Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Bike in the Woods

It was a novelty finding myself in a strange city one summer morning.  All around me are what my friend Roy tells me are Ponderosa Pines.  A tree that I thought only grew in California and yet here I am surrounded by them.

Roy, my long term friend and I are in the parking lot of an apartment building not far from downtown Penticton, British Columbia.  Since we plan on riding our bikes for the next seven days, Roy has gone up to speak to an elderly acquaintance and make arrangements for leaving his vehicle in her unused parking stall.

I spend my time with my bike leaning against a chainlink fence surrounding the parking lot.  This is my very first attempt at bicycle camping and I have no idea how to attach, stuff, cram, squeeze, compress into two saddlebags the pile of equipment I've brought along with me.

For years, Roy has been telling me stories about the fun he has had riding his bike in the Okanagan Valley and finally I've agreed to join him.  I have experience.  Camping has always been an important part of most holidays I've taken and as for cycling - I commute to and from my place of work.

It isn't until we start riding the rolling streets of Penticton that I immediately realize what poor shape I'm in - either that or my friend cycles at a much faster speed than I'm used to.  Plus I hadn't taken into account just how difficult it is to maneuver in traffic a bike that now weighs 50 pounds more than what I'm used to riding.  I begin to wonder if I have made some sort of mistake thinking I could bicycle camp as I watch Roy disappear from view and now have to push even harder to be able to follow him in this unfamiliar city.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

50,000 Words In One Month

During the month of November I could be found in any number of places, hunched over my keyboard, tongue poking out the corner of my mouth and soft tappity sounds emanating from my tiny keyboard.

The first chance I got to write, I went out of my way to Mandolin Books in an older area of town.  I had done a lot of writing there during National Novel Writing Month last year and knew it was a great place to write.  Way in the back, surrounded by nonfiction books is an old nineteen fifties kitchen table - the kind with the chrome trim around the table top and shiny tube legs that all meet in the center underneath.

To the left of the table is a bank of windows where plenty of diffused morning light warms your work area.  Whenever you need a break, it's just a matter of standing up, stretching and reaching for one of the used books on a nearby shelf.  Looking for inspiration or simply diversion?  Behind where I sit are two shelves of travel books and I enjoy spending a few minutes every hour idly leafing through them.

The front of the establishment is busy with locals meeting over coffee and tea or quietly reading the paper while the street out front is clogged with commuters on their way downtown.  Going up front for a refill, I never have to worry about my personal items since I'm the only one in the back.  I can leave my IPAD and keyboard just where they are and quickly get back to typing with a hot ceramic mug of java beside me.

It should come as no surprise that I'm writing about a subject I'm very familiar with: the Kettle Valley Railway.  I thank my friend Roy for introducing me to this this abandoned railway and I've had ten years and twelve trips of memories to write about.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


We are already at the 5th day of November which means I'm currently involved in National Novel Writing Month.  In the month of November, a large group of writers will be found in unusual places working away on their keyboards.  Although some will be writing by hand.
If you don't hear much from me this month, look for me at a coffee shop early in the morning.  I'll be the guy in the corner hunched over my IPAD, quaffing large quantities of coffee.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Nursing My Bike

Other than a mild concussion suffered when I wiped out on some ice in the McKinnon Ravine, there has only been one time I had to seek out medical attention from riding my bike.

Coming off the sidewalk on a bridge, I somehow used my front brake and flew over the handlebars and onto a very busy thoroughfare.  Since it was rush hour, the road was clogged with traffic and as my bike slewed onto the pavement it was only by the grace of you know who that I wasn't run over by the bus in that lane.

Cradling my left arm, I managed to make it home and it wasn't until the next day that I sought aid at a local medicenter.  An efficient nurse got me x-rayed and put in a cast within an hour.

Nurses can make all the difference to a hospital stay.  When I was 14 it was necessary to have my appendix removed. My appendix nearly ruptured so my stay at the hospital was two weeks instead of a few days.

My older sister Janet had just completed her nurse's training and our family knew a lot of her classmates.  Fortunately for me, two of them were assigned to my ward and unfortunately for them, two of them were assigned to my ward.

Years later, my sister informed me that I was a complete brat during my whole stay.  Being a pubescent male, I thought it was completely natural to ask these young, attractive women to go fetch me uneaten meals from other wards and other selfish tasks.

Or I would make numerous demands on their time.  "Can you turn up the radio?  Brown Eyed Girl is one of my favourites!  Can you open the blinds?  I want to see if my family is coming to visit me every ten minutes!  Do you have any more Ginger Ale?  This tube sticking out of my gut hurts.  Can you get me an aspirin?"

When I was twenty and single, I found myself in a teaching hospital where my mother and sister worked.  The operation I was having meant having everything from the waist down shaved.  Luckily a male nurse took care of that procedure but what I didn't expect was an action by the head nurse.

One morning she hustled in a group of nurses in training to my bedside and without so much as a how-do-you-do, she whipped back my top sheet and there was my naked body for all to see. What made it even more embarrassing was that one of the nurses in training was someone I had been trying to date.  Now that she'd seen everything I had to offer, my chances were probably nil.  I never called her again although since she was a family friend, I saw her many, many times afterward.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Food Glorious Food!

There does seem to be a strong connection between cycling and food.  When I'm on the trail, my thoughts are often on food.  Commuting to work, I'm concentrating on what I'll eat when I get to my desk.  Riding home is the same.  Food.

At Thanksgiving time we are thinking about being with the ones we love and just as importantly, the food we are going to enjoy (usually with those people).  Just last night my wife and I were filling our vehicle with brussel sprouts, a fresh ham, a large turkey, bananas, crackers, cookies, pop, juice, eggs, beer, wine, bread, yoghurt and ice cream.

I remember one time when we owned a Suzuki Sidekick that seated four and had just enough trunk space for an envelope.  When our family of four would go grocery shopping, it was necessary to strap a blue recycle bin to the roof of the vehicle to hold our groceries.

On the way home, we jested about what would happen to our groceries should the blue bin fall off the roof.  Our list of consumables would change dramatically.  We would now have cracked wheat, squash, pressed ham, scrambled eggs, split peas, mashed potatoes, shredded beef, whipped cream, crushed ice, bread crumbs, shake and bake, creamed corn, pulled pork, rolled oats, Bounce, battered fish, chopped liver, grated cheese, milkshake...

My family rolls their eyes every time I mention the Suzuki grocery list but I also know that my family enjoys the meals we share together and this Thanksgiving was no exception.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Biking with the Viking

Stepping out from under our covered shelter on our second day, I could see low clouds covering the hills in every direction.  While our tents and camping gear were dry, nothing else was.  It looked like more rain could fall at any time.

Our first stop was the Midway hardware store where we hoped to buy garbage bags to cover our rolled up sleeping bags and tents.  Chris was persuaded to buy a rain suit since I figured while riding up the trail to Grand Forks, we would be soaked by low hanging branches and wet fields.

We made it to  Greenwood finally after Chris lost part of his bike seat but managed to repair it with some electrical tape he had thoughtfully toted along.  We had stopped to admire? the giant slag heap that lines the banks of a clear running creek behind the town.  We couldn't help but wonder how Greenwood has the world's best tasting water when the area is full of slag heaps.
Said slag heap
 The carrot on the stick that kept wet Chris going was the thought of pie at the Copper Eagle.  My hungry boy ordered two slices of Bumbelberry pie (Roy would have been proud) while I enjoyed a slice of vegetarian lasagna.

It was while we warmed up in the cafe that we decided that with Chris' faulty gears and wonky seat that he wouldn't be able to make the summit at Eholt so we turned back to Rock Creek where we stopped at Mile Zero of the KVR  to sign in and visit the railway museum.
The obligatory signing

While I showed off my pocket watch, the boy wrote his name on the rafters after finding his uncle Roy's, his Dad's and his sister's signatures.
The museum at Mile Zero is well done and is staffed by a trusting couple of volunteers.  Trusting enough to let us loose in the backyard where they couldn't see us.  In moments we were riding around on a child's trike and fooling with large axes.
It was all reminiscent of a visit Roy and I had made a few years ago to the museum where again we were allowed to be out of sight.  In a  mock classroom,we carefully arranged (hard to do when you're giggling like a couple of naughty kids) a Dick and Jane book so that the manikin teacher was pointing to the name DICK.  Then took numerous pictures while snickering like the immature men we are.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Bike Name Fairy Tale

Once upon a time there was a GHOST who wanted to have an ADVENTURE.  She wanted to go to WHISTLER where she expected to meet her NEMESIS the GIANT DRAGON.

It was while on the EXPRESSway to the NORTHSHORE of Vancouver that LIGHTNING struck nearby and scared her.  A GHOST being scared?  A loud THUNDERBOLT made a SIMPLE SLICE in the LUSH undergrowth.  It was bad enough that it could TRIGGER a landslide which would mean that the GHOST would have to make a DETOUR and choose another ROUTE.

The GHOST thought she should call on her friends LEXI, IVY and LILY to help her.  The problem was that LEXI was such a BAD GIRL and LILY was a HOOLIGAN.  Ivy was  young with a QUICK temper.

The GHOST had an idea.  She and her friends could RACE DOWNHILL and call the POLICE.  The worst that could happen is that the POLICE might warn them of the GRAVITY of their situation and possibly give them a TICKET.  A TICKET could PROPEL them into court where a judge might find them too ROWDY and throw them out of the SESSION.

It would seem that the GHOST and her COMPANIONS would never leave the METROPOLIS and get to WHISTLER where if they could DEFY the GIANT DRAGON, they would be known as the SLAYERS because they made the GIANT DRAGON'S heart FLATLINE.

Alas, the GHOST and her friends LEXI, IVY and LILY would never enjoy the SIMPLE pleasures of the town of WHISTLER and would have to content themselves with cycling Vancouver's TRAILS where they might be able to eat CUPCAKES with a LIL HONEY on top!

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Boy and the KVR

My son joined me on his very first bike packing trip and experienced in less than one hour just about everything that a trip like this can offer.  Bicycle mishaps, feeling the cold waters of the Kettle River. encountering wild animals and riding through entrancing scenery.

Within the first fifteen seconds of riding bikes loaded with camping gear we managed to crash into one another.  Leaving the gates of the campground at Rock Creek, I noticed that my bicycle computer wasn't working.  I stopped to readjust the small magnet on one of my spokes.  A jarring crash brought my attention back to the road.  It seems that Chris was having trouble shifting and was also looking down to see what the problem was when BAMM!! into the old man's bike.  Other than a chainring tattoo on his shin, I'd like to say no harm no foul.  Except for some choice expletives from my boy.

A few kilometers down the trail, I had just gone through a farm gate when the boy mentioned that just up ahead, the bushes lining the trail were being thrashed about by some unknown source.  Moments later, a browney-golden bear shuffled onto the trail, intent on scooping berries off the bushes.  Acting quickly, we hustled back behind the gate and locked its chain firmly into its slot and hoped the gate would offer protection from the bear.

We shouted at the bear and banged large sticks together to scare the animal away.  Giving us an uninterested look while it pooped on the trail, the bear went back to harvesting the fruit.  We had some choices.  Ride back the way we had come and find another route or wait for the bear to finish eating.  Chris came up with an option that we spent some time evaluating - push our bikes down to the Kettle River and wade close to the shore and past the bear's location.  The question was "Would we be far enough away so as to not disturb/anger the bear?"

I earned my own chainring tattoo when my water-shoed foot slipped on a slimy rock and the bike and all its weight slammed into my shin.  Chris was ahead of me glancing frequently over his shoulder expecting to see the bear charging down the riverbank ready to devour two hapless intruders.

After sloshing through the clear and cold water, we decided that we were far enough away that the bear wouldn't pose a threat.  Lugging our bikes up to the trail, we rode double time to the next farm gate.  Above the gate is a highway bridge and riding on it were two cyclists who pointed in the direction we had come and shouted "Don't go that way!  There's a grizzly down there!!"

The smartass in me wanted to show them my still bleeding leg and casually tell them that we had already met the grizzly.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Weather and Bicycles

In my mid twenties I was sent to Southern Alberta to work for a few days outdoors.  New to the west, it was a surprise to me that this province had a desert – like area.  Deep, dry sand, cactus and no trees anywhere to be seen.  Being outside in the full sun with no water, no hat and no sunscreen, it was no wonder that I suffered a sun stroke – although I didn’t know what was wrong with me at the time.

Driving back to Edmonton, my vision was blurred and I soon began to see double.  Frequently I had to pull off the highway, lurch out of the vehicle and vomit on the side of the road.  While driving, a sharp, pounding headache made concentrating on the road difficult.  Getting home, my girlfriend made me stay in bed for a couple days when she saw how terrible I looked.

A few years ago, I was bicycle camping in southeastern British Columbia with my friend Roy in full sun and 39 degrees celcius temperatures.  I began to feel woozy.  Recognizing those same symptoms from the ill-fated trip from my 20’s, I told my friend that I’d have to cool off or we would have to stop for the night right then and there.

My friend wanted me to continue on to the next town which was only a few kilometers up the trail.  What convinced me was his description of the steep, paved road up ahead that would take us into town.  I figured that if the road was steep enough, the airflow whipping past us would cool me off quicker than any other method at hand.

The 50+ kilometers an hour speed we hit going into town began to work its cooling magic and when we stepped into an air conditioned grocery store, I knew I was going to feel better soon.  I grabbed a tall, cold can of beer from the cooler and began to rub it over my body.  First my head, then my face, my neck and shoulders and when no one was looking, the rest of my body.
After an hour of aimlessly wandering the aisles of the store, Roy and I found ourselves in a line at the checkout counter.  It was then that I discovered that my cold beer was now a warm beer.  I debated what to do.  Should I dash back to the cooler and stuff the warm beer onto its shelves and grab a cold one?  Who’s going to know that this can of beer has been rubbed all over a sweaty male body?  (Unless the odd strand of hair caught in the pull tab was a clue).

Standing at the cooler, I decided that ethically, I had used the beer so I should pay for it.  Besides, after 3 more hours of climbing to our campsite, any kind of beer, warm or not would be welcome!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Bikepacking 2014 Album

The adventure begins
Burger,beer and fries $10
The tall grass prairie
Roy wigs out
Cyclists from Holland
You never know what you"re going to see on the trail
Cycling next to the Kettle River
That's the way to relax!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Dry Run

With less than a week to go before my bikepacking trip, it seemed like a good idea to air out my camping gear and try a dry run in my home city.  The idea was that I would spend the day on my bike and then set up camp in the backyard.
Home sweet camp
The day started out in the rain which was a good thing.  What better way to train?  If you're out in the wilds on your bike and the weather turns bad, you have not many choices but to ride.  By the time I got downtown, the rain had eased up and in fact the sun began to burn off the damp.

After six hours of saddle time, I made it to my "camp" in the backyard.  My bike was covered in road splash which also meant that all its components were covered in a thick layer of sand.  Where the sand came from I have no idea but it was necessary to remove it before I rode any farther.  Being home, it was simply a matter of uncoiling the garden hose rather than dumping the bike in a creek if I was on the trail.
Bikey wash

Where we bikepack, it is not always possible to have a campfire, so it was a luxury to open up the woodshed and haul out dry fuel which I split using a survival shovel that my son had given me for Father's Day.  There was no need to find kindling since I could simply use my wife's blowtorch (yes she has better tools than me) to get a blaze going.
That's the way uh huh!

When we're bikepacking, most of our meals come from packages of dehydrated foods that we supplement with fresh vegetables bought from a local grocery store or roadside stand.  Camping in the backyard with a fridge full of food just steps away, it felt luxurious to have a meal served by my daughter and all I had to do was to cook the burgers over the fire.
It wasn't until 2:30 in the morning that the down - side of camping in the backyard presented itself.  The constant noise of traffic from the nearby ring road prevented me from enjoying the new Hubba Hubba tent I had been given for my birthday.  As well, I wasn't able to get a full night's sleep testing out a sleeping bag that I was considering buying.  But I would have had to get up anyway since my Thermarest mattress was flatter than a pancake - reminding me of one more thing to add to my growing list of tasks and errands that needed doing before the real trip begins.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

On Your Mark Get Set...Go?

At the tv station where I work I'm often asked to do a variety of tasks.  Just yesterday I had two shoots, I taught someone how to operate a minicam, a photo was needed of a prize giveaway and I had to drive two co-workers to a graphic design shop.  But the most interesting assignment was assembling a bike that our breakfast show intends use in a contest for the Tour of Alberta.
You could win this

It was while assembling the Devinci bike that it occurred to me that in only three weeks I'll be on the Kettle Valley Railway with my good friend and cycling partner Roy.  I'm working twelve days straight right now and I'm worried that there won't be enough time to get everything ready.
The two cycling amigos suck it in!
A trip to Mountain Equipment Co-op is still needed to stock up on freeze-dried foods and  Cliff bars.  Since I like coffee in the morning, I'm thinking of bringing my survival stove from my bug out bag from which I can boil up some water and use the camping Melita - like coffee maker (still to buy at MEC).
Weird looking but works well

Every year it's like this - just when the weather is decent, work gets very busy but I remind my self that when the time comes that Roy and I disappear into the mountains, it will all be worth the effort.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Fairy Tale Using Bike Names

Once upon a time a GHOST wanted to have an ADVENTURE.  She wanted to take the EXPRESSWAY to the NORTHSHORE of Vancouver.  Her ROUTE would take her to WHISTLER where she expected to meet her NEMESIS the GIANT DRAGON.  But a THUNDERBOLT boomed nearby and LIGHTNING scared her.  The LIGHTNING made a SIMPLE SLICE in the LUSH undergrowth and the GHOST was afraid that it could TRIGGER a landslide which would cause her to make a DETOUR.

How the GHOST wished her friends LEXI, IVY and LILY could come and help her.  But LEXI was such a BAD GIRL and LILY was a HOOLIGAN.  IVY was a heavenly CITIZEN with a QUICK temper..  The group of them could RACE DOWNHILL and call the POLICE.  The worst that could happen is the POLICE might warn them of the GRAVITY of their situation or even give them a TICKET.  A TICKET could PROPEL then into court where a judge might find them too ROWDY and throw them out of the SESSION.

It would seem that the GHOST COMPANIONS would never leave the METROPOLIS and get to WHISTLER where if they DEFYED the DRAGON they could REMEDY a situation in that mountain resort. There would be a certain amount of PRESTIGE involved if and when they could do it.

The moral of the story?  You can't always get what you want.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The City Gets it Right

The rootbeer folder
In an effort to engage the public about plans to build more biking infrastructure, the city has gone to a lot of trouble and expense.  Recently one meeting was held on the south side of the river and two meetings were planned for the north side.

The meeting I attended was only a few blocks from my work so after scarfing down a quick supper, I rode the Raleigh 20 over there.  With only fifteen minutes remaining before the start of the meeting, the bike racks were full and it was all I could do to find a sturdy fence to lock up my ride.
Another folding bike on the fence

The city had gone all out by renting a large gymnasium and filling it with enough tables and seating for two hundred guests.  Colourful balloons added a cheery note to the sterile gym. However the music playing on large speakers was odd.  "These Boots Are Made For Walking" and Steppenwolf's "Born To Be Wild" which starts off with the lines "Get Your Motors Running..." seemed out of place for a meeting of cyclists.
Party atmosphere
In a short speech, the organizer explained that the city had made a mistake last year when they presented already completed plans for bike lanes to the public.  Motorists in the crowd were vocal in their anger and cyclists were eager to point out flaws in the plans.  This time, the city wanted  input before making any decisions.
Plenty of maps
We sat at tables with a facilitator and talked about what we thought a bike lane should look like.  An engineer had shown examples of what cities like Winnipeg, Toronto, and Vancouver had done.  As well there were examples from the U.S. of A. and Europe.  In the middle of our table was a pie shaped diagram that looked like something from Trivial Pursuit.  In each pie section were elements that had to be considered when designing bike lanes.  The impact on property owners.  Will this affect businesses along the route?  The cost to the taxpayers.
Trivial Pursuit
As the evening wore on, I became convinced that the city was sincere in wanting to know what we as cyclists in this car centric city wanted.  We switched tables after half an hour and studied what other participants had written on their wheel shaped diagram.  We added to their remarks and when we got back to our table, we studied what other cyclists had written on our sheet,
Edmonton's poet laureate
The evening was capped off with a poem written by Edmonton's poet laureate Mary Pinkoski.  This artist had spent the evening wandering from table to table listening to the varied discussions.  Her poem which sounded more like a story was involved and lengthy.  My ears perked up when she mentioned something I had said to our table and I'm sure others felt gratified that she had listened to them. I'd like to get a copy of her poem since I felt moved by her words.

Except for a error on the maps which placed Christ Church, a 1920's era Anglican place of worship a block away from where it actually stands, the city's effort to reach out to the cycling public was an encouraging step in the right direction.  Just ask Nancy Sinatra - her boots are walking...
Christ Church in situ