On December 18th I rode from my house in Winooski to Scout coffee shop in the center of Winooski. I met five guys who I know from the Winooski Bike Gang which meets every Wednesday during the warmer months of the year. We hung out for a while drinking coffee and I told the story behind some of the clothing I was wearing, including my Donegal salt and pepper tweed vest. It is called salt and pepper because of the black and white specks scattered against a tan background. Originally the vest was a jacket but I had someone remove the sleeves. That provides more freedom of movement for my shoulders. Other people told stories about something they were wearing. It had snowed a few days ago, so I was riding my fat bike. As we set off I felt a burst of gratitude to be riding with this group. Every once in a while I experience feeling of great warmth and pleasure when I do a group ride. For someone who often felt like a misfit, finding a community is especially important. After the warm weather ends I am usually riding on my own. I thanked everyone for coming. We went up Riverside Avenue and took a meandering route to Battery Park where we took a group photo. We ended up at Reuban James where we watched the World Cup finals. I don’t spend much time in bars, and I don’t usually hang out with guys so it was an unusual Sunday Morning. I had to go to work later in the day so I drank orange juice instead of beer.
Safe Streets Movie
On December 8th I went to Old Spokes Home for a screening of ‘The Street Project’ a movie about making streets safe for pedestrians and bike riders. I knew most of the information the movie provided but it is always inspiring to see people working on bike infrastructure. The big news was the number of people who attended. There were 50 or 60 people there! I have been to similar events when only a handful showed up. I am not sure if that event’s attendance numbers was a fluke or if there is really a groundswell of interest in bike riding. I hope it is the latter. I saw a few people I know in the bike community but I didn’t know most of the audience. At the end of the evening Jonathan from Local Motion invited people to get involved and join him in attending long boring infrastructure meetings. I can attest that these meetings are long and boring but they are also necessary if we want to make changes. I don’t usually attend those meetings but I try to do my part to promote bicycle riding.
I wear a brimmed yellow hat all year round. In the warmer months it serves to shade my eyes. In colder weather it shades my eyes but also serves to protect my eyes when it is snowing. In cold weather I put on a balaclava, then the yellow hat and then a warm hat that covers my ears. In December I was at the YMCA when someone came up to me and said, “Did you drop this yellow hat.” It was my hat and I said “Thanks!” to the person who picked it up. It made me think of ‘Curious George’ and the Man with the Yellow Hat who captures George and brings him to the United States. My hat and the man’s hat are very differently shaped, but they are the same color. In ‘Curious George Rides a Bike’ George gets a job delivering newspapers by bicycle. Instead of making the deliveries he turns the newspapers into paper boats and floats them in a stream. He also gets a flat front tire and rides back home doing a wheelie. At the Family Room, where I lead a story hour on Thursday I have introduced a new song about a hat. It goes like this:
My hat it has three corners,
Three corners has my hat,
If it didn’t have three corners,
It wouldn’t be my hat.
I also taught participants how to make a three pointed hat out a piece of paper. With a few more folds you can turn the hat into the boat that Curious George made.
A couple of days ago I left the YMCA and headed for my bike, which was locked up outside. It is a Surly Pugsley which I have named Big Orange. When I first glanced at the bike closest to me I assumed it was my bike, but something looked wrong with the wheel. I have studded tires and the other Pugsley does not. It took me a few seconds to realize that the one I first looked at was not mine. The Pugsley I mistook for mine is actually very different - I have panniers not a milk crate, I don’t have plastic on my seat and I have a bike light under my seat. I know the man who rides this bike by sight but the one time I talked to him he was not very friendly. Just a remainder that because someone rides a bike it does not make them a nice person, although by riding a bike they are doing something good. When my daughter Alice was a child she had a tabby cat named Ashley. In our neighborhood she would see cats that looked like hers but were not her cat. She would say, “That’s Ashely not Ashley.” After I realized my mistake I said to myself, “That’s Big Orange, not Big Orange.”
Winter riding secondary gains
In the field of social work ‘Secondary Gains’ are good things that happen as a side effect of difficult or bad things. These effects can also be referred to as silver linings. Riding in the winter is hard. Cold weather means I have to wear heavier clothing and keeping my hands and feet warm is a challenge. The days are shorter and snow and ice makes riding difficult.
Some things get better in the winter. There are fewer people riding and walking on bike paths, and that makes it easier for me. People admire my toughness for riding through the winter, although this winter has not been as cold or snowy as winters in the past. Winter riding keeps me in shape for riding in the spring and when warm weather returns I am very grateful. I appreciate warmer weather after a hard winter. I also get more things done in the winter because in warmer weather I want to take off for long bike rides that eat up a lot of time. There is a wonderful kind of cozy feeling that only happens when you come in after riding outside in the cold.