Six Pack Ride

31 08 2011

Here are the rules:

Cyclists gather on a Friday evening, each carrying a six pack of refreshing beverages. Everybody gets two slips of paper, and on each they write a location in the city. All the pieces of paper are collected in a hat, and one is drawn. Everybody then rides to that location, consumes a tasty beverage, and then another location is randomly selected to have the next drink. Repeat until everyone’s finished their six pack.

Riding into the night.

First stop: "Ewok Forest" (I've heard of two spots called Ewok Forest in E-town, this isn't either of them). Also, huge thanks to Alex and Oliver for portaging Marjory through that crazy Mill Creek trail.

Taking it downtown.

My beverage of choice (mock me if you may, but a gingered up me is much more fun than a puking drunk me).

Taking in the view after riding 10 stories up. Things are getting blurry.

See those two blurs between the black arrows? Gravity assisted cyclists rollin' down the other side of the double helix.

River Valley Sorbet

24 08 2011

When I first heard of plans to develop a cafe in the river valley, I was skeptical. A river valley excursion can leave the hustle, traffic and noise of the city behind, and turning parts of it into a commercial space could threaten the essence of what makes it so special. I must admit though, the prospect of having somewhere to stop for refreshments during a cross-town river valley jaunt is pretty appealing.

So I checked it out when it opened last month. They offer bike rentals, Segway tours (not looking forward to meeting that tour group on the trails), and gelato, with the promise of more cafe acion once they get their commercial sink installed. On such a hot day, ice cream sounded like it would hit the spot, but there was a catch.

“Do you have any non-dairy selections?” I asked the young feller behind the counter.

He was stumped, “We have some sorbets, but I don’t have the ingredient list.”

Not willing to risk a case of milk gut, I left disappointed.

A few weeks later, on a particularly warm E-ville day (which is probably not that warm compared to places many folks who read this blog are from, but I digress), I decided to try again as I was passing through the river valley.

The guy behind the counter remembered me. “I asked our supplier, and he said 3 kinds of sorbet don’t have milk in them.”

Mango sorbet on the waterfront, FTW!

After doing a little celebratory dance, I was suddenly overwhelmed by the selection of containers of individually portioned icy treats (vegans aren’t used to having much choice when eating out). I wanted one of each, but I chose one, threw it in my pannier and rolled down to the river’s edge.

River breeze and a cold snack, a perfect interlude on a hot ride.

It’s so lovely to have a refresh & refuel spot on my river valley commuting route. I wonder though, where will this go? The idea is to encourage more people to use the river valley (there probably aren’t enough currently using it to support much of a business), but will they be pedestrians and cyclists? Or will this be just another destination in the city to drive to and park as close as possible? I’m afraid that for most planners and residents, getting more people into the river valley means getting their cars down there too.

Riding Through the Pain

10 08 2011

It’s weeks like these that remind me of the freakishly good luck my existence relies upon. Which isn’t to say it’s been a good time, because I’ve been quite miserable. What was supposed to be a routine visit to the dentist turned into a big freakin’ deal, and I was left with a bloody gaping hole in my mouth, recovering from unexpected surgery. For most of the next week I was in a lot of pain, could barely speak, could only eat food in tepid mush form and could not do any heavy lifting or straining (not good for sufficiently tightening axle nuts).

“Bhhrut cahhhn ah rhhide mah bhhike?” I asked the dentist, mouth stuffed full of bloody gauze (I had also, of course, ridden to the appointment).

“Yeah, that should be okay, just don’t fall off of it.”

In too much pain to enjoy such a beautiful day.

I slowly rode home, and decided that I should go into work as soon as the wound stopped bleeding, as a lot of other people’s work depends on mine and there’s no one else who can completely cover me. Not to mention that if I was going to be in pain, sitting in front of a computer anyway, I might as well be getting paid for it as I now had a hefty dental bill to deal with. So I got out Porta-Bike, small so I could easily take it on the train, and with a gear ratio so low I couldn’t over-do it.

The train turned out to be a bad idea. After waiting close to half an hour and watching four trains go by the other way, hundreds of people tried jamming onto already overcrowded cars. The driver made an announcement, asking people with bikes and strollers to wait for the next train, but that train was equally crowded. With people pushing and shoving all the way, as I finally got off the train I could taste fresh blood in my mouth from the dislodged clot. At this point, I was regretting not staying at home.

After a few hours of putting out fires at work, I headed out for a slow, gentle ride home, avoiding the train this time. Thanks to the painkillers, I was more than a little bit out of it, and was compensating by being extra slow and cautious riding through the downtown streets, when I heard someone call my name. An old friend, whom I’d not talked with in many years, was on the sidewalk, waving. He looked a little worse for wear, and I immediately noticed his teeth were in horrendous shape. He spoke with pride of his now grown up son (who I remember as a child), and we caught up, with me doing my best to talk.

“I’m going in for dental surgery too, next week,” he said. “They’re pulling all my teeth, and giving me dentures. When I was younger, I didn’t have any money to get my teeth fixed, but if I could go back, I’d pay twice as much as it would’ve cost back then to keep them.”

I rode away from that conversation both feeling reassured, and with the knowledge that my problems could be a whole lot worse, hoping for the best for my friend.

I had only ridden another block when I was waved down again, this time by an acquaintance from the bike scene and we stopped for a chat. It’s funny how many people have dental horror stories. One thing I’ve learned from all this is that I’m lucky to have made it this far in my life before I had my own. Another thing I’ve learned is that a smiling face and a hug are more powerful than painkillers. I was so glad I rode my bike. It hurt to smile, but I couldn’t help it, and I surely wouldn’t have been smiling had I taken transit or stayed home.

The next day, I ventured out on the TransendEx, hoping that the heavy, solid, bike with suspension would cut down on vibration.

The TransendEx, taking a frequent rest stop (this time near a teepee).

Worried about my still apparent dopiness, I took a different route home than normal, staying on the side streets. Delightfully, it turned into a repeat of the day before, with random friend encounters (they call it Friendmonton for a reason) adding happiness to what had been another miserable day. Not so delightful, I hit a giant pothole while distracted by an eccentric house, and was thrown off my pedals and saddle. I managed to get back in control of the bike without crashing (though I have some doozy bruises on my inner thigh to shown for it), and continue my pootle home.

As I crossed the bridge, I heard someone saying “ring-ring, ring-ring” as they approached behind me. It turned out to be another friend, who also happens to be a Can-Bike instructor. She was concerned that I was weaving and lilting to one side, so she escorted me the rest of the way home, kind of scared me by speculating that perhaps the surgery had affected my balance, but still left me smiling and happy to be part of a great community. (It turned out that the pothole impact had loosened up the saddle and I didn’t notice it, and my balance is fine – whew!)

This post is actually several weeks old. Before I finished it, another event really made my whining about pain look trite in the bigger picture, so I hesitated on publishing it. I am doing much better now, and have almost fully recovered after a tough couple of weeks, and am no longer choosing my ride based on what will rattle my head the least.

Sending love back to Friendmonton! ❤

Critical Lass – Northside!

5 08 2011

This is the blog post where I nearly fail at Critical Lass. The weather was hot and sunny after days of rain, the rides are now regularly scheduled on the fourth Sunday of the month, and this month our starting point was the Taste of Edmonton Festival, where dozens of local eateries offer up samplings of their fare outside, in Churchill Square.

Feeling late, I was really booking it on Poplar as I crossed The Bridge, so much so that I nearly blew right by Deb and Angel from Loop Frame Love. They were taking it pretty easy, and another lass caught up with us as we headed towards the square. I still wanted to stop at the bank as well as pick up a cold beverage before the ride, so I left the group so I could bike fast, “ride” the errands, and meet up in time to rendezvous with everyone.

Except it didn’t happen. I arrived to a Churchill Square filled with thousands of people, but I couldn’t find the Critical Lasses.

Look! I'm not that hard to miss! I'm tall and wearing a sparkly hat!

I pushed my bike through that crowd for more than an hour, munching on some Padmanadi and taking a break to splash in the City Hall fountain along the way. Even in such a large crowd, how difficult could it be to find a bunch of well-dressed ladies with vintage bikes and foldies? Were they enjoying a Taste of Edmonton? Had they already left? Did the volunteer anti-bike gestapo get them? (I once was tackled, that’s right – tackled, for riding my bike through an empty festival site on a rainy day, and on this day was told several times by festival volunteers that I couldn’t ride my bike anywhere near the square, even though I wasn’t riding it.)

Growing tired of the suffocating sea of domesticated humans, I rode to a little place I know where there’s always room to breathe.

Blue skies self-portrait.

I knew which restaurant we were scheduled to eat dinner at, so I chilled in the park for a while before setting off to 118th Ave for one last attempt to join the ride.

Back on Poplar, in search of more lasses. BTW, I made that skirt the night before and hemmed it right before leaving the house for the ride.

I was overheated and wondering if I should have just taken a nice shady ride through Mill Creek Ravine instead when I spotted the bike pile in front of Habesha on 118th. Everyone had just ordered when I walked in, so I was able to eat with everyone else, and for a hungry vegan, Ethiopian food is good, good eating.

The Lasses! Hooray!

After dinner and good conversation, we got back on the bikes to head  downtown, stopping by the legislature grounds for a photo shoot and a little splashy splashy in the fountains.

Sweet bikes and good comapny in the shady rose garden.

The fountains at the leg (pronounced “ledge”) grounds are one of those rare singular things that vastly improves the livability of central E-Ville. So many days, on my way to or from ye olde sweatshop, I stop to dabble my feet in the cooling waters (FTR city hall is colder) and find momentary relief from the summer heat. The fountains, it is claimed, were never designed for wading and swimming, and were built with materials that don’t react well with chlorine (which they started adding to the water after finally giving up on constantly trying to chase people out of them). So now they are now scheduled to be replaced next year, so it was nice to get a little extra splashy time at the end of the ride. (And, um, I was too busy getting my splash on to take a picture).

View from a rose garden.

All in all, it was another lovely day out. For the whole story of the ride that day, check out Deb’s post on Loop Frame Love. See you at the next Critical Lass Ride!

An Interlude

3 08 2011

Summer is here. The riding is good. Much has been going on. And I haven’t updated my blog in a while. Sorry folks. I have a tonne of backlogged posts and untold adventures that I just need to get off my bike long enough to write, and I promise some updates on why life has been so crazy soon.

Duct Tape Street Art Test Pattern.

In the meantime, I’ll be doing my best to get unblocked.

Bicycle Bottleneck has also been blocked by construction. This was the only way through until this semi parked on the bike path, over the curb cut.

See you on the streets, friends! Summer’s clock is ticking!