Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Busy Weekend!

This was a good weekend of cycling!

I've been concentrating many of my recent rides on the Neponset River Trail, which cuts a path along the boundary between Boston and Quincy, and then between Boston and Milton further upstream.  It's not as well-known as the much longer Minuteman Commuter Bikeway further to the west, but the Neponset River area has unique charms all its own, such as the 1940's-era streetcars that rumble by the path (still in everyday use by the MBTA)...

...historical and whimsical murals...

...and the former Baker Chocolate Factory at the Lower Mills area of Dorchester and Milton:

I then continued along the new bike lanes in Milton:

On Saturday, in addition to riding all of the above, I did a loop around the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library on Boston's very scenic Columbia Point:

I've also been experimenting more with acrylics while watching the Ardennes classic races on TV.  So I just finished a painting of the riders crossing the river Meuse in the finishing town of Huy, during the Fleche Wallonne race in Belgium:

And ... I finally joined a cycling club!  I'm now a member of the Charles River Wheelmen.  It's one of the largest clubs in the Boston area, with multiple rides every week, century rides, a newsletter, and more.  I'll be honest, the only reason I hadn't joined the club earlier was because of its name.  Of course there are both women and men in the organization, so "wheelmen" feels so old-fashioned (although it's still a fairly common name among long-running cycling clubs).  But once I discovered all the great things the club organizes -- and I saw that both women and men are in leadership positions (its newsletter is called "wheelpeople") -- I then happily joined up.  I guess old names die hard, like YMCA, where the only letter that's still relevant is the "A".  Anyway, I'm looking forward to taking part in some of their rides, and maybe making some new cycling friends in the process.

So, a good weekend!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Paris-Roubaix in Acrylics

Watching the magical Paris-Roubaix bicycle race on TV inspired me to give acrylic paints a try:

I quickly discovered that acrylics allow you to lay the paint on really thick, which felt perfect for depicting Paris-Roubaix.

For me, the beauty of Paris-Roubaix is how the simplicity of the landscape contrasts with the gritty mayhem of the race.  Take the bikes and crowds out of the picture, and all you have left are cobblestones, land, and sky.  But add the race back in, and it becomes a piping hot stew of dust, noise, angry roads, rattling wheels, and screaming bright colors.  It's as if the sky mirrors all that's happening down below, absorbing the clouds of dust and carrying the vivid colors of the race upwards.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Creating Spring Colors

And then it was spring!

"That sure doesn't look like spring," you may say, "look at all those bare trees!"  I took this photo in Housatonic -- an old mill town in the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts.  I was out there on business and brought my bike along with me for a brisk afternoon ride.

How about this photo then?

That's a dam along the Housatonic River, the town's namesake.  I rode along the river for a number of miles as I made my way back to my car in Lenox, Mass.  Still not very spring-like, you say?

Here's another one, again from Housatonic:

O.K, now I'm having fun!  But only a little, because there's something about a bicycle that changes the whole way we look at spring.

Early spring in New England does have a black-and-white quality to it.  It's a kind of quiet interlude between the dark days of winter and the burst color that is yet to come.  But we cyclists love it.  We love it on an impossible-to-explain elemental level, as if the very first bicycle ever created was forged in some dark furnace deep in the hills on a cold April morning, and we're just now reconnecting with our beginnings.

Maybe it has something to do with the simple aesthetics of it all, the image of a bicycle -- a streak of bright color -- set against a monochrome background.  Or maybe it's the idea of the epic ride, the thing all serious cyclists strive for.  Cycling through a grey landscape, I feel like I'm adding my own color to those trees with every pedal stroke.

The pros have the early-spring bug too.  Just think about the great March/April races like the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, winding their way through old WWI battlefields.  Those races would loose their soul if they were held in summer.  You need that film of grey hanging over it all, reminding us that a bike race is a beautiful, peaceful thing in itself.

Even when those racers ride on cobblestone through green fields, it still has a wonderfully bleak feel to it.  Cleaning my apartment the other day, I came across an unfinished watercolor I painted of those cobbles:

Pretty lonely, right?  But we cyclists would like nothing better than to ride that road and make the unfinished painting a masterpiece.

So getting back to Housatonic...

Across the street from the local post office...

... the townspeople have put up a mural:

It's green and cheery, and it reflects the creative spirit that is so strong in the Berkshires.  Very cool!  But on that particular afternoon, I was just as happy to enjoy the pleasant shades of grey.