12.27.2010

Kicking it old school at Stowe, c. 1951-52

Prices for skiing at Mt. Mansfield (now Stowe Mountain Resort) for the 1951-52 season.

I particularly like how a season pass in those simpler days cost the princely amount of $85.00... which is the cost of a day ticket today (a season pass for the mountain costs over $1500 now). These modern prices are a big reason -- though not the only reason -- that I have little interest in alpine skiing.

12.23.2010

Solstice light

A white expanse of ice hemmed by gray sullen hills under dark December skies: Lake Groton, Vermont, in the morning of December 22. The eclipse the night before was not visible due to the persistent cloud cover and intermittent light snow.

12.19.2010

The real skinny

Ever since I fatefully moved to Waterbury in 2006, I have spent my winters plodding around Little River State Park on a pair of waxless, metal-edged backcountry skis. This setup has carried me way off-piste and up and down the nameless ridgelines near my home (see here for more info).

This focus on the backcountry has meant that my skate skis have sat untouched for more than four years, nestled in the rafters of the garage.

This season, however, I resolved to get out the waxing iron and get out on skate skis again: I purchased a season pass at Trapps Family Lodge in Stowe. The touring center is less than 15 minutes from my office and I have visions of sneaking in some blue sky mid-week afternoons on skis. I also hope to regain some fitness and to be stronger on the bike come springtime 2011.

The trail network at Trapps is cut into the side of a hill (some would say 'mountain'): consequently, there is very little flat, and getting to this point involves lots of climbing. . .which hurt me severely.

A wintery tableaux, but the snow cover isn't too deep as of yet.

12.14.2010

And that's a wrap

There are too much sports today. It's always some interminable season -- baseball plays 162 games plus multiple playoff rounds, the NFL is currently trying to expand to an eighteen game season, the basketball (and hockey) playoffs finally reach a resolution in distinctly unseasonable summer weather.

So I'm glad that the US domestic cyclocross season is short, starting after Labor Day and ending before Christmas -- though next year this will expand slightly into January, which will bring the domestic calendar more in line with the rest of the world.

More photos from day two of the 2010 Green Mountain Cyclocross weekend here.

12.08.2010

A rare vintage: Heddy Topper 2010

I have found that I enjoy living in Waterbury, Vermont. The town is quite prosperous and lively and the location is great. It's still relatively uncrowded compared to Chittenden County and the Perry Hill trail network is about 5 minutes from where I live.

Another upside to living here is that for a small town, there is actually a little bit of nightlife. The anchor of downtown is probably The Alchemist, a very (and deservedly so) popular brewpub located right in the center of town.

Belly up to the bar on an off-season Saturday night: One downside to the combination of excellent beer, good food and a growing reputation as a destination drinking/dining experience, is that The Alchemist is always crowded.

1 of 600: Heddy Topper in a bottle, displayed at another excellent Waterbury beer locale, the Black Back bar.

Anyhow, this past weekend, The Alchemist had a one off special small bottling run of one of their beers. This event drew people from far and wide and I understand that there was a pretty good line at 9:30 am for the 11 am opening (some photos here).

This is hearsay because I wasn't there, we are immersed in a condo renovation and I was preoccupied gingerly hauling debris to the dump before the first snow of the season.

I also heard, that someone showed up at this event, from Colorado (?!), in a rental car, and apparently was expecting there to be a line of people on hand the night before, and was hoping for some sort of street party at 3:30 am... Needless to say, this didn't happen, showing that most people (while willing to travel hundreds of miles for a $12 bottle of beer) do have a degree of common sense.

11.30.2010

Burlington Telecom: The repo man comes calling

In headier, more optimistic times, Burlington Telecom handed out tshirts as tchotchkes, packaged neatly in little single-serving cereal boxes, the conceit being, that Burlington Telecom was "Fiber-iffic!"

As recently as October 2010, you could still pick up useless items like euro stickers and pens at a Burlington Telecom booth at the Vermont 3.0 event... perhaps they should have been soliciting donations in a tin cup.

It's all over but the lawyering. Burlington Telecom's largest creditor, Citi Capital, has decided to repossess any and all physical assets (BFP) in an attempt to recover some of the funds borrowed to keep the doomed municipal enterprise alive.

I don't intend to write a long post analyzing this situation -- I have done this already -- previous posts of this topic can be read here. I always thought that this scheme was a bad idea, and suspected that the city of Burlington did not have the managerial acumen and entrepreneurial spirit to pull it off successfully.

And, while the economy remains very weak and the current administration in Burlington is inept and possibly criminal, it's my belief that Burlington Telecom was a bad idea right from the start.

Neither better economic times nor a more competent administration could have made it work: It cost too much, and has a small service area with relatively few potential customers, and operates in a very competitive marketplace.

But, on a more personal note, I am pessimistic by nature: torpor, gloom, and vivid imaginings of bad things come naturally to me. This can be a curse and a big limiting factor in all aspects of my life, and contributes to my long personal litany of, if not outright failure, missed opportunities.

Sometimes, however, a gloomy and suspicious disposition is a wonderful thing. When Burlington Telecom was originally proposed in the 1990s, I was living in Burlington and working in the Internet business. The concept seemed far-fetched and pie-in-the-sky then, so I voted against the initiative... my doubts have been proven by events over time.

And, for similar reasons, I view projects like the proposed redevelopment of the Moran Plant in Burlington, or the governor-elect's promise of single-payer heath insurance, with quite a bit of suspicion.

11.23.2010

Irony via Nissan: Lance Armstrong -- "Discover the science behind legendary performance"

Reading cycling news sites these days is like reading a lurid tabloid newspaper blended with science fiction.

Stories of tainted steaks and the ongoing investigation of Lance Armstrong -- the FDA, WADA, Interpol, and various European agencies are involved -- fill up the online equivalent of many column inches.

Perhaps the proceedings will reach a definite conclusion, or perhaps things will just peter out and nothing conclusive will be proved. But I don't think that Nissan's banner ad from this past summer conveys quite the message that the copywriter intended.

11.17.2010

Hop to it: Beer tourism north and south

There's no place like home! There's no place like home! -- The Wizard of Oz

So, some beer magazine named Burlington a "Beertown U.S.A", and local Vermont users on twitter exploded in a frenzy of mutual self-congratulation -- there's a lot of that kind of thinking here, and 'social media' is just an echo chamber, where like associates with like, and herd-like behavior is to be expected. It's quite annoying -- but still I persist.

Anyhow it turns out that this magazine runs a regular feature and that Burlington is just one of several "Beertowns U.S.A.", and that other locales so designated include such hipster-friendly areas as Asheville, NC and Brooklyn, NY.

So let's not get too excited about some facile little article, shall we?

My recent trip to Florida, however, gave me a chance to expand my beer-drinking horizons, although one does not usually associate South Florida as a hotbed for good food and drink.

Close to home: October 2, 2010, the view from Hill Farmstead Brewery, Greensboro Bend, Vermont. (For an earlier version, see here.)

A chilly harvest celebration -- I was glad I had a hat and jacket at this event -- and a bonfire would have been nice as well. The last beer I sampled at here, was some sort of real Belgian quad, with an ABV of over 12%, it wasn't a full pour, thankfully, but I remember that it almost knocked me on my rear, it was strong stuff.

Ahh, Florida: Denny's, Wendy's, and the Mons Venus strip club -- making the turn into Cigar City Brewing.

By happy chance we arrived as the local Whole Foods store was sponsoring a beer and cheese tasting event... so we got to sample beer and nibble on fancy artisan cheese for free.

What every up and coming craft brewery needs: A minivan outfitted with built-in taps: Just throw some kegs in the back and drive to some hospitable venue.

Another brewery we visited -- the beer list at Tampa Bay Brewing Company in Ybor City.

Not shown: Our stop in a crowded, cheerless airport bar at the Atlanta airport. College football was on TV, Georgia-Florida on one screen, and Auburn was thumping some opponent on the other, and the various partisans of these schools, gathered round, and they were really into the spectacle -- watching with a passionate intensity not usually shown for pro sports.

But, as usual, I digress.

There are many times when I am fed up with Vermont and some of the tendencies of my erstwhile neighbors, and the shocking tax bill for my small, old and decidedly unluxurious condominium. But then I ride my bike on the Perry Hill trail network and then go out to the Alchemist (now too popular for its own good) or the Blackback bar, and then all's well in my world, for at least a little while.

11.12.2010

Lazy days along the Withlacoochee River

Way down upon the Suwannee River,
Far, far away,
There’s where my heart is turning ever,
There’s where the old folks stay.
All up and down the whole creation,
Sadly I roam,
Still longing for my childhood station,
And for the old folks at home.
Swanee River (with cleaned up and more contemporary lyrics)

The Winooski River runs through Waterbury, but it looks nothing like the Withlacoochee River as it runs through Nobleton Florida. Vermont lacks trees draped in Spanish Moss, cypress trees, buzzards, cranes, egrets and 'water turkeys'...

I didn't bother bringing the DSLR to Florida -- so these images were made with a little Canon point and shoot, and the quality isn't great.

The river was full of hundreds of turtles, they were everywhere. There were also lots of birds and the occasional glimpse of an alligator.

Deep in the still shadows of the cypress swamp.

Lost highways, Florida style. Many country crossroads would have a small rough cinder-block bar. Typically these establishments would open early in morning... and draw a crowd of locals. Despite some curiosity about the ambiance we did not stop to sample their wares (Bud, Bud light, Busch, etc.).

11.08.2010

Postcard from the edge

Tampa, Florida, November 2010.

It was depressing to drive through the Florida Gulf Coast region, the economy was based pretty much solely on real estate and retail, when the real estate bubble popped, it took down the retail with it: A shabby and desolate place.

10.28.2010

Swine, beer, and elections

It's election season in Vermont. It would be a gross libel on swine, to compare these creatures (Swift, in Gulliver's Travels, referred to pigs as the "sweeter quadruped", contrasting them with the depravity of the yahoos) either to politicians or to the feckless, unhappy and inconstant electorate.

It has been a new style campaign in Vermont, with outside interests from both the left and right pouring millions of dollars into media efforts disparaging their opponents.

Lowlights (and there were many) included an ad showing the Republican candidate as Pinocchio, and fear-mongering spots asserting that the Democratic candidate, if elected, would empty Vermont's prisons of pedophiles and child pornographers.

And, despite participating in ten-plus face to face debates, both candidates managed to resolutely dance around the fiscal problems facing the state.

The Democratic candidate (Peter "fiscal conservative" Schumlin) in particular has run a campaign based on broad promises (expanding pre-K programs, implementing the public option for health insurance, etc.) without specifying how these programs are going to be paid for.

"A chicken in every pot" (ironically, Herbert Hoover used this slogan) kinds of promises are dangerous to make, especially considering that Vermont is already hundreds of millions of dollars in the hole, and the economic recovery -- probably too strong a word -- remains tepid at best.

I suppose it comes down to: Is the glass half empty or half full? Vermont's fiscal position is precarious, and jobs are hard to come by, and generally ill-paying, but at least I don't live in New York, Nevada, California, Illinois, etc. where the problems are even more overwhelming.

And -- trying to be positive -- there's plenty of excellent local beer on hand to dull the stress of living in these anxious times. (More beery photos here.)

10.24.2010

Not Lance Armstrong

So, the recent brief visit to Waterbury by cycling and cancer-fighting superstar (in some people's eyes, anyway -- my own view is a bit more nuanced) Lance Armstrong was big news in this small Vermont town.

The presence of a major celebrity drew the local media like moths to a candle. Print and television reporters turned out in force to cover the event -- would that they showed the same level of interest in events such as the Green Mountain Stage Race or the Vermont Mountain Bike Festival... but I digress.

So, the "Armstrong ride" was the lead, above the fold story in the Waterbury Record this week:

And the Record's written story is a straight-up, non-ironic description of the ride (unlike this bit of reportage from the all-ironic-all-the-time, too-cool-for-mere-plebs -- and hence, ceaselessly annoying, Seven Days).

Lance Armstrong on a Cannondale? I don't think so.

The photo the Record used to illustrate their story, however, is most emphatically not Lance Armstrong, caption non-withstanding. The photo is just some skinny guy in a mostly black kit riding a Cannondale: I could have told them that.

I know I shouldn't complain about cycling getting some relatively positive press because pieces like this ("Arrogant, naive bicyclists dangerous on roads") appear with some regularity, and the comments left by 'readers' make one wonder about the pathologies loose in society these days.

10.20.2010

Southbound

Geese heading south for the winter.

... roots!
the funny limbs that grow underground
that keep you from falling down
don't you think that you'll need them now?

just find a place where no one knows of
your redneck past
yeah, you can easily dispose of your redneck past
you'll show them all back home
Ben Folds, Your redneck past

It's stick season in Vermont: The leaves have fallen off the trees, leaf-peeping tourists no longer crowd the roads, and it is a generally bleak and subdued time of year. It is also a bad time to hike or mountain bike because it is hunting season which means that there are lots of heavily armed and sometimes inebriated people roaming the woods.

So we are going to Florida for a week. Not the Florida of gated communities, theme parks, manicured golf courses and broken real estate dreams, but interior Florida: a remote, flat, languid, humid place populated largely with alligators and water moccasins.

And, I suppose, there's a slight chance that this trip could lay the groundwork for relocating out of Vermont altogether - though this would be a be a long term project, and several things would have to break just right for it to happen.

10.13.2010

Lance Armstrong in Waterbury

Lance Armstrong stopped in Waterbury, Vermont today. I could try and come up with something ironic, snarky or sarcastic... but I don't have the impetus. For my rather mixed take on Mr. Armstrong, see here.

This is about as close as I got: The celebrity is somewhere under that scrum of cameras.

Hundreds of cyclists heading out of town on Route 100 under brilliant blue autumn skies. It was quite dangerous with lots of erratic riding.

Later the field was pared down a bit by a couple of miles of steady climbing.

I did this on my battered Redline mountain bike, with 1 x 9 gearing, so I was not well equipped for a group ride at a brisk pace on a paved road. The story of why I don't have a functioning road bike at this time is too lengthy and discouraging to go into here.

The road less traveled: I bailed at Stevens Brook Road and enjoyed a very quiet ride back to town on Class IV Cobb Hill Road. The foliage is past peak and there is a thick layer of fallen leaves on the ground.

10.02.2010

Keep on truckin'

A battered old truck sits in the woods off of Route 14, Craftsbury, Vermont.

When I first caught a glimpse of this in the woods, I thought it was a derelict, abandoned vehicle.
On closer inspection, it was still being used by some thrifty -- or (more likely) down on its luck logging operation as a crude skidder.

Apparently, no need for a radiator -- or registration tags.


These images have been heavily post-processed...reality was more prosaic.

9.28.2010

32 x 34 on a 1 x 9 29er: A new set of pie plates

A new SRAM PG-980 cassette and a new chain installed on my battered Redline Monocog.

Late this summer I could feel a roughness in my left knee while walking -- though not while riding the bike. I'm hoping (probably vainly) that adding two extra gear teeth on the low end will make climbing slightly easier, and save my aging knees.

A quick initial ride to the top of Perry Hill in the late afternoon gloom on Sunday seemed to confirm that the bike climbed a little easier and that it was possible to carry more rpms instead of painfully grinding up the steep sections... but these impressions may have been largely psychosomatic.

If my situation allows, I may build up a new bike over the winter. My Redline proved to be a great purchase (only only $900 slightly used -- less than a fancy wheelset!) and has carried me through many misadventures on local trails, but it is also -- as is to be expected -- a bike with some limitations.

The questions I need to decide, are how much suspension do I need/want, and what gearing to use? Some suspension is probably attractive, but I feel no desire to ride with a triple front crank... perhaps some version of a 2x9 drivetrain.

9.25.2010

Still subdued

Waterbury Reservoir this afternoon, looking up into Ricker Basin. Peak foliage is still a little time away (maybe next weekend?) and it was a dark and cloudy afternoon. See here for a similar view in a much colder season.

The image is a failed attempt at HDR photo processing using Picturenaut as software (and the failure is not the program's fault). I will have to try again while putting the camera in full manual mode to try and get a wider range of exposures on the stacked images -- autobracketing didn't give me the result I was looking for.

9.22.2010

Let no moment go unrecorded: Green Mountain Cyclocross (Sunday) images posted

As I noted, there were lots of cameras in evidence at the recent cyclocross races at Catamount. Even though I feel like this is a futile and rather pointless exercise, I posted some images from Sunday afternoon's race here:


9.21.2010

Number 1 with a bullet: Tim Johnson racing at Catamount, 9/19/2010

I went to the second race of the Green Mountain Cyclocross Weekend (Verge Series race #2) this past Sunday.

After a cloudy morning the skies cleared and it turned out to be a beautiful early autumn afternoon, though with temps of about 70 degrees, it was hot for the racers on the hilly and largely shadeless course.

Current US national cyclocross champion Tim Johnson crushed the field and rode what amounted to a long time trial for most of the duration of the 60 minute race.

Kicking up dust on an uphill turn with the Green Mountains in the background.

Riding the 'run up' -- which proved to be not much of an obstacle for the elite men.

Over the barriers near the end of the race. While this was a dominating performance by Johnson, I have to admit, it was not the most exciting race to watch.

There were more spectators carrying DSLRs at this event than at almost any other public gathering I have been at lately: I saw cameras of all shapes and sizes -- ranging from new 4/3rds systems to full-frame professional setups with long, fast lenses. I have some more images that I will post at some point...but it seems kind of pointless.

9.17.2010

Game on: Cyclocross at Catamount this weekend

Justin Spinelli over the barriers in 2009.

The 2010 Green Mountain Cyclocross races will be held this weekend at Catamount. The weather forecast looks promising and I will probably show up for one of the days with my camera.

More race images from 2009 here.

9.14.2010

2010: Random Photo Content #9: Vermont foliage

It won't be long now: Autumn is here, the leaves are just beginning to change. This image is from October 2009, more here.

9.09.2010

2010 GMSR Burlington Criterium photos

For one day a year, Main Street in Burlington looks like this.

Images from the Dealer.com Burlington Criterium, held September 9, the fourth and final stage of the 2010 Green Mountain Stage Race.

Kristin McGrath waits for the start of the Women's race, she finished safely and won the overall.

Ted King, pensive on the start line of the Pro-1 race.

After finishing the critierium and protecting his overall race lead, Jeremy Powers chatted with announcer Alan Cote. In the background, crack volunteers can be seen already breaking down the course -- which was all gone and trucked away within 90 minutes of the race finish. Riders make the race, but volunteers make the race happen... thanks to all that helped out.


Image gallery posted here.


9.07.2010

So, there was a bike race in Burlington yesterday

Category 3 men stream by the SRAM pit on Main Street.

A few images from the 2010 Dealer.com Burlington Critierium. The day went really smoothly and the racing was fast and furious, especially in the Juniors, 3s, 2s and Pro-1 events.

Masters on the start line.

SRAM mechanic takes it all in.

Race leader Jeremy Powers chats with Will Dugan under gray late afternoon skies in Burlington.

Pro men cutting it close turning onto Church Street.

Ted King diving onto Church Street.

Going fast up Main Street.

I will post more images later this week. It takes a while to sort through things and I was on vacation during most of the race, so there are things I need to attend to.