Category Archives: RVA

Adventures in Urban Bicycling – Adjusting Equipment

till learning all the ins and outs of riding the city vs. the country.  There is one piece of equipment on my bike that I have to remind myself to use.

My mirror.

Riding in the country, traffic overtaking you is relatively infrequent.  Plus, the overall noise level there is lower.  I usually heard the cars/trucks coming.  None of which is true in the city.  Someone is constantly overtaking you.  There are more things that require your attention and the noise level is both higher and nearly constant.

Don’t even get me started on hybrid/electric vehicles.  Damn sneaky, they are.

With all of that, my mirror is a highly important part of my defensive riding.  Or it would be if I remembered to look at it.  It’s just not a habit right now.  Consequently, I spend way too much time repeating some variant of “Crap!  Where did you come from?”

I’m also fascinated by the folks who don’t believe bicycles have to obey traffic laws.  Particularly lights at intersections.  Now I will admit that I do not routinely come to a full and complete stop at stop signs.  I slow way down, and carefully check in all relevant directions.  It’s a hassle to stop, disengage my foot from the pedal, and teeter virtually en pointe.  If there is traffic, I always give them the right of way.  I understood that much of my physics courses.

But I come to a complete stop at a red light, and I wait till it turns green.  Turns out I’m one of the minority of riders who do so.  Every time I ride in the city, I see some take a quick glance and then sail through on the red.  They act as if that light doesn’t concern them at all.  I will note that a very high percentage of them are riding without a helmet too, which another form of stupidity IMHO.  I can only assume that their own safety is not concern #1.  Last week I came to a relatively busy intersection near the VCU campus and caught the red light.  I stopped and waited, as did the pickup truck going the opposite direction.  Suddenly, a rider appeared and sailed blithely through.  The light went green as I was still shaking my head in disgust.  As I and the truck passed each other, the driver leaned out the window and commented that rolling through lights like that struck him as a pretty good way to get killed.  I couldn’t agree more.

Experience tells me that there are plenty of folks out there who do not like sharing the road with bicycles.  One of the reasons is that riders don’t always behave in predictable ways.  Following traffic regulations may or may not be the law here in Virginia (but I’m betting it is).  It strikes me that it should be simple, common sense.  Behave consistently with the rest of traffic.  Live to ride another day.

Oh, and remember to check your mirror.

May was a very good riding month with 7 rides, including several stretch rides on the Cap2Cap.  My butt is getting used to the saddle and I hope to do my first RVA to Williamsburg ride in the next couple weeks.  Right now, I’m sidelined!  The straps on my bike carrier for the car have rotted and are getting replaced.

I track my riding using MapMyRide.

Ride Total – 11

Mileage Total – 134.56

Let’s roll.

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Filed under Bicycle, Diabetes, personal, RVA, Weight Loss

At the encouragement of my parish priest, I started cycling about fifteen years ago.  It wasn’t a brand new activity. I had biked in college.  Two of my friends were serious cyclists and I tagged along with them.  These two chapters of my biking life have two things in common.  Then and now, I was always among the slowest riders in the group, and both groups rode mostly in rural settings.  Wide, quiet, tree lined roads are still my favorite place to ride.  On those rides, my primary concern was keeping the faster riders in sight.  Far too often that sight was my friends stopped at the top of a hill waiting for me to struggle to the join them.  As both my experience and strength improved their waits were shorter.

Living in mostly rural Chautauqua County gave me lots of rural roads to ride.  Because it’s snow country there is a berm along all but the most back country roads.  While they are not always smooth and clear of obstacles, they always gave me room in case traffic showed up.  Long, uninterrupted rides are a great time for fellowship with friends, or for cleansing the brain when riding alone.  The greatest danger is topping a rise or rounding a corner to discover a surprise.  Like the day I crested a hill and saw a lump of something in the middle of my lane twenty feet or so ahead.  There was enough time to slow down and identify the surprise as a snapping turtle making its way from one side of the road to the other.   That kind of room for error and surprise was a great gift.

Riding in Virginia has presented new challenges.  Country roads here don’t come with berms.  Which means there is no room for error by rider or driver.  Either of us can come around a corner and discover a very serious issue and no margin for a mistake.  The upside is that there are a lot of cyclists here, so drivers are accustomed to us.  That doesn’t seem to slow them down or make many adjustments on those roads, however.  Plus, there are just a few too many roadside memorials to fatal bike accidents for my taste.

Maybe I’m just getting old and less brave, but I don’t feel comfortable riding the way I have in the past.  That has meant very little time in the saddle over the last three years.  This year I made a pact with a friend (that same priest!) to shoot for a thousand miles in 2017.  That’s a big ask, about twice my best year ever.  The difference is that the riding “season” in Richmond is a lot longer than it is in western New York.  The goal is challenging (because all goals should challenge you), but it ought to be doable.

So the first challenge has been finding a place to ride.  The obvious choice was to become an urban rider.

Riding in an urban environment presents a different set of variables to consider.  More traffic, coming from more directions.  Pedestrians, speed bumps, stop signs/lights (obeyed to varying degrees) and the general impatience among city drivers.  Left-hand turns that require the rider to cross traffic to get into the correct lane position to make the turn.

And then there is the issue of car doors.  My encounter with the snapping turtle gave me time to figure out what was happening, and then sweep around the obstacle.  This past week while riding in the city, I had just enough time to swerve violently into a blessedly empty lane to avoid a door flung open into my path.  The driver was on her phone and pushed the door open with her foot.  The image of the door and her foot is burned into my memory.  This possibility had occurred to me from the start of my transformation into an urban cyclist.  When I ride along the rows of parked cars I try to keep an eye into the passenger compartments, looking for heads.  So I either missed her, or she was using her foot because her free hand was reaching for something in the passenger seat.  That would have put her head in a position not to be seen.  I have no idea what happens to either bike or rider when they slam into a car door at ten miles per hour or more.  My bet is that it’s painful.  I’m just as happy to avoid it.  The only other adventure so far was making a bad turn onto a major thoroughfare and realizing that I needed to cross two lanes of traffic to get where I wanted to go.  Lots of cars moving faster than my poor legs were really able to propel me.  I survived.  That mistake will not be made again.

Once a get a little more saddle time, (it’s less a matter of getting my legs ready than it is getting my butt used to the saddle) I’m planning on riding the Cap2Cap trail.  Fifty-two miles between the two historic capitals of Virginia.  The goal is to ride it several times this year.  I’m still on the hunt for other, longer interesting rides to help me make the goal.

I track my riding using MapMyRide.

Ride Total – 4

Mileage Total – 37.44

Let’s roll.

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May 23, 2017 · 9:59 AM

2017 Goals

No resolutions this year, just simple definable goals.

2017goalsHealth Goals:

  • Lose the last 20 pounds (be The Guy)
  • Keep my blood glucose within ADA ranges and work toward the lower ranges
  • Maintain a minimum of 150 active minutes a week

Creativity Goals:

  • Add six more songs to my guitar competence list
  • Finish a writing project
  • Create a minimum of one good photo a month

Activity Goals:

  • Bike the Cap2Cap from Richmond to Williamsburg
  • Explore the parks nearby
  • Log a minimum of 1000 miles on the bike

Fun Goals

  • Visit five more historical sites
  • Go to the beach at least twice
  • Visit 20 wineries

Real Life Goals:

  • Find a new job
  • Find a new church home
  • Get involved with community group(s)

All of these are doable, one (the 1,000 miles) is a real challenge.  But it will be a very good year if I can hit all of them.  Let’s see how we do.

Hoping that the new year is what each of us desire.

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Filed under Creativity, Diabetes, Faith, Family, New Beginning, personal, Photo, RVA, Travel, Weight Loss, Wine, Writing

Exploring Richmond – One Meal At A Time

One of the things we discovered very quickly when we arrived in RVA is that the list of places to eat appears to be infinite.  This has caused a certain distress to our waistlines (an ongoing struggle described in these posts).  With our second anniversary here approaching, I thought I could share some of our favorite places.

So by category:

Barbecue

I start right off with a three way tie.  Each one is different from the others, but each does a great job with a slightly different approach.  It’s a coin toss between:

  • Alamo BBQ in Church Hill – If you need a cozy restaurant setting for your barbecue this isn’t your place.  If you like some zing in your barbecue, you’re going to love Alamo.  Texas style so that means brisket plus chicken, pork, sausage, even portobello mushrooms and tilapia.  Everything I have ever had here has a spicy bite to it from the cowboy beans and mac and cheese to the brisket and ribs.  Seating is entirely outdoors mostly under a canopy.  The choices are many, so make sure you know what you want when you get to the window.  Sandwiches, platters, tacos, burritos, quesadillas, lots of sides and meat by the pound.
  • Buz and Ned’s Real Barbecue – two locations, on Boulevard and on Broad.  This strikes me as more old school barbecue.  They are firmly based in the pitmaster traditions of barbecuing.  You’ll find brisket, chicken, pork, ribs, catfish and shrimp.  In season there’s Brunswich stew or chili.  The sides have all the usual suspects plus okra and hushpuppies.  Not fancy but solid, comfortable seating inside and patio outside when the weather permits.  They’ve been consistently at the top of the “Best BBQ in Richmond” list for years.
  • Q Barbecue – four locations around the area.  This is a regional chain that does a very good job of putting some quality food in front of you.  Comfortable traditional restaurant setup with some pretty good items on the menu. Founded by barbecue competition champion Tuffy Stone you’ll find the usual suspects plus wings, fried chicken, even burgers and hot dogs!  But the barbecue is good enough to ignore the rest.  Our very first meal here was from Q and we’ve been fans ever since.

Honestly, could not put one over the other.  Each has their attraction and we’ve gone to each multiple times.  And will again.  We’ve had some pretty good barbecue other places but these three stand apart from the rest.

Mexican

I don’t know what it is about the Richmond area but the mexican restaurant per square mile has got to be very high around here.  Given that Mexican is one of our favorites that’s not a bad thing at all.  There’s a clear favorite here:

dinner-plate-with-spoon-and-forkCasa Grande – Midlothian Turnpike – One of my first checks on the quality of the food at a Mexican restaurant is the number of customers speaking Spanish.  The more spanish speakers the better the food.  Plus they make your guacamole fresh at the table!  Food is great, the atmosphere is relaxed, the service has always been great.  When we want to go out but don’t know where we want to go, we usually end up here.

Mi Hacienda – Midlothian Turnpike –  Solid food but it’s atmosphere that really puts this place over the top.  It’s spacious and airy inside.  You get the feeling it would be a great place for a reception or big party.  In the past they’ve done live music and other events but we’ve never been there for any of them (yet!).

Isidro’s Tex-Mex Grill – Midlothian Turnpike – This place is relatively new (and virtually next door to Casa Grande).  There’s not always a lot of difference between restaurants in the food, so Isidro’s stands out.  Different flavors, especially smoky, spicy flavors.  Very quiet the night we were there but the food was excellent.

Lots of other places as I said.  Plaza Azteca in Westchester Commons also very good.

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Filed under Food, personal, RVA

The Creativity Project – Head Shot

In my ongoing attempt to keep the creative side of me flowing (which was the original purpose of this blog), I’ve decided to take on a weekly photo challenge.  It sounded like fun, so I’m giving it a try.  Photos on the blog are reduced to insure faster loading.  So they actually look BETTER than they do here!

Week four’s assignment was “Head Shot”.  Unlike previous portrait assignment, this one was to take a picture of someone else.  An interesting challenge as always.  So I started by thinking a little farther afield.  One of the many things I love about living in Richmond is the many wonderful places there are to go.  The Virginia Museum of Fine Art (VMFA) is a fabulous place to just wander around (the permanent collections are open with no admission).  Having a weekend day to ourselves my wife and I took the opportunity to do some exploring.  In the amazing French art collection I found this lovely young lady.  This is a Degas bronze sculpture if memory serves.  I was working with just my Moto G phone camera once again.  I had to angle myself to eliminate as many distractions in the background.

 

Degas Dancer

 

Not a lot to mess with here.  The camera phone actually pretty well for this kind of thing.

I still felt like I wanted to work a little harder than that though.  Crazy, I know.

So I found this lovely lady at home and she was, mostly, willing to sit still for the head shot session.  Natural light, this time with the Fujifilm camera.  The biggest problem was getting her to keep her eyes open!  Miss Jenny is a lovely cat who is extremely wary of me.  So I had to be very careful to get the image I wanted.

Miss Jenny

The challenge here has been that there are some things that I would love to correct in post production but I don’t have th chops yet with my editing software.  Would love to throw the background out of focus more, would love to lighten her left eye and reduce the blowout below her right eye and on her chest.  Guess I know what I need to be doing moving forward.

 

Next week’s challenge is a Landscape: Black and White.  Need to look for some high contrast image opportunities.

This is part of a year long photographic challenge.  Dogwood Photography came up with this interesting challenge (HERE) where you have to come up with a photo a week in one of three categories – Portrait, Landscape or Artistic Impression.  Each week has one with a slightly different challenge.

For the folks who are interested in technical type things:

Primary camera is a Fujifilm Finepix S1000fd.  It is a 10.0 Megapixel CCD, sensor size is 1/2.3″.  I shoot in the Fine JPEG 3648 x 2736 format and usually in the “Chrome” setting.  My photo editing software is PhotoPlus X4 from Serif.

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Filed under Creativity, personal, Photo, RVA

Enjoying Richmond – Some wineries

I started these posts as I explored the immediate Richmond area.  There’s still plenty to report and explore but I’m going to expand the actual search area.  One of the things that’s enjoyable about Richmond is that you’re so close to so many other cool areas.  So lots of potential discoveries.

Courtesy Openglipart.org

The perfect hat for adventures!

Halloween weekend the lady of the house and I were bored.  To alleviate that boredom we decided to do some winery exploring.  There are few wineries in our immediate area but the real “mother lode” is to our west.  Charlottesville is only about an hour away and that puts you right into some interesting wine country.  So we pulled on our adventure hats and took off.

Should have checked the University of Virginia football schedule first.  Charlottesville was a bit of a zoo.  Just gave us an excuse to head out into the country faster.

We didn’t have a lot of time so we only hit two this time:


Pippin Hill Farm and Winery
– A stunningly beautiful location and a wonderful facility to go along with it.  The weather was just a touch cool that day so they had space heaters warming up the patio area.  With three tasting bars outside and the main one inside all going at once, so there wasn’t any wait or much crowding.  The staff person seemed pretty knowledgeable but was a little distracted since he was answering questions and issues with other staff people.  We tried their standard flight ($10/person) of four.  Their Chardonnay was very nice and a little oaky.  Probably my preferred upper limit on oakiness.  The Viognier was also nice.  For the reds we did the Merlot, the Cabernet Franc (one of my lady’s particular favorite grape varieties) and their Winemaker’s Select Red.  All very interesting, none that really took our breath away.  Certainly worth a second trip and little more extensive tasting.  They were set up for a wedding later that day and the backdrop was gorgeous.

The outdoor dining and tasting area at Pippin Hill

The outdoor dining and tasting area at Pippin Hill

 

Loving Cup Vineyard and Winery – Another gorgeous location not all that far from Pippin Hill but you have to drive back into the hills to get there.  Absolutely worth the drive.  We weren’t quite sure what to expect.  Loving Cup is an organic winery.  That could mean a lot of things, not all of them good.  What you discover is a winery very similar to the classic French château style.  Grapes grown there in a confined area (four acres) and fermented and bottled on the property as well.  They went organic for the simple reason that one of women in the family (it’s family owned and operated) was pregnant and they didn’t want to expose her to pesticides.  So they use naturally disease resistant grapes.  This means I was not getting the same flavor profiles I’m accustomed to tasting.  Turns out that’s a good thing.

This is a VERY small operation, so quantities of any given wine are small as well.  We had both reds and whites (both blends) that were very good.  They also have some very nice sweet reserves in both red and white.  We were very pleased with all of them.  The real surprise for me was a mulled wine they offered.  Using the Loving Cup Red along with their mulling spices, cranberry juice and orange juice concentrate they created a mulled wine that I actually liked!  That’s a first.

Because they’re so small you can’t guarantee what they may have at any moment.  What I will say is this – it’s well worth the drive and the exploration.  Really nice people, another incredible view, beautiful building for the tasting room and some very interesting wine.  My inner winery snob was very happy.

Loving Cup Winer

Loving Cup with the vineyard beyond. This doesn’t begin to give you the feel for the beauty here.

A good day of exploring!

 

Graphic courtesy of Openglipart.org

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Filed under RVA, Wine

A New Beginning – December 4

einstein_www-txt2pic-com

Six Months.

We have just passed the six month mark.

Seems like we’ve been here longer.  We have definitely fallen in love with Richmond and the surrounding area.

Great selection of food, entertainment, historical sites, places to get out and enjoy the great out of doors.

Fabulous people too.  This is a truly wonderful area.

The local wine industry still has a way to go to match New York.  On the other hand the weather here is much to my preference (it was 58 degrees yesterday).  No, I don’t miss the snow and cold.  Not even a little bit.  A bit of decorative snow around Christmas and I’m good.

It’s less than three hours to the ocean or the mountains or Washington DC.  Williamsburg, which is one our favorite places in the world, is just over an hour away.  We can be pretty much anywhere in the greater Richmond area in 30 minutes.  There’s a Jazz cafe Thursday evenings at the Virginia Fine Arts Museum.  There are festivals.  So many festivals.  Carytown.  Shockoe Bottom.  Church Hill.  The Fan.

And you know what’s really cool?

There’s still so much more to explore!

Let the next six months begin.

  • I am closing the hunt for rude Virginians.  I think they’re mythological.  No doubt everyone will be rude to me today.
  • NaNoWriMo update:I did not make the 50,000 word mark but I broke 30,000, which is no small thing.  Since I was continuing an existing project I ran into the problem that I have already written most of the story.  I don’t think there was another 20,000 left to write.  Now we begin piecing it together and filling whatever cracks are left.
  • I am actually going to play my guitar in public for the first time (I played a couple times at summer camp but I don’t count that.)  At the Christmas Pageant we will be singing “Silent Night”, which was originally played on guitar.  Kinda cool.  Couple more weeks to practice.  Need them!

It’s a new beginning.

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Filed under New Beginning, personal, RVA, Writing