Sunday, April 19, 2015

First Trip Running Errands by Bicycle

A few weeks ago, the weather in the greater Syracuse area was freezing cold and snowy.  I thought it would never end, however.  The weather has finally broke, and the sun shines.   Bike riding temperatures arrived and it's time to start pedaling and increasing the various ways to ride my Surly LHT.

I checked the ties for proper inflation and hooked up my two Vaude rear panniers and completed three errands in the village.  To make a but of a work out, I deviated my route home to add more miles and completed the ride with just under 15 miles in an hour.

What errands did I complete?

Well, I checked the air in my tires, attached my panniers and off I went to mail a letter.  The drive into the village center was a little tight with cars squeezing me to the right side and the pot holes are awful.  The village must do a better job repairing these wheel breakers sooner rather than later.  I made it safely to the post office and mailed the infamous check.  From the post office I rode over to the dry cleaner and picked up the pants I brought there two weeks earlier.  I rolled them up into the hanger and stuffed them neatly into my right pannier.  I was surprised the hanger actually fit.  My last stop brought me back up the road, closer to home.  The convenience store across from my development.  I purchased a pack of gum and a Monster drink for later.  I opened the gum; and I took a piece.  I placed the Monster zero calorie drink into my handle bar bag.

Three errands completed by bicycle.  That was pretty cool.  I extended my ride another five or six miles to make it more of a comfortable ride/workout to burn a few extra calories to earn my dinner for the evening.

The following day, Friday, I rode my Surly LHT to the Y to lift.  I loaded the panniers onto the bike and placed my work out clothes and sneakers into one rear pannier and in the other I placed my Kryptonite lock set, gym locker lock, glasses, and (if needed) my wind breaker.  The gum and my glasses I placed inside the handlebar bag.  Locking my bike at the Y was the first time I have ever used a U-Lock and cable, and the first time in decades that I locked up a bicycle.  I did look out the window a few times to make sure it was still there and that no one was messing with it. 

A small note on the panniers. I did remove the panniers and took the items out of the handlebar bag and placed them in the panniers to take inside with me.  The panniers fit perfect inside the gym locker.

My total round trip to the Y and back was almost 18 miles.  I followed the rules of the road and traveled along a route that took me through a couple of neighborhoods and low traffic roads for safety.  I stopped once each way to take a sip of water.  All in all, it was a fun and relaxing ride.  I look forward to riding again.

See you on the road.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

We Were Once All Commuters: Chapter Two

Riding a bike on our own opened up the world to all of us kids.  Finally we could explore our neighborhoods and wider communities.  The same went for Laddie and Jake.  They loved riding their bicycles and as they grew older, their parents gave them permission to ride freely throughout their small village.

Summer came and school finally ended.  Although the two pals rode their bikes year round, the coming of summer vacation meant they could go to more wonderful places besides the back and forth to each others homes and to the library to complete school homework.  Now they had a license to travel.

Like all young boys, Laddie and Jake didn't plan where they were going until just before they went to wherever it was they wanted to go.  Today was just such a day...

Jake woke up early Thursday morning after his parents drove off for work, and he washed up, dressed in Mets tee and rode on over to Lad's house.  Lad was still sleeping and was greeted by his mom who invited him in and told him to wake Laddie up  so he could start his day rather than being lazy and bored all day.

"Wake up big guy," cried out Jake.

Laddie groaned and rolled onto his side.  Jake snapped open the shades and let "the sun shine in."  He even chanted in a rhythmic style, "Its time to get up, its time to get up.  The sun is out and shining bright."  He continued with a smile on his face while laughing intermittently, "Its time to get up and ride our bikes."

"Okay, okay," said Laddie.  "I will be up in a minute, let me get dressed. I will meet you in the kitchen."

The two boys ate a few pancakes  which Lad's mom made, but they added a few pats of butter and plenty of Log Cabin. A breakfast of champions for sure.  The two boys were now ready for a day of adventure.

After eating a hearty breakfast, loaded with energy Jake said lets ride down to the stationary store and play a few games.  So, off they went.  It was a short ride, about a mile away from Laddie's street.  Jake loved riding to Leo's Stationary Store.  He would hop curbs and do wheelies on the uneven slaps of concrete of the sidewalk.  Laddie just like pedaling along the even pavement of the road, however.  Riding along the street  meant that Laddie needed to be aware of approaching traffic on his left as he cycled with the traffic on the right side of the road.  He used hand signals to let the drivers know which direction he may be turning.

His left arm straight out, left turn.

His left arm held out and bent upwards at the elbow like a small wave of the hand, right turn.

His left arm extended and bent downwards at the elbow, slow stop.

Obeying the rules of the road was a prerequisite for safety and for being a responsible cyclist, and knowing the rules of the road gave their parents "piece of mind" while the boys rode around town.

Well, 10 or 15 minutes after finishing their breakfast, Laddie and Jake arrived safely at Leo's Stationary Store.  What a cool place.  Leo's was an old fashioned stationary store; it still had a counter with spinning stools and served fountain drinks, coffee, and tea.  As for stationary items, Laddie and Jake rarely took any notice unless they needed school supplies, but the arcade style video games was their want.

Jake stepped up to the soda counter and asked for a few dollars worth of quarters for the boys to play a few games of Asteroids and Frogger.  Once the coins had disappeared into the machine and all their lives had been liquidated, Laddie and Jake hopped onto their bikes and meandered around the village exploring new places.  Today's new place was the big park.

The big park was special.  It was named after the original owner of the land who had founded their community; his name was Argyle, Samuel Argyle.  Argyle Park was across the street from the town marina.  The center of the park was a small lake which emptied into a small pond which received water from the lake via three waterfalls.  It was a beautiful place to visit.  The sound of the boats, the falls, and the ducks relaxed the visitors.  Adjacent to the paring lot was a small sandy area where children could play on swings, monkey bars, and a spinner.  The spinner would sit 10 kids easy.  The older kids would run on the outside to start the spinner rotating, then jump on to enjoy the ride.  All the older kids, like Laddie and Jake, would argue over who sat at the pump seat.  The pump seat had a bar pumped back and forth to keep the spinner rotating.

Laddie saw the spinner. Dropped his bike and shouted to Jake, "C'mon, Jake.  Lets get the spinner going faster than ever before."

Jake loved a challenge.  Being the adventurer he is, Jake jumped off his bike while it was coasting onto the sand, and replied, "You got it.!"

Five or six kids, a few years younger than Lad and Jake, were already seated and ready for an older kid to start them off.  Jake grabbed the bench area next to the pump bar and started running as fast as he could while Lad tried to grab on to the opposite pump seat; he had a little trouble since Jake already had the Spinner moving rapidly.  Lad wildly jumped aboard and began pumping.  The Spinner circled faster and faster. Jake didn't make it to the pump seat.  The Spinner tossed Jake as he attempted to swing his body into the other pump seat.  Instead, Jake was on the round, face first in the sand.  he rolled onto his back and laughed.

Once the Spinner slowed up, Laddie hopped off to the screams of joy from the little boys and girls asking for another fast and dizzying ride.

Sirens blurred from the firehouse signaling to all that it was time for lunch.  The boys picked up their bicycles and rode over to Howie's Pizza.  Howie was a fat Italian guy who made the best pizza around.  Everyone in the village called him "Mr. Pizza."

The boys locked up their bikes and walked inside.  Each boy asked for a slice of cheese pizza, but Laddie grabbed a can of Coke, and Jake reached for a bottle of Yoo-Hoo.  Jake loved the chocolaty goodness of a well shaken bottle of Yoo-Hoo.  If it was good enough for Yogi Berra, it was good enough for him.  It was a stable of his weekend lunches in town.

While Laddie and Jake waited for their slices of pizza, they watched Mr. Pizza toss the dough into the air several times.  Once the pizza reached the correct size and thinness, Mr. Pizza would ad some sauce and cheese and push it into the brick oven.  The aroma satisfied anyone walking by Howie's Pizza.  Mr. Pizza made wonderful calzone and a the best zepplies (fried dough with powdered sugar) this side of the Hudson River.  Jake scarfed down his pizza.  Laddie choked down his slice,too.  Laddie then said to Jake, "Where to next, buddy?"

"I don't know," said Jake.  "Maybe we can ride over to the firehouse and look at the trucks. "

Laddie was excited, "Absolutely.  That sounds pretty cool .  I like the hook and ladder."

The two boys unlocked the bicycles and rode for the firehouse...

Until next week.  Laddie and Jake will see you on the road.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

We Were Once All Bike Commuter: Chapter One

Once upon a time there was a boy.  A boy who was just old enough to ride a bike, albeit with training wheels. He pedaled hard and had fun.  His riding talents improved as he grew.  He rode for many years and this is his story.

At the age of four young Lad stepped up on his new two wheeler while his dad held one hand on the handle bar and the other upon the rear of the saddle.  Lad pedaled.  He was nervous looking to his dad hoping to find security and said, "Don't let go."

His dad reassured him saying confidently, "Just keep pedaling and balance yourself.  You can do it."

Laddie hung on tight.  He smiled as his legs pumped up and down.  The bike picked up speed.  He wobbled a few times as his dad let go of the handle bar, but Lad didn't fall over.  He never hit the pavement because he knew his dad was still running beside him, holding on to the saddle.  Lad was safe.  His confidence grew and his balance stabilized the more he pedaled.

Within an hour, Laddie achieved freedom.  He didn't realize it, but his dad had let him go.  Laddie was riding alone.

His dad cried out, "Keep going, son.  Your doing great.  Its all you."

That's when Laddie discovered he lost his safety net.  He swerved right.  He swerved left.  Panic started to creep into his head, but he remembered to pedal, just as his dad had instructed him.  he pedaled and stayed on two wheels.  He did not fall.  He screamed out with joy, "I'm riding.  I did it."

His dad caught up to him, and breathing heavy, he said, "Push back on the pedals to stop."

It worked. Laddie stopped after pushing on the pedals in reverse and his dad grabbed hold of the saddle and congratulated the youngster.

"You did awesome."

That was how it all started.  It started that way for most of us.  Riding a bicycle was the beginning of our journey toward independence.  We could ride anywhere.  Our first rides were to our friends homes.  Then together, with our best friends, we rode to the five and dime, to the park, or just around the neighborhood.

Laddie had a similar experience, he immediately rode his bike to his buddy's house.  Jake could ride a two wheeler and their journey started riding up and down their block for a few weeks.  They soon desired to ride around the block; a few times they even rode to the community park to play on the monkey bars and the swings.  Riding a bicycle was fun, and it also gave them a way to travel to other places without asking for a ride or depending on their parents, however.  Laddie and Jake did ask for permission to ride throughout the neighborhood; their parents knew where they were going, and Laddie and Jake always wore their helmets.

Oh, the helmet.  These two fellas loved their helmets.  The helmet was for safety, but for these two boys, the helmet was an expression of who they were.  Laddie wore a bright red helmet.  It was a traditional bike helmet with sleek lines and small openings for air to flow through to keep his head cool, but he added a few stickers and a small pin that read "Keep on Pedaling" that remained pinned to his chin strap for several years.

Jake wore a skater helmet that his older brother had worn while skateboarding and it had well placed scratches and small cuts on it from Jake's brothers small falls and spills while doing tricks at the skate park.  Jake thought it was cool.  He painted it electric blue and added a few stickers, too.  Jake had one sticker on the lower portion of the back of the helmet that read, "Just roll'n."

From training wheels, to dad holding on to the back of his saddle, Lad now could ride to see his friends and ride to play at the park.  What adventures could he plan next?  Or would a bike adventure find him?

Til then,  I will see you on the road.