Friday, 24 September 2010

On yet another idea for next year's biking, outer limit

In the pipe dream category, Darwin to Alice Springs, or vice-versa. I have a desire to visit Oz and it turns out that the distance is almost exactly 1500 kms or three weeks. I got the idea from reading about "the Ghan" train. The downside is that it would be quite expensive to get there and the time it would take to get there and back is probably prohibitive. Still, I hit a round-numbered birthday next year. Ah well, a man can dream!

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

On a few random bits and pieces

On the photos of Margo and Chris' KVR adventure
Before last year's trip across BC, Margo and Chris had ridden much of it in the opposite direction. The photos of their trip are up on the web here. I had seen them before, but a couple of weeks ago, I went through them again. It was very weird to see them from eyes that had seen many of the sights themselves, especially as I had first seen the sights from the self-same photos.

As well, the angles chosen are intriguingly different from the ones I used. For example, this photo is from M&C's photos.Whereas I got a passerby to take this picture at nearly the same spot!
(I'm looking pretty darn good in this photo, even if I do say so myself)
On being ahead of a computer geek
I am feeling a little smug this week as I found out that my brother Philip (or Fil as we sometimes call him (but never Phil)) the computer geek has followed me into blogsphere with a blog called User-tolerant Liveware. Thus far, it seems mainly a venue for him to grumble about computer, but I now that, sooner or later, Désirée will show up on the blog. Usually, I am the technologically backwards one, yet here he is following me into to something computer-ish. Then again, blogging is a user application rather than something for programmers.

I can also take partial credit for the name of the blog, as this entry demonstrates.

On finding Scots in and of odd places
Well, not so much of odd places as knowing of odd places. I was having a quiet pint of Guinness in Hurly's awaiting my supper, when a co-worker came in with an assortment of relatives. She invited me to join them at their table. I had an interesting chat with her party. The main reason for my co-worker's presence was the visit of some cousins from Scotland. Having recently been there and being a partly Scottish, I was pleasantly surprised to find that they knew about Campbeltown. While the place is hardly a state secret, it is relatively little known, being out on the end of the longest peninsula in the United Kingdom and has relatively little of note to offer the casual tourist. In defence of this statement, I will submit that the head of the Scottish party I met said that it was rare for him to meet someone who knew about the place! Of course, he may have been referring to non-Scots or even North Americans! He was also pleased that I knew where Ayrshire was. I flattered him by saying that I remembered Ayrshire well from my last trip as it was the first day that I had warm weather on that trip!

In the same conversation, the head Scot inquired if I went to the United Kingdom often. Thinking back, I replied that I averaged about once every 5 years, having been in 1990, 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2010. However, I now realize that I had forgotten my 2006 trip. I think the reason was that the goal of that trip was the Island of Jersey, rather than United Kingdom, even if it did take in Manchester and Nottingham. Also, the whole trip was only a week, including Jersey.

(I must admit, I get a perverse pleasure deliberately getting people confused as to the origins of my brother-in-law by saying he is from "Joisey"! ;-) )

On where my next bike jaunt will be
I haven't decided. The three main contenders are Deer Lake to St John's, Calgary to Winnipeg and the Highlands of Scotland. The first two are fairly self-descriptive. The third would be roughly, Glasgow, Arran, Campbelltown, Oban, Mull, Skye, Loch Ness, Inverness, Perth and Edinburgh.

Deer Lake to Newfy John (as referred to in the wartime RCN) has the issue of not being quite long enough. As it is "only" about 830 km via the scenic route, it isn't quite enough to satisfy a summer's lust for bike mileage. Adding St-Pierre and Miquelon to the trip, has the disadvantage of that it would require biking Highway 210 in both directions between Goobies and Marystown. Given that is 146 km each way, I am less than enthused.

Calgary to Winnipeg involves a lot of the Prairies. In point of fact, most of the Prairies. This is the doubled edged sword as it means lots of km and bring-me-that-horizon moments, but also lots of what will amount to "not another damn grain elevator" moments! ;-)

The Highlands jaunt would be fun, but perhaps it is too soon after my last trip.

Perhaps that optimum solution for next year's major bike trips would be to spend two weeks doing Deer Lake to St John's and two weeks Calgary to Regina (instead of Winnipeg).

On temporary amnesia, resolved
From time to time, I suffer from insomnia. One of my remedies is a variation on ye olde counting sheep: I try to work out where I was on a given day of my BC trip.

However, I always hit a mental wall in trying to remember where I slept the night after Kelowna. I remember the small roadside motel, I remember why I was there and not in Beaverdell, and can place the municipality on a mental map. However, I couldn't recall the name of the of the burg. Cheating (i.e. looking at a map) reveals that it was Rock Creek. Not a terribly memorable name. However, there was a memorable sign in the gas station: "Unattended children will be given an espresso and a free puppy."

Also, the same bit of google mapping led me to discover that Avey Field Airport is nearby. It is one of three airports that cross the Canada-U.S. border. A neat concept when you think about it. Also one to give Homeland Security wonks a restless night.

Monday, 13 September 2010

On some biking I did last weekend and today

On Saturday, it was the 2010 edition of the Eastern Townships' Bike Challenge. The parents and I met near exit 78 (i.e. Bromont) and proceeded in convoy to the Bromont Ski center where the event started. Unexpectedly for the parents (but not surprisingly to me), the event was sold out of registrations with lunch, so the parents (who hadn't booked ahead of time) would have to fend for themselves. (I had signed up in March or April, along with the two other summer challenges and the Tour de l'Île.) On the other hand, I forgot my bike computer. (Consequently, all distances are based on what was marked on the map.)
The day was near perfect cycling weather, sunny but cool with only a light wind. I made fairly good time in the morning, but owing to a few minor events, left the start after the parents. I passed them in reasonable order, calling out to my father as I took his photo, the immortal family inquiry: "C'est encore loin, Grand Schtroumpf?"
My father was quite impressed with the ease I could take photos on the fly. Little does he suspect the amount of practice I have had doing it!

Like the other challenges, Saturday's event had a number of optional sections that increased or reduced the distances to be pedaled. I had intended to do the third optional section from the start. This added 16 km of flat terrain which promised "Bring me that horizon moments". However, as I was doing so well in morning, I was rather tempted to do another optional section that would have added 33, very scenic, kilometers. At the relevant junction, I stopped for a break and gave the option serious thought, but ultimately rejected it as those 33 km were quite hilly. As I did so, my father caught up with me but, failing see me, proceeded around the corner, then stopped for a break. I got on my bike and renewed the family whine-cry. After some chit-chat, my mother caught up with us, and immortalized us on digital camera.
I left them to their break, and pedaled off to Farnham, where lunch awaited me. I was about a third of the way into my meal when the parents showed up. My father inquired if I had anything to share with him (implying my lunch). I said: "Yes, some wisdom. Chances are, if you ask one of people working here, they will know where you can buy a lunch in town!";-)

The parents briefly debated the pros and cons of trying to finding a meal in town. My father seemed to think that they could survive on gorp and other munchies. I told him not to be so bloody silly. In the end, they found a Metro grocery store where they and "dozens" of other cyclists bought sandwiches and other sustenance. As they ate their lunches in front of the store, the store manager came out and handed out bottles of water to them! Kudos to the Metro manager. (I only heard of this after the finish.)

I was glad I had opted not to do the extra 33 hilly kms as I was short of energy after lunch. I hadn't done a long ride since June and I felt it. I was still rolling along, but there wasn't the same feeling of speed that I'd had in the morning. One highlight was the view crossing Autoroute 10 near Granby. As it was a fairly clear day, I could see Montreal loom in the distance, including St-Joseph's Oratory. According to GoogleMaps, the distance is approximately 70 km as the bird flies! Unfortunately, the zoom quality on my camera wasn't up to the task.
Shortly before, I finished, armour clad mountain bikers zoomed onto the road amongst the weary roadies. I had ambivalent feelings towards them they outpaced me on their fat tires. On the one hand, they were putting us to shame. On the other, they hadn't ridden 117 km! Also, chances were they were downhill cyclists who'd gone up on the chairlift!

I finished a very pleasing and solid hour before the parents. I was slightly worried about their non-presence at the end. It turns, they had also done the extra 16 km. I used my mobile phone to let them know I was on the verge of leaving. My father stopped to take the call, and thus was slightly behind my mother.
But they both got there...

On the biking today
...which is more than I can say of others. At the Library where I work, all too regularly, I too easily amaze my co-workers with tales of my physical activities. I don't set out to amaze them, they simply are amazed. In particular, there are a couple of adorable Jewish matrons, now in their mid-sixties, (i.e. only a few years younger than my mother). Quite a few years ago, I was telling them about the ninety odd kms I had skied in the Canadian Ski Marathon the weekend before. They were falling over themselves with telling me how I was in such good shape. I didn't feel I had done as well as I might have. Indeed, I was getting slightly embarrassed by their compliments. Eventually, I simply said: "My mother did the same distance as I did!"

Why do I mention this? Well, when I got to work this morning, one of my co-workers told me that the husband of one of the aforementioned ladies had suddenly died on Sunday. Massive heart attack, it seems. The funeral was this afternoon. I asked a couple of my co-workers for a lift to it, before one of them made a comment that it wasn't that far away. So I rode over on my bike. After locking it to a fence, I stashed helmet and other biking gear in my backpack and put on my black working jacket.

Between my backpack, my goy-ness and the fact I had never attended any formal Jewish religious observance before, I was somewhat at a loss as what I should do, and so opted to sit in one of the back rows. Fortunately, Jewish funerals are nowhere near as complex as Catholic ones, so there was nothing for me to mess up. ;-) It consisted of the cantor (at least, I think he was the cantor) beautifully singing the 121st psalm in Hebrew, a few eulogies and then a prayer in Hebrew, none of which I was expected to participate in! ;-)

I am not sure if I ever met the man, but I know and love my co-worker. From the eulogies, it seems he was a great guy. All I can say is that my co-worker is a very determined person, and if he wasn't worth it, she wouldn't have had him!

I hope that I am not being flippant about this sad event. I guess my point is to say how glad I am that my parents are only an hour behind me after 116 kms or so, and making jokes as they get off their bikes. I can only hope I will get to keep biking and bickering with them for many years to come.

Friday, 10 September 2010

On why Floria is faster than the Castafiore

Chris commented on my previous entry regarding the fact that Floria is faster than the Castafiore was:

My guess is your new bike has lighter rotating components.. especially the rims. These are probably solid on the old bike and are hollow on the new.

This is a mixed blessing: the bike is faster, but the rims wear out faster!

Removing weight from rotating components has twice the effect of removing weight from the frame when accelerating. Acceleration is probably a key issue in your ride to work.

The bearings are probably also improved... below about 18 kmh rolling friction dominates.

I respectfully disagree with Chris' main point. Floria was designed as a cyclo-cross bike. As such, she was built with fairly robust components. On the other hand, the Castafiore was designed as an entry level road bike but in the course of various upgrades, received rims of near touring-grade quality. Thus the rims are probably very similar as are the tires. In fact, the front tire on Floria came from the Castafiore! (The rear one had to be replaced as described in this entry.) Therefore, I doubt that there is a significant difference in the rotating components between Floria and the Castafiore.

However, Chris' point about better bearing may be valid. Although the number of times the wheels on the Castafiore were changed is significant, bringing the possibility of incremental improvements to her bearings.

My take is that it is the improved shifting components that are responsible. Moving from friction shift levers to brake-shifters is a huge leap forwards. On the new bike, it is very easy to accelerate in low gear and then pop into high gear with little thought or worry. The process of shifting is faster and much predictable. Consequently, acceleration is faster than before. Faster acceleration equals higher average speeds and thus a shorter commute.

As well, the ease of shifting means that the new bike is more energy efficient which translates into less fatigue and a greater ability to apply power later in the commute. This also leads to the shorter commute.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

On how much Edward looks like his daddy

I submit to you, dear readers, the following photographs:
One of them is Stephen, aged 15 months, one of them is Edward, aged 12 months. The resemblance is striking though perhaps unsurprising given one is the father of the other.