Sunday, December 25, 2011

happy christmas!

a very happy christmas to all my cycling (and non-cycling) friends!!!

may your roads be lined with beauty and the odd shop selling good pastries and nice tea or coffee, and may they end at a place that has an awesome dinner ready with something lovely to drink!!!!!

steven and my two bikes

Sunday, December 11, 2011

riding on dec. 11. 2011

okay so let's get this bit out of the way to start - it's freaking windy and so . . . well i'll admit it's cold. like, not thirty below cold, but cold in the way that winds that bore into you and subdue you and hold you still as they make their point can be cold.

then there's the whole piece of stopping at public places - intersections - and carefully hoisting the water bottle out of its carbon fibre frame and slurping back water so close to ice it literally freezes my tongue - i mean this is entirely about posturing. oh yeah . . . i'm soooooo tough. the water hurts it's that cold. it's one step from ice. but . . . the people in their audis and suvs don't know that do they? nope, they think i'm a freak on a roadbike still sitting on summer slicks. and that's what freaks do - they drink water on a day when the rest of the world is nursing rum and cokes to avoid the horror of dealing with the nasty truth that - even though the sign says autumn, it's winter.

so what! here i am!
i'm sitting right next to them on a carbon fibre bike that says f--- you i don't care, really i don't!!!!

i've already put on my uninsulated too tight gorgeous leather biking shoes and layered myself with a store's worth of performance wear and headed out regardless.

first impressions? damn it's windy. second impressions? what's my point here? well i'm aiming for a season total that sees the road bike get 4000 kms on it, so that's a worthy goal i figure. then there's the whole piece of knowing that most of my bike buddies have hooked their bikes up to rollers. not me. not yet. i will not weaken. or something like that!!!!

but then, riding out of the beautiful city i get to call "home" for now . . . well so much opens up and really all the ego stroking and self-perceptions that hover around the whys and whats of a ride that probably shouldn't take place disappear and it all comes clear exactly why i should go out and lose all feeling in the front half of my feet and suffer the brain ache i usually only get with a jumbo blue-coloured (and flavoured) freezie.

i fire snot rockets every twenty metres and spit every ten and i think more than once about the much more comfortable places where i could happily park my body and let it enjoy other experiences that would be far more gratifying and memorable!!

and yet, i ride on!

past the ducks sorting out the complications of three mammals in love.

they seem happy, but you know there's all sorts of shit going down there!!!!

past the place where the water is running down the bank and freezing into icicles before it hits the river.
check it out.
see the white things pointing straight down?
not roots my friend - icicles!

and i take a picture of the shadow of myself just to confirm that it's not summer or spring or autumn - no way man it's every part of the frosty fingers of winter and i'm in the process of earning some sort of amazing experience that has never been a part of me before and so this is what i look like as i watch myself - sand and dust and snow and cold water and a shadow . . . . and further on i stop to take a thankyou portrait of my road bike who remains nameless - perhaps not for long as i have requested support from she who will ride with me through snowsqualls and anything else!

but really, in the end the ride was defined by this little inukshuk dude standing waist deep in the cold fast-flowing water and somehow still retaining his super-high stop the bike ride coolness quotient.


Saturday, December 3, 2011

riding on december 3rd, 2011

there's still no snow on the ground and sure it's one degree celsius out with a 17 kph wind huffing in from the south (which doesn't mean warm air by the way!!) but i have to take my road bike out and see the sights,
feel the feelings, i bet you know what i mean!

my bike and body stretch across the dry and fading late autumn landscape.

the rider who isn't really there rode with me today. "hey! long time no see.
i bet you're glad you could come along aren't you?!!!"

there's a peacefulness about this little part of the world.

everything is filled with the sense of waiting for the arrival of winter.

i saw autumn and winter merging across a pond.

i'm so glad to be riding on two wheels so late in the year. in such a beautiful place. and loved!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

riding ... with love and care

late autumn - november 26th -
i think of each ride on the road bike as the "last of the season".
it's what i call a "pointed stick" . . . a way of really experiencing something with the intent in this instance of holding the experience of this ride through the long, dark months on the bike trainer that are stretching out in front of me.

i left late - 3:25 - for a ride that i set aside two hours for - door-to-door 50+km.

the sun sets around 4:45 so even though i've got some cute flashy lights on the front and
the back, i still feel vulnerable and not entirely expected in the vernacular of the road at this time of year.

the temperature was hovering around 10 celsius, so it's pretty warm for this time of year. the air was almost windless which is exceptional for this area and especially for this ride which is notorious for malicious zephyrs that pummel you on the way out and somehow know to turn around at the same moment you do
and pummel you on the way home.

the sun was already dropping before i arrived at the turn-around point.

this was one of those rides where everything went right. i was entirely and completely able to take risks and not get hurt. lights changed in my favour, my legs did absolutely everything i asked of them, my body didn't crave food or water even though it's not been getting enough of either lately!!! i had the most wonderful conversations, sharing thoughts, and wishes and dreams and speaking so bravely about all that matters to me ... all on my own of course!!!

the return was even more beautiful.
i hold so much more in my head and my heart than i can share here,
but these images hold something of the moment.

i made it back in 1 hour and 45 minutes. i'll do the math right now - not that it matters a whole lot because really, for the beauty, the good loving feeling that filled me and especially for the tremendous fortune that holds my hand and quietly says "come on then" in my ear, the numbers are of no consequence but i moved at an average of . . . no seriously, well really, who cares!!!!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

a late autumn ride

in the late autumn the temperatures are in the single digits . . . above and below the zero line.

so, when morning opens torn and wild like this

words flutter fast and furious across my thinking
- much like the forecast snow.

do i ride?
which direction do i go first to grab a tailwind on the way back?

how much grip do racing slicks have in the snow?
how long will the hurt last when i drop?
will i be able to keep up?

the answers, are all found as i watch our wheels on the road
which care nothing for anything
other than the joy of quietly passing through this beautiful world
exactly as it is
and not as it might be
or could be

and when we stop and look over the fields at the places where
the sky meets the earth in a soft wavering film of falling snow
words pass through me:

we're here now . . . in this very moment.
it's all that it is and couldn't be anything more.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

summer memories #1: the blondel deviation

this memory, i think of as "the blondel deviation".

for those of you you who don't know dave blondel you might be expecting something a tad off colour - well no! blondel has tried to lead me down muddy and gravelly paths, but nothing really off colour.

if you don't mind, i'll take you back a little bit. a long time ago, dave mentioned on his blog that his buddy kieran had posted a piece about a little dirt road which (if followed) provided lovely scenery and exquisite views to cyclists who ventured off the river road bicycle pipeline. the dirt road he referred to is one i have passed a lot of times and yes, i have wondered as i pass it each time "what's up there" but it's the strangest thing that
i couldn't bring myself once to turn right and have a look.

note to self: stop writing notes to self and start asking more probing questions of self!

well one day this summer i followed dave's suggestion, and i am so glad i did!

i wasn't more than a hundred metres along the road when the quiet settled so suddenly around me it was breathtaking. to add to the beauty of the moment, a huge monarch butterfly fluttered up right next to me and followed me until i stopped to take this next photograph, at which time it flew on ahead and
then came back and joined me again!
it was right out of walt disney.
then it was entirely real.

further along this road, the sumac had really taken hold of the idea of autumn's arrival.
i love the gift of colour in nature and for that, the autumn has to be the most amazing
heap of gifts in the whole year!!!!

i got so immersed in the beauty of this little stretch of road that i took a "wrong turn". can you make a wrong turn when you're somewhere this beautiful? i think not!

i rode on, heading somewhere but i had no sense of direction although i figured at some point
i'd see either douro or warsaw.

but really.
i didn't care!

i mean ... why worry?!!

Friday, November 18, 2011

first ride - first snow

an after-work ride south of peterborough - thirty minutes out and thirty minutes back, it's like grabbing a snack only much better because it's bicycling with a lovely person very late in the year.

entirely unlikely and entirely welcome!

the temperature is just below zero celsius.
the wind is merciless and blowing from the southwest.
snow squalls are forecast and visible.
we are riding south and southwest for the first half of the ride.

the sky opens up at a distance.

the snow holds off until we are riding north on crowley line and just past this house . . .

from which a hairy dog bullet comes flying down the driveway and across the road to gnaw on our tires - hers first and then (perhaps because i use my deepest growliest voice) -
the dog carves furry arabesques
and disappears behind us.
at which point a snowsquall flutters over us and settles all around us and i hear her laugh and i start laughing myself because really - REALLY - this is so epic!!!

we crest a hill by an old old wooden building and she says it could be a tavern (and wouldn't that be a dream come true!) a place to settle our windblown snow-covered bones and put back some liquid warmth.

but it's actually derelict and so on we go.

heading our separate ways.

one of my best ever and most unforgettable rides!!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

on reflection

the autumn is probably the most beautiful time of year to be out on two wheels.

one of the routes i love to take follows the otonabee river which at this time of year is often lowered quite
substantially, slowing the current down enough such that if there's no wind,
there are amazing reflections in the water.

these are from last weekend.

the side-effect of these scenes is to slow me down. to stop.
to look around and really let all this wonder settle in.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

international angry dog day

I sent this posting out today as a letter to friends and family and then i thought "hey that would make a good posting on my cycles blog". so if you come here and think "hey, i just got that in the mail" then please don't feel any less special!!!!

------ ------ -------- ---------- --------------- ------------------------------

today I went out through the hills of cavan and then back through millbrook and along wallace point road and back through downtown peterborough to my home on the western edge of the city.

i've attached this photograph because when you look at it, you'll see that in the distance is a little hill. on the other side of that hill there's a nice long swooping dive into a valley that's a bit like the ones i imagined when i first read the hobbit. sort of otherworldly in a good and kind way. except this valley has one detail that makes it different from the idyllic image conjured up by tolkien.

see, this one has a reddish-brown dog who today was celebrating international angry dog day. how did i miss that on the equity and diversity calendar?!

he started barking as i crested that distant hill and when i heard him i looked over - wayyyy over - across a field of scruffy acreage to a house that i guarantee had nothing in it that i wanted to steal ... but this dog's job was clearly to protect that homestead and so it started to run towards me - from a very long way away.
i kept on going, figuring I'd cross the next hill before he got to the road. wrong. VERYwrong. this dog was FLYING!!! when i did a second check on his progress and did some quick calculations in my head, i figured my ass would for sure be in his mouth before very long and so i slowed down and turned around, dropped from the Big Ring at the front to the small ring and started pedalling hard. REALLY really hard.
(remember, i'm in a valley at this point, there's a climb in front of me, but i have a tailwind in my favour and fear on my side!)

i was really moving when i decided to look back and see how i was doing. at that point I saw the dog jump through the split-rail fence and onto the road and keep coming. No Way!!! i have never had a dog that crazy. i mean, i'm a skinny guy - there's nothing to me. "IT'S NOT WORTH IT" i yelled out and kept pedalling as fast as i could until i crested the hill and saw the dog still running but falling back now and do you think I stopped until I was a good 7 km from Nasty Dog Land? not on your (or my) life!

when I got into the Pastry Peddler in Millbrook i shared the story with colin and deanne who empathized at my plight as i huffed back a beer-mug of water and a big piece of caramel-covered brownie to make me feel better about my lot in life.

it was a chilly ride at times - 67 km including the detour I took to avoid the Angry Dog - but so nice to be away from everything - well almost everything!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

late autumn commuting

this is the time of year for cold rainy day rides. i commute to and from the school i teach at and until recently - very recently in fact - i've been riding in shorts. temperatures are hovering around the single to low double-digits in celsius so it's been a manly character-building exercise in something that when asked to explain, i simply can't, not even to myself. i simple feel the need to do it.

however, those days are passing by as my hands now have gloves on them and my legs (no matter how hairy) are also covered, by riding pants.

the bike looks out onto the driveway ."oh no. not again".....

yep! get your nose out there .....

it ain't gonna go away
and i've gotta ride.

every day, the road unfolds under my wheels. on these days when it's rainy and the roads are often slick with leaves, i read the road even more carefully than usual for anything that could make my ride - and maybe even my life - less than pleasant . . . or worse!

but i'm careful and so (touch wood) nothing overly untoward happens.

i love the early morning streetlights reflecting in the rain on the streets.

they're the hidden gift of a rainy day ride for me.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Ride for Africycle 5.0 Day Nine

The sun rose bright and full on this day and came streaming into the tent at a fairly early hour. Our last day. It's always a mixed-feeling as I know that something very special is coming to a close but then I get to see my family and sleep in my own bed and return to familiar surroundings . . . . . The house gradually came to life as everyone in their tents starting packing bins and admiring the gardens.

A huge breakfast was prepared and we were invited to join the family and friends inside the house where a lot of food was put back pretty quickly. Soon, it was time to say goodbye so bins were packed for the final time and bike tires pumped up and chains lubed and off we went. Our route was largely undetermined and figured out along the way. I remember passing through some little towns and certainly I remember one epic climb up a hill on the North side of the Mosport racetrack. Otherwise, I couldn't tell you the route we followed. It was super hilly and there were some breathtaking views and speedy descents.

Eventually we arrived in Millbrook and paid a visit to our friends Colin and Deanne at The Pastry Peddler.

Here's Michael's bike waiting patiently while its owner puts an Americano and a pastry where they belong!
(Photo courtesy Ed Kwaka)

Soon it was time to clip in again and head up the long steep hill East out of Millbrook and catch the awesome tail-wind that often waits at the top. Sure enough(and thankfully) it was right there. Scotia then made history with an epic pull that began at the top of the hill and ended at the VanDerHerberg residence in Peterborough. Speeds sat around 40 -45 km/h much of the time so we were there very quickly!

Friends and family were waiting there for many of the riders so a few beers were hoisted and there was a little celebration. We heard that the bus had broken down near Port Perry and that our bins of gear were being brought up in a van and so the celebration lasted a little longer as we waited for its arrival. Not a problem as Andrea magically hauled some chocolate cupcakes out of nowhere to continue the celebration!

My wife came to pick up my gear and after lots of goodbye hugs with the riders and support crew, I got back on my bike and rode home, west into the afternoon sun. Another amazing ride - my second - over too soon.

Next year, for Ride for Africycle 6.0 we will ride to Quebec City. It will be an epic, life-changing ride.
(Ed and I are planning on riding back as well).

If you've followed this story and are curious, or feel the itch to ride with amazing people and have incredible never-to-be-forgotten experiences, then you really should consider contacting the Ride for Africycle people.

A big thanks to the Voss family for their support of our ride. To Dave Barber for all his quietly incredible extra efforts and for being such an awesome man. To Jerred our chef for the excellent food. To the good people of The Next Church in Kingston for being so accommodating. To our many generous sponsors! To all of you who prayed for us and sent us your good thoughts.

These rides are entirely possible only because of the many good people who
generously provide their love and support.

My Love and thanks to you all.


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Ride for Africycle 5.0 Day Eight

Waking in Bronte Creek Provincial Park to a cool morning. The distant muted roar of traffic. The much closer sound of birds and people grudgingly extracting their bodies from sleeping bags.

My point-and-shoot camera battery said "no more" just after I woke up, so most of today's photographs are from the camera of Mr. Ed Kwaka, my biking buddy extraordinaire.

Here I am hauling my pillow over to my storage bin in exchange for a bowl of porridge.
(Photo courtesy Ed Kwaka)

The morning is a fragile place but there were always people laughing while they
parked back a couple of cups of coffee.
(Photo courtesy Ed Kwaka)

Today's ride had been the topic of much discussion as we were unsure whether to skirt North of the GTA or to cycle right through its heart. There are benefits to both routes of course but the decision was finally sealed by the Amazing Ben Voss who invited us to spend that night at his parent's home in Claremont. Our route there would take us directly along the Lakeshore until somewhere East of Toronto at which point we would turn North, ride past the Metro Zoo and then wiggle and twist our way through Concession and County roads until we would arrive at Chez Voss.

Most of the ride alongside the Lake followed the Waterfront Trail, a well-maintained and well-signposted route that we left when necessary as it does deviate away from what we thought was the best and most direct route for us.

The ride along Lakeshore Boulevard through Oakville and Port Credit was fast. A smooth uncluttered road with beautiful old trees on either side and of course, vast mansions whose wrap-around driveways are parking lots for Bentley's, Aston Martins, the odd Lamborghini and lots of other toys that are well beyond my experience. I wonder how the lives of their owners might be changed if they were to come along on an Africycle ride?!

Eventually the edge of Mimico arrived and we passed into the older parts of Downtown Toronto where the road was a little more broken up and of course bisected by streetcar tracks. I really enjoy riding along here - although the last time I had been on this stretch on a bike would have to be thirty years ago - it looked essentially the same. A lot of cool little shops seemingly untouched by the passage of time and very obviously deeply embedded as the anchors they are for the little communities they serve.

Shortly after passing through Mimico, we crossed the very stylish bridge over the Humber River.

Just up ahead and on the right are Dave and Mel enjoying the view across the Lake.
(Photo courtesy Ed Kwaka)

The views across the Bay to the Downtown skyline were really good!

Downtown Toronto skyline. (Photo courtesy Ed Kwaka)

We stayed as close as possible to the Lakeshore and blew past the Sunnyside Swimming pool, weaving and dodging through the bladers, runners, walkers, and other cyclists until we reached the bottom end of the Don Valley Parkway where we picked up the bike trail that would take us to our Lunch spot at Ashbridge's Bay. At Ashbridge's Bay we met the bus and the guys had picked up some roast chicken and fries and buns which was so totally unexpected and awesome! The park is huge and there were rugby games, a skateboarding park and all sorts of mega picnics and whatever else going on.

After Lunch we headed across the middle of Scarborough using the Danforth and Kingston Road -huge entertainment quotient there as bikes are definitely not expected and especially not welcome. This is a car and truck road and people are motoring along and have places to go and things to do!!! I was super happy when my front wheel turned North andI knew that we would pass by the Metro Zoo and head out into countryside pretty soon. Of course country roads are a bit rougher but there are all sorts of visual distractions that make it all worthwhile.

At one point we came across a countryside hazhard - the bridge was out. Not wanting to take the long way around we agreed that no matter what, we were getting across that river even if it meant we had to wade or swim across with our bikes!

Happily neither was necessary as the bridge had handy dandy planks where its paved span would normally be so we were able to walk across and remain nice and dry!

Here's Michael VanDerHerberg taking the difficult route across.
(Photo courtesy Ed Kwaka)

Here are the rest of us taking the easy way across. Is there a life-lesson there? You be the judge!!
(Photo courtesy Ed Kwaka)

From here some long smooth roads led us to the beautiful little town of Claremont where the bus was parked.

The bikes were put away in the garage for the night. I'm sure they had some amazing discussions!
(Photo courtesy of Ed Kwaka)

After we'd all enjoyed a couple of rehydrating beers, Ben's sister provided superb massages to all who wished! She worked on my shoulders which hold a lot of tension when I ride long distances and it was as if a weight had been lifted off them by the time she had finished working her magic!

Then we all gathered in the beautiful back yard of this gorgeous home for a candlelight feast that was beyond comparison around tables filled with the most amazing people. We ate and drank and laughed our way into the night and then retreated to our tents for the last sleep of this year's ride.