Adventures in Arches

March 16, 2010

We had our Sunday ride rained out, but we managed to console ourselves with doing nothing but watching tv (knit, knit, knit) going to yummy restaurants (the best huevos rancheros ever at Elektrica Cafe) and generally taking it easy.  We are on vacation after all!  The weather cleared up for the Monday ride along the road through Arches National Park.

The ride is long, with a few good uphills and downhills, but you can’t beat the views.  I felt sorry for people in cars, whizzing along without time to really contemplate a view, to breathe the fresh air scented with sagebrush, to feel the accomplishment for riding the whole way.  In the morning the rain of the day before quickly evaporated as mist, which is something not seen that often in the desert. 

This weekend was also the maiden voyage of a new member of our biking family, Sunny Biscotti.  Mr. J ordered this bike back in April, but due to delay, after delay, after delay, and finally getting the frame for free, he got Sunny in October, too late to ride outside.  Not five minutes after we left on our first ride someone complimented Mr. J on his bike, which really floated his boat.  Unfortunately now he is faster than ever, but once he makes it up a hill, he comes back down and rides up it again with slow me!

After a rest day, we’re getting ready to do some mountain biking.  The weather has turned warm, we’re wearing our shorts and t-shirts, and putting on the sunscreen.  It feels so good after a long cold, grey winter!

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Heading South…

March 13, 2010

Since winter is hanging on in Alberta:

We’ve headed south for a weeks vacation.  Utah weather may not be as warm as other years, but its still warm to us.  The thrill of actually going forward on our bikes, after a winter of spinning in one spot in our living rooms is exciting as always.

By the end of the day we had our sleeves off, and I’ve got a bit of a sunburn on my face.  I’ve even got my bike tan started on my arms.  Tonight it may snow a little bit!  But most importantly, a week of not working is always something to enjoy.

The fun of riding my bike home from work on a beautiful sunny day is that I can take side streets, and find new ways home.  My new favorite way takes me through a pretty section of Bowness by the river, and over the pedestrian Bowmont bridge.  In many cultures, crossing over running water is a way to shake off evil spirits, even in the Lord of the Rings the bad guys can’t follow the good guys into running water.  Standing over  the Bow River, which is still running glacier clear, but getting more full each day, as the spring run off approaches, for me is almost therapeutic.  The sound of the river, the smell of it, all that water rushing by washing all the evil spirits away.

Taken on this bridge, last night, as I leisurely pedalled my way home.

May 28 002

Which is today!  And I did!  I have to mention first off, that yesterday I proclaimed it the first day with no snow in five days, and it promptly snowed on me most of the way home last night.  It literally started 3 seconds after I got on my bike and headed out.  In two blocks I had to pull over and layer up, and was still pretty chilly by the time I got home and hopped in my beloved bathtub. 

The joys of riding a bike to work are many, but there are logistical problems to overcome.  I thought as part of my little promotion of biking to work I would explain a few of the things I do to enable me to choose this mode of transportation!  Much of this is directly specifically to the conditions we have here in Calgary.  This city has wonderful bike paths, and my route takes me from the T-hood in the west of the city, down the Bow River, and into downtown.  It is estimated that around 5000 bike to work here in the summer months.  I am on the road a very short distance, most of my way is right by the river on the bike path, it takes me one hour to one hour and fifteen minutes.  My views look like this:

bow-river-in-the-morning

Which to me is much preferrable to the views from the bus!  I ride my old hard tail mountain bike, as parts of the bike trail are a bit broken up, and every once in awhile I need to hop a curb.  This bike is around 8 years old now, and for a cost of $600 originally, it has taken me very far.  I took off the bigger tires and put skinnier ones on, but they still have a bit of tread for traction.  I’ve got a platform on the back of the bike over my tire, to which I strap my backpack.  Its nice to ride without having to carry it on your back, but to have the bike take the load. 

Proper clothing is really important here, as even in the summer it is chilly.  I have a wind breaker jacket which keeps a lot of chill out, arm warmers, leg warmers and some great tights that are windproof.  On cold days like this morning I wore two layers of tights and leg warmers.  I have a fleece headband to keep my ears warm, and a wonderful face mask with holes for my nose and mouth to make breathing easy.  Also important are booties to keep the feet warm, and a good pair of gloves.  As the temperature can literally go up 10-15 degrees celcius during the day here, I ride home with just a base layer of bike shorts, jersey, arm warmers and my thin gloves. 

I have long hair which I braid, and then comb out once I get to work, I’ve never been much of a hair do person.  At work I have deodorant, make up, and spare underwear in case I forget to pack it!  I ride in with my work clothes in my backpack,  I’ve got a few pairs of shoes that I leave in the office year round.  As its cooler in the morning, and I’m riding to a moderate heart rate (slow enough to elevate the heart rate, but low enough that I can easily talk) I don’t tend to get too sweaty, and it hasn’t been a problem.  Wrinkle free office clothes are a necessity however as I tend to just stuff them in my backpack. 

I always have a pump, spare tube, lights, cell phone, water, all the good stuff.  I’m usually riding during daylight hours, and I feel my route is very safe (Hi Dad!).  I’ll probably stop riding to work this year when it gets too dark in the morning again.  I also have a lovely bell on my commuter bike as per by-law regulations. Ting, ting, ting!

After a winter of sitting on the bus, and waiting for them when they don’t bother to show up, the freedom of just hopping on the bike again is wonderful.  I’d like to ride every day of the week, but that is a lot of wear and tear on the body, which means I need to work slowly up to that, adding a bit each week.  My new diet is helping me give the energy I need to do this however, I already feel much better and its only Day #5. 

Happy Riding everyone!

Home Again, Home Again

February 20, 2009

Its so nice to be home again!  I don’t believe I have ever been as homesick as I have been in the last two days.  Are my twelve years of wandering finally over?  Am I now rooted in place, and actually have a home to be sick over?  I’m still not committing fully, as my nomad soul is a bit rebellious, but all signs point to go.  Getting home early enough to have a lovely bath, put on pink reindeer fleece pj’s and then pat kitties for the rest of the night sure does a person good.  I do believe Piper was never more than 2 feet away from me (and usually attached in some way) almost the whole time I was home.  It sure is a nice change from a lonely hotel room!

There is a lot to learn in ruralSaskatchewan if you pay attention.  The biggest difference is the people.  In rural areas people slow down, stop and check if you are okay when you are pulled over at the side of the road (even if you are just talking onyour cell phone).  People help each other out, and ask if you need anything.  People talk to you in the morning (unfortunately before I’m ready to, I usually can’t do small chat before 10 am) and ask how you are and mean it.  They are neighbourly, and friendly, and nice.  There is community, and people waving at you from their trucks.  I wave back.  I’m reminded that there are people in the world you can trust, that aren’t trying to get things from you, that are just nice.  I’m reminded that I should open up, and be friendly, and nice, and smile, and chat about the weather more often with a stranger.  Maybe I can help them out, and maybe they can help me. 

saskatchewan-road

Turn Right by the Chair

February 18, 2009

I wish I was joking, but that is how you get to the water plant:

turn-right-by-the-chair

Rumour has it that is also how you know its a bingo night.  I didn’t stop to find out but headed back down south after my meeting.  And the owl I thought I almost hit the other night?  It was back again in the same spot on the highway, either it is eating the stones, roadkill, or wants to hitch to Florida.  Its over 2 feet tall, and scares the crap out of me very time. 

As Gravelbourg is a French town, I discovered they also have a lovely french bookstore, mostly filled with books for children.  As my incredibly smart 6 year old niece is already reading French, I picked her up a cute book entitled “Plaisirs D’Hiver (Pleasures of Winter) by Roger Pare.  However now I’m thinking about saving this picture for myself and hanging it on a wall:

plaisirs-dhiver

 

The caption reads: Bonhomme-Carotte a de belles mitaines, Noisette lui tricote un foulard de laine.  Translation: Carrot Snowman has has some pretty mittens, Hazelnut knits him a wool scarf. 

Another favorite picture has an elephant wearing 4 socks with pom-pom’s at the top.  That is an elephant after my heart!

I know, its hard to believe that all those things are in Saskatchewan, home of the incredibly flat, straight highways.  But waaay up north, past Prince Albert, the land changes to forests, lakes, hills, and a winter wonderland.  Prince Albert National Park has some great cross country ski trails, and enough to keep my friends family busy all week long.  They even did some snowshoeing and saw a fresh wolf kill.  This impressed the kids to no end (7 and 10 year old city kids).  They saw rib cage, blood, and on the way back the kill was smaller which mean the wolves were around eating still.  In fact the two trails I went on had wolf tracks all over them, cool huh?  Trees:

woods

Here the forest is a blend of poplar and jackpine.  Outside the park, where the forest had been logged only poplar/aspen are left.  There are very distinct lines to show where the logging left off, and the park starts.  Always a good idea to go to the woods with a forester, as we did!  The kids had a great time looking at tracks, wolf scat, and other interesting things as we skied along.  Lakes:

anglers-lake

Skidooing is a popular past time up here as well.  I like skiing better however, quieter and you can eat a lot of junk food after and be okay with it.  Its was a bit nippy however, close to -20 oC when we started off.  Monday was Family Day here in Canada, and a holiday.  A beautiful sunny day, and perfect to spend with friends, their family, and yours.  A great weekend, and I miss them already.  Getting back to real life after a nice weekend is always such a bump isn’t it?

skiing-gang

First of all, thumb your nose at all the stinky cars waiting in line and zip on by!

Head along the Bow River and navigate between the cyclists, roller-bladers, dog walkers, runners, and what on earth are those people doing people.  Appreciate cute men in Lycra shorts.  Head over to the north side of the river over the pedestrian bridge.  Note how the river level is dropping, and the clarity is improving, which means the spring run-off is coming to an end.

  Watch out for all the geese and goslings!  The path winds along the river almost the whole way home, and has only a small portion on streets shared with cars (100 ft).  After getting the up close and personal view of the river on the right the path continues in the distance, but you can’t see it because of all the trees etc!

We are ending the level portion of the trip, and coming into Bowmont Park, where things start to look a bit up!  Over in the distance is the ski jump at the Calgary Olympic Park:

  Almost half way now, here is one happy commuter: I was never one who could manage to look uber sexy and exercise at the same time.  If anyone knows this trick, please write a book for the rest of us.

My neighbourhood is up on the hill way over there:

  Just go through these trees:

Ting, ting, ting, coming through!  And my favorite part, the hill home:

Now this is the part where you call me crazy, blame it on living in Salt Lake for too long.  Hills like this are great because you can whiz up them in a mid level gear, it gets a bit steeper when you get around the corner there.  Its great for getting your heart rate going, but not exploding it out of your chest.  Whew, am I tired, dinner and couch time for me!

And now introducing a new series chez ma blog, called just riding along, or pics I’ve taken from my bike.  Entirely random, just what I see, and whether I have my camera out and handy.  This weekend I rode down to the baby shower, and had a lovely time on a lovely day.  On my daily commute downtown I go through the zoo, and often see the boofalo:

Shhh, they’re sleeping.  Too many fences in the way to go over and pick up buffalo fibre.  Next along the path are the deer, then the moose.  So far I have not run into any escaped gorillas, for which I am grateful.  Continuing down the bike path, the way to the Make 1 yarn store is over Memorial Dr:

Here is how you do it.  Mum, if you are reading this, keep going.  Everyone else skip over to the next paragraph.  In order to go up this round about, and go over the road, carefully dismount, and walk your bike up the ramp slowly. When you reach the ground on the other side, carefully get back on your bike and continue on.  Got that?

Okay, no Mums allowed.  Here is how you really do it.  Its best to have your mountain bike with some good grippy tires, especially good sidewall traction.  Make sure no one is in your way, then take off up the ramp as fast as you can go.  Lean the bike over as far as you can and pedal fast!  Wheeeee!!!!  Coming down is a lot of fun as well to take the curves as fast and as far over as you can.  Can I do it again?