Nice Bike Path

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One of my favorite things to do in the summer is to have breakfast at Penny Cluse Cafe and then to ride the bike path north from Burlington. My son and I took advantage of our summer days to do this earlier this week. He slept in later than would be ideal for this particular adventure, but we did it anyway.

See, the place gets busy. We had to go during the week because the weekend? Forget it. The wait can be a couple of hours on a Saturday. Even on a weekday we had a wait close to an hour. We could have gone elsewhere to eat but we were both game for Penny Cluse–even though I was pretty hungry–so we waited. We walked up Church Street and played Pokemon Go to pass the time. My son just started playing so there were lots of fictitious creatures to add to his Pokedex. It was close to 10:30 by the time we took a seat.

By 11:00 breakfast was under our belts, so to speak. If you go there, get home fries. They are top notch, really the most important item of the most important meal. Anything there is tasty as can be so you can’t really go wrong. I tend to get beans with eggs, just because I never have that at home. My son got pancakes and, while he enjoyed them, he ate only one. Filling.

After sating ourselves we rolled down the hill to the waterfront. We rode bikes along the lake. The bike path was improved since I was last there. It is repaved and some of the overgrown asphalt patches are now tidy, with calisthenic devices and decks and railings over which one can enjoy the view. There are some newly cut paths to the water for swimming. It was nice. A nice bike path.

It made me think about livability. A bike path and open spaces and water make a town or a city a place people want to live. Sure, economic growth matters, but if you only think about creating jobs, then people will want, at best, to live in that next town over that is a little nicer. A town with nature and recreation and jobs is ideal. Earning a living is important. Living is important too.

A breeze blew across the water to cool us off. Bikers and walkers and lollygaggers shared the route with us. We rode a ways out and then turned back. The day was getting on. By the time we loaded our bikes back in the van and drove home and unloaded them, it was lunch time. We skipped it–not hungry. Summer is getting on. I’m thinking we won’t have a second chance at breakfast in town before school starts. So I am glad we made it happen.

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On Camera Again

Recently I was listening to fairly new podcast from National Public Radio, Invisibilia, which I highly recommend if you like good storytelling and thinking of things in new ways. The episode, Our Computers, Ourselves, examined how computers affect human behavior, for good or bad. One of the themes was the ubiquity of computers in our lives. They did not dwell on this as part of the show, but as I drove through the snow on my way to work, my own thoughts kept curling around the idea. I looked up and saw a video camera on a light pole, and I wondered, how many times does a camera take an image of me each day? I don’t live in a city but I also don’t live in the most rural part of Vermont. So, in the largest city in Vermont, a very small city by the standards of most other states, how ubiquitous are cameras?

Since then I have been thinking I should count them. Could I be aware enough to see the cameras that watch us but that we have forgotten are there? I knew that I would have to pay attention, that I would have to start noticing things I no longer see. I figured I would try it out today, knowing that it would be an imperfect experiment to start.

On the way to my destination for the day I passed at least two traffic camera intersections where I assume my image crossed a screen. I tried to pay attention but got lost in whatever I was listening to and didn’t look for cameras once I exited the interstate. I did go to a school this morning, which meant a camera aimed itself at me as I buzzed the front desk. I am guessing I missed some cameras but that is at least three, all of which carried my image twice. So at least six times today I was filmed (I’ll have to work on being careful with that word as there was no actual film involved) and none of those instances were of my own choosing.

I plan to try to keep an eye out for cameras around here as I drive and work and shop and play. I am guessing I will find some in unusual places. At some point I will try to count them all in a period of time (one day? one week?). If nothing else it will be good practice noticing, paying attention, being aware. I may find that there are fewer cameras than I imagine; I may find there are more. Either way, the question–how often am I camera?–is worth asking.

Breakfast and Biking and Building

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A stop on the Burlington bike path

We slept out on the porch last night. A section of it is screened, so we set up cozy beds on the couch and had our Z’s outside. We woke up later than I thought we would, given that the birds are singing at 4:00, about 7:00. I gathered some things while my son rubbed the bleariness from his eyes and then we headed to town.

First stop was Penny Cluse Cafe. They have the best breakfast around. My son had buttermilk pancakes, which he said were almost as good as mine. Right thing to say. And he wasn’t even after ice cream. I had beans and eggs and corn muffins–not something I typically have at home, which was the idea. Coffee, fresh-squeezed orange juice–we were good to go on the meal front.

Next stop was the Ski Rack to pick up my son’s bike that had gotten some service. We rolled that outside, pulled my bike from the roof rack and, with full water bottles and some snacks, we headed to the lake. We passed the waterfront area and headed north on the bike path.

It could not have been a more perfect morning. Sunny, just warm enough, the lake and sky a summer blue. We pedaled our way several miles until we came to the bridge across the Winooski River. We stopped to look out at the river and the lake and the wetlands. Then we went a little further into Colchester.

Looking back toward Burlington

Looking back toward Burlington

We parked our bikes and checked out the lake, just off the bike path. Now that the water is finally low enough we could walk out to the marsh. We saw a couple of great egrets, a great blue heron and I finally heard marsh wrens. Those marsh wrens bring me up to 172 different bird species I have found in Chittenden County this year. I am aiming for 175, at least. I think I’ll make it.

We also saw basking map turtles

We also saw basking map turtles

Then we headed back south and parked our bikes outside ECHO, Burlington’s science center, to do some building. The rotating exhibit currently features KEVA planks, flattish rectangular blocks. There are some amazing structures there on display. We got there just in time for one of their daily challenges. We had five minutes to build a bridge. We teamworked it and did pretty well:

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I had started my own bridge before the challenge started and decided to enhance that one:

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We will be back to build some more this summer while the exhibit lasts. It is way fun.

Back home, my son got picked up to hang with a friend. I got some more painting done once the shade shifted around to right spot. We won’t have quite the blast tomorrow, but I am hoping it will be a decent one. We will sleep on the porch again and wake to the morning sun. No Penny Cluse tomorrow, but I can make pancakes at home. Apparently, they are pretty good.

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?

Morning in Burlington

When I first moved to Burlington I worked at Abraham’s Camera Shop. I worked the standard nine to five shift, selling cameras and film. They had a great selection, although the owner was creepy. Actually, he was really creepy. He had an assistant in the upstairs windowless office whose job in part was to watch the security cameras. The cameras were to make sure no one stole anything, but they were aimed not out at the floor, where customers lingered, but behind the counters where the staff worked. They were watching me. Creepy.

That was a short job for me, however–only a few months. I was out of there as fast as I could go. I got a job at Photogarden around the corner, processing film. That was way more enjoyable. In both cases I did not have far to go to get to work. I lived on Hyde Street, in the old north end, so I walked or rode my bike to work every day. Those were not career jobs, but the commute couldn’t be beat.

Since I worked on Church Street, which is open only to pedestrians most of the day, I loved walking down this street in the morning. The street was bustling. Shops were being unlocked and deliveries were being made. Before 9:00 trucks would park on the street and unload. It felt like the world was clear and real and waking again to a new day. It gave me a sense of perspective–I was just one of many people with interesting or boring, exciting or mundane, happy or depressing lives. I felt good about my own life. I had health and friends and a good attitude and years ahead of me to fulfill my dreams.

I watched the boxes roll from a truck and thought about the man pushing the trolley. Did he have children? Did that Remington hat mean he was a hunter? I thought about the woman accepting the boxes. Did she own that place? Did her business mean as much as a relationship? I looked at the cute waitress serving breakfast at the restaurant next door. I thought about the future sometimes and often just lived in the moment.

Yesterday I walked down Church Street early. I do not do it often anymore. I had just dropped off my daughter at a photography camp program on lower Church Street (how things loop around) and was walking with my son to have breakfast in town. The scene has not changed much. I still wondered about the people on either side of the deliveries, and the waitresses don’t seem so cute now (compared to my wife, who could?) but the trucks were still lined up and the boxes still rolled off the backs of them.

I had some of those same feelings of hope and wonder that I had all those years ago. I felt proud of my daughter for trying something new and I felt happy to spend some time with my son, who is turning out to be a pretty great person. We walked up the street, some of my dreams now fulfilled, some still to be met, and I felt glad to simply be there, to be alive and to welcome the day.

A Little Evening Adventure

Last night was a full moon. I got invited to go along on a moonlight paddle in Burlington. Lots of people have taken moonlight paddles, myself among them. Being on the water at night when the moon shines is a treat not to be missed. I’d say it’s a must do experience. Last night, however, I was a novice. I went stand up paddleboarding.

Stand up paddleboarding is basically taking a surf board out with a tall paddle. You stand up and move around by, well, paddling. I had done plenty of canoeing and felt comfortable with that. I can balance. I felt pretty much good to go. And I was. I got the hang of it quickly. I went with a group led by Rachael Miller of Stormboarding. Here is a photo of hers, to give you an idea what it looks like:

Copyright Stormboarding

Copyright Stormboarding

The problem was, although I had seen photos and had talked to Rachael about it, I had never done it. And since we would be heading out after dark, I wasn’t going to see it last night either, at least not all that well. There was a full moon and I did wear a headlamp, but still, it was dark. Anyway, it was a blast, and an experience, all told, that most people probably won’t have. Here is why: we combined stand up paddleboarding, a full moon, a still summer Vermont evening, and an exuberant and confident punk rock band.

I was the first to greet Rachael, and the punk band was already getting started, playing at a pavilion right on the waterfront. I signed the three page waiver and then tied glow sticks to the shoulders of my life vest. Since we were out at night we needed lights, being watercraft, to be legal and, more importantly, to be visible to anyone else on the water. Red glow stick on the left, green glow stick on the right. The headlamp served as the white light which should be visible from any direction, but was close enough. As the others arrived we all tied on lights, carried boards to the dock and, after some instruction and a couple of photos, started paddling.

The band was really hammering it out by the time we curved around past the Coast Guard station, yelling and, seemingly, having a fun time of it. The moon was climbing, with Mars along to keep it company. The water shone. We moved together stealthily. It wasn’t the peaceful paddle that some had expected but it was a good time nonetheless. We moved pretty quickly without any wind or waves and paddled right into a cloud of skunk spray. If we had had anything tasty to snack on it would have been a true five senses experience. We turned around at what Rachael identified as, showing off her knowledge of nautical terminology, the “can thingees,” drums of some kind, in the water for a purpose I could not discern (to tell the truth, I couldn’t really see them). We hugged the shore and cruised back to the dock.

We were out for about an hour and, as we drifted in and pulled the boards out of the water, the band packed it up for the evening. I had fun and would surely do that again, even if it were regular old daytime. I doubt I again will get to experience paddling standing up and a full moon and Mars and a warm September night and perfect calm on Lake Champlain and the inspired lyric of “Weapons Factory!” pelted out over the odor of skunk. If you find yourself experiencing such a mix, do let me know. We’ll compare notes.

Freezing My…

Ran this morning, first thing. It was cold–14 degrees. That isn’t too bad but it was way windy. I ran up Carpenter Road but turned around after a mile and a half. I was afraid of getting frostbite on my face. It was a crosswind, so either direction I was getting it.

Then I took a turn to try a different route. I figured it would be in the trees. I had a tailwind for a bit, over the river and into the woods. I didn’t even get close to Grandma’s house, however. When I got to the class IV part of the road, I was walking like an elderly grandmother. It was so icy that I could hardly walk at all. At the rise, where I could see down the road a ways, I could see that the skating rink kept going. I bagged.

It was warm yesterday, in the 40’s. Things melted. Then it got cold. Things froze. It made for great skating, but I was running. I did not get as far as I wanted, but so it goes. I went home and stirred the fire in the wood stove. And I had coffee. I warmed up soon enough.

Went into Burlington today for the Mardi Gras parade. We were concerned about finding a place to park, so we drove part way to take the bus. The bus was late. We stood around in the icy wind, the family and I. We got chilled. The bus was full, which I thought was a good plug for public transportation. If it was more reliable and stopped closer to home I might use it more.

Not as Warm as New Orleans

Not as Warm as New Orleans

Waiting for the parade to start, and walking down the street, we got chilly. The kids have less mass that the adults they live with, so they got colder faster. They forgot about the cold when the crazy floats started passing and the people in zany costumes started throwing bead necklaces and moon pies. But once the noise and commotion passed us by, we split. We warmed up in the mall for ten minutes while watching for anyone we knew or didn’t.

The children did not play outside much today, but at least we got plenty of fresh air. And we got to take a bus ride. That was a highlight for them. The temperature did not rise above 20 degrees here at the house. The bank thermometer in Burlington read 24 degrees when we passed it. That was such crap. I know it was windy but 24? No way.

Now we have way too many bead necklaces, more plastic crap that we don’t need that will outlive all of us. Tomorrow I need to try again for a morning run. The bummer is that is forecast to be even colder tonight than last night–a low of 5. We hope to go skiing tomorrow as well. Maybe the afternoon will be our time to play. I don’t want to freeze any parts of me.