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!!!

Karine's Blog

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