Tag Archives: Commuting

A Man Named George

Sometimes it is well worth the time to slow down on the bike.

As I left my office by bike today I noticed a cyclist in the distance with panniers. This is not uncommon around my office – I often see groups of people riding through (always south) loaded down with gear.

I knew I would catch up to him/her and figured I’d slow down, say hi, and chat for a bit.

After saying hello, it was the usual questions. I asked him where he was heading. He replied in an accent, “Oh, Portland, then Portsmouth, and finally New York.”

So I asked him where he was from, expecting to hear Canada. I was wrong. He was from the Netherlands. Okay, now I needed  to know more!

Where was he coming from? Again, assuming Canada was the correct answer, which it was, but there was more. Turns out he had flown to England on June 21st to bike up to Scotland before flying to Iceland and biking around that country then finally flying into Hallifax, Nova Scotia. He explained he was biking to New York and need to be there by September 1st, which was when his wife was flying there to meet him. He was also making this trip solo.

We hit a hill and he said, “Okay, bye-bye.” He was much slower than me on the little hill, and with 50 kilos of gear and on a mountain bike,  you would be, too! I slowed and he caught up to me at the top. I told him that I wasn’t leaving him because I was enjoying chatting with him and if he didn’t mind, I’d like to ride with him for a while. He was agreeable to the idea so we rode and chatted more.

I asked him what the best part of the trip had been. He told me it was Prince Edward Island. I have heard it’s beautiful there and told him that. Then it occurred to me that he didn’t just land in Hallifax and head south. The guy headed north and rode around Nova Scotia before turning towards New York.

His average day is between 100 – 120 kilometers (60-75 miles) a day. Every day. He typically stays at a campground and sleeps in a tent but a few days ago, when I rained a lot, he told me with a sly grin that he stayed in a motel instead.

Soon I got to the intersection where I would normally turn right. Knowing George was going straight, I decided to go straight and continue to ride with him.

We talked about what we did for a living, how many kids we each had (and how many grandchildren he had), etc.  I’m not sure what it is about being on a bike but I can talk to anyone when I’m out biking. Put me in a room of strangers and expect me to mingle and I struggle. When I’m on the bike I can roll up to anyone and strike up a conversation.

He had ridden all over France and Switzerland in his life. I joked that this route must have seemed pretty flat to him after biking in Europe.This trip had been a dream of his for 10 years and here he was making it happen.

As we neared Portland I was already late getting home but decided a detour was in order to show him an efficient way to get him through the city and towards his destination a bit quicker.

We got to a point where I was going to leave him and wanted to get his picture. He was happy to accommodate my request.

My commuting companion, George from The Netherlands

I called my husband to report that I was late, had a good reason for it, and would explain when I arrived home soon. He informed me that he still wasn’t home and would be in about 30 minutes. I made the decision to ride a little further with George to make sure he made his way okay.

Then I realized it would be really nice to take a photo of him in Portland and email it to his family. He also thought this would be a great idea. So we did!

"Greetings from George in Portland, Maine"

It was finally time to say goodbye to George. I wished him well and told him it was a pleasure to join him on part of his journey. I will be thinking of him often over the next few weeks as he continues on his trip and especially on September 1st when his wife arrives to meet him.

Tonight I got home an hour later than normal, took a route I wouldn’t normally take, all because of a man named George. And I was happier for it.

First Bike Commute of 2011

Today was my first velo commute of the year. It was 27 degrees with clear skies and happy, singing birds. I was surprised it didn’t feel very cold.

I love the early morning commute. There is very little traffic so I can enjoy the ride and the beauty of the morning. The ride home will be a bit more hectic but manageable.

It’s amazing how great I feel when I bike to work. I arrive awake and very upbeat.

With gas prices creeping higher and higher, my goal is to commute more by bike this year. Planning it out and setting specific days to commute might help me achieve this goal. It’s too easy to be lazy and drive to work so I need to make an effort to make bike commuting part of my routine.

Today’s Commute

This was how I got to work today. It’s really the first time I’ve been on a MTB. I usually ride my road bike and use a messenger bag for all my “stuff”.

Using a MTB might be easier for a commute because it’s a little more solid especially when using panniers. (It also might give me a way out, into the shoulder, if I’m run off the road by a motorist.)

Last night I decided to take some time to put on the Quattro pedals we bought for it a while back, put the cleats on a spare set of shoes, and also put on the quick release rack. I pumped up the tires so it would be ready to roll.

I think I was a little excited about riding a different bike for my commute because I was up before my alarm. Instead of dawdling, I got up and ready to leave a little earlier, knowing the bike would probably be a bit slower. Also I wanted to stop off at the store on my way to pick up some fruit for snacks. I knew I would be able to manage it easily with the panniers on the bike.

Today was really a test for me in that I want to commute more by bike. Sometimes an errand or the amount of things I need to transport is a limiting factor. If I can manage ways around that with a different bike then there are fewer excuses not to velo-commute.

Velo Commute, Finally

I just haven’t gotten around to commuting much by bike this year. I did it once for Green Streets day on June 26th.

Today was supposed to be a nice day and with no errands to run or a group/training ride tonight, it was a good opportunity to bike to work. The plan was to ride easy both to and from work as a recovery ride.

It was an uneventful ride with the exception of another commuter pulling up next to me. We started chatting and I realized it was a guy that I rode with along the same route early in the season two years ago. Even though we ride the route often, his commute is longer so he had to leave earlier, thus we don’t see each other along the way.

You just never know who, or what, you are going to see or meet along a ride.

Crazy Bike Things

You see some crazy things on bikes from time to time. Especially on the Trek.

But I saw, or heard, something today on my commute that made me laugh.

I always wave to other cyclists. As I approached the final stretch home and came around Baxter Boulevard, I saw a guy on a time trial bike. I waved as usual. And the darn guy rang his bell at me. You know, one of those funny little compas bells that go bring bring that you normally hear on hybrids or tandems. It was comical and gave me a bit of a chuckle.

As my husband said, the guy must have a good sense of humor.

And no, that still won’t make me put one on my bike.

The Bike Rack is Filling Up

When I first started working at my office I told them I would be commuting by bike. They decided to buy a bike rack for me to secure my bike. (Yes, I know, Bike Snob would not approve of my bike locking skills but it’s enough to deter any punks walking through the woods near my office from walking off with it. I work in a pretty rural, or very suburban area.)

For the first season I was the only one to use it. But now it’s getting much more use.

Two guys I work with occasionally bring in their bikes to leave them so they can ride them during their lunch hours. (Not shown above because they took them home but their locks are there.)

Now we have a new employee that also rides a road bike. She lives close to where I live and is planning on commuting by bike a fair bit.

This bike rack that was initially bought for me and my bike is now getting a lot of use. That makes me very happy.

I’m reminded of the line, “Build it and they will come.” Perhaps that rings a little true in this scenario.

Bicycling as a Result of High Gas Prices

It’s not a new topic. We all hear stories of people choosing to commute more by bike these days because of high gas prices. So here are a few links on the subject:

An article on CNN

Gas prices causing bike shortages in New York

A cartoon on the high prices of gas

I wonder how many of the bikes purchased in the NY area have come from the economic stimulus package rebates. Is this what the President had in mind? Probably not but I’m sure that anyone who has purchased a bike with it is happier for it, with more money in their pocket because of it.

My husband said that more and more of his coworkers are turning to bike commuting, even just a couple days a week. Many of them live within a short distance from his office so it certainly makes sense.

Personally, I’m glad to see so many people turning to cycling. The more people riding on bikes the better, in my humble opinion. The only ones that would be annoyed with it are drivers who perceive cyclists as just people who get in their way. Still, it gives me great satisfaction when I’m flying by on my bike in the bike lane next to a lot of traffic that has piled up waiting for lights to turn so they can move again, which only adds to the poor gas mileage. That’s really a great feeling.

I hope you consider commuting by bike one day, even if it’s just for one day. You might find how truly easy it is!

The Habit of Commuting by Bike

Now that I’m commuting more by bike, it’s becoming second nature to do so.

Prior to Commute Another Way Week (May 12-16), I was commuting 2-3 days to work via bike, taking the car because it was easier, but not necessarily more enjoyable. During CAWW I did it every day. So this week, it was really second nature to get up a bit early and ride to work. It’s almost become a habit or routine. It’s also been nice weather so commuting is appealing. Even with temps just below 50 it’s quite comfortable in the morning to wear just enough to have you covered to be warm. Even at 7am that sun is working well to warm the air, and me.

Today I had to bring some items into work other than just clothes. So I brought the Scattantee with the panniers. I had more weight in the panniers than I normally have and surprisingly it didn’t feel any worse than other days. I also bought a handlebar bag to carry a few items, in addition to my seat bag from the other bike, which contains my spare tube, tire irons, and a couple allen wrenches.

Knowing I can commute to work with a little more weight in tow is comforting for the time when we start running errands by bike. (It’s coming!)

However, the commute home was a different story. It was extremely windy. So much so that all my friends were emailing and calling to see if anyone was really going to ride in the wind. So we all came to the same conclusion: bow out of the group ride tonight. On the commute home I managed a whopping 13mph average. Well off my 14.5 -16 mph average I normally have.

It’s supposed to be another windy day tomorrow so I’m not sure if anyone will show for the women’s ride. But I’ll still commute by bike. There are showers predicted for later in the week that might prevent me from riding to work so I’m going to take advantage of every good day that’s given to me, windy or not.

Bicycle Musings

A Picture in My Head

Last night was a perfect day for the women’s ride. The temperature was around 70 degrees and the sun felt wonderful. On the way home, as we rode across the Falmouth Bridge, me in the back, the sun low in the sky, it’s reflection on the water and illuminating the brightly colored jerseys in front of me was a sight to behold. I wish I had taken a picture. It was the way a ride should end, on a very serene note.


I have noticed that I don’t see many women commuting by bike on my travels to/from work. However, today I did see one. Though I can’t be sure she was commuting – she had a small back pack on but the might have just been out on a ride.

When you take the same route everyday, at approximately the same time, you tend to see the same people. There is one guy that I’ve seen a couple times this week. He doesn’t look to be commuting and my guess is that he’s just out riding early in the morning. There are other guys I see but this particular guy I recognize daily, he’s older and has gray facial hair.

There is also a guy that I see walking in the morning too. This morning his wife was out walking with him. To everyone I see, I always wave, say good morning, or both.

I also see the owner of European Bakery. I know it’s him/her by the license plate E Bakery, which I’ve recognized from the parking lot of European Bakery. (On a side note, European Bakery makes the best cakes in the Greater Portland area. They are outstanding! We are ordering one for our daughter’s graduation and that’s where our wedding cakes came from.)

I’ve shaved a bit of time off my morning commute these past couple days. Taking the Ibex helped, though I should be riding a bit more easy on my way in and home to avoid that Zone 3 Syndrome. Sometimes it just feels good to go harder. I also don’t use the panniers on the Ibex – I use a messenger bag. Tomorrow I’ll take the Scattantee and ride go easier.