Sorry for that, it can be difficult to start typing again after a vacation. The fingers stiffen up, you hit the wrong keys, you keep forgatting how too speal stuff... It's sort of like how you have to shake the cobwebs out of your legs when you've been off the bike for awhile--something I'll also have to do in the coming days, since even though I brought a bike with me on my trip I didn't really ride all that much. Mostly I just used it for little subsistence jaunts here and there, which featured mere token stretches of gravel:
Sure, I might have gone longer, but those damn Adirondack mountains were blocking all the cellphone signals and I didn't want to do anything too ambitious without first consulting my tire pressure app:
You can't be too careful.
So instead I spent the bulk of my leisure time enjoying the family, preparing lavish repasts on a barbecue grill, and curating and consuming refreshingly potent seasonally-appropriate cocktails. Nevertheless, bicycles still managed to insinuate themselves into the proceedings, which is what happens when you're a celebrated semi-professional bike blogger. For example, at one point we all hopped into THE CAR THAT THE BANK OWNS UNTIL I FINISH PAYING THEM BACK for a little day trip to Middlebury, Vermont. (Sometimes you need a vacation from your vacation, you know how it is.)
Anyway, our little interstate trip was going swimmingly at first. The ferry didn't sink into Lake Champlain, we marveled at the rolling green hills, I shouted "DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT!" at my elder son as we passed Middlebury College... Finally we pulled into town, where to my surprise I noticed this:
Yeah, that's right, it was a tiny museum with a bicycle exhibit:
"Hey everybody, look!," I exclaimed in my best Clark W. Grizwold, and a collective groan arose in the car as it soon became clear that not only was I going to check out the exhibit but I was also going to drag everybody else in there with me. On one hand, I couldn't blame them for being apprehensive, because on our last visit to Middlebury we'd made the mistake of taking a tour of the UVM Morgan Horse Farm and the boredom very nearly killed us. (Though they were doing a pregnancy check on the animals while we were there, and it's not too often we city slickers get to see someone go armpit-deep in a horse's vagina.) Yet on the other hand, my family's aversion to tedium seemed a bit unreasonable. After all, we were in Vermont for chrissakes. What were they expecting? Excitement?!?
So in we went, and as it turned out the exhibit was all that I hoped for and more:
You never truly realize how badly you needed to see a stuffed kangaroo lounging on a settee in front of a recumbent until you actually encounter one.
You also never know the fear of impending disaster until you release a toddler into a room filled with old-timey velocipedes:
See, as the child of a semi-professional bike blogger my younger son is extremely comfortable around bicycles--so much so that whenever he sees one he figures his job is to get on it so I can schlep him to the playground:
This meant I couldn't examine the bicycles as closely as I'd have liked, because I had to devote the majority of my mental acuity to preventing him from climbing them:
I don't know which would be worse: having to explain to the curator that your kid just destroyed one of the exhibits, or having to admit to people that your child's injury was the result of being crushed by a falling pennyfarthing. The former is obviously bad because that stupid high-wheeler is probably worth more than like ten Specialized McLaren Venge-Schmenges and I'd be paying it off for the rest of my life. However, the latter would be unbearably humiliating and quite difficult to live down, except for maybe in Brooklyn and Portland where such injuries are probably commonplace--but even there you'd have to deal with people asking why your child wasn't wearing a helmet.
Nevertheless, I'm pleased to report that thanks to our expert parenting no harm came to any of the bicycles (or to my kid, though I realize most of you probably don't give a shit), and that includes this stunning example of one of the earliest (if not the earliest, I was too busy playing defense to read everything as closely as I'd have liked) safety bicycles:
As I admired its medieval-looking drivetrain I wished I could take it for a spin:
After all, this is where it all began--right here, with this machine that liberated us from the ridiculous pennyfarthing and is the basis for the bikes we're still riding today (recumbent-riding freaks notwithstanding).
Yet even then, at the very dawn of cycling civilization, there were already retrogrouches. Consider for example that while everyone was flocking to the safety bicycle there were still those who "enjoyed the thrill of riding the grand old ordinary." So in 1893 the Crypto Cycle Company introduced the "Crypto Geared Front Driver:"
Though I suppose one could argue that a geared pennyfarthing is a retrogrouchical oxymoron--kind of like a Rivendell with electronic shifting. Here's that sweet geared pennyfarthing hub, by the way:
Put that baby on your singlespeed for some serious street cred. (Though I suppose you'd have to retrofit a chain drive somehow.)
Meanwhile, if you were a late 19th Century Frederick living on the bleeding edge of velocipedal technology, in that very same year you could have bought this baby from William Reed and Sons which was hot enough to fog up your monocle:
It's got all the latest features, including what I can only assume was the equivalent of Boost 148:
Whatever the cutting-edge bottom bracket standard was back then:
Some sort of brake or shifter or oil pump or butter churner, who the hell knows:
And of course this baroque suspension saddle setup, which was probably the dropper seatpost of its day:
There was also a racing bike:
And a wooden bike made from what I can only assume are broom handles:
With ornate (though not exactly confidence-inspiring) lugs:
And a newer road racer:
And an even newer Hetchins:
And then, amid my revery, I was slapped in the face by the titanium hand of the present in the form of this Budnitz fat bike:
What a huge disappointment. That's like ending a retrospective of the greatest films in history with the "Entourage" movie.
And there was more than just bikes. There were also photos, like this one of a proto-hipster with his dog:
And this one of "comical men with ordinary bicycles:"
("What, no helmets?!?")
Though who's to say they're not early road rage victims whose heads have been nailed to a tree?
Then there was a truing stand:
It's accurate to within tenths of a foot.
And of course there were the accessories:
Like this water gun for warding off dogs:
Or this actual gun for when the squirt gun ain't cutting it:
And with my head swimming in the past I finally left the museum and headed into Middlebury, where I undertook the search for my family, who'd gotten fed up with the exhibit like nine pennyfarthings ago: