Monday, August 29, 2011

The Final Essential: The Hurricane Irene Aftermath Bike


After one gathers all Hurricane Irene essentials, one can often be consumed with boredom. Bottled water, check. Canned food, check. Flashlights, check. Bananagrams, check. Every Ryobi ONE+ battery in the house fully charged, check. Going over the list of essentials again, check.

Tired of watching breathless meteorologists talk about how Hurricane Irene was beating up North Carolina and taking its lunch money, I decided to keep myself busy on one more essential: an “aftermath” bike.

We, literally, took every possible precaution in this storm. But there's one thing about riding out the storm at our house: we wouldn't have a car. The day before the storm hit, I took our 2006 Honda Element to my office and parked in in the rear of the in-building parking garage where it would be on higher ground and safe from the wind. We do not have a garage of our own and I wasn't willing to leave the car in place with all the tall, loose-limbed trees around. This is good for the car, but it does leave my wife and I without a lot of options when we want to move around after the storm – which I was sure would leave the streets of Shippan Point riddled with debris and some flooding.

I know I've used the Dahon Matrix before for Storm Damage Assessment and my homemade mountain bike would be up for the challenge, but I wasn't crazy about exposing either bike to salt water or a falling tree branch. So to change that and to give myself something to do before the storm, I decided to make an aftermath-ready bike out of something that has sat in 'Saved from the Scrapheap' purgatory for months.


This is a Magna Great Divide I took from the Metal Only bin. The name “Great Divide” refers to the fact there is a Great Divide between this bike and one that I would enjoy riding.

The reasons one should buy a bike at a local bike shop rather than a big-box discounter like Wal-Mart and Target are worth a DIYBIKING.COM special, but for now I'll just focus on the two most annoying things about this terrible bike: the rear derailleur has a powerful spring in it that brings the chain to the highest gear at all times. The flimsy twist-grip shifter just isn't strong enough to survive this tug-of-war so if you want to stay in a low gear, you have to hold the shifter just so. Twist it too far and the chain jumps over the rear sprocket and gets wedged in the spokes.

The other annoyance is the short, child-size crank arms. And I know they are child-size because normal pedals don't fit in the openings. Child size pedals do since this shares the same parts with a child sized bike. It probably wasn't even the bottom of the cost-cutting well the design of this thing was wadded up and tossed into.

When I rescued the bike, the wheels were so bent they could hardly be described as round, so I fitted two others from an old Raleigh. A few adjustments made it work but it was an irritating ride. With no decent parts to scrounge and no welding projects pending, it hung on the wall (two hooks away from the snow bike) until Hurricane Irene Eve. It was then I realized it would be the perfect aftermath bike. The short crank arms might give my feet a little more clearance if I ford a flooded road and I wasn't worried what would happen to it on the ride.

So, the day before the storm, I turned the Magna Great Divide into...this.

Right, so the first thing I did was take an old Cannondale rear rack and mount it on the back. As you can see I had to use the quick release bolt on the seatpost and some electrical tape to make it fit. I then took a piece of plastic and taped it over to give the bike more of a fender. I rigged a new fender right up front and while the front has your attention, look at the waterproof flashlight fastened to the frame.

And the key to all of this is the rear metal basket. This was from a piece of IKEA furniture that my wife wasn't using. It turned out to be the perfect size for the intended cargo: my battery-powered Ryobi reciprocating saw. Naturally, I added a red reflector for safety.

Last but not least, I peeled off the frame labels (cost cutting move #256 in the Great Divide's original design) and put the DIYBIKING.COM brand on it.

Yeah, try to block my path, Irene.

So I took it outside for this picture and moved it into the living room for the duration of the storm. My wife and I were sure that our house, which often would lose power if you stared at it long enough, would go dark quickly.

But it didn't.

We streamed an episode of Mad Men on Netflix and the power didn't go out. We updated Facebook statuses and the power didn't go out. We streamed another episode of Mad Men. Not even the lights flickered.

It turns out that the household with, I'm nearly certain, the most flashlights per capita of any home in Connecticut did not need them. We were spared, so we spent the morning doing normal Sunday things. The only difference is we kept tuning in to the Hurricane Irene announcements.

The storm knocked several large branches down on my neighbor's cars and inflicted only slight damage. As for us, a huge branch fell straight down and landed smack on the spot where I usually park the Element.

Around two in the afternoon, I decided to take the Aftermath Bike on a ride. First, I used my reciprocating saw to make short work of the branch in front of my house. Then I set the saw carefully in the rear basket and made a mental note to be very careful when throwing my leg over the seat.

Wearing tall rubber boots which I struggled to put on the tiny pedals, I set off.

The first place I went was West Beach. It's about a ten minute walk to get there from my house and I wanted to see if the hurricane had shortened it to a more manageable seven. It didn't, and I was happy to see that the new pier at Cummings Park had stood up to Irene. The concrete sidewalk along the beach, not so much.

The storm had uprooted only one of the park benches. People were actually seated in all of the other ones; just watching the waves.

On Shippan Avenue, the tires bounced over broken branches and other things the storm had churned up. The road was busier than I thought as I realized a lot of my neighbors must have had cabin fever and wanted to get out of the house.

I rode slowly for two reasons: the idiotically tiny cranks and I was looking out for downed power lines. Turns out, crews had already been by to block off some of the dangerous spots.


I headed further into Shippan Point. Just when I began thinking that my neighborhood had gotten off light, I rolled down Sea Beach Drive...and stopped.

The street was on the city's evacuation list for a reason. I decided against fording through to the other side since it looked over 18 inches deep in places, so I headed around the long way, struggling to keep the bike in gear while going up and around. I took a picture of someone at the Woodway Beach Club looking out onto Long Island Sound.

I rounded the corner onto Sea Beach Drive, which was just as painful to look at from my new vantage point. However, I saw someone else on a bike, which was somewhat uplifting

I continued on Ocean Drive East, past Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy's old house (not nearly as nice as his political enemies would have you believe) and eventually came to see some more storm damage.

There was a police officer stationed at the far end of Ocean Drive East preventing traffic from entering the last section of Shippan Avenue; possibly to keep gawkers from trying to get a view of the ill-tempered Long Island Sound. But there wasn't an office at the end of Stamford Avenue, which is where I saw that several people had crossed a barricade (on foot) to look out toward Long Island.

I sadly found more flooding on Saddle Rock Road, which is a dead end.

I turned down Rogers and came to a flooded section of road I thought I could safely ford. Mindful of the expensive electric saw in the rear basket, I proceeded across slowly.

When I made it to the other side, I noticed water gushing out of a manhole cover opening. Not a good sign, I thought.

I continued further down Ocean Drive West until my route was blocked. Noticing the power lines, I didn't dare go further.

Even though some sections of the neighborhood looked untouched, plenty weren't and I could hear chainsaws and generators as I pushed down on the tiny pedals. Since I had the saw with me I stopped to offer help to a guy clearing an impossibly large tree from his porch, but he declined with thanks. Later, when I came across a road that was almost completely blocked by a tree, I looked around to make sure there were no power lines about and then dismounted the bike to clear enough of the branches away so cars could get through. Once I did that though, I got tired (the wind had awoken me at four) so I headed home. I realized that if I forget the origin of the bike, it actually served a decent purpose in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

One last thing: you know the statue called “Neighbors” at the entrance of Shippan Point that shows two war wives consoling one another? It stood tall through it all. I liked that, so what you see below is what I sent to the Stamford Advocate.



Friday, August 26, 2011

DIYBIKING.COM's Essential Guide to Surviving Hurricane Irene

This isn't the post I was supposed to write today. For over a week I was planning a complicated (possibly bizarre) ride that I had tentatively called “Biking for Burgers.”

But then, Hurricane Irene came. And she is spoiling everything.

You can't get away from the hurricane nor the coverage. Some of the coverage has been either very extreme or very embarrassing. I actually saw one report where the meteorologist said that if you have a boat with a fridge you should take out all the perishable foods.

Talk about a first-world problem.

So I've either been preparing for Hurricane Irene myself or I've been watching the Connecticut newscasters like Gil Simmons grin ear to ear while talking about things like “eyes” or “cones of uncertainty” - the latter of which sounds like a fun special at Dairy Queen.

So I had to cut my Friday morning ride short to round up a few things to get ready for the biggest storm to hit Connecticut since Hurricane Gloria in '85. But since what I needed (and, what many of you may need) could fit in a bike box, I decided to ride through town on the recumbent as sort of a storm prep ride that YOU can take today since it is beautiful out.

My first stop was an ATM machine.


If the power goes out, credit card readers go out with it, so it is essential to have pictures of dead Founding Fathers with you at all times.

Next, I rode into downtown Stamford and stopped at the Ferguson Library.
 



In a storm, books are essential. The thing about books is that they don't need to be plugged in or booted up. But your television, computer and video game system do, so when the power goes out it's good to have a book with you. So stop in your local library or bookstore for that essential.

If you stop at the Ferguson Library on the corner of Bedford and Broad Street, you'll notice it is connected to a Starbucks – and yes it is the same Starbucks I visited when I did my now-famous Coffee Cup Challenge a couple months ago.


I normally consider Starbucks to be a last resort place for coffee, but they do have something to help prepare for a hurricane: their little instant coffee packets.


I know they hyped these things up a lot, but they really are pretty good. If you can boil water, you can have coffee, which is one thing you don't want to be without during a storm. Yes, Starbucks Via is an essential.

Next, I rode up Bedford Street and merged onto High Ridge to go to Radio Shack (don't let the post-hurricane look fool you: they are open).


Radio Shack, helpfully enough, has a hurricane table.
 



I decided that even though I had rigged up an electric scooter battery to keep our cell phones charged that I wanted a portable one just in case. I reasoned I could use it when taking my battery-draining Droid Incredible to a conference as well. So I bought that and the essential flashlight.




Now, it was time to get some non-perishable food, so I stopped at Fairway and locked up at the same rack I used the day I helped the nuns find an ice cream parlor


When you buy food before a hurricane, you only want to buy the essentials. So I bought a very small loaf of bread and a couple of other things that wouldn't immediately spoil.

Also: shelf-stable milk or milk substitute to go with the Starbucks Via coffee. Drinking your coffee with milk is essential for morale.


You can also drink your coffee black, but I think I'm one of the few members of my family who still use milk. At a family reunion I once asked my grandmother how she took her coffee and she answered “In the blue mug with the yellow flowers on it.”

So, with that essential down, I stopped at Pacific Swim Bike Run so I could pick up one more essential.


This is the T-shirt I admired during my Folding Bike Week ride.  It is an essential because I want to be able to put on some clean clothes when I'm waiting for the power to come back on. I'm surprised this T-shirt isn't listed on Governor Malloy's hurricane preparedness site, CT.GOV/Irene, because if everybody wore one during clean up I bet the process would go much easier.

That about does it for my Hurricane Irene essentials. Hope you squeeze in a ride today and get some essentials too.





Monday, August 22, 2011

Bike Locks Work Best When In Use (and other lessons)

 
This, as you may remember from an earlier post, my office bike. It was almost stolen the other day.

Even though the picture was taken at West Beach in April it seemed like a good shot to use for this post since this was how the bike looked when a complete stranger jumped on it and took off.
Here's what happened: I went to Danny's Cycles during my lunch break to buy a frame pump. I met a new associate there who was kind enough to allow me to bring my bike inside, and he admired what I had done to the plain, black bike and liked the new wheels and tires. 

That should have been my first clue that a near-disaster would strike not fifteen minutes later: the bike was originally a Nashbar AT-1; the "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!" of mountain bikes. But in the span of about a year I added the Planet Bike fenders, the rear rack, the new rims, and of course, the DIYBIKING.COM label on the down tube. I hadn't really noticed how nice looking the bike had become.
I rode away, thinking I'd stop at Subway on the way back to work. I rolled by Zaza, the nice Italian place that opened up earlier in the year and I nearly stopped short as I realized a Subway was right there. I walked between the groups of people dining at Zaza and the nearby pizza place and I leaned the bike against the glass window of Subway so I could see it while I was inside.
I stood in line. I glanced at the bike. I ordered my sandwich. I glanced at the bike. I checked e-mail while my sub was being toasted. I glanced at the bike.
You get the idea.
I paid for my sandwich and as I was walking toward the front door with it I glanced at the bike. Only this time I saw something I had never seen before: a tall, young guy with a white T-shirt grabbed my office bike, threw a leg over it as though it were his and began pedaling away.
Mind empty, I ran out the door and started chasing him. Running at full speed I yelled "DROP IT, MOTHERBLEEPER! DROP IT!" (I didn't really say 'Motherbleeper' but, you know, this is a family blog).
He turn briefly at my voice and pushed down hard on the pedals, but the bike didn't dart forward because the chain skipped (was I ever grateful for that bike's personality quirk and my inability to fix it) and I had left it in the big chainring. I was nearly upon him when he dumped it in front of Zaza, right in front of the people who were eating outside, and sprinted away, looking over his shoulder once. I think he even smiled when he noticed I wasn't chasing him further.
I glared after him as he disappeared around the corner onto Gay Street. I wasn't sure what to do at that particular moment, so I picked the bike up off the ground. As I did so, I was met by the sound of applause: a few people who were eating at the pizza place and a couple of Subway patrons who had come outside to see the commotion. I then became, as I tend to do when a lot of people are looking at me, extremely embarrassed.
I apologized to the diners for using profanity, put the chain back on my bike, and rode it back to the office. Since I didn't drop my sandwich in the pursuit, I ate it slowly when I got back to my desk. I didn't get a good look at the guy and I had my bike so I thought calling the police was pointless.
If it had happened while I was ordering my sandwich I would have missed him entirely. If it had happened while I was looking at my phone checking email while my sub was being toasted I would have missed him entirely. If I had noticed him from the distance of the entire restaurant instead of just half of it I wouldn't have been able to stop him.
If I had locked the bike with the huge cable lock that had been wrapped around the seatpost, it probably wouldn't have happened at all.
I should have been flattered that the thief thought the bike, with the DIYBIKING.COM label on it, looked like an expensive enough bike to steal and smug that I didn't drop my sandwich while chasing him, but I wasn't. I instead wanted to get the word out to everyone to secure their bikes. So I emailed a local blogger and the story, complete with interviews with local bike shops, was just published in Greenwich Patch.
I'm still embarassed I was shouting like Samuel L. Jackson's character from Pulp Fiction and that I didn't lock my bike with the lock that I bought specifically for that bike, but embarassment can feed information: lock your bike, and tell your friends to lock theirs.  If outlaws steal our bikes, only outlaws will read this blog. I don't know about you, but I can't live like that. 





Thursday, August 18, 2011

Bluff Point State Park (with family)


So I got to visit my parents in Mystic over the weekend for the big family reunion. There's a lot of great traditions there which include, but are not limited to, my dad's BBQ (pulled pork, which is first cooked for eight hours) my grandmother's coffee cake (origin story unknown) and mountain biking at Bluff Point State Park.

Bluff Point State Park and riding there with my cousin is what inspired me to build a mountain bike in the first place. So I brought it with me. I also brought an extra mountain bike for a family member from Arizona to use, the Dahon Matrix and the tandem attachment. The Honda Element was packed and the mountain bike got to ride in the prime spot on the special bike rack I made. I also crammed in our clothes, bike tools and my Park Tool PCS-9/PCS-12 hybrid.

Since I'm a morning person and many of my extended family members are not, I found a different crew to go biking at Bluff Point State Park than usual: my wife, my older sister and my 8-year-old niece, Sophie.

My sister brought her own bike and so did Sophie. Since my wife didn't bring hers that meant the tandem would have to get involved. So we detached it from the Dahon and, when we arrived at Bluff Point, attached it to the mountain bike - something I had never done before.

The expectation was that we'd ride the two miles or so to the bluffs, where I'd detach the tandem and go riding on my own and finally see what my creation could do. So I brought my usual seatpost along in the usual manner.



My wife and I did okay on the mountain bike with the tandem attached, but because the mountain bike frame was larger than that of the Matrix, I had some trouble getting on and off. Sophie did well on her little dirt bike and even though she wanted to stop frequently, we made it to one of the great wonders of the Connecticut shoreline. 

My wife brought her sketchbook along and I thought she, my sister and my niece would hang out and admire the view for a while so I could really put the hammer down on my new mountain bike. I wanted to watch the speedometer numbers climb. I wanted to watch the trees blaze by me like an Endor effects shot from Return of the Jedi. I wanted to feel like Tony Stark when he finally figured out how to use the Iron Man suit. I wanted to...

"Sophie, do you want to go biking with your uncle on the tandem?"

 "YEAH!"

The forest moon would have to wait.

After a slight seat adjustment, my 8-year-old niece was able to sit comfortably on the tandem. This was new experience for me: my parent's first grandchild on a modified tandem attached to a homemade and slightly unproven mountain bike. I adjusted the rearview mirror on my helmet to make sure Sophie wouldn't bounce off the seat into the woods on a bump.

First we walked from the bluffs to the trail, and while walking Sophie asked about the bike.

"Did you build this?" 

"Yes."

"Awesome."

We mounted the tandem and set off carefully using the tried-and-true method of me saying "ready, set, go!" before pushing the pedals. The tandem setup starts slowly and rides slowly, but I soon found I had an enthusiastic pedaling partner. I could both see her pedaling and feel the effects of it, and on the first difficult hill I told her to be "the motor" and to pedal as hard as possible. She did so, and on each subsequent hill she'd ask if she needed to "be the motor" in the sort of voice children use to ask for ice cream.

I wasn't sure how long we'd ride, but in minutes I decided that Sophie would be up to riding the entire length of the fire road encircling the park. She had ridden her little dirt bike about 1.6 miles to the bluffs and I knew we could (probably) ride another three or four. I kept asking her if she was okay and she kept assuring me that she was.

After I got used to riding with her on the back and we had cleared most of the hills, we settled in on our ride. We talked about our favorite colors, she talked about her eyeglasses (and every time we hit a bump I'd check to make sure they were still on her face since my sister would never let me hear the end of it if they broke).

We made it down the hill back to the start of the loop (the trip assured me I had adjusted the disc brakes properly) and I floated the idea of heading to the car to get my wife's cycling gloves. That would add about a mile to the trip. Sophie assured me she was up for it so we headed back down the trail toward the entrance to the park.

"Is that the parking lot?" Sophie asked.
"Yes."

"Is the car there?"

"Yes."

"Are we going to ride all the way to the car?"

"Yes."

"Awesome."

I watched for cars moving in and out of spaces and we made it to the Element. When we stopped, Sophie held the tandem up to keep it from falling while I looked for my wife's gloves. Soon we got back on and headed back to the bluffs, a little under four miles after we set off (those are tandem miles). We promptly rested and enjoyed the park.


Sophie talked enthusiastically about the ride and how much she enjoyed riding on the tandem. And even though the Cane Creek Thudbuster seat just clattered on the rear rack the whole time, I felt that my first bike ride at Bluff Point State Park was a fun one. End to end it was seven miles, and when else but during a family reunion do I get to ride with my 8-year-old niece?






Sunday, August 7, 2011

Biking Nations: The Portugal Trip, Part III



I woke up on my third and final day in Lisbon determined to make it one for the ages. By the end I wanted the beautiful Portugal to change its Facebook status from “it's complicated” to “in a relationship with the DIYBIKING.COM founder.”

But I was embarking on a complicated trip. I had to first find my way to the Rossio station and head to Sintra, take the bike off the train and ride all the way to Cabo da Roca before heading to Cascais, where I would take another train to Algés before working my way back to my hotel – all before returning the bike to Bike Iberia and meeting my wife at the end of her last day at the Urban Sketching Symposium.

This meant I had to contend with four different train stations and several unfamiliar routes – all with a language barrier, no cell phone, no real sense how many miles the trip would be and a proven poor sense of direction. I also wasn't sure where I would have lunch during all of this. But I thought the challenge would be a good motivator for me.

I charged the bike GPS the night before and reset it for zero right outside the hotel. I also brought along two bottles of water, some protein bars I had brought with me for the plane, and three maps: one of Sintra, one of Cascais, and of course, one of Lisbon. As you can see, I tore the piece of the Lisbon map out so I could guide myself to the station.



I set off, desperately wanting to make a good first impression on this ride. As it turns out, I did: I located the Rossio station easily and stopped the GPS trip timer at 1.45 miles before looking for my train, which, thankfully, wasn't hard to find.



I remembered how annoying it can be to take a train on Metro North in Stamford (no racks and lots of restrictions) but when walking along the train I found a car with a picture of a bicycle on it. That was a good moment.



The train left precisely at 10:21, and I immediately mapped out the route of the Sintra journey. Two days earlier, Ana had helpfully highlighted the suggested path, which would take me through the historic district, up the steep and twisty road of Estrada Da Pena (where the bus my wife and I took three days earlier handled like a Mini Cooper as it made the ascent) before turning right on 247-3, where I would ride mostly through woods toward Cabo da Roca.



Around 11:00am, I made it to Sintra station. Above me I could see the Moorish Castle...and it dawned on me I'd be biking about 2/3 of the way toward it to get to 247-3.



I switched the bike GPS timer back on and noticed my elevation was just under 700 feet, which meant the train had climbed around 400 feet on the journey to Sintra. Now the rest of the climbing had to be done on the bike.



As I climbed, I could feel the force of gravity trying to pull me back toward the station. I looked at the GPS and saw I was already at 946 feet above sea level. I wondered if I should have insisted on toe clips for the rented bike. No matter. I shifted to the lowest of the low gears and pounded the pedals as hard as I could – even though the bike's speed slowed to the single digits.



My legs burned as I was greeted with the sight of some cyclists gleefully heading down. Even though the temperature felt to be in the low seventies and I didn't feel like scaring tourists, I removed my jersey. The elevation figures kept climbing. I made switchback after switchback - how do the buses do it? - and felt like I had already gone thirty miles.

Finally, I made it to the 247-3 junction, where I stopped, sucked in as much oxygen as my lungs could hold, and looked at the Bike GPS. My elevation was at 1,398 feet, and I had gone less than two-and-a-half miles since leaving the Sintra station. In Stamford, two-and-a-half miles isn't even a warm up. Not in Sintra.



After taking a breather and drinking some water, I noticed a car with bikes on the back drive past me and turn left toward the Moorish Castle. It stopped and some men got out to remove the bikes. I realized they had driven the car up for the purpose of cycling back down, and I then wondered if there was a Portuguese translation for the word "Pffffffft!"

There was still more climbing to do on 247-3, but on this lonely road I didn't mind because I felt as though things were finally leveling out.



It was a quiet ride through the trees, but there were still things to see. Soon, I even got teased with some of the incredible views to come.





When things began to tilt downhill, I saw a couple of cyclists and realized I had seen more bikes inside of two hours than I had seen in four days of being in Lisbon.



After a short while, I came to a junction point I was not expecting. I could read the signs and tell where Sintra was and where Cascais was, but nothing on Cabo da Roca. I ended up turning left to follow the road that led to Cascais, keeping my fingers crossed I'd find a sign for Cabo da Roca



I descended some more and built up a lot of speed as the bike moved gracefully on the road and through the trees. Finally, I came to a bend in the road that featured a rock on the side that must have been at least 15 feet high. I decided to stop, climb the rock, and have a look around. Was I ever glad I did that.





I turned around and took a picture of the road I had just descended. There would be no turning back on this trip.



I only had to ride a couple of hundred feet before I came to a junction point that had the sign that I wanted...but something looked off.



It was clear I had to turn right to go to Cabo da Roca...but Sintra was in the same direction. I then realized I must have made a mistake decision to go off the beaten path at the first junction point, which meant I'd be riding an even longer distance than I originally planned to get to Cabo da Roca and would have to backtrack toward Cascais more than I had expected. But I still knew where I was (mostly) and how to get where I was going, so I considered the date to be going smoothly.

And then I had to climb again...through wind.



Actually, it wasn’t wind. It was a powerful, invisible and otherworldly force that could have had its own episode of the X-Files.

A two-parter, even.

When the road was level I had to put all of my weight down on each pedal to get the bike to crawl along, and on places where the road would dip downward I still had to pedal or else the bike would coast to a stop. As the road twisted, the wind would hit from different directions and I really had to work to keep the bike from drifting too far into the road. It would be with me on the switchbacks (thus lulling me into a false sense of security) before pressing against me when my direction changed.

Feeling weak, I ate some cashews and drank some more water before pressing on to Cabo da Roca. My hard work through the wind was already paying off in scenery.



Finally, a few minutes shy of 1:00 in the afternoon, the downhills shifted in my favor as I took a left to descend toward Cabo da Roca. I passed a few residential houses (complete with garbage cans out front) and restaurants before finally coming face to face with my goal.



I descended some more and arrived at Cabo da Roca, the most western point of mainland Europe. It was 1:00pm and I had traveled 15.6 miles since setting off that morning.





I was hungry but didn't want to have a full lunch, so I instead tided myself over with a croissant sandwich at the little touristy eatery there. I didn't care because I had something to eat, a place to refill my water bottles, and more breathtaking views.



I knew I needed to head back to Cascais and hopefully have a bigger lunch before finding the train. That meant climbing and hitting that wind once again.



This was going to be a great date, I told myself. I set off up the road and was again drawn to the numbers on the GPS showing how far I was above sea level. It was as tough as I expected, but I knew the wind would eventually make it even tougher...and it did.
 
Two miles in and a couple of hundred feet of windy climbing later, I stopped to rest near the green trash bins in front of one of the nearby houses. I looked at them carefully and thought it must be bulk pick up day or something because next to the cans was a small pile of discarded umbrellas. One of them caught my eye…and gave me an idea.



You can take me out of my workshop, but you can't...well, you get the idea.
 
So what I did was open the clear plastic child's umbrella (complete with unrecognizable cartoon characters pictured on it) and attach it to the bike’s handlebars by wedging the handle in the handlebar bag bracket. I figured this makeshift faring might allow me to move faster when the wind was against me and act as a sail when the wind was with me.
 

Here's the thing: it worked. Or at least it felt like it did. I should ask the Mythbusters to look into it.


Within minutes of cresting the hill, I was rocketing along the road at speeds over 25 miles an hour. I could still feel the wind against me but it did not feel crippling as it did before. Since the umbrella was clear, I could even duck my head down and look through it like a windshield of a sleek Italian motorcycle. I drew stares from the motorists and from some of the other cyclists, yes, but I think the latter was just mad they didn’t think of it first.

The same road that had been like riding through syrup not an hour before I was slicing through like a hot knife. Before I knew it I was back in town where I had to turn right to head toward Cascais. I glanced at the GPS and noticed my mileage was at 20.3 and my elevation was 501 feet. 



I was once again a streak of light as I headed toward the coast, stopping at a fascinating and abandoned house on the way. In minutes I had gone less than two miles and was already at 134 feet above sea level.


As the road began to level out I pressed on, eventually coming to the stunning Praia do Guincho beach. At first I thought beachgoers were flying kites at the beach until I got closer and realized there were people on surfboards using kites to pull them along. I wasn't the only one thinking critically about wind and aerodynamics that day.

I pedaled along the coast, enjoying the ride thoroughly. At one point I pointed the camera behind me and got a picture of Cabo da Roca...now way off in the distance.


As I rode along the bike path along the road, I came to a number of restaurants. Even though I was hungry they looked like the sort of places that may not appreciate a sweaty cyclist, and I wanted to wait until I got to Cascais to eat anyway.


I continued on. Don't let the photo fool you: there were lots of cyclists on the path that day enjoying themselves.

I got closer to town and stopped to take a picture of a passing boat.


Minutes later, I came to Boca do Inferno, near where my wife and I stopped in the cab for pictures the day before. During high tide, the water is quite a sight as it rushes through the rocks.

When I passed Boca do Inferno, I stopped again to remove my umbrella faring and put it in a trash can, grateful it had helped me through over twelve miles. Then I headed into Cascais where I successfully avoided the Saturday traffic to come to this:

My vegetarian wife had pointed Dom Manolo out to me the day before and said: “you'd love it.” Desperately needing food at this point, I parked the bike where I could see it (I sat outside) and quickly ordered the Chicken Grill “portion” (quotation marks theirs) off the menu that was printed in English, as well as an ice tea. When my food arrived, I knew I was in for a treat.


The chicken was perfect, and I ate every last bite, leaving most of the fries. It felt like the kind of meal one would eat when celebrating, and it almost was: I still had another leg of the trip to complete.


Wanting to get to the Cascais station quickly, I asked a passing waiter for the check. I do not know whether he could speak English or not, but he wordlessly took a pencil and wrote the number “9” on the paper tablecloth in front of me before walking away. This is definitely my kind of place, I thought as I pulled out my shrinking supply of Euros.
 
I made it to the train without incident with the odometer at just over 29 miles. As the train moved I paid close attention as it moved along toward Lisbon since I wasn't going all the way there, but rather to Algés. Once again, everything went smoothly and before long I was back on the path I had last been on two days before. Only this time, there were a lot more cyclists and families on the path since it was Saturday.


I rode as slowly as I could to enjoy the scenery, but fast enough so I could get back to my hotel by 5:00 so I'd have enough time to cool down, shower, return the bike and go to the Urban Sketching Symposium.



When I left the path, I knew this was where the day would be won or lost: I needed to get to the hotel without losing my sense of direction.



I followed the trolley for a short while (see the picture at the start of Day One) and finally – and I do mean finally – rode to my hotel without getting lost. Whoever won the Tour de France stage that day would not have been as happy as I was.

I looked at the odometer: 38 miles, and I still had two more to go before returning the bike to Bike Iberia. I rested a short while before showering and changing clothes. Then I removed the bike bag from the back and set off to Bike Iberia. Once again, I did not get lost. It was a smashing third date.



When I arrived at the shop I thanked Ana and the others there profusely while removing my bike GPS mount and my little frame bag. I also strapped my helmet on the back of my small REI backpack I had brought with me and reasoned I could carry it on my back the rest of the day. I chatted with the manager while assuring him this would not be my last date with Lisbon. It took a while, but I had bonded with the city, the city had bonded with me, and I had ridden 77 fun and challenging miles in three days.

Just as I was leaving to walk to the symposium, three cyclists with their bikes loaded with gear stopped at Bike Iberia to ask the manager for directions. I couldn't hear what he told them but the trio soon rolled past me down the street. I almost wish they had asked me for directions instead. After all, I know some great places to go.