in a beautiful spot and I don’t think I could take it for granted. I am stunned on days like today. After a breakfast that could not be better, a ride with my family in the most picturesque of settings, how could I not be happy?

Unconscious Singing and a Wrench

My son loves to sing.  He sings all the time–while building a boat out of legos, while sitting down to breakfast, even while falling asleep. He sings songs with words and songs without. He hums. He is just a happy guy. I was thinking yesterday about how I love this about him. He shares his happiness with the world.

Yesterday he and I went for a bike ride–not too far, just a slow peddle down the road to enjoy the amazing day. He was, as he so often is, singing as we went. We talked about this and that, of course, and were having a fine time. Now, this road we live on is not paved, and any unpaved road in Chittenden County, Vermont’s most populous, becomes a destination for walkers, runners and bikers. We live on this one and we use it for all three of these activities. Lots of other people do as well.

Yesterday, as on any given weekend day, comers from parts unknown came to take advantage of the unpavedness of our road. They walked and ran. When my son and I headed out on our bicycles, two women were walking in the same direction we planned to go. They were well ahead of us. With the speed of our two-wheeled vehicles, however, we caught up with them, despite our slow rate. Although we saw them, these two women did not see us. They ambled along, chatting loudly, gesticulating as they conversed. As we got close behind them, on the other side of the road mind you, my son sang a semi-wordless tune.

Once we got close enough, this scared the pants off them. They turned and jumped. Well, one of them jumped, and this made the other jump. On the one hand I felt bad for them–a nice peaceful walk interrupted by a dangerous and insidious force, a beast who’s only goal is slay the innocent walkers…Wait, it’s only a kid and his dad. On the other hand, I thought this was funny as hell and had to suppress my laughter. They laughed, however–perhaps nervously–but they laughed.

We were close enough that I could see that the woman closest to us was carrying something.  My first thought, given the reaction she had just had, was that it was mace. She walked with someone else and with a weapon to ward off would-be assailants. But it was only a wrench, maybe 1/2 inch. This struck me, as it may have struck others in this situation, as somewhat, well, what’s up with the wrench? I didn’t say, this of course. What I said, as we passed them, was, after one of them noted what a fine day it was, that it could be finer if only I had a wrench with which to fix my bike.  The woman carrying it offered it to me, with grand generosity, asking if it was mine. It turns out she found it on the road.

I wasn’t missing a wrench, but I liked both that she offered it to me, despite my sarcasm, and that she picked it up to begin with. Someone dropped it and maybe she could find a place to leave it. She noted that she might just find a use for it, that she must have found it for a reason, and my son and I kept on going. So in the end, all was well, and it couldn’t have been a better day.  I mean, the foliage was shining, my ears were full of song, I was riding my bike with my son, and I was offered a wrench, maybe 1/2 inch. What more could one want?