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.


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