Friday, May 30, 2014

adventures in bicycle shopping

This is not about shopping FOR a bicycle but about going shopping via bicycle. In other words, riding a bike to the store.

Sometimes my arrival at the store's bike rack elicits a smile, when I see a few other bikes locked up while their owners are inside shopping. A sight like this makes me think that maybe there is hope for the human race.

But then there are the times like today, when I arrived at the bike rack, ready to lock up my bike, only to find this:

With some difficulty, I managed to lock my bike to the very end of the bike rack, but if I were the swearing type, I definitely would have sworn. I did report this person to customer service. I mean, really, I appreciate the fact that you are riding a scooter instead of driving a pickup truck or SUV, but that does not mean that your scooter is a bicycle. And it certainly doesn't entitle you to block off the bike rack so that no other cyclists can use it.

Monday, May 26, 2014

a beautiful rainy day

After a rainy evening last night and rain all night long, this morning brought more of the same. The drizzly rain combined with a temperature of about 12 degrees C and light wind made cycling-to-work conditions just about ideal. I spied the famous groundhog (Woodchuck) dash across the path as I rode through the river valley. I raced up Fortway and 107 Street without breaking a sweat -- impossible to do when it's 25 degrees and sunny. Arrival at work found me only slightly damp and much invigorated.

Riding back after work I took time to enjoy the scents and sights along the 100 Avenue shared sidewalk -- the white mayday trees and the pink double-flowering plum are blooming, turning the path into a small strip of heaven. 

I did have a most unheavenly encounter with a shibu inu and its boy. The young man was walking along the left side of the path, earbuds firmly in place, oblivious to his surroundings. The dog was on the far right side of the path, sniffing at something in the shrubbery. The leash was stretched across the path, forming a barrier for the oncoming cyclist -- that would be me. I stopped in time. The boy suddenly realized that he was not the only person in the world and called his dog, who obediently started back across the path, tangling itself up in my front wheel. After some minor effort, we got things sorted out and went on our respective ways.

I was dressed just right riding both to and from work -- a cotton blouse, a light merino cardigan and my Sugoi shell jacket. I also wore my MEC tights on my legs.  I find that more and more often lately I choose the right clothing and have a comfortable ride as a result. 

Today Mr. Kim told us that when he has to return something to a store and doesn't have a good reason, he simply says, "My wife doesn't like it." He added that the customer service employees are always very sympathetic when he pulls that one. We all got a big kick out of that. And it reminded me of the "ex-wife got car"  sign worn by a desperate cyclist in an effort to make drivers like him. I plan to bring that article to class tomorrow to end up our Speaking unit on sports. It's a good thing drivers are already nice to me; I don't think "ex-husband got car" would have the same effect.

Friday, May 23, 2014

25 degrees ~ 55 kilometers

Today being an absolutely gorgeous day, I donned cycling shorts and a sleeveless jersey, hopped on the road bike and headed north and uphill to Airport Road. There I turned right and headed to the Seniors' Home. I do want to check out the new roundabout at highway 44 and ride to St. Albert someday soon, but today the wind was from the west, which meant I would have a headwind the entire way home. No fun! So today I made my usual turn-around at the Seniors' Home.

From there I rode west, against the wind and uphill most of the way. There was a guy riding in front of me, not making much headway. I had seen him ride past earlier on the opposite side of the road, and he was kind of old and kind of fat, so I wasn't entirely surprised that he was so slow. I was surprised, however, when I passed him and saw that he was talking on his cellphone as he rode. Actually, I confess I had to wonder whether he was pretending to talk on his phone so that it wouldn't look so bad when he got overtaken. The wind was blowing pretty hard and I think it would have been difficult to hear and be heard on the phone. Maybe I'm wrong and just have a nasty suspicious mind.

Anyway, so I rode to the top of the big hill, turned around and rode back down to Muir Lake Road, where I turned right. When I reached the stop sign, I decided to take a detour to Roller Coaster Road, a first for this season. It was as much fun as ever, maybe more so, because today I saw a fox in the ditch as I headed north. I first noticed the white tip of its tail, and looking closer realized what it was. It eyed me intently for awhile and finally took off running, effectively foiling my attempts to take a photo.

After pedaling like mad to reach the top of the roller coaster, I turned around and made the most of the ride downhill, picking up speed and smiling all the way.

From there it was back into town. This afternoon I want to take my Vita back to the bike shop to ask Bike Shop Guy to change the embarrassingly noisy brake pads.


Yesterday a 50-year-old female bicycle commuter was killed in a collision with a garbage truck at 7:30 a.m. at 100 Avenue and 112 Street, a corner I ride past most days. Yesterday I didn't take that route, but rode up the Fortway Road hill instead. I always feel sad to hear about a fatal cycling accident, but this one struck especially close to home -- a woman, about my age, riding the same route I do at about the same time. It sounds like she was just a normal commuter -- riding on the road, not the sidewalk, just as she is supposed to, wearing a helmet, just as she is supposed to. She was going straight through a green light, not blowing a stop sign or running a red light or one of the equally stupid things I all too often see other cyclists do.

Anyway, so I feel really sad about that, and also pretty determined to use Fortway as long as the weather is good. In the winter, cyclists on 100 Avenue have to ride smack-dab in the driving lane, so it is quite a bit safer. Right now, the road is clear and even swept of debris, so there is room to ride beside the motor vehicles, which is what this woman apparently did, only to get hit by a right-turning truck. Although I am always on the alert for right-turning vehicles as I ride on this road, it only takes one lapse of judgment for an incident like this to occur.

Monday, May 19, 2014

white throated sparrows

This morning I woke up to a sound I'd missed -- the song of the white throated sparrow.

We live next to the woods and all summer long we hear this song.
It's especially compelling on an evening bike ride or walk.
Yet another sign that spring is really and truly here!

Sunday evening ride a.k.a. the family bike ride

Yesterday after supper and a game or two of Yahtzee, Oldest Son and his girlfriend surprised me by suggesting a family bike ride. They had even come prepared, with cycling clothing and helmets. 

Well, it was getting late, but of course I couldn't say no. So we set off -- Oldest Son on Youngest Son's road bike, Hubby on his almost-new bike, Fourth Son on my road bike, Girlfriend on my Vita (with the noisy brakes) and me on my step-thru. We were a pretty motley crew, but we headed for the hills north of town, rode until it started getting dark, then turned around and headed home, taking the trails for the last stretch. It was a fairly short ride -- about 20K -- but fun. We all agreed that we'd like to do it more often.

It's times like this when I'm proved right in my belief that it's nice to have some extra bikes lying around. 

It was about 20C, with a brisk southeast wind. The sun was setting behind a bank of clouds as we rode north -- a beautiful and fun evening.


When we first moved here from Richmond, BC, I wanted a flower garden similar to what I had there. I planted lots of daffodil bulbs in the fall, but when spring rolled around I ended up with only one or two blossoms. I was disappointed, and since my tulips and hyacinths did well, I concluded that daffodils simply do not grow well here.

But obviously I am wrong. This is what I came across yesterday as I rode through town:
Now in the lower mainland, we would have seen this display in late February. But better late than never, right?

My afternoon ESL students, the more-or-less advanced group, really love poetry. So this week I plan to introduce them to this one:


I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils. 

~ William Wordsworth

Sunday afternoon ride

I wanted to check out the new brakes on my Vita. Bike Shop Guy changed the brake pads and cables, after telling me that he didn't have the regular brake pads in stock. Instead he had clear brake pads, which come complete with a warning that they are for "experienced tricks and trials riders" only. Right.

"They're kind of noisy," he warned me. Well, I thought they'd be, you know, a little bit noisy. I rode the bike home from the bike shop and they were a little bit noisy. Not too bad.

BUT -- yesterday I decided to go for a ride around town, on the trails and streets. It was such a nice day that I ended up riding 33 km. I had to brake pretty often -- for family groups, dog-walkers, stop signs, etc. And the brakes were not a little bit noisy -- they were embarrassingly noisy. Screechy. Ear-popping. When the cute guy in the orange shirt gave me a big appreciative smile upon hearing my brakes as he ran past, I knew for sure that they were too much. I'll head over to the bike shop on Tuesday and ask Bike Shop Guy to change them. Maybe we can use the clear ones on my winter bike.

Another patch of Arctic Coltsfoot -- they are already going to seed...

 ... and the wild strawberries will soon be in flower.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

slow pace

There is nothing like a springtime cold to slow you down. All winter for the past three years I've eaten a grapefruit every day and haven't had a cold. But at this time of year the quality of grapefruit is sketchy, so I haven't been eating them as much -- and I came down with a cold. I'm not sure whether I should be glad or mad that it happened during my week off work. I am glad not to miss work, but sorry to be feeling under the weather when I could be enjoying long country bike rides.

On Wednesday I just lazed around all day, feeling completely lacking in energy. Thursday I felt better, so I went for a long bike ride (25 km) around town, did a lot of baking and housecleaning and then went for a longish walk (7 km) in the early evening. After that I was completely wiped out and on Friday I felt worse than ever. Yesterday, Saturday, I felt slightly better -- short bike ride and longish walk.

As I rode my bike through the woods, I saw patches of these flowers. As flowers go, I can't say that I find these particularly attractive, but as a sign of spring, they are beautiful beyond compare! According to my Alberta Wayside Flowers book, they are called Arctic Sweet-Colt's-Foot and are good to eat, unless you're a pregnant woman.
sign of spring in the woods nearby

My plan for today is to stick to a shorter ride around town, but I'm thinking that tomorrow I'll head for the hills and try to get in 50-60 km.

I did take my new-to-me Vita in to the bike shop to have them check it over and replace the rear brake pads and cables. They also attached a back rack and fender. Now the bike is in tiptop shape and I hope to ride it all the way into the city to work on Thursday. I'm not really sure what to expect of riding in at 6:30 a.m. -- traffic? temperature? wind? -- but I figure it's worth a try. If it is a horrible experience, I'll just continue  my system of driving in to the west end and cycling the rest of the way. But if it goes well, I'll try to do it more regularly -- maybe every Thursday.

I'm trying to get somewhat organized for starting the next session, but it's always hard to know what the classes will be like -- how many students I'll have, what levels, etc. Maybe that's a good thing, as it means I can't spend my whole time off trying to prepare. I do know I'll continue with the idiom lists, which the students love, and I found a good news story -- about people finding unexpected "treasures" and returning them to the owners -- to start us off.

And some good news for my first week back to work -- apparently the 95th Avenue bike lanes have been repainted! I noticed they were looking a little worse for wear and was wondering whether they were on their way out. Since I've seen other cyclists using them and even saw an elderly man in a motorized wheelchair zipping along, I know I am not the only one to be happy about this!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

test run

I've been thinking that this summer I'd like to ride all the way in to work at least a few times. From home to work is about 32 km -- definitely a manageable distance. It is pretty much a straight line. I have to ride about 22 km on the highway -- 16A -- and then through a rather sketchy section with narrower lanes and heavy traffic. That part is only about 3-4 kilometers, and after that I can take the shared pathway and the river valley path almost all the way. The highway is okay for riding, with nice wide shoulders, but there is a lot of traffic and a fair bit of gravel and debris littering the way.

Yesterday I tested it out, riding the Vita I purchased off Kijiji. Instead of going straight, I took the Henday to 87th Avenue and rode east to 159 Street, heading north and turning at 95th Avenue onto the bike lane. This took me exactly 1 hour and 28 minutes. There were a lot of red lights, and this is also a longer route than if I simply rode in a straight line onto 100 Avenue.

The northeast wind was also fairly strong -- I had a stiff crosswind and a bit of a headwind all the way. I was quite surprised when I turned onto the Henday and began riding south and realized that it was actually kind of hot. Up until that point, the constant breeze had kept me nice and cool.

While I was riding on 87th and 156th, I thought to myself, "I'm never going to do this; This is stupid: What a lousy ride..." etc. But when I arrived downtown, I thought, "Maybe that wasn't so bad after all!"

So, I think I'll try it. If I leave home at 6:30 -- just half an hour earlier than usual -- I should be able to make it to work by 8:00.

After reaching the Railtown Trail downtown just half a block from work, I rode south to Southgate Mall, where I met up with Hubby. I was happy to see that the High Level Bridge trail has finally been swept. I'd heard a lot of complaints about the gravel on the trail.

We were scheduled to meet one of my students and his wife, along with two former students (husband and wife), for dinner at a Korean restaurant in Bonnie Doon. A delicious meal and a fun time.

Temperature: 18C ~ Wind: NNE: 15-20 km/hr

Monday, May 12, 2014

a good year for roadkill

It has been quite windy lately. Since my nerve-wracking experiences riding in 60 and 100 km/hour winds, I'm a little nervous about riding out in the country when it gets too breezy. 

On Friday I just rode around town. I used my new-to-me bike, the Specialized Vita I bought to replace the one that was stolen. It is in great shape -- it looks a bit grubbier than my old one, but the shifting is good, the brakes work fine, and overall it is a nice ride. I am pleased. It was a good deal, too.

Today the wind was lighter, so I took off at about 10:30 and rode about 52 km, up to the top of the hill, east to the seniors' home, and west to the top of the second hill. Since the wind was from the northwest, the ride back to town was pretty fast. The last few times I've ridden, there has been a south wind and that means hard work on the way home. But today the last leg of my ride was just as it should be.

And I'm thinking of starting a new business -- so far this year on my relatively few country rides I have seen a fair bit of roadkill. I hear there is a market for this kind of thing down south. Last weekend I saw a dead fox on the shoulder. Today there was a dead coyote on the shoulder and a dead porcupine in the middle of the road. 

I also saw a fox run across the road in front of me. That's a much more pleasant sight.

I saw 4 or 5 other cyclists -- as usual, all men. I was a little surprised to see so many on a weekday morning. Traffic was light, and all in all, it was a splendid ride.

and suddenly, spring is here!


Last Thursday I parked in Callingwood and rode through Wolf Willow and Rio Terrace, then north on 142 to the river valley entrance. It was a fantastic day for a ride, and I was so glad to have the chance to ride 14.5 km instead of only 9K. 
On the way back to the car, I had to stop to take a photo of the crocuses (above) and the daffodils -- definite indications that spring is here at last!

And of course, I couldn't neglect the spring lambs!

It was the last day of class for this session, and I ended up with rather loaded panniers: some food, chocolates, a frying pan (used to cook crepes at lunchtime), my morning jacket and mittens (it was about 0C at 7:30 a.m. and 18C after work) along with my usual bag of books. 
Also a cutting from a house plant...
The bike was heavy. As I rode up out of the river valley, I could feel the pull of the extra weight and was actually afraid the bike might flip over backwards. 
I cannot tell a lie -- I walked the last bit. Wouldn't you know it, not one, not even two, but three guys came along as I was labouring up the hill -- even dragging the bike was not easy. I made it though, and the rest of the trip was easy, even with all that extra weight.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

how to -- and not to -- place a bike rack

Businesses that provide bike racks for their customers immediately score big in my book. It is quite surprising how many plazas and shops do NOT have bike racks, so when I see one, I am happy.

BUT - like so many other things in life, bike rack placement is not as straightforward as it might first appear.

Cyclists, smokers, shoppers who need to dispose of their drink containers -- a shop owner wants to accommodate them all.

With this result: 

The photo shows my bike parked at our local thrift shop. They have a bike rack, yes. But notice that a cyclist has to lock up her bike between a garbage can and a smokers' bench, with ashcan handy. Most cyclists are not smokers and most of us do not arrive at our destination with coffee in a disposable cup. Usually all we want to do is keep our bike safe. Most don't really want to inhale whiffs of garbage and cigarette smoke while doing so!

And here's my bike parked at the bike rack of our local mall. Same thing. Garbage can right next to the bike rack. Yuck.
This is why the bike rack pictured above caught my eye as I rode past. First, it is a thing of beauty. Heavy wrought iron, with that sweet curlicue design. And the bench is conveniently placed between the bike rack and the garbage can. Now, I've never seen a bike parked here, but that's beside the point. This (a medical clinic on 9th Avenue) is a business that has done it right.

bicycle commuting in spring

... is a wonderful thing! Riding through the river valley and the ravine is so much better than taking the dusty, noisy, crowded city streets. And having a hill climb as part of my daily commute is the icing on the cake. This week I rode up the Victoria Park hill. I'd like to start using Fortway Drive again, but last week it was still covered with sand and gravel. The forecast for the coming week includes rain and snow flurries, so maybe I'll wait till next session starts, on the 20th. I have been riding down Fortway on my way back to the car, but the uphill climb is a bit of work and made more difficult when there are patches of loose gravel.

This week I saw a woman I had been wondering about. I used to see her every morning last summer and fall, but then in the winter she disappeared. Maybe she didn't ride through the winter; maybe she changed her route or her schedule; who knows? But it was good to see her again. We always say good morning, and I always feel sort of bad, because as I am sailing downhill into the valley, she is engaged in the uphill battle. Of course, I have a climb at the end of my morning ride, and then again at the end of the day, but she sees me only on the easy part. I'm sure there's a metaphor in there somewhere, if only I can find it.

On Thursday I rode home on Stony Plain Road. I wanted to check out that route because once work starts on the 102 Avenue bridge, that will be my alternative to the river valley trail. It is a little longer than taking 102 Avenue, but not much -- maybe another kilometer -- and seemed quite a bit busier. Or maybe it's just because it was new to me. 

And I've been using the 95th Avenue bike lanes, which are fantastic. I've seen a few other cyclists using the lanes and also saw a lot of bicycle tire tracks in the dust -- a good sign. Here's hoping they don't decide to remove the lanes!

a sunday ride

Sunday, April 27  -- I rode about 55 km. It felt great! It was a gorgeous day, with a bit of wind and sunny skies. There were so many ducks and geese on the ponds, for the first time this season, and I even saw a gopher (Richardson's ground squirrel, for the serious scientific types.) It truly felt like spring. I didn't see many cyclists -- just three, all guys. One was a young kid on a mountain bike, looking as happy as if he had just learned the secret of flying.

I had a hard time starting my ride, as I wasn't sure what to wear. I finally settled on a thin merino sweater with two thin jerseys. Perfect, it turned out! I put a set of insulated insoles in my cycling shoes and wore my smartwool socks, and my feet were warm enough for the first time. 

I rode to the seniors' home and past their windows and wondered if any of them recognized me from last year.

Temperature: 12 C; wind SE, 10 km/hour.