Wednesday, 25 March 2009

On a red letter day

Well, I biked to work today for the first time this year. The posterior grumbled on the way home, but then that is par for the course. It generally takes about a week for it to get used to the saddle.

In addition, I booked the train tickets for the New Brunswick trip. Not just me, but my parents as well. I must admit that I am rather looking forward to the train trip. I haven't taken a sleeper train since 1990 when I slept my way from London to Glasgow. That was also the only time I have taken a sleeper train. Consequently, I am a bit excited!

For that reason, I decided to dub today a "red letter day" and hence the colour scheme for this post. ;-)

Saturday, 21 March 2009

On having "an f'ed up idea of fun"

Earlier this week, some of my co-workers and I were discussing my vacation plans for this summer. One of them had heard a corrupted version of the outdated plan of biking from Austria to London as "biking in Holland" and wanted to discuss/tease me about it. I told her that was no longer in the cards but that I would probably be biking from Victoria to Calgary. This led to a digression about biking with Margo and Chris' trip referring to our trip across Spain. Her response was to comment that I had "an f'ed up idea of fun". If she had been in Spain, she would have gone to the beach. I took that as a backhanded compliment.

In other, related news, I spoke with Margo and Chris via Skype from Fengxian. It was the first I had used Skype or indeed any VOIP protocol so it was a learning process. (And I still have to figure out how to send a video image.) It was very cool to see this technology in action. The videophones of science-fiction seem that much closer to reality, although there was a noticeable time lag.

Margo and Chris seemed a bit tired, but were about to take a day or two off. However, Margo said she was beginning to think they would actually manage their intended feat. I was a little bit surprised that there had been any real doubt, as I had assumed that barring some external event they would be successful. (I still assume they will make it.) Consequently, I was a little embarassed at not having done more "rah-rah" for them. Go, Chris, go! Pedal, Margo, pedal!!! ;-) Still, there is the satisfaction at having been the optimist on this one.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

On random bits of stuff

List completed

Too long ago, I posted lists of the relative merits of biking in Spain and in Canada. I got to 10 in the pro-Spain list but was stumped to come up with a 10th reason to bike in Canada. A couple of days ago, the answer came to me! The post is now complete, at long last.


If you read Margo's comment on my last post, then you will know that she downplayed the danger of bears on the Kettle Valley Railway. I guess that probably means that the West Coast to Calgary trip is still the likeliest trip for this summer. However, I bought Michelin maps of France and Northern England/Southern Scotland on the weekend for some serious map perusal.

The York/Campbeltown trip looks like a lot of fun. However, part of me would like to go there in June when the days are longer. I have no real illusions about the weather being any better. My experience of Scotland is that you simply can't predict when and if you'll get good weather.

I still have some questions regarding the KVR for Margo and Chris, but with any luck I will be able to speak to them on Skype at some point and the matters will be resolved.


Yes that means, I have just installed Skype on my computer. It took me awhile to get over the inertia but I did it. I had a bit of trouble figuring out how to deal with the microphone requirement until I found I had a microphone in one of my desk drawers. I don't know how long it has been there, but at least now it has a use.

Bike upgrade failure

I took the Castafiore in to be tuned up on the weekend. I asked if she could have combined brake/shift levers installed instead of ye olde shift levers. As I had feared, it seems they are only made for bikes with 8 or more rear gears and the Castafiore only has 7. After that, it was the usual chant of "in order to make the necessary changes, you would be better off buying a new bike". The guy tried to sell me a 2008 roadbike for $1050. I turned him down but took the catalogue home. A little bit of searching revealed that the bike would have 700x23 tires and a carbon frame. The former is too narrow for my liking on the potholed street of Montreal. The latter is potentially problematic as the mandate of my commuting bike is to live outside for 8 months of the year. I would be nervous about UV radiation degrading the composite material. I am going to try another bike store to see if they can figure out if there isn't someone making 7 gear brake shifters.

Friday, 6 March 2009

On bears, plans and trains plus silly biking cartoons

New Brunswick in May

It now seems that both my parents would like to join me on my proposed Bathurst-to-Moncton (BtM) trip. As luck would have it, I stumbled across an ad for a Via Rail seat sale this week, that great affected the timing. If I book before the end of March for travel before the 13 or so of June, I can get a 50% discount on tickets. Unfortunately, early June doesn't work for me in so far as biking goes as there is both the Tour de l'Île and the Défi Métropolitain in that period. Consequently, I have pushed the dates forward into May. This afternoon after much discussion with my parents, I submitted my formal vacation time request to my superior for the week of May 24-30. It still isn't certain that the parents will come, but at least, if they do, they have committed to that week. My mother seems anxious about whether she can do it. As I pointed out to her this evening, she is about to start an 11-day cross-country ski trip in Norway, how much harder can biking be? Her response was to worry about her backside, which is a reasonably fair concern.

In any case, I am fairly committed to biking in New Brunswick in May.

Big summer expedition plans

I borrowed the Trans-Canada Trail British Columbia from work. (For a library that serves a community that doesn't really go for physical activity, it really does have a surprising amount of "adventure" books.) I was pleasantly surprised to see just how extensively bikeable the trail is in BC. After a casual browse through it, I found out that the TCT could be used for bikes for much of the way across BC. Moreover, much of the trail follows the southerly route I had been thinking of. All good.

What wasn't so good was the frequent mention of the risks posed by bears, something I hadn't given much thought. While there are bears (black bears) in the Eastern Townships, they are rare and quite elusive. In contrast, the bears of BC (of the both black and grizzly varieties) are much more common and much less hesitant about making their presence known to man. Bear deterrents such as pepper spray or bear bangers seems to be the ordered of the day. Unfortunately, this brings about complication as I don't think either deterrent may be carried on a plane. In addition, the book warns against travelling the TCT alone on account of the bears. Two or more sets of eyes are better than one.

This doesn't mean I won't go to BC. It just means that I will have to think long and hard about when I go and how I go. Part of me wishes that Margo and Chris weren't on their trip so I could bring their opinion, expertise and ressources to bear (pun intended) on the subject. They have been hiking, etc. in BC for nearly as long as I can remember. There is also the more complicated logistics of their absence in consideration. Not that this means I won't be in BC in the fall. It just means that the 2nd plan (biking from York to Campbeltown) is a little more likely. Then again, once I get hooked up with Skype, I will be able to easily chat with Margo and Chris about how to deal with possible BC complication issues.

Bikes on trains

I did a bit of searching regarding how to get to York from London. My prefered way would be to take a train. I was both amused and surprised to see that not only does it seem that there are several trains an hour on that route, but that there are at least two companies serving that destination! Quite a change from Via Rail running 6 trains a week from Montreal to Halifax. In addition, bikes travel free on British railroads (thank you EU regulations) unlike the $20 fee Via Rail charges. In Via's defence, unlike British trains, they don't ask you to reserve a spot for you bike. Via Rail assumes that there will be space for your bike in the baggage car. Assuming the train has a baggage car!

Silly biking cartoons

I mildly abused my power as a buyer of French children's fiction at my Libary by ordering a couple of bandes dessinées featuring cycling humour. I was nearly caught out by the fact that they were more adult than children's works. Fortunately, I was able to put them in the adult section rather than have to go through the trouble of returning them. I have posted three of the better jokes below for your amusement. (Click on the images to see larger versions.) Warning, ever so slighty naughty.