Sunday, 21 December 2008

On the advent of a blog franchise

I found out yesterday that my sister and her partner, Mark have set up a blog to detail their travails in Namibia. They were inspired by my blog to dub it "Namibia wanderings". As my readers are aware, I dubbed this blog "Moose Wanderings" after Margo and Chris' blog "Wanderings". This has some interesting potential repercussions. Does this mean that the "Wanderings" brand of blog has gone viral and there will be a wave of like titled blogs throughout the web? Or should Margo rush out to register Wanderings as brand name? In restaurant terms, three or more related restaurants counts as a chain. Are we now a chain of blogs? ;-) Do Alice and I have to start paying fees to Margo and Chris?

It has been a while since I last posted so I thought I would wish people a Merry Christmas and a happy last Sunday of Advent.

Monday, 1 December 2008

On the benefits of Canadian bikes

This post isn't really about me or my biking. Instead I would like to call my readers attention to this article on the CBC's website. It is particularly interesting to me as not only is it a biking article but it also discusses medicine in Namibia where my sister, the doctor, might working early next year. I don't know in what conditions she will working in but I can't help but wonder if she might benefit from bringing her bike along with her, possibly with some gear upgrades, such as Kevlar tires, and good saddle bags.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

On folly and wussishness

A number of posts ago, I described a fellow cycle tourist as striking me as a bit foolish. He had this to say about my comment:

You say foolish, I say inexperienced.

In my own defense, the only touring that I had ever done before biking across Canada is nada. I only did training rides around Vancouver on a carbon fiber race bike (and commuting, I guess).

Of course, my way of looking at it is if you only do what you know, if you never take the jump into trying what you think is impossible, you never actually grow. Things like making the commitment to biking the continent fall into that category.

Feel free to call me foolish if you want, I'll feel free to call you a wuss. ;-)

I have been trying to decide what my reaction to this is. Looking back at my biking career, I realize that I discovered the dangers of overloading bicycle wheels going to work with a decent load on the back of my bike over the lousy surface that passes for pavement in Montreal. I blew a fair number of tires and went through a couple of rims before I was introduced to the benefits of touring grade wheels and Kevlar tires by my local bike shop. Since then, I have been a firm believer in them. In addition, I made the transition into true cycle-touring with the advice of my aunt. She, in turn, learned a good deal about modern cycle-touring from her contacts at a bike shop in Vancouver. Thus, I had a certain amount of experience under my belt. The trouble with experience is you don't always know you have it.

It would seem that MarkE didn't have the benefit of experience and was possibly spoilt by the good road of B.C.. In addition, he seems a braver spirit than I. More power to him.

However, my approach to life is a bit more belt and suspenders. I would rather test things out, ask advice and plan ahead. I must admit that on the Newfoundland trip, I think I sold myself a bit short in the planning and wasn't bold enough to dare to go longer distances each day. However, in doing so, I was erring on the cautious side of ideal and that is where I would rather be. I'd rather be on the wussy side than have all the mechanical issues that MarkE. So, if I saw foolish, perhaps that was the experience I didn't quite realise I had colouring my judgment. Sorry MarkE.

I don't know what I should write next, except that next trip I plan on covering longer distances per day, circumstance permitting. Less wussness from me.

Then again, a lot of people think I am some sort of Lance Armstrong type just for biking to work (all 7.5 km) seven to eight months of the year (remember this is Montreal). Now they combine both folly and wussishness! ;-)

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

On something to remember when biking in France

Be aware of which way you strap your baguette to your bike.
Shamelessly stolen from a book I catalogued this week.

On why Monday should have been the last day of biking

It turns out that it was colder last night than expected. Not by much, but enough to make a difference. About 1 or 2 degrees. The same as the dew point early this morning. Unfortunately, I didn't know this.

Today today dawned bright and sunny so I threw caution to the wind, and biked to work. At the second corner, my wheels slipped out from under me on the dew that had frozen onto the nice, new and above all smooth pavement that is such a rarity in this province. Fortunately, this corner was a back street and there was no traffic to run me over as I lay on the ground recovering my breath after the joint jarring fall. I picked myself up and with pig headed determination, rode rather cautiously into work.

Apart from a few bruises, the only damage seems to be that the brake lever on the side that took the fall (the left hand side) has been banged out of place making it harder to operate. However, this was enough to convince me that the gods don't want me to keep biking this year. I have taken the Castafiore in for the winter. I had thought of bringing her into the shop for her end of the year upgrade, but with the expense of Christmas coming on, I thought it best to wait until February.

I rather wish that I had put the bike away after Monday's high note.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

On the frustrations of the start of winter

On Monday, I had one of the best runs into work in a long time. I didn't have to stop for lights until I was in sight of the Library. I am in the zone.

It snowed overnight leaving just enough snow to be treacherous, but not enough to be definitively the end of biking. Tonight the 5-day weather forecast from Environment Canada is as follows:
Periods of rain mixed with snow. Wind northeast 20 km/h gusting to 40 becoming light near midnight. Temperature steady near plus 2.

Day: Cloudy with sunny periods. Periods of light snow mixed with rain beginning in the afternoon. Wind becoming southeast 30 km/h in the morning. High plus 3.
Night: Periods of light snow mixed with rain. Wind southeast 20 km/h becoming light near midnight. Low zero.

Cloudy with 70 percent chance of showers. High plus 2.

Periods of snow or rain. Low minus 2. High plus 3.

A mix of sun and cloud. Low minus 2. High plus 1.
Thus, it will be warmer than last week, but wet and possibly snowy. I BMW'd (Bus Metro Walk) to work today (having bought a weekly bus pass). Now, do I take the faster, healthier method of biking or do I BMW tomorrow? Both of the ways have their merits. Unlike some years, I am still keen to keep biking, but, but, but...

I wish it would either snow a lot or not snow at all (for another few weeks: Christmas needs snow!)

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

On being seen and baby shots

Shorter days have come and along with it the need to think about about being visible to traffic. While it is twilight when I leave work at 4:30, by the time I get home, it is full dark. Despite this, I pass any number of invisible cyclists. Well, not technically invisible, so perhaps stealth cyclists is a better term. No lights, dark clothing and few, if any, reflectors. Why more of them don't get smucked I don't know. Coming home today, I saw a cab driver cursing a stealth cyclist and I couldn't really blame him.

The good side of these semi-suicidal stealth cyclists is that I stand out as relative beacon of visibility to drivers with my assortment of visibility devices: lots of reflective tape, reflectors and no less than four different lights. I have an MEC white Turbo turtle light on my handlebars, an MEC red turtle light on my helmet facing backwards, a compact BLT headlight on the front of my helmet and a red blinky light on my bag in the milk crate, carefully arranged to be visible from the rear. I have had a number of people comment favourably on my lights of late, not the least of which was a driver at the corner of Cavendish and Côte Saint-Luc road this evening. He lowered his window to say this despite the fact that it was about -3 degrees out there. That's an indication he was favourably impressed.
My helmet with lights fore and aft

This made for an amusing coincidence as I got an e-mail from Margo when I got home that she and Chris were in this little video on the subject of visibility. Unfortunately, they spelt Margo's name wrong in the credits. All you stealth cyclists out there, watch, listen and learn. Then go out and get visible! ;-)

Baby shots

For no particular reason except that I have been waiting too long to put them up, here are a couple of shots of my niece. The first sitting down...and the second standing up with a little help from her mum.Actually, while it doesn't look it, Désirée is getting a lot of support from Dominique. When I held her hand to give her support, I could feel that my niece was keeping her balance mostly by her arms as she was putting a lot of force through her hands, and boy! is she strong. If this keeps up, she will end up being very strong. Not bad for only seven months. Philip was joking that his goal is have her walking by Christmas. Mind you, I was walking by my first Christmas: there is a very good shot of me walking behind Granny and Granpa's house on Upper Lansdowne in my snowsuit. Of course, I was born in January, not April!

Actually, now that I think of it, there is a good reason for me to put the baby shots up: stress relief. There is something wonderfully calming about looking a picture of a happy baby. My desktop at work is this shot:
It does wonders for my inner calm. Désirée seems to be particularly good-natured baby which makes it very easy to feel affection for her. Lots of warm fuzzy feelings.

As a semi-related note, a week or two ago, my mother had planned to go to read to Mrs. Biron, a very nice lady in her nineties who can no longer read, at a local old folks home when at the last minute Dominique asked her if she could look after Désirée. Rather than cancel the session, my mother took Désirée along. Naturally, my niece was quite the center of attention. Mummy didn't say as much, but I infer that Désirée was "good" during the visit. ;-)

Monday, 17 November 2008

On the "botte secrète" of Trans-Canada biking

Victor Chisholm made an interesting comment to my last post. He effectively pointed out that I had neglected to mention the lack of alternate routes in the area, thus making it the only way for all Trans-Canada traffic.

More positively, he gave me the links to two blogs of trans-Canada cyclists namely: or guy in the former seems to suffer from a huge number of flats and other mechanical failures, culminating in a frame break just before Kenora. Reading between the lines, he strikes me as a bit foolish. He only gets a Kevlar tire in about Manitoba (as opposed to before he started. Go Schwalbe, Go!) and at one point admits he had been underinflating his tires.

In addition, I am pretty sure he was riding a bike that wasn't really strong enough for the load he was carrying, given the number of spokes he broke, the frame fracture, etc. Then again, he likely didn't have an aunt making very good suggestions about what to buy and bring. (Thank you, Margo! ;-) (To put this into perspective, in 3000+ kms of cycling touring, I have had two real breakdowns. The first was the loss/disappearance of two bolts securing my rear rack in Cea, Spain and a flat tire caused by a big piece of broken glass in Madrid.)

On the flip side, he was doing some major distances. There are several 200+ km days mentioned in his blog.

Interestingly, both blogs feature the same shortcut, one that I had been unaware of. Instead of going via Sudbury and North Bay, they took a ferry from Manitoulin Island to the Bruce Peninsula and from there into Southern Ontario. The advantage of such a route is that it would get me into more populated areas more quickly than the Sudbury-North Bay route I had been pondering. Of course, as Victor points out, it would be a longer route.

All things being equal, I prefer the idea of the Manitoulin Island route over. It seems such a wonderfully sneaky way of quickly getting out of the Northern Ontario that it almost qualifies as some sort of "botte secrète".

If I may explain that last term, at one point I was watching a number of French swashbuckling movies. One feature of them (especially "La fille d'Artagnan") was discussions amongst the characters of various fencing moves, known as "bottes" in French. Various characters had favourite moves of varying quality, some of which weren't widely known. If they needed to, they would surprise their opponents with with their "bottes secrètes". I think I need to come up with an equivalent term for biking, because the Manitoulin-Bruce Peninnsula ferry surely qualifies!

Saturday, 15 November 2008

On a possible long-term biking mega-project

When I began planning and thinking about the Newfoundland trip, I was quite adamant that this was only a Montreal to Newfoundland trip and not part of a larger biking project of biking across Canada. I didn't want the expectation of people that I had to go the full distance across the continent, even in small sections. My principle rationale for this can be summed up in two words: Northern Ontario.

Not the mountains of the Rockies or vast distances of the Prairies, but the sparsely populated, undulating, forested Canadian Shield. Come to think of it, the distances of the Prairies are shorter than Northern Ontario. I did some work with Google maps this morning and discovered that Calgary to Winnipeg is about 1300 km, whilst Kenora to North Bay is 1600 km. What's more, there is little of interest in those 1600 km. My memories of having driven through Northern Ontario in 1985 suggest that it mostly trees, small hills and the occasional moose, the latter being a plus. Very few vistas and even fewer towns. The thought of spending several weeks with little change in scenery doesn't appeal.

And would be cool to say that I have biked from coast to coast, at least in sections. When I started thinking about it, I mentally divided the mega-project up into four sections: Vancouver to Calgary, Calgary to Winnipeg, Winnipeg to Montreal and Montreal to Newfoundland. (The rationale for doing the trip West to East is that the prevailing winds in Canada are West to East.) Technically, there is an additional section, namely Victoria-Vancouver. However, I have already done Victoria-Vancouver by bike. Twice in fact.

The Vancouver-Calgary and Calgary-Winnipeg sections both seem very doable by my current standards. Both sections seem easy enough distance-wise to complete within a three week period, thus fitting into the maximum length of holiday, I am allowed to take from work. In addition, both sections seem fairly well populated with towns thus allowing my "credit-card" style of cycle-touring to function.

Conversely, the Winnipeg-Montreal section doesn't work with my current practices. For one thing, it is simply too long. However, this could be dealt with be cutting it into two trips, such as Winnipeg-Sault Ste Marie and Sault Ste Marie-Montreal. I could also "nibble" away at the length of the Sault Ste Marie-Montreal section by doing shorter (one week or less) trips such as Ottawa-Montreal.

However, there is also the "Canadian Shield factor" described above. One way of dealing with it would be to change either to a more independant style of cycle-touring, such as cycle-camping or, ironically, a more dependant style, such as going with an organised tour. Another possibility would be to opt to go via the United States, where the Canadian Shield portion of the trip would be shorter.

In any case, I have plenty of time to think about how to do it as the earliest I would likely be doing any of these trips is 2010. (This assumes that next year my main biking trip is joining Margo and Chris for the last leg of their epic.) Even then, assuming one section per year, it could be 2012 before I would have to make any hard choices about how to tackle the Winnipeg-Montreal section, by which time, I might well be tired of cycle-touring or have evolved a new style of cycle-touring. Then again, I might have the opportunity to go on a non-Canadian trip of some description, therefore have to "waste" my vacation time on something else.

One case in point, Alice is likely to be in Southern Africa for two years which might be my opportunity to go there. Then again, maybe I should stop planning my vacations around her. In the last eight years, I have used her perigrinations as springboards to visit Belfast, New Zealand, Edinburgh, Halifax and, of course, Newfoundland.

Anyway, these are only possibilities for the long-term, and therefore nothing to really worry about. No decisions have to be made any time soon.

Friday, 14 November 2008

On an unusual breakdown

I was rather surprised and a trifle annoyed yesterday morning when the chain on the Castafiore broke whilst I was climbing St-Jacques Street on on the way to work. While I have had issues with bike chains in the past, I have never had one break on me before. One odd thing about the break was that the link that broke was the joint link but not at the removable pin.

Fortunately, I wasn't far from my bike store and alternate means of transportation. As the bike store only opened at 10, I left my bike locked outside of it, and took a bus to work. It luck would have it, the breakdown may well have spared me having to ride home in the cold and heavy rain.

There was a new person at the bike store who looked very young. In fact, he was only 16, several years younger than the Castafiore! However, he put a new chain on and seemed to know what he was doing, which is possibly more than could be said about me.

To be honest, I have been following my typical end-of-the-cycling-year bad habit of delaying maintenance issues. I have the vague excuse that until recent I was still paying off the Newfoundland trip and related debts. However, I realized that I was in potentially dangerous situation as the Castafiore has some minor mechanical issues that will need to be dealt with at some point whilst I don't think I should use Leonardo for getting to work owing to some more serious mechanical issues. All this to say that I should make a point of taking Leonardo in to be looked at tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

On the death of a friend

I was saddened to read in this morning's paper that Emru, older brother of my friend Tamu passed away last night. As you may know, he was the one that was suffering from a rare form of leukemia that pushed me into putting my name on the bone marrow donors list.

A donor had been found this summer. Unfortunately, the donation was either insufficient or too late to help his body resist the disease. He was a few years older than I and leaves behind a wife and son as well as Tamu and their parents.
I can't say I knew that well, but what I knew of him I like. He was funny, smart and cool. One of my favourite memories of him was when I was helping Tamu move one time. Emru came in and was introduced to me. He told me not to believe anything his little sister had said of him. He obviously thought that his sister had been telling tales about her "nasty" older brother. However, about the only thing I could remember about him involved his son. So, with lightning wit, I replied, "You mean you don't have a son called Max whom you bench-press?" With a sheep-ish grin he admitted that perhaps not everything that Tamu had told me was a lie.

The world will be a poorer place without him. May you rest in peace, Emru.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

On the difficulty of blogging about long range plans

Margo has quite rightly pointed out that once she and Chris are on the road, how and when I might join them will become much more obvious. Things will fall into place and it will be relatively simple for me to determine how to join them.

However, this does not make it easy to write about it now, as things are still very much in flux. For example, I had been assuming that the European leg of their trip would take them across Central Europe.

View Larger Map
However, it now seems that Margo and Chris' working plan is somewhat different. They are thinking about island hoping in the Mediterranean, Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica and then up across France.

View Larger Map
This is a relatively radical change from my perspective. One significant advantage is that I can stop thinking about learning at least a smattering of German. One disadvantage is that I might have to "contaminate" my relatively limited ability in Spanish by learning Italian!

(If I may digress, Granny once told me that she made the "mistake" of trying to learn Spanish after studying Italian. The problem was that as the languages were relatively similar, she kept on mixing the two up. She reckoned that she might have been better off sticking to just Italian. Of course, she didn't use either very often, so perhaps it was a moot point.)

Other advantages of this route would be that much of it would take place in countries where I can get by in the official languages. Then again, fluency in Québécois isn't a guarantee that you will be understood in France. ;-)

All this to say, that as plans are still in a relative state of flux, it feels too soon to dream and speculate in writing. What I should be doing is dressing up past posts with photos and maps such as the ones featured in this post. (Thank you Chris for letting me know how to do it.)

Saturday, 25 October 2008

On what may come

I haven't been blogging much as I haven't really got a trip to plan in a concerted way. That is not to say, however, that I don't have trip ideas kicking around. In fact, I have three of various levels of probability.

The first is really an outgrowth of the Newfoundland trip. I skipped the Acadian Peninsula by taking the train from Bathurst to Moncton in order to have more time in Newfoundland. This was an excellent decision as Gros Morne National Park throughly deserved the time. However, the Acadian Peninsula also deserves time. In a recent issue of Canadian Geographic, it was described as a very good bike touring destination.

This is to be taken with a grain of salt as the touring described in that issue is of an exceedingly leisurely variety. As in five days to do 150 km! With a light load, I have done as much in one day. Even my mother thought it a very slow rate.

In any case, I have a plan of sorts to take the train to Bathurst and bike around the Acadian Peninsula and through Kouchibouguac National Park to Moncton and take the train back to Montreal. This would take a relaxed week or so. Ideally, this would happen in June.

View Larger Map
Mummy has expressed a certain interest in joining in on this expedition. I would welcome her given proper notice and preparation.

Depending on other factors, such as whether other bikes trips are or are not in the works, I had one idea of doing a loop around the Bay of Fundy via the Digby-St John, N.B. ferry after reaching Moncton. Obviously, this would take longer than a week.

View Larger Map
The second trip would be to join Margo and Chris on the later legs of their epic journey from Bangkok to London. This could be rather tricky as my starting point would be something of a moving target and I would have to figure out where we would meet at well ahead of time and figure out how to get there both easily and cheaply. My very preliminary plan would be to fly to Vienna at the beginning of August and meet them there. However, this is all very speculative as Margo and Chris might easily give up halfway through Kazakstan or something rendering my ponderings moot.

The third plan is rather less likely, but is related to the Newfoundland trip. The short version is that I would fly to Deer Lake and bike to St. John's, possibly via St. Pierre et Miquelon. However, given that Alice and Mark will likely have left Newfoundland this trip may very well not come to pass, at least in the near future.

Friday, 17 October 2008

On the last day of the trip and other news

Sorry if I haven't been updating a lot of late. My best excuse is that there hasn't been a whole lot of biking news. Of course, I hadn't written about the last day's hike, even though I made a blog entry on that day.

As I mentioned, the last day featured a hike up the Tablelands. The Tablelands are an odd geologic feature of Gros Morne National Park, the one that earned its UNESCO world heritage status. The short version is that it consists of ancient volcanic sea bed, something that it rarely seen on the surface. The rocks themselves have a weird chemistry that plant life has not been able to adapt to particularly well.
If you look at this shot taken from near the top of the Tablelands, you will see that the background is much more verdant than the foreground despite the fact that both are roughly the same altitude. However, as the foreground is this funky volcanic rock, vegetation has a hard time growing on it.
As you can see from this shot of Jason and Alice, there isn't a whole lot of veg on the climb up. As well, the rocks themselves have a strange appearance and texture to them.
A fair number of them had this odd looking "skin" on some surfaces. All their surfaces had an odd feel to them, almost like plaster or sun-dried bricks. It was a very strange place.
It was also rather steep as Jason and Mark demonstrate in this shot. We stopped for a break to regroup and to get in a group shot.
It also allowed us to take pictures back towards Norris Point and Bonne Bay.
In order to get to the start of the hike, we had motored across Bonne Bay in Moonshadow. I must confess I was somewhat uneasy by the crossing as the wind and waves were higher than I felt comfortable with in such a small vessel. When we got to Woody Point (the village opposite Norris Point) Alice negotiated a ride in shuttle bus up to the start of the hike.

It was a spectacular last day. Then it was back to Alice's to pack and to catch the plane back to Montreal. More hike pictures are on my Picasa site.

Other news

I found out today that I will be gaining an "official" sister-in-law. My brother Philip intends to make an honest woman of Dominique, mother of his daughter. No date announced. This is slightly surprising as in the past Philip has voiced opinions against being formally married. Admittedly, this was prior to his getting involved with Dominique. Best of luck to them.

In the bargain, I gain Eowyn as an "official" step-niece. Interesting that I now have one "true" niece (Désirée), one (soon-to-be) step-niece (Eowyn) and one proxy-niece (Isla) and no nephews to speak of.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

On getting the facts after the case

You may recall my post that raved about biking between the Midway Motel (which I didn't rave about) and Corner Brook. Well, I was casually poking around the Atlantic Canada Cycling route database when I came across this snippet in their description of that bit of the Trans-Canada Highway, and I quote:

[T]he western section of this long road is given a 3 rating. ... A very strong tailwind usually pushes northward to Corner Brook. It is so strong that the railroad once had professional "wind-spotters" along the coast!"

Evidently I was enjoying just such a wind. Of course, I did say I had the wind at my back at the time.

Monday, 6 October 2008

On a gratuitous moose video and sad moose news

Margo sent me the url to this cutesy moosey video. Quite remarkable to see the creatures so relaxed and playing, especially the cow moose. I would hazard a guess that the house is roughly on the edge of a community or is otherwise relatively isolated.

In less happy moose news, I read this article from the CBC news website today. While the loss of one bull moose is not the end of the world, I was surprised to learn how few moose there are in Nova Scotia.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

On a party in North Hatley and a new proxy-niece

Earlier this week, I went out to North Hatley to participate in a family gathering in honour of my aunt Isabel (or Izzy) and her husband John. They live in England and consequently, we don't see them that often. Isabel is one of my father's younger sisters and is my favourite of his siblings. Also in attendance was my father's older sister Caroline, Michel, her eldest son and his two daughters, Florence and Alicia.
Caroline and Izzy
However, the star guest was of course Désirée. She was winking at the camera and showing off her ability to move to her great aunts.
Désirée winking at the camera
She has added some new tricks to her repertoire since I last saw her. She can now sort of, almost, crawl backwards. It will only be a matter of time for she starts going forwards. As well, she seems to have started to interact vocally with her surroundings (aside from crying or screaming). Not talking by a looong stretch, but just cooing and babbling.
John Fox, Désirée and Philip
She was there with her "support staff" namely Philip (her dad), Dominique (her mum) and Eowyn (her half-sister).
Eowyn, Désirée and Dominique
Obviously, her paternal grandparents were there to dote on her as well.
Désirée and my Mummy
A good time was had by all.

New proxy-niece

To explain what this section is about, it is necessary to me to digress and say my best friend James is almost my brother. Our families have been friends for about five generations. I hope that it will go to six generations. I have turned to him for a shoulder in times of crisis and so has he. Therefore, when he became a dad on Tuesday, I considered his daughter as my proxy-niece. I was thinking I should contribute a casserole or something, however, his wife has odd allergies that would make it tricky for me to cook for her. Instead, on the way home from work yesterday, I bought some pink roses for them. This was partly an excuse to get to see my proxy-niece, Isla Heather. However, my visit and my gift was very much appreciated.
Isla Heather
James confessed the full significance of the event still hasn't quite sunk in. That hasn't stopped him from being absurdly (and rightly) pleased with himself. Then again, he has a talent for being pleased with himself.
James, the absurdly proud dad

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

On the fallacy of the first person singular and the necessity of trust

This entry will be somewhat hypocritical of me, but without some massive rhetorical efforts, I don't think I can write it without using the first person singular. Sue me.

As I was having lunch outside my workplace the other day, I saw a cyclist pedaling the wrong way down the busy Cavendish Boulevard. I have often wondered why there are so many people who think it is "safer" to pedal against traffic rather than with traffic as is mandated by law. I had often thought that it was a mistaken application of the rule that you should walk against traffic. However, as I ate my lunch, another answer occurred to me.

The conclusion I arrived at is that these cyclists think that if they pedal against the flow of traffic they will be able to see and avoid "the crazy driver who will schmuck them." Reciprocally, they don't trust drivers will avoid hitting them from behind. In essence, these people are putting more faith in their own abilities (or the "first person singular") than in those of their fellows.

As you may guess from the title of this entry, I disagree with this take on biking. When you are cycling, you can easily be moving too fast to take safe corrective action against an on-coming car. In fact, your actions can provoke a car into making a panic move to avoid you and possibly cause an accident. Also, the fact that the law mandates you ride with traffic means that going against traffic means that biking on the wrong side of the road means interfering with cyclists on the right side of the road.

The "advantage" of biking on the wrong side is that cyclist feels that he or she is in active control of the situation. Conversely, when cyclists obey the law and the practice, they are in a relatively passive situation that requires the cyclists to trust the drivers coming up from behind. Trust is in comparatively short supply these days, especially with the paranoia section of the economy doing as well as it does. The X-Files and The Da Vinci Code are only the tip of the iceberg. At the same time, the ego boosting aspects of society are also doing very well. Unfortunately, this doesn't translate into safe cycling.

I guess my point is that in order to be safe, law-abiding cyclist, it is necessary to submerge the "I" in favour a "we" and a faith in drivers. Yes, there is a danger in taking the "passive", "faith" side of the road. However, there is greater danger in taking the "active", "I" side of the road.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

On a trip to the Townships

Two weeks ago, I rented a car to get Leonardo out to North Hatley for the 2008 edition of the Défi des Cantons de l'Est or Eastern Townships Challenge. On the Saturday, Mummy and I went to Cowansville for the start. Mummy, was quite proud of her new Devinci bike.
Between a semi-sloshed disassembly, a plane ride and reassembly, I think I may have slightly damaged the rear derailleur on Leonardo. In any case, decided not to go too far (only a 100 km) as the bike wasn't performing up to its potential.
This had the advantage of putting me on a very nice (for Quebec) bit of open road.
The horizon just called to brought forth.

The next day, I stopped by to see my niece. She had grown some since I last saw her. More significantly, she has learned to locomote, after a fashion.
When she wants to get somewhere, she will push herself up... and roll over!!!
It seems to be a bit of a challenge for Philip and Dominique to keep her on her play area (an unzipped sleeping bag.) While she can locomote, she isn't very good at getting anywhere in particular. Consequently, she has to be replaced at the center of the sleeping bag every so often.There is a bit of jealousy from Happy the cocker spaniel. Nothing major, but it seems obvious that he isn't 100% happy about the new arrival. He was rather disappointed that I didn't take him for walkies (as I often do) when I was there. I probably should have taken him for a walk, but I had other things to do that day.

It was really special to see her growth. The last time I had seen her, she was a bit of a blob. Now she is really starting to acknowledge her environment. She had started eating "solid" food. She was locomoting (after a fashion). Very neat to watch.

You can see more baby pictures here.

On Bonne Bay, Sailing

The day after the beach party,

...Jason and...
and I went sailing on the Eastern Arm of Bonne Bay. The boat we did it in was the Moonshadow, a 17 foot "micro-cruiser" known as a Siren 17. In case you are wondering, that was the name of the boat when Alice and Mark bought it, so they can't be accused of ripping off Cat Stevens.

Unusually for the "tropical" island of Newfoundland, the weather was very nice with lots of sun and a very suitable amount of wind for the day.
Having biking two thousand odd kilometers to get there, I was relatively loath to do much work, especially as I suspect that my rating in the Royal Navy of Nelson's day would be at best be "common seaman". Also, four adults is almost too much for a siren 17. Consequently, I tried to keep my role to (semi)-mobile ballast and "protect" the fiberglass from the ultra-violet light (i.e. catch some rays).As you can see from this picture, I did need some UV in certain parts such as my upper thighs that were hidden by my bike shorts. I had (and still have) quite the cyclist's tan.

Getting back to naval ratings, we had a discussion about who would qualify as what rating. "Obviously" Alice was a Captain, and Mark the mate. I initially put Jason in the "Landsman" rating given his accounts of being a duffer in boats, until I heard he taught sailing at the school he worked at. I think we ended up referring to him as an "able seaman".

We sailed to some beach whose name I've forgotten but I doubt is truly important. Some of us (including me) went swimming.
The water temperature was actually quite nice. In some respects, this was rather surprising as the Eastern Arm of Bonne Bay has some surprising features to it. Apparently, the lower depths of it feature permanently cold water of an Arctic character. As in, they support marine fauna and flora usually found in Arctic waters. There is some rather interesting physics and chemistry that explains why the deep water of the Eastern Arm hasn't warmed up since the last ice age, but I am unable to repeat it as it is more complicated than I can easily explain. Also, while it made sense to me when I read it, I don't know enough about the subject to say that I truly understood it. The short version is warmish water on top, very cold water beneath.

The bottom of the Moonshadow was relatively foul with marine growth, so Mark decided to careen her. Lacking a proper tool, he used one of his Newfoundland wool socks to do the job. There are a number of disturbing things about this. First of all, I doubt he is the first person to use Newfy socks for more or less this purpose. Secondly, I suspect that the socks were none the worse for wear. Thirdly, it shows a rather odd feature of Mark's personality. If he had been born in this country, it would be very easy to describe him as something of a hoser, given his use of socks for cleaning boats and a tendency to wear boots all the time and drink beer. However, he's vegatarian doctor from the Island of Jersey, for Christ's sake. Something don't add up. (And I say this with all due affection.) ;-)

Anyway, we sailed back and went for supper at Java Jack's.

My take on Java Jack's is that it takes reasonably available ingredients (remember this is Newfoundland after all, you aren't going find a lot of exotic food) and does very interesting things with them. For instance, the menu features yin yang pizza. This is a pizza that is half pesto and half a more conventional tomato. Obviously, the ingredients of pizza dough are something of a given. Garlic, cheese and tomatoes are also fairly obvious. (The basil comes from their own herb garden.) Hence, most of the ingredients are "common". In another restaurant, they might be put together in a very conventional, if not bland manner. However, at Java Jack's, the execution of the dish is very recherché.

I had been tempted to have a Newfoundland Vesper with my meal, after Jason ordered Oyster Bay white wine from New Zealand, I decided to err on the side of sobriety. I still had to pack Leonardo that night. As it was, I think I drank most of a bottle of wine that night, so I was a very good thing that my sister had acquired a bike box that opened from the side rather than the top. It was much easier to fit my bike into that box than it would have been with a more conventional box.

Monday, 15 September 2008

On the beach

Sorry if I have been a bit remiss in not updating the blog and writing more about my trip, but for some reason, I haven't been in the mood. I have also been having a bit of trouble uploading images into my blog that I think I have resolved. In a related note, I have started posting pictures for you to admire on the web at

In any case, there was quite a party on the beach. The beach has a name that I have forgotten. Suffice to say that it is the beach in Norris Point that look out towards the Gulf of the Saint Lawrence. A bit vague but it describes it.

I was surprised to see some moose bones on the beach. I can't come up with any particular explanation for them but I assume there is one.
Jason, Mark, Alice and I kicked off the party with some bubbly.
Alice then got busy baking some cod wrapped in aluminum foil in the fire we built. Un-seen is the potato salad I had made earlier in the day. As the fish cooked, we sat around drinking beer and discussing life, the universe and everything.
Among other things, Jason told us how his lurcher (a type of dog) had caught a baby muntjac back in England. This resulted in a discussion about what a muntjac was (a type of very small deer) and what a possible muntjac-moose encounter would be like. It was that sort of party.Alice had invited any number of Norris Pointers. I can't really recall any of their names, except for Sheldon (who isn't this guy, I think) who worked as some sort of information officer for Gros Morne National Park. If I remember correctly, he designs displays for the park, as well as, keeping track of what the public opinion of the park is. One side effect of the this was that he had known about my moose sighting as I arrived in Norris Point. You see, he has software that picks up usage of the phrase "Gros Morne National Park" in newly posted webpages. As my arrival blog entry used that phrase, he had seen my blog entry. He had been going to pull my leg about it, but someone else had asked me about seeing moose before he could devise a conversational gambit. The Sun went down behind a headland. We drank some more beer and ate potato salad, chips and cod. Some more people showed up so we drank some more beer.
And then some more beer.After a while, the others drifted away leaving the hard core, i.e. Mark, Jason, Alice and myself. After a few more beer and a drunken attempt by Mark to put the fire out, Alice convinced him to go home.

Thing were getting quite relaxed and after a while I felt little inclination to actually sit up and so took photographs while lying down feeling very relaxed. I was half-tempted to sleep on the beach, but it simply wasn't comfortable.
This lead to my close encounter with the mooses.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

On a possible critical mass of cyclists

Sorry if I haven't been writing in my blog lately. I am back at work and all that that entails. In addition, I have been working on editing the photos I took into a slideshow that I would like to have ready for this weekend.

Getting to the title and topic of this posting, I was impressed at the sheer number of cycle-commuters on the road today. The de Maisonneuve bike path was very busy. Unfortunately, it wasn't busy enough for the usual idiot pedestrians to take the hint and use the sidewalk. I sometimes think that Quebec is very close to nearing the tipping point in numbers of cyclists: if we get a bit more, maybe, just maybe, the traffic planners will have to get their act together and increase the priority of cyclists in their considerations.

One change that occurred while I was away on the de Maisonneuve bike path. Where de Maisonneuve crosses Decarie Blvd, there is a very awkward bit street layout that I have had to deal with on a regular, if not daily basis since 1999. As it was, there was no strictly legal and practical way to negotiate the area. In the near decade I have been going that way, I have figured out the best way to deal with this section of road. When I returned from my trip, there were markings on the road indicating that "my" method of geting past that point will be, more or less, the official way to dealing with that section. My pride in having good bike sense is nicely polished by this.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

On close encounters with mooses

For the time being, I will leave out a detailed description of the beach party, except to say that it involved a beach, a bonfire and plenty of beer. A little after midnight on Friday, I left Alice and Jason on the beach to walk back to the house.

The house that Alice and Mark share is at the end of Hospital Lane. The closest house to it is at quite a distance, and the woods surround it. That night, still and quiet as it was, was quite beautiful, if a mite eerie to someone who has lived in a city for nearly ten years. Just past the last house, a movement on the left hand side of the road caught my eye.
There was a suggestion of a large shape in the darkness. Taking pictures using a flash revealed an eye in the darkness......and then two eyes.
In fact, there were two sets of eyes. In the poor light and my somewhat sozzled state, it took me a few moments to figure out just what was I was seeing: a cow moose...
... and its calf were browsing at the edge of the road!I wasn't quite sure of what the safe way to deal with them was, so I settled on trying to take a good picture of them with my digital camera while talking to the cow moose in a low voice.
Actually, I was just talking, and I doubt either moose was really appreciating that I didn't mean them any particular harm. However, the fact that they continued to nibble at the foliage suggested that they weren't terribly concerned by my presence.I managed to get fairly close to the mooses, bearing in mind that these photographs were taken using a 3x zoom.
The thing was, that while I didn't want to disturb them, they were in between myself and my bed. As the latter was calling, I moved slowly along the road, while politely trying to explain the the situation to the cow moose.
To be honest, I am not sure I would have felt quite comfortable if the mooses had stayed in one spot, and let me sidle past. Cow mooses can be quite protective of their young, and both of them outweighed me by a long shot. Consequently, it was probably a good thing that as I approached them, they moved down the road. For one thing, it brought them under a streetlight that allowed me to get a number of shots of them in without using the flash. This is probably the best of them.
As we arrived in Alice's and Mark's parking lot, the moose slipped into the shadows and disappeared.

The whole thing happened in an eerie quiet broken only by my speech and camera shutter sound. There was a decidedly dream-like quality to the event. I know it wasn't a dream as the pictures prove, but it had wonderfully cozy and dreamy feel to it. The fact that I had been dozing near the bonfire and was alcohol positive probably had something to do with it. Nonetheless, I now feel that the moose is my totem animal.

The fact that I am big and ungainly has only a little to do with it. ;-)