Thursday, 31 October 2013

It must be time to leaf well enough alone already.

Helloooooo! It's Halloween!

It's scary season, and Snob nailed it again.  People are morons.  Did you read his Wednesday post?  He said:

He is so observant.  When I go for my daily grind I like to climb fourth avenue toward UBC to warm up, because I suck at hills.  Here's most of Steve's TT, a loop up fourth and down Spanish Banks.
 I turned it off before the last little hill which joins back up to fourth.  Still, you get the picture.  

It's the strangest thing.  Most of the videos I post look great on the camera, and when viewed on the computer, but sometimes when I view them on YouTube, they are all pixelated and gawd-awful.  Do you see a clear picture, or is it pixelated?  In the video, sometime around eight or nine minutes, I get to this particular bike lane.  What you may or may not have noticed in the video is that often this road sees large trucks and buses travelling at speeds higher than is generally permitted by law.  In the video there were only one or two houses which had participated in this lovely little community effort, but by yesterday, I saw whole swathes of of the road covered in leaves. Just a little further along, I stopped when I saw a gardener piling leaves onto tarps for removal.  I thanked her and proceeded to take this picture. 

 She nodded and said "Right?" She went on to tell me that in fact, the home-owner had told her to blow the leaves onto the road, like the neighbours had, and the conscientious gardener told me that the home-owner had been quite miffed when she refused.  She went on to say that if she did this kind of thing within Vancouver city limits she would be fined, but up here, everyone does it.  And it is obvious that the home-owners all along this stretch had asked the same thing of all of their gardeners, as you will see if you try to ride your bicycle in the bike lanes today.

Pissed. Me.  Off.  That's my safe place they're piling full of compost! Large construction behemoths, service vehicles and buses use this street constantly and sometimes they are in quite a hurry. I had no choice but to ride to the left of the line, and at one point, a large SUV- which was obviously late for something very important- sniped me. The person driving it probably thought nothing of their actions, but it was just close enough and fast enough to feel the whoosh of the draft off the vehicle, and why?

A person I know who has been to a lot of the "Point Grey bike-lane proposal" meetings in this city confessed  once that they heard a threat quietly discussed in earnest there, a plan to "Bully Cyclists Off the Road."

Sometimes Truth is more Horrifying than Fiction.

The real irony is that time and time again, these over-privileged  fools are only proving how under-educated they are, despite their proximity to the hallowed halls of higher learning.  But even I tire of repeating myself after a while.  Truth usually wins out in the end. Bike lanes decrease congestion and are good for business.  They'll see.

I met a vibrant young woman the other night, a gorgeous girl who used to ride her bikes everywhere. She owns an impressive stable of steeds, too, including a custom fit Seven.  She is super-yum, that girl, with the curves of a born and bred roadie, but she gave it up.
She just got tired of people trying to kill her with their cars.

Who needs All Hallow's Eve when dumb-assed people are here to help complicate things every single day? 

I'm a scardy cat when it comes to lots of things. 

Tons. Not just sniper-drivers, either.  I'm scared of their carbon-intensive lifestyles, too.  Pipelines that require super-tanker traffic service through the Hecate Straight scare the poop out of me me, for example.  They called it the Hecate for a reason, you know.  Because its a bitch, that's why.  It's wicked and powerful, sometimes it's an evil-sent-straight-from-Hell body of water.  Literally.  I've crossed it several times and from my experience, it is quite normal to encounter waves the size of sky-scrapers.  I kid you not.
You'd be hard pressed to find three more dangerous places on the planet, but even so, Enbridge concedes it's the fourth most dangerous body of water on Earth. 

I am horrified of the consequences of the energy policies my country's politicians are pursuing.  Ashamed. I am scared for the health and safety of our Canadian aquifers and the effects the 200,000 current fracking license are going to have on each and every one of them.  It's overwhelming to think about the ecosystems we're destroying, and the cost that will represent to our children and their children.
Halloween doesn't scare me, but humanity does.

Necessity is the mother of invention, though.  We won't change till we absolutely have to, and from the looks of things, that time is well nigh.  

I'm invoking the transformative nature of the butterfly this year, with a hope and a prayer that we will wake up soon, take up the challenge, and create a seriously sustainable civilization.

Till then, you know where you'll find me...

happy as Larry...

exploring the hood on two wheels.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Riding the doomed mile, from post to pope and back again.

I have soooooo much to share with you, and only a small window of time to do it in, so please forgive the barf-it-up stream of consciousness I'm about to let loose on you. Here's a pretty, cycling-specific picture of False Creek as an apology and a peace offering: 

First things first.  The most important thing is thank you.  Thank you for your open-mindedness, your tolerance, your patience and understanding, and also thank you for your (too often necessary!) mental editing  as you wade through these babblelogs.  And most of all, thank you for writing back!  I've long met the most interesting people through the internet, but the last couple of weeks have seen an incredible outpouring of support.  Thank you, one and all, for your very kind, thoughtful messages.

One letter touched me more than any other. I received it yesterday from a wonderful, courageous woman named Deborah, and it left me in floods of tears. She shared part of her story with me, bless her, and she also left me feeling absolutely inspired to ride.  I hope she's ok with me sharing her whole message with you one day, because it's so beautiful, but she also asked one question I've heard time and time again. I'm going to attempt to answer it now - right after I show you another random shot of False Creek, as seen from the seawall:

Deborah wants to know exactly  how I developed the muscles in my legs. Lots of you asked the same question.  Part of it is definitely genetic.  My cousin is an artist, athlete and singer.  She has lifelong fitness habits, and she is also quite well defined and muscular, though she is far more petite than me, and unlike me, she is absolutely, stunningly gorgeous.  We grew up taking dance classes together.  It was a class based in ballet, with some emphasis on modern and jazz.  I skated early and young, too, and spent my summers at horse camps in the foothills of the Rockies where I also learned how to canoe, kayak and climb.  That's where we were based when I took my first four day tour of the Rocky Mountains, including Roger's Pass, at fourteen or maybe fifteen years of age.  Winters saw a lot of the Rockies, too, exploring the various ski hills from a chalet in Canmore.   

Oh!  Also, yoga.  I babblelogged on killer painkillers a while ago, and I forgot to mention the most important thing!  Kundalini yoga strengthens my core, and it does soooooo much more.  There is one exercise designed to clear out the lymphatic system, for example.  Your lymphatic system supports a healthy immune response, so it's very important to support it. And did you know that a natural face-lift involves lymphatic drainage?  Your lymph system mirrors the circulatory system but lacks a pump.  Instead it has shunts, and somehow the yogi's figured out that you need to bounce while circling your arms both forward and backward to move the fluid through the whole body, and particularly through the chest, where a large number of nodes reside.  How did they do that? Amazing.  

Aaaaand another random shot from the seawall, for consistency's sake, this time it's Kits Point:

I was incredibly blessed growing up, because I had the freedom to explore all sorts of sports to find the one I love most.  That's how I know I am a cyclist, through and through.  No. These legs are definitely not a product of weight-lifting.  They are the result of thirty years of solid cycling. Why did I do it? For the love of joy. When I'm in the saddle, I'm happy. I'm doing what I came here for. 

Deborah also asked if anyone had ever measured my thighs and calves. Yes. My naturopath, Dr Hal Brown did when he first took me on, but that was a couple of years ago. At the time I had been favouring my unstable left knee for about a year, and my left thigh was a full inch smaller than my right. The only tape measure I can find right now is in inches, so let's get all imperial for a moment, shall we?

My thighs - left 22"(55.88 cm)  right 22.5"(57.15cm). Calves -  left 14"(35.56cm)  right 14.75 "(37.47cm) (?!)

AH HA! That must be why I'm forever riding in circles!

The sun came out and my helmet came in and finally I rode my favourite go-fast bike again this weekend. It was unbelievably happy-making, even though I got lost on Burnaby Mountain and found myself going round and round in circles with every road somehow leading me back to a rather imposing-looking tower at the end of Tower Road:

 This concrete behemoth seems tied somehow to the very happiness and well-being of the community's  children...  ?!

Ok.  So if you are one of those tolerant, patient, auto-editors who've made it through a few babblelogs already, you've probably noticed by now how unbelievably beautiful this city is.  It's so pretty even photographically challenged people like me can convey the magnitude of the gorgeous-icitude here.  You would never know it at SFU, though, land of all roads lead to The Tower of Childcare.  For the record, here is the best view I could find on the whole mountain.  Coincidently, it's the view looking down the hill from Tower Road.

I think that's the Alex Fraser Bridge you see off in the distance.

Another lovely reader, this one a writer waaaay more talented than I am, contacted me over the weekend with some interesting news.  He told me my legs are now internet famous, and he furnished me with a link.  I found three sets of my photos on a site dedicated to women with muscular legs.

The founder of this website has very kindly posted three sets of my photos!  Strangely enough, he chose not to publish my comment on my own photos!

The very next thing you know, babble on will be a household name. Do you suppose this will do anything to bring me closer to my lifelong dream of Pope-hood?  I sure hope so, but I'm thinking maybe I should start making friends with a few of those guys who wear the red hats in Vatican City, cause so far,  not a single one of them has mentioned his plans to vote for me next time around.

Can you believe it?  And I'm definitely the best candidate for the job. The chief confessor needs to have empathy, right? My election platform is founded on the fact that the pope needs to truly understand the heart and soul of a sinner.  I understand sin inside and out, and would therefore make the best confessor.  Ok, and speaking of confessions, it's time to fess up.  

I am a giant doofus.  I can't help it, it's just too much a part of me to purge from my personality.  It's an inescapable fact I had to face when I realised I love Strava.  Snob will forever scorn me, (why are people obsessed with having electronic devices tell them what they just fucking did?but I can't help it.  Yesterday I got lost at SFU, and I spent quite a bit of time wandering around up there, and you'll never guess what those old softies at Strava did!  They gave me a little crown for my troubles.  

I was LOST!  I was riding in circles and I wasn't even going fast. It's downhill and still I didn't manage to top 20 km/hr, and EVEN SO they gave me a crown, bless em.  You know I love shiny things, and pretty things, and so you've probably already figured out that giving me a great shiny crown for riding in circles speaks directly to the little girl in me who really wanted to grow up to be a princess one day.  

This whole fiasco fills me with an uneasy sense of foreboding, though, because even someone with a teeny tiny, broken brain like mine can't help but figure this one out: 

Pope or nope, I'm forever doomed to Strava-doofusness.

Heaven help me.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Double-or-nothing: a crash course in whiplash and concussion.

Ok, so last week, this was me at the top of the (cat 4) hill up fourth street, heading toward UBC:


if a little on the stupid side.

Last week, I was riding as often and as far as time permitted. 

 I was happy.  Mmmm, happy.

Then I crashed, and I wasn't even taking photos from the saddle! 
I don't remember much about the wipe-out except that I caught Lido's wheel when I was drafting him on the Richmond flats and then entered the darkness. I don't need to remember anything to know I landed on my head and shoulders, though.  One look at wounds and my helmet says it all.

 I am already well familiar with darkness, 

after all, I love nothing more than to ride at stupid o'clock in the morning

because sooner or later light conquers the dark no matter how thick and deep it is.

But there's darkness and then there's Darkness,
and Dylan Thomas nailed it when he advised

"Do not go gentle into that good night,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

Later that afternoon I looked something like this:

That's me seeing two of everything. My hands don't have a scratch... 
apparently I saved them in favour of my noggin.
I landed on my shoulder, which then looked like this:

It still looks a lot like that, 

and I'm still seeing double.  On the plus side, it also looks a lot like the evil eye talisman, and so with my capacity for scarring I will undoubtedly be protected from evil till the end of days.  And who knows?  An extra eye might also explain why I'm seeing double or nothing these days. In any case, it's as good an explanation as the shrug the neurologist offered.

Sometimes doubling up is a very good thing.  Imagine you have a dollar and you deposit it in the bank till one day the bank says "Thank you for letting us use your dollar all this time; here is a dollar of the profits we made as payment for the use of your money and a token of our appreciation,"  that's a good double up, right?

But usually two-timing just sucks.

Seeing two sets of steps as you prepare to walk downstairs, for example, isn't happy-making. Today you'll sometimes find me concentrating on something with one eye closed, for simplicity's sake. 

I miss my bike.  I miss blogging, and I miss you, dear reader, but please don't worry.
I am strong.  I heal quickly and well. I'm just resting now, for a little bit.

I'll be back before you know it, babbling on and riding strong.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Give us this day our daily grind.

After last week's rains the sight of sunshine in the forecast was just too much to resist. I need some kind of ride every day, but with a great big sucker-hole lined up, I had to ride far and wide.  As it's already getting cold up on the mountains it's now or not, really, so up I went. If the weather holds for a bit, who knows? Maybe I'll see Seymour, too, before the season is through.

Welcome to the highlight of my week, my favourite moment.  I wish I could share the majesty with you, the splendour of the views along the ride, and especially the wonderful feeling of accomplishment I had, at least until the very moment I checked my climbs times, but instead all I have is this picture of the view from the power-line at the top of Cypress Bowl Road. 

It doesn't help to see it super big, does it? 

Those dark wisps are not all clouds.  That's the view down the road, looking south-ish.  Through the trees you see UBC, and then Iona Beach in Richmond, I think. Now let's be clear about something.  In days gone by, the man would say "Stop," cause he could see a really good shot, and however reluctantly I would stop.  Now I have to stop myself, and even when I see something that might make a good picture, I just don't, at least not often.  I can't, you see.  I surrender to the flow.  That means you get what you get.  Yes, I am a little bit sorry, because I love a pretty picture as much as the next person, but unfortunately I'm absolute crap at taking them. As much as I love you for joining me here -I really do- it's hard to stop riding to take photos since you just end up with this sort of rubbish, anyway. I think there's some law of diminishing returns in operation, or something. I did stop here under the power lines to pull up the leg warmers and put on the jacket, etcetera, cause it get's pretty fresh on the way down, and so you can sort of see what I saw. 

Here's the view from the same spot, looking down and west-ish at a tug.

Spoke n Scene: your go-to source for large photos of power-lines.

And looking straight down, before the knee and leg warmers came up.  

That leg is part of a repository of information you never knew you needed to know.  This week I learned that when your adrenal system is failing the protocol includes replacing the cortisol which has gone missing, and -get this- ingesting adrenal tissue to nourish the body's adrenal systems.  Yuck.  I don't even want to know what the treatment for constipation is.  But I am all for progress, so perhaps it's time to follow in Snob's footsteps and get my hands on some chicken hearts to feed my own cowardly tissues. Why? When it came time to head back down the hill I was a total chicken-s--t. I was completely surprised at my inability to let go and surrender to gravity on the very best bits of that slightly slick shady damp descent.

Sigh.  And that leads me to wonder what would happen if I were to encounter a bear. I want to believe that I would stop and calmly take my camera out so I could share the moment with you, but that's a laugh, isn't it? Apparently the bears are in their final sprint to pile on the winter pounds now, which leads them to behave somewhat unpredictably at times...

photo and article courtesy of  the BBC

Fortunately I smell nothing like soup, specially not by the time I get up there, but I'm keeping my eyes peeled for the big beasts, anyway.  There are a few places where they are known to hang out along this road.  You can definitely see animal tracks and trails, but so far I've only ever encountered bears up close and personal over in the Rockies.  I was always either in a car when that happened, or in a canoe on the river, so I've never had to take any real sort of action.  It's bad to run or behave like prey in any way, and I'm fully capable of being loud and big, waving my bike over my head if need be, though in my bravest, least chickenest heart of hearts I would, of course, capture the moment on camera for you instead. 

Like this, though in this instance my arrival was a bit late to help with poor Rocky's revival.

See?  I really do care.  I stop and take pictures for you.  

This next photo is the view further down Cypress, at the pull-out in front of the bottom switchback.

It's a view near and dear to my heart.  
Over the summer one lovely friend of mine arranged an art party in West Vancouver for another mutual friend.  It was the first formal art instruction I've ever received, and this was the result:

As you can see, in my mind I climbed much higher than the evidence would suggest.

And here we see home sweet home.

You've gotta love this town.  Even the highways are gorgeous.

Notice the unusual bike-lane-on-the-left? This is the bit of the highway that descends into Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal, and cyclists must cross a bit of traffic to get to the bike path, which then takes them safely into town.  It looks scary from here, but it's not so bad in person.  

Oh ho, and before we go, speaking of bad persons...
you know I'm a naughty girl, right?  I'm a naughty girl with a Stravadiction, and over the nearly three weeks I've enjoyed the app, it has generated a "heat map" of all the places I ride which I really had to share with you.

If this was a Rorschach test, I'd win the find-the-penis category.  It figures, doesn't it?  You've gotta love that a map of my daily grind has cock-a-doodle-doo written all over it. :D

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Are you tired of treading in the rain? Just get wicked.

You've gotta love Vancouver on a sunny day. Look.  Here's a glimpse of the tail end of Thursday's Stooopid O'Clock in the Morning ride, just to illustrate why.  Keeping in mind that this neck of the woods is, in fact, a temperate rainforest, we've had way more than our fair share of sunshine to bask in this year.

You'd thing that would make it easier to accept the fact that the first wave of the Pineapple Express  arrived early and with a vengeance.  This was what our weekend looked like:

El Nino years are always wet and wild, but usually we get to enjoy September and October before the bad weather really begins. The upcoming long-term forecasts, with their endless days of rain, rain and more rain, plummeted my heart into a cold, damp darkness.  Yes, it's pretty silly to take umbrage with rain when you live in a rainforest, so I was surprised at my reaction. It was out of character. I'm not your average fair-weather cyclist.  I've been riding through the winter longer than your typical pro racer has been alive, but this year is different.  

 I've developed a Strava habit, you see. I don't want to hang my pretty Ti Baby up for the winter. I don't even want to hang it up for the weekend, not even with the Pineapple Express bearing down hard on us.  Vancouverites have been playing Catch the Sucker-Hole since forever.  I used to just shrug when the rains set in, dress for the day, and get on with it, but not any more.  No.  Now I'm compulsively checking the hourly forecasts, looking for some hint of when a sucker-hole might appear in the sky so I can sneak off and climb a couple of hills.  Work?  Meh.  Who needs it?  Food? Only to fuel up.  Wine?  Takes your legs out from under you.  Sleep?  Only if it's raining hard.

I don't even recognise myself.  It's only a question of time before my friends and family organise an intervention, but till then, you'll find me looking something like this:

note the glassy eyes, the vacant stare, the rain dripping off my chin.

I'm just trying to get in as many miles as I can before the authorities come and place me in one of those special jackets with very long arms, but  despite my Stravathusiasm I remain a little torn.  I love pretty things, you see, and Ti Baby has these lovely, shiny gold rims.  In the past, when I took that particular bike off the wall it was always dry on the roads, so at the end of the season the wheels were as shiny and lovely as ever.  This year, the winter season has only just begun (and too bloody early at that!) and already the wheels are covered with the tell-tale black that shows aluminium has met with water.  I was trying to wipe some of it clean the other day when I saw this:

I was just getting ready to catch Saturday's little sucker-hole when I realised that if I do intend to keep riding this year, I'll need to winterize.  I went to Mountain Equipment Co-Op first off, to see what they would charge me for new tires.  The girl there recommended treaded tires at forty bucks a pop, and I figured that made sense.  Then I stopped of at Ride On Again, my local bike store, and the guys there sold me a pair of wicked tires.

They said that since I will still be on the roads I need a tire which will maintain contact with the asphalt while wicking the water away, and that made sense to me, so I spent a little more money and bought some Gatorskins.  I like them and all, but given their function, don't you think they ought to be named after an amphibian instead of a reptile?

Visibility is everything in the winter months, especially with so many drivers out there multi-tasking while they drive.I picked up a cheap-as-chips cycling-specific sulfer yellow jacket at Sports Junkies so I could play matchy matchy with the stuff just east of the Lion's Gate Bridge.

You can literally see that stuff from miles away, even on the darkest day.  This was taken from Stanley Park, on my Wild, Wet and Windy ride in the middle of Sunday's storm, and no, I've not re-touched the photo.
What else? Oh! I splurged on some good lights, and strap-on fenders too.

The x-man dropped by to see how I was doing, bless him, and while he was here, he adjusted them so they fit better now than they did when this photo was taken. Never in a million years did I think I'd need his help with my strap-on, but there you have it.  Things change. 

Specially the weather. So what if it's dark and dreary?

 I have my bike and it has wicked winter tires.  That means I still have my happy place, and do you know what that means?

 No matter how wet the months ahead get, 
in my heart of hearts every day is a sunshine and strapless dress day...

and that's worth celebrating.