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!


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Get lost!

It wasn't supposed to work out that way but it did.

The original idea was for me and Adam to take our trikes to les Bicyclettes de Hull - where I bought my trike last September - and pick up a spare tube for one of Adam's trike wheels. We had a good lunch, packed extra water (ice water in one container) and told my daughter, Rachael, to have a good day and that we wouldn't be gone for longer than a few hours. Then, we rode away on a gorgeous, sunny, warm early afternoon.

The traffic was light and the going easy. Even the construction on some parts of the bike path around Hog's Back wasn't anything more than a minor annoyance and we managed to find a bathroom around the NAC. It didn't take us too long to get downtown.

Our path followed the canal and we made it to the locks in short order. From there, the Alexandra bridge was plainly visible. There is major renovation/maintenance work being done on the Alexandra bridge but, again, nothing more than an inconvenience for us.

The Alexandra bridge is an interesting object. There is a wide boardwalk style lane solely for cyclists and pedestrians and traversing the bridge isn't a problem. I should add, though, that travelling across the bridge quickly on a catrike will result in you having to take an extra few minutes' break on the other side so that your eyeballs can stop dancing around. The lane's wooden 'planks' are like a rattly set of speed bumps such that zooming along is an invitation to unnecessary pain. So warned, I went first and yet still found myself going at a fairly decent pace. I got to the other side, turned left and went to the side to await Adam.

I never saw him.

I waited, and waited...and waited...and checked my watch...and looked around...and waited... and then decided to move on and look for him as I figured I must have missed him.

I rejoined the path and cycled along while a few people verbally admired my awesome trike (it really is awesome) but still there was no sign of Adam at all. I figured he went on towards les Bicyclettes de Hull so I thought I would follow suit. Surely, I mused to myself as I continued on the path and really enjoying the great weather, he didn't go too far up the way. I never learned where he was because I just never saw him. I just didn't. I looked around the Museum of Civilization, which is where the path from the Alexandra bridge joins with the rest of the path in Gatineau. Not wanting to run out of energy, I took a deep breath and eventually decided to just turn around and head home.

I reversed my route, traversed the noisy Alexandra bridge (noisy due to construction), and took a little break on the other side to enjoy some Cracker Jack. I crossed the microthin path over the canal itself with no problems and idled my way through the NAC properties.

I reintercepted the bike pathway and headed home under glorious bright sunshine, powder blue skies, fresh, warm southerly breezes and with the knowledge that a cold front and associated weather was approaching.

When I got home, Rachael told me that Adam had phoned, worried about where the blazes I was. We sat outside and waited for him to get home. Within about 30 minutes, we three were reunited in one big, fat, sweaty hug.

Whenever I get separated from my party, I always put some effort into relocating the party. If that doesn't work, I just turn around and go home. Today, I got lost, looked for a bit, turned around and went home and put on 38 kilometres for my efforts.

Now, the skies are gloomy and an eerie calm has befallen the city of Ottawa. With storms in the forecast, methinks today's comedy of errors will be augmented by a much needed thunderstorm.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

A warm Saturday and all that smoke!

With the spasticity in sufficient abeyance, I decided to do a quick 11 k trike trip on my own this morning. The weather forecast was calling for rain and possible thunderstorms later in the afternoon so I thought getting out earlier would be better than later.

So, I got ready and headed outside and only noticed then a rather thick pall of black-grey smoke hanging in the skies just to the east of home. Being a curious sort, I thought I would head out and investigate the source of said smoke. Traffic was light, thankfully, and I soon found myself zooming along the quieter streets in the neighbourhood. Always visible was that pillar of smoke - you know, the kind that often gets featured on the covers of such respectable journals as The National Enquirer or Weekly World News and in which Satan's face is visible. Well, Old Nick was nowhere to be seen but, looking at the moving smoke, I was able to ascertain that the easterly winds were pretty brisk and that meant I would have a good headwind at the start of my trip.

In short order, I noticed the smoke had waned and, eventually, dissipated. By that time, I was a good 5 kilometres from my house. The day was heating up and I was getting hungry for some lunch. Plus, the skies were already starting to cloud over and the last thing I wanted was to get stuck in some random, nasty downpour. So, I headed home and that involved my travelling along Hunt Club Road, one of the busier streets in Ottawa's south end.

Personally, I have no problems whatsoever riding my trike on roads; they're for my use too. I follow the rules of the road, use my mirror a lot and am always aware of what other traffic is around me. That didn't stop a few other drivers from shouting silly remarks to me as they zoomed past me in their cars (by 'silly' is meant 'obscene' but you probably knew that). However, approaching the street where I had to turn left, I put my arm out to signal and two automobile drivers were very kind to let me in front of them thus allowing me a smooth and simple lane change. For that, I am grateful and may those drivers enjoy the merits of their act.

While I have no problem riding on roads, I gotta admit that I felt better once I got away from the thick of traffic. Cars don't scare me but I don't really like just how noisy busy roads get.