May is Bike Month

We are excited to celebrate Bike Month here in RVA, and in Williamsburg!  Keep your eyes pealed for our May newsletter full of exciting excursions with us including: Pedal through Petals, a new downtown Richmond tour, a special Mother's Day ride, and more!  

If you're looking for some fun, family-friendly events to celebrate bike month, make sure to look at the calendar that Sports Backers has compiled!  While we like to think every month is bike month, we are excited to spend May celebrating with fellow bicycle enthusiasts and exploring more of our great city by bike!  

The Land of Pleasant Living

Today I stopped in the offices of Brandylane Publishers on First Street in Richmond, Virginia to pickup a few copies of the winter issue of their lovely magazine, Pleasant Living where I am beyond thrilled to be included as a writer with my first ever published piece, Discovery On the James.  I hope you will follow the link to the article and click the magazine cover photo to find others in this timeless black & white magazine that honors the river life.  This particular issue has many gems, like Dr. Boxwood Tells All by Stephen Southall, Oysters: A taste of the Chesapeake by John L. Jones Jr, and a poignant Editor's Post, Being Polite.  Simply stated Pleasant Living is A Magazine for the Chesapeake Bay and River Country, of which the James River and the Virginia Capital Trail are a definite part.  I hope you will enjoy the winter reflections on biking and nature in Charles City County, Virginia.  

This top-notch local publishing house is soon to be home to my first book of poetry, entitled Flight:  Of butterflies, robins and other winged dreams being printed under their Belle Isle Books imprint this spring. Link in to stay in the know on things like the release date and author signings.

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I recently posted on Facebook my excitement at receiving Cycle Chic by Mikael Colville-Andersen in the mail just before our big snowstorm.  Pages upon pages of men, women, and children biking, empowered by their sense of purpose and fitness propelling them through city streets looking impossibly chic, at home in their own skin, wearing whatever it is that speaks to each as a person. Quite simply, living.

This past year we have been using the hashtag #virginiacyclechic to encourage leisure and commuter biking as a normal and everyday mode of transportation.  Taking the guess work out of dressing for your bike, it's about what you want to be wearing when you arrive at your destination, feeling alive, present, and beaming with energy, unencumbered and feeling pretty good about reducing your own carbon footprint.  It's about learning about your city and environment through biking. 

Looking in the pages of Cycle Chic, I was drawn to black and white photograph of a woman on a bike, wearing tights and a skirt, a big scarf wrapped around her neck as if to brace against a slight chill. The opposite page held a quote by Louis J. Halle from his book on nature, Spring in Washington, 1947 as follows:  "Bicycling is the nearest approximation I know to the flight of birds."

Wow.  Isn't that something.  Bicycles.  Birds.  Flight.  Poetry.  Published.  Funny how like the wheels on a tire these themes are finding a home with Basket & Bike, and so many of you that have echoed similar feelings of the freedom that comes from a ride on a bicycle. To think that more people could be empowered to explore, discover and live - there it is, that word again, live - life more fully by reconnecting with friends and nature by stepping out on a bicycle is, for me, a dream.  That more people will be biking the avenues of #1RVA as a way to visit a friend, a museum, or go to the market is exciting.

Thank you for taking a look at my article in Pleasant Living and for your enthusiasm for biking and walking and living real lives in Virginia.  Are you ready to ride on the Virginia Capital Trail? Come March, we'll be there with our Signature Tour, and with some exciting new surprises you!

Anne Poarch • Founder  RIDE • SAVOR • CONNECT

Cotton

 

Cotton Blossom after self-pollinating

Cotton Blossom after self-pollinating

Friday morning, I led a family visiting from Seattle, Washington on our Signature Bicycle Excursion, "The River Where America Began" with lunch at Upper Shirley Vineyard's Winery Restaurant.  After a 14-mile bike ride on the Virginia Capital Trail, as we were returning to the vineyard for lunch, I was asked about the deep green plants, dotted with white and bright pink flowers.  Did I know what they were?  I knew from days spent biking last fall, when I saw the sea of white exploding across the fields, and later wrapped into giant rolls with flamingo pink cellophane after harvest, that it was cotton.  But, I was still unsure.  These verdant plants looked nothing like the stalks of snow white powder puffs I recalled.  I remembered hearing Shirley Plantation keeps cotton planted in some of the fields as a reminder of the hours long sacrifice that many of our ancestors gave, sweating under a warm autumn sun to harvest by hand.  But, maybe it is something else?  Do they practice crop rotation?  I decided then I had to have more confidence and assurance in my answer.  My guest riders are looking to me, and all our guides, to be knowledgeable about the history of the area and the interesting things we are seeing in pastoral Virginia.  When I led another group on a picnic ride Sunday morning we were delighted by the pretty pops of color that were peeking out from the shiny sea of emerald leaves.  And I was even more delighted to say with confidence yes, it is cotton.  For the next few weeks you can see cotton blossoms by the James River near Shirley Plantation and Upper Shirley Vineyard.  Whether you are there for one of our signature bicycle excursions, to tour the plantation, or to sample a bit of wine and lunch with impressive views of the James River at the vineyard (all of which you can do one one of our rides!) look for these fields dotted with creamy white, yellow and fuschia flowers.  Cotton starts with a bud or "square" then opens with a creamy white flower, which once self-pollinated turns this lovely pink before deepening to red, withering as flowers do, and falling off.  This makes room for the young boll, shaped liked a tiny football, which matures, turns dark brown and hardens, as fibers grow inside forcing it to crack open to reveal the bright tufts of white that most of us recognize as cotton.  Fibrils woven into the magic mystery of a baby's blanket, a summer dress, or just that favorite white t-shirt to which you gravitate, time and again.  Watching the fields change with the seasons in Charles City County has been a fascinating part of biking these Virginia country lanes and the Virginia Capital Trail.  Come along with us on a bicycle ride, ask us some questions, and we'll find the answers and watch the seasons unfold together!   

Anne Poarch

Ride • Savor • Connect

Vibrant green leaves in the cotton fields

Vibrant green leaves in the cotton fields

Opening out of the bolls 'mini footballs'.

Opening out of the bolls 'mini footballs'.

Cotton in Charles City County after the harvest

Cotton in Charles City County after the harvest

Breakfast on the Farm benefitting Capital Trees

July 20 - Start your morning with a bike ride and breakfast on an organic farm.  @capitaltreesrva takes you from the Low Line along the @virginiacapitaltrail to @victoryfarmsinc for a delightful breakfast made with the fresh flavors of a Virginia summer.  Email mnclinard@comcast.net to reserve of for more info.  Also check the Basket & Bike Facebook page or info@basketandbike.com.

Wednesday, July 20

7:45am-noon

Great Shiplock Park to Victory Farms

Mother's Day on the Virginia Capital Trail

The ginkgo trees were shining like spun gold, leaves spinning in the filtered light of a crisp November morning, cascading to earth like flaxen hair or so many drops of honey. My mother bid me stop the car, and bathed in the beauty of the golden trees we reflected and commented on the striking scene. Strange you might think, here on May 12, for my first post as founder of Basket & Bike, a small business offering hand-crafted bicycle excursions, to be set under the fading leaves of a November day. A time six months ago as days were shortening and the Virginia soil was preparing for her winter’s sleep, preparing rest for the bright green and happy growing things we are watching pop all over the Commonwealth right now. Really Anne, the fall? Shouldn’t we talk about the beauty of spring? Well, like the steady rhythm of two bicycle wheels on an endless flat road, at Basket & Bike we like the natural order of life, a slower pace, the progression of nature as she unfolds then turns to rest, only to unfold again.

I don’t recall where we had been or where we were going the day we stopped under the canopy of ginkgo trees, but I do recall that timeless moment and stepping out of the car to find a leaf for my mother. A leaf that, unbeknownst to me, she would press and tape into the back pages of her bible, along with the following notation: “Ginko leaf from tree in Richmond, VA • 2015 - Street has Ginko trees on both sides. A beautiful sight! Very old.”

This would be my mom’s last trip to Richmond. My beautiful mother, Peggy Sander Gibson endowed with the grace, patience and civility of her time, died this past May 2 at the age of 92. I would find the gingko leaf in her bible, while reading to her in her Georgia home this past April.

I led a Mother’s Day Bicycle Excursion along the Virginia Capital Trail this past Sunday. Not an easy task considering the loss of my mother but made beautiful by the kindness of fellow adventurers, the glorious softness that accompanied the spring day and the knowledge that she would want me doing exactly this, a reminder of our first mother-daughter trip to Shirley Plantation when I was new to Richmond in 1992. The group rode comfortable white and navy Priority Bicycles following our Signature Ride, The River Where America Began. Our excursion began by Upper Shirley Vineyard in the unfiltered light of a May Sunday pedaling past grape vines that are helping turn Charles City County into something of a wine and food destination. After our 14 mile ride we would return to the vineyard for lunch and wine, taking in the wonderful food and impressive views of the James River, along with so many other Virginians, coming here for Mother’s Day from Richmond, Williamsburg, Hopewell, Chesterfield, Chester and Petersburg. In a lovely gesture, Upper Shirley welcomed each mother with a long-stemmed tulip.

As our group wheeled along the dedicated bike path, we made little stops to speak about the James River and her land, her shores. We talked about the people, the plants, and the animals that have lived in this part of Virginia for thousands of years. Land that still hums to the cycle of the seasons, the waxing and waning of the moon, even if her people have turned away and lost their connection to nature’s watch.

Heading east we stopped in front of VCU Rice Rivers Center, a leading authority on river research focused on expanding environmental knowledge and preserving the health of our natural resources. It was here that one of the mothers, a healing touch practitioner, led us in some basic chi poses to open us to the energy of the day, opening us to the freedom that comes from riding a bicycle in the open air.

Our group paused in the cemetery of historic Westover Episcopal Church reflecting on Virginia’s past mothers. These shores have been home to so many mothers. From Mother Earth and her animal mothers, busy bunnies or birds building nests and keeping babies safe, to native mothers, forming hand-built bowls out of that ground to give to daughters in time-honored rituals. African mothers teaching daughters to blend spices, or to just blend in, so their secret reading lessons would go unnoticed; to English mothers, recording thoughts, keeping poise and decorum in public, while aiding a rebel cause behind closed doors. Strong-willed women, all Virginia women, all essential parts of the land where America began. I thought of my childhood and could see the tender hands of my own mom, gently nursing knees scraped from bicycle falls and teaching my small hands how to properly form biscuit dough with a fork and roll it out using her own mother’s rolling pin.

It was in the spirit of this reflection that we biked past the emerald fields of Evelynton plantation to a sweet little nursery, Root 5 Family Farms. We strolled through the greenhouse showcasing flowers and herbs for the garden, peeking at local jams and honey and ceramics by Fleet Creations. Artist Lesa Fleet crafts ceramic sculptures of leaves from Virginia plants like nasturtium, maple, and could it be, the ginkgo? Staring up at me from the table, a chartreuse ginkgo leaf, showcasing the verdant green of spring. Full circle, or half-way there, could this leaf signal for me the return of life. Though I will miss her physical presence and the touch of her hands so terribly, I feel my mother now pervading the very air around me, living in Virginia with me, in each new day. Our leisurely pace allowed members of the group to hunt for the perfect remembrance to nestle into bike baskets for the return ride to Upper Shirley Vineyard along the trail. The ginkgo leaf rode home with me, in my basket, connecting a then to a now, and beyond.

I do not know whether my mom found a deeper symbol in the ginkgo leaf she chose to bind in her bible. A bit of research uncovered the ginkgo biloba tree, or Maidenhair tree, is considered a living fossil and may be the oldest tree on our planet. It has been known to live for 2,000 years and in the East, it is considered a symbol of longevity, hope, friendship, resilience and peace. Perhaps other mothers have pressed gingko leaves into their family bibles, into service as a medicinal cure, or onto the sides of an earthenware bowl for decoration. In 1815 Goethe wrote a poem titled Gingko Biloba and sent it to his friend, Marianne von Willemer wondering if the divided leaf was one creature becoming two, or two deciding they should become one. Perhaps it’s the undeniable connection of a mother to her daughter, that once one body, eventually faced the realities of separation and so needed the lessons of hope, friendship and resilience. Maybe it is a reminder that spring does not exist without the fall and ensuing rest of winter. That life is lived, and if one is lucky, long-lived, until it lives and breathes again in other forms. Whatever the message, I’ll be looking to take a ride under those yellow ginkgo trees this fall, remembering my mother and letting bicycle wheels hum a steady rhythm under falling gold fans, to stop and practice chi in the filtered light of fall.

Happy Mother’s Day 2016                                                                                                        Anne Poarch - Founder