On the ski hills, on the bike trails, and thru life in general

Archive for October, 2013

Coffeeneuring #7 – Last warm ride?

How fortuitous that my final coffeeneuring ride of the year should occur on what is probably the final double digit temperature day of the year. I’m talking plus side here, people! The double digit negatives will be here shortly. This has been a wonderfully warm and dry October, where we have made it to at least +10C/50F for all but 3 days so far.  Unfortunately, the “so far” is forecast to come to an end tomorrow with snow and a high of -4C/25F. Good timing for the last coffeeneuring ride!

It was +12C/54F when I set out on my regular ride to Big Lake at noon. Overcast, with just a light wind, was great for riding and I was thinking that maybe I should have gone for a road ride instead. But I had my heart set on going to a particular café in downtown St. Albert and I hate riding my road bike on the trail system or on the city streets.  So I chose the hybrid and set off on the trail for my coffee ride.

On weekends, the trail is usually pretty crowded with runners, walkers (usually with dogs, on leash and off) and other cyclists. But, remarkably considering the weather, there weren’t many people at all, maybe because it was lunch time, and I was able to keep up a good pace. As I came around the corner by the BMX park, though, the pace ended abruptly.  What the hell were 2 big trucks doing blocking the trail?  Then I remembered that there was some sort of unidentifiable spill reported in the stormwater outfall at that location and the trucks must be cleaning it up. Had to bushwhack a bit to get around them but glad that it was being cleaned up. They were gone by the time I made the return trip.

A "what tha?'" moment after rounding a corner. Vac trucks taking up the whole trail.

A “what tha?'” moment after rounding a corner. Vac trucks taking up the whole trail.

On Big Lake, the geese were making a racket in one of the far bays and the swans were still there too, both too far away for a picture. I spotted an immature bald eagle (no white head yet) perched on a light pole by the highway over the river but my camera and skills were too poor to let me get a decent picture.  All I got was a brownish blob, albeit with a wicked beak and long, sharp talons.

Immature bald eagle perched on light pole by Ray Gibbon bridge.

Immature bald eagle perched on light pole by Ray Gibbon bridge. (Click on picture for bigger view.)

On the ride back to town, I noticed that more trees had been beavered down by the trail near the river. The rascals have been busy getting ready for winter. At least they haven’t fallen any across the trail. Yet.

Evidence of our national animal hard at work.

Evidence of our national animal hard at work.

Thought that I would throw in a few pictures that show what a difference 3 weeks make in the vegetation.

Oct 3rd - path through the woods. Still lots of leaves on the trees.

Oct 3rd – path through the woods. Still lots of leaves on the trees.

Oct 26th - same path. Leaves on the ground, not on the trees.

Oct 26th – same path. Leaves on the ground, not on the trees.

I stopped for refreshments at the Arcadia Café, in downtown St. Albert.  It’s a nice place, though I found my latte a little weak. I have yet to see any latte art by the baristas here either, though that doesn’t detract (or add, for that matter) from the taste. Our cycling group, usually 50 to 70 strong, stops there when we ride in St. Albert at least once a month during the summer and they are pretty efficient in serving us, unlike most of the chains. No bike racks, although there used to be some, but they have a 40-foot long metal fence surrounding their (closed for the winter) patio that is great for chaining to.

Latte and lemon/blueberry muffin on the pastryneuring, er, coffeeneuring ride.

Latte and lemon/blueberry muffin on the pastryneuring, er, coffeeneuring ride.

Arcadia Cafe, with 1 lonely bike.

Arcadia Cafe, with 1 lonely bike.

Coffeeneuring #7

Date: Saturday, October 26, 2013

Place: Arcadia Café and Bar, 24 Perron Street, St. Albert, AB

What Had: Latte and lemon/blueberry muffin

Distance: 16 km

Details: Possibly last warm ride of the year

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Coffeeneuring #6 – Lost and Found

Today was another ride out to Big Lake to see if anything had changed from yesterday.  Um, not so much. While I was on the viewing platform, a muskrat swam right below me but none of the pictures I took came out, as the camera seemed to focus on something on the water other than the muskrat 😦  First muskrat I’ve seen there in a while too.   I noticed some white dots off in the distance on the lake and, using the deck binoculars, determined that they were swans. But they were way too far away to take pictures of – just not a day for wildlife photos, I guess. And, although warm enough to force me to replace my jacket with a vest, it was pretty grey and spitting a bit, so the landscape didn’t look too remarkable either.

I decided to take another route back to town, just to vary my routine a bit.  I went through Heritage Lakes, got turned around by a detour on the trail, and ended up riding the streets for a while trying to find my bearings. I was successful on one front though – I discovered a nice dirt trail as an alternative to a paved one we usually ride. I have found that, when I lead a club ride in St. Albert, all I have to do is do a well known route in reverse and everyone thinks they are in someplace new! So, to throw in a new wrinkle like a dirt path instead of a paved one through a familiar area, is a bonus. I will definitely include it in next year’s tours.

My coffeeneuring target today was La Crema Caffe, in downtown St. Albert. As with yesterday’s destination, I hadn’t been there since last year. A difference with this cafe (caffe, I guess) is that all baking is gluten free. I tried a piece of banana bread and I must say that it was pretty good, although made with rice and potato flours.  It was shrink-wrapped, so doubtful that it was baked on site. They also make a decent, though unremarkable, latte.  I found the place a little pricey – $8 for the banana bread and a small latte – and that is enough to prompt me to go elsewhere for my regular caffeinations (probably not a word, but it should be). The price is likely why it has been a year since my last visit. That, and only indirect bike parking, i.e. 3 arty bike posts across the street, which loses it points in my book.

Latte and gluten free banana bread.

Latte and gluten free banana bread.

Bike rack across the street from the caffe - 2 out of the 3 posts in use! I guess it is legal to tie up to a bike rack right in front of a fire hydrant...

Bike rack across the street from the cafe – 2 out of the 3 posts in use! I guess it is legal to tie up to a bike rack right in front of a fire hydrant, seeing as the city stuck one in there!

Coffeeneuring #6

Date: Sunday, October 20, 2013

Place: La Crema Caffe, 44 St. Thomas St., St. Albert, AB

What: Latte and gluten-free banana bread

Distance: 21.4 km

Details: Gloomy but warm day so I explored neighborhoods, sometimes not intentionally.

Coffeeneuring #5 – The Glasshouse

A little tardy in responding to MG’s coffeeneur guest post request but better latte than never…  OK – that was bad but I couldn’t resist.  I had already posted my #4 ride before MG came out with her suggestion so had to wait until I completed ride #5.  Here is today’s ride description in “guest post” form.

1) Where do you live?

I live in St. Albert, Alberta, Canada, a city of 60,000+ on the northwest edge of Edmonton.  I know that MG had to look up where Edmonton was to make her map of last year’s coffeeneurs but, to help the rest of you, Edmonton is about 500 km (310 mi) north of the Montana border and is the most northern North American city having a population greater than 1 million people. Both St. Albert and Edmonton have extensive, and well used, recreational bike trails.

2) How did you decide to coffeeneur?

I regularly read a number of cycling blogs and came across the challenge last year on chasingmailboxes. I thought that it would be good fun and provide added incentive to keep riding later into the season when the weather here is known to throw more than a few frozen wrenches into the mix. I successfully completed that challenge (with ride #7 only 2 days after a 35 cm (14 in) snowfall – a challenge indeed) and fervently hope that the snow stays away a bit longer this year.

3) What bike are you using as your coffeeneuring bike? What makes it a good coffeeneuring bike?

My main coffeeneuring bike is a 2000 Specialized Crossroads hybrid.  Since most of my rides at this time of year are on city streets and multi-use trails, I prefer using the hybrid. Tires are 700×35, with a fairly non-aggressive tread – acceptable for bumping along packed dirt trails, when necessary, but don’t act like suction cups once on pavement. It’s a pleasure to ride, especially now that my new Brooks saddle is broken in. I also have a 2012 Trek Madone 5.2 road bike, which I use for longer (and faster) excursions.

4) Where did you choose to coffeeneur for this coffeeneuring trip?

My caffeine destination today was the Glasshouse Café and Bistro.  Even though it is close to my regular riding route, I hadn’t been there since last year’s #5 coffeeneuring ride. No real reason, other than it is more expensive than other choices on the route and less convenient to get to because of trail construction detours. Unlike last year, when it was -6C/21F and I rode in the snow to get there, today was warm (13C/55F) and the trail was dry. Just so that it wouldn’t be a perfect biking day though, the weather gods decided that a steady 35kph wind, gusting to 50kph, would be appropriate. Such is life on the prairies.

5) Is the coffee shop beautiful and the coffee delicious? Tell us a little about your coffeeneuring locale.

This coffee shop is large, modern, bright and full of greenery, as befitting it’s location in the Enjoy Centre – a huge new greenhouse complex on the edge of St. Albert. I had a very good latte and a so-so pumpkin cream cheese muffin. And, wonder of wonders, they actually had a bike rack by one of the entrances, even though I’m sure that their bike traffic is minimal. Good for them. I should make a point of coming here more often.

The Enjoy Centre, a large greenhouse complex in St. Albert

The Enjoy Centre, a large greenhouse complex in St. Albert

 

The Glasshouse Cafe. Lots of light and shrubbery.

The Glasshouse Cafe. Lots of light and shrubbery.

 

The cafe and a small part of the main floor of the greenhouse.

The cafe and a small part of the main floor of the greenhouse.

 

Latte and muffin. And bike helmet, complete with coffeeneuring button. No tuque and mitts this year!

Latte and muffin. And bike helmet, complete with coffeeneuring button. No tuque and mitts required this year!

Bike rack by a side door. A little old school but still functional!

Bike rack by a side door. A little old school but still functional!

 

6) What other types of riding do you do besides coffeeneuring?

I belong to senior’s downhill ski club which has a large and very active cycling contingent in the summer. We have scheduled rides in Edmonton and the surrounding communities twice a week and those of us with road bikes usually ride as a group another 1 or 2 days a week. Probably 90% of our rides involve a coffee stop half way through, so we are pretty well a full time coffeeneuring club! I also go out on my own, riding the trail system in St. Albert on the Specialized or getting a workout on the roads with the Trek. I generally get in about 4,000 km (2,500 mi) over the season.

7) What else did I forget to ask you that you want to share?

Being retired, I have ample time to play on my bikes and enjoy life. It is easy to keep active when you enjoy what you are doing and have a supportive peer group around you.

Coffeeneuring #5

Date: Saturday, October 19, 2013

Place: Glasshouse Cafe and Bistro, in The Enjoy Centre, St. Albert, AB

What: Latte and pumpkin cream cheese muffin

Distance: 20 km

Details: A nice re-visit, after a 1-year absence, on a warm but blustery day.

Thanksgiving Ride

Last Monday was Thanksgiving Day in Canada so I took a break from getting ready for a turkey supper by doing a morning ride in St. Albert.  We have been having surprisingly nice weather for the past few weeks and, by the time I usually go for a ride, the morning frost has dissipated. I was a little earlier Thanksgiving morning and the frost was a little heavier so I finally was able to take a few frosty pictures on my regular route to Big Lake.

Frost lingering on the hillside above the river.

Frost lingering on the hillside above the river.

Frost in the shade on the river bank.

Frost in the shade on the river bank.

Out on the Poole boardwalk, the marsh is starting to show that winter is indeed around the corner. The shallow pools had a skim of ice, for a few hours anyway, freezing the duckweed, bulrush fluff and other assorted marshy detritus into swirly patterns.

Pond detritus in temporary frozen swirls

Pond detritus in temporary frozen swirls

A pretty fall day in the marsh

A pretty fall day in the marsh

After crossing the Ray Gibbon bridge, I went for a ride around the perimeter of the White Spruce Park. The trail, only about 2 km long, varies between single- and double-track (depending if you can find the other rut) through the field and brush around the park. I have never seen another cyclist out there, only a few dog walkers and bird watchers, and is a fun ride.

Heading into the White Spruce Park

Heading into the White Spruce Park

One well used track, one not so much

One well used track, one not so much

This area is spongy when wet but bone dry now

This area is spongy when wet but bone dry now

Single track through the field

Single track through the field

Heading back to the paved trail over the bridge

Heading back to the paved trail over the bridge

The geese are flocking off

The geese are flocking off

No coffee today – every coffee shop I passed was closed for Thanksgiving (shades of Alice’s Restaurant).

Coffeeneuring #4 – To the University

I took the opportunity to do a hybrid ride today, i.e. I loaded the bike into my car, drove to an Edmonton city park and started my ride from there. It was a beautiful sunny day and I couldn’t resist the lure of doing a coffeeneuring ride in the river valley while it is still colourful. My ride was short but pleasurable.

The North Saskatchewan River from the Hawrelak footbridge.

The North Saskatchewan River from the Hawrelak footbridge.

I started in Laurier Park, by the Valley Zoo, and make my way across the footbridge over the North Saskatchewan River into Hawrelak Park.  From there, I pedalled uphill to the university area to find a coffee shop that I had never been to before. As I mentioned yesterday, this year I am trying to coffeeneur to independent cafes that are bicycle friendly. My record so far has not been good but I hit a home run with the Leva Café.  Trust the university neighbourhoods to come through! There was a good sized bike rack out front with half a dozen bikes in it already, and one locked to a nearby No Parking sign for good measure. The café staff was friendly, the muffins were still warm from the oven, and the barista knew how to make a good latte.  My only quibbles were that it was a little pricy and the music was too loud.

The bicycle friendly Leva Cafe

The bicycle friendly Leva Cafe

Latte and muffin and biking. Life is good.

Latte and muffin and biking. Life is good.

I meandered back via the High Level Bridge to the north side of the river, west on River Road, and then over the Groat Bridge to the south side again. Then it was along the beautiful riverbank dirt trail through Emily Murphy and Hawrelak Parks and back to the car. You can see the route here.

Looking south to the university over the High Level and LRT bridges.

Looking south to the university over the High Level and LRT bridges.

The great multi-use trail beside River Road.

The great multi-use trail beside River Road.

The leafy river valley trail on a beautiful fall day.

The leafy river valley trail on a beautiful fall day.

I don’t know how many beautiful fall days we have left.  The forecast for the next week is still great though, with temps in the low to mid teens.  Here’s hoping that I can finish this challenge without resorting to studded tires this year!

Coffeeneuring #4

Date: Sunday, October 13, 2013

Place: Leva Café, 110 St & 86 Ave, Edmonton, AB

What: Latte and blackberry, apple, lemon muffin

Distance: 16.9 km

Comments: Gorgeous fall day, accompanied by good latte and yummy muffin. Could have ridden for hours but home chores awaited 😦

Coffeeneuring #3 – Layered

Fall is still hanging in here quite nicely. When I went out for my ride today at noon it was a sunny 4C (39F), but that sun and no wind makes a huge difference in comfort.  I overdressed to start, as usual, but it is better to have too many layers than too few.  My lower limit for bare legs is 5C so I started out with my wind pants over my cycling shorts. I also started with 3 light  layers on top. After 7 km, one top layer came off and when I got to the coffee stop, after 15 km, off came the wind pants and the full-fingered gloves! It only got up to 9C (48F) but I was plenty warm as long as I was pushing on the pedals.  Once I stopped at the farmer’s market for a few supplies, I started to feel a bit chilled though.

Short cut over a dirt construction road

Short cut over a dirt construction road. No rain so not muddy.

Good on the powers that be to build a multi use trail beside a new arterial road.

Good on the powers that be to build a multi use trail beside a new arterial road (137th Ave).

 

Dammit people - put in some bike racks! Is this what you want cyclists to use?

Dammit people – put in some bike racks! Is this what you want cyclists to use?

Latte and a slice of cake. Comfort food!

Latte and a slice of cake. Comfort food!

Looks like those leaves dropped straight down!

Looks like those leaves dropped straight down!

For the rest of this year’s coffeeneuring challenge, I wanted to try to avoid the chain stores and just hit up the independent shops.  Not only that, I wanted to further restrict my visits to those shops that had even rudimentary bicycle parking. It remains to see how successful I will be but so far, so bad. I rode into Edmonton again today and went to “The Tea Place” at a nearby shopping centre, which, despite it’s name, also pours a decent coffee.  Although I had never heard of it before, when I clicked on its website after I got home I discovered that it is indeed part of a chain, albeit a chain of 3 local stores. So I’ll give it a bit of a break.  Not for the bike parking though.  Not a bike stand to be found anywhere.  I could have chained up to a fence around the patio of a nearby pizza store, although they may not have liked that, but I chose a parking spot closer to where I was and that I could see.  Thank goodness for landscaping, as minimal as it is! And shame on that shopping center (Christy’s Corner) for not having ANY bike parking 😦

Coffeeneuring #3

Date: Saturday, October 12, 2013

Place: The Tea Place, 137th Ave and St. Albert Trail, Edmonton, AB

What: Latte and chocolate cake. Needed calories to fight the chill. OK – maybe not.

Distance: 27.6 km

Comments: Latte was good, though no pretty design in the steamed milk (it was a tea place after all). NO BIKE PARKING.

Coffeeneuring #2 – Exploring

Because I don’t want to hit up the nearby St Albert coffee shops this early in the challenge, I took the opportunity  to explore a neighborhood of Edmonton that is only about 7 km from home. Access is pretty easy, since there are quiet streets in St Albert leading to a nice multi-use trail beside the arterial street connecting that part of the 2 cities.  I checked the area out on Google Earth first to see if it was worthy of a visit.  It looked promising, with a few parks and trails in the neighborhood, but there has been so much new development in the 2 years since the Google imagery that things might have changed.  Unfortunately, it appeared that there was a distinct lack of independent coffee shops in the area. All the good independents are close to downtown or in the University area, leaving the chains to populate the outlying strip malls 😦

Good multi-use trail beside 142nd St. The safest bike route into Edmonton from St Albert.

Good multi-use trail beside 142nd St. The safest bike route into Edmonton from St Albert.

My initial suspicion that the area would be deadly boring was proved correct.  The 2 man-made lakes, which looked like they might have interesting viewing had trails only partially around them and the main park in the area had no trails at all!  So most of the ride to get to my appointed coffee shop was on residential streets.  Also, I had intended to do my national duty and get my coffee at Tim Horton’s but it didn’t have any bike rack, or even a post/fence/table of any kind, to chain my bike to.  The Starbucks at the other end of the strip mall didn’t have one either but I was able to chain up about 50 feet away at a dentist’s office (!), so Starbucks it was. So there you go, Timmy’s – you lost a customer because you have no place to secure a bike! Ironically, the large grocery store which anchored the mall had a bike rack beside it’s doors, prompting a WTF moment. Apparently, packing groceries home on a bike is expected but lounging at a coffee shop requires that you arrive in a car or on 2 feet.  I can now strike that neighborhood off my revisit list. Move along – nothing to see here.

Starbucks americano and slice of banana bread. Note the official coffeeneuring pin on my helmet!

Starbucks americano and slice of banana bread. Note the official coffeeneuring pin on the side of my helmet!

If you are going to put a transmission  line thru the neighborhood, you might as well put a bike trail beneath it.

If you are going to put a transmission line thru the neighborhood, you might as well put a bike trail beneath it.

Coffeeneuring #2

Date: Sunday, October 6, 2013

Place: Starbucks, 153rd Ave and 127th St, Edmonton, AB

What: Americano, with slice of banana bread

Distance: 21.6 km

Details: Exploratory excursion into adjoining neighborhood which proved to be deadly boring.

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