Friday, September 12, 2014

fall is here -- or is it winter?

Tights - check
Knee-high boots - check
Wool sweater and second wool sweater - check
Water-resistant jacket with quilted lining - check
Rain pants - check
Thin wool gloves and ski mitts - check

Then... clear the snow off the car before leaving for work!

Yes, this was September 8, the first day of our fall session. One thing was omitted from the list above -- a scarf. I was sorry about that. It was a cold, wet ride, but even so, it was better than driving.

Tuesday morning was a little warmer. I was looking forward to a more comfortable ride, but when I took the bike out of the car, I noticed that the front brake was rubbing -- again. A closer look showed me that the brake pad is positioned too high and is actually rubbing on the tire - not good, as I understand it. So I put the bike back in the car, drove to a parking spot near 142 Street and walked the rest of the way. I had forgotten about the 102 Avenue bridge, so scrambled a bit to find my way over to Stony Plain Road. I ended up walking about 6 km, at 7.6 km/hour, arriving at work carrying my jacket and blazer, but still hot and sweaty. Oh well, better than driving!

Wednesday and Thursday I used my other commuter bike and although it was cold in the morning, the afternoon rides were fairly pleasant.

On Thursday morning, the River Valley was gorgeous, with the frost-covered grass sparkling in the sunlight...


 ... and the moon hanging low in the uniformly blue sky behind me. Although I was cold, I had to stop to take some photos.

To kick off the new session and to encourage perseverance in language study, I had my students read a story about a  
on the 950th try. The students loved it, and one woman even said that it inspired her to start driving again, after 5 years of being afraid to drive as a result of being rear-ended at a red light. 
We studied synonyms for perseverance, including doggedness and resolve, and engaged in discussion about the need for this trait in our own lives.

catch-up

I can't believe it's really been more than a month since I wrote anything here.

The weekend of August 9-10 we went down to Calgary to meet up with my brother. Of course, I saw the opportunity for a good long bike ride. I started out fairly early Saturday morning and met up with Hubby in Millet, 90 km from home. If I'd known the distance, I would have ridden another 10K to make it 100 km, but oh well. Aside from a couple of inconsiderate guys behind the steering wheels of trucks -- one delivery truck and one pick-up truck -- and a dog that chased me, barking the whole time, for about 1/2 a kilometer, it was a good ride. Gorgeous sunny day. Smooth, fast pavement. Wide shoulders. Gorgeous scenery, but I didn't take many photos.

Sheep, just south of Devon
 

I stopped here to text Hubby and tell him to bring the stuff I'd forgotten!

We stayed at the Delta South in Calgary, where they cheerfully kept my bike in a locked storage room. After a superb buffet breakfast Sunday morning, we picked up my brother and went to Fish Creek park, where we walked for about 9 km. It was unexpectedly hot and there is virtually no shade on the trail, so we were ready for some cold drinks afterward. We had a most enjoyable visit and then headed home.

The summer session of ESL ended on Thursday, August 23, but I checked out a bit early, On the Tuesday, as I was riding back to the car after work, zipping along and enjoying the beautiful weather, a young kid, maybe 13 or 14, threw his skateboard out onto the shared pathway, right in front of my bike. It all happened so fast that the next thing I knew I was on the ground and blood was pouring onto the pavement. I sat there for a while, feeling stunned, then finally got up the courage to ask the kid what was bleeding. He told me I had a cut on my chin and another under my left eye.  My hands were also scraped-up and swelling rapidly. I instructed the kid to get my sweater out of my pannier and used it (white sweater, no less) to stem the flow. 

Still shaking, I finally stood up and assessed my condition. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could walk without keeling over, so I asked the kid to take my bike and come with me to my car. He obliged, but after a couple of blocks, I realized that I was OK on my own, so I sent him on his way and walked my bike the remaining 2 or 3 blocks to the car. Somehow I even managed to load the bike into the back, then I sat down behind the wheel and called Hubby. I was still shaking and was scared to drive, so we left the car where it was and Hubby drove me home. 

It was a bit of a shock to look in the mirror and realize that I had a doozy of a black eye, along with the not unsubstantial cut on my chin. But there was nothing that a few bandaids and some ice couldn't take care of, so I took the necessary steps and then lay down for the rest of the evening. It didn't take me long to conclude that I was not going to be able to teach the next two days, so I called to arrange a sub.

Wednesday and Thursday I felt pretty shaky and didn't do much of anything, but by Friday I was feeling much better, well enough to agree to a visit from my three Buddhist monk students. They came after lunch, bearing fruit and flowers, and stayed for about an hour. Youngest Son was home, so he sat in on the conversation and was entertained by stories about life in a remote Laotian village.

On Monday I was ready to get back on the bike. I went for a short ride on the trails, figuring that between my helmet and sunglasses, I could hide the worst of my injuries. The bike was in pretty good nick, except that the front brake was a bit off. So on Tuesday I rode to the bike shop, where I impressed the guys with my war wounds and listened to their crash stories. And got the bike fixed.

I'd had great plans for my two weeks off -- lots of cleaning, plenty of long bike rides, hours of sewing. But thanks to my sore right hand, extensive cleaning was out of the question. I did organize my study and do some other light cleaning, but the blinds and windows are still waiting to be attended to. I did a little sewing, but fine handwork, required for the Waldorf doll I was planning to make, has had to wait. I did some cycling, but again, because of my sore hand I didn't dare ride for more than an hour or so, and I was afraid to ride the road bike, because the shifting and braking techniques are difficult and painful. I didn't want to go out much, because I looked so awful, so I mostly stayed at home. I did a lot of walking on the treadmill, reading, and preparing for next session. I was a little sorry to have spent my break in this way, but...

My predominant feeling about this crash is one of thankfulness. It could have been so much worse -- I could have had a concussion, broken my wrist(s), done more damage to my eye... Instead I came out with a sprained hand, some scrapes and bruises, a few cuts and of course the pro boxer-style eye. Not only that, but it happened just before I was due for time off. I had to take only 2 sick days (the first I've taken since I started working.) 

And I learned a most valuable lesson: don't ride so fast on the shared pathways!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

down to Devon by bike

Devon is Bike Town. It's not far from here, but sometimes seems like another world. It's a small town and according to my sons, there's nothing to do there -- or so say the Devon young people.

But they do have the River and apparently some excellent bike trails. I've never actually ridden IN Devon, just TO Devon via the Range Roads and Township Roads south of here.

Since the wind was from the southeast yesterday morning, I decided it was the perfect day to ride to Devon -- I'd ride against the wind all the way down and with a tailwind coming home. And so it was.

I rode past my friend the white donkey, past some miniature horses and a flock of goats. The acreages are definitely more interesting down this way.
 I also saw a sign that I feel sure belongs to a friend of Piglet's uncle, Trespassers Will. This sign read: "No ....sing." Short, perhaps, for "No singing"?

The ride is fairly flat -- just some small ups and downs -- until Highway 60 where one finds The Big Hill. Riding south it's down first and then up. Against the wind. It was a decent climb.

Once at the top, I decided to go into the town and see if I could find the bike shop I've read about. I didn't see it, but I did notice that the lampposts are garnished with banners featuring cyclists of all ages, urging onlookers to "enjoy the ride." Cool!


After a brief stop, under this banner, for a drink of water, it was time to turn around and go back.

Downhill first this time. And this was downright scary. The shoulder was full of gravel which seemed to have washed across the road in last Friday's rain storm. There were mounds of gravel as well as a thin layer over the entire shoulder. I rode slowly, braking the entire time. Because of the gravel I couldn't see the rumble strips and ended up bouncing along on those for a few meters, shaking my bike and my entire body. Coming off the rumble strips, I encountered piles of gravel and nervously applied the brakes, trying to keep control. I managed all right, but it was definitely not the fun downward sail a big hill like that should be. And to top it off when I reached the bottom, it felt like something was wrong with my back tire. I stopped to check it out. It was fine; it must have just been the gravel underneath that made it feel sluggish. But when I started off again, I discovered I couldn't clip into my pedal. When I stepped off into the gravel/sand mix, apparently I clogged up the cleat. So I had to stop again and poke around to dislodge the little bits that were stuck. Finally back in the saddle, it was a surprisingly easy climb up to the top and I was on the way home.

As I had expected, I had a nice tailwind and it was a fast ride. I did have to stop at one point when I saw a coyote standing on the road in front of me. It stood and stared for a good minute before ambling off into the bush. I am always afraid to get too close, but took a photo from a distance.

By the time I got home, the temperature was about 26 degrees with a humidex of 30, so I was not sorry to hit the shower. It was a good ride -- 66 km and even with the constant braking on the downhill and the headwind for the first 33 km, I increased my average speed by 0.1 km/hour.

Friday, August 1, 2014

san francisco - wednesday evening

  Another solo bike ride.
Hubby said he'd had enough of riding for the day, but I wanted to do some more exploring. Specifically, I wanted to check out 

It's marked on the bike map handed out by Bike and Roll, and when I googled it, I was intrigued. 
I was also curious to see downtown San Francisco.
So, I looked at the map and decided that I'd pretend to be a bicycle commuter working downtown in San Francisco. 
I'd ride on Polk Street to Market and from there use The Wiggle to turn around and head back.
It was a decently steep climb on Polk for the first couple of kilometers, but after that it was quite flat. And there's a bike lane all the way. So I rode and rode until I hit Market Street.
It was about 6:00. There were lots of cyclists. Lots -- maybe 20-25. The intersection of bike lanes at Polk and Market, while beautifully marked and glowingly green, was a bit confusing. Riders going in every possible direction. A mysterious flashing yellow bike light. 
 
I stopped and asked one of the waiting riders -- a young woman on a comfort bike -- how to get to The Wiggle. She was very kind, giving me excellent directions and explaining what the flashing light was about. So on I went, up a fairly steep hill to the easily-spotted Safeway, where I was to turn right.
Here again, I felt a bit baffled. There were markings on the pavement -- big green squares with arrows -- but I wasn't sure exactly what they represented. Another youngish woman happened to be riding next to me, so I asked her whether I was on the Wiggle. She assured me that I was and told me to follow her. We rode together for several blocks, turning right and left, ignoring stop signs, and talking about our lives cycling in two very different cities.
When we'd finished with the Wiggle, she asked me where I wanted to go next. When I told her I was headed back down to the Bay, she recommended that I first stop to look at The Painted Ladies houses in Alamo Square, and she pointed out the way.
Another steep uphill climb and there they were --

the painted ladies
other beautiful homes in Alamo Square

I loved the look of this old school building:
an old school in Alamo Square
   
Looking down from Alamo Square Park
I wasn't quite finished with the steep uphills yet -- I had to ride up for another three or four blocks, but after that it was downhill all the way to Fort Mason.
I had to turn around and take some photos of the hill I'd ridden down. Riding down was worse than riding up!


 
I wasn't far from the hotel now, but somehow I got lost. Yesterday afternoon I'd ended up at the same place and found my way back to the hotel with no trouble via city streets, but this time I followed another cyclist across to the bike path. He was going west, and I had to go east, but how hard can it be to follow a bike path? Harder than it sounds, apparently. I managed to ride into a residential section of Fort Mason and was so completely bewildered than when I saw yet another young woman ride her bike up to a house and dismount, I raced over to ask her for directions. She turned out to be from Norway, working in San Francisco, so we had a nice little chat before I went on my way and finally arrived back at the hotel.

Roller Coaster Road

Today was one of those days when I have trouble getting motivated to ride. It started out cool and windy, whereas I like warm and calm. And I have a lot of work to do around the house. But I finally set out at about 11:30, riding north -- against the wind. When I reached the top of the second hill, I took a little jaunt east, because I saw there was new pavement on the road. I wondered if maybe it had been paved all the way to some other paved road. But no, the pavement ended, superseded by the ubiquitous gravel, so I made a U-turn in one of the subdivisions and rode west to Roller Coaster Road. 

Just before the turn, I heard a loud squawking type of noise and looked up to see a hawk flying overhead, holding a fish in its claws. It flew around a bit, showing off its prowess as a hunter, before disappearing, presumably to enjoy a good meal.

Shortly after this, I turned onto Roller Coaster Road, one of my favourite spots. This road must be one of the county's best kept secrets; only once have I seen another cyclist on it. I have, however, seen deer and a fox. Today as I was labouring up one of the short steep hills, battling a head wind along with the sharp incline, I spotted something out of the corner of my eye. Standing as still as a statue in the ditch, there was a deer, staring directly at me. It watched as I rode past. I was a little slow to react, but once I'd passed it, I realized I should try to get a photo. So I clipped out of the pedal, cringing at the unavoidable metal-on-metal sound. The deer didn't move. I very gently put my bike down on the ground and began to step gingerly toward it, but it bolted, stopping for a second or two once it reached denser foliage before taking off out of sight into the woods. Of course I was sorry I didn't get a photo, but still grateful to have had the chance to see it.

On I climbed to the top of this series of hills, after which I turned around and sailed down. And I do mean sailed. With the wind on my back, I hit 52.7 km/hour.

I decided to return to town by riding down this road to the service road, and it was a pleasure to have the wind on my back as I rode south on Jennifer Heil. 

It wasn't a long ride -- only about 36 km -- but it was definitely a good one, and I am happy to have three days of riding ahead of me this long weekend.

home again, home again

It was great to be back this week -- back to our own bed, back to work, back to cycling in Edmonton.

It's true: traffic really is quieter in San Francisco. I realized that it is probably because there are so many hybrids there and, of course, so few trucks. The buses are also electric. I'm not sure of the reason behind fewer sirens down there, but I do know I heard numerous sirens every day this week, along with the cacophony of other traffic noises. 

San Francisco drivers also have this strange habit of stopping for orange lights, whereas here in Edmonton, every day, at every intersection, I see people run red lights.

On the plus side, I had a renewed appreciation for the stretch of River Valley trail that I ride for about 5 km each morning and afternoon. Although at times it is well-used, it is nowhere near as busy as the multi-use and dedicated bike trails in San Francisco, and it was a dream to ride. Ditto the shared pathway along 100 Avenue. 

And the hills -- well, I am pretty sure the hill leading up behind the Royal Glenora into Ezio Faraone Park is a more challenging climb than any of the hills along the bike routes in San Fran. 
 
It's all uphill from here!

downwind

Yesterday morning, as I rode along the flat stretch of the River Valley trail, a fit-looking guy on a sleek-looking road bike came sailing down one of the steep trails from Glenora. He landed ahead of me and continued to hold the lead until we reached the little hill that takes you up onto River Road trail. At that point he slowed down and I found myself right behind him. After we reached the top I had to decide: is he really a slow rider, one that I should pass? OR if I pass him, is he going to pass me ten seconds later? He did look pretty fit, and he was riding the superior bike, so I was giving it some thought when he turned his head and let fly a wad of gob. It sailed past me at the 20 km/hr speed of the east wind, narrowly missing my head and shoulders.

Just showing the importance of looking behind before you decide to clear those passages in a big way.

Needless to say, this helped me decide that I definitely wanted to be in front of this guy and I passed.