Saturday, March 29, 2014

another week, another snowfall

Monday and Tuesday were good riding days. On Monday I even decided to ride to work through the River Valley and check out the situation there. It was quite icy, but I was pleasantly surprised at the bottom of the ravine, right below the museum, to see a detour sign, and a detour -- of sorts. Looks like someone decided to create a makeshift path on higher ground, skirting the ice rink that lurks all winter. It did the trick, although I don't think it's what is normally meant when the trail maps say "maintained in winter." I rode up the Victoria Parkway hill and then along 100 Avenue. 

It was a nice change, but I've decided that it's not really worth it to ride there at this time of year, unless I'm in the mood for the scenery and a change of pace. The surface of the pathway is too unpredictable for my liking, and if anything happens there, it could be a long, slippery walk to civilization/ So for now, I'll stick to the roads.

On my way back to the car both days, I rode in the 95th Avenue bike lanes. They are sort of clear -- if you don't count piles of gravel -- and I want people to see that the lanes are being used. I will use them every day that it is reasonable. I'd use them five times a day if it fit into my schedule.

On Wednesday it snowed -- maybe 10-12 cm. I took the bus and was thankful! I did see a couple of cyclists downtown and felt that usual bit of envy, but I knew I'd made the right choice.

On Thursday it was back to the bike. Wow -- that was quite a ride. The shared sidewalk on 100 Avenue between 165 St. and 149 St. was hopeless. I couldn't ride because the snow was so deep. After walking my bike about 50 meters, I decided to head on over to Stony Plain Road (dragging the bike through the snow on the road) and ride in the bus/bike/taxi lane. That went well, and after 142 Street I rode in the service road, which was surprisingly navigable. Then it was sidewalks all the way to Jasper. At Jasper I thought I'd try the bus/bike/taxi lane since that had worked so well before. Big mistake. There was so much slush, in big ruts, mixed with gravel and who knows what else, I was afraid I was going to go over sideways. So at 116 Street I made my way (shamefully riding on the sidewalk on the wrong side of the street and not even caring) to 100 Avenue. There I rode in the traffic lane, since the traffic moves slowly and there are lots of stops and starts (crosswalks, turning vehicles, etc.) Whew, was I glad to see my destination! The ride home was great -- roads were clear. I did avoid the shared sidewalk, however, and took Stony Plain Road all the way to the cemetery, where I can use the crosswalk and ride through a parking lot right to my car.

Today I rode to the library and Safeway. For a warm day (around 0 C) it was kind of cold -- there was a brisk northwest wind, and it was snowing with small hard flakes. It was also alternately slushy and icy -- all in all, not the best day for a bike ride. But it was still nice to get out, enjoy the fresh air and get a bit of exercise.

At Safeway as I was loading my panniers, an older man came to talk to me. After pontificating on the advantages of cycling (you don't pay for gas, you get exercise, etc.) he told me all about his younger days riding a  bike. He was kind of hard to understand (maybe bad fitting dentures?) but I think he said he used to put chains on his bike tires in the winter. Then he said something about trying to get Dragon's Den to take him up on the idea. I didn't have the heart to tell him about studded tires. I was so distracted by his chatter that I almost forgot to unlock my bike and had to open up my pannier again to get the key. He wasn't even young and good looking!

I also finished my ACE Teaching Test Prep course and submitted my final assignment, so that feels good. My weekends are my own again. (Oh, wait -- now I have to do taxes for several family members!)

I picked up my fair-weather commuter bike, with its shiny new drive train, from the bike shop on Tuesday, but I haven't ridden it yet -- I want to keep it nice and clean so I'll wait till the snow is mostly gone.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

a chilly weekend

The first weekend of spring has been a chilly one. Lows of minus 15C feel so much worse after a week or more of above-zero temps.

I haven't done a lot of riding, but have been busy with other stuff, including a visit from Little Granddaughter (and her mom and dad.)

Yesterday I took Beatrice (Specialized Vita) to the bike shop and left her there so the guys can attach the fender-rack combo I ordered. I also arranged to have the cassette and chain upgraded, hoping that will prevent the slipping of gears I've experienced. I am excited about having this done, so I hope I won't be disappointed in the result. I am looking forward to using this bike for my daily commute and also for some longer trips -- maybe even an overnighter or two.

Today I rode to and from church. Old friends who have been living and working in the Arabian Peninsula for the last few years were there, so it was nice to catch up with them. Now we're waiting for Oldest Son to come over. He and Youngest Son are planning their Spring Break trip to South American -- Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and a quick jaunt across the Amazon into Brazil. They plan to do this bike ride from Lima to Pachacamac -- and yes, of course I wish I could go along!

I have some time off in May and then again at the end of June, so maybe I can do some travelling then.

Friday, March 21, 2014

commuting in spring

my world - 7:30 am on the first day of spring
The way my week began, I foolishly thought I might be through with winter commuting. 

Back to work after a week off, on Monday through Wednesday I rode Beatrice, with her slick tires and lighter frame. To be sure, there were still a few rather large puddles on the bike path, and in the morning those puddles had some ice on them, but overall, the ride was smooth and fast and spring-like. Even with the heavy accumulation of sand and gravel, it was delightful to ride on the road on 102 Avenue, instead of resorting to the sidewalk. 

Of course I knew there was snow in the forecast for Thursday, the first day of spring. Different forecasts said different things -- 40% or 60% chance of flurries; 1-2 cm; light snow -- stuff like that. I decided to be cautious. 

On Sunday evening when I went to clean and lube the chain on Miranda, my winter bike, I had discovered that the pedals wouldn't turn backwards. The rear wheel hub was shot. Our local bike shop is closed Mondays so we had to wait till Tuesday to take her in. Hubby kindly did that while I was at work, and when I got home that evening I phoned the bike shop to ask them to please, please have it ready for me to ride on Thursday in case in snowed. They promised they would and sure enough, when I stopped in on Wednesday after work, the bike was ready. 
Me: So, what causes that hub problem?
Bike Shop Guy: (chuckles respectfully) When you use a bike as much as you do, you can expect that. 
So, Miranda was fit and ready for Thursday's ride. It snowed all right -- maybe 5 cm, maybe a little more. There were not many bike tracks on my way to work, and I didn't see any other cyclists. I arrived damp, but happy. 

After work, because of the 50 km/hr wind, there was drifted snow, so deep in a couple of spots that I had to get off and walk. But it was a good ride. Because of the big puddles on the shared sidewalk, I rode on 95th Avenue and that was fairly fast and easy. It makes my ride about 2 km longer, but on a warmish spring day, that is a welcome thing. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

fun in puddles

Yesterday and today I rode Beatrice to do errands. There are a LOT of puddles out there!

After shopping at Safeway yesterday, I came home with a mud-spattered back and decided I needed a fender. Then I realized that I hadn't put the pack on the back rack; I had just attached my panniers. I thought maybe having the pack on there would prevent the spattering. Not so, I learned today.

I rode first to the library to return some stuff and when I got off the bike, I saw that the pack was covered in mud spatters. I couldn't see my back, but as Anne of Green Gables would say, I have an imagination, so I could picture how it looked. 

I had been planning to ride directly to Superstore after the library, but changed my mind and decided to ride to the bike shop instead. They've moved from their super convenient location just a couple of blocks from the trail to a place near Golden Spike/ Calahoo Road across the highway on a weird service road. I wasn't sure about the best way to get there, and of course I chose the wrong route. I went across the highway at Westgrove and discovered that there is no service road going from there to Golden Spike. Fortunately, the highway is in good shape for riding, so I rode east but then had to make a sketchy left turn to get to the shop. Next time I will definitely try a different approach. 

Anyway, so I ordered the same fender/rack combo that I have on my other bike, took a look around the new shop (nice, but dangerous -- I saw at least 4 bikes I sort of have to have) and then after making an even sketchier left turn, rode the back way, past the Food Bank, to Superstore.

As I was locking up at the bike rack, an older man (maybe 60+) rode up on his bike, so I moved aside to give him some space, and commented, "It's nice to see someone else riding." He smiled and said, "I ride all year round." I told him that I do, too, and we talked a bit about the fun of riding through the ice and snow. He said his Canadian friends ask him why he does it and he tells them it's because he's a Scot. (I'm not sure but I'm guessing Scots are supposed to be crazy or something?) I can't use that excuse, but since my dad was Dutch, I'm thinking an obsession with cycling is probably in my blood.

It's always fun to run into someone else who enjoys cycling as much as I do.

Later in the afternoon, Hubby and I took Maggie for a walk and saw a woman of about my age riding around the trails on a fat bike. She looked pretty intense, but not especially happy. I hope she doesn't regret her purchase.

It was a gorgeous day today -- +6C on the official weather site, but 11 on our thermometer. Lots of puddles, but I am not complaining, not even when half the puddle water ends up on my back. Spring is here!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Adieu, winter bike

We know spring is here when we can see water in place of snow on this pond
Today I decided to bid at least a temporary adieu to Miranda, my winter bike, and take Beatrice, my Specialized Vita, for a spin. Lighter weight and smooth tires do make a difference. There were still a few decent-sized ice patches, so I rode carefully when I encountered one, but other than that I zipped along at a speed I only dreamed about all winter.

Sadly, I saw that there is snow forecast for tomorrow, so I might end up on Miranda again before spring truly arrives, but it was fun while it lasted, anyway. The temp is supposed to get well above zero after the snowfall, so maybe it will just melt right away.

 We went into the city last night. Youngest and Oldest Sons went to the Winspear to hear Chris Hadfield speak. They only had two tickets; otherwise I would have gone, too. (I am not normally a "hero" person, but he is my hero.) The boys said it was really good. I was a little disappointed they didn't get an autograph for me, but they said the place was packed and there was a big queue waiting to talk to him afterwards.

We ate at The Burg for the first time, and spotted Alison Redford as we were leaving. I had never seen her in real life before. Both Hubby and I thought she looked better (younger and prettier) in real life than she does in front of a camera. When we got home, hubby looked online at CBC news and we understood a) why she had to cheap out and eat at a burger place, and b) why she looked so good -- there's nothing like a clear conscience!

Now I am on my way into the city again, for lunch with friends and a couple of hours babysitting Little Granddaughter later in the afternoon.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

speculations about my fellow trail users

I've been working hard on Assignment #8 of my Test Prep course. Once it's submitted, I'll have only five assignments left.

After working steadily most of the morning, I decided it was time for a bike ride. The temp so far today is +4 C, with a high of 8 in the forecast, and it's wonderfully sunny, so it was a great day for a ride. Of course, there's a pretty wicked southwest wind, but that's par for the course in these parts. 

I rode all around the trails again and took a side jaunt into some of the new neighbourhoods by the golf course. Almost everywhere the trails are in great shape, but there was one mammoth puddle/ice rink that presented a bit of a challenge. I ended up walking my bike across it -- and even then I almost slipped and fell.
  • The Regulars
There are certain regulars on the trails. I don't keep precise records, of course, but I could swear that there are some people I see every single time I go for a walk or a bike ride. 

Yesterday, I passed one couple twice, and the man made what he obviously considered a pretty clever remark, "You're going in circles!" Well, it's called a loop, and it's pretty normal when you're exercising, but oh well. I laughed obligingly and hoped I wouldn't pass them again. (I didn't.) Well, wouldn't you know it, even though today I left about 2 hours earlier than yesterday, I saw the very same couple again. And again, he had to make a smart remark: "You again!?" (I could have said the same thing about him, right?) In fact, he is one of those people I see virtually every time I am out on the trails. Sometimes he's alone, sometimes with his partner, but he hasn't failed me yet. They are a little older, so are probably retired, and I think it's great that they are keeping active like that instead of sitting in front of the TV. They look fit and happy and I bet they have a pretty good relationship, too.

Another person I see almost every time I'm out is a woman of perhaps my own age (it's always hard to tell.) She is usually alone. When there is no snow or ice on the ground she rides her bike at a very leisurely pace, and in the winter she walks -- again at a leisurely pace. I have to wonder whether she is independently wealthy, or took early retirement, or works from home on a very flexible schedule, or... because she seems to spend her days carefree on the trails, happily walking or riding, stopping occasionally to watch a bird or to talk with one of the four or five elderly men who also spend a great deal of their time in similar pursuits.

Well, enough of wondering. It's time to get back to work.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Spring has sprung

Time off this week, and perfect weather, with above-zero temps and sunshine in the forecast.

Today it's about +6 and sunny, so I went for a ride on the trails around town. 13 km means I cover all the main trails, some parts a couple of times. There's also one stretch on the road by the golf course. On that stretch I was riding west and really felt the wind. But it's a warm wind and is helping to dry up the puddles, so I won't complain. 

There are plenty of puddles. I actually had to stop and back up out of one; it was simply too deep and had too much ice under the water. My boots got covered with mud spatter and my socks were soaked.

I stopped off at Safeway for some grapefruit and strawberries. My grapefruit-a-day habit paid off again this winter, as I didn't get any colds or flu, so I need to keep a steady supply. And I'm glad to see strawberries in season again.

Before I left for my bike ride, Maggie was begging to go for a walk, and the minute I showed up at the side door with my bike, she was on my case asking to go. So I took her for a 5 km walk.

Now it's back to the coursework for my Test Prep class -- slowly but surely I'm getting the assignments finished. My goal is to finish off the course this week. Then next time I have a week off (in May), maybe I can go travelling.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

You Can Ride Too

Yesterday Youngest Son and I volunteered a few hours at the You Can Ride Two (Too) bike fitting day. It was so much fun! I just loved seeing the kids and their families and the many happy faces as the children found the right bikes. And I was super impressed with the physiotherapists and others who volunteered their time to make it happen. 

One sweet little girl had a hard time finding a bike that worked for her. She and her beautiful family were there for about two hours, but they finally left with something she could manage to pedal and steer -- and of course, with the hope that she will improve and become stronger as time goes on.

There were lots of international families, so that was special for me too. So many of my ESL students have commented on the freedom enjoyed by persons with disabilities here in Canada. I know we probably still have a long way to go, but from what my students tell me, in some countries, anyone who has a disability is kept at home, out of the public eye. One reason is that families are ashamed or embarrassed, but it's also because they just can't get around very well -- no ramps, no special seats on the bus, no wide doorways. I know that this is partly because some of the infrastructure is so old that it would be extremely expensive and difficult to convert it to handicap-friendly structures, but the message I hear is that the embarrassment and shame families feel about having a disabled relative is also to blame.

Anyway, so it make me happy to see families from Asia and Africa and South America accessing this program so that their children can have what we consider the quintessential childhood experience of riding a bike!

It was a gorgeous day yesterday, with a high of 7 C. That's Plus 7, not the minus temperatures we have become accustomed to over the last few weeks. Since the bike fitting took place out here in Spruce Grove, Y.S. and I rode our bikes to the school, just a couple of kilometers away. There were a few puddles, but riding through those and getting splashed is a small price to pay for solid (or should that be liquid?) evidence that spring is on its way.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Spring ahead?

This week has not given me much hope that spring is ahead any time soon, in spite of the approaching time change.

Monday morning: -25 C, -30 wind chill.
Tuesday morning: snow -- enough that I decided to bus into the city.
This morning: -20 C, -26 wind chill.

On Monday I rode from Crestwood, but today I figured I could handle the longer ride, so I parked at my normal spot. I saw S., the woman I met a couple of weeks ago as she came up out of the River Valley. She was riding west on the 100 Avenue shared pathway, and did she ever look COLD! I was still toasty warm at that time, but by the time I reached the Victoria Park Boulevard bike lane, I, too, was feeling it.

Fortunately as I rode along this lane, something occurred to distract me from my cold fingers. I grew up on a fairly busy street in the booming prairie metropolis of Swift Current, Sask., and learned at a young age not to open a car door into a lane of traffic. Apparently not all City of Edmonton employees had moms who taught them that lesson. Today, not only was a city truck completely blocking the bike lane, but the door was open, blocking most of the vehicle lane as well. I had to ride around it, hoping no cars were approaching from the opposite direction. Meanwhile, the worker had his head deep in the truck and was completely oblivious to the fact that I was passing. Oh well, I guess I should be glad the city employees were out there working. Presumably they are making our lives better.

I saw two other cyclists along 100 Avenue and plenty of tire tracks in the fresh snow. It always makes me happy to see those, especially when I recognize other "Table Top" tires in the mix.

Today was our second last day of class before a one-week break. Tomorrow is another Global Cooking day -- stuffed tilapia is on the menu -- so we discussed the recipe. I also used a listening exercise on how fish helps our brains. We all decided that this is the secret weapon of Mr Kim from Korea -- he eats fish almost every day, and at 72 he is still going strong, learning English and thinking like mad!

My trip back to the car after work was quite a bit more comfortable -- the temperature was about -15, so my hands stayed nice and cozy. I spotted the young girl in a green coat, whom I see every day as she walks home from school. We always exchange a friendly greeting. Ditto the Filippino nannv with two blond schookids and a double stroller.

And as I crossed an intersection where a couple of cars yielded to me at a stop sign, as was their due, the guy in the first car caught my eye, gave me the thumbs-up and raised his hands in applause. That made me smile.

On the shared sidewalk, I also passed an older man riding his bike and looking as happy as could be.

Unfortunately more snow is in the forecast for tomorrow, so it might be another bus day. But supposedly warm weather is on its way, so maybe there is hope for spring after all.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

cold's the word

I take great pride in saying that I rode my bike to work every day last week. It was C-O-L-D. Minus 35 wind chill a couple of mornings. On Tuesday and Wednesday (the warmer days) I rode from 165 Street (7.5 km) but on Monday and Thursday I parked closer to 149 Street, making my ride only 5 km. 

On Monday, after seeing the minus 35 windchill on the weather page, I tried a balaclava for the first time. It fit nicely under my helmet, but other than that it was a bit of a disaster. My glasses fogged up so badly I had to take them off and put them in my pocket, riding the rest of the way gözlüksüz. That's Turkish for sans lunettes, or in plain English, without glasses. It was okay, as I could still see cars and people and stuff, but it was by no means ideal. That day I learned that when you don't wear anything on the eyes, your eyelashes freeze.

I must confess that on Friday and Saturday I didn't even step outside. I've had a lot of work to do for my Teaching Standardized Test Prep course, so that -- not the cold -- is my excuse. I think I'll venture out today, if only to bring my bike inside for its weekly cleaning and chain lube. I have a feeling that once I see the bike, I won't be able to resist taking it for a bit of a spin. 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

bad timing?

I can't decide whether this flow-chart showing up on Twitter is good timing or bad. On one hand, I am planning to teach my ESL students about flow charts. Completing a flow chart is, after all, one type of question that appears on the IELTS exam, so the students need to know how flow charts work. This is the perfect example, ne c'est pas?

[On the other hand, I am not sure most of them will get it. I mean, my own husband doesn't get it.]

Another thing: just two months ago, as we started a new year, I told myself that this year I would not buy any new bikes. 

But now I think that I must have made that resolution in error. 

The flow chart says I need a new bike. And it was on the Internet. On Twitter, no less. It must be true. I need a new bike.

Now to decide what kind...