Thursday, December 30, 2010

Roy's Turn to Blog


Now my friend Mike who sometimes goes by the name Adrian is a good guy but sometimes I have to wonder  about his judgement.  I killed myself laughing when he came out of his tent looking for the stove so he could make his morning coffee wearing pajamas with the little legs tucked into his socks.  And don't tell me he wore his cycling jacket to bed too!  No wonder he couldn't keep up with my pace - the guy's got 50 pounds of crap packed into his over-sized panniers.  You should see what he uses to dry himself off with - a bath towel the size of an area rug!  The thing must add 10 pounds to his load when it's wet - which is most of the time since it never really dries.  And then it ends up soaking whatever it comes into contact with.  Like when he pulled out the expensive map that he bought at Map Town.  He no sooner opened it up fully when one soggy crease after another gave way -  making a pile of colourfully shredded waste that had to be thrown into the camp's recycle bin.  Of course that meant that he had to keep asking me for my dry, well laminated map whenever he needed to check where we were at any given moment which was every ten minutes - or so it seemed.

I mean look at the above photo I took with my Canon Sureshot which I keep securely stowed in it's Lowepack camera bag on my handlebars - unlike the ziplock bag Mike uses that he has to dig out of his panniers every time we stop to take a picture which is every five minutes.  Look at how crisp that map is - how with one snap of the wrist it neatly unfolds.  How it doesn't buckle at a crucial location.  Never gets wet.  Doesn't turn into recyclable waste with each use.

My guts hurt enough from laughing at all Mike's gaffes so don't get me started on what he uses to eat from.  His origami bowl and cup. It wouldn't be so bad if the guy could remember which way to fold the blasted things when he needs to use them.  I don't know how much vital camp fuel I've wasted while the hot water cools while he makes a vain attempt to construct the mug which doubles as a measuring cup so that we can pour the precise amount of boiling water into the bag which will eventually become our main course for supper.  But I have to say that measuring cup came in handy one year when we camped in Grand Forks and inadvertantly set up our tents on top of the sprinkler system and were woken up at 1:15 to a tropical water storm that flooded our campsite.  Having left his origami measuring cup on the picnic table the night before, (let's call him Madrian) was able to proudly announce that 2 1/2 inches of water fell on our campsite during the cyclone that surrounded our tents for the 20 minutes of pressurized hell that camping on an irrigation system entails.

I had to cool my jets for a couple of hours while his gear dried in the humid morning air since his tent is so small, he had to leave his panniers outside his tent.  My tent holds me and all my gear with lots of room to spare and while I get changed, you won't see my tent wobbling and flopping like a Mexican Jumping Bean like Madrian's does every time he makes the slightest move.  But you can't blame the guy for needing a small tent when you consider the amount of crapola he has to transport with every pedal turn.  I mean look at the guy's sleeping bag - it's......

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Woe is me

On the way back from buying papers at the local convenience store (in other parts of the country, they're called Variety stores), I happened upon this bike hidden in the trees just off the parking lot of the store.

A quick look showed that the bike was locked, albeit not very well, to a coniferous tree.  Otherwise it might have ended up as a donation to the bike co-op or in a spring garage sale.

I always wonder about these bikes.  They aren't abandoned since they are locked up yet they show up one day and then are left for months to sit and gather snow in the winter or leaves in the fall or tall grasses caress their frames in the summer.  Did the owners die?  Move away suddenly?  Did the first snowfall of winter make their owner ditch them in favour of a season of public transport?

At least this particular bike was semi-hidden and the evergreen trees offer some protection from the harsh winter elements.  And the knee - deep snow surrounding this makeshift parking spot might discourage investigation.  Once a week when I get my Saturday papers, I'll watch this baby and see if it doesn't disappear just as suddenly as it appeared and then I'll wonder - did somebody steal it?  Is the weather good enough for its owner to ride again?  Has the rider remembered where they left it?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Anonymous Giving

As I sit here sipping a glass of Okanagan Merlot, I'm reflecting on my good fortune of being involved with a well known organization here in our area - "Santa's Anonymous".  This charity has been in operation for more than 50 years and its objective is to make sure deserving children receive a Christmas gift.  And we're talking about 25,000 children in our city this year.

Just this past weekend, thousands of citizens showed up at "Santa's" headquarters to participate in the delivery of these 25,000 gifts in a two day, Saturday/Sunday blitz.  The drivers, from every every corner of the province made 1,500 deliveries and hundreds of porters carried, pulled or dragged sleighs of parcels to the vehicles.

For someone like me who has a particular interest in cycling, it was exciting to see brand new bicycles being donated to this excellent cause. On behalf of the charity my wife and I attended a Christmas party held by A and B Rail Services a couple of weeks ago where a table had been set up for us to accept gifts and cash donations as employees entered the dining hall to enjoy the party.  We were overwhelmed by the generosity of these fine people and our table was soon overflowing with Tonka trucks, Easy Bake ovens, stuffed toys, dolls, building blocks, toy cars, books and other fun gifts.  As we thanked a generous donor, I could see coming down the carpeted hallway, a well-groomed couple coming toward our spot.  The lady's arms were laden with packages and the gentleman was wheeling a brand-spanking new boys bike toward our donation table.  I could feel my eyes misting up at the benevolence of this young couple who would remain anonymous. 

I was choked up imagining the young boy coming downstairs on Chrismas morning, rubbing the sleep from his eyes and having to rub them again in disbelief that Santa had brought him a new bike!  And what a bike.  Not just any kind of bike!  Shiny, reflective chrome.  Sparkling spokes.  Black tires with the hundreds of rubber nubbies poking out.  Big wide pedals.  Cool handgrips.  A nice seat at just the right height.  "Can I ride it! Can I ride it!  Pleeeease!"

You know it and I know it.  The child will remember this gift all his life.  In fact, over the weekend, I overheard a middle-aged driver telling one of the porters who was carrying this very bike to be delivered that he couldn't count the number of Christmases that the only presents he had received were from Santa's Anonymous.  And isn't that what Christmas is all about?  Giving to others so that they may give to someone else?  Renewing faith in this world of ours.

On that note, I wish all you devoted readers, whatever your circumstances,  and beliefs,a very Merry Christmas - may there be a bike under your tree or the tree of someone you love.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Not a Schmozzle

Discovering that it was only -3C made me eager to strap on the bike for my afternoon commute.  It was 5 o'clock when I finally hit the pavement and as I don't ride on the roads in winter, I pushed my bike along the crowds of pedestrians filling the sidewalks.  Since we live in such an automobilecentric city, I knew that within two blocks the crowds would thin out and I could ride in relative peace.

Three quarters of the way home, I was just thinking about how this bike would handle brown sugar when the sidewalk suddenly ended and I was forced to take to the street.  A street covered in brown sugar on top of hard-packed snow.  I found out soon enough as the bike slewed out from under me and while I didn't go down, I had to plant my left foot on the road to gain control of my two wheeled steed.  Since my wife who doesn't approve of winter riding might read this, I won't mention that bearing down on me was a monstrous

At the eleven kilometer mark, I could see a young guy coming toward me with his head down, staring at a mobile device.  With the zipping sound that the studded tires make on bare pavement, I thought for sure that he would look up at the sound and see me.  Not!  I had to let out one of my deep throated "HEY!!!s" to get his attention.  I got his attention all right.  He was so startled that I swear he levitated off the sidewalk.  Maybe even soiled himself.  It was probably evil of me but I had to snicker at his reaction.  If a collision had been imminent, I would have veered onto the snow.  I mean, I'm not supposed to be riding on the sidewalk anyway.

By the time I got home (one hour and thirty three minutes after departing the workplace), I had to head to the shower to rid myself of all the accumulated perspiration that was soaking my clothing but compared to the Schmozzle the other day, this was my kind of commute.

Friday, December 10, 2010

What a Schmozzle

A commute this morning to work is exactly why I dream of bike trips from the past.  When I woke up and staggered my way to the coffee-maker, I passed our little electronic weather station and discovered that it was only -15C.  Back in bed with my black plasma, I began to choose what and how many layers I would wear on my commute.

First would be my short-sleeved MS jersey, followed by two long-sleeved, wicking bike shirts, my Mountain Equipment Co-op stretchy riding pants covered with an old pair of track pants.  I'd wear my big winter boots on my feet and for my hands, I had the bright idea of wearing tough disposable mechanic gloves, my full-fingered biking gloves covered with an over-sized pair of mittens.

Having decided what to wear, I was committed.  It wasn't until I'd had breakfast and was heading out the door that I discovered that it had snowed during the night.  I've gotten out of the habit of looking out the front door window to check on the day outside because of the Christmas wreath blocking the view.  Riding in fresh snow is very much like riding in sand but I thought I could slug my way through.  I was very proud of the job I had just done on studding my tires and wanted to give them the big test.

I hadn't gone 2 blocks before I discovered that I was in the wrong gear and maybe that would account for my high heartrate.  My first stop was 5 blocks from home at a bus stop to take off my mittens to be able to lift up my neck tube to cover my cheeks, nose and mouth to mitigate the wintery breeze that I hadn't noticed on leaving the driveway.

By the time I had gone 5 kilometers, I was beginning to have doubts. The bike path I usually take was strewn with snow from the nearby street being plowed overnight and that made the going even tougher. When I made another kilometer and a half, I left my bike on the front lawn of an apartment building and went inside the vestibule to try to warm my fingers and toes. There was a feeble trickle of heat coming from the register and it took quite some time to regain feeling in my extremities.

I felt recovered enough to plod my way to a ravine near the museum where because of the numbness in my hands, I couldn't operate my brake levers anymore so decided to ditch the bike in the ravine, catch a bus to work and retrieve the bike later. Using numb fingers, I managed to turn off the blinking lights on the bike and 5 minutes later when a bus showed up, I threw a loonie and a toonie that I had somehow managed to fumble out of my knapsack into the fare collection box. Lurching to the back of the bus I had to contend with curious looks from the other passengers and it wasn't until the bus had made it most of the way downtown that I managed to unbuckle my helmet and taking it off, I discovered that the two blinking lights on the helmet were still flashing and sending their blinding light into the retinas of the early morning passengers!

This is why I daydream about my fair weather cycling adventures.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

AntiChrist Mountain

While my cycling buddy and I were cycling for pies between Oliver and Osoyoos, our view of Anarchist Mountain became more and more exposed.  Way, way up at the top, the last visible switchback cuts across the face of the peak at an incredible angle and fantastic height.  I shook my head in disbelief that we had ridden our bikes to the top of that mountain on our last KVR adventure.

Anarchist Mountain rises up 4,800 feet above sea level and by traversing it's numerous hairpin turns, one is rewarded by reaching the summit.  As my friend Roy told me many times as I questioned him - "Where the %$#@!*? is that damned summit?"on our tortuous climb "It's not where you think it is".  If you Google Anarchist Mountain, you'll come across many websites that describe the incredible views from the summit.  Which is bullshit.  When you do reach the summit, and because it is nowhere near the valley in which Osoyoos resides, there are no commanding views to be had.  In fact, the land is rolling pastures and arid looking farmland.

My guidebook recommends starting the climb at 4am to beat the traffic and the daytime heat.  I would love to try that.  Imagine.  By 11 o'clock in the morning, you'll be Rock Creek and stuffing Rock Creek cheese sticks into your face.  Another ten minutes of cycling and you'll be picking out a shady campsite at the fairgrounds and stripping off to go soak in the nearby Kettle River and let its gentle current massage your tired muscles.

But no, we'll hit the mountain around 11 o'clock in the morning, just when the day begins to heat up and the traffic starts to clog the highway.  And when we finally pull into Rock Creek, all the baking they've done that day will be sold.  However, we will find a nice shady campsite since the three times we have camped at the fairgrounds only two other sites were taken (at most).  One time we had the whole place to ourselves and Roy took the men's can for himself and I took the women's.

This summer when Roy, Richard and I cycled through Hedley, I met the museum director who related a cycling trip he had made from "Hedley to Halifax". According to him,in the four months of cycling across Canada, the worst and hardest part was climbing Anarchist Mountain.  He almost quit then and there.  I could relate to his story.  With a 6.6%  continuous grade (meaning: for every 100 feet you travel, you go up over 6 and a half feet) and it doesn't stop, Anarchist is a challenge.  A couple of years ago we met Paul Letard - the grandfather of the KVR cycling trail and he asked us if we had done Anarchist.  Replying in the affirmative, he told us he had done it in the thirties on a fixie when it was a gravel road.  Now that is something!

The route is so steep that you can't stop.  If you do, you have to turn your bike around, head downhill, build up some speed, watch for an opening in the traffic and then turn sharply uphill and begin the grinding process all over again.

It is tough when you're carrying 40 pounds of gear on your 30 pound bike, but you are rewarded upon reaching the summit of an hour and a half of downhill to Rock Creek where at times you can hit 60 kilometers an hour no problem.





Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pie, Pie, Pies

After our ride down from Oliver, we pulled our bikes off the main street of Osoyoos and parked them at the Farmer's Market while we continued our hunt for pies for Roy.  By this time, I was getting sold on the the idea of pie and starting to fantasize about the delicious taste of the velvety filling and the sharper taste of the crust that eating a slice of pie offers.  At every booth in the Farmer's market that we stopped at to inquire about pies, we were told that "Cassie the Pie Lady" had plenty for sale.  It was at the last booth that we were informed that we could find the "Pie Lady" behind the Royal Bank further down the main drag in downtown Osoyoos.

The whole search reminded me of another Kettle Valley Rail trip back in 2007 when we rode our bikes into Chute Lake at around 8 o'clock in the evening and dusk was beginning to fall around us.  The place looked closed but Doreen, the owner of the resort let us in and very kindly cooked up some hotdogs in the microwave which we joyfully washed down with cold beer.  Before we left the lodge, we arranged with Dorren for us to arrive back at the lodge at nine the next morning for breakfast and it was then that she let slip the her husband was outside in the garden plucking rhubarb to be made into pies at 11 Am tomorrow and that they would be ready for serving at 1Pm.  We left the premises rubbing our hands in anticipation and we quickly drew up a plan that would see us leave Chute Lake after 1Pm the next day.
The next morning,hanging around after breakfast and waiting for rhubarb pie afforded us the opportunity to have lengthy showers and do some laundry.  Our main distraction was the thousands of antiques that fill the property and both Roy and I took great pleasure in snapping a card full of interesting pictures.

The rhubarb pie was everything we had hoped it would be and the both of us ate several slices of the scrumptous desert before staggering under this huge load of fuel to begin our day - long descent down to Penticton. Luckily gravity was going to help to pull us to our evening's destination.

Photos by K. Roy C.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Starlight and Snakes

A baby crying two tents down woke me up at 4am and try as I might to go back to sleep, I knew from experience that it was futile.  Getting up and zipping open my tent, I could see the stars out in full force shining their silvery light on our bikes which were securely locked to the picnic table.  The campground itself was quiet except for the odd snore emanating from one of the nearby tents.  Maybe it was that sound that woke up the baby.

After walking a short ways to a picnic table illuminated by a street light, I added our recent exploits to my notebook.  The air was cold and so when I got back to our site, I decided to go back to bed to warm up in my mummy bag which still retained some of my body heat.  I must have fallen asleep for a couple of hours because when I got up, Roy was packed and ready to go which was a complete reversal from our usual routine which usually saw me tapping my fingers as I waited for my non-morning-person-cycling-buddy to get going.

We made final adjustments to our loads and then said goodbye to all of the neighbours we had met since arriving at the camp.  While we rode out, a biplane was catching everyone's attention as it swooped low between the valley walls.  With today being the Saturday of the Labour Day weekend, we speculated that the pilot was practising for Monday's celebrations.

This particular section of the KVR is nicely paved with a convenient yellow stripe running down its center.  However, not far out of Oliver the trail turns to the gravel of which most of the KVR is constructed.   Both Roy and I had to skirt around a brown snake with black markings and when it didn't move, we decided to stop and pull out notre cameras.  Being avid photogs we spent quite a bit of time snapping pictures and in all that time the snake did not move even when Roy gently touched it with his cycling shoe.  We were convinced that the snake was alive - perhaps it was just being sluggish due to the cooler weather.  This was Labour Day weekend - traditionally the last weekend of summer in our neck of the continent.  You can see from one of the above photos that it was still warm enough to be wearing shorts - although I'm the kind of person who has tried in the past to wear shorts all year long but has usually given up by mid November when even all the fur on my legs is not enough to insulate my stubby limbs.
Next:  "Cassie the Pie Lady" and our first look at Anarchist Mountain

Monday, November 29, 2010

Near Canada's Largest Desert

In my previous post it was mentioned how I like to daydream during the winter of my cycling adventures (usually in warmer weather) and I began describing a trip along the Kettle Valley Railway back in 2008.

On leaving Vaseux Lake under broken clouds, we hit a headwind that would dog us all the way to Oliver.  Roy was some distance ahead of me and I worked hard to catch up to him so that I could stay right on his rear wheel and draft him.  Every cyclist has heard about this technique but this was the first time I had ever tried it and I was very surprised at how much easier riding into the wind this way could be.  Drafting also added some excitement to our first day of riding in that one has to pay very close attention to the acceleration and braking of the lead bike which is only inches away. Out of fairness we traded off at the outskirts of Oliver and Roy got to experience the pleasure of me breaking wind in front of him!
When we entered Lakeside Resort on Tugulnuit Lake in the late afternoon, I was struck by how much the camping experience can resemble a refugee camp.  Tents covered in bright coloured plastic, guy ropes tied at odd angles to trees, picnic tables, tent pegs.  As we rode around to eyeball our campsite, one could only think that this makeshift village had experienced some recent rain.  Considering that Canada's largest desert is just down the road, the idea of rain seemed peculiar to we prairie boys.

Without pausing to set up camp, we headed up the Black Sage Bench and into the wind to the Quinta Fierrera Winery where Roy introduced me to John Fierrera, a swarthy and rotund vintner of Portuguese extraction.  We enjoyed a sampling of terrific reds and we chose a Merlot to go with our "Hungry Man Mountain Beef Stew" that was on tonight's menu.  I had enough wine samples that I wiped out at the bottom of the bench on some loose gravel trying to avoid a local motorist ignoring the 3 way stop at the bottom of the hill.  Maybe it wasn't the alcohol that caused me to spill but my eagerness to set up camp and start swilling that Merlot.  Luckily Roy had the bottle of red in his possesion or the spot where I crashed would have been red with wine and not with blood.

Photo Credit: Roy C.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Winter Daydreams


I really don't like winter.  That is the conclusion that I have come to after a week of -30 degree temperatures and lots of snow flying through the air.  So my mind wanders back to days of long ago or I daydream about exotic places I could bike - hence the picture of me on the moon (was it photoshopped?).
In my dreaming I relive some of my favorite bike trips and to help you cope with winter I'm going to share some of those stories.

The first story dates back to 2008 and my cycling buddy Roy and I are on our second Kettle Valley Railway trip doing the oval - shaped tour: Penticton-Oliver-Osoyoos-Rock Creek-Beaverdell-McCullough-Chute Lake-Penticton.  The year before we had done the same loop except that the trestles in the Myra Canyon were still being restored after the Okanaga Mountain fire had destroyed many of them.  This trip would include riding on the recently re-opened trails in the awe-inspiring canyon and this would explain why we are making essentially the same trip.

After leaving our friend Richard's orchard on the outskirts of Penticton, our first stop was at the Bike Barn in Penticton where I had had emergency repairs made to my bike last year after my rear pannier rack fell off on the murderous by-pass around the construction at the Myra Canyon.  Roy entered the premises searching for a bowl to eat from and he soon came out of the store with only paper plates in his hands.  The business didn't have a bowl to his liking so it was off to the Sally Anne thrift store which was on our route albeit many blocks to the south.

He came out of the thrift store with what looked like a doggy dish that was strong and light.  Myself personally, after closely inspecting the metal salver, became absolutely convinced that it really had been a dog dish and there was no way I would have eaten from such a basin.  Roy turned a blind eye to the canine teeth marks impressed on the outer rim and the many scratches (claw marks?) decorating the insides.

As we saddled up, I noticed a sign on the Salvation Army Church across the road which proclaimed "The will of God will never take you to where the grace of God won't keep you."  I pondered this adage as we rode south along the shores of Skaha Lake toward our first day's objective - Oliver, the wine capital of Canada.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Baby it's cold outside

The top picture is the original bike and by looking carefully behind the foreground bike in the bottom picture, you can see the original bike chained to the sign post.  That little bike back there has been there since a freak snowstorm in May that caused everyone to despair that last winter would never go away.
And  it's lovely how the person cleaning off the sidewalk has created a little snow island around the two bikes.  It is probably a safe bet that no one else will inhabit the island with their bike and these two will remain stranded for who knows how long?

The smaller bike has been doing a slow disappearing act since May.  Just about every time I go to the Timmy Ho's near this scene and sit at a window table with my buddy we marvel at how first a wheel went missing, another time it was the chain that had vanished.  One day the seat was "borrowed".  Recently the front wheel was returned.  I imagine that whoever took it really did borrow it and had enough intergrity to not only return the wheel but attach it back onto the forks.  Perhaps the person who owns it uses it like a parts depot - grabbing a wheel when it's needed, a chain when required.

Throughout our fair city there are dozens of these abandoned two wheel conveyances and I often wonder if the city has a program for cutting them away from their posts and then donating them to a worthy cause.  I've been tempted to do that very thing myself.  You know - put on a pair of coveralls, a hardhat, work gloves, steel toed boots and with a honkin' big bolt cutter and act like a city maintenance person and have at it.

I truly feel bad about these abandoned bikes and I hope their owners take better care of themselves than they do with their transportation.

Friday, November 19, 2010

BikeCam

In my November 2 blog I described how to attach a small video camera to a bike and voila! here are some of the results.....

By the way, this video was shot in October and the weather then certainly doesn't match the weather now!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A studly post

You've maybe chosen a bike without shocks and you've tried some winter cycling only to discover that it gets really slippery out there.  As though you're riding on banana peels!  So it's time to discuss tires for winter pedalling.

One group thinks that having slick, skinny road tires is the way to go as they will cut through snow and get you some traction on pavement.  I only have to look at bicycle couriers who ride year round - they for the most part have road tires on their bikes and yet they continue to zip around our streets and sidewalks.  (Naughty naughty).

The other group (studs?) maintain that the way to go in winter is with studded tires - either store bought or homemade.  The hardcore types hold that only one studded tire is needed and that is on the front wheel.  Myself, I think that for the nominal extra cost, two studded tires are best.  Even on my automobile which is front wheel drive I mount four snow tires for the extra gripping power.

It is true that when you lose control of your front tire you're a goner.  Two years ago I hit a patch of ice hiding under a skiff of snow and BLAM!  Down I went, smashing the back of my head into the pavement and breaking my helmet.  I was seeing stars and felt shi**y.  So I continued on in a reckless manner.  Probably a mild concussion accounted for the star - scape during daylight hours.

Just like snow tires on a car, the studs on the tires will wear out but given the amount of snow we get here in the frozen north, you won't be doing much riding on bare pavement.  Two studded tires will increase the odds that you will have an accident free winter cycling season.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Winter Cycling Part One

You might wonder why there is a  picture of front  forks on today's blog and what do they have to do with winter cycling?  All will soon be revealed.

There are a lot of things to consider when you decide to ride in the winter.  Mountain bike?  Road bike?  Hybrid? Fat tires?  Skinny slicks?  There are many schools of thought on this and I hope that this blog doesn't muddy the waters further.

Of all the considerations that surround winter cycling one of them concerns shocks.  Most mountain bikes are equipped with front shocks and full suspension bikes have both front and rear suspension systems.  If you live and bicycle commute here in the frozen north, then you may want to consider a bike that has no suspension at all.  Once it gets really cold, shocks will stop operating and the sand and salt that cover our roads and trails in the winter will get into the mechanism of the shock and destroy them.  Hence the picture of the front forks that have no shock absorbers.

In a future blog we'll discuss other decisions to be made for winter bicycle commuting.

Friday, November 12, 2010

THE HUNGRY CYCLIST

Bookstore shelves are crammed with adventure books.  Climbing the tallest peak of every continent.  Walking backwards across Australia.  Riding a unicycle across Russia.  Around the world on a skateboard.  But who has pedalled 15,000 miles in search of the perfect meal?  Meet Tom Kevill - Davies whose idea to search for the perfect meal came to him while on a cycling trip in France "the center of the gastronomic universe, and also the birthplace of the bicycle".

Riding a British racing-green touring bike and carrying 120 pounds of gear, Kevill - Davies recounts many adventures and a host of interesting people and situations that will leave you shaking your head at what he is willing to eat.   A warning here - if you are at all squeamish and not in favour of eating animals that our culture considers to be pets - then don't pick this book off the shelf!

Other than that, I must say that this is the first book I've read that made my stomach rumble at his decription of some of his meals.  "Booooooom!  My senses exploded in what appeared to be some kind of orgasm.  The meat was unfathomably tender and each bite released ambrosial juices into my mouth.  It was a dream come true and I truly believed I had found the perfect meal.  But in a land where meat is a luxury, nothing was put to waste, and my carnivorous feasting had only just begun...."

In South America upon meeting a fellow cyclist: "Cycle tourists are like dogs, and with our brief introduction over, we began sniffing each others bottoms.  How much weight are you carrying?  What pedals are you using?  Caliper of disc brakes?  Drop handlebars or flat?  Slick tires or knobby ones?  A derailleur or internal gear system?  Sniff.  Sniff."

The book has an interesting cultural perspective - a tailgate party as seen through British eyes: "Big men, big trucks, big grills and big cuts of meat.  Wherever I looked, food was being prepared and eaten on a grand scale, but overwhelmed and intimidated by this multitude of football crazy, asphalt-dwelling omnivores, I didn't know where to begin."

The book isn't all about food either - you can imagine some of the situations that anyone riding 15,000 miles through the U.S.A., Canada, Mexico, Central and South America would have.  I'll leave you with this nugget: "When I declined again, he bent his other hand behind his back.  When it returned it was gripping a gleaming, silver revolver.  The heavy weapon hit the table and I stared in disbelief at the barrel pointing towards my chest.  "Tocarlo!" he said quietly, and holding up my arm he tapped a substantial mound of white powder onto the back of my hand, and at gunpoint I sniffed.".

Thursday, November 11, 2010

What Size is your A**?

United Cycle was holding a "Bike Expo" the other day and for someone interested in bikes, it was the place to be.  Several exhibition tables were set up and after chatting with a street planner from the city about proposed bike lanes and then meeting the new MS Bike Tour coordinator and discussing the 2011 Bike tours, I made my way to the parts area to snag a replacement tube.  Then it was upstairs to try to find (and see) the TREK series of "Gary Fisher" bikes.

 Upstairs, after talking at great length to a Specialized rep and learning all kinds of things about MTB's that I never knew, the guy offered to measure my behind on the Ass-O-Meter.  A simple device that I had read about in Nick Lees column recently and someday hoped |I'd get a chance to have my ass measured.  It's just a matter of sitting on two soft foam pads that are calibrated and hold a "memory" of your sit bones and that calibration will determine what size seat would be best for you.  Like most evrything else for a man my size, I fell in between small and medium.  A reporter that I used to work with used to tease me that I did all my clothes shopping in the "Boys" department.

As an aside, I recently was measured for a suit and discovered that since I was last measured, my chest size has expanded from 38 inches to 40.  Something I attribute to all the aerobic activity on my two wheeled steed.

The knowledgeable rep from Specialized did show me a seat that would fit.  I had no idea that seats came in different sizes.  Probably because I've been using my "Spiderflex" seat for almost all my riding except mountain biking.

What I really wanted to see was the TREK "Gary Fisher" line of bikes.  The Rumblefish 29er had caught my fancy and at 2,400 beans strikes me as being reasonably priced.  REASONABLY PRICED?*%$#@!  My first car was only 900.00!   That is four months of groceries!  A couple of weeks pay! 

I'll probably get it.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Pannier Repast

Sunday was a meeting of the bicycle commuters board of directors and as I sat in a hallway waiting for other board members to show up, I was interested in seeing how everyone would carry whatever food they were contributing to the potluck that we had decided would be our lunch.  Being a bicycle commuters society, nearly everyone would be arriving by bike.

I don't know what type of bike most of them ride - I imagine being mostly university students, their bikes are modest and most likely secondhand or at least older models.  What surprised me was as each person showed up, they had all manner of panniers (saddlebags).  Large ones mostly.  Some were hard - shelled cases.  Most were the softer ripstop nylon ones.  What struck me most was the condition of the panniers.  To a one they all looked brand new.  Just out of the box brand new.  So maybe they don't spend much money on a bike but they do spend money on their saddlebags.  And judging from the condition of the bags - they take good care of them as well.

 It was with astonishment that we all watched as Chris - like a magician pulling an endless scarf from their sleeve - pulled a cast iron frying pan, a combination lid/strainer, noodles,srouts,vegetables,rice, a cutting board, a spatula, a large glass bottle of olive oil and a stove out of his bags  Well maybe not a stove but something more than a hotplate.  It was a device that I had never seen before and heated by some sort of mysterious magnetic pulse.  The stove/element itself didn't warm up but the cast iron frying pan was hot enough for Chris to cook up a delicious concoction that put a whole new spin on potluck.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Goal Achieved

Riding my bike to Mountain Equipment Co-op meant that I crossed over 3,000 km. on my bike.  Actually  156 Street marked the exact spot and I thought I would feel a great sense of achievement.  You know.  Stop the bike.  Open up a bottle of champagne.  Set the camera up on a small tripod and take a picture.  Instead, I blew through the intersection without walking my bike across (which would have made me a pedestrian) and continued on without much feeling about all the klicks I'd done.  Maybe I set my goal too low and it really didn't require that much effort to attain.

I must admit there were some trying moments mixed into the 3,000 k. I remember specifically the first day of our Kettle Valley Railway trip this year and how exhausted I was near the end of the day.  We'd been climbing steadily all day in +30 degree heat (and full sun) and my friend Richard and I took as many shade breaks as we could and my friend Roy and I had soaked ourselves in the nearby Tulameen River to try and cool off.  We had even stopped in the shady oasis at the Dirty Laundry winery to enjoy the shade and purchase a bottle of the best to have with supper.  A longer break still at the Kettle Valley Steam Railway station.

But later in the afternoon, I was so tired that with each pedal stroke I told myself "You can do it.  You can do it.  You can do it!"  By this time I was hunched over the handlebars and head down.  After 11 1/2 hours since leaving Richard's place near Naramata, we were still in the saddle and just starting to look for a campsite where we could set up our tents and have something to eat before darkness fell.

Or riding for two days in the rain during the MS Hinton bike tour.  That was tough.  While I didn't have to be like the little engine that could, I did have to stop frequently to try and dry off and warm up.  And near the end of the second day when I lost all braking power, it was rather hair-raising!

I recall early in the season going for a training ride with my friend Charity on a rainy and cold Saturday.  When I woke up and saw the rain I thought about bailing out but when I got a text from her asking if we were still going - then I wanted to see how determined she was to get in shape for her Cancer 200k. ride - so I said "Yes!".   We met downtown and rode what became a miserably wet and cold ride.  Half way we stopped under some trees to get out of the rain and it was so cold that our Cliff bars could have been called "Stiff" bars - they were so hard to bite into.  I think it was -4 degrees.

I love cycling so much that my attitude is "You have to take it as it comes - good or bad."  And I only mention these few tough rides to balance the fact that the majority of my riding has been fun and worth writing about.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Almost There

Earlier this year I set the goal of cycling 3,000 kilometers this year.  Last year I managed to do 2,835 so I decided to up the stakes.  As of this writing, I have 5 more kilometers to go.  And what a great year it has been for biking.  I've only gotten soaked by rain 4-5 times and have not been hit by any cars.  No wipe-outs either that have caused mild concussions in the past.

Mind you my bike have taken a bit of a beating.  The Hinton Mountain Tour and its rains pretty much blew out my disc brake pads and my rotors.  And just last week I had a flat that meant I had to push my bike a couple of k.

The new crankset I installed with its external bearings has made a huge difference to any climbs I've had.  And the gear job that United Cycle performed meant excellent shifting. (I do try to do all my own maintenance/repairs but sometimes it is best to let the pros handle a sticky problem).  I just could not seem to adjust the front derailleur to my satisfaction.

I noticed that Al, one of the Mountain Tour instructors had touring handgrips on his bike and after 6 years, it was time to swap out my old handgrips.  The comfort of these newer style grips is much improved.

Buying my red road bike has meant shaving off 6 minutes from my commute.  Although I must say that a road bike without a suspension and very hard tires does mean that you really notice this city's crappy roads.

So far this year I've done my three major rides of the year - the MS Leduc to Camrose, the Kettle Valley Railway, and the MS Hinton Mountain Tour.  All the rest has been pretty much either training for the big three or commuting.

The big thing I discovered this year was how much I enjoyed mountain biking.  Riding on trails in the woods.  Always having to keep a sharp eye.  Always calculating.  Constant decision making.   And discovering the trails at Terwilligar Park has been wonderful.

I know myself well enough to know that I won't be satisfied to go out and do 5 k.  I'll do a long ride or have my goal reached by continuing to commute to work.  Who knows what my next mileage (kilometerage?) will be?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Another Way to Make a Bike Video

Anyone who has viewed a bike video on YouTube will wonder how to make a record of cycling.  I've talked about this for years without actually attaching a camera to one of my bikes until now.

I took a small handicam and by searching around at my local camera store, managed to come up with a reasonably priced solution for securely fixing the camera to the bike.

The large clamp is made by Manfrotto  and the ball head is available at most camera stores - usually in the tripod section.  I know this clamp as a "Maffer" clamp but Manfrotto calls it a "Super Clamp".  I have managed to clamp the camera to one of my front shocks (see photo), to my pannier rack, my handlebars and the seat tube stem.  There seems to be no limit to how it can be attached.

In an upcoming blog, I'll show you some results from attaching the video camera to my road bike and my mountain bike.

*Note:  I've seen a knock-off version of the Super Clamp for half the cost of the Manfrotto offering and I found a no-name ball head as well.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Hornless Bike Seat

While this is an unusual looking bike seat, it has been for me, after 10,000 kilometers, the most comfortable seat I've ever owned.  It never fails to elicit comments from cyclists and passers-by.

Especially for those of the male persuasion, the fact that this seat has no "horn" can make riding a bike a much more pleasant and comfortable endeavor.  I like the fact that these seats are made in Manitoba - maybe because my twin brother lives in Winnipeg maybe because I used to work with a reporter from that province and I always got a kick out of the fact that he pronounced it as Manitubba.  To this day when I think of him, I hear "Hubba Hubba Manitubba" in my mind.

This seat is hefty.  But perhaps that is why I've put so many miles on this baby and it is still going strong.  The other thing is that it is not too well suited to mountain biking where the bike's seat is so important for cornering, ascending and descending.

Do check out the Spiderflex website and consider one for yourself if most of your biking is not mountain biking!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Emergency Repair

On this year's tour of the Kettle Valley Railway, my friend Roy developed a leak in his rear tire as we pulled into Princeton Castle Resort.  Being hungry and tired with a camp to set up, we decided to repair the tire the next day.

The next morning when we inspected the tire, it was discovered that the leak was caused by a gash in the sidewall of the tire itself.  Our next step was to pull the tube out and repair the puncture and then look for a suitable "boot" - something tough, thin and having no sharp edges to place between the tube and the sidewall of the tire at the gash. 

The problem with the incision in the sidewall is that the cut exposed the steel belts in the tire and that causes the tube to rub against their sharp edges creating a puncture.  Given that we were nowhere near a bike shop, we needed to fix the problem right then and there.

We dug around in the recycle bin at the camp and found two possible repair materials - a plastic milk jug and a Tetra Pak.  After cutting one rectangular piece from each container (larger than the gash in the sidewall), we decided to use the Tetra Pak as its edges were smoother than those of the milk carton.

So we inserted the tube into the tire which was already half mounted on the rim and then it was a matter of putting the Tetra Pak rectangle between the tube and the sidewall (at the gash).  Using our small hand pump, it was no problem pumping it up to the recommended pressure and Roy rode around the camp to test out the repair.

It is important to remember that this is an emergency repair.  As soon as possible, a new tire (and for that matter a new tube) should be purchased and used to replace the damaged tire and tube.

As a post script, the repair lasted until we got to Cawston where a new patch had to be put on the tube and the Tetra Pak repositioned.

As a post post script, that repair lasted until we reached Vaseux Lake on the last day of our trip where Roy and I pulled off the highway and put a new tube onto his wheel and that repair got us to our starting/finishing point in Penticton.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Ride the KVR Before it is Too Late

The Kettle Valley Railway is an old railbed where the tracks have been removed and is an excellent cycling route as it winds its way through the Thompson/Okanagan region of B.C.  When combined with the three other regional abandoned railbeds, the trail extends over 900 kilometers in length.

The trail runs through sparsely populated mountain valleys and because of its remoteness, is left open to abuse.  For example, while it is strictly speaking a cycling or hiking trail, along one short section near Chute Lake, my friend Roy and I counted 28 vehicles ripping down the trail.  When I stopped one of the cars and said to the woman driving "This is not some backwoods expressway!", she replied "Yes it is!" and drove off in a cloud of dust.

There are so many motorized vehicles on the trail now that I encourage you to ride the KVR before the trail is completely ruined for cycling.  All the traffic chews up the trail and turns it into a sandy track which makes for heavy pedalling.  We decided this year not to go back to Penticton from Princeton via the trail because of its poor condition and the uphill profile of the trail.  Instead we rode highways to get back to our starting point.

We had a conversation with an ATV'er about the trail and I laughed when I heard him complain about the trail being ruined in the winter by snowmobilers!  Poor baby!  Those mean snowmobile people!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Breakfast of Champions?

Our trip on the Kettle Valley Railway in August seemed like a good time to try "carb loading" which I had recently seen mentioned in a book about the Tour de France.  The first opportunity came when we chowed down at an Italian restaurant in Princeton that my cycling friend Richard had recommended.  After a couple of cold ones, my spaghetti and meatballs arrived at the table and I heartily scooped spoonfuls into my hungry face.

My next opportunity came at the hotel in historic Hedley (for some reason locals refer to it as "Hapless Hedley").While quaffing ice cold lemonade and sitting under the air conditioning vent, a heaping mound of pasta was placed before me and I tucked into it with relish (not the pickle kind).  My cycling partners chose salads and smaller main courses.  Each to their own.

At breafast on the last day of our trip while we were camped at Tuc 'l Nuit Lake, I got the bright idea to carb load again except that it was too early for the grocery stores to open. We still had freeze - dried dinners in our saddlebags but none of them were pasta.   Roy (my other cycling buddy) suggested I try the store down the street from the campground.  In Western Canada we call them Convenience stores but in Eastern Canada they are referred to as Variety stores.  Did you know that?


So I hopped onto Big Blue and took the short jaunt to the Convenience store where I was looking for Kraft dinner which my children call Mac 'n' Cheese.  I was lucky on two counts - the store was open and I found a box of KD/M'n'C on a shelf near the back of the store.  Carrying it under my arm as I rode back to camp, it did seem like an odd thing to eat at b'fast.

Richard and Roy are too nice of guys to say anything, but I could tell that thay thought this was a little eccentric.  And once I had the hot macaroni in my origami bowl and had my first spoonful, I remembered that years ago I stopped eating the stuff because it just did not have the same taste that I recalled from my youth.  Being the cheap guy that I am, I continued filling my gaping maw until the last crescent of pasta was devoured.  Right away it felt like a lump of clay in my stomach and as I lurched to the sink to wash the pot and my origami bowl, I realised once again that "Prospect is often better than possession".

A few klicks down the road on our way to Richard's place on the outskirts of Penticton, the lump in my stomach began to dissolve and convert itself into energy for my legs.  Maybe there was something to be said for carb loading - I had noticed better performance cycling from Princeton to Keremeos and the uphill ride from Oliver to Okanagan Falls seemed easier than in the past.  The hotel where we stopped in OK Falls for lunch had spaghetti and meatballs on the menu.  When the waitress came over to take our order, I ......

Friday, October 15, 2010

Bearly Make It

Our big plan was to take a shortcut between Cawston and Oliver that would take us over a mountain and save us a long ride on the highway.  We had spent the night at Roy's sister - in - law's peach orchard and after a lovely summer meal of cold beer, BBQ'd smokies, local corn on the cob, delicious tomatoes and coleslaw, we retired to our beds where it was warm enough for me not to bother putting the fly on my tent.

Andrea, our kind hostess served up a hearty breakfast of crispy bacon and stacks of pancakes.  After helping with the dishes (for the first time in a week), we saddled up and hit the highway to Cawston - the organic center of B.C.  We made a sharp left hand turn in Cawston that eventually took us to the dirt road that would lead us over the mountain and into Oliver.

It was shortly after hitting the dirt road that Roy's rear tire went flat.  It seems that the temporary repair we had effected in Princeton had run its course.  The high speeds we had attained in travelling downhill on the highway from Princeton had caused the Tetra pack "boot" to move out of position and cause the inner tube to pop out of the gash in the sidewall of the tire and begin to leak.  While Richard and Roy fiddled with the tire, I went in search of water to cool myself off with and to soak my bandana which would help cool my neck.  Twenty feet away from the makeshift repair spot, I found a clear brook babbling amongst the rocks and bushes.

Almost at this same spot is where the dirt road began its climb.  Since I was the slowest rider of the three of us, I pushed off while they finished the tire and it was then revealed to us that the road was so steep that we would have to push our bikes up.  For how long and how far was anybody's guess.  I noted that my cyclometer failed to register distance when I pushed although it did record wheels turning.  Roy and Richard soon caught up to me and I had to laugh as they tried to negoiate the incline, only to get off their bikes and begin pushing to the summit.

Eventually the grade lessened and we were able to hop in the saddle and ride once more.  By this time, we were in a forest and the odd bits of shade provided welcome relief from the blazing sun.  I turned a corner to find my two friends stopped in the middle of the road and looking at the display screens of their cameras.  When I rode up to them, they excitedly showed me pictures of three bears crossing the dusty road.  I didn't believe that they had just seen the furry creatures and I thought that they were trying to pull a fast one on me by showing me an old picture and pretending it was one they had just taken.  It took some convincing and then we decided to ride together and talk loudly and ring our bike bells to scare off the bears.  We were concerned that we would anger the mother bear or come between the mother and the cubs.  We had only ridden for a few minutes when to our right a large tree began to shake and we knew that the three bears were not far away.  Despite the heat flagging our energy, spying the bears put new adrenaline into systems and we began to pedal with renewed interest toward our goal - Oliver.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Big Blaze

After our enjoyable stay in Hedley, we strapped on our bikes once again and rode towards the smoke that choked the valley up ahead.  Roy wanted to stop at some famous rock in the middle of a river and even though he explained how a person could climb it and dive off, all Richard and I saw was a big rock in the middle of a river.  The B.C. government likes this rock in the middle of a river so much that they have posted official signs pointing it out to passing motorists.

It wasn't much farther on that we pulled over to the side of the road to witness a drama unfolding on top of a mountain up ahead and to our right.  A helicopter buzzed overhead carrying a Bambi bucket and a bomber was strafing the fire with retardant.  Circling high overhead, a fire official in the birddog plane was acting as Forward Fire Control and directing the fight.  We straddled our bikes transfixed as the wind fed the flames and caused them to create a flare hundreds of feet high.  Motorists pulled off the highway to watch.

Knowing there was nothing for us to do and since the fire was too remote for the forest service to come and recruit any of us to join the fight, we saddled up and kept one eye on the dramatic scene as we rode into Keremeos.  I remembered a picture I had seen in the Globe and Mail before leaving of a mountainous fire just outside of Keremeos but I had no idea at the time that our trip would take us right there.

All those fancy forest fire fighting terms I used above to impress you come from having spent summers hanging out of helicopters with the Alberta Forest Service back in the late eighties when I was a freelance cameraman.  My experience there was a real eye - opener and while the work was risky, I loved every minute of it and still to this day would choose a rotary wing aircraft to a fixed wing any day of the week (more impressive terms).

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Real Gem

Several years ago adventure cycling with my long time friend Roy, we camped at Lakeside Resort on Tuc 'el Nuit Lake in Oliver, B.C.  A wonderful family-run resort that has been packed to overflowing every time we have camped there (4 or 5 times).

In the camp office, hanging on the wall is a beautiful poster that evoked in me a nostalgic longing to want to visit that exotic and rustic locale.  The title  "Historic Mascot Mine" meant nothing to me and gave me no clue as to the location of the interesting place.  The lighting on the sides of the dilapitated buildings and the craggy mountains surrounding the mine excited my imagination.  I hoped to go there some day.

The three amigos, Roy, Richard and I left our campsite south of Princeton after a fitful sleep because of the close proximity of the camp to a busy highway and the logging trucks and other heavy vehicles roaring up and down the pavement all night long.  Our journey to Keremeos would be entirely by highway and luckily for us the route tended downhill and given the forecast of another 30 degree plus day, Richard and I were thankful that we wouldn't have to struggle uphill for hours on end in the heat.  Roy on the other hand becomes even more of a machine the hotter it gets.

Ahead of us in the distance, the valley that the highway followed was choked with smoke from the many forest fires in this neck of the woods.  Not long down the highway, I could see Roy crossing the highway to reach a stopped vehicle with two elderly gals by its side.  Richard dutifully followed while I wondered what was up and why Roy was riding his bike across the highway?

What none of us noticed was an older gent bent down on the other side of the vehicle and fixing a flat.  Turns out that the gent was the husband of one of the gals. They were in the process of moving furniture to Chilliwack one load at a time so that the other gal could come and live with them.  The man appreciated Roy's offer of assistance and the ladies appreciated three younger men togged out in Spandex!

It was well after noon when the three of us, hot, thirsty and tired pulled into a town named Hedley which turned out to be the very place where the poster I had so admired had been photographed.  I figured that my mission after finding lunch would be to procure one of those posters.  On the way to lunch, riding through town, we passed a museum and two curio shops and I began to hope that I would find that coveted image.

Exiting the air conditioned hotel where we had enjoyed the cool air and a wonderful pasta meal (doesn't everything taste better when you've been outdoors?), we divided up and went in three different directions, Roy and Richard to take photos and me to try out the museum and the touristy stores.

A curious sight greeted me when I stepped onto the veranda of the museum - a telescope pointing upwards at a nearby mountain.  When I peaked into the eyepiece, I was dumbfounded to discover the old mine buildings situated on the spine of the mountain - the very ones from the poster.  With my naked eye, I could not see the buildings as they were too far above the hamlet to be discerned.  I found out from the museum director that the mine is situated one mile directly above town and that when the mine was operating, there were two "chair lifts"; one to take people to and from town to work and another to bring ore down from the mine.  The waitress in the hotel restaurant told us that the trip up to the mine would only take eighteen minutes which is really moving when you consider that the mine is 5,800 or so feet up!


The gent in the museum was happy to sell me a poster and was kind enough to roll it into a sturdy tube which I could add to the already bulging load on my rear panniers.  His thoughtfulness was motivated in part because he is a long distance cyclist himself and he pointed out a fading, brittle yellow newspaper clipping tacked to the wall near the cash register.  The headline read "HEDLEY TO  HALIFAX" and detailed a four thousand kilometer trip that Bill, the poster seller had made when he retired a number of years back.  After expressing my amazement, he told me that the most difficult part of the whole trip was climbing and crossing ANARCHIST MOUNTAIN.  "I nearly quit right then and there!" he told me and I could certainly sympathise with him having done it twice myself.  Before you go thinking I'm some sort of cycling masochist, I have to point out to you that only one time was on a bike.  The other climb was in the cab of a pickup with our bikes in the back and with a driver who was only too glad to take us to the summit for $40.00!

Bill's epic journey made ours seem rather lame but once I stepped into the blast- furnace like heat and searing sun, I became very proud of our adventure and the numerous miles we had already cycled and the many miles yet ahead to be conquered.  And when I rode off to join my bicycle buddies with an extra 6 inches of cardboard tube protruding from my bike, I was very pleased to have met someone else who found ANARCHIST challenging and to have found that person in the most unlikeliest of spots - an old but famous mining town.

Friday, October 8, 2010

COOLEST!

With temperatures soaring to above 30 degrees and having ridden 70 kilometers, it was a welcome relief to stand underneath the fine mist provided by a roadside fruit stand.  We had a debate about the purpose of the spray - was it to cool customers or cool the fruits and vegetables?  Since we were using it to cool ourselves, I agrued that it was there for the customers.  Roy and Richard argued that it was there to protect the produce.  When I examine the photo now, I have to agree with my cycling compadres that the purpose of the cooling mist is to keep the produce fresh in the high heat.  Whatchoo think?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

KVR 2010 Continued

Let's review the "Adventure Cycling" event again - there are the three intrepid cyclists - my friend Roy who I've known for 30 years and my new friend Richard who has known Roy for many years as well.  Our starting point was Richard's place near Naramata, British California and the idea was to cycle outward for 3 days and then cycle back for 3 more.


The very first day was a 70 kilometer pull uphill to Thirsk Lake in 30 degree+ temperatures.  We did find solace in the odd bit of shade and by doing pushups into Trout Creek which flowed beside the trail.  We had the pleasure of meeting a young couple who were riding the Trans Canada Trail from Banff to Vancouver Island.  When we met them, it was day 23 for them on the trail.


Our second day started off with the bonus of finding a country store at a place called Bankier where Roy and Richard gobbled many slices of Bumbleberry pie ala mode and I contented myself with finding cold bottled water.  We continued on to Princeton where we found the young couple already camped since they had taken the highway and gotten to the resort 2 hours in advance of us.  The owners of the camp were thoughtful enough to go into Princeton and get us a six pack of cold, bottled Stellas.


On leaving Princeton the next morning, we had the pleasure of meeting a group of mounted horseback riders out on a ride in the mountains.  Just outside of Princeton, we had been told that we would discover "Shangrila". The scenery was tranquil and the Tulameen River looked very inviting with this being another scorching hot day.  We rode as far as Tulameen where we had a lunch of "Fish and Chips" without the fish.  Shangrila indeed!

Richard is a strong rider (very fit) and after a lovely, refreshing swim in a bend of the Tulameen River, he rode at post haste into Princeton where he did a location scout and found us an air-conditioned Italian restaurant and also learned of a campground south of town where we could pitch our tents and get a head start the next morning toward our next objective - Keremeos.

So far, we had pedalled 191.269 kilometers and spent 21 and 3/4 hours actually in the saddle (wheels turning).

Next.....Dramatic forest fires!  Stranded motorists!  An historic abandoned mine!  Camping in a peach orchard!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

We've Got A Winner!!

Thanks to Ed Kennedy, a regular reader of my blog who correctly identified the name of my silver mountain bike as "Furry Lewis" and has won the gift certificate to Hudson's. Ed found the answer in my blog "Mountain Tour Training" of September 7, 2010.

A lot of people name their bikes and it occured to me during last year's MS Mountain Tour to give my trusty bike a name.  At the time I also owned a Raleigh which I named "Barbeque Bob" because of its red colour.  Furry Lewis was an old bluesman who was rediscovered in the seventies when Playboy magazine did an article about him and his music.  My brother bought Playboy for the articles (sure!).  And since I'd had this silver bike for some time and even though I'd bought and rode other bikes, I kept coming back to this one.  I rediscovered this great bike.  Just as Furry Lewis was rediscovered.

Check this fine cycling blog http://breakingchainstakinglanes.wordpress.com/ and see how other people name their bikes.

Congrats again to Ed!!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

CONTEST!!

As a reward to my faithful followers, I'm having a little contest that should be a SLAM DUNK!

The prize is a $10.00 gift certificate to Huson's - good until October 30, 2010

So the first person to correctly answer this skill - testing question and email me the answer at: pearce3220@yahoo.ca will win the prize.

THE QUESTION

I have mentioned 3 of my bikes in recent blogs - a red road bike, a blue mountain bike called "Big Blue" and a silver mountain bike.  What is the name of my silver mountain bike?

Note:  the deadline for the contest is Monday, October 4,2010

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Officially Fall Riding

The dull jackhammering of a woodpecker into a dead birch tree reminded me that there is an abundance of woodland creatures in our river valley.  Last week while riding, my friend Lyle inspected (not too closely) some scat on the trail and Lyle who is an experienced backcountry backpacker declared that they were bear droppings.  "That's not dog poo - dogs don't eat a diet of berries!" he exclaimed.  My own experience with bears on the Kettle Valley Railway made me agree with him.

Riding the Rollercoaster Trail on my way back from the Henday Bridge, my front wheel almost struck a blue, black and grey chickadee flitting about the many mud puddles on the trail.  I didn't recall any rain this week until I remembered that at work, two days of shooting were cancelled due to poor weather.

On this excursion, I brought along two maps from River Valley Cycle - the Perimeter Trail and the Rollercoaster.  I stopped frequently to refer to them as I was trying to find landmarks like "The stone bridge" or "Turn right at old mound of concrete" to no avail.  I can't fault the maps - it must be my unfamiliarity with Terwilligar Park.

The temperature must have been hotter than the 24 degrees forecast as I was sweating with only a short sleeved cycling shirt and cycling shorts.  To be more visible in the dense foliage, I wore a red shirt and to be heard, I unleashed my bear bell.

  By 2 o'clock, the upper trails had become crowded with MTBers.  The dog walkers tend to stay down on the flats and it is mostly bikers up in the hills.  On 3 occasions I had to stop while pumping uphill to allow descending cyclists to pass.  This meant that having stopped, I couldn't get going again and had to push my bike up the rest of the way.  Maybe it is my lack of experience that causes me to stop rather than continue up and pass the opposite rider.  Or is there a form of MTB etiquette I don't understand?

To my way of thinking, the people going downhill should make way for the person travelling uphill.  Going downhill, you can easily get going again, whereas going uphill, you can't necessarily.  Am I wrong or am I turning into one of those whiney, chip-on-the-shoulder grey hairs?  Help me here!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Peeps

Like anything we do in life, even the most memorable event, it is the people we do it with that makes the occasion special.  The MS tours are no exception.  Hundreds of people doing something for others and having a great time doing it.

I think of my friend Anna, who very kindly lent me two rechargeable batteries when mine pooped out on the first morning of the tour.  Or her husband Edmond who took this photo of me climbing the first hill of the day.  Or water-filtration Don who reads my blog and just kicks ass on the trail - I only saw him once or twice and then he was gone with the strong riders.

Then there is Brant who generously gave me a ride to my hotel after the first day's tour.  Tired, wet and covered in mud, I very much appreciated his kindness.  Or Al and Stew who, on behalf of the MS Society gave up their Wednesday evenings to coach us on mountain biking techniques and amazed us with stories of their many mountain biking experiences.

Or the marshall who complemented me, just before the above picture was taken, on how well I climbed that hill.  I thought he was just flattering me, but when I ran into him at the first checkstop, he assured me that his comments were sincere.  No wonder I look so happy in the photo.

Mirko comes to mind as a memorable personage.  He went out of his way  to remember my name as he felt sure he'd see me on the tour.  What a nice thing to do.  My daughter Jackie made Cosmic Power Cookies that tasted scrumptuous and warmed me up when I was chilled and wet.

What about those volunteers who were cheering and clapping whenever a cyclist pulled into a rest stop?  Their actions always made me feel special and while I often think that what we are doing is no big deal, their appreciation makes me realise that all of us are doing something out of the ordinary.

Then there's my wife Janet who spends a good part of her year as a cycling widow and especially during the Hinton tour, has to amuse herself for hours and yet be ready to pick us up at the drop off point while not knowing when we'll finish the day's tour.

And I mustn't forget Barb who came so many months ago to our MS garage sale and whose smiling face always brightens the trail.  Or Peter who is such a strong rider and has completed what is it?  Twelve tours?  Three or four of them Mountain Tours.  And he's an awesome fundraiser to boot.

I salute you all!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Greasfest Continued

Even though the route on the second day trends downhill, there are some sections of the trail that defy belief that anyone could ride up or down them.  Not far down the path from the moguls, there is a steep drop into a deep ravine.  Of the three women ahead of me, two of them wiped out and then three men came booming down the track and smashed into them and they all fell over as though they were a string of dominoes.  One guy was thrown from his bike and plummeted into a stand of young trees and wet bushes and it was only by "The grace of God" that no one was seriously injured.

Just a way down the course as you round a curve, there was a sight that caused all of us to stop in amazed dismay.  The route up ahead was so vertical that it gave the illusion of being a wall made of mud.  I could hear groans behind me as weary and soaked cyclists came upon the sight.  There was nothing for it but to hoist our bikes onto our shoulders and start climbing.  The trick to making it up the sheer incline was to make like you were cross country skiing and use the edges of your cycling shoes to cut into the muck and grunt your way to the top.

After another brief stop at the next checkpoint it was a long slog through the mire to the finish line in Hinton.  Twice, just before completing the tour, I lost all braking power and I had no choice but hang on and hope that I could successfully scream down the greasy slopes and not wipe out and either injure myself or damage "Furry Lewis" and have to take a flaggin' wagon to the finish line.  After eighty five soggy clicks, that would suck!

Joel, one of the organizers, drove up on the wet double track and stopped to ask me to guesstimate how many riders were behind me on the route.  Making a quick judgement, I told him that there were thirty riders behind me.  Compared to last year when Jackie and I came in last,  moving up thirty spots was an improvement.  Especially considering that this year was the Greasefest!

Friday, September 17, 2010

"Greasefest" (MS Mountain Tour Day Two)

As the shuttlebus wound its way up to Blue Lake, the clouds got heavier and the fine drizzle we had woken up to turned into rain.  Being on the first shuttlebus meant that there was no lineup at the United Cycle repair tent and I managed to get Mirko (an awesome bike mechanic) to have a look at my brakes as they were losing their gripping power.  After regailing me with tales of the amount of mud the mechanics had to deal with on the first day of the tour and the modest amount of beer they drank at the banquet last night, he made some adjustments.  His fine work gave me the confidence to ride again on what I knew would be very wet trails. 

The garden hose was available and I was able to recognize my bike after washing off the accumulated grime.  A lineup began to form of people like myself who couldn't be bothered waiting in the long lineup at the close of yesterday's tour.

I ran into Al, one of the Mountain Tour instructors and he described the trails up ahead and suggested that he may only ride to the first checkpoint at the Nordic Center.  He also mentioned that he had run into (figuratively) Ashley, one of our "classmates" on the trail the day before and how impressed he was with her riding abilities.  I had to wonder about my riding abilities when an experienced instructor was only going to the first checkpoint!

The pull to the Nordic Center was stiffer than I remembered and I did my best to ride the whole way.  Many cyclists pushed their bikes up and twice I did the same - the slick muck and steep grade pretty much made it mandatory.  My friend Peter was having quite a lot of trouble with chain suck and he had to keep pulling off the trail to make adjustments.  I first met Peter on last year's tour when we stopped to see if he needed help because one of his pedals had fallen off.

The storm that had struck the mountain yesterday knocked down trees and one of them was the first obstacle to be negotiated for the day.  A small traffic jam developed as each rider had to shoulder their bike and clamber over the fallen timber.  And it was here that we noticed snow on the side of the trail - so far we had seen it all - rain,snow,sun,hail.

The organizers have learned a few lessons from previous mountain tours - recording bib numbers so that no one gets left behind on the mountain and having volunteers stand on the trail at the most dangerous spots and give out a warning.   After the Nordic Center, there are a series of moguls that if not hit at the right speed can cause a serious wipeout.  On the tour last year, my daughter Jackie and I rode over a mogul and came across a crowd of people standing over an unconscious rider who had to be transported out of the woods and to the hospital.  This year, a volunteer watched how riders handled the first set of moguls and if they were having trouble or travelling too fast, she would stop them and urge them to proceed with caution.

With hundreds of riders on the trail, the narrow track became a greasy trough with the consistency of what one rider described as "Play Dough".  Another rider exclaimed at a rest stop that the mud "Sucks the life out of you!".  My transmission was beginning to act up from the mud jamming the front and rear derailleurs and the the rust forming on my chain didn't help either.

As the mileage increased, I found myself stopping more frequently to have short rests.  Erin - one of the "classmates" mentioned that she became a little anxious when she found herself in the middle of nowhere, soaking wet, tired and all alone.  Not a soul around her.  Not a sound except for the patter of rain on the yellow and green leaves.  Then, suddenly, down the trail behind her the excited whoops of some more bikers negotiating the slimy trail through the woods.  Yeah!  There is life out there!

To be continued....

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

MS Mountain Tour 2010

It was raining when the tour began.  The organizers tried hard to whip up some enthusiasm from the 300 odd cyclists assembled at the start line.  It took repeated calls of "How's everybody doing today?" to finally elicit any kind of heart-felt "Woo Hoo!" from the crowd.  Because of the rain, only a few brave souls risked removing their helmets during the singing of the national anthem thereby exposing their unprotected heads to the wet skies.

By the time we reached the first checkpoint, the skies had turned blue and the sun began to shine on a forest with the first tinges of fall colours dappling the deciduous trees.  That is not to say that everything was sudddenly wonderful.  Following a pretty river, the trail became a slick mud bog and gave us a taste of what riding in slippery conditions could be like.  At the crossing of a small brook, one rider decided to place his bike in the middle of the stream and wash off the accumulated gumbo.

With blue skies and a climb of some altitude, there were plenty of photo ops and I'm sure most participants were like me and relishing being in the mountains on such a beautiful afternoon.  My newly found dryness ended less than one klick from the lunch stop at the Black Cat Ranch when we had to navigate a stream by crossing a log whose top had been milled, creating a narrow bridge.  I was feeling cocky by this time and decided to pedal over the bridge rather than walk the bike across as the riders ahead of me had done.  In a flash, my front wheel rode off and I gracelessly tumbled into the stream and got soaked from head to toe.  It did wash my bike off though.

Rocks and branches and roots and trees were not the only obstacles to be negotiated.  There were man - made barriers placed at irregular intervals alond the 45k route.  Maybe it was a homemade cattle guard but when we came across a gate made from a number of hanging plastic road posts, it was best to dismount and walk through this eccentric opening.

Pumping up a gravel road to the first checkpoint after lunch, I could hear the booming artillery of thunder from the wall of dark clouds up ahead.  I paused only long enough to eat a couple of pieces of watermelon and decided to skip whacking a golf ball from on top of a cliff behind the checkpoint.  When asked, I was told that hitting golf balls from the ridge had become a tradition and when the practise had been discontinued, the chorus of grumbling from riders had gotten the odd diversion reinstated.

It was a torturous pull from the next checkpoint to the finish line at Blue Lake as we came across the results of the thunder we had heard earlier.  The uphill trail became a slippery trough with many, many puddles dotting the center line and I followed the advice that our instructors had given us on a wet training night - go through the puddle instead of trying to go to the side where the risk of sliding and toppling into the puddle was likely.

It seemed we would never reach the end and it was a welcome relief to reach an unmarked checkpoint where two volunteers were recording bib numbers (I suspect that in the past someone may have been left behind on the mountain) and they informed us that there was only half a klick to go to the finish line.

I'm sure most riders feel gratified when they are cheered into the finish line and this goal we had reached was no exception as we were cheered in.  The grounds of the lodge at Blue Lake were strewn with filthy bikes and exhausted riders.  There was a long line-up at the bike washing stand and wanting to get back down to Hinton as soon as possible, I figured that if it rained in the night, the washing my bike would receive would be good enough since th bike was going to get scuzzed up again on day two.

Since beer was for sale at the finish line, the chatter on the bus was full of laughter and the excited exclamations of bikers who had done something difficult - and as one sage put it "No matter what we faced on the trail, it was better than having MS."

Next: "GREASEFEST"

Monday, September 13, 2010

STAY TUNED......

The MS Mountain Tour has been completed for 2010 and check back soon for blogs that include:

 Opening Ceremony!

Swimming in the creek before lunch!

Hitting golf balls!

Washing bikes!

Sliding on trails!

Crossing bridges!

Dodging hail!

IN OTHER WORDS - HAVING A GREAT TIME FOR A GREAT CAUSE!!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Mountain Tour Training

Furry Lewis is back on the trails, having picked him up at United Cycle the other day.  Try as I might, I could not seem to get the shifting right after changing the front crankset, putting on a new chain and a new rear cassette.  Having received gift certificates to United Cycle from the MS Society, I thought it was time to let a pro mechanic have a go at the gears.   And what a great job they did setting up both sets of gears. During the last training session, my chain had been wanting to pop off the 5th and 6th gear and I knew that that would not be cool during the tour, where you are constantly shifting as the terrain coming at you changes quickly,rapidly and frequently.

Never having ridden the trails at Terwilligar by myself, I was pleased to have a colour map from River Valley Cycle to refer to if needed.  I chose the perimeter trail to start off and because I have a tendency to lope along when I'm alone, I decided to hit the trail as fast as I possible could - if only to mimic the speed that one of our instructors, Stew Hutchins would ride at. I turned a sharp corner and nearly got my head chopped off by a newly downed poplar - judging from the fresh teeth marks on the trunk.  It took sliding the bike nearly horizontal to clear that obstacle.

I was a little nervous about other riders on the trail but after some reflection, I came to the conclusion that at 10 o'clock on a Saturday morning of a long weekend, there were not going to be any traffic jams on the trails.  I moved my bear bell from underneath my seat to the handlebars so that it would ring louder and warn other cyclists of my approach.

There is a hill, bald of growth that we tried a few weeks ago in training which only two people managed to conquer (one of them being Al, our instructor that night).  I thought to myself  "I'm here, my main Saturday obligations are done, I've got all day - what the hey?"  It took several tries and on my third attempt I made it - Oh there was a bit of fishtailing of my front wheel, but I made it!  I was so proud of myself and learned something about how far forward I needed to shift my butt on my seat to climb a steep hill.

My confidence was so bolstered that I decided to try the Rollercoaster Trail towards the Anthony Henday bridge.  Now this is a trail that defeated a few of the riders on last week's training - mind you it was the mud that defeated them.  Their tires were so clogged with mud that their wheels wouldn't turn.  So it was not a lack of skill that stopped them.

I figured the trail would be dry but if I did come across a puddle, I knew from listening to advice from Al that I should ride through it and not try to skirt around it which would probably cause my tires to slip and put me right in the puddle.  After a somewhat technical jaunt, I now know why they named it the Rollercoaster -but I made it to the Henday without any spills.  It was at the Henday that I discovered the pedestrian bridge underneath that the River Valley Cycle map had mentioned.In all the times I've driven a vehicle over the bridge, I never knew of its existence.

Down the short paved section leading to the Henday bridge, a skateboarding time trial was taking place and after some wild gesturing from a guy down the trail holding a walkie-talkie I got the idea that they wanted me to stay off the trail while one of the skateboarders whizzed down the slope.  Impressive stuff.  Graceful too considering the speeds and the small piece of wood holding everything together.

By the time I had paused to snap a picture of one of the racers, the park was beginning to fill up and the skies were threatening imminent rain so I decided that it was better to quit while I was ahead and I knew that I could probably handle myself better during next week's training session - the last one before the tour itself.