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