Our Spring here in the Northland arrives later than many places in the lower 48 states. One way to know when it has finally arrived is by noticing when I bring out the bikes I don’t use in the winter. Sometimes that happens in March and sometimes later. This year I’ve been enjoying riding my all-weather A-train, so that has slightly delayed the emerging of my “summer” bikes. This weekend I had the itch to ride my other bikes. I took out two bikes in two days that I haven’t ridden yet this year. Yesterday I wrote about getting the folding Brompton out.
Today it was my Ellis Cycles frames turn to see the sun.
I call it my “fast bike” because with 32 mm wide tires it has the skinniest tires of all my bikes, with the exception of the Brompton. It’s also a very lively frame. It’s very responsive to any input of power.
What a joy it is to ride this custom bike. I say that every year. But it really is a delightful bike to ride.
My last post mentioned I was so happy to get in two rides over the weekend after being down with a cruddy cold for two weeks. I had four good days where I felt perfectly normal and healthy. And then, the cold symptoms started coming back mid-week. I was so upset.
Today I was feeling like the cold wasn’t going to repeat itself and was feeling good enough to get out for ride. A short one, but a ride none the less. I realized it was May already and I had yet to ride my Brompton in 2017. I really enjoy this little folding bike and look forward each Spring to getting it out. I tend not to ride it in winter to spare it from all the salt and sand on the roads. I have other bikes for that.
As always I thoroughly enjoyed being back on this fun little bike. As I was tooling along, climbing a small hill, and minding my own business I heard the familiar sound of mountain tires rolling up behind me. I didn’t give the rider the satisfaction of acknowledging his presence by glancing over my shoulder because it was obvious by the sound of his tires he was putting in a big effort to catch me and overtake me on the uphill. I maintained my leisurely pace and let him catch me. When he had finally pulled up alongside me I looked over and made eye contact.
This is where it always gets awkward for me. As a true introvert I am woefully incapable of making small talk with people I don’t know. I can do a friendly greeting and “beautiful day out” type stuff. Anything beyond that and I get tongue tied. This guy was on a fatbike of some type with a set of 29er wheels. He says to me, “Those tires roll good?” I have no clue from what perspective he’s coming from, which throws me. Is he making a statement about my “silly bike with small wheels”. Or is he intrigued by my Brompton. I don’t know. So I say the first thing that pops into my head, “Oh yeah” I say. And then, the awkward silence ensues. It feels like an eternity. I don’t know what to say next and he doesn’t say anything. So he just pulls away and rides off. I don’t know if I came off as an asshole, or if it was just as awkward for him as it was for me. In the end it was just all kinds of uncomfortable. Yet the entire episode lasted all of 20 seconds.
I’m taking part in The Three Speed October Challenge. This challenge is the brainstorm of Portland, Oregon’s very own Shawn Granton of Urban Adventure League and Society of Three Speeds. You can go to his site to get all the information. To summarize I need to ride my three speed (The rules begrudgingly allow for a 6-speed Brompton like mine because it does use a Sturmey-Archer 3-speed internally geared hub) at least three times a week for three weeks for at least three miles. Hey, I just now caught on to the “three” theme. At least one ride needs to be for utility, errands or commuting. There are more details to the rules, but that’s it in a nutshell….or maybe a 3-speed hub shell. Wink, wink.
Turns out all three rides (plus a bonus fourth ride) were all errand or commuting rides. All rides had a purpose of using the bike for transportation.
Sunday, October 2nd:
I was packing for an overnight bike camping trip. I needed a few food items I was out of for the trip. I rode 0.8 miles to the local food co-op. I realized when I went to check out I had forgotten my wallet. I rode the 0.8 back home and returned to the co-op a second time. Paid for my items and returned home. I took a slightly longer way home for a total of 3.6 miles.
Tuesday, October 4th:
I was off work this day and needed to run a few errands. It’s rare for me to go to my bank these days, but I did have a check I needed to deposit. A quick stop at the bank and then I made another stop at the local co-op. Total distance was 3.4 miles.
Wednesday, October 5th:
Ride number three was a commute. It’s three miles to my place of work. Six miles for the day. I ended up riding a fourth day and it was also a ride to work:
Both days I rode to the Co-op I shared the bike rack with another 3-speed. And since then it’s been there every time I’ve stopped. It must be an employee bike.
I almost never see three-speeds in Duluth. I found it ironic that I spotted one while I was participating in the three-speed challenge. This brand is a brand I’ve never heard of, Nirve, Wilshire. It did have nice steel lugged construction. The racing wheel on the front and racing saddle was a bit out of place. Other than that it looked like a nice low cost three-speed.
I’ll count my Friday evening post-dinner, pre-sunset ride as part of the weekend. It was another one of those beautiful late summer evenings. We were sitting on our porch when I got the itch to go ride about 30 minutes before sun down. I grabbed the Brompton and went. It’s really become such a great bike for this kind of last minute grab-and-go kind of rides. This time I was on a bit of a mission to turn down any alley or neighborhood street I’d never been on. Above is the alley behind the local snowmobile/atv/motorcycle/small farm implement store. You can see the squiggly route I took here.
Saturday was 100% about getting our “canning share” of tomatoes processed. Along with our weekly summer share of veggies from our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm, we order up a bulk share of tomatoes for canning. We’ve done this for 4 or 5 years now. That’s about how long Susan has been learning to can. And now I’m learning as well. I spent nearly 7 hours standing in one spot skinning, de-seeding and chopping tomatoes. While I did that Susan used the tomatoes I had finished to make salsa and pasta sauce and then canned those. It’s only one day a year we have to work on tomatoes like this, yet we reap the benefits of that labor all winter long. It is some good stuff. In paste years we received more tomatoes. So we’d make tomato-basil jam and can some plain tomatoes for making soups and stews.
No bike rides or hikes on Saturday.
When we bought our house in West Duluth in 2003 there were no official recreational trails anywhere nearby. Since then the Superior Hiking Trail has been extended across the ridge above our house. It is now, as of this summer, a 300 mile trail that runs from the Wisconsin border with Minnesota all the way up to Canada. It follows the ridge of Lake Superior. It is a premiere long distance hiking trail modeled after the Appalachian Trail. As I’ve mentioned before in this blog, there is also miles and miles of mountain bike trails being built all over the hills above my house.
Last month a new section of hiking trail was opened on the ridge above us. This section created a loop trail when combined with the Superior Hiking Trail. It is now known as the Brewer Park Loop. I had planned to take a fairly long bike ride Sunday to take advantage of what could be the last shorts and t-shirt weather rides of the season. Turns out it also makes for great hiking weather. I asked Susan if she’d like to check out the new loop trail. Well, I didn’t need to twist her arm. The official trail is 3.4 miles in length when hiking it from a local parking lot/trail head. We chose to walk from our house and enter the loop from another direction. Thusly adding a few miles. Our hike ended up being 6 miles in length. The first and last mile were road walks. Here’s some pictures from this hike that lays completely in our neighborhood. Or at least above our neighborhood. The ridge line is too rocky and rugged to build on. It is mostly wooded open space:
It was a spectacular hike. It’s hard to believe this is a urban hike we can hike anytime right from our front door.
Today was farm share pick-up day. Lots of fresh goodies from the Food Farm. As always it’s the Blue Truck/Xtracycle that gets the call to carry the farm share home. This picture was taken behind our local coffee shop, Beaner’s Central. They allow the Food Farm to use some inside space for the share pick-up by farm members. This is an alley side seating area the coffee shop built. I like the bicycle wheels incorporated into the overall design.
Summer evenings. The time between dinner and sunset. When the sun fades and the heat of the day lingers. A hint of cooler air appears in pockets of air as you move about. As a child this time of day was spent outdoors. Friends and neighborhood kids would be out too. We’d spend this precious time running around, playing, and riding our bikes. Burning off that last bit of kid energy before bed time. There was a sense of freedom and being totally in the moment.
Some how I lost that feeling, the ability to enjoy the moment. It was around age 13. I had started taking my bicycling to new levels. I was spending my summers training and road racing. Evenings became the time for recovery and sitting around. A week ago my wife and I were sitting on our porch enjoying the evening. A thought popped in my head. I looked at my wife and announced I was going for a bike ride around our neighborhood. I only had an hour before sunset and it was a beautiful evening. I didn’t change into “biking clothes”, I didn’t fill my water bottles, I didn’t put on cleated bicycle shoes. I didn’t put together a repair kit and pump to carry along in a bicycle bag. And here’s the big one, I didn’t grab my cell phone and shove it in my pocket. I simply got up, walked inside grabbed my Brompton and went.
I rolled away from my house with no destination in mind. I purposely tried to take the quieter streets, or streets I don’t normally take. As a top priority, I took any paths I came across. I’d go down paths just to see where they took me. Every neighborhood has hidden paths that connect streets to other streets. Some are dirt, some are paved trails. Paths can only be found and used when on a bike or foot. Growing up my neighborhoods didn’t have alleys. Alleys can be a great way to get around a neighborhood. My neighborhood I live in now has alleys.
I had so much fun that night I decided to do it again last evening. Although, I did take my phone so I could take some pictures this time. Here’s a link to the route I rode: //rwgps-embeds.com/trips/10542401/embed
There’s nothing better than a path through a wooded ravine with a creek next to it. I remember thinking as a kid that these kind of paths were secret. Only kids knew about them.
The Brompton is a great bike to bring back this kind of feeling. Although it’s an “adult” bike, the small wheels remind me of bikes I would have ridden as a kid.
Last evening I did something I never do as an adult. When I reached the main drag through West Duluth I rode on the sidewalk. I never ride on sidewalks. At this time of the evening I had the sidewalks all to myself. I looked into the windows of closed shops as I rode along. I rode with my eyes wide open. I noticed little businesses I didn’t even realize were there even though I’ve ridden down this street a thousand times on a bike and in cars.
I felt like a kid again. It’s a shame it took me 40 years to slow down and feel this way. I think I’ll try to do this more often.
It happens between one and three times every year. Susan and I get out and ride bikes together. Susan loves to bike. She just doesn’t make it her top priority like I do. She has many other interests that keep her busy. When she does get out on a bike it’s usually with me. Not always. But we always have fun when it is the two of us. We had a relaxing ride with a coffee stop in the middle. We headed down to the Canal Park area on the lakefront. I’ve become so good at avoiding crowds sometimes I forget that Duluth is a huge tourist destination. Canal Park is the main tourist attraction. A former industrial area that has been turned into shops, cafes, restaurants, and recently micro breweries. It is peak tourist season right now. And Canal Park was bustling.
Another purpose of this ride was to get some pictures of me with my Brompton. I’ve been asked to submit a guest blog post for possible use on another blog. A post about how I use my Brompton in Duluth.
Since I normally bike alone I don’t have any pictures of me and the Brompton. Only pictures of the Brompton. It all went good except we somehow lost my camera. We split the picture taking between my iPhone and my Sony Elph pocket camera. Fortunately we still had some of the pictures that were taken on the phone. The camera is lost for good. I even went back down to look for it after we got home and realized it was missing.
Despite the lost camera fun was had by all. It was fun to sit on the patio at the coffee shop on a beautiful Sunday morning and people watch. We just wouldn’t want to do it all the time.
Finally a weeks worth of warm weather forecasts. We were supposed to hit a high of 62degF. We hit 70F degrees in my neighborhood. I point out “neighborhood” because depending on your location in respect to Lake Superior there can be a 15 degree difference in different parts of town. It was one of those days where the grass is starting to green, the sun feels hot, and people are in shorts and t-shirts. And you finally get the feeling it just might stick this time. It really does happen late here.
I rode past the local high school on the way home from work today. A big multi-school track meet was happening. I stopped to watch a few minutes. They were running heats of the 100 yard dash. I can remember just three years ago the track you see in the picture still had several inches of ice and snow on it only a week earlier.