Mountain Biking in the Skyways?

You’re probably wondering how it is that the person who never learned how to ride a bicycle is posting in the Cycling section. But I thought this article might be amusing to people who enjoy biking. The link should work for a couple of weeks.

Cyclists get ready for St. Paul’s Tour de Skyway

Of Ducks, Geese, and Swans

As I pedal my way to and from work, I have the opportunity to ponder a great many things. This morning, I spent the ride observing and thinking about waterfowl. I know there are some closet biologists out there that will certainly be able to shed some light on these observations.

First, why do swans feel the need to pedal their feet as they are landing? I watch as they approach the water for a landing and just before they touch down, they crank up their feet and look like they are almost trying to run on the water. I imagine this motion must serve a purpose, perhaps it helps to keep them from landing with a cartwheel? Are they actually steering?

Secondly, on a body of water where it’s partly frozen and partly open, I consistenly notice the ducks are in the open portion and the geese are standing on the frozen portion? Is this just dumb luck that I happen to pass by various groups of birds that behave this way, or is there something else going on? An East coast phenomena? I’ve certainly noticed the ducks and geese prefer not to mingle, so I could understand one or the other type of birds occupying the various parts of the inlet.

Oddities of the English Language

While out biking last week with a friend, he brought up and interesting question…

Does it seem strange to you that in English, we use the passive “ride” for a bike, as if it’s moving on its own power like a horse, and the active “drive” for a car, as if we’re providing the motive forces ourself?

I hadn’t really thought about it until he brought this up, but he is right, listen when people around you are talking about riding a bicycle.  They often say “I went on a bike ride”, whereas they say “I drove the car”.  Strange isn’t it?  I mentioned this to my wife today, and she offered some useful insight.  During the time when people actually took Sunday drives, it probably would not have been unusual to hear someone proclaim “I went on a Sunday drive”.  Her supposition is that the use of passive voice has more to do with goal of the activity than the actual activity.  For instance, you would be more likely to hear someone say “I road to the mall”, where you are actually riding a bicycle for a purpose, in this case to get to the mall.  My hunch is that you are more likely to hear people who use their bikes as a vehicle refer to their activities using the active voice.

Is it Really January?

I checked the weather before leaving work today and it was 51 degrees! Is it really January? There are still traces of snow along the side of the bike trail, but I can’t believe it will last much longer with temperatures like this; so much for winter. Perhaps it’s just my memory playing tricks on me, but winters seemed a lot worse when I was growing up. Of course, I didn’t grow up in Rhode Island, but from talking to people who did, winters have become more mild. Perhaps those that don’t believe we are starting to see the affects of global warming should spend some time outside this winter.

Cardamom Shortbread

These cookies are very rich, but they are easy to make and were a hit at our New Year’s Eve party. Enjoy!!!

Cardamom Shortbread Cookies

From: The Star Tribune cookie contest/Alecia Enger
Yield: about 3 dozen


For dough:

  • 1 c. (two sticks) butter, at room temperature
  • ½ c. granulated sugar
  • ½ c. light brown sugar
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 2 c. flour
  • 2 t. ground cardamom
  • ¼ t. salt
  • 1/3 c. chopped nuts

For icing:

  • 1 ½ T butter, melted
  • ½ t. vanilla extract
  • 1 c. powdered sugar, sifted
  • Milk as needed
  • Candied fruit, if desired for garnish


  • Preheat oven to 275 degrees.
  • In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and sugars until creamy.
  • Add egg yolk and vanilla and mix until thoroughly combined. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cardamom and salt. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture to butter mixture until thoroughly combined.
  • Spread dough into ungreased 9X13 pan (it will spread thinly). Brush egg white over dough and sprinkle with nuts. Bake for one hour.
  • Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

To make icing:

  • In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat melted butter and vanilla into powdered sugar. Add milk, one t. at a time, until icing reaches drizzling consistency. Spread icing over slightly warm bars. Allow icing to set and cut into bars while cookies are still slightly warm. Decorate with candied fruit, if desired.

My notes: I made some changes to the presentation. Instead of chopped nuts, I used whole almonds and pressed them in rows, then cut about 45 bars so each one had a whole nut on top. I did not use candied fruit. I drizzled, rather than spread, the icing.

Long Commute

I ended up having a longer than expected commute this morning. It snowed/slushed on and off yesterday, but all of the roads and sidewalks in our area had no accumulation on them, so I decided to ride the East Bay Bike Path into work. Things were going along fine, until I made it two towns to the North and ran into what could best be described as a skating rink. Unfortunately, by this time it was too late to bail onto nicer back roads, so I had to tough it out. Fortunately, I rode “tank”; aka my friendly converted mountain bike I’ve honored with this nickname because of it’s weight.

Other than slip slidding around some, the highlight of the ride was passing someone, wearing golf shoes, speed-walking. Take a moment and visualize this…. this sight was nearly as dangerous to my ability to ride in a straight line as the ice.

First 2006 Commute

Adorned with two new bike flashers that I received for Christmas, I set of in the 32 degree air for my first bike commute in 2006. I’m sure I will truly look like a Christmas tree at night now, as I have three different flashing lights, all with different flash intervals. If people don’t see me now, they really shouldn’t be driving as they must be blind!

The roads leading up to and from the bike trail were pretty much deserted, most of RI must be taking this as another day to recover from the New Year’s festivities. I pedaled along dreaming of approaching my building, only to discover it was locked and I was mistaken that I had to work today. Alas, this did not happen, although the department is remarkably quiet. Since most of the state must be on vacation, the ride was extremely peaceful; I saw a few other people, many ducks, and a few swans.

I road in with my mountain bike this morning, as they are threating snow for the afternoon. It has 32c slick tires on it, but it’s amazing how much difference there is between a 32c tire and a 23c tire while traversing ice or snowy patches. I felt nearly indestructible with this bike… well, okay, nothing a squirl couldn’t take care of in short order. The only downside is the bike weighs a TON.

The Race by Dave Shields

The Race : A Novel of Grit, Tactics, and the Tour de France The Race: A Novel of Grit, Tactics, and the Tour de France by Dave Shields

A quick, yet thoroughly enjoyable read. While it’s a work of fiction, I think it gives the reader some sense of what it must be like to participate in professional cycling. Dave Shields may not present a likely situation for one particular rider, but he does a good job trying to express the mental and physical stamina required to be competitive at this level. If you even have a remote interest in the world of cycling, I’d recommend this as a nice light read.

End of Year Commuting Stats

Last Friday was my last bike commute for the year, so I thought I’d share some of my stats. I commuted 98 days this year by bicycle, totalling at least 2,940 miles; my actual mileage was higher as I tend to wander around and take longer routes to/from work during the summer. Using the average of Brown’s mileage allowance of $.44/miles, this brings me in at $1,293 it would have cost to commute by car. I spent just shy of $300 in parts, clothing, etc. that were bike related this year, so I figure I’m ahead by about $1,000. Next year, I have to break 100 days!

I got to thinking more about this over dinner and need to update the numbers slightly. My cycling commute is 30 miles round trip, but driving it would actually take me 36 miles. So this really means it would have cost me $1,552 to drive all those miles, bringing my net savings up to $1,252. I’m sure this will more than cover the increased energy costs they are forcasting for next year.

A Cold Morning

The commute this morning was, well, cold. I left the house with the outside temperature a balmy 8 degrees F. It’s one of those days where even an insulated water bottle will freeze by the end of the ride, certainly a character building experience. As I’ve become serious about bike commuting over the past three years, I’m increasingly impressed with the viability of a bicycle as a vechicle. Sure, it takes a little longer to get to and from work, but not longer than commuting by car AND going to the gym. Worst case scenario, it takes me two hours to commute both ways by bike versus one hour it would take by car. Factor in another hour for the gym, if I were to drive, and I’m still ahead with the bike, having achieved two hours of exercise in the same total time. Just something for everyone to ponder…