Cold and crisp. Mallets Bay and Lake Champlain were still this afternoon, reflecting the early season snow atop Mt. Mansfield. I spun the legs on the lakefront bike path, trying to shake this neverending cold / sore throat / flu bug that I’ve carried around since before Italy, and reawakening the legs after nearly two weeks off the bike.
After enjoying Florence, we were on to Rome. Again, the architecture, art, and urban life did not disappoint, nor did the food. Highlights included touristy stops at the Coloseum, Palantine, Forum, Pantheon and the Vatican Museums – as well as wandering and dining the twisting streets of Trastevere.
Conversations and critique regarding empire, power, politics, and religion intertwined with our site seeing. The Colossuem, impressive as an architectural wonder turned my stomach as I read about the spectacle of the games, the exploitation and death of slaves, political prisoners, and countless thousands of wild animals. The decay of the Forum and the overlapping of history, technology, and the politics of “civilization” – dating from before the Roman Empire to long after I will be capable of wandering the ruins – raised questions of our own empire here at home – and what will become of all that has been created in the name of democracy, government, civility, and “progress”. The perceived grandeur of what was Rome, and the reality of what is Rome (in all its historic and modern beauty) tugged at my thoughts. What are we doing? Where are we going? Is our fate (the royal “our” – that of the “enlightened” and “civilized” world of the global economy and “western” ideals) to be the same as Rome, Ancient Greece, and countless other city states and empires we have created? Are we doomed to collapse, decay, and destrcution – either from within or from without?
Bikes were scant compared to Florence. Rome seemed ruled by the Smart car, scooter, and private auto. The streets a bit meaner, the traffic a bit faster, and walking combined with the bus, metro, or light rail seemed a bit more sane way of getting about.
Jen and I spent 10 days enjoying life in Florence and Rome. We planned our days around walking (and eating) tours of the two cities. Florence was our first stop – and for four days we wandered the labyrinthine streets crowded with scooters, cars, bicycles and pedestrians – a textured collision of history, technology, and life. Our days combined wandering through town and taking in city life (the market, cafes, relaxing on the piazza’s) with touristy bits of gallery browsing, architecture gawking, and sculpture sighting. Sites included the Duomo (Santa Maria del Fiore, pictured above) which is Brunelleschi’s masterpiece of architecture in Florence, as well as the Uffizi Gallery, the Museo del Bargello, and a stop to see Michelangelo’s “David” and the Academia Gallerie. The art and architecture did not disappoint – “David” being incredible to behold in person – and as I took in the both the architecture and urban design I continually pondered the human energy and ingenuity required to create the thriving city of Florence – all with lack of computers, FEA analysis, tractor trailers, and cranes.
We planned our afternoons and evenings specifically around meals. The food was phenomenal – we typically chose small, out of the way eateries – taking in traditional food from family owned establishments. The combination of fresh local ingredients, wonderful atmostphere, incredibly friendly hosts (and other diners), and traditional recipes made the trip a gastronomic delight. We’ve had an odd re-adjustment upon landing back in the states – our first desperate meal in the Philadelphia airport (for our 5 hour layover) was disheartening. Back in Vermont we’re questing for tomatoes, bread, pasta, and mozzarella (and hopefully other seasonal and local ingredients) that will do our dining memories justice.
There were lots and lots of bikes in Florence – far more than in Rome. Florentines plyed the narrow, twisty streets on all sort of steed – commuter bikes, mountain bikes, 3 speeds, and even a few road bikes. All beautiful – and all typically rigged for “everyday” cycling. Most had fenders, bottle generators, headlight and tail lights, and some means of carrying things to and fro.
Did a “strength” training workout tonight. 24 miles to the pet food mega store, a stop at the bike shop, and City Market for groceries. The Nomad held all the goodies – about 30 pounds worth of pet stuff and groceries. Riding with the trailer has made me aware of my spin – under load the trailer “surges” a bit when my stroke is choppy. It’s got me focusing on higher cadence and smoother circles.
Petsmart may be getting a letter from me. There is not a single bike rack in view from the front of this very large store. The retailer is located in a neighboring town to Burlington – a 2005 “Bicycle Friendly Community“. One would think that mindful planning and proximity to a town full of cyclists of all sorts would have helped make the commercial areas of Williston a bit more bike and ped friendly. The only secure object available that I could get my cable locks around was the “Oops” pet cleanup kiosk. Locking up I got a ripe wiff of a foul bin of stuffed store bags. I may be switching stores to one a few miles closer – I just need to convince them to carry the brands of goods we like.
After City Market I turned on the lights and rode through town in the dark. Blinkies were blinkning and the headlights lit the way home. I’m testing out some wider tires for next seasons brevet series – and I like the way they have reflective material in the sidewall – its nice to see that I’m that much more visible as I cross an intersection.
I turned 33 today.
Took the afternoon off and got a great 46 mile ride in. Spear St. out to Mt. Philo and back to the homestead in Burlington. Rode the IF, with full fenders and lights. Need to work on that mud flap for the next rainy ride.
Wonderful fall day.
Great views over Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks to the west, and Camel’s Hump and the Green Mountains to the east.
I rode the Highlander September 16 with a friend and colleague. Jonathan has only ridden a few centuries, and he was doing the VT 50 the following weekend – so I paced him through the Lowlander route. We toured 102 miles (with 6,095 feet of climbing) in and out of the valleys surrounding Honeoye and Canadaigua Lakes. It was pleasant being in my old neighborhood – the course passed my previous residence on Seneca Point Rd. in Canandaigua – and fun to see some of the Finger Lakes from behind the handlebars.
Got out tonight for 50 miles. Rode a loop from Burlington out Spear St. to somewhere near Mt. Philo, then back on Rt. 7. I started out putting on and taking off layers – and as the evening turned to night donned the reflective sash, headlight, and blinkie on my helmet. I left from home, ran an errand at the Staples plaza, and started my ride at dusk. Spear St. offers some wonderful scenery – so I’ll have to head back that way with some daylight.
The rain threatened for the first half of the ride – gentle, warm, even pleasant, compared to Sunday’s slog over Middlebury. Turning north on Rt. 7 I felt the wind shift from out of the SE to out of the NW, and the rain started dropping. Lights blazing, blinkies blinking I sloshed home – soaked to the bone – and chilled from the wind. Somewhere on Pine St. some hipsters in a modded Honda had fun plastering me through a puddle. Glad I was able to provide the entertainment for them tonight – but thanks – there was the whole rest of the road to use, you know…
As I got into town I ventured onto the lakefront MUP. I dodged a downed tree and plenty of branches – and spent my time leaning into the wind howling off the lake. According to the weather services we received anywhere from 1/2″ to 3/4″ of rain, with wind gusting to 24 m.p.h. (which was much faster than I was travelling).
The lakefront MUP was surreal. Leaves plastered to the pavement, branches down, and completely empty. The view to the lake with my headlamp revealed only the beam of my light in the mist. No waves, boats, or lights to be seen.
In all a great ride – including the last hour or so of incredibly windy and wet conditions. The wind was blowing the rain hard enough that it would hurt my face as it came off the lake! I’ve learned some more about navigating in the dark and wet – and need to make some tweaks to the bike. I’ve got to add a small “be seen” LED to the front for when I stop at lights (the E6’s I’m using go out when I stop moving). I need another vest or sash – the Amiphod I’ve been wearing since this summer’s brevet series is uncomfortable – it tends to creep up my back and doesn’t stay put. I’m also planning on leather or rubber mudflaps for the fenders – my shoes filled with water as I rode through the running water along Rt. 7 in Shelburne.
I thought of some fellow cyclists who qualified and rode BMB this year – as the area near Burlington and through the Champlain Islands is notorious for its conditions – especially at night, usually with rain and wind, breaking up the monotony of the 750 mile journey from Boston to Montreal and back.
It’s fall here in Vermont, my favorite time of year. I prepped the ClubRacer for the weather and have been enjoying morning and late evening rides. The smell of the leaves in the crisp air, bright blue skies, sunsets, and stars at twilight have been fantastic.