Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Banana Gallery 2019

2019 has been a good year for bananas--in various stages of decomposition--found on the side of the road.

Riding a bicycle, you can't help but notice that there's tons of these on the shoulders, on bike paths, sometimes even in the middle of the road. How? Why? Could cyclists packing fruit in their back pockets really be responsible for all of these? Do car drivers toss them out the window? It's one of the great mysteries of the universe.

As a kind of random experiment, I decided that this year I would stop at every road banana and take a photo.

At first it was fun, and I found it easy to stick with my banana vow. But after a while, I got weary of interrupting the rhythm and flow again and again for yet another squashed, brown Chiquita. I began to realize that this banana endeavor was a bigger commitment than I anticipated. My cycling partners wondered why I kept stopping to take photos of the ground.

Since about mid-July, I've been more selective with my banana mission, stopping only if an abandoned banana had something extraordinary about it--some weird color, beautiful squash pattern, origami peel formation, or peculiar landing spot.

Here's a selection of favorite road bananas of 2019.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Central Alleyway Trail

I almost don’t want to tell you this. I’m going to share a secret, my gravel-loving friends.

I recently discovered what is quite possibly the coolest gravel road in the greater Edmonton area. And what’s crazy about it is how it’s been right under my nose all this time and I only recently found it. I’ve been riding gravel in these parts for 8 years, and I thought I had a pretty good sense of most of the roads within an hour’s drive of the city. But this one somehow slipped through the cracks.

As many of you know, Cooking Lake-Blackfoot Recreational Area east of Sherwood Park and just south of Elk Island Provincial Park is a terrific network of cross-country ski trails--home of the Canadian Birkebeiner Ski Race, in fact. In the summer, these trails--mostly rolly, grassy double-track--are used by low-key mountain bikers. I’ve ridden them a few times myself. 

But what I didn’t know until recently is that there’s a gravel road that runs a zig-zaggy east-west route right through the middle of the park, from the Waskehegan Staging Area to Range Road 192, with a couple of off-shoots, about 20 km all told. On the satellite map it looks like any other gravel township road, but on the park map it’s labelled as a ski route: Central Alleyway Trail or CAT (though in the route below the name changes a few times).