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Pedago Madrid

After a multi-year hiatus it is past time to start posting fun cycling stories again! Summer is receding fast through the rear view mirror, so a summer story is probably the best way to start.

We had so much fun in Madrid. We got to visit Lia, enjoyed lazy breakfasts, and spent a day at the Thyssen–Bornemisza Museum. Another highlight was the bike tour of Madrid — an all electric bike tour with Javier as our guide.

We’ve never ridden these things but we both know how to bicycle so we figured it would be an easy adjustment. Yes and no, of course.

Javier explains Madrid architecture as we take a break from cycling. We are finally beginning to master our new rides!

The bikes have a traditional commuter bike feel — very stable, very upright. The idea is the motor adds a bit to whatever work you’re doing. You can adjust how much assist you get, from the equivalent of gentle tail wind to a full on partnership with you and the motor kicking the bike up to speed. Our bikes also had throttles, which Javier explained were illegal to use in the city. What he actually said was that we might really want the throttle when we’re in a hill or starting from traffic, but that it was illegal — so we should definitely pretend to be pedaling if we used it And please tell the police that the guide said don’t use it if we get stopped. So Myriam definitely didn’t use the throttle. And I probably used it at least once every 30 seconds or so.

Our sweet rides:

fire engine red, step through frames, front basked and rear rack.

We cycled around the city and then into the park. For hours. Javier was often well ahead, zooming around parked cars and taking shortcuts willy nilly. We all kept up as best we could, getting comfortable with the bikes. We spent the last part of the tour in the Retiro (Pargue del Buen Retiro) where we stopped to admire the birds.

This is also where we learned that there are usually two black swans but that, unfortunately, there is only one now. When one of the other women asked about the missing swan, Javier calmly told us that it was dead. Groans erupted as we suggested that Javier break the news more gently on his next tour.

We are carefully standing in front of the void — you cannot tell that there should be two black swans but that only one remains.

The tour ends with beer and tortilla de patata. We are told that it is the very best tortilla de patata in all of Madrid, but it is suspiciously close to the tour office. Luckily, it is delicious and the beer is a refreshing end to the adventure.

We had a blast and I can’t help but think that the electric bikes were part of the fun. More soon.

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It’s been really, really cold

It’s been really, really cold here.  Single digit temperatures, wind, and snow.  Not bicycling weather, even bundled, because there’s ice everywhere.  It all changed Friday as the polar vortex released its icy grip and the temperature shot up to almost freezing.  By Saturday morning, it was 45 degrees — time to break out the bike!

I went straight out the driveway and down the street.  Everything near me was clear, but fog rolled off the piles of snow and gathered in the dips and valleys.  By the time I reached the bike path, a steady rain was falling.  Between the fog and the rain, high noon felt like dusk.

On a lark, I took a detour through Tibbett’s park in Yonkers, gambling that the weather was keeping everyone home.  I only had to contend with a group of geese reluctant to give up their stroll.  These two pictures give you the sense of what it was like to cycle through — you couldn’t imagine from the photos that you’re in the fourth largest city in New York.

Bike Path in the Fog
Bike Path in the Fog

The View from the Ride
The View from the Ride

 

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Stories for 2014

This is the first lock on the C&O canal (starting from Cumberland, MA).  Well before the rain.

by lock 75On the way back, it looked like this:

C&O canal trailAn inch or so of rain water in a long continuous puddle until the trees closed together in the distance.  I was using my fabulous cycling rain jacket from Myriam, so my middle was dry.  But water was gradually seeping into my boots and it was getting colder.

cumberlandThis is the last bit of trail.  I only include this photo because you can see a mountain on the left, then it’s obscured by low clouds, then you see the houses on the other side of the river.  I used photoshop to darken the colors and up the contrast, but I cycled for a mile staring over at this view and wondering, “is that really a mountain?”  “Maybe it’s just a cloud….”  I was freezing cold and cycling through my own personal puddle of water at about 4 mph wondering if I was seeing things — or only imagining that I was seeing things.

Here’s a self-portrait at the end.

self portrait in glassIn a moment of personal grace, I’d stashed fresh warm comfortable clothes in the car for the drive back.  I didn’t realize that I’d be soaking wet and too stiff to bend when I got back.  I forced myself to break the bike down and put everything in the car before stripping down in the parking lot.  It actually felt warmer than wearing clothes.  I went right to bed after arriving home and couldn’t get the stuff out of the car — everything had frozen in place.  Luckily, I was home and dry!