Sunday, February 23, 2014

weekend riding

Friday shopping trip. I left the house and then realized I'd forgotten to put my tights on over my jeans. It was a bit nippy (minus 20 or so) so I cut my ride short. Instead of my anticipated trail ride, I simply took the long way to Superstore, for a total of about 1km. Lame, I know. It was also icy and I fell at one intersection. The ride to Superstore is not the best; the roads are not cleared very well and the shared pathway ends abruptly at a busy intersection. But I survived and stuffed my panniers with my 3-days' supply of fruit -- strawberries, grapefruit, apples and oranges. 

On Saturday I was planning to go for a bike ride, but Maggie the dog had other plans. She saw me getting ready to go and attached herself to me, begging to go for a walk. How could I refuse? I took her out for a fast 6 km on the trails. It was COLD and I had my hood up the whole time, meaning my hearing was affected; everything seemed to echo and I kept feeling as if someone was coming up behind me. I was all alone in the woods, and it was downright spooky. This was the first time I'd ever felt like that. I was quite happy when on my way back I saw a couple of other people out with their dogs. That restored a feeling of normalcy.

Today: A gorgeous sunny day; minus 32 wind chill. I rode to and from church. Heading southeast on my way there was just fine, but the ride home was northwest and I felt the cold. Still, it was a great ride. I can ride all the way on beautifully maintained multi-use trails, and since there is not really any ice right now, it was a pretty fast ride, about 9 km in total.

Friday, February 21, 2014

two out of three ain't bad

It was a three-day week for me, thanks to Family Day. I rode my bike on Tuesday and Thursday, but on Wednesday I got up and looked out on about 10 cm of fresh snow. A quick glance at the #yegtraffic on Twitter was enough to convince me to take the bus into the city. 

On the way, I read through my IELTS prep books and didn't look out the window much, so was I ever surprised when I looked up as the bus approached NAIT and saw that there was NO SNOW in Edmonton! Not a bit. I was sorry I hadn't braved Highway 16A and done my usual park-and-ride. Oh well, at least the bus trip both ways was fast and not crowded.

On Tuesday I took the River Valley trail after work and was disappointed to find the same old skating rink down below the museum. I just can't believe the city doesn't do anything about that. First, it's on a trail that is supposed to be maintained in winter; second, it is well used by cyclists, dog walkers, runners and other pedestrians, and finally, it is downright dangerous. I wonder whether someone falling and hitting their head would serve as a wake-up call? Unfortunately, I'm not willing to test it out.

I didn't ride there on Thursday, but maybe I'll try again next week and snap a couple of photos to send to the city. It's hard to get motivated to ride that route when I know what awaits me!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

the great backyard bird count

This is the weekend of the Great Backyard Bird Count. When searching for news stories for Thursday's ESL class, I came across this CBC article about the bird count.

After adapting the article slightly and adding some photos of local birds every student would be sure to recognize (magpies and chickadees), I used the story with my class. It generated a lot of conversation. One student from Laos, whose husband's family owns a ranch down near Pincher Creek, told about the bird apartment houses they build for swallows. Another student told of eating an owl (in his home country!) And of course many commented on how noisy magpies are.

The students especially liked the line in the article about this weekend's watching possibly being like a gateway drug into a bird-watching addiction. And a few students took me up on the challenge of trying to watch for 15 minutes this weekend.

Well, after encouraging my students to participate in the bird count, I sort of felt obligated to do the same. So earlier today,  when I went for a bike ride, I combined it with some bird watching. I like birds, but I'm more of an incidental watcher -- I like to keep my eyes open while I'm out and about, but I don't make special trips just to look at birds. Today as I rode, I made a point of noticing and counting the birds I saw. Of course there were magpies -- 12 of them -- and 10 chickadees, along with a raucous blue jay or two. But the big surprise sighting was 4 robins. This is the earliest I have ever seen a robin, and I am pretty sure that if I hadn't set out with a plan to observe birds, I would have overlooked them.
not my photo - click to go to web site

I just hope the poor things aren't too disappointed in conditions up here, after deciding to return early this year!

blue sky or grey sky?

I've been working like mad on my assignments for the ACE Test Prep course I'm taking from Mount Royal University. The course isn't difficult, but there is a lot of work -- 12 assignments, each requiring a fair bit of effort. 

Most recently, I've been working on the TOEFL Speaking Section. One of the tasks in this section is choosing between two options and defending your choice -- sort of like the old game. "Cats or dogs"?

Today while I was out for a 13 1/2 km bike ride, I was reminded of this task. 

-3 C or +3 C?
Like most people, normally I would choose +3. Seems like a no-brainer. But when cycling at this time of year, minus 3 is actually more pleasant than plus 3. It's still warm enough to make for a most enjoyable ride, but cold enough to prevent the huge puddles that result from above-zero temperatures. So today I was happy enough with -3.

Grey sky or Blue sky?
Well, duh! Blue sky, of course. And normally I would agree. But today I caught my breath when I came upon this view, a study in grey. Blue sky and sun would have given it a whole different dimension,  adding an almost gaudy touch to a somber and tranquil scene. Blue sky is good, but grey has its merits, too.


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Today is warm.

When I asked my students to make some sentences about the weather, two of them -- both from tropical countries -- came up with, "Today is warm." 

Well, I may be a hardy born and bred Canadian, but in my books, minus 18 with wind chill of minus 27 does not count as warm. After some consultation with other class members, the students agreed that "Today is warmer than yesterday" might be more accurate.

Weather sentences are also a good chance to practice "supposed to," as in "Tomorrow is supposed to be even warmer." We were all happy to use that sentence.

I didn't ride my bike on Tuesday; I took the bus because Hubby had to come into the city to get some computer parts from his downtown supplier. He suggested that we could meet after work and go out for dinner. The bus was fast and not crowded, so I had no complaints, but as I walked the 4 blocks from the bus stop to work I saw 4 cyclists and felt quite jealous! 

Today I rode. When I left home the wind chill was -30 so I parked in Crestwood again. The first part of my ride was a little cool, but by the time I reached the 116 Street intersection, I was quite comfy. 

Because of the snow and ice on the side of the road on 102 Avenue, I've been using the sidewalk, and today I rode in the tire tracks of a fat bike. The snow had drifted to a depth of about 10 cm in places, so I was thankful that rider had gone before me. As superfluous as fat bikes might seem a lot of the time, it is obvious they have their uses!

After work I considered riding through the river valley, but there was a bit of a wind and my face felt cold, so I chickened out and took the streets, riding on the Railtown Trail to 102 Avenue. Looks like tomorrow will be warmer, though, so I plan to ride the River Valley to and from work. I also plan to park in my normal spot near 165 Street. Spring is coming!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Cycling in the snow ... dangerous or not?

Loved this tweet! Looks like this will be us in Edmonton on Tuesday.

[Because DRIVING in the snow is sometimes too dangerous, I might take the bus so that I don't have to drive the first 22 km of my commute.]

But as long as the roads are OK for driving, I'll be cycling in the snow!

Friday, February 7, 2014

it isn't over till the fat lady sings

This was one of the idioms I taught my ESL class last week, in preparation for our field trip to the Edmonton Opera's performance of Die Fledermaus ("The Bat") on Thursday. 

For each of their performances, the opera company offers reduced-price tickets to the education dress rehearsal, so we took advantage of this great deal. The performance was at 11 a.m., which was perfect for our class. We met at the normal time and took the LRT over to the Health Sciences station. From there we walked the short distance to Jubilee Auditorium. We were early, so we found a place to sit and had some conversation time before going to our seats. We had terrace seats, which were fantastic, and everyone in our group thoroughly enjoyed the performance. It was sung in English, with subtitling, so it was an excellent opportunity for an ESL class. 

In preparation for the opera, not only did I teach the students about the fat lady singing, but we read a summary of the story and watched a couple of short video clips of performances by other opera companies. The students found the story a little confusing to read (no wonder, it IS confusing, even for a native speaker!)but once they saw it on stage, they quickly caught on. There was plenty of laughter all around, and the whole outing was a huge success. 

-35 C ...

...that was this morning's wind chill.

Again I parked a mere 5 km from my destination and was I ever glad I didn't have to ride those extra 2.5 km. This was the first day my face felt really cold. I was OK until I was almost at work, when suddenly I began to fear losing my nose. As noses go, it's nothing special, but it's the only one I've got! 

Backing up a little, I had just finished loading my panniers and bundling up and was about to start riding across the pedestrian bridge to 102 Avenue, when I saw another cyclist coming up out of the ravine. At first I couldn't tell if it was a man or a woman, but I approached and said good morning. Turns out it was a woman, and  from her name, one that was popular when I was in school, I'm guessing she is close to my age. I was glad to have a chance to ask about the ravine/river valley trail. She reported that it is in pretty good shape, so I filed that away in my mind, thinking I'd try it next week. Today I rode downtown on 102 and 100 Avenues, as that way is a little shorter. And as I said, today I was more than glad I'd chosen the shorter ride. 

I caught up with another cyclist at the 116 Street intersection. It's always good to see that I am not the only crazy riding in these frigid temps.

After work, it was sunny and felt so balmy that I decided to try the river valley trail. I rode down Fortway, past the Victoria Golf Course and up to Crestwood. Saw another cyclist heading down as I was on the uphill stretch. The trail was indeed in good shape, snow pack all the way, and it was a nice ride. I was afraid that maybe I was out of shape for the hill, after several weeks of riding the much flatter route, but I did fine and I look forward to riding there some more next week.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

-25 C and below

This week the wind chill has been -25 or lower every day. Each morning after looking at the weather report, I briefly considered not riding my bike, but each afternoon I arrived back at the car happy that I rode!

In the mornings I head east and the wind is barely noticeable. I've worn my big bulky winter boots the last three days and although they are not the most comfortable cycling footwear, they are warm. On my hands, I wear wool gloves inside the good old Olympic mittens. My hands are fine. As for the rest of me, three merino wool layers and my L.L. Bean riding coat do the trick. Of course three scarves help, too! 

Today when I saw that the windchill was -34, I decided to park in Crestwood, thus reducing my riding distance from 7.5 to 5 kilometers. Maybe that was a good thing, but after work, when I crossed the pedestrian bridge and realized that I didn't have to ride any farther, I was kind of sad.

There is no doubt that it is cold outside, but riding is still a pleasure, and it is such a satisfying feeling to know I didn't let a little bit of windchill stop me from using my favourite method to get to work. 

And today I saw two other cyclists.