Elements of Bike Riding #63

About the Author: Peter Burns is a long-time bike enthusiast, and one of the original year-round bike riders in the greater Burlington area. In addition to writing about walking and biking, Peter teaches a variety of bike workshops. He also works at a group home for people with psychiatric disabilities, teaches classes for the Vermont Humanities Council, teaches swimming at the Burlington YMCA, and is a regular host of Storytelling VT.  

10-6-23 Ride

On Friday October 6th I started getting ready to ride at 1:30 PM.  I was going to Shelburne Farms and calculated that it would take me half an hour to get ready and an hour for the ride.  I was meeting someone for a walk at 3 PM.  Within a ten mile radius of Winooski I have a pretty good sense of how long it will take me to get to any destination.   I try to be on time. 

I am lucky that traffic conditions don’t really make a difference in how long it takes me to get somewhere so I can’t use traffic as an excuse for being late!  Weather, road conditions and what kind of bike I am riding affect my arrival time.  When I am at home, and getting ready to go to work or to the YMCA in Burlington, I calculate that I should start getting ready  an hour before I want to arrive.  In the winter I start an hour and five minutes before I want to arrive because I am wearing more layers and it takes me longer to get ready.  If I have gotten all my stuff ready to go the night before, I don’t need so much time to get ready the next morning.  Traffic was moderate as I set out.  I had to hustle because the wind was against me and there was construction on Pine Street.  I made it to Shelburne Farms at 3:01.  Just one minute late!   poor bike rack

The woman who greeted visitors asked me if she could help me.  At first I said no but after locking up my bike to a signpost I told her that she could help  by letting someone know that their bike parking was inadequate.  The rack is low hoops set in the ground which make it impossible to lock up your bike with a U-Lock unless you just lock the front tire.  She was very receptive and asked me to tell her why the rack needed to be replaced. Next time I ride out there I will see if they replaced the racks or added new ones.  I am not overly optimistic!

My friend was late so I went into the Shelburne Farms Store and used the bathroom.  I noticed a cartoon above the sink with instructions for hand washing.  The cartoon character, shaped like a hand, was named Henry the Hand.  That is not a nickname that I would like to have!

I wandered around the store for a while and got some cheese samples. I sat outside and read an article about three novels featuring Mary Shelly as a character. I ate the cheese and some figs.  Mary Shelly wrote Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus.  I read Frankenstein many years ago. In February of 2024 I finished read Dracula.  Both of these myths are very powerful, but I think that Frankenstein has a bit more cultural resonance.  I have slowly been working my way though the six volumes of the Norton Anthology of English Literature.  I finished the third volume and the next one covers the Romantic Period.  Mary Shelly was an important writer from that period.

I sat for about a half an hour and then texted my friend.  I followed up with a phone call and discovered that she had not put our walk in her calendar. She was very apologetic but I was not bothered.  I had gotten a good ride and read a good article.  It was too late for a walk so I headed back into town.  

As I rode I felt very grateful even though it had started to rain.  My right knee had been bothering me for a week or so and it felt much better.  When I got back into town I parked my bike at City Market and then walked over to Common Deer.  I had bought a phone earlier that day.  The case for my old phone included a wallet but the new phone case did not.  At Common Deer I bought a wallet made of recycled sail material.  

I did some shopping at City Market. It was 5:30 when I left.  The parking  lot was very busy. A friend once told me that parking lots are dangerous because nobody really knows the rules.  Chaos can ensue.  The parking lot felt chaotic.  On my way home someone was parked in the bike lane on North Winooski Avenue.  This is always frustrating.  Then a woman crossed the street unexpectedly and said, “I thought you were going to run me over”.  I almost said, “It was tempting” but I held my tongue.  By this time I realized I was hangry so I took a couple of deep breaths and calmed down.  I am lucky to be a bike rider even when it is rush hour and raining.  I arrived home in a more relaxed mood and made my dinner.


Late October Walk

I have two main walks in Winooski.  During the day I usually walk to Gilbrook Pond and then through the woods.  The walk takes  forty-forty minutes to an hour.  At night I walk around the neighborhood near my house.  The night  walk is  a little shorter.  

In Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust the narrator describes the two walks his family takes after church.  One walk is called Swann’s  Way the other is called the Guermantes Way.  Swann’s Way goes by the house of Charles Swann and The  Guermantes Way goes by the ancestral home of the aristocratic Guermantes family.  Although they take the Guermantes walk many times, the narrator’s mother always gets lost and thinks her husband is  wonderful when he guides them back home.  The family spend the winter in Paris so the walks usually take place in the spring and summer.  Proust’s descriptions of the walks are some of my favorite parts of the book.  Just as my walks repeat themselves  so do the walks taken by the narrator.  I have  read Swann’s Way many times both in English and in French.  Like a good walk it is always worth repeating.  Swann’s Way is the first of seven volumes of In Search of Lost Time.  I have read all seven volumes three times and I will probably read them again.

pond with trees surrounding itOn Friday October 27th I took the pond walk.  When I was under the Route 89 bridge I saw yellow stripes on the grass.  They  were markings for Vermont Gas.  In the photo I took you can see a leaf that has turned yellow because of the seasonal change and one that was painted yellow. As I walked I worked on memorizing a line from ‘Thomas the Rhymer.’  “Abide and rest a little space, and I will show you ferlies three”. This is what the Queen of the Fairies says to Thomas the Rhymer, the eponymous hero of the ballad. Ferlie is a Scottish word meaning something strange or wonderful.  She shows him three life roads.  The road to righteousness, the road to evil and the road to fairyland.  I repeated the line over and over again while I walked, but I could think about other things at the same time.  I was thinking about the booster shot I was going to get after my walk. When I finally memorize ‘Thomas the Rhymer’ I will add it to the cycle of poems that I recite when I walk.  The cycle is about an hour long. I recite the poems  in a specific order.  First there are six poems I wrote myself.  Three of them  are about King Arthur.  Then there is one about the Billy Goats Gruff, one about the Three Little Pigs and finally a poem about Goldilocks.    Then three ballads: Tam Lin, Sir Patrick Spens, and one about Robin Hood and a Peddler.  I will add Thomas the Rhymer to this section of poems. The final poems are by William Blake, Lewis Carroll, Robert Frost, Edward Lear and William Butler Yeats.  I was explaining the cycle to my daughter recently and she said I needed some women poets. I agree.  The next poem I memorize will be by a woman.  I took a photo of the Gilbrook Pond before plunging into the woods.  After the walk through the woods I headed to Walgreen’s for the booster shot. I was scheduled for 10 and I got there at 10:02.  

You can contact Peter at heatofhistory @ gmail.com. Peter Burns