Monday, December 26, 2011

A book review...

I know this isn't really to do with catriking per se. I haven't written much because I haven't really done much catriking. With there now being at least some snow on the ground, x-c ski season may actually start up soon(ish).
I started a new MS medication this past October. Unlike the weekly injection of Avonex, the new medication I'm taking, Gilenya, is a capsule I take once a day. Like Avonex, Gilenya suppresses the immune system so that I don't get nearly as many relapses nor are they likely to be quite so awful.
However, Gilenya really suppresses the immune system and with this being flu season, I decided to sequester myself for the first few months until we had a better idea of how I would adapt to the new medicine. So far so good.
I have also had some time to do some reading and that is the focus of this blog entry. If I can't get out and trike or ski, I might as well read.
The book in question is called "How to Be Sick" and it was written by Toni Bernhard. The details aren't so important but that the book is an absolutely fantastic read. It outlines the Buddhist approach to living with chronic illness. As a practicing Buddhist with a chronic illness, one of my friends loaned me this book and bade me read it over the holidays. I'm a little better than half-way through the book and I cannot put it down for long. Bernhard's experiences living with a chronic illness so completely speak to me and the confusing miasma of feelings and experiences that I felt she had written this book for my eyes only.
After a well deserved vacation to Paris with her husband, Bernhard contracted some weird illness that just did not go away. The disease, as yet to be diagnosed though that's not to say no one tried, has left her perpetually exhausted to the point where she can hardly get out bed some days. Even on a good day, it's anyone's guess how much she can do. A former law professor who had to quit her job because she was just too sick to go on even at a reduced pace, Bernhard's book aptly describes the struggles she faced when dealing with the (US) health care system, health insurance providers and her own suffering as her sense of who she was became systematically chipped away. The book goes into much more detail and I won't elaborate here. Suffice it to say that I cannot adequately express how this book is such a tremendous help for me. If anyone who may read this ever gets the chance to read the book, I would strongly encourage one to do so. The lessons in there are as useful for anyone who has, lives with, takes care of or even knows someone with a chronic illness.
I still make the best of each day, even if the side-effects of Gilenya (weakness and general fatigue) don't always cooperate but it sure is nice to know I am not alone.
Thank you, Ms. Bernhard

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

This is Autumn?

Indeed, I have been conspicuously absent from writing this blog as much because of laziness as because it's been really nice outside. In fact, as of this writing, we haven't been out once - but twice. Considering that, at this time of year, the weather can be cold, soggy, windy and just plain miserable, the fact that we can still keep our windows open for a good chunk of the evening is a bonus.

Yes, I know it's forecast to change. Change is inevitable so I should just take advantage of the beautiful weather while we have it. It's supposed to be a very chilly +10C for a high this Saturday...October 1st...but that's to be expected.

Anyway...

We actually went out and did the greenbelt run. Adam took his mountain bike as his 2006 Catrike Speed sits too low to the ground to even try and negotiate the grassy, gravel festooned pathway. My 2009 Catrike Trail, on the other hand, had no trouble travelling along.

The route we took was identical to the one we took last February when we decided to go skiing in the very-new greenbelt pathway. This time, however, the pathway has been developed further...all the way to the corner of Ramsayville Road and just shy of highway 417. As the day was nothing less than absolutely perfect, we decided to pack a picnic lunch and make a morning of it.

From our house to the end of the pathway it's about 15 kilometres, so a round trip would be the distance equivalent to the usual Alcatel-Lucent-Sunday-Bike-Day-Thingy. Yet it wasn't just distance that would have to be considered but the fact that we weren't travelling on asphalted pathways. From the starting point, just off Albion Road, the pathway consists mostly of grasses and other native foliage. That's not to say no one cuts the damnable stuff, just that it provides enough drag to make the going a little on the slow side. Of course, about 800 metres (it felt like 80 kilometres) into the pathway and everything changes to stone dust which isn't as grim as it may sound. My tires got a good grip on the stony surface and I had no trouble at all whatsoever negotiating any turns or making it up the many small hills that characterize this trail system. Of course, Adam had less than no problems making it along on his bicycle but he has the advantage of being much stronger than I could ever hope to be. Plus, he's done this trip a few times already and so knows the pathway itself.

The trip was a wonderful one on a picture perfect day. I was out there with the man I love with all my heart and soul and life was just as glorious as it could ever be...until we found ourselves back on Albion Road heading back.

There, we traded the drag of the thickets of grass, weeds and other detritus for the frost-heave festooned butt numbing but asphalted Albion Road. Once back on paved (?) road, neither of us had any problems building up speed. Luckily there weren't too many other vehicles on the road either so having to share the already narrow strip with a bunch of likely harried drivers speeding along in massive dump trucks wasn't too grim. It did take some "slalom" maneuvers to avoid some of the nastier cracks, ruts and other spine battering splits in the road but as we were both pedalling very quickly, it didn't take us too long to get off Albion and back onto some of the quieter streets close to home.

My trip odometer malfunctioned at some point during the venture. Adam fixed it (loose magnet) but it did result in an incorrect total trip. Adam assures me that the round trip was 30 kilometres even though my trip odometer read 22.8km. "Take the credit," he shrugged...so I did.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Experiment...Part 3

Once back home, showered, fed and with our cycles and trailer safely put away, it only remained to work out what we learned about cycle camping. We had only been gone overnight but we did learn a few things.

Mostly, what we learned is that no matter how disciplined you are about packing, you will wind up bringing too much with you. For us, the tent seemed to be bigger in its stuff sack than either of us recalls. The other thing we learned is that no matter how tightly you compress pillows to fit into an army-issued stuff sack, it'll still take up way too much space in whatever trailer or pannier you have. Using sweaters or towels as pillows won't do it either as a horribly stiff and sore neck will be the result. Yes it will.

The other thing we learned is that as much as camping is touted as eco-friendly and a great way to get "back to nature" almost no public campsites are set up that way. Most campsites are just not easily accessible by any other means except a car. We managed to get to the one here in Ottawa simply because we can both easily cycle 40 or 50 kilometres. Adam probably always will though it's not so certain for me. The Ottawa Municipal Campground is precisely 37.7 kilometres from our place and following the bike paths as we did. It would be really nice if there were other municipal campgrounds within the city but I, for one, am grateful that we have even one.

One thing we were able to confirm about cycle camping is that, overall, it is a lot less expensive than many other vacations of this type. Another type of camping trip we have taken is canoe camping at Lac La Peche in Gatineau Park but that still requires one to drive to the launch site first and absorb all the associated costs of gasoline usage to get up there. Yet, this one overnight trip only cost us $71.73 in total.

So, would we do it again? Well, no, because other than this particular campsite, there really isn't any other place to go. I am physically limited to about 50-80 kilometres and I just don't think there are any other campsites within that range. Plus, unless we can seriously cut down even further on what we bring, that we won't be doing any more cycle camping.

It was a fun experiment and we really enjoyed the experience but I think that, next year when we go camping, we'll go back to renting a car and heading back to a place like Sandbanks. In the interim, it's day trips galore and, with there being about 2 to 2 1/2 months left of the cycling season, there's lots more to see and do this year.

-Peace

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Experiment...Part 2

The area of the Ottawa Municipal Campground we stayed in is rather close to highway 417. Ontario has a series of multi-lane highways all of which are identified by three numbers and all of which start with the number '4'. I had been told years ago that this is to indicate that it's a high speed 4 lane highway but I, personally, think that it's to indicate the first of the three numbers of the average decibel reading of the slobberingly huge transport trucks that go screaming along at all hours. For us, this translated to having to bring ear plugs with us or else neither of us would get any sleep. Try sleeping right next to a rocket that's launching and you'll get some idea of what I mean.

Yet, while I was sure I wouldn't need ear plugs Adam knew he would so he was glad to have brought some. For my part, I was just SO bone weary that I didn't think I would have any problem falling asleep. I was pretty sure I'd get enough to get me through the night and remain conscious enough to trike home the next day - even without my beloved cuppa to jump start my day.

One of the truly wonderful features of my Catrike is its 27 gears. There is almost no place I cannot successfully negotiate. The last long climb up the hill on Corkstown Road to get to the campsite was done in absolute first gear. It did make for slow going but I wasn't reduced to this shuddering, sweat soaked ball of flesh. From our home in the south part of the city to the campsite, the predominant trend is uphill but it is all easily traversible in comfort on my Catrike. I could not say the same thing for Adam, however, as his was the arduous task of dragging 80 pounds of gear in a trailer and on his bicycle. Now, I'm not saying bicycles are pooey and Catrikes are hugely superior in all respects but what I am saying is that he had a hell of a time on this last hill.

Yet, we made it in both good time and in good spirits. The areas that were indicated as "serviced" (meaning equipped with electricity and water on each site) were on paved and very tidy one way roads. The signage was very good with one way roads clearly marked. The trees at those clusters were abundant and very very green. Providing lovely shade for those people who came camping in their fifth wheels or other motorized campers - and we saw quite a number of those behemoths - the serviced lots seemed to be very well taken care of.

Our site was in the unserviced area where there were no such amenities. That doesn't mean we had to dig our own latrines or wash in a nearby pond but it did mean we had to travel over hard crushed gravel roads as opposed to the smooth, freshly asphalted ones. We hadn't been allotted a specific site (there didn't seem to be any numbers on each site) so we just picked the one closest to the washroom. There were already a few other campers there but, other than that, the area was very quiet...

...until we noticed just how close we were to the 417. We were reminded of this fact by the sudden throaty growl of a transport truck using engine brakes to make as much noise as possible. Rush hour was on and so we were treated to an unending chorus of car noise as commuters drove home from downtown and west to Kanata. The noise varied only slightly in volume and somewhat more in pitch as some cars seem to produce higher levels of tire noise or had engines of varying health. The other feature of our campsite was the thick and black cloud of gnats that just seemed to follow us everywhere we went. Setting up the tent was a quick and painless venture as much because we were just bone weary as that we wanted to be able to get away from those blasted gnats...and maybe even find some buffer from the highway noise.

The highway wrangling did eventually settle down as evening creeped closer to us but we did hope it would die down even further. Once again, earplugs are a must unless you are actually able to sleep through truck convoys and their engine brakes.

We did get a half way decent night's sleep as much I think from the romance of a campground setting as the simple fact that we were both just utterly exhausted from all that cycling, hauling and that last hill in particular. We both showered before crawling into our sleeping bags for what we hoped would be a good night's sleep - or at least a not-too-horrendously-awful night's sleep.

The next morning dawned sunny and deliciously cool. We are both early risers and so took advantage of the fact that no one else in the area was awake yet. So we got up, enjoyed a bit of breakfast and did some stretches for the trek home. Adam did a tai chi set while I did a few yoga poses knowing we would both be spending the next few hours cycling. This time, however, we would take a few more breaks on the way home. We left the campsite at 8:30 and revelled in the cool of early morning and the fact that much of our homeward trek would be downhill. It didn't take long for the cicadas to start their buzzing thus signalling to us both that the day was heating up quickly. We knew that some unstable weather was forecast for Ottawa but was not expected until later in the day so we weren't worried.

We stopped back at Britannia Park - in fact at the exact same picnic bench we had been not 24 hours earlier - and were immediately assailed by gnats. Our stop there would only be for a few minutes before riding away. We had passed a number of other cyclists on the path and assumed them to be commuters. It was only after about 9:15 that we noticed the character of the cyclists had shifted a bit from young/middle aged to older and likely retired people just out for their morning run/walk/cycle. Quite a number of people were out walking their dogs and I couldn't help but start humming, "Sa-tur-day...in the park...I think it was the fourth of Joo-ly-y-y-y..." The scene almost looked like that silly song.

We got to the end of the Ottawa River bike path right at the Bytown Museum and right at the base of the locks. That hill is a steep slope though, thankfully, not a long one. We got to the museum right at 10:00 and just in time to get an ice cream for us both. By then, the humidity was starting to creep up so we were glad to be only 15 kilometres from home. By our reckoning, and in the bright sunshine with only a few clouds, we would be home by around 11:30-ish.

We did get home by that time, noticed a few more clouds and thought little of it. We washed the bicycle, my trike and the now enptied trailer in the driveway. Because we packed up our tent in the morning, it was still only very slightly touched with the dampness of morning dew so we laid it out in our front yard to dry. The breeze sure felt nice and really helped to dry off our just rinsed cycles.

We looked up again and saw that one of the clouds had grown quite dark and ominous looking and, within a short while, the first spatters of rain had begun. We put the trailer and both cycles in the garage and had just brought the gear back inside the house when the pause in rain had ended and resumed anew...and this time, a little more briskly.

We got inside, noticed the rain had stopped once more and then we both hit the showers. Done there, it was time for a regular meal...and then we saw the skies darken again. This time, it was that really ominous looking dark that spells thunderstorm.

Lightning - just a few light sparks at first - and then a few quiet rumbles danced in the air. The rain began anew, lightened once more...and then all hell broke loose with sparks of lightning, loud crashing thunder and some of the nastiest wind gusts I had seen in awhile. The wind blew the rain sideways and our tree in the front was bending quite vigorously, its branches flustering and shaking as the winds from this thunderstorm beat against it.

It had been sunny, warm and VERY pleasant not an hour earlier. But, such is the nature of things. Everything changes - and sometimes suddenly too. No matter. We were both just grateful to have not been out there and trying to seek shelter from this storm.

Part 3 tomorrow

-Peace

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Experiment...Part 1

We like camping...a lot...and do freely admit that this is one of the very few things we miss about not having our own car. Time was, we would book a 3 or 4 day trip to a place like Sandbanks or Bon Echo in Ontario or even at Lac Taylor or Lac La Peche at nearby Gatineau Park in Quebec. Camping, for us, is a fun way to take an inexpensive holiday and one we were more than prepared to have to 'shift' when we got rid of our vehicle. Because we only went camping once a year, it was hardly a serious sacrifice - renting a car would fix that. However, we wondered if it were at least possible to find a local campsite, pack up our gear and...yes...cycle to the place. The answer was 'yes' to all three questions - with a few minor changes.

We love a challenge like this and so, earlier this year, decided to give it a try. We thought we would try to pack our camping gear into the various panniers and wheeled, human powered devices and head out to go camping. We would try to go for one night as an experiment and we would see how much work would be involved.

The place we found is in the city's west end of the greenbelt and it was called the Ottawa Municipal Campground. It's located just beside the Equestrian park and is very easily accessible by a combination of cycle paths and only a few not-too-heavily-travelled roads. So, last month, Adam made a reservation for one site for one night for the two of us. We were committed to going and, dagnabit, we were going to go.

As I said, we love a challenge like this and there were a couple of challenges before us. The first one was in finding a place to stop for lunch since we knew we would have to. I get fatigued fairly easily, despite the utter comfort of my catrike, so planning for breaks, including one for lunch, acquired a new significance. Normally, we would have packed a good lunch and made a picnic of it all; however, this would not work out because of challenge number two...cargo limits.

Camping, even for one night, still requires that you cart a lot of equipment with you. You have to, essentially, bring your house with you. Okay, it's only a tent and not bricks and mortar but a tent can still take up a lot of space which our one does. Then, there are sleeping bags, pillows and all the other gear you actually need. Determining what we would need, versus what we would like to bring with us, did take a bit of extra care and one area we shaved a lot from was food. With car camping, you bring most of your own food, a cooking stove and all the necessary pots, pans, utensils, cups, plates, bowls et cetera. But, for this trip, we limited our food to some trail mix, a couple of bags of lentil chips and a few cereal bars. We did bring our mini camping stove (a real sweetie of a thing that fits into a wonderfully tiny bag), some fuel and my tin cup in which was an envelope of coffee. However, we forgot to bring a pot to boil water in so I was relegated to my caffeine tablets I did remember to bring for this particular instance. We brought our toothbrushes, soap and dental floss as well as two very thin but useful beach towels. We were only staying for one night so that seriously cut down the amount of clothing we needed to bring. In short, we shaved off a lot from what we would normally have brought with us...

...but it still made for very full panniers on my trike and a very full trailer which Adam pulled on his bike. Still we felt as prepared as we could be and, best of all, as enthusiastic about the whole venture. We were going to have fun.

The weather was nothing short of magnificent the morning we packed our things. Sunny, warm and yet not too hot, we pulled away from our place at 10:20 with the intention of stopping for lunch at Britannia Park (a place we'd previously visited and enjoyed). We would buy lunch at the park's little 'burger shack', a charming place called 'Baja Burger' but it was well worth the nearly $25 for two burgers (served on gluten free buns...a bonus), a side order of fries which we shared, two pops and one of those super deluxe ice cream bars which we also shared. We sat down to eat by around 12:30 and continued our journey to the campsite about an hour later.

So far, the trip had been pleasant and the heat of the day wasn't too grim that we couldn't handle the final long uphill slog to get to the gate of the campsite itself which we arrived at by 2:20 - precisely 4 hours after we started.

The site we picked was right across from the bathroom/shower facility and there were a few other campers in sites right by ours. Although our site did have one tree on it, the set of sites was quite sparse in that regard. The gnats were pretty thick and annoying but nothing we couldn't deal with. Admittedly, it was somewhat amusing when Adam emerged from the campsite office with a tag which we were supposed to place in our windshield. Such is the general assumption most campsites make, eh? Instead, Adam simply kept the tag in his pouch and ready to show to any official who may ask whether we were legally authorized to be there.

Setting up the tent took a short time though I have to admit that it's a challenge to arrange the air mattresses, sleeping bags and associated liners in such a confined space. I did it anyway even though I had Adam's air mattress wrong-side-up. Oh well, no harm done.

So, what did we do after setting everything up? Well, we thought we'd try and go for a walk around the facility but the whole place seemed to consist of other clusters of winnebagos or other non-tent campers. There was a playground and I plunked myself onto one of the swings just to stretch other muscles. Otherwise, the whole place is fairly nondescript and devoid of anything much beyond individual campsites.

But then, the whole point to this exercise wasn't to find exciting, distracting things to do but to just see if we could go camping without the use of a car. That goal was met, as far as I was concerned.

Part 2 tomorrow...no, really, I'll post it.

-Peace

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Happy bike lane news

Well, much to my delight, the dedicated bike lane on Laurier Avenue is being used. In fact, more than 40 thousand cyclists have used the bike lane, according to the online CBC article. This is exactly what I had hoped to read, especially because the dedicated bike lane on Laurier Avenue is just a two year pilot project.

The important point to know, as far as this pilot project goes, is that a feature not used becomes a feature removed. In other words, use it or lose it and I am pleased to see people using it. Equally pleasing, to me anyway, is that objections to the bike lane, seem to have disappeared or at least been reduced to a dull roar. What I am hoping comes soon is increasing pressure on city council to expand the dedicated bike lane so that anyone travelling west won't have to devise devilishly creative ways to connect to the Ottawa River parkway cycling path. As it stands now, cyclists who want to continue their travels westbound have to travel south on Bronson and find their way to Booth Street. Heading north on Booth Street, cyclists can intercept the bike path that goes just behind the war museum. Travelling north on Bronson is, technically, possible but the criss-crossing web of one way streets and the number of concrete staircases really makes it impractical for bicylists and impossible for those on recumbent trikes.

However, city council would not have anything to consider if the Laurier Avenue dedicated bike lane weren't already there so it's a very good thing it's being used. So, with about 3 and a half months left in the cycling season - unless you're a fanatic in which case I wish you the best as you put your winter tires on your bikes/trikes et cetera - I say keep up the good work everyone!

Wewt!

-Peace

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Just another...

...fun day at the beach...

Sunday was both sunny and warm but without that crushing, stifling humidity. The Alcatel-Lucent Sunday Bike day would be on in full force and we would be out there too - but with a slight difference.

Because my MS often results in me getting terribly fatigued by early afternoon and because Adam and I are morning people by nature we are very often some of the very first people to get to the closed-to-motorized-traffic barriers. Sometimes we get there before the scheduled 09:00 am closure and it's not uncommon for us to be on Colonel By and zooming down the road only to see the (very) occasional car trying to sneak off the road at the last possible second. This time, however, we were planning to head out for a picnic lunch, not at Mooney's Bay which is too close to our place to make it worthwhile but way the bejeepers at the beach of Lac Leamy.  Lac Leamy is over the river into Gatineau but it's still not really all that far from our place. The beach/picnic area is 21.7 kilometres using a combination of the closed Colonel By Road and bike paths that trace curving routes around the area. At my current triking speed, we figured that if we left by around 10:30, we'd get to the beach at Lac Leamy by around noon.

This is precisely what happened. I packed a fairly light but nutritious lunch for ourselves and then headed out on a gloriously sunny mid-late morning. I have to admit that it felt a bit odd passing some familiar landmarks, like the Frank Clair Stadium, at such a late time of morning compared to when we would normally be there but it wasn't anything anxiety provoking.

We exited the Colonel By road and went right onto the Corktown foot bridge that crosses the Rideau canal, continued north towards the locks and found ourselves smack dab in the middle of some kind of festival featuring Celtic music and more tourists there than I was expecting even for a long weekend.

There is one lock which will allow users to transport their bikes across but it is a bit more of a challenge for recumbent trikes and my Catrike was no exception. However, it wasn't all that horrendous and the free flow of boat traffic was in no way jeopardized by my having to take a little longer time getting across. We were prepared for the next major event of this trip...crossing the Alexandra Bridge.

The last time we crossed the Alexandra Bridge on our trikes, the condition of the bike lane was - well - alarming. The lane itself seemed to consist of a washboard set of rumble strips whose effects were as tough on a trike as they were on one's body. Specifically, cyclists of all kinds would have to stop once on the other side to allow one's eyeballs a few minutes to stop bouncing around and this is what we both expected. However, we got a really nice surprise.

Someone, somewhere got it in their minds to perhaps fix the bike lane on the bridge so that people wouldn't have to put their internal organs back in the right place and our crossing over the Alexandra Bridge went very smoothly. Our next step was to maneuver around the Museum of Civilization, which lies just at the end of the bridge itself on the Quebec Side which is what we were expecting. What we were up against, instead, was a sign proclaiming the bike lane closed "due to construction". A minor annoyance, to be sure, but that did mean we'd have to cycle up to the traffic light and cross Rue Laurier to regain the bike lane.

There is a park there and bike lanes course and meander through it. We found ourselves there and immersed in some kind of art display. We're not Philistines per se but do object to the idea of someone passing off what looks like scrap steel painted in bright colours as art. No matter, the day was sunny with a few building cumulus clouds and continued warmth. The beach/picnic area at Lac Leamy wasn't too far away and we were both getting hungry.

From the park, the trail curves, climbs and settles through a lightly treed forested area until one emerges from the green forested area, goes under a few highway overpasses and then comes out by the beach. There were a number of other people there but the place wasn't packed to capacity.

We enjoyed our lunch, despite our having forgotten a couple of items in the fridge at home, and took a few minutes to just relax after a good 21 kilometre venture, crossing a much improved bridge and negotiating the very public display of scrap metallic...things...

Going home was a simple matter of retracing our steps back with the sole exception of not re-joining Colonel By Road after crossing at the Corktown foot bridge, for the road had been re-opened to motorized vehicles. That meant we would be relegated to the bike path only which neither of us minded at all.

We pulled back into our driveway at around 2:45pm, having left precisely 4 hours and 15 minutes earlier. Our total distance was 42 point something kilometres and, frankly, we were both ready for a shower.

-Peace
I don't photograph well and that's evident in this picture. I am actually enjoying the ice cream; it just doesn't look like it.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Citizen Ruth

From reading a few cbc.ca articles on the Laurier Avenue segregated bike lane, I couldn't help but notice the high level of whining from members of certain groups about it. Apparently, the installation of a simple 1.3 kilometre segregated bike lane meant the end of the world for some people despite reality. The details are not as important as the response to some of those complaints...which is where I came into the scene.

The city of Ottawa, like many other modern cities in the world, has provisions in place to assist people who are in wheelchairs get from their homes to work, doctor's appointments, schools, shopping and any other place. However, the segregated bike lane here in Ottawa has meant that some of these people would have to be picked up and/or dropped off in a slightly different location than what they're accustomed to. This, it seems, has been interpreted by some as yet one more adaptation they are forced to make and that this forcing victimizes them even further. That's the part I can't understand, especially since a minor change like having to be dropped off 50 feet from their "usual" place doesn't actually prevent people in wheelchairs from being able to get where they're going.

This is where I threw my hat - or bike helmet -  into the ring - as it were.

I am a person who has a disability. In fact, as I write this entry, my left leg is not working and so I am not out triking today despite the beautiful weather. I have actually been in a wheelchair and may very well wind up there again. So, I am very empathetic to issues around disabilities, access to services and mobility in general. However, more than anything, I detest the endless whining I hear from certain groups of people. I don't mean just people with disabilities but any group in particular.

So, I wrote a letter to Ottawa's mayor and all city councillors showing my wholesale support for the bike lane itself. One of the councillors wrote back to me, asked me to submit a letter to the editor of a newspaper and to, otherwise, continue showing my support for this bike lane.

So, I did.

I wrote a letter to the Ottawa Citizen...and got a phone call from one of the editors there. Apparently, my letter of support and written by someone with a disability provided enough of an interesting take on the issue that they sent out a photographer to both take a picture of me on my trike and to make a small video. The main caption on the item erroneously identified me as someone who is in a wheelchair but both the letter I wrote and the video that was made clearly indicates that I am NOT currently in a wheelchair...but that I have been in one.

I am not heartless or flippant about the issues facing those of us with disabilities. I am not out triking today, despite the gorgeous weather, because my left leg isn't working properly. However, I will not gripe and slobber endlessly about it as much because there isn't anything that can be done about it as it annoys the hell out of everyone else.

Luckily, the weather is only supposed to get a little damp for the next couple of days but I am quite sure I will be back out on my trike in short order...and, yes, taking advantage of that awesome segregated bike lane on Laurier Avenue.

-Peace

Friday, July 15, 2011

Recce trip and why it's good.

Actually, for me, any trip in my Catrike is good but yesterday's trip (July 14th) was especially great.

One of the reasons Adam and I like our Catrikes is that we can carry quite a lot of items relatively easily. Heading out for a picnic is a very simple exercise, logistically and literally. We can stow all kinds of items and travel for greater distances without the worry of dropping anything or of having to try and balance items in panniers as we would have to do on bicycles.

However, one of the ventures we have yet to try is going camping using our trikes. These days, I am good for about 50 kilometres before fatigue puts all that to a stop for the day. So, we were mighty impressed at the discovery of a campground located within city limits, not to mention my own. We had passed by its entrance last year when we did our 80 kilometre round trip to Kanata but only this year did we think about doing an overnight trip there.

The distance isn't so much of an issue for me - at least this year - but one of the issues we need to consider is cargo. As I said, we can carry quite a bit on our Catrikes but that doesn't mean we need not be judicious with our items. Camping is an especially item-intensive prospect unlike any other holiday. If you are travelling to a place you generally don't have to bring your own bed or house with you but, with camping, you do. Most campers pack up their vehicles and head out but it's not generally a huge issue with gasoline powered cars or trucks. It is, however, a massively different issue when one is packing a Catrike and it is this area where we are attempting to keep our loads as light as possible.

One of the ways we are dealing with this is to see how little we can get away with bringing. We both tend to pack very lightly anyway so, for us, Catrike camping is possible but as we've never done it before still an unknown quantity.

Enter yesterday.

We thought we could reduce the number of things we would need to bring with us by, for instance, eating out instead of bringing food with us. However, as our planned route doesn't really take us past too many restaurants nor are we keen on the idea of leaving our trikes unattended to eat we thought we would follow our planned route up to the point where we would want to stop and eat. At that point, we would see what was around and plan accordingly. We weren't certain we would be able to find much more than a variety store but we lucked out at Britannia Beach. While we did bring a picnic lunch with us yesterday, did note that there is what looks to be a half-way decent burger joint on site. No, it's not top  nutrition but, under the circumstances, will certainly work. That means we won't have to pack a lunch with us and, thus, will have more room for camping supplies.

The day was sunny, very warm but - whew - not that wilting humidity that reduces everything to gelatinous puddles. That's not due here 'til Sunday.

We rode up to Hog's Back and crossed at the Hartwell locks. I got lots of help lifting and carting my trike over the top and, for all that, I am extremely grateful. I could have done it but it was still nice to get help there.

Our route took us through the Experimental Farm, a completely delightful and serene place. We followed its pathway well beyond the western edge of the farm itself and eventually found ourselves deposited to a point just south of the Iris transit station. The day was now getting wonderfully breezy which, when experienced in some of the more wooded areas of the bike path, felt magnificent.

We made it to Britannia Beach in a little under 2 hours (including the couple of breaks enroute). We then sat back and enjoyed a fantastic lunch. I tell ya, you can eat a peanut butter sandwich (which I did) and it'll still taste like a 5 star dish after 2 hours of triking.

Heading back, we just travelled east along the Ottawa River parkway bike path, stopped at the ByTown museum at the foot of Parliament, enjoyed a well deserved ice cream and did some people watching for about half an hour before heading back.

We travelled 48 point something kilometres and had an extremely fantastic time of it. I am sure one overnight camping trip will be just as enjoyable (she said, hoping the weather deities hear her and take the hint).



-Peace



















Tuesday, July 12, 2011

How many planets do we live on?

Of course it's a silly sounding question and the answer is obviously 'one'...but you'd never know it in listening to some people.

I'm referring to the new segregated bike lane on Laurier Avenue which just opened up this past Sunday and we decided to give it a try and see for ourselves what it's like. In a word, the bike lane is FANTASTIC! Time was, cyclists of all kind had to share the road with cars which isn't a problem in itself except for the fact that many automobile drivers don't like bikes on "their" road and many cyclists never bother to follow the rules of the road either. That often meant an uneasy relationship between cars and cyclists and any collisions of any kind were always much worse for the cyclist than the car driver - no matter who was to blame.

This segregated bike lane, all 1.3 kilometres of it, means that cyclists and motorized vehicle drivers can travel on the same road in relative safety. Car drivers need not worry about cyclists suddenly darting out in front (yes, many of them do) and cyclists need not worry about car drivers passing unsafely (yes, many of them do).

This plan to convert the parking lane on Laurier Avenue to a dedicated bike lane was revealed as far back as late last year. Yet, there are certain groups of people who, faced with the rapid approach of its grand opening, decided to complain bitterly about the changes they would face. People with disabilities who use wheelchairs were complaining that the new segregated bike lane would make it so much more difficult for them to get to work because the ParaTranspo bus would not be able to drop them off at the front of their destinations. Another person with a disability was worried that the existence of the tiny concrete barriers (which is not one long continuous thing, by the way) would increase her chances of tripping as she has a leg problem.

Puh-leez...

The installation of a segregated bike lane in this case has meant that one would be dropped off a short distance from one's usual place, not in a different city. The city has also removed some of the barriers to address this situation. As for the other complaint, what had been on Laurier Avenue previously was a long line of parked cars which would be just as hazardous as the existence of these shorter, fewer concrete curb-sized barriers.

The complaints are really without basis and I am speaking from the position of one who has a disability. I may not be in a wheelchair at the moment but I have been in a wheelchair and neither I nor the doctors knew whether I would get out of it or not. I have faced barriers to movement and may very well face those same ones in short order.

However...

You have to look a little more closely at the effect that something like the installation of a segregated bike lane will have on the city overall. In other words, it's not about you. It's not about me either - it's about all of us. A segregated bike lane improves accessibility for cyclists, eases the worries of car drivers who are rightly afraid of the sudden appearance of a bicycle (it's happened) and helps to promote the city of Ottawa as a bicycle friendly city. We even made a small video showing just how open and unobtrusive this lane is. Change is inevitable and it is totally unreasonable to expect the entire world to stop evolving because someone (or a group of 'someones') doesn't personally like it. You have to look at the overall effect that something like segregated bike lanes has on society.

We live on one planet, not planet 'you' and a whole bunch of other planets. If you cannot or will not adapt to the reality of positive changes, even if you don't personally feel you will benefit outright, then please move aside and let the city evolve into something a little friendlier for those of us who don't drive.

It is not that I have no empathy for people with disabilities. Trust me, I have all the empathy in the world for us. What I have no empathy for is what I see as people with disabilities who play the 'disability card' and act as though any decision anyone makes for the betterment of us all is a personal affront to them and a sure sign of their repeated victimization.

Get over yourselves.

We live on one planet and we need to find a way so that everyone gets their needs met as much as possible...not just yours and not just mine either but everyone's. Okay? Everyone.


-peace

Monday, July 4, 2011

50K on a gorgeous day...

No, I'm not actually holding up any sign; I'm trying to cool down my armpits at Rockcliffe Airport.

Every July 1st, Adam and I make it a point to get out to Rockcliffe as much to see the visiting airplanes as to get some exercise. In years past, we had taken the bus(es) to get there and then walked from there to downtown. We have made this trip through coolish days and even managed to get caught in a "sudden" deluge one year. This year, however, the weather was picture perfect for a trike trip. Sunshine, bright blue skies, light winds (if any) and even lighter traffic.

We packed a lunch and left the house around 8:30 after a good breakfast - of course. Our route was the same one we use for the weekly Sunday Bike day with one major difference. Once at the north end of Mooney's Bay, we veered to the right and headed towards Vincent Massey Park. Since the city re-profiled the path itself, it's been a lot smoother to sail downwards. It's also made the return uphill trip a lot less daunting, too.

The day was warming up very quickly as we rode along the pathways and even the occasional foray onto suburban streets as we transited from one pathway to another was an easy one. There were very few cars on the roads where we were even though the combination of it having been Canada Day and the presence of TRH the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge made Ottawa a huge attraction. In fact, the various pundits had predicted there would be close to 500,000 tourists milling about the city itself.

We stayed away from the downtown area and quite understandably so. We did encounter a few more vehicles along Sussex as we sailed the final few kilometres east to Rockcliffe but drivers and other cyclists were generally very well behaved.

So, we made it to Rockcliffe - a journey of about 24 kilometres by the pathways where I stayed with the trikes and Adam wandered around the collection of light aircraft, snapping pictures and taking movies. These made me smile. Our annual saunter to Rockcliffe is one of the rituals we do to - more or less - welcome summer and I was quite relieved that we were able to continue this tradition and on trikes no less.

After about half an hour, we decided to head back, stopping at Rockcliffe Park for our picnic lunch. The only minor glitch in all this was that the ice cream stand was not open and didn't look like it would be open this season at all. Getting an ice cream is a part of this tradition so we wound up racking our brains to come up with an alternative. Adam snapped his fingers recalling that the ice cream stand at Hog's Back is open. We knew this because we stopped there on the way out with me looking for a bathroom (long story).

So, we finished lunch, climbed into our trikes and continued our return trip by reversing our original path. Mostly, the day was getting quite hot but the low humidity made for a very pleasant journey. We got to Hog's Back and enjoyed a small ice cream all to the sounds of South American music belting out over the speakers. It was a lot of fun as people there were gearing up for Canada Day celebrations. In short order, though, it was time to make the final 20 minute trip back to the house before the day got even hotter.

An interesting thing did happen once we had maneuvered through Mooney's Bay heading south - I heard the first cicada of the season. I make it a point to note the date of the first cicada. That telltale buzzing of those elusive insects is a surefire sign that summer is, indeed, here.

The only other sniggly point I noted was having encountered a motorized medi-scooter in the bike lane on Hunt Club...going the wrong way. Please, people, bike lanes follow the same pattern as motor vehicles. You wouldn't drive a car the wrong way on a road, would you? It's no different in bike lanes so, please, follow the rules...

Okay, I'm done.

-Peace

Monday, June 20, 2011

A perfect storm...

Blue skies...

Tons of sunshine...

Light winds...

Sunday bike day...

Body parts and trike parts all working...

How could I not take advantage of such beautiful conditions? A perfect storm doesn't always have such negative connotations.

We had our usual good breakfast, then showered, dressed and hauled our cycles out of the garage. This would be my first Sunday bike day in 2011 even though those precious Sunday events started on the May long weekend a few weeks back. That's not to say I haven't taken my trusty catrike out since the May long weekend, just that I hadn't got out to do the Sunday bike day.

The Lucent Alcatel Sunday Bike Day is a great chance for cyclists to, quite literally, own the road for a few short hours. While we hardly suffer being relegated to bike paths or having to share the road with cars and trucks, there is a certain glorious feeling to charging way the blazes down the middle of the road knowing we wouldn't be plowed into or run over by a cube van or car. To leave the chaos of fast moving Hondas, Chryslers or Ford F-150 trucks is utterly magical, not to mention marvellously quiet. The gentle but firm thrumming of road noise my catrike tires makes is not to be drowned out by the muffler-challenged 4 cylinder car the engine screaming its protest at being driven at such a high rpm. Nope, Sunday bike day mornings it's just me and my 27 gears, driven by my legs. I especially appreciate the quiet of these ventures.

Because it was kinda chilly when we left around 8:30, we both wore light windbreakers knowing we would be shedding that layer once we got to the far end of our trip. Our usual trek takes us along Colonel By Drive and we were both quite surprised to see just how sparse the road was despite it having been an utterly gorgeous morning. Chilly indeed but not so cold that cycling would have been uncomfortable. Really.

Hankering for a stop at the Second Cup on Laurier and just the other side of the U of O campus, we sailed along the road me on my trike while Adam rode his mountain bike. He has two front wheels for his 2006 Catrike Speed on order so he rode his mountain bike not wanting to miss the chance to get out on such a great day.

He even managed to take a movie of me triking. The music is awesome, too.

I am hoping to get out and do more triking this week before the forecast three days of showery weather moves in.
This picture was taken of me not far from Dow's Lake. We were on our way back and you can tell because, unlike the movie, I am not wearing my windbreaker. The morning had warmed up enough that anything heavier than a light t-shirt would have been too warm.

-Peace

Saturday, June 18, 2011

If the NCC builds it...

...will they come?

This just in... The NCC is planning to allow people who cycle commute to work in Ottawa free parking for their cars in some of the parking lots within the city.

The idea is that cycle commuters could park their cars and then cycle the rest of the way to work or wherever their destination happens to be. I'm guessing that these cycle commuters bring their bikes with them on racks attached to their cars but, for all I know, there could be a place to lock up one's bike for the night. Commuters could then drive to the parking lot, park their cars and then go get their bikes  to continue their trek.

Anyway, I just caught this story on the CBC website and there really isn't much more information there. Of course, as this story develops, I will write more. No, really, I will.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Things that go hiss and sizzle...

Yesterday, June 14th, was a gorgeous day. It wasn't cold, it certainly wasn't hot and, best of all, it wasn't bucketing down rain. It was, however, quite windy. Nevertheless, we decided to head out and run a quick errand.

We have a weight machine in our basement which we both use. It isn't anything spectacular but it is a neat little device and it helps to keep our middle-aged bodies in good shape. After all, if we aren't in good shape, then we won't enjoy our triking/cycling/x-c skiing adventures.

The machine uses cables, as many of them do. As with all things in life, cables wear out and occasionally break. As anyone who has ever had to contend with a broken cable can attest, you just know how lethal the sticky-out bits can be. Performing a pre-use check comes in very handy for the both of us, a vestige of our earlier days when we were both pilots. Pre-flight checks are de rigeure (sp?) and so it was natural for us to expand that habit into other realms of our lives. Granted, we can't always account for every single possibility as we would soon learn but we can at least manage what risks we can.

Ordering cables for this weight machine isn't too huge an issue, except that they aren't all that cheap and require us to rely on Canada Post (don't start with me here). Sometimes, it can take upwards of ten days for new cables to arrive and, in the interim, neither of us can use the machine. When you get to be our age, daily exercise becomes a necessity. So, in examining the machine the last time this happened, Adam was able to determine that he, himself, could re-rig any cabling. He had the equipment and the knowledge...he only needed the cable itself. That's where our errand yesterday came into play.

We make regular use of some select stores here in Ottawa. For cabling and other mechanical kinds of devices, we opt to go to a place called Princess Auto. It's a home-fixer-upper DIY paradise and, is only about 6 kilometres from home and, best of all, can be reached without travelling on too many busy roads.

So, armed with a thorough briefing of the intended route (not to mention a good breakfast) we left the house with Adam on his mountain bike and me on my catrike. Adam has two new front wheels on order so he gets around on his mountain bike when he can't trike.

With the strong winds from the east-south-east it made for some good heavy pedalling. Nevertheless, with it being a pleasant temperature and NO RAIN to be seen or felt, it was a gloriously wonderful morning. We left mid-late morning so what rush hour traffic there may have been was done. Our trip took us around the newly completed bike trails to the south of the Greenboro branch of the Ottawa Public Library. Then, it was a quick jaunt along Lorry Greenberg and then a quick zip up Zaidan to join up with Johnston. Once there, we made a beeline, beat into freshening winds and then got to a rutted, grassy bike trail, worn into the slight hill that was there. Despite my Catrike sitting low, I had no problems at all negotiating the grassy, rutted and rock strewn trail. Adam, of course, zoomed up to the top with me following closely behind.

In no time we found ourselves back on Swansea Road. Swansea is in a light industrial part of Ottawa so there aren't many cars that use the road. Big heavy transport sized trucks are a different matter but those drivers tend to be a lot more considerate of other people and cycles on the road (many thanks). At any rate, we charged along happily and reaching Princess Auto in very short order. Adam went in while I waited and watched his bike while sitting on my trike and just taking in the scenery. Soon thereafter, he emerged, successful in his journey to obtain a whole huge roll of cable at a very reasonable price. Happy with that, we geared up and left the parking lot, safe in the knowledge that we would be home shortly.

It was not to be.

About a kilometre from Princess Auto, I thought I heard a gentle kind of hissing from behind me. At first, I paid it no mind as my tires tend to make a fair amount of road noise. However, within a few seconds, the hissing seemed to be getting louder and then Adam told me to stop as my back tire was getting flatter and flatter.

We examined the tire and saw that the tiniest itty bitty piece of green glass had not just punctured the tire but stabbed the inner tube, too. Urgh! We moved both cycles off the road and onto a grassy portion of the front of some giant industrial warehouse of sorts. Adam, pilot that he is to the core even though he doesn't fly anymore, was prepared for a tire change...except for one small device which he hadn't brought with him. It always works out that way, doesn't it? If you require ten things to get a job done, you will always have 9 with you and this time was no exception.

Adam would have to zoom home on his bike, retrieve that one solitary item and then return to finish patching and changing my rear tire.

Adam did return and we finished the task at hand. I am forever amazed at just how simple it is to change the tire on my trike, even the rear one. Sure, it got greasy but there was no bloodshed nor did it require the strength of an ox to do. In little time, we were back on the road and zipping home - this time with the winds at our back.

When we got home, I noticed that I must have also run through something gluey and greasy and so desperately filthy that I wound up washing my trike. The seat is very tightly woven nylon mesh netting so washing and drying it is a piece of cake. I used a dollop of degreaser on the chainring at the front and it now sparkles (ooh).

Because it was beautifully sunny, we decided to finish up construction of our solar cooker.

This is an idea that I have had for a good long while. Earlier this year, I acquired a cardboard box and, armed with a couple of Look brand oven bags set out to build a proof-of-concept solar cooker. My intention there was to see if I could cook some rice using the power of the sun. Long story short, I was able to get the temperature of the cardboard cooker up to about 55C which, for an early April day, wasn't too bad. However, it would not be enough for my purposes. We would need to make something more - uh - robust and that would mean wood and clear glass.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of ours casually mentioned that she and her husband were having a garage sale. I asked if she had any glass and she said she had not one but two pieces of glass. We went out there for their garage sale and got not just the glass but some spare plywood they happened to have there. Although she didn't ask for a penny for either item, I would not leave her place without paying. She had no idea at the time just how intensely helpful her actions were even though I made it a point to let her know.

Well, we finally built the blasted thing and, so far, have been able to reach internal temperatures of 150F easily though we did see it get up to 170F. We're getting there but we still have a little ways to go.

Here it is on our little coffee table outside next to our swing. The cushion for the swing is in the garage.

As you can see, it isn't especially huge but it will easily accommodate my small black roasting pan which came, ironically, with our oven when we first moved here wayyyyy back in 2000.

-Peace to one and all

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sunshine and tomato plants...

I'm no farmer, nor do I claim to be one.

However, I do enjoy gardening, even if I am lousy at weeding and otherwise have a black thumb. Earlier this year, my friend, Helena, and I decided to rent a garden plot from the City of Ottawa. It's 1000 square feet of which 500 square feet are mine to use for the season. Use it I did. With what has to be the wettest spring we have had in a long time, I was worried about whether I would get the chance to plant anything. If going gardening requires the use of dinghy or life jackets then that's called fishing and I don't do that.

In joyful anticipation, or maybe just hope, of sunnier days to come (the days of dumping rain couldn't last forever I reasoned) I purchased 10 tomato plants. I already had a few organic potatoes, red onion sets, garlic and even some carrot seeds to name but a few, but wanted to try my hand at growing tomatoes once more.

To be sure, I had grown tomatoes before and had had some success there (some, just some) but I wanted to see if I could actually grow more than a token few. Besides, I had promised my kids that I'd make some home made tomato sauce for them and with the onions and garlic I had also planted I figured I would have the necessary ingredients.

The garden I'm talking about is the Kilborn Allotment gardens and it lies about 7 kilometres from our home. I could get there by bus or on foot but the issues of cost for bus tickets and both time and endurance for hoofing it surfaced. This is where the catrike would come in handy...very handy...

Armed only with a map and a fair degree of familiarity with the bike paths here, I managed to plot a course to the gardens which would only have me travelling on suburban streets. The busier roads like Conroy or Walkley would be taken on the bike paths. Long story short, getting from our place to the gardens would only take about 25 minutes.

Yesterday's venture also had Adam attach our bike trailer/kiddy trailer to his mountain bike. He had the unenviable task of transporting all those vegetable bulbs/seeds/plants while I only had to pack a good lunch and a healthy supply of water in both the panniers on my catrike. I remain perpetually impressed by just how easy it is to transport items on my catrike, especially after having watched some young man struggle with carrying books in his arms while riding a bicycle. In this day and age with panniers not only the norm but readily available, it makes less than no sense to me to try and carry things in one's arms while attempting to balance on two wheels. But, I digress...

So, after a fresh start on a cool but sunny morning we arrived at our garden plot. The ground was still very damp but the soil was not that grim, unsavoury muck. It was quite workable, despite the backbreaking heavy labour Adam underwent just to turn the soil. I hacked at each row, breaking up the larger clods of densely packed soil into something quite manageable. After a few hours and a good lunch break, we completed the planting of vegetables for the year.

Now, we have yet more rain in the forecast but also a lot more sunshine. That should make my tomato plants happy...I hope!

-Peace

Monday, May 16, 2011

When it's raining outside...

...I will sometimes look for any cycling information, whether in general or specifically for the capital region; and boy did I find a goooood one! It looks as though Ottawa/Gatineau is creeping ever so gently but certainly towards the 21st century. By that is meant that..yippee.. BIXI is coming to town.

For those of you unfamiliar with what a BIXI is, it means BIcycle taXI and is a new(ish) way to facilitate personal urban transportation that doesn't have the negative environmental impact that fossil fuel burning cars have. The thinking goes something like this: Prospective customers who want/need to get from one place to another can now head up to their nearest BIXI rental outlet and, with a credit card, can rent a bicycle. It's really designed for people who want to travel from one - predominantly downtown - location to another; perhaps as a cycle tourist or even just for some daily exercise without having to rely on cars or buses. I am an advocate of public transit but, face it, who wants to stand around a bus stop and wait for ages for a bus to show up when renting a bicycle at a convenient location precludes all that?

We went to Montreal a couple of years ago and saw BIXI outlets on some strategically placed downtown streets and thought those were such a marvellous idea. Bicycle use is quite common in some European cities (such as Copenhagen) so we wondered why such a thing couldn't happen here. Granted, most European cities are more compact than the more sprawling urban centres here in North America but that doesn't invalidate BIXI as a possibility, especially since, as North American cities go, Ottawa's downtown core is fairly compact. We know this because we have often walked from one end of downtown to the other.

The streets lend themselves well to bicycle use and Ottawa's upcoming conversion of a lane on Laurier Avenue to a cycle only lane is the first step towards proving my assertion. So, it made perfect sense to me, as likely to others as well, that having something like a BIcycle taXI facility here in Ottawa would be quite a boon. This is why I was pleased as punch to have read on cbc.ca/ottawa website that the NCC, or National Capital Commission, is set to unveil its first 10 rental locations for these simple bicycles on Wednesday, May 18th.

The ten locations, according to the news article, include a number of intersections on Queen Street. Three of those ten locations will be across the river into Gatineau but all of the locations are within the downtown areas of both Ottawa and Gatineau. The rates for renting these simple, basic yet state of the art bicycles are very reasonable. Could you rent any kind of vehicle for $5 for a 24 hour period? Granted, the information on the bikes themselves tends to focus on neat features (eg lighting, covered derailleurs and low seats) there is not much information on such things as how many gears it has. My impression is that it is a single gear bike; however, getting around a downtown area with traffic lights, other vehicles and other obstacles shouldn't require huge amounts of speed.

In other words, if you want a high speed sporty type of bicycle then you'll have to go and buy one.

The site, capitalbixi.com, features a means for users to type in their current location and to find out what rental sites are closest. The website's identifying logos are colour-coded with active rental locations indicated in red and future ones in a light grey. I typed in a known downtown address and saw that the nearest Bixi rental location is Elgin and Queen. The logo is that light grey which means it isn't in active service yet. That's okay, as none are scheduled to be in service until this Wednesday, the 18th anyway. Still, it's nice to know the website works.

This is something that was long in coming but I am very glad to see that it's here at long last. The National Capital Commission is still indicating that their goal of having 50 rental locations and 500 bikes in the system is still what they're aiming for. This is only 10 sites and 100 bikes...but it's a start.

Am I giving up my trike for this? Not a chance but I am at least relieved to know that the Ottawa/Gatineau area is becoming a lot more cycle friendly.

Long live BIXI!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Dear City of Ottawa...

Thursday, May 12th was a splendid day. Sunny, warm and breezy, we decided to head out for a catrike picnic. This is typically the way we both start and end the catriking season. Armed with an awesome lunch (they're always awesome 'cause I make 'em that way!) we left our house around 10:50am with our intended destination being Mooney's Bay park and likely beyond. I was pretty sure we would get to the park long before lunch time so we had planned to continue our trek north along the bike pathway until we were hungry enough to stop.

We got to Mooney's Bay, veered around and under Hog's Back Road and, as predicted, continued north parallel to the canal. We approached and passed both the locks at Hog's Back and Hartwell. The day remained sunny, breezy and just gorgeously warm enough that anything more substantial than a light nylon windbreaker would have been too hot to wear.

We cycled happily along the bike pathway, passing Lansdowne Park, many joggers and a few more cyclists who were also out and taking advantage of the fantastic weather. Eventually, hunger made itself known and we sidled to the nearest bench. Though Colonel By Drive was right there, it was not so heavily travelled that we couldn't enjoy our lunch in peace and quiet. The trees were leafing up quite nicely, the bushes were displaying their collection of gorgeous little yellow flowers (I think they were potentilla but don't quote me) and Adam and I got to do lots of people watching.

Lunch over, we both decided that we needed to find a washroom. Assuming, as foolishly as we did (or maybe just naively) that we would be able to find some place to go, we merrily headed back. Recalling that we had passed not one but two Parks Canada locks, we both thought that we could find a public washroom. After all, we reasoned to ourselves, with the cycling season obviously having started as evidenced by the copious numbers of cycles on the path, surely the washrooms would be open. Right?

Wrong.

Bladders uncomfortably full, our trek to find a public facility of any kind became a comedy of errors as it were. We stopped at the Hartwell Locks across the street from Carleton University and I hurriedly walked up the ramp and across the little bridge to one of the Parks Canada buildings. Three women were outside enjoying a picnic lunch. They looked to be employees there and so I asked them if there were any public washrooms in any of the buildings at the locks. Sadly, there were none and I was directed to the university across the street. Oh, they were quite sympathetic to my increasing distress level but they couldn't help me either - or Adam for that matter whose level of discomfort must also have been mounting. "Go across the street to where all that beeping was happening."

I turned to see that there were clusters of university students milling around while a loud and obnoxious beeping was heard. At first, I didn't know what the problem was - then I found out very quickly. I had tried to enter one of the buildings only to be met by a firefighter who gently informed me (and a few others) that the fire drill was still in effect and that we all had to leave the building.

I hurriedly zipped across the street, seriously considering finding the nearest ladies tree, and sadly announced to Adam that a fire drill was happening and that we had to continue on our way. Growing exasperated, not to mention increasingly desperate, we got back on our trikes and continued our venture south to Mooney's Bay. There is a pavilion on the north side of Hog's Back and Adam directed me to go there where we would likely find at least some place to relieve ourselves.

It was the existence of construction crews and the port-a-potty that, quite literally, saved our butts. We quickly parked our trikes and, not caring whom would say what, I darted into the telephone booth sized biffy. Adam followed suit after I got back and all was well.

So, here is my special message to the city of Ottawa:

When the weather turns nice and there are people outside cycling, jogging or otherwise partaking in outdoor activities, having facilities to - uh - make our ventures more pleasurable and less distressing would be a huge help. It would be a tremendous help if there were some actual portable toilets as some of us don't have bladders with the capacity of basketballs. Otherwise, keep the cycle paths closed tightly until you open up public facilities.

Once relieved, we went on to explore Vincent Massey Park, following the bike path around to Riverside Drive and approaching Billings Bridge. No longer distracted by having overfull bladders, we were able to take in the sweet sunshine and finish the trip having done 28.78 kilometres. The intention here is to build up my endurance and distance; now we work on speed...and maybe being able to find places to go pee that much more quickly!

-peace

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Garden trip #1 - checking the plot out by trike

Monday, May 9th dawned and, by golly, it wasn't raining, neither was it excessively windy and it wasn't even cloudy. Finally, I thought, I can get up to the allotment garden plot Helena and I rented for the season.

Getting there was a lot simpler than I had thought, despite my having reviewed the route thanks to Google Maps street view. I was to meet Helena at the plot for 11:00 am and the purpose of this gathering was to survey the plot itself to see what condition it was in and to plan the next step...when to plant.

Conventional wisdom here says not to plant anything before the May long weekend and I agree with that. Planting anything, really, before that starting weekend is a risky venture as a late (very) season frost is not out of the question. The only sniggly issue for me was how to transport the de-thatching rake I never use here at home but would certainly need up there. Adam came to the rescue there by offering to bungee cord the rake to the frame of his mountain bike and come up with me to the garden. Besides, he had said over a lovely breakfast, he wanted to see the plot himself.

So, around 9:48 am, we left, I on my beloved and trusty Catrike and Adam on his equally trusty mountain bike. It was mid morning so the rush hour traffic, such as it was, had thinned out quite a bit. Our route to the Kilborn allotment garden did involve us cycling along a few streets but these were mostly suburban ones so there was little in the way of - uh - cycle/car interactions. Mostly, we zoomed along the bike path from Cahill to the Greenboro branch of the Ottawa Public Library. That got us to Lorry Greenberg and, before long, the corner of it and Conroy.

There is a wide bike path cum sidewalk on the west side of Conroy Road which we took and very easily slid north to where Conroy ends at Walkley. We couldn't cross Walkley on the west side so we did have to cross Conroy to get to the right place. A few seconds later, we rode through the intersection and immediately found ourselves back on the bike path which turns out to be more of a hydro right-of-way. No matter, it was paved with a welcoming yellow line identifying it as a perfectly usable bike path.

The end of that particular pathway met up with Kilborn Avenue, itself a quiet suburban road even though buses and trucks do use it. No matter, on that quiet Monday morning, there was nary a soul about so we had less than no problems at all whatsoever getting into the allotment gardens. Our plot is on the north side and as we had entered from the south did get to survey some of the others who were already there and digging through the sodden but workable mess.

I found my Catrike worked perfectly here. The route to get to the garden involves so little in the way of dealing with cars that I found I was more able to just enjoy the trip though that's not to say I don't enjoy any of my trips because I do. It is just that some ventures are a little more - uh - tense than others. It's the difference between driving a set distance on a quiet and enjoyable road in perfect weather conditions and driving that same route at night during a raging freezing rain and blizzard conditions.

We met up with Helena, organized our shed (which we also rented for the season), met a couple of the other suburban farmers and then took a good long and serious look at the plot itself. I know I have about 500 square feet of space (20'x25') to work with but it's a different thing altogether to see it in its full, un-snowy glory. When Helena and I first looked at the plot, it was during the earliest of spring and during the last gasps of winter. Dirty crusty ice and sodden bone chilling ponds dotted the squishy ground as we had delicately tip-toed around the place. I figured that, once we got to start the actual gardening, that the place would look a little less foreboding. More importantly, I figured it would be easier to get to.

Happily, I was right!

-Peace

Monday, May 9, 2011

a (mostly) sunny Sunday!

Our original intent was to take the quadracycle out and meander through the neighbourhoods. It's early May now which means that some streets are having yard sales and I am looking for a piece of window glass so I can make my more permanent solar oven. The cardboard one still works nicely but its purpose was only to test the concept and whether I could actually make one. I proved I could so it's on to the next step.

So, we thought it would make more sense to use the quadracycle since it has the carrying capacity for such items were we to actually find anything. However, about a kilometre out, one of the chains broke so bang went that idea. It was all for the best, actually, as there wasn't a single yard sale anywhere to be found so we didn't think we would miss anything.

With all the cold and rain we had had recently, we really wanted to take advantage of the sunshine, as mottled by high clouds as it was. We wanted to be outside and cycling along the streets. We were both disappointed by the breakdown of our quadracycle but decided that we weren't going to let that stop us from enjoying the day.

Enter the catrikes!

It was a simple matter of taking out the trikes, plunking ourselves into our seats and zooming away. Yard sales could wait and, besides, there hadn't been any on the Sunday anyway. Most neighbourhoods don't have those weekend-long yard sales until the May long weekend anyway so neither of us was particularly worried.

And how could we be worried as we zoomed and zipped through the neighbourhoods? With the clouds continuing to thin, more or less, and with little in the way of wind, the day could only get nicer. We have had a rather persistent upper low spinning over top bringing with it rains, winds and cold temperatures. But now, finally, the low has edged away, s-l-o-w-l-y as it had done so. By the time we had finished our jaunt through suburbia I had added another 8.13 kilometres to my annual tally.

Now, I sit and see that the skies are that brilliant blue, the tree branches steady in the no wind condition and the nearby forest sporting that green haze of emerging leaves.

Today, we have an actual practical mission. My friend, Helena, and I have rented one of the allotment garden plots the city of Ottawa provides to residents. Although it is still too early to plant anything per se, we are going to meet up with her at our plot (#198) to at least see what tidying and ground prep needs to be done. So, I'm taking my trike while Adam, whose Catrike Speed has a lot less clearance than my Trail, will be using his mountain bike. If the plot is what Helena and I recall when we first considered renting it for the season, there shouldn't be too much to do for now but that's another story.

Enjoy the sunshine, folks. I know I will!
-Peace

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sweet 16...kilometres...

With yet another storm system forecast to move in (typical for April), we thought it best to head out on our trikes earlier in the day rather than later, trading sunnier skies for the expected warmth of a mid-spring day. It wasn't even remotely breezy, a welcome change from the howling gales we often get at this time of year, so the issue of it having only been about 10 degrees or so wasn't all that important.

So, around 10:00am or so, we set out, heading south along Bridlepath, turning west (ish) onto Trapper's, then south onto Albion and finally east along Queensdale. One of the truly lovely features of Queensdale is just how long and straight it is. I say this because when you're sitting a mere few inches off the ground, being able to see far into the distance is a huge bonus. It also allows me to note very early on what other vehicles are there coming up from behind. It just makes planning and maneuvering on the street a lot easier...for me anyway. So, in no time at all, I zoomed along Queensdale and got to the intersection with Bank Street. Thanks to the existence of other cars who were stopped at the lights, we only had to wait a few moments (maybe) before we got the green light. We sailed through the intersection and found ourselves in yet another little corner of suburbia, where the streets were short, the bushes and trees were plenty and everyone else ran all the stop signs.

Turning north we sauntered through the neighbourhood, passing a few other cyclists heading the other way and a number of school-aged kids who had the Easter Monday off and were out taking advantage of the nice day (wouldn't you?). The one issue we both noticed was that despite my having made eye contact with other car drivers and displaying the correct right turn signal that my existence seemed to have caused a high enough level of anxiety. One minivan driver in particular, who was stopped at a stop sign stared anxiously at me as I approached, my right turn signal indicated clearly. She didn't so much as budge a centimetre even though there was no traffic conflict at all. Perhaps she assumed I would just zoom through despite my signal. So, I made my turn and only then did she drive away. At that point, I could only surmise that she didn't know what a right turn hand signal looked like. Funny, I had to demonstrate my knowledge of that when I was learning to drive aeons ago; maybe that's changed nowadays but I sure hope not.

So, now we found ourselves deposited into a different, though familiar neighbourhood and easily made our way down the slight hill of Quail Run to the intersection of Lorry Greenberg and Hunt Club Road. Once through the intersection, it was a short matter of getting to the library where I went to the drive through lane and returned the two books I borrowed. It's kinda funny how the deposit slot sits right where a standard car window would be but where I had to climb out of my trike to perform the very same act. No, I don't expect anyone to accommodate me. I'm quite capable of adapting. I just thought it was amusing.

At that point, Adam and I talked about where to go next. Feeling energized by the warm(ish) day and a little surprised at how quickly we got to the library itself, we decided to go back home but by reversing our track instead of just cutting through the lacy bike paths that emanate from the library itself.

Reversing our track was a venerable piece of cake but I also wanted to make a quick stop to get a couple of things. There is a Giant Tiger (store, not the real thing) right on the corner of Queensdale and Bank Street. However, the parking lot would be absolutely treacherous to negotiate so we pulled over on Queensdale and I got to enjoy the fun of trying to cross the street without getting plastered by a rushed and unobservant car driver turning from Bank Street onto Queensdale. Yet, I managed to do it successfully and I returned with the items I wanted to get (okay, it was Brie cheese and a box of orange sherbet bars). The rest of the trip home was equally simple and I finished this awesome venture having ridden 16 point something kilometres.

Now, a day later, the promised/threatened rain is here drumming steadily on the barely greening ground and my MS fatigue is acting up quite grimly. Such is the way of multiple sclerosis; flare-ups can (and often do) happen over a fairly short period of time. Oh well, I'll just ride this one out, too.

Not sure when next I'll head out but, with my stated goal for this year of doing a 100 kilometre trip in one day, I'm hoping it'll be soon. MS fatigue - for me at least - often doesn't last much beyond a week but that's only if I take it really easy which I will definitely do.

As an aside, Adam later in the day took his mountain bike out to check out the greenbelt trail just off Albion Road. It's the same trail we cycled last autumn and then skied this past February. It's supposed to be part of an expanding cycle network which will connect the Mer Bleue area to the east, travel down heading south of the airport and then emerge on the other side to end around Shirley's Bay. According to Adam, most of the trail is just not all that passable with some portions of it looking more (by his description) like a pockmarked warzone

-Peace

Friday, April 8, 2011

Glorious first Friday

Typical for April, the weather here in Canada's capital can be either sunny, warm and dry or else rainy, chilly and gloomy. Luckily for me, it was the former and so I found myself itching to head out for a quick sprint through the area. With Ottawa's awesome and extensive bike path system here, it is possible for cyclists to actually get some exercise without worrying about being cut off or run over by car drivers. That's not say all car drivers are demented homicidal loonballs...just the ones around here (ha! ha! ha!).

It was sunny but quite chilly this morning but there were no winds of note and the day would only get warmer anyway. So, after a decent breakfast and taking care of my usual morning routine, I got dressed, donned my helmet, some light gloves and my pant bands and headed out. My goal today was to cycle over to where my friend lives (I'll explain why that's important on Monday), intercept the bike path there and see how easily I could get to Conroy Road. The trike was its usual extremely easy and fun to ride. Most importantly for me, as my balance continues to be an issue, I can relax and focus on the trip without worrying about falling over. My Catrike Trail can still stop on a dime and turning corners continues to be a cinch. No wheels lifting off the ground, no weird noises emanating from the gears or the brakes. The sun was shining, the temperature still hovering just above zero but the day was utterly gorgeous. I encountered many people walking their dogs (thank you for picking up after them - yes you did), a few joggers and quite a number of city crews busily pressure-spraying parts of the pathway. Everyone seemed to be in a good mood. Everyone was smiling and we all waved and grinned at each other. The mantle of a typical winter was now removed and we could all just get outside and - gasp - enjoy the day.

Enjoy it I most certainly did. I seemed to average about 16 km/hr and had absolutely no troubles at all whatsoever in maneuvering around the occasional puddle or collection of gravel left over from the last snowfall. The city sprays a combination of salt and gravel to help motorists and pedestrians move along the roads and sidewalks. It's a totally unnecessary practice but the city does it anyway.

However, I didn't make it as far as Conroy. Glancing to my left, I noticed a rather large dumpster in someone's driveway, a clear indication that a major spring clean-up was taking place. As I am also looking for some glass - preferably a window in a wooden frame - for our soon to be made wooden solar cooker, I thought I'd take a quick peek to see what, if anything, was there. Because my trike can turn pretty tightly, I had no trouble at all in making a very quick left turn and onto the street. It was mid late morning and there was no one around (it is suburbia). Alas, there was no window pane or even any glass of any kind to be found so I shall have to continue my search another time.

In the interim, I found myself neatly deposited onto Lorry Greenberg Street and so thought I would just head back home. Like the little street I had been on, there was virtually nobody else around so zooming along was a simple venture. In no time did I find myself back at the Greenboro library and onto the bike path network again. Another quick turn or two and I was back on Cahill and then, crossing Bank Street, onto Daze. Crossing Hunt Club was its usual piece of cake as was the rest of my journey home.

I pulled into the driveway feeling relaxed and enthralled at the gorgeous day. I looked over at my little cardboard solar cooker, noting the inside temperature was about 38C - or around 100F. The rice I had in the black cooking pan was beginning to soften and I had thought I might have been able to produce cooked rice by 4:00 pm. It was not meant to be as it is still pretty early in spring...but I hold out hope there anyway.

Still, I did about 8.0 kilometres on a beautiful, magnificent Friday and that is certainly more than enough reason to be grateful.

-Peace

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Aaaand...



...we're off!

Today was (okay, it still is as I write this) sunny and actually not too windy. We spent a good chunk of this morning running errands wrapped in the warm bright spring air as we were. We then spent the early part of the afternoon making up a cardboard version of a box solar cooker (more on that in a bit) - and then it was time to take the catrikes out of their hibernation (read: the garage). We gave them a good check over, with Adam pumping up the tires to the recommended inflation while I dusted and cleaned off the specks of a winter's silent storage. Then, I donned my helmet, plunked myself into the ol' familiar mesh seat...and tore off down the street while neighbourhood kids gawked.

As with last year, it felt SO GOOD being back on the trike. My goal for today was to just run through the gears, check the handling and the brakes and make sure things like the speedometer worked properly and that the mirror held steady. Adam had to adjust it before I charged off but it held its own as I *very* happily zipped and zoomed up and down the street.

The winds, what little we had, were from the north so it did make for a chilly ride coming back from the south end of the cul de sac but at least my speed beating into the breeze didn't suffer too much. I read 21 km/hr going south and a not-too-embarrassing 16 km/hr coming back.

Stretching my leg muscles like that sure felt good and I really hope to get in many many more trips this season. Unlike the ski season here, catriking season tends to last a long time.

Oh, the solar cooker. I had always wanted to learn more about greener, cleaner ways to live. We don't own a car and are very careful about our water and electricity use. So, naturally, when I learned about solar cookers, I was keen to know more. One of the more prominent features of solar cookers is just how inexpensive they are to build; the power they use comes directly from the sun so there is no cost there at all. We just had to build one.

I was first introduced to the idea of box solar cookers by author Jamal Sharif. The details aren't nearly as important as the guiding principle - one can cook food without using electricity - and it is that principle that inspired me to consider making a solar cooker.

So, not long ago I picked up a couple of corrugated cardboard boxes and, thanks to all the hard work and effort by Adam, we managed to make a cardboard box cooker. Earliest testing shows that we can heat cold water to something tepid-bordering-on-warm in about 90 minutes. Tomorrow, with the weather forecast to be just as sunny, I intend on attempting to make rice.

So, why this on a catriking blog? Well, as my intention here is to highlight the ways of living "greenly" by using human powered transportation, I think knowing how to cook using green methods works quite well here, too.

-Peace and may your rice turn out perfectly!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

19:21

Tomorrow, at 19:21EDT (that's 7:21pm eastern daylight time), the sun crosses the equator on its annual track north. In simplest terms, that means spring arrives and the winter of '10-'11 comes to a close. That doesn't mean it won't snow but it does mean that, after tomorrow, the days will be longer than the nights until the first day of autumn.

Mostly, though, it means we are one day closer to being able to get our trikes out of storage and back onto the road. I've already switched to wearing my trusty running shoes. The sidewalks are mostly devoid of icy slush, replaced, however with gravel, larger salt cubes and other detritus. The snowpack is much reduced in a lot of places with open areas revealing the brown and flattened grasses from last year's warmth. The sun sits noticeably higher and its power continues to reduce the icy snows into a hardened dark grey mass. Tiny streams form and trickle under these mostly hardened plates of icy chill running down sidewalk cracks, curbs and flow more or less evenly into drains.

I am very attuned to the seasons themselves but mostly during those precious few weeks when the seasons shift.

-Peace

Friday, March 11, 2011

More kudos to Adam

It's still raining as I write this. Indeed, this is the second part of a very complex storm system we had. This time yesterday, Adam and I were both outside shovelling the 15-20 centimetres of heavy, wet snow from the driveway. It was still snowing though it was mixed with freezing rain...a harbinger of the heavy drenching we would soon get. Our issue was in making sure the drains on the street remain clear of ice. Otherwise, ponding and the inevitable flooding would be our fate and that was something we most definitely did NOT want.

So, with the rains and the softening of the late winter winds, the ski season is definitely over. I hung up my skis a few days ago, content with having done 66.4 kilometres - two thirds of my stated goal. However, Adam not only managed to meet my goal of 100 kilometres for the season but he exceeded that goal. He took advantage of the half-way decent conditions a few days ago. After his last trip, we calculated that he was a measly 1.2 kilometres shy of 100. This trip he would do would surely resolve that matter.

When he came back, after having skied south along the disused rail track, we added up the numbers and, long story short, Adam finished the 2010-2011 x-c ski season at 106.8 kilometres. Considering the - uh - inconsistent ski conditions we had this season, that is awesome. So...congratulations to you, Adam. Kudos on you having met that 100 kilometre goal. Adam has said that he did the 100+ kilometres in honour of me, that as I could not complete my goal that he would do it instead. For that I am thankful to Adam. But then, I am thankful to Adam anyway.

Now, we hang up the skis and merely wait for the weather to warm up to something we can trike in. Until the salt is cleaned up, though, we won't be triking. Soon, though, soon...

CONGRATULATIONS, Adam!

:D

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Kudos

Well, while I have, myself, hung up my skis for the season (yes I have), Adam hasn't. In fact, the weather having been so wonderfully gorgeous yesterday, he went out to do more skiing. His journeys took him south of here along the disused rail line for quite some way. In coming back, he continued north along the rail line and into the wetlands. If nothing else, he was able to see what the conditions were. Only then did he turn around yet again and glide his way back to his original starting point.

He was gone for quite awhile and I - correctly - assumed it was because he wanted to take advantage of the pretty good conditions that were out there. His timing was pretty good, too. We have a major winter storm drifting this way for later today with the promise of snow overnight tonight and well into tomorrow. Ordinarily that would spell good times for those of us who enjoy the snow (there are still a few of us who like winter) but the snow is supposed to change over to rain. It's also not forecast to get all that cold so what snow we do get won't last. In practical matters it not only means making sure the drain on the street is clear but also that the skiing season really is coming to a close.

So, what's the kudos about?

Recall that I had mentioned a goal of skiing 100 kilometres this season. Well, I skied 66.4 kilometres and left it at that. Adam, however, did a bit more and, after yesterday, a lot more. In fact, adding up his total distance, he is currently at the 98.8 kilometre mark. That means he only needs to ski another 1.2 kilometres...a whole 1200 metres for him to reach my stated goal. I guess he took my personal goal to heart which I find quite flattering, personally.

With this winter storm coming and due to exert its effects later today, we figure today is the last day to head out skiing because the much appreciated snow will change to a ski trail destroying rain by early tomorrow. Yuk!

So, I fully expect Adam to not only ski the last 1200 metres to reach my goal of 100 kilometres but to exceed it. If today is going to be it - he might as well finish the season off well.

Kudos to you, Adam, for your valiant efforts.

-Peace