Wednesday, 25 February 2009

On geographic awareness and changing plans

When I was last in North Hatley, I was discussing biking plans with my family including my brother Philip. While I was elaborating on the Manitoulin Island ferry, Philip expressed disbelief that I would want to skip part of Northern Ontario in favour of Southern Ontario. He had hitchhiked across Canada and found Northern Ontario nicer that Southern Ontario. My mother and I tried to explain that sitting in a car and biking are two different things and that the rolling landscape of Northern Ontario might be pretty but it wasn't easy for biking. He didn't seem to get it.

In some ways, I shouldn't be that surprised as Our Fil, as we call him, has very limited experience of biking any great distance. In addition, he doesn't have my awareness of geography. My mother once said that when my eldest brother learned to drive, it was a surprise to my father and her that he didn't really know how to navigate. Our Fil was just as bad. She didn't say so but, I was something of a relief as I have a good awareness of geography. The more so since I have taken to biking with a vengeance. I remember one time, many years ago, when Philip and I were driving to the Gwyn grandparents' summer cottage near Calumet, Québec. Somewhere around Montreal, we realised that neither of us actually knew the formal directions regarding how to get there! We knew, go to Hawksbury, cross the river and turn left onto the highway, but beyond that we could say exactly what we should do. Luckily, my awareness of the geography proved sufficient, even if it was "turn right at the road that leads up the hill directly next the highway, then continue until the dirt road just after the flat bit,..." I could do it, but Philip couldn't. Then again, he has trouble finding my condo, despite me having lived here for five years. ;-)

Changing plans

Margo and Chris are of the sensible opinion that the logistics of me trying to meet them in Turkey are difficult to the point that it would probably be best if we didn't try it. Que sera, sera. At least now, I won't have to feel obliged to take a course in Turkish.

Fortunately, I am not without backup plans:

Backup plan no.1 is the Rocky Mountain phase of the Trans-Canada mega-project. My rough plan would be to go to Vancouver in late August and go see Stephen, Margaret and their new baby in Victoria, then head to Calgary. Subject to negotiation with various concerned parties.

Backup plan no. 2 would be biking from York to Campbeltown, partially following the route in Europe by Bike, a book Margo and Chris gave me a while ago.

Backup plan no. 3 would be Marseille to London, or some variation thereon.

Backup plan no. 4 would be Calgary to Winnipeg
, also a segment of the Trans-Canada mega-project.

It is an ill-wind that blows no good as now I can more safely ask for time off as the above journeys all have roughly the same seasonal window of late-August to mid September, unlike Turkey, which was October.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

On nieces

I was in North Hatley last weekend where I was photographed playing with Désirée. She currently has rosy cheeks that are just too cute for words.
I trust you agree. In addition, her legs seem to have gotten longer in proportion since Christmas.
Tomorrow, I will be going to Isla's christening. The parents are coming in today and, in company of the Mole, we will be going to the bike show.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

On a stick in the spokes of planning

In words of the Scottish bard "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft a-gley". The considered opinion of Margo and Chris is that they are unlikely to be in Europe by prime or even decent biking season. Their current estimate is that they would be in Turkey by October which is a prime biking time. Having done some initial research, Turkey sounds very appealing. It would also likely irritate my Greek co-irker, and thus be no bad thing. (She has a number of strong, politically incorrent opinions on a number of subjects including Turkey.)

The annoying thing about this change is that it rather precludes alternate plans in the same time-frame. Unless I am very much mistaken or particularly lucky, October is far from a good time for long distance cycle-touring in Canada or France. Thus committing to Turkey leaves relatively little room for alternate holidays. Although, as September and October aren't high season for vacations, I might have some wiggle room with management.

In any case, I still have more than to months to even begin to make a decision. Besides it is getting late-ish and I am slightly drunk. Defer, postpone, delay.

Monday, 9 February 2009

On cycling styles and plans

I had my annual check-up last Wednesday. My doctor is a nice guy who is a member of the Library where I work. I would say it is a small world except that reality makes it more probable than not that my doctor would also be a patron of the Library. I was referred to him by James, who is very anglo. Consequently, my doctor is also anglo. In addition, there is very probably a statistical correlation indicating that Jews are more likely to be doctors than the population at large. At least in Canada. (I have no proof of this.) Therefore, it is not improbable that my doctor is Jewish. As my doctor is anglophone, Jewish and lives on the Island of Montreal, it therefore relatively probable that he would live in Côte Saint-Luc, where my Library is located, which he does.

What is somewhat surprising is that he is a fairly hardcore cyclist, albeit of a different variety. The year I biked with Margo and Chris from Seville to Santiago, he biked around Ibiza.

During the check-up, we chatted about biking. This is not entirely unrelated to medicine as it is part of his way of grading my mental, as well as physical, health. He asked me about the Newfoundland trip, including the weight of the luggage I was carrying. I shrugged and I said not too much, afraid to admit I had never weighed my load. I tried to justify my lack of knowledge by saying something along the lines of provided it is not too heavy, who cares? His response was to say that in his cycling circle, every gram mattered. Of course, his circle are amateur roadracers, and therefore it is possible that their bikes weigh half the unladen weight of Leonardo! ;-) We obviously have very different cycling styles!

The downside of the check-up was that it turned out that I have higher than normal cholesterol levels.


I have been pondering what this year's major cycling trip will be for some time. The ideal trip would be to meet up with Margo and Chris on the final leg of their epic voyage (say about Marseille) and go with them to London. Unfortunately, as they are moving target, it is much harder to dream about such a trip.

Not that has stopped me from poking around the internet to see how it might be done. I discovered today that Air Transat (or Air Transplat to the Mole) flies directly from Montreal to Marseille, a distinct advantage given the relative paucity of direct flights to less European cities from Montreal. What is more, I found out that the flight to Marseille left on a Friday and could combined with a flight back from Gatwick on a Sunday for a very reasonable price particularly given that Air Transat doesn't charge for bikes (go, Air Transat!). Unfortunately, there is fine print in the deal. The flight from Gatwick to Montreal is operated by Thomas Cook Airlines who charge about $100 Cdn for bikes. Admittedly, the overall price is such that it is still a significantly better deal than, say British Airways, but it is something of an annoyance. Also, I have flown with Thomas Cook Airlines and wasn't terribly impressed with their service.

While it is much too early to start making reservations (apart from Margo and Chris there are work considerations), part of me would to say, come hell or high water, I will bike from Marseille to London starting the last week of August, with or without Margo and Chris. Actually, the real thing that would be holding me back (aside from issue of vacation period approval at work) would be not that Margo and Chris had given up in Tajikistan, but that they were still in Sicilly and would only be in Marseille in another week! Food for thought.

I was perusing Namibian sister site of this blog when I finally saw the name of the town where my sister is living in written down, along with the suggestion of a warm welcome. Nothing loath, I looked up where exactly Khorixas is, including its relative location to Windhoek. According to Alice, it is a 5.5 hour drive from the latter. In North American biking terms, this equates to about 5 or 6 days of cycling. I tried to use Googlemaps to find out the distance, but it seems that Googlemaps has yet include Namibia in their distance mapping software!!!

Sunday, 8 February 2009

On niece news

Désirée is now able to walk six steps on her own. The caused her Mummy and her Granny (Susan, please inform me of how you wished to be referred to) to take her shopping for shoes. There is probably some sort of sardonic observation about the habits of women being handed down through the generations, etc. that could be made her.