Finishing the Errandonnee: Booze, Books, Yoda and much more!

I’ve been busily going about my normal, everyday cycling life and whenever I remembered, I’ve documented my errands for the Errandonnee challenge:

Errandonnee: Complete 12 errands in 12′ish days and ride a total of 30 miles by bike between March 7-19, 2014

Errand #2 – March 11th – Commuting – 10km

After the previous day’s splashing through puddles, an overnight temperature drop provided lots of icy surfaces on the morning commute. Some behemoth had crashed through the frozen LRT puddle, leaving a field of ice panes across the path.

There’s a steep hill that I pedal up every day to climb out of Mill Creek. During the spring thaw it’s a babbling brook during the day but after a frosty night it freezes into an ice slide. This hill is my personal benchmark for studded tire performance on ice. With my DIY sheet-metal screw tires I could never pedal up it. With Schwalbe Winter Marathon Tires, I can make it to the top as long as I am very careful about how I apply torque to the rear wheel – too much and it spins out. With my Nokkian Hakka WXC300 tires I can zip up the hill without even thinking about the ice, enjoying the Velcro-like grip of these aggressively studded tires. On this day, when I was almost to the top I saw another cyclist carefully heading down the hill, staying close to the side.

Errand #3 – March 11th – Wild Card – 10km

On the way home from work I detoured downtown to City Center Mall to buy a cell phone top-up for my daughter. This is only the second month with her first cell phone, so I’ve been reluctant to hook it up to any of my credit cards until I see how she handles it. On the way out of the downtown core I stopped for a pic by the LRT tunnel free-wall, a place where graffiti art is officially permitted by the city. It’s a constantly changing mural, and if there’s an image you like one day it might be painted over the next.

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Errand #4 – March 12th – Commuting – 20km

On the way to work in the morning I was treated to a wonderful sunrise that peaked just as I was crossing the pedestrian bridge. It’s a perfect place to stop for a peaceful few moments to enjoy the morning. I’ll miss this bridge when it’s replaced to make room for LRT expansion.

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Errand #5 – March 12th – Grocery Store – 1.5km

This is about as boring as errands get. I will note that I am now a fan of bike baskets, with the Wald shown being good for bulky but light loads. The panniers are filled to the top.

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Errand #6 – March 14th – Personal Care – 6km

On the way home from work I headed downtown to deposit a few checks in the bank. When I was crossing the river I spotted my first two geese of the year. It’s a good sign that spring might actually be here.

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I'll bet I'm not.

I’ll bet I’m not.

Errand #7 – March 14th – Personal Care – 0.5km

After the bank I headed to the liquor store, deVines, to pick up something interesting for the weekend. If you don’t think that alcohol counts as personal care, then you just don’t know me. I bought a bottle of German Schenkerla Marzen Smoked beer. The malted barley for this beer is kilned over beechwood logs and sipping this dark beverage is like drinking a campfire. I mean that in a good way. I also picked up a bottle of Kung Fu Girl Riesling for my wife, who has recently started working out and dusting off the moves she learned when we were studying the martial art more than a decade ago.

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Errand #8 – March 14th – Non Grocery Store –  3.5km

Before heading home, I popped in to check out the new space for the Wee Book Inn, an Edmonton used book store chain with several locations. They have just recently downsized their downtown location by moved into this smaller space. There are still lots of books to peruse: I bought “The Sherlock Holmes Scapbook”. Published in 1986, this book has lots of interesting photos chronicling the use of Holmes in a variety of media , from ads for Crawford’s Cream Crackers to a great picture of William Gillette the first actor to portray Holmes on the stage back in 1901. There also also some cycling content, with a photo of Arthur Conan Doyle and his wife riding a velocipede. I’m to lazy to scan it, but you can see it here.

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Errand #9 – March 15th – Bike Shop – 2km

I celebrated the Ides of March by getting up early and heading to Bikeworks North to clean some of the winter grime off my bike and to put my lighter duty studded tires on. These Schwalbe Winter Marathon tires are great for when there is mostly bare pavement with a few ice patches. It was odd to see my bike emerge from under the encrusting dirt for the first time in months.

Errand #10 – March 15th – Grocery Store

After I left Bikeworks I headed to the Downtown Farmer’s Market. During the cold months it’s hosted in City Hall, another example of Edmonton’s brief and peculiar fascination with pyramids. I got a heap of food as usual.

IIn my opinin, City Hall is not really enhanced by the addition of a Wacky, Waving, Inaflatable, Arm-Flailing, Tube Man

In my opinion, City Hall is not really enhanced by the addition of a Wacky, Waving, Inaflatable, Arm-Flailing, Tube Man

A pretty swanky location for the Farmer's Market.

A pretty swanky location for the Farmer’s Market.

Errand #11 – March 18th – Wild Card – 1.5km

Before work I had to zip out to 7-11 to pick up a pack of bus tickets for my daughter who had lost her bus pass right in the middle of the month – inconvenient.

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Errand #12 – March 19th – Dinner – 10 km

The categories for the Errandonnee were a bit problematic for me as three of them were for going out for meals or coffee, things I almost never do. On work days, I pack a lunch and bring a thermos of tea with me. Other meals are pretty much always at home with the family. However, I’ve been intending to try out the Burger Baron location near my home for more than a decade so I popped in on my way home from work. I’ve gone past it hundreds, if not thousands of times, without going in. Established in 1957, Burger Baron was the first drive-through chain in Western Canada and it was pretty popular until big American chains muscled in and the original franchise went into bankruptcy. The locations are now independently operated and have their own widely varying (and slightly…creative) menus. I’ve been to several in the city, but oddly, not the one a few blocks from my house. The locations are often a little shabby and run down, but I really enjoy their distinct personality, very different form the big chains. Where else can you get Donair Poutine with sides of Corn Fritters and Mushroom Soup?  I had a double mushroom burger, one of the Baron’s signature dishes that comes with a heap of mushrooms in a sort of gravy, fries (piping hot) and a chocolate milkshake. I haven’t had a shake in a long, long time and this one was so thick that I could feel my cranial sutures creaking under the vaccuum force of me trying to suck it through the straw. I was uncomfortably full by the time I was finished the meal.

In it's heyday, I imagine the drive-in was packed. Now everybody uses the drive-through.

In it’s heyday, I imagine the drive-in was packed. Now everybody uses the drive-through.

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Some interesting menu items: Tatertots Poutine & Deep Fried Mush. Although, It turns out that it’s actually Deep Fried Mushrooms I would not have been surprised at all if they were offering some sort of deep fried hash,

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Soggy Spring Errandonnee

What is the Errandonnee, you ask? It’s a challenge organized by MG of the blog Chasing Mailboxes and can be summarized as follows:

Errandonnee: Complete 12 errands in 12′ish days and ride a total of 30 miles by bike between March 7-19, 2014.

I’m a bit late getting started on this because I wasn’t feeling the love for running errands. I do lots of them anyway, but they’re often boring – not necessarily good blog material. But today, I decided that I’ll give it a try as long as I can find something at least moderately interesting about the errand.

Today’s errand was a trip to Earth’s General Store to pick up some household items. Entire bottles of shampoo have been going missing in our house lately, and though the children are the prime suspects I haven’t yet been able to prove anything. An elaborate sting operation may be required to get to the bottom of it. Maybe something like an exploding dye-pack.

Today’s errand coincided with my annual spring-thaw bike-splash photo session. The snow is melting fast giving lots of chances to splash through massive puddles while cycling. It’s good, clean (sort of) fun. On general principle I rode through the middle of most puddles for maximum effect. It turns out that none of the ponds were actually bottomless, nor was Nessie anywhere to be seen.

The first puddle to be forded - cutting through the alley on the way to EGS.

The first puddle to be forded – cutting through the alley on the way to EGS.

Heading into Mill Creek ravine.

Heading into Mill Creek ravine.

Bike Splash!

Bike Splash!

Soggy Spring Errandonnee

Soggy Spring Errandonnee

My old nemesis - the LRT trail puddle. This one looked a bit nasty so I rode along the edge.

My old nemesis – the LRT trail puddle. This one looked a bit nasty so I rode along the edge.

Errandonnee: Creeping Across The Finish Line.

Yes, I have finished the Errandonnee.This news will doubtless come as a relief to any non-utility cycling readers. Will my control card pass muster? Time will tell. My documentable errands had dropped off throughout the week and the last ones were completed over the course of a few days. There were a some trips that could have qualified but as in the case of shopping for my wife’s Valentine Day gift, I choose not to regard them as errands.

Thanks to MG for organizing the Errandonnee. It has put a bit of fun into the daily drudgery of chores.

ERRAND #9, Friday, Trip to the bank.

On the way home from work I detoured to downtown to deposit a cheque at the bank. The weather was so fantastically and unseasonably warm that I cycled home without a jacket, hat or gloves, just because I could. For those who doubt, I have photographic evidence.

Look Ma! No gloves!

Look Ma! No gloves!

Errandonnee #9

The Errandonnee rules state that participants must record an observation about each errand. In the Sherlock Holmes story ” A Scandal in Bohemia” Holmes points out that he is in the habit of observing his surroundings whereas  Watson is not. He illustrates this by asking if Watson knows how many steps there are in the stairs leading to the the Baker Street flat they have both walked up so many times. Watson of course does not know, whereas Holmes has the ready answer: 17 steps. In this spirit, I observed the number of steps leading up from the river valley to the Hotel MacDonald.

There are 201 steps.

There are 201 steps.

Errand completed!

Errand completed!

ERRAND #10: Sunday. Trip to the Post Office.

I made a rare trip the post office to mail a post card to the States. My neighbourhood office closed  a year or so ago and now I  usually use the one at Kingsway Mall. While there I observed that not the new LRT line under construction seems to be creeping towards completion. I imagine the winter slows things down somewhat.

A rare trip to the post office.

ERRAND #11: Monday, Trip to Bikeworks North to work on one of my bikes.

A significant perk that comes with being a regular volunteer at Bikeworks is access to the shop after hours. I could probably count this errand in the Bike Shop category but I think it’s better to use my wild card for this one.

Today I was finishing up my “Ravine Bike”. I found this abandoned bike when volunteering at a ravine clean-up last spring. It was missing many parts but over the months I managed to cobble enough together to resurrect it. Today’s mission was getting the brakes working properly. I had tried once before but it’s the first bike I’ve worked on with disc brakes and I didn’t quit get it right. I rode the nearly brakeless bike very slowly to the shop and had another crack at it. This time, partly due to truing the rotors I was able to nail it.

As of today this bike is complete and ready to ride. While riding to the shop I observed that the shocks work much better at -7ºC than in the -20ºC I last road this bike in. I’m not ready to reveal the bike itself yet, but will feature it in an upcoming blog post. You will find a small hint below.

Rotor truing.

Rotor truing.

Errand #11

ERRAND #12: Monday, Bargain hunting at a local thrift shop.

Once or twice a month I usually drop by one of the second-hand stores to look for bargains. Lately, I’ve been having a good run with the best finds being new or like-new merino wool clothing and gore-tex outerwear. The store I visited today seems to have been getting shipments of brand new clothing from a major work wear store, so I was hopeful.

I tried on a new pair of good quality steel toed work boots. They fit well but were heavily insulated and not suitable for my purposes so I left them for somebody else. The big find today turned out to be an Eddie Bauer Gore-Tex parka with goose down fill. This thing is so warm that it’ll have to be pretty cold out to use it. I certainly won’t be cycling in it. Wearing it, I felt a bit like George from Seinfeld. It was missing the hood, but for $30.00 I brought it home anyway.

Errand #12

More Errandonneuring!

Continuing with the Errandonnee Challenge I mentioned in my last post, here are Errands #4 through #8. And a few bonus photos, just ’cause I’m feeling generous (or maybe mean).

ERRAND #4: Sunday Afternoon, Volunteering at Bikeworks North.

Normally BWN isn’t open on Sundays, but during the water problems at the south shop it was announced that BWN would be open instead. Even though the water was restored in time for the weekend we still opened the north shop. The shop is only a 5 minute pedal from my house so I popped over to put in a few hours. While there I spent a little while salvaging some hubs from a couple of damaged rims, starting tuning up another bike, and helped a fellow who was working on his first wheel build.

Bikes for sale. Come and check them out! Choose one that has already been tuned up by  the volunteers or buy one as-is and fix it up yourself.

Bikes for sale. Come and check them out! Choose one that has already been tuned up by the volunteers or buy one as-is and fix it up yourself.

I started working on this old Kuwahara Savage MTB.  It's a bit scuffed up but will make a great stealth commuter (a sweet riding cromoly frame that most theives would't look twice at). BWN seems to be Kuwahara/Apollo central right now. There are several more.

I started working on this old Kuwahara Savage MTB. It’s a bit scuffed up but will make a great stealth commuter (a sweet riding cromoly frame c/w eyelets for racks and fenders that most thieves would’t look twice at). BWN seems to be Kuwahara/Apollo central right now. There are several more.

I also cleaned and oiled my own bike.

I also cleaned and oiled my own bike.

ERRAND #5: Sunday Evening, Purchasing a new printer at Futureshop:

Our old printer died a little while ago and my wife has been in dire need of a replacement (me, I didn’t use it often). After finishing at Bikeworks I headed downtown to buy another printer. I’m picked one with a small foot print as space is at a premium in our small house. Even so, it was about as big a package as I was equipped to carry on my bike. The main routes with bare pavement were no problem but the box slid around a bit on the heavily rutted side streets. Nonetheless, the printer arrived home intact and is now installed and working perfectly.

I used the omnipresent Canadian Kickstand to get this picture.

I used the omnipresent Canadian Kickstand to get this picture.

ERRAND #6: Tuesday. Work. Again. Wheee.

I was treated to another gorgeous sunrise on the way to work this morning but was running late, so I can offer no photo. After work I snapped a few pics of the road conditions near my workplace. These are on an official bike route. The unseasonably warm weather has continued and so real, honest to goodness asphalt is emerging from under the thick snow hard pack. The city keeps the main roads cleared to the asphalt ( and does a pretty good job) but only blades residential roads to a 5 cm snowpack. They kept up on this through the first part of the winter but have been falling behind a bit and in many areas there is a good 6 inches or more of rutted, hard packed snow and ice.

Gasp! The asphalt emerges! Dreams of riding speedy road bikes through summer  days momentarily overwhelm me.

Gasp! The asphalt emerges! Dreams of riding speedy road bikes through summer days momentarily overwhelm me.

I discover that

So that’s what was under the snow! I discover that the winter months have not been kind to the road surface (none too good to begin with). This area is due for repaving this summer.

ERRAND #7: Tuesday evening, Grocery Shopping at Earth’s General Store

EGS is conveniently located on my homeward route and I occasionally stop to pick up foodstuffs there. I was disappointed to find that they were out of Ohsawa Namu Shoyu soya sauce. Best…soya sauce…ever. On the other hand, that stuff ain’t cheap. I did come away with numerous other items.

Note the bike racks made from old bike frames.

Note the bike racks made from old bike frames.

ERRAND # 8 Tuesday evening. City of Edmonton community meeting on bike lane projects for 2013.

This  was one of two open house meetings that the city is holding to communicate the bike infrastructure plans for the 2013 construction season. This meeting was held in a school right next to one of the bike routes and was well attended with neighbourhood residents and cyclists: at least a hundred people, maybe more. Rolled out on long tables were maps of the proposed work, with post-it pads so people could make comments about specific issues. City engineers were present at the various tables to answer questions. I watched the presentation, left a couple of comments, chatted with a couple of other bike commuting types I knew, and I headed for home.

Errand #8 Bike Lanes Meeting

There was a lot of local news media in attendance.

There was a lot of local news media in attendance.

THE TRIP HOME: Tuesday evening

Not at all related to the errands, but it was a beautiful night so I stopped to take a few pictures on the way home.

Homeward bound

Homeward bound

Edmonton: The City of Pyramids.

Edmonton: The City of Pyramids.

The pyramids are the Muttart plant conservatory, a green haven during the bleak winter months. At night they are well lit and change colour….a lot.

Errandonnee Saturday

MG over at the blog Chasing Mailboxes D.C. has issued a winter utility cycling challenge: The Errandonnee. Participants must complete 12 cycling errands within 12 days and ride at least 30 miles while doing so. Documentation of the errands is required, including photos and a randonneuring inspired (could you tell from the term Errandonnee?) control card. Errands fall into 11 categories of which you must complete at least 7, using each category no more than twice. For more details on the rules of the challenge, check out this post.

This seems a natural for me as I’m pretty much in pure errand mode these days. I haven’t been on a purely recreational  ride since my New Year’s Day Bridge Ride. It should put a bit of fun in my daily pedaling around the city.

ERRAND #1: EARLY MORNING COMMUTE

I don’t normally work Saturdays but we’re swamped right now. I’d agreed to go in and open the shop so that myself and two other employees could clock some overtime and chip away at the backlog for a few hours in the morning.  This past week I’ve been enjoying the lengthening days and some beautiful sunrises on my morning commute. Today, however, I was going in an hour earlier than normal so it was back to commuting in the dark.This was useful for the purposes of the Errandonee, as two of the errands must take place during the hours of darkness. The pre-dawn temperature was a balmy 3°C, a pleasant change from the statistical average low of -16°C for this date.

Riding the well  cleared path beside the LRT tracks. A nearly empty train passes.

Riding the well cleared path beside the LRT tracks. A nearly empty train passing.

Downtown and the river valley.

Skirting the edge of the downtown core.

I detoured a little to get a picture overlooking the river valley. The trail down to the bridge seen on the left side of the photo was a fun, fast ride and I was pleased to see that it was well plowed and maintained.

ERRAND #2: GROCERY RUN

We called it a day at noon and after locking up the shop I headed off to the Strathcona Farmer’s Market to pick up some groceries for the coming week. I had noted in my last blog post that the Market wasn’t doing a great job of keeping the bike racks clear. Today the bike racks were so snow covered as to be unusable so I locked up to a lamp post. After a quick trip through the market my panniers were well filled (and heavy) with food. Onwards  to the last errand of the day.

Slushy Saturday at the Farmer's Market.

Slushy Saturday at the Farmer’s Market.

Just  a little closeup pic  of the winter bike.

Just a little closeup pic of the winter bike.

ERRAND #3: BIKEWORKS SOUTH

Since  Bikeworks North opened in my neighbourhood early last year I haven’t got down to the south shop very often. As I was in the area, I zipped over to say hello to the south volunteers and rummage through the used parts room for any handy odds & ends. After having been shut down for a week because of a water problem elsewhere in the building, there were a gaggle of volunteers in the shop. I found a couple of items I could use and headed home.

Bikeworks,, the community bike shop operated by the Edmonton Bicycle Commuters' Society.

BikeWorks, the community bike shop operated by the Edmonton Bicycle Commuters’ Society.

Piles of parts to keep the bikes of Edmonton commuters on the road.

Piles of parts to keep the bikes of Edmonton commuters on the road.

HOME WITH THE GOODS:

The ride home was fun even if the slush, ice and brown sugar were making things messy. My total Errandonneuring distance was about 22km. This is only approximate as I don’t have a bike computer on my winter bike (they tend to freeze when it’s sub-zero) but I’m well familiar with the distances for my regular destinations. Here’s what I brought home with me:

There was still a little room left in my well worn 56L MEC pannier set.

There was still a little room left in my well worn 56L MEC pannier set.

Cycling fuel.

Cycling fuel.

This ratcheting friction shifter appears to be a copy of the old Suntour ones I have on my winter bike. I love those shifters and hopefully this will  b

This ratcheting friction shifter appears to be a copy of the old Suntour ones I have on my winter bike. I love those shifters and hopefully this’ll be a good spare.

I'm building up a MTB from an abandoned frame that I found last spring. Apparently it's almost impossible for me to build a bike without putting a rack on it. This solidly built aluminum seatpost rack should do the trick. It also has a sturdy quick release mounting clamp so I can remove it without much problem if  want.

I’m building up a MTB from an abandoned frame that I found last spring. Apparently it’s almost impossible for me to build a bike without putting a rack on it. This solidly built aluminum seatpost rack should do the trick. It also has a sturdy quick release mounting clamp so I can remove it without much problem if want.