Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Grocery Shopping

Since one can never do enough cycling during the winter here in the frigid north, it was an easy decision to go to the organic grocery store and pick up a few things for my daughter.  When I say a few things, there were three items she needed.  Carrots, apples and lemons.

Perhaps riding over to the south side of our city on the one bike I had in front of me with its slick tires was not the best choice.  I see couriers riding around on skinny road tires and my slicks are at least twice as wide...so with my broad wheels, I should have no trouble negotiating the snow.

Recently, we've had as much snow in a day than we usually receive in a month and our wide streets have become narrow snow encrusted lanes.  I knew I was in trouble within a block of my departure point.  The bike was bucking and slipping on the road so I opted out for the sidewalk which meant my short ride to the store was going to be lengthened considerably.
You get the idea

 When she asked for carrots, I imagined one of those bunches you see in the vegetable aisle.
It wasn't until I got to the store that I re-listened to her phone message and realised that when she said she wanted carrots, she was talking about a twenty five pound bag of that orange vegetable.

The lemons filled a small bag and the apples I stuffed into two more bags and they would all fit in my two saddlebags.  But twelve and a half kilos of orange produce?  Was I going to end up like one of those pictures you see every now and then of an overloaded bike?

My father used to say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions and I've been meaning for over a year to make a cobra-knotted lanyard for my bike for just an emergency like this.
It would be with little effort to unthread the paracord and voila!, I'd have enough rope to safely tie that heavy package to my rear pannier rack.  As it turned out, she changed her mind and I was saved the experience of having to improvise a rope.  I was a little sorry that I didn't get to have the twenty five pounds of traction that that weight would have given me for my ride back to the north side of the river.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

He's a Winner!

With today being December 1st, that means that NaNoWriMo is over.  NaNoWriMo?  WTH?  The acronym stands for National Novel Writing Month and the idea was to write 50,000 words in one month.  That is why loyal readers, there haven't been the insightful and humourous blogs in November that you have come to rely on for your internet entertainment.

 My skills at math - even very basic math are not what they could be.  My father always wanted my brother and I to be engineers but I knew from a very young age that vocation was not for me.  My brother on the other hand always pretended to have an interest in our father's profession and that's why he became a stage manager.

I woke up Friday morning and ran to the computer to tabulate the number of words I had written all month. There was a certain amount of pressure involved since my wife had uploaded her 50,000 word novel the night before. It was with confidence that I sat down at the laptop sure that the only thing I had to do that day was to transcribe a few thousand words and presto!  I'd be done.  After adding up the columns of numbers, I discovered that I only had written 43,000.  Three times I added and got the same result.  What's the definition of insanity?  Doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result!

 Fourteen hours later, a writing/transcribing session peppered with every excuse not to write ended.  I had to make more coffee.  Step outside to see if the city had plowed our street.  Had a nap. Make a pot of slow cooker soup.  Iron a shirt.  Have two showers to loosen up the neck muscles.  All told, I probably spent less than half of those 14 hours actually working.

When all the typed pages were uploaded to the NaNoWriMo site and run through their word counter, it was with dismay that I discovered that there were over 57,000 words written.  While I should have been elated at such productivity, I was too worn out to feel like celebrating.  Maybe I had so much difficulty writing all day because my subconscious was trying to tell me that I'd already completed what I had set out to do on November 1st.

Over did it a bit
The month of November was the most unusual month in that we found ourselves writing in places like Denny's or in a public library.  Most of the Saturday mornings would find us feverishly scribbling at a corner table for hours on end at a nearby Starbucks.  My favourite place to write was a an east end bookshop that we'd only recently discovered.  Being surrounded by books and having ample window light to write by made the experience an enjoyable one and not the agonizing marathon that was Friday, November 29th.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Na No Wri Mo (Huh?)

Na No Wri Mo stands for National Novel Writing Month and yours truly is attempting to write a 50,000 word novel during this month of November.

What this means is that Bikewriter'sblog will most likely not be updated this month with the funny and interesting stories about cycling that you have come to expect and enjoy.
I'll be back soon to entertain you and I thank you for your loyalty!!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Bye Bye Bike Shop

The "Goodbye" party at the community bike shop was a great success and since it was a fundraiser, I'm sure the organizers appreciated to $53.10 that patrons left as tips at the improvised bar set up on the display case which is used to hold expensive and rare bike parts.

Good times
My last shift as a mechanic at this shop was on Sunday and given the cold weather, not very many members came in to take advantage of our free services.  I fully expected that with the change of seasons we would be busy winterizing bikes - teaching members how to stud their tires or attach fenders to their bike frames.

Selling it cheap
Rather than move a lot of cycling merchandise, the co-op's idea was to sell off bikes and parts at a discounted rate and I thought for sure that members would be streaming into the shop to score a fine bike at a discount.  Even the crappier bikes would make good winter bikes.  Admittedly, the sale has been going on for several weeks so perhaps the eager bargain finders had already swooped in and found a satisfying deal.
Scrapped bikes with all the useable parts stripped off

I expected to feel sadness at the closing of the shop however, I'm looking forward with excitement to a new shop that has all the features that were built into BikeWorks North.  With all the lessons that were learned in building that relatively new facility, this next one should prove to be even better.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Bike Barkeep

BikeWorks South is closing at the end of the month and moving to a new location in the near future. A big party has been planned so everyone who has had a connection to this community bike shop can have a chance to say goodbye.  My plan is to offer my services as a bartender and with my conveniently placed tip jar, collect donations for the bike co-op.
Since you will be riding your bike over, you may want to slake your thirst at the bar and you'll be expecting a bartender that can do all those exciting juggling tricks with liquor bottles.  A bar man that can pour numerous drinks at one time or set alight a flaming concoction made up of colourful liquers.
Imagining the party, I can see myself set up with one of those bikes that has a built in bar - you may have seen one.  That empty space in the middle of a bike that has been filled in with a clever cupboard with a door that folds down to become the bar top.  The inside of the travelling locker is filled with bottles of hooch and various glasses and cups.
That's the ticket
I'll be beside the bike bar wearing my barkeep get-up.  Pinstripe vest, arm bands to hold up my shirt sleeves and a snappy bowtie.  A nice towel to keep the bar top dry will hang from my apron and my moustache will be waxed into a stiff shape.
In reality, partygoers will find me stuffed awkwardly into a corner amongst the bike repair stands.  The drinks will be in cans and they'll be nice and warm.  The only exciting thing this bartender will be able to acomplish is when he opens one of the cans and the contents which have been thoroughly shaken from the recent bike ride will spray in a high pressure stream across the dance floor only to strike the DJ's elaborate electronic gear and create a sparkling and elecrifying light show.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Making A Clean Sweep

As a bicycle commuter, you expect to come across all sorts of hazards in your daily travels.  So it came as no surprise to my family to find me outside, on the street with a broom in hand and a dustpan clutched at the ready. Ready to sweep up a long swath of broken glass in the bike lane.
Brand spanking new

The city has gone to quite a lot of trouble adding to the existing bike lanes and upgrading the one they installed in my neighbourhood last year just before the snow fell .  First, the top surface of the whole road was scraped down.  A new type of asphalt coating was then spread across the whole expanse of road.  As my cycling daughter pointed out, the new surface offers better grip for bicycle tires.  
Is my neighbour the culprit?

 While turning my back to oncoming traffic (I'm in the bike lane so how could I be hit by a car?) and sweeping diligently, a neighbour stopped to harangue me about the bicycle lanes.  I know from past experience that this fellow never hesitates to call the city with even the most minor of complaints.  I am certain he is one of the motorists who contacted the city and had them eliminate the bike lane they installed last year which nessesitated all of the work that has been done this summer on our street.
Since I have to live near the guy, I wasn't prepared to argue with him.  Thinking I could placate him, I declared that as far as the bike lanes go, the city has made both motorists and cyclists unhappy. This set him off further into a spit - spraying tirade which wasn't helped when I politely asked him to move over so I could continue sweeping the broken glass onto my household dustpan.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Wolf and the Gang

On this summer's bikepacking trip, after cycling all day to reach our chosen campsite, my buddy Roy and I decided that rather than eating dinner from our dwindling selection of freeze-dried meals, we would find a restaurant and treat ourselves to food that someone else has prepared.

Before setting up at our camp, we bought some hooch at the local general store and when asked, the proprietor suggested we try a pizza restaurant down the road.  Pizza goes down well anywhere, any time. 

It turns out that the restaurant, called Marley’s is right on the main road in town and looks like a converted gas station.  A low structure with several industrial sized garage doors which have been rolled up, creating an open-air dining experience.
 Some time later while dining on slabs of pizza heaped with ham, cheese and pineapple we noticed an older Chrysler New Yorker in beautiful shape parked out front.  It piqued my interest having owned one years ago.
 Making an outlandish assumption, I hailed one of the three good old boys shooting the bull at a table near us.  The group were all grey-hairs and judging from the coffee mugs in front of them and their relaxed manner, they were probably retired and had nothing better to do than to meet for java.

It was a mistake.  Wolf, the owner of the New Yorker turned out to be one of those back-slapping bull-shitter types that you run across every now and then.  Standing close, he'll touch you or put his arm around your shoulder while he belly laughs in your ear.  Everything is a joke.

After a number of outlandish anecdotes, I was happy to see him climb into his car and drive off.  His wild stories and jesting manner left the two of us wondering just what to believe?

The next morning, while heading south along an abandoned railbed, Roy and I could see a dust cloud approaching at a terrific pace.  Must be a motorized vehicle driving on this, a hiking/cycling trail.  Choking on the stirred up dust, it wasn't any surprise to me that the asshole carreenng past us was no other than "Wolf" the king of the bullshitters.

In my handlebar mirror I could see that he had recognized us and had stopped in a flurry of gravel to converse.  As if we wanted to talk to: 1).  A jerk who drives on a non-motorized trail, 2). Someone who is going to waste our time with cock and bull stories and finally 3). A person we didn't particularily like.

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Gold Rush of '13

I woke up Saturday morning with two things on my mind.  Riding my bike and panning for gold.  Yes.  Panning for gold.  My brother told me about the last time he visited my city and he and his girlfriend went down to the river and found gold!

My brother and friends
They had seen a national news story devoted to the subject and wanted to try it out for themselves.  When they went to a rock and gem shop to buy a gold pan, they found the shelves empty except for one pan.  Turns out there is a mini gold rush happening in our burg and while the river banks aren't lined with prospectors, a friend tells me that when he canoes down the river, he sees plenty of hopefuls squatted down and shifting gold pans in their hands.

A "shifty" pastime
Not owning a pan, I had to wait to call the rock and gem shop to make sure they had gold pans in stock.  It was important to buy the  gold pan at this particular store since I knew that this establishment was at the end of a scenic bikepath that ran straight from the river to the store - a round trip distance of 13 km. (8 miles).  Not only could I look for gold but I could enjoy riding through a forest that was painted with the colours of fall.

The store had a plethora of gold pans in varying shapes and sizes.  Ones made of plastic, steel, nylon, stainless steel and space age materials.  Octagonals, rectangles and the traditional round pans were stacked in heaps at the back of the store.  The cashier said that the profit the store makes comes from selling gold panning equipment and not rocks and gems.

Before travelling up the trail to the store, I had discovered a likely spot - a sandbar jutting out into the North Saskatchewan River, very close to the bike path that follows that watercourse.  So it was with excitement that I flew down to the river to stake my "claim" on the riverbank.  Appropriately as I began to sift through the gravel, our city's paddlewheel river boat steamed past my chosen spot giving the scene a old-timey feel.

It would be nice to tell you that within minutes, my pan was sparkling with gold nuggets.  After half an hour of dredging material from the riverbed, with an aching back, I was about to give up when I happened to glance into the murky mess in the pan and thought I recognized tiny specks of gold about the consistency of flour.  Sure enough I had struck gold!  In another hour and with gold selling at $1,320.60 an ounce, I figured I had enough to buy some bubblegum.  Maybe I'd buy that one that comes in a small cloth bag.  You know the one.

Sunday, September 29, 2013


My daughter just came back from a bicycle camping trip along the Kettle Valley Railway and sitting around the backyard campfire, she regaled us with stories of her many adventures.  I'm proud that she could make so many complex navigational decisions that affected not only her own enjoyment of the trip but also her cycling partner's experience.  Thinking about her recent foray, I have come up with a number of rules that might help another cyclist who might be contemplating such a tour.

Which way do we go?

As the flames rose higher on our circular brick fire pit, Jackie told us about their first day on the trail. It was hot and sunny as they set off towards Beaverdell, which would be a full day's ride from Midway (assuming you stop for lunch - which normal people do).  Since it was their first day, they were fresh enough to pedal hard for the first 30 km. (18 mi.) which took them past the abandoned rail tunnel outside of Greenwood and through the field where my cycling partner Roy and I had come across a rifle - toting farmer years before.
Yee Ha!
It was not far from the farmer's field where the Kettle Valley Railway crosses the "Crowsnest Highway" that it began to dawn on Jackie that the scenery was becoming unfamiliar.  She had no recollection from last year's trip that the KVR crossed Highway 3, except one little jog the trail makes just west of "Mile Zero" on the KVR.  Surrounded by Llamas and their  young charges, she began to think that perhaps she had led her friend in the wrong direction.

I might be smiling but my friends aren't!

It was true.  They had set out east toward the summit at Eholt and not north toward Rhone that morning.  And they didn't start out from Midway but from Rock Creek - a substantial cycling distance error.


While putting another log onto our fire, Jackie related how she and her friend could not find one of the campsites that I had described so many times from my own bikepacking trips and the one that we had camped at last year.  She had texted me from the trail and I had replied with what I thought was an easy - to - understand message:  "There is only one main street and the campground is at the end.  Between the highway and the river".

The place where they might have camped


Due to a boulder having rolled into and damaging one of the trestles in the Myra Canyon, British Columbia Parks had created a bi-pass route around the weakened structure.  Jackie has heard my story many times about traversing a makeshift route around the Myra Canyon after the Okanagan Mountain fire destroyed many of the trestles.  It was one of the worst cycling experiences that I have ever had. The terrain was so rough that the bumping and jostling caused my rear pannier rack to fall off, scattering my camping gear across the dirt track and into a briar filled gully.  It took an hour and a half for us to figure out how to attach the pannier rack back onto the bike using only a pipe clamp and a length of Velcro.  It also helped the Roy took a huge load of my gear and fastened it to his bike.

Warning! Warning!
As our backyard campfire burned down to a bed of glowing embers, we all came to the conclusion that Jackie had had a challenging but ultimately a fun trip.  She has discovered a secret that I only discovered by riding my bike along these abandoned rail beds - that having a holiday that is tough physically and mentally gives you a tremendous amount of satisfaction and you wait impatiently all year to do it again!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Batting a 1,000

While riding my bike this weekend, two of our city's most embarrassing civic projects presented themselves.  One being a pile of shiny steel balls and the other is a large metal baseball bat.

The steel balls are supposed to represent the pile of rocks and debris found at the base of a mountain -  something called a Talus Field.  The nearest mountains to our city are four hours away and this "art" might just as well have been installed at our city's baseball stadium called Telus Field.
A real talus field
The pile of balls sits next to a freeway bridge and as you zip by in your car, you can catch only the briefest of views.  Riding a bike past the installation offers a better option although there is nowhere to rest and or lock up your bike while you admire the sprayed - on happy faces adorning some of the shiny globes. 
The artist's conception
Employed at a television station, I once asked one of our reporters what story she was working on that day and she replied that she was doing a story on the world's largest bat.  I pictured a monstrous winged animal in someone's attic and that once the news got out, our city would be flooded with the tabloid press wanting to make the most of this bizarre story.

What I discovered weeks later while in the north end of the city was that the reporter was doing a story on a baseball bat.  Not an animal in the least.  Over my left shoulder as I rode through a busy intersection, I was astounded to discover that our city fathers had paid good money to have installed the world's largest baseball bat.  Surrounded by a busy intersection, the bat sits alone without any context - is it near the baseball stadium?

The bat does serve a purpose - albeit one that was never envisioned by city council.  Many is a time you'll pass the baseball bat and see someone sitting with their bum on the knob, hugging the shaft while a friend swivels the bat around and around the base of the structure.  An ear-splitting screech as the non lubricated parts grind against each other combines with hoots and hollers of the usually inebriated revellers who have disregarded the civic notice posted nearby: "THIS IS NOT AN AMUSEMENT RIDE.  IT IS A PIECE OF ART AND SHOULD BE RESPECTED AS SUCH". 
Home for both pieces of "art"?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Tour De Farce Part 2

As mentioned in my last blog, I've never worked a professional cycling race before and there was a steep learning curve for me to negotiate.  The old pros who were working for the likes of Velo News or from the big news agencies like Reuters and United Press International gave me the hairy eyeball until, after many requests, I was given a TV vest to wear which gave me almost unlimited access to the riders and their teams not to mention a choice spot at the start and finish lines of each stage.

During the whole tour I was impressed by the cameramen and photographers who would jump on the back of motorcycles that would roar ahead of the tour and allow the operator to get moving shots of the racers in action.  I was asked several times if I'd like to have a try but I'd find some excuse to beg off.  No way was I going to stand up with a 30 pound camera on my shoulder on a swiftly moving vehicle with nothing to hang onto, drifting around corners, darting in and out of traffic for hours on end.

By accident while looking for somewhere to eat, I came across a whole village that had been set up in the parking lot of a local hotel.  A bevy of team members busily engaged in scrubbing each bike and then hosing off the clouds of suds.  When I asked if cleaning off the bikes helped with the aerodynamics of the bike, a young lady explained that it was easier for the mechanics to detect problems with the bike if the bike was clean.  She aslo told me she was soigneur.  Telling her that I was sorry to hear that, I walked off to my vehicle to find dinner.  While chowing down and reading the technical guide for the tour, it was then that I discovered that soigneur:  "are assistants responsible for feeding, clothing, massaging, and escorting riders; from the French for the "one who provides care".  Another lesson learned.