Tiny Toes

Things have been quiet here the past few months, but fret not – I hope to have some new blog posts in the near future. For the past few months I’ve been searching for, and eventually buying a new home; exploring a new city on a daily bike commute; and most recently… helping to care for a new set of tiny toes.

Hopefully we can organize a few local dad rambles during these summer months! In the mean time, keep track of things via Instagram and Twitter.

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2015 Brewvet Wrap-Up

brewvet for web

Hi Folks – I hope you enjoyed National Bike Month and the third annual brewvet.  With consistently nice weather, the challenge was a nice way to squeeze in some extra rides in between packing for a move and preparing the new home for our forthcoming kid.

Some brewvet veterans have already submitted their information – three in Maryland, three in California, one in Washington and one in Ohio!

Remember to submit your ride details for a small treat to follow later this summer (and possibly some fun trinkets that I’ve been collecting).

If you’re looking at the instructions and feel kind of like the confused Ikea man, check out my post from 2013 describing how I filled in the brewvet card. ikea-man

Keep the submissions coming – and post below if you found a new favorite beer or watering hole!

Brewvet Begins

Details Here.  Ride bikes, drink beer, make adventure.

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Ride safe, be smart and tag your posts with #brewvet!

2015 Brewvet Challenge

brewvet

Is there anything more satisfying than a bike ride through the city or deep in the woods with your best friends, followed by a cold beer and some grub at your favorite local bar? Tired, sweaty, dirty – it no longer matters. 

I love exploring and new experiences – and this year has got a lot of “new” in it – new job, new city, two moves, a bikeable commute, and a new kid (Coming Soon).  For these reasons – the Brewvet Challenge makes sense to complete once again in May – a small but welcome diversion from a lot of crazy. So lets kick it off as I said the first year of the challenge:  “in the spirit of commingling our shared love for gears and grains, hops and handlebars …”

Go, ride, explore. Then come back and share your stories.

Gears & Craft Beers

What is a Brewvet?

In short this is a challenge to inspire you to get on your bike and explore your surroundings – and your local craft beers. The event will run from May 1, 2015 through June 1, 2015.

Award-winning District of Columbia denizen and blogger Mary of Chasing Mailboxes, provides the inspiration for the concept. Combining the long-distance cycling sport known as randonneuring and the simple pleasure of a good cup of coffee – the Coffeeneuring Challenge was formed. Since a randonneuring event is called a brevet, it only made sense to call our take on this concept the Brewvet.

An “official” brewvet will incorporate 8 separate bike rides, each of which to a different location, where you will buy or consume a different beer, for a total distance of at least 40 miles by bike. A ride qualifies if you either stop to drink a beer during your bike ride, or purchase a beer on your bike ride that you drink shortly after you get back home. Mead, cider and wine… well they count too.

Just like in a brevet, you must provide documentation of each stop on your adventures. If you complete the challenge you’ll even get a little prize.

Spokes and Craft Beers

The Rules

Rules? Yes, there has to be rules! That’s another quirk of these randonneur events. It seems like a lot, but I promise you’ll still enjoy yourself.

  1. In the interest of safety, you can only count 1 ride per day. If you have more than 1 beer per ride, it still only counts as 1 ride. Know your limits and be safe!
  2. The location where you acquire your beer must be different each ride.
  3. Each ride should feature a different beer, with preference towards local, craft beers.
  4. The 8 rides must be completed between May 1, 2015 and June 1, 2015.
  5. There is no minimum length for each brewvet ride, but once you have completed all 8 rides, the total distance you’ve covered must be at least 40 miles.
  6. Complete the Brewvet control card at each stop. Document the following:
  • Location;
  • The beer you enjoyed;
  • Some enlightening thought (beer tasting notes, the people you saw, anything really);
  • The miles you rode; and
  • The date.
  • Also be sure to take a photo and share with the hashtag #brewvet

Once you have completed your Brewvet submit your 8 photos and completed control card to dirtengineer “at” gmail dot com. Photos can submitted on your blog, as links to a photo sharing website or tweets, or via email. Deadline for Brewvet submissions is June 21, 2015.

Everyone who successfully completes the Brewvet will receive a prize – albeit very small. Probably not something you need to re-arrange the trophy case for.

Wisdom.

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”
— Confucius

(Maybe a beer or a photo opportunity should be allowed)

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Bike Easy in the Big Easy

On the second day of my new job I was asked if I wanted to attend a training seminar in New Orleans. Of course I said yes.

My last visit to New Orleans was in May of 2011 for the annual Jazz & Heritage Festival, five and a half years after Hurricane Katrina struck the region and inundated the city. To this outsider it felt like the city was still struggling to get back on its feet. Things felt dirty, cab drivers refused to take us into certain neighborhoods, houses stood abandoned. A certain “joie de vivre” seemed to be missing. At times we felt like gawking disaster tourists.

Mighty Miss

Mighty Miss

In the intervening four years I’ve watched the entire Treme series on HBO (if you haven’t, you need to), time has marched on in the big easy, and ironically I now find myself in a seminar about dam and levee failure mechanisms and lessons learned. To bookend the seminar I took the opportunity to rent bikes and re-explore the city.

Two afternoons worth of riding.

Two afternoons worth of riding.

I was amazed at the changes. Bike lanes, sharrows, many many cyclists. Neighborhoods that have emerged revitalized and full of vibrancy and spirit. New shops and restaurants, new sidewalks, new money. Sure, some buildings are still in ruins – many have become murals for local street artists, sure poverty is still evident (and gentrification/displacement a major problem), sure streets in the French Quarter still smell like piss and vomit as the morning sun warms putrid puddles left over from the previous nights revelry. For better or worse, some neighborhoods are welcoming gentrification with open arms, proclaiming to be “Your Blank Canvas”.

Chartres Street. Bywater

Chartres Street. Bywater

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Esplanade Avenue

Bienville Street. Upper French Quarter.

Bienville Street. Upper French Quarter.

I was able to bike almost 30 miles through the city thanks to the folks at BuzzNola and American Bicycle Rental Company. I’m really happy to see the changes, it felt like such a joyful and interesting city this time around.

Orleans Avenue Canal Levee

Orleans Avenue Canal Levee

Mardi Gras Leftovers

Mardi Gras Leftovers

If you have a chance, rent a bike for a day and explore the Bywater, the Warehouse District and City Park. Stop and absorb the life around you. I look forward to my next chance.

From the Land of Pleasant Living

Greetings from the greatest city in America! What… you don’t believe it? Well go outside and look for the nearest park bench. I’ll wait….

Is anything written on it? I didn’t think so.

It’s been a full two weeks since we unloaded our U-haul van in South Baltimore. Our temporary home for the next four months while we look for a more permanent dwelling to sink some roots into. Of course moving is a hectic and stressful experience, so D.C. kindly gave me a going away present in the form of a dog bite while I was picking up coffee the morning of the move. Aside from horrendous traffic, that is probably the worst thing that happened to me in four years in the District – do I consider myself lucky?

Crazy dogs aside, I do miss DC – and the chance to explore and get to know Baltimore has been equally exciting and nerve wracking. It helps a lot that the new job is really an excellent fit for what I want to be doing both professionally and personally. And the commute – 2.5 to 3 miles by bike – is a big part of that.

The new office.

The new office.

Commute routes to date.

Commute routes to date.

I had been nervous about the bike commute – would I need to dodge bullets and corner boys as if I were in a scene from The Wire? Would cars swerve into me and ignore my right to be on the road? Were the industrial neighborhoods I had to bike though even suitable for bike riding? I think as cyclists we carry many levels of anxiety/fear based on the fact that we are among the most vulnerable road users. The foundation of these fears, or perhaps the baseline level of discomfort seems to be tempered by an understanding of social norms and expectations – once you’ve been in an area long enough you tend to get a feel for how far people roll through stop signs, or how fast they drive, or where to be on the lookout for signs of dangerous people or activities. Above that are layers of concern for the less predictable actions – the types of things that people write off as “being in the wrong place at the wrong time”. I think being a comfortable and safe cyclist means that you understand those baseline expectations, and you are alert and act defensively to avoid those other layers.

Even after driving my bike commute route for a week, I felt like a ball of nerves for my first bike commutes. I observed that simple changes in the built environment drastically changed my expectations of driver behavior compared to DC or Boston. After five rides now I am beginning to feel a bit more comfortable. There are a few conflict points where I need to keep an eye out for cars trying to beat a light, there are some train tracks that I need to avoid (lest I find myself waiting in the bitter cold at the crossing for five minutes again this morning), the normal smorgasbord of glass in gutter and potholes, and the apartment building that can’t seem to figure out how to operate the door locks in their bike room. But on the plus side I feel great biking to work (mentally and physically), and there seems to be a small but enthusiastic group of cyclists in the office that I’m looking forward to riding with. If I keep the same job and the same commute – there’s at least 45,000 more bike commuting miles until retirement. I think Rootchopper covers that in about 2 years.

The commute route mostly follows the on-road portions of the Gwynns Fall Trail.

The commute route mostly follows the on-road portions of the Gwynns Fall Trail.

A private citizen marks the trail. A hero.

A private citizen marks the trail. A hero.

Morning commute traffic.

Morning commute traffic.

But I’ve got a lot more city to explore than just my commute route. There are a few folks I know that have offered up some great recommendations for routes – and now I need to find a group (or three) who I jive with to share in those rides. I know there are a few out there – one seems just a little too fast for me, but has good routes), and another focuses on slightly too long a distance, but is nice folks. I’ll just have to get faster and build more endurance.

Strangely, Baltimore is a little behind in the bike-organizing social media world. There is no equivalent to #bikeDC that I can find – though I plan on using #bikemore (also the name of the city bike advocacy group) on Twitter. In fact, it seems that most activity is on Facebook – hence my joining of about 5 different groups this week. I prefer Twitter and Instagram, so I’ll have to infiltrate these groups to pressure them to switch to the service. Oh, and I cooked up a great iteration of the #baaw tag (Bike Against A Wall) – #baawltimore. Time to hunt some great walls and murals.

I’m looking forward to sharing more. For now here’s a few more shots from the last week of commuting and exploring.

Oh say can I see - at Fort McHenry

Oh say can I see – at Fort McHenry

#baawltimore at the AVAM.

#baawltimore at the AVAM.

#baawltimore on the GFT.

#baawltimore on the GFT.