Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The youngest cycling team

The future of cycling has never been brighter!

Today I had the pleasure of riding with my friend Nichole and her four children. Her youngest children are Joanna who has just turned six and Mary who is eight. Nichole had told me how she and her husband ride with her children every weekend and they regularly do 20km.

I rode with them this afternoon. Her oldest children rode at 22-25km/hr with great ease. They rode up hills on their small bikes with no effort at all. Nichole's daughter Mary was reluctant at first but then merrily chatted beside me as she rode comfortably at 17km/hr, her younger sister was not far behind.

The five of them completed 20km, through trails in Barrhaven and some roads without any effort, all of them confident and proud to ride. We stopped near a forest and I unloaded my treasure from my bike bags to give to them...gatorade and what I called my magic drinks. While they enjoyed the drinks, they quickly informed me that when we arrive at Food Basics we will get ice cream. Ice cream is a great motivator! While much ink has been spilled on what motivates us as individuals, be it power or status..I think that deep down inside all of us there still exists the inner child that will do almost anything for a reward of an ice cream cone!

When we rode on the bike paths that encircle Barhaven, I was surprised at how devoid of cyclists they were. We passed one cyclist on a hybrid bike who made a disparaging comment about our little troup within my earshot as she raced past. After she had cycled well past us, I raced up to her..just to make a point that our small racing team should not be discounted!

Rachel, Nichole's eldest told me that in fact they rarely see other bikers. I was saddened by this. A family that bikes together not only grows together and learns that fitness is fun, but it is a wonderful way to interact with children. As I rode with them, I learned that deer visit the farmlands, that ducks in a row can be very funny as they bob in the water, that grasshoppers are friendly but more importantly, I learned how much they love to ride their bikes with their parents. Biking is a cheap and wonderful way to be together as a family. It enabled the two older children, ages 12 and 10 to participate with their younger siblings. They just ride faster! I taught them that the faster cyclists have to wait for the slower ones which they did without hesitation, taking the time to have more of my magic juice from my water bottles.

In addition to the biking, I also found it charming to see children and their parents engaging in an unstructured activity. While they are enrolled in soccer, family biking can be done at anytime and anywhere and it tells children that fitness is for everyone, not just the children. Perhaps families should be given incentives to purchase bicycles for their family and then use the vast array of cycling paths in the city.

I tend to avoid cycling paths for myself as I ride too quickly. Today, I slowed down, I watched the grasshoppers, heard the tall corn waving in the breeze, saw the dappled sunlight in the forest path and learned from my young tutors about having fun.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Zen Bicycling...a solo trip from Ottawa to Vankleek Hill


For most of my life, I have ridden my bicycle alone. Usually it was a work or school commute but sometimes a trip to the Gatineau. On Saturday August 15th, I decided to do a long distance ride, and by that I mean over 100km alone.

I picked the hottest day of the year. I was fortunate to be riding in the country but that had its problems. The first challenge with riding alone is a map. I had a small scale map and quickly went over it. Due to the scale, there were details that I missed and I ended up on a different route and having to do some 30km out of my way.

I discovered a lot of new little roads and lovely farmland scenes eventually sitting down on an old bench in an Anglican churchyard in Vars. I had ridden over 40km without a break and on such a hot day, that the painted wooden sign that read "rest and pray" seemed like an invitation to stop! The churchyard had a well worn wooden bench that was shaded by a tree, it turned out to be a wonderful place to have a break. I called Cyril to inform of my progress. I was actually further from my destination, Vankleek Hill than when I started despite my efforts.

Undaunted by the heat and despite the fact that the map was difficult to read with my contact lenses, I persisted making several wrong turns, retracing my steps, finding myself on gravel roads and concluding after a few near accidents that the gravel was dangerous for my bike, until somewhere near Ste. Isodore, I decided I needed to rest. The farmlands have very few trees and corn does not provide sufficient shade. I stopped at a house and stopped my bike in the shade. The couple who lived there provided me with a glass of ice cold water. On a very hot day, ice water is almost a religious experience. He was an iron worker and made beautiful wrought iron doors and fences. He pointed out a much more direct route and my time of wandering in the farmlands was over.

The roads that I took, county roads and back roads were devoid of all traffic. There was only once that I met a mechanical device. It was a huge, green, monster of a farm machine with prongs. It was so wide it spanned both sides of the narrow roads forcing me into a wheat field to avoid being swallowed into it. I waved as they passed me by. Apart from that encounter, the roads were entirely mine.

I could hear the crops growing in the heat. At one point, I stopped at the edge of a farm beneath an enormous oak tree. The farmhouse had a variety of bird houses and the tree was covered with birds providing me with a chorus of singing as I stopped to have a long drink and eat a snack.

There is something very zen like about distance cycling. You are not bothered by keeping pace with others, or talking. That being said my average speed in the heat was 26km/hr. You are reliant on your own map reading abilities, and mine were lacking. You are also reliant on your own mechanical skills, and mercifully, mine were not tested on this little journey.

As I approached Vankleek Hill, my map indicated a turn. I could not find the turn off and concluded that I must be miles from my destination and well past the turn off. I had ridden fairly non stop for 4 and a half hours and concluded I had at least another hour to go, judging by how lost I felt I was. I stopped at the edge of an enormous farm and called my husband, who was waiting for me in Vankleek Hill. He picked me up as I waited beneath a large tree in the grass. He arrived a few minutes after my phone call and as it turned out, I was less than 2km from my destination, having misread the map.

After I got changed in Robin and Jim's farmhouse I spent the rest of the day at the Vankleek Hill fair watching Barbara show her neighbour's Aryshire calf, and learning about how the Judges judge the showing. She on first prize. I also indulged in a candy apple and listened to an excellent all female band called "dirty dishes". Their harmonies and energy were terrific as they belted out their music in cowboy boots and sleeveless dresses. It was the perfect compliment to my Beau's beer. The song was about "medicinal water" and the miraculous effects it had on many people, and Beau's beer is, after all, made from spring water!

There was a bird of prey show, sheep shearing, wagon pulling, cow shows and of course the rows and rows of prize winners. As the afternoon drew to a close, Cyril and I had dinner with Robin, Jim and Barbara then drove home. I had ridden some 130km.

Monday, August 10, 2009

RONA ride for MS..August 8th and 9th 2009

The Rona Ride for MS took place on August 8th and 9th. The ride was from Carleton University to Kemptville and back again with an overnight in Kemptville.

The Saturday Ride was close to 100km. Every 10km or so, there was a rest stop with wonderful watermelon, oranges, fruit and gatorade. You did not need a water bottle or even a map as the route was so well signed and the rest stops so numerous.

There were all kinds of bikes and all kinds of bikers. I saw a man and his daughter who rode with him on a 'bike buddy'. I also saw a tandem with a teddy bear and sissy handlebars...sometimes called monkey bars. There were rusty mountain bikes with wide padded seats and sleek and shiny road bikes with barely a seat at all. In total, t here were some 630 bikers. I am told they raised close to 370k. Many riders that I saw had raised well over $1000.00.

I was proud to have raised over 650! Our team, shown above all sported the KNBC jerseys for the first day. The bikers left in groups of 50. It was difficult to ride as a team and I prefered to ride ahead and away from some of the more unpredictable bikers on the first part of the trip.

After the first rest stop or two, the groups lagged out and I had the feeling I was riding alone, passing some beautiful little towns like Oxford Mills on the way. The lunch stop at the Rideau River Provincial Park was especially nice. There were BBQ sausages, a plethora of salads, drinks and jelly beans. Although I was well within the time limit, I decided due to an injury on my knee from last week, not to ride the extra loop. Our team captain, who rode with me, also did not wish to ride this loop and so the decision was easy.

The final destination was the Kemptville college. It is a beautiful, well treed campus with spacious lawns and one had a sense of peace. There was a corn roast, a beer tent and two splendid massage therapists. One called Ms. Tremblay was especially talented and a master at reflexology.

The MS society also had free ice cream and a silent auction and games including bicycle jousting. At a high speed, aiming a stick with a needle, I was able to burst 5 out of 7 balloons. My noble feat earned me a prize of a package of kleenex and mouthwash.

I had decided to camp, rather than stay in the dormitories. I set up my tent and after dinner and conversation went to bed in my airy and comfortable tent.

The next day was almost an anti climax. I was on my bike at 745 am, and despite stopping at all the rest stops along the way, arrived at Carleton at 1020. The trip back was only 60km or so. I wished it was longer.

The MS society had a photographer on hand and some goodie bags for the participants. My bag had shampoo and cold packs.

This event was clearly an event for all ages and all abilities. It had the air of a giant camp out or social picnic. There was plenty of time to relax, take pictures and simply enjoy oneself.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Kanata Nepean Bicycle Club Trip to New York


THE KNBC Bike Trip to Upper State New York 2009

On August 1st, a group of 13 cyclists from the KNBC bike club, led by Barrie Kirk left from Ogdensburg New York to complete some 250km. The bikers were Simone, Allan, Barbara, Deborah, Karine, Phil, Kerry, Sue, Barry, Mary, Christine, Rowena and Frances.

We cycled in glorious conditions on rolling hills to the town of Canton New York where we met with four members of the Canton Bicycle club. The CBC as they are known, agreed to show us some of the backroad routes in upper state New York.

Our lunch stop was at a charming little cafe in Potsdam New York. Potsdam's downtown section has old brick and stone buildings, large churches and most importantly a functioning bike shop. The bike mechanic, a taciturn fellow adjusted my gears after commenting about the 'crap'. After lunch I volunteered to 'sweep' to allow me to take more photographs.

We rode past verdant pastures and large red barns passing Amish farms and the occasional horse and buggy. The Amish were selling cookies and large baskets at the roadside along with fresh produce. At one point, we passed a horse and buggy where two small children were waiting. The boy was about 5 in a large straw hat, and his sister in a lovely white bonnet. According to Will, one of our hosts, the Amish are recent additions having purchased many marginally productive farms. The Amish have flourished as they sell fresh produce.

We stopped in Malone New York at a Super 8. There is something very satisfying about a trip that uses panniers as your entire universe is contained within them. I unpacked, had supper watched a little bit of Annie Hall and waited for Sunday.

On Sunday, the day began with an ominous dark cloud. Once we had embarked on our bicycles, it began to rain. We were riding towards Massena, having decided that a scenic route was not suitable in the rain. We rode mainly along HWY 37 on the wide shoulders.
The US drivers were very courteous despite some of our members riding abreast rather than single file.

Our first stop was at a volunteer fire station in Ft. Covington NY. They were preparing for a large chicken BBQ and we sheltered from the rain. There was not a square millimeter of me that was dry. I was also a little cold by this point.

We carried on in the rain to our lunch spot, a restaurant in Awkasasne that had been closed for some time and sheltered in the porch. I put on a sweater under my rainjacket and felt a lot better. When we left, the rain came in sheets. It poured with large droplets and sheets of rain pounding us, the wind against us. In this deluge of Biblical proportions, Mary got a flat tire and Barry fixed it. Barry distinguished himself in this tour as BICYCLE REPAIR MAN, for his deft handling of flats, blowouts and other mishaps.

Exhausted, we arrived at the Super 8 shortly after 1pm to be greeted by a rather surprised and surly desk clerk. She conceeded that although it was early, it had indeed rained and let us into our half prepared rooms.

Our dinner experience was a true marx brothers comedy. It seems that 13 people cannot agree where to go, and we trudged to two restaurants, to discover one was closed and the other unsuitable before crossing the road to a Chinese buffet. There are always Chinese food places. Chinese food has become ubiquitous!

The next day was again glorious and sunny and we met with our CBC counterparts. We decided to do a scenic route along the seaway and rode to the Eisenhower locks. They are a marvel of engineering and opened shortly after the seaway was build at great cost.

We then toured a small island that had a lovely little nature museum. It was in this museum that I discovered a blue parrot called Axel. Axel loved music and after I sang the Handel Largo, bounced and cooed for more.

Shortly after the island, there was a small hill and as I engaged my lowest gear, it slipped and I fell badly gouging my knee. Simone bandaged my knee but Barry Kirk was there ensuring it was all fine.

We rode on the seaway trail passing lovely homes and beautiful lakeside views until we stopped in a park for a sandwich lunch. My knee was attended to and I became aware of the depth of the cut. I decided I should go to the hospital. Our CBC hosts, agreed to accompany me for treatment and kindly found a small medical clinic which was only open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. I rejoined the group.

The remainder of the ride passed fields of hay, beautiful farms and very quiet country roads. Once more Barry's superhuman skills were required as Simone's rear inner tube exploded with a bang behind me.

In all, I estimate Barry repaired at least 5 flat tires, two of whom belonged to Allan!

We rode back to the Wallmart parking lot in Ogdensburgh against the wind and were there close to 5pm. I drove to the Kemptville hospital and had my knee attended to. I am not sure clips are a good idea for me!

In short, it was a good trip.

Karine's Blog

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