Sunday, September 29, 2013

a break in the weather


Today started out gloomy. Cloudy and cool with light rain.Windy, too. We rode our bikes to church at 9:00, and for a while I thought that was it for the day.
But by 3:00 p.m. the clouds were gone, the sun was shining and the temperature was up to 15. I knew that if I didn't go for a ride, I'd regret it.
So I set off, heading north up the hill.
I rode the first 5 km or so with a big fat "0" on the speed readout of my computer. I thought maybe when I changed the tube in the back tire I'd knocked the magnet off the spoke. But when I stopped to check, I found the magnet still firmly attached, just facing away from the sensor. So, I fixed that and set off riding again, happy to see a 29 where the 0 had been.

The trees are looking more and more beautiful these days, wearing their party dresses of yellow and red and brown. When the sun angles down on them from the west, they literally glow, making me feel lucky to be alive.

One of my ESL students commented on how she misses the colourful trees in Ukraine -- here, she says, all the trees are yellow. I know what she means, having lived in Southern Ontario and the Lower Mainland for quite a few years. The maples and the sumacs, the horse chestnuts and the oaks, with their dramatic displays of colour, are truly spectacular. 
But I assured Halyna that when the mountain ash trees change colour, she will have something to feast her eyes on. 

And there are splashes of red and orange among the yellow even now, all the more delightful and welcome because of their scarcity.

 This is the high point of my ride, looking east toward St. Albert. Today it was a challenge to reach this spot -- the wind was from the northwest at 20-40 km/hour, and after turning around at the seniors' home, I was riding west and had to fight my way up to the pond and then up some more to the top of the hill.

the high ground
I always say I'd rather have the wind against me on the uphill stretches than when I'm riding downhill. After all, uphill is already work -- the wind just makes it a little more so. But when the wind is against me on the downhill, I can't help but feel I am being cheated, missing out on something. Today I didn't miss out and saw my top speed reach 52 km/hour. 

I rode about 48 km in all and saw quite a few other solitary cyclists, who obviously had the same desire to take advantage of the break in the weather.

view from Quesnell Bridge

 On Friday I rode in to our rental house. Looks like we have a new tenant.

I rode Beatrice. 38 km. No flat tire this time. 

On my way down the stairs to the Quesnell Bridge I passed a Asian man with one of those massive cameras, a tripod -- the whole kit and caboodle. After seeing him, I took a closer look at the scene below me. 

It was a gorgeous sunny day and the river was dotted with seagulls bobbing in the current.

I rode up Fox Drive and when I looked at Map My Ride afterwards, I was surprised to see that it counts as two climbs, each with a fairly steep grade. The first climb has a 7% grade.

Fox Drive hill elevation chart

I would never have guessed it is such a steep climb, maybe because it is long and drawn out. Apparently the much shorter Fortway Drive hill has a 10% grade at some point, but that doesn't appear on the Map My Ride elevation map. 

Fortway Drive elevation chart

I love riding up hills and I also love being able to view my accomplishments in chart form! Now I just need to figure out how to time myself on the hills...

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

breath-taking beauty

This morning, riding through the River Valley, I had to stop to watch the mist dancing above the water.

It was a crisp cold morning -- only 3 C when I left the house -- with a light northerly wind.
I wore a cami, a long sleeved shirt, a wool sweater and a thick velveteen blazer, along with a cozy fleece scarf and my Castelli Diluvio cycling gloves... and that combo proved just right.

Beautiful scenes like this first thing in the morning -- just one more reason to ride my bike to work!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

it's called a KICKstand for a reason

I found that out the hard way today. 

For some reason, I often seem to en up standing on the right side of my bike, while the kickstand is, of course, on the left side. When this happens, I normally lean over the bike and use my hand to flip the kickstand into place. Well, this morning when I did that, I pinched my thumb and ended up with a cut that bled almost all day. At lunch time, instead of going for my usual 3 km walk, I went to the drugstore to get band-aids.

I think I learned my lesson... although when I got back to the car after work, I almost did it again. I stopped myself in the nick of time.

Other than this minor mishap, the last two days commuting have been delightful. The cooler morning temperatures mean I don't get hot, even on the hills, yet the sunny skies take the chill out of the air. The trees are gradually changing colour and everything that has that golden glow typical of fall.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

happy trails

Today I just rode Silver around town, doing some grocery shopping and enjoying yet another beautiful day. I rode on the trails to the library, where I dropped off some books, and then took the long way back to Superstore.

As a rule, I try to be charitable to my fellow human beings, but honestly, I felt like today was Idiots' Day Out. The first dimwit I came across was not even human; it was a big fat ginger cat, crouched in the shrubbery on the other side of the trail. As I approached, it decided to get up and move, and it walked right in front of me -- if I hadn't hit the brakes, I would have hit the cat. I had to wonder how it has survived this long!

A little farther on, there was a group of walkers: 2 women, 2 children, a wagon, and a dog. Coming towards me, they were strung out across the trail. Do you think anyone moved? No, sir. I had to slow to a crawl and move to the very edge of the trail to get past them.  Around the next bend came two women with their teeny tiny dogs. Cute dogs. But, instead of both moving right, they split up -- one woman and dog went to the right side of the trail, the other to the left, forcing me to ride between them. Then there were the men in their motorized wheelchairs. Three of them, blocking the path, had stopped to chat. Did they move over? No; once again, I was forced to go to the extreme left to ride around them. And last, but not least, was the fat guy with headphones. Kudos to him for getting out and walking. Although, at the speed he walked, he wasn't burning many more calories than if he sat and twiddled his thumbs. But he was moving, I'll give him that. My complaint? He had his head down, eyes on the ground, and with his headphones preventing him from hearing anything, he had no idea I was coming. Walking right in the middle of the path. I rang my bell, but of course he didn't hear, so again, I had to slow dramatically and carefully ride around his massive presence.
Even the inanimate living things were conspiring against me today -- as I smoked along on the winding uphill path, I had to hit the brakes again and lift my bike over a big tree that had fallen across the trail. Last night, the wind was a little bit extreme: 50 gusting to 80 km/hour. And it took out a couple of trees -- the one I that almost did me in, and farther along another one.

The temperature was around 21 C, but it was a bit windy, so I was wearing a light sweater on top of my T-shirt. By the time I got to Superstore and got the bike locked up, I was hot. No peaches at Superstore, and the produce in general didn't look too appetizing, so I hopped back on the bike and rode to Safeway. On my way there and back, I saw that the peace officers had a nice little speed trap going, with what seemed to be a steady stream of clients. 

We went for a walk in the evening, meeting up with Ginger Cat again. I think it spends all its waking hours hanging out in the woods. What a life!

foiled again!

Hubby and I had to go into the city to show some prospective tenants our rental house. I wanted to put on a few more cycling kilometers, so I said I'd ride in and meet him at the house, down near Southgate Mall. 

I got about halfway -- 16 km, as far as the Winterburn exit -- before I got a flat tire, my first since the spring. The culprit seemed to be a miniscule piece of glass. If I'd had a pump with me, I think I could have inflated the tire enough to keep going, as the air was leaking slowly, but I didn't have anything. So I called Hubby and he left a few minutes early (he was going to leave soon anyway) and picked me up. While I waited for him, I took off the wheel and removed the tube. I was pretty disappointed that I couldn't finish my ride. Oh well...

In the evening I inserted a new tube. I know how to do this now, but I can't say it's easy. I've done it about four or five times (different bikes) and I even taught Son #5 how to do it, but it's always a long time in between, so each time I sort of have to learn all over again. Also, I've concluded that bicycle hand pumps are my nemesis. I have a new one that came with my road bike, and last night I more or less figured out how to use that, so maybe it will be easier from here on. After I (with Hubby's help) put the wheel back on the bike, the brakes weren't working properly. I had to try to remember all I'd learned about brakes when I changed the brake pads a few weeks ago. I found the problem and tightened the screw, and all is good.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

last day of summer

What's around this bend?
 ... and what a day! Sunny skies, 24 C, a warm southwest wind.

Following my plan, I rode southwest of town today, straight west on 16A to the Spring Lake exit, continuing west on Parkland Drive. At first I felt a little discouraged. The road seemed fairly flat. I had looked outside before setting off and it didn't seem very windy. So why was it so difficult riding? 

Most of my riding is north of town, where there are some pretty steep hills, and I consider myself in decent shape. When climbing, I know just when to downshift and when to shift up again. I know when to stand up for a few seconds to gain some extra momentum. In short, I've always figured that if I can climb those hills at a good clip without too much trouble, I can do anything. But I discovered today that riding on flatter ground with a headwind (obvious from watching the tree branches swaying) demands a whole different set of  pedaling and shifting skills. I really had to work to keep my speed up around 25 km/hour, and it took me some time to find a comfortable gear.

The road curves and winds a bit and there are some small ups and downs, and the scenery is beautiful, especially at this time of year, so even though it was hard work, it was fun.

I rode on Parkland Drive past Blueberry School to Highway 770, where I turned around and headed back east. Was I ever thrilled to discover that I had been heading uphill almost the whole time and that I did most definitely have a headwind. Suddenly my speed was up above 30 and pedaling was easy.

Just before the school, at Range Road 20, I turned right and headed south. The south wind was not as bad as the west wind, so this was a fun ride, with some more small hills and interesting twists and turns. I rode through the village of Spring Lake and ended up at Range Road 524, which I planned to take back to town.
But this sign and the westbound road it indicated looked too inviting to resist, so I turned right and rode west once more. Now that I was expecting the wind, it didn't seem nearly as bad, and once again, the beautiful scenery made for a pleasant ride. 

The photos below were taken at the branch-off point, where you can continue west to Hasse Lake or head north to Highway 770. I decided that someday I'll take the road to the lake; I'm not sure whether it's paved all the way, but if not, I'll just turn around. I'd also like to ride north someday and see what that is like.
Looking north: "I kept that road for another day..."
Looking southeast over the fields
 But today, I simply turned around and headed east, back to town.I rode almost exactly the same distance as yesterday, 52 + km, but it was quite a different ride. I prefer riding on hills, but sometimes a change is good, too.
Looking east: my road back to town

Friday, September 20, 2013

i rode a fat bike!

Today's visit to the bike shop had a bonus feature: I got to test ride a Kona Fat Bike.

The shop's mechanic was fine-tuning one while the other guy was puzzling over my computer. I'd heard about Fat Bikes, of course, and last winter I saw them on the road a couple of times, but I had never seen one up close and personal.  After he'd finished working on it, the mechanic took it out for a ride and when he came back, the boss guy asked if I wanted to try it out. 

Well, duh. So I rode it around the block.

It's different, that's for sure. At first it felt downright weird, but after only a short time, it was kind of cool. To my surprise, it didn't feel particularly heavy. The steering is a bit strange, much tighter (narrower circumference) than on a regular bike, but by the third turn, even that didn't feel so bad. The ride is a little bit bouncy, thanks to the huge tires, and the shifting seems clunkier than on any of my bikes, but overall I'd say it was a pretty nice ride. I don't think riding it on a street with no snow or ice is the best way to test it out, however. Not that I am eager to see snow and ice on the road, but since that eventuality is pretty much inevitable, I would like to ride the Fat Bike again under those conditions.

why you should plan ahead

No classes on Fridays. This means that on Friday mornings I can go for a long bike ride. Usually. Today I didn't start on my way until 12:45. Here's why.

I got dressed in my cycling shorts and jersey, took my water bottle out of the freezer, put on my gloves, and then at the last minute decided that I wanted to set up my computer on Milly, my road bike. I'd ordered a second hardware kit for my computer from MEC and it came a couple of days ago, and I had it all ready to go. Or so I thought.

I studied Beatrice, my bike that has the original computer the boys gave me for Mother's Day, and carefully copied the layout.

Cadence sensor and speed sensor in their respective places on the chain stay. True to form, I attached them backwards the first time, so had to snip the ties and reattach them correctly. Cadence magnet on the crank and speed magnet on the spoke. After checking that everything lined up just right, I turned the crank backwards, as instructed in the manual, and looked expectantly at the computer's readout. Nothing. I rotated the rear wheel, as instructed in the manual. Nothing. I moved things about slightly and tried again. Still nothing. I tilted the sensors at slightly different angles. Again nothing. I couldn't really just leave it as is and go for a ride, as I had the zip tie ends sticking out and didn't want to snip them off until I was sure I had everything positioned correctly.

Hubby was working, so I was on my own. I tried everything I could think of, and finally I got so fed up I rode to the bike shop (with the zip tie ends flapping) and asked for help.

The two Bike Shop Guys looked it over to make sure everything was in the right place. They moved things about slightly. They tilted the sensors at slightly different angles. They slid the magnets up and down. They took the computer out of its holder and held it closer to the sensors. Still absolutely nothing. Finally the younger guy decided to try inserting new batteries -- et voila! It worked! Turns out MEC sent me dead batteries. I was a little ticked about that, but the Bike Shop Guy said it is pretty common, so I guess I should instead consider myself lucky that I got good batteries the first time around.

I would have started my ride straight from the bike shop, but I'd forgotten my sunglasses and sunscreen, so I had to stop off at home first, and finally started riding at, as mentioned above, about 12:45. I had great plans to do a little adventuring to the southwest of town, but wanted to get some hill climbing in first, so I started by riding north to Airport Road. While I was up there, I felt I should show my face at the seniors' home, so I headed east. As I approached the home, I saw a man wearing a reflective vest and panama hat, walking along the highway. I've seen him before; he lives at the seniors' home, and apparently this is how he gets his exercise: walking on the shoulder of a busy highway, where the speed limit is 100 km/hour. I gave him a big smile and a friendly hello, receiving a brief nod in reply.

After turning around at the seniors' home, I rode west and spotted the same man, this time at the airport turnoff. Looks like he walks there and then turns around to go back. I gave him another big smile as I rode past. Whenever I see him, I feel sorry for him that he doesn't have a better place to walk, but I sure have to tip my helmet to him for making the effort to get out.

I rode up the Big Hill and all the way to Secondary 779. The plan was to ride down to Highway 16A and then head west to where it turns into Parkland Drive and let the exploring begin. However, by this time, the southeast wind had picked up to such an extent that riding south, even though it is mostly downhill, was rather unpleasant.  The heavy crosswind meant that I was struggling to stay balanced and the headwind caused my pace even on the downward slopes to be depressingly slow. It was getting late; I had ridden almost 50 km, and I was getting hungry. After all, I had eaten breakfast several hours ago, expecting to start riding at about 10:30. So when I reached 16A, I turned to the east and rode back home.

My distance was about 52 km. My average speed ended up at 27.5 km/hour. It had been as high as 28, but the wind took care of that.

It was a gorgeous day, about 20 C and sunny. My photos don't do justice to the beauty of the effects of the sunlight on this freshly mowed (?) field, but when I saw it, I drew a breath and had to stop and admire.

I saw only one other cyclist, wearing pink, but I think it was a guy. This was a Very Serious Person, leaning into the wind with the help of aero bars and not deigning to even glance my way, let alone return my smile and wave. I know cycling can be a serious sport, but if it doesn't make you so happy that you want to smile and wave at everyone, I can't help but think you're missing something.

I have great plans for tomorrow -- I'll start out by riding to Parkland Drive and let my fancy take me from there. And later in the day, I plan to ride into the city, as we'll be showing our rental property to some prospective tenants. This time I want to find that trail that climbs up from Fort Edmonton Park to the 76 Avenue bike lane. I am eager to try riding Milly up that killer hill.

back in class... and back to commuting

It's beginning to look like fall -- Sept. 19

It's been a busy two weeks. The fall ESL session started September 9th, and it started with a bang. Fifteen students on the first day, and since then a few have been added and a couple subtracted, so that I am left with 17 students in the morning class. It's a big class, and there are two distinctly different and wide-spread groups: a more or less advanced group and a beginner/high-beginner group. The other teacher, Gail, has 10 or 11 absolute beginner/literacy students.

My afternoon high-intermediate/advanced class has 13 students, which again is a larger group than we normally have. 

After a long day of teaching and expending so much mental energy, I feel so lucky to be able to ride back to my car through the River Valley, drinking in the crisp clean fall air and the breath-taking views of the river and the trees with their gradually changing colours.

This ride is also a delightful start to my work day -- lately the grass has been sparkling with frost and the cold air definitely wakes a person up. 

The "testy 1 km climb" out of the River Valley along Fortway Drive and 107 Street is also something I look forward to every morning. Well, some mornings as I descend into the valley, I wonder if I am up to it, but once I start climbing I always love it. On Thursday there were three of us commuters on the first part of the hill. One guy had been riding on the sidewalk. When I saw him, he was heaving his bike, complete with loaded panniers, over the concrete barrier onto the road. The boardwalk had been completely dismantled and he couldn't continue on the sidewalk. I expressed sympathy as I passed him, but of course, to me, this is one more argument for NOT riding on sidewalks. I do admit that the road here is slightly intimidating, with its many potholes and cracks, uneven paving, and relatively heavy traffic (including buses) during morning rush hour. I am used to it and don't let it bother me, and I find the drivers very respectful and patient, but I understand why some people feel safer on the sidewalk.

During this past week, I achieved a couple of firsts.

On Monday, I forgot my helmet. How I managed that, I am not sure. I have three helmets: one for my long country rides -- that one stays at home. The second is normally kept in the car, as a spare in case I forget my helmet. And the third, I bring inside every evening with all my other gear. Well, somewhere along the way, I brought the spare helmet inside and left it there. When I left the house that morning, I forgot to take my regular helmet, so I arrived at my parking spot with no helmet. I am not completely convinced that helmets are absolutely necessary or even always helpful, but I do think that wearing a helmet is a good precaution and shows a seriousness that onlookers respect. So, I am not entirely comfortable riding without. Accordingly, because I was bare-headed, I decided that instead of riding up the Fortway Drive hill, I would exit the River Valley via the Victoria Park hill, which has a sidewalk that doubles as a bike lane. 

It was my first time on this hill and wouldn't you know it, I ended up right behind another commuter. This guy looked quite trim and fit; he was wearing a Ride to Conquer Cancer jersey and had a pretty decent-looking bike. In short, he looked Serious. I expected him to take off up the hill at a nice brisk pace, so I didn't even consider getting in front. At first. After a few turns of the cranks, I realized that he was not going to meet my expectations. He was s-l-o-w. It didn't take long to see that I would have to pass him just to ride at a comfortable casual pace. I hate passing serious-looking guys. I don't really like passing anyone, except 75-year-olds or family groups. I always feel like a show-off, and I'm always afraid that after I pass, the person will find me too slow and be annoyed that I'm blocking their way. If it's on a hill, as frequently happens, I'm afraid that maybe something will go wrong, I won't make it up the hill and I'll look like an idiot. Or that I'll keel over from exertion. Or... something. 

Anyway, so if I overtake, I feel like I have to really pack it on and go at a good clip all the way. So that's what I did. I arrived at the top slightly out of breath, but relieved to see that Serious Guy was still way behind me. This hill is long, but seems to lack the sharp incline of the Fortway Drive hill. Taking this hill also reduces the length of my commute by about 1.5 km. I enjoy the longer ride and the steeper hill, but it is nice to have an alternate route. Also, I think the city maintains this sidewalk during the winter, so maybe it will be useful in the coming months.

Yesterday, I enjoyed another first. I parked in Callingwood and took my usual route downtown, but after work, I exited the River Valley at 142 Street instead of 148 Street. This was my first time to tackle that climb. It didn't start particularly well. I had stopped to take photos, and when I started again I was in too high a gear, so was having difficulties. Another of those serious-looking guys, kitted out in cycling gear and riding an expensive bike (with no panniers), passed me, and kindly said, "This is a tough hill." At that point it's not a particularly tough hill, and I felt slightly embarrassed that I was performing so poorly, but I gave what I hoped was a gracious reply. A minute or two later, the hill did become tougher, so I downshifted and suddenly found myself right on the guy's tail. Uncomfortably close, in fact. I had to slow down and lose my momentum -- or pass him. Talk about embarrassing. As I passed, I warned him that this was my first time on the hill, so I wasn't sure how I'd do. "It's going to turn suddenly," he advised me, as I left him in the dust. Of course, I was nervous that I wouldn't be able to maintain my pace as the steepness increased and the trail twisted and turned, but it was no problem. I arrived at the top somewhat out of breath, but still well ahead of Mr. Serious. But obviously, he knew something I didn't, because I came out on the west side of 142 Street, while he came out across the street, on the east side, which is really where I wanted to be. Next time! 

Even riding on the wrong side of the street, this route constitutes an extremely pleasant ride, thanks to the service roads almost all the way along 142 Street, my favourite pink bridge and the signed on-street bike route through the lovely Rio Terrace and Wolf Willow neighbourhoods. It also means that I avoid the heavy traffic and sketchy street crossing near West Edmonton Mall. It is a little bit longer, but well worth the extra distance.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

feels like fall

Back to work on Monday. This weekend marks the end of my two-week break and the beginning of a new session of classes. And this weekend it truly feels like fall. The morning dawned and proceeded with cloudy skies, a steady wind and no sign that the temperature would make it above 20 degrees. It looked like it might rain, in fact. I wasn't sure about riding... But finally at about 11:30, I set off on Milly, north and uphill to Airport Road.
After turning east, I decided to ride to St. Albert and loop back home along Meadowview Road. The wind was from the southeast, strong and steady, so it was a hard 10 km or so to Hogan Road, where I headed south, also against the wind. As I rode I saw a few flocks of Canada geese, also heading south. Their trip is a little longer than mine. At this time of year, the ponds and lakes around here are thick with migrating geese.

I was happy to make a right turn at Meadowview Road, because this meant I was heading west, with the wind more or less behind me. 

These birds, strung out along the barn roof, demanded a second look. I couldn't tell for sure, but I think they were pigeons. 
This road is scenic, but the pavement is like crazy patchwork -- rough bits, smooth bits, loose gravel and everything in between. I sure hope it's true that riding on rough pavement is good for developing bone mass! 

At Highway 44, I headed south again, into the wind, which was at its worst, with nothing to hinder it. I actually switched into the middle ring for this stretch so I could keep a comfortable cadence. I was not sorry to turn right (west) at the Township Road just north of the Yellowhead. 

When I read about yesterday's Stage 3 of the Tour of Alberta, I was glad to see that the riders commented on the prairie winds. Of course, the Drumheller area gets even stronger winds than we do here, but it was comforting that the pros noticed it and found it an obstacle. (Too bad they won't get to ride down near Lethbridge!)

I had to stop for a photo of these horses:
Until I was in junior high, I used to beg my parents to buy me a horse. They considered it, but because we lived in the city, there was the problem of where to keep it and how to care for it. Our community, although agricultural, wasn't really into horses. By the time I was 13 or 14, I was realistic enough to know it wasn't going to happen. I still rode every chance I got -- when we visited rancher friends near Maple Creek or when we went on holidays to places where trail rides were offered -- and even today my heart beats a little faster when I see horses like this.

After a few kilometers of fast and easy westward riding, I turned south again and headed into town and back home, for a total of 61.5 km. I saw only two other riders, both women, and both riding west on Airport Road. I don't know if they were together or each out on their own, but either way, I am always happy to see other women out riding.

Seeing all the geese today reminded me of a poem I can use for my upcoming afternoon class, where we focus on pronunciation:

Something told the wild geese

Something told the wild geese
It was time to go;
Though the fields lay golden,
Something whispered, - 'snow'.

Leaves were green and stirring,
Berries, luster-glossed,
But beneath warm feathers
Something cautioned, - 'frost'.

All the sagging orchards
Steamed with amber spice,
But each wild breast stiffened
At remembered ice.

Something told the wild geese
It was time to fly -
Summer sun was on their wings,
Winter in their cry.

~ Rachel Lyman Field

Thursday, September 5, 2013

better than drugs any day

This morning I rode Milly 60 km on the country roads, clipped in to my new clipless pedals. The weather was fantastic -- when I left the temperature was about 18, and it was 25 when I got back. Sunny and breezy and not too humid. The air up on the hills is amazingly clean and fresh and so invigorating; I'll take that over drugs any day.

The fields are definitely sporting their autumn look, but most of the trees are still green. It won't be long before yellow and orange predominate. Although I prefer summer and would be happy to live in a warmer climate, I'm not completely sorry to see fall -- and even winter -- approach. The fall weather is usually pretty good around here,and winter brings its own special beauty and challenges.

I am sort of looking forward to another season of winter bicycle commuting and to improving my  cross-country skiing ability.

Today as I rode up Roller Coaster Road I saw two deer standing in the middle of the road ahead of me. Thinking I could take a photo if I could get just a little closer, I rode slowly and cautiously, making as little noise as possible, but all in vain -- a car pulled out of a driveway and turned onto the road, scaring the deer into the deep dark woods. Some nerve! I admit that I entertained the thought that all acreage dwellers should be required to use bicycles only during pleasant weather, so as not to scare away the wildlife. I'm sure that would go over well.

I performed my service to the elderly by riding through the seniors' home parking lot.

Later in the morning, just after I had toiled against the wind up the Big Hill, I saw this hawk sitting in the treetop. His original pose, when I first spotted him, was much more striking, but of course by the time I'd stopped and gotten the camera ready, he'd decided to turn around and look the other direction.
I was pleased with my new pedals. Riding clipped-in gives so much more control, more ... power. I don't really like to use that word, as it sounds so cliche, but it's true. The pedals are heavier than the ones I had on before, but the extra energy available from being clipped in more than makes up for the extra weight.I was also pleased with the adjustments Bike Shop Guy made to the saddle -- I rode the whole time with only the very slightest bit of saddle-soreness. All in all, a great ride.

And, in other news, today I spied a record number of banana peels on the shoulders: I counted 8. That was on my way back home, after I'd started paying attention. There were probably some that I overlooked while I was admiring the harvested fields and watching hawks and blue jays.

backing and forth

The title of this post comes from an email I received from one of my students, a sweet older man from South Korea. He was telling me about his wife's mother, who had been very sick, then got better unexpectedly, then got sick again -- in his words, backing and forth all the time. My sympathy was sincere: in the two and a half years before she died, my mom also did plenty of backing and forth, so I know how hard that is on everyone involved.

Yesterday I did some backing and forth myself.

I began by riding Beatrice to the bike shop, intending to have the clipless pedals removed and replaced with regular pedals. I expected the replacement pedals to cost about $10-15. Was I in for a surprise! To get anything of decent quality, I'd have to spend at least $50 and to get the ones that last forever, I could spend more than $100. Upon hearing this, I told the guy that I would rather buy dual-purpose (clipless/platform) pedals for my road bike and put the pedals currently on my road bike on Beatrice. (I didn't call her Beatrice in front of him.) I also wanted a back rack mounted on Beatrice, so I left her there and walked back home (3 km) to get Milly, my road bike.

I rode Milly to the bike shop, discussed a few things, including the new brake pads and the front brakes, with the guy (he was quite impressed with my installation of the new rear brake pads) -- and made arrangements: they would take the pedals off Milly and put them on Beatrice and outfit Milly with the dual-purpose pedals, which were only $47.00. They would also adjust Milly's saddle, raising it a tad and leveling it. I was pretty happy with this and upon being told that it would take about half an hour, I went for a walk on the nearby trails, stopping in at the library to renew my library card.

When I went back to the bike shop, both of my bikes were ready. I rode Milly home, testing out the clipless pedals -- they are great -- and then walked back again to pick up Beatrice. At this point, I remembered the cadence magnet I had requested, so I asked about that. They had one that actually straps onto the crank, a much better arrangement than my old magnet, so I was happy with that, too. The guy even strapped it on for me and checked to make sure it worked.

I then rode Beatrice home, for a total of more than 20 km of backing and forth.

It was a hot day: 29 degrees and humid. My original plan was to go for an afternoon bike ride after I'd finished with all the adjustments, but after all the backing and forth I was so hot that I copped out.

Another walk in the evening, just after sunset, with Hubby and Maggie, brought my grand total for the day to 26.5 km. A relaxing day, but a lot accomplished. More than just backing and forth.

Tour of Alberta ... the Prologue

Tuesday evening. We parked at the Callingwood parking lot and rode our bikes, via Rio Terrace,  Laurier, the River Valley, Groat and Stony Plain Road, downtown to Winston Churchill Square. We were early and arrived as the final barriers for the no-car zone were bring shoved into place. It was slightly chaotic, as motorists, cyclists, police officers and pedestrians tried to figure out when and where to go. But we made it safely.

There was quite a crowd. Who knew so many Edmontonians were interested in pro cycling?

I normally would be interested only to the extent of reading about it and looking at the results online. But when I saw that the Prologue Individual Time Trial riders were going to climb the Fortway Road and 107 Street hills, which I ride up every day on my way to work, I knew I had to see it in person. On the Tour website, this section of the course is described thus: "... a testy 1 km climb up Fortway Drive with sections steeper than 7 percent." (And to think I ride that every workday!)

At the Square we saw the pros warming up and milling around in preparation for the race. We also saw lots of wannabe pros milling around. It turned out many of the amateurs were also going to ride the time trial course before the pros started. That was kind of interesting to see -- riders of all shapes and sizes. I have to say I sort of envied them the chance to ride on the downtown streets and up those hills unencumbered by red lights and traffic.

After watching some of the amateurs start, we decided we'd walk to Fortway Road, following the route down Grierson Hill and through the River Valley. It was hot -- about 29 degrees -- and a bit of a long walk, but it was fun to see the crowds and to watch the racers all along the way.

Finally we arrived at Fortway Road, only to discover that we were not the only people who wanted to see how the riders tackled this climb. We had to squeeze in between two groups of people and didn't have a really good view, but I was happy to see that some of those riders looked like they were working hard to climb the hill. And they have 15-pound bikes, no loaded panniers and of course no traffic hounding them. Seeing them give it their all to get to the top of this steep slope made me feel even better about my daily workout.
the watching crowd

cresting the hill -- photo from another web site
After watching for a while, we decided to walk back to the Square, where we had left our bikes at the Edmonton Bicycle Commuters bike parking corral. We wanted to be sure we made it back to Callingwood before sunset.

We took 142 Street, with its little-used service roads, back to Laurier. This pink bridge is becoming one of my favourite things. Riding through Rio Terrace, with its lovely homes and old growth trees, is so much nicer than riding along 87 Avenue. I still need to figure out whether this is a good route to take to work; I'll try it on my return trip and see how long it takes.

When we got back to our car, we were hot and thirsty, but I at least was happy. And Hubby was happy that I was happy, so all was good.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Summer breeze...

makes me feel fine.

Especially when I can go for a 65 km country bike ride!

It was pretty hot -- 27 degrees -- and sunny, with just a little bit of wind. This was the first time I drank almost all the water in my bottle.

I rode up and down Roller Coaster Road, then west and north and east, finally turning around at the seniors' home.

After this, I usually take Muir Lake Road (aka Deer Trail) which winds around to the north-south range road that goes straight downhill back into town. Today I opted for something different and rode west all the way to the North-South Secondary Highway, where I then turned south. This road has extra-wide shoulders, so it's nice to ride on, but it's definitely not as scenic as the other road. The downhill is not as spectacular either. But it was a great ride and I have no complaints!

 Lilac Lane (above) is starting to look like fall, and this old building (below) is a classic prairie farm structure. The clear blue sky is pretty classic prairie, too.

kindred spirits

I rode Silver to Superstore today to buy a baguette, milk, some fruit -- peaches, strawberries and raspberries -- and some meat for tonight's barbeque. When I arrived at the bike rack, there were already 4 bikes locked up, one with super-sized panniers. I've seen this bike before. Judging from the seat height and frame size, it belongs to a tall guy, but I've never figured out who he is.

I squeezed my bike in, carefully locked it up, and did my shopping. When I came out, Supersize Panniers was gone, but there were two additional bikes. I was about to snap a photo when a young blonde pigtailed girl, maybe 10 years old, came over and began to unlock her bike. I gave her a friendly smile, which was apparently a signal to her to start talking. 

"Isn't it a nice day for a bike ride?" she asked. I agreed. "I just love riding my bike." Another sentiment with which I could give hearty agreement. "It's much better than driving." Agreed yet again. We chatted a bit more about the Joy of Cycling as I loaded my panniers and she donned her helmet. Then, after wishing me a good day, she took off -- all alone -- across the parking lot towards 16A. I lost sight of her, so I didn't see whether she met up with someone or continued riding on her own, but I was totally impressed with her confidence and of course with her love of bikes. There may be about 40 years separating us in one sense, but in another, more important, sense we are clearly two of a kind.

It took me a while to get ready to ride: stuffing everything in my panniers and unlocking my two locks. As I was doing this, I had another encounter with an older man, maybe 15-20 years my senior. After exchanging remarks about the beautiful end-of-summer weather, he told me he'd been out riding on the trails and that they were already busy with other cyclists. Then he looked more closely at my bike. "Nice bike," he commented. "Is it brand new?" I said that it was fairly new and added that its predecessor had been stolen. "I always lock my bike," he told me. I told him that I normally do, but the bike had been stolen from my yard, where I had deemed locking it up unnecessary. "You shouldn't have to lock it in your yard,." he echoed, then segued to another aspect of cycling: "It's the skinny people like you and me that ride our bikes a lot. You can tell." I laughed and said that it's especially noticeable in the grocery store. (I had been struck by this fact as I did my shopping; I am almost always the skinniest person around.) "Yeah, and you just have to look at what they're buying," he added. I concurred. After agreeing that we have to ride all we can while the weather is still nice (I didn't tell him that I ride in winter, too) he took off.

I was pretty tickled that a simple trip to the grocery store gave me a chance to meet not one but two Kindred Spirits.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

first ride of september

Today it took me a while to get motivated to go for a ride. I went out for a short ride early in the morning to check my newly repaired brakes, and they were fine, so I had no excuse for not going for a long ride. But I just didn't feel like it.

Finally, at 5:00 I decided that if I didn't go, I'd regret it forever, and I set off, heading north up the hills. It was a bit windy, sunny and 26 degrees -- a little hot but still great riding weather. I ended up riding 54 km. Not bad for feeling lazy!

Sometimes I turn around at the airport, but when I ride past the airport to the village, I like to turn around at the Seniors' Home, where there is a long circular driveway. I go pretty slow there, so it does reduce my average speed, but I feel like I might be performing a service for the people who call this place home. A lovely new facility, it should be a pleasant place to live, but in my opinion, it falls short. For one thing, the lodge sits just outside the village, but there are no walking (or motorized-wheelchair) trails leading into the village. If the residents want to go to the little grocery store or to the church, or just to get out for some fresh air, they have to take the busy highway. So, I figure that by riding through the driveway, past the windows of the residents' rooms, I am perhaps brightening their day, giving them a spot of colour, something to look at and speculate about. 

Once back on the road, I head uphill to the pond. If only the seniors could see this! 
Today it was full of waterfowl life.
I loved this line-up of ducks, with the last one desperately trying to catch up to the others.  I know the feeling!
And this mother duck and her young'uns were pretty cute, too.
After this comes the Really Big Hill (big for these parts, anyway.) It's a pretty decent climb and quite long and even rates as a climb on Map My Ride.

On my way back home, just past Muir Lake, I spotted these two rabbits, clearly tempted to enter the fenced-off area, but trying to decide whether or not to take the dog threat seriously.
As I was snapping their photo, I heard a tapping sound nearby and looked up to see three woodpeckers, hard at work on this pole.
And when I got ready to start off again, I couldn't help but notice that the rabbits were carrying on in a very rabbit-like fashion, doing their best to ensure that rabbits do not become an endangered species.

new brakes

Yesterday -- the last day of August. Summer coming to an end; fall approaching.

In many ways the summer seemed long and drawn out -- in a good way -- but still I feel like it is ending much too soon.

Yesterday Hubby had to do some work at our rental house and he wanted to go out to eat afterwards. So I decided to ride Milly into the city and go to United Cycle to get the brakes checked. The brakes worked fine, but made a funny noise. I don't like funny noises when I'm riding, so I thought I should ask about it.

I rode on 16A, as usual, and took the Henday to 87 Avenue. From 87 Avenue there are several different multi-use paths that lead to overpasses crossing the Whitemud. I took the first such trail and crossed on this bridge. The sky looks so threatening in this photo, it's hard to imagine that it really was a beautiful warm day, and it seemed sunny most of the time.

After crossing this bridge, I rode on 76 Avenue and on the 69 Avenue bike lane into Wolf Willow neighbourhood. There is another multi-use path here that I've taken before that leads to the Rio Terrace neighbourhood. Last time I ended up on a path with a very steep downhill and then an equally steep gravel uphill. This time I ended up on a fully paved path with almost no hill. I'm not sure how that happened, but it was a pleasant surprise. I didn't have a hope of riding up the gravel path on a skinny-tired road bike, so I was happy to avoid it.

The on-street bike route through Rio Terrace leads to the pink bridge that crosses the Whitemud. This bridge begins with some stairs, so you can either pull your bike on the side ramp or pick it up and carry it. Milly is so light that it was easier for me to pick her up. I was going down as two fit-looking roadies were going up, using the ramps, and their jaws dropped when they saw me pick up my bike and sail down.

They would not have been so impressed on the other side, where there is a steep climb up to the street. Two little kids were coming down on their bikes, riding side by side and leaving me no choice but to stop and let them go. When I tried to ride up the hill after that, I couldn't get going, and had to walk my bike.
The Pink Bridge
From this point, it's a short ride on a quiet street with a great view to another set of stairs leading down to the Quesnell Bridge trail. Again I carried Milly down with ease.

I rode across the Quesnell Bridge -- a first -- and then rode around aimlessly for a bit as I tried to find the multi-use path that goes up to meet the 76 Avenue bike lane. It was hopeless; I had no idea where that path was. Finally, I settled on riding up Fox Drive -- another first -- and a surprisingly nice ride thanks to the bike/bus/taxi lane. I took a wrong turn, however, going right on Belgravia, and because of the University farm, found myself trapped into riding south all the way to 51 Avenue.

At 51st I turned left and headed all the way over to 106 Avenue, where the bike lane makes it a fairly easy ride up to United Cycle. I say "fairly easy" because this bike lane is pitted with potholes, crevices, cracks and other assorted hazards. It's hard to believe the city thinks they're doing cyclists a favour by using a road like this for a bike route.

The guy at United Cycle said my brakes were basically okay, but that maybe I should replace the back brake pads. When I said I'd like to try to do it myself, he gave me some quick instructions (it was busy) and assured me that it was easy. So I went to the parts department and asked for the brake pads. Surprised that they were only $5.00. I purchased them and rode back down to our rental house to meet Hubby. While there I took a look at the brakes and realized that Parts Guy had given me the wrong brake pads. After the work was done, we went back to United Cycle and asked for the right ones. First Parts Guy said, "Oh, those will work." Fortunately, Second Parts Guy stepped in and said, "No, they won't." He found the right ones for me (they were $30.00 instead of only $5.00!) and showed me how to put them on. First Parts Guy had Justin Bieber-ish hair, hanging down over his eyes; maybe he couldn't see the package contents properly!

We went on to Kebab Express, where one of my former students works, for a tasty Turkish meal, and then headed home. I googled a YouTube video of instructions on changing brake pads. To tell the truth, I watched three videos in all, then set to work. It was pretty easy. It would have been easier if I wouldn't have taken off the old shoe, set it down on the floor and then proceeded to put it back on again. Good thing I noticed!