Friday, August 31, 2012

Dog Days

Got chased by a dog again the other day. I was enjoying a blissful summer morning ride, alone, along a gravel road in southern Manitoba, between the Mennonite towns of Winkler and Plum Coulee. Then, suddenly, out of nowhere, a huge, menacing white dog burst out of the yard of a farmhouse and was after me. Instinct kicked in—for both me and the pooch. I bolted, pedalling furiously, while unleashing a string of loud and profane threats.  But the Moby Dick of dogs was not deterred; it pursued me, and for a long time. Usually a dog gives up after about 10 seconds of chasing; however, this time the game seemed to go on for ever—at least 30 seconds. A narrow escape. My heart was thumping to beat the band. Thus did I learn that Mennonite dogs are not necessarily pacifists.  

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Dusty Lens Archive (Bicycle Tree)

Harry's bicycle tree is one of the first things visitors to Hornby Island, off the coast of Vancouver Island, encounter when they roll off the ferry. When I stopped to take a picture, Harry came bounding out of the house, and proceeded to tell me the story. About 5 years before he was looking for some place to stash his kids’ outgrown bicycles. Then one day, it occurred to him to hang the bikes on the dead tree in his front yard. Soon enough, Harry’s neighbours brought their old bikes to Harry’s tree too. One neighbour even tried to hang an old lawnmower in the tree, but Harry drew the line. “Make your own lawnmower tree,” he said. “This one’s for bikes.”

Friday, August 24, 2012

Bicycletiquette #6 (Bells)

Dear Mr. Gates,

Knock, knock. Who’s there? Isabelle. Isabelle who? Is a bell necessary on a bicycle?

Dear K.K.,

The use of a bell on a bicycle is only mandated by law in certain jurisdictions. However, in my view it is required by the unwritten codes of common civility regardless of where one lives. The main purpose of a bell is to signal pedestrians and other road and path users—from motorists to Segwayeurs to fellow cyclists—thereby avoiding collisions, confusion, and coronaries. A simple ringy-dingy takes little effort but can convey so much.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Rural Alberta Advantage

I recently returned from a family holiday at a cottage on lovely Moyie Lake in southeastern British Columbia. Of course, I brought a bike with me, my gravel grinder, thinking that I would explore some back roads while the kids were busy tubing, kneeboarding, and generally enjoying the pleasures of obnoxiously loud motor boating. The cycling turned out to be okay, but at the end of the week I was happy to head back home to good old central Alberta where, I have to say, the back road riding is markedly superior. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Requiem for a Road

So there we were, and so we have been many times before. But this time it was different. The road had been turned in to rubble. Serene cycling, pastoral, a gentle 3 kilometers or so: this road was a pleasure to ride. It was part of an oft cycled loop. It was the leg that was the turning point back into the city. It was on this road, I had my first spill of this season, that I left my skin and blood on its flat surface. It was on this road we saw deer and geese in the surrounding fields. Damn, I liked this road.
The bulldozers, the land movers, the survey teams, have moved in to expand the every expanding city: building on prime agricultural land; putting oily gravel over the pavement to accommodate the heavy vehicles. Soon, the sewer, power, gas systems will be in place and the builders will start pouring foundations, framing the behemoth houses for those who will soon demand the social infrastructure of schools, stores and professional offices—a familiar pattern of urban development. 
  No more, it is.

Soon houses will line the road; maybe the pavement will improve, as is the case with suburban expansion.   

Friday, August 10, 2012

Code of the Semi-Serious Cyclist: Part 6 (Bike Count)

The Semi-Serious Cyclist generally owns between two and four bicycles at any given time.

At the moment, I have four bikes: a fast bike (skinny tires), a touring bike (fatter tires for gravel and trips), a commuting beater (my old high school special that's unlikely to get stolen), and a mountain bike. The last one is the newest in my posse, a second-hander I picked up from Penn in exchange for a bottle of Scotch. I keep the last three stabled in my garage. The fast bike hangs in a corner of my basement in what I call The Bike Nook.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

New Feature

Val and Tando's tour down the Pacific Coast is going well, but updating a blog can be tricky from a tent.  For those who wish to follow along, a Twitter feed is up and running along the right-hand side of this page.  Hopefully you'll find something you like in the stream--feel free to use this post as a place to respond.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Importance of the New

Having new stuff is always nice, but sometimes it's pretty important.. Even though I've talked about trying to avoid the seductive calls of new gear before, there are times when I'm the one insisting on the necessity of dropping coin at the local bike shop. Clearance sales make up a big chunk of those times, but I get most insistent around the start of a new tour.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Tasting Notes: Honey Stinger Waffle

The website for Honey Stinger Waffles recommends, with a wink, that their waffles be hidden away from children. So tasty and addictive are these wafflettes, the website suggests, that kids won’t be able to keep their little hands off them. In my experience, though, it’s not just little gaffers who love the gaufre Stinger, as it’s known in some parts of this land. Young and old chew back this crack-cocaine of sports snacks at an alarming rate. For the Stinger seems to defy the cardinal rule, the Prime Directive of Energy Snackage—which is that if it’s good for you, it can’t be entirely yummy.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Dusty Lens Archive (Escargot)

It had been a wet night at the campground in the French Pyrenees. In the morning, these big-ass French snails were everywhere. Funny thing, though, that neither Penn nor I noticed this dude on the handlebar of Penn's rental bike--until we had been riding for about 30 minutes! I encouraged Penn to fry it up in garlic and butter but he passed. Still, I say, when in France . . .