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.