Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A true Christmas Miracle story in Elmvale Acres

Over the Christmas season I visited my local nail salon. I love this little place, it is a family business, they make excellent vietnamese tea and coffee and I always learn a lot about culture, politics during my treatments. This time I had a new beautician. My nail tech Anna (not her real name) who was doing my pedicure was chatty and pleasant, she had a pierced tongue, a young child and a dog and clearly enjoyed her work. We exchanged pleasantries about dogs and the weather. Anna was young with a one year college diploma and I did not expect much in the way of a deep or profound conversation.

This is a very unusual nail salon. I almost always have a deep and meaningful conversation but I was sure that this time would be an exception. My server was pleasant and wore clothing a little too tight and expressed some unsophisticated opinions. As I moved on to have my nails done, I was the only customer in the shop. Ling was doing a complex french manicure Anna told us an amazing story.

She had two other girls saved some 75k over a period of years and build and founded an orphanage in Vietnam. Ling who is Vietnamese had tears in his eyes and I was speechless. She was not wealthy, nor particularly well educated but was moved by the plight of abandoned babies.

She then revealed that she and her husband have similar plans for an orphanage in Africa. They gather donations, never really advertise and somehow the miracle happens. Her husband came in to have coffee with her. He was a very young, modern looking man but not wealthy. He was teaching ESL in a local school to adults.

What struck me was the modesty and yet the immense scale of what she had done all on her own. While many of us who are in more fortunate positions whine and complain about the state of the world, Anna and her friends all of whom are of modest means actually did change the world, one baby at a time.

"Why don't you tell the world" I said to Anna, excited by her mission and very excited. Anna told me that her mission employed a widow lady who otherwise would be destitute and she runs the orphanage. Anna does not want publicity, it is known to a few. She does not want it to be too big. Anna went on to say that she does not tell people what she does and few suspect it, but decided to share it with me.

I found myself thinking of the Christmas story. This was announced to a few shepherds, it was a very low key event, much like Anna's miracles. I left the little salon with pedicured feet and pretty snazzy nails but also with my heart warmed and my spirit tremendously humbled.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Das Rheingold

Yes I attended my first ring opera two weeks ago. I heard the metropolitan opera stage Das Rheingold. Robert Lepage designed a stage that was spectacular. Many of the singers were suspended and the stage itself allowed them to walk vertically at times. This was particularly good for the god of fire and trickster loge sung beautifully by tenor Richard Croft.

Wagners Ring series is like the Lord of the Rings, there are no cute arias but rather motifs. The opera begins with the Rhine maidens suspended and flapping their flippers singing about the gold when the gnome Alberich sung by Eric Owens appears. He steals the gold and makes a ring (sound familiar) that will give him great power.

Wotan, the chief of gods sung by Bryn Terfel has problems of his own, the giants Fasold and Fafner are demanding payment for constructing Valhalla. Wotan promises his daughter Freia to be wed to one of the giants as payment. Freia is horrified and her mother Fricka sung by Stephanie Blythe intervenes.

The entire opera is like reading a Tolkein novel, you enter into a world of gods, dragons, rings and promises and giants. The giant Fasolt sung by Franz-Josef Selig sings a very touching aria about the fact that Freia gave him light in his dark world.

There is a fantastic scene where Wotan and Loge enter the realm of Alberich, the land of the Nibelung far beneath the earth. You hear the clamour of hammers and anvils as they mine gold for the greedy Alberich who has enslaved them because of the ring.

This was my first taste of a Wagner opera and I loved it. Far from being entertained, or charmed (although I was thrilled by the staging) I was carried away to a land of mythology, with magic fruit that bestowed youth and vigor (I want one), the god of thunder, Donner (brother of Freia who swung his hammer and hit the stage causing lightening to explode in a thunder of music and brass!), Wotan, gnomes under the earth, giants and a magic ring.

I can't wait to hear the ride of the Valkeries in the next HD production. What a joy!

Don Pasquale ..comic genius

Where else can you hear world class singing, follow stage antics, chases and patter songs like you have never heard before except in Opera.

Don Pasquale is one of Gaetano Donizetti's comic operas. Anna Netrebko, usually a more tragic singer is hysterical in the role of Norina, the femme fatale who teaches the greedy Don Pasquale a lesson he will never forget.

Netrebko masterfully sang her part while dancing and laughing and plotting with her brother Dr. Makatesta sung by Mariuz Kwiecien. Netrebko was hysterical as the demure nun straight from the convent, with pink stockings!!

John Del Carlo sung the role of Don Pasquale. His facial expressions, trembling lips, heart palpitations and comic affect were magical. His patter song with the doctor was astonishing. I have never heard a bass sing with such clarity diction and coloratura~ (in the base clef)

The opera danced merrily along and was immensely entertaining. James Levine himself conducted the orchestra, arguably the best opera conductor in the world.

What a treat! Well done metropolitan opera.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Training for a purpose

Everyone knows that it is far more motivating to do something if it has a purpose. We look forward and we plan and we anticipate. I enjoyed the planning of many of my vacations.

For some reason, this lesson did not apply to me and my fitness. I bike and had a vague goal of getting faster or fitter but that is too watery and nothing really happens. This season, that has all changed.

I am working towards goals. My first goal is a week long race training camp in Cuba. There will be a lot of heat and a lot of hills so by February 27th I had better be ready. I am engaged in Cyclo Club which is a complete training program and believe me it is hard. The spin classes nearly kill me and the yoga left me crying for mercy. This is a good thing!

After Cuba, I will likely go to France in May for more biking to prepare for the Rideau Lakes tour in early June. Biking is like everything else, you need to have a focused and specific goal. France of course depends on whether or not I can secure some good working contracts to earn the euros to make it possible!

My goals are as follows: to lose a few more lbs and to increase my weight bearing strength and aerobic capacity. This is not achieved by treadmills but by specific neuromuscular routines that involve spinning in higher and higher gears at the same speed and giving your heart precious little time to recover. Tough but it works. At the end of my Cyclo Club workouts I am spent but feel I have accomplished something.

Having specific goals in mind has made cycling even more enjoyable for me as I now happily work on pedal techniques such as bullwhip and popcorn. I am also more aware of my upper body and go to the gym to increase my upper body strength and flexibility.

Years ago in a job interview (which I got) the interviewers were a little dismayed that all of my hobbies are physical and one handicapped interviewer asked what would I do if I were in a wheelchair. I gave a sensitive answer but the truth is,despite my intellectual interests, I would not be able to exist without the immense pleasure that my physical activities provide.

On to phase 1 of my training plans!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Bicycle as teacher


I have had a great 2010 cycling season. My bike has taught me many lessons of life. It is hard to believe that a machine can do this, but it does!

For many of my longer rides, there is a support van or a sag wagon. While these are advertised as wagons or vans to help you if you are tired, to me they are the vehicles of last resort, reserved for the infirm, the aged or the out of shape.

On the Bon Ton Roulet tour, I made the fatal mistake of stopping for lunch and having a few glasses of cool white chardonay wine made by the Blue Heron winery where I had stopped for lunch. The scenery was glorious, the wine cold and the lunch service very slow. I had a mere 30 miles to ride and a few hills and I scoffed it off enjoying the moment.

10 miles after, I started to slow down and came to a halt at the last rest stop. There was a hill and I had no more energy. My legs had become like stone trunks with no power whatsoever. Reluctantly I hailed a sag wagon.

The lady was a pleasant middle aged woman who was very kind. I was mortified. I made sure my bike was hidden by others and I slouched to make sure NO ONE I KNEW would see me. I kept shaking my head and apologizing. The other cyclist was thrilled with the ride and very chatty but I was simply devastated at my terrible performance on that day. I missed an opportunity because I was so focused on my lack of energy and shocked that this could happen.

Life is funny. I seriously considered going on but because of the wine, dehydration and plain fatigue I simply could not do it. There are times when my body says enough. I am learning to accept it.

In fact, I have learned a lot about my limitations this year with the bike as my teacher. I have learned, that I need to eat while I ride. No fuel=no power.
I have learned that I love to ride, but I also need time to enjoy what is around me. In the bon Ton tour, I stopped for a swim on several occasions. I have learned that it is not the destination that counts but the journey. The destination on our tours were always an anti climax, with the journey, the climbs and the scenery being more impressive. One of our days while cycling in Mennonite country, I had a yearning for Mennonite baking and lo and behold..there was a Mennonite horse and buggy and a stand selling fantastic baked goods!

I have learned that it is important not to overlook small things. One day on the tour before an enormous hill, there was a little girl advertising Kool aid. People were not stopping. I stopped and insisted that others stop too, threatening to jump in front of their bikes if they did not. The little girl was about 9 years old and had decided on her own to offer Kool aid to the bikers. She sat me down in her yard with a plastic table and chairs and poured me a glass of watery red kool aid. We chatted about school and sports and Canada and I thanked her and biked on. Sometimes we can get too focused on the unpleasant tasks (in this case the HILLS) and forget the joys and beauties around us.

I have learned that while going fast is a lot of fun, it is more rewarding to encourage others.

I have learned that my bike is not a horse and I don't need to carry an extra sweater, lunch options, a full tool kit, a full first aid kit, extra drinks a corkscrew and three extra inner tubes just in case! I am learning to be more of a minimalist on my rides and learn more about self sufficiency. The bike is an exercise in zen minimalism and the fundamentals of trust in yourself, in your fitness, in your abilities and in the way you interact with your world.

The bike is a great teacher because when you are riding, it is really just you and a splendid machine. There are no engines, no supports, just you and the road. You feel light and unburdened by things. You find yourself dwelling on what is present and your tensions, your worries seem to vanish like the road behind you. I love the quiet of my bike. I don't hear roars or hums just a steady whir of my feet on the pedals. I love the colours that I see, the grasses, the barns, the trees and the fact that I can go anywhere with my bike. My bike teaches me that limitations are in your imagination and that you really can think outside the box. A car is limited to the road, with a bike, you are limited by nothing but your own level of fitness.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Horror on the front page! Allo Police!

A few years ago, our Quebecois neighbours would go to the local depanneur and pick up a copy of Allo Police. Allo Police contained lurid and sensationalistic stories about crime, murder and mayhem. Everyone knew Allo Police as not a serious journal and it never pretended to inform, only to satisfy curiosity.

I subscribe to the Globe and Mail and wonder with the recent coverage of Russell Williams whether or not the former Allo Police writers were contacted!

As all of us are, I am dismayed and shocked at the revelations of the Russell Williams case. There is no redemption in this story and no shred of humanity to be found except the heart wrenching pleas of the terrified victims before Williams brutally murdered them.

What is the purpose of reporting these horrid details? Is it to frighten people? Is it to further traumatize the families? The reporting of this story does nothing to honour the victims. Instead it plays on their final words and horrible ordeal.
If the story does not honour or even respect the victims and their families and has no redeeming value whatsoever why report it?

Surely our national newspaper has not sunk to the sensationalism of the now defunct "Allo Police"

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Harper and the Chilean mine rescue

Like many around the world I was transfixed by the saga of the trapped miners. I cheered and cried when they emerged. I was moved when I learned of their fortitude, courage and tremendous spirit.

I was most impressed by the President of Chile's attitude and speech tonight. He did not merely fly in for a photo opportunity, he was there with his people. His speech was remarkable, he spoke of the rescue as a miracle and that God was using this to bring his people together. He was proud to show the world what Chile could do, but also he spoke at length of the miners and what they taught the country and what they taught him. They taught him about courage, and he promised that he would improve the conditions of labourers in the country. It was a remarkable speech.

At a time when in Canada we have tasted defeat because of our own small minded attitude towards the world, Chile and the attitude of their President was like a shining star. The miners have much to teach us.

I doubt if our Prime minister Harper could ever have the strength of character and courage shown by the President of Chile. I doubt if Harper could ever learn from what the miners have shown to the world.

No, if the mining disaster had happened in Canada, Harper would have blamed the Liberals. He would have annoyed so many other countries that the world would not have shared their expertise as they did with Chile. Had the miners survived the political squabbling, he would not have spoken with the families, nor sung the national anthem (Remember he wanted that changed?).

Let us hope and pray for the sake of our country, that we learn from Chile.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Thanksgiving and the rise and fall of home cooking

My childhood memories of thanksgiving were always about the turkey that my mother would smother in butter and roast slowly in the oven. It was always glorious and served with mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes. We even had cranberries. I never liked cranberries but I knew it was part of the dinner. In those days, sweet potatoes were only available around Thanksgiving. I looked forward to our Thanksgiving dinners and remember being driven almost mad by the tantalizing smell of the roasting bird when I lived at home.

In fact as a child, our food menu did not have the choice we have now. I can stroll into my supermarket and choose over 100 kinds of mustards. As a child there was French's mustard. I can have suishi, mexican, thai. When I was a child, tacos were considered a very exotic treat and not always available. In fact my culinary experiences were very limited!

It started with breakfast,for years I was served creme of wheat. It was white and there were invariably large chewy lumps on my plate. It was lukewarm and pretty horrible. I preferred red river cereal. The choices were creme of wheat, and red river cereal. Today, there are entire sections of our supermarket devoted to this genre of hot cereal. There are dozens of choices!

Eventually my father decided that cold cereal was easier and we had puffed wheat. If there was ever a boring cereal it was puffed wheat. A bag that was 3 feet long weighed a few ounces. It looked like pussy willows dumped in honey. It immediately turned to mush when you poured milk on it.

My mother always packed my lunch for school. I had deviled eggs everyday and it took me years to learn that deviled eggs are an appetizer and not a staple. My soup was invariably Campbell's creme of mushroom and I was convinced that mushrooms were tiny square little brown sponges. The little sponges would float in a sea of salty grey gelatinous material that formed the bulk of this soup. My lunch would be topped off with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The jam or jelly would always run over the sides and my sandwich would be a soggy mess.

For years my mother cooked dinners with various degrees of protest. Dinners were usually beef or steak of some kind, with the occasional pork chop. I don't recall eating fish. My father was always keen on innovation and gadgets and was the first to introduce us to Swanson's TV dinners. These marvels, came on a sheet of tinfoil with little sections for each food. The salisbury steak had its own section and the dry, tasteless selection was smothered in dark brown gravy. Next to it, was a section called mashed potatoes. The potatoes were smooth and covered with a stiff yellow oily film, presumably to mimic butter. There were a few peas and carrots and a desert of some sort, smothered in a jam like sauce. My father thought they were wonderful, they were fast and they were balanced they had desert. Gradually we saw less of his corned beef hash and our freezer filled with these processed horrors.

As I matured and left home, I came to realize that cooking on my own from 'scratch' gives much better and healthier results and my husband is also of that opinion. We never have puffed wheat, we have never had a TV dinner and certainly no can of Campbell's soup has ever darkened the walls of our pantry!

I have experimented with being a vegetarian and for the past few years eat locally and as much as possible organically. I try not to eat processed food of any sort. I buy Thai food and the occassional suishi dish. I make my own soups and my mushroom soup has large chunks of actual mushroom that swim in the savory broth that I prepare for my soups. I don't eat creme of wheat...ever, and my oatmeal is not chunky.

And yet, as we approach Thanksgiving, I find myself looking forward to a roasted turkey with sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes. My culinary experiences have come full circle!

biking jackets and rain SOLVED

For anyone who cycles, there is a perennial problem with bike jackets and in particular rain jackets. If you wear a jacket and exert any effort you get wet on the inside. Wet and therefore cold!

If you don't wear protection, you get wet on the outside which will soak through. Wet=cold.

I have tried gortex, rubber, aquatech, vapour tec, soft shells and nylon shells of all sorts. I have had expensive rain jackets with sealed seams for commuters, waxed cotton cycling capes from the UK, Gortex jackets, jackets with zip off sleeves and ventilation,jackets with illuminite and even jackets with lights. I have also used very cheap ultra thin and lightweight jackets. After 3 years of research, I now have solved the problem!

The answer is a wool sweater. Wool is able to regulate your temperature far better than any artificial fabric. Polartec is windproof but will trap any moisture next to your skin, keeping you wet, nylon of any sort does much the same thing. I found the best way to stay dry and warm is to have a baselayer (I use Marks Work Wear house dry tech) followed by a wool sweater. If it does rain, you can put any kind of cheap nylon jacket on top and the moisture will be wicked by the wool away from your skin.

I went on a 65k ride yesterday. I had a baselayer and a wool jersey and was fine, whereas others complained of cold and wind, my combination worked perfectly.

So don't spend money on costly bike jackets. They are not worth it! Go to value village and invest in a few wool sweaters instead!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The way all bike tours should be


This weekend I had the great pleasure of participating in the Ottawa Bicycling Clubs Summer End Century Tour. What a fantastic tour, from start to finish this was a tour worth doing.

The route is gorgeous. We cycled through small communities and splendid countryside en route to Cornwall. We passed sun dappled fields, herds of grazing cattle, horses and in one case a deer. The roads are quiet and the temperature not too hot.

We began at Kelseys which I can walk to. I decided to go with touring 2 and 130km. When you are riding with a group, it is better to go one up from where you can ride solo. In my case, I should have gone touring three. My group was wonderful. There was a former director Tom, John Reilly, Geotz, Gilles, Fletcher and a few others whose name escapes me. Riding in a double peleton as we do, enables wonderful conversations and the time flies.

A few hundred yards out of Kelseys John Reilly had a flat. I tried to help but had one tire iron and his tires appeared glued on. The others were ahead waiting but clearly puzzled. I walked up and explained we needed help. Tom and the others came back and John was set to rights as the group gave John a tire changing lesson.

Our first lunch stop on Saturday was in the Finch arena. We were served toasted bagels and given a banana and juice by an enthusiastic little girl and her grandmother. The little girl has a smile for everyone and seemed dismayed if someone did not want the banana!

This was my first exposure to NavCan. We approached the training site which is along the seaway. What a fantastic place. Our group arrived at 1pm and this gave us plenty of time to find our rooms, check out what is available. We met at outside patio and shared beers and stories. The weather was perfect, the scenery splendid, the site luxurious.

My room had a nice bed, desk, dresser and bathroom as well as a TV. The on site pub named the Jet set had a celtic motif, lots of beers and Karaoke.

Dinner was served near the dining hall. We had large round tables, with white linen tablecloths overlooking another garden and outside patio. Our dinner consisted of salad, roasted potatoes, lasagna, angel hair pasta, roast beef and stewed zucchini in a light garlic and butter sauce. For desert there was apple pie, blueberry pie, lemon meringue pie and assorted smaller treats.

We were served in elegance and our group congratulated each other on a great ride. At this point, I started asking people "why is this tour not more popular". I got various answers but none really satisfied me. Some felt $170.00 was too much. Well for great accommodation, great meals and a great weekend tour, I disagree.

After dinner I decided to check out the famous pool. What a pool. It is 25 meters long, with a working slide, lots of underwater sponge weights and after a swim of 5 lengths (Yes the lifeguard was laughing), I used the whirlpool hot tub. There is nothing like that after a ride. After the whirlpool...what else but the sauna!

There was also a fully gym with weights but by this time, 800pm it was time for Karaoke. I sang Titanic and a few more songs, had a drink and went to bed.

Breakfast was at 630 and the serving lady filled my plate with scrambled eggs, waffles and bacon. I topped it off with coffee and yogurt and was set to ride all day!

We left at 745 (this morning!) and rode at a minimum of 30km/hr. I had heard about the famous carrot cake with creme cheese icing at the OBC picnic in Russell and darned if I was going to miss that! We arrived at lunch at 1030, so it is brunch.

Unfortunately as we entered Russell there was a stop sign in town and gravel. I was leading but bikes were everywhere. I hesitated and fell, cutting my knee. Gilles came to the rescue (he is a ski patroller) and using my first aid kit restored me.

When we arrived at the marquee for the OBC lunch in a picnic ground we were greeted with cold cuts, cheeses, bread, lettuce, tomatoes, salads, juices and drinks of all kinds and....two huge dishes of homemade carrot cake. I had a piece...wow.

We arrived back at Kelsey's shortly before 1pm where I had a drink and spoke about the future of this wonderful tour.

As a first timer for this tour, I was very impressed! The food quality was very good. The picnic was wonderful, the carrot cake outstanding. The people I rode with were kind, helpful, lots of fun and were wonderful to ride with and socialize with.

Anyone who has not done this tour before is truly missing a great time.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Packing for Bike Trips

After years of canoe camping and a fair amount of travel, I consider myself to be a good packer. I don't pack radios, or heavy books or anything that I will not use, I don't pack clothing for all occasions and yet invariably, my bag on any overnight bike trip is much bigger than anyone else's bag and at least twice as heavy! What is the reason for this?

I consider the following items essential

a) Good first aid kid
b) Bike repair kit, tools, inner tube and pump
c) A journal
e) sweater for cooler weather and a rain jacket
d) Comfortable shoes and change of clothing


On my last seven day bike tour I brought camping equipment in one bag and clothing etc in another. The clothing bag had wheels or I doubt if I could have lifted it. The camping gear was bulky and awkward but not that heavy.

How can cycling clothing made of lycra, nylon and spandex be so heavy? On the Bon Ton trip I even packed a polartec rather than my standard wool sweaters. Still, the bag was a challenge for me to lift!

I am left therefore with the following conclusions:

1) I need to vacuum pack my bags to give the appearance of a smaller compass and do more weight lifting
2) Other people bring one set of clothing and wash it each night in a sink, hoping it will dry
3) Other people rely on the shampoos and soaps available on site (school washrooms)
4) Other people have faith that it will never get cold and never rain, hence no sweaters or rain gear
5) Other people believe their bikes will never break down, hence no repair kit


If all else fails, I will bring my usual large and heavy bag but put a fake name on it and quietly collect it when no one is looking!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Cure for Stomach ailments

In our pseudo-scientific age where anecdotal evidence is hailed as gospel and real research is considered old fashioned or too expensive, I am going to add to the confusion by presenting a cure for stomach ailments.

On Tuesday of this week, after having a salad on a bike ride (never eat salad), I got a stomach bug. Two days of rest and no food or very little, had no real effect and I despaired of completing my work assignments or of riding this weekend...UNTIL.

Until I developed a sudden urge in my famished state for Louis Pizza. Conventional wisdom would say that thick egg batter dough and mounds of cheese (I like plain pizzas) are the LAST thing you need when you are sick. I could almost smell the pizza and last night drove to McArthur Rd, and bought a small cheese pizza. Heaven!

Louis Pizza, for those of you who have never had it, is heaven. Even people who normally don't eat or like Pizza, like me are instant converts!

This morning, total cure. I am back to my my normal state.


MORAL OF THE STORY
In an age of no real medical research, or when pharmaceuticals are pushing new miracle drugs...listen to what your own body is telling you. Sometimes all it takes is a few slices of Louis pizza to set the world to right!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Magic bullet discovered!


Eating while biking is a difficult thing for me. I find that although I hydrate enough, unless I stop for lunch, which I only do with others, I tend not to eat.

Many cyclists and runners use gels, with names like Hammer or Heed. I have laughed at these gels mocking anyone who tries to get nutrition in a gel form as simple minded. I did not believe that these gels could work at all, and their claims to provide energy and help recovery I thought were nonsense. I would shake my head at runners and cyclists who wore fuel belts with little bullet shaped bottles of gel stuck in them like a Mexican bandito's bandelero! I thought "how dumb can you be?"

That is, until today. Today on a glorious club ride with CCCTS, I tried my Hammer Rapid Energy gel with caffeine. I chose an expresso flavour. It tasted fabulous! The proof however came within a few minutes when I was fueled and not just with sugar that you get with gatorade or even my salt drinks but with real leg pumping energy. I flew up hills and felt fantastic.

After about 3 hours, I had another one.Same effect!

The gel did not make me sick or leave me feeling heavy. Sometimes if I even eat fruit, it sits on my stomach.

If there was ever a magic bullet for cycling this is it! Now it is off to buy one of those fuel belts!!!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Bicyling helmets and glasses


I will never understand why people who ride bikes don't wear helmets. I have seen parents ride with their children, the children have helmets but not the parents. Do they assume that their heads will not get injured?

I have had two relatively minor crashes and in each case, after some damage to my elbows and knees I have heard my head hit the pavement. There is no damage, just a little 'toc' sound. (Yes, I replaced my helmet) I am sure that given the injuries to my legs and arms that my head would have been the worse for wear. I once had a concussion from not wearing a helmet so I am a convert.

Most bike riders do not wear sunglasses, thinking that this is an affectation for Lance Armstrong copycats. It is not! I came back from a seven day bike tour, and was surprised to find a 'chip' in my sunglasses after a ride, from debris tossed from the road no doubt. I was very happy that the chip was in my lenses and not in my eyes.

If you want to ride your bike, the minimum equipment you should have is helmet and sunglasses. I also recommend gloves but some people don't mind scraping their hands when they fall!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Latest bike death..leave God out of this!

Ottawa has had yet another cycling fatality, this one a 53 year old cyclist who was pinned under an SUV in a residential area. What disturbed me about this story however was the religious overtones. He was run over by a religious evangelical, a Baptist who no doubt leaves Bible tracks in her midst. The paper interviewed her husband who said "They were praying for the victim" What bothered me the most was the comments made by the evangelical woman who ran over (and killed) the cyclist.
As he was pinned under her SUV he called for help and her response was "God will help you."

When I took first aid we are supposed to CALM the victim, not bring down the wrath of God! The evangelical then said 911 has been called. Why not give the man a Bible? Or quote scripture?

Evangelicals make me angry. They use religion in a trite fashion and believe God rescues the wealthy, swoops down and lifts cars...if you have but faith. Such hurtful comments especially to a dying man (Whose death the evangelical CAUSED) are an insult to religious people everywhere.

When will Evangelicals learn that they make a travesty out of religion by their misguided, hurtful and ill informed comments.

Leave God out of this folks!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

MS 2010 Ride


This year I had a team of some 22 riders who did the two day Ride for MS from Ottawa to Kemptville and back again.

I was on the MS bike committee, made numerous suggestions to the society, found sponsors for our uniforms and finally the ride day came!

After all of my preparation and work, the ride itself seemed almost an anti climax. That being said, the rest stops were well manned with loads of fresh fruit and coloured gatorade which certainly added to the excitement. On one rest stop there were even homemade cookies! The ride itself, even with the extension is fairly short.

Here are some highlights and some lowlights!


Highlights
The lunch at Rideau River Provincial Park is always a treat. Who can resist jellybeans, sausage, salad and yes coffee!

The idea of riding in a uniformed team was a lot of fun as many people commented on how great we all looked.

The ride itself is a lot of fun.

Lowlights
Andrew and I camped. I went to bed late but our campsite clearly became an unofficial kiddie corner with kids whining late into the night. I have no problem with small children, but there should be a designated area for them away from those who choose not to be inflicted with whining during the night. I went to bed late, when everyone was asleep.

Promo Items
I am a big believer in free promo items. I had provided a number of them and they did not appear. I should have distributed them myself

Coffee
Why is it that people mistake brown tepid water for coffee? Get the Italians or the Turks in there to show us what real coffee is all about.

Hidden Treasures
If you found the massage therapists, it was a treat!

The campfire was a lot of fun. I had a chance to have an in depth discussion with Dr. Mark Freidman about the liberation therapy. I also had some s'mores!

Hopefully we can keep our sponsors and get jerseys for next year. I think the fact that people had the minimum in their account made them complacent with regards to fundraising. Although they did not have to, there was a tacit understanding that they should fundraise above and beyond the minimum.

Hopefully the mysteries of MS will be solved before next year!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Bon Ton Roulet, seven day bike tour of the Finger Lakes


From Saturday 24th July until July 31st I was on the famous Bon Ton roulet bike tour. This is a very inexpensive bike tour that attracts riders from all over the USA and beyond. For well under $500.00, you have your meals and support provided. Here is the trip and my observations of the cultural differences between the USA and Canada

The Finger Lakes region is known for its lakes, hills and wineries. I have never seen so many wineries it seems every little patch of land is converted to a winery. There were farms for sale for their 'vineyard' possibilities. While their reisling wines are passable, the wines on the whole are pretty terrible. Visiting a winery like I did on numerous occasions is fun, but don't expect a good wine. On the other hand, their beer is fantastic and unheralded. This area could become known for its beer!

DAY ONE: HILLS AND HEAT
We arrived at the Auburn High school and set up camp. This was my first experience with a tent city. The breakfast is served by local community groups starting at 530. In the next morning, I got up, packed the tent, my bags and picked up my cue sheet. The ride was from Auburn NY to the village of Penn Yan. I took the long route of 76 miles. There was some climbing but not too much, The scenery was very lovely passing through farmlands and hills along the lake. The tour relies on paint markings on the road to tell you where to go. There are two rest stops, 15 miles from the start and 10 miles before the end.
The rest stops were themselves a cultural study. They had the usual water and gatorade and fruit but also a huge assortment of candies! From twizzlers, to suckers, chocolate to cookies of all kinds it is there!

The first day was very very hot with a lot of humidity. I drank a lot of my salty water and felt fine.
KEuka College where we stayed had some beautiful buildings and fantastic sports facilities. The town of Penn Yann itself is a delight and a study in small town USA Each little town or village had a nice post office, a church or two and an ice cream parlour. What more could you want? Your cultural, social and dietary needs!

Day Two PENN YAN To Naples: Wine, inns, firecracker cops and the barefoot cyclist

This proved to be THE climbing day of the tour.There was 37 miles of climbing for a route of 70 miles. The route followed a lake and went into the village of Hammondsport. Some very steep descents! Hammondsport was a charming village with a village green a church and a few antique shops and an ice cream shop. In New York Ice cream shops are splendid. Every little town has them and they are wonderful with hundreds of flavours. This one looked like the Malt shop that Archie and Veronica would have used with booths, swivel seats and old fashioned milk shake machines.

After Hammondsport came the mother of all hills. The rest stop today was at the Lakside resort which is an inn on the lake. We sat at tables and watched the boats and the sunlight on the lake. Today was especially hot and after the mother of all hills, I climbed further to the Heron Hill winery. I was rewarded with a great view and stopped for two hours with some friends I met from Indiana, Richard and Kari. We spend a hilarious lunch and I had crab cakes and three glasses of Reisling wine.

NEVER drink wine on a hot day on a long hilly tour. 10 miles after our lunch stop, with more hills and heat I passed the final rest stop with 10 more miles to go and more hills. I could not make it. I had to get a sag vehicle to take me the rest of the way.

At camp, I had a massage party for my bruised ego and a lesson learned about heat, humidity, hills and reisling wines!

Naples itself was a pretty little town, famous for its grape pie. I bought a small one and shared it with Jim. The bakery was a home, you knocked on the door and the top half opened and the bakers husband sold you a pie. The high school, like all was enormous with lots of facilities. The dinner was pretty terrible but the scenery, as always terrific.

Jim and I went to Toppers inn in Naples. This is an old fashioned hotel with winding staircase, old photos a piano and nice seating. It is the kind of hotel Jesse James would have liked. We sat on the patio and had some Yeungling beer. I watched an older man in a splendid white beard pedal his bike barefoot. He was neatly dressed and had a well maintained bike.

Back in Tent City in Naples there was more excitement, although by this time my tent was pitched far from the maddening crowd. I heard fireworks and assumed there was a celebration. Each night at the Bon Ton there was entertainment, tonight was a rock band who celebrated to the delight of the locals. One of the cyclists realized that there were youths throwing firecrackers at the tents. She was a policeman from Boston and chased them in her flip flops. She apprehended one of them, the others came back to rescue him. The sheriff was called with sirens blazing and parents were called. She strained a muscle and was unable to complete the ride but was known as the Firecracker Cop.

As I was sitting in my chair in tent city, I saw the barefoot man wheel his bike in tent city. I spoke with him. His name was Don and he was a local. He and I spoke of the joys of not wearing shoes and he was delighted to find someone who was of the faith. I hastened to add that I would not ride my bike barefoot. He walked on smiling.

It was at this point in my trip that I realized Americans dont recycle. They throw away. Where we went, there were mounds of garbage or trash. I spoke about recycling and it seems that New York state is far behind Canada and there is a massive re education to be done before it even hopes to be successful.

DAY Three: Naples to Geneva: Private college and the best meal ever~
After my experience yesterday, I decided to take the short route which was only 48 miles. There were again some hills and a climbing distance of 23.4 miles but overall it was pleasant. I stopped at the Onanda park for a swim. There was a lifeguard of about 17 who informed me that I could not swim as he was not in his chair. Like the other cyclists we ignored him. There is nothing like a swim in a lake during a HOT and humid and hilly ride!

We rode through a little town of West Lake which is lovely with another waterfront park. The parks are really beautiful, well maintained and just wonderful. There was nothing tacky about the state parks that we stopped at. I had expected RV's and campers but there were only tents and nice little buildings for people to use. Our rest stops were often in one of these log pavillions.

We were now in Mennonite or Amish country and I saw them in their horse and buggy. There were some whose religion did not allow them to use rubber and so their tractors had metal wheels. I could see their print on the fresh asphalt of some of the roads. The roads, unlike many in Canada, are in excellent condition with very wide shoulders. The Mennonite families are a delight. I often saw the children in the buggies with their straw hats and bonnets, or girls in the fields with their chickens. I was sorry they did not have a baking stand but I did find one on the last day to my delight!

By this time in the tour, I did not stop for lunch having learned my lesson the dat before. Instead I lived on watermelon at the rest stops and peanut butter and bananas! I got my gears checked by the bike repair man who also unstuck my brakes. My bike was restored.

We arrived in Geneva and stayed at Hobart college. Hobart college is a private college with tuition of 50k. The grounds are unbelievable like Cambridge in England. There were two soccer fields, football and beautiful pools. The residences were splendid condos overlooking a lake. I sat and watched as swallows ate the mosquitos (There were none) on the lake as the sun set. Geneva is a beautiful town.

The food at Hobart College was the gastronomical highlight of the tour for me. THe dinner was london broil, a wonderful salad, potatoes, green beans. It was superb so much so that I made sure to tell the chef. The desert for me was boston creme pie and homemade ice cream.

I was rather sorry to leave Geneva

Day Four
Geneva to Watkins Glen: Bad wine and interesting Pick up Lines

By this point in the tour, I should point out that the Bon Ton is about half men and half women. Jim was always long gone by the time I would have breakfast and invariably along the ride or during meal I would be joined by a handsome fellow who would ride with me or ask me out. Today was no exception. It was the Bon Ton PICKUP!

I rode with Bob Stanford who was an ULTRA cyclist having done Paris Brest and clocked countless miles. He had ridden across America on his own. By this time I also learned about the Ride Across Iowa and decided I would NEVER do that tour. 17.000 riders descending on small towns like a swarm of locusts and often going hungry did not appeal to me. I was told that you almost always are in huge packs, which is also unappealing. I struck that tour from my list of want-to-dos. Bob and I decided to do the short route but to almost race it. 48 miles of speed.

There were two rest stops, a swim stop and Wagners vineyards. By this point in the tour there were hundreds of winereries, every one who had a backyard stuck a sign and called themselves a winery! Wagners is one of the largest. The wineries have some hilarious names like Pompous bastard and Dr. Franks but there were also countless Chateaus. The Chateau's appeared to be clapboard buildings perched on tiny hills overlooking a few forlorn grape vines! Wagners was large and this was our rest stop. We had the usual assortment of fruit and drink and were encouraged to partake in wine tasting at Wagners.

The wine tasting man was a stout man who appeared bored and rattled through what he believed to be Wagner's finest. It was truly appalling! It is best described as Plonk or the kind of wine you would buy for a high school party if you wished to be sophisticated but had no idea what to buy. If you did buy wine, the tour would deliver it back to your destination so you did not need to carry it. The gatorade at the rest stop (the orange one) tasted far superior to Wagner's plonk!

We cycled to some falls but could not swim and went on to our destination which was Watkins Glen. Watkins Glen is famous for Nascar but is an unremarkable little town. We stopped at the local beach for a swim. Bob wanted to go out with me but soon learned I was happily married but I introduced him to Judith the other KNBC rider. Judith was not interested.

That night Jim, Judith and I walked to the only pub in town. It was called the Crooked Rooster and was a brew pub. I had the firehouse red. The beer in Upper State new york is outstanding. They should concentrate on this and not the wines! Leave wines to others!

The day was very humid and hot and we returned to tent city in lightning. It rained and rained that night. I stayed awake worried that my tent would collapse or leak or both. I slept about one hour.

DAy FIVE: Watkins Glen rest day: secrets from the women's washroom

Today was the day of the century ride but I was too tired. Many people chose not to ride and I learned the reason why in the ladies washroom!

By this time people were saddle sore and many used chamois creme. The cremes came in tubs and were plonked down on the washroom sinks. There were names like Butt Creme, and udderly smoooth. I had never seen it before and thought it was a form of kinky sex aid! You apply this vile stuff to your shorts or your private parts before a ride. It is supposed to prevent sores, chaffing etc. This is because people insist on riding with horrible saddles that are made of plastic and do not give. The only thing that breaks is your buttocks! Why people want to torture their posteriors on such saddles is a mystery to me. I have a tensioned leather saddle, a brooks. It is as comfortable as my armchair and I don't even need to wear padded shorts let alone even think of the Butt Cremes! Why won't people learn!

There were many bikes on the tours. Recumbents, Friday bikes, a single speed (Yes a single speed), a bike with a motor for the hills, and a bike that was retro. He had tweed and leather bags, leather hand sewn handlebar tape and handmade leather touring shoes. I have seen the shoes before but they have laces. Mike had a nice bike though! There were pink Cervello diva bikes, numerous Trek Maradonnas and lots of heavy touring bikes. The average age was at least 58 years old. Were I to do the tour again, I would take my touring bike as I really needed that granny ring!

Since I had missed the century ride, I did a short 50 mile route which took me well into Amish country. I passed by a mennonite (Amish?) Schoolhouse with its whitewash and boys and girls outhouses. What a contrast to the huge and well equipped schools and campuses that I had seen. Simple and plain. I also watched a mennonite boy in workboots and a straw hat on a beaten bike with a broken fender and no gears, ride up a hill past huffing and puffing cyclists bedecked in lycra jerseys of all colours and sizes.

The size of the cyclists surprised me. Many were slender and lean but there were some who were very ample in girth. I have no idea how they made it up the hills! These larger folks were usually concerned about the weight of their bikes!

My short rest ride as great and I returned to Watkins Glen at 11am and did my laundry. It was my first time in a laundromat! That is an experience!

For dinner Judith and I met with Donna and Lynne and we went to the Stonecat restaurant, organic food. It looked good but all I could afford was a small soup and salad. Donna was 78 years old and would ride part of the way. She and Lynne who was younger would stay in Bed and breakfast. They told us about their bike adventures and we had a pleasant dinner.

Day six: Watkins Glen to Courtland; Getting lost and MOOSEWOOD


After a day of rest, I took the long route some 85 miles. I actually did closer to 97 miles but there is a reason. I had now learned to rely on the paint markings on the road and would also look for other bikers. We all had licence plates on our bikes identifying us as tour members as well as green identity bracelets. Thus I did not take a cue sheet. They always would get soaked and disintegrate with the sweat. The day was much cooler today and I should have taken one.

The tour today took us to a golf course for the rest stop and Ithaca New York, home of Cornell university and the famous moosewood restaurant. The last rest stop would be the bird research centre, sapsucker woods in Cornell.

The ride commenced with about a 10 mile climb and many more to follow. The scenery took us along ridges and a lot of beautiful dairy farms. You could smell the hay and the clover as you rode along. We had a LONG downhill to Ithica which is a city that sits in a basin. We rode on busy streets which was stressful and I found my way to Mecca...or rather moosewood.

Moosewood, home of the iconic cookbooks, there it was. I had a seat at the bar and had a bowl of cold gaspacho soup and lemonade. I spoke with a patron called Nancy about the arts and blissfully enjoyed my pilgramige to Mecca. It was superb. I told the owner about Bridgehead who serve Moosewood soups. I thought she would be thrilled but she was not. Bridgehead does acknowledge Moosewood but Moosewood was not impressed. I bought a T shirt.

The ride to Cornell is UP UP UP hill. A goat could not ride those hills! Once we left Ithaca, I made my first wrong turn. It was a beautiful country road with one way bridges. I realized my mistake and backtracked.

We continued to climb passing splendid scenery and fields along the lakes. The second rest stop was at the bird sanctuary or Sapsucker woods. This was very impressive with viewing areas for the birds, a heron nesting ground and a large hawk who entertained us at 230 by swooping down and capturing a mouse. We wanted to tip him!

The long route I took had about 40 miles in total of climbing but the scenery was breathtaking. I found I can run up a hill and try to keep my cadence steady. Alas I run out of gears and rather than wobble like a drunken sailor I dismount and walk. This was the day I did some interval work and rode up as fast as I could and rode as fast as I could for 14 minutes. I roared up a hill and felt my heart beat as if it would jump out of my chest. I slowed down and the heart thanked me!

Lots of fun!

I got lost again but this time discovered a great ice cream place called Toad Too. In the middle of nowhere but they had over 100 flavours and great signs. I ordered a soft ice cream with custard and licorice flavour. How wonderful. I had gone some 7 miles out of my way, but found the paint again and resumed my way.

At the end, I did close to 97 miles.

This last night there was a party with a DJ and the dinner was a fish fry. IT was great. Fish fry and all the Yuenglings beer you can drink. You cant beat that. IT is a fundraiser for the YMCAS and I suggested ways they can make more money

Last day: Cortland to Auburn and Mennonite Baked Goods
This was a 45 mile ride. Very short, some good hills and wonderful scenery. The best part of this day was a sign saying fresh baked goods. I stopped, and there were many others to see two old older Amish women in a cabin selling baked goods.

Pies, breads, cookies and cherry turnovers. I bought the later. It was fantastic! After a week of cafeteria food, real food was treat! We rode on up some inclines and I walked up one long long hill and took numerous photos. It is very hard to capture what you see, it is mainly and experience.

Packed and drove home.

HIGHLIGHTS AND WHAT TO BRING AND WHAT NOT TO DO
This is a wonderful tour but you have to be in very good shape. The hills make our Gatineau Hills look like small speed bumps. A granny gear is pretty well essential because you cannot keep a good cadence with a compact and with the distances you risk pushing too much with your knees.

The base stations where you camp have great massage therapists. I had two massages.,..well worth it and fun!

Camping and Tent City
I brought my own tent but bought a towel service from Comfy Campers as well as coffee. A clean fluffy towel every day and good coffee are essential. It is best to camp far away from the loading trucks and center because you will be keep awake by people who are packed up by 5am.

I brought a really good mattress...also essential~

Wines
Don't go for the wines. Enjoy the scenery but dont drink

Drinking on a hot ride
Nope, alcohol dehydrates you and drains your energy

Single ladies
I was averaging about a pick up a day. I am not sure this is usual as I asked around. Maybe it was because I was always in a great mood!

Bags
Paint up your bags. There were 600 riders and finding your black bag among hundreds of others at the end of a ride can be a chore!

Tools etc
bring them. I destroyed a valve on my inner tube and had to replace it.

Price
At $435.00 US for two meals a day and a fully supported tour, this price cant be beat.

People and overall experience

The volunteers, the staff the other riders are all wonderful. I left with a lot of photos, a finer waistline and a lot of email addresses.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Baby boom on Wingate Drive

I live on a quiet residential street. The days when the street was crawling with children is over apart from younger families moving in. Despite the lack of human children, Wingate is having a baby boom.

Our yard is full of baby birds, cardinals, chickadees, crows and a hawk family. The hawk family is very impressive and the crows wait for my neighbour Claudia to feed them almonds!

When I have my coffee outside, I am serenaded by a chorus of baby birds and I delight at watching them learn to fly and land on small branches which bend under their weight. Our yard has a pond and so there is always water, and of course plenty of bird feeders with assorted seeds to entice the youngsters. When the parents return to feed them, there is always a racket especially with the baby crows who seem to resent being treated like children and made to eat their suppers!

Our little tree was home to Henry the baby crow for a few days, until he learned to fly a little better and moved, presumably to my neighbours yards for almonds. I only fed them peanuts! Almonds are much nicer after all.

Crows are fascinating birds. I watched as one Crow dipped a morsel of hardened bread into a bird bath to soften. Claudia's pet Crow waits for her to feed him his morning snack of almonds.

Chikadees are the explorers and quickly discover all of our bird feeders. The more conservative birds have avoided our new feeders, but Chikadees are free thinkers and quickly tell the other birds about their latest conquest and discovery.

The Cardinals for the most part, rely on their looks. They appear to be the 'dumb blondes'. They enjoy being admired but when it comes to things like feeding themselves or exploring they are at a loss.

Summer is wonderful!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bastille day and a French garden party!


As a French woman who married an Englishman, I have always been intrigued with our fascination with food, and the English indifference to it.

Samuel de Champlain brought a chef with him from France as he explored and Louisburg was known for its cooking. I am not sure if he had a chaplain with him as the English or Spanish did, but he sure had his cook! In contrast the poor English who were stationed in Fort Henry had to live on boiled potatoes, spruce beer and some salty meat.

When Cyril and I used to canoe camp in the wilderness we were always struck by the difference between wild sites in Quebec versus Ontario. The Quebec sites had glorious fire pits and log seating but little sanitation. The Algonquin Park sites had great outhouses but pathetic fire pits and certainly no log seating.

Yesterday was Bastille day and I was at the French embassy. It was a celebration of food, with ice sculptures displaying delectable meringue cakes stuffed with fruit, there were masterful artistic displays of carved fruit and vegetables, beautiful cups with red white and blue sherbet, a hot and cold buffet and mountains upon mountains of cheese. There was a children's tent with colorful candied apples, jars and jars of assorted candies and caramels, chips and water. As for the adults, while the water did run out, the wine never stopped flowing!

For the champagne there was a beautiful cake with the French flag on it. The entire affair was a feast for the eyes and the stomach. There was also a group of chamber musicians playing Bach and a choir to sing. Wonderful.

I have been to similar affairs with the English. There are lots of speeches, a few monuments, an unveiling of something or other, and the food, if there is any, is never presented with such artistry and delicacy as do the French. The closest thing the English have to a French garden party is English high tea. English high tea is nice but has many rituals and traditions. The French garden party for bastille day seemed to celebrate only one tradition...and that is pleasure and gastronomy. All French are free to enjoy the pleasures of the vineyard and the table at this party!

The French truly understand that living and food is an art. Anyone who had taken a bite from a blue blanc rouge meringue biscuit while admiring one of the four melting ice sculptures with a glass of wine in hand will surely know what I mean!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

How hot was it today? I worried my tires had melted!

Today I led a KNBC ride from Arnprior to Norway Bay and back. The heat was blistering and the humidity higher. I had two large water bottles. I drained them three times, drank at least a liter of water, had lemonade, coffee and a beer.

The ride itself is beautiful. We rode along scenic roads to Norway Bay. Well scenic. At Portage Du Fort there is construction with paving. I rode on fresh pavement. Memo to self...NEVER do this in hot weather. Our tires got coated and there were concerns that our tires actually melted. That is how hot it was.

At Norway Bay we stopped at the Pine Lodge. The S4 riders had ridden there earlier and had left one S4 rider , David who told me there was no food. The other riders, Linda and Bruce had simply decided not to stop and hammered on. I went into the restaurant and in short order. 6 wonderful wraps were produced or chicken, bacon, lettuce and cheese. They were great but I was not hungry.

Our ride speed was 27-32 km/hr. By the time lunch was produced, I did not feel like eating. I still don't and it is now 11pm. I hydrated and took eload tablets for heat stress. I even went for a swim at the beach at the Pine lodge, albeit short.

One of our riders, Nancy was having a hard time on the hills and with the heat despite our taking breaks in shady spots. Her face was dangerously red and I loaned her a buff to wear around her neck which I soaked in cold water. Tim and Steve and Irene seemed fine but all I wanted was more cold drinks.

I am not sure how to handle a longish ride in the heat but this is what I have learned.

1) Take it slowly, while riding fast was a lot of fun I think it put extra strain on us. We rode in a paceline to conserve energy. A paceline or a peleton is really the way to ride. It was a new experience for two of our riders.

2) Hydrate more. Before I rode from Arnprior I should have already consumed a few liters of water or electrolyte drinks

4) Despite wearing tour de france socks, I am not a tour de france rider and the ride was for pleasure..slow down Karine

5) It is harder to ride in high humidity and heat than the cold. With the cold, you get numb and shiver but you warm up with a hot meal. I find with the heat it is harder.

The ride itself was a wonderful ride taking us through farmlands, fields of barley and oats, and of course into the Pontiac region which is really lovely.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Petrie Island a hidden gem

On Thursday, as a result of a canceled bike trip, I took my Mother to Petrie island in Orleans. At first I was skeptical as I knew that the City had built a beach. I was expecting Moonies Bay in Orleans. I knew it was 'developed' and thus expected concession stands and the usual commercialization that follows development.

What a surprise. Petrie island is a nature preserve with trails, beaver lodges, an island for turtles, an interpretation centre and a lovely beach. It is clean and understated. There are two beaches that I found. The first, the larger beach is spacious with a volleyball court. The smaller is more private and shaded.

My mother and I set up at the larger beach. I put up a large Canada umbrella, and a chair for her and I went for a swim. My swim mask was not quite adjusted but my fins worked wonderfully. There were bouys to mark the end of the beach and I swam beyond them. No sooner had I come in then there was a moron on a ski do, roaring beside the bouys waving and proudly displaying the fact that he is further adding to pollution both with gas and with noise. It was as if he was saying "Hey folks look at me..isn't it wonderful I am ruining the planet and your experience with my shiny new toy which serves no function other than to annoy!"

The trails in Petrie island are suitable for biking and hiking and are well marked. There was an artist positioned near one of the trails putting finishing touches on an oil painting of the area.

When we were there, it was as if we were miles from anything although we were only 20 minutes from my Mother's home.

For those of you with children, I don't think you can do better than Petrie island. The little interpretation centre has books, displays, stuffed animals and a few skulls. It is large enough to engage even the most energetic youngster and the more academic minded could easily spend an afternoon looking at the books and displays and going out to find turtles, or beavers or warblers.

What a find!..Did I mention there is no admission fee?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Uniforms and sizes and the difference between men and women


I recently ordered 25 uniform sets for my bike team which has both men and women and made several observations. The manufacturer suggested that I get height, weight, waist and chest sizes for all of my team.

Now for a man, weight is what appears on the scale. No more no less. While they may wish to weigh more if they are bulking up, or a little less. They reported their actual weight.

A woman uses the same scale, but reads it differently. Women will report their hoped for weight or their wished for weight and argue they can squeeze into the uniforms.

A man will take his waist and chest measurement with no explanation. A woman will once again provide the measurements they want and once again, hope for the best.

The women on my team are educated and career minded. Yet they too have been unduly influenced by images of what they should look like. We should all look like Katherine Hepburn, or Halle Berri...or a Bond girl and so we project this and rather than giving a true measurement we project and hope.

The men's uniforms all fit. The only exception is for those men who are stout and short, or tall and thin. The women's uniforms are a different story. I have heard of shorts being too small, when there is not enough room for a molecule of water to get through the space between short and skin, jerseys being too large when again they are stretched to the limit and on and on. I suspect that the reason for this is because the women provided me with 'approximate' or hoped for measurements. Those who were honest, have uniforms that are a perfect fit.

a REAL conspiracy against women!

For all you conspiracy theorists out there, and you know who you are, here is an real conspiracy.

When I purchase cycling clothing, I am always attracted to the beautiful colours of women's jerseys and shorts but appalled at the high price and the terrible fit. I am 5'6". I do not have unusually long legs or stovepipe arms, I weigh 148lbs, so pretty average size. Yet women's cycling jerseys are invariably too short and the arms are made for someone with no muscle in their arm whatsoever, ie stovepipe arms. A lot of women, myself included wear sleeveless jerseys but when the sun is really hot, I prefer a sleeve. Even a capped sleeve, but a sleeve of some sort.

The shorts are even worse, while they are short, which is good, the bib shorts are far too expensive and the short selection limited. I have asked high end bike shops and their excuse is the market is smaller. Well, that is a good way to ensure that the market stays smaller.

Here is a tip ladies. There is NO difference between men's bib shorts or shorts and ladies other than the pad. The difference in the pad is not significant and in fact I find men's padding more comfortable and more forgiving.

As for the jerseys, the women's jerseys are far too short, the men's are a much better length and quite frankly better made.

I have found that this discrimination against women extends in other areas of women's fashion. Dress pants are a good example, why do women's dress pants have such TEENY pockets, poorly stitched seams and inferior belt loops? Simple, women have come to expect shoddy quality as a matter of course. Women's shirts are even worse. If they fit on the chest they are too long etc. I am not sure who or what they model shirts on, I suspect it is a giant sloth but I have no proof just suspicion.

We women do most, if not all of the clothing purchases. If my husband is any indication, most men would rather die than shop for clothing. Thus, we are a significant force in the market. Why then do we put up with inferior quality and overpriced clothing and sports gear?

Historically, women made their clothing. That is why tailors made men's clothing as it was assumed that women could sew their own. That was a LONG time ago. I think that the manufacturers should wake up.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Cyclists and Drivers

A few weeks ago, I rode from Perth to Elphin and Maberly and was so impressed with the bucolic beauty of the route and the rolling hills that I decided to repeat this ride.

Emerson and I left Perth at around 1030 and soon found ourselves on the quiet roads and verdant pastures of Lanark county. The traffic was almost non existent. The cars that we did see were remarkably polite. Rather than roaring past us with horns blasting they would wait until we signaled and give us a wide berth. In Ottawa, I am used to drivers who will see how close they can come to me, or blow the horn or both. I am used to impatient drivers, their windows open, snarling and glaring at traffic and staring malevolently at we cyclists whom they see as a direct threat to their horsepower!

I had assumed that the reason the Lanark county drivers were so much better was because the Perth chamber of commerce had done an excellent job in educating drivers and after speaking with an owner of a lone corner store, was even more impressed with the quality and caliber of the drivers of Lanark County Ontario.

On June 5th and 6th some 2000 cyclists descend on this part of the world for the Rideau Lakes tour. There are some serious cyclists and many Lance Armstrong wannabes. The shopkeeper complained of the fact that the cyclists take up the entire road, do not let cars pass and slow up traffic to the point that her business suffers. No wonder the drivers were pleased with Emerson and I, we signaled our intentions and did not take up the road.

The drivers responded favourably.

Sometimes I think we cyclists rail at drivers and attribute all the ills of the world to them without thinking our behaviour in many ways dictates how a driver will respond. Today while driving my car, I saw a cyclist, no helmet riding down the wrong way on Ogilvie Road, which is very busy. How is a car supposed to react to that? No wonder drivers get upset! I was upset and I was not even near this moron!

The moral of the story is if you act like an idiot you will be treated like one.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Biking and Whitewater rafting..what a great combo


On Wednesday, June 17th several of us from the MS bike team, namely Barb Wilson, Tom Seniuk, Tim Sparling, John Ross and myself embarked on bicycle to River Run near Renfew Ontario. Our bags were being driven and we had only ourselves and our bikes and the glorious open road. After lunch in Arnprior, the skies darkened and the rain that had been forecast seemed inevitable. I put on my rain jacket.

RiverRun is a family owned white water rafting company that kindly sponsored us as a team to raise money for MS. We rode out on Wednesday some 116km and spent about 2 hours in the pouring rain. By the time we arrived at Storyland near Cobden, I wanted to have a cup of tea with Alice. It was not open but we were directed to a little gas station and store called JR's. They had chairs and John, Barb and I nursed our chocolate milks while we dripped all over the counter. Some 5km from RiverRun I phoned them and asked them to put on hot coffee. We signed our waivers, quaffed coffee and went to the Milk House soon joined by Tom and Tim who had taken a longer route.

The Milk House is a very comfortable accommodation with fridge, stove, shower, double futons, a fenced yard and a screened porch. Our bikes were put in a little porch and I got changed.

We had enough wine and snacks to last many days and Tom had brought movies and a book. The River Run staff brought dinner to us, and we had pork, salad, vegetables, lemonade, tea and desert. It was at this time that I met Norm a 59 year old weathered New Zealand rafter. I invited him in for a drink as it was obvious that Barb was very nervous about rafting. Norm proceeded to both allay her fears and terrify her. He patiently answered all of her numerous questions.

The next morning, we walked down the road, past farmers fields and in glorious sunshine to breakfast. Our sodden clothing and shoes were left in our fenced yard. After breakfast, Norm gave a safety lecture telling us about ropes and paddles and what happens when the raft flips over. Barb was ashen at this point. We proceeded to pick up our helmets and paddles and were driven to the start point. There was another group of about 12 in a larger boat. We were in a small boat for extreme rafting.

Within a few minutes we approached our first rapid, a roar of water in pristine wilderness. Tom and I were in the bow of the boat and we paddled. I fell out of the boat, or was rather ejected. The video shows Tom almost went with me. The current was swift and Norm threw me the rope and hauled me in like a large fish. I had done rafting before and was never thrown. My confidence a little shaken we went on to the next rapid after some surfing in the first rapid. We watched colourful kayaks dance in the rapids.

The next rapid was larger and this time the entire raft flipped over. I found myself, as Norm had warned underneath the little yellow raft, gasping. I grabbed the rope and found John close to me. Norm righted the raft and gave me a paddle to grab, I gave my paddle to John and we were pulled by Norm back to safety.

This section of the river is beautiful with rocks and pines. It was clear how low the water level was. On the next rapid, Norm remained on board but all of us were thrown overboard..great fun.

The rafting was fairly strenous with a lot of hard paddling and tense moments.

We ended our day at 3pm and watched the video. I did not see the video as I walked back to our cabin to return my wetsuits that I had loaned to Barb and Tom. I hung them to dry. I purchased the video and watched it that evening.

The group was with Norm in the patio of the little pub and bar that is on site. River Run has a very large site that is not overdone and is very tasteful and comfortable. It was good that they had Norm guide us as we all felt very comfortable with him and his knowledge and vast experience. He was an exceptional guide.

We were told that dinner would be sent to our accommodation and it was, ice cream, salad and chicken kebabs. I washed it down with vodka lemonade and of course more wine. We watched the video and a movie Tom had brought, the Italian Job, a good caper movie with Donald Sutherland. (The first night we watched Catch me if you Can)

The River Run staff was exceptional with us and I can not think of a better place to raft. I have tried Owl and Wilderness Tours and was most impressed with River Run.

This morning, River Run drove us all to a local restaurant for breakfast before we rode back to Ottawa. :Larry told us about his fathers beef farming and we passed glorious farms. The breakfast was terrific! We went back to pack only to find that RiverRun had given us all T shirts.

We mounted our bikes for the ride home, except Barb who was waiting for Caroline to give her a drive, thrilled with our two days. We passed fields of sweet clover and grasses, hills, old barns and farmers on tractors. John and I rode ahead as Tim was waiting for Tom, John and I stopped at East Side Marios in Arnprior for lunch and shortly after (Some 40 minutes) were joined by Tom and later Tim. Tim had a sore knee from rafting and the four of us rode home to Ottawa.

The Ottawa Valley is beautiful, quiet and the rafting put on by RiverRun second to none!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Organic food markets..dangerous to your health!

Ottawa is blessed with a variety of farmer's markets one of which is the organic farmers market.

The organic farmers market is crowded and inefficient with produce on the ground or the floor. The customers are the most unhealthy looking and sorry collection of individuals, with masks, complaints of allergies to the air, trees, gluten, milk etc etc. They complain, never smile and delay the already long lineups by reciting their litany of health complaints to the vendors. I am sure most of their health problems are because they are so unhappy. They blame the food and the air and the trees but they have to look to themselves.

There are a few meat sellers but they are pariahs as most of this pasty and flabby crowd are vegetarians. I brought my dogs and was told it was offensive as this was organic food. I was very tempted to say that organic means natural fertilizer and it is likely that the lettuce has cow manure on it and they should not worry about a few dog hairs. But these folks are allergic to life and for the most part miserable!

The vendors for the most part are also unfriendly, all the while selling their goods at inflated prices. I go to the farmers market to purchase milk and eggs but cant wait to get out of there! I find myself tense and impatient waiting in line with these people. The atmosphere I swear was dangerous for my health and I will not be back!

What a relief to attend the market at St. Paul university. Here the vendors are friendly and cheerful. The customers are pleasant and purchase their strawberries or cheese without a long litany of woes of what they can and cannot eat. The customers bring their children and their dogs...(I bring mine as well) and you can engage in conversations and learn about organic farming. Yes they have organic farmers as well.

The produce is well displayed, there is none on the ground, there is face painting for the kids and the atmosphere is pleasant and relaxed. Oh and the dogs? They were given cookies and admired by the vendors and the customers alike.

How is it that by calling something organic, without proof, strewing a few weeds on the floor and by being surly inefficient slow and unfriendly can you charge so much for your 'products?' How is it that customers come at all for such an unpleasant atmosphere?

The moral of the story for vendors is as follows, call yourself organic, be slow, disorganized and inefficient. Call some miserable people to tie up the lines and complain and then triple your prices. You don't need extra staff, even cleanliness. It is all in the attitude~

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Weekend to End Women's Cancers 2010


If there is one lesson that can be learned from this soggy weekend to end women's cancers it is to be prepared. The weekend was a textbook example of what can happen when you are not prepared.

I began today looking at the sky and thinking it would stop, the rain that is. As I rode at 600am to the start point, I began to have doubts but carried on. It is not that I do not have rain gear, I have a British waxed cotton cycling cape, rainproof ware, gortex jackets...even waterproof booties. As for the cold, I have a closet full of sweaters and polartec fleece. As an afterthought I put on a wool cycling jersey thinking I can always take it off. For a jacket I wore a water resistant one. Memo to self water resistant means useless.

As I rode off with the walkers, I was following some marathon walkers, it became obvious that I was in trouble as I started to freeze. I asked the car sweeps to go to my house, close by and pick up my cape..no luck. My husband met me at St. Paul university where I donned it. My water resistant jacket was by this time, a soggy mess. Now I was dry somewhat but was dangerously cold!

My walkers did not stop and when we returned to Carleton, I was almost numb. I went into the medical tent to lie in a sleeping bag wrapped in tin foil. There were plenty of tin foil therma blankets. An elderly woman came in shortly after me almost blue with cold and wet.

The medical people had to use their own personal sleeping bags and blankets. They had not prepared for cold and wet. They had plenty of materials for heat but nothing for cold. I offered and did bring blankets from my home to assist. Apparently there were more blankets in a truck somewhere. Why not just call the St. John's ambulance?

The organizers were also completely unprepared for the cold. They gave us ice cream at the end of the walk and at each rest stations there were plenty of ice cold drinks. No hot drinks to be seen! The volunteers were shivering, clad in tin foil and making sure the drinks stayed cold.

The day remained cold and wet. How hard would it have been to get large containers of coffee to the pit stops? For that matter why was Starbucks or Tim Hortons not contacted before hand to provide coffee at the rest stops?

Like me the Cancer Foundation folks were totally unprepared. Unlike me, their lack of preparedness affected close to 700 walkers and could have had serious consequences. I am particularly prone to hypothermia and know the symptoms very well!

The weekend was an colossal example of how not to run an event. I was on the caboose team, who ride with the walkers. We were issued nearly useless radio-cell phone-walkie talkies. All but useless. When you did reach dispatch...they did not know radio signals. There was no way of knowing if they copied you, or received the information...no 10-4s...fiasco. The radio-cell phones rarely worked at the best of times and on a bicycle were totally useless.

On the first day, we had a long hot walk and arrived at lunch in Jacques Cartier park only to find they had run out of food. What food they did have was utterly disgusting, greasy hamburgers from long frozen patties of meat-like material, dry and horrid on white buns with trans fat laden french fries. This is 2010. Many walkers are dealing with cancer. Are you trying to kill them by poisoning them? The lunch was beyond atrocious, it was a disgrace and an insult to the walkers who worked so hard to raise funds so that the Cancer foundations salaries can be paid.

The weekend should focus on women's health. There were no workshops on healthy living or exercise, no materials given out, no healthy food. Instead the walkers were subjected to appalling and unhealthy fare which made many sick. Instead of using this to promote women's health the walkers were subjected to the usual hucksterism of registering for next year and purchasing items to feed the breast cancer industry. The money raised pays your salaries folks.. put more thought into this!

The rest stops were well meaning and well staffed but again, an appalling lack of nutritional value. While there were oranges, there were mainly potato chips, popcorn and other junk food that most people over the age of 10 don't eat, and most people under the age of 10 are forbidden by their parents to eat.

What is going on?

The only aspects that were well done were the medical and massage personel as well as the volunteers. As for the paid organizers from the Cancer foundation, they should be ashamed of this weekend and use it as an example of how not to run an event.

I believe the foundation owes the walkers an enormous apology for the shameful and disrespectful way they were treated.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Weekend to End Women's Cancers 2010

Here it is! The weekend to end women's cancers. Once again, I have volunteered to act as bicycle support for the walkers. Tonight was our team meeting and several people who were in other parts of the walk, dispatch, rest stations remembered me. One lady who remembered my help spoke to me about her cancer. It is a very emotional time and this year I am decorating my bike and trying my best to demonstrate to women that a diagnosis is by no means the end.

It is all about support and attitude. Tomorrow I will ride to support those who walk, I will offer water, stories, comfort and even gatorade. If walkers are very tired I jokingly offer them a ride on my bike. This year I have a bike computer and can tell them how far to go.

Last year I camped but this year I will sleep at home. Camping was fun but just adds another layer of complication.

Off to decorate!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Cultural differences in bike clubs...a matter of style

I am a member of three local bicycle clubs and the only thing they have in common are the fact that they involve bicycles. The cultures are very different.

On Sunday I rode with the Ottawa Bicycle club some 80km. The club rides in a double peleton which makes it very social. They don't stop and maintain the advertised average speed. In my case for Sunday, 27km/hr. There are no lunch stops just a brief pause while you stuff a sandwich or bar in your mouth.

The advantage is time. I left at 9am and I was home before noon. Another advantage is you can really improve your riding as there are no tiring stops, starts...all of which take time and make for a long day.

It is good to be in several clubs if you bike. The Kanata Nepean Bicycle club has a more relaxed riding style where people do not want to ride in groups. As a result, you ride alone or with others in close proximity but there are numerous stops, starts and longer lunches. An 80km ride would be an all day affair. The lunches however are better than the OBC! The people are in their mid 40's and above and all of them would rather die than camp on a touring trip!

The CCCTS or Cross Canada Cycling touring society is made up of retired individuals, most of whom have been riding since they were born. They ride double file but that is to chat, not because it is a peleton. The pace can be fast or leisurely. The lunches are always lovely, be they picnics or otherwise as the members have much experience to share with people like me. Very different again. The people range in ages from late 50's to 84. These folks gladly camp or stay in hostels on their touring trips.

The differences between the club cultures are also expressed in the bikes themselves. The OBC riders have fast carbon racers and can speak at great length about the difference between SRAM, ultegra, etc. There is not a leather saddle to be seen! They do not carry bags but stuff their necessities in their pockets or in impossibly small frame bags.

The riders in the Kanata Club have racing bikes but there are some with hybrids. For the most part they look to the OBC and therefore not a leather saddle to be seen but there are panniers and larger bags!

The CCCTS folks have fenders, leather saddles and older equipment that is well maintained. They do not speak about SRAM or ULTEGRA but will tell you about friction shifters and gear that has stood the test of time, rather than fashion. Most of them have lightweight steel framed bikes, although one of us has a Titanium frame. There is a sub section of this club who all own Brooks saddles.

Each club has a different culture and different styles. If you love biking as I do, it is best to experience them all. I have been told that the Quebec club veloplaisir is known for their gastronomical outings. Next year!!!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Picton May 21-23rd 2010, beaches, wine and sun


What a difference two weeks can make! During this weekend I led a group of 13 cyclists in Prince Edward County. The tour began with a dinner at Portabellas in Picton. This is a small restaurant with homemade pasta and the most delicious rose sauce I ever ate. It was wonderful and inexpensive. Dave and Cynthia made themselves available as leaders of the s3 group so that the cyclists had speed options! Always a good thing! Dave and Cynthia were fabulous!

Barb Bird, Carole Laflamme and I stayed at Carusos. The next morning at 7am our hosts gave us breakfast of fresh fruit and yogurt, homemade scones with butter, tea, juice, coffee, sausages, eggs! After spending the night in the beautiful out of Africa room, this was just an added pleasure. Our hostess also provides massages and before our dinner at Portabellas I had the Caruso's special with hot stones! We heard stories from other cyclists of skimpy breakfasts but Carusos excelled themselves!


The bike route was designed with the help of the Bloomfield bike company and took on the Cressy loop to visit the fifth town cheese factory (where I had their signature goats milk and cheese ice cream) and have a splendid cider tasting at the County Cider. County Cider is perched on a hill overlooking lake Ontario. With its stone tasting room and wonderful lunch area with a wood fired oven, you could imagine yourself in Tuscany. Here we had cheese and cider and grapes. The cider was so good that some on the tour bought some. I agreed to carry it in my pannier with the proviso that they buy me a bottle! The Cressy loop is splendid and lined with lilacs and bordered by the lake.

We rode to the Milford Bistro where their amiable chef and owner welcomed us with specially prepared menus. After his description of the ceasar salad, that is what I ordered. Our chef provided us with an autographed photo of him and told us his wife was diagnosed a few days ago with a horrible cancer. We gave him a hug and I told him I was a cancer survivor and it can be beaten. It is strange where life takes us.

After a decadent lunch it was back on the bikes for a mandatory stop at the Bloomfield bike shop where Lauren got her bike fixed. This gave us TIME TO SHOP. The store has a library and yes, you can read paperbacks on their porch. They have T shirts that read "TV sucks, Ride your bike" I bought one with matching socks. The mechanics are all geniuses with bikes and the owner Katey hilarious. When I was there, a young boy rang the bell. The bell was labelled please
Ring for abuse" as he rang Katey told him his haircut was terrible and his T shirt was a mess. Seeing he did not get it she pointed out that he rang and indeed got abuse.

By the time we returned to Picton, it was time for a hot tub session and some Waupoose cider. The three of us recalled our day in the sun among the vines and surrounded by the sweet smells and tastes of Picton.

The ride on day one was about 85km.

That night we dined on classic French cuisine at the Bloomfield carriage house.

The second day, we lost our young couple who bowed out and Peter who was ill. This left 10 of us. Day two was a picnic lunch that some of us picked up at the marshmallow room, which is the bakery and pastry shop run by the owner of the Bloomfield carriage house. After a bit of confusion, our portabello mushroom and cheese sandwiches on freshly baked bread were ready. I had lemonade, a sandwich and and apple...lunch for a king!

On our second day we rode to big island. This is all farmland with beautiful barns and pastureland. There were sheep grazing on verdant fields that overlooked the lake, buff coloured boats tied to docks, purple lawn chairs, and a charming marina. We watched an Osprey feed its young! It was then on to the Closson Estates Vineyard and organic winery that makes oaked chardonnays. By this time our group had cycled over 80km and they were glad to stop, We unpacked our lunches and had some wine in the sun overlooking the fields behind the purple, yes purple barn.

We cycled to the grange for more wine tasting and were given free samples, (I had two) of their newest rose.

Now there is something funny about a lot of wine on a bicycle. We rode down the dirt road to our next destination, a large public beach used only by locals. It took me a while to steer. The beach is at the end of Bakker lane and is miles of UNPOPULATED sand and beauty. We were alone. The water was cold but had it been warmer what a spot for a small fire and a beach party! It made the famous sandbanks look sick!

At about 100km my group of Mary, Barb, Carole and Michele was flagging. We rode into Bloomfield where we had icecream and I thanked Katey at Bloomfield for her wise advice. I got a special price on socks!

At 118km we rode into Picton. I was sad to leave our splendid bed and breakfast with its warm hosts, charming little orange cat, garden and comfort.

I would sum this little journey as an excursion into pleasure. It was a lot of fun!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Biking the way it should be

Today Tom Seniuk, Carole Laflamme and I rode a 93 km loop leaving from Perth. The route was chosen by the chamber of commerce and had recommendations of where to stop and eat. Bravo for them!

The route was gorgeous, passing through Maberly and Elphin along little rivers, and falls, log cabins, rolling hills with horses and cows. There was a recommendation to stop and eat at Falls restaurant in Maberly. What a place! Organic, delicious, charming and cheap. I had an arctic char burger.

The roads had little or no traffic and were in fantastic shape. Perths chamber of commerce has a cycling committee and they hand out high quality routes of 20, 30, 50 or 90km. What a great idea.

I wish Ottawa would do the same. The route that the chamber of commerce committee mapped out was safe, gorgeous, scenic, quiet and blessed by an amazing local restaurant that were it not for the recommendation, I would have overlooked.

Today was bike touring the way it was meant to be. Fun, safe and filled with discovery. Today I learned that 3 cyclists were killed near Montreal riding on a busy road with no shoulders. Like all cyclists, I am saddened by that loss and this makes me even more thankful when I discover, or am told about wonderful cycling routes like the one today.

Monday, May 10, 2010

OK bike tour to Picton May 8th and 9th 2010




Manny Agulnik is an Ottawa institution who has organized bike tours for years under the name OK tours. His trademark OK tour is the Ottawa Kennebunkport tour where riders ride about 140km or more for four days. Picton was an exception and I had no idea other than I wanted to support him mainly because of the charity work he and his wife Paula do, and also because I like biking.

We stayed at the Jackson Falls school house inn. This is a truly lovely spot where we ate in what was the one room school house. The region of Picton had many such schoolhouses until they were closed and amalgamated in 1961. While the Jackson Falls school house was renovated there are other ghostly school houses, boarded up, dark and empty of students in the area. Manny had arranged for us to have breakfast and dinners there which was great!

The first day of riding was cold and windy. Some people believed the dire weather forecast and chose not to ride. Our little group of Morley, Manny, Scott, Isabelle, John and (his gf?) rode out ostensibly to Closson vineyards. We got as far as Bloomfield and after a wonderful lunch at the Bloomfield carriage house as we watched the rain and wind over portobello mushroom sandwiches and apricot bread, decided to go back.

The entire group was around 20 cyclists and I soon learned that my roomate Maggie was a wonderful well traveled lady with a zest for life. In fact, the entire group was lovely, friendly and supportive. I believe that Manny's personality has a lot to do with this. There were people who had done almost 10 tours with Manny, which is a tribute.

Being served dinners in a one room schoolhouse with old maps and wooden flooring was lovely. Even nicer was at night as it poured with rain, we heard and were lulled by the rain on the tin roof.

After the ride on Saturday, I went to oil my bike and lifted the heavy garage door. I got my fingers in my right hand crushed. There was no one around and my opera training came in handy. I screamed for help. I woke up John and his friendwho rushed out to help me. In fact I woke up everyone. John found a brass ornament and freed my hand. The pain was horrible and I feared I would lose the finger. John and drove me to the hospital all the while alerting the hospital staff.

The hospital staff told me that many from the group phoned to inquire about me. I came back to the Inn just in time for the main course, was cheered and plied with wonderful Picton wine. The innkeeper Pete gave me pain pills and a mysterious concoction with coffee and whiskey. I was told the next morning that when I went to bed I sang the Lord is my Shepherd.. and my roommate harmonized. Our neighours enjoyed the concert and then I went to sleep.

On Sunday morning after a wonderful breakfast of French toast and more chatting with our group, I met Joyce. Joyce is an Olympian of a cyclist and she, Morley and I set off to master the Cressy Loop. Some 70km in high winds and cold temperatures. The loop is beautiful with lovely pastoral scenes, old schoolhouses, and lilac bushes lining the roadways. Joyce and I stopped at the Cider House and of course the fifth town cheese factory. By the time we rejoined the group at the Waupoose winery for lunch I realized I was in pain, cold and tired. I was driven back to the Inn by Morley, I packed and drove home.

Manny organized a lovely tour and there were maps for everyone. The people on the tour were friendly, kind and the sort of people I would consider friends. It is fair to say that on an OK tour you meet cyclists and leave with friends.

Well done!

As for my finger, I do not appear to have nerve damage. It is battered and bruised but I will not lose the finger tip. I still have 9 other fingers with which to type and cycle!

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