Thursday, September 29, 2011

You Don't Want To Be A Groom In Bridesville

  We had finished Anarchist Mountain east of Osoyoos and Roy's GPS device told him that he had burned 5,000 calories climbing that edifice.  I can only imagine how many I burned what with all the crashing, bruising and cursing I did on my painful slog to the summit.  Which as Roy kept reminding me was not where I thought it was.

While we were intent on making Rock Creek where we planned to camp for the night, we felt we had earned a break and since for the most part, it was downhill from the summit of Anarchist to Rock Creek, we thought we could spare the time to explore the first town we happened upon - Bridesville.
Sweeping vistas
The last thing I would want to do is insult the citizens of this burg but as much as we looked, there did not seem to be one redeeming feature of the place.  Having once been on a very important railway, this was probably once a bustling town.  You know what I mean - wild salloons, gunfights on dusty streets, romantic intrigues.  Probably had 6 hotels, 2 livery stables, 3 competing hardware stores, a blacksmith shop and a brothel (one floor of the Hotel British California).  Like many of the abandoned towns in B.C., there is not nothing to see there today.  For example, this year we stopped at Eholt and had a small picnic at a wide spot in the trail.  The only indication that a town had once existed there was a commemorative plaque.  We couldn't even find the foundations described on the historic tablet.
Postcard Views

Roy and I ventured into a swaybacked house to inspect the garage sale advertised out on the street.  The husband and wife who lived there would have looked perfectly normal standing out front of their dwelling each of them clutching a pitchfork.  There was nothing for sale that interested us unless we had a use for rusty scrub pads, a bedpan with chipped enamel, a worn flourescent green office chair and such.  In one of the bedrooms, I did find something of interest although it was not something I could take with me - a curious method of attaching a shelf to a wall.  Some ingenious schlub  had bent two tin cans, one looked like a juice can and the other a no name brand of something gross like canned mushrooms, nailed them to the wall and then balanced a board on top.  Like I say, ingenious.

 I had forgotten about the experience and it was only the other day when I was quaffing some spring water and, as is my habit to read while I eat and drink, I nearly sprayed with bottled water the innocent patron sitting next to me at the lunch counter when I discovered the fine print on the label proudly declared that this particular water came from you guessed it.  Bridesville.
Even the post office had given up on this place

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

British California Pie

Cherry Rhubarb pie
It is never me that starts the whole pie thing.  Usually on one of our long trips, we will be stopped on the trail for some reason and Roy will lick his lips and say something like "Yummm.  Pie!  With ice cream!!"  While I don't think it has any effect on me at the time, I'll notice as I pedal down the trail and the repetition of pedaling, steering and shifting once again become automatic, the idea of a piece of pie begins to take hold in my mind.  If I was to have a piece of pie - what kind would I choose?  My favourite - cherry?  What if they don't have any?  Would apple pie do?  Ice cream on top?  Chocolate?

So that little vocalization of Roy's begins to latch onto my brain cells and is usually buttressed by our third cycling companion.  Two years ago I could hear Richard and Roy up ahead of me excitedly discussing the merits of pie and just how many slices they would each have at the next town.  This year it was Perry enthusiastically extolling the virtues of that delectable dessert.  As I rode through their comments I recalled a passage from Bil Bryson's "A Walk in the Woods"...Everyone on the trail dreams of something, usually a sweet, and my sustaining vision had been an outsized slab of pie.  It had occupied my thoughts for days and when the waitress came to take our order I asked her, with beseeching eyes and a hand on her forearm, to bring me the largest piece she could slice without losing her job.  She brought me a vast, viscous, canary-yellow wedge of lemon pie.  It was a monument to food technology, yellow enough to give you a headache, sweet enough to make your eyeballs roll up into your head - everything, in short, you could want in a pie...

The above should put to rest the question that is so frequently asked:  "Why does pie figure so prominently in cycling stories?"

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Judgement Day

You can just see the top of Perry's tent
Along with my cycling partners Roy and Perry, we had enjoyed a lovely day in the town of Midway, B.C. Camping on the pleasant banks of the Kettle River reminded me not to judge a book by its cover. I don't know how many times I've passed Midway on the Crowsnest Highway and never once had the urge to pull over and check out the dusty gas station or feel any desire to look through the windows of the vacant store. But just beyond the highway towards the American border is a lovely park with an historic hotel across the way and a fully stocked hardware store across the street that reminded me of general stores of my youth with their oiled wooden floors and dry goods hanging from the ceiling.

In its day, Midway was quite the place and as the meeting point of two competing railways was the site of the"Battle of Midway" - long before the sea battle of the Second World War. 

While Roy and I dawdled at the highway gas station, Perry had gone ahead and arranged the best campsite I've ever pitched my tent at in all my years of riding the KVR.  Ample flat grass for the 3 tents, a firepit and probably the best feature: a wooden gazebo with bench seating all around its inner circumference, a solid roof and counter space for cooking and eating.  Top all this off with a clear flowing river just down a short path and you have nirvana (not the band).
The very practical gazebo

They say don't judge a book by its cover and if camping at this lovely municipal park taught me anything it is to explore possiblilties that in my usual haste to pass judgement, hurts only myself.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

If It's Broke Then Fix It

The offending chain
 At a recent seminar on bicycle camping, I neglected to mention the importance of checking out all your gear before you head out adventure cycling.

Here we were, first thing in the morning back on the Kettle Valley Railway, having spent three days riding from Castlegar, taking a day off and now back on the trail with Grand Forks as our destination.  My two cycling friends, Perry and Roy were in their usual spot way ahead of me when I needed to lift myself up a steep part of the trail.  In cockiness (born of 4,300 miles of saddle time this season), I downshifted my rear gears and then stupidly downshifted the front gears at the same time.  With a swiftness that surprised me, the bike and 40 pounds of crapola strapped to it came to a sudden and complete stop.  The left crank was immovable in its uppermost position and, still attached to the bike, I fell over as in a cartoon.

Upon inspection, I soon discovered that not only was the chain bound firmly in the front crankset, but broken as well.  My cycling partners were just disappearing around a corner maybe a quarter of a mile ahead of me when I had the foresight to fumble in my handlebar bag for my whistle.  It is a little known fact that with a whistle, you can make a louder sound than you can shout (or in my case I wanted to scream).  But to no avail.  Roy in his advanced age couldn't hear the sharp report of the whistle and Perry because he was so far ahead was too far away to catch the sound.
Roy and Perry in their usual spots

Donning my disposable mechanic gloves, I did what any sensible bike camper would do.  I slumped to the ground and began to pout.  Just kidding.  I took everything off the bike such as:  my water bottles, heartrate monitor, sleeping bag, Thermarest, tent, panniers etc.  And then proceeded to turn the bike upside down so that I could get at the broken chain.  Half a link was missing and I walked back down the trail to find it.  The other half of the link was twisted enough to be unusable.  All the while giving two blasts on the whistle to try and contact my friends.

As it was early on a Saturday morning, the town of Midway was just beginning to wake up.  A pickup pulled into the gas station to fill up, a young boy was throwing newspapers from his bike which were smartly landing on front steps.  If it wasn't for my unhappy predicament, I would have enjoyed watching the town wake up as the sun began to burn off the morning mist.

Eventually my friends, full of concern, returned and thank God, Roy had had the foresight to pack a spare set of "Quick Links" in his repair kit.  I had been dragging a pair around the Kettle Valley for the last four years and in a misguided attempt to save weight had decided this year to leave them at home.  With a lot of luck (and removing some other links), we were back on the trail within an hour and a half.

I felt foolish that I hadn't checked over my bike thoroughly and done a simple task like inspecting my chain with my handy-dandy Filzer chain checker.  I had a seminar to present in two weeks and what was I going to say about this?  There's always the old axiom: "For the person who feels they must always tell the truth - there's one other option: Silence".

My two friends, in a touching gesture, rode one in front of me and one on my rear wheel until I implored them to go ahead since I like riding in the rear and being able to watch them chase off dogs and dodge wildlife since they are in the lead after all.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Champeen

Everyone has their own reason for signing up for the Ms Tour. I would imagine that their reasons have a lot to do with MS.  I think of my friend Heather who has had MS for pretty much the whole of the thirty years I've known her.

After checking in and making our way to our room, the elevator door opened to reveal two middle-aged women who at the sight of us remarked "We remember you from last year!".  I gave them a baleful look and for the life of me could not place them.  I worried that perhaps I had been rude to them or offended them last year in some way as we rode up to our respective rooms.

It wasn't until breakfast the next day when we saw the two women dining that we realized that when we met them last year, they were accompanying their husbands who were doing the MS Mountain Tour for the first time.  While scarfing down breakfast we swapped tales of last year's debacle and marvelled at the prospect of sunny and warm temperatures this year.

I was amazed to discover that one of the men, John, had travelled all the way from Huntsville, Ontario to complete the 8 kilometers that he couldn't finish last year.  He had run out of gas at the last rest stop and was here this weekend to finish the tour.  That is not to say that John was simply going to travel to the last rest stop and pedal from there.  From the look of determination on his face, I could tell that this was a man with a mission.  This man was going all the way.

And to add icing to the cake, John had raised $2,000.00 for the cause.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Are We There Yet?

We could see our breath as we patiently waited for all the speeches to conclude and the MS Mountain Tour to begin.  In my impatience, I have to remind myself that we are here to raise money for a very worthwhile cause and that it's not just about cycling.

I know that in a few minutes, the organizers will let us go in groups of 10 and that there will be lots of jockeying for position as we charge out of the gate.  As riders continue to pass me, I remind myself that this is a tour not a race.  This is supposed to be a comforting thought but doesn't comfort me as another participant shouts "On Your Left!" as they pass me.  I look over to discover that this particular rider is the same one I labelled as a couch potato in a recent blog.  Even his commuter bike is a faster ride than "Furry Lewis" (my TREK).

There is no need to rush.  I know that just up ahead about 3 kilometers is a water - filled ditch with a turn to the right that every year becomes congested with cyclists as inevitably someone spills into the muddy ditch and everyone else piles up behind that unlucky soul.  Some will have stopped to offer assistance but most of the riders, given half a chance will skirt around the site and continue on their merry way.

Liking a bit of solitude in the mountains and enjoying the sunny weather, my favourite time of the tour is after lunch when you know that you're already half way and your belly is full of a healthy lunch but more importantly, the participants in the tour are spread out and there is a lot of opportunity to be alone in the woods.  You can even stop and enjoy being in the mountains on a beautiful, sunny, almost fall afternoon.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Trail Silliness

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, we found that using the Tikka light which you strap to your forehead, helps you to navigate in the dark when camping...

My buddy Perry, on our KVR trip made me laugh everytime that he would say TIKKA TIKKA TIKKA TIKKA in a falsetto voice that reminded me of the 1963 song Dominique by the Singing Nuns.  Which inspired me to create my own version of their lyrics:

Tikka Tikka Tikka Tikka
It's the light for you and me
It shines so darn brightly
You should get one for yourself
They are sitting on the shelf
Of your local M-E-C

When they hear of all the fuss
People stop and wonder why
If you turn the light on
Make sure it's not in their eye!

Tikka Tikka Tikka Tikka
It's the light for you and me
It shines so darn brightly
You should get one for yourself
They are sitting on the shelf at your local M-E-C

It's a very useful light
And you'll like it on your head
It's especially helpful
As you stumble off to bed

Tikka Tikka Tikka Tikka
It's the light for you and me
It shines so darn brightly
You should get one for yourself
They are sitting on the shelf
At your local M-E-C

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What's In A Name?

The MS Mountain Tour wrapped up on Sunday and thanks to all the pledges received, the event raised over $330,000.00 to help defeat MS.  That is nearly $1,000.00 per entrant and when you consider how difficult the tour itself is, I'm always surprised when some riders tell me that raising the donations is harder than the ride itself.  My favourite method is to offer bicycle tune-ups in exchange for a minimum $25.00 donation.

A person can always do the tour as an individual or as a team member.  I've done the tour both ways and belonging to a team is much more fun.  Although I must say that with the team I belong to - "Mike's Wheels of Justice (the forked-up version)", I rarely see my team mates except when I show up on both days and they are set up right at the start line, with the pink ribbon stretching across their proud chests and I'm showing up what I consider to be early and having to put my bike at the back of the pack.  Oh, I could join them at the front but I know that in no time at all, they'll be out of sight.

My team mates all rarin' to go

The name of our team strikes a certain resonance with me as most people know me as "Mike".  My wife and children call me Mike, my neighbours know me as Mike and my extended families call me Mike.  So the team name rings a bell as it were.  I get a kick out of the team names that are often emblazoned across the front and back of jerseys.  "Chain Gang" is a good one.   A ladies team called the "Menstrucycles".  Or the "Handlebar Moustaches", "So and So and the Sore Arses", "Double Track Slackers" or my favourite - "The Bad Apples"  - a team who studied nutrition together at the U of A.  They always have apple emblems made from craft foam somewhere on their persons or on their bikes and they all look like they're having a swell time.

To quote the David Wilcox song:  Some people call me a bad apple
                                                        Well I might be bruised but I still taste sweet
                                                         Some people call me a bad apple
                                                         But I might be the sweetest apple on the tree!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Mountain Tour Update

Stay Tuned!  Stories to follow about this year's MS Hinton Bike Tour......

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Almost Showtime

Instructions before climbing "The Hill"
In the upper reaches of Terwilligar Park the trees and bushes have a slight discolouration on their leaf tips yet the evenings are warm and dry.  The high heat of summer has dissipated and now we are experiencing milder temperatures.  My kind of riding conditions.

A group of ten of us have decided to give up this Tuesday evening to train for the MS Mountain Tour.  We're a varied lot.  A mixture of men and women.  Fitness and equipment levels from coach potato with a commuter bike to our supreme leader Stew - a hale and hearty 60 something with a brand new full suspension mountain bike.  After a few minutes of riding, I discover that most of the participants seem to be in way better shape than me and can climb steep, lengthy hills without breaking a sweat while I slowly huff and puff my way to the top.

After a long warm-up, Stew stops at the bottom of "The Hill".  A sudden incline with only a very short, flat ramp to use to build up speed.  On an earlier attempt last week, I managed to claw my way three quarters of the way up and as the group watched from the top, my right foot snapped out of its cleat and I lost all forward impetus and began an undignified slide back to the bottom of the hill.  As I began rolling backwards I swear I saw one of the younger riders above me smirking with an expression that said "Too bad old man.  Maybe you should have brought your electric cart!".

Never being one to know when to stop, I set my bike up at the end of the ramp and waited for another opportunity to publicly demoralize myself.  I calculated that if I started three or four gears up from my lowest gear and then as the trail disappeared beneath my churning wheels, quickly down-shifted, I would not only have the forward speed necessary, but also be in the lowest gear to grind my way to the top.  My team mates would shout and cheer as I crested the hill and rode my proud way into their honoured ranks.

A pebble the size of an Easter egg.  That's all it took to arrest my second attempt.  Seven eighths the way up as my pedals churned furiously, my forward speed was so slow that when the stone presented itself under my front wheel, that was it.  I stopped as though I had struck a concrete wall.  I could hear the shouts of encouragement fading as I coasted backward down the hill and my team mates shrunk in size as the distance increased.

I think I could just make out the smirker bent over double laughing as the group faded from view.

Friday, September 2, 2011

And we've got a Schwinner!

Through very good happenstance I've come into possession of a Schwinn MOAB which at the outset doesn't seem so exciting.  The Schwinns that are made today don't have the same quality of the earlier models and as far as I know they don't even produce the MOAB anymore.

What is exciting is that except for the frame size, this is the exact same bike that my cycling buddy Roy uses for mountain biking.  Now my friend Roy always buys the best quality that he can afford and when he got the Schwinn 12 or so years ago, it was a $1,200.00 bike back then.  The quality of the bike is so high that he claims to still be using the same chain, front chainring and rear cassette.

As much as I love Furry Lewis, I've been straying and looking elsewhere - mostly to find an affordable way to reduce the weight of the bike - to make it sub-thirty (pounds).  I've been to see Mitch in the parts department at United Cycle and he offered a few suggestions - like a lighter front suspension and/or lighter wheels.  He talked to me about rotational weight which was a new concept for me and an enthusiastic customer tried to convince me to spend even more and get tubeless rims/tires.

What I really wanted was to get my hands on a Schwinn MOAB.  It is a fine bike and weighs less than 30 pounds.  And that is when the stars aligned and I got a message from my friend Alex over at "Bikeworks" that one had become available.  Since I was planning a 65K. ride anyway (to try to get ready for the KVR), I made my way over to the "shop" found the MOAB, adjusted the seat and hit the bricks.  After paying for it of course.

So once again, I've added another bike to my stable of wheeled fun - let's see - there's the MOAB, Furry Lewis, Foldy Hawn, Mississippi 'Red, the Triumph English 3 speed,  a crappy blue frame that will become my winter bike, a donated mountain bike that I'll sell and use the funds to finance the next MS Tour and then.......