Friday, October 18, 2013

Gravel Gloss: Hard Tack

Premium Alberta Hard Tack
Gravel grinders dream about this stuff: imagine a gravel or dirt road surface that is so beaten down by tires and wind that it takes on the look and feel of regular asphalt. In fact, premium, grade-A hard tack—polished to a kind of soft sheen—can be even smoother and faster than pavement.

Saturday, October 12, 2013


The road treasure cornucopia.
It’s that time of year: the elementary school’s pumpkin patch overfloweth. My neighbour’s apple tree is weighed down like a sherpa. Huge bundles of hay dot the brown fields outside the city. Farmers are frantically taking off crops and storing up the bounty of the season. The Saturday market stalls are bursting with fabulous butternuts, swelling turnips, and mighty rutabagas.

But if farmers are harvesting now, why can’t cyclists? In the past week of riding, I’ve noticed an incredible amount of road treasure—you know, the man-made prize objects that somehow end up on the shoulder of the roads (not garbage, not litter), the cool stuff that motorists don’t see but that cyclists do, even if they don’t always stop to examine it. Every cyclist’s got his or her road treasure favorites: the diamond ring, the teddy bear, the Ganesh figurine, the waterlogged Bible.

The treasure I’ve been noticing isn’t just the usual flotsam and jetsam of bungee cords and work gloves but weird stuff, and tons of it. It’s as if the very roads are trying to get in on Nature’s act, and, like the fields, are brimming with their own strange fruit.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Dusty Lens: October Sunday

October 6, west of Villeneuve, Alberta. The dumb-ass birds are heading the wrong way.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Pit Stops: Alexander Circle

In a prairie city, where the streets are laid out in orderly grid fashion, a circle (not a cul-de-sac dead-end circle but a true, free-flowing traffic-circle circle) is something of a novelty. In Edmonton, though, most traffic circles are busy and dangerous spots if you’re on a bicycle. Most cyclists try to avoid them.

One lovely exception, however, is Alexander Circle, in the west end of the city, at the intersection of 133 Street and 103 Avenue. This elegant roundabout in leafy Glenora, tucked away between two busy commuting routes (102 Avenue and Stony Plain Road), is a peaceful gem of a spot and a swell place to take a break when on a bike ride.