Monday, July 31, 2006

It's coming

tomorrow's forcast from the Air Quality Ontario site

Better keep my mask handy.

The heat hasn't hit yet. Later today, it should be something like 35 C. I wonder if humidex values don't apply the same to cyclists since we generate our own breeze.

The expectation of heat made my ride extra comfortable this morning since I wore a "muscle shirt". Some people call them tank tops, but since this isn't such a visual medium, I'll take the liberty of using the term muscle shirt while I can.

Darren J 7/31/2006 09:50:00 AM | 2 comments |

Friday, July 28, 2006

Floyd Landis continued

Don't bother reading this commentary out of some Austin, Texas newspaper. It was written just after the tour completed, but seems more timely now. It almost made me want Landis to be steroid junky. Here's a snippet.

"And this time they won't be able to go around whining about alleged drug use by the winner like they did with Lance Armstrong. ... See, Floyd Landis, who won the tour Sunday, was raised in straight-laced Mennonite country in Lancaster County, Pa. So the French will be lucky if they can find an Advil on this guy. ... The French must be getting tired of getting clobbered in their own game — especially by a guy who's going in for hip replacement surgery this fall. Maybe, to be fair, the French riders should be allowed to use tiny little motors on their bicycles."

There are some bad stereotypes in there too, but I don't want to quote them. Talk about a sore winner.

For some much more entertaining anti-French sentiment, I recommend yesterday's episode of the Colbert Report featuring an interview with a Congresswoman from D.C. She basically accuses him of being a traitor. I don't want to give it away. In the same episode Stephen Colbert gives the best explanation for Landis' test results: Of course he had abnormally high testosterone levels. He's American! He has huge balls. He should get a prize just for sitting on that seat.

Darren J 7/28/2006 09:00:00 AM | 3 comments |

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Rail line to a ravine

It was a fun ride with the Toronto group of the Cycling Cog last night. We went through parts of Toronto that I've never seen or even knew existed. It was an area most people think is used up with houses or roads that has a narrow swath of park land through it, creating an oasis of cycling perfection.

There were nine of us including a few people I met for the first time. We started at Eglinton West Station, a paradox of urban design: a subway station designed for cars. It took us five minutes just to get to the other side of the street since it required walking down the sidewalk to a pedestrian crosswalk, then crossing highway on and off ramps and two bus driveways.

This took us to the old Beltline path, a railway converted to a path. This was ideal for a ride like yesterday. We were moving slowly, doing a lot of talking, and could handle stopping to cross each street mid-block.

The Beltline led us to the Mount Pleasant Cemetery. Very spooky. Just as we were leaving, I nearly endoed as a piece of wood got between my front tire and fender. It must have been a poltergeist. The fender did an accordian impression and I did a BMX'er impression. I was sure my fender would be garbage, but it popped back into place. Isn't plastic wonderful? (I'll miss it.)

From here we dropped down a steep hill into the Moore Park Ravine. This ravine would be part of my bike commute in an ideal world. It takes a mostly straight path through a forest and down to the bottom of the valley where there's an old quarry, a pond and some old brick factory buildings. Apparently this is being made into a conservation area. Everyone refers to it as the Brickworks. Check it out if you have the chance.

The nice thing about riding with a group like this is that someone always seems to know where to go. I probably would have felt pretty lost at a few points along the way, but I wasn't the least bit concerned with all the experts around me.

As we're leaving the Brickworks, I have almost no sense of where I am. Just that I'm pretty sure I'm north of Bloor and kind of close to the Don Valley. We made our way out to Bayview and up the road a little bit. Everything started to come together. For the Toronto-folks out there, this is where the Don Valley Bike Trail does a strange zig-zag street crossing through concrete barriers. It's also just north of the Bayview off ramp from the DVP.

We head down the Don Valley trail to Queen, cut through a hole in a fence that Sean led us through, and pop up near the charming Queen Street bridge. I notice now that it's a fairly straightforward bridge. The colour and the decorative steel-work on top is what makes it nice to look at.

A woman openly and politely asks us for clean needles and condoms. None of us could help out. I hope she found some.

So off we go, up to a restaurant on Gerrard, where we had some food and beer. I finally got to try Mill Street Tankhouse Ale, brewed in the Distillery District (pretty sure). It turned out to be a perfect choice. After a bike ride, a lot of beers are the perfect choice, but this one really was tasty.

Good company and conversation. I'm looking forward to the next ride.

I didn't take any photographs, but I have a feeling some will show up soon on Tanya's site. (no pressure!)

Darren J 7/27/2006 02:20:00 PM | 3 comments |

Monday, July 24, 2006

The suburban commute

I was talking to some of my friends on the weekend about commuting issues. It was a light discussion and I managed to avoid preaching. During the exchange, it was revealed that it takes about 30 minutes to travel 5 km through a suburban part of northern Toronto (Bayview Avenue through the York Mills area). That's by car of course, since a cyclist could cover that distance in 15 or 20 minutes easily.

One sad part of this is that a bus would still take 30 minutes, since it would be stuck in the same traffic jam. People choose their car over the bus for the additional comfort and misconceptions about the low cost.

At the time, I hadn't worked out that it was only 5 km, so the full shock settled in later. I think southbound is downhill, so you could just get a couch, attach some wheels to the bottom and do a little Fred Flintstone impression to get moving. It wouldn't be that different from riding in a car.

The saddest part was that I couldn't recommend that they ride bikes to work, due to the safety of the road. Bayview Avenue has two lanes in each direction plus a turning lane down the middle for left turns. The right hand lane is so narrow that cyclists depend on motorists to make a lane change. Traffic may be jammed often, but when it opens up, the cars speed up to 70 km/h. It's a stressful route that I've only tried a couple times. Both times, I ended up on the sidewalk, and I know I'm not the only one.

The official bike plan in this area calls for a bike lane along the whole length of Bayview. This would still leave the challenge of crossing under the 401, but it would make the road much more attractive. On a road with this many traffic jams, a bike lane would do more than give a cyclist somewhere to stay away from passing cars. It would actually give the cyclist priority. There could be a flow of cyclists moving along faster than all the cars.

Last year, I sent in letters to the councillor for this area. It happens to be the same riding as where I live. He was receptive to my requests for bike lanes, but there's been no progress whatsoever. Four months until the deadline.

Joe on Biking Toronto brought up the pro-car editorial Margaret Wente wrote in this weekend's Globe and Mail. Wente's views appear to be based on what's best for the part of the population that lives in a suburban house and has a well-paying job at a large newspaper office downtown.

At the same time, a lot of other people, who aren't paid to put thought into this stuff and look at the big picture, also have a hard time looking beyond the car. Realistic or not, you don't have to go far north of Eglinton Avenue in Toronto to find that the idea of adding more car lanes on every major street is not foreign nor out of date.

Darren J 7/24/2006 10:42:00 PM | 5 comments |

Saturday, July 22, 2006

How to make your own yogurt

This doesn’t have a lot to do with cycling, but it fits with the general idea of better health and living in a more independent way. Yogurt has come up on Misanthrope Cyclist and Oil is for Sissies lately, so it seems like as good a time as any to share a technique for making your own yogurt.

Why bother? It does require a bit of effort, so you’ll need some type of motivation. I like it for a few reasons. The yogurt tastes better. You choose the ingredients so if you like lots of preservatives in your yogurt, you can put all you want. You can make the yogurt so it’s as sweet or sour, creamy or firm as you like. You can save a little bit of money since you basically pay the price of milk instead of yogurt. This is a bigger deal if you’re trying to use organic dairy. If you like the idea of buying locally, you just need to find a local dairy source that sells milk. Also, it might mean you’ll eat more yogurt, which is good for your colon, and therefore your immune system (I’m no doctor, but there seems to be a pretty wide consensus on this). Another reason: it’s satisfying to learn about a technology that’s been passed down for centuries in most parts of the world, yet somewhat forgotten in this time and place. Even though I can’t milk my own cow, it’s a small step closer to self sufficiency.

As for that effort, it really isn’t that hard. You’ll probably make some mistakes the first few times. After you figure out what you did wrong, you’ll have a reliable system for making yogurt on a regular basis.

This technology, passed on through the ancient civilizations of Bulgaria and India (thanks Rad and Raj!), I now pass on to you.

This will be based on 1 litre of milk which makes a tiny bit less than 1 litre of yogurt. This is how I do it, but you’ll figure out how you can vary it with the equipment you have available.

You need:

1 medium sized pot, probably 2 litres (to boil the milk)
1 big clean jar or 2 of those 750 g yogurt tubs (for the yogurt to go in)
1 dollop of plain yogurt (to start the process) (1 dollop is about a heaping tablespoon). This must be real yogurt. It should say on the package “Contains Live Culture”.
1 litre of milk
1 wisk
1 big mixing bowl
1 jar of warm water
1 cooler
1 towel

The process:

1. Bring the milk to a boil on the stove. Watch it carefully because when milk boils over, it makes a big mess. Let it boil for long enough to kill any bacteria in the milk (say 1 minute?).

2. Let the milk cool down to just above body temperature. This is the part I found the hardest to learn. A thermometer would have been useful, but I never bothered. Take a tablespoon of milk from the pot and put it in your mouth. It should feel a little warmer than your mouth, and definitely not scalding. The main thing to keep in mind is that your going to be creating a comfortable environment for a bacteria to grow. If you make it too hot, you kill the bacteria. If it’s too cold, the process doesn’t get kickstarted.

3. Pour the milk in the mixing bowl. Add the dollop of yogurt. Wisk well. I don’t recommend mixing in the pot since the inside surface of the pot may still be hot enough to kill the bacteria in the starter yogurt.

4. Pour the yogurt milk mix into the clean tubs or jar.

5. Put the tubs into the cooler and put the jar of warm water beside them. Cover them with a towel and close the cooler.

6. Wait.

7. I usually leave it overnight at this point. 6 hours will give you a reasonably firm tart yogurt. After 3 or 4 hours, the yogurt will be more creamy and sweet.

8. Put your new yogurt in the fridge. This stops the bacteria from growing any more. It's ready to eat.

Variations:
- Instead of the cooler, you can use some other warm place, like the inside of an oven. In the winter, I sometimes rest it on top of my radiator with some towels wrapped around. In the summer, a counter top in a warm kitchen will work. I’ve used an oven too, which allows you to rewarm it if you think the growing process has stopped, but you have to be careful not to overwarm it and kill it. And you might want to use a ceramic container instead of a plastic tub!
- Add more starter yogurt. This will make the process go faster.
- Different containers. Ceramic, glass, plastic. It’s all fine, as long as you keep it covered so you don’t get dust in it and don’t spill it.
- If you think it’s not working after a few hours, restart. You can re-boil the milk yogurt mix and start again. (I don’t know when milk becomes unsafe after sitting in a warm place. I'd recommend visiting and asking your doctor, as long as you have a private health care system.)
- 1%, 2%, homo milk (as we call it in Canada; You may called it 3.25%.) They all work.
- I’ve heard you can use a microwave to boil the milk, but never tried it.

It’s much easier than all those words let on. Give it a try. If it doesn’t work, feel free to ask me questions and I’ll try to help.

What to do with all this yogurt? I like to have it plain, put it on toast and jam, mix it with cereal, or add it to just about any dinner.

One more benefit is that yogurt has less lactose than milk. If you add some water to your yogurt, you’ll find you can use yogurt as a flavourful replacement to milk. The lactose gives the milk its sweetness. The longer you let the bacteria grow, the less lactose and the greater the tartness.

Enjoy!

Next I’d like to learn how to make cheese and beer, how to clean a fish, and maybe some day, how to slaughter a pig, a deer or at least a pheasant (based on where I live a recipe for pigeon casserole would be more appropriate). OK, I’d probably learn how to be a vegetarian before I’d start slaughtering.

Darren J 7/22/2006 05:41:00 PM | 8 comments |

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Well put

Jon Stewart knows how to deliver a message. Here he is on the mideast war and the impact on Americans. He could give people the worst news of their life and let them enjoy hearing it. He should replace Tony Snow.

Darren J 7/20/2006 01:35:00 PM | 1 comments |

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Feeling good

I sneakily led one of my friends towards this site so he would see what I've been up to. I didn't tell him to do a google search on a refugee who rode a bike, but that might have been smoother. The report comes back that I sound bitter. When I look at some of the stuff I've written lately, I can see how someone would make that mistake. So it's time to bring up a few feel-good news items.

Number 1. Tanya and three of her friends rode their bikes to Stratford. Very cool. Wouldn't it be great if everyone tried things like this?

Number 2. Check out Bikely. This may be the bicycle map/route sharing tool we've all been waiting for. (via Cleverchimp)

Number 3. Cycling is still the best way to get around for so many reasons. My coworker who started cycling to work this year was standing in front of a television showing a commercial mid-Oprah. The commercial was for some weight loss program that guaranteed success through some mysterious technique that you'd find out after sending in your first payment of $69.99. His response: "Just ride a bike!" So true.

Number 4. I'm seeing a lot of regulars out there on the commute. I have a very slow and lazy morning routine, and I leave home whenever I feel like I'm ready, yet I still manage to see the same cyclists at the exact same place. Sometimes I wonder if I'm a character in a real-life Truman Show. (If I am, this would be a good time to tell me).

Number 5. My wife has started riding her bike around our neighbourhood. I love it. She's been riding down to Yonge and Eglinton to play badminton, then I meet up with her to ride home. It doesn't get better than that.

Darren J 7/19/2006 08:18:00 PM | 2 comments |

Monday, July 17, 2006

Bike Clubbing

A bike club is growing in Toronto. Right now the name isn't quite decided on, so it's going by Human Powered Vehicles Toronto. Here's a quote from the club's web site that really sums things up:

"This is intended as a social group of people who enjoy pushing the limits of bicycles and other human powered vehicles: recumbents, cargo-bikes, home-built-creations, etc. Bike rides, food, and fun are also important elements of this group!"

We've had a few get-togethers so far, usually involving eating somewhere, preferably with a patio, and hopefully a bike ride.

You can find out more about it on the official club site, and if you're interested in joining us, sign up for the mail lists. Events are different every time we meet. We usually talk about all kinds of things, but you'd be amazed by how many topics of conversation can lead back to bicycles. (My wife is sometimes amazed too, but that has nothing to do with the bike club.)

On this past sweltering Saturday, we met up at the Velotique bike shop on Queen Street East. Our excuse for going there was to see a velomobile being shown by Blue Velo. In case you're as unfamiliar as I am with this stuff, a velomobile is recumbent tricycle with a fully encased seating area. They're made to be comfortable, low, aerodynamic and fast.

Somehow, I was offered to take one of these things for a ride. I didn't even have to pretend I was thinking about buying one.

Vic went first and took off around the park. They're almost as cool to watch move as they are to ride. Since you can't see the cyclist's feet moving, or even much of the cyclist at all, they look like some kind of Star Wars droid zipping along the road or path.

My ride was interrupted by some pedestrians crossing the path, which then led to a long conversation with a couple about what the hell this thing was that I was sitting in. They were impressed.

It was fun to ride. I felt the acceleration on my back as I quickly got up to 20 km/h. I wasn't able to go too much faster because of all the turns. It's extremely comfortable to have your torso at rest, while your feet spin away up in front of you.

Everyone turns to look as it passes, and they usually smile when they realize what they're looking at.

I'll add a couple photos here when I get a chance. In the meantime you can check them out on Vic's site.

Darren J 7/17/2006 01:48:00 PM | 3 comments |

Friday, July 14, 2006

Reckless Drivers

This morning, for the first time, I reported a reckless driver to the police.

This could be the start of a new trend.

Here's what I learned (based on Toronto Police):

When you call the police and report the driver, the police will send out a call on the dispatch in case any officers are nearby. You need to describe the car and the driver. I'm sure the license plate helps. I assume they would pull the car over if they found it.

If they don't see the driver right then, not much else happens. (Since I called an hour after the incident, I don't think anything came from this today.)

To take things further, you need to file an official report at the local police station. The report will go on record, and will be referred to in the future in case anything else happens with this driver.

The best thing that could happen is to have that driver pulled over, get a ticket (or be arrested) affecting their driving record and their insurance. I know it's unlikely, but it's good to have a try. This is a lot better than them getting a lecture from me that they're not going to listen to.

It's best to make the call immediately. Whether you think it's necessary to call 911 or the non-emergency number is up to you, and could be based on whether you think more people are being threatened by the driver as he or she continues down the road. I also programmed the non-emergency police phone number into my phone.

Here's the contact information for the Toronto Police Service.

I plan on reporting reckless or dangerous drivers more often now. These people threaten me, other cyclists and pedestrians. I love riding my bike, and I have every intention to keep doing it. I'm sick of having people nearly hit me then verbally abuse me while telling me it's my fault because I was in their way. The lack of regard for human life that these drivers exhibit is disgusting.

So my fellow cyclists, consider programming your phones and keeping them handy. We need people to hear that there are consequences for antisocial driving and that "might is right" is wrong.

Darren J 7/14/2006 02:55:00 PM | 3 comments |

Daydreaming

... Now pulling away from the peloton as we approach the end of stage twelve is Darren from team Mountain Equipment Co-op. This MEC team, fully stocked with bike commuters, is making a strong showing this year, virtually owning all of the jerseys. However, I should note, Phil, that they're all way too old to get the white jersey. Rumour has it they choose their members based on how many days worth of groceries they can carry up a hill and a required preference of beer over gatorade. It is a formula that is clearly working for them during this historic Tour de France.

I don't follow bicycle racing, but I do like to watch the Tour de France when I get the chance. I didn't really care who won, until now. Today I saw the interview with the current Yellow Jersey holder, Floyd Landis. Watch the video of his interview after he took the lead, and you'll see a top competitor who still has control of his ego. There's someone I can cheer for.

I think I'll see if there's a café or bar somewhere I can watch a few hours of the race on Sunday.

Darren J 7/14/2006 09:00:00 AM | 5 comments |

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Solving problems

In Copenhagen, the government is actively involved in creating programs and infrastructure to help more people use bicycles. Say what you want about the advantages of cycling with other traffic, but this system has led to 36% of the population of Copenhagen commuting by bikes in 2004.

Back on this side of the ocean...

I can't tell which planet Ontario MPP Gilles Bisson lives on.

"If we had true competition, there would be no need for regulation," he said, claiming major oil companies are putting independent retailers out of business, leading to a less competitive market.

What? High gas prices are the fault of independent retailers? Doesn't he read any news?

So next time there is a period where gasoline supply is tight, where will oil companies choose to sell their product: in a country where the price is restricted at yesterday's low price, or where the price just doubled? If this goes through, this will hurt our economy in a big way, since we'll have no gas instead of expensive gas. I am looking forward to having many more friends on bikes.

On top of that, he claims to be fighting price fluctuations. I think many of us remember when, not that long ago, gas would fluctuate between 50 and 70 cents per litre. That's a 40% increase in price. Now it goes from about 90 cents to 109 cents, about 20%. So let's be honest: people are just pissed off that gas costs what it does.

Regulation won't make a difference. When it's Christmastime and everyone is lined up to buy the new Playstation for $400, do you think you're going to convince the store to sell it to you for $380?

Do something real about it, instead of all this whining.

Darren J 7/11/2006 11:24:00 PM | 0 comments |

Chief Banker Gossip Rag

Chief bankers around the world seem to be nearly as popular as Brangelina right now. When I say "nearly", I mean tiny tiny fraction, which is much bigger than it used to be.

In the US, Bernanke is talking about continuing raising interest rates to fight inflation. He was going to level them off, but he has now seen evidence that energy prices are being passed on to the consumer. So a bag of apples from South Africa costs a little more than it used to. Back in April, he said this could have dire consequences.

In Canada, David Dodge is hoping the dire consequences down there are significant enough that it lowers our inflation without having to raise our interest rates again. We're so nice.

In Japan, interest rates might finally go above zero. Yes, zero.

And just in case any of those bankers are worried about their retirements, Greenspan is proving that a speaker circuit does exist for their kind of fiery rhetoric. In a recent speech in Colorado, he spoke about his concerns on energy supply and how it's dwindling, and said openly that he supported the war in Iraq to secure oil for the US. Now I know that the Federal Reserve Chairman is supposed to be somewhat isolated from day to day politics, but if anyone would get to talk to Greenspan, you'd think it might be the President. (Remember just after GWB got elected the first time, Greenspan made a speech supporting the Republican income tax cut? That was the same income tax cut he denounced as being bad for the economy just months earlier.)

This isn't the first time oil has played the key role in historical events. Check out this Robert Newman video for a history lesson all of us can follow.

Darren J 7/11/2006 10:57:00 PM | 0 comments |

Monday, July 10, 2006

Celebrate good times, come on!

The best cheer I heard yesterday was from a guy who I assume was not Italian, running down St. Clair waving the Green, White and Red, yelling "I have a flag! Yes! Whoo hoo! I'm waving a flag!" It's fun to yell and scream on the street once in a while. Us cyclists get to do it as much or as little as we like, and I can't blame anyone else for wanting to get in on it.

We had a fun time watching the game on St. Clair West at a Columbian restaurant packed with Italian fans. Spanish was the language at the bar and on the television. Cheering was in English or Italian. French was for whispering. During the opening performance from Shakira, the crowd, obviously out of respect for this child of Columbia, paid close attention to the television set. It was reported to me that one Columbian man had to leave the room because of the home sickness he felt watching Shakira.

I have now seen the most practical use of a Hummer ever: a dance platform. Ideal suspension for sharing the rhythm with your friends, flat roof, convenient handles for helping to hoist more dancers onto the platform. (It's in the photo. You just can't see it.) I have no idea how they got the thing onto the closed street. And there was no chance of it leaving the street for a long long time.



I took a bunch of photos, but you might as well look at those from an expert.

The bike ride in the rain this morning was enjoyable. I rode past an older couple out for a brisk morning walk without umbrellas. It's just warm enough that the water is refreshing. I change my clothes when I get to work, so I don't mind a wet shirt.

While waiting at a red light, I was thinking about the times when I was a kid, swimming in a lake when all of a sudden it starts to rain. Everyone sitting on the dock in their clothes runs away, but everyone in the water just keeps on swimming, jumping off the dock and having a good time. Inevitably, someone who ran away is convinced to change into a bathing suit and join the fun in the water.

Darren J 7/10/2006 08:12:00 AM | 0 comments |

Saturday, July 08, 2006

On the road


6:15 AM, July 1 near the town of Keene, Ontario.

Darren J 7/08/2006 04:01:00 PM | 2 comments |

Friday, July 07, 2006

My prejudices

While cycling through the middle of eastern Ontario, I thought of a law to promote cycling safety that Ontario could lead the way with, setting the example for other jurisdictions throughout North America.

If an owner of a motor vehicle is compelled to place a "number 3" logo on the rear window of this motor vehicle, the owner must also place a large version of said logo on the front of the vehicle in a highly visible manner, such that cyclists on the road ahead can be warned that the owner of this vehicle is under the false impression he or she is a highly skilled driver with many hours of video training beyond G1 licensing requirements, and does not need to slow down or move to the left while passing cyclists. The same applies for large Chevy or Ford logos.

I try not to prejudge drivers based on the vehicle they're driving since it's far more useful to look at how they're driving, whether aggressively or absentmindedly, and prepare for it. At the same time, I definitely have a short list of vehicle types in my mind that set off flags and make me extra cautious when I see them approaching from behind. These are the vehicles that tend to pass too closely or make aggressive lane changes.

My pinko-commie, CBC-listening side tells me to give people the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they had a difficult childhood and choosing this vehicle gave them some much needed self confidence. But my Financial Post-reading, capitalist-pig side tells me to look out for number one, screw them and take the whole lane until you see evidence that they're responsible drivers.

(Note: Example of "number 3" logo in case the reader is not familiar.)

Darren J 7/07/2006 12:42:00 PM | 4 comments |

Thursday, July 06, 2006

British Bicycle Commute

A wonderful promotion of cycling appears in the Financial Times of London this past weekend.

You can have a look at it on Velorution.

I like how the writer points out the big improvement to her health and fitness over just 18 months. This could be the most influential motivator for the average Joe or average Jo considering cycling to work. For most people, I think they'll notice the difference in more like 2 or 3 months.

She talks about how pleasant it is starting your day this way. Adding 90 to 120 enjoyable minutes to my daily routine was also a big factor for me. I travel on my own schedule, not one decided by the crowd of cars in front of me.

Darren J 7/06/2006 11:21:00 AM | 0 comments |

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Canada Day in Ottawa

I was waffling a bit on whether on not I would do it. Last Thursday night I stopped my pussyfooting and started packing my bags and preparing my bike for the ride to Ottawa. I would start after work on Friday and arrive by the end of the daytime on Saturday. I wanted to have a good chunk of the long weekend left to enjoy there. I know that sounds all very inaccurate, but I had no strict deadlines.

For specifics: the total trip, as I had mapped it on Google Maps was 392 km (244 miles). I wanted to aim for 140 km on Friday night, leaving an attainable distance of 252 km on Saturday. By “attainable”, I mean based on an average speed of 20 km/h, I would arrive before dark. I really didn’t know if I could physically handle the distance, since I had never done a century ride, or a “metric century” for that matter. My attitude was that if I can ride my bike comfortably for an hour to work, and comfortably ride for 2 or 3 hours around the city, I should be able to handle it for 4 or 6 or 15 hours. (My attitude was adjusted slightly during the ride.)

Lots of the ride involved me hunched over handlebars spinning my feet, admiring the hills to my left and right and fearing the ones ahead. Every 20 to 40 km, I stopped in a General Store for water, gatorade and food. Instead of a linear play by play, I’ll take a Tarantino-like tact (sans-blood) and tell you some of the slightly more interesting parts and let you piece it together.

The big screw ups were on Friday night. Google maps and the gmap-pedometer are wonderful tools, but they have their limitations.

I picked a route using minor roads that quickly degraded from wide paved to narrow paved to dirt. On the bike, this wasn’t a problem at all, and I even liked most of the dirt roads better. On the dirt roads, washboards were rare, and fortunately cars were too. The problem came when I reached the end of a long road, where my route said to turn left, but the sign on my left said “Unimproved Road … only for farm equipment”. I could have turned around and pedaled 6 km out of my way, or use this 2 km road at my own risk.

I decided I would push my bike up the hill and check things out. I got to the top and was happy to be able to ride down the other side of the hill. As I reached the bottom of the hill, the road turned to sand. Not gravel, not dirt, sand. My 700x28c and 700x25c tires were as useless as dress shoes on a hockey player.

At this point I didn't have much choice except to push my loaded bike for the rest of the 2 km through the sand. Being the only big animal around, the swarming mosquitoes were an added bonus. After reaching the end of the sand, I was starting to seriously question my route selection.

Friday night featured some serious low points, but it wasn't all so bad. At one store, a friendly guy in a John Deere cap told me my machine would kill him if he tried it out right now. He had some sore legs from a day of work. When I told him about my ride, he gave me an emphatic "super-dooper". That all it takes to get me moving.

Here's a view looking back at a hill I went down (and climbed up). This was where I reached my top speed on the trip of 71.4 km/h.

As it started to get late, I missed a turn and ended up in the middle of the Ganaraska Forest. The dumb part here was that I didn't believe that I could have missed a turn, and I was sure I had to continue on to look for my turn, even when the road turned to sand, and a couple in an SUV pulled up behind me and recommended I turn back. "I'm fine. Thanks for asking. I have a map. Don't worry about the dark. I have a tent. No really, I'm fine." So I trudged on, walking through the sand for another kilometre before turning around.

I got back on track, and eventually found the town of Millwood, a town that was marked on my provincial map. Picking up a provincial map before the trip was the smartest thing I did.

Major roads were sparse in this area south of Peterborough, and I managed to get lost one more time. When I found a town on the map once again, I immediately looked for a spot for my tent.

Originally, I was hoping to reach a park in Hastings, on the Trent River, where I could set up a tent. I lost interest in this goal. I found a corn field that looked dry and set up on the edge of it.

The grass was soft, but not quite level. Nighttime in a cornfield can be surprisingly noisey. Bugs, frogs, racoons chatting with each other, and the odd car on the gravel road made it difficult to fall asleep. It probably didn't help that my heart was still pumping from getting off my bike 25 minutes earlier.

The Saturday ride had different challenges. I had only completed 115 km of my route on Friday, and I was off track, so I knew I had to do 300 km that day.

I woke up at 5 AM, as soon as the sky started to brighten. Riding a bike a 5:30 AM on empty country roads can't be beat. Rolling over the crest of a hill and down into the next valley, then parting the early morning mist with your front tire is a perfect way to start a day.

I cruised through many small towns that day. Ontario has a lot of small active towns that I don't know anything about. Many have surprisingly large and beautiful brick or stone churches. Unfortunately, I didn't take the time for many photos.

I did take a couple photos of myself though! Here's one of them. I'm the guy with the curved glasses (they make me go fast). The sign says I'm in Ottawa, but there's no sign of a town or city for another 30 or 40 km.

I did eventually complete and survive the ride, but there was one more major low point. This was when I arrived at about the 200 km point for Saturday. I can now conclude that 200 km is my maximum for a day of cycling, and I'd much rather do a bit less.

As Saturday went on, my breathing was getting more difficult, and it seemed to get better when I drank more water. I can guess that I was dehydrated, even though I was drinking a lot of fluid.

So at the Saturday 200 km mark, when I reached the town of Westport, I was exhausted. I bought a big bottle of water, drank a whole bunch and layed down on some soft cushy grass to check my maps. I woke up about 15 or 20 minutes later, hearing a teenager say to his friends "check out this guy!" I raised my head and asked them for directions to Perth.

I arrived in the city of Ottawa just as the dusk turned to dark. You'd think this only happens in movies, but just as I pedalled into the city people were starting to set off their fireworks in their front yards. Really, I was hoping for a marching band, but fireworks are good too.

Here are some numbers:

Total distance - 423 km
Total time (including camping) - 29 hours 5 minutes
Total time (without camping) - 22 hours 5 minutes (includes stops for food, drinks and rest)
Supposed number of calories burned (from bike computer) - 8250.4 cal (I'm still hungry)

Darren J 7/04/2006 12:30:00 AM | 26 comments |