Thursday, August 29, 2013

shopping with bike

Silver is my grocery-shopping bike. A few times a week I ride her to Safeway or Superstore and load up on fresh fruit, a freshly baked whole wheat baguette and various other items as needed. My panniers and front basket hold a surprising amount of goodies, and I find that slim treats like Lindt chocolate bars fit in the smallest of spaces. Lately I've bought a fair number of said chocolate bars. Superstore has them on sale for $2.50 each. Since the regular price is close to $4, this is very good value indeed, as Paddington Bear would tell us. I love the dark chocolate - 70-75% cocoa -- in its various forms. Also the intense orange, roasted almond, coconut, and sea salt and caramel. The only catch -- to take advantage of this special price you have to buy in multiples of two. What a hardship.

two trips to the city... by bike. Part 2

#1 Son and his girlfriend wanted us to come to the horse races with them. We said yes. I saw it as another chance to ride into the city, this time via St. Albert.

I rode north uphill and then east on Airport Road to the north end of St. Albert. It was pretty windy, and the wind was from the northeast, so it was a long hard ride. I was glad when I reached the point where I had to turn south. I had printed directions from Google maps, but once I got to Hogan Road, I used the Google Maps app on my smartphone to double check. It told me to go south on Hogan and over to Dawson and then down to McKenney. That worked out pretty well. From McKenney I was supposed to turn right onto St. Albert Trail. I had my doubts about this, knowing how busy this street typically is, but it turns out there is a decent multi-use trail running south all the way to Sturgeon Road. After this, the southbound trail disappears. The app on my phone was insisting I should continue on St. Albert Trail, but as I eyed the road, I questioned this advice. There was a rather steep-looking climb, a narrow right lane and heavy traffic. I stood there a while wondering what to do, and finally spotted a trail going through an underpass in a vaguely southeasterly direction. Figuring it would probably take me further east to a less busy road, I decided to try it. What a beautiful route! Gently winding along the Sturgeon River, this trail took me to Boudreau, where I turned right and rode to Campbell Road. On Campbell Road I headed south. This road is a cyclist's dream -- wide shoulders, good pavement and light traffic. If I'd known better I would have continued on this road all the way to 137 Avenue, but I sort of accidentally ended up turning left onto Mark Messier Trail. This wasn't as bad as it could have been, but was far from ideal. I was pretty happy to see 137 Avenue at last. On 137 there is a good bike route, consisting of multi-use trails and service roads, all the way to Castledowns Road. Here I headed south to 127 Avenue, turned left and then right at 97 Street. Here, it began to rain. Not hard, but steady. It felt kind of nice after a warm ride, so I didn't complain.

118 Avenue was a big surprise. It had been a couple of years since I'd ventured into that once questionable area, and I had no idea that it had become so upscale. Cute little shops, restaurants, an artists' headquarters and gallery, and most appealing to me at that point in my ride -- the tempting aromas emanating from numerous bakeries.

Moments later I was at Northlands. Typically, I was the first of our party to arrive, so I had to stand around in my cycling clothes waiting for Hubby (who had my civvies) and #1 Son and Girlfriend.

The rain stopped and this rainbow appeared:
The races were fun. We ate at the buffet, which was not really worth it. The food was okay, but nothing special, and it was fairly expensive. Next time we'll either bring our own food or just buy from the food stands outside. We placed a few bets. Son and Girlfriend have a system -- they spend $20 and bet $2 each on five races. Usually they leave having spent a dollar or two, or sometimes a dollar or two ahead. Either way, it's a cheap evening out.

I placed three bets. On the first, I lost my little all, as Bertie Wooster would say. On the second, I more than doubled my money, and on the third, I won a modest sum. I spent $6.00 in total and left with $6.80. Not bad for a beginner. My first winning bet was on a horse called Victor Man; I chose him only because Victor is #5 Son's name. I bet $2.00 and ended with $4.30. My second winner was more calculated; I studied his history before deciding to bet. My $2.00 bet yielded $2.50.

I rode a total of 59 km. My pace was pretty slow, first because of the northeast wind, and then because I kept stopping to figure out where to go next. But it was a fun little adventure, not one I am super eager to repeat, but a good experience.

Today I'm ready for a nice uninterrupted country ride. Enough of the city for now.

two trips to the city... by bike

Trip the First

#1 Son and his girlfriend had borrowed my van. It was in the city parked on a downtown street a few blocks from their building. On Tuesday I decided to ride in on Milly and pick it up. Although I've ridden into the city a couple of times, I'd never ridden downtown. I was uncertain about the stretch of road between the Anthony Henday and 178 Street. On my previous trips, I took the Anthony Henday exit and then got off at 87 Avenue. That, as the Staples ad says, was easy.

But riding east on 100 Avenue, past the Henday exit, behind the BMW dealer and Wal-Mart? I wasn't so sure. The speed limit is 70 and most cars go that or faster; there is quite a lot of traffic and lane-changing, and the right lane is not exactly wide enough for a big Dodge Ram 3500 and a cyclist to co-exist peacefully. On top of that, the pavement is rough, with potholes and/or cracks every couple of meters. It was pretty much as bad as I'd imagined. The only good thing is that it is short-lived. After crossing 178 Street, the situation improves dramatically, and after 163 Street there is, of course, the wonderful shared sidewalk that goes all the way to Crestwood. From Crestwood I entered the River Valley, and instead of continuing all the way to the Royal Glenora, where I normally exit onto Fortway Road, I veered left on the Government House Park trail. I thought this sign meant the trail would come out at the museum, but that's not what happened. Maybe I missed a turn or something, but I ended up on Groat Road, wondering where to turn next.

Just then a woman cyclist came along so I stopped her and asked where I'd end up if I headed north. We got to chatting and she told me the story of her life -- how she had ridden for the first time to Westmount Mall for lunch and now she was on her way to the University, and on and on. Amid this tangle of words, I managed to elicit from her the fact that I could get off Groat at 107 Avenue and from there head downtown.

I wasn't crazy about the thought of riding on 107 Avenue, the street where a cyclist (sans helmet, as the newspaper articles were eager to inform us) was killed earlier this summer. But I figured I'd be extra careful and get onto a safer, less busy street at the first opportunity. So I rode north, up the gently sloping hill and was pleasantly surprised when I saw, just before 107 Avenue, that I could turn left into the Glenora neighbourhood and ride from there on a quiet shady residential street to Stony Plain Road. Stony Plain Road, currently under construction, is basically closed to traffic, so it was delightful to ride on. At one red light, when I dutifully stopped and waited for the green, I saw a woman motorist stop and then turn left, treating the light as if it were a stop sign. Hmm. Wonder if she ever complains about cyclists who disobey traffic laws?

From Stony Plain Road, it was a short and easy ride to where the van was parked, just north of 102 Avenue. Total distance was about 31 km.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

slipped on a banana peel...

I’ll be upfront and forthright and admit from the start that I don’t like bananas. I’ve probably eaten two or three of the nasty things over my lifetime, but I didn’t enjoy them. They’re ugly, they’re slimy, they’re squishy, they’re hard to peel and they don’t taste good.

On top of that, the peels are disgusting. Especially on the shoulder of the road as you’re riding your bike.
And thus begins today’s lesson. Bananas are popular with road cyclists for several reasons. They’re nutritious and high in calories. They fit nicely in the back pockets of cycling jerseys. They're easy to eat while riding. And apparently the wrapping is considered easy to discard: simply drop the peel onto the shoulder beside your bike and keep going. After all, the peel is biodegradable, right? It will decompose, won’t it? Yes, it is; and yes, it will. But on a paved surface this doesn’t happen very quickly and in the meantime a rotting banana peel is rather unsightly, especially to cyclists like me who don’t like bananas even in their most pristine state.

The countryside where I ride is rather sparsely populated, meaning that on a 60 km ride, I might see three or four discarded banana peels littering the shoulders. I consider this more than enough and I hate to think what the shoulders must be like if the same attitude prevails in densely populated areas.
Now, I'm not trying to discourage people from eating bananas while riding a bike. And I know it can be unpleasant to carry a smelly, slimy banana skin with you for the remaining 40 km of your ride. But, come on… I've seen you. Most of you are big strong guys, capable of extending your arms and flinging the peel into the ditch, or even into the shrubbery, where it will be out of sight and will decompose more quickly. Do this, and you’ll do me and many others a big favour. 

This afternoon I rode Milly 52 km on the country roads north of town and spotted only two discarded banana peels. Not exactly good, but not terrible either. Then again, I was working so hard to fight the west wind and the crosswinds from the north that maybe I missed a few. Other than the wind, it was a fine day for riding -- sunny and warm -- and I was happy to see another woman riding alone up on Airport Road, as well as a few assorted people out on mountain bikes.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

a metric century?

Today I rode 110 km. I am pretty proud of that.

After breakfast I headed out on the Trek 1000 (hereafter known as Milly) and rode my tried and true route -- up North Hill road, to Roller Coaster Road, down to the seniors' home, up the big hill on Airport Road, and back south into town. This was the first time for Milly to brave the ups and downs and rough pavement of Roller Coaster Road. I wasn't sure how it would be on the skinnier tires and lighter frame, but it was fine. I was a little nervous on the downhills, so used the brakes a few times. Heading down the big hill as I rode east towards the airport, I also braked more than once, thanks to a mighty crosswind that threatened to sweep me into the ditch. I am never sure whether that is a real danger, but it certainly feels like it. 

My morning ride was just over 60 km. 
 The pond looked so pretty in the sun and was so noisy with duck doings, I had to stop for a few photos. 
When I got home Son #4 was here for lunch. After we'd eaten, I remembered that I wanted to go to Cannor Nurseries to use the $50 groupon I'd purchased. I suggested that he might want to ride with me, and to my surprise he agreed. So, we headed south, him on Hubby's Father's Day bike and me on my step-through. I was wearing a skirt and didn't feel like changing, and as I told my son, it was just a short ride -- maybe 12 or 13 km.
on the road to Cannor
It was a little longer than that -- more like 21 km. And I made it longer by forgetting to bring the Groupon. I realized this after we'd ridden about 4K, so I rode home to get it, and the sunscreen, and Son #4's sunglasses. Finally fully equipped, we set off for real. South and east on paved but not always smooth roads, we rode and rode. When we finally arrived, this looked like a bit of heaven:
Not only that, but they had free cold water and cookies, just the ticket after a long hot ride. Son #4 ate 8 cookies -- peanut butter, chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin. 

I found the plants I wanted and we waited for Hubby and Son #5 who had gone into Edmonton to do some work on our rental property. When they arrived, we loaded up the van with the plants -- and Son #4's bike. Yes, he abandoned me and left me to ride home alone, claiming I'd misled him by saying the ride was about 12-13 km. 'Twas true, but what's a few extra kilometers between mother and son?

I didn't really mind riding home alone. How could I complain when on roads like this one?  
 I varied the route this time by riding first west for a few km, then north, then west again for a few more km, and then north. This made the trip more interesting. When I saw these trees, I had to stop and snap a photo. I especially loved the white one on the right.
When I got home and checked Map My Ride, I saw that I had ridden 110 km in total today. Of course, since this was broken up into two rides -- morning and afternoon -- I am not sure whether it counts as a metric century. But it was a good day of riding no matter what.

on vacation

Thursday was our last day of class for the summer session, so now I have two weeks off. Cleaning house, sewing, getting #5 Son ready for back-to-school and stuff like that are on the agenda of course, but plenty of cycling is also a priority.

Yesterday I rode 50k on the Trek 1000. 

Earlier this week I had bought a new, skinnier saddle, the SDG Allure from MEC. It's very similar to the comfy stock saddle on my Specialized Vita, and the price was right, so I figured it was worth a try. Hubby put it on for me, and we adjusted it as best we could, and I set off riding. As I was leaving the driveway, Hubby called me back and handed me the Allen wrench multi-tool. A good thing: just as I was heading up the first hill north of town, I felt the saddle give way under me. I wasn't sure exactly what to do, but I took out the Allen wrenches, found the right size -- actually two different sizes, as it happened -- and turned a couple of screws. Hoping it was good enough to get me home, I turned around and crossed the road, only to have the saddle collapse once again. OK, I thought, time to get serious and figure this thing out. And after a short period of trial and error, I got it! The saddle was set to the right height and seemed nice and tight, so I decided to continue riding.

As I was working on it, another cyclist came by, a guy dressed in what appeared to be swimming trunks -- possibly heading for the Leisure Centre pool -- and asked if I needed any help. Since by this time I was pretty sure I had things under control, I was happy to be able to say no thank you. But I appreciated the offer.

The rest of the ride went great. No problems with the saddle or anything else. There was almost no wind, so it was an easy ride. Again, I was impressed with how much easier the hill climbs are on this bike than on my hybrid. I might have to find some bigger hills -- or maybe start some hill repeats or something. 

Warm air, sunshine, comfortable bike -- what more could I ask for? And to think I have two more weeks of days like this!

at The Fringe

Last day of the summer session. We hopped on the High Level Bridge Streetcar and rode over to The Fringe. Nineteen ESL students, one volunteer and two teachers wandered around among the food booths and street performers, practicing English all the while.

After sampling the performances, we ambled over to Kebab Express on Whyte Avenue, where a former student now works, and drank some Turkish coffee.

The female students were singularly unimpressed with the shows -- juggling, acrobatics, etc. Too much talk, not enough action, was their opinion. In the previous day's lesson I had explained what the word "fringe" refers to: performers and acts that have not (yet) made it big. I also assured the students that they need not feel obliged to give the performers money. One student argued quite extensively that we should give them money, but after seeing the performances, she came to agree with me that it was not necessary! However, most of the male students were quite taken with the shows, even to the extent of filming them.

I remember when my sons were little, The Fringe was the highlight of their lives. They could have stood forever watching the shows and stuffing their mouths with green onion cakes. 

For me, yesterday was a great way to end the session. The students loved the streetcar, The Fringe is an important piece of life in Edmonton, and the coffee and conversation at the Turkish restaurant were fun and relaxing.

Waiting for the streetcar
On my way home, as I rode through the River Valley, an old fogey, fully kitted-up and riding a no-doubt expensive Mercian road bike passed me (no bell, no vocal warning) as I neared the top of a hill. Once past the hill I increased my speed slightly and quickly caught up to him. Content to ride behind him, as the exit from the valley was approaching, I slowed down. Suddenly he stopped and made as if to do a u-turn. I think at this point he realized I was behind him, and he stopped completely. I stopped, too, and asked, "What are you going to do?" I thought that if he did indeed want to make a u-turn, I would allow him to do so. Instead of appreciating my considerate gesture, he snarled at me, "Go to the left." I was shocked. I replied, "I didn't know what you were going to do." He snarled again: "It doesn't matter. Go left." I was flabbergasted, but I meekly obeyed and went left, leaving him to his nefarious ways. I was slightly annoyed, but had to laugh at the situation. I mean, really! Without any type of signal, he veers left and then suddenly stops in the middle of the trail, and he has the nerve to snarl at me. Afterwards I decided that maybe he was humiliated, after passing me, to find that I was right behind him on my humble Trek 7.2 step-through city bike. Oh well, it takes all kinds, even in the cycling world.

Please note, I normally don't call people old fogeys. But old fogeyism is not an age, it's an attitude, and this guy had the attitude -- in spades. If anyone ever earned the moniker, he did.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

65k loop

I rode my new-to-me road bike again -- 65 km this time, looping up and over to St. Albert and then back via Meadowview Drive. All was good until I headed west into the wind and then I really began to feel the extra thickness on the saddle. I had to stop three or four times for a little break. Each time I resumed riding it was fine for a while, but then I had to stop again. Looks like I'll be hunting down a different saddle. Our local bike shop doesn't have a very good selection, so maybe I'll have to see what I can find in the city.

It was a gorgeous day, although the west wind was pretty relentless. As I rode into the wind, I did appreciate being able to ride in the drop position, although I was so sore by this time that I couldn't fully enjoy it.

And it is starting to look like fall in the fields around here...

The temperature was about 22 C, and the humidity that has been prevalent for the last few weeks has finally left us, so the air was fresh and clear.  Grasshoppers are everywhere along the road, along with woolly bear caterpillars. Yes, fall is on its way. Summer has been too short, but I am hoping for a warm September and October and for lots of rides in the stunning autumn foliage. I started my road cycling last September, and it was breathtakingly beautiful, so even though I am sad to see summer come to an end, there is something to look forward to!

n - 1 + 1 + 1

my bike ownership went to n-1 when this bike was stolen
Not too long ago, Bonnie Blue, my step-through grocery shopping bike (above) was stolen. It was in a bike rack in my front yard, right up against the house. Unlocked, I admit, but still...  It was there in the morning when I left for my long country ride; it was gone when I returned.
My bike ownership stats went from n to (n-1) in the space of a couple of hours.

I was sad and not a little indignant at the thought of someone helping themselves to my beloved bike. To add insult to injury, not only did they get a bike, they got panniers, a back rack pack, a front basket, a lock with its key and 3 handmade reusable shopping bags. There was a set of tire levers and a spare tube in the rack pack as well.

I used this bike a lot for running errands around town. As I thought about replacing it, I asked myself: Should I wait for another great garage sale find? Should I buy a cheap step-through bike from SportChek? Or should I buy a good quality dual-purpose bike -- a sturdy commuter bike with a step-through frame?

I finally decided on the latter and bought a Trek 7.2 FX:

Silver - my new commuter

I bought it two weeks ago and used it all last week to ride to and from work. I am happy with it. It's fast and comfy; it carries all my loot -- and I can ride in a skirt. Two days last week I didn't bother to change clothes before riding home and just wore my skirt and regular top. The only drawback is that because of a recent surge in bike thefts downtown (or maybe everywhere!) I have to bring the bike inside through a set of heavy wooden doors. The bike is light, but the doors are heavy and don't stay open on their own. The first few days I got someone to help me, but by Thursday I felt like I had the knack and it didn't seem so bad.
The stats were readjusted: n - 1 + 1 = n

And every cloud does indeed have a silver lining: the story about bike thefts, with its short video, made an excellent current events lesson for my ESL class. A few of us ride bikes to school, so the topic was relevant.

I hadn't given up my dream of finding an inexpensive used road bike. Every day I combed Kijiji ads for something within my budget. I test rode two Trek bikes. The first was comfortable, but a bit overpriced and undermaintained -- it was rather dirty and the shifting was rough. The second bike was on the small side, with 650c wheels. It wasn't a terrible fit, but not great either, and the handlebars had been taped with electrical tape, which was a bit of a put-off. I made a low-ball offer on that bike, but the seller ended up selling to someone else. But on Thursday I found just what I was looking for: a 2007 WSD Trek 1000. We had to drive to a hamlet about 20 km east of Edmonton, but it was worth it: the perfect size, beautifully maintained and inexpensive.

And here she is...
Milly - my first road bike

On Friday, being too nervous to ride it down any hills, I rode for 25 km south of town, on flat roads and came home feeling uncertain. Was it really better than my Specialized flatbar? I couldn't decide.

Saturday morning I decided to be brave and rode 25 km north of town, uphill and down. The first thing I noticed was how easy it was to pedal uphill. But as far as I was concerned, the real test was riding downhill. I was scared, but it went fine. The only thing about the bike that I wasn't happy with was that the chain was quite dirty. The bike had been hanging in a workshop for about five years and grime had accumulated. So after my morning ride, I went to the bike shop and asked Bike Shop Guy about chain cleaners. He recommended a spray and a lube, showed me how to use them and even gave the bike a quick check-up. The headset was slightly loose, so he tightened that for me, but other than that, he said I got a good buy.

Saturday afternoon I went riding again, about 35 km. I came back because I was getting a little saddle sore. Now I need to figure out if it's just a matter of getting used to that particular saddle or if I should replace it with a skinnier one. Either way, I am happy with the bike and look forward to many more rides.

After all this, here is what I ended up with: n - 1 + 1 + 1 = n + 1.
("n" is, of course, the number of bikes already in my possession on the morning of the theft.)
If the ideal number of bikes to own is really n + 1, it looks like I am there.

On the other hand, some say the ideal number of bicycles to own is really (n - 1), where n is the number of bikes you'd need to have to cause your partner to leave you. Since Hubby is very tolerant and likes me a lot, that number could be quite high, so maybe that is what I should aim for!

I rode quite a lot yesterday -- two country rides, plus a trip to the grocery store, plus two trips to the bike shop. (I had to have Bike Shop Guy re-attach a kick-stand he put on my commuter bike last week. It fell off just as I was getting ready to ride away from work on Thursday afternoon.)

On one of my bike shop runs, this is what I found in front of me:
They were headed back to their assisted living facility a short distance away. The sight gave rise to some bittersweet thoughts. How nice for them that they have the wooded trail to ride on. How sad that they (especially the first guy, who is quite young) have to ride at all, instead of walking. How nice that they have each other. How sad that they have to live in assisted living. How nice that there is a pleasant assisted living facility in such proximity to the woods. 

I didn't have the heart to ring my bell and attempt to pass them, so I rode slowly behind until they had turned off towards home.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

sunny sunday

This morning I rode just over 60 km on the country roads north of town: Roller Coaster Road, Airport Road, Sec. 779 and North Hill Road. I rode hard, especially on the climbs, and was rewarded by seeing the average speed on my bike computer increase by another decimal point. It is now at 25.3. This may not sound especially fast, but I am pleased with this for a few reasons: 1) it was at 23.8 after my first couple of rides; 2) this includes a lot of hill-climbing; 3) this includes some very windy days (40 km/hour winds); 4) this includes my pre-ride warm-up rides and stops or slow-downs at stop signs and traffic lights; and 5) my high speed has not increased since the second time I rode with the computer -- it has stayed at 53.6 this whole time -- which means that my low speed must be increasing. So, all in all, it makes me feel pretty good.

As I rode east on Airport Road, I watched these geese come in for a landing. The pond they chose was pretty scummy and didn't look very inviting to me, but somehow their choosing it infused it with a certain beauty. They looked so elegant and graceful as they swept down to join the babies.

 And these two appeared to be sentinels, perched on the hill, watching for danger.

At my turn-around point, at the seniors' home, I met a guy on a time trial bike. He'd stopped to make adjustments after having lent the bike out to various people, and told me that he was getting ready for a championship race this coming weekend.

It was a beautiful morning -- sunny, around 25 C (although the humidex made it about 28 degrees) and just a little wind from the east. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

another adventurous ride...

this time to St. Albert and back, in a 61.6 km loop.

I rode straight north to start, uphill against a moderate wind, and then headed east past the airport, through the village of Villeneuve, to the west end of St. Albert. I didn't really go into the city, just headed south on Hogan Road. The stretch from the airport to St. Albert is almost flat, and it was fun to look at my speed on the computer. I hardly ever ride on flat roads, so to see a sustained speed of over 35 km/hour is unusual. I also watched my average speed increase a couple of decimal points.

I followed Giroux Road and Ray Gibbon road to my goal: Meadowview Drive. I've seen this road on the map. How can a person who loves country bike ride NOT want to ride on a road with a name like that? And the road is almost as beautiful as its name.

The above photo looks a little too autumn-ish for my liking, but beautiful all the same.
Riding along beside Lois Hole Provincial Park

It was another gorgeous summer day -- 20 C and mostly sunny:

Below, we have the prairie version of ancient ruins. When I was a kid, we used to play in a building similar to this; ours was an old power building next to the Swift Current Creek. Seeing this brought back memories:

I rode past this creek, but the sight of all these logs piled one on top of the other made such an impact on me that I had to turn around to take a photo. Yes, I did not misspeak -- this really is a creek. On the other side of the bridge, there is running water.

And when I saw the sunflowers a few meters farther along, I had to stop yet again. After all, what's the use of a scenic country ride if you can't stop occasionally to record what you see?

Meadowview Road leads to Highway 44, where I headed south. Just before this highway I was passed by a guy wearing team kit and riding a skinny carbon-frame bike. I didn't feel too bad about being passed by someone like that, but I did wonder how fast I could ride on one of those bikes! We met up again at the stop sign and had a bit of a chat while waiting for a chance to cross the road. On the highway he was joined by two other matching riders, and before too long they left me in the dust. 

Oh well, I was happy to be out riding, getting exercise, soaking up some rays and enjoying the lovely weather and scenery. I also maintained my increased average speed, something I am pleased about. The top speed has not changed since I hit 56.3 km/hour on a downhill the second day of riding with the computer on the bike, so I know I've been bringing up the average from below, and that's a pretty good feeling!

From Highway 44 I took a range road leading back to the main road, and home again, home again, jiggety-jig. A sliced grapefruit and a glass of water with lime never tasted so good!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

short and sweet

A short, quick ride today -- 38 km at a fairly quick pace. Just up to the top of the hill, down to the airport, back up to the main road and then south into town. A cool cloudy day, 89% humidity and some light rain.

The red-tailed hawks were out in numbers today. As I was riding to the airport, I watched one being attacked by an angry crow.

I think my handlebars need to be tightened, which is why I cut my ride short. My Nervous Nelly tendencies were kicking in, so I decided to play it safe. But when I rode down the big hill on the way back into town, everything seemed fine, so maybe it's just my imagination. Whatever -- I'll take it in to the shop on Tuesday and have Bike Shop Guy take a look. I've put on about 1300 km since I bought the bike in June, and I plan to ride from Jasper to Banff on the Icefields Parkway later this month, so I figure it's a good idea to have it checked out.

Our local Bike Shop Guy is the best! The original bike shop was bought out by a larger shop, but they kept Manny on. A great decision! On Friday, I took my commuter bike in to have him check the brakes and the headset. Again, I was feeling nervous about the hills I ride down on my daily commute. Sure enough, the headset needed some adjustments, and the brakes, too. $10.00 and they are as good as new.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

ride to Devon

Today I rode to Devon and back -- 66.4 km. 

This wasn't my longest ride ever, but I felt like it was my most adventurous. I google-mapped my route, printed the directions and set off, unsure of exactly how things would go. 

The wind was southeast at 20-40 km per hour, so I was glad I had to go south first, while I had lots of energy. And it was quite a wind. For most of the way to Devon, I had to go south, and I really felt it. The occasional stretches riding east came as such a relief. 

Sometimes when I've used Google Maps to plan out a country bike ride, I find it disappointing, as it directs me onto gravel roads, but this time it was pretty good. There was one place where I changed the plan slightly, but other than that I followed it quite closely.

It was an absolutely fabulous day -- the temperature was right around 25 C and the sky was blue, and though the wind was fierce, it did help to keep me cool.
Alberta farmland at its best
I rode straight south of town, battling the wind all the way, and was quite happy when I came to my first left (east) turn. That road was shady and cool, and there was almost no traffic.

welcome shade

And this friendly creature was watching me from the sidelines.

Like all good things, this lovely road came to an end and I had to head south again, into the wind. That was okay until I suddenly felt an insect collide with my lip. There was a bitter taste and then a sharp pain -- apparently it was a bee, and it stung me. This was my first bee sting since I was a wee nipper, so of course my imagination ran away with me: what if I experienced an anaphylactic reaction and keeled over out in the middle of nowhere? 

I stopped riding and held some ice from my water bottle on the lip, hoping to alleviate any swelling. I don't know if it helped, but I didn't feel my airway closing or my face growing hot, so I decided I was going to be fine and continued on my way.

After a short jaunt east on a busy secondary highway, I headed south again on a quiet road winding through a scenic stretch of acreages and farmland. This brought me to the township road that connects with the main highway. 

And then the Big Hill, my reason for this ride. I didn't particularly want to visit the town of Devon; I wanted to try riding down through the North Saskatchewan River valley and up on the other side, into the town. Hubby said he thought these hills were about the same size as the hills I ride on north of town, but I wasn't so sure. I'm still not sure. 

Riding into Devon, the climb felt pretty tough, but I had a headwind and because it was my first time attempting this hill, I wasn't sure about the gearing. But I made it without much difficulty and rode to the first set of lights, where I turned into the town and stopped for a drink in the shade of the tree-lined main street, before heading back again.

Going in this direction, I started with the hill. This photo was taken just as I prepared to head down. And the downhill was downright scary; I confess I used my brakes more than once. The uphill was a breeze, but of course now I had a tailwind, and I think the incline is less on this side. 

I turned left, back onto the township road I'd ridden in on, and headed north and west from there. The riding was comfortable and easy in this direction, even with the sometimes daunting crosswinds. I arrived home a little bit hot and sweaty (and with an Angelina Jolie-esque lower lip) but also with a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction. 

After all, now I know what it's like to ride a bike up and down the Devon hill!

Friday, August 2, 2013

good news and bad

The good news -- after a couple of weekends of battling reluctance to ride, due partly to a strange low-grade anxiety about riding -- nervousness about the clipless pedals, about the gusting winds, about something happening while I am out by myself, and so on -- I finally bit the bullet today and went for a 60 km ride.

I started, as always, with a short ride down the street to make sure I still had the knack of clipping in and out of my pedals. No problems there, so I felt a rush of confidence as I started north.

I rode up to Roller Coaster Road, hoping to stop and take a look around for the cadence magnet I lost while bouncing over the bone-jiggling pavement at the bottom of the largest hill. But, to my surprise and dismay, I saw that the previous rough pavement and potholes were gone and in its place was an oily layer of fresh road covering. I won't grace it with the name "pavement" and the adjective "smooth" certainly doesn't apply, but the potholes are filled and the rough surface is slightly less jarring. It seems the county wanted an improvement, but also wanted to ensure that cyclists using this road could still experience some bone-mass-increasing action. I didn't hold out any hope for finding my magnet -- in this case the old saw was true: he who hesitates is lost. I should have gone back sooner. This was the minor bad news. Fortunately, replacement cadence magnets are available inexpensively.

Other that this slight disappointment, it was an excellent ride. The hills of Roller Coaster Road were as much fun as ever, and I was pleased to see that riding uphill didn't reduce my average speed.

Looking west
From here, I rode west to the north-south secondary highway and headed east on Airport Road. The clouds were gathering as I rode, and I wondered if the predicted rain would come sooner than anticipated, but no -- it stayed away.

The high point of my ride -- looking East

where the skies are not cloudy all day?

rain is in the forecast
At the seniors' home I turned around and headed back up the Really Big Hill. It was easy today -- it helps when you have a tailwind and crosswind, instead of a headwind!

 Stopped at the pond to take a few pics:

By this time, the clouds were thinning again, and blue sky was dominant. It was also getting warm. I wore a long-sleeved jersey and was wishing for short sleeves.

After the big hill, it was time to head south and back into town. I took Deer Trail, which winds around back to the main road. On this road, the wind wasn't bad, thanks to lots of sheltering trees, but once I turned onto the main road and was riding straight south, it was a battle, even though most of the ride is downhill. Even on the largest downhill, my highest speed -- while pedaling like mad -- was only about 42 km/hour. Still, though, I managed to raise my average speed yet again. I was pleased about that.
And now for the really bad news -- when I got home and rode into the driveway, something was missing. My beloved Bonnie Blue was gone from her parking spot at the bike rack.

Apparently, while I was riding and Hubby was working, someone came into our yard and helped themselves to a ladies bike, complete with panniers, back rack bag (and a front basket and fender that I added since this photo was taken.)

Thursday, August 1, 2013


seen from a bicycle saddle.

My daily bicycle commute is giving me a new angle on homelessness in Edmonton. Before this summer, I knew, of course, that homelessness existed; I even saw homeless people from time to time. But my summer commuting route gives me glimpses of the lifestyle that were previously denied.

Two older men I pass each morning. Fellow cyclists, but of quite a different ilk. Clothed in faded, torn jeans and jean jackets, with baseball caps on their heads, they are weighed down with numerous blue recycling bags and black garbage bags and various other plastic bags stuffed with, um, stuff. Presumably there are some bottles and cans they can exchange for cash, but I suspect the remainder consists of their personal treasures. For them, the morning ride is a delicate balancing act. Their destination is a mystery, but somehow, I doubt they are heading to work. Their bedroom seems to be the River Valley; their alarm clock the sunrise. They look serious and earnest, but happy, too. Of course -- they are riding bikes.

A pillow and shopping cart at my Callingwood parking spot. Though I arrive rather early and the parking lot is deserted, someone has clearly preceded me. A pillow is carefully placed next to the treeline and a half-full shopping cart lingers nearby.

More shopping carts. All along the shared sidewalk are shopping carts -- some empty, some overflowing with what would appear to be all the owners' worldly possessions. Most of these carts are unattended, perhaps waiting for the next person who needs them. 

Today I had a closer than usual encounter with the phenomenon. As I rounded a bend on the 100 Avenue shared sidewalk, I had to brake sharply to avoid hitting -- what, exactly, I am not sure. But laid out across the trail were articles of clothing, household items, and other bits and pieces of an urban life-on-the-road. I didn't take time to examine the display, but a granite candle holder and some brassware caught my eye -- useful, no doubt, for entertaining. When I hit the brakes, I sort of screamed involuntarily -- I was startled, after all, to find my path blocked in this fashion. 

Preparing to weave my way through these obstacles, I heard a voice from the shrubbery, "Sorry about that." Turning my head, I spied two men -- possibly the very ones mentioned above -- sorting through their bags. "I guess we really should move that stuff," he added. Briefly I voiced my agreement, bade them good day and rode on, wishing I'd had the nerve to take a photo of the scene.

And husbands everywhere, take note: even homeless men occasionally engage in a spot of housecleaning!

My students are troubled by homeless people. When asked what they would do if they were Mayor of Edmonton, many of them mentioned doing something about homeless people. This surprised me. Most of them come from countries where homelessness is a greater problem than it is here in Edmonton. But they are disturbed by the fact that in a rich country like Canada, there are people who don't have homes. They are afraid of these people. They are bothered by the fact that they appear in reasonably decent places, such as the Milner library and grocery stores in Chinatown. We discussed some possible solutions. In a couple of countries, I was told, homeless people are rounded up, loaded onto trains or buses and taken out of the city, the theory being that they won't have enough money to get back. Hmmm. Some students said more shelters should be built, enough to accommodate all the people who need a place to live. 

If only the answer were that simple. I do know one thing: When I went to San Francisco a few years ago, I saw many homeless people there. It didn't look quite so bad in that climate, and I vowed that if I ever find myself living on the street, I will use my last bit of cash to buy a ticket to a warmer place than Edmonton,