Elk Island Redux

21 09 2012

Three rides in three weeks down the same country roads, but even though the route was the same, the rides certainly weren’t.

Elk Island National Park is just east of Edmonton and is a fairly popular destination for touring cyclists, but I couldn’t remember the last time I was there, so I figured a beautiful Sunday would be a great day to check it out.

Rollin’ down the Parkway.

One of the biggest attractions at Elk Island are the herds of plains and wood bison that call this place home. Over the last century, the park has been crucial in the survival of both species, and many modern populations can trace their lineage back to the Elk Island herds.

Part of a herd of plains bison.

The presence of North America’s largest land animal creates a few extra challenges for cyclists. For example, 4 weeks after this ride, I still haven’t been able to get all the buffalo poop off le Mercier’s tires. And then there’s the threat of hitting one – this actually happened to an acquaintance of mine and ended in broken bones. The other surprise were the oversize texas gates everywhere.

Texas gates are usually used where a road crosses a fence to keep cattle inside the fence. These buffalo size gates are huge!

The first gate I encountered I just rode over, which shook me up literally and figuratively. Hoping I hadn’t aggravated my much abused wheels, I walked over the next gates. Luckily, most of them had some sort of bike gutter on them.

Taking a break in a shady grove.

There are many trails in Elk Island, but this is the only paved one. The unpaved ones just aren’t roadbike friendly.

Astonin Lake.

Cattails.

Lunch break by the lake.

Land of the silver birch, home of the beaver, where still the mighty moose wanders at will. Blue lake and rocky shore, I will return once more…

As the sun was getting low, I turned back towards the park gate to head for home. As I crested a hill with the sun in my eyes, I came within a foot of hitting a lone male bison on the shoulder of the road that had somehow disappeared into the long shadows. I’d always wondered how someone could crash into such a large animal, but now it made perfect sense. The bison seemed unperturbed and I crossed the road to observe him from a safe distance.

You’d think it would be impossible to miss an animal this size when it’s directly ahead of you.

The following week, the ravingbikefiend had a plan: a fast ride out to the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village, which is just east of Elk Island, with a caveat that only steel framed bikes would be welcomed. I was stoked to push Mercier to the limit with a faster rider to keep up to, but the day had a number of false starts. As we were about to hit the freeway out of town, I could feel my bottom bracket loosening up. That wouldn’t make it 100km, so we headed back to EBC for some emergency repairs. Satisfied it would hold up, we hit the road again. By the time we got to Sherwood Park the group was already quite spread out, and A-bomb decided she was going to turn back as the pace was greater than either of us expected. I caught back up to a waiting Keith and David, and with a brisk tailwind we made it to the village in ridiculous time – my new bike computer recorded a top speed of 58km/h, though I still couldn’t keep up with the boys.

Keith on his Cooper and David on his Miele, in a rare moment when I wasn’t lagging far behind them.

Meta blogging at the village: taking pictures of taking pictures of taking pictures of bikes.

Fancy lug on the Campagnolo’d out Cooper.

The tailwind on the way there stuck around to become a brutal headwind on the way back, and with my upright riding position, I was at a greater disadvantage than my companions. I basically only saw them when they stopped to wait for me, or when Keith got a flat.

Unscheduled stop for roadside repairs.

Radial tire wire is Keith’s nemesis.

One of the nice things about traveling with awesome bike mechanics is that when somebody else gets a flat, I can just sit back and enjoy the beauty of a skillfully performed fix.

Between the wind and the much faster than expected companions, I had my ass handed to me that day. I like to think of myself as a fast, efficient rider, but I’ve still got a long way to go before I can keep up with the best.

The following weekend was the annual Tour de Perogy. Here is how it went from my perspective: I slept in, missed meeting up with everyone, but decided to head out anyway and caught up with the group at the halfway point. Not long after that, I got a flat (first one in thousands of km of epic rides this year!), which  meant an unscheduled break for everyone else, and lower tire pressure for me the rest of the day. At the Ukrainian Village, I gorged on wildberry sorbet after eating the tempeh in peanut sauce I’d brought for lunch.  On the way back, I offered to lead the way as I knew it well, and pulled the peleton most of the way. About halfway home, it started to rain. Le Mercier really hates rain. My white cotton travel shirt was permanently reverse skunk striped with road splashings. Overall it was still a good ride, but I didn’t take any pictures.

Three weeks, three metric centuries plus. As the weather gets colder, the days get shorter, and I get busier (I’ve got an exciting new job!), it’s going to be harder to find time to go on more big rides. Here’s hoping I can squeeze a few more in before winter.





My Longest Rides

21 08 2012

This summer, I decided that I was going to try to see just how far I could go on my bike, with the goal of doing an American century (100 miles = 160km) and still be up for more the next day. So, whenever I’ve had a free day, I’ve tried to spend it on my bike. In fact, I’ve been spending so much time on my bike that I haven’t had time to write about it.

Before this year, my longest one day ride had been 140km on the Tour de Perogy. After doing several “shorter” long rides this year, mostly with friends, I decided I was ready to take the next step and attempt a ride that would rival my personal record, and get me some beach time – a round trip to Lake Miquelon.

Hittin’ the highway. You don’t realize how big those signs are in a car.

Pit stop in New Sarepta where all the fire hydrants are lovingly transformed into cartoon characters. Biking is the perfect way to appreciate this public art project.

I had a sunscreen fail on this ride. In addition to a blotchy burn, I got a burnt stripe between my bike shorts and the hem of my skirt. I only sunscreened to the bottom of my skirt, but of course it rode up as I rode, leaving me with bike short lines for the rest of the summer.

Miquelon has a big sandy beach and salty water that prevents some of the algal blooms we see in other lakes in the area. The water quality was pretty good early in the season, but having been there again since, I’d recommend waiting until next season for a visit. But on this day, a long float in the lake left me feeling like I hadn’t just rode 70km.

Found a shady table just off the beach to make some dinner.

Fuel: frying up veggie drumsticks.

More fuel: “accidentally vegan” cherry strudels.

On this first ride, I was particularly concerned with getting enough food and not bonking. On average, cycling burns at least 500 calories per hour. That means that for 8 hours of cycling you’d need to consume an extra 4000 calories over and above your regular food intake (which is 2000-2500 calories a day for most people). I loaded up on complex carbohydrates in the days leading up to the ride (those calories are easier to store), and took more sugary snacks with me on the ride (those calories hit your bloodstream quicker). At every stop, I shoved a granola bar or some other snack into my face. Even so, I have rarely felt as ravenous as I did the next day.

Getting ready for the return trip.

Racing the sun to the horizon. Man those signs are big.

The evening ended with a little side trip to see family, lots of leftover fake jerky, and 145km under my tires. The next day I had enough leftover to head out of town again to see my parents for dinner. They probably wondered if I’d been eating at all after scarfing down every vegan thing in sight then raiding the fridge for more.

My next big ride was to Sandy Lake, a place I vaguely remember going to as a young child with the all important nice beach. Learning from previous rides (including the peril filled Wabamun trip), I was sporting some stronger sunscreen, a white shirt & skirt to reflect the heat & UV of the incessant northern prairie sun, smaller panniers, and a handlebar bag care of the Raving Bike Fiend.

Whoa! I don’t remember the last time I was wearing so much white. I wasn’t much of a fan of wearing white before becoming a bike mechanic, but wrenching makes it impossible. It’s my new favorite colour for touring, though.

Stopping to explore an abandoned homestead along a back road.

Inside the little house on the prairie.

Pit stop at the Angus & Agnes memorial swing set.

An operational grain elevator in the wild! Elevators were the sign posts and landmarks of the prairie of my youth, but now they’re just memories.

There was a vague familiarity to the road that snaked down to the lake to a memory imprinted in a preschooler’s mind so many years ago, face eagerly pressed against a car window. Not everything was as I remembered though.

Sandy Beach on Sandy Lake. Yep, it’s sandy. It’s a lot of other things, too, like green.

Sandy Beach is a summer village that has seen better days. It seemed like every second cottage had a for sale sign, many of the rest looked run down and on a thirty degree day, the beach was completely abandoned. I cooked some lunch in a picnic shelter with the company of barn swallows and gophers before moving on, with the promise of a nicer beach on the other side of the lake.

Another county line.

A slightly nicer beach, but the water was so green that I decided not to chance entering it.

At least the road to Sunrise Beach was fun – freshly paved rolling twisty.

I decided I’d better start heading home, and stopped in Sandy Beach again for food, water and gatorade (of which I bought the last bottle).

It’s the Sandy Beach store, where you can get gas, groceries, smokes, booze, fireworks but not lottery tickets.

At the Burger Bar, the other business in this sleepy hamlet which was surprisingly busy for a Sunday night, I met some of locals, who were both colourful and refreshing. The cook noticed my bike and asked where I was heading, and was shocked when I told her I was going back to E-Ville and that I’d also ridden out that day.

“Why did you come out here?”

“It was about the right distance, plus I was kinda hoping for some swimming and beach time.”

Loud laughter erupted from everybody within earshot.

“Well actually, there are some kids who paddle out to the middle of the lake on boats and swim there, but everybody usually goes to Nakamun lake, it’s about 15 minutes away by car.”

Unfortunately, it was too late to be headed anywhere but home, and once again I raced there against the sunset.

Sun’s getting low and I’m still in the country.

Having not had my planned swim, I was still covered in greasy sunscreen. This was a problem because as the sun got lower in the sky, swarms of tiny black flies hovered above the land, and whenever I rode through these swarms, hundreds of the flies would get stuck to my greasy legs until it looked like I’d been playing in the mud (but it wasn’t mud, it was flies!!!!). I’m not doing too well with sunscreen. I ought to go back to using the powder that comes off of aspen trunks.

Sunset over St. Albert.

Gross but safe, I made it home in the twilight, but not before a stop at the leg grounds for an unsuccessful attempt to remove the greasy mess. Later, when I sat down with google maps, I was pleasantly surprised to find that at 147km, it was my longest ride to date.

The next step would be to ride the full century. I decided a return to Wabamun would be in order as it would be the right distance and I knew the beach there was lovely and swim-able.

Hello Wabamun beach! It’s good to see you again.

When I rode out there earlier this summer, I was going slower than I could because of a damaged bike and slower companions. This would be the day to really test myself, with no excuse to hold back.  I knew I’d have to ride farther than the provincial park to complete the century, so I headed to the town of Wabamun.

Welcome to Wabamun. Bike, meet boat.

Rode out onto the Wabamun pier.

My original plan was to ride up Lakeshore drive to coal point (where there’s a beach made out of coal) but I got a rather late start, and if I went that far, the prospect of riding on that narrow road in the dark was quite real. Also, with the railroad tracks & allowance between the road and the lake, and blandly reclaimed former coal mines on the other side, Lakeshore wasn’t nearly as scenic as the name suggests.

I rested at one of the many little beaches that dot the lake, Notice there’s still signs warning of the aftermath of the 2005 oil spill.

With darkness creeping up behind me, I rode the 80km home in an astonishing (for me) 3 and a half hours, including snack, drink, bathroom & smoke breaks. Riding the highway in the dark wasn’t as frightening as I thought it would be. I had lights & lots of reflective gear, the traffic was light, and cars gave me a wide berth. The white line on the highway became my guide, and the scariest moments were when that line disappeared at intersections leaving me in disorienting blackness. As I rolled back into E-Ville, I was still energetic, and may have inadvertently serenaded another cyclist who was riding right behind me on Stony Plain Road with a complete version of Short Native Grasses, ipod singalong style.

Because I turned  back earlier than I planned, when I got home I plotted my route carefully to find my total distance, intending to head back out if I came short of the century mark. The tally? 160.9km! I did it (barely)! I’m a centurion!

A couple days later I rode back out to Miquelon with friends. I didn’t take very many pictures that day, but I’d like to share this one. Because, for me, it isn’t all this riding that leaves me breathless.

Watching this left me more more breathless than the biggest hill in Beaumont.

In cycle touring, it’s about the journey, not the destination.





Trial by Bike Tour

2 08 2012

I’d been talking with A-bomb for months about going on a bike camping trip, so the “Lake Wabamun Bike Attack” was highly anticipated. After meeting at MEC and loading up on Clif Bars and chamois cream, four intrepid adventurers, dressed mainly in white, hit the highway in 30+ degree weather with the goal of frolicking on the shores of the second largest lake in Alberta.

Panda on the highway. Highway 16A was busy but had wide shoulders that were generally in good shape.

The first stop we had planned was the legendary vegan restaurant in Stony Plain. Twice before I have tried to eat there, and both times it didn’t work out, so I was sure third time would be the charm. The promise of healthy & varied vegan nosh kept us motivated as we rode through the outer suburbs, stomachs becoming increasingly demanding. When we got there, all was quiet. There was a small sign in the door that basically said they were out of business. Some internet snooping informed us that this had only happened in the last few weeks, and there were a steady stream of disappointed customers coming to the door who hadn’t heard the news either.

I left a note on the door expressing the extreme disappointment of riding for more than two hours to get there, but that was only half of it, because now I was in the situation I really wanted to avoid, finding a nourishing vegan meal in a small town restaurant. The place we ended up eating (ironically) used to be a garage/service station, and I had (wait for it) onion rings and fries, aka the small town vegan special. I hit a grocery store before we hit the road again to try to round out my fuel.

Instead of following Highway 16A all the way to the Yellowhead, we turned down Parkland drive, which proved to be one of the loveliest country roads I’ve ever cycled. No cars, gently rolling hills, lots of trees & scenery, this is what bike touring is all about.

Parkland Drive: highly recommended.

Too bad that lovely road had a few surprises in store for me. After a rest stop at a country school, I was fiddling with my panniers because I was having some heel strike issues. We were not far on our way when a large dip in the road caused one pannier to bounce into the spokes of my back wheel, taking out three of them. This is the part where I turn into a cartoon with a cloud of expletive punctuation above my head. After letting off steam, I started unthreading the spokes from the wheel and figuring out what to do next. Disengaging the back brakes was enough to prevent most rubbing on the now warped rim, and my front brakes were good. Perhaps I could move a spoke from another part of the wheel to help balance it a bit more when we got to camp. Because I was traveling with a couple of first time bicycle tourists, I brought way more tools than I thought I’d possibly need, including spoke wrenches, so it was doable (thankfully, they were non-drive side spokes – I wasn’t so overly prepared to have a Regina freewheel remover). I also remembered the time my ex-companion rolled into Vancouver with 8 broken spokes, having travelled with more weight and farther than I was from home. As long as my wheels kept rolling, so did I, and I let my fellow travelers know that I’d be taking it easier (they were probably happy to hear that) but I was still good to go.

I formulated a plan for when we made camp. I had taken great care to pack some vegan marshmallows, and that night we’d roast them on the broken spokes.

Not long after that, I noticed some wasps flying behind A-bomb, like they were following her. A couple minutes later, a massive shocking pain sent me into screaming fits. A wasp had flown up my skirt and stung me. Having had an allergic reaction before, I was extremely worried about what could happen. Luckily, I’d packed some antihistamines and ibuprofen, which I took before the swelling started. It wasn’t long before I was riding again, wearing my brave face.

When we got to Wabamun, I couldn’t jump into the lake fast enough, but we decided to set up camp first. The check in lady was confused. What was our vehicle’s license plate number? “Umm, we’re on bikes.” Well, what were the bikes’ license plate numbers? “Bikes, you know, bicycles, we don’t have one.” the plate number on our permit ended up reading ABC 123.

When we got to our reserved spot, there were three pickup trucks parked in it. Like, seriously? The owners of said trucks in the neighboring site were rather incredulous that a group of cyclists wanted to displace them, luckily a park ranger just happened to drive by at that exact moment, and the pickups scattered like roaches in the light.

We settled in, unloaded the bikes and had a snack, then finally started to make our way down to the beach. Going down the first hill, I heard a crash and the sound of metal skidding over asphalt from behind me, then saw Neal’s saddle sliding down the hill in front of me. The bolt that holds the saddle to the seat post had sheared in two. Unlike my wheel, this was something that couldn’t be limped, and I started to really worry about how Neal was going to ride. Brendan suggested we try to find the park maintenance folks as they might have a bolt that would work. At the camp office, they told us we could try to track down the maintenance crew tomorrow, and also that there was a hardware store in town. With two possible solutions to be investigated the next day, it was time to get down to beach!

Swim bliss. At this moment, I didn’t care if I had to walk home.

A blue damselfly chows down on an unlucky fly, on my towel.

A view from inside the bay. I don’t get enough excuses to post underwater photos on this blog.

By the time we got to the beach, the sun was orange and low in the sky, and most people were going home. It was still super hot, though, and lake was the perfect remedy.

That night, I roasted those vegan marshmallows on the campfire with spokes like I promised  myself I would and unweighted the day’s stressors. The company around the fire was lovely, and despite all the difficulties, I was feeling pretty good about where I was.

One of the reasons I love hammock camping: this is the view you get to wake up to in the morning.

The next morning, I decided to leave my wheel as is because it had full tire pressure and would probably lose less momentum with the brake rub and wobble than if I disassembled the wheel and rearranged the spokes then was only able to get up to 50 or 60psi with my frame pump. And there’d be no guarantee the wheel would be true enough that i could reengage the brakes.

Meanwhile, A-bomb and Brendan biked into town to try to find a replacement bolt for Neal’s seat. I was reticent about not going, but it was a good thing I didn’t as the path to town included some steep rough single track -no place for crippled Mercier. At the hardware tore, they had almost given up and were working on plan B until another employee said “oh, I bet that’s a metric bolt. They’re on the other side of the store.” In the entire Home Hardware, they found a single bolt that fit.

Back at camp, Neal installs the new bolt. This was also the time we found out that the previous owner of his bike had sawed off the seat post and the minimum insertion point was now a centimeter from the bottom of it. Neal’s a pretty tall guy, so this was very bad news.

We packed up camp and prepared for a slow ride home, between my fucked wheel and Neal’s too low saddle. It was also at about this time that Brenden discovered his keys were missing. WTF?

As the temperature once again reached more than 30 degrees, we stopped at the now overcrowded beach again before getting back on the road.

Heading home on beautiful Parkland Drive. I think A-bomb will reconsider her choice to ride in jeans the next time she goes 80km. Other than that, she did well on the single speed.

We retraced our route in the afternoon heat, hoping to find Brendan’s keys. With every stop, our bike breeze also stopped, and the heat was starting to take a toll on us so we had a longish break in the shadow of an overpass. By the time we crossed city limits, it was late enough that the heat was finally starting to break. We weren’t home free, though, and were reminded of this by the cherry on top of our day – Brendan got a flat.

This is possibly the longest post I’ve ever done (sorry about that), and it does seem to read like a series of unlikely misadventures crammed into a 36 hour period. The thing is, I don’t remember it as a near disaster, but as a fun adventure that challenged everyone involved, and feel accomplished for having got through it. We don’t remind ourselves how much we are capable of enough. Trial by bike tour proves you’re a lot less limited than you thought. (And that when life gives you broken spokes, roast vegan marshmallows on them!)





Midnight Ride to Bike Town

19 07 2012

To put this story into perspective, we’ll start with a simple vegan chocolate cupcake.

About to enjoy a vegan cupcake with Marjory.

There’s another story I’m not going to bother with here that ends with me becoming so sensitive to caffeine that even the modest amount in a chocolate cupcake (with non-chocolate icing) is enough to keep me up all night. But I really wanted a cupcake, and at Flirt only the chocolate cake is vegan, so I decided to hop down the rabbit hole. I tell you this story not only as an excuse to post food porn but also to help explain why I decided to do what I did next.

I’ve been researching neighbouring communities, looking for destinations for cycling day trips, and discovered that the nearby town of Devon had declared itself “Bike Town Alberta,” where, according to their website, “cycling is the new golf.” I was intrigued at the thought of this little oil town turning around and embracing the bike, but something wasn’t right. The website talks more about branding than it does about bicycles, and the whole thing reeks of not quite getting it.

Case in point – this promotional video. Warning: you will not get the next two minutes of your life back if you watch this video, but if you still choose to, make it fun by being on the lookout for models wearing helmets backwards, under inflated tires, and dudes riding bikes that look like they would’ve fit them when they were 12.

So, on a hot summer night with a bee under my saddle and a little too much energy, I decided I needed to check out Bike Town firsthand.

As I was gathering supplies at the grocery store, I got a call from Geneva.

“What are you doing tonight?”

“Riding to Devon.”

“Can I join you.”

“Sure.”

Truth be told, there was a little more discussion than that, but the plan was hatched before I made it to the checkout. We’d hop on our bikes and head south, knowing full well that we’d be highway riding with only the midnight twilight of midsummer in E-Ville.

The sun hung low as we made our way towards city limits. Our first challenge came as we crossed the Henday, where Geneva got a flat.

Geneva fixes a flat in the blink of an eye.

But we were undeterred. She fixed the flat and we were back on our way.

Sunset and Devon’s still a ways to go. Note that, of all my bikes, I took Marjory for this ride.

This is the part of the ride that it started getting tough. Off the paved side roads and onto the highway, I kept pushing forward with the hope that I would be rewarded with a photo next to a sign that said “Bike Town.”

Almost there!

With the promising light of civilization on the horizon, we got our photo op.

In retrospect, I should have framed the photo to say “DEVO.” That would’ve been way cooler.

As we began to explore the sleepy streets, we found lots of evidence of the town’s history related to the oil industry, but no evidence that it was “Bike Town.” The paved path that roughly followed the top of the valley was nothing special, and we weren’t about to explore the mountain bike paths this place is known for on road bikes, in the dark.

Our first stop was to refuel.

Even the convenience store was oil industry themed.

As we had a break took turns going in to refill our bottles and get snacks, a woman approached us.

“Were you the ones I saw out cycling on the highway just now?”

“Probably.”

“Why did you do that? It’s so unsafe. How will anyone see you? All the drivers out there are drunk.” She was genuinely concerned.

We just sort of shrugged. I wanted to say “well you saw us, right?’ but was polite and told her not to worry.

A couple of minutes later I went into the store, and as I was about to go to the cashier, a man stumbled in and screamed incoherently, and then stumbled around some more. Disconcerted, I quickly cashed out and went back to meet Geneva.

“I can’t believe how drunk that guy is.” She said. It was at that moment I noticed a minivan that hadn’t been there before.

“Wait a minute, did he drive here?”

We exchanged “oh shit”  looks and decided to get out of there before the drunk dude got out of the store.

A little bit shaken by the timing of that meeting, we roamed the town, trying to decide whether to head back immediately or wait until dawn. On a whim, I said let’s look in some dumpsters (small town dumpsters have a reputation). There were no snacks, but I did pull out a perfectly good orange reflective vest. I already had my reflective hoodie on so I asked Geneva if she wanted it.

So that is how we ended up riding til the crack of dawn when we returned home, with Geneva wearing a vest we’d just pulled out of a dumpster. The roads were mostly quiet and we didn’t have any scary moments. The only regret I have is that I didn’t bring a lock, so that we could have checked out the only lively place this late at night – the hotel/bar where there was some country karaoke going down.

As for “Bike Town,” I wasn’t expecting much but was still underwhelmed. I’ll go back in the day sometime to check out the river valley and to see if there’s bicycle friendly camping. It seems their idea of cycling is recreation, not transportation, and the goal they’re working towards is to get more people to drive their bikes in from the city. It’s really too bad, because there is such a dearth of facilities for transportation cyclists and cycle tourists around E-Ville, and it’s close enough to be a relatively easy day trip. I hear they’re trying to trademark “Bike Town,” so I hope they get a clue about people who actually lead a cycling lifestyle before they monopolize that moniker.





Suddenly Springtime

15 05 2012

Here in the Great White North, the longer the winter wait, the sweeter the spring.

Springtime at sunset.

I hope y’all are getting out to enjoy the roadbike weather (even if it takes you somewhere not quite roadbike appropriate).





Oh Alberta…

3 05 2012

Alberta: Canada’s Texas; land of cowboys, oil, rednecks, truck balls, and an ultra conservative political climate. It’s not exactly a friendly place to be in if you’re a bike riding environmentally conscious radical activisty type, but still, here I am.

There’s no recession in Alberta. However, in the name of mining the tar sands, more earth has been moved than any other project in human history. To mark this, and to divert attention from the communities protesting the poisoning of their land from mining & pipelines, the city celebrates by displaying oil patch equipment in Churchill Square. I was going to take a picture with my bike in the bucket of the giant bulldozer, but there was a homeless looking dude pissing on it, and I did not want to interrupt his solitary act of protest. Now that I think about it, there was liquid inside this tire… ew.

I often think of this place as the belly of the beast. Many people escape, enriching other places with their energy and creative spark, turning other communities into friendly shores. I sometimes wonder how different it would be if all those collective efforts had been focused here, because if change can happen here, it can happen anywhere. As I read that last sentence, I shake my head and think of the recent election, and how the conservative party that has been governing this province for the last 41 years (fortyfuckingone!) promoted itself as the choice for change in the face of the even more right-wing-looney Wild Rose Party?!? This is a place that chews up and mockingly spits out people working for anything but their most selfish interests.

Click on picture to zoom in on all the juicy details. This election even got the graffiti writers riled up.

Still, there’s something about living in a hostile environment that galvanizes those working towards a more progressive community. I suspect it’s a big part of the reason that E-Ville is home to one of the oldest community bike shops in North America (now with 2 locations), why everybody knows your name when you visit Earth’s General Store, and just ask an Edmontonian about our dump.

The point of all this? Only that this place is more complex and nuanced than the superficial stereotypes, and as a reminder that there is still hope and resistance in the belly of the beast.





Finding Your Own Private Shangri-La

28 09 2011

It’s out there, located in a hole on the map where it looks like there’s nothing there. But there has to be something there, and that piques my curiosity. So after some research on the geology, history, and inhabitants of said hole on the map, a long, but not too long exploratory ride is in order to check it out.

Taking the risk to go somewhere off the map pays off with waking up in paradise.

Map 'n' Nap.

I love maps, but sometimes the best things aren’t on them. Often, my favorite  places are my faves because no one else can find them or easily get to them and stink them up. And being a cyclist in a place designed for cars is like riding a tool that detects cracks in the matrix. Combined with a healthy sense of geekery, anything’s possible, including a private white sand beach with clean, deep water, biking distance from a land locked city.

A perfect day for fording rivers on touring bikes, though I didn't make it across and had to push. Gravel bottomed streams are really hard to ride through on narrow, high pressure tires.

After a couple of fords and thinking we’d seen all there was to see, we were getting ready to head back home when my knowledge of water erosion and deposition patterns and insatiable curiosity intersected, and I found Tremendous Beach.

Soft sand, clean water, no douchebags. This place is a miracle.

Warm, natural, perfect white sand.

All plans for the rest of the day were now off, and we swam and relaxed and frolicked on the beach on an absolutely perfect day. But this was more than just a day at the beach. We were in a state of disbelief and shock. How could this place possibly be here and no one know about it? Would it only be a matter of time before it was flooded racist good old boys in pickups with truck balls, leaving trails of beer cans and fast food garbage in their wake?

Good bike - got me to the wild beach, though the beach isn't the best for my bike.

So I’m not going to tell you where to go, but to just go. Ride, explore, discover, learn, take the path less traveled, push yourself and your bike to the limit and leave no trace. There is no better excuse to ride than to see what’s there, and no better reward than finding a hidden jewel.

Summer may be over, but here's wishing you more perfect riding days.

 

 








Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 50 other followers