Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bike Touring take two: Beware the false messiahs!

Today I listened to an interview of a self proclaimed bike tour guru. He started at 17 and is now 25. He has written a book about bike touring. I listened and was appalled at some of his tactics.

1) Bush or stealth camping. This is where you camp in the bush and make your own campsite hidden from view. This is a great way to be attacked or beset upon by undesirables. Chances are your spot is also the spot for those who have drunken bush parties! I would not recommend this practice to anyone especially women.

2) He is very down on park camping, presumably because there is a fee. There is also comfort, showers and security...I can't see the downside. You can always find a quiet place.

In addition to being unsafe, he was dismissive of gear. How can you be dismissive of gear! Camping gear has changed in the 20 years that I purchased my gear. It was great gear then but I found shopping for new gear great fun. Did you know there are backpacking expresso makers? Neither did I. How about towels that absorb 5X their weight that fit in your backpocket? Lightweight kettles, and best of all silicone bowls. These bowls squish and fold flat. Titanium sporks (fork and spoon), freezedried organic meals, silicone mugs,portable light tents of all sizes etc. etc. This year I bought a silk liner for my new sleeping bag...ahh the luxury!

Bike touring is a lot of fun, but one must beware of self proclaimed messiahs who advocate crazy things. I went bike camping alone a few days ago, but was not really alone, my husband knew my route and I cycled along roads well traveled. I camped in a provincial park that had wonderful hot showers.

There is solace in bike touring that comes from knowing that you have your home, your kitchen, your bedroom, closet and entertainment all with you. All my possessions (those needed for the trip) were around me.I plan to do a few more small trips this summer because they are a lot of fun. When I do longer trips I will encourage others to join me, as in remote areas it is never a good idea to travel alone.

Beware the false messiah!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bike Camping

Yesterday and today I decided to relive my bike camping days and took a trip some 70km away to a provincial park to camp overnight and then ride home.

I used to do a fair bit when I was younger, but now over 50 it is not quite as I remember it. The bike is heavier and it takes me longer to pack! In fact, compared to my other bikes, touring seems like driving a truck.

There is, however, something magical about having your tent, sleeping gear etc all in your bags and you are free to explore the road. On day one I followed a bike route, it was rambling, twisty and I got lost a few times. Today, I decided to 'go straight' and followed one road. On Monday, after making many wrong turns and cycling in the heat, I arrived in Manotick at the black dog cafe, not hungry but thirsty enough to drink a river. Two ice teas, a salad, three glasses of water and one large Beau's lager later I was ready to roll. I arrived at the campsite at around 3pm. On Tuesday I decided to take a direct route.

My direct route led me into North Gower where I spent some delightful time in the town archives speaking with the archivists. History never ceases to fascinate me.

My campsite was at the Rideau River Park, a lovely small provincial park. I set up my tent and was joined by Cyril for supper. We had a roaring fire, I had a drink and then put my breakfast away. I carefully put my eggs, bacon, tomato and bread under a pot with a heavy peice of wood on top. In the morning, the bacon and bread were gone, the eggs broken and the tomato left. I made an egg and tomato omelet.

I was excited to try my coffee filter for my coffee and boiled some water in my new kettle. The coffee was so bad even I could not stomach it. I will repeat the experiment at home and see what happened.

My speed was reduced with this bike. I could maintain a speed or around 24km/hr but there is no way I could maintain a speed close to 30km/hr which is more what I am used to. At times, I felt like I was pushing a lead weight.

I got to try my new Hubba Hubba tent...beautiful, sleeping bag worked and even the thermarest pad worked well. The new camping equipment is so superior to my old 25 year old gear which was far bulkier.

To all those folk who are regular bike campers kudos to you. it is a LOT more work than mere road riding.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Why ALL dogs go to heaven

As a theologian I have always been fascinated by concepts of heaven. Many cultures reward their heroes and base their afterlife on a concept of heroes.

The Greeks, for example, rewarded valor with the Elysian fields. On Saturday I attended a performance of Die Valkyrie, part of Wagner's Ring cycle. The Valkyrie, in full armour and bearing her sword appears to Siegmund with her prepared speech. "I appear to heroes who will fall in battle and will escort you to Valhalla" she describes Valhalla as a place where Siegmund would be attended by fair maidens and would be greeted by other heros. He is interested but then asks if his wife Sieglinda could accompany him. The Valkyrie shakes her head "no girls allowed". Siegmund then refuses to go to Valhalla.

The Valkyrie is shocked. A similar scene was shown in the movie Black Robe where the Jesuit priest is speaking to the natives he is accompanying on a long canoe journey about heaven. He describes heaven and the chief asks as he is smoking if there will be tobacco. The Jesuit shakes his head, very sure that there would be no tobacco in heaven. The chief then asks about women..would have have his women. Again male or female in heaven. The chief, at that point, writes off Christianity.

The problem with heaven is that every time we extrapolate from our own experiences we create ridiculous versions of heaven. Is heaven a hall of heroes? Is it a smoke free zone? Is it people playing harps? If we believe in an afterlife, what is it?

This is why all dogs go to heaven. I have learned about heaven from my dog Sophie. For the first 8 years of her life, she was abused, neglected and starved. She was brutalized. If you had asked her about heaven she may have answered that it was a place where you could get a meal..but her experiences and life was so limited she could not extrapolate. She never knew love.

Sophie now has soft beds, she is greeted with affection, has homemade meals, is never hungry and is very much loved. Sophie could not have extrapolated love as she had no concept of love.

The problem with our concepts of heaven is that they are based on our extrapolations from our experiences. Our life experiences, like that of Sophie, are simply too limited to understand what it would mean to be totally loved and appreciated for who you are. To be welcomed not as a hero..but to be loved and appreciated. To be valued and cherished.

Sophie has taught me that a concept of heaven that does not consider the depths of love and is too bound by physical concepts and simply not worth going to.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

2011 weekend to end women's cancers...end the circus

This year I volunteered for the 2011 weekend to end women's cancers held in Ottawa. I was part of Team Experience and hence was able to see more of the organization and what was going on.

The weekend is organized by a professional group that comes with trucks, stages, lighting and speakers who practice gravitas and say "you have done it ladies". There are huge signs, screens...and it is done with the professionalism of a traveling stage crew which is what they are.

I managed to speak with Barb the chairman or CEO of the traveling stage show and suggested that there could be more walkers IF the $2500.00 fundraising minimum was reduced to $500.00. Without batting an eye she said "this would not cover our costs" sensing she had made a mistake, she then proceeded to try to impress me with the stage, the professionalism etc.

Needless to say, we DO NOT NEED a professional traveling circus. This event could be held locally and run by volunteers. Ottawa is a very generous city. No where in the literature does it ever mention the "cost" of the show and I am sure that walkers believe that all of their money goes to help cancer survivors and research, but this is not the case.

We need to stand up and TAKE BACK OUR WEEKEND. We do not need paid stagehands and an army of staff with microphones to make this a spectacular weekend. By involving more of our local businesses, this event could be a true feather in the cap of the Regional Cancer foundation instead of a pawn and a money maker for the professional stagehands.

Karine's Blog

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