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!