Sunday, November 24, 2013

Edmonton Ice-Up Rides

It happens quickly, sneaking up on even long-time Edmontonians. One day the river valley is brown and bare and the water is gently skiffing along. The next week, it’s all white fluff and chunks are beginning to form and bunch in the North Saskatchewan River. That week or two when the river ices up is a perfect time to grab the camera and go riding on the river valley trails. I went on three short ice-up rides over the past 10 days. Here’s what I discovered.

Friday, November 15, 2013

An Impromptu Shave

“One day, wishing to get rid of the several days’ growth of bristling beard on my face, I took out my shaving apparatus, hooked the leather strap to the brake handle, honed the razor, found an old can, brought some water from a brook near by, pinned the pocket mirror on a tree, and got as clean a shave as I ever had, washing my face with one corner of a handkerchief, and drying it with the other end.”
 --George B. Thayer Pedal and Path: Awheel and Afoot across the Continent (1887)

George B. Thayer was on the outskirts of Chicago, in the middle of the westward leg of his solo journey across America in 1886, when he succumbed to an overpowering impulse to get off his high-wheel bicycle and shave his face. I imagine there are, at this very moment around the world, many Movember-weary cyclists who can appreciate—and are perhaps jealous of--Thayer’s bold, some may even say rash, “IMPROMPTU SHAVE.”

Friday, November 8, 2013


“Yes! there is pleasure—genuine pleasure—in winter cycling.”
--R.J. Mercredy, “Winter Cycling.” The Fortnightly
          Review 50 (1891)

Anyone who’s ridden a bike in The Great White North knows that small thrill that comes with the first ride of spring. We pump up the tires, dust off the saddle, squirt a little grease on the chain, lift a leg over and off we go, kids all over again.  It’s elemental, this sensation that accompanies the first ride of the season—the shift from darkness to light, from grey to green awakens some deep life-affirming giddiness.

Strangely, though, I found myself experiencing some of that little thrill in my stomach last weekend, believe it or not, as the weather forecast promised the first serious snow and cold of winter. I spent the weekend getting ready for winter cycling—rustling up a winter machine for my 13-year-old son, Gil; switching over to studded tires (and studding up a new set); and digging out the neckwarmers, ski goggles, and longjohns—the thermal wardrobe of winter riders.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Tasting Notes: GU Energy Gel (DIY Chocolate & PB)

GU Energy Gel is the only energy gel maker I know of to produce a peanut-butter-flavored product. And all you have to do is try it to realize why no one else has bothered.

Now, I love ya, peanut butter, but you’re just not a good fit for a gel—at least not on your own. The problem with GU’s pb gel is simple: it’s too damn peanut buttery. After squirting an envelope of the stuff in your gob, you know precisely how that poor dog feels—the one whose owner thought it would be “hilarious” to see how Fido would like peanut butter. The goo adheres to the roof of one’s mouth and initiates a quicksand-like tongue-immobilizer reaction. One’s brain instantly calls for saliva but it’s too late—the pb has contracted the inside of the mouth, glomping up the salivary release points.