Blog reflection: Off The Beaten Path

Off The Beaten Path is a blog for Bicycle Quarterly magazine and Compass Bicycles store. I’ve never bought anything from Compass because it is high end stuff I am not really the market for, but I savour the Bicycle Quarterly magazine from cover to cover. I like this magazine, and by extension the blog, because the articles combine detailed bike reviews with somewhat romantic descriptions of scenery in which the bikes are tested; “The choice of hydraulic brakes becomes obvious on this trail – oh look, hoar frost!”. The writing glorifies what I like most about biking, it is about visiting interesting places on well thought out machines. The downside of Bicycle Quarterly is that it is a very narrowly defined. This is good when the two of the reviewers can ride the same bike since they are roughly the same size and ride in similar style. However, you have to take the opinions expressed with a grain of salt, if your build or preferences do not match. I would love to have one of the Bicycle Quarterly jerseys you can buy at the store but they are only offered in men’s sizes!

Anyhow, my randonneuring season started last week, but I will not bore you with that. In the spirit of visiting interesting places I will talk about this March Break’s edition of the yurt trip.

On Friday night we reached the yurt a little later than we planned. The night was extra cold and it took a while to heat up the stove so we opted for a quick snack instead of a full dinner before bed.

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We woke up to a sunny and crisp Saturday morning.
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The chickadees are very well trained.
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Our yurt was on Lac Phillippe, and we walked over to Renaud cabin for lunch.
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Renaud cabin was filled with sunlight and skiers.
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Our lunch included delicious grilled cheese sandwiches.
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It was an unusually cold weekend for such a mild winter. We hiked to Lac Renaud and then by a slightly different route back to our yurt by the way of Lac Phillippe. We stayed outside as much as we could, but the cold was serious and we had to be careful not to overdo it.
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The boys had a great time building things indoors.
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Markus still occasionally lies down on the ground when he wants to get his way. It works so well we all decided to adopt it. We considered falling into _every_ _single_ footstep hole we could find, the way Owen does, but it seemed like too much work.
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Time to start planning next year’s trip!
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Blog reflection: Cup of Jo

Cup of Joe is a sort of glossy magazine kind of blog with a big heart. Joanna et co. write about beauty and fashion, families and gorgeous apartments. Occasionally they will do a piece about what to do in a new city and this is what I will reflect on today. What to do in Kanata!!!

Ok, now that we’ve stopped laughing we can all agree that Kanata is only good to work in and raise kids. Not great for visiting. However, over almost two decades of living here, I have developed a proficiency in finding good coffee places to bike to. Shall I take you on a tour? What can you do in Kanata? Get out of it of, course!

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Morning Owl
As of last fall, Kanata actually has a coffee shop I enjoy hanging out at. It is like we’re getting gentrified. This is the only coffee shop I have skied to, biked to and walked to. Decent coffee, nice snacks and appalling lack of bike racks.

Various Bridgeheads
Did you know they are building a Bridgehead in Kanata? It will be a few years. For now, the Pinecrest and Golden Avenue locations are our go-tos. I slightly prefer the Golden as it is more cosy and easier to get to in that it does not require waiting at Richmond and Greenbank intersections made by urban planners who counted on people of the future crossing the roads with jet packs. Back to Bridgeheads; good coffee, good snacks, good racks.

Art-is-In
A little Ottawa jewel on the Eighteenwheeler Riviera. Someone had a bright idea to turn an eyesore cargo distribution centre into a trendy urban hotspot and it works really well. I try to get to Art-is-In as soon as it opens to avoid the crowds. It is amazingly easy to get to by bike and just the right distance. Croissants there are essentially butter floating in air.

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Gatineau, Old Chelsea and Wakefield
We’ve been to two cafes in Old Chelsea, both nice though I wish there was a place there that served breakfast or at least sandwiches early in the morning. Biking through the Gatineau hills makes me hungry enough to eat a full meal once I sit down. There is a place at the entrance to the Gatineau park that looks promising, but last few times we were there much earlier than it opens. My favourite place in Wakefield is Le Hibou.

Arlington 5
This place is soooooo cute! I found it a bit fussy to get to but mostly because I am not used to biking downtown. I am sure if we went more often and I got used to the roads around it, it would be fine. Must go more often then!

Alice’s Village Cafe
Now we are getting into the outdoor gym that is rural west Ottawa. Alice’s is where I learned the hard way that Portobello burger is only 0% meat.

Quitters
Quitters is in Stittsville just off the Trans Canada Trail. Good for both snacks and Canadian Content as it is run by a retired rock star. Nice sandwiches and good music.

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Good Food Company
Continuing on the Trans Canada Trail past Quitters will get you to Carleton Place. We visited Good Food Company this summer after many years of absence. Much like Potatbello burgers are not meant for bonking omnivore cyclists, cozy cute diners and toddlers don’t mix. It is nice to be back.

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Or just stick around in Beaverbrook….

Blog reflection: Lovely Bicycle

Lovely Bicycle talks about elegant bicycles and the bike-oriented lifestyle. Also knitting. I particularly enjoy it because it covers everyday commuting and sport in equal measure. It is intelligent and relevant to my own lifestyle.

One recent post discusses how cold weather causes the cyclist to slow down and questions the possible reasons for this effect. For me, there are two slow downs in a regular season. The first happens towards the end of September. Whether this is because I have to use energy to bring up the temperature of the air I breathe or because I am getting fed up with sports cycling at the end of a good season or something else entirely I don’t know. By now I have come to expect to slow down which could be another reason for the slow down itself. At this point so I don’t even know how to prove or disprove any of these hypothesis or even show that I am actually slowing down as the temperature drops.

The second slow down is much more easy to pinpoint and diagnose. Towards the end of November, early December, the air becomes so cold that biking at my regular early fall speeds will give me an ice-cream headache. It takes me about a week or so train myself to bike gently enough so the air has time to warm up and not make my head hurt. I call this period the ice-cream headache week. This season I actually had the pleasure of a second ice-cream headache period as I returned from balmy Croatia into -20C Kanata. Fortunately, I remembered to power down quickly and I only had to suffer the headache for a day.

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We have had an unseasonably mild January which made my fat bike commute pretty good thus far. I have only taken the bus two or three days since the first serious snow came down. Getting a fat bike is a bit of luxury. You pay two or three times as much for the bike as you would for an equivalent regular one only to pickle it in salt and grime for four months of the year and ignore it for the other eight (or at least I expect I will ignore it). Even if you account for the money I would otherwise spend of winter fitness (say, spinning classes) or transportation (monthly bus pass or tickets) the cost per ride is high. However, this is the first year that I am riding every day, something I was not able to pull off with my original winter bike.

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Somedays the conditions of the trail are rough with deep snow and sunk in footprints. The ride then becomes very technical or as we would say in non biking terms, difficult in a crummy way. Those days I wonder at the people fat biking on the weekend for fun – what’s wrong with you!!! But then, with more gentle snow and constant traffic the potholes get filled out and the fluffy snow piles straightened out. On those days all I say is Whhheeeeee!!!!!

Blog reflection: Sandra Juto

Sandra takes long walks and beautiful photos. There are a lot of blogs out there with beautiful photos but I find these to be particularly good at capturing the beauty in everyday objects. 

I am at a loss to do a proper blog reflection here as I rarely take photos because my experience of an image is rarely matched in a capture I make. This makes me reluctant to stop and take the camera out when I see something beautiful because I don’t want to distract my attention only to not even get a good photo of whatever I was enjoying. Fortunately, Chris is the family photographer so we have a record of beautiful long walks. Here is a series from our hikes from Crikvenica to Drivenik and from Drivenik to the nearest peak a few days later.

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Crikva!

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From the first hill above Crikvenica you can see Island Krk and Cres behind it.

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Looking towards the interior.

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I have never seen cyclamen in the wild.

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Descending toward Tribalj in the dusk.

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Drivenik Tower seen from the house we were staying at.

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Climbing to the nearest peak. Brushes were exactly Owen’s height – he did not appreciate it.

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Trevor’s favourite rock face.

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View from the top.

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Same but towards the interior.

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Yay us!

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Velebit in the distance.

Blog reflection: Fit is a feminist issue

There are a couple of blogs I follow and instead of just listing them and saying boring stuff like “this is a cool blog” I thought it would be a good exercise to explain why I like it and then give a personal take on one of the issue discussed in the said blog.

Fit is a feminist issue is run by two philosophy professors from Toronto. There are a number of contributors, mostly friends and colleagues. Topics range from personal fitness endeavours, health studies reported in media, body image, accessibility, aging etc all seen thought feminist lens. I like it because it touches on many interesting subjects without being tedious. A number of other feminist publications I followed were either not very relevant to me personally or very angry. There is certainly a need for these in the World, but I want to read something I can enjoy or learn from. This blog is pretty good that way. The latest topic was tracking fitness, particularly with fitbits, garmins, and similar gadgets. Shall I wade into it?

I track my weight using The Hacker’s Diet spreadsheet. I use a basic bike computer on my touring bike only. I used to, but no longer, record my rides with Endomondo or Strava. I think that’s about it.

The Hacker’s Diet worked well for me in losing the baby weight and I find that it still gives me a good insight into what is going on with my metabolism. I tend to go for a big bike ride every few weeks in the summer and the spreadsheet allows me to make educated guess about the effects. If I am eating like horse for a week after a challenging ride and losing weight anyway I am probably still recovering. I have learned that on long bike rides the heat will stress me much more than wind or distance (horizontal or vertical). I have also realized that I lose weight on vacation because I only stress snack while working.

While the bike computer does keep track of cumulative distance, I don’t remember when I last reset it or why which makes otherwise rather impressive mileage meaningless. The bike computer readings are only useful to me while on the road. I do make a point of checking the trip stats when I get home but they get erased the next time I set out.

The most obvious reason I no longer record GPS signal of my bike rides is that my cellphone is getting old and can no longer keep charge for long enough. Also, I don’t care as much which makes me forget to turn the tracking off at the end of the ride so I end up with the data about my trip inside Costco or a car ride somewhere (breaking all kinds of speed records! Whee!). Three years ago when my phone was new and my cargo bike was new and I started getting into longer distances I found Endomondo app really useful. For one thing, I wanted to justify buying the cargo bike by proving that I am using it a lot. It also gave me a good idea how long it takes me to get places. I could look at my last three trips to Farm Boy and get a good sense how long the next trip would take. After a year I had as much data as I need. These days I appreciate checking out the trip reports my friends collected but I prefer the untethered feeling of having the phone off. I enjoy the ride in the moment and then confine it to the mercy of my deliciously selective and subjective memory.

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It took us well over an hour to get the eggs.

Film: Dual

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At the beginning of the year the one intersection that Trev has to cross on his way to school got a crossing guard. For those of you not living in Canada, a crossing guard is an adult with a stop sign that helps kids cross the street on their way to school. As an extra bonus, the crossing guard is a friend of mine and I always enjoy chatting with her as I walk Trev to school. It had been my plan to start sending him to school by himself, but he still prefers to walk with me. We always have really nice conversations in the morning and, as it is on my way to the office anyway, I take the extra ten minutes and spend it with him.

At the beginning of the school year there were a lot of kids, with and without parents, crossing the intersection, but as the weather got colder the numbers dropped. On a nice day you still might get two or three families, though most of the time it is just us. At first I was wondering why people are freaked out by weather. Now I am worried that I am not.