Changing Seasons

Back when I used to put the bike away for winter, I would always look forward to that first exciting ride of the spring. Now that I’m cycling year round I miss that feeling. However, there is a compensation in watching the slow turn of the seasons from the seat of my bicycle.

We’re currently passing through one of my favourite periods.  At this time of year the sun is just clearing the top of Mill Creek ravine as I pedal to work in the morning. This is quite nice, but even better is the fact the the trees are just starting to bud at the same time. The poplar trees are laden with downy, white, young seed pods that catch the the low morning sunlight and and shine with a pearly glow. The elm trees are still heavy with last years seeds that shine with warm amber light.

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In little more than a week the poplar pods will slowly change from white to a vibrant green, and together with the budding leaves will make the morning woods seem to be suffused with a jade mist. Get out there and enjoy it Edmontonians.

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This picture does not do it justice.

Trial by Pothole

“And Lo! there shall be a wasteland of potholes. And the Judgement that they shall mete out to road users shall be stern and swift. Woe betide the driver or cyclist who’s vigilance  fails.”  The Book of Potholes

What lies beneath these placid depths ?

What lies beneath these placid depths ?

There is a nine block stretch of 97th street, extending north from 63 Ave that has achieved a truly sublime density of potholes. It has become so awful that you can only admire it.This Promenade of Potholes has been forming for a few years now but over the winter it really blossomed into its current impressive state.  Back in  2011 I wrote about the dubious condition of this stretch of road. It was noteworthy because it was a newly designated bike route with signs and sharrows. Little did I know that the passing of nearly two years (with the accompanying two winter freeze thaw cycles) would result in a nearly post-apocalyptic road surface.

I’m not the type to gripe endlessly about potholes. Road repair is ongoing and I understand that this area will be attended to by city crews this year. Good. In the meantime, I cycle cautiously through the area and take special care when the pools of meltwater hide the potholes lurking below. Drivers who know the this road are equally cautious. Most of them, that is.

Trial by Pothole

Last week on my way home I was negotiating the lane shown above. At the time the area was still mostly flooded with water from the rapidly melting snow. An SUV driver directly behind me followed for less than 10 seconds before losing patience. He floored the gas pedal, aggressively passed me and then cut sharply in front of me (possibly in an attempt to splash me). As there was no oncoming traffic he could have easily passed at a safe and moderate speed. After passing he gunned the engine and raced down the road.

Would you drive at top  speed down this road?

Would you drive at top speed down this road?

A few seconds later (as I was considering making a rude gesture) a rare and splendid thing happened: he was instantly punished for his reckless driving. While splashing through the puddles the driver suddenly lost control of his vehicle and veered wildly over into the oncoming lane. He very nearly went off the road and onto the grass on the far side. It seems that he hit one of the submerged giant potholes.

This is probably the best outcome I could have hoped for. There was nobody else around on road but if there had been but it could have been a serious accident. I optimistically hope that a lesson was learned by the driver. With luck, he hit the hole hard enough to do some damage to his car. In any case, the incident put a smile on my face for the rest the trip home. During a trial by pothole, judgement is swift.

It might have been this mother of all potholes that      was the hand of justice. It is wide and deep enough to be an entrance to Pellucidar.

It might have been this mother of all potholes that was the hand of justice. It is wide and deep enough to be an entrance to Pellucidar.

Spring Cycling (Edmonton Style)

Spring Snowstorm

This is what the second day of spring looked like here in Edmonton. During the mild weather of late February and early March I was getting used to riding on asphalt again. Dreams of zipping about on summer bikes were starting to overwhelm me. No worries about that happening soon. I am fully back in winter cycling mode.

It was a pretty good spring snowstorm that settled in on my fair city on Thursday. The morning ride to work was through an idyllic winter wonderland. The snow was falling heavily but had only accumulated a couple of inches deep. It was such a perfect winter morning (pardon me, spring morning) that I was tempted to call in sick at work and spend  the day cycling. Instead, I dutifully toiled the day away on the huge backlog of work while frequently glancing out the window at the ever deepening snow. During my lunch break I went out for a quick ride around the industrial neighbourhood and had a lot of fun.

The ride home promised to be interesting. The radio was reporting the closure of major roads and many accidents. There was a 100 vehicle pile up on the QE2 highway with as many injuries. One of the trucks was hauling a load of cattle that had to be moved from the scene of the accident. I can only imagine the chaos. It took 12 hours for the police to get the highway open to traffic again. The news reports presented such a dire image that our boss shut the shop down 2 hours early and sent us home.

I am pleased to report that my ride home was tranquil and pleasant. My route was through lightly traveled residential roads and the MUPs. Close to a foot of gorgeous white powder had blanketed the city streets. In these conditions you just stick to the low gears and churn steadily and slowly along. Sometimes, the back wheel acts more like a riverboat paddlewheel than anything else. On the rare occasion that a motor vehicle approached me from behind I pulled over to the side and let them pass. On days like this you can’t be sure that drivers have control over their vehicles. On most occasions the motorists gave me a friendly thank you wave for the courtesy. It’s nice when cyclists and drivers can get along like this.

As approached my usual entrance to the trail system I found that the way was completely blocked by a car that had slid down into the trail.. I stopped to talk to the woman in the car to see if she was OK. She was fine and told me that she was calling for a tow truck but was on hold. Later that night I heard on the news that people could expect to wait for up to 6 hours for non-emergency tows. I wonder how long she was there

The ride through the ravine was beautiful. I was the only cyclist and I saw very few pedestrians. It was a real pleasure to break fresh tracks through the deep snow. I stopped frequently to snap photos and shoot a little bit of video. I only had to resort to pushing my bike at a few spots. All the while I was happy to not be in a vehicle creeping along the main roads through the glacially slow traffic.

As I neared home I found that the trail by the LRT tracks had been plowed. This was a very happy way to end the ride. I arrived at my house wobbly legged and drenched in sweat but quite content.

Riding through beautiful snowy Mill Creek Ravine.

Riding through beautiful snowy Mill Creek Ravine.

aking these photos while plowing through the snow with one hand on the bars and one hand holding the camera was....not easy.

Taking this photo while plowing through the snow with one hand on the bars and one hand holding the camera was….not easy.

Having taken the effort to snap these photos I'd hate to not use them on the bog.

Having taken the effort to snap these photos I’d hate to not use them on the blog.

One more...

One more…

Be careful where you set your bike down. You might not find it again.

Be careful where you set your bike down. You might not find it again.

Spring Snowstorm

I went for a short walk in the woods.

I went for a short walk in the woods.

Back on the roads for some contrast

Back on the roads for some contrast

Home again with a smile on my face.The winter beard earning its keep.

Home again with a smile on my face.The winter beard earning its keep.

River Break-Up

The short stretch of the North Saskatchewan River that I see each day has been ice free for a little while now. However, a few days ago there was a lot of ice moving through from further upstream. This is a spectacle that only lasts for a little while an I’m always glad when I don’t miss it. The implacable force of the river suddenly becomes obvious as it pushes the pans of ice downstream regardless of obstacles. There is constant low rumbling noise accompanied by a crystalline tinkling. When I was standing on the pedestrian bridge watching the large sheets of ice split against the piers it was reminiscent of the ice-breaking ocean ferries that I traveled by back on the East coast. Powerful. I took a short video clip of the river break-up but it doesn’t really capture the experience.

In bike related news, I have been riding the Kona Jake cross bike again for the last couple of weeks. This was my first real bike and I still love it. It’s fast, nimble and rugged: a good compromise between a road bike and a mountain bike. The Jake is Kona’s entry level cross bike and I really think it’s aimed at people like me rather than anyone who might actually race it. This is my favourite bike to ride once the snow is mostly gone. And someday soon it will really be gone. I hope.

2008 Kona Jake

Change of Season, Change of Camera.

I hereby declare Spring to have officially arrived in Edmonton! Winter put on a good show in the last week of February and the first week of March but the Season has turned. I shall now refer to any subsequent snowfalls as Spring Snowstorms. As the  arrival of the new season has coincided with the arrival of a new camera in our household a good number of photos are in order.

I’ve been using two cameras to take the photos for this blog. My main camera has been a Pentax Optio W10. I bought it about 5 years ago and though it has served me well, technology has marched on and its 6MP is no longer satisfactory. When I don’t happen to have the Pentax with me I use my cell phone to take pictures and it is woefully inadequate. I very rarely spend money on electronics so I have been procrastinating upgrading to a new camera for some time now.

My old camera had the benefit of being waterproof. Years ago, I became a believer in spending a little more for rugged electronics when our camcorder died after a trip to the beach. Although we were very careful with it and didn’t bring it anywhere near the water it still didn’t survive. There are a lot more options for rugged cameras on the market today and the price has dropped considerably. The Olympus TG-610 sits pretty much alone in the middle of the pack in terms of price and function. This was pretty much what what I was looking for as the entry level cameras are not as well built and the more expensive camera are, well, more expensive.  A local camera shop has the TG610 on sale for the same price as the cheapest online prices I could find. Cheaper, as I didn’t have to pay for shipping.

This camera is waterproof to 5m, shockproof against drops up to 1.5 m, and freezeproof to -10C. These are all good features for a camera to be used by a blog writing winter cyclist. Some other relevant specs include:

  • 14 megapixel sensor
  • 5x wide optical zoom (35mm equiv: 28-140mm)
  • 720p HD movies
  • Dual Image Stabilisation
  • TAP Control Menu
  • 3D photo shooting mode
  • In-camera panorama function
  • 720p HD movies and remote operation by HDMI control
  • LED illuminator to lighten up macro sceneries
  • 3.0 inch 920,000 dot HyperCrystal III LCD screen
  • TruePic III+ image processor

I am by no means  knowledgeable about photography so my perspective is that of a casual user.

The camera has a nice solid feel when handled. It seems rugged. When the camera is in playback mode or turned off  metal shutter closes to protect the lens. I’ve found the camera easy to operate. The buttons are nicely raised and instead of an arrow pad there is a sort of mini-joystick. These features make it  possible to operate the camera while wearing gloves

It has a few different modes. I’ve mostly been using it in the semi-manual made that gives you quick access to settings for flash, focus, drive, exposure compensation, white balance, and ISO. This has been mostly producing  good pictures. It also has a number of scene options such as Sport, Candlelight etc. that I have found to be useful. I have a small complaint that it takes a few seconds to scroll through the menu to choose a particular scene option. The camera is perhaps not as good at low light situations as it could be but it is still an improvement over my old one. In a pinch the camera can be used to take relatively decent video. It’s actually better than my camcorder. But that, too, is rapidly approaching obsolescence.

Here are a few pics of the last bit of winter.

A little powder that escaped the fenders.

Once the weather warmed up things started to get wet as all that freshly fallen snow melted. First, a short video and then a few pictures.

This delta formed as the hardpack melted.

The daily melt cycle usually results in this hill being pure ice in the morning after overnight temperatures drop below freezing.

Similarly, the slush hardens into icy ridges overnight making for a bumpy morning commute.

There is no shortage of water to splash through.

Some of the puddles are quite deep.

The "Sport" scene setting worked quite well here.

1983 Nishiki Continental Photoshoot.

I needed a new header image for my blog as the winter picture was feeling unseasonal. Since I hadn’t yet taken any pictures of my favourite bicycle Nishiki-san I took a quick spin (the first of the year on this bike!) over to the top of the river valley and accomplished both tasks at once. I finished just as the sun was setting.  Here are a few shots of a pretty river valley and a pretty bike.

Utility Cycling #1

Today I took a short ride to deliver some Green Party lawn signs to houses in the neighbourhood. It seemed like a no-brainer to me. If you’re going to deliver Green Party signs by bike is the way to do it. The metal frames were a bit unwieldy but after couple of tries I figured out a way to secure them to my rack with just one bungee cord. This sort of thing would be easier with a cargo trailer I suppose, but the problem solving is part of the fun.


Here's how I secured everything.

It's the second day after officially retiring the winter bike. The Jake is looking sharp and is SO much more fun to ride.

Signs of Spring in Edmonton

I need a better camera than my camera-phone if I’m going to continue  blogging.
 

This storm sewer has been overflowing for days now.

 

The first geese I have spotted this year. It must actually be spring!

 

It looks like a wet day for a picnic on the Muttart's grounds.