We had a beautiful long weekend getaway in the Eastern Townships.
We celebrated our 15 year anniversary this week. We snuck out of the house and went out for yummy dinner in a noisy pub downtown. We are doing so well, but the kids and the jobs and responsibilities are piling up and most days we are so exhausted. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing better than being exhausted from wonderful things. There is nobody I would rather be completely exhausted with than Chris.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!!!!
For about half a dozen years or so I have been planning to take up randonneuring. There are many sports I find fascinating, like water polo and biathlon, but I would not try them if you paid me. Randonneuring, I can do, nay, I want to do.
I had put a few local events on my calendar this spring without any particular intention and even as far back as three weeks ago, considered them outside of my abilities. However, I have ridden over 1500 km so far this year including four 100+ km rides (in bad and worse weather). On paper at least, I was prepared for a 200 km brevet.
At Britannia Park I knew I was in the right place when I saw a titanium Marinoni with an extra large Carradice saddle bag and fenders. Our group consisted of three bona-fide randonneurs and me. The club policy is for at least one randonneur to accompany newbs as long as they can keep a pace that will allow them to finish within the 13.5 hours time limit. Unfortunately for him, though fortunately for me, one of the guys had injured his knee earlier in the season and was significantly slower than me on the hills. Though there was no way I could keep up with them on downhill or even flats, I was able to stay ahead on the hills. On a different course, this might have not made enough difference for me to keep up, but the route we had taken had 3500 m of climbing which meant that I did not have to put in more effort than I was comfortable with to keep pace and I was almost never the last.
We reconvened every so often at depanneurs, gas stations, pretty beaches or bakeries. The conversation was sparse but interesting. All of my companions had a few Paris-Brest-Parises under their belts and had been randonneuring for a while being some decades older than me. We tended to stick together on busier roads but spread out in the quiet countryside. One of the guys mentioned that randonneurs like solitude and as I zipped though the country road behind Mont Cascades I was glad to be able to gasp at the pretty scenery and sing through the rolling hills without an audience.
We rolled over the finish line within five minutes of each other, a few minutes short of 13 hours running time. I really enjoyed this brevet. I enjoyed the calm and determination that I did not experience to such an extent when I was doing Ottawa Bicycle Club rides a few years ago. I like that there exists an organised sport which I can actually enjoy. Whether I keep doing these events remains to be seen. I don’t see myself doing much beyond 200km rides and it is questionable whether I can keep depending on other randonneur’s injuries to keep me in the running.
This is the only picture I took. I was hoping to take a picture of my brevet card but the team lead spirited it away before I got my phone out. As I was not dealing with the Twitter generation, I did not feel it appropriate to protest. Yes, my max speed topped at 65.5 km/h. Weeeee!
The next day I got to do another first. I was not up to biking so I got to sit on the back of my cargo bike for the first (and probably last) time ever.
My legs are still kind of sore a week and a half later. It is a good sore though.