Wednesday, December 18, 2013

camo for bike lanes?

Camouflaged bike lanes? What next?
Today I had to stop in at our rental house, so I parked nearby and rode downtown along 106 Street, ostensibly in the bike lane. 
What bike lane? It's there, but cleverly disguised as just more of the same old snow, ice and grit. So I rode in the vehicle lane most of the way. It was still a good ride. 
The distance is just under 7 km, and when I mapped out the route on Google Maps, it said it would take 28 minutes. Well, it took me exactly 28 minutes. Considering the road conditions, I thought that was not bad! The trip back to the house took only 24 minutes.

Drivers along 106 Street are so courteous. Several times I moved as far right as I could, thinking I'd let some cars pass me, but each time the cars continued to drive behind me. No one honked or yelled or waved their hands angrily at me. My bike is well-lit and I wore my reflective sash, and I felt safe and comfortable riding there. 
I didn't see many other cyclists. There was one fatbike rider, riding on the sidewalk. Huh? I don't get it -- why spend a minimum of $1700 on a sidewalk bike? And as I approached Saskatchewan Drive, I saw one other regular cyclist heading south. 

I'm working on this selfie thing. 
I figure as an English teacher I should not only know about new words but should actively use them. And, if the Pope can endorse selfies, they must be an okay thing, right? 
Obviously, I still need some practice!
arrival at work -- I tried the "night" setting on my phone camera -- clearly NOT the thing to do

It was rather cold: -15 with wind chill of -26. I wore my new L.L. Bean riding coat over three merino sweaters. On my legs: long underwear, skinny pants and my MEC Adanac tights. On my head: a wool cap lined with fleece and my helmet. Around my neck: a small fleece scarf inside the coat and my big long alpaca scarf on the outside, wrapped around twice. On my hands: wool gloves and my Olympic mittens. (There are new ones out now for the Sochi Olympics, but they don't look quite as warm.) On my feet: thin socks, Smartwool socks and my tall boots. I was warm enough, except for the times I had to stop and wait for the light to change -- then my feet got a little bit cold.
love these extra-warm mittens
Today was our last day of classes before the Christmas break. Tomorrow we have a Christmas party. For the last three days, I've had the students speak on various topics -- sometimes they choose; sometimes I assign the topic. After each student finishes speaking, the other students can ask questions. They enjoy this immensely and did a great job. It's fun to hear what they have to say and it's heartening to see how much progress they've made after just a few months. The end of a session -- and in this case, the end of a year of teaching -- always makes me reflect on how fortunate I am to have a job I love, as well as an awesome way to get to work, even when, "Baby, it's cold outside"!

slippin' and slidin'

That about sums up my bike ride today. 

Knowing that the forecast was for above-zero temperatures, I braved the icy roads this morning (Tuesday) and drove to my Park-and-Ride spot. There were some seriously icy patches on 16A but I stayed in the slow lane and it was okay. 
I passed this guy as I rode to work, both of us trying to keep our balance on the icy path

My bike ride was another story. Ice and more ice on shared pathways and sidewalks. I walked my bike more than once. I tried riding on the road a couple of times, but the thick slippery slush drove me back onto the sidewalk. 

To think I used to scorn people who ride their bikes on sidewalks! 

I did ride in the street at 121 Street/100 Avenue where there used to be a contra-flow bike lane, once upon a time, before the snow covered it up. That stretch wasn't too bad, but I had to ride out in the vehicle lane most of the time.

Funny thing is, no matter how bad the ice and snow, I still prefer riding my bike to driving. Of course, I would be thrilled if the city finally got their act together and got serious about winter road and trail maintenance, but even with things as they are, a person can have a pretty good start to their day riding a bike to work. What's to complain about in a world like that?

Sunday, December 15, 2013

how to start your day right

What about am icy bike ride?

Last night -- freezing rain. Today -- icy paths and sidewalks. 

Strangely enough, except for a constant sound like machine guns softly popping, it was a great ride on the trails. I left at 8:45 and rode to church -- almost 5K. The first part, downhill through a playground on a path of sheer ice, was pretty sketchy, but after that the roads and trails were in good shape for cycling. I didn't go very fast -- my average speed, including occasional walking, was just over 11 km/hour, but I'll betcha anything I enjoyed myself more than the people who went by car.

By the time I rode home at 10:30 or so, there was a balmy breeze and the temp was well above zero. 

I cannot tell a lie, I did wipe out once. The trail was so good that I felt overconfident and started riding a little fast for trail conditions -- especially since the trail twists and winds its way through the woods. As I rounded a bend at breakneck speed, my back tire slid out from under me and I ended up on the ground. No worries, though. No one saw me and I popped right back up and kept going. I did ride a little more cautiously after that. 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

three cheers for the snowplow!

I was determined to get out for a ride today. For one thing, the kickstand on my winter bike was loose and I wanted to have it tightened up. Also, I wanted to hit the mall for a few last-minute Christmas gifts.

So, I set off. The packed snow on our street and the next street along were pretty decent. I was cruising nicely and as I rounded a corner, I spotted a jackrabbit in his white winter coat. He ran along in front of me for a while and I was just contemplating getting my phone out to snap a pic when a big pick-up truck came along. Poor Old Bugs wasn't sure what to make of it. He sat down in the middle of the road -- in front of the truck -- and looked around trying to decide where to go. White everywhere probably makes it a little hard. He finally took off, the truck pulled into a driveway and I continued on my way. The next street I had to take was nothing but mush, so I walked the bike to the entrance to the multi-use trail system.

The trail was in great shape, and as I rode along, I watched a hawk fly across my path. Then I came to the place where two trails meet. Two little snowplows were stopped there and the drivers were standing around chatting. My destination required me to continue heading east. The trail to the north was nicely cleared, but going east was another story. "We're heading that way," one of the guys assured me, but of course that wasn't going to happen till they finished shooting the breeze. I guess I could have waited till they were ready to go and ridden behind the plow, but I didn't. I thought I might be able to ride on the trampled snow.
Photo taken after I dropped my camera!
I guess it was possible. But it was pretty slow going and I decided I could probably walk faster, so I walked to the next intersection. From there on, the trail was cleared and it was smooth sailing al the way to the bike shop. I did have to take the sidewalks a couple of times, but since there are not many pedestrians anyway, I didn't mind. 

Bike Shop Guy obligingly fixed my kickstand. He is such a nice guy. He's from the Philippines, so I was glad to hear his family and friends are all OK. He said the place where the typhoon hit is about 1000 km from his home.

The trails were cleared all the way for my return ride, so I was very pleased.
on the trail
Next stop, the mall, where I bought...
  •  a couple of books for Youngest Son, who is interested in chemistry and prepping, about equally. I am conservative enough to hope that one day his interest in the former will eclipse his interest in the latter, but when it comes to our offspring, we have to love 'em the way they are!

  • a hoody and a sweet bracelet for Daughter-in-Law
  • some cool lip gloss for Oldest Son's girlfriend. Love the packaging!

(Good thing no one in my family reads my blog!)

And of course some Lindt chocolate bars for stocking stuffers. Good old Miranda can carry quite a load, even with just one pannier. If I have an extra-big load, I add another.
Miranda - bearing gifts
The homeward trail was cleared, so it was another happy ride back to the old domicile.
Now, I know that I could have put the bike in the back of the van and driven to the bike shop and then to the mall, but why would I want to do that and miss all the fun of a winter bike ride?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

thwarted ride

This evening I had to go to the library for a meeting.

With 5-10 cm of snow in the offing, I had taken the bus to and from work. On the way home, the bus almost hit a truck that couldn't stop at an intersection and a few minutes later the bus driver had trouble making a left turn because the road was so icy. Witnessing this convinced me that it might be more pleasant to ride my bike to the library than to drive. 

It's about 3 km away. I made it there -- barely. The first part of my ride was great -- on a shared pathway which had been cleared recently and had only a thin layer of fresh snow. I was barreling along, happy as could be, until I hit a stretch of uncleared path. Uncleared is an understatement -- the snow was about 12 cm deep. I walked my bike to the intersection, crossed the street and rode a few meters on semi-cleared trail. Another section of deep snow and walking followed. Desperate, I turned onto a side street, thinking it might be easier riding there, but no. More walking was required. Finally I spied a stretch of cleared sidewalk and rode on that to the street the library is on. After crossing that street, I had to ride/walk past the police station and fire station -- both of which had uncleared sidewalks, obviously uncleared for a matter of days, not hours. 

As I approached the library parking lot, I saw that the road looked pretty decent, so I rode on that for the last 50 meters or so. 

It was pretty cold out, but I had dressed warmly and was quite comfortable until I tried to turn off my bike lights. I couldn't do it with my mittens on, so I removed them. A minute or two with bare hands was all I needed to turn off the lights -- and to end up with extremely cold hands. 

I felt so miserable that I texted Hubby and asked if he would PLEASE come and pick me up afterward. Without waiting for his reply, I went to my meeting.

By the time it was over, I felt ready to tackle the ride home, but it turned out Hubby was already there, waiting for me. I can't say I was exactly sad about that, although I have to wonder whether the ride back wouldn't have been kind of fun...

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

a breath of fresh air

I've been taking the bus lately. There has been so much snow and sketchy weather that I just haven't felt comfortable driving to my Park-and-Ride spot.

Today I was going to take the bus. I actually went to the bus stop and paced back and forth a few times before deciding that I was ready for a breath of fresh air in the form of a bike ride. The roads didn't look too bad, so I walked back home, swept the snow off the car and got behind the wheel. It was kind of slow going into the city, but I had left early so I had lots of time.

As soon as I hopped on the bike, I knew I'd made the right choice. It felt so good to be riding again. I wasn't too cold -- even my feet were fine. I wore my new Olympic mittens, and turns out Son #3's ex-girlfriend wasn't lying when she told me they were warm enough for -15 C. My hands were toasty warm. Can't wait to try the mitts for cross-country skiing.
I wore my wool tights and my cross-country tights, and on top of those I wore my MEC Adanac tights. A merino turtleneck, a cashmere sweater and my pea coat were the perfect combo. A cashmere scarf around my neck, a toque on my head under my helmet, a pair of socks over my tights inside my tall boots, and I was not too hot, not too cold, but just right. Once I arrived at work, presto-change-o, I slipped into a wool skirt.

Saw the cyclist I see almost every morning on the 100 Avenue shared pathway. I wonder if he's missed me? 

Saw the pretty blue Christmas tree at LeMarchand Mansions. 

Rode through my share of oatmeal and on some nice hard-packed snow. Took lots of sidewalks (something I normally would die before doing.) 

Made it to work in about 1/2 hour. Not bad at all for winter.  
where does the sidewalk end and the road begin?
The ride home was also pretty decent. By that time it was snowing steadily and the accumulated snow on the streets and walks made for a challenging ride. But even so, I was so happy to be on the bike instead of sitting on the bus or in a car. I did have to drive home from the west end, but all in all it was a happy change from the past couple of weeks of taking the bus.
when I ride in winter I can check out how I'll look when my hair turns grey!