Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Celestial sightings on the winter solstice

I don't make it a habit of witnessing too many sunrises, but yesterday, the shortest day of the year, I tried to maximize my sun time. Well, that and I had an early morning meeting. The ride leaving home was brisk, hovering around 20F, with a small headwind. My eyes teared up a bit and my cheeks felt numb by the time I got to the train station. On this first day of winter there was a thin coating of frost on everything, and the colors of the landscape were muted and as slow to awaken as I was.

My bike for this part of the day was one that is ordinarily my stay-at-work office bike, but it ended up at home for some regular maintenance. It's a single-speed utility bike, hybridized from the frame of a vintage mountain bike of the lugged steel era and the components of a modern cruiser, coaxed into cooperation through the aid of a Surly Singleator.
Reconfigured 1988 Panasonic MC 4500, in nice and big 22" size.
The Panasonic in its current configuration is a swift and comfortable utility bike. I especially like the smooth and slightly bouncy ride of the Ritchey Moby-Bite 2.1 slicks. Surprisingly, these tires do fairly well on snow and patches of ice, although there isn't any of that around right now. I rode the Panasonic quite a few miles while going from meeting to meeting, eventually returning home.

Early in the morning on Dec. 21st I had seen the rusty glow of the lunar eclipse, but a subsequent appearance of the moon about 15 hours later was spectacular in its own right. In the evening on the way to the BikeDenver Winter Solstice Ride I observed the moonrise over the Denver Zoo. The photo below poorly portrays what I saw. In actuality, the subtlety of streaks of creamy gold clouds washing over the moon reminded me of the hues of the sublime Stranahan's Whiskey Brickle ice cream, my new and possibly permanent favorite flavor of all time.
This was the best the zoom on my camera could do.
During the day I had returned home to swap bikes for the solstice ride. I chose to bring my Titan 1/2 Trac out of hibernation, it being arguably my most festive bike. At the Zoo, approximately 100 or so bikes and riders readied themselves. The weather was much more cooperative than for past solstice rides, holding somewhere around freezing with no precipitation. For comparison, the temperature for the ride in 2008 was 2F, and the ride was mercifully truncated to the shortest route to the pub. This year, the route highlighted several scenic and decorated landmarks while showcasing some recently installed bicycle infrastructure along the way, such as the buffered bike lane on Champa.
Solstice riders taking a look-see at Union Station.
The ride rolled through 6 or 7 miles from the Zoo to LoDo to Civic Center Park and the State Capital before depositing us at The Irish Snug for hot food and drink. The Titan was as nimble and speedy as ever, and as usual, was lavished with attention for its fenders. The ride was just the right length and mostly avoided the construction-induced traffic jams along 14th Street. In all, it was a great time riding and enjoying libations with friends, and a pleasant way to usher in the seasonal marker for incrementally increasing daylight.
The flash shows the reflective effect of the license plate fenders on the Titan 1/2 Trac.
For comparison, this is the same shot without a flash. The illuminated City and County Building is visible in the background.

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