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


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.


Thursday, April 7, 2011


...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!