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Angle One – Nostalgia Click Here To Comment!

There are a number of different angles from which I can speak about the Manitoulin Bike Tour last week. I'm going to start with nostalgia.

How is it possible for a trip through a part of the province that I've only visited once, briefly, 20 years ago, to trigger nostalgia? Well … the nostalgia is more for the atmosphere, ambiance, and activity. Last year, when I bought my bike, I posted about how riding it made me feel like I was a kid again. I still get that feeling every time I get on it, even if I am on my way to a meeting or to do adult things like errands. I feel like I'm about 10-12, a little bit giddy and unpredictable.

However, most of my biking, in the past year, has happened in the Big City, amidst cars and pedestrians and noise and concrete towers. It kinda dampens the nostalgia, really. For example, when I was a kid, I would bike up this road, often, to buy pop and chips, or to play softball.

My first photo above is NOT from Manitoulin Island – it is the Kerwood Road, southwest of Strathroy, Southern Ontario. This is what it would look like on a late summer day heading to Fred Woods' store, one of those old-fashioned country stores that combined hardware with canned soup. Fred Woods' store also possessed a pop cooler that opened from the top and you pulled your glass bottle of pop from the water and dried it off with a towel, or on your shirt. (Glossary for Americans and Europeans: pop = soda, carbonated beverage.)

So, put me on a bike and point me down a country road surrounded by cows, hay bales, the scent of sweetgrass, the occasional pick-up truck roaring by, farms in various states of repair and disrepair … and I am suddenly, instantly, no longer truly adult.

We non-biologist cyclists decided this is peregrine falcon nest. We are completely making this up, but it sounds good. And a fun discovery to make along the way.

When I was 10, I didn't "need" the following items:

  • helmet
  • gloves
  • odometer / bike computer
  • iPod
  • totally dorky but totally awesome orange vest
  • padded bike pants
  • padded gel seat
  • shock absorbers under my ass
  • shock absorbers under the front handlebars

But now, apparently, these items are essential parts of the experience.

Some of the buildings on Manitoulin are aging more gracefully than others.

I love living in downtown Toronto. In so many ways, it is perfect for me. Lots to do, easy to get to everything. What one might hear me mumble about, from time to time, is the absence of a country vista – that need that I have to sort of stretch my eyes across a horizon, to see long distances with very little impediment.

Here is something you don't see often in downtown Toronto …

My diet took a real beating this trip. As has been pointed out to me, cycling 35-40 KM a day isn't all that much. Three – four hours of steady effort. But, I ate as though I'd been running a marathon each day. Mistake. There were too many carb temptations (brownies, potatos, french fries) and too much exposure to the peanut butter / chocolate ice cream @ Farquhar's Dairy. THE BEST peanut butter ice cream EVER!  Too little protein.  Upping the protein in my diet tends to keep me away from the carb temptations, so the lack of serious protein (eggs in the morning, tuna or chicken @ lunch, red meat every few days … ) was A Problem. I was really feeling it at the end of day three when I ordered this.  This is seriously one of the best burgers I've ever had. Granted, I was really really hungry …

However, I'm back on track now … I hope … 🙂

This was a terrific way to begin the wind-down of both my summer, and my year away from faculty work. True, the summer is not yet over and there is lots yet to come.  But what a wonderful transition time … more on this to come …

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Shifting Gears Click Here To Comment!

[Cross-posted from Vox.]

I live in a city where people make good use of bicycles. Granted, this is Toronto, not Copenhagen or Amsterdam or Bejing where the bicycle rules. But, on the scale of things in North America, Toronto is one of
the more bike-friendly cities. There is a bike culture … and I have longed to be a small part of it. I cannot give up my four wheels, especially now since my work takes me out of the city easily three times a week. But I have watched cyclists with envy, quietly going about the city in an independent, self-sufficient and often graceful manner.

As a kid, I practically lived on my bike. It was my major mode of transport from about the age of eight until I left home for university. My friends lived up and down the road of the farming community I grew up in, and there was a conservation area with a pool that we all congregated at daily – this was about a 20 minute bike ride from home. Who knows what my Mom thought of me taking off for hours at a time. My friends and I also rode our bikes for play, pretending they were horses, and trying to get them to be mountain bikes or
cross-country bikes before such things really existed. So much of my childhood involved taking my bike entirely for granted.

My ex and I bought bikes – this is about 10 years ago. They looked good, these bikes, or at least mine did. It was green (of course) and it had a basket on the front. It was the MOST uncomfortable bike on the
planet. I would stare at it, in frustration and pain, knowing that just lowering my butt onto the seat would cause me to wince. Being in such utter pain in my nether regions caused me to be paranoid about all the
other things I need to pay attention to in the big city … motorists, car doors opening, motorists, pedestrians, children, motorists, car doors, dogs, motorists … the paranoia came from having so much of my attention focused on the pain that I feared that I wasn’t paying enough attention to the stuff that could actually kill me. I think I rode that bike no more than three or four times before retiring the idea completely. I convinced myself that my body just wasn’t built for biking.

T bought a bike a few weeks ago. This was HUGE for her. She didn’t learn to ride as a child and is teaching herself as an adult. I admire her chutzpah. There is so much we take for granted about bike riding as just knowledge one has acquired along the way … how to move the pedal so you can put your foot on it to start out … how to balance … how to steer …how to stand up going over bumps … how to speed to get through uncertain bits of the road. For T, this is like learning Swahili at age 50 – it all feels very counter-intuitive to her. She had originally thought she’d buy a trike – one of those contraptions that has three wheels and a basket sort of thing out back but the man in the store convinced her that she was too young for that and that she could indeed learn to ride a decent bike. He sold her a sturdy bike with training wheels. And a helmet. The training wheels are VERY loud and she is getting pretty tired of them, I think, but she is also not quite sure she is ready to have them raised. The whole balance thing is a mystery to her. She slows down before speed bumps, which makes pedaling over them harder. She starts to yell out, and slow down,when she sees that she is coming up on a hill or a turn, uncertain of what to do or how to trust the machine beneath her. However, in the moments between being scared and uncertain, she admits that she really likes riding her bike. In some place within, she is having fun. With practice, this will all get easier for her, I think.

I watch all this in admiration and think to myself … maybe I could do this again if I had the right bike. So, I did it – I bought a bike! It was on a whim and a tad reckless, really – but the moon and stars must have been in alignment because I bought exactly the perfect bike for me. I’m totally smitten. T and I went out for four hours – my first lengthy bike ride since I was about 17, I think. My butt hurt a little bit by the end, I admit, but absolutely nothing like it once did. I was ready to go out for another four hours the next day, which is a
complete switch from how things were 10 years ago. We started in the Beaches, on the bike path, heading west to Ashbridge’s, then carried on to the Leslie St. Spit where we stopped to eat the lunch we packed.
Then we headed back. This would normally have taken about, oh, an hour maybe? But with T in learning mode … the pace proceeds much more slowly. This is actually fine with me as I was on my own learning
curve, getting re-acquainted with the brakes, gears, bike etiquette, traffic protocols, etc.

I loved being out on a bike. LOVED it. Didn’t matter to me in the slightest that we were going slow. I just loved the feeling of it again. T tells me I look like I was born to be on a bicycle, which says to me that my body remembers what it once knew so well. I really do think it is like learning a language – that there is a window of time when we learn things monumentally easily as children and then that window closes before we are about 10, I think. One of the reasons I hesitated to buy a bike has to do with my weight. I said I’d do it when I’d lost a bit more and that maybe it wouldn’t hurt so much. I’m glad I didn’t wait, and I’ve proved to myself that my body is capable of more than I give it credit for. Yesterday, T bought a bike rack for the back of her car so we can take our bikes to a wider range of bike paths. For now, we are looking for paths that are flat-ish and not too busy, although T did admirably well navigating the Beaches path with all the long-weekend pedestrian traffic. We are open to suggestions from those with more cycling experience in this city!

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