Monday, December 27, 2010

New Year resolutions

When the new year begins is arbitrary - where's the start point of a circle? However, our society selects January 1st as the first day of the new year and, with that, comes a few traditions. Some people start to take down the Christmas lights and even put their Christmas trees at the end of their driveways for recycling. There is also the tradition of making new year's resolutions and I'm far from being exempt from that habit.
Every new year I set out goals for myself, from dietary to fitness to spiritual to the more practical. So, for 2011, my dietary and fitness goals revolve around reducing the amount of bodily inflammation I have. I don't mean such sundry things as scraped knees though I'd like to avoid that, too. By bodily inflammation, I am referring to a more chronic, low grade bodily systemic inflammation.
In their book Ultraprevention Drs. Mark Liponis and Mark Hyman offer sensible advice and well researched information on many of the health problems facing western civilization today. Liponis and Hyman, both medical doctors, address the connection between lifestyle and the development of health problems. There is something intuitive about the idea of mind-body connection but now the research seems to bear this out. As I have MS and as MS involves an inflammatory response to the activation of my already overactive immune system, the issue of strategies was of particular interest to me. Liponis and Hyman state, "...Unfortunately, this protective mechanism of our immune system also has dangerous secondary effects on our bodies. The result of this inflammatory response by the immune system is unfortunately damage to many different organs in our bodies, as well as our circulatory system itself, because our immune system is an integral part of each and every organ in our body as well as being in the bloodstream itself..."(1)Also, "...In the case of chronic inflammation, a safer strategy may be to employ anti-inflammatory nutritional and lifestyle changes that can help to reduce inflammation..." Always one for these kinds of challenges and as January 1st approaches, I thought it best to resolve to include more anti inflammatory foods into my already cautious diet. In fact, I'm currently enjoying a nice cuppa mint green tea (green tea alone is, to me, undrinkable).
As I like to set fitness goals, I resolve this winter season to get 100 kilometres of skiing done. I've already got 19 kilometres so far and I'd be out there right now but for the lack of snow. Oh, and the windchill is a bone numbing 2000watts/m^2, aka TOO BLASTED COLD IN THE WIND. However, the season is still young so I'm not worried...yet. My other fitness goal for 2011 is to trike 100 kilometres in one outing. I did 80 this year and lived to tell the tale.
The role of exercise in keeping chronic inflammation down has been very well researched. Specifically, "...that improvements in glucose metabolism were associated with decreases in cytokine concentrations during weight loss programs..." (3) This conclusion was made from having studied overweight and obese post menopausal women and while I am none of the above need to be just as careful. My new year also promises to be spritually enriching for me as I will be more involved with the Ottawa Buddhist Society. I have found the OBS in particular and Buddhism in general to be so helpful to me, especially when I'm convinced that I will be forever 10 kilometres from home and I'm exhausted and hungry and need to go pee... Buddhism has helped me to put things into perspective a little more easily and you can't go wrong there! Thus, in '11, I resolve to immerse myself into a deeper spirituality; the environment is so supportive and caring that it can only be good for everyone involved.
Finally, even though I'm looking at the crusty layer of snow and ice covering my back yard, I have already got plans for my little garden. Try as we might (and we did), we just cannot grow vegetables in the back yard. The work and care put into the venture just seem to outstrip the fruits of our labours - literally and figuratively. I grew tomatoes last year and, despite the healthy lush green stalks, only got about 10 tomatoes from two plants. I planted two packets of sugar snap peas last year and got mediocre results...
...however, the herbs I grew last year were incredible. We had a really good crop of sweet basil, thyme, marjoram, Egyptian parsley, oregano and chives. So, we will be growing only herbs in '11. What we harvested from '10, we dried and will continue to use in soups and stews. So my practical resolution in '11 is to grow some healthy herbs. I've already got the back yard plotted out and know what is going to go where. We only need for the spring to eventually come.
In the meantime, I am enjoying the day, grateful to be living it and hoping we get some more snow soon. I've only gone skiing three times this season, I'm up for more...May you all have a good new year's holiday and an awesome 2011!

(1) (2)


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Opportunities - it's what you see in 'em.

Well, today is the winter solstice here in Canada - and, indeed, anywhere north of the equator. Last night was also the December Esbat (full moon) and, lo, a total lunar eclipse. Astrologers and even the media made it a point to let us know just how odd it is to have a total lunar eclipse right up against the though those two events coinciding actually means anything significant.

For me and Adam, the eclipse meant an opportunity. He set up the digital camera and the tripod so that at the time of maximum totality, we would be ready to take as many pictures as we comfortably could. Snapping pictures of an eclipsed moon would involve opening the window which, in December, would not have been a cozy prospect. Still, it was an opportunity not to be missed.

We missed it.

It isn't that we couldn't drag our sorry behinds out of bed at 03:something-ghastly in the morning but that the low clouds we had noted before going to bed were still hanging in there. Now, at 07:01, I have the time to consider that our having missed last night's total lunar eclipse wasn't so much a lost opportunity to see this wonderful event but an opportunity to sleep all through the night. This has major implications for me as a both x-c skiier and cyclist.

I have had it expressed to me in the past that my having MS must make it easy for me to get a lot of sleep. MS is an incredibly fatiguing illness and if I had to pick just one symptom that negatively affects me the most I'd have to say it's the fatigue. However, fatigue doesn't necessarily mean sleepy and many are the nights where I toss and turn and wake regularly so getting a good night's sleep is both a gift and quite rare.

For me to be at my best, physically, I need to be well rested just like everyone else does. Think about how you feel when you're not well rested; cranky, muddy-headed, impatient, pain-more-easily-felt, et cetera. If I haven't been able to sleep properly, no matter why that is, then the chances of me being able to cycle, ski or even read a book where I understand it are similarly reduced.

So, while I am certainly disappointed for having missed the opportunity to see last night's total lunar eclipse, even if it was due to the overcast skies, I at least took the opportunity to get that much more rest. Now, today, I can head out on foot and get some exercise. We still don't have much in the way of snow though there is some in the forecast (for now), but at least the skiing conditions haven't deteriorated as far as I can tell. If I can ski, I can stay fit for the trike season. For me, it's a matter of seeing the chance when it shows itself and taking the opportunity to just do it!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

complementary activities in a winter funderland...

The weather outside is...

...snowy, which is awesome. Indeed, the EC radar for here is showing what looks like a snowy streamer making a beeline for Ottawa. It's not like the mountains of snow they're getting in the UK but any amount for our purposes is good.

I'm writing this over a breakfast of rice, my just emptied cup of coffee still sending light waves of hazelnut vanilla through the air. The type of snow that's falling right now is the really lovely kind, too. Great big fluffy potato chip flakes are tumbling through the silence of Sunday morning.

We went cross country skiing yesterday. We gathered our skis and poles and sauntered over to our beloved Sawmill Creek Constructed Wetlands. Ever since the city both expanded the trail network and improved what was there already, I had been chomping at the bit to find out how the skiing would be. Ever since we became aware of this very-close-to-home gem, we had always made it a point to go there as regularly as possible and that included for skiing. Last winter, I only managed to get out twice and that was before Christmas. Afterwards, the weather just wasn't good for skiing. Adam managed to go there a few more times by himself but even he admitted the conditions just weren't the best.

So, we went out yesterday afternoon and did some trail setting as no one else had been there recently. Oh, we did see tire tracks and footprints - some of which weren't human - but as far as we knew, we were the only ones on skis. We wound up skiing from the southern entrance to the SCCW all the way up to the Walkley transit station and back - 5 kilometres. This morning our plan is to do that trip twice. Given the amount of preparation necessary, such as waxing one's skis and the elaborate ritual of layering clothes for the trek, it's really best to do as many kilometres as possible. That's the plan anyway.

Soo...what does this have to do with catriking? Well, I really don't like not being physically active in at least some manner. I get such a big kick out of my catrike that I really prefer to be in as good a physical condition for the season as possible. Since we don't catrike in the winter, neither of us wants to get out of shape for spring. So, we make it a point to have two utterly perfectly complementary activities so that we always stay in a good shape. I use the long catriking season to prepare for the cross-country ski season and the cross-country ski season to prepare for the catriking season.

It's still snowing and I still like it. When I hit the trails again today, I will thoroughly enjoy them knowing that I am in training for catriking season '11.

**********Later, as in, after a good lunch**********
Well, we did 7 kilometres and not the 10 I had originally said. Lots of reasons, mostly to do with me getting tired from the extra duty upper body workout. This is what happens when one waxes too cold!

In the catriking world, there really isn't much of an analogy. If the tires are pumped up properly and one isn't riding on several centimetres of mashed potatoes then conditions shouldn't be too - uh - challenging. Cross country skiing is different...but at least we got good exercise. Gotta keep those arms and legs in good shape for cycling, right?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

When they build it...

...we will be there.

The triking season is certainly done for the year. We have a few centimetres of dry snow that have been whipped about by the really high winds we have had as of late. We have some more snow in the forecast and so my thoughts are now mostly on the hoped for cross country ski conditions.

We do the vast majority of our cross country skiing in the nearby Sawmill Creek Constructed Wetlands, a simple series of pathways located about 400 metres from our house. We often go for walks there throughout the year as well as ski there so it's a useful facility for us year-round. Indeed, this past summer, the City of Ottawa extended the pathways so that users can easily get to the Walkley transit station. That's good news for us as it gives us more places to trike, walk and, at this time of year,
ski. However, the pathway system at the SCCW is still a closed loop. It doesn't allow for easy access from any nearby neighbourhoods...until now, that is.

The Sawmill Creek Constructed Wetlands are located where Hunt Club Road meets with Airport Parkway. It's kind of wedged in between Airport Parkway, a busy road leading into the city from the airport - hence the name - and the South Keys shopping centre. As it's a wetland, bird species like red winged blackbirds, the ubiquitous gulls and a few graceful looking herons are common there. However, it's also a recreational area for joggers, dog walkers and cyclists...and the city is moving to expand its use.

Enter, the bridge. We learned of the city's plan to construct a bridge to join the Hunt Club Community to South Keys and then learned of the public information session held last night - December 7th. City engineers and planners came out to the Hunt Club-Riverside Community Centre, set up a series of information panels in a medium sized gymnasium and were available to answer any questions members of the public may have had.

The information panels consisted, in large part, of descriptions of the project. Such descriptions must have been written by marketing people as promises were made that users of the bridge would feel nothing less than "delighted". Mostly, I just wanted to see what this bridge would look like, who would use it and how it would open the community to cyclists and pedestrians.

The bridge, as yet unnamed, is supposed to start around Cahill West, rise and cross Airport Parkway only to settle back onto the SCCW pathway. Hypothetically, it should both connect residents in the Hunt Club West community to the South Keys shopping centre and provide users a way to get to the shopping centre and transit stations there without having to negotiate the rather busy Hunt Club Road. It should also allow people who live in South Keys and points east (I'm thinking Greenboro) to cycle to Hog's Back for the ever-welcome Alcatel/Lucent Sunday bike days, again, without having to negotiate busy roads like Hunt Club. The bridge won't replace the use of such roads for cyclists but it will provide an alternative, and that's its job.

The bridge should also make it easier for pedestrians and cyclists alike to access the South Keys transit station. The plans include the building of a shiny new tunnel connecting the wetlands to the transitway station's lower level pedestrian underpass. This also means the dismantling of the old, crumbling tunnel that is currently there. Two doors at the west end of the transit station will allow entry of both cycles and wheelchairs. As well, a ramp of no more than 5 degrees and hugging the South Keys station will allow people to gain access to the transit platform itself. The gentle slope will make this both cycle and wheelchair accessible. This is put in place to accommodate the difference in elevation between the South Keys transit station and the wetlands. Right now, hardy walkers need to first hop over a railing, negotiate a fairly steep drop from the transit station to the wetlands, as strewn with rocks, bushes and the odd tree root just to make the whole process interesting. Oh, did I mention the "Keep Out - this means YOU" sign that is both present and thoroughly ignored? Currently, it is not possible to bring a bike through and the new tunnel promises to fix that.

The bridge won't really do much for us. It's just as easy for us to ride the short distance (and it is short) along Hunt Club to reach places like Hog's Back or Colonel By Drive. It will provide an easier way for us to access the Hunt Club community's roads like Cahill West, Plante and McCarthy. Mostly, it'll just be one more cycle friendly route for us and others to explore.

I know the title of this blog entry is a play on the oft-used phrase "If you build it, they will come!" but, according to the city councillor for the area, Maria McRae, it isn't a matter of "if" but "that". The bridge's construction costs (estimated at around $5 million dollars) have been accounted for in the city's budget and the bridge itself is scheduled for completion around this time next year. Unfortunately, that means that we won't be able to try it out for the 2011 cycle season but it should be wide open to the public for the 2012 season.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Segregated lanes?

Well, here I sit sipping a cup of coffee and watching the closest thing to lake-effect snow squalls that Ottawa gets. Actually, if the wind and moisture profile is just right, Ottawa can get some pretty good snow squalls though I readily concede that they're nothing like the kind places like Barrie or Trenton get. If you drive up the 400 from Toronto to Barrie you will pass a number of big yellow road signs warning of potential sudden white out conditions due to lake effect snow squalls.

It isn't called the snow belt for no reason!

We have had a couple of little snowfalls over the past few weeks or so and we now have a good 2 or 3 centimetres draped on everything. With the prospect of a few more snow squalls drifting through here it would seem that ski season is not too far off - but it also means that the triking season is done.

So that leaves us the prospective good winter's worth of x-c skiing, likely at the Sawmill Creek Constructed Wetlands whose trail system the city had expanded earlier this year (yay!). It also leaves me to watch for news items about cycling. With the city of Ottawa having just elected a new mayor, one who is purportedly extremely pro-cycling, Adam and I were more than pleased to learn of a proposed dedicated bike lane on Laurier Avenue. Of course, the article in question seems to be just as focused on how the BIA feels about a segregated bike lane on Laurier. It seems to me, though, that the BIA feel as though they own Laurier Avenue and that anything even remotely different from what they, personally, want is tantamount to a declaration of war.

Come on, what kind of garbage is that? Since when does making business easier to get to by cyclists cause serious problems? I would think that business could be boosted by a comparatively slow moving cyclist who could then take the time to actually look at a business rather than zooming past in a faster travelling car or truck.

In my mind, this amounts to nothing more than mere NIMBYism. The proposed plan addresses the concerns of business owners as far as such matters as access is concerned but the real issue here is how the city of Ottawa can improve accessibility for ALL people, not just motor vehicle drivers. Page 4 of the plan (it's a .pdf so keep that in mind if you click on the link) clearly states that,
"Emergency vehicle access, access to off-street loading zones, and access to building entrances and parkades are all maintained." (italics mine)

Unfortunately, this kind of having-to-justify-improved-access-to-businesses is exactly what's wrong with a lot of cycling and car problems. The fact is that bicycles of any description and cars do not mix well on roads and a large part of the reason for that is simply to do with visibility. My own experience has been that car drivers don't so much loathe having to share the road with cycles as that they simply do not see us on the road and that when they do see us they cannot know what we are going to do. In that respect, I can't blame car drivers for, what would you think if you saw a cyclist beat on down the road, hop onto a sidewalk, zip into a parking lot using the exit lane, run stop signs, sail through red lights and travel the wrong way on roads? My own thoughts on this are that the building and designating of segregated bike lanes can and will do so much to solve a lot of those problems. I'm not saying such a resource will stop any and all dumb shit some cyclists do but it will significantly reduce the occurrences. It would also reduce or even eliminate the reason for doing dumb things in the first place. Ask cyclists who are riding on the sidewalk why they do that and a lot will tell you that it's too dangerous to be on the road (which is BS, by the way, as evidenced by the large numbers of cyclists who do use the road and live to tell the tale) or that it's a lot more convenient. If the city builds a whole, connected system of roads with segregated bike lanes, this problem goes away.

But it requires a shift in behaviour on the part of cyclists and, more tellingly from the article on Laurier Avenue, a serious shift in understanding the realities of higher fuel prices, the fact that some people are choosing to give up their cars and do everything on bike and the fact that at least a few people are choosing to improve their own health by cycling instead of driving. I'm looking at you, BIA, so don't pretend I'm talking to someone else.

As for me, well, my trike is, for all intents and purposes, parked for the winter. I won't take it out again until next spring and only after a good rain washes away all the salt that this city likes to dump on everything. I will continue to write about cycling issues, including a few goodies like maybe some trail mix recipes or just some musings about prospective triking trips while slogging away trying to break a new trail in the wetlands after a good dumping of snow.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Trail on the trail

Monday turned out to be a somewhat sunnier and, thus, slightly warmer day than originally forecast. However, at this time of year, the weather can and does change quickly and so it's a tough call for even the most experienced forecasters to stay on top of things. October in Ottawa is often a breezy affair as the predominant weather pattern changes from the sultry lassitude of summer to the chilled wet of autumn.

Consequently, we thought it would be a good idea to head out on a cycling venture. It actually hadn't rained a great deal recently and so Adam thought it would be a good opportunity to show to me some more of this city's trail network.

The city of Ottawa, in conjunction with the National Capital Commission (NCC) has a plan to create an intricate network of recreational trails from the Mer Bleue/Green's Creek area to the east of here and joining with the trail network around Shirley's Bay to the west of here. These recreational trails are multi-use which means anyone can hike, presumably ski in the winter and - on Monday - cycle through it.

While the colours of the foliage in autumn have already peaked here and the now everpresent winds are s-l-o-w-l-y stripping the branches of their leaves, we thought there was still enough colour and beauty to take a video of me on my Catrike Trail. Adam filmed me from his mountain bike as his Catrike Speed has too low a clearance to easily negotiate the thick clumps of soggy, drag-inducing leaves. In fact, for most of the journey on the trail itself, I had to gear down to the first sprocket. My Trail performed well anyway but it's really designed for road use, despite the name. In fact, at a couple of points, even the lowest gear still had me struggling a bit. Partly it's that I hadn't been out too much lately and so my fitness level had dropped a bit (it happens with startling ease) but it was also that it was late afternoon when my energy level can drop pretty precipitously. It didn't help that we were trying to negotiate trails that consisted mostly of 10+ centimetre thick leaves. Whenever we stopped, we would take a few seconds to pick leaves and twigs from places like the idler on my trike and even the brakes on Adam's mountain bike. It was slow going, mostly because of me. At one point, even in the lowest possible gear, I was still slipping a bit unless I crawled along at the amazing speed of a glacier. Yes, I was more than up to the task but it was still a struggle at some points.

Once we were back on the paved road and heading home, I was able to sail along at my usual speeds of anywhere between 12-23 km/hr. The total distance for this trip was 11.77 kilometres.

You take what you can get at this time of year.


Saturday, October 9, 2010

"Weather" or not...

I don't have plans to go out on my trike today. Shame, really, because it's sunny and not too frightfully cold - however, it is a bit too windy for me. I'm relying on the forecast for continued sunny skies and seasonably cool temperatures to reassure me that the triking season, though old and aging, is not over.

As I had written in my last post, the seasons here in Ottawa do tend to follow the calendar pretty closely so I am anticipating at least a few more weeks of triking weather before we get into that in-between-time when it's too cold, windy and wet to trike but not snowy enough to go skiing. With any luck that post-triking-pre-skiing "season" won't be too long. Sure, I can do lots of indoor activities, most notably crocheting, but I really can't exercise much more than the muscles in my wrist and if I can't get out for a good trike run or to hit the trails I can get pretty antsy.

Part of the problem for me there is that, with MS, I often feel as though I am on borrowed time. Sure, my neurologist recently declared my multiple sclerosis to be stable but that certainly doesn't mean relapses won't happen. The last thing I want is to miss out on a good chunk of outdoor activity because I can't walk or my fatigue levels make anything more demanding than reading a book nearly impossible. The fact is, that I like to stay physically active and, no, it isn't to do with "battling" or "defeating" MS. There's neither anything to battle nor to defeat. It has nothing to do with MS or any medical condition whatsoever - I have always been a physically active person long before I developed MS. However laudable that may be, though, anything I like to do depends a great deal on the weather. This is why I try to have a favourite activity for each season but seasons here don't just suddenly change - for that I would have to move back to Alberta (hee hee hee).

Catering to the weather is not some onerous task for which I must suffer. Suffering at all is an option, but I can feel disappointed when the hoped for sunshine or happily anticipated snowfall just doesn't materialize. To help there, I write some rambling dissertation on this blog about the weather, or maybe a neat recipe I discovered or even about some new crochet stitch I finally learned.

No matter, today is a great day and tomorrow's hike to take in the glorious colour of autumn will help to keep things in perspective for me.


Monday, October 4, 2010

Borrowed Time

Ottawa is one of those cities whose predominant weather pattern seems to follow the seasons quite tightly.

For instance, the first day of autumn is typically cool and crisp with trees displaying their mantle of fiery oranges, reds and yellows. While we often see snow before December 21st, we generally don't get our first 'permanent' snow cover before that. Yes, that's a huge generalization as anyone who recalls the winter of 2007-2008 will attest when it snowed from mid-December onward. The ground is often a sticky morass of muck, rocks and old crusty ice by March - though the first day of spring is generally a warm and pleasant venture and we will have had our first sweltering heat wave by June 21, when summer officially begins.

Again, these are generalizations but they do allow for at least some modicum of planning and this year is proving to be no exception.

By late August, the green of the trees is noticeably lighter as the little chlorophyll factories in the leaves start to shut down and allow the "true colour" of the leaves themselves to emerge. By September, the trees were really starting to change and now, in early October, we are in the thick of warm coloured vibrancy.

September was also one of the rainiest months we have had this year. See, that's the interesting thing about autumn here - it can be dry and cool-bordering-on-cold or it can be a wet undertaking. Not only was it a wet month but it was also, by my estimation and from this side of my morning coffee in early October, a windy one. Wind is a challenge on the trike but rain and wind together always equal staying inside.

In other words, we didn't do much triking in September.

To be sure, the catriking season here in Canada's capital is a pretty lengthy one compared to, say, the prairies or even northern Ontario. Nevertheless, at this time of year, we are on borrowed time. The weather patterns have been shifting for the past few weeks and it would not surprise me in the least if we see our first few tentative snowflakes by this month's end. That means we need to get out when we can. There are a few advantages to triking in autumn which I think bear mentioning.

1. There are, generally, no bugs. Yesterday, we did a quick 17 kilometre trip to Mooney's Bay and slightly beyond. When we stopped, Adam noticed an electron cloud of gnats buzzing and hovering just above his trike. It was sunny and not too chilly. However, at least there weren't attack squadrons of mosquitoes.

2. The temperature tends to be reasonable. 'Nuff said on that.

3. The bike paths are often not too crowded. A lot of people will only cycle on sunny, hot summer days and that's just fine. They put their bikes away after Labour Day or whenever their season is done. We will be triking until the first snow falls.

4. I don't have to put on quite as much sunscreen. While I don't often trike in shorts (that's a good thing - no, really, it's a good thing), I will trike in a T-shirt if it's really hot outside and that means wearing sunscreen on my arms. In the autumn, I wear a very light windbreaker so no sunscreen is required. Plus, I wear light gloves so my hands don't get chapped and over-dried in the colder air.

Otherwise, triking in autumn is at least as lovely as triking in the summer and I hope to do more over the next few that the cold rains of September have passed and we can get on with enjoying what is often the loveliest time of the year. Then, I can look forward to the winter (I'm one of those rare Canadians who actually enjoys the winter) and getting in some x-c skiing - perfect maintenance exercise for next year's catriking season.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Another use for the Catrikes

Yesterday, Tuesday September 14th, was both cool and breezy but not so chilly and windy that we couldn't take the trikes out for yet another spin. At this time of year, with the seasons s-l-o-w-l-y starting to change, it's important to take advantage of any good cycling conditions and yesterday was just such a day. We did have another reason for heading out beyond the mere fun of it all.

See, because Adam and I are boring types, it is not uncommon for us to turn a recreational activity into something scientific. So, with the Sawmill Creek Constructed Wetlands having had its pathways expanded recently, a change we both heartily welcomed, we thought we would take our trikes there and measure the total distance around the trails.

We use the Sawmill Creek Constructed Wetlands for more than walking or triking; in the winter, it's a great x-c ski trail. From our house, it's a mere 400 metres to the southern entrance. For the past two winters, we would often scoop up our skis and poles and make our way to this nearby gem to ski there. Of course, as the SCCW isn't just for skiing, we do have to share this facility with hikers, dog walkers and even kids out playing. More often than not, though, we would get to the place after a good snowfall only to find that no one else had been there. Blazing trails would be our job but it's a lot of fun and certainly great exercise. However, we never really knew exactly how long the trail was. We estimated the original loop was about 2 or 3 kilometres so a session of blazing a trail and then heading around it once more would be about a 5 kilometre trek...not bad though we could certainly go further. What we tried to find out yesterday, however, was just how long the trail network is, especially since the city added to it. This is where the catrikes came into good use.

Both our trikes have speedometres/trip odometres; a small but important piece of equipment we added to them (thanks MEC). So, we triked to the SCCW, entered the trails, reset the odometres to '0' and began taking measurements. The network isn't just a simple loop but has a couple of spurs that lead away and eventually end at the Walkley transit station. Long story short, we measured 5 kilometres (plus or minus a few metres) a very welcome addition to the already existing network, and all thanks to the trip odometres we have on our trikes. Of course, we wanted to just head out and have fun anyway which we did.

So, when the catriking season ends - at the first snow of the season - we will have some actual numbers of how long the trail is and how long our cross-country skiing path will be. Yes, I really like catriking but I also really enjoy x-c it snow, let it snow, let it snow!!


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A study in contrasts...

That's just a nice, fancy, almost academic way of saying that the last trike trip we did a few days ago was under very different conditions from the time before. Indeed, the trip we took this past Saturday was quite different from the 66 kilometre venture on Labour Day.

For one thing, there wasn't so much as a breath of wind this past Saturday. The winds we experienced on Labour Day would have guaranteed absolute success for anyone wanting to fly a kite! This past Saturday saw us triking in still conditions. Oh, certainly we experienced some breezes and some slight gustiness thanks to convection but it was barely noticeable at the time. Our trip this past Saturday was for a picnic lunch. We weren't intending to go too far - maybe 20 or 30 kilometres round trip, but we did want to head into town along the bike paths. That is where we encountered our biggest challenge!

As I had mentioned a few blog posts ago, the city of Ottawa has seen fit to tear up as much of the bike paths in the city as possible ostensibly for maintenance reasons and not because they hate cyclists. We both understand and appreciate the time and effort put forth for maintenance of the bike paths. However, when the bike paths remain shredded for pretty much the whole season, it's hard not to at least suspect that the city of Ottawa has less than no interest in the needs of cyclists despite the fact that we pay taxes too!

Yet, the fact that we bring maps with us each and every time we head out has saved our skins on more than a few occasions. The Labour Day trip we took required us to find an alternate route home from around the Billings Bridge area. If it hadn't been for our trusty map...(sentence deliberately incomplete to allow readers to complete it as they see fit)

However, this past Saturday had us only having to crunch and trickle our way along a gravelled segment of the bike path for a short period and it really wasn't that bad. It's easier for bicycles to negotiate those sorts of 'path-removed-for-your-benefit' parts because of the high clearance between the ground and the chain/derailleur/gearing/moving bits. In contrast our catrikes have a low clearance - in Adam's case very low. That means that the chain/derailleur/gearing/moving bits sits perilously close to the gravel and other damaging bits and it also demands a fairly slow going along there to at least reduce the risk of any damage. However, the weather remained gorgeous so neither of us seemed to care that we were relegated to creeping along at the amazing speed of a glacier.

Some twelve kilometres into our trip and we found a lovely picnic bench just off the bike path. It was close to lunch time anyway and we were both hungry. The trail runs alongside the Rideau Canal and with the day gloriously sunny, calm and actually nice and warm Adam and I ate our lunch and did some general people watching. We saw a lot of people out walking their dogs, other cyclists a few roller bladers and some who were just out for a nice walk on a gorgeous sunny Saturday. At this time of year, the weather can be sunny, warm(ish) and dry or cool-bordering-on-cold, rainy and gloomy. Today looks to be chilly, cloudy and maybe breezy...but last Saturday was not!


Friday, September 10, 2010

Happy Eid ul-Fitr

I know this isn't really to do with catriking per se but I wanted to extend my best wishes to all Muslims everywhere for a good and happy Eid ul-Fitr.

I looked out my window this morning and saw nearly 20 young children running down the street. These children, dressed in their finery and carrying what looked like large gift bags looked adorable. One young boy in particular looked no older than about 3 years of age. He had to hold his arm almost straight up so that the gift bag wouldn't drag on the ground. An older Muslim woman, apparently in charge of this cluster of kids, was bringing up the rear as these children headed towards a house on the street. I wasn't sure what was happening until I suddenly realized that as Ramadan had now ended, the festivities could now begin.

So...HAPPY EID UL-FITR!! May you all be blessed with a prosperous year, good health and happiness.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Another trip to Rockcliffe

August was hot with a few minor exceptions. Actually, it wasn't just hot but boiling hot with humidex values rivalling the inside of the sun. So, we didn't get out too much (I don't trike when it's stinking hot) but this past Sunday would see us hit the road for the last Alcatel/Lucent Sunday bike day. This time, our trip wouldn't just take us along the Colonel By drive as in times past. Today, we had a different plan.

We had arranged to meet up with Jane at her place, enjoy a breakfast together, head out once more and aim ourselves at the Aviation Museum where we would meet up with Rob and Debbie, other friends of ours. We packed a lunch, extra tools (you never know if they'll be needed) and so headed out early on the morning of Sunday, September 6th. We followed our usual route winding our way through suburbia until we got to Mooney's Bay park. We knew there was still a lot of construction going on around there, complete with path closures and little in the way of guidance to get around the mess. Thankfully, it was only a small matter of pulling over right at Hog's Back Falls, retrieving our map and plotting our own detour.
I'm grateful for maps. Without them, who knows where we'd have wound up??

We found ourselves pedalling slowly along gravel strewn pathways and down that awesome hill at Vincent Massey Park. From that point, the construction fence prevented us from going any further so we had to put our trikes on the road. Thankfully, as it was early on a Sunday morning, the amount of vehicular traffic was quite low and so we had no problems zooming along Heron Road to get to Riverside Drive. That's where we discovered that Riverside itself was down to one lane...and a pretty rutted one at that! Again, I am grateful that there wasn't much in the way of motor vehicle traffic though that's not to say there was none.

Sailing down Riverside, Adam and I did our level best to avoid as many ruts, frost heaves and bumps as possible. Still, on two occasions did I find myself airborne for a second before landing. Lemme tell you, that's hard on the back. Yet, we survived all that and, as soon as we could, got ourselves back onto the pathways. We took a water break, commented on just how - uh - challenging that part of the trip was and then resumed our trip to meet up with Jane at her place.

Far from the roads and the cars (Bank Street isn't one of those roads that's closed on these Sunday bike days), I found myself enjoying the quiet of the pathways and in greeting the growing numbers of joggers, cyclists, people out walking their dogs and roller bladers. I also couldn't help but notice the tall and thick clusters of butter daisies.

We got to Hurdman, veered north on the trail and wound our way along there. Within a few minutes, we caught up with Jane at her place and went inside for a breakfast and a chance to catch up, not to mention warm up. We had had a bit of a cold front come through, sweeping away the hot humid air and a chilly air mass was now firmly installed. It was also quite windy though not as windy as the previous day. In fact, when the three of us started out (for me and Adam it was a resumption of the trek), we noticed that a rather large tree branch had fallen and was blocking the trail. Still, we were all able to ride up on the grass and sneak around the branch.

At one point, the trail turned and followed a more westerly direction and that's when the impact of the strengthening winds hit us. At least we weren't late so we could just plough our way upwind for the short time that we needed to. In short order, we were off the trail and onto that quiet network of streets that circle behind the governor general's residence. From there, we headed down yet more torn up roads and caught up with the pathway heading to the Aviation Museum. The car traffic on the road was beginning to pick up a bit but it wasn't anything too onerous; not even the - at times extremely - narrowed lane proved to be a concern.

We got to the museum by around 10:40am; just enough time for a quick bathroom break before Rob and Debbie were supposed to meet us. Sure enough, by 10:53 (yes, I checked my watch), they caught up with us having cycled all the way from their house in the city's south.

We five headed out, travelling (predominantly) east along the closed-to-motor-vehicles Rockcliffe Parkway. As with the last time we cycled this particular route, the road was silky smooth. The clouds had that post cold front look to them, little fluffy cotton balls being systematically torn to shreds by the strong and now *very* gusty winds aloft. Wearing out - as is the way for me - I did have to pull over twice before we reached the far point along our way. The other four also pulled over and we each enjoyed a good water break and a chance to catch our breath. At one point, Adam noticed that Jane's tires looked a little low so he used our mini travel air pump to top up her bicycle tires. By then, the morning was wearing on and we all were planning to stop at Rockcliffe Park for a picnic lunch despite it being chilly, windy and not really all that 'picnic-y'.

We turned around and headed back though, this way, we were now beating into the strong winds. Still, a good time was had by all despite the straining muscles. I guess images of sitting down and enjoying a good lunch kept everyone motivated to keep going. So, we cycled onward, stopping where needed and pushing on otherwise. It wasn't too long before we got to Rockcliffe Park...where that ice cream stand is. Of course, it being chilly and windy, ice cream wouldn't have figured too prominently in everyone's minds...except that you do build up a fair sweat slogging into the winds.

Lunch was had, along with ice cream and then, after lunch settled, we five continued our journey back, retracing our steps as we did. We said our "goodbyes" to Jane when we got to the point in the trail where she would have to turn off in order to get home. Then, the remaining four of us cycled along towards Hurdman.

Once at Hurdman, we said "goodbye" to Rob and Debbie who had elected to take a different path home. That left us meandering through the pathway around Hurdman and back along Riverside...and the seemingly perpetually torn up road.

In the end, we wound up taking a slightly different route from the bike path on Riverside, along Data Center Road to Heron and then through more suburbia and down to the Walkley transit station. The city had recently extended the bike paths through the Sawmill Creek constructed wetlands so that now one could ride from the transit station all the way down to - essentially - Hunt Club Road and Airport Parkway. Of course, our route would have us at the Walkley station entry on Walkley Road...not the transit platform below. To get there, we would have to individually wedge our trikes into the elevator (yes, it's possible) and take it down to the transit platform and, of course, the northern start point of the constructed wetlands trail.

Long, grunting story short, we bobbed and weaved our way through it all and were ejected at Airport Parkway. A quick turn onto Airport Parkway, a little ways down to Hunt Club Road, another left turn there and we found ourselves at Bridlepath. From there, it was a mere hundred or so metres to our garage door.


Total distance, 60.668 kilometres by my trike's trip odometre.

So, now another Sunday bike day season has come and gone. I use this program as a prime cue for me as to when seasons start and end. Even though it is still, technically, summer, in my eyes, it is autumn. This was emphasized to me by the increasing numbers of trees whose leaves have begun to metamorphose into that gorgeous fiery palette. To be sure, the triking season is by no means over and we will continue cycling until the first snows fall. At that point, we will park our trikes for the season, covered and well oiled/maintained of course. Then, we haul out the x-c skis. We typically ski at the Sawmill Creek constructed wetlands and, with the city having expanded the pathway, can only mean more skiing!


Sunday, August 22, 2010

The weather turns...

Well, much like last Sunday, the day is cloudy, breezy and increasingly wet. Yes, here it is - late August, and there are only three Sunday bike days left in the season before the parkways are no longer closed to motorized traffic. Yet, at this time, 9:01 am, neither of us is out there pedalling away. Despite my having had some MS related problems of late, I am actually not entirely out of commission. This time, it's the weather. It's just not conducive to being out there on the catrike...not today anyway.

Nevertheless, the forecast is calling for improving conditions for later this upcoming week. In fact, the latest Environment Canada guess/forecast is calling for clearing skies tomorrow afternoon with a cycling-perfect high of 24C and with the easterly winds of 20km/hr becoming light. You can't beat that with a stick and so I plan on heading out while I can.

I use the cycling season, which starts (for us) from the time the street sweepers brush away the last of the dried salt encrusted roads around late March/early April, to the first snowfall, as a way to not just stay in shape but to tide me over until the x-c ski season begins. I use the x-c ski season to keep me in shape and to prepare for the cycling season. So, I have ways of getting out and just enjoying the days we are blessed with. In this time of climate change, I can't really predict when the cycling season will be. I recall us going bicycling in January 2006 - January, mind you.

I really enjoy the way the weather changes. I am already noting that a few of the leaves on our trees are changing colour. I can see that the honey locust tree in the back yard has a few yellow leaves, as does the globe linden tree in our front yard. I am anticipating cycling in the autumn, especially along the bike trails as the fiery hues of autumn's splendour lend a shimmering glow to the entire network. It's been noted by all of our cycling friends that the city of Ottawa should extend the Alacatel/Lucent Sunday Bike days to Thanksgiving and maybe even beyond. I agree (and I know Adam agrees too). I think ending the Sunday bike days at Labour Day is much too early. I also know that the hours of 9:00 to 12:00 or even 1:00 pm on those precious Sundays is much too narrow a time frame and more than a few others have told me that they think the city should close those roads for longer on the Sundays. While I agree with that in principle also know that it wouldn't fly with city council.

I love the varied weather we have in Ottawa and make it a point to get out and embrace it, rather than complain about it. One could argue that's because I'm a Buddhist and so try to live in the direct present; however, I have always felt this way even before I became a Buddhist.

So, I won't head out on my trike today because of the weather but I will head out on foot. The cycling will be for tomorrow and for most of next week.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

The philosophy of cycling

Adam initially suggested I write this as a Nordic epic poem - something along the lines of Beowulf - but I couldn't find any way to incorporate an underwater battle with some fiend that lasts for 5 days. So, instead, I thought I would talk about the philosophy of cycling.

I came about this particular subject as we were attempting to negotiate a closed pathway. For some unknowable reason, the city of Ottawa thought it would be a great idea to do maintenance work on the O Train this summer. Fair enough but said maintenance also entailed the closure of certain sections of the bike trail - and an otherwise very well travelled portion of the trail I might add. Ottawa is well known for its expanding spider web of bike trails and people come from all over just to take advantage of this great why anyone in the city planning department would think that closing a good chunk of the bike trail at the height of summer was a good idea is beyond me.

So, here we were, on our way to catch up with Jane, a really good friend of ours, at Hurdman bus station. It's easy to get there on the trail network...but not so much when part of the trail is closed (q.v. previous paragraph). Thankfully, as we always bring a map with us, sorting out which way to detour wasn't a problem. As it was early in the day, traffic wasn't an issue either. It involved us setting down on the road and zipping up to Riverside Drive, a whole two blocks away. A turn onto Riverside and we were sailing down the road to reintercept the pathway. Sailing down the road, however, wasn't as good as it sounds and that is because the condition of the road could charitably be described as frighteningly awful - and that brings me to my point about the philosophy of cycling.

Despite Ottawa being touted as a very cycle friendly city, the truth is that anyone undertaking the trip we did today would conclude the opposite. Cars and trucks had no problems whatsoever negotiating the frost heave festooned, pothole bespeckled road. However, it was a really tough going for us both on our trikes and for anyone else on bicycles. Sure, car owners could argue that if we didn't like it that we could just hop onto the bike trail. This is something we would have easily preferred - but the closed pathway forced us to use the road. This city is car-centric; if a road were closed for repairs or maintenance you can bet your bottom dollar that detailed signs showing detours would warn drivers well ahead of time. Yet, when Adam first encountered the closure of the bike pathway a couple of weeks ago, the only information available was that cyclists would have to take an alternate way. It is telling to note that, according to Adam, someone had written the words, "like where???" under that first sign. Today, a rather large map provided an alternate route but which involved such a convoluted route that it wouldn't be worth it.

We did make it back onto the pathway and continued our trek to meet up with Jane at Hurdman. The bike trail there had its frost heaves and the odd pothole but it was nothing compared to the battle zone of Riverside Drive. I recall pedalling along the pathway, enjoying the warming morning and listening to the various bird calls and the growing chorus of cicadas. The sounds of traffic receded with each turn on the pathway and I couldn't help but wonder if any of those car drivers were able to appreciate the beautiful morning we were having. I hoped they could and that they weren't simply rushing about watching the world pass them by.

We caught up with Jane, discussed the rest of the trip and then headed out on more bike paths. There is something soothing and yet energizing about cycling. Maybe it's the feeling of my heart thumping as I push myself up yet another hill; maybe it's the relative quiet of the bike path - the only sound of note is the occasional ding ding of a bike about to pass; maybe it's the encountering of friends we haven't seen in awhile who are also out and enjoying the day.

We continued our trek along the bike path until we were ejected at Dufferin, which isn't too far from Rideau Hall, the governor general's residence. Cycling in that quiet neighbourhood on such a gorgeous morning felt really good and it wasn't long before we got back onto the bike pathway and headed to Rockcliffe airport. From there, the Rockcliffe parkway was closed to motor vehicle traffic and the three of us were joined by the growing numbers of other cyclists, roller bladers and a few roller skiers. It was a picture perfect day, with the odd cloud gently lazing across the early August day. It was only when we got to the end of the parkway, where both the barricades and automobiles were that I felt a certain...well...quiet sadness. It just seems to me that car drivers are almost always in a hurry, that too many of them just don't have the time to, literally, stop and smell the fresh air.

There is so much to experience from the seat of a cycle that you just can't experience from the seat of a car and I think it is mostly to do with the speed.

For me, a lot is the slowness of it all. Today, we did 64 kilometres but we averaged about 12 or 13 km/hr and took a few breaks. We left around 7:40 this morning and didn't get home until around 2:00 pm. Now, I am home, showered and resting up knowing that while I certainly wasn't the fastest cyclist out there am very calm and content with the day. I am not frazzled like too many drivers, having to get here and there, rushing about running errands and trying to meet some kind of hard schedule. There is no point in thrashing about - a reality I learned eleven years ago (this month actually) when I was first diagnosed with MS.

Slow down, take it easy, whatever you're rushing about for probably isn't worth it and anything that is worthwhile you will find a way to make it work...even if it means having to go on one of the bumpiest roads out there!


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sunday wonderful Sunday

Today was at least as lovely as yesterday. Sunshine and powdery blue skies greeted us as we left the house, armed with ice water, granola bars, a map and a plan.

Originally, we had talked about doing the regular Sunday bike trip along Colonel By drive but also heading further afield, specifically west to Lincoln Fields before turning south and intercepting the bike paths that would take us through the Experimental Farm.

It wouldn't work out that way...not this time.

We triked along the usual route, the heat of the day offset (slightly) by the slight cool of the waters around Mooney's Bay and Dow's Lake. The sounds of the cardinals (yes, they're still around) melded with the heavy buzzing noise of cicadas. I like cicadas; they say "It's the middle of summer - get out and enjoy it!!". I make it a point to note the date I hear my first cicada of the season. This year, it was July 2nd during our 80 k trip to Kanata and we've been entertained by the thickening rising - peaking - falling buzzing of these hard-to-spot bugs.

At any rate, we sped along Colonel By drive but I was finding that my legs were giving me some trouble. I did take plenty of water breaks - you really have to do that if you're exerting yourself especially in the heat. We both noticed, too, that the humidity levels weren't as low as one would have expected with the recent passage of a cold front. So, we decided to seriously change our travel plans. We triked to the canal and maneuvered through the clusters of tourists to intercept the Ottawa River bike pathway. We headed west, as originally planned, but elected to go as far as the turnoff for Remic Rapids. Once there, we decided to head back as I had had enough of the heat and humidity. So, we retraced our steps and found ourselves back at the Rideau Canal where an ice cream was clearly called for.

Travelling down the pathway, we found ourselves back at the Corktown pedestrian/cycle bridge. We glided along the top, turned along the U-twist at the very eastern edge of the bridge and got neatly deposited back onto the Colonel By drive. Of course, as it was still morning (though barely), the road was still closed to motor vehicle traffic so it was only a matter of us melding into the neat lines and clusters of cyclists. The rest of the journey home was at least as pleasant as the trip out. If my legs hadn't been acting up, we'd still be out there now and enjoying the sunny, hot day. I still managed to do 40 kilometres today bringing the weekend total to 62 kilometres...not too shabby...

I'm glad we got out when we did as, presumably, the humidity is supposed to be returning next week.


*It is quite common for people with MS to experience a worsening of symptoms when it's hot. Sometimes, something as simple as taking a hot shower or bath can make things feel worse. Those feelings are temporary and tend to remit when one has cooled sufficiently. I get that from time to time but, in my case, it is mostly the humidity that I can't deal too well with. If it's really hot but dry, my body can dissipate any excess heat through the cooling effect of evaporation of sweat. Everybody is like that. However, when it's humid, it's nearly impossible for anyone's body to adequately cool. For most others, the results are lassitude, crankiness and an overwhelming desire to listen to Neil Diamond. For me, the results are sheer, unadulterated fatigue and the only thing I can do is either cut down activity, seek cool shady places or locate an iced java somewhere. I don't get this problem in any other season except summer but, so far, it hasn't stopped me from getting outdoors anyway.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

After the front

There is this funny little myth about Canada that swears it snows here 365 days a year except for Vancouver. While it certainly gets cold and snowy here, that doesn't mean we don't get summer. This year, in fact this past week, we not only had summer but the humidity made conditions intolerable for any outdoor activity - catriking included.

Then, we had a half-way decent rainfall yesterday as a cold front passed and now the weather is a little cooler, not to mention easier to take. So, this morning, after a good breakfast, we decided to head out on what would be a 22 kilometre traipse through the Blossom Park Greenboro area.

The air was very humid and, with my MS acting up in this weather, we were in no hurry. Our trip started at home and then heading south on Bridlepath to Trapper's. I'm not going to bore you silly with a detailed account of every road we drove on. Suffice it to say we had a really good look at Saturday morning on the roads. There were quite a number of older people out walking their dogs before the day got to be too hot. I did see one young woman jogging and pushing a stroller at the same time. Interestingly enough, the number of cars was markedly low for a Saturday morning but I wasn't going to complain about that.

Our general direction was east and it was not long before we found ourselves at the local farm, Limeydale. Out of curiosity, I wanted to see what vegetables they had. If there had been anything of interest, it would not take much to convince me to buy - not to mention buy local. We really like the taste of fresh corn and maybe a small part of me hoped there would be some there. With the two panniers on my trike, it is nothing to pick up a couple of dozen ears of corn. If Adam is with me, that's two more panniers on his trike to hold anything else. Alas, the season is still so young so we will have to wait just a little longer.

We turned around at that point and would simply reverse our path to get home. The day was getting really quite hot, now, and so getting home soonest would be the best option we felt. It wasn't until we were about to turn onto the little street that connects ours with Bridlepath that we had an interesting encounter.

Bridlepath is a fairly well travelled road and with the weather having been nice, it was not surprising to see many others out driving around. It can get a little tricky when we're out on our trikes as we are slower than cars but we make a concerted effort to both move seamlessly with traffic and to strenuously obey the rules of the road.

Getting home involves a few left turns. Coming down Bridlepath, we needed to stop in the middle of the road to allow opposite direction traffic through before we could turn left. However, a car actually stopped and tried to wave us through. The gentleman in the truck behind her couldn't see why she had stopped and seemed to be contemplating passing her...and colliding right into us both if we had accepted this person's well meaning gesture. In the meantime, I was shaking my head and waving her through. She shrugged and smiled as she slid by seemingly oblivious to both the irritation of the truck driver behind her and the issue of following the rules of the road.

What we see a lot of are well meaning drivers who try to wave us through when we clearly do NOT have the right of way. While we certainly appreciate the thoughtfulness cannot emphasize enough that this is just not the right thing to do. Rules of the road are put in place to allow for the smooth and predictable flow of traffic. If some person comes to an intersection and - for whatever reason - decides to come to a stop at a green light so he or she can allow traffic at the red light to come through, the carnage would be terrible. The fact is that too many car drivers and cyclists do not understand that both cars and cycles are considered vehicles and so must abide by the same rules of the road. We don't run red lights or stop signs and we don't give the right of way to someone else if it's our turn to go. Cars aren't allowed to drive on the sidewalk so catrikes aren't either (at least it's like that here). I guess my point is that if you want to be nice and thoughtful, please don't block traffic but please don't cut us off either. We don't block traffic and we don't cut anyone off.

Saturday's trip was 22 kilometres.

Monday, July 5, 2010

When good enough isn't...

We knew the weather was going to get really hot, humid and oppressive. After all, it *is* July and, unlike the last two years, we haven't spent a whole bunch of time dealing with yet another rain soaked day.

So, here we were, fresh from our 10 kilometre walk we do on almost every Canada Day and talking about where to trike next. Actually, it wasn't so much where to trike next but when to trike next. With the typical stifling heat and humidity forecast to envelope us here in the nation's capital, we thought it best to do a really good trike trip soon - really soon, as in *tomorrow* soon...before the heat wave.

It was at that point where I indicated my triking goal of 80 kilometres to Adam. I had had such a great time doing 66 kilometres going to and from the Aylmer yacht club that I didn't think another 20 would be a problem. So, we decided to try heading out to Kanata, just west of the green belt that encircles Ottawa. With most people deciding to take an extended Canada Day weekend, we figured the roads and bike trails would be fairly open. The trail network to Kanata from here is about 40 kilometres so an 80 kilometre round trip was certainly within reason if not reach. The weather was forecast to be sunny, a little breezy and not that stinking hot that would infiltrate this part of the province only a day or two later.

The next day, armed with a really good lunch and well fed from a hearty breakfast of pancakes (yum!) we set out towards Kanata.

We could have driven along the roads but that would have been a fairly noisy and, to be honest, uninspiring venture. Besides, when Adam took his trike wayyyyy out to Carp airport last September he had ridden along some very lovely bike paths which he had wanted to show to me. This day, Friday, July 2nd, would be that day.

We took our usual route to Mooney's Bay to intercept the bike path. It follows a predominantly northerly direction and, in short order, we found ourselves at the ByTown museum right where the Rideau Canal meets up with the Ottawa river. We turned west and continued along the bike path passing through what I call 'Gooseville' just a little to the west of where the war museum is. I named that section of the bike path that follows the shore of the Ottawa river after the rather large clusters of geese that seem to hang around squawking and crapping everywhere. Good thing the catrike can easily maneuver around some of the larger - uh - clumps.

About 90 minutes after we left our house, we took a break at Britannia Park. There were kids playing, families barbecuing hamburgers; it was all right out of that song by Chicago (though it was only the 2nd of July and no one was playing any guitar). At any rate, we lingered for about twenty minutes before heading out once more.

Eventually, we found ourselves in a more rural part of the bike trail system - the greenbelt area. Once we could make it through all that, we would be touching the western suburb of Kanata. We reviewed the map once more (never go on any kind of triking venture without a map - seriously!) and decided to have a picnic lunch at one of the parks on the route. We were both getting pretty hungry and so wanted to find a good place pretty quickly.

We came to a stop in a small area across from the Beaverbrook branch of the Ottawa Public Library. Parking our trikes against a parking spot curb, we got our lunch out and sat down under a shady tree to enjoy both the glorious day and each other's company over a good lunch. We talked, we laughed and when I went to check my trip odometer noticed that it read 38.7 kilometres. Not quite the 40 I was looking for but I didn't think it would be a serious problem. I figured I could make up the tiny distance I would need to reach my goal of doing 80 kilometers perhaps by doing a few detours. Besides, I had a real hankering for some baked potato chips and so figured I would have to travel a bit to find a shop that sold them. I didn't have to go far as the library we had parked ourselves next to had not only a serviceable washroom but a couple of vending machines - one of which sold baked chips. Problem solved.

Lunch done and digested, we got back on our trikes and headed back towards the city and, eventually, home. We encountered a small group of trikers who were unfamiliar with the way to get into the city. So, using my best French, I described the way into town and suggested they "suivez moi" (follow me). So, now there was a bit of a convoy of four trikes and one bicycle travelling at a pretty good speed and heading into town. We said our "goodbye"s to these trikers and continued along the pathway not assuming we would encounter them again.

By this time, it was getting close to 3:00 and I wanted to get home. I was tired and really looking forward to sitting down in my comfy chair at home. Just at the Bytown Museum, we encountered our friends once more. They wanted to drive their trikes/bicycle along the Rideau canal but the pathway wasn't that clear (it isn't) and could we help them? Once again, I said "suivez moi" and, together, we made it to the Corktown foot bridge. From there, they found their way and thanked us both for our help. And, so we parted ways with this group of three (I never learned where they were from) travelling one way and me and Adam heading south along the bike path and towards Mooney's Bay. We have done that route so many times that we could probably do it with our eyes closed (don't try it, though - I'm just saying).

Off the bike path, we snaked our way through Mooney's Bay and back onto good old suburban streets. As with that morning, the roads were very lightly travelled and it was only a quick trip back to the house...but with one small change on my part.

A quick calculation showed that I would be 1.3 kilometres short of my stated goal of doing 80 kilometres. So, I decided to add a quick run down Bridlepath Drive and around a few streets there to make up the deficit while Adam would just head home and wait for my triumphant return. I was most of the way along Bridlepath coming back when my trip odometer read "80". I had done it! Woo Hoo! Anything else beyond that would be gravy and so by the time I pulled into the driveway where Adam was patiently waiting for me, my trip odometer read 80.546 kilometers.

Normally, I don't worry too much if I don't achieve a set time or distance goal. If I can be outside and enjoy the day for the gift it is, that's good enough. With MS, I'm just grateful to be able to move on my own (for the most part). However, on this day, 'good enough' wasn't.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

40-wunderful kilometres

One of the more interesting challenges when it comes to the Lucent Alcatel Sunday bike days is in connecting from one closed-to-motorized-vehicles road to another. From our home in the city's south end, it's just a matter of a small trike trip through a few nearby streets to get to the very welcome barrier on the corner of Hog's Back and Colonel By Drive. From there, it's a good 10-15 kilometres to the end of the run right by the University of Ottawa campus and the Rideau Canal. Normally, we would either pop into a nearby Second Cup for a java or else just turn around and head home. However, this time, we thought we'd continue our trek beyond our usual turnaround point.
This wasn't a new idea or one we'd never done before. A couple of earlier Sundays saw us doing just that, heading west, intercepting the Champlain bridge and then easing onto the cycle pathways in Quebec and enjoying a fantastic picnic lunch at the Aylmer marina. However, this particular venture would see how far west we could go staying on the Ontario side of the river. This particular Sunday, as slightly cool and misty as it was at the start, saw us following our normal route up to Mooney's Bay ->Hog's Back ->past the barrier and onto Colonel By. From there, we rode all the way to the end but rather than turn back eased up the Corktown pedestrian/bike bridge. That put us on the west side of the Rideau canal and allowed us to trike past what looked like preparations for the TDBank summer jazz festival. I had to make a quick trip to the washroom and so found a Starbuck's within a very short walk. Relieved and armed with the purchase of a couple of baked goodies (you can't just use the washroom without making *some* kind of purchase...right) I got back to Adam who had been guarding both trikes. We then continued our trek towards the bottom of the locks at the canal. Adam had spotted something interesting. From there, it was just a small matter of veering west and reintercepting the Ottawa River parkway. By that time, the clouds were lifting, slightly, and the mistiness seemed to have receded.
We got to the war museum and had to travel quickly on a regular ol' road before getting to a cycle-only road. By then, we were seeing a few other people out on bikes which meant that the morning was wearing on. I'm guessing that if the weather had been sunnier, we would have seen a lot more people out there.
Our trikes performed flawlessly and so we sailed along until we got to a little place called Remic Rapids. By then, we were both hankering for the baked goodies I bought from Starbuck's. So, we pulled over and mostly did some people watching while I enjoyed my oat bar and Adam savoured his blueberry square. We decided this would be as far as we would go today and so we turned around and headed back. Because it was still morning, the roads were still closed to cars so we didn't have to worry about having to contend with them.
By then, the sun was actually starting to emerge from the thinning clouds, burning off what fog we had had from the previous night and it looked as though the day could get quite hot and humid. We travelled past the war museum and got back on the bike path itself. Within a short while, we were back at the Rideau Canal locks. Remember that "something interesting" that Adam had spotted on our way down towards the locks? Well, it was a sandwich board advertising ice cream at the Bytown Museum and that was a sufficient reason to stop for one.

The museum has a nice collection of tables and seats for watching boats ease their way through the many locks and that is precisely what we did while enjoying a well-deserved cold treat.
Refreshed and rested, we hopped back on our trikes and eased our way up the hill and back onto the pathway. Crossing the Corktown bridge saw us deposited on the east side of the canal and back onto Colonel By Drive - still closed to motorized cars but with only about 45 minutes left before it would be reopened. We charged down Colonel By Drive and, at one point just north of Mooney's Bay, we found a park bench and pulled out the lunch we had made for this trip. That would be the last rest for us. We stayed on the bike path as opposed to the road as much because it would be easier to get into and through Mooney's Bay. Retracing our steps, we got through the park, avoided major roads as far as possible and got ourselves home. It was a 40 kilometre fun trip.

I should probably emphasize here that while it may look as though all we did was "pull over for a bite" the fact is that we cycled a lot and only ate when we were hungry.
My ultimate triking goal for this year is to trike from here in South Keys all the way out to Kanata and back - a roughly 80 kilometre venture.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

while the sun shines...

It's supposed to rain tomorrow so we picked today to shoot some videos of us catriking. In both these videos we are zooming through the Sawmill Creek Constructed Wetlands, a recreational path and drainage facility a mere 900 metres from our home. Even the red winged blackbirds didn't seem to mind either of us there.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A new record!

Today turned out to be sunnier and lot nicer than forecast from a few days ago. Then again, the weather is not required to conform to the forecast so we were *very* impressed with the sight of bright blue skies and awesome sunshine.

Today was the ever popular Alcatel-Lucent Bike Day here in Ottawa. Each Sunday from Victoria Day to Labour Day, certain select roads are closed to motor vehicle traffic from 9:00am to 1:00pm and cycles have free run of the road. To be sure, the bike paths are still used on Sunday bike days - even when the road is closed to motor vehicles - but this day is really for cyclists of all stripes to head out and get some fresh air and we packed ourselves a good lunch and headed up to one of the closed off roads. Our destination today was Aylmer, Quebec - in particular the yacht club there as there is a gorgeous park right next to it where we would be able to enjoy the lunch I made.

Getting from our suburban townhouse in Ottawa's South Keys area to Quebec is not difficult at all. It's about 10-15 kilometres to the Ottawa river and it's only a matter of taking whatever bridge is most convenient to cross over to Quebec and today would prove to be one of the simpler jaunts. Today saw us ride our trikes down Hunt Club Road, up McCarthy onto Southmore and, eventually, at Walkley Road. A few minutes later, we found ourselves at Mooney's Bay and, within another few minutes, we sidled right past the barriers blocking cars, trucks and other motor vehicles, and turned right onto Colonel By.

What struck both of us was just how quiet things got and in short order as well. We both know that a lot of the noise of urban life can be attributed to cars, trucks and buses but it's something else to experience that transition from frantic noise (even for a Sunday morning) to serene, calming peace. Smiling as we were, we continued along Colonel By Drive and headed towards the city centre.

We exited Colonel By right at the Corktown pedestrian bridge - the one that goes over the Rideau Canal. Negotiating that twisting, inclined plane isn't really a tricky venture so much as one in which vigilance is crucial. Anyone can come barreling down from the other side, not see you and collide...and collisions are *never* fun now are they?

Once on the other side, we sprinted behind the NAC and were quickly caught up in the tourist pedestrian traffic behind the Bytown Museum. It did slow us a bit but we were on the other side of that and heading west along the Ottawa River Parkway.

Travelling along the parkway, we saw other cyclists - of course as it was a gorgeous Sunday morning - smelled the delicate scent of the clusters of wild roses and felt quite good to be outside. In almost no time, we were at the war museum. Knowing that part of the road was also closed to motor vehicle traffic, we turned left and headed for the barriers, rather than continue on the pathway which we could have done.

We cycled along the road until it was time to turn up to meet the Champlain Bridge and head into Quebec. The Champlain Bridge is one of Ottawa's best bridges for bikes and trikes. It has a very wide set of bike paths and controlled car lanes so we both felt very safe zooming along the bridge. Halfway along the bridge, we passed into the province of Quebec and I felt a subtle but very real change in the way Quebeckers view cycling and cyclists in general.

For my money, I find that car drivers tend to view cyclists as honoured compatriots when it comes to use of the road. In contrast, I find that Ottawa drivers view bicycles as either an irrelevance to be ignored while cutting one off or an annoyance to be endured and derided. But, in Quebec, cyclists are - well - maybe a little more respected. I find Quebeckers tend to treat bicycling as a family activity and our venture today through some of the most astoundingly gorgeous pathways bore that impression well.

The pathway had us meandering through some of the most interesting ecosystems I have seen in awhile. I saw meadows, bullrush festooned grounds and kilometre upon kilometre of overhanging branches cooling us on our way through the increasingly warm morning.

Eventually, we got to the park right by the Aylmer yacht club around 11:30 and were both ready for a good lunch. We were treated to all manner of families on bikes, roller blades and even a few skateboards. Some of the those bikes were pulling youngsters in trailers but I am very happy to note that everyone were wearing helmets. Like I said, Quebeckers tend to see cycling in a more positive manner.

Eventually, it was time to head home so we reversed our route almost exactly as we had come. The only exception was that we stayed off the roads as it was after 1:00 pm and so the Sunday Bike day was done for the week.

When we got home, I checked my trip odometre and was pleased to note not just that I had gone 66.7 kilometres but that I beat my record one day trip of 54 kilometres which I did last early October.

Indeed, I will sleep very well tonight...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The heat goes on and the joys of sharing...

...although it's a dry heat so far so that means perfect triking weather. Actually, it's been really quite dry here in the nation's capital so I'm hoping we get some rain fairly soon. According to CBC Ottawa's meteorologist, Ian Black, the humidity levels are expected to rise next week so I figure I should get out while I can. I can deal with heat, MS notwithstanding, and I can even deal with humidity (I like the snow and rain) but the combination of heat and humidity just doesn't work well for me when it comes to getting any outdoor exercise. Like anyone else, I just wilt into a sweat infused puddle...kinda like the flame festooned critter above.

With that in mind, I went out yesterday for a quick 10.5 kilometre solo trip. With a light easterly breeze under blazingly sunny skies, conditions were more than perfect to be outdoors although I didn't really see too many others out until I got to the bike paths a couple of kilometres from home. What others I did see were mostly city crews fixing the potholes on roads but that wasn't anything I couldn't deal with. One city vehicle had parked itself pretty much squarely in the middle of a small suburban road necessitating me to creep around the large and smelly truck at a little faster than a gentle walking pace. Once I made it around the other side, I was off in almost top gear and headed for one of the city's many wide bicycle paths.

I don't ordinarily travel on the bike paths by myself. Call me paranoid but many a tragedy has occurred on suburban bike paths that the unwary had presumed were safe. However, as there were lots of kids (shouldn't they have been in school?) on bikes, skateboards and otherwise running around under glorious sunshine, I felt at least a little safer. So, my trip along the bike path took me to the Greenboro branch of the public library. There, I discovered many other people, mostly city workers, out and about milling around. It was almost right out of Sesame Street with the happy people going about their happy business doing happy things.

Just past the library, I had a choice of continuing on the bike path or else turning onto Lorry Greenberg Drive - yet another suburban road - and heading east towards Conroy Road and into another suburban area. Ottawa is laced with suburban areas so there is no shortage of places to go. The houses all look the same and they're all on streets with names like Horsdal Pvt. and Pittaway Ave. So, enjoying the sunshine, I rode to Blohm Drive, circled around to Karsh Drive and reintercepted Lorry Greenberg. From there it was only a matter of retracing my route back home.

Ten and a half kilometres. Not bad.

I should take a moment or two here to mention an interesting incident that happened to me. I was travelling along Lorry Greenberg when a large passenger truck pulled up beside me. The passenger opened his window and immediately proceeded to hurl all manner of abuse at me. With the foul language extracted from the utterance, the young man shouted something like, "Get that (blankety blank)ing piece of (blank) off the road!!" Of course, I was right up against the curb and travelling at around 20 km/hr. I was not blocking traffic at all in any way. I pretended I couldn't understand what he was saying so he shouted more loudly at me until the opportunity for him to turn right and onto a small road presented itself. Then, he and his friend zoomed away never to be seen again.

This highlights the very real problem that cyclists and motor vehicle operators can have. There seems to be this understanding that cars and bikes do not mix well together on the road. While it is true that any collision between cars and bicycles/trikes is always bad news for the cyclist the fact remains that cyclists have the same right to use the road as cars do. However, the right for cyclists to use the road comes with responsibilities and so it is up to all cyclists, whether we ride bicycles, trikes or even quadracycles (yes, we have one of those as well) to share the road with motor vehicles. Stay to the far right of the road. Always be aware of what the traffic is doing around you. Make eye contact with drivers, especially at busy intersections where left turning traffic may not see you.

Remember what you were taught in driver's ed? Car drivers are looking for other car drivers. They often do not see pedestrians or cyclists. Trikes pose an even dicier problem because we sit so low to the ground. Even the tall, bright orange flag is often overlooked by an impatient driver who's inattentive for whatever reason. However, the message is the same, SHARE THE ROAD! Give plenty of space and scope to the car who's driver is clearly preoccupied with something other than operating a motor vehicle on a public road. Cyclists, too, need to share the road. Just because we have a right to use the road doesn't mean we can do whatever we want. Ride in the lane. Signal your turn. DO NOT RUN RED LIGHTS OR STOP SIGNS. Most importantly, stay safe. Yes, that may sound trite but it's no less true.

This upcoming weekend is the first of the Alcatel Sunday bike days of the season. with showery weather in the forecast, it should be an interesting trip and the first I will do on my trike. Looking forward to it!