Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Catching Up

Sunday was #52 and I spent an hour and a half riding Jill to the Sturgeon Bay turnoff on our way to supper. A nasty headwind and a totally wrong notion that this would be an easy ride made for one of the toughest of the year. Jill had been hanging on a basement wall since our Toronto trip so we were eager to get out. Supper was great as we sat around laughing, talking and catching up with family that we just don't get to see enough. Got home and pulled Jill off the truck and onto the street and found another flat. Two this week on separate bikes.

Late Sunday night I launched my plan on Sal, a 3 day trip to Minneapolis. We made some quick reservations and noted some places we wanted to see, e-mailed those we needed to and hit the road at 8am Monday. Our trip down was uneventful. One of the spots we (I'll explain the we part later) wanted to hit was the Bikery in Stillwater, a bike shop and a bakery run by a Belgian mechanic-baker. Just before the east-west split of I-35, Gloria our GPS had us heading into rural Minnesota bound for buns and bikes. The quiet country roads through rolling farmland were a welcome change from the 4 lane madness. The roads were smooth and hilly and the shoulders were nice and wide. I wished I was riding rather than driving. We got to the shop and it was closed (Mondays), at least the drive there was a treat. The drive back into rush hour traffic wasn't. It was only 2:30 and it had already started.

After checking in we headed for Mall of America in a bumper to bumper race a snail could have won. The drivers are pretty courteous letting each other merge. We did a lap of each of the 3 levels and actually went into about 3 stores. Most of our time and our only dollars were spent in a kitchen store, Le Gourmet Chef that has tons of gadgets and ingredients. We finished our hike and had the feast for 2 at Famous Dave's BBQ. Both the food and the music were great. We headed back to the hotel and our 6 hour bed, any more than 6 hours in it and you're ready for traction.

Tuesday morning began with rain and thunder. I was awake at about 5:30 reading as my back decided a chair was more desirable than the bed. It poured for quite a while but by time we were heading out things were starting to break up. We jumped head first into the morning traffic and headed downtown to One On One, a trendy bike shop in the warehouse district. They have a coffee bar, some bike history and art, new and used parts and of course bikes. We looked around a bit and it didn't seem to match the hype until I was told that everything happens in the basement, or didn't happen. Not sure what that exactly meant I headed down the old stairs past the guard cat and Sal decided to skip the best part and promised to send a search party if need be. A few unclaimed bikes crowded around the bottom of the wooden stairs and then as I rounded a corner I saw a massive collection of used bikes, frames and categorized parts in plastic bins. At a rough guess I would say there were as many as 1,00o bikes literally piled in the basement. I emerged about 30 minutes later. With a flashlight and time you could probably find just the part you were looking for but I had neither. We gps'd our way to another shop and found a second next door but nothing like One On One. Eric's was very clean and new but had none of the atmosphere, they didn't even have coffee. Next door at Varsity Bike & Transport they had some great prices on single speeds and lots of colorful parts, a bit more of an edge and more piercings and tattoos than a Satan's Choice convention.

And now the 'we' explained. I thought it was time for some 'normal' shopping but Sal said we should return to the Bikery so we entered the address and followed Gloria again. The bike part of the business is very small, the bakery is the draw. The owner does both the mechanic and baker duties with a staff of 2. We had tomato and basil soup with fresh bread and coffee, all of which were very good.

We headed back towards the Twin cities and stopped at a Target for our normal shopping. We picked up quite a few things, mostly excellent deals. The weather was now warm and sunny so we decided to visit the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory which was close by. The zoo is an old style, small enclosure collection of primates, big cats, a few African hoofed (we only saw giraffes) and a couple of seals and sea lions. Watching the gorillas, tigers, cougar and lions reminded me of the bears in the old Chippewa Park. The enclosures were bigger but the result was the same. Drowsy looking animals either sleeping or walking in their sleep in endless circles. The silver-back gorilla looked so much like a little old man it made me want to leave. Not my cup of tea I guess. The conservatory was more lively with a collection of vegetation that was extensive. We both enjoyed the small collection of bonsai.

We got back into traffic later in the afternoon but the flow was a bit better and we crossed town quickly. I made one wrong lane choice but Gloria came to the rescue again. Having one of these units allows you to explore a city to your heart's content. We hit the Olive Garden for supper, gassed up and back to the room for the night. I slept until about 4:30 again, thank God I brought a good book. We were up and in the truck at 6:15 (5:15 their time) and there was still too much traffic to really feel comfortable. A short but fun few days exploring, next time I'm bringing a bike.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday and a Tailwind

I came ever so close to driving to work this morning but at the last second decided I'd be mad at myself later. The head wind and cool temp made the short ride feel long. By lunch the rain had stopped so I lost the rain gear and took a medium route back. Got all my projects tied up so next week I can enjoy the time off. As I cruised down Carrick I could feel a tailwind pushing me and realized I was glad I was on a bike on a Friday before holidays with the wind at my back. Can it get much better?

Thursday, August 20, 2009


! To Go

One more day of work and then a week of holidays. This morning started off...interesting. I pulled Eyowen out of her hiding place in the basement since she was as excited about going out in the rain as I was. Threw on the full wet suit since it was so cool even overheating in the plastic cocoon would not be a problem. Just around the corner from the shop I heard a strange noise but didn't get it. After unlocking the door and dragging her inside I saw the cause of the noise, flat. Not just low but riding the rim for a block flat.

Sal, Ginko and Susan picked us at lunch, my first ride to or from work in months. Brandyn and I were invited to the NorWester for swimming but Ginko says "I'm not really a fan of swimming". Almost drowning will do that to a guy, even if he's only 5.

With no other bikes ready to go Molly was back on duty for the return to work. It was raining lightly so the short trip back was no big sweat. The trip home was another story. Heavy rain for an hour left the roads covered. I had the suit on so I was fine but Molly's brakes are suspect in the sunshine, in the rain they are convicted felons. They can slow us down but stopping is not something to count on. A nice slow ride home in the rain. Had to mention holidays.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Start of Another Season

I attended my first meeting as the new (returning) secretary for Lakehead Minor tonight. I decided I missed working with the exec so I threw my hat in the ring and won back my old spot. They made lots of progress last season and seem to be on the right track. The Key hit most of town late last week so the phone should start ringing for newbies to the Northwood rosters.

Molly got another makeover on the weekend, and she's the velo du jour right now. She's totally smooth and silent with her new Continental Gatorback tires. When I get a free night I'll put up some pictures. Very retro and very quick and her chain has stayed very on for weeks now, the bruises have finally faded and I've started leaving the saddle to accelerate again. Oldest bike of the lot but has the best balance, I can ride her no-hands forever. One more part to swap and she'll hit the scales at less than 18 pounds.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Another Dog Conquered

Saturday was my third Conquer the Dog. Our team came 2nd in the relay for 3 with kayak, though I don't think there were many teams in that bracket. We were third last year and every team member knocked off some time and we picked up one spot. I managed to trim 40 seconds from my time so I was ok with that (18km in 38:13). Should have had more water as I started leg cramps on the way in. Couldn't pedal hard so I pedaled higher cadence, drank and kept the cramps just on the edge and then was able to sprint the last half km and pass one more rider. Nobody got past me so I at least held our spot in the intense competition.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Big Three Oh

30 years ago today my first child was born, seems much less than that and at the same time seems so long ago. I remember the nervousness, the excitement, the pride, the joy, the fears and the tears. I remember holding her for the first time and then telling anyone who would listen all about it. A lot of time has passed and the only thing close was the birth of her son, our first grandchild. Happy Birthday Jen.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Make the Most Of It

The long weekend weather wasn't exactly summer-like but at least the weatherman was off and it didn't rain every day. Sal and I did dimsum on Saturday and I cleaned a room in the basement when she went to work. I can just about locate all of my tools again.

Sunday I headed out to Sleeping Giant Provincial for a hike with brother Brian and some of his family. I had to be at the trailhead at 8:30 so I was up at 5:45, read a bi5 and then loaded Bridget onto the Dakota, gassed up and headed into the early morning sun on 11/17. I arrived just as Brian and the gang did so timing was perfect. We unloaded the bikes and decided to bike to Sawyer Bay and then climb the head of the Sleeping Giant. The trail was in decent shape but there was a ton of climbing and descending. The roughest part of the trail seemed to be when we were going up or down. Small boulders littered the way and even the decscents were done at about 10kmph as the rock was just too loose to let go of the brakes for any fast fun. The climbs were another matter altogether. I stopped to wait for a minute at the top of one hill and thought I could hear a partridge thumping in the bush. I realized the thumping was far too regular and that it was my pulse making all the racket in the stillness of the great Canadian outback. Keeping my butt in the saddle and leaning forward to hold down the front wheel was the only way that worked for me. I walked more than a few of the longer hills. My pedals and shoes would really have helped towards the top as the added set of leg muscles can really save you when you can't push anymore. It took us nearly 90 minutes to cover the 6.5km to Sawyer Bay.

We had a drink and locked up the bikes, shouldered our packs and headed off along the bay for about 1/2km then headed towards the back of the head. It looked impossibly high as we caught glimpses through the thick trees. Our sherpa guide Brian had made the climb once before and confirmed that it was a pretty steep trail. Soon the slope began to tilt and we were stepping from rock to rock and root to root, grabbing at small trees for support. The trail was trickier than usual as the heavy rain from last week left it wet in the shadows. Brian, Jennifer Kimberly and I reached the top at about 11am and were in for a treat. We looked back over to the east and could make out Silver Islet, Lake Marie Louise, several smaller lakes and with binoculars even picked out the Sea Lion. On the west side was Thunder Bay, Pie Island and I swear I could see as far as Pigeon River to the south. We arrived sweaty and warm but the westerly wind cooled us quickly and we scrambled for jackets. After numerous pictures and lunch we headed back down the goat path. We all found the descent tougher on the legs but easier overall. We had to be extremely careful not to fall. Kimberly had Chris' pup Shadow who tended to pull on the way up but even the pup was carefull on the way down.

Back at Sawyer Bay we had a few snacks and drinks before grabbing the bikes and heading to the steepest climbs we would face on two wheels. Everyone managed to get back safely and then we headed to the campground to sit around for a bit. Brian and I did another short level bike ride around the campgrounds. Alot of things have changed at the park that used to be Sibley Provincial when we went as kids, but much is still the same. The deer have replaced the moose, everything is more expensive but seems better cared for.

We had supper and then sat by a fire for a bit before it was time to head for town. It was a great day, a worthwhile climb and fun spending time with Brian in 'his' world. He literally could be a guide on the trails and even without the trails.

When I got home Sal hadn't eaten so we drove over to Festa Italiano and wandered around a bit, had some pasta and took a few canolies to go.

On Monday Sal, Jen, the Ginko and I went to pick strawberries at Belluz's Farm on Candy Mountain Road. We came back to town, dropped off Jen, then the Dakota and walked over to the cineplex to catch the latest Ice Age movie. I admit to dozing a bit during the movie but hey, it was a long weekend.