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.