Thursday, September 27, 2012

From Australia via NYC

Claire, of Sweet Birdy Love, recently spent an amazing month in New York City - seeing the sights, taking fun photos, and leaving little bits of yarny love wherever she went. (Hop over to her blog to read her fun NYC posts.) She also did a bit of making while there, and decided to send a hand-made souvenir to 2 of her lucky readers. Into a hat went the names of all who had commented on her trip posts - and out of the hat came my name!

Today I received Claire's package. The return address was Australia...

...but the postmark read NYC. (I've never received a package from either place, so both are exciting for me.)

And inside was....
A pile o'goodies
First, a beautiful hand-embroidered needle case, featuring this gorgeous New York pigeon:

Notice the tiny birdseed :)

On the back of the case is a lovely feather:

Next, a cheerful card, which could have been WAS drawn by Claire (how talented is she!?!):

Then a show-stopping tea towel from Anthropologie....

And finally, two of Claire's yarny hearts, just like the ones she used to decorate the Big Apple.

(This is good timing - I've been thinking of doing some local yarn bombing. A little heart is just the ticket, if I can bear to give one away.)

Did I mention that the tea-towel is trimmed with rickrack? (In fact it's so lovely, I want to wear it. I'm thinking of turning it into a hostess apron.)

Thanks so much, Claire, for these lovely souvenirs of your trip to NYC.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

September Soup

Last Saturday was chilly, so I made a pot of soup. Into it went the usual kitchen-y bits and bobs: leftover chicken and stock; the tail end of a summer squash from the farm up the road; red sweet pepper ditto; onion and garlic (fresh); carrot (flabby); a few lonely leaves of leftover spinach; tomatoes off the vine chopped whole and tossed in regardless, peel, seeds and all. Some salt and pepper and cayenne and nutmeg. A handful of fresh rosemary and thyme from the pots in the porch.

September soup carries a certain nostalgia. Filled with the harvest of warm-weather gardens, it gleams with the last lingering glory of summer sun. Poised on the cusp of two seasons, it celebrates them both.

A good way to mark the first day of fall and bid farewell to summer.

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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Crossing the River ~ a Long Ride

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for Deb, whose road this year has been a bumpy one

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Autumn came in with a bang - we had widespread frost last night, and a low of 32º (that's 0º for my Celsius friends). I was hoping to hit the road at 7 am this morning, but the sun wasn't yet high enough for me (and neither was the temperature).

By about 7:50, jacketed and tighted, energy-barred and watered up, I finally set out. The sun is a bit higher, though the temp is still 32º. (Which isn't really very cold compared with our extreme winter temps, but on a bike, with the air flowing past, it's very chilly. I'm wearing an extra pair of gloves over my cycling mitts to protect my finger-tips.)

At the edge of town, a field of goldenrod is furred with frost. Tiny grasses and leaves wear icy coats:

The shady stretches of road are uncomfortably cold, and I look forward to getting into the sun. (Quite a change from a month or two ago.)

One of the sadder effects of this year's drought: many of the fir trees have been burnt brown. I don't know if it's possible for them to come back.

On a happier note, the air is crisp and beautifully clear. I look forward to getting some good pictures this morning.

Here's a favourite tree, with farm in the background:

Because I have a long way to go today, my pictures are taken in clusters, with long stretches of riding in between.

At the 15-mile mark, I stop for a snack and a break at a park next to the Wisconsin River. Gulls are swirling above the water on the far side...

...while on my side, the trees are beginning to lose their summery green.

Crossing over the interstate (which as you can see is under construction just here):

And back to the river. The water here is like rippling silk...

...but a few miles later, where it widens out to become Lake Wisconsin, much choppier. (The wind is beginning to pick up.)

Across the causeway and up a hill, I see a sign I like:

Miles later, at the top of a much steeper hill, stands a row of lovely fall-tinted shrubs...

...and some picturesque silos.

Today's course is rather more hilly than I expected. I'm looking forward to reaching the halfway point, and taking another break.

A view across the fields and hills:

Suddenly I'm next to the river again. More hills peek from between the trees that line the road:

Getting near the halfway point now - just a few miles to go.

Railroad tracks run next to the road, and along the edge of the lake. The engineers must get an incredible view.

Around a bend, and I've reached the goal of today's ride: the Merrimac Ferry.

Waiting in line:

And here she is. The Merrimac Ferry, Wisconsin's only free ferry, runs 24 hours a day from April through November, crossing the Wisconsin River and providing a handy shortcut for commuters (and the odd cyclist).

The ferry docks and lowers its ramps to disgorge one set of cars and take on another.

Iris and I have been looking forward to this ride for some time....

These signs are posted at the rear of the ferry (or would it be the front?):

The train tracks run across the lake, parallel to the ferry's path.

After a short (but gloriously scenic) 7-minute crossing, which also served as a snack break, Iris and I are back on the road. The first few miles are freshly-paved - oh, the joy of a smooth road.

I'm in new cycling territory here, and the scenery is bluff and rugged. Hills rise and fall...

...hay bales dot the landscape...

...and peaceful valleys, complete with grazing cattle, present themselves to the view.

A classic farm scene, calm and serene:

Waves of corn ride up to the deep-blue sky.

It's about time for another break. As soon as I cross the interstate (again) I'll look for a spot to have a bite.

A little meadow is just the thing. Queen Anne's lace is still growing here, with its leaves that look like carrot-tops (and so they should - Wild Carrot is another name for QAL)...

...and, incredibly, a few small wild chicory are still blooming. (I do love this flower.)

While I sit cross-legged in the grass, a tractor goes by.

Across the road is a gorgeous fall-tinted hedgerow, with a caramel-coloured soybean field behind.

Heigh-ho, enough break - it's time to get back in the saddle. Only one more leg to go. There's been a lot more climbing than I expected today (most of it into a cold headwind), and I'm getting pretty tired.

A hilltop view of fields and river valley - with a tiny, far-off gleam of water on the right-hand side:

Miles later, I make one last stop. I'm crossing the river again - same river - but farther north, and on an overpass this time. Looking east:

And west:

The water's rather low just now - as evidenced by all the sandbanks.

While I'm stopped on the bridge taking photos, my sister and her fiancé drive by. They pull over and we chat for a few minutes. A pleasant interlude (and a good excuse to extend my break - I'm very tired from fighting that headwind).

With about 10 miles to go, it's time to put my head down and just ride. Luckily for me, the road turns away from the wind and I no longer have to struggle against it.

All through this ride I've had a Boston song running through my head (Don't look back/a new day is breaking/It's been so long since I've felt this way. I don't mind/where I get taken/the road is calling/Today is the day). Now, on the last leg of my journey, I replay in my head the entire Side A from their classic first album - great cycling music, and wonderful for maintaining a good pace. These words, from "Long Time", seem especially appropriate as I draw near to home:
It's a long road
I've gotta stay in time with, yeah
I've got to keep on chasing that dream,
though I may never find it....
Today I chased a dream, and found it too. I've been hoping all summer to ride 60 miles, and today was the day. A long ride, a cold ride, and very tiring - but full of beauty and very satisfying.

60.5 miles, with ferry
60.0 miles actual riding distance

(Now I can slack off for the rest of the cycling season, AND stop inflicting you with mileage stats. It was a way to keep myself accountable while training for the big one - thank you all for putting up with it.)

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