Monday, June 30, 2014

first bike ride

Today was an important day in the life of Little Granddaughter -- her first bike ride! We've had the child seat in place for a while, in anticipation of this day. Since her daddy is away with the military (in Hawaii, of all places) and her mummy works as an RN, and since I am off work this week, LGD is joining us from 6:30-3:30 each day. I drove in at 6:00 a.m. to pick her up and couldn't wait for it to warm up a bit so we could go for a ride.

After a helmet fitting, we started off at about 10:00, and before we'd even left the driveway, she was saying "Whoo!" I wasn't sure if it was a happy sound or a scared sound, so I stopped to check and was pleased to see a big smile on her face. We rode all around the trails, stopping at the playground so she could try out the slides and swings. 

We were bouncing up and down on the bouncy thing -- sort of like a teeter-totter -- when the bike, which I had parked against a post, caught her eye and she pointed, asking to get down. As soon as I lifted her off the seat, she ran to the bike, waiting to be lifted into the seat. I was happy to oblige.

We rode a little more, past a pond ("Duck! Duck!) and then up the hill and back home for a nap.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

recent bicycle commutes - random shots

My bicycle commutes lately have been kind of ho-hum. That's bicycle commuter ho-hum, which translated into normal language means much more exciting and thrilling than commuting by car or public transit. It's just that I haven't seen any coyotes recently or tried any new routes, or anything like that.

Along the shared pathway, down into the River Valley, up out of the River Valley, up to 100 Avenue. But there are always the little highlights...

I'm enjoying the new hill climb, the trail behind the Royal Glenora pool and up into Ezio Faraone Park. It's steep and I like to go as fast as I can, which means I am always out of breath, but very happy, at the top. Then it's a sprint up the final stretch along the Railtown trail.

I miss Fortway Hill, as racing up that always made me feel very bad-ass (especially when I had a crowd of spectators), but I know it's safer to be out of traffic, and of course I don't miss the rough pavement and loose gravel.

Last Thursday I found out that my bicycle-commuting student often rides the same trail down from Faraone Park on her way to Kinsmen Rec Centre, so we rode together. She is pretty brave going down that twisty-turny hill. I use my brakes a lot, but she sailed on ahead. It was only my third or fourth time; maybe I will become more courageous as I get more accustomed to it.

That day I was parked in Callingwood, so again enjoyed the longer ride and crossing the Whitemud on my favourite Pink Bridge. I am tickled to death that they are paving the roads there, although I guess that in future I'll miss out on some bone-mass-building bouncing on potholes and crevices.
Oh well, there's a price to pay for everything.
This shot was from June 11 -- I had to stop and get a pic of this ring around the sun.

On June 12, the day I used this story in my afternoon ESL class, this caught my eye as I rode through Rio Terrace on my way back to the car:
From the news article:
Stop all the clocks,
Cut off the telephones.
Prevent the dogs from basking in the Rio sun.
Silence the pandeira, and with samba drum,
Bring on Croatia; 
Let the World Cup come.

With apologies to W. H. Auden, the procession towards the start of this World Cup has not resembled the feel-good fiesta many around the world had expected...
The lilacs on the shared pathway are breath-taking right now for their beauty and their scent. 
The roses are blooming, too.
Usually I like to take the 95th Avenue bike lane back from work, but when the flowers are in bloom this shared pathway is a taste of heaven not to be missed.

Another scene from the shared pathway -- unannounced construction. Surprise! There's a nice deep hole just past those barricades.  It's not so bad for cyclists heading east, because we can just ride on the road for that short stretch. But what about eastbound riders? And pedestrians? 
I have next week off work, so I'm hoping this is finished by the time I start back.

Friday, June 27, 2014

on top of the world...

When I ride north, up the hill, and look around me, that is how I feel. There's something about the view, the endless sky, the clean air, the satisfying workout, that invigorates me. My turnaround driveway is at the highest point on Airport Road; I look east and see the road to St. Albert far in the distance.
 The driveway itself is home to this quintessential Alberta scene, complete with the rusty old tractor, the ranch gate and wagon wheel, the rustic fence, and the spruce trees. 
Blue sky serves as the perfect backdrop.
The lilac hedgerow is as stunning and surprising as ever. After my Roller Coaster Road detour, which involves a demanding climb extending over five or six steep hills, turning right and seeing this breathtaking sight is a reward indeed.

 And I loved the look of these wispy clouds behind the tree.
I rode just over 61 km.
Saw lots of other cyclists today; most of them looked like they were training for a charity ride (translation: they were overweight.) Kudos to them for making the effort!
Temperature: 25 degrees; wind: southeast 10 km/hour

the many uses for i-fresh

Never heard of "i-fresh"? You're not alone. 

I know about these handy premoistened towelettes only because one of my students, a young woman from Laos, gave me a big package of them. "Because you ride your bike," she said, implying that I, more than other people, would find them useful.

She was right. They are small cotton washcloths pre-moistened with water and alcohol and encased in plastic. Handy for cleaning your hands after you touch one of the not-so-clean parts of your bike. For wiping off your shoes after riding through a puddle. For wiping off your jacket after being splashed by a passing automobile. They are useful the first time around, but they are also reusable. I reuse them for wiping my bike chain after lubing it.

And they are also handy for keeping your bike lock from rattling around when it's attached by bungee cords to your rear rack.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

losing a pedal

The good news -- it wasn't my own bike.

The bad news -- it was Hubby's bike, on Sunday, while we were riding together along the river. 

We had reached Rossdale and were preparing to rejoin the riverside trail, when Hubby announced he had to pull over at the first convenient spot. We stopped and he showed me his pedal, dangling from the post at a most awkward angle. At least it was the pedal and not his arm or leg or head. But it did mean that our ride was interrupted and we had to walk from 96 Avenue down at the bottom of the hill to MEC, about 4.5 km away. I did ride up the hill to 107 Street, something I've always wanted to try, but then we walked together across the Legislature grounds over to Ezio Faraone Park before heading north on 112 Street. At MEC they gave us the bad news: they couldn't fix the bike right then and there.

So, I rode to the car and drove back down to pick up Hubby and his disabled bike.

Until that time, it had been a good ride. It was a beautiful day, all too rare in these parts. 

We rode through Laurier Park and Hawrelak Park and up Emily Murphy Hill in front of the U of A. This was a first. Not only was it the first time I'd ridden up that hill; it was the first time I'd seen the Uni from that side. I'd always considered the campus to be kind of ugly, but it looks quite nice from that vantage point.

Our plan was to ride to Capilano bridge, but we'll have to keep that road for another day, as the poet says, knowing that we will surely be back. 

Strangely enough, as we walked our bikes to MEC, we saw a guy fixing his chain, another guy changing a flat and a third guy walking his bike because he had problems with his derailleur. Apparently we were not the only ones whose ride was thwarted.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Friday morning in the countryside

Today I started off at about 9:30 and rode north to the top of the hill. As I climbed the last stretch before Airport Road, I glanced up and saw a deer standing in the road in front of me. Riding slowly and as quietly as possible, I cautiously approached (by now I know better than to try to get my camera out - that is a sure way to get the animal to bolt!) She stood there for quite a while just looking at me, then casually walked into the ditch, where she paused to nibble on some greenery before jumping the fence and running off into the field.

It was a cloudy morning, but pleasantly warm -- shorts and a long-sleeved jersey were the perfect combination.

At Airport Road I turned left and rode to the top of the hill before turning around and riding east to the seniors' home. 
Riding west again, I rode to the top of the hill once more, turned around and headed south on Muir Lake Road. At the stop sign I turned right and rode west to check out the lilacs. They are starting to bloom, but are not yet in their full glory -- maybe next weekend.
 Why plant a plain old hedge along your field when you can plant a variety of lilac bushes? 

My next turn was onto Roller Coaster road, which looks even more intimidating on a cloudy day.

But I gritted my teeth and pedaled hard to the top, to be rewarded with a fast downhill on the way back to the main road. I think this stretch of road must be my little secret, as I never see anyone else riding here.
From there it was home, riding south against the wind, for a total of 60 km.
I saw a surprising number of cyclists out today, including the tallest rider on the biggest bike I've ever seen.
And you know, certain pickup truck drivers are making it very hard for me to maintain my disdain for F150s, Dodge Rams, Chevy Silverados and the like. Today as I was riding north, a pickup truck driver wanted to turn right, but instead of turning in front of me, he stopped and waited for me to ride past. There was plenty of time for him to turn, and I wouldn't have minded at all, but he went above and beyond to be courteous and careful. 
This makes the third extra-nice pickup driver I've encountered during the last couple of months.

another type of ride

Searching for something interesting to use with my intermediate ESL class on Thursday, I cam across this article about a cowboy who rode horseback from Calgary to Brazil in time for the World Cup. The ride took two years, and he says it is the hardest but most gratifying thing he has ever done.

To introduce the story, I showed the video and let the students share what they understood. We then read a slightly adapted version of the print story. The students loved it, and it was a perfect way to get a new angle on the World Cup, with a Canadian tie-in. 

I love to use news stories that focus on people doing good things, interesting things, challenging and amazing things. So much news is depressing or horrifying. Sometimes it's necessary to cover those stories, but what a great change to feature someone who faces a formidable challenge and succeeds, inspiring others -- such as my English learners -- to pursue their dreams.

a week of commuting variety

This past week variety was the word for my commute. 
 wind - rain - gravel - new hill - cold - warm

In spite of the fact that on Sunday the forecast was for a hot sunny week, the weather was cool and cloudy right from the start. I was pretty excited to try the newly discovered route out of the River Valley, so on Monday instead of riding all the way to Fortway Drive, I crossed the street at what I thought was the right spot and rode into the woods. Up and around went the trail, quite steep in places. I was the only person around, and I was not completely sure I was on the right track, but sure enough, when I reached the top I found myself in Ezio Faraone Park, just a short way from the Railtown bike path. Easy-peasy and so much safer than riding on the downtown streets.

On Tuesday, I had to pick up something at the Whitemud Crossing library, so I parked my car near our rental house and rode on the 106 Street bike lane. Why there is so much gravel on that route is beyond me. I wish I could believe the gravel is there in preparation for road work -- as in filling the multitudinous potholes that line that street. But, alas, try as I might, I can't convince myself that this is the case.

 The reason for the gravel must be one of those mysteries that defy even super sleuths like Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot. To add to the mystery, I noticed that in one spot, it looked as if someone had swept away the gravel in order to expose the bike lane symbol painted on the road.
On Wednesday I forgot my helmet. I own three helmets, one of which is supposed to stay in the car at all times, just in case I forget to bring my preferred one. But Son #4 had borrowed the van to move some furniture and apparently neglected to put the helmet back in when he was finished. So I had to ride bareheaded. I opted to ride on the city streets, since it is easier to keep a slower speed. I also thought this would be a chance to test the theory that says that motorists are more forgiving of women cyclists who don't wear helmets. The results were spectacularly inconclusive, as I have never found that motorists treat me badly even when I wear my helmet. On the 102 Avenue metal bridge, I did meet up with a friendly fellow commuter as we waited for the light to turn green, so we had a nice little chat. That's always a nice way to start the day. I rode home through the River Valley, since I wasn't in the mood to face the traffic and potholes on Stony Plain Road between 142 Street and 149 Street.

And on Thursday -- r-a-i-n! I don't really mind the rain, and at 14 C, it was quite warm. But I forgot to put my shoes in my pannier, so had to go through the day wearing my Merrell's water sandals. Oh well, I never claimed to be a posh dresser. I rode to work through the River Valley, using the new trail. It is a pretty steep climb, and the sharp turns take some getting used to, but another time or two on it should help me feel more confident. For the ride back, I took the city streets, as it was pouring and I figured the shorter the better. 

Although I don't mind riding in almost any type of weather, I have to admit I am looking forward to some really warm weather -- maybe next week? One can hope!

Saturday River Valley Ride

I was thrilled last Saturday (June 14th) that Hubby agreed to come with me for a 45 km ride in the River Valley. I'd like to think it was the thought of spending the day riding with me that made him so willing, but I suspect that the fact that I bribed him agreed to stop for a Turkish dinner of iskender at Kebab Express on Whyte Ave. might have helped a bit.

We started at my Callingwood parking spot and rode along Wolf Willow, into Patricia Heights and through Rio Terrace to the pink bridge across the Whitemud. From there it was down the steep and winding trail to Laurier Park. We rode across the bridge into Hawrylak Park and from there to Emily Murphy park where we took an unpaved trail east. I found this trail a bit unnerving. There are a few sudden turns and hills, and the surprise factor combined with the rough surface made for a bit of an adventure. But we made it and finally came to a nice paved trail that led to the LRT (blue) bridge across the river. That was a first. We came out at the bottom of Fortway hill, which looks pretty formidable from down below. Looking up, I felt rather proud to think I ride up this incline almost every morning.

From here, we continued east through the Rossdale neighbourhood and along the river , stopping for a photo shoot at the Edmonton Queen viewing platform.

Since it was getting close to dinner time, we looked for a place to cross back to the south side of the river. Spotting the Walterdale Bridge, we rode across, only to find that the trail was closed. Back we went, continuing east to this brown footbridge.

Once on the south side, we rode west and uphill to a set of stairs that took us to Saskatchewan Drive. From there it was a short ride to Whyte Avenue and the Turkish restaurant.

After our meal -- which was as stellar as always -- we rode back to Sask. Drive, across the High Level Bridge and down  via a route that was new for me. Instead of riding down Fortway or Victoria Park Road, we descended on a paved trail that twists and turns and ends up behind the Royal Glenora Club and crosses to the River Valley Road trail. I had suspected such a trail existed, but didn't know exactly where it was or what it would be like to ride on, so I was glad to have a chance to try it.

We took my usual route up into the Crestwood neighbourhood. I wanted to try to find the pedestrian overpass that crosses the Whitemud into Patricia Heights. Easier said than done. We rode around some residential streets and finally ended up crossing the Whitemud on 156 Street. When we reached the south end of the elusive pedestrian overpass, Hubby surprised me by suggesting we ride across to the northside and find out where exactly it is. So we did that. I still am not completely sure how to get to it from the north side, or even whether it would be worth using, but it was a bit of an adventure anyway. To finish our ride, we took 87 Avenue to the shared pathway across from Target, which takes one to another pedestrian overpass not far from our parking spot.

Total distance -- 45 + km. The temperature was around 20 and it was sunny, so it was a good day for riding. There was a brisk southeast wind, but in the valley it is not very noticeable, so it was a thoroughly enjoyable ride. And yet another chance to be reminded of how lucky we are to have such an amazing area to ride.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

a cold start to the day

This morning before I left the house, the weather page assured me it was 12 degrees, but when I hopped on my bike I had a hard time believing it. Clad in a cotton blouse, a cardigan and a medium-weight cotton jacket (about the same thing I wore yesterday for the same temperature) by the time I reached 149 Street, I was so cold that I had decided (a) to stop and put on my water- and windproof shell, and (b) to ride on the streets instead of through the River Valley, which is always a few degrees colder  than the high ground. 

But when I stopped at the pedestrian bridge that leads to Stony Plain Road so that I could do (a) before doing (b), I saw a female cyclist come up out of the valley wearing nothing but a short-sleeved polo-type shirt and capri pants. Well, that sight stirred up my competitive nature and a little voice told me, "If she can do it, you can do it..." adding with a snicker, "You have a lot more layers on, after all."

So down, down, down I went into the valley. It was cold, no doubt, and I was glad I'd added the fourth layer. I rode through the valley and up Fortway and 107 Street without ever feeling warm, except for that warm satisfied feeling I get inside every time I reach the top of the hill.

Yes, I was glad I'd risen to the challenge.

And in the afternoon, I was glad that once again (just like yesterday) I made it back to the car before the rain began. Tomorrow's forecast is for pretty much all day rain, so I'll have to be prepared, but Friday is supposed to be sunny and decently warm, so there is something to look forward to.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

who says there's no such thing as a free lunch?

It's right here on the road side. Even looks kind of healthy, with all those tomatoes and greens.

Needless to say, although I was getting a little hungry by this point in my ride, I passed it up and left it for the crows and magpies to fight over.

sun, wind, rain and hail

Today's ride included a bit of each. 
I slept a little later than usual today, getting up at about 7:30, and it was raining. But there was a patch of blue sky that seemed to grow larger by the minute, so I decided to a  bit of housecleaning and go for a bike ride once the weather improved. And improve it did. By the time I set off at 10:30, it was sunny and 19 degrees. I started out wearing a long sleeved jersey, but didn't make it out of the driveway before deciding I should change into short sleeves.


I rode straight north up to the top of the hill, where I turned east toward St. Albert. I did this route a few times last summer, but there have been a couple of big changes since then. One, the roundabout that replaces the four-way stop at Highway 44 near Villeneuve. And two, the Ray Gibbon Drive extension at the edge of St. Albert. Both are significant improvements, although the roundabout could do with a good sweeping to clear away the loose gravel that has accumulated.

 At the roundabout I came upon three cyclists taking a break. They were just getting ready to start as I came along, and figuring that it would be easier for three of them to pass little old me than for me to pass three of them further down the road, I gunned it and took the lead. I am pleased to say that not only did they not pass me, I couldn't even see them behind me the entire distance between Highway 44 and Ray Gibbon. I stopped for a drink and to check my GPS before heading south at RG and they hit the intersection just as I was leaving. (They continued east.) Now, the lead guy was kind of old and at least one of the other guys was kind of fat, so it was a bit of a hollow victory, but I still felt satisfied that I had kept up a respectable speed. After all, they had the alleged advantage of reduced wind drag due to group riding. There was a pretty stiff south crosswind, and since I am on the runty side, I definitely feel the power of those crosswinds.

 Ray Gibbon is everything a new road should be: smoothly paved, with a wide shoulder, so other than the south wind, which was now a headwind, it was a pleasure to ride there for the all-too-short stretch between Villeneuve Road and Meadowview Drive. 
The pavement on the latter is another story altogether. I laughed out loud when after several kilometers of dodging potholes and riding over bone-jiggling rough and pitted pavement, I came to this sign warning of a rough ride ahead!

The sky was spectacular today. The only problem was that as I rode back towards Spruce Grove, the cloud cover became heavier and heavier and greyer and greyer. And sure enough, just as I rounded the pond at the off-leash area next to Campsite Road, it started to rain, big fat heavy raindrops that smacked of hail. 

I was riding hard at this point, but still able to observe my surroundings enough to see a small flock of goldfinches in the shrubbery beside the road. Nice!
The rain became heavier as I turned onto Campsite and pulled to a stop at the first red light. I was quickly becoming very wet. And just as I pulled into our driveway, the hail started. I walked in the door, cold and dripping wet and spattered with mud, and I headed straight for a warm shower.

Even with the rain, it was a good ride -- 
59.32 km at a pretty decent clip.
I feel like now I am truly a seasoned roadie.

head for the hills

Yesterday I headed for the hills -- first, riding straight north all the way uphill. I then rode to the seniors' home, turned around and rode to the top of the next hill. From there I rode east again, turning south and then west for more uphill riding, finally reaching my goal of Lilac Lane. Since the lilacs on the 100 Avenue shared sidewalk are in bloom, I wondered about the state of the lilac hedgerow up here. But, no this strip of lilacs is still waiting to come into its full glory -- maybe next weekend.

This stretch of road is very close to Roller Coaster Road, so that was my next turn, riding up and up before being rewarded with a fairly decent downhill run.

From here, it was back to town, where I ended my ride rather disappointingly with a blowout -- complete with ruined rear tire -- right next to Living Waters school. Fortunately Son #4 was available to pick me up and take me to the bike shop.

My total distance was about 55 km. For some reason I rode slower than usual -- maybe it was all the hill climbing -- but it was a good ride anyway. It was about 18 C and just a very light wind, so great riding conditions.