Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Lance Armstrong rides in Phoenix Park today

Forget the pubs, the place to be seen in Dublin this summer is on a bike in Phoenix Park. Earlier this summer, singer Beyonce rented a bike to see the sights in the park, and today Lance Armstrong invited the public to join him for a ride there. He even recommended Phoenix Park Bike Hire, the very same one chosen by Beyonce and my husband and me. Read all about it in The Herald. Please give us a report if you were lucky enough to join the ride today, or if you've spotted any other celebrities riding in Phoenix Park!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Let the good times roll

While most of our time in Ireland last month was spent with my husband's family, we did manage to reserve a few hours of one day to rent bikes in Dublin's enormous patch of open space, Phoenix Park. Our daughter chose to join her cousins on an open-top bus tour of Dublin instead, as she didn't feel her left foot was ready for cycling just yet.

Phoenix Park Bike Hire had a steady stream of customers that Monday afternoon, with a group ahead of us leaving on bikes and two more groups waiting behind us. I was happy to be handed a ladylike step-through framed Giant Expression (possibly the one ridden by Beyonce - see the photo on their website) with a bag on the rack to hold our belongings.
My husband was given an "ugly mountain bike" with a laugh from the friendly bike man.
Eager to be on our way and away from the crowd, we rode up the street into the park and hoped the darkening clouds would hold their rain for just a little while longer. They obliged, and I was grateful for their presence by the end, as it was warm enough without the sun beating down on us. The constant presence of the dramatic clouds above the smooth green fields made for a beautiful landscape throughout our ride.

As my husband is accustomed to riding alone at a moderately high speed for exercise purposes, our ride together didn't turn out to be the relaxed, romantic pedal through the park that I had envisioned. Instead, I struggled to stay close behind him and gave up on the idea of conversation until we stopped for a brief rest. Perhaps the presence of my camera on video mode kept him on the run. I recorded about 35 minutes of our 90 minute ride and chopped it up into this 3 minute video.

The Green Fields of Dublin from BIKE Lite on Vimeo.

I have no idea how much of the park we actually covered, but it seemed like we saw most of it. The majority of the park has a separated bike path, and the on-street bike lanes we encountered were comfortably wide with light traffic, although we did see three cars parked in the bike lane (try to spot them in the video).

Our bike ride through Phoenix Park was one of the highlights for me, and I'm sure we will make it a regular feature of our future visits. Hopefully next time our daughter will accompany us and keep the pace at a more comfortable level for conversation. She might even smile for the camera.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Bikes are back in Dublin

There has certainly been a bike boom in Dublin since my last visit in July 2006. Bikes are piled into racks and locked to street signs and railings everywhere. Brave cyclists claim their space among taxis and double-decker buses on the busiest streets in the downtown tourist areas. Bike lanes have been signposted throughout the city, usually within the bus lanes. Many of the bike lanes are reserved only during the morning and evening rush hours, and some bike lanes appear to be no more than 2 feet wide, but they are being used despite their shortcomings. Whether it's the higher cost of gas, the drop in the economy, or a growing environmental awareness, Dublin residents of all ages seem to be bringing out their bikes, and the city seems to be scrambling to meet their needs.

Catching a photo of any of these cyclists from the crowded sidewalks or our moving rental car sure kept me scrambling, but I eventually caught a few live ones. Click here or on the photo below to see my small set of photos from Dublin.

(For an insider's view of cycling in and around Dublin, check out Jack's blog, Le Vie en Velo.)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Bike photos from County Kerry, Ireland

I seem to have taken more bike-related photos in Ireland than I realized, so I will be posting them in small batches. This is the first set from our week in County Kerry in the southwest of Ireland. Click here or on the image below to see all 15 photos in a slideshow on Flickr.

More photos from Ireland coming soon!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Many Happy Returns

All good things must come to an end sometime, and so we have returned home from our visit with my husband's family in Ireland. I have quite a few bike-related photos to share from the trip, but first I want to report the news from today: My bike buddy is back! Daughter rode her bike today for the first time since her foot injury on May 1! After two and a half months of Sever's disease, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, bruised toes, crutches, a walking boot and physical therapy, she finally felt confident enough to ride her bike to the library this morning. We discovered her bike needed a little physical therapy, too:
Flabby tires need to get pumped!

As we pulled up to the bike rack outside the library, another mother and her two young sons arrived on bikes. I was happy to see that someone else had discovered the bicycle solution to our library's notorious parking space shortage (about 10).

Later in the day, Daughter requested another bike ride to the farmer's market to buy her favorite cinnamon scones from the bread stand. How could I say no? After dinner, she suggested riding our bikes to the convenience store for milk. No problem! Looks like someone has rediscovered her bike love.

It's good to be back.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Bicycle parking at the mall

Modern bike racks at The Pavillions in Swords, County Dublin

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Cyclists at the Conor Pass

Cyclist enjoying the view from the top of the Conor Pass on the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry, Ireland.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Greetings from Ireland

Visiting my in-laws in Ireland for two weeks. Bike spotting already! More mobile blogging to come.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Who ya gonna call?

This is probably the most intelligent ad I've seen so far on the Craigslist Bicycles page:

please look for my dog while riding your bike (n/ne philly)

Reply to: xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Date: 2009-06-06, 7:26PM EDT

please keep an eye out for my dog his name is old bill (answers to bill) he is probably scared, and very sweet my wife and i are extremely worried if you see him please call xxx-xxx-xxxx thanks

Who better to ask for help in finding a lost dog than people who ride bikes in the area? This owner obviously realizes that cyclists are better able to see, hear and stop to investigate just about anything during their travels through the neighborhood.

The ad was deleted by its author the next day, so I'm hoping there was a happy reunion at the end of this story. And naturally, I'm also hoping there was a bike involved.

Monday, June 8, 2009

What's for dinner?

"Bicycle Pasta, pasta with personality!"
Package includes both upright and racing style bikes; sorry, not available in recumbent style.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

This ad makes me wonder

Although I'm not in the market for another bike, I still enjoy looking through the listings on the Philadelphia craigslist. A few days ago I came across this one:

20" Girls' Greenline Beach Cruiser - Baby Blue - $180 (West Chester, PA)

Reply to:xxxxxxxxxx
Date: 2009-05-26, 9:57AM EDT

Beautiful bike. Bought in March 2008. Used twice. Being sold because local traffic makes bike riding too dangerous.

• Location: West Chester, PA
• it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests

I wonder what traffic conditions make the owner's neighborhood too unsafe for their child to ride a bike? Most towns allow children under the age of 12 to ride on the sidewalk to keep them out of traffic. However, many of the housing developments built in this area over the past 25 years have no sidewalks, only curbs. People moved further away from the city to have more land, more distance from the neighbors, more privacy. Sidewalks weren't wanted or needed, since no one really walks anywhere, and the properties look larger without them. But where is a young child supposed to ride their bike? I wonder how many children growing up in developments like these will never really learn to ride a bike? More space does not always bring more freedom.

Friday, May 29, 2009

This ad brings tears to my eyes

It must be my allergies.

(Can anyone identify the bike?)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Crossing the Delaware

The Delaware River forms the entire border between Pennsylvania and New Jersey. George Washington made his famous crossing of the Delaware River on Christmas Day in 1776. This Memorial Day weekend, we crossed it six times:

Saturday – We drove from our home in the suburbs of Philadelphia to Ocean City, New Jersey, in the morning (1st crossing), then back to Philadelphia in the afternoon (2nd crossing) for a wedding at Citizens Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies.
I spotted some bike racks as we left the stadium to return to Ocean City (3rd crossing).

Sunday – Husband and I tiptoed out for an early morning bike ride.
We treated ourselves to breakfast after riding into the wind for 3 miles.
Afterward, a few more bikes (and dogs) began to appear.
This street mural is a traffic calming device on the bike route. (See its story on YouTube here.)
We headed home to Pennsylvania later in the day (4th crossing).

Monday (Memorial Day) – Daughter convinced us it was the perfect day to visit the Adventure Aquarium in Camden, New Jersey.
We decided to take the River Link ferry across the Delaware River (5th crossing) instead of getting stuck in the holiday traffic on the bridges.
I was happy to see two passengers bring their bikes aboard, and surprised when a crew member told me there is no extra charge to do so! (Adult fare is $6 roundtrip.)
Of course, you can always cross the Delaware for free by riding your bike across the walkway above the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. No thank you!
Inside the Adventure Aquarium:
This very large green sea turtle was Daughter’s favorite.
Piranhas! (Obviously not Daughter’s favorite.)
The Battleship New Jersey is docked next to the aquarium and would have been a fitting destination for Memorial Day, but Daughter ran out of energy due to the crutches, so we’ll have to return another day for a tour.
A father and child on bike watched our ferry return to Philadelphia (6th crossing). The warship Olympia from the Spanish-American War is behind them.
As we drove through downtown Philadelphia on our way home, we saw bikes in use and parked everywhere. Even as a passenger, it’s difficult to take photos from a moving car, but I managed to get this bit of a corner café scene:
And here’s a wonderful example of Philadelphia Cycle Chic – - that I just missed!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Growing Pains

It’s hard to take part in Bike to Work Week/Month when you’re a suburban stay-at-home-mom. (Yeah, I know, get a job!) Last year my daughter and I took part by riding our bikes to school, as we did most weeks. This year, however, we actually drove to and from school on each day of Bike to Work Week. How could I be so wasteful? Well, my daughter has been on crutches for the past three weeks. A heel injury caused by a growth spurt and running during track practice has put a stick in her spokes for an indefinite amount of time. She seems to be enjoying the crutches as her new mode of transport; meanwhile, I’ve transformed from Happy Bike Mom to Grumpy Car Mom. On these beautiful spring mornings and afternoons, it is torture for me to drive less than a mile to school, crossing the bike route twice each way. Of course, I am still able to ride my bike wherever I please while my daughter is in school all day, but it’s always more enjoyable to ride with a companion. Our rides to and from school each day gave me my bike fix even if I didn’t leave the house for the rest of the day.

Losing my bike buddy has made me quite jealous of my husband, who has been hitting the trails each weekend with two friends as they prepare for a 75-mile charity ride in October. One friend, B, is an experienced cyclist who is starting again after taking a few years off. The other friend, J, hadn’t ridden since his teenage years, but was inspired to join in after seeing my husband complete a 100-mile ride last spring with the same amount of experience and only three months of training. Despite the differences in their cycling abilities, the three men were enjoying their early morning rides together. This past weekend, however, their ride came to an abrupt halt when J’s pedal clipped a gatepost in passing, leaving him face down on the path with a broken nose and ribs. (Yes, he was wearing a helmet. Didn’t help much.) Doctor’s orders are no cycling for the next six weeks, but I hear J still plans to participate in the charity ride in October. Our friend J has always been a “Can Do” kinda guy. I’m not so sure I could be that brave after such a fall, and I’m hoping I never have to find out.

This weekend we will be making a quick trip to Ocean City, New Jersey, for the official opening (cleaning) of our family’s summer house. My husband and I will bring our bikes along to try to squeeze in a long overdue ride together to blow the dust out of our hair. Hopefully, I will be able to get a few photos of other people enjoying a leisurely bike ride, something that is nearly impossible here. Our daughter will be quite content watching everyone clean and giving her cousins lessons on the proper use of crutches.

Enjoy the weekend, and be sure to stop and smell the roses!

My fragrant trellis roses - no thorns, no pain!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Riding With Mom

One of my earliest memories is riding in the folding child seat on the back of my mother's bicycle, alongside my older sister on the back of my father's bicycle. My heart leapt when I saw this post by Henry of Bakfiets en Meer a few months ago. It seems we were born in the same year and share the same back-of-bike memory. Unfortunately, I didn't even own a bike at the time my daughter was small enough to ride on back, so my daughter missed out on that wonderful experience. Hopefully, she will have enough happy memories of riding next to her mother to make up for it.

Recently I discovered this nostalgic "home movie" on Vimeo, which looks to be about 10 years after my back seat days had ended (at that time I would have been riding my red-white-and-blue banana seat bike). I only wish they could have handed the movie camera to the child so I could really relive that unique feeling of motion from the back of the bike.

Bike Ride from Gobias Media on Vimeo.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom, and thanks for the memories!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Freecycle Bicycle

Introducing my latest folly (number 3, if you’re keeping count). This one was the cheapest yet – totally free – but has the potential to end up costing more than the other two, which would qualify it as a true folly. I have no intention of letting that happen, however (fear not, dear husband).

I've been looking for an inexpensive secondhand bike for my daughter to keep at the summer house we share with my family, and I finally found something suitable. The bike is a kid’s (24-inch wheels) Diamondback Recoil DS of unknown age. It was acquired from a member of my local Freecycle group a few weeks ago. (Freecycle is a network of people whose common goal is to keep usable items out of landfills by offering them free of charge to others in their local area. Find a group near you on the Freecycle website.) I had replied to an offer of a “Girls 24-inch Mountain Bike”, and when I arrived to pick it up, I had no idea what to expect, as I hadn’t asked any questions about it. I was pleased to see the Diamondback brand and the simple style of the bike, but not so thrilled to see some rust and mud. Still, it was free, and I could always Freecycle it again if it needed more work than I could handle.

My daughter had a lukewarm reaction to the bike’s appearance, but was still excited that she had just received a “new” bike. When we took the bike out to start cleaning it last weekend, she had already devised a plan of action to improve its appearance. The faded neon pink decals just had to go, she said, so she plans to peel them off and replace them with white tropical flower decals from the automotive aisle in Target. However, we both agreed that this guy should stay:

Before we put any time or money into the bike, I tried to do a quick assessment of what needed to be done and whether it was worth keeping. Two things were obviously needed – new grips on the handlebars (the current ones are worn through the ends) and at least one new tube (the back tire is about halfway deflated, but we were unable to get any air into it because the valve is damaged). Although my daughter would prefer to get rid of the knobby tires, they seem to be in good condition and will stay for now. The frame is steel and quite heavy, but I saw no signs of rust there (only on the wheel rims and hardware such as screws and bolts). The saddle is faded and has a small tear, but is still in good shape. I was relieved to find that the seatpost was not stuck in its current position. I adjusted the saddle height and then asked my daughter to take a very slow ride around our house on the grass to test the gears and brakes. She reported that the gears worked fine, but the brakes were “grabby”. I’ll have to consult my Big Blue Book of Bicycle Repair to learn how to adjust the cantilever brakes, but at least we know the rear derailleur is working (we’ll test the front one after we replace the tube). I’m hoping the cables will just need lubrication, but I might attempt to replace them myself with more help from the book. I will also have to do some research on the suspension fork, since I know nothing about them. Hopefully, it won’t be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. So far, the bike seems worth keeping. At the very least, it will give me a lesson in evaluating used bikes. At the very most, it will become a safe, comfortable bike for my daughter at very little expense. Like any fixer-upper, though, it may have a few surprises in store for us.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Mother knows best about spring cleaning

Mother Nature has been graciously lending me a hand with my spring cleaning lately. Last week was cold and rainy, leaving me quite content to stay home and catch up on our post-vacation laundry and housework. Beautiful spring weather arrived just in time for a Friday night Phillies game with family and friends. Saturday was warm enough to put on our flip-flops and shorts and spend the afternoon in the driveway cleaning our new old bikes. I have been waiting for the chance to start working on my Raleigh, and my daughter was eager to join me. She parked her new old bike (which will be introduced in a separate post) next to mine, and we spent all day scrubbing and chatting. She enjoyed my lesson in finding the right cleaning tool for different parts of the bike. Her favorite tool became the baby bottle brush with sponge tip, while I stuck with the old standby my mother had introduced to me, the toothbrush. Poor Daddy doesn't have (or want) a new old bike to clean, so he took off for a ride on his favorite trail. Sunday was slightly cooler and cloudier, but Daughter was anxious to make more progress on our bikes, so another afternoon in the driveway followed. Once again we worked until dinner time, just as a chill came into the air to signal that the weekend was ending. This week's forecast is almost a carbon copy of last week's - cold and rainy during the week, with a beautiful weekend to follow. I'm looking forward to getting more greasy bike grime under my fingernails, although I'm still trying to clean out this weekend's accumulation. An old toothbrush should do the trick.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bike spotting in Disney World

First, a brief explanation of my last few posts. Before we left for Disney World, I noticed a link on the Blogger dashboard inviting users to try mobile blogging from their cell phone or mobile device. Thinking it may be useful since I don’t own a laptop, I decided to give it a try, and followed the steps to coordinate my cell phone with my Blogger account (basically sending a text message and confirming an email). After arriving in Florida, my first attempt to send a photo to my blog failed for reasons unknown, but my husband confirmed that the next photo sent a few days later had appeared within minutes. Boy, did I feel like Techno-Mama then! Mobile blogging from Disney World, what could be easier?

Dealing with the massive crowds at Disney World, however, was not something that could be made easier with modern technology or gadgets. Only stamina, patience and comfortable footwear would get you through that endurance test. We expected heavy crowds during the week before Easter, since most schools are on vacation then, but no one was expecting record-breaking numbers this year. On Tuesday, the Magic Kingdom theme park reached its capacity at one point, and the gates had to be closed for a short time until enough visitors left. It is not easy to navigate through such crowds with a group of 7 people ranging in age from 9 to 76. But with a few early morning and late evening visits, we managed to get the kids on nearly all of their most-wanted rides.

Enough about the crowds, on to the bikes! The Disney decorators seem to have a fondness for bicycles in their still life arrangements. This scene greeted us on our first day as we walked to check-in at the reception:

We spent our second day enjoying the pool and water slide in the heat of 86F. I checked out the bike rental area and decided to wait until later in the week when I knew the layout of the resort better and temperatures would be cooler. Unfortunately, I never had time again. I only saw two people on rented bikes during our stay.

Animal Kingdom was my favorite park, and I must admit the bikes had something to do with it. I didn’t see any bikes in the African area of the park, although we didn’t get to see everything there, but the Asian area had plenty:

Taking these photos amidst the sea of people was not easy, and I was grateful to have my daughter’s assistance. Somewhere ahead of me, I heard her calling out, “Mommy, come here, it’s a Raleigh!” and she had the shot before I even caught up with her. Here's her photo:

And here's mine:

In Magic Kingdom, I could find only this sign near Main Street:

I saw no evidence of bikes anywhere in the countries represented in EPCOT, not even in China, although I admit the crowds prevented us from exploring every nook and cranny.
As the week was ending, we decided to skip the Hollywood Studios theme park completely, since none of the kids' top-listed rides were there. Anyone know if we missed any bikes there? Or anywhere else?
Back to life, back to reality.