Friday, May 31, 2013

Imagining Portugal

In just a few days, we fly to Portugal and I'm looking forward to riding a bicycle in one more country.  I've met cyclists who rave about riding in Portugal and an article I read in Adventure Cycling magazine contained alluring photos of rugged coastlines and splendid, sinuous roadways.

My experience in Lisbon may differ from the other places I've cycled - in Israel I could have rented a bike in Tel Aviv no problem.  There were numerous automated bike rental stands along the 5 mile boadwalk near our hotel.  I declined since my wife doesn't cycle and she would think it rude of me to pedal off into the Mediterranean sunset without her.  Besides, we were heading to Jerusalem in a couple of days and renting a bike there would be no problem. 
Bike rentals galore in Tel Aviv
I searched high and low for bike rentals in downtown Jerusalem and I was thrilled to discover that mountain bike tours of the Old City were organized at night.  The idea of zipping around on the same cobbled stones that Jesus walked on was an exciting prospect.  And doing it at night when the narrow alleys and lanes were deserted held quite an enchantment.  But my nights were taken up with social events so one afternoon I ended up handing over a few scheckels to a group of youths for the priviledge of riding around the basketball court where they were hanging out. That was the extent of my having biked in Israel.

Imagine riding on the same stones that Jesus walked

Taiwan presented two opportunities for cycling.  I took the subway in Taipei to the end of the line near the South China Sea where an old codger gave me a nice GIANT based soley on the name of the hotel we occupied in the city.

Near the South China Sea

Also while in Taiwan, I ducked out of a guided tour and was able to rent a bike for four hours for only $1.50.  I commenced to pedal along a paved path beside a gentle river but when the path turned to gravel and then the gravel path became an overgrown, skinny rut, it was time to head back to the security of the tour group. 

I wanted to go here and here and....
When we were in London, the weather was cool with a light overcast which made it ideal for cycling.  My map had been marked with dozens of points of interest but I could not convince myself to ride on an actual London street.  We'd almost been clobbered by a London taxi when we had crossed a road but looked the wrong way for traffic and that experience discouraged me from attempting to cycle the busy thoroughfares.

A fowl time was had by all
Wandering near the Marble Arch, I found one of those computerized bike rental kiosks and rode around a nearly deserted Hyde Park.  A pair of geese and a two snobby looking ladies on horseback were my only company.

Critical Mass?
Being cheap, I found that I could ride a rental bike in Vienna for free as long as the bike was returned to the rental stand within one hour.  So I hastily spun around Stadt Park and avoided the throngs surrounding the gold statue of Strauss that sits in the center of the downtown park.

While rambling in a swishy retail area, a gaggle of cyclists passed us ringing their bike bells and shouting slogans and when I realized it was the last Friday of the month, (this had to be Wein's Critical Mass), it made me nostalgic for being in my home city and riding with my countrymen (and women) across the High Level Bridge and cascading down the funkiest part of our prairie city then to lift our bikes over our heads in a victorious gesture at the end of the ride.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


In just over a week Bike Month starts in our part of the world and it will prove to be a glorious time to be a cyclist.  Young and old will be invited to ride their bikes to "Drive - In" movies, pedal in the largest "Critical Mass" of the year, have breakfast at the "Bike Bottleneck" on the way to work and enjoy quaffing mocktails while commuting home on their bike.  These are only a few of the events planned.

Critical Mass
I'll be riding a bike in Portugal next week so I'll miss one of my favourite Bike Month activities - "Riding to the Symphony"  A chance to dress up in a tux, ride through downtown and as you approach the concert hall, trumpets will sound to herald your stylish arrival.
Crossing the High Level on the way to the symphony
The second annual SteamPunk Ride will also take place during Bike Month and by all indications it will be even bigger than the first one last year.  A lot of people want to dude up their bikes and interpret SteamPunk in their outfits.  I'd still like to dress as the Victorian explorer David Livingstone and I have the pith helmet but I can't seem to find a pair of knee high boots that I can rationalize spending big bucks for if I'm only wearing them once.

Derek and Lisa lookin' fine last year
 It looks like I'll be giving a hands-on session featuring bikepacking and this time we'll have it in a park so that I can set everything up including my tent, sleeping gear and all my cooking aparatus.  Hopefully those attending will learn how to pack a bike and discover what to take and what not to take or do.  There's always someone in the crowd with more experience than me so I'll have the opportunity to learn something as well.  The session will also give me a chance to hand out Adventure Cycling info which includes a magazine and humourous stickers to plaster onto your bike frame.

Friday, May 24, 2013

A Bloomin' Good Time

Having had a great time visiting with relatives and working in the yard, I felt it was time on this holiday to go for a spin and see what I could see.  I've resurrected the MOAB and I wanted to try out a new insulated bag that fits on top of a pannier rack.  So in a very organized way I packed a lunch of sliced veggies and home-made coleslaw.  Topped off with trail mix that included lots of Brazil nuts.

The MOAB (instead of green, mine is black)
What I saw pleased me and made me also shake my head.  The pleasure came from smelling and photographing some of the millions of blooms gracing trees and bushes along my route.  I had to shake my head at the woman on her knees performing fellatio on a man standing erect (excuse the pun) in the front courtyard of a southside Anglican church celebrating its 100 anniversary.  It appears that wasn't the only thing being celebrated....

What is called a trunk bag

A friend from work recently sent me some pictures of a house on the fringes of Chinatown that has been decorated in a curious manner.  With the sun shining and the streets empty because of the holiday, I wanted to ride over and see for myself. Gracing a wrought iron fence is a metal fish the size of a child's swimming pool and the house itself is covered in anti-government slogans permanently etched onto stainless steel plates mounted to the home's exterior.  The scene reminded me very much of a similar tableau that my daughter and I witnessed near Rock Creek, British Columbia.

Near Rock Creek
The river valley trails were full of cyclists and others out enjoying the welcome spring weather and after 50 km of riding, I knew that I could enjoy a restful and well earned nap.  There's nothing better on a holiday than snoozing on the couch with the house quiet and a shaft of warm sunshine gracing your prone body.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Tally (Ida) Ho!

Talking recently with my faithful cycling partner Roy, we bandied around the idea of heading back to Idaho to ride the Rails to Trails there this summer.  Last year we had the novel experience of riding on a paved trail and while it wasn't a piece of cake (or pie!), we enjoyed the many conveniences that this trail provides.

During our first day of cycling, many people told us about an old saloon called the "Snake Pit" which was featured in the 1997 movie "Dante's Peak" starring Pierce Brosnan and Linda Hamilton.  Nearing the rustic establishment late in the afternoon, we scoffed at the kitschy antlers hanging from its weathered exterior, the bleached animal skulls adorning its façade and the twisted branches that acted as a backwoods privacy screen.
The "Famous" Snake Pit

The inside was no better - with dollar bills plastered on every surface and miners helmets, hardhats and baseball caps nailed to the varnished log support beams.  Both Roy and I had seen this type of décor in numerous places we had cycled through but our blasé attitude didn't stop us from ordering ice cold beers and home made burgers.  I didn't ask for any pie but as I sauntered over to a display of Tee- shirts, I could hear my friend asking our server what kind of weird combination of ice cream and pie would this famous place serve?

I chose a grey Tee emblazoned with the Snake Pit logo and paid for it as we left the establishment. 
We were intent on finding a campsite as the sun was getting low on the horizon so we headed in a  south - easterly direction where we settled for a bald RV park near the Interstate.  It was while I was woken up for the umpteenth time by traffic on the Interstate that I realized that I had left my Snake Pit Tee-shirt on the counter of the bar while we made a hasty and booze - filled exit back onto the trail in order to find a camping spot before dark.

In the morning it was easy to tell Roy that we should continue and worry about the T-shirt later.  At our next stop we lingered in a handy bike shop built right on the trail in Kellogg, Idaho and watching the professional mechanic tune up my bike, the forgotten shirt became a distant memory.

Drive through coffee shop near Kellogg, Idaho
It wasn't until we had ridden the whole tour that I was seized by an unnatural desire to have the Tee-shirt I had purchased in my possession.  I managed to convince Roy that a quick trip down the Interstate would have us in Kellogg in no time at all and we could march into the Snake Pit and be gone in a flash.  If the place was open.  Which it was not on this Thursday evening at 9 o'clock.

On our second attempt, with Roy muttering obscenities the whole way and me trying to placate him by having bought gas at the nearby Chevron in Kingston, Idaho, we were successful.  Trisha, the server working this Friday night at the "Pit" remembered the two urban looking cyclists who had swaggered into the bar wearing their bright, graphic cycling jerseys and their Spandex shorts and who in a moment of light American beer haze had forgotten something they had actually paid for (unlike most of their patrons).
Tee from a few days later

My friend Roy has since forgiven me and I occasionally wear what he describes as"The world's most expensive Tee-shirt" and I wonder now at my stubbornness at claiming something that really has less meaning to me than the Tee-shirt I bought a few days later during our bike ride and I was able to blog about in the past.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Gettin' Slammed

It was inevitable with the fine weather that things would get very busy at BikeWorks South.  After spending the winter weekends puttering around the shop in a relaxed manner, I knew it would only be a matter of time before things got crazy at our community bike shop.
Opening the gate at ten to one, there was already a couple of people lined up waiting to come in and when we entered the shop, it looked like a bomb had gone off inside.  Frayed shifter and brake cables were lying on the floor, miscellaneous parts were strewn across the workbenches and bikes in various stages of repair were scattered about the premises.  This was a sure indication that the proceeding day (Saturday) had been very busy and that a lot of people who couldn't get in would be here today.
Not quite this bad
The two of us who were there to open the shop as mechanics spent a moment congratulating ourselves for having won awards at the volunteer appreciation party held just last week.  My associate was presented an award for being the most improved mechanic and as a jest I received an award for having put the wrong sign out in the alley the most times. (It does tend to keep the crowds down).

Within an hour, all of the twelve repair stands were taken, two different families with young children were  repairing miniature bikes on the floor of the shop with the young children having a whale of a time running around the shop and fooling with the compressed air hose, ringing bike bells seeing just how far an inner tube could be stretched.

Good times
For some reason the shop had a high number of patrons whose bikes needed a major overhaul.  Repairs that would take longer than the four hours the shop would be open.  In reality we should have told one guy that his bike would be better off in our scrap pile since there wasn't a part that didn't need attention.  Instead, we took turns fixing the missing spokes from his rear wheel or installing brake cables or trying to true his wheels.  By the end of the shift, everyone in the shop had had a crack at helping the helpless guy.  One of the mechanics told him that after four hours of repairs his bike was not rideable and yet I'm sure I saw him mount the bike when he reached a nearby alley.

There will come a time this summer when the majority of bikes are fixed and a large number of our patrons will be out on the roads and trails enjoying the warm weather and the ideal cycling conditions. Those of us left behind in the shop will have plenty of time to appreciate the opportunity to put away all the tools, straighten up the shop and maybe even have the time to play harmless pranks like putting out the wrong sign in the alley.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Let's Party!!

If you were going to have a party to thank the volunteers of a community bicycle shop wouldn't you include a bike ride in the celebration? And that is exactly what the Bicycle Commuters did this past Saturday evening - one of our city's first weekends of the year with hot, sunny weather.

The group rides through downtown

My daughter and I rode through downtown to reach BikeWorks North where we hoped to meet up with all the other cyclists and together ride to the party location in the west end.  A contingent of cyclists riding a variety of wheels were ready and waiting when we rode up to the shop.  I could see the BBQ bike parked off to the side and a crazy looking home made bike with an bizarre inflatable seat consisting of dozens of spiky air pockets.

The BBQ bike

The spiky seat
With Chris in the lead pulling a trailer with a powerful sound system, our group snaked its way through the inner city and the cluster of residents in front of a weathered looking church all turned their heads wondering where the loud 1980's music was coming from. From a bike?

Riding past the church
At the party site it was discovered that the BBQ bike had the BBQ but no charcoal briquets to use as a heat source to cook something I'd never heard of before - JAPADOGS.  A Japanese take on the standard summertime fare of grilled hotdogs but smothered in seaweed, Japanese mayonaise, Teryaki sauce, Japanese noodles or grated daikon.  Choices range from Terimayo, Yakisoba or Ume (sliced onion with plum sauce which apparently has a light, refreshing taste).  To everyone's delight, another BBQ was found and a stack of hot, juicy Japadogs disappeared in a matter of minutes while Chris and Robert provided musical accompanimant with a tiny accordion and accoustic guitar.

Loaded up Japadog

What with the warm weather, it was a choice of being eaten alive by the hungry mosquitos or joining in a miniature bike race where the mossies would not be able to stick to your flesh as you ripped around the westend backyard on a child's bike.
The miniature bike race begins

Friday, May 3, 2013

Pie Eyed

As evidenced by the long line-up of patrons waiting for the gates to open, the combination of a bike sale and a bake sale last weekend was much anticipated.

Courtesy of EBC
Artfully arranged on a table were double chocolate biscotti, gluten free, raw organic vegan brownies, chocolate chip banana bread, and a host of other delicious baked delights. One person had baked two "Surprise" pies. When asked, it turned out that the baker had made two different pies and then placed a pastry top on both. After pulling them from the oven, he couldn't remember which one was which but could remember that blueberries, Saskatoon berries, raspberries and rhubarb were the filling.

When the gates were opened at 1 pm, the waiting horde rushed in and scrambled to find the best bike and have it togged out with accessories like a bell, a lock and a mirror.  There was just as much activity at the baked goods table and a lot of attention was paid to the most imaginative creation - rootbeer flavoured lollipops with ball bearings suspended in their transparent goodness.  It should be pointed out that the silver balls weren't real ball bearings but the kind you find in the baking aisle of a grocery store.  Glancing down from the table, you would be able to see plenty of loose bearings littering the workshop floor and mistakenly think that they were the same ones in these enticing confections.

Photo by Coreen W.

How do you transport one of the "Surprise" pies when you're riding a bike?