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December 13, 2017 / bikesbytesbites

High School Mementos

My mother died years ago, in 1991. A few years later my father sold the family home in New Jersey and permanently relocated to Florida. At that time, I inherited a box of stuff that I assumed was my mother’s costume jewelry.  I opened the box long enough to confirm that assumption.  I then closed the box and shoved it onto a shelf in a closet. There it sat…

… until a few months ago, when I decided that it was time to de-acquisition my collection of vintage clothing and accessories. I had acquired most of the collection at thrift stores and vintage stores, but there were also some dresses and accessories that were originally my mother’s.  I sold or donated the clothing first. Eventually, I found a vintage store that was interested in accessories. So, I opened the box. Yes, it was mostly costume jewelry.  But there, at the bottom of the box, in a smaller box, were the trinkets I had earned during high school. Evidently, I had abandoned them when I left home after college, but my mother found them and kept them.

I’m going to get them made into a charm bracelet. Whether I’ll wear that charm bracelet any place besides my upcoming high school reunion is another question.



October 5, 2017 / bikesbytesbites

Bologna – Street Art

Bologna is an ancient walled town. Within the historic town center, the buildings are very close to the street. To protect store fronts (and house fronts), there are metal shutters (rather than, say, grates, as we are used to seeing in the US.)

You don’t notice the shutters if you go by during business hours, because they are fully open (and mostly hidden), exposing the store front and entryway. However, I was supposed to be training for a triathlon, so early every morning, before business hours, I would get up and go for a run. The “run” turned out to be a alternating pattern of run for a short while; stop and take a photograph; try to do some more running; and so on. Many of the photographs turned out to be the Wall/Shutter Art included in this photo album. Commercial establishments would have the shutters painted to reflect the company name and business; or just for fun. This was some of the best street art I’ve seen. It was disappointing to walk down the same streets during business hours and just see store fronts.


I’d like to be able to add captions (to translate the Italian), but most of the meanings are pretty obvious. Ask if you have any questions.




July 28, 2017 / bikesbytesbites

Latest Project – New Bicycle

I wasn’t in the market for a new bicycle. However, I did want to attend the Tour de France Viewing Party sponsored by Team Sticky Fingers as “A FUNdraiser for Phoenix Bikes“. So,  in addition to my ticket to the event, I also bought a bunch of raffle tickets.  I was thinking that, maybe if I got lucky, I would win a month’s worth of  yoga sessions or some bicycle accessories.  Instead, I won a bicycle!

The bicycle I won was a fixed gear. And the fixie on the stage at the Arlington Cinema and Draft House was too big for me.  Nikkie from City Bikes (the donator) called the shop, and they didn’t have any smaller sizes of the same model. Whew! I didn’t want a fixie anyhow.  I asked if I could swap the bike for a hybrid.  Nikkie said yes, there were some small hybrids in stock, and I should call the next day to arrange to get my bike.

Voila! Not only did City Bikes graciously arrange the swap, Nickie also graciously delivered a Jamis Coda Sport Femme the next afternoon.   Of course,  then I had to start customizing my  bike. As of now, it looks like this:


In addition to the “free” bike, the picture also includes stuff that, at some point, I paid for:

  • Side-entry water bottle cage. Bought for a mountain bike donated to Phoenix Bikes a while back.
  • Polar medium-size water bottle (that fits on a small frame). From stash.
  • Incredibell. Bought yesterday for this bike. The only bells I had in stash were Adjustibells, which were overkill.
  • Bike Citizens phone holder. Bought for another bike, but easily switchable between bikes.
  • Mini-morph pump. I had a Road Morph pump in stash, but it was too long for this frame.
  • Top tube protector. Bought at the Philly Bike Expo a few years ago, but too small for the target bicycle.
  • Upstand kick stand. Bought at the same Philly Bike expo, but wouldn’t hold up a loaded bike. Works fine on this one.
  • Serfas rear light. From stash. My favorite. I even had one in red, to match the bike.
  • Sunlite front light. Borrowed from another bike.
  • Front rack. Removed from my original touring bike (a 1980’s Miyata) when it was demoted from touring to commuting. Retrieved from stash.
  • Kirtland Panniers. Bought on eBay way back when. My smallest panniers. Used on a front rack for camping/self-contained tours.
July 3, 2017 / bikesbytesbites

Cinema Ritrovato (Rediscovered Cinema)

For the past 31 years, Bologna has held the Cinema Ritrovato film festival.  The festival is dedicated to showing lost films and/or those that have recently been restored. It’s sponsored by the Cineteca di Bologna.


For most of the people I spoke with, it’s a technical conference, and they were attending sessions related to the technologies and methodologies of film restoration, or case studies of a restoration, or meeting colleagues from other countries.  For me, it was a vacation.  As I said to someone I was standing on line with, it’s truly ironic that I had to come to Italy to see a bunch of American movies. But there I was. And it was worth the trip.

Ok, I saw a few films that weren’t American. But the programs that interested me most were presentations of American movies, including some of my favorites, some I hadn’t seen before, and some I had only seen on late night TV. Of course, I didn’t get to practice my Italian by seeing American movies, except by reading the Italian sub-titles (and noticing how most of the nuances of slang were lost in the translation.) The major attractions:

  • Technicolor. Wow! Even one from 1939! And Rancho Notorious!
  • Douglas Sirk. Yes, I’ve seen them. Yes, I would see them again.
  • Robert Mitchum. Extraordinary. Unfortunately, they couldn’t get a print of Thunder Road, but River of No Return did just fine.
  • Rediscovered and Restored.  Pre-code US talkies from the early 30’s.

Anyhow, in 8 days, I saw more movies than I had in the preceding 6 months of 2017.  Here’s the complete list (in the order in which I saw them):

Film Year Review/Comments
The Graduate 1967 Still a great film. Worth re-seeing
The Story of GI Joe 1946 Ok for what it is – Robert Mitchum
Collette – shorts 1910 Historical interest only
Divine 1935 Written by Colette; historical interest mostly
Fish is Fish (cartoon) 1917 Katzenhammer Kids; still works
Le Mogli e le Arrance 1917 Italian; fascinating
Out of the Past 1947 Worth seeing again
Trouble in Paradise 1932 Pre-code Lubitsch; wonderful
River of no Return 1954 Mitchum and Monroe; worth seeing
The Trial of Vivienne Ware 1932 Excellent; similar source material to Chicago
Outside the Law 1930 Worth seeing
Transatlantic 1932 Good caper and human interest
La Fete à Henriette 1952 Horrible; walked out; way too meta
The Road Back 1937 Director James Whale; great cast and story/Germany post WW I
Bandido! 1956 Good Mitchum; Gilbert Roland
Madchen in Uniform 1931 Fascinating
A Wonderful Country 1959 Gets better as it goes along; buffalo soldiers
Written on the Wind 1956 Sirk; absolutely
Wise Blood 1979 Huston; no; too strange
The Asphalt Jungle 1950 Good to re-see in a theatre
The Patsy 1928 Marion Davies; bleh
Zéro de Conduite 1933 Vigo; contrast with Madchen in Uniform
Sensation Seekers 1927 Directed and written by Lois Weber; ok
All that Heaven Allows 1955 Sirk! Technicolor
Becoming Cary Grant 2017 Excellent documentary
Destination Unknown 1933 Spoiler – Not too subtle Christ analogy; great cast
By Candlelight 1933 Cute
Rancho Notorious 1952 Excellent Dietrich and Arthur Kennedy
Nice Girls don’t stay for Breakfast 2017 Bruce Weber; unfinished? So-so
Drums along the Mohawk 1939 John Ford, Henry Fonda, Edna May Oliver; technicolor
Le Crime de Monsieur Lange 1936 Grows on you; great last shot
Neighbors; The Goat 1920 Buster Keaton; amazing stunts
Lumière brothers shorts 1897 Cinema Anno 2 (!!)
La Roue – Prologue 1923 Abel Gance; train wreck! color!
Let’s Get Lost 1988 Documentary on Chet Baker; not a fan of Bruce Weber
July 1, 2017 / bikesbytesbites

The more things are different …

…the more they are the same.

You think you’re in a foreign country, on a different continent.  But you’re in the same world, with the same socio-economic problems, both macro and micro.  So, I’d be walking (or riding my bike) around the streets of Bologna and see something that was distinctly European/Italian/Bolognese, but which reminded me of something from back in the US/Virginia-DC. To wit:

The immigration problem/refugees

The US has the impending wall along the Texas-US border. Italy has the impending closure of ports to refugee boats. And the problem of saving people off rubber dinghies that go down somewhere in the Mediterranean and Adriatic.

Public vs Private Entertainment (very close to home)

Arlington’s Cinema & Drafthouse has been having problems booking live acts, because of competition/pressure from the publicly financed Kennedy Center.  The multiplex movie theatre near the train station has just closed, because (so says the poster on their building) the commune di Bologna gives unfair advantage to the Cineteca — the HUGE undertaking that’s sponsoring the movie festival that got me to Bologna in the first place. The headline: “The same old story…”


Bicycle Parking

The DC and Virginia governments are trying to encourage bicycling. But they seem to have forgotten that if you bicycle some place for an errand, you need a secure place to park your bicycle while you run that errand. The result: A shortage of bicycle parking/racks, especially in some neighborhoods.  At first glance, it looks like Bologna should have sufficient bicycle parking — there are racks all over the place.


However, some of these are used for overnight/semi-permanent parking, and given the amount of bike traffic,  bike parking is very scarce in some places.  I feel like I’m parking a car:

  • I have to look around for a parking spot, hopefully near where I’m going.
  • I have to make sure I can lock up the bike securely and not have it impede the flow of foot, automobile, or bike traffic.
  • Worst: I have to remember where I parked it.  At least twice I spent about 5 minutes thinking I had had a bike stolen, because I started looking in the place I first thought I would be parking the bike, only to end up a few buildings/bike racks/no parking signs away.

Bathrooms in Movie Theatres

This must be a universal absolute: There are never enough.

June 18, 2017 / bikesbytesbites

Long Weekend Tour – Exton to Easton to Stockton

I did this tour on the touring weekend sponsored by Adventure Cycling  (June 10-11) . It was an individualized, shortened version of a week-long tour that a friend (Wally H) was organizing — from Exton PA, north through the Delaware Valley, east to Hyde Park NY (on the Hudson), then back to the start.  I didn’t have a week, just 3 days, but I wanted to do the ride, because:

  • I hadn’t seen Wally in a while — since his bike crash and my bike crashes (sigh)
  • I love riding around Philadelphia and this part of PA and NJ
  • It would give me the opportunity to visit two friends who kind-of live on the route, and my cousin who lives on a planned diversion/return route
  • It would give me another chance to try Amtrak’s roll-aboard bicycle access policy

Train Trip There

The train ride from DC was not bad: 2 hours from Union Station to Philadelphia, with the bike in its storage area. The bicycle storage is not ideal.  (Sigh. Forgot to take a picture.) You’re supposed to take the front wheel off the bike, then hang the bike off its other wheel.  Amtrak just took the shelves out of some luggage storage areas and added hooks for the bikes.  I got away without removing the front wheel, since I had my small-wheeled Bike Friday with me. But I couldn’t lift the bike myself, even after removing the panniers — a fellow passenger had to help.

I had enough time in Philadelphia Union Station to buy a coffee and a SEPTA ticket ($1!) from Phila to Exton. A 2-mile ride from the train station to the group’s meeting place, off the Chester Valley Trail, went passed a Bike Line bike store, recently acquired by Trek, where I acquired a new pair of gloves and a spare tube for the Bike Friday. (Hadn’t seen any 20 x 1-1/8 tubes with Presta valves with long stems in a bike store in forever.)

Day 1: Exton PA to Oaks PA

I’m not usually a big fan of trails, but the Chester Valley Trail rail-to-trail conversion was great — well designed and very little traffic.

Wally’s route the first day — Ride with GPS – Exton to Oaks — was also well designed — from the Chester Valley Trail through neighborhood streets to Valley Forge Park. Through the park to the Scuylkill River crossing (on a newish (!!) bike-ped bridge), to more bike trails, to a few miles on roads to the hotel.

Day 2: Oaks PA to Easton PA

I diverged from the group’s route today. They were headed north-east, to hit the Delaware River between Frenchtown and Milford.  I wanted to visit some friends in Doylestown, which is south of their route. So I improvised.  Since my plans for the day included spending some time with my friends as well a longer route, the improvisation also involved putting myself and my bike on a SEPTA train to get between North Whales and Doylestown. Another $1 train fare, and a chance to start to read the Sunday NY Times (and maybe not to have the schlep the whole paper with me for the next two days) — couldn’t pass it up.  This route also allowed me to go through downtown Doylestown, which is a lovely and historic town.

Spent a few hours with my friends — catching up, seeing improvements they’ve made to their house and gardens, lying around the pool, having lunch — then hit the road again.  Crossed the Delaware at the Bulls Island Bridge (recently rebuilt — but walk your bikes), then headed north, keeping as close to the river on the New Jersey side as possible, without riding on the Delaware & Raritan Canal path.  It’s pretty flat when the road hugs the river, but more rolling when it ventures inland.  But no traffic and gorgeous views. Only beware of the many, many railroad crossings.

It was getting late (3:30-ish), and I was getting hungry.  Just when I was wondering whether I would have to eat some emergency food, a sign appeared:  The ice cream with local strawberries was not bad. And neither was the band.


I and one other rider got to the hotel just as the group was getting ready to go to dinner. So we arranged to meet them about half-an-hour later, following a short walk through town to Two Rivers Brew Pub:  great food (and selection of beers), nice atmosphere, good prices, excellent service!  With dessert at the Bank Street Creamery.  (I refrained because I thought, even though I’m on a bike tour, two ice creams a day is a bit excessive.)

Day 3: Easton PA to Stockton NJ

I had breakfast with the group today, then waved goodbye as they headed to Bushkill. I walked to a coffee place we’d passed on the way to dinner last night — an americano, better than the hotel’s coffee.  And enjoyed a walk on the path along the Delaware and through downtown. Lafayette College is slightly north of where we were. That may be way the downtown is so lively and it has no many imaginative bicycle racks.


Got ready to leave around 10 AM.  This time, I would travel down the Pennsylvania (west) side of the Delaware.  I had two options: Off-road, on the Delaware & Lehigh Canal Path, or on the roads (PA 611 and PA 32).  I chose the path (mostly), which had pluses and minuses:

Plus: The Delaware & Lehigh Canal Path runs for  several almost uninterrupted miles, with no traffic and very few people. The locks and bridges are fascinating.

Minuses:   The roads are too windy and busy for pleasant bicycling. The path is not paved, and is virtually a single track in places. And I got hissed at at least 10 times, by geese protected their goslings.

I left the canal path a few times, popping out onto the road to explore the towns that were along the river, and to ride on pavement when there were additional roads.  One of those detours was prompted by seeing Mueller’s in Riegelsville, where I had a delicious lunch. Got back on the canal path and crossed the Delaware at Upper Black Eddy.   On the return trip, I had time to look around Milford and stop for an ice cream in Frenchtown. Then back on more familiar roads (Rt 29  has a wide shoulder, so I didn’t ride the Delaware & Raritan Canal Path, although it’s more rideable than the D&L) to my destination in Stockton.

Train Trip Home

O, Amtrak, what art thou thinking? The Carolinian takes roll-aboard bicycles; it leaves NYC at 7:25, with stops in Trenton, Philadelphia, and the usual stations, before getting to DC at 10:45. HOWEVER: the web site says there’s no bike access in Trenton, where I wanted to get on. So,  I folded up the stealth bike (AKA Bike Friday), carried it on, and stored it as baggage.  What differentiates Trenton station from Philadelphia? Got me.

Learning Experiences

This was my first trip using Ride with GPS for navigation (rather than just for route planning and then printing a cue sheet). The turn-by-turn prompts were great! As with everything in life, there seemed to be minuses:

  • It chews up the battery. I tried low-power mode, but you miss the turn-by-turn narration. Maybe airplane mode?
  • It was hard to get my iPhone out of its handlebar holder, therefore discouraging to taking pictures.  A better mounting system is required. Or maybe a bike-specific GPS unit, like a Wahoo.

Wally had prepared the routes using BaseCamp.  The GPS tracks were just fine, and I could load them into Ride with GPS.  However, it was just one huge track, which I didn’t succeed into dividing into days (with separate mileage).  I would have investigated further, but I ran out of time.  And this is too much like work.

Best learning experience (or actually reinforcement of previous experiences): Riding in/near the Delaware Valley and in  SE Pennsylvania can be wonderful! Not exotic, but wonderful. I wish I had had more time.

March 28, 2017 / bikesbytesbites

Life’s Little Coincidences – latest edition

Incident #1 (bites):

At a talk by the authors at the Shamrock Marathon , I found out about a wonderful cookbook that’s been out for a year: Run Fast, Eat Slow. The cookbook features recipes that are not only healthy and seem easy to make, but sound delicious.  I was especially intrigued by some of the breakfast recipes, in particular, the teff pancakes. I’ve eaten teff, in the form of injera, but teff flour was definitely not in my pantry.

Incident #2 (bytes):

The New Yorker’s online journal just published a wonderful article about the integration of foreign foodstuffs into our everyday eating habits: The Sriracha Argument for Immigration. The writer’s examples of the good influence of “foreign” foods, introduced by immigrants, on both Canadian and American cuisine and restaurants are fairly convincing.  The article refers to current events, leading with a new Syrian bakery in Toronto. But it also brings up the waves of immigration that introduced us to those great “American” foods — pastrami sandwiches and  hamburgers.

Incident #3 (bikes):

Today I had to bring my bike into the local bike shop for a minor repair that I was too lazy to do myself.  During the 30 minutes it would take, I decided to take a walk around the neighborhood, rather than just heading for the Starbucks one block away.


During my 30-minute bike repair, I wandered into a small grocery I’d never been in before. There was some foreign script I didn’t recognize on a sign in the window. Lo and behold, it was an Ethiopian grocery that had small packets of teff flour for sale. I bought some. Now I have to check the recipe book and see if I have the other ingredients. Teff pancakes are on the menu!