Monday, April 16, 2012

foray through Vincent Massey

Well, by Vincent Massey is meant that gorgeous valley-like park that lies just north of Hog's Back park/beach and sits just across the Rideau River from Carleton University. It's a gorgeous park, thick with trees, concession stands (not open yet but pretty to behold anyway) and a few dips into tall deciduous forests. It's one of the most gorgeous cycle paths to take during the annual colour change of autumn - but it's only April and the branches on the trees have only just the tiniest tinge of green.

The morning was spent doing domestic chores. I planted some Physalis (aka Chinese lanterns) seeds in our back yard along with some Aquilegia (Columbine) seeds in our two large beige barrels. Another sign that spring is truly were the winds we faced when we left after lunch to head out on a trike trip.

The spring weather this year has been chilly-bordering-on-cold, dry and exceptionally in gusts up to 50 km/hr. But this day, the temperature was a decent 17C and the winds were not too brisk although they seemed to switch randomly throughout our trip so that we were always into the wind. The sun made a few feeble attempts to finish burning off the last of the fog/mist we had had so conditions were actually quite good.

No, seriously, they were good. Too hot is unbearable as is too cold - these conditions were good.

Luckily for us, car traffic wasn't too bad. I like to think that people around here are actually considering such realities as rising gas prices ($1.33/litre at last check) before mindlessly jumping into their cars and zooming off to somewhere but I'm probably wrong. Yet, our foray up Hunt Club and heading west to McCarthy Road was one of ease. I am not in the least bit afraid of sharing the road with any number of vehicles but I also admit that it is nice when there aren't too many other cars. I don't have a hate-on for cars but any car/cycle accident is always bad for the cyclist so the fewer chances of any collisions, the better it works for me.

Once heading north on McCarthy, it was smooth sailing up to Southmore, a genuinely suburban street. There, we passed a lot of homeowners raking up the thatch from their lawns and quite a lot of early season flowers were blooming nicely despite the fairly chilly and dry conditions we have had lately.

We followed our usual route along Otterson to Walkley where Otterson changes name (a common feature here in Ottawa) to become Springland to Mooney's Bay Place. It was there where a woman and a young child on bicycles thought it would be okay to run the stop sign and I found I had to veer quite far out to avoid hitting the little girl. A few stern words from Adam to the effect that cyclists cannot just run stop signs and, a few minutes later, we had safely (and properly) crossed Riverside and got right into Mooney's Bay Park. If I sound too edgy about cyclists running stop signs, I am. It's bad enough that car drivers hate having to share the roads with cyclists because they think we're too unpredictable without having cyclists act too unpredictably.

Typically, we would trickle north through the park and exit onto Hog's Back Road turning left to curl around and go under the bridge and onto the bike path that parallels Colonel By Drive. This time, we turned right and meandered under the bridge to find ourselves right at Hog's Back Falls. The bike path continued until we got to the switchback heading down and riding along Heron Rd. Another few turns and we found ourselves neatly deposited into Vincent Massey Park - one of the city of Ottawa's most beautiful places, in my humble opinion. Although it wasn't freezing cold, it wasn't really picnic weather either but that didn't seem to stop some people from coming out and kicking a ball around or otherwise enjoying the greening ground.

We kept going on the bike path (this was almost all done on bike paths, by the way) and found ourselves ducking under the Bronson Avenue bridge. We were heading towards Billings Bridge and having a great ride at the same time. We got to the corner of Riverside Drive and Bank Street. We were still on the bike path but it was also a sidewalk so we did have to keep that in mind in case there were some people pushing strollers or walking with canes.

Further we continued until the Ottawa Hospital Riverside campus was visible and getting bigger as we approached. Finally, we pulled over at a park bench, took a break, revelled in the gorgeous scenery and then turned around and headed back.

We retraced our route and pulled into our driveway eagerly anticipating a smoothie. We had some bananas and some strawberries along with some vanilla yogurt so we wanted to replenish ourselves with a smoothie of those ingredients. Okay, Adam added some skim milk, ice cubes and some hot chocolate powder but the result was amazing.

Each day is amazing.


Last standing was 248 kilometres
Today's tally was 21.0 kilometres done
That leaves me 227.6 kilometres to go as of today.

Friday, April 13, 2012

My timing was good...

I couldn't have asked for a better day than today. By mid-morning, the temperature was a balmy 13C and, best of all, no howling winds and especially not from the north. North winds really belong in the winter and not in nearly-mid-April.

Today's trip was not an especially long one nor did I try to break any kind of speed record. I was by myself with Adam having been at his volunteer stint at our local ISP, National Capital Freenet (NCF). They needed him in for the whole day on Friday so that left me the whole day here...and not all that willing to stay indoors on such a nice day either.

So, around 10:30 or so, I left to go on a lovely solo trip around the neighbourhood. This time, I decided to head south and so rode down Bridlepath to Trappers. Along that lovely and very quiet street, I had the whole lane to myself. In fact, I had the whole road to myself and so took in the lovely sunshine and soft blue skies. Meandering around the streets, I eventually found myself at Albion. A right turn onto a virtually empty street (rare for Albion), I sailed along until I got to Queensdale. Then, a left turn and I was able to gun it all the way to Queensdale and Bank Street. I crossed the intersection (the light was green just as I came to a tentative stop in anticipation of the green light) and continued into that cute little neighbourhood that always smells like woodsmoke and looks more like a little woodland summer village than the 'burbs.

Before long, I found myself passing schools and then onto Levadia. There is a little pathway (fenced on either side I might add). Trickling down got me to the Quail Ridge neighbourhood of interlocking crescents bounded by obscenely large (imho) homes. A quick zoom through there and I was at the corner of Lorry Greenberg and Hunt Club. Again, there was little to no traffic so my stop at the red light left me enough time to note the real dearth of cars. I am sure an hour earlier would have presented a different story but not at this point.

A quick clip across Hunt Club one the light turned green and I rode along until I got to where the bike paths form tributaries around the library. I turned onto the pathways and it was a matter of a short jaunt before coming out onto Cahill. There were a few light industrial vehicles (as I've said before, Cahill is almost always being torn up at this time of year for no discernible reason) and a few people were waiting at the few bus stops on Cahill. Once I got to Albion again, I decided to take it.

I turned left and rode along in awesome comfort. Even the trek up the hill to Bridlepath was but nothing today. The rest of my journey home was a period of quiet happiness and utter comfort.

All in all, a neat day. So far, my goal of riding 300 kilometres (or more) this season is working out far...

Last standing was 257.2 kilometres
Today's tally was 8.6 kilometres done
That leaves me 248.6 kilometres to go as of today.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Another sign of spring

Ottawa's National Capital Commission (aka NCC) is set to launch the Bixi bike share program today. The bikes themselves aren't set for release to users until Sunday but the CBC news item does provide some interesting stats from 2011 which I think bears sharing here.

There were roughly 22,000 trips last year with a little under 175 subscribers, both monthly subscribers and year-long. There were a reported 7,400 users of the Bixi bikes as well and I certainly remember seeing a few of them on the bike paths, most notably the one on Colonel By Drive.

I am assuming that the NCC is hoping for a larger uptake of the Bixi bikes this cycling season which lasted 6 months last year.

This is, in my view, one of the most socially responsible ventures the city of Ottawa has ever undertaken and I suspect a part of the reason for the relatively weak (in my view) uptake last year is that the program itself is so new. A lot of Ottawa, Ontario and Gatineau, Quebec residents already own bikes, recumbent trikes and other human-powered devices. That, in combination with the single-gear Bixi bikes, probably accounted for the modest uptake.

Weather plays a HUGE role in how these kinds of programs fare and with the very long and warm summer we had last year, that would have helped to increase ridership. Summers in Ottawa are quite variable and though almost always warm, can also be perpetually in the summer (?) of 2008 kind of wet. So, it is my deepest hope that the Bixi bike season will be a good and long one and that many more subscribers and casual users will take advantage of this incredibly great program.

So, if you are reading this and you want to learn more about the Bixi bike rental program, here is the link and, no, I do not work for them.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Mooney's Bay and slightly beyond

To describe the past couple of weeks as windy would be like describing the ocean as damp. It hasn't been that warm either so triking hasn't really been much on our minds. Adam went out on foot this morning to buy milk and came home declaring that he should have worn gloves. It was only +7C but with a stream of winds from the north, it felt more like just above freezing.

I understood.

We were originally going to head out earlier this morning but chose to head out after lunch instead. The winds were still brisk but the sun was shining and it was warm enough that we didn't have to worry about freezing. Remember that catriking is supposed to be fun, not something to endure, right?

So, we headed out, up Bridlepath, onto Hunt Club heading west and then up MacCarthy. It was like so many other trips we had taken before. It felt good just being out and about and heading up to Mooney's Bay. We arrived there and noticed that there were a lot of people there playing and having fun and even barbecuing. Mooney's Bay, or the park therein, is relatively well sheltered from the winds so we stopped there and felt the warmth of an early spring afternoon. It's Easter Sunday for Christians, Passover for Jews and just a plain ol' Sunday in the park for us.

I wasn't too tired yet but didn't want to go too much further. It's always a debate within myself as to whether I should head out earlier in the day when I have the energy to do so and can go further - but in generally colder and windier conditions or else wait until later in the day when it's warmer but where my stamina is just not as good as I would like. I opted for the latter and Adam didn't seem to mind.

We snaked along the pathway, passing rollerbladers, under-dressed adults with equally under-dressed children and clusters of kids playing with those bright large rubber balls whose emergence after winter was nice to see.

We exited Mooney's Bay and turned left onto the bike path on Hog's Back Road only to re-intercept the pathway going around the corner and under Hog's Back Road itself. It was really nice to see other people out and about but, alas, I was getting tired enough that I felt we should stop. I pulled over to a little bench and trash can (aka typical picnic stop). We took a break and then turned around and retraced our steps back home.

Once home, I made the most awesome smoothie this side of the solar system. I made a chocolate smoothie for Adam and I added some coffee powder into mine. It was the first time I had made a smoothie without using any fruit but that was only because we didn't have any fruit to put in a smoothie in the first place.

Today's total is 13.7 kilometres which means:

Last standing was 270.9 kilometres
Today's tally was 13.7 done
That leaves me 257.2 to go as of today.

Now, go kite flying!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A too quick jaunt and a way too sticky front shifter

The sun almost fooled me. This morning dawned very bright and the sun a most welcome diamond brightness in the sky. The winds weren't too busy, unlike yesterday, and there was no short term risk of any precipitation.

To me, that spelled a perfect opportunity for a quick trip by myself as Adam had to stay home to take care of some other tasks.

After a breakfast of rice (I am very gluten sensitive so don't eat the typical toast for breakfast) and my usual lethal java, I put on my windbreaker, my running shoes and otherwise got ready to head out. I would only be about a half hour, I reassured Adam, so I had no concerns. It was mid-morning so car traffic would be light which was a bonus as far as I was concerned.

So, I put on my helmet, deposited my pouch (I am not really a "purse" kinda gal) in one of my side panniers, wrapped my pant straps around my ankles, checked my trike over visually, concluded all was well and then plunked myself onto my seat. I didn't have a specific plan for my morning's journey per se but thought I would just head off in a sort of easterly direction.

I glided ahead and then took off down the street. All was well and I found myself travelling smoothly along the street. By the time I turned left (north) onto Bridlepath, however, I noticed that the very slight breeze had evolved into a fairly gusty and brisk wind. Moreover IT WAS COLD so I was relieved for the windbreaker and the thin gloves too. At this time of year, having cold hands is common and very uncomfortable for triking. I have seen bicyclists with red, raw looking frozen hands so all of you bicyclists will know what I mean. It's not the ambient, sensible temperature but the relative airflow that seems to act like a high velocity frozen windtunnel. Not the least bit enjoyable unless you're wearing gloves. They don't have to be heavy mitts like astronauts wear but they should be at least relatively windproof and comfortable.

It wasn't until I crossed Hunt Club heading towards Bank Street that I noticed a little smidgy problem with the trike. Adam had recently adjusted my left brake so it wouldn't sound like a smoke detector going off for no reason and that worked very well I am pleased to report at this time. What I did notice, however, was that my front set of sprockets was in the smallest, lowest setting when I normally keep it in the middle (second) setting. Here I was at top gear for the sprocket and just not hitting those speeds I have become totally accustomed to.

"No problem," I thought grasping the left shifter and assuming it would turn and that I could re-set my front sprocket to the middle ring.

No such luck.

Try as I might - and I did try - that left shifter just would not move. I crossed Bank Street with no problems and found myself deposited onto Cahill. I moved ahead and then decided to pull into someone's driveway to try and see if I could unstick this left shifter. The smallest ring, gears 1-9, is just too slow for me. This isn't me bragging - it's just a simple fact. I use the smallest sprocket ring only when climbing really steep hills (think bike path coming around and towards Vincent Massey Park) and almost never the 3rd sprocket (light speed). For me the second sprocket works best and I just couldn't get the chain back onto it. So, At the corner of Albion Road and Cahill, I called it quits, turned right (south mostly) and headed to Hunt Club Road.

There, I turned right again and headed back along the almost completely empty road until I reintercepted Bridlepath. I got into the left lane at Hunt Club and Bridlepath, waited about a minute (maybe) before the left turn signal came on and then eased around and cycled the last few hundred metres to our driveway.

I was not impressed. I had only managed to put 3.0 kilometres on my trike today. Yes, it was cold and windy but I was dressed for conditions so that shouldn't have mattered. I was mentally and physically prepared to put on at least 8 to 10 kilometres and here I barely did a third of that.

Next time, I intend on doing more than a mere 3.0 kilometres. Maybe later 3.0 will seem like an amazing accomplishment but not today. Still, I can say,

Last standing was 273.9 kilometres to go
Today's tally was 3.0 done
That leaves me 270.9 to go as of today.