Friday, November 28, 2014

the wheels on the bus

Yesterday was my first bus day of the season. With 30 cm of snow in the forecast, there was no way I was going to drive into the west end. I wouldn't have minded trying to cycle to work from Crestwood, if I could have teleported there. I know it would have been hard, but there is nothing we winter cyclists like better than a good challenge.

The bus ride into downtown wasn't bad -- about 65 minutes, or only 10 minutes longer than usual. BUT -- the ride home was a different story. It took about three-quarters of an hour just to get from NorQuest to NAIT and more than an hour to get home from there -- total of almost two hours. I stood the whole way; I prefer standing to sitting, but even so, I was elated when it was time to get off.

Not so elated when I saw our street. Thanks to the drifting snow, the sidewalk was piled so high that I had to walk in the road. And as I reached our driveway, I saw a woman in a small SUV trying to get out of a snowdrift. So I got a couple of shovels and we dug her out.

It's at times like these that I am thankful for a big strong 16 year old son. I don't really mind shoveling, but the amount of snow this time was simply overwhelming. It was nice to be able to assign someone else to do the job. 

In spite of the heavy snow, we had a decent turnout for class today: 14 of the 20 registered students showed up for the morning class, and 9 out of 11 in the afternoon. It was a good day of learning.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

first snow

We did have a little snow in September, but this past weekend we got the first real snow -- the 6 cm of snow that stayed on the ground and probably will remain for another 4-6 months. 

I rode around town on Saturday and Sunday, trying out my two winter bikes. Yes, this year I decided to try studded tires, so I had them installed on Silver, my Trek 7.2 step-through hybrid. I am not really sold on them. They're fantastic for riding on relatively smooth ice, but if the surface is bumpy or if there is a layer of snow, it's a different story. I felt quite insecure bumping along  the trails, where the packed snow is full of footprints. It was a little better on the roads and on untrodden snow, but still not entirely comfy.

My trusty old GT Tempest, on the other hand, with its fat Table Top tires, is nothing short of superb. It rides well on all but the very smoothest ice, on bumpy snow, through a few centimeters of fresh snow -- pretty much anywhere. 

So when getting ready for Monday morning's commute, it was Miranda the GT Tempest I put in the back of the minivan. I parked in Crestwood, thinking that if the trail conditions were too prohibitive, I would walk to work, but that wasn't necessary. I hopped on the bike and rode -- albeit carefully -- down into the ravine, along the river and my tour de force: up the hill into Ezio Faraone park. When contemplating my route, I opted for this hill, telling myself that if it was too hard to ride all the way up, I would simply get off and walk -- no shame in that, after all. But I didn't have any trouble riding all the way up, and I felt so good when I reached the top that I had to stop and take a photo.
victory at the top of the hill
Unfortunately, unless you know this spot, you can't really tell that I just rode up a very steep hill. 

As I rode down into the valley, I saw a coyote run across my path and then stand in the bush to watch me pass. 

And I'm afraid I was totally guilty of this:

Twice in one day, in fact. Once when I first arrived at work and then again in the afternoon when I rode an extra 5 km each way to attend a special meeting. In my defense, they did ask, "How was your ride?"

I plan to use the studded-tire bike for errands around town this winter, and if the studs haven't grown on me by the time spring rolls around, I'll offer them for sale to someone who has a different riding style. For me, the fat tires and old mountain bike are a winning combination.

What I wore: camisole top, fine merino wool sweater, cashmere turtleneck, Icebreaker wool longjohns, J. Crew wool skinny pants, MEC Adanac tights, wool pea coat, Icebreaker merino wool scarf, bulky wool scarf, wool gloves inside warm Joe Fresh mittens, thin wool socks, thick wool socks, Merrell insulated boots, Bern winter-lined helmet. Perfect! For the ride to the meeting and back to the car, which was mostly against the wind, I added another wool pullover.  

Temperature - AM -14, windchill -21; PM -16, windchill -24.

In spite of the cold wind, when I reached my car, I was wishing I'd parked at my usual spot, 2 km farther away. Next time!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

reasons to love october

This year, October has been a month to love. Warm temperatures -- generally in the double-digits. Crisp clear mornings. Starry nights.

A great time to bicycle commute!

Last Thursday morning there was the most incredible fog. It was kind of creepy in the river valley. I felt like the only person in the world. But I had to stop anyway to take a few photos.

 
While I was stopped, another bicycle commuter rode past with a friendly smile and a cheerful "good morning." I was glad to keep him in sight the rest of the way.


I had to stop again on my way up to Ezio Faraone Park -- the view was amazing.



And another stop once I reached the top:



Sunday, October 12, 2014

October mornings

 On the way to work...
 
 a yellow tamarack tree


 a glowing moon



a golden hillside


Friday, September 26, 2014

crunch crunch

Hubby always thinks it's funny that I like to make a lot of noise crunching through the fallen leaves.
path near Royal Glenora
I tell him it's because I grew up on the bald prairie of Southern Saskatchewan where we didn't really have trees or fallen leaves. They are still a bit of a novelty to me. Turns out I like crunching through the leaves on my bike, too.

Because of my hand I haven't done a lot of long-distance riding this fall. But last Friday I rode into Southgate so I could go to the optometrist and order new glasses. I rode along 16A, down Winterburn to 87 Avenue, into Callingwood, Westridge and Rio Terrace, and then across Quesnel Bridge to Fox Drive. It was a perfect day -- about 20 degrees, a light breeze and plenty of sunshine. 
And what a thrill to arrive at the mall and see a full bike rack! Of course, I was glad there was room for me to lock up my bike, but how cool that so many people are riding.
ravine hill
 

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!