Thirteen days since I committed any thoughts to bits.  What on Earth have I been doing with the time? Sarah and I have been laboring to get our visas from Brazil for our trip to Brazil in March.  The process will cost us almost $200 each.  The other alternative, which would only cost us $110 each, would be to make two trips to Chicago, no less than four days apart, to the Brazilian consulate between the hours of 09:00 and 14:00 Monday through Friday.  So, like most people who don't live right around the corner from a Brazillian consulate, we are using a company which does the legwork for us.  This, of course, is what is nearly doubling the price of the visa. People continuously ask me why I ride my bike in the winter when I could just as easily drive or ride the bus.  Perhaps the following four points, lifted from bikewinter.org are a good start towards an explanation: - Year-round cycling helps you live life more indulgently. You can eat at your favorite restaurants more often if you aren't constantly spending $10-$20 to use a parking ramp. You can hang out with friends at your favorite coffee shop more often if you aren't constantly spending $15-$25 to fill up your gas tank. You can more easily take a trip to Europe if you don't have to deal with $1500 automotive engine repair bills. Cycling helps you live richly, even if your income is limited.
- Exercise staves off winter poundage and blues. If this is the season when your main physical activity is walking to and from the omnipresent platter of holiday cookies and when the lack of sunshine sends your spirits plummeting, even a short daily bike commute can keep you in fair physical and mental health.
- Variety is nice. I enjoy the sounds and smells of leaves swirling under my tires; if the stiff winds are slowing me down, I look forward to speeding on the return trip. A dark rainy day can be soothing; the ride is smooth, the streets quiet and the light delightfully spooky. I'd rather feel the snow on my face than brush it off a windshield. We are lucky to live in such a weather rich area; a bicycle provides a front row seat for enjoying it.
- The weather isn't always so bad. When the thermometer hits 60 degrees in February, my bike and I are ready to take advantage of it The last point is especially true.  Madison had two days last week with a high of 50 degrees.  Since I was commuting by bicycle, all I had to do to enjoy the weather was stow a layer of clothing in my bag and bike home just like any other day.  Automobile drivers were all hanging their heads out the windows of their cars trying to soak up the nice day and cursing the people in front of them for not moving fast enough. From our Questions About Sausage Department: - Why is it so hard to get good pepperoni? - Why does hot Italian sausage rarely have any sort of hot and spicy flavor? - Why are so many companies that make mediocre sausage still in business?