Monday, 29 June 2009

On the last few weekends

The day after the New Brunswick trip, I went on the Défi Métropolitain. It was in the same general area (Châteauguay) as the first Défi I went on in 2005, if I am not mistaken. The weather was less clement than the first time featuring some showers in the morning as well strong winds for most of the day.

To reduce crowding, this year the Défi Métropolitain experimented with having people do the course in two directions. Those persons going for the 100 km did it counter-clockwise, whereas the 75, 125 and 150 km people went clockwise. Given that I was a bit short on sleep owing to the train from New Brunswick the day before, I opted for the 100 km. This resulted in me having a smug feeling when I passed the bulk of the clockwise people, I was wheeing along with the wind at my back whilst they were struggling into the wind.In one of the small towns I went through, there was a place that sold cement decorations (statues, etc.) for you garden. It also advertised gift certificates for the same. (JWIW only not very often.)However, I would advise against the purchase of said gift certificates, as the place was going out of business.
(Note the windblown trees in the background.)

I mentionned earlier that I had been short on sleep. One case in point was the fact that the day before I had thought I had booked the rental of a car from the same place I had last rented a car. However, I hadn't, which was mildly embrassing, yet oddly fortuitous as the place I had rented the car from issued me not only with a Nissan Versa hatchback which was very easy to load Leonardo into, but they issued me a bright red Nissan Versa!!!
The following weekend saw the Tour de l'Île. It went off more or less smoothly. My 25th anniversary jersey was much admired. I also got to pretend I was trying out a penny farthing
It was really too small for my legs.

Margo's Louise turned up in Québec relatively unexpectedly. At relatively short notice, she, my Mother and myself organised ourselves into the Défi de Lanaudière. It had been hot and muggy in Montreal and for three nights running I had failed to catch much sleep. As well, the weather on Saturday was gray and wet. Consequently, I opted for the 100 km version, the same as my mother. Louise on the other hand, did 130+ km. The exact distance is uncertain owing to a glitch with Louise's bike computer.

She also informed me that not only had Margo and Chris had decided that I needed a softshell jacket for biking but that they were prepared to provide very significant funding towards the purchase of the same. After a certain amount of research, shopping with Louise's patient assistance, I ended up getting a "volcano" (red) Gamma LT Jacket from Arc'Teryx.
Here I am modelling it in my condo. Picture by Louise. Thank you, thank you Margo and Chris and thank you Louise for putting up with my shopping habits.

More biking pictures here.

Monday, 22 June 2009

On a surprising source of bike tools

Some time ago, I stumbled across a surprising source for Allen keys for bikes. I am the proud owner of a number of pieces of furniture (mostly bookcases) from Ikea. Most of these came with with Allen keys, which I kept in my pack rat-ish manner. However, I only realized a few months ago that these Allen keys fit the "common" bicycle hex bolt, as used to attach many accessories onto bikes.
Ikea Allen key on the left, multi-Allen key set of on the right

It is not that I lacked a decent folding Allen key set (pictured above), but that I frequently forget which is the commonly-used size of key. Also, the Ikea Allen key is less bulky, can be used more easily in some of the tighter corners of a bike and its shape allows it be rapidly cranked if necessary. Finally, you can use it to tighten the bolts on the multi-Allen key set.

The Ikea Allen isn't in my tool bag as a replacement for the multi-Allen, but as a complement. At the price in dollars (nil), weight (minimal) and volume (negligible), it works very well.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

On something I forgot to mention

There was one notable event that I forgot to mention in my last post. On the train coming back from New Brunswick, the parents and I had sat down for supper in the dining car taking three out of four seats in one booth. A few minutes later, the waitress seated a woman of about fifty in the remaining seat. Her name was Suzanne and she was from Ottawa. She had been in Nova Scotia for the Cabot Trail relay race. As such, she understood us very well as well as our just completed jaunt. Mummy commented that Via Rail could hardly have picked a better table mate for us!

Thursday, 4 June 2009

On the New Brunswick trip

We were all feeling very excited, even before we got on the train to Bathurst. It had been 19 years since I last traveled by sleeping car and it was even longer for the parents. Unlike me, they got on in Drummondville.
They brought with them a bottle of bubbly which we drank in the confines of my compartment in accordance with Via Rail regulations. That only served to make as more excited. I don't know about the parents, but I failed to sleep very well. I woke up around Causapscal, before the sun had risen and watched the Matapédia canyon go by in the false dawn light. I was struck by the contrast between the hard green of the evergreen trees. This photo doesn't do justice to the scene.
I later fell asleep again and had a very strange dream set in the dream version of the Restigouche river area. It nearly had me convinced that it was reality until my sister Alice became part of the dream. Around Campbellton, I knocked on the partition between the parents' compartment and my own to rouse them in time for breakfast. Mummy asked me if my choice of a Mactaggart tartan flannel shirt (from LL Bean) was in honour of going through Campbellton, New Brunswick. (My maternal grandfather was a Mactaggart from Campbeltown, Scotland.) It wasn't.

I shan't elaborate on the first few days biking, except to provide a pictures of the rail bed we were biking on for part of the way between Bathurst and Grande-Anse. Also to say the guidebook to the New Brunswick trail leaves much to be desired, particularly with regards to cartography.
It wasn't too bad as the roads of New Brunswick are remarkably cyclist-friendly. I took the following image because of the moose sign, but it also shows the lovely wide and smooth paved shoulders that were more often present than not.New Brunswick drivers were extreme courteous to us. They generally gave us very generous amounts of space as they passed. It became almost tiresome to acknowledge their courtesy with a wave. We attracted a certain amount of friendly curiosity, partly because we were a bit out of season, as well as admiration, particularly, but not exclusively on account of the parents "advanced" age.

The weather was generally sunny but quite cool. I generally biked in my merino jersey and my cycling jacket. One person I talked to commented that the sea hadn't warmed up yet.
Nonetheless, one day I managed to ride in my official 25th anniversary of the Tour de l'Île biking jersey. However, you should note that I am wearing my cycling tights as well. That day, (Sunday, May 24th) also saw the most rain that we saw during the trip. (It also rained a bit on the last day.)
I don't think my parents really understood the character of New Brunswick beforehand. It is, in my not-so-humble opinion, something a blue-collar province. Fine cuisine wasn't much in evidence, much to my parents' chagrin. There was some evidence of culture shock, particularly in my mother. One could almost re-write the Monty Python diatribe against package tours in Spain to fit my parents. "Food mostly fried. You can't get a proper cappuccino, can you now..." ;-)

However, there were some fun bits. I added three birds to my list: American bitterns, bobolinks and common eiders. Here I am pointing out the eiders in my bird book to Pappy. If I am not mistaken we are in Cap-Lumière.
I am not sure where we were for this shot, but I have included it as it is a nice family shot. More shots are available here and here.

When I arrived at the station in Moncton well before the parents, there were a pair of young women from Toronto loading their bikes at the start of a trip that would eventually take them to Halifax. They had arrived on the train from Montreal (which had been rather late) and were about to head off towards P.E.I. Having just come from Shediac and having had a first-hand experience last summer on how difficult it was to find the right road out of Moncton (Dieppe if you want to be technical) I volunteered my expertise and showed them the exact road on their map. In return, they gave me a cardboard box to put my excess bags into. That way, I could put all the gear "Not wanted on voyage" into it and put it as checked luggage. They also admired my front, lowrider racks. They didn't have them, (one of their bikes was a mountain bike with front suspension) but evidently thought that they were a good idea.