Wednesday, December 9, 2015


Surfing the net haphazardly sometimes turns up the strangest generators but the Google Deep Dream Generator has to take that cake. Hands down. With sprinkles.

The google gang has trained their computers to look at an image and then draw in what they see, the results are very strange. Below a winter scene I captured on my phone during my walk to work with my cell phone. This is the first depth, the second picture is four iterations deep. The deeper you go the more the imagined animals, or whatever they are, emerge from the original. If these are computer dreams I don't want to share their nightmares
click to enlarge

here I removed the additions in the sky section
Brandyn as a bird on the steps to the Rockpile,
maybe there is something to this as he did
'take off' on me

Friday, November 6, 2015

Meeting Marinoni

I finally saw 'Fire in the Frame' last night. I thought I knew exactly what to expect. I had seen the trailers and read the reviews many times. I was at least half wrong. Yes it brought an aging craftsman who achieved a world record into the spotlight and shared his unique personality, but it was much more.

Giuseppe Marinoni was a slave to his own passion and work ethic for decades. To hear that he did not ride a bike for 20 years while creating some 20,000 frames astonished me. He did not simply ride bikes in his youth. He was a very successful racer, someone whose ticket to move to Canada from his native Italy was punched because of his prowess on a bike. For him to sacrifice something he so obviously loved to craft bike frames escalates the value of my own Marinoni exponentially. I have other bikes but they were all made in a faceless factory, Sophia's creator is a man that the film allowed us to get to know. It will be hard to pedal her without thinking of him.

My image of a frame builder was a romantic notion of a man in his little shop, drinking coffee and listening to music while fitting and welding together steel tubes and lugs. Then hopping on one of his own creations and going for a long afternoon ride. Nothing could be farther from the truth. 
But he did start to ride again after his health began to fade. He talks about 100km rides like they are short hops to get coffee. I'm sure many in the crowd had no idea how difficult his record setting ride was. 35 km in an hour does not sound like an incredible distance. They would not understand how physically exhausting holding that average speed would be, nevermind his age. For his part he seemed to find more joy in discovering a cache of wild mushrooms than in setting the record.

Try as he might Marinoni could not discourage director Tony Girardin. He did not understand the interest in his life, 

-how could me and my chickens be a movie? 

He was a very reluctant subject, often telling him to stop filming as he was causing him stress. Initially he worried that like many others Girardin was trying to spy on his techniques, 

-you want to film me to learn how to make bikes, go ahead but Martin (his employee) will tell you this is the worst welding I have done in 20 years because of the stress, so go ahead. 

There were many humorous exchanges. When talking of his chickens Girardin asked if he ate them or just the eggs, Marinoni replied, 

-after a few years we eat them but humans are so cruel, how can you kill a chicken? 

Girardin then asked, 

-so you have someone kill them,

- no I kill them but I get drunk first. 

He joked with old friends in Italy that the only way the film would make money would be for him to die in his attempt at the record. He told the story of how his father left him a large plot of land, it was very narrow but also very long, it was the street in front of the family home. Of his tomato garden he said

- some men have many women, I have my tomatoes. 

After setting the record he was asked so how did it go

-I didn't die... so pretty well

He is a very eccentric and endearing character and reminds me of someone closer to home that has given so much of his life to serving the bike community here in Thunder Bay. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

We're Going to the Show

I'm finally going to get to see the Marinoni movie, Fire in the Frame. The director emailed me in September asking if I could scout out a location to screen his film in Thunder Bay. I talked to one person I know in that field and then the Bay Street Film Festival. They only offered one date and that didn't work with the western swing he was planning. He is currently in BC so although we won't hear from him the film will be shown on Thursday. He normally is on hand and does a Q and A after the screening. The film has won several awards and has been shown all over Canada with rave reviews.

I was reading last night and stumbled across the date on Twitter. I sent the president an angry 'thanks for letting me know' email. He responded with an apology this morning and we smoothed things over. I was asked to bring Sophia and Tom at Petries is sponsoring the event so it should be a fun evening

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Beautiful Day, Terrible Decisions

The Thanksgiving long weekend gave me one more chance to get in a long ride before hockey starts to dominate every weekend. Saturday wasn't the kind of day that I wanted to spend on a long ride weather wise but Sunday was a beauty.

My first mistake was not eating. I've done a lot of two hour 50km rides this year on nothing but a cup of coffee and a bottle of water. My original plan was to load up Lael with all of the frame bags, a camera and lunch to catch some fall colours. For some reason when the time came it was Sophia that emerged from the basement. I headed out towards Westfort, down Broadway and through Whitewater. When I hit 130 I was planning on cutting back to Rosslyn Road, then 17 to the second overpass and back in on Poleline and Oliver. Sophia turned left on 130 and headed south. 

I ended up going west on Candy Mountain Road, climbed for a bit as I got close to the actual mountain and stopped to get rid of some clothes as the temperature rose. I crested the hill and found another but this one was loose gravel and wet mud. Sophia's skinny 100 psi tires are not a good choice but turning around seemed a bad idea. I checked my gps and it appeared I would be back on the pavement at Barrie Drive in no time. I heard a car coming and a family asked if I knew where Gammondale Farms was. I punched it into the phone and handed it to them, without my glasses I didn't trust my eyes for giving directions. They turned around and headed back, I should have followed.

The condition of the road wasn't great and going down the back of the hill was harder since I had to hold the brakes to keep from building up too much speed on the loose rock. I came to Aspen Road and turned towards Barrie but this one was freshly graded and the rock was so loose I had to ride in the mud on the 8 inch wide edge. Sophia has never seen rain let alone mud. 

I finally got back to the pavement on Barrie Drive and felt like I was flying back towards town. Down through the Kam River Valley and up the hill to Whitewater where I started feeling the bonk. My quick two hour ride had turned into a three hour grind and my body was hungry. No solution but to keep on pedaling. Lesson learned, again.

I finished 64km in three hours with over 2000 feet of climbing. Looking at the schedule for the coming week I might be able to get in another ride Sunday but I doubt the weather will be as nice. This time we're packing a lunch.

from Victor St. just off Broadway

Thursday, October 8, 2015


This video is classic Rick Mercer. I just hope that the Jays didn't take their foot off the gas too early. I'll give them the second game of the doubleheader after clinching the east, but to put out the B squad again the following day and then try and get Buehrle his 200 innings after two days rest was not the best move in my mind. They have a far better home record and might have taken the advantage right to the end. Let's hope they don't face the Royals in game 7 in Kansas City.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Lost in the Haze

 Our first week in Calgary was a busy one as we took Brandyn to all of the attractions that we have always gone to with Cullen. The zoo, the science center, the farmer's market, play place and shopping on our only rainy day. Activities were planned around nap time so we were out early and home shortly after lunch.

We got in a few family bike rides with a varying cast of riders. Mike, Cullen, Brandyn and I did a long ride into Fish Creek Provincial. The recreational trails in Calgary are almost completely repaired or rerouted after the 2013 floods. Mike and I tried a new one in his area and came across a sign with a sponsor and named plans. I googled the name and the city has a plan for a 138km trail that follows the Stony Trail ring road. It will connect many of the existing trails and bring the total to over 1000 km. It's about 80% complete and they are adding trailside amenities so I look forward to making that ride in year's to come.

Along the Bow River Pathway we saw a huge flock of large white birds which I later googled and found they were American White Pelicans. I had a small lens with me and got a few shots. I returned the next morning with a bigger lens but could only find a few pelicans. A group of 5 came close to the bridge I was on and I watched as they swam and fed together. On return a few days later a large swarm of them was hovering overhead and I hoped they would land close in that skiing on water style, but they never came down.

In the middle of the park is Annie's Bakery, a great place for a mid ride coffee and baked treat. Cullen really loved to stop here after throwing rocks in the river and we returned a few times in that first week. Getting into the park means about a 150 foot drop (and the return climb) so we drove in once so the cast could include Nanny on a short ride to the river and back to the bakery.

Brandyn and Cullen got along really well despite the 8 years of age difference. They did laps around the kitchen island on various riding toys, played hockey in the playroom, made forts, played x-box sports, went to the park and watched tv together. I would really like to know how many laps have been made around that kitchen island in the last three years. At one point I'm sure I witnessed 50 laps in about 15 minutes as Cullen, Brandyn and Campbell were all racing round in circles.

We only got in two fires in the backyard before the smoke forced the city to ban all fires, but they were fun evenings roasting hot dogs and marshmallows, talking and just sitting and staring into the mystery of the flames. AJ, Jess and her mom were able to join us once making for a great night.

We made a short trip to Okotoks and checked out Costco and the Wheel Life bike shop where Mel had picked up a Felt Cafe similar to Sal's after extensive searching and emailing. A nice little shop with more bikes than floor space. I found a perfect set of grips for Lisbeth and a replacement spoke for Lael that had broken a day earlier. I spent an afternoon working on bikes, going over Mel's that had a few lose pieces and giving Mike's it's annual lubing of the chain. I replaced the spoke as I was still planning a long ride in Banff.

My only long ride ended up being on the 22nd as I found my way downtown through the Canal Pathway. I dropped down into the pathway about 5km from the house and followed it through the mostly industrial underbelly of Calgary. As I neared downtown the pathway became more scenic as I got glimpses of the skyline and was surrounded by more trees than warehouses. I few quick checks on my phone and shortly after passing literally inches under the Deerfoot Trail I was high above it near the Max Bell center, one of the most noticable building in Calgary. From there I saw the narrow overpass over the Deerfoot and headed for it. I'm fairly secure on a bike but the 3 foot wide overpass that took me over 6 lanes of heavy traffic was slightly unnerving. A few minutes later I was riding by the zoo which I had always wanted to do since seeing the bike path just outside the fence years ago. I turned for home after stopping on Memorial Drive, another ride I want to take someday as it parallels the downtown core right across the Bow.

On my birthday Sal and I made our only trip downtown for dim sum at the Regency Palace. It was great but our table seemed to be missed by some of the carts, not that we could have eaten much more anyway. It's always a treat to enjoy the delicacies right off the cart.

Week two meant that the boys were being slowly acclimated to their new day care in the morning and napping in the afternoon so we made other plans. The smoke from forest fires in Washington and BC had arrived and there was a haze everywhere. Normally we can see the mountains and downtown skyline from any high spot. From Monday on the mountains were totally gone and downtown was a mere smudge of grey rectangles. On a scale of 1-10 the health warning peaked at 16 due to a spider in the measuring equipment. "Stay indoors and keep your windows closed" we were warned.

On Monday, Brandyn Sal and I went to the Olympic Park. We rode the Skyline Luge, visited the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame and played what has to be the toughest 18 hole mini putt on earth. The luge requires a chairlift ride to get to the top of the 1.8km long twisty track. Sitting on a small motorless go kart just inches off the cement gives the sensation of speed and driving the cart was a blast.

The hall of fame had tons of memorabilia and a few interactive displays. Nowhere near as interesting as the Hockey Hall of Fame but worth a visit. The mini putt, what can I say? In a word, impossible, frustrating, designed by the devil himself. It was beautiful to look at as it wound its way up the side of the mountain along a small creek with waterfalls, amid plenty of shady trees and with a view of the city far below. But hit a ball short and it would inevitably roll back to your feet. Hit it long and it would often bounce off of the brick enclosure and again roll back to your feet. Augusta has nothing on this place for breaks. It was hard just to get a ball to stay within 3 feet of the hole. We had no aces at all, except Brandyn who drained one into the wrong hole. The maximum allowed number of strokes per hole was 5 and there were more of those than any other number by far. I gave up on keeping score about halfway through, no winner no loser.

The plan was to drive to Canmore and start riding the Legacy Trail to Banff at sunrise Wednesday. Mike was going to join me and we would spend the day riding. Tuesday all reports were still saying it was a health risk to exert yourself and I confirmed that the smoke was still hanging in Banff with an online friend who lives there. I decided to call off the ride and at midnight I was was lying in bed thinking of the hours spent online planning which trails to ride, prepping Lael and just plain dreaming about it. We went shopping instead and the morning was probably as good as the week got, until the wind started up again. This was the worst part of the trip, maybe of the whole year for me.

Brandyn, Sally and I made the drive out Thursday without any bikes. About 20 minutes into the drive it was so thick we started texting Mike and AJ to see if we could get a house key as Mike was at work and AJ was supposed to be on his way to Banff as well. I was depressed but kept driving and eventually the sun came out and at least we could see the mountains that were close. We had a great breakfast with AJ, Jess, her sister and mom at Melissa's Misteak and then left for the Bow Valley Parkway. We didn't get shut out wildlife-wise, we saw a big buck deer cross right in front of us but no elk or bighorn. I stopped often to take pictures but am disappointed with the results, pretty much with the whole day. A few shots from Moraine Lake are different with the haze. The number of people was almost overwhelming at Lake Louise. It was funny to hear people saying how breathtaking the view was. Maybe they meant the smoke.

Brandyn wanted to climb the front of the rockpile, which oddly enough is a pile of huge rocks where you get up about 100 feet over the lake. He decided that the stairs provided were boring. There are signs all over asking you to stay off the fragile environment but many were ignoring this and he wanted to join the climb. We did the stairs and as I was clicking a few pictures he vanished. I didn't panic but was worried that he had fallen somewhere, the rocks would not be very forgiving and there are thousands of places to fall if you stray from the trail. I tried to text Sal as she was doing the same but there's no service. I went to the northern side for a look down into the parking lot after searching all over the top and there he was standing next to her looking up at me, I was surprised I didn't attract a grizzly or two as I growled in frustration. That ended our day in Banff and we headed for home and another drive through rush hour traffic which was no where near as bad as I had dreaded.

Friday we decided to stay with the boys instead of them going to daycare. We spent the morning just watching them eat and play, took a lot of pictures and then put them to bed. Brandyn and I went to fly his remote control plane that AJ got for him, in a windstorm.

Our last day started off almost smoke free and we drove out to Millarville for the weekly farmer's market. It had the real country feel with about 125 vendors mostly selling produce or products like cheese and sausage. Music, a friendly crowd and some homemade breakfast was enjoyed by all. By lunch the wind and smoke were back and heavy.

The drive home was uneventful, cruising along over the prairies at 75mph is still relaxing. Our hotel in Brandon was renovating the bottom floor so I had to carry the bikes up the stairs but at least it wasn't 37 degrees. Our last day started out early with light rain which made loading the bikes and luggage a quick exercise. Traffic was very quiet until we hit Dryden and some construction. Brandyn asked if the first lake we saw near the Manitoba border was Lake Superior, nope now just go back to sleep and we'll let you know when you can see it.

Cullen and Campbell lapping the kitchen island

Mike, Cullen and Brandyn on our first ride

the 3 Amigos glued to the tv

a tight fit but they all hit a swing outside the science center

Nanny tricks 'Sneaky" Cullen into eating

hard to believe their was no plan here, but honestly we just noticed they were all dressed in Batman t's one morning

at the Canadian Sport Hall of Fame

Brandyn loved Banff...I mean Brandyn loved leaving Banff

the Copperfield Kid

from the Canal Pathway

getting closer to downtown

the Bow River, yes there are mountains in the background

Brandyn at Lake Louise

Brandyn and the Great One

looking nervous before the chairlift to the Skyline Luge

whose your friend, or is that your butt? (inside joke)

Lael at the Max Bell Center
(only 1 picture of a bike, how depressing is that)

Moraine Lake from the rockpile
Campbell and Mike clowning around at Millarville

sort of synchronized rock throwing

a cool morning ride to a new rock throwing spot

Nanny rides the luge....slowly
(I had time to get off, take off my pack and grab the camera,
then wait a couple minutes)

Brandyn at the rockpile following a newly wed couple up the steps
(he wanted to climb the rocks to the right)

a rockhopper penguin at the Calgary Zoo

sleeping lion at the Calgary Zoo

now that's an alarm clcok

American White Pelicans on the Bow River

snow fell on the mountains

zebra at the Calgary Zoo

Monday, August 17, 2015

Finally Underway

It's 4:15am Friday, the first day of our trip to Calgary, and I'm not the first one out of bed. Sal is up and I'm guessing she's heading to the bathroom and then back to bed, but she gets dressed. Ok. Here we go. After loading the car I come in and find Brandyn sitting on the couch ready to go. These two are serious.

Temperatures in Brandon were supposed to be heading for the mid thirties and that usually means late day thunder storms. We've seen a few dark windy days there so I had hoped to get away by 7. We hit the road before 5:30.

It was a fairly uneventful day, the roads were nearly empty early in the day and only got busy around the major cities. The temperature started off at 14 and slowly rose as the day went on. We stopped for lunch at the Manitoba border and it was 28. Too hot for me in the sun already.

Once we passed Winnipeg it quickly got worse. I had the weather radar pages saved to my phone along with weather alerts and there was nothing posted worth worrying over. We pulled into a gas station in Brandon at about 5 our time as the gas light came on. We only used a tank and a half but I should have filled in Winnipeg just to be safe. As I got out of the car the temperature hit me, a sweltering 37 but breezy and dry. The lack of high humidity we normally experience made it bearable.

We checked in. Brandyn and I hit he pool which we had to ourselves. The water was cool enough to feel good. Supper at Montana's followed and then we just relaxed and enjoyed the air in the room. Sleep came quick and easy.

Saturday saw a repeat and we were up early, packed up and stopped at Tim's as the free breakfast wasn't even started. On the road by 6:15 our time.

We drove in and out of rain and sun all day. Some may find driving the prairies a bore but I find it relaxing. The mixed weather provided some great views as dark purple sky joined sunny fields on the horizon, or rays of sun streamed through the clouds. You can see so far into the distance, from a downpour and back into the sun.

The drive felt long only once, when I saw Calgary 374 in Maple Ridge. We pulled up at about 3:30 Calgary time and slowly approached the open front door. Cullen was standing in the window after opening the door. I poked my head in and around the corner and there they were. It was a strange feeling to see them in person, video chatting is a lifesaver but being here is so much better.

Monday, August 10, 2015

One Brush

He came flying off a side street in Parkdale, blowing through the stop sign after barely even glancing in the direction I was coming from. Had I been a pickup truck going the speed limit he might have been in trouble. He was mid 30's pedaling a mountain bike full gas, no helmet, no worries. He pulled way to the left before cutting back right to hit the start of the bike path without slowing. I was about 30 yards behind him as he took the blind 90 degree corner without slowing. The path is shared by any number of families with wobbly little kids on training wheels, bikes, walkers, strollers, roller blades and other odds and ends of personally powered modes of transport, he was lucky again that none of them were on the other side.

Immediately after this blind turn is the steepest downhill section of  the path, I was sure he was gone. I was about 12 km into an afternoon ride on the most neglected of  my bikes, a singlespeed road bike geared to cruise at about 25 kph but not a great bike for going uphill. Seeing no one on the lower section and knowing there is a short hill at the other end I let Molly go down the hill and gather enough speed to make getting up the other end easier. As I approached there he was, chugging up the hill like it was a mile long. I backed off and let him finish since the top has another blind corner. Away he went again zipping past people with no regard. I started raining lightly as I slowly picked my way around people wandering around looking skyward as if they were puzzled by the source of the raindrops. I caught sight of him pushing down the next hill that passes under the expressway with yet another blind bend at the bottom before a short climb. I could hear him shifting from 50 feet back and coasted up the hill to within 25 feet. Now he knew I was back there and he mashed the pedals. His wild pedaling would open up a gap since I was really not trying to chase him down.

One more little gulley before a flat stretch where just cruising along would put me right on his tail. The rain was getting a bit harder so I decided to go past, letting him know I was 'on your left' as I pushed harder to get around him and then really stepped on the gas, hopefully crushing his ego when he saw one little sprocket and no gears. I rode out of the rain and ended up riding another hour thinking about why some guys on bikes have to act like jerks. Truth is if he gets hit by a truck that's tough, but in his case most likely his doing. If he hits a little kid on a bike that's on him. But drivers and even people walking see every cyclist as unpredictable trouble. We're all painted with the same brush. In this case flying down the path is just plain dumb, I get enough glares even when being considerate of others. Yes there are lots of walkers etc. that are not considerate, don't get me started on the golfers. But that's no excuse to ride like you're in a race using kids as pylons.

I took a day off the bikes yesterday, my first since June 22, and tore Lael apart to prep for leaving Friday. Rotated the tires, pulled the crank, cleaned and lubed the chain, adjusted the brakes, trued the rear wheel and gave her a good overall cleaning. We're both ready. I made contact with my web friend in Banff this morning and if he's free he's going to join me for part of the day. I confirmed my route with him and he agrees, it's all beautiful.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Mission Accomplished

I know it's only numbers but it's what gets me out of bed every morning. 1224 km for the month which puts me 15 ahead of my 2014 total. Feels great.

posted from Bloggeroid

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Big Month in the Saddle

I'm lucky a broken seatpost bolt didn't land me in a heap on the side of the road. Had I been cruising along no hands or in traffic things might have ended badly. As it was I felt something bang on the frame and then the seat was loose and falling while I stopped. With no way to fix the seat to the post I rode the 7km home, standing. 

bike shorts are no help here
I've been geared to leave for Calgary for more than a month now. I've changed Brandon hotel reservations three times so hopefully they won't have it messed up. Maybe throwing myself into more miles on the bike is my way to burn off some of the time before we leave, I'm not sure. Doing 20 km before work gets me in a very good and energetic mood early in the day. 
2 more weeks until I can update this shot!!
Brandyn has requested a picture here, somebody needs to fix the spelling though

Monday, July 27, 2015

Duck Duck Dock

As we sat on the deck at Mike and Norina's out at Wild Goose a family of ducks swam into the small bay. They hopped up onto a small rock about 150 yards away and even with binoculars we couldn't count them all. They came closer and passed right in front of the dock then returned and were running on the water and diving for food. They came and went again but on the last pass one of the little guys decided to hop up on the dock and after a few tries was successful. They resembled penguins with their underdeveloped featherless wings and the way they hopped out of the water and then stood tall to shake off the water. Several others tried to join the first but suffered numerous failures, until one of them got smart and went to the very end where there's a ladder. They all lined up and ended up sleeping in a pile on the end of the dock, 18 ducklings and one adult. Either the other adults are away for the weekend or ran into a predator of some kind. Quite a chore for one adult. It was a very entertaining 45 minutes. Sorry about the picture, that's full zoom on my phone.

I surpassed my biggest month of riding in the last few years with a couple hours early Sunday morning before the heat of the day arrived. I'm at 1046 km for the month and should pass my 2014 total by the end of the week. My legs are so ready for Banff.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Making Miles

On my way home tonight I'll pass 900km for the month with more than a week left to add to that. I've been on a bike every day this month averaging nearly 40km a day. My legs feel very strong for a fat old fart. Hills that would normally grind me down just seem to pass. I have just over 300 km left to surpass last year's total. I'm aiming somewhere between 6 and 7000 for the year. My biggest year was 2008 when I topped 7000km .

Last night I came close to being doored less than 5 minutes from home. I had taken a 20km long ride home and had just crossed a side street and as I approached a car parked on the side of the road another that had been parked ahead of it on the wrong side of the road pulled out pushing me towards the parked car. And then the door of the parked car opened, I yelled "hey" and the door closed about halfway leaving me about 8 inches to squeeze through without even touching the brakes. "Sorry" I heard as I continued, yep everybody's sorry.

There are so many inconsiderate people I come across every day. From the golfers that use the pathway as a parking lot, to the woman who stops on the yellow line to water her two tiny dogs. Most give me the obligatory "sorry", but not all. Now as I pass I usually mutter under my breath, "yeah I're sorry".

I have renamed my long distance all road Trek 750 after the women's record holder of the Tour Divide, Lael Wilcox. I still can't believe how far she rode (Fairbanks to Banff) and then went and killed the record. I'll have enough storage to carry my Nikon DLSR and an extra lens, phone, tools, pump, tubes, food and water for the day.

In three weeks we'll be heading for Calgary. Hopefully 'we' will include Sal because she really needs a break. I'm planning one day, all day in Banff on a bike, taking in every trail I can. All of the miles I'm doing now are building towards that day.  I have an internet friend that lives there so I hope I can hook up with him for a ride or at least to talk about some suggested can't miss rides. The images on his blog make me drool. I doubt I'll be riding the road to Moraine Lake as he did in October both because there is too much traffic in August, and (the more detrimental reason) that it climbs constantly for 14km. The climb might kill me but what a place to go.

Kevin Tweed on the road to Moraine Lake, Valley of 10 Peaks Oct. '14
Lael in 'Banff' mode

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Very Satisfying

Michael is in town for a very short visit to pick up a car and ferry it back west. After being away from home for about 12 hours he was face timing with Cullen. I would have expected him to be basking in the break from daily life with two very active little boys. Instead his face was as excited as if they had been apart for a month. It was so satisfying to witness his joy at being with Cullen even if only online. They are both real characters and together make for some hilarious, loud, crazy and touching moments.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

June, A Long and Confusing Month

June has been an extremely trying month. With her mom in hospital Sal had to return from Calgary a month early. Our plans to visit Calgary with Brandyn have changed completely. For more than a week I struggled with what to do, travel with Brandyn and leave Sal at home hoping she could fly out later, or wait. Pressure was mounting on every side, at least I was feeling pressure to try and make everyone happy. Hinging on our trip was Mike and Mel's trip to Vegas and Brandyn's visit with his cousins. A long bike ride on Sunday morning cleared my head and hopefully going in mid August, although not ideal, will make the best of a bad situation. Sal's mom is improving so we should all be able to head west together in August.

With an extra long commute this morning I surpassed my goal of 800 km for the month. Last June I managed only 277 with weather and injury holding me back. This is my biggest month of riding since September of 2013 and I only got out once on a weekend ride of any distance, just steady daily grinding on the same routes back and forth to work. I'm already ahead of my pace at the end of August 2014. That all feels great until I look at the Tour Divide where the top riders pedal totally unsupported from Banff to the Mexican border (2745 miles) in 15 days.

Compare that to the Tour de France that takes 21 days. Same distance but there's no riding in a pack to save energy, rarely a hotel room, no chef cooked meals, no masseuse, no mechanics following in a car, no spare bikes, in fact the rules state they can't even be given a sandwich. No help at all. Bikes weigh in at about 50 pounds fully loaded instead of 15 and the trails are often blocked by fallen trees, snow or grizzlies. Sounds like fun. Some of these folks are serious, the new women's record holder rode from Fairbanks to Banff as a warm up, got bronchitis which 'slowed' her down and then broke the record by more than two days. The men's new record holder rode ten days last year on a broken leg and torn achillies before an infection knocked him out. This year he was more than a day behind at day 12 and caught the previous record holder over the last two days. The top three finished 20 minutes apart after 15 days.

I would love to attempt that ride but getting the time and support in place would be nearly impossible, not to mention I'm not physically capable of riding 100 miles a day offroad for a month. It would probably take me more in the range of 2 months or longer. I would still love the chance to head south from the Fairmont hotel in Banff and see where the trail leads.

can't wait to see these little butts in person

Friday, May 22, 2015

Head Tunes

I ride alone, no one to worry about, no set route to follow, no catering to someone else’s busy life, just me, a bike and a helmet full of random thoughts, but irritatingly often those quiet times are intruded upon by the dreaded head-tunes.

If a familiar old Led Zep number creeps into my conscious all is good, this old guy knows all of Robert’s lyrics and the notes of every one of Jimmy’s searing solos, so the entire tune can play out and my rambling thoughts can continue, but when some odd snippet of music worms its way in because I found it catchy, yesterday, but I don’t really know it, it plays endlessly, over and over, effectively jamming my thinking. An upbeat melody that motivates is great but imagine Pavarotti sneaking in with Nessun Dorma when you’re a Zeppelin fan.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Inspired by Tires

Most often when I ride I have one purpose in mind, get where I'm going without delay. I have spoiled a lot of good days by simply being in a hurry. Today was different. I picked up a pair of tires last night for the bike I most often grab, Lael. The Clement X'Plor MSO is all the rage with the gravel/adventure bike crowd. I did some reading and with some of the cash from selling a bike I made the decision.

They are close to mountain bike size and look very beefy on a drop bar bike. The ride is as advertised, very comfy and stable. At the last minute I had grabbed my point and shoot Nikon and threw it in the bar bag. Normally I don't stop to take many pictures.

It was foggy before I left but it had mostly burned off until I got over the bridge to the East End. From the top of the bridge to Mission Island it was clear towards town but the mist was rolling back in over the lake. I stopped and snapped a few shots wishing I had brought my glasses, without them the Nikon is literally a point and shoot camera as the lack of glasses and bright sunshine results in a very limited view from behind the lens.
from the Mission Island Bridge
Most trips to Mission Island are witnessed by a dozen or so deer but this morning the geese headlined. They are pairing up and getting ready to add to their population, there were couple along the road everywhere. Why this guy choose to roost here I'll never know.
Not a good spot for a nest
The road to Mission Island Marsh is a great place to test ride tires. The pavement needs some serious attention to say the least. The MSO's handled it very well. I pulled into the parking lot and the view was a bit stark. Not only could I not see the Sleeping Giant, I could barely see the water 30 yards away.
Where did the Giant go?
Since there was nothing to see from there I rolled back down and took to the trails along the shoreline. The tires make Lael a true 'do everything' bike as I was able to roll through the soft grass and go anywhere that looked interesting.
Well almost anywhere.
Other than lifting her over the tree recently dropped by a beaver nothing kept me from poking around and snapping pictures. The gearing with a triple on the front is perfect for off road exploring, she's not fast but that was the whole point. I wanted to take my time and look around. From this spot you can normally look across the river mouth, not today.
Not much to see past 100 feet out
The trail was almost eerie. It was early enough that only a couple of cars were in the lot and no one was wandering the trails.
This trail is all ours.
I completed the short loop and then zipped along the boardwalk but the fog was getting thicker and there wasn't much to be seen. I headed back and went through one of the gravel side roads and found a pair of deer. I had to make a few noises to even make her look up, they have no fear what so ever.
If you don't have a carrot, move along.
The bridge back was totally in the soup now so I didn't bother stopping but turned off to one of Thunder Bay's most scenic spots, the Fisherman's Dock. That's what the sign says but it's more like a garbage dump as people obviously drive in out of sight and dump whatever. The fog was completely blocking out the bridge just 300 yards away.
The remains of a dock with the Sleeping Giant in the background
I went another couple of kms and down another path to the lake but again the fog blocked everything. I headed back over the East End bridge, down Hardistry and over to Kam River Park where the sun and the drunks were out. Time to call it a day. I totally enjoyed the relaxed pace. A nice smooth couple of hours, never even used the big ring once.
Lael on the Fisherman's Dock