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.