Monday, 21 December 2009

On the symptoms of devout cyclists

I could title this entry as "You know you are a serious cyclist..." à la Jeff Foxworthy's "You know you are a redneck..." series of books, but it doesn't work for me. More accurately, it doesn't fit with my self-imposed "On..." blog entry title format. ;-)

I think it started with a conversation I had with my cousin Kristine over weekend about one sign I have identified as to whether someone might make a good librarian, (namely that when they go into someone's home, they invariably scan the bookshelves to see what titles are on it!), but I have begun to self-analyze myself to see some of the quirks I have that could be interpreted as symptoms of my biking habits. This was kicked into high gear when I was watching Lethal Weapon 2 last night and at one point thought, "Hey! that road has a nice wide hard shoulder!"

Anyway, here is a partial list of symptoms that may suggest that you are a serious cyclist (and I invite my readers to suggest more):
-You notice whether the hard shoulder in a movie is good for cycling;
-Your Christmas wish list includes items relating to cycling;
-You give Christmas presents with a cycling theme to non-cyclists;
-The home page on all the computers you use are set to weather sites;
-You intend your next holiday as a biking vacation, and the next, and the next, ...;
-You have a map on the wall in order to help plan your next bike trip (suggested by Margo);
-You know the bike policies of the public transport systems in your part of the world (bus, trains, ships and airplanes) and choose accordingly;

Thursday, 17 December 2009

On meeting niece-cousins at the airport

I volunteered to pick up Kristine, Julianne and Elisabeth at the airport last night using from a car-sharing organization I am a member of. The nearest service point is located a little beyond the Metro station at the end of my street. Going to the car, I suddenly noticed that I had walked into the Metro station as if I were about to take the Metro rather than pick up a car at the parking lot beyond. Fortunately, I could pretend I was just walking through the station to avoid the cold temperatures and not look too much like a distracted twit.

At the airport, I slipped into the domestic baggage retrieval area to give Kristine a hand. She had a decent amount of luggage and two small kids (4 years and 18 months) to worry about which is more than is truly sensible to travel with. ;-) After we got all the luggage and were about to head off to the car, Julianne said she didn't want to walk. As I suspected she was a little cranky from the long flight, rather than try to reason with her, I picked her up, put her on my shoulders and told her to hang on as I need both hands to steer the luggage cart. I suspect both she and Kristine were a little surprised by this. Kristine was a bit worried about Julianne hitting her head on low-hanging signs. However, I got a kick out it, and I hope Julianne did as well. I will be having supper with them and Helle tomorrow night.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

On the passing of the Olympic Flame

Mark and I were walking to a restaurant in Old Montreal this evening when as we passed in front of Notre-Dame Basilica. We noticed there were a certain number of people standing around as if something was about to happen. I then noticed that there was a woman dressed mostly in white wielding a curved aluminum object in one hand. Suddenly, I realized that she was an Olympic torch bearer waiting for the flame to arrive at which time her aluminum torch would be lit as part of the relay. We decided to wait on the steps of Notre-Dame to see the procession go by. Unfortunately, this probably took about half an hour, though the cold might have altered my perception of the passage of time. (Winter has arrived in Montreal and the biking season is over for me.)

As we waited, I realized that the last time I had watched an Olympic torch relay was on television at the St-Pierre's (family friends) in North Hatley for the Montreal Olympics! I remember very vividly alternately watching the torch make it's way to the stadium and going outside to play with my brothers on the St-Pierre's lawn. (I was 5 1/2 and my attention span wasn't great. Plus their lawn was cool. Well, at least to me then) That was the first memory I have where I know where I was when an international event happened.

There were any number of police cars blocking off traffic, as well as keeping assorted protesters at bay. However, my contrarian instincts wondered how much of a police escort there would be on the flame's passage along the C&W Rail Trail West of Castlegar, including the long and very dark Bulldog Tunnel. Come to think of it, it would probably be quite nice to have a flaming torch if you are going to go through the Bulldog Tunnel, especially in winter! It was more than a little spooky when I went through with a head lamp in September!

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

On the (possible) benefits of modern technology

Margo and Chris mentioned a couple of times in their blog how they downloaded travel guides from the Lonely Planet (among other things) onto the mini-computer/netbook they brought with them on their odyssey. This has got me thinking about whether I should invest in a netbook for future trips as most of the motels I stayed in advertised free wifi. (Whether or not they actually delivered is another story and one which I was unequipped to judged.) I was just poking around the Lonely Planet website and was amused to see that the cheapest way to get their data about an individual Canadian province was via download. In addition, given my recent experience at a bike shop, the benefits of having lots of data while touring on a bike seem particularly obvious.

I must also thank Margo and Chris for bringing the benefits of electronic books to my attention. At a recent meeting at work there was a discussion about the fact that the Library is moving towards offering downloadable MP3 audiobooks, with a resultant discussion of the larger issue of e-books and their ilk. Just after one of my older and more conservative (and irritating) colleagues repeated a hackneyed spiel about how Umberto Eco said that electronic books will never replace printed books, I was able to riposte with the argument that e-books aren't a replacement for printed books, per se, but a supplement to them in cases where space and weight were at a premium, using Margo and Chris' example. This in turn lead the department head to comment about how she usually went on vacation with a dozen books and therefore for the vacationing patrons of our library, the availability of e-books from the library might well be welcomed. I therefore appeared to be very informed and up to date thanks to Margo and Chris' blog.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

On the (semi-)final choice of naming and a possible act of self-interested generosity.

As hinted at in my previous e-mail, I think "Floria" will be the new bike's name. However, as I am loath to give up on one of the other choices, I think the full name [drum roll] will be: Floira Die Fledermoose. I reserve the right to change my mind.

A possible act of self-interested generosity
I have been locking my bikes at work to the same rack at the same spot for over ten years. It isn't the best of racks for a number of reasons. For one thing, the bit that I like to lock my bike to is a little low and it seems that the right spot to lock to it results in an undesirable part of the bike rubbing against the rack. However, from wrapping Floria Die Fledermoose up with old inner tubes, I am thinking that one way to reduce the scratches would be to wrap parts of the rack with them! I am torn between asking official permission and simply doing it and waiting to see if anyone objects or even notices! ;-)

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

On Floria's first trip to work

I felt well enough today to ride Floria to work. I had left at about the right time, but then had to nip back to get something. I thought I was going to be late, but instead I arrived more or less on time! She is fast. She accelerates very nicely and the brake-shifters mean you can take advantage of that. I have only begun to get used to her and Boy! do I like what I see. The only major glitch with Floria is that I find the seat has a bit too much give. I have made plans to replace it with the seat from the Castafiore on the weekend as seat changing is too long and fiddly a job for a weeknight. I am rather beginning to think I made the right choice, even if I do say so myself.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

On a very tolerant cat and other matters

I had supper with James, Jennifer and Isla on Thursday. I was surprised to learn that one of their cats is far more tolerant of my quasi-niece, Isla, than I would have expected. Bandit the cat puts up with Isla's clumsy attentions to a remarkable degree. It is only when she tries to mess with his tail that he moves off. To my mind, this is an incredibly tolerant cat as I would have thought that the normal cat reaction to a toddler would be to move out of her reach post-haste!

On the naming of the new bike
I have received comments from some of my readers about the name for the new bike, but I have yet to make a decision. For that matter, I have yet to take her out for a spin. I had been planning to install accessories this weekend, but I have been down with a stomach bug and haven't had the energy. I have had other ideas for names. In line with previous bike being named for a fictional opera singer, I have pondered if naming the bike "Marguerite" after the only role she actually is seen to sing! I also pondered whether the new bike should be named after the fictional opera Die Fledermoose by Giuseppe Wagner referenced in the Rudolf Nureyev episode of the Muppet Show!

On the importance of being an information pack-rat
I picked up Leonardo from the bike shop yesterday. They had changed the cassette (rear gears) and it didn't look wide enough. I quietly asked if they were sure that was right range and was assured it was. When I got home, I counted the number of teeth on the biggest gear and got 25. I looked up the original specs to Leonardo on the pdf I had downloaded from the Devinci website. There, I found that the original cassette had had 34 teeth at the top end. I brought Leonardo back to the shop and politely asked that a cassette with the "proper" range of gears be installed, explaining that the mandate of Leonardo calls for granny gears. The staff at the place cheerfully obliged and made the change on the spot.

One of the issues in dealing with my local bike shop is that there is a cultural divide between them and I. The shop tends towards racing bikes which have narrower ranges of gears, whereas I, the tourer, would rather a wider range of gears. In fact, when I went to the shop the first time, the mechanic who had installed the narrower range arrived for work while I was there on a swish racing bike. This illustrates the difference in perspectives on cycling between the shop and your humble correspondent. I am not saying this is a bad thing and neither of us is at fault, merely that I should remember who I am dealing with.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

On the fatal fracture

At long last, I have brought the Castafiore home in order to strip her for parts. Pedals, tires, rims, seat and assorted accessories are being removed. This is also the first time I have had a chance to photograph the crack that has spelt her downfall. If you look at the photo below, you will see a rusty line running across the flattened end of the narrow down tube. This crack extends all the way through it, so that the tube is no longer doing its job of transmitting forces. For those of you needing orientation, the chrome structure at the top left of the frame is the bottom of the seat post.
I don't know for certain what caused the crack. I doubt it was any one event, but rather a combination of innumerable bumps, bangs, wear, corrosion and metal fatigue did in the Castafiore.

To be honest, in the weeks leading up the discovery, I had noticed that the Castafiore seemed to be handling at little skittishly, but I had put it down to non-structural factors. As well, I didn't really bother to inspect her carefully.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

On naming the successor to the Castafiore

Envelope please. Rrrrip. Hmm, it seems we have a black horse winner here, though perhaps, not entirely unexpected. She has spent much of her life in the public eye, fondled by many, including yours truly. Likely often the bridesmaid, but never the bride. She has a solid pedigree and will likely find she has much in common with her stablemate, Leonardo.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you my new bike.

She is a 2009 DeVinci Tosca. She was the floor model at La Cordée and thus was purchasable at an interesting discount. While she is a shade undersized for moi, I find that "flaw" lends itself to more responsive handling.
Given that her predecessor was named for a fictional opera singer and that her model is named for an opera, I entertained the notion of calling her "Floria" after the first name of the title character. Unfortunately, that isn't quite interesting enough, and neither is "Attavanti". While "Scarpia" has a bit of a ring to it, I am not sure it would do for everyday. As she is largely red, I am tempted to dub her "Vivien" as in Vivien Leigh a.k.a. Scarlett O'Hara. However, I am willing to take suggestions from the general public.

(Suggestions on what I might have bought are positively not sought from the general public.)

Sunday, 15 November 2009

On an interesting possible source of a successor to the Castafiore

I took advantage of the car to drive around to various bike stores in search of information about a possible successor to the Castafiore. My first stop was the new MEC store in Longueil. (Much as I had feared, it is stuck in a suburban wasteland much like the Montreal MEC. Why are the stores near Montreal so badly located?)

I inspected the Nineteen Seventy-One and found it much to my liking. However, I couldn't try out a size XL bike so I am not sure as to the overall fit.

My next stop was LaCordée where I saw a DeVinci Tosca in red on sale at about $900. Very tempting, and very close the specs of the Nineteen Seventy-One. I didn't see anything interesting at Le Yeti, apart from the Surly Long-Haul Trucker and there the interest was academic as that is what Margo and Chris got for their Bangkok to Paris trip. I will point out that it is a low point in the cycling year, so stores aren't carrying as full a range of bikes as they might.

One thing that was bugging me at both the MEC and LaCordée was that the tires on the bikes were knobby as they were technically cyclo-cross bikes. (Cyclo-cross bikes have a partly off-road nature, hence the knobby tires.) However, my requirements are for a street bike and thus I want solid street tires such as the ones currently on the Castafiore.  Also on the Castafiore are fairly new and very strong rims. I was loath to casually dispose of them. Consequently, I was wondering how to store them until they should be needed.  I was also thinking about taking the pedals off of the Castafiore and using them to replace the toe clip pedals currently fitted to Leonardo while I am using him to commute to work.

I then stopped at Re-cycle cycles, which as the name suggests is a second-hand bike store. I often bike past there on my way to work, but I had never gone in. I was pleasantly surprised. The guy there was very with it and as I explained my bike requirements, he pointed out a number of bikes that might suit me. He then made the surprising offer that I could bring in my old bike and he could transplant salvageable components to a "new" bike. This rather caught my attention. After chatting a bit more, I made arrangements to come by with the Castafiore tomorrow to sort things out. I rather liked the guy's attitude which was bikes are there to be rebuilt and he seemed to know what he was doing. I wouldn't mind having a "new" bike custom-built out of older components.

While I looked around, I also saw a red DeVinci Oslo trying to seduce me at a good price. I don't know what tomorrow holds, but it should be fun!

Saturday, 14 November 2009

On the end of the Castafiore

I took my old commuter bike, a.k.a. the Castafiore, in for a tune-up today. When I came home from the gym this evening, there was a message on my answering machine saying that they had discovered the frame was cracked and she was no longer safe to ride.

I knew this day was coming as she was over twenty years old. Virtually the only part of her that had never been replaced was the frame. Still, it is a bit of a shock.

The timing could hardly be better as I have the use of a car for the next week which will make commuting and the shopping process easier. Also, it is November which is a quiet month for cycle stores on the whole. On the downside, many of my bike-advice relatives are relatively hard to contact at this time.

As I see it, I now have to make an number of decisions which are relatively interconnected. The first is when I should make a decision on the Castafiore's replacement. I could buy the new bike in the next week, or take all winter to do it. I could ride Leonardo to work for the next few weeks until the snow falls, or even go the BMW (Bus-Metro-Walk) route as of the week after next. Waiting is probably best.

The second decision is which type of bike do I wish replace the Castafiore with. I am rather fond of the dropped handlebar, road bike, though this is partly because I have rarely ridden anything else since I got my first ten-speed. On the other hand, the more common hybrid has much to recommend itself, not the least being I could probably score my Dad's old hybrid relatively easily. Furthermore, we are of a similar size. Whether I want to is another story as it has a relatively lousy top-end gear ratio. Alternatively, I could go the folding bike route. This would have the advantage that I could bring it up into my flat easily, meaning I would no longer store my commuter bike on the street. Margo has been suggesting this as an option for a while. What I don't know is whether you can put a milk crate on the back of one of them and still fold it!

The third decision is whether to get a new bike or go for something second hand. The second-hand option has the advantage of making the bike "pre-battered" and thus less tempting for bike thieves. However, this option reduces the selection considerably. One of the reasons for this is that I am unusually tall in this province and the likely stock of second-hand bikes in my size is probably relatively small, thus limiting the selection.

The fourth decision is where to buy an new bike. My local bike store has a relatively limited selection, though obviously they could order something. However, as mentioned in a previous post, the MEC Nineteen Seventy-One is very appealing! In addition, there are a fair number of other bike stores in Montreal, as well as the store in Sherbrooke where I bought the Castafiore and where my family has a very good relationship with the owner.

What I know I want is as follows: a metal frame for longevity; fairly fast ; the ability to carry a milk crate on the back.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

On the past and the future?

On the past
It was cold and clear when I rode into to work today.  Quite a nice day, for November.  At one point, I was struck by the smell of the cold leaf litter which sent me back to when I lived in Toronto which was more than thirty years ago.  It is very weird how smells can trigger memories.

On the future?
After poking around the MEC website for weeks, hoping for a glimpse of their line of bikes, I was pleasantly surprised to receive an e-mail from them announcing the arrival of the bikes on their website.  A quick browse brought me to their Nineteen Seventy-One model.  It is so me.  It fits a great many of the criteria that I would want to replace the Castafiore with: metal frame, drop handlebars, provision to hang gear such of racks and fenders on it, red paint, etc.  I also have an attachment to the name, as the name refers to the year the MEC was founded which was also the year I was born.

Is this the future for me? I don't know.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

On my nephew's first Halloween photo

Shamelessly stolen from his mom's Facebook page, this picture is described as "Every pirate needs a parrot!" Too cute for words. The costume isn't bad either.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

On fools on touring bikes

My parents lent me a DVD of "Asiemut", a documentary by a couple of Quebecers about biking from Mongolia to Calcutta. My reaction is that I am not terribly impressed with the pair. They strike me as dangerously unprepared and naive with regards to their trip. In particular, I suspect that they pulled a hell of a stunt with regards to China on their journey. This stunt could have cost them very dearly.

To begin with, their route took them through Tibet. It is not clear exactly when they went, but it obviously within the last five years or so. What with the Western media's adulation of the Dalai Lama of late, China has been very sensitive about foreigners wandering about Tibet. From the perspective on China I have gained from Margo and Chris' experience, I suspect that their initial efforts at planning their trip were probably either naive or possibly half-baked. I see this in the fact that they arrive at the Mongolian-Chinese border and are dismayed (and in the case of the woman, devastated) to find out that the authorities won't allow them in. I am suspicious that either they stated they wanted to travel through Tibet or that they were so vague about their plans that it aroused official suspicions. Alternatively, it is possible that they failed to sort out their visa before they set out. Their reactions suggest that the possibility that they couldn't cross the border had simply not been sufficiently taken into account and they weren't properly prepared with practical and emotional backup plans.

They eventually managed to get into China by paying what they describe as a lot of money to a tour guide. What do they then do? They bypass checkpoints and villages to stay under the radar as they travel into Tibet despite the fact that they aren't supposed to be there! They had the luck to only run into one set of officials who cheerfully posed for pictures with them. Had they run into less pleasant individuals, they could have been chucked into prisons as spies.

Their comments on Tibet are fundamentally trite and lack a serious background knowledge. They repeat what amounts to a cliché that during the Cultural Revolution "tens of thousands" of Tibetan temples were destroyed. This being an assault of Tibet culture. My contrarian impulses scream to point out that in the same period, the same thing was happening to temples everywhere in China.

The pair made it to Nepal without incident. However, I can't help but feel that their cavalier approach, especially with having made a biased movie about their trip, has only made China (especially Tibet) a harsher place for cycle-tourists. As such, I am not very impressed with them.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

On Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

It has taken me a while to figure out exactly what my impressions of Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump. I guess part of the problem was that I already knew too much about it. Especially the story about why it got its name. I got rather bored hearing and reading about it. (What I would like to know is how the Crowsnest Pass got its name.)

One of the things that the site did teach me was that not only did the First Nations drive the bison over the cliffs, but that they also lured them over. If I may explain, to my mind driving them means scaring them away from where they are or might go. In contrast, luring means attracting them in a given direction. The technique in question involves one (or possibly more) people dressing up in a bison calf skin and making what he hopes are reasonably accurate distressed bleating noises in the hopes of appealing the maternal instincts of the bison. At the same time, people in wolf skins approach on the opposite side of the herd causing them to head towards the "distressed calf". The guy in the calf skin then runs in the direction of the jump leading the herd into a funnel of other people. Ideally, the herd will be panicked down the funnel and over the cliff, where some other people will cheerfully smash their brains out with a stone headed club. In truth, this technique involves both driving and luring the bison, but it is the luring bit that fascinates me.

Another aspect of the museum that intrigued me was the uneasiness I saw in the interpretation of the realities of the bison hunt and the uses the First Nations put the products of the hunt to. There is something of a cliché that the First Nations used every bit of the bison, leaving nothing to waste. This makes them sound like environmental poster boys, but unfortunately, the evidence isn't there, at least to my cynical mind. Unless the groups of First Nations people were much larger than I envision, if they were to drive a herd of bison over a cliff, they would have more dead bison than they would be able to process. Bison ain't small. While the First Nations had uses for every bit of bison, they don't need to use every bit of every bison if there are a couple of dozen dead bison lying around. As well, if you have killed a few dozen bison in one go, try as you might, some of them are going to start rotting before you have time to butcher them. Even if you do butcher them all, you aren't necessarily going to use every last bit. The testament to came be seen in the immense (10 m deep) pile of assorted bison bones that tells the tale of the place: if they were using every last bit, why all the "garbage"? (Yes, I am arguing semantics.) While the site didn't belabor this point, it did quietly admit it. However, there was a certain unease about this admission as making it has the effect weakening the eco-political position of the First Nations the site seeks to honour.

On milk crates

There was an article in Montreal Gazette today on the whys, the wherefores and the style (or possibly lack thereof) of people who attach milk crates to the back of their bikes.  As my regular readers will know, I am a proponent of this arrangement.  Indeed, as the practice has become more widespread in Montreal since I moved here in 1998, I sometimes wonder how many people I inspired.  Note that I don't claim to have invented the practice, merely that I may have inspired others to do so.

However, I think the article makes too much of the style issue of crates as in my opinion, style is something that needs to be kept as far away from bikes as possible.  A bike is transportation, not a flaming fashion accessory.  Once you start down the path of form over functionality, you get into all kinds of nonsense which ultimately take away from the transport function and bikes become toys.  Once that happens, they then become optional.  One of the reasons bikes fell out of the North American transportation cocktail in the mid 20th century was exactly that.

Also, the article makes it sound like milk crates are there for the taking, when they aren't.  As touched on in the article, they are the property of the milk companies.  The milk companies charge a deposit to stores.  The last time I acquired a crate it was $8.00.  Not a huge expense, but one that means that small businesses aren't about to start giving away milk crates.  To make a long story short: if you want a milk crate, ask politely at your local grocery or dépanneur, emphasizing that you are willing to pay the deposit.

Friday, 16 October 2009

On the confusion of domicile, origin and destination at least in Canada

One of the questions a touring cyclist often gets asked is "Where are you from?" While one's own country, this often has double meaning as there is often an implicit, "Where did you start?" implied in the query. I didn't notice this on my trip to Newfoundland as the two questions had the same answer, at least to a degree.

However, on my last trip, the answers were very different and were also antipodal: I am "from" Montreal but I had come from Victoria. I quickly learned that in order to avoid confusion, I had to respond to the initial question with "I am from Montreal, but I started in Victoria." This led to a further bit of potential confusion as some assumed I was going all the way home by bike. I had to add I was "only" going as far as Calgary.

It doesn't help that despite the fact that Canada has a lot of North to South distance, mentally it is thought of as being something of an East-West line, or in the case of my trip, West-East line. Thus if you mention two or more points on that "line", then the assumption is that you will travel between all the points. This is different from our neighbour to the South where not only is a Nouth-South jaunt more of a mental probability, there are many other possibilities. A biker (not a cyclist) I met on the ferry to Newfoundland was talking about how he had ridden the coastline of the continental states, something that you can't do with Canada. Heck, if you wanted to do that with a province, you would be pretty much limited to the Maritime Provinces!

On the freedom of the Prairies

In hindsight, it should have been obvious, but then hindsight is 20/20. Unlike biking in places like B.C. or Newfoundland, you can do without careful accommodation planning in Alberta and by extension, the rest of the Prairies. As there are decent sized settlements every 10 miles or so, (Alberta, at least, was settled during the age of Imperial measurements) where you can find a bed is relatively predictable as well as flexible. Because of the mountains, you could go significant distances in British Columbia without encountering a town, (the stretch between Kelowna and Pringle sticks in my mind) let alone one with a motel or the like. Consequently, I had to plan my trans-montane trip fairly carefully in light of the relative shortage of accommodations and my dislike of camping. Indeed, the failure to find a bed for the night me to have to ride much further than I would have wished on at least two days.

However, once I hit Alberta, the rules by which I had been operating went out the window. For one thing, I hadn't fully appreciated how much of a boost tailwinds are in flat country. Had I not booked a bed in High River, I might have gone significantly further on my last full day of biking. (The corollary of this is that headwinds become much more troublesome. Some locals I talked to said that I was smart to be riding West to East as going the other way you might as well walk!)

In light of this, the next time I am biking on the Prairies, I am not going to have as rigid a schedule and will instead let the day, my energy level and the wind decide how far I will go in a before I need to sleep. I will still be me and have a list of possible places to stay on hand, but I must refuse to plan too rigidly my distances. I must embrace the freedom of movement that the Prairies offer me.

Monday, 12 October 2009

On the passing of Douglas Campbell, part 2

Douglas as Falstaff in Henry IV, part 2

Another article from the Gazette here and photos here. I actually saw the productions of the Gin Game featured and Macbeth featured in the galeries. As well, there is this, this, and this from the Globe and Mail. "Canada's National newspaper" is the source of the above photo and claims it is from the 2002 production. However, I am not sure if that is truly the case, as the look doesn't quite match my memories of the play.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

On her shirt from Daniel, Julianne

The biking shirt I got Julianne was evidently an excellent choice. The evidence comes from this e-mail from Kristine:

"So Kevin walked and Julianne biked to the corner store and dam the other day and Julianne said something like:
"I can't wear my speedy shirt today Mummy. I don't want to go that fast" about her shirt from you!"

My niece-cousin is too darn cute for words.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

On my nephew

Margaret has posted some pictures of Edward on her Picasa site. Not only is my nephew ridiculously cute but so are some of the captions. The following picture has the caption: "First time in the neglectomatic"!!!!
As part of the same batch of pictures, that she downloaded from her camera, there was one of yours truly holding Edward. Unfortunately, it is rather dominated by my cheesy grin. It is one of my failings that I don't have a nice smile.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

On the passing of Douglas Campbell

Douglas receiving the Order of Canada
(Taken from the CBC article about him)
It was with sadness that I heard today that the actor and family friend Douglas Campbell has died at the age of 87. He was a Shakespearean actor of the old school and indeed was one of the last survivors of the first Stratford Festival. He had an incredible voice and a great heart. Unfortunately, there are relatively few examples of his work that I can point to. The best I can think of is his recitation of Blake's Lullaby on an early Lorena McKennitt album. I had the honour of seeing him play Falstaff in Henry IV pt. 1 and 2 at Stratford in the 49th year of the festival, a role to which he was well suited. Apparently he was a little too frank with his opinions about the running of the festival as they didn't invite him back for the 50th! Among his characteristics was that he was a bit of a curmudgeon. Though perhaps crusty might be a better term as he was, in my experience, a fundamentally warm individual.

If he could be generous with his criticism, he was also generous with his insight into theater, especially that of Shakespeare. I once attended a fundraiser at Bishops' University that was titled "Shakespeare on request". Assisted by his wife Moira, he read/declaimed the requested passages from the Bard's work along with brief but thoughtful discussions about the passages. There was a passion in him for the theater and other aspects of intellectual life that burned liked a banked fire: he would seem placid and reserved until something would stir him up then he would give off a jet of intellectual fire. I remember one time when I was chatting with him, when I mentioned that I was working on my Master's of Library and Information Science (or MLIS) degree. He replied: "Oh, so they are calling Librarianship a Science these days? I suppose it is all computers these days? I remember when books were the thing." Written down his comments seem very harsh, but there was a humour to the way he said it. As well, he accepted my take on the subject: namely that we librarians didn't consider librarianship to be anything like an exact science but like a science we questioned what we were and indeed asked questions about what is a book in an age of computers and how do we deal with books and the internet.

So long Douglas and thank you.

Addendum
More articles about Douglas from the Montreal Gazette here and here. Also, a 1984 interview with Peter Gzowski.

Monday, 5 October 2009

On what comes next

This entry is adapted from an e-mail I sent to Margo.

As I recover from and mull over my last trip, I am thinking about what will be my next bicycle tour. It is all very much in the future, but to paraphrase Cunard "Planning to get there is half the fun." Actually, I could have said "Cycling there is most of the fun" but then the paraphrase wouldn't have worked so well.

As you may remember, my working plan for 2010 had been to bicycle from York to Campbeltown in June. The fact that my only sister may be getting married in Newfoundland at that time rather put a spanner in the spokes of that plan as I was hoping to be in Scotland near the solstice, but not too deep into high season. The alternative of cycling in Newf' involves slightly tricky timing as the distance between Deer Lake and St-Johns is something like 650 km (w/o St-Pierre et Miquelon) which according to my cycle touring planning rule of thumb works out to about 1.3 weeks. That is a tricky length of time, made all the more complex by the fact that Alice's very tentative date is a Thursday.

The second back up plan would be to bike from Calgary to Winnipeg. While this would be fun and lend itself to camping, I think I want something less distance oriented and a little more touristy for my next jaunt. (The Prairies tend towards "Bring me that horizon moments" which are good, but end up with relatively little in the way of memories.) ;-) Incidentally, by "touristy" I mean things like museums, castles, cathedrals, etc.

Consequently, the next back-up plan would biking from Bordeaux to Northern France, via the coast. Again, tricky to time because of Alice and high season. While I could go in May, I don't want to use up a large percentage of my vacation time in the first few months of the 2010-2011 fiscal year.

Reviewing the options and the timing issues, I am now wondering if it would be profitable to consider the extreme or antipodal option of biking either New Zealand or Australia during their 2010-2011 summer. After all, I should be looking at an interesting lump sum of retroactive pay rises next year. Also, it would be cool to a kiwi or kangaroo sticker to Leonardo. ;-) Much to ponder.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

On bits and pieces of thoughts

DCT Chambers trucks
For a couple of days after leaving Kelowna, I was passed by any number of trucks bearing the logo written in hard to read Gothic script D. C. T. Chambers. I was curious about what they were carrying so busily. They were double trailer rigs, and the trailers appeared to have cargo holds below normal floor level. This lead me to conclude that whatever it was, it wasn't very heavy. I eventually decided on wood chips as being the likely cargo. Having come to that conclusion, I then began to wonder what D.C.T. stood for. I noticed from one of the trucks that they had a website which I only looked up today. Apparently they have a Department of Redundancy Department, the name of the company is DCT Chambers Trucking Ltd, where DCT stand for Dan Chambers Trucking! ;-)

Phoenix, B.C.
In a previous post I mentioned the ghost town of Phoenix. In that post I mentioned how tough the climb was up to the town. Well, when I was in Cranbrook, I picked up a copy of "McCulloch's Wonder : the story of the Kettle Valley Railway" by Barrie Sanford. In it, I was flabbergasted to learn that not one, but two railway lines went up to Phoenix. Obviously, it was worth the money for the railway companies to build those lines, but better them than me.

Western Canadian history
When I was in Hope, B.C., I watched part of a documentary on the near-war that occurred between the First Nations peoples and the American gold-rush miners during the Frazer river gold-rush in 1858 or so. A few days earlier, I had been in Fort Langley, where the colony of British Columbia had been declared more or less in response to those tensions. When I put these events together with my experience at Fort MacLoed and in the San Juan Islands, I came up with a very interesting perspective on a theme of Western Canadian history.

One of the things that was mentioned was that the British had more or less lost the Oregon Territory to the United States through a failure to exert enough control over the region. The narrative seems to be that Americans came in and took over the area by what amounts to a declaration of squatter's rights. Incidentally, that is how Mexico lost what is now Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California!

Evidently, in the late 1850's, the British were much more determined to keep what was officially theirs, actually theirs. This British determination is part of the background to the Pig War and the declaration of the Colony of British Columbia.

However, all this was relatively expensive and when Canada was formed, part of the British plan was always to consolidate their holdings on this continent into one entity. After all, the founding document for Canada was the British North America Act, not the Canada Act. In almost too short a time, London handed Canada Rupert's Land, a.k.a. the Northwest Territories (which are now Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Northern Ontario, Northern Quebec, the Yukon, Nunavut and the current Northwest Territories). That was a huge amount of land for the relatively small and financially troubled population of Canada to manage. One consequence of this was that American whiskey traders moved in from the South for a number of years before the arrival of the North West Mounted Police.

The potential for trouble was there. I see this in the fact that in their march across the Prairies in 1874, the NWMP brought along two cannons, presumably to convince the Americans in Fort Whoop-Up to respect their eviction notice. That the Yanks skedaddled before the NWMP arrived doesn't hide the fact that there could have been serious trouble. This could have been another bloody eviction of illegal immigrants like the Alamo. It must be noted, however, that "Remember Fort Whoop-Up" would have made a lousy battle cry in the atmosphere of increasing temperance in the Eastern United States of the late 19th century. There would have had to have been some serious bowdlerizing for it to work! ;-)

Geology and mountains
One of the joys of cycle-touring is that you have the time and vistas to really appreciate the structures of the land. To see and try to make sense of the landscape. To see if there is a pattern or logic to it all.

(At least, that is what I do, but then my father is a geologist so a certain amount of it rubbed off on me. I have noticed that my uncle Chris is much more fascinated by the flowers by the side of the road than I am. This is attributed to his mother's interest in flowers.)

In my musings about the landscape, I sometimes wondered if mountains, especially spectacularly naked ones like the Canadian Rockies, contribute to one's desire to become a geologist. I also wondered if my father had been out West before he started to study geology.
"Naked" mountains

Among the non-mountain bits of geology that fascinated me during the trip were the alkali lakes in Alberta such as this one.Post-Post-Scriptum
It turns out my Father did not visit the Canadian Rockies prior to becoming a geologist. Apparently, he became a geologist as it was an intellectual job that would get him out of doors and wasn't forestry which wasn't that interesting a pursuit in the early 60's.

Also, I don't know if alkali lakes truly count as geology.

Friday, 2 October 2009

On the size of the World

This recent post by Margo and Chris on getting to Europe made me reflect on my sense of scale and matters relating to it. There is nothing like a long bike trip to make the World seem relatively small. As early as my first long distance trip (North Hatley to Montreal), I was struck by how easy it feels to traverse a significant fraction of the planet by one's own power. Maybe it is the way that one forgets how long it is when you cycling, but somehow the distances don't feel as long cycling as driving.

One of my reactions to getting to Calgary from Victoria by bike was "Well, that wasn't so difficult." The trip didn't feel like it was taking a long time. (One of the few exceptions was the Penticton to Kelowna day.) I don't know if Margo and Chris have or will have the same reaction, but then they have been going at it far longer. After each of my major bike trips, I have been left with a distinct feeling of how fundamentally small this planet really is.

Now, I must caveat this sentiment by saying that it reflects cycling in very civilized countries with good roads. It might be quite different in less congenial countries.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

On my return, bits I left out and bits that came out (of me and Leonardo)

My flight back was relatively uneventful aside from a bit of turbulence and my seat mate. She was a older Jewish woman from the suburban Montreal municipality next to one I work in. I was surprised to learn that despite the fact that she enjoys the right to be a member of "my" Library for no charge (something coveted by a great many people) she had yet to darken the door of the institution. I encouraged her to do so, as the objective fact is that it is a very good library for Quebec.

I say for Quebec, as this province has a lot to learn about about making good public libraries commonplace. All through B.C. and Alberta, I used public libraries to make updates to this blog. The hours were good and the service very welcoming given that I was a random, somewhat sweaty and breathless stranger on a bike! The one in Nanton, Alberta had a "large type" keyboard and trackball available for those who needed it.To avoid alarming the Maternal Unit, I left a few things out of my blog entries. One of which was about the only unpleasant encounter I had on the trip. Shortly after I turned out the light for the night in Fort MacLeod there was a somewhat imperious knocking at my door. When I answered the door, there was a younger (about 20, possibly younger given that he was driving a fake wood paneled station wagon (i.e. his mom's)) man in wannabe hip-hop garb (he was white) wanting to know "Where was he?" as I obviously wasn't the person (or persons) he was looking for. I informed him that I had no idea who or what he was talking about and that I had only arrived and rented the room that afternoon. He left without any further incident but once he had, I moved Leonardo inside my room as there was something a little off about the guy and his presumably drug-related desires.

Another thing I left out was that in the evening of the day I was at Ainsworth Hot Springs, I was relaxing in the bath when I examined one of the very minor wounds I got on the Myra Canyon day. I picked a bit at one in my leg and removed a bit of wood from it. This showed to me that bits of wood were still in me, so I applied gentle force to a wound on my chest that had been nagging me. I was quite surprised when a large splinter easily popped out.
It had been six days since the accident! One could argue that this proves the healing effect of the Hot Spring!

The two days featuring significant rail trail portions, also saw a lot of dust and/or mud building up on my legs. This is one of the more illustrative of the pictures.
Leonardo suffered a flat tire (the second in over 7000 kilometers, so no worries) on the trip. When I took him out of the lock up at the hostel in Fernie, his front tire was flat. Upon examination, there was a piece of what appeared to be wire from a steel belt of a car tire embedded in the tire. I removed it and replaced in the inner tube. In hindsight, I think I heard and ignored a warning sound the day. I had heard a regular, speed related thud. A few days later, I heard a similar sound and when I investigated found a largish piece of tire wire embedded in my front tire. This piece was long enough to hit the fender every time it went around. Had I left it, it might well have snapped off, leaving an inner tube puncturing bit to work its way inward. When I have the time, I am going to carefully inspect the tires and remove any bits of debris I find. When I was doing a mid-trip inspection of the tires, I was a little bit shocked at all the dents and bits of embedded sand, etc.

I also suspect that some (or all of) the gears on Leonardo need to be replaced. There is often a noise when in the middle front gear that doesn't sound right. Given the relatively intense use he has seen, this isn't that surprising.

As well, the wiring on the bike computer is iffy. Luckily, I have a spare set of that, so it will be very easy to solve the problem.

Apart from that, Leonardo seems to have arrived safely, but I haven't checked the wheels to see if they good whacked out of true during the trip. The box Greyhound sold me was a bit big so there was the potential for shake damage.

Some pictures of the trip are up on my Picasa site. Most are under "Across the Rockies by bike" but some are under "Edward David." I will leave you to guess which ones.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

On leaving Alberta

Well, I got up early, biked to the edge of Calgary and took the C-Train downtown, with very little trouble. However, when I got downtown, the train stopped unexpectedly before its normal terminus. Apparently, the city centre section is closed this weekend for maintenance. Because I was unaware of this, I went back one station before I could get off. I looked around for a useful exit for someone with a bike for a minute or two before another C-train arrived heading in the right direction. Knowing that the next (last) station had a bike-friendly exit, I hopped on that C-train.
From there, I made my way to MEC where I zipped in to buy a duffle bag, then went to the bus station where I bought a bike box, then retired to a quiet corner to calmly disassemble and pack Leonardo, as well as sort luggage into flight mode.

I am now at a computer in the UPS store having checked Leonardo and my new duffle in at the Air Canada. Part of me can't quite believe it is all over now. In a few hours, I will be back home. But I have biked across the Rockies! How many people can say they have done that?

Friday, 25 September 2009

On being blasted North

I got off to a fairly good start today. It was very calm as I left Fort MacLeod, but after Claresholm the wind picked up and unexpectedly, but very enjoyably, it was from the South, rather than the West. I have been bombing along Highway 2 at high speed.
Avro Canada CF-100 Mk. 3

I had planned to stop in Nanton as there is an air museum complete with an Avro Lancaster you can go inside. However, I had expected to get there a little after lunch, sometime well after 1 PM. Instead, I got to Nanton before noon, 80 odd kilometers worth at an average speed of 28 km/h!!!!
The air museum was very good and had a surprisingly large collection of aircraft. Labour of love and all that.
The highway has at least two design of rumble strip. One is the relatively typical design.
Standard rumble strip

The other is relatively wider but shallower. This last one is much less of a bother for bikes. I refer to it as a "mumble strip" rather than a rumble strip! (Not that I am complaining!)
"Mumble strip"

I am wondering if the Calgary C-Train might a good way to get Downtown with greater ease. While the purists might scoff, the clever will see the advantage of not having to navigate city streets with a loaded bike and mild time constraints. Ah well, back in the saddle time.

Addendum.

The C-Train does take bikes without issue on Saturdays. Furthermore, there are useful stations both on the Southern edge of Calgary and very near the MEC. Unfortunately, the MEC is low on the size and colour of duffle bag I want to get! I have already got some duct tape for the bike box. I have just checked in for my flight, and I think I have got a pretty good seat. At least, Seatguru.com thinks so.

It is only just striking me that tomorrow is the last day of my trip. It has been a hell of ride, with any number of "Bring me that horizon" moments. If tomorrow is anything today, this trip will have ended on a very high note. Sometimes on this trip I have had moments when I have been so out of myself, that I suddenly "realize" that "Hey, Bikemoose is doing this! This is me!!!" To be honest, I don't know if that is a good or bad thing!
"Bring me that horizon"

Many thanks to all those who helped make this trip possible.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

On blowing into Alberta

Well, I'm now in Fort MacLeod and back on schedule. A good thing too as Greyhound Buses aren't for bikes it seems. I left B.C. yesterday via the Crowsnest Pass. In Sparwood, I stopped to look at the world's largest truck. It went into service in 1974 with a 350 ton capacity. Apparently, that size was too big and it remained a one-off and was used until the cost of replacement parts got the better of the economics.
In the last few days in B.C., I fell into a couple of road games. One was counting how many vehicles were stuck behind an RV. I got to 14! Another was smelling the pine logs on the backs of logging trucks.
Crowsnest Pass was the easiest pass I have encountered on this trip. Getting up to the Frank Slide interpretative centre was harder. As I entered Alberta, I gained a powerful tailwind, that if it wasn't a Chinook, then it was a first cousin. Generally out of the West, it has blown, if not blasted me along the roads, and allowed me to catch up with my schedule. Rather than stay in Coleman as was my plan, the wind blew me on to Pincher Creek where I spent the night.
This morning I made the relative mistake of taking secondary highway 785 to Head-smashed-in UNESCO heritage site. This turned into fairly loose gravel that resulted in my bike skidding a lot. I once slid out and had to use my hand to stop my fall. Fortunately, no damage was done, either to myself or my bike. In spite of and dangerously because of the gravel, on one downhill section, between gravity and the tailwind, I found I was nearing 50 km/h which was too fast given the treacherous surface.

The pavement returned near Head-smashed-in. While it was possibly s mistake to use that route, it did give me an idea of secondary road conditions in Alberta. I'd had the notion that it might be possible to shadow highways using the plentiful secondary roads of the Prairies. Given my experience today, I don't think my idea was a very good one.
Head-smashed-in. Not a great place for bison

Head-smashed-in was interesting, but I don't think I can really describe it. There is something a little spooky about it, and what it represents. While it has been used since about 6000 years ago, there is also a strange, lengthy (1000+ years) period when it wasn't in use.

Leaving the historic site, I was again blasted along the (paved) road by the wind for 16 kilometers at speeds in excess of 30 km/h for the whole way! There is a very good reason to bike with the wind in the Prairies! Part of me is quite eager to come back and continue the Trans-Canada project!

It has been quite hot in Alberta. As my arm has mostly healed, I wore a short-sleeved biking jersey today for the first time since my mishap in the Myra Canyon. Yesterday and today, I made a point of washing my biking clothes immediately after getting into my motel room in order to take advantage of the blow-dryer wind. Tomorrow is supposed to be much cooler.
In Fort MacLeod, I went into the reconstruction of the original NWMP detachment which was essentially an RCMP museum, but a fairly good one. The video of the great march of the NWMP from Manitoba to here rather gives the impression that the commanders of the original NWMP were "Englishmen" rather in the mold of Franklin and co. Luckily, the Southern Prairies in summer aren't as harsh as the Northwest Passage!

I turn North tomorrow for High River. Calgary and my flight to Montreal on the following.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

On a busy few days

Well, as previously mentioned, I didn't do the Gray Creek Pass. Consequently, I took Hwy 3A South along the shores of Kootaney Lake. That road has seen some landslides and the road surface bears a surprising number of scars from it. They ain't kidding in B.C. with their Look out for Falling rocks signs.The latter put me in mind of one of Granny's silly stories that featured the origin of said signs. Why do I mention it? Well, the only other time I was in the area was during the road trip from Calgary to Vancouver I went on with Granny, Granpa, Mummy and my brother Philip when I was 10. While I am currently off the route we took (I'm in Fernie now), the previous several day took me through Nelson, Ainsworth Hot Springs, the Kootaney Ferry...
Waiting for the Kootaney Ferry
...Creston and Cranbrook, all of which I went through. Furthermore, ads for Fort Steele heritage town and Radium Hot Springs were all over the place in Cranbrook, which were other places I went to on that trip. For the most part, I didn't actually see that many places that I actually remembered, but a lot seemed somewhat familiar. The Arrow Lakes and Kootaney Lakes were also weird as they reminded me of landscapes that often occur in my dreams. It makes me wonder if the dreamscapes were derived from buried memory.

Sunday was a very long day, made longer by confusion over the time. My map indicated that Mountain time stared when you crossed Kootaney Lake. This proved to be false. It turns out there is a strip of B.C. that never changes time, and moves from Pacific to Mountain time with the seasons. Instead of starting at 7:30 as I had thought I was, I was in fact leaving at 6:30! It was only after that I left Yahk, that I changed time zones.

I spent Sunday night in Yahk at the Moon River Lodge. I didn't seen any sign of association with Audrey Hepburn, Henry Mancini or Tiffany's. I made my own supper for the first time this trip. Luckily, I had planned for this eventuality, but the results were only nourishing, not gourmet.

It was quite chilly on Monday morning. For a while I felt little a bit of a wimp for wearing both a merino jersey and the soft shell that Margo and Chris gave me. Then I saw that there was frost on the ground in shaded areas! For the last few days it has been brilliantly sunny, but often very cool in the mornings. On Tuesday morning, I threw fashion to the wind and biked in my wool socks until lunchtime.

A little past Moyie Lake, I first saw something tan-coloured, possibly a deer, crossing the road ahead of me. Then as I got nearer I saw that it was a predatory animal. I looked ever more closely, anxious about whether it was a cougar i.e. potential trouble, but way cool! The creature turned out to be a good-sized wild canine. I couldn't get a great handle on its size as it was in an area of sun and shade. I think it was probably a coyote, but might have been a wolf. It was a tan colour and seemed fairly bold yet retiring. It was also, apparently, alone which makes it more likely to have been a coyote which are more solitary than wolves.
I stayed at the Mount Baker Heritage Hotel in Cranbrook. This is a town center hotel from the old days that has been renovated and has very reasonable prices. Unfortunately, it has kept the bar on the ground floor. The owners/operators appear to be an Asian family that don't appear to have quite grasped the opportunity they possess. The hotel could be very attractive, but they really need to do something about keeping the noise of gunk music from the bar out of the rooms. The facilities were very good, the price was very reasonable and the location away from Cranbrook's strip was great. However the music kept me awake. If you do stay, ask for a room on the top floor.
In Cranbrook, I spent an agreeable couple of hours at the Canadian Museum of Rail Trail which concentrates on restoring historic passenger cars. These included a couple from the 1930's Royal Visit to Canada, one of which was also used at various times by Churchill and JFK, before being sold to a circus!

Near the end of the tour of the cars, one of the other people on the tour asked for a suggestion of a restaurant in town. The guide suggested Heidi's as it that catered museum functions. I had seen it on my way to the museum from my hotel. As the name suggests, it featured Central European (Austrian mainly) dishes. While it was a bit on the expensive side, I figured you only live once. Also, the previous night's meal had been third rate. I had a flash on Monty Python's Bavarian restaurant sketch from one of the German episodes when I couldn't pronounce "Geschnetzeltes," the name of the dish I wanted! Luckily, neither could the waiter! It consisted of beef slices in a mushroom sauce over spätzle which are basically lump-shaped flour and egg noodles. I have often made them myself, but not for a couple of years. However, these ones were much better than my efforts and were utterly delicious. Combined with some B.C. wine and some sublime apple strudel, the meal led me to waft happily back to the Hotel.
Biking today was very nice. I zoomed along and got to Fernie by 3 PM, despite starting quite late and stopping to take a number of photographs, especially between Elko and Fernie. I eventually put my camera in a jersey pocket to make it more accessible. My speed was particularly surprising as I have apparently gained 500 m from Cranbrook despite the fact that today seemed mostly down hill. I guess the South wind helped me from Elko to here. Good news for tomorrow as the Crowsnest Pass is only about 300 m higher than Fernie!
Fernie is an odd place. The place seems very quiet, but friendly. There are a lot of bikes (mountain mostly) in use which of course is very good. The HI Hostel seems rather empty as well as being in the midst of renovations. I spoke to one of the staff who confirmed my suspicion that the place is most heavily used in the ski season.

I am not sure how I will compensate for having lost a day by not taking the Gray Creek Pass. I have been working on a number of ideas, but frankly, I think I am going to wait until tomorrow when I can hit the Alberta tourism info booth in Crowsnest. Plan A is to take a bus from Fort McLeod to Calgary on Saturday, and spend some time in Calgary. However there are other possibilities. Anyway, it is time to end this blog entry for now.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

On failure to make the pass

I had planned to take the Gray Creek Pass this morning, but I was turned back by two factors. One was that the road was closed because two bridges were being replaced. The other was that a cold, hard rain began to fall. I am now in Creston at an outdoor internet kiosk. Got to ride.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

On Nelson, B.C.

Well, unlike Hope, B.C., Nelson is much more open about it's movie heritage, viz, Steve Martin's Roxanne, with a number of references and murals around town. After all, Roxanne is much more P.C. than First Blood.

Nelson is also hot spot for "misfits" from around. I was surprised to here a lot of Quebec French spoken around town by young people including a squad of dreadlocked ne'er-do-wells. There are many signs of new age-y silliness including a raw food restaurant. Maybe there was the same in Kelowna but here in Nelson, it is all on Baker Street, in one obvious place.

There is a "fat tire bike festival" happening this weekend. I believe this refers to mountain bikes or possibly more extreme forms of bikes.

I seem to have fallen into a relative river of cycle-tourists in the last day or so. Yesterday, there were two heavily laden touring bikes outside the restaurant I had supper in. Today, I past a laden tourer going the other way. We waved and kept on going on the good road.

In Nelson, I hit one bike shop for intel about the Gray Creek to Cranbrook Forestry Service Road. In the process I found the bike sticker I had been looking for: something that symbolized B.C. without actually saying "B.C." It is a native depiction of a raven in red.

While I was about to enter another bike shop, I ended up in a conversation with another DeVinci riding cycle-tourist who turned out to be staying not only in the same hostel but also the same room! As we are traveling in roughly opposite directions, we swapped information about road conditions and the like.

At supper in an Indian restaurant, I fell into a conversation with the couple at the next table. I don't remember where he came from but she was from Quebec. We chatted a bit in French. She complimented me on my lack of an accent, before I used an anglicism, or possibly an anglo turn of phrase. People are really quite friendly here.
Oh, for Mummy's note, I saw an old Triumph convertible here in Nelson.

Ainsworth Hot Springs tomorrow!!!!!

Insane climb and descent followed by long logging road the day after.

Friday, 18 September 2009

On yesterday, and the day before, and today

Well, I technically started before 9 yesterday, but as I walked out of the motel office in Christina Lake, there was a heavy downpour that seemed like it wouldn't last long, so I waited it out under the eaves of the motel. After getting some sausage rolls and cookies for lunch, I had to wait 10 minutes for the local bike shop to open so I could get the most accurate information about the status of the Trans Canada Trail into Castlegar.
The upshot of this intel was that I took the Highway up (20+ kms worth of up) to about Paulson before getting on the Columbia and Western Rail Trail. The rain had brought with it cooler weather which was a very good thing, given the long climb of the morning. As I left Christina Lake, I passed some road works in progress. When I got to the far end of the site, the flagman asked me if I had seen the two vehicles involved and whether they were off the road yet. Apparently, communication within the unit was not their forte.

A few kilometers along the TCT, I came across Amity, a long distance hiker from Colorado going the other way. We were both relative novelties to each other as long-distance types have been relatively few and far between. Apparently, I was one of the first she had seen since starting in Cranbrook. We exchanged information about trail conditions and went our separate ways.
For the most part, excepting the ATVs, the C&W was in very good shape for bikes and had spectacular views and tunnels.
However, about the last 6 kms or so featured relatively unpleasant large but rounded gravel which was very bumpy. This came to an end about 1 km before a large dam at the lower end of the Lower Arrow Lake, when rails suddenly appeared. At the end of the trail, I came face to face with some actual railway cars! Unfortunately, after taking some pictures, I discovered that my homemade guidebook had fallen out of my map case. I went back a short-ish distance to see if two women walking their dogs had found it. They hadn't. I have since reprinted portions of the guide from my electronic backup memory stick, but I have lost the mileages I wrote down. Memo to self for the future: keep maps and guide data separate.

Shortly after making my previous post in Greenwood, I took the Phoenix road through the ghost town of Phoenix. This reduce the number of kilometers but increased the time as it was a very tough climb up to the town site. Unfortunately, while the town had been abandoned around 1920, the mine had been worked in the 1960's and 1970's using open pit techniques which effective destroyed what was left of the town, except for a cenotaph and a cemetery. Still it was very pretty.
This is heaven for a cyclist
From the point I rejoined Highway 3 to Grand Forks, there is a stretch of highway that is a cyclist's wet dream. I am not sure of the precise length, but it is on the order 10 to 15 km. It was a long steady, smooth and gently curving downhill that saw 40+ km/h occurring for extended periods. It was sunny and glorious.

In Grand Forks, I had a late-ish lunch at a Russian restaurant. The restaurant was in an old hotel that had seen better days and operated on a cash only basis. The other half of the ground floor was occupied by a dodgy-looking bar. Still, what the place lacked in decor, it made for with the food.

After lunch, I biked the short distance to Christina Lake where the motel receptionist was extremely helpful in all things.

Today is a rest day as I am only going to Nelson which something like 45 km from here in Castlegar. A good thing too given the time I am posting this (a little after noon). ;-)

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

On biking against the wind

Owing to the non-communicative status of the Beaverdell Hotel, I opted to go farther (to Rock Creek) than originally planned yesterday. 135 km instead of 85 km. This has made my carefully printed guide book out of whack from here to Castlegar, possibly even Nelson, as I am now about half a day ahead of schedule.

The weather has been superb on the whole with lots of sunshine, low humidity (so sweating works) as well as reasonably warm temperatures. I have stopped using garbage bags to line my panniers for the time being (though I have kept them). Unfortunately, yesterday saw a persistent South wind that I was biking against for most of the day. It wasn't very strong, but enough that I am quite sure it added a good hour of biking time as I just couldn't get up to normal cruising speed despite the relatively favourable road.

Rebbecca and Paul were extremely welcoming and helpful. I got all kinds of advice from Paul as well a couple of biking tools. I also swapped a couple of my smaller water bottles for some slightly larger ones. Paul had cautioned me about the lack of a shoulder near the top of the pass out of Kelowna on Highway 33. However, it seemed to me that there had recently been added a shoulder in the winding section so all was good. Incidentally, I was amused when a loaded logging truck gave me a "shave and haircut" honk as it chugged up behind me in that section.
Purely by chance, I stopped by the side of the road to answer a call of nature, when I realised that there were some grouse displaying to each other in the bushes! I went back to my bike to grab my camera and snap a picture or two.

The biking is going very well today, and I made Greenwood in record time from Rock Creek.

Monday, 14 September 2009

On folly, pride and a fall

I made the mistake of riding on the KVR from Penticton to Chute Lake. The surface was terrible, mostly loose and sandy, with a fair number of rocks. It was quite brutal mentally as I had to be continuously on my guard about where I should go. I could only make about 10 km/h and had to stop to eat or drink as I needed both hands at all times. At one point in particular, I should have switched to the Chute Lake Forestry Service Road, but I was too stubborn/proud and/or optimistic that the trail would soon improve.There were, however, grapevines to look at...
...as well as Lake Okanagan

Chute Lake was another disappointment as the lunch I had hoped for had gone with the staff at the lodge. (Apparently, the kitchen staff had quit unexpectedly leaving the owner/manager in the lurch.) I made do with rhubarb pie à la mode and a couple of cans of Coke plus half of the bar of Swiss chocolate.
The road surface improved a bit after Chute Lake, but it still wasn't very good. I was stopped by an older man in a pickup truck who wanted to know if I had seen a woman on a bike with a trailer. I hadn't. However, about a half hour later I met a woman answering that description. I inquired if she was the one being sought and if so, that she was being sought. It turned out she was. I also pumped her for trail surface conditions up ahead. She said that they did improve after the next Forestry Service Road (FSR). As I was well behind my planned timing, I was wondering if I should opt out of the Myra Canyon section and head to Kelowna early. She indicated that the Myra Canyon section was worth it.
The trail surface improved dramatically, so I was able to make my revised cut-off time. This despite being held up by some cattle on the KVR. There were four branded black cattle on the trail that wouldn't let me by and instead headed further up the trail. I ended up driving them on for about a kilometer before I could pass. As there was a cow and a calf, I was a little worried that they might turn on me. There were signs warning about bears in the area. As they were black and close in size to a bear, I had a moment of worry when I first spotted them before making the correct species identification.
The Myra Canyon section was indeed beautiful as being well-maintained and features lots of signs explaining what everything was.
The mishap happened at left of this picture

This last caused my downfall as near the end of the section, I was momentarily distracted by one of them just as I got onto a trestle. As bikes and people are smaller than trains, only a central portion of the trestle (width-wise) had nice boards. The edges were sleepers, set at about the historic distance. I veered off the central portion, down 2 inches onto the utterly bike-unfriendly sleepers and over onto the solid cedar railing at a good speed. My right arm and my right breast took most of the blow with my right leg picking up some of it. Or should I say scrapes and cedar splinters as there is now a good size patch of road rash on my right forearm and the signs of many splinters removed from chest and leg.
Shirt damage
Rather stunned, I walked the bike to the end of the trestle in search of a bench to sit down on. I flagged down the first cyclists I saw for help. Glen and Isabel (the cyclists) produced a first aid kit while I pulled my shirt off. We swabbed down the afflicted areas with disinfectant and pulled out some of the bigger splinters. As I recovered from my shock, Glen and I chatted about bikes for a few minutes. Having caught my breath, I thanked them profusely and headed off to Rebecca and Paul's house in Kelowna.

I arrived very much later than originally anticipated but luckily just before Paul had to go to pick up Rebecca at the airport. I was warmly greeted at their unconventionally kept house. Rebecca had been away for about a week and things were a bit chaotic. However, it was a warm chaos. Paul, who is an avid cyclist, has been particularly helpful both with the bike and dealing with my injuries.
In other news, it seems that Alice and Mark will be getting married in Norris Point, Newfoundland, next June. This throws a bit of a spanner in the spokes of my planning as I had been thinking of biking from York to Campbeltown at about that time. I guess I might just bike from Deer Lake to St-John's instead! Possibly with a detour to St-Pierre et Miquelon.