Tuesday, February 28, 2012

City Of Liquid Gold

As if being Canada's smallest city is not distinction enough, Greenwood, B.C. has been selected as having the best tasting municipal water in the world!  In the many times I've passed through Greenwood on my bike, it was having pie from the Copper Eagle Cafe that interested me the most.

The Copper Eagle

The Canadian Broadcorping Castration report that I heard included a clip of a store owner in Greenwood telling the reporter that people pull off the Crowsnest Highway to fill their water containers at her shop.  I know when Perry, Roy and I biked through that historic town and stopped for pie, we did ask to have our water bottles filled when we settled the bill.  I'd like to say that I noticed a difference in the water but perhaps my taste buds were still savouring the strawberry-rhubarb pie of which I had two pieces.

That delectable dish
Greenwood sticks out in my mind for a few reasons.  One being that we stopped in there last year at a roadside bicycle repair shop to get my broken chain replaced (to no avail) and Roy and I stopped on one of our bike trips just for the express purpose of photographing its picturesque buildings.  I also remember Greenwood as being near the one place on the Kettle Valley Railway where the trail had been permanently blocked by a landowner.  Getting over that barricade was quite an ordeal and we could have certainly slaked our thirst with a glass of world class water.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Mile A Minute

My friend Nelson who surfs a website called "Find a Grave" came up to me the other day to tell me that it was the anniversary of a cyclist called "Mile A Minute Murphy" and that this person had ridden his bike at 60 miles per hour back in the old days of the 18 somethings.

Mr. Murphy attained this speed pedaling behind a train - at that time, the fastest moving machine was a locomotive.  A special platform was built on the back of a railway car to hold the officials who would record the feat and this special construction would also create a vacuum for Mr. Murphy to ride inside.

Maybe I don't understand all the scientific principles involved but it seems to me that Mile A Minute Murphy was drafting the train and that was how he was able, on what appears to have been a fixed gear bike, to achieve such a great speed.
Roy's photo of me climbing Anarchist Mtn.

The fastest I've gone is 50 km. per hour which translates to half of what Monsieur Murphy accomplished so long ago.  It pales in comparison - however that speed for me had "pucker-factor".  My friend Roy and I had spent the whole day climbing Anarchist Mountain and now we were at the long downhill switchback that leads to Rock Creek, B.C.  I prepared by unzipping my cycling jacket so that it would act as a parachute (just like the drag racers) and slow me down.  My concern was that due to fatigue, I would make a misjudgment and have a high speed crash.  Roy - nervy guy that he is raced down the hill and hit at least 60 km. an hour.  My other cycling friend Perry tells me of a time he hit 70 km. and hour which translates to too fast for me!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Last week when my wife and I were in London, I was keeping a sharp eye out all the time for all things  cycling.  In Covent Garden, near where we stayed, a street performer used a double - decker bike to ride around and entertain the crowds.  I had hoped to see someone riding a "Penny Farthing" - you know - the bikes with the very large front wheel.

While walking the very crowded streets of Soho, a cyclist passed us and I could have sworn that plastered on his bike were the initials NHS.  I only had a brief glimpse but I saw flourescent yellow panniers and even a blue emergency light.  I jokingly turned to my wife and said that the bike looked like an ambulance. She shook her head in disbelief.

At lunch the next day, I asked my cousin about it (he's a doctor after all) and it was his belief that the NHS cyclist was probably a messenger.  My cousin Mike also related a story to us about how the national health service used carrier pigeons to carry blood samples from the collection point to the lab.  The only problem they had with that service was sometimes the blood would get shaken in transport and this could skew test results.

Upon further investigation, I discovered that in fact the cyclist we'd seen was a paramedic for the NHS and in fact his bike was an ambulance.  Able to negotiate the crowded and narrow streets of London and quickly arrive at the scene of an emergency and provide medical care.

The bikes themselves are equipped with emergency lights and a siren, have armoured tires, a strengthened rear wheel, front and back panniers and stronger spokes.  The EMT's themselves are decked out in a vast array of protective gear which includes among other things body armour and an anti-pollution mask.  The last thing the NHS needs is to have to send an ambulance to treat and injured NHS cyclist!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Playing Hyde and Seek

When the Marble Arches at Hyde Park becond to me as I ate my lunch across the street at a Pret A Manger, I was hopeful that I'd be able to find a Barclay's Bike rental within the park boundaries.  A London aquaintance tells me that they are called Boris' Bikes and my cousin Mike tells me that Boris is the mayor of London who promotes cycling.

Not far from the empty Speaker's Corner (speakers only speak on Sundays it seems) I spied the Bike London symbol which is cleverly designed to look like an underground transportation symbol.  After a bit of dicking around with the machine, out spat a ticket with a numerical code that I had 10 minutes to enter into the bike rack and select my chosen bike.

Hyde Park off season and in the middle of the week was the perfect place for me to ride.  There was no traffic congestion to fight and while I did have to ride on the left side of the bike path, there wasn't much if any other bike traffic.

Apparently, bikes have to give way to horses and it was a pleasure to pedal along a designated bike path that had a wide and groomed horse trail (at one point called Rotten Row) on one side and a paved path with nannies pushing prams on the other side.
Make way for horses!

Being the cheap guy that I am, I wanted to return the bike before the one hour was up which means my little biking excursion cost only one pound for registration and one pound for one hour's pleasure for a total of roughly 16 dollars or less than what entrance to Madame Tussaud's cost and half of what we spent on a "Jack the Ripper Tour" last night.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Jolly Old Cycling

My guidebook warns right from the start "You need a strong nerve to cycle in London's busy traffic, but it can be a great way to see the city."

The most notable thing is the lack of helmets.  90% of the cyclists I've seen are not wearing a helmet.  Watching them from the upper deck of a bus, I felt sure we were going to witness a collision with the cyclists crushed under the London transit bus' wheels.
On Tower Bridge

The Barclays rental bikes are very popular and it appears to me that most of the people riding them are not tourists but citizens of this monstrous city.  I came across a poster that claims that in the first three months of operation, there were 1.5 million uses of these bikes.  That is a lot of trips!

In the next day or so, I plan to rent one myself and if it is allowed, I'd like to ride one along the Thames.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Mapping the Future

 Being an adventure cyclist who travels into unfamiliar territory, maps are of the utmost importance to me.  Just feeling the texture of a well made and neatly laminated map gives me pleasure.  All those earthy colours, the contour lines that depict elevation.  Wonderful stuff.

While pedalling through the woods, I'm constantly consulting the map underneath the clear plastic map pocket on the top of my Arkel handlebar bag.  I always want to know where I am and it pleases me to adopt different strategies due to changing conditions and circumstances.
A practical and well made handlebar bag

Or go to the Adventure Cycling Association website and check out their maps and map accessories - they offer a large easy - to -read map holder that fits right onto your handlebars where you can check it easily to make route decisions.  While I haven't actually seen one of their maps, I've come across a lot of reviews of their colourful and informative guides.  Mark Beaumont, in his quest to make the fastest bicycle trip around the world used maps from the Adventure Cycling Association when he was crossing North America.

One of my favourite authors and world travel writer - Bill Bryson mentions the Ordinance Survey maps that he relied on constantly in his travels from one end of Britain to the other.  His book "Notes From A Small Island" is a funny and interesting read. 

I'm travelling to London soon where I plan to rent a bike and not wanting to get lost in that metropolis, I stopped into the best place for maps here in town (Map Depot) owned by my friend Lewis.  When I couldn't decided which one of the very detailed maps that I should purchase, he let me take a handful home and suggested I spread them out and consult my guide books and choose the one that included the most places we want to visit.  The following picture shows the time consuming method I used to find the map I wanted. The map with the most sticky notes won.  And of course I'll pay for the winner and return the ones I rejected.  Lewis is a fine fellow and he has a business to run after all.