Friday, May 31, 2013

Computer-assisted ride #2

I was less distracted this time, but I still found my eyes straying downward to check my cadence, or my current speed, or my total distance, or my average speed. So focused was I on maintaining a good speed and cadence that I didn't stop to take photos. But since I know for sure that I am riding acceptably fast and am keeping my pedals spinning frequently enough, from now on I will be able to relax and enjoy the view, stopping to take photos when I feel like it. After all, that's what makes my country bike rides so special. 
As the corny-but-true old song puts it: "You gotta stop and smell the roses..."

It was a gorgeous morning. After a week of rain, everything looked so green and lush. 

I set out at 9:00 a.m. and rode for more than 2 hours, covering almost 60 K. The wind was at my back on the big downhill and I saw the speed reach 53.8 km/hr. I wasn't even scared and didn't feel the need to brake; it was actually kind of fun.

The temp was about 15 C -- 
just right for a short-sleeved jersey and my bespoke arm warmers

Today I was truly the solitary cyclist-- I saw no other riders until I got back to town. And there at the first intersection I saw two guys heading north. I'm afraid I laughed a bit when I saw them: they reminded me of Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Identical bikes. Identical name-brand (in large letters) kit. I know, I shouldn't laugh. Maybe they are part of a team of highly respected professional riders, with many wins under their belts. 
If so, I apologize for laughing.


Reflections on another week of commuting by bicycle.

Another busy week without much time to write about what I've done. Another week of commuting to work by bicycle. Really, is there any other way?

I had to find a new parking spot at the west end of the city, as there is heavy-duty big-time construction on the street where I used to park. I found another spot nearby. This spot seems ideal and extends the length of my commute slightly -- to 9 km. That extra 1/2 K makes me feel good!

On Tuesday I discovered that I'd left my cell phone in my purse overnight and it was absolutely dead. I do have a car charger, but it doesn't seem to work very well, so I essentially had no phone as I rode to work. I decided to ride through the city instead of the River Valley, just in case. I am cautious by nature and like to prepare for the worst, so I figure if something goes wrong and I am close to a store or a restaurant or the museum, I can always get help. If I'm in the River Valley, I am stranded. Anyway, riding on the city streets -- specifically Stony Plain Road and 102 Avenue -- made me very thankful for the River Valley option! I can't believe that until late last fall I rode on the streets every day. (I didn't know about the River Valley route before then.) I can't believe how much gravel and other debris there is along the curbs on 102 Avenue, a signed bike route. I can't believe how much traffic there is -- and how slowly it moves -- along this same street. I can't believe how many people ride their bikes counter-traffic on the narrow sidewalks across the bridges. I can't believe how stupid the 116 Street/100 Avenue intersection is. I rode home the same way, because I wanted to stop at MEC to look for a jersey. This ride was also less pleasant than my normal ride through the River Valley, but totally worth it, because on 100 Avenue I saw a sight I never thought I'd see: two EPS officers on bikes, riding side-by-side on the sidewalk, against traffic. Hmmm.

On Wednesday I rode through the River Valley. Wednesday started out as a nice day, but when I left work, it was beginning to sprinkle and the clouds were threatening worse to come. And worse came. I was nervous about riding down the Fortway Road hill, with its many potholes and copious amounts of gravel, in the rain, so I thought I'd try something new -- taking my bike down the staircase just east of the Royal Glenora. Big mistake. The heavy panniers on my bike meant I couldn't control it on the steep stairs -- I couldn't get it to behave on the ramp, and it was too heavy for me to carry. Just as I'd decided to remove the panniers, take the bike down on its own and then come back up for the panniers, a sweet young couple who were running up and down the stairs saw my dilemma. The guy very kindly picked up my bike and carried it down while I carried the panniers. Boy, do I owe them one! Obviously, that is one thing I will not try to do again!

By the time I resumed riding after that near-fiasco, the heavy rain had started, and moments later it began to thunder as well. I was soaked to the skin before I came out of the River Valley, and then as I exited the 100 Avenue shared sidewalk, the hail started. Fortunately it wasn't the size of baseballs or even golf balls, maybe more like chocolate chips, but that was big enough. When I finally got back to the car, I was so wet that I decided to change my clothes (I had some shorts in my pannier) in the back seat! This was the first time in almost three years of riding every day that I've ridden in a thunderstorm. I've ridden in normal rain, snow and sleet; now I can add thunder and hail to the list.

Thursday's commute was simply lovely -- on my to work I saw a nice big rabbit sitting on the hillside watching the human traffic go by. On the way home there were a few puddles from the afternoon rain, but the clouds were thinning and the sun was peeking through. I finished the work week happy and thankful to be able to get some exercise and have fun, instead of sitting in a car in stop-and-go traffic, on my way to work.

n + 1

I've never thought of myself as an "n+1" type of person. You know, where the ideal number of a possession is the number you already have, or n, plus one.

I'm generally an advocate of simple living, being content with what one has, keeping possessions to a minimum. Cashmere sweaters aside, of course.

And,as it turns out, bicycles.

Until recently, I'd always had just one bike. An all-purpose bike for running errands and going for family bike rides. Why would I need more than one?

Ah, yes, but in those days I didn't ride my bike to work. When I started bicycle commuting almost three years ago, I needed a commuter bike. Something fast and efficient and capable of handling heavy loads. This is how Miranda came to be part of my life. She served me well for commuting until I got the urge to ride in winter, too. Then I needed a winter commuter bike, one that could handle the abuse heaped on it by the elements. I didn't actually buy a new bike for this purpose, just recruited and adapted one we had on hand -- one that had been rejected by all the other family members.

Then last fall, I started road riding -- longer distances on the country roads around town. Miranda was OK for that purpose, but I soon felt the need for something a little sleeker and faster. Hence, my flat bar road bike purchase.

Three bikes. I should be satisfied, right? Um, no. I also like to use a bike around town for shopping, going to the library, riding to friends' houses and my son's school, stuff like that. I was using Miranda for this purpose, but there were a couple of problems:
  • because of the frame style, I can't wear a skirt while riding Miranda. In summer I often wear skirts and it's a pain to have to change clothes just to ride a few blocks. A step-through frame would eliminate that need.
  • because I ride Miranda in a more forward-leaning posture, many of my everyday tops are unsuitable to wear while riding her. As I lean forward, the top of my shirt often gapes, allowing passers-by to see more than I want them to see. Also, many shirts ride up at the back, leaving a bare expanse of skin. Not a pretty sight. A more upright style bike would be ideal
  • finally, I wanted to equip the bike with panniers and a basket and -- in a few months -- a child seat for Little Granddaughter. I wanted to be able to leave everything on the bike most of the time.
In short, a fourth bike -- a girly-style bike, or if you will, a Grandma bike, was beckoning. I had my eye on a Brodie, but I simply couldn't justify the expense, especially considering I have a future fifth bike in mind as well.

So, back to the Grandma bike. Last Saturday morning we went garage saling. We needed a dresser for Teenage Son's room and found a beautiful vintage, even antique-ish, solid wood specimen for only $20. He was pleased.

Then we went on to find a bike for me. At this sale, $50.00 got me a step-through bike AND a sterling silver and pearl necklace.Not bad!

Bonnie Blue with Basil panniers and MEC rack pack

In the afternoon, I equipped the bike, hereafter known as Bonnie Blue, with panniers and rackpack, and donned my helmet to ride first to the library and then on to Safeway for some groceries. I wouldn't want to use this bike to ride up and down the hills on the country roads north of town, but for getting around town in style, it seems perfect.

One problem, however. I wore regular clothing: jeans and a slim-fitting, though very modest, navy blue T-shirt. I couldn't believe the ogling and honks I endured. I was the only woman cycling around town, and I guess our sleepy prairie city is not ready for women dressed like women riding bikes. Maybe I'll start a trend.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

distracted riding

My sons gave me a bike computer for Mother's Day. I was thrilled, but felt a bit overwhelmed when I read the installation instructions.

In the evening on Victoria Day, Hubby very kindly attached it to my bike, but all this past week the weather was lousy, and we were busy with an ESO (symphony) concert, Teenage Son's school band concert, and other stuff, so I didn't get to put it to the test until today.

Talk about distracted riding! Speed, cadence, distance, you name it... it's all there, begging me to keep my eyes cast downward. I almost forgot to look around me and enjoy the fact that I was riding through some very beautiful country on a very beautiful day. 

I came to my senses as I crested the hill that is home to my favourite pond, and tuned in to my surroundings in time to see a muskrat gliding along on top of the water. The red wing blackbirds were out in force, too, as noisy as ever.

Shortly after this I spied a pair of riders on drop-bar bikes a couple hundred meters ahead of me. I was rapidly gaining on them, which is always an awkward feeling, but as I got closer I saw that the hair peeking out from the woman rider's helmet was completely grey. Hmm, I thought, older people. Nevertheless, when it came time to pass, I almost fell off my bike when I saw that they were not just 60 or 70, but possibly close to 80! I was impressed. I sure hope I can still ride like that when I am their age.

 On my way back into town, I saw a red-tailed hawk perched on the fence beside the road. As I rode towards him, I expected him to fly away, but he stayed there in a photo-perfect pose. I took the bait and stopped (remembering to clip out!) but just as I began to open my bag to take out my camera, he took off, leaving me standing there staring after him. Someday...

I rode about 60 km and kept my speed and cadence at fairly respectable levels. I started out wearing my Under Armour allweather base layer, topped by a long-sleeve lightweight jersey and my Sugoi convertible jacket. After only a few kilometers, I stopped to remove the sleeves of my jacket, and then I was perfectly comfortable for the rest of the ride. When I left our indoor/outdoor thermometer said 12 C. The wind was from the southeast -- not too strong, but enough to keep me pedaling on the downhill stretches. The highest speed I reached going downhill was 45 km/hour.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Why didn't we walk?

As part of a unit on healthy living, I shared an adapted version of this CBC article with my ESL students. The article cites recent surveys showing that few Canadian children, perhaps only 25-35%, use active modes of transportation to get to and from school. On top of this, only 4% of 12-17 year-old youth get the recommended one hour of exercise per day.

My sons have always ridden their bikes -- to school and to work and to their friends' homes. But I know that many of their friends are driven almost everywhere. As the article points out, parents are used to driving places, and they don't even think about walking or riding bikes instead.

The responses of my students were interesting: 
  • Some had the same reaction I had: this state of affairs is disgraceful and parents should work to change it.
  • A few thought schools should take more responsibility to ensure that children get enough exercise. One single guy gave a rather impassioned speech about how parents are busy working and come home tired and should not have to worry about making sure their children get enough exercise. 
  • A young mother from Korea said that when she first moved to Edmonton she was shocked to see that parents drive their kids to school, but once she started doing it, she liked it, as it gave her some daily quality time with her children. She also said that she thinks Canadian schoolchildren get plenty of exercise, thanks to P.E. classes and recess. She was so earnest and sincere that there was no way I was going to rain on her parade!
  • A woman from China expressed disgust at the line of cars waiting to pick up and drop off schoolchildren -- and she was particularly disturbed by the number of people who keep their cars running for 10 to 20 minutes as they wait in line. 
I've been encouraged, as I commute by bicycle to work, to see quite a few children walking or riding bikes to school. I can only hope that their numbers will increase!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

City splendours

Every bicycle commuter should be able to ride at least part of her way on a path like this one. This is how I start my day. It smells as good as it looks. 

Lilac blossoms are beginning to open, the pink-flowered shrubs (? double-flowering plum ?) are in full flower, and there are also many of my favourite spring tree, laden with especially fragrant white flowers. I just found out that these trees are called Mayday trees. One of my Ukrainian students told me that in Ukraine they are called "Bird Cherry" trees, and apparently the fruit is a type of chokecherry.

It seems that Mayday trees are also useful for hiding shopping carts. (I guess for certain segments of the population, losing one's shopping cart might constitute a "mayday"!)
This morning, as I rode along this lovely, sweet-smelling path, I was thinking that I could almost forget I was in the city... until I came to this section of the trail!

Monday, May 20, 2013

a scented ride

Today I didn't go out of town for a bike ride. I find that when I ride a lot I have trouble keeping the weight on, and I was feeling a bit skinny today. So I decided to go for a shorter, less intense ride. I rode about 18 km on the trails and streets, and it seemed like everywhere I rode, I saw -- and smelled -- these white blossoms on the trees. It sure beats manure, a scent I encounter occasionally on my country rides.

I rode to the library, via the multi-use paths, to return some stuff and then rode on the new road near the golf course, where I spent many hours skiing this past winter. It looks like a different world these days. Then I rode as far west as I could, to the new school, and then back to the woods, up the trail and home.

  After I got home, I took the dog for a walk. Hubby has been bothered by allergies the last few days, and walking is miserable for him, so it was just me and Maggie today. I loved the look of the sunlight highlighting the yellow-gold lichens on these trees.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

saturated colour

It was a perfect day for riding again today. 
I feel like I have to take full advantage of every nice day. Summers here are often cool and rainy, so days like this (22 C and mostly sunny) are a real treat.
I rode just over 36 km: a quick ride north up the hills (Climb #1) and then east to the pond at the top of the second hill. This pond is one of my favourite spots along the route. 
It's usually bustling, with various types of ducks and Canada geese swimming around, taking off and landing, and otherwise enjoying themselves. 
It was quiet today, but such a beautiful saturated blue colour shining in the sun, in dramatic contrast to the green of the surrounding grass.

I turned around at the pond and headed west, up Climb #2, the largest climb on my route.
Saw these cows soaking up the sun. 
Of course, they weren't skimping on the fresh green grass either.


 The climb was tough today, as the wind was from the west. 
Before I left home I looked at the weather page online, as usual, and this time it said "Wind west 20 gusting to 40." I think maybe this time it was accurate. 
I kind of like having the wind against me when I climb, however -- I figure since I am already working to climb a hill, I might as well add wind to the equation. 
When the wind is against me going downhill, it seems like a bit of a rip-off.
The climb was worth the effort, and riding downhill back into town was just as it should be -- flying fast and free.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

I fought the wind...

and I won!
I think the weather station needs a new wind sock. 

Today when I looked at the Environment Canada website before I left for my ride, it said "Wind: calm." But I hadn't ridden more than a few meters when I saw the flags flapping at the new housing development near our place. Those flags can't move if there's no wind. 

All was fine and dandy riding north up the hills, but as soon as I turned east, I felt the force of a driving southeasterly and saw the trees bending and swaying. I can never decide whether a headwind or a crosswind is worse. On the one hand, I was nervous that a sudden gust from the south might carry me sideways into the line of traffic, but on the other hand, it's also frustrating to pedal like crazy into the wind and feel like I am not really making any progress.

But I know for sure that I love the victorious feeling that comes after I've reached my destination -- the feeling that I've fought and conquered. 

I rode 45 km today, just a ride in the park compared to yesterday's sojourn. But I did make sure I took in both of the climbs -- the first while heading north and the other going west. 
Temperature: 21 C  ~  Wind: calm (ha ha)

To paraphrase an oldie but goodie:

"Cranking those pedals in the hot sun,
I fought the wind and ~ I won..."

(And yes, I do know that wind speed is not really measured with a wind sock!)

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Since I started road cycling, I've learned that country roads in these parts take one of three forms: 

The Good -- evenly paved roads with wide, smooth, nicely paved shoulders and a relatively low volume of traffic. The range road that goes straight north from town is one of these, as is the secondary highway that runs perpendicular to the range road at the top of the hill. The township road that curves around by Muir Lake doesn't actually have shoulders and is tar-and-chip rather than smooth asphalt, but it still qualifies as Good because it is fairly wide and has little traffic. Motorists on these three roads seem comfortable with, and even friendly to, cyclists. When passing cyclists, almost every driver moves left to give them space. I've encountered many a friendly wave or nod of the head while riding on these Good roads.

And a bonus -- some of these roads have hills that rate as 'climbs' on the 
Map My Ride website.
Taken from the top of the hill on one of the Good roads

The Bad -- heavy traffic, high speed limit, narrow shoulders, potholes, patchy pavement, or any combination of the former. The secondary highway I traveled south of town, with its narrow shoulders and innumerable double-bucket gravel trucks was Bad, as was the secondary highway I attempted today. This road hosted no gravel trucks, but the speed limit was 100 and every one of the countless cars and pickup trucks I saw was going at least that. On top of this, the shoulders were narrow and only half paved -- the paved part was perhaps 30 cm wide. And we aren't talking nice smooth pavement, either -- there were plenty of cracks and rough spots and potholes. I rode on this for only a few kilometers before turning off in search of an alternate route. Incidentally, I have never been yelled at while riding my bike (other than the "Whoo-hoo" type of yell) until today on this Bad road. The passenger in a pickup truck actually rolled down his window and yelled something as he passed me. It was a wasted effort, as I couldn't understand what he said, but I take consolation from the fact that I didn't hear any "...cking" or "...tch" sounds. I think perhaps he said something helpful and sensible like, "Get off the road" or "This isn't a bike trail."

Which brings me to...

The Ugly -- the road that finally came to my rescue was a township road built seemingly to service a golf course. And Ugly it was. No shoulders. No painted lines. Several different types of pavement, the odd patch of gravel, occasional mounds of semi-smoothed tar. But I passed no more than three or four vehicles and was able to ride along to the nearest Good road without any trouble. Sometimes Ugly is all right.

 Also taken from the high spot on the Good road 

It was such a beautiful spring day: the trees were so green, the sky so blue. Today I rode 71.48 km. I am very particular about the last 1.48 km -- when I told him about my ride, Hubby, suitably impressed, said, "Wow, 70 K" and I corrected him. 
I worked hard and I want credit for every meter. This was my longest ever non-stop ride. It was a bit of work, but a great feeling.

 Temperature: 22 C ~ Wind -- who knows? 
The Environment Canada website said ESE at 7 km/hour. 
They got the direction right, but I saw the trees blowing and I felt the resistance, and I think the speed must have been higher.

arm warmers -- on the cheap

Last Saturday when I set out on my ride, I decided I needed a pair of arm warmers. 

I didn't want to go to the bike shop and pay $30, so I dug in the bag of clothes on their way to Goodwill and retrived an old fitness jacket, made of Reebok "Play Dri" fabric (a sort of mesh weave.) I cut off the sleeves and tried them on. It turned out the cuff part fit snugly on my upper arm, so I decided to use that end as the top. 

I had to make the bottom part of the sleeves narrower, so I began by measuring my wrist and forearm. I then turned the sleeves inside out and marked the fabric at the correct widths along the length of the sleeve. I sewed a seam inside the existing seam. I should have basted first, because my first try ended up too narrow and I had to rip out the seam and stitch again about 5 mm outside the first stitching line. This time, the fit was perfect, so I used the first sleeve as a guide to mark the second sleeve. 

Voila! Free arm warmers! They would probably be even better with a little spandex in the fabric, but they are fine as they are, and they did the trick, keeping my arms warm for the first part of my ride. When I decided I didn't need them anymore, I removed them and tucked them in the back pockets of my jersey. I wore them again one afternoon on my way from work -- again removing them about halfway along my route.


Spring blossoms on the shared sidewalk I ride every morning and every afternoon.Would you ever guess that only a few weeks ago this was the 50 Shade of Ice Path and then home to the Impassable Puddle?

Yesterday when I came to the end of this path and got ready to cross the 149 Street intersection (riding on the road, in the "go straight" lane) I spied a fellow cyclist riding on the sidewalk, preparing to cross by riding in the pedestrian crosswalk. Not a child, but a full-grown man, as evidenced by his thick chin covering. When the light changed, he got a head start on me, because the walk signal comes on a few seconds ahead of the green light. He rode across through the crosswalk, then swerved in front of me onto the road. As he approached the stop sign, he didn't appear to look around at all, but swerved left and without signalling, executed a sloppy left turn, completely ignoring the two cars approaching on the cross street that has NO stop signs. I stopped my bike in a standing stop, waiting for the cars to proceed. This is my normal procedure at this stop sign, and drivers have always understood that I am yielding. But this time, the drivers were clearly unsure, suspecting that I might be of like mind with The Madman, because they both stopped. I then put my foot to the ground to make it obvious that I was being responsible and stopping completely so that the vehicles that have the legal right of way could go first. I can only hope that my strict observance of the law helped to cancel out the bad impression made by The Other Guy.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

meet Miranda...

... my commuter bike.

She is named after Prospero's daughter in Shakespeare's "The Tempest." Prospero, you may remember, was a magician, and I named this bike after his daughter for two reasons:

1) The bike's make -- a GT Tempest

2) The bike's magical, or if you prefer, miraculous, qualities --
how many $200 second-hand refurbished mountain bikes are fast and fit the buyer perfectly, faithfully carrying her to and from work for two and half years, transporting her from Jasper to Banff on the Icefields Parkway; introducing her to the wonderful world of road cycling, all the while giving nary a moment of discomfort?

 Sometimes I call her Sergeant Miranda, because of her olive-green, 
army-issue-like paint job.

Miranda recently acquired a mate: Roger the Randonneur. I didn't name this fellow myself; I have some clever marketer to thank for that, but I had an Uncle Roger who did justice to that name by caring for his wife (my mom's sister) during her final years of illness, so I am pleased to have a fender-rack combo that bears his name.

I got this luggage rack from our local bike shop; they special-ordered it for me and then attached it to my bike for a mere $10 extra. Great service!

Roger and Miranda, as you can see above, are the commuter's dream team. For everyday trips, I use just the two blue panniers and the frame pack, but when I need a little more cargo space, I can add the rack pack as well. And when Roger rides alone, his integrated fender is there to protect my back from water and mud splatters.

Looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Solitary Cyclist

Today I rode north again. No surprise there. It was a decent day -- a tad cool to start (18 C), and windy and cloudy, but good riding weather. I rode about 40 km at a pretty steady speed.

Some days when I ride, I feel like I am the only cyclist in the world. Today was not one of those days. On my way up the first set of hills, I saw several cyclists coming down. Two of them, a man and woman, appeared to be together. The third, another woman, was quite a bit behind, so I couldn't tell if she was also part of the group, or if she was -- like me -- a solitary cyclist. 

Up on the hill, as I rode east I saw a guy riding west, another solitary. I saw him again when I was heading west and he was heading east. We exchanged smiles and waves, each content in our own little worlds.

And then when I came down the last hill, ready to head back into town, I saw a group of about 6 cyclists, crossing the highway and going west on the service road. I saw 3 or 4 of them doing the same thing yesterday, and they have me curious. Do they know something I don't know about going along that road? I need to check the map and see where it leads.

I have gone back and forth on the idea of trying a group ride. I enjoy riding alone, but until today I have never seen another woman riding alone, so I wonder if I am kind of weird. Well, I think I already know the answer to that, but I mean seriously weird. 

I also wonder if I'm missing something by not joining a group. I think I'd enjoy meeting others who love cycling; I think I'd appreciate the incentive to ride a little faster and a little harder; I think I'd benefit from the challenge. On the other hand, I really do cherish my time alone. My job teaching ESL is very people-intense: 5 hours a day, not just with people but in front of people, always alert, always prepared for something new, always listening and thinking and trying to figure out what my students need. I love my job; it's tremendous fun; I can't imagine doing anything else and loving it as much; but there is no doubt that it requires a lot of mental energy. 

So when I'm riding my bike, all alone on the hills above the city, I feel a sense of freedom and rejuvenation. Would I feel the same riding with a group? Or as a group newbie, would I feel tense, nervous, anxious? Would I feel pressure to keep up, to follow the rules, to perform? I guess I'll never know until I try, so I probably will try -- some day. For now, I'm content to emulate the title character from that old Sherlock Holmes story, "The Solitary Cyclist." Only I don't have a gun.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Who has seen the wind?

Having learned my lesson yesterday about trying to change my ways and riding in a southerly direction, today I once again pointed my bike north and uphill. 
I rode about 56.5 km. Usually the wind is from the north, but today it was a southeast wind, which meant the hardest uphill portions of my ride were easier than normal. 
I won't complain about that!

But the wind was pretty strong, and I really felt it when heading east and south. You know it's windy when you pedal like crazy to go downhill and still aren't going very fast. 

I kind of like the wind, though. I like the feeling that it can't win. I'm not exactly a heavyweight, and sometimes I'm afraid I'll be swept into the ditch -- or into the lane of traffic -- by a crosswind, but so far I've managed to stay on track.

And it was a splendid day -- 24 C; the sky was beautiful; the grass is turning green; leaves are out on the trees... even the ducks on the pond were happy.


Friday, May 10, 2013

When bikes go south

Thinking that perhaps I should vary my route for once, I decided to head south, instead of north, this morning. I chose a destination and used Google maps to figure out a route. Accordingly, I rode straight south on a shoulderless pothole-covered range road until I came to a secondary highway. This highway is in good repair, but the shoulders are narrow and traffic is heavy. About every second or third vehicle was a truck -- not a pickup truck or a cube van, but a double-bucket gravel truck. Most of the vehicles gave me a wide berth, but the road is not really wide enough for that. As I rode, I remembered that this is the highway where there have been a few fatal accidents, at least a couple of them involving those very gravel trucks. I was sort of uncomfy and decided to head back. I tried one range road, which became gravel after a few hundred meters. About face. I tried the next range road. This one was okay. No shoulders, but also no potholes to speak of, and it was wide and nicely paved.

I even saw a bear, not a common sighting in these parts.

After this exciting event, I came to another secondary highway and rode on west on that for awhile before heading north again on a beautiful and deserted multi-use recreational trail that leads into town.

The trail stops at the golf course, so there I turned east again and headed home. My ride was a total of 35 km. The wind was from the north and fairly strong, and my butt got a bit sore, but riding east and west was easy and pleasant.

I can't say this was one of my favourite rides, but at least I know now that "same old, same old" (i.e., riding north all the time) is not always a bad thing. Going south, I missed the good roads and light traffic; I missed the challenging climbs; I missed the spectacular views; I missed the soaring airplanes and hovering helicopters at the airport. I didn't see any deer or hawks or even cows or dogs or horses.

Just that one bear.

Last commute of the week: I need a helmet camera

Since I don't teach on Fridays, Thursday is my last day each week to ride to and from work. Yesterday's morning ride was a little bit cold, but still delightful. The snow is gone from the River Valley, the trees are sporting their tiny soft-green spring leaves and the cyclists are out in droves. There are a few I see every morning; we greet one another with a friendly wave and smile. There are always some I've never seen before.

Today there was a guy -- maybe about my age and possibly equally weighed down with double panniers -- going up the Fortway Road hill at the same time as me. He rode on the sidewalk. I, goody-two-shoes that I am, always ride on the narrow, potholed, gravel-strewn road. Although he started out a good 10 meters ahead of me, by the crest of the first hill, I was right behind him, always an awkward situation. Well, that was the point where he decided to change to riding on the road. When he saw me, he took off as if a rabid dog was on his heels. Maybe he was embarrassed at being outdone on the climb by a runty middle-aged woman riding a refurbished mountain bike and laden with fully-stuffed panniers (there was a 15.6" laptop in one, along with a passel of books -- if he only knew!) If my tailbone had been in better shape, I might have tried to outpace him again, but I decided to pander to his ego and lag behind. Even so, by the middle of the second hill, I was pretty close behind. But then he turned off and I continued upward on my own.

This is the first time I've seen another cyclist on the Fortway Road hill. Bothered by the extreme number and severity of the potholes and the large amount of gravel, especially when riding downhill, I have wondered whether there is a better way to go. I studied the map, trying to figure out an alternate route, but finally concluded this is the best and most direct route to my destination. It is marked as a cycling route and traffic is fairly light, so it is not bad.

At lunchtime I went for my usual fast walk and was not entirely pleased to encounter a pro-life demonstration in progress at the Legislature. I'm all for free speech and am not generally in favour of abortion, but I cherish my time out at noon and didn't really want to weave my way through crowds of people sporting stupid T-shirts with slogans like, "Born to be Blessed" (really? What a selfless attitude!) and "Labour shortage? Stop abortions" (as if the babies who have been aborted would have been any more willing to work at Tim's for $10 an hour than anyone else. And is that a subtle dig at immigrants -- the very people I teach?)  Then there were the grown men parading around in capes and furry hats. I dunno -- I really have to wonder whether opinions and practices will be swayed as a result of actions like this.

I know, I should be more tolerant. BUT -- after work, the crowds were still there, except now they had spilled out into the street I was riding on. There were people marching, police cars, buses and other vehicles, going about 5 km/hour, blocking almost the entire road. For a while I rode s-l-o-w-l-y along beside a police car with its lights flashing, until it occurred to me to ask the police officer if I could go around the procession.

He gave me the all-clear, so I skirted the crowd and rode past in the left lane.

After that episode, I was thinking that I really need to get one of these helmet-mounted cameras, and that thought was confirmed when I hit the River Valley trail. Ahead of me, walking smack-dab on the centre line, was a pleasantly plump young woman, headphones in place and a simply dynamic butt-wiggle going on. I laughed aloud at that sight. Maybe she heard me laugh as I rode past her.

And then once I came out of the River Valley and crossed the 149 Street intersection, there was the young kid who not only rode across the intersection, going against traffic, but did a wheelie the whole way across. If I had a helmet camera, these funny sights would be recorded for posterity.

On Thursdays, after I get back to my car, I stop at the library to pick up any holds and return stuff. Another Amsterdam moment. I especially like the huge panniers on the one bike.

And from there, I go to Little Granddaughter's house to drop off and pick up her laundry. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Boxer rebellion?

It's 7:30 -- do you know where your boxer is?

This  friendly vagrant (no collar, no visible ID) came running to watch, tail wagging like mad, as I unloaded my bike from the car and got ready to ride this morning. He appeared out of nowhere -- and when I bade him good-bye he trotted off in the same way. 

Yesterday and today were great commutes through the River Valley. Yesterday, the temp went up to 31 degrees! Summer only a week after winter! 
Hard to believe that last Monday it was 0 degrees and snowing.

I saw a coyote standing on the grass as I rode past the Victoria Golf Course.  

Today was cooler and rather windy, but still a fun and invigorating ride. The trails have been swept, so they are free of gravel. A few small mounds of snow remain, but the streams of water running off them assure us that they are on their way out.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

around town

21 degrees! Sunshine! A perfect day for a 50 to 60 km ride on country roads. Except for the fact that I am still suffering from a very sore tailbone.

I googled "tailbone injury" first thing this morning and got some good news and some bad news. 

The good news: 
  • if you've injured your tailbone, you are not supposed to sit for long periods. My kind of injury! I've never been one to sit around.
The bad news:
  • you are supposed to rest, meaning not doing anything that causes pain. For me, this includes long, fast bike rides; long, fast walks; many bendy-twisty yoga moves; body weight squats; and various other exercises.
The other very, very bad news:
  • such an injury can take 4-8 weeks to heal.
I am optimistic and assume it will be more like 3-4 weeks, and since I can ride my bike on short trips without pain, I will continue to do that, but for this weekend at least, I'll avoid the 50-60 km rides. Maybe next weekend.

So, today I just rode around town, doing errands and enjoying the beautiful weather and the smiling faces on people I passed. 

I rode to the dry cleaners to drop off two pairs of wool pants, a wool skirt and my red silk dress. Dry cleaning is seriously expensive! $45 gone, just like that. 

I rode to the bike shop to see about getting fenders for my commuter bike. Turns out I'll need a rack/fender combo, which they are going to order for me. Rack/fender combos are expensive! Another $60 gone. 

I rode to the library to return a DVD. Libraries are still free! 

I stopped at our local thrift shop, which I haven't visited for about a year. I found a roll of rose-print flannelette to make a blanket for Baby Zoe. Thrift shops are cheap! $4 for 3 meters of fabric -- score!

I rode to Superstore for a few groceries. When I pulled up to the bike rack, I almost thought I was in Amsterdam:

There was even a red bike with MEC panniers in the largest size available -- that made me smile. 

My tailbone didn't give me any trouble, except when I rode up this short, steep hill just before my house. It's a good thing the climb lasted less than a minute.

We also took the dog for a walk. The way she acted, you'd think it was 41 degrees instead of 21. The first puddle she came to, she flopped herself down and luxuriated in the cool water. She did this three times altogether and would have done it even more often if we'd let her. That's a creature who really knows how to enjoy life.

Friday, May 3, 2013


Today's ride was a little shorter than usual. Why? The answer is twofold:
  1. My tailbone is still sore from my fall last weekend. I rode to and from work all week, and it felt OK, but last night it started to hurt again, so I decided to take it easy today. I rode up the big hill (I always try to ride at least this one hill, because it rates as a "climb" according to the Map My Ride web site.) Although my butt hurt, I thought I would keep going a little longer, but then I noticed something...
  2. My front brake was rubbing on the wheel. So, I headed east, rode to the next Range Road and then back to town. After arriving home and looking more closely at my bike, I noticed that the hand grip is slightly damaged, and the penny dropped: when I fell, I must have knocked the front wheel out of line. Bummer! I have one year's worth of free adjustments at the bike shop, so I'll take it in, but I have a feeling they are going to see the clipless pedals, look at the damaged hand grip, and guess exactly what happened. How embarrassing. Maybe they'll be too polite to say anything.
Anyway, so I rode 25 km, a far cry from my usual 50-60. It took me a long time, partly because of my sore butt. 

But also, during my first three minutes of riding I encountered a street sweeper. I was going faster than he was and soon found myself in a cloud of dust, so I decided to stop and wait for him to get out of my path. 

Once I got going, I was so nervous about stopping that I was afraid to go very fast. I also made myself stop several times, just to prove to myself that I can indeed do it without falling. 

As I was coming home I got stuck at a red light that doesn't change unless there is a car at the intersection. This is the same intersection where I fell. I wanted to avoid it, but made myself face my fear and go through there. Turns out a bike is not heavy enough to register on the sensor, so the light stays red indefinitely. A truck finally came along and rescued me, but I now have more than one reason not to take that route home again! 

On top all this, there was a mighty northwest wind, making sure I kept my speed down. All in all, it was not one of my better days on two wheels.

As I rode the last stretch I did see something funny -- a guy was doing something on the back of a delivery truck and all of a sudden, he fell backwards onto the road, landing flat on his back. At first I was afraid he was hurt, but he didn't stay down more than a second; he hopped up, dusted himself off and went back to work. Truly a kindred spirit!

at last...

Yesterday's commute to and from work was all a bicycle commute should be. It wasn't exactly warm, but very pleasant weather for riding, and I rode both ways through the River Valley. It was my first time riding up and down the hill on Fortway Drive and 107 Street since last December; it was definitely more pleasant with no snow and ice on the road! 

Gravel is all that remains of winter, and I'm sure that will soon be cleared away. The potholes and cracks in the pavement are another story -- I braked all the way as I went downhill, out of sheer terror that one of those bumps might unseat me.

A bunny crossed my path as I rode past the entrance to the Legislature Grounds.

The River Valley path was busy with pedestrians and cyclists, but it still beats riding in traffic, and the climbs provide just enough of a workout to make me feel that my commute isn't completely effortless.  

At lunch time I had to go to the computer shop in Oliver to get some stuff for Hubby. It's next to a sportswear shop, so I ducked in there and found a great deal on a Sugoi windbreaker in my signature pink colour -- this one is extremely lightweight and has removable sleeves (they hold on with magnets) to convert it to a vest. I wore it for the ride home, and it was just the right weight for a breezy 15 C day. Not sure how it'll be in the rain, but I have another jacket for that if I need it. My other windbreaker is too heavy for warmer days. 

I also got a pink and black thermal jacket, but haven't decide yet whether I'll keep it.

On my way back to work after my shopping trip, I saw a City of Edmonton employee (or so his shirt sleeve proclaimed) riding a bicycle. Not only was he wearing a helmet and a hi-vis fluorescent vest, but his bike was equipped with a front headlight that only a blind person could miss, it was so bright. I didn't get to see him ride on the road (he was on the Railtown path when I saw him) but I had to wonder whether he was doing a better job of obeying the traffic laws than the young women who had just passed me. She was riding a retro-style bike and had an ethnic-looking cross-body bag over her shoulder. No helmet, of course; hair hanging loose. She looked urban smart, to be sure. BUT -- she rode on the sidewalk, in the opposite direction of traffic. When the sidewalk ended abruptly, she didn't look for oncoming traffic, but blithely proceeded to ride onto the road, sort of down the middle. She then crossed the intersection on the wrong side and took a sharp right to swing around to the ramp admitting her to the Railtown path. From what I observed, she didn't look for cars at the intersection either. She's certainly not the only one, but it's a shame that cyclists like that give the rest of us a bad name. 

The ride that wasn't

Wednesday I drove to work. Not by choice. 

Tuesday night I took my bike out of the car and brought it inside to make some adjustments. Hubby asked if I wanted him to put it back in the car.

"Oh, no, that's okay; I'll do it tomorrow," I assured him.

Wednesday morning I got dressed in my cycling clothes (outer layers over my work clothes.) I packed my panniers. I made sure I had my helmet and gloves. I got in the car and drove to my parking spot. I had to park near the crosswalk, so I took my time parking carefully so I wouldn't block it. I hopped out of the car and got that sinking feeling you get when you know something is wrong. There was no bike in the back of the van.

So, I reluctantly got back in the car and drove the rest of the way downtown. I would have walked, but I didn't have a warm enough jacket (it was -6 C) and I didn't have a suitable bag for carrying my books and stuff. 

So, I joined the masses in the stop and start traffic along 102 Street. Because of the bridge construction on Stony Plain Road, it is busier than ever along this route, and today was a chance to see once again how lucky I am that I can ride my bike at least part-way to work!