Cathryn Hankla Returns to Richmond

cathryn hankla returns richmond
That’s an announcement I’d dearly love to see! Last night was her first reading and signing in Richmond and I, for one, want more. She read from her two newest books. She started with a selection from lost places: on losing and finding home which was released in April.

 

cathryn hankla lost places
It is a memoir in essay form. But unlike the many trauma memoirs out there, this is more an exploration of her life in relation to people and places. She uses home in both a physical and metaphorical sense, and much of what she writes speaks to all of us.I bought the book only last night, and so have not read most of it, but it’s jumped to the top of my list!

 

cathryn hankla galaxies
GALAXIES is a poetry collection published last year. She ended the reading with several selections, including “Galaxy of Virginia History”—both humorous and appalling.

 

Cathy’s writing often elicits adjectives such as droll, urgent, inventive, graceful, passionate, compassionate, unpredictable, and imaginative. She’s published more than a dozen books of poetry, short stories, novels, and now essays. Choose one and become a fan! (As you can tell, I’m one already.)
cathryn hankla published works
Among my favorites are Learning the Mother Tongue and FORTUNE TELLER MIRACLE FISHCathy is a fabulous storyteller! Both of these collections evoke her Appalachian Mountain roots—vividly, poignantly, and endearingly.

 

I actually met Susan Hankla first. I won’t go into that now, having recently blogged about Susan twice. It was in one of Susan’s classes that a fellow student suggested I attend a writing workshop at Nimrod Hall. As many of you know, I’ve been returning to Nimrod Hall since 2004, and intend to do so this year as well.

 

Main building Nimrod Hall
The main building of Nimrod Hall
That is when and where I met Cathy. It was immediately apparent that we have much in common. Besides our shared Appalachian roots, we both have been college professors and chaired our respective departments, albeit her department is English and Creative Writing and mine was Psychology.
writing workshop nimrod hall
Cathy Hankla in our workshop
Cathy conducts helpful and enjoyable writing workshops—which is why I go back year after year. No doubt she is an excellent classroom teacher as well, judging by students of hers who attended last night’s reading. She’s great at both big picture critique and detail editing.
 
cathryn hankla land between blue moon poorwater
 
If you are more inclined to novels than short stories, consider these. And  BTW, she’s poetry editor of The Hollins Critic. Bottom line: whatever your preference, give Cathy Hankla a read. Or a listen, if Richmond is so lucky as to get her back!

 

cathryn hankla returns richmond

Writing Winter Weather

Writing 101: Winter Weather

Like so many other people affected by the recent extreme weather, I had plenty of time to consider snow. And as with so many other things that I consider, I started reading about it. Yes, Elmore Leonard is adamant that you never start a book with the weather—but that is not to say weather is taboo in your story. Your task as a writer is to make weather interesting. As an exercise, consider the following snow-related facts, and how you might fit them into a story in a way that seems natural, preferably relevant to the plot!

neighborhood with snow
Snow January 2016

 

Chionophobia is a persistent fear of snow, especially being trapped by snow. Winter cold kills more than twice as many Americans as summer heat does. Maybe your character has a reason to move to Key West!
snow drifts by house
Snow drifts during January 2016

 

Some parts of Antarctica have had no rain or snow for two million years. Also, snow has never been reported in Key West, FL.

 

On average, an inch of rain makes 10 inches of snow.

 

winter weather in Richmond, Virginia, January 2016

 

Skiing was introduced to Switzerland by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1893.

 

Handschuhschneeballwerfer is German slang for “coward.” It means someone who wears gloves to throw snowballs.

 

A snowflake that falls on glacier in central Greenland can take 200,000 years to reach the sea.

 

Conventional wisdom holds that all snowflakes have 6 sides. But according to the Huffington Post, there are triangles, hourglasses, spools of thread, needles, hollow columns, dendrites, prisms, and flat plates as well. Asymmetrical snowflakes are more common than symmetrical ones. Shapes vary by temperature and moisture in the clouds. What sort of person would care about the shape of snowflakes?

 

It’s a myth that no two snowflakes are exactly the same; in 1988, two identical snow crystals came from a storm in Wisconsin. But according to physicists, complex snowflakes are indeed unique.

 

According to The Guinness Book of World Records, the world’s largest snowflake was reported to be 15 inches across and 8 inches thick. While witnesses said the flakes were “larger than milk pans,” these claims have not been substantiated.

 

tree covered in snow, January 2016

 

Snow isn’t white; it’s actually clear and colorless. The appearance of white results from absorbing sunlight uniformly over the wavelengths of visible light.

 

Sometimes snow doesn’t appear white. Orange snow fell over Siberia in 2007. Deep snow can appear blue. Snow can also appear pink (watermelon snow). Snow in high alpine areas and the coastal polar regions contains fresh-water algae that have a red pigment that tints the surrounding snow. Perhaps your character made snowcream with pink snow and all who ate it got sick from the algae.

 

Each winter in the US, at least 1 septillion ice crystals fall from the sky—that’s 1 with 24 zeros. The average snowflake falls at a speed of 3.1 mph.
1 septillion ice crystals fall from the sky

 

An average snowflake is made up of 180 billion molecules of water.

 

Besides snowflakes, frozen precipitation can take the form of hail, graupel (snow pellets), or sleet.

 

The most snow ever recorded in a 24-hour period in the US was 75.8 inches (Silver Lake, CO, 1921). The second most fell in one calendar day, 63 inches, in Georgetown, CO, 1913. In 1959, a single snowstorm in Mt. Shasta dropped as much as 15.75 feet of snow in that California region.

 

Mt. Baker ski area in Washington State has the world record for snowfall: 1,140 inches in the 1998-99 winter season (about 95 feet). Who would be happy about that?

 

80% of the freshwater on earth is frozen as ice or snow, accounting for 12% of the earth’s surface.

 

footprint in snow
Footprint in snow

 

A blizzard is when you can’t see for 1/4 mile, the winds are 35 mph or more, and the storm lasts at least 3 hours.

 

People buy more cakes, cookies, and candies than any other food when a blizzard is forecast. And I thought it was bread and milk! What would your character stock up? Wine? Beans? Oatmeal? Dog biscuits? Toilet paper?

 

The US averages 105 snow storms per year, typically lasting 2-5 days and affecting multiple states.

 

An igloo can be more than 100 degrees warmer inside than outside—and they’re warmed entirely by body heat.

 

According to wikipedia, the Eskimo-Aleut languages have about the same number of distinct word roots referring to snow as English does, but these languages allow more variety as to how those roots can be modified in forming a single word. This issue is still debated.

 

Snowboarders and skiers often distinguish different types of snow by labels such as mashed potatoes, pow pow, champagne, cauliflower, sticky, or dust on crust.

 

Ski lift in snow
By Nathalie Gouzée

 

Nova Scotia holds the record for the most snow angels ever made simultaneously in multiple locations: 22,022 in 130 locations in 2011. Bismarck, North Dakota holds the record for the most snow angels made simultaneously in one place:  8,962 in 2007.

 

The largest snowball fight on record involved 5,834 fighters in Seattle on January 12, 2013.

 

The largest snowman ever recorded was 113 feet 7 inches, in Bethel, ME. Perhaps your character wants to break that record.

 

Rochester, NY, is the snowiest city in the US, averaging 94 inches of snow a year.

 

In 1992, the Common Council of Syracuse, NY, passed a decree that any more snow before Christmas Eve was illegal.  Just two days later, they had more snow. But what’s the story there?
tree covered in snow

Today is the 207th Anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe’s Birth

Edgar Allan Poe 2 retouched and transparent bg
Edgar Allan Poe. Somewhat retouched. Original daguerreotype taken by Edwin H. Manchester on the morning of November 9th, 1848.
Poe was a writer, literary critic, and editor, the first well-known American writer to try to earn a living exclusively through writing. In spite of his prolific output, he didn’t earn enough to support himself, let alone live comfortably.
 
Complete Stories and Papers of Edgar Allan Poe
Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe

 

Although Poe died at the age of forty, this book contains 119 short stories and poems and one novel. His literary criticism isn’t represented at all in this volume, nor are his essays on writing, such as “The Philosophy of Composition,” “The Poetic Principle,” and “The Rationale of Verse.” His first publications were poetry, and he published 53 of them, but his work covers a much broader spectrum: 27 tales of mystery and horror; 25 stories of humor and satire; 14 that veer toward fantasy and science fiction. His novel is an adventure yarn. “Eureka” is a disquisition on the nature of the universe, and his vision has been largely confirmed by science, for example the Big Bang Theory.

 

Despite the breadth of his writing, he is best known for poetry and suspense/horror. He is often called the father of detective fiction—preceding Arthur Conan Doyle and Wilkie Collins by decades—while his contributions to cosmology and cryptography are known to relatively few. Besides being brilliant, Poe was a fine athlete. (He once set a broad jump record of 21’6″.)  But he is most remembered as a man who suffered bouts of depression, whose career and life were burdened if not destroyed by gambling and alcohol, and who was plagued by scandals ranging from his marriage to his 13-year-old cousin to courting multiple women simultaneously.

 

To this day his death is shrouded in mystery. Where had he been for the previous several days? What was he doing? Why was he wearing someone else’s clothes? And who was the “Randal” he called out for from his deathbed?

 

Nevertheless, he is celebrated and honored across the country, including an annual Birthday Bash in Richmond, Virginia.

 

 

This year the event included a panel presentation and book signing by members of two local chapters of Sisters in Crime. Among other things, we spoke about Poe’s influence on our writing.

 

Sisters in Crime at Poe Museum for Poe's Birthday Bash
Sisters in Crime
Left to right: Rosemary Shomaker, Teresa Inge, Vivian Lawry, Heather Weidner, Maggie King, Yvonne Saxon
Sisters in Crime presenting Virginia is for Mysteries at Poe Museum for Poe's Birthday Bash, Edgar Allan Poe
Virginia is for Mysteries signing table
Seated, left to right: Teresa Inge, Maria Hudgins, Vivian Lawry; standing, left to right: Yvonne Saxon, Rosemary Shomaker, Maggie King, Heather Weidner

 

This is the biggest celebration of Poe’s birthday, the events and fun running from noon till midnight. Let Poe’s lights shine on!
Poe Museum, Richmond, Virginia
Evenfall at the Poe Museum, Richmond, Virginia

happy birthday, edgar allan poe; edgar allan poe's birth

In the Aftermath of the James River Writers Conference

Saturday and Sunday were two great, packed, informative days! By the end of the Library of Virginia’s Annual Literary Luncheon, I was too caught up in events to write much, but that dam is about to break.

I’ve attended JRW Conferences since the earliest days, back when they were held at the Library of Virginia. I really liked that venue, the ambience, the close, personal feel of it. But the annual meeting outgrew the Library’s space. This year we met at the Greater Richmond Convention Center. It feels much more sterile, but there is plenty of room for meetings, plenary sessions, book signings and sales, plus convenient parking. Plenty of room for growth!

Greater Richmond Convention Center, site of the James River Writers Conference

Let me say up front that the absolutely worst thing about JRWC is that I couldn’t attend every session. For example, on Saturday the concurrent sessions offered from 3:30-4:30 were How to Locate, Lure, and Land the Right Agent; To MFA or Not to MFA (virtues and vices of the academic route); Writing Diversity into Your Fiction (representing the larger world in your fiction, how and why); and 50 Shades of Red (on various aspects of writing erotica). What writer wouldn’t want to know all of that? (Well, maybe the kids/YA writers could skip the erotica.)

On the other hand, last week I mentioned that JRW classifies sessions by track. This year’s tracks were Diversity in Writing, Writing for Kids/YA, Poetry, The Pillars of Story, and Writing as Career 2.0. I tended toward The Pillars of Story, but not exclusively. Freedom to jump the tracks is one of the delights of the conference.

Hoping to find an agent for Nettie’s Books soon, I attended the session on getting the right agent (David Henry Sterry, Arielle Eckstut, Heather Flaherty, and Helen Heller, Bill Blume moderating). Although there was a lot of diversity on many things, (e.g., appropriate level of formality/informality) two areas of unanimity stand out: (1) research agents you intend to query; and (2) follow their online submission guidelines to the letter! The diversity of personalities on the panel was evidence that you (the writer) really should try to get a handle on your prospective agent as a person. Places to look are Facebook, blogs, Twitter, and any books the agent might have written. It also helps to hear them speak at a conference such as JRW, or meet them in a one-on-one session.

I’m currently working on a new novel, and the first 30 pages or so are pretty ho-hum. The presentation on conflict and tension was excellent (Raising the Stakes with Leah Ferguson, Valley Haggard, and Amy Sue Nathan, moderated by Jon Sealy). They reminded me of multiple aspects of tension and conflict: stakes can be personal or universal; conflict can be internal or external; a blocked goal = conflict; focus on physical or emotional danger; in every case, imagine the worst possible thing that could realistically happen in this situation and write it—you can always dial it back later for nuance. One thing I found especially helpful was Valley Haggard’s comment that readers connect with shame, pain, vulnerability, failure, and flaws. I wish I had a picture!

A Fine Romance (Leah Ferguson, Mary Chris Escobar, Amy Sue Nathan, moderated by M.M.Finck) brought genre into focus—women’s fiction vs. romance, into particular—and endings (happily ever after, happily for now, together but bittersweet because one or both had to sacrifice for it). Beyond that, what struck me is that their advice for writing a good romance or book of women’s fiction sounded just like the advice for good writing in general! Which reminds me: at the Festival of the Written Word, I’m on a panel with a title something like When Romance Meets Mystery. We shall see. Again, I wish I had a photo, but I was too far back in the hall.

But I did get a picture of the panel for Writing Memorable Characters: Stacy Hawkins Adams, Bruce Holsinger, Amy Sue Nathan, Kristina Wright, moderated by Josh Cane.

James River Writers Conference panel with Josh Cane, Amy Sue Nathan, Stacy Hawkins Adams, Kristina Wright, Bruce Holsinger
L-R: Josh Cane, Amy Sue Nathan, Stacy Hawkins Adams, Kristina Wright, Bruce Holsinger

The variety of writing represented—inspirational women’s fiction and non-fiction, historical fiction, women’s fiction and romance, erotica—underscored the over-all rule that every type of writing (including memoir) needs memorable characters, and characters the reader cares about. The heroes and heroines need flaws. The bad characters need a good side. And one effective way of establishing both is to give readers the backstory.

The last plenary session was the Pitchapalooza (David Henry Sterry, Arielle Eckstut, and Rebecca Podos) during which the names of volunteers were drawn from a plastic pumpkin and each had 1 minute—precisely one minute!—to pitch his/her book. Great fun, and very informative as the panel commented on the stronger and weaker aspects of each pitch.

James River Writers Conference Pitchapalooza panel
L-R: Rebecca Podos, Arielle Eckstut, David Henry Sterry

The closing was brief, but celebrated the winners of the Best Unpublished Novel Contest, the Emyl Jenkins Award, and Pitchapalooza. Although not a winner, I was recognized as a finalist in the Best Unpublished Novel Contest. Very gratifying. But egocentric being that I am, I wish the awards (except Pitchapalooza, of course) had been announced a the beginning of the conference. Maybe people I didn’t know before would have congratulated me!

Alas, the conference wasn’t all about me. It was mostly about the books—and there were many to be had, and signed. Fountain Bookstore sold the books of all the presenters.

Fountain Bookstore selling speakers' books at James River Writers Conference
Fountain Bookstore selling speakers’ books at James River Writers Conference

I usually come away from the JRWC feeling that I got more than I paid for. Unfortunately, this year, that included a raging cold, including coughing and congestion, that laid me low as of Monday morning. I assume it was all the back-slapping, handshaking, and hugging.

The "Lucy Booth" at the James River Writers Conference
The “Lucy Booth” at the James River Writers Conference where writers could meet with a professional psychologist

On the other hand, a nasty cold was a great reason to put my feet up, review my notes, and enjoy the contents of my conference bag. I checked the writing classes offered by VMFA Studio School and the Visual Arts Center; considered invitations to submit to the next Poetry Virginia Annual contest and join the Virginia Writers Club; and I could browse the free issues of Richmond Magazine and Broad Street. Already looking forward to next year! Though I did suggest to Katharine Herndon (JRW Executive Director) that next year they try to get a bright colored conference bag!

James River Writers Conference tote bag
James River Writers Conference tote bag with Different Drummer postcard

 

Is This Writers Conference for Me?

The answer depends on what you are looking for, of course. In my experience, there are essentially two types of writers conferences: those that focus on fans and writers meeting-and-greeting, and those that focus on the craft of writing.

Virginia Festival of the Book is an annual conference for fans that lasts a week, cuts across genres, and most events are free! Bouchercon and Malice Domestic are two examples of fan conferences for mystery writers and fans. (Romance, fantasy, Sci-Fi, horror—all genre writers—have similarly dedicated conferences.) Bouchercon rotates worldwide (New Orleans in 2016), but Malice Domestic is always in the greater DC area. They spotlight big-name writers who address plenary sessions, receive honors, are interviewed, and sign books. Selfie opportunities vary. Lesser-known writers present panels and sign books. Everyone on the program has a book-signing slot. Lots of books get signed. There’s an area for exhibitors, everything from Sherlock Holmes deer-stalker hats to clothes and jewelry. At a conference such as this, I rode in the elevator with Sue Grafton, met Nevada Barr, and honored Dick Francis. They can be quite fun.

The annual James River Writers Conference (always in Richmond, Virginia) is of the improve-your-craft sort. Although awards are given and books are signed, the focus is on helping and supporting writers at all levels. All genres are welcome. JRW develops tracks so that attendees can easily identify related presentations over the two-day conference (e.g., Diversity in Writing, Poetry, Writing as a Career). Presentations are informative. Besides connecting with (relatively) local writers, there are options for meeting with agents, and learning to make more powerful first impressions.

For example, in the Richmond area, RavenCon (mostly fantasy an sci-fi) meets in the spring, and the Suffolk Mystery Writers Festival is in August. Still to come is Midlothian Festival of the Written Word, which crosses genres, is free for attendees, and will last for several hours on Nov. 7. (I’ll be there, by the way, on a panel with a title something like “When Romance Meets Mystery.”) These events are pretty casual. Attendance is much smaller, so it’s easier to get up-close-and-personal with the writers in attendance. Surely there are similar opportunities in other regions. Check local libraries. And as always, search online.

Whether you are a writer, a reader, or both, there’s a conference out there for you!

Writers Conference poster: Festival of the Written Word, November 07, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Midlothian Library

Updated October 20, 2015.

Virginia is for Mysteries, Volume II Preorders Available Now

Virginia is for Mysteries Volume II available for preorders
Virginia is for Mysteries, Volume II Preorders Available Now
I’m excited to share that Virginia is for Mysteries, Volume II is available for preorder. The collection includes my story “War and Murder at Nimrod Hall” and stories by a talented group of authors

 

This is a sequel to “Death Comes to Hollywood Cemetery,” which appears in Virginia Is For Mysteries. It follows Clara as she escapes war-torn Richmond in 1862 only to encounter wounded soldiers and spies in Bath County.

 

Preorders are the way that the big stores judge how many to order. It’s an opportunity to support local authors and reserve your copy. Virginia is for Mysteries, Volume II releases on February 1, 2016.

 

Preorder here

UCI Road World Championships: The Beauty of Bicycles

Frankly, I never thought much about bicycles as art. When I first saw this sculpture in the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, I thought, “What an odd thing to have here!” That was shortly before Race Week edged into my conscience.
bike sculpture in Ginter Park Botanical Gardens
Sculpture in the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
But once I started noticing, bicycle art is—if not rampant—at least frequent. I found this one while vacationing with my family.
bike sculpture in Sculpture in Narragansett, RI
Sculpture in Narragansett, RI
And here are several you can see if you do tour Ashland—as I certainly urged you to do in my most recent blog!
two bicycles suspended from awning in Ashland, Virginia
Art in Ashland, VA
Last but not least, consider visiting the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Beginning September 6, they will have a teaching program for children titled ArtCycle. It is interactive, allowing a virtual tour of museum holdings related to bicycle art as well as the opportunity to make art using bicycle parts. This program will be available for a time after race week. Check the VMFA calendar.

UCI Road World Championships

From the UCI Road World Championships Richmond 2015 website:

The Road World Championships (Worlds) is cycling’s pinnacle event, held annually in an international city as chosen by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) through a competitive bidding process similar to the Olympic Games.

Worlds is a nine-day event, featuring 12 Championship races for Elite Men and Women, Under 23 Men and Junior Men and Women. It is a rare opportunity for the athletes to compete for their country, just as they do during the Olympic Games.

UCI Road World Championship: Bicycles are welcome in the Center of the Universe

Ashland, Virginia—self-designated decades ago as the Center of the Universe—is a small town about 15 miles north of Richmond, home of Randolph-Macon College. Ashland is a railroad town predating the Civil War, originally built by executives of the RF&P Railroad.

sign reading, "Ashland, Virginia, Center of the Universe"

However, that doesn’t stop the town being very bicycle friendly. Every nice weekend day cyclists swarm at Ashland Coffee and Tea, taking breaks during their enjoyment of rural Hanover County roads.

In the spirit of race week, Ashland’s Main Street Association invited merchants and residents to welcome cyclists and fans by decorating bicycles.

I want to share with you a sampling of what you can see if you walk around the bicycle gardens in the center of the Center of the Universe!
Ashland-ALLY-bike-garden Ashland-bicycle-planter Ashland-bike-art Ashland-bike-bird-box Ashland-bike-birdhouse Ashland-bike-blue Ashland-bike-flags Ashland-bike-green-and-yellow Ashland-bike-light-blue Ashland-bike-red-petunia Ashland-bike-sculpture-monster-2 Ashland-bike-sculpture-monster Ashland-bike-treasurers-office Ashland bike wall art, "Park in rear" Ashland bike wall art

Ashland offers tourist information at the Train Station Visitor’s Center. You can get a bike garden scavenger hunt map there, as well as a self-guided walking tour of historic places.

Ashland-bike-near-visitors-center

And in downtown Ashland, you can get good food that does not come from a chain restaurant! (Of course, if chains are your thing, there are bunches around the I-95 exit, and along Rt. 1 and Rt. 54, very convenient.) There are antique stores and fun shops. Bottom line: something for everyone. Y’all come!

Ashland bike sculpture man on bike

UCI Road World Championships

From the UCI Road World Championships Richmond 2015 website:

The Road World Championships (Worlds) is cycling’s pinnacle event, held annually in an international city as chosen by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) through a competitive bidding process similar to the Olympic Games.

Worlds is a nine-day event, featuring 12 Championship races for Elite Men and Women, Under 23 Men and Junior Men and Women. It is a rare opportunity for the athletes to compete for their country, just as they do during the Olympic Games.

 

Bicycle History to Celebrate UCI Road World Championships

In the beginning. . .

When my interest is piqued, of course I turn to research. A friend told me that the gift shop at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens has two books on the history of bicycle racing in Richmond. True confession: I did not buy them—but you might want to. In the meantime, I did go on-line. As usual, Wikipedia has a lengthy article on the history of the bicycle. You might also be interested in visiting the Smithsonian Institute website, for their series America on the Move. These include pictures. Also, A Pictorial History of the Evolution of the Bicycle has great pictures

I’ll share with you some of what I learned. First of all, the immediate ancestor of the bicycle was the Draisine, also called a Velocipede, Hobby Horse or Swift-Walker. It was designed by Baron von Drais in 1817 and looked like a bicycle, but had no pedals. So one moved by walking along, feet on the ground, while seated. It was made of wood, with iron bound wheels, and weighed nearly 50 pounds. Even so, speeds of eight miles per hour were feasible.

Draisine1817
By Wilhelm Siegrist (1797-1843?) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Although a two-wheeled bicycle with pedals may have been created as early as 1839, Pierre Lallement filed the earliest and only patent for a pedal-driven bicycle, in the US in 1866.

sketch for original pedal bicycle
Original pedal-bicycle. This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1923.

Soon after, in 1869, a pedal-bicycle was invented for ladies.

Velocipede for Ladies
Velocipede for Ladies by Pickering and Davis, New York. Engraving from Google’s scan of The velocipede: its history, varieties, and practice, author J. T. Goddard, page 85 in chapter Velocipedes for Ladies. This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1923.
A subsequent major development, the Ordinary or high-wheeler was first made abroad in 1869, and in the U.S in 1877. Depending on the length of the rider’s inner leg, the front wheel could have a diameter up to 5 feet! It was light-weight, fast, and dangerous. Because the rider’s weight was so high and so far forward, a bad patch in the road could cause the rider to “take a header” over the handlebars. The rider couldn’t fall free of the machine because his legs would be trapped under the handlebars. Broken wrists were common. And of course, death was possible. Women’s clothing as well as the social norms of the day made this “ordinary” bicycle unsuitable for women. Cycling became associated with reckless young men. Cycling clubs and races blossomed.

bicycle-ancestor-ordinary

The next major development came in 1885, when John Kemp Starley created—but never patented—the first successful “safety bicycle.” His improvements included a steerable front wheel, wheels of equal size, and a chain drive to the rear wheel. Bicycles became very popular for both work (commuting, deliveries, etc.) and pleasure uses. In 1895, Chicago put its mailmen on bicycles. The safety bicycle was the first bicycle suitable for women.

Whippet Safety Bicycle
Science museum [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
A 1889 Lady's safety bicycle
A 1889 Lady’s safety bicycle. This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1923.

As far as I’m concerned, developments since then are all just tweaking! As the automobile became the preferred mode of individual transportation in the US, bicycles have been taken over for pleasure and exercise. As of the 1970s, cycling was the nation’s leading outdoor recreation. Still, bicycle messengers flourish in major US cities. In other parts of the world, the bicycle is still the “workhorse” of preference. In the People’s Republic of China, the Flying Pigeon was the government approved form of transportation, considered essential for every household, along with a sewing machine and a watch. In the 1970s, the post-Mao leader Deng Xiaoping defined prosperity as “a Flying Pigeon in every household”—which reminds me that in the presidential campaign of 1928, a circular published by the Republican Party claimed that if Herbert Hoover won there would be a chicken in every pot. A lucky duck. True confession: my mind works in mysterious ways.

duck
Flying Pigeons, chickens in pots, and lucky ducks

And that seems as good a place as any to end this!

UCI Road World Championships

From the UCI Road World Championships Richmond 2015 website:

The Road World Championships (Worlds) is cycling’s pinnacle event, held annually in an international city as chosen by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) through a competitive bidding process similar to the Olympic Games.

Worlds is a nine-day event, featuring 12 Championship races for Elite Men and Women, Under 23 Men and Junior Men and Women. It is a rare opportunity for the athletes to compete for their country, just as they do during the Olympic Games.

UCI Road World Championships

The cyclists are coming! The cyclists are coming!

Not that I am a cycling enthusiast, but any event this big piques my interest. Some weeks ago, when I first became aware of the upcoming races, I started noticing bicycles—and they are everywhere! Did you ever count how many clutches of bicycles are fastened to motor vehicles?

bike rack on car

bike rack on car

Although the Virginia DOT says that all vehicular laws apply to bicycles, clearly this isn’t the case with parking.

bike chained to sign reading, "reserved parking handicapped only"

bike chained to sign

bike chained to sign

bike-parked-in-hall

bikes parked in store

Also, DUI statutes don’t apply to bicycles in Virginia. Although one can be charged with DUI/DWI for drunk bicycling in 22 states, Virginia isn’t among them. Still, in my opinion, one would be stupid to do it. The person most likely to be injured is the cyclist, but think of the trauma to family, and to the motorist who might have killed someone. It’s like riding without a helmet: just because you can doesn’t mean you should!

But I digress. I was talking about bicycles being everywhere, and used for all sorts of purposes. When I was a Nimrod this summer, I intentionally saved this picture for now.

bike used as planter at Nimrod Hall

And perhaps the sweetest picture of all—

bike painted pink for Ashland bike art

Check out the UCI Road World Championship website to learn more. 

Former UCI Road World Champions

Greg LeMond 1989 Tour de Trump
Greg LeMond, American cyclist (retired) and two-time World Champion
By https://www.flickr.com/people/small_realm/ [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

La Course by Le Tour de France 2015 (19936269888)
Pauline Ferrand-Prévot, 2014 Road Race World Champion, at 2015 La Course by Le Tour de France.

By youkeys (La Course by Le Tour de France 2015) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons