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Posts Tagged ‘bicycling’

Just a little trip, before I go on a Big Trip.

In front of the state capitol, on my way out of town

Next week, I’ll be packing up my bike and flying to Ohio to start a bike tour from Cincinnati to Bar Harbor, Maine. Since I didn’t get to go camping at all over the winter, a short local trip to shake down all of my equipment was in order.

I’ve got to say, late May is a less than ideal time to go camping in Texas. It was still 85 degrees and quite humid outside when I turned in at 10 PM. I have a hard time sleeping when it warmer than 80. I did enjoy hearing the owls, however. The road construction noise that started at 7 AM, not so much.

During the long trip, I’ll be posting to this blog at least occasionally. How often depends on how easy it will (or won’t) be to post from public libraries or other computer access points I encounter along the way. Those of you who know me in real life can also follow me on Facebook, where it’s very easy to post photos from my phone; I should be updating there a few times a week.

Campsite at McKinney Falls S.P., just south of Austin.

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Phone photos 006

We’re pretty much into what I would call summer here. The current temperature is 96, thankfully not too humid. I took a photo this morning while out on my bike ride of some wildflowers, at the top of the trail that cuts from Shoal Creek Boulevard to the Far West/MoPac bridge. From the photo you wouldn’t think this was a densely populated area at all!

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The linen shell that I cast on last week is progressing well. I’ve always heard lots of complaints about how hard linen is on the hands, but I’m doing OK with it. This could be because my hands are already well accustomed to working with fine gauges, or because I tend to get bored and switch off between projects frequently, but I haven’t had any trouble with it. My swatch has been getting the usual swatch treatment: I like to throw my swatches into the bottom of my bag and let them rattle around for a few days to see how the finished garment will hold up. It felt DSCN1197a bit stiff at first, even after laundering, but no different than how my other linen garments feel after being line-dried. Now, after a week of being buffeted around, it has developed that classic, much-beloved drape and hand that linen is so famous for. Good stuff.

As you can see, I swatched with the pattern colors one way, and then switched their placements in the pattern. I had a hard time choosing which was to knit the garment; as you can see, I decided to stick with green for the main color and blue for the contrast. Maybe I should have done it the other way? I doubt I’ll ever know.

I’m still having fun riding all around town. Last week I went to Spec’s to get a bottle of wine for the potpie we made this weekend, and found yet another bike rack that was obviously constructed without thought to how a ladies’ bike frame should fit. You can see from the photo (which is a bit out of focus because I forgot that my cell phone camera doesn’t have macro capability) how the designer thought the bike should fit on the rack:

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I’m not real sure why the rear wheel is supposed to be suspended like that. It would make it easier to do certain types of maintenance work, but I don’t really plan to oil my chain out in front of the liquor store or JoAnn’s anytime soon, y’know?

Fortunately, securing my bike to this type of rack isn’t so problematic as the swing-arm rack at Costco was.

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(In answer to the question, “Whatever could you buy at Costco that you could take home on a bike?” my answer is: prescriptions! They have a good pharmacy. You don’t even need to be a member to use the pharmacy there, and it’s cheap.)

One last photo, just to laugh at the whole “pedestrian and bicycle friendly environment” the developers are supposed to be creating in the Gateway/Arbor Walk/Domain area:

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Gotta love the wheelchair-accessible highway access road! Um, could I get a sidewalk to go with that?

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While my husband meditates on his prospective sweater swatches and the meaning of the question, “Which do you prefer?” I’ve cast on the Roped Shell from the Summer 08 issue of Interweave Knits.

The navy blue yarn is Louet Euroflax in sport weight. The green yarn is Claudia’s Handpainted 100% linen. These are produced from the same base yarn, which is spun by Louet (this means that Claudia’s buys the yarn from them, and they dyes it to their colors, which are superb).

I haven’t worked with linen before. It almost feels waxy – like a giant strand of dental floss, with about at much stretch. Right now I’m switching back and forth between this and another project using Jaggerspun Zephyr, which is a 50/50 silk and wool blend. The Zephyr feels spongy by contrast! The linen yarn is 4 ply. I took a waste bit, separated out the plies, and tried unsuccessfully to break a single ply with my hands. Strong stuff. My swatch, however, washed up great. It looks fabulous and handles like all of the rest of the linen in my closet… which is not a small amount of linen. Good stuff, linen.

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I’m totally happy with the Louet skein. The skein from Claudia’s, however, has some problems. It was skeined and tied very poorly, which meant that I had a difficult time winding it into a ball. Then, less than 10 yards into the skein, I found 3 knots! I can understand 1 knot… sometimes… but not in a premium yarn. Given what I paid for this yarn, I think that it is totally reasonable to take issue with this many knots. The markup on the yarn is almost 2x what the Louet-brand is selling for, but the quality is not as high. I really like the color, and I’m far enough into the project that I’ll just deal with it, but it might be a while before I buy anything from Claudia’s again.

(Yes, I did email the company. No, I haven’t heard anything back. I don’t really want a replacement, but an apology and/or a partial refund would be nice.)

I’m still having fun bicycling all over Austin. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at 0512081416how many bike racks there are in town, especially at places like Costco. However, the racks at Costco leave a little something to be desired – namely, the ability to lock my bike to them! This type of lock has an arm that swings away from the rack. The arm has three spikes that are meant to go through the front wheel, the frame, and the back wheel, thus securing the most easily-stolen components in one fell swoop. You then use your own padlock to lock the swing arm in place. Nice idea. I can tell you, however, that a man thought this up.

How do I know that it was a man and not a woman who designed this thing? 0512081416bBecause it won’t hold a woman’s bike! The swing arm won’t go through my frame at any angle. As you can see, I had to lock up with a cable lock – I can’t use my good U-bolt lock on this one when the swing arm isn’t fully engaged. Since my bike was still there when I got back, I suppose it’s the though that counts (and I am appreciative that they put in racks at all!). If anyone has any tips for securing a ladies’ bicycle to this style rack, I’d love to hear them.

Enough complaining for today. I’m going to take a nap.

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I’m still plugging away at Lightweight Mountain Peaks. Just 17 more border repeats to go…

In the meanwhile, I’ve been working on the Lite Lopi Pullover, from The Best of Interweave Knits. This is a yoke sweater, worked in aran-weight yarn. I’m using some Araucania Yarns Nature Wool. The ball band stated that the yarn would yield a gauge of 14 st/4 in., but since I can’t get anything less than 18 st/4 in. without creating an unacceptably loose fabric, I did a little math and figured that all should be well if I knit two pattern sizes up. I’m doing the body on US 7s and probably will do the colorwork for the yoke on size 9s. Yes, it’s true: I do own needles larger then US size 4!

DSCN1133I swatched in the round with the colors I chose one way, swapped two colors and swatched again, and decided that I liked the first combo better. This is “Bohus-inspired” sweater, which means that the colorwork uses both knit and purl stitches to create different textures. It had been challenging (I’ve never needed to purl with my right hand before!) and tends to pull in a bit, which is why I’m bumping up the the US 9s for the colorwork. I’ve also added a bit of color to the cuffs, to help keep me from going insane with all of the straight stockinette-in-the-round, also also because I might cut it close on the main color of yarn. DSCN1132

I’m making a few other modifications, lengthening the sleeves, of course, and also adding linings to the hems of the body and cuffs, and to the neck a la Elizabeth Zimmermann. So far, I’ve got the body and one sleeve done (did the sleeve + swatching in 1 day!) and I’m halfway up the 2nd sleeve. I’ll join the sleeves to the body tonight and hopefully be working on the yoke this weekend.

In other news, I’m still having a blast zooming all around town on my new bike! I estimate that I’ve saved about two tanks of gasoline already. They were a bit surprised (well, snotty might be a better word) at the salon when I showed up at the front desk asking if I could bring it in to park it (nowhere out front to lock it up!) but everyone else has been really positive and encouraging. My gynecologist was particularly enthusiastic today, even after I showed up for my DSCN1136appointment slightly sweaty, wearing bike shorts, with post-exercise elevated blood pressure. I suppose that doctors will forgive just about anything if it means you’re getting plenty of exercise. Life on the bike has been much happier since I got a new saddle with a cut-out. In my opinion it looks a bit funny, but after 20 miles I don’t care what it looks like, so long as it doesn’t hurt!

I’ve also got a summer project all set to go. Last week while socializing at the yarn store, I asked Sue Ann a question about clipless pedals, and she offered me her old bike, clipless pedals and all! It’s a small Trek with a carbon frame and a few other goodies, neglected for several years. I’m planning to learn some maintenance skills this summer, so having a bike around to overhaul should be fun. First up: figuring out how the Presta valve converter on my hand pump works!

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You’re not imagining things: it’s been a few weeks since I posted anything here. What can I say? Holy Week is always a bit busy for me!

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that the Lightweight Mountain Peaks (LMP) shawl had turned into the Black Hole of Knitting. I knit, and knit, and knit, but nothing ever seemed to come out… the Black Hole just kept swallowing stitches and yarn without producing any results.

I did finally break free of the Black Hole, and then whipped through the inside border with speed and ease. Now, I’m on the outside border, which is a knitted-on border. (For my non-knitting readers, this means that the body of the shawl is knit in one piece, and then the border is knit as a separate piece, but attached to the body row by row as it is knit perpendicular to the previous work. Yes, this is just as difficult and confusing as it sounds.)

The only knitted-on borders I’ve done before were on shawls out of Victorian Lace Today, which directs the knitter to break yarn at the end of the body, and then rejoin at a different point to begin the border, working back and forth on DPNs. LMP’s instructions, however, had me knit the body, and then on the same needle cast on 17 additional stitches to begin the border. The border is then worked back and forth on those 17 stitches, using a very simple and easy K2tog at the end of each purl row to attach to the body, which is still on the same needle.

This has been one of those slap-myself-on-the-forehead, “Why didn’t I think of that?” deals.

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Here, I’m starting a border purl row. It’s not so clear in the photo, but the border is hanging under my hand (I’m about 60 rows in) and then the shawl body flows out from the border to the left.

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Now I’m one stitch from the end of the purl row. I have one more border stitch on the left needle, and then the next stitch is the first stitch of the edge of the body.

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I knit those two stitches together…

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… and turn, ready to start the next border row. You can see how everything’s arranged a bit better now.

This is probably one of those things that has been obvious to everyone but me for ages. Right now, however, for me, this is still new to me and exciting. It’s always fun to figure things out.

I’m very ready to be done with LMP. I’ve already swatched for my next shawl, the first skein of yarn, a cobweb weight bamboo silk, is wound, and I’m all ready to start. I just have to finish the current shawl first!

In other news: Partially spurred by the ever-rising gasoline prices, I finally went and bought a new bicycle!

bike phone pic

It has been a lot of fun zipping around Austin without being stuck in traffic. I am almost up to running all of my errands by bike. The only place on my regular visiting/errand list that I can’t figure out how to get to by bike is my favorite yarn shop! It is within riding distance, but I would have to go a long, long way up Parmer lane, which is a bit fast and busy for me. I’ve been doing OK so far on Loop 360, which is another fast, busy road, but 360 has nice wide shoulder and, more importantly, lots of other bicyclists. Anyone who drives up 360 with any degree of regularity knows to watch for bikes. I don’t think that I’ve ever seen another cyclist on Parmer (not that I drive up it all that often) and the portion I would be on runs through Round Rock/Williamson County, where alternative transportation isn’t quite as common as it is down in Austin. This should be remedied when the light rail goes through that area later this year; until then, I’ll keep driving up to the LYS but maybe cut back on the number of trips.

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