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...