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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Riding on the Cayman Island

  Q and I just returned from 10 days in the Grand Caymans. Lest you think that we were down there for fun and frolic, there was a real reason for going. We were attending a Stretch and Flexibility course by Kit Laughlin, the international leader in stretching (he is from Australia)

I don't go on very many pleasure only trips-in fact the only one I can think of for many years is the San Francisco trip that Q and I took last year. Most of my trips are for training. I am so work-focused that I was annoyed and perplexed when, in signing up for this course, I discovered there was 4 days with nothing planned right in the middle. What were we suppose to do? We are stuck on a Caribbean island, right on the beach, with no place to go, with nothing to do. It slowly sank in that we were stuck on a Caribbean island, right on the beach with no place to go and nothing to do! Has it been so long that I it takes me a while to recongnize what a vacation looks like?

The workshop was great. We are both totally stretched out and is ready to unleash this stretching technique on the Chattanooga world. And we did get some bike riding in.

First a little background into the transportation program of the Cayman island-there is none. We were staying in a resort at the far end of the populated side of the island which was about an hour's drive away. This end is delightfully undeveloped. Everyone had to have arrived by plane and driven out there. What was in place for us to get around?  Basically nothing. We had to pay for our rides to where ever at greatly exorbitant rates. To go to a festival about 3 miles down the road, the hotel was charging $15 a person. Wow!

What about the walking- no, that was not recommended as there were no sidewalks, no shoulders on the side of the roads,and long distances between places to go. What about biking?- the resort had three huffy bikes for loan but no lights or reflectors for night time riding.

While the weather and the flatness of the island made for potential great riding, it doesn't seem to be a favored way of getting around. While we did see some islanders riding their bikes, the locals that attended the course insisted that riding on the island was taking your life in your hands. Seems as though cars are used even for short trips-on this beautiful, flat, nicely breezy perfect to ride on island! How can they not insist on a more bike friendly environment?

Never the less, Q and I took a couple of bike trips. The first trip was to the aforementioned festival. We could not envision ourselves paying $30 to be transported a distance that we would be not just delighted but hungry to bike ourselves. By doing so. we were able to sightsee at different places that the others that were bussed did not get to see.

Here we are mounting on our single speed, coaster brakes Huffies.

Riding on  the left hand side was much easier, I am sure, then driving on the left hand side.

There were helpful road signs

  Justin was the only other of our group that was inspired to ride-good thing because there was only the three bikes.  He didn't quite know what to make of his too small, very pink bike!

  On the way home, we stopped at Vivine's Kitchen for an islander lunch.

Here I am, waiting on our food.  Hammocks-every resteraunt should have them.

My view of swinging in the hammock-

Ahh, our food!

Conch Stew with plantains and some things we couldn't quite identify (cassava?).  Wonderful!

The Beautiful Cayman Island experience!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Urban Riding and Hooch watching

Today was again one of those breath taking beautiful fall days. We, after an extremely wet fall start, are having our days of such autumn magnificent, that there is no choice but to get out in it.
After a typical Saturday morning breakfast at the Blue Grass Grille, Q and I decided to join the bike club ride to Crabtree Farms. Crabtree is an urban farm owned by the city and is runned by a nonprofit to produce and introduce organic vegetables to Chattanoogans. That is just one of the small treasures of our city that I feel makes it unique and special.

The ride was lead by Sydney Roberts who has a CSA membership at the farm. Periodically she uses her weekly pick up as a chance to organize an easy, relaxing ride for all who wants to join in.
The group was split almost evenly between urban riders with our city bikes and regular clothes and road bikers with bike clothes and dropped handle bars.

Every one seemed to enjoy themselves. At one time when all of my biking was the road biking type, I wouldn't have thought the distance and difficulty level was even worth getting my bike out for. But I am over that line of thinking

It was nice to see the farm and ask questions about its production. It is 22 acres with about half of that in production. They support 60 CSA's, sell at the Main Street Market and to Greenlife and have a U-Pick part of the farm. All organically. That is quite a high rate of production.

I was so busy looking around the farm that I forgot to get pictures. Take my word for it, it was beautiful.
After the ride some of the riders went to the newly reopened Stone Cup for lunch. Here we are sitting outside, overlooking Coolidge Park

Then on to shopping and other errands. The wonderful thing about biking it gets you to experiences just by riding by that was not on your list to attend. Car driving isolates you. Really, the only unexpected encounters to be had in a car are traffic jams.

No traffic jams for me! Instead, all the goings back and forth and along the river gave me a chance to experience the Head of the Hooch, one of the country's largest rowing regattas. Beautiful day, beautiful water, beautiful rowing.

I know I am overusing the word beautiful lately, but what else can I say? Even without seeking it, my bike riding gives me the gift of beauty. Can I help it that I find myself taking notice of it, that I feel it soaking into me, enriching me? That my vocabulary seems to be limited? Maybe I should buy a thesauras.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Chattanooga Biking Style

Chattanooga Biking Style

Who says there is no style in riding your bike? These are pictures of this morning's Bike2Work. The cold weather brought out a whole different season of style:

This is Laura Jane who is always cool on the bike. I will one day do a post just dedicated to Laura Jane's riding style.

Cortney, Chattanooga's resident ballerina brings a level of elegance on the bike. Bike riding has never looked as graceful as when Cortney rides in full dress up mode.

Patrick is always classic. Classic look on a classic bike. He never goes out of style.

People ask me about riding gear. Want to know what is the proper riding gear for riding a bike around town? Just look in your own closet! Ride with as much style and individuality as you do the rest of your life.

Would love to see pictures of the riding styles of any readers!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Fortwood Fall

I am loving these fall days. Here is a picture of my going to work route through Fortwood. Riding down tree lined Oak Street on this perfect fall day is rather awe inspiring.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Keeping Tootsies Warm

ugg boots uk  Ok, I am a weather weenie.  Though I put myself out there in all weather, I don't want to be anyways uncomfortable.  I like my clothes to protect me from the elements, be comfortable and easy, and if I am lucky, have a bit a style to them, (though I seem to sacrifice the style for the other features).

   I have written about my zebra rain boots.  That fits all categories and has wonderful style..  And I love them.  I have been wearing them a lot this year because of the rain and that has given me a lot of thought to footwear in other weather.  Cold weather is starting to come up so I have been giving much thought on how to keep my tootsies warm on the bike.  I have been getting into wool this past year-I will have to write a blog just on my ventures into wool wear.  The stuff is amazing.

   So in thinking on how nice it is to wear  boots and how nice wool is led me to thinking about sheepskin boots.  I have by passed the craze for these-not because I could not appreciate the appeal.  But mostly I don't go into fads and I have to personally value the attributes of the item for me to pay the bucks. So it is just now I am considering it.

    In my  search for the boots I came across Whooga Boots from Australia.  They have extra thick and soft sheepskin lining and they look so,so cozy.  My feet are already yearning to slide themselves in.  I have a feeling once I put them on, I won't take them off all winter.  Heck, the whooga website says they are great in the summer time  too.  I might not ever take them off!  I can't wait! 

   I will let you know how they are!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Bus, Baby, and Bike

 I wanted to go visit my new grandbaby today. Since the baby is out in East Brainerd I thought I would take the bus with my bike. I have learned from experience that if I have my panniers weighed down, it is almost impossible to pick the bike up to put on the rack. Since I was taking out frozen food packets for the family, I was pretty heavy. But I keep my  things in a back pack inside my pannier and I then can easily take it out of the pannier to lighten the load. Otherwise,I have been in the situation struggling to lift the bike up on the rack while the bus driver is patiently, then not so patiently gazing down at me. It is an uncomfortable thing at the very least.

   The bus was full and as though a party was gong on.. I don't know if it was the day, the route or just coincidence but it seemed everyone knew one another. As new people boarded on each stop, it it was like old home week. Everyone was talking to one another and soon I was caught up in the friendly banter.

It was a very mixed crowd-old and young, able and disabled, black and white, people who looked like they probably relied on the bus for their sole transportation and those who looked as thought they probably had other choices. I love a group with a large variety of different type folks.

I even had a touch of old home week myself. A young mother and her two little children boarded. When she sat down she looked at me and asked, in that tone that people use when they aren't sure if they are making a fool of themselves "Are you a Carboni?" I affirmed indeed I was and she said she had gone to high school with my niece, Karen. When she said that, I knew exactly what family she was from-she had the distinctive family traits of a very large Irish Catholic family that I grew up with. I established which of the family she was the child of and met her children (am I really old enough to know four generations of one family?) I told her about Matthew coming home from Iraq for the birth of his baby and I was on my way out to visit.

The whole bus was hearing this conversation and several people joined in on congratulations of the birth of my grandbaby. It was a wonderful ride. Bus riding is put down as a form of transportation from hell but do people really know what it is like? Chattanooga had a great bus system in terms of nice clean buses, friendly bus drivers and friendly people riders. If more people rode them and it was subsidized by the government as much as individual car driving is subsidized, more routes and additional bus frequency could turn this into a great AND convenient way of getting around. I am all for it!

It came time for me to get off.  AS another bike rider had put his bike on the rack infront of me, I asked him if he would assist ome in taking off my bike.  He very kindly did so.  I was just expecting him to take off his bike so I could get mine, but he instead just reached back behind and lifted the whole bike off. 

    From the bus stop it was only a seven minute ride to the home of my grandbaby. I had a most wonderful visit. Indulge me as I slip into grandmother mode-Baby Athens is the most beautiful baby EVER! He looks like his most beautiful mother and is everything a baby should be. My own baby were beautiful and wonderful of course, but I think as a new parent fraught with worry and lack of sleep, it is hard to sit back and truly take full notice. A grandparent has the BEST vantage point in seeing how wonderful a baby is. I basked in the view!

When the visit came to a close, I decided to ride my bike home. I didn't go back the way I came-down Lee highway and Brainerd rode Instead I completed the loop around the city and went down Bonnie Oaks so I could connect with the River walk. It was a crisp chilled fall day. One of those rare days that you just have to feel so grateful in being out to enjoy it.

   It took me about an hour and a half of riding to get home. It took exactly 37 minutes to take the bus/bike combination. The car probably would have been about a 20-25 minute drive. But if I had opted to save a little bit of time by driving I would have missed out on a couple of truly exceptional experiences.

Bus, baby, and bike. What a day! Can life get any better?