Saturday, April 26, 2014

through the valley

This week I rode to work through McKinnon Ravine and the river valley. After my icy adventure a couple of weeks ago, I was hesitant; after all, there are still patches of snow here and there, so I thought maybe the trail was still thickly packed with ice. But on Tuesday morning, instead of riding across the bridge, as I have done all winter, I cautiously rode down the slope into the ravine. And to my delight, the trail was more or less clear. There were one or two large puddles and two or three icy patches (thin ice) but other than that, conditions were excellent. 

The Victoria Park hill was waiting for me, and I was ready. Now, it may be true that we never forget how to ride a bike, but we (or at least I) do forget when to gear down on the hills. I geared down too soon and ended up riding uphill like an old lady. Of course, some would say that I am an old lady, but I like to think that normally I ride like a young person. Not this time. I was glad there was no one around to see my agonizingly s-l-o-w progress up that endless-feeling slope.

I opted out of riding on Tuesday. There was a rainfall warning for my neck of the woods and a special weather advisory for the city of Edmonton, and I wasn't sure what to expect. I had a big stack of books that needed to go back to our school, so I loaded up my bags and drove all the way to work. Turns out the rain wasn't as bad as it sounded like it was going to be, but it was a mite cold and I was not altogether sorry I'd driven.

On Thursday it was back to riding, again through the valley. This time I was ready for the hill and pedaled fast and furious. It felt good to have a decent little climb as part of my commute again, after a few months of riding on the basically flat city streets. Next week I'll go the full monty and climb the Fortway and 107 Street hills. 

spring has sprung

Finally, it seems, we have spring. It took its time coming this year, but I think it's here at last. 

Easter weekend was cold and snowy, but Easter Monday was not too bad. I rode the country roads north of town for about 90 minutes before my feet got too cold and I had to head home. 

It was about +10 C, a bit breezy and mostly sunny. I used my clip-in shoes for the first time this year. Of course, as I started out I had visions of embarrassing and painful falls at red lights or stop signs, but apparently riding clipless is sort of like riding a bike: you don't forget how to do it.  Whew!

As I approached Muir Lake, a couple of deer ran across the road in front of me, stopping briefly before entering the woods. And finally, a few ducks have taken up residence on the ponds. 

Pussy willows were in evidence along one section of road.

But mostly it looks like this:

Sunday, April 20, 2014

signs, signs, everywhere signs

One of the things I enjoy about riding my bike and walking so much is that I have time to notice things I wouldn't otherwise notice.

Like this sign on the side wall of a pawn shop. 
I love the "also anything of value." 
Presumably value-less items like Jewellry - Car - TV - VCR  & Quality Furniture are taken out of the goodness of the pawnbroker's heart.
 And this sign made me pause. A seniors' centre for those aged 45+?
Hmm. It is for real, according to their web site.
 As an English instructor, I always appreciate subject-verb agreement -- especially on signs paid for by taxpayers.
 And this sign that appeared in 2012, stating that the new building would be opening in Fall 2011, made me laugh out loud:

My most recent favourite is courtesy of the west division police station. Last spring their changeable sign read, 
"Spring is here. Please watch for all cyclists."
That made me chuckle. 
As opposed to only some cyclists? I wondered.

Well, obviously I was not the only one who thought last year's wording was substandard, because this year the sign admonishes:
"Spring is here. Please watch for cyclists of all kinds."

 I guess the wordsmith here subscribes to the belief that a change is as good as an improvement.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

at least I still have the road bike

After a bike is stolen, it's a good time to be glad you had more than one bike. Although my prime commuter bike was taken from me, I still have Silver, my step-through commuter bike. I used that bike early last week, before it snowed.

More than two bikes. I still have my winter bike, Miranda. I pulled that bike out last week when it snowed.

Ahem. More than three bikes. I still have Milly, my blue road bike. I haven't ridden this bike a lot yet this year. I went for a short ride last week, when the wind was reportedly 50 km/hour. I have never had a more scary ride. It was sort of OK riding west. Hard but manageable. It was fine riding south. But when I headed east, it was as if I had an invisible force pushing me along. I did, in fact. I hardly had to pedal to get my speed up over 40 km/hour. It was a tad scary. Then when I turned north, it was all I could do to stay on the road. I was seriously afraid I was going to end up in one of the ponds that line the east side of the road. Never have I been more relived to see my destination -- this time the car windshield shop -- before me.

 And today I rode just over 30 km. It was a gorgeous day, with just a little bit of a southeast wind. After I'd started riding, I realized I'd forgotten my water bottle. Not a big deal; I don't mind riding for a couple of hours without water. But I have this fear that I will get caught out -- maybe something will happen to my bike and someone will stop to help me and see that I don't even have any water. So I always bring water, just in case. But this time I forgot. I have to get back into the habit.

I was a little over-dressed -- shouldn't have worn the turtleneck -- and my feet were just a bit cold, but otherwise it was a decent ride.
 It was a beautiful day, about 12 C and fairly sunny. There were a lot of other cyclists out, all guys.

time heals all wounds


I am still recovering from the loss of my beloved Specialized Vita commuter bike, "Beatrice." On Thursday the 10th I parked near Southgate and rode to work on the 106 Street bike lane. It was my first time this season to ride Beatrice, and I was so pleased with the work done by my local bike shop, replacing the chain and cassette. She flew like a dream and I arrived at work in good time. I locked her to the fence with a U-lock and cable lock and went inside to work. One my students said the bike was still there at lunch time, but by 3:00, it was gone, along with both locks. Halyna's bike had also been locked to the fence, and it was still there. Apparently mine looked more appealing. The funny thing is that when I had it in the shop, I considered asking them to replace the hand grips, which are pink and were looking pretty grubby. But I decided that by leaving them as-is, the bike would be less desirable to thieves. Guess I was wrong.

I had the serial number on file and I submitted a police report online, but I don't have a lot of hope. It is really disappointing, especially because I have been trying to focus on positive stuff when I ride -- noticing the drivers who are considerate and polite, appreciating the sweeping job done by the city on 95th Avenue and 102nd Street. Little things that make me think people are not so bad after all. And then someone steals my bike and reminds me of the evil that lurks in the hearts of men. 

My mom used to tell us about The Shadow -- and clearly he was right all along! (now that I can hear it for myself, I realize Mom did a pretty good imitation!)


After work that day, I took the LRT to Southgate, walked to  my car and then drove to the airport to pick up Oldest Son and Youngest Son, who were returning from their spring break trip to South America. At least I had something good to look forward to after such a disappointing conclusion to my work day.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

first long ride of spring 2014

After all my equivocating earlier today, at 1:30 I finally set out on a long ride. The original plan was to ride up Campsite to the top of the hill, ride east to the pond, turn around and ride west up the hill, turn around and ride home. But when I stopped near the pond to take some pictures, another cyclist was approaching, across the highway. Seeing me stopped, he very kindly rode across to ask if I was OK. Of course I was fine, but I did appreciate the gesture. 

Once assured that I didn't need assistance, he continued to ride west, leaving me with a choice. I could carry on with my plan to turn around and ride west, too, which would mean following on his tail. Awkward. Or I could opt for Plan B and ride east to the airport before turning around and heading west. Plan B it was. 

So I rode to the airport.

After turning around I then rode west as planned, to the top of the big hill, turned around and then turned right at Deer Trail. No deer today. No ducks, no geese, no hawks. The ponds were mostly iced over, but the fields were almost bare of snow. 

The ride back to town was against the wind, which of course is grossly unfair, as it is mostly downhill. How can a cyclist reach maximum speed on those downhill stretches when the wind is against her? Oh well, I made it back in good shape I rode about 42 km, not bad for the season's first ride.
 I was dressed just right for the weather, always a good thing. And I saw lots of other cyclists. In addition to Mr. Helpful, I saw two guys riding together, a woman riding alone, and another guy riding alone. 

And as I rode home, I had a pleasant encounter with a pick-up truck. I am not a truck lover. In fact, one of my favourite "22 Minutes" spoofs is the one about the truck. But I had to rethink my attitude today. I came up to a red light behind a line of 4 vehicles, the last of which was a red pick-up with his right-turn signal flashing. I took my place in line and waited patiently, but when the light turned green, the pick-up driver waved frantically, gesturing me to go ahead. I was impressed. Talk about taking the wind out of my sails when it comes to dissing pick-up trucks!

a ray of hope...

It was another C-O-O-L week for bicycle commuting. But it seems like maybe we've turned the corner, at last. 

Tuesday, with wind chill of -20 C, felt really cold. I fared better in -35 temperatures. The lesson? -- whether it's minus 20 or minus 35, I need to wear winter boots on the bike.

On Wednesday, there was a forecast of 5 cm of snow. That didn't happen, and although Thursday started off cold, it was +4 by the time I rode back to the car. So it looks like there is hope.

I was super impressed with the completely cleared shared sidewalk on 100 Avenue, and now I just read on Twitter that street sweeping has begun, starting with my beloved 95th Avenue -- the bike lanes I ride in after work most days. I have to wonder: this is the very route I spoke to the city councillor about. Not only that, but on Wednesday as I waited for the light to change at the corner of 149 Street and 95 Avenue, there was a cop car right behind me. He saw me move over to give him space to start and saw me maneuver around a pile of gravel and other debris. Could it be possible my predicament was noticed and addressed? Or maybe they always start sweeping on 95th Avenue? Whatever the reason, I am happy to hear that bit of news.

Yesterday it went up to 8 degrees C. I just rode around town for about an hour, using my winter bike, as there is still quite a lot of ice on the trails. Today I plan to head out to the countryside on my hybrid. I noticed that I am behind schedule. Last year I took my first long country ride on March 30, when the temp was only around 0 C. So now I feel like I have an obligation. I am honestly not very motivated, as it is cloudy and not a super nice day, and I am not sure what I should  wear on my feet. But our outside thermometer says 11 C, leaving me without excuse.