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

Posts tagged ‘Big Lake’

2016 Coffeeneuring

After almost a year of not blogging about any ski or bike trips (or anything else, for that mater), the annual  Coffeeneuring Challenge has shamed me into action. You can read all about it in the link provided but, in a nutshell, the challenge by biking blogger Chasing Mailboxes is to visit 7 different coffee shops between October 7th and November 20th, with a maximum of 2 visits per week. I normally park the bikes once the snow flies and, since I live near Edmonton, Alberta, the snow usually flies early. So my challenge isn’t to find different coffee shops, it is to beat winter! There are a few more rules to follow but all are quite doable, especially for a retired guy. I completed the challenge in 2013 and 2014 but missed last year while in Italy and Slovenia on organized bike trips at the time (planned bike trips are ineligible). So this is my official documentation for 2016.

Coffeeneuring #1:

Hot chocolate on a chilly day. On the viewing deck on Big Lake.

Hot chocolate on a chilly day. On the viewing deck on Big Lake.

When: Friday, October 7, 2016

Where: Lois Hole Provincial Park, St. Albert, Alberta, Canada (Invoking the “Coffee Shop Without Walls” rule).

What: Hot chocolate from a thermos

Distance: 16.0 km

Ride Link: https://ridewithgps.com/trips/11411648

Bike Friendliness: 3/5. A 3- or 4-bike lockup post just off the deck but rarely used unless people wander off out of sight.

Weather: -2C, overcast and windy.

Leaves littering the trail through the wooded area.

Leaves littering the trail through the wooded area.

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Coffeeneuring #2

We got hit with, what I hope, was an early season snowfall on the 8th and 9th. Not a lot of snow, about 10 cms (4 inches) total, but the ground was cold enough to retain it on the greenery (brownery?). The roads and trails, thankfully, managed to retain enough summer heat to melt off after a while so I was able to venture out today without worrying too much about the traction. I did my usual ride out to Big Lake then veered off on a part of the trail that has been closed for over a year due to nearby condo construction. I  circumvented the concrete barriers that still bar the trail (is the city ever going to remove them?) to visit Good Earth Cafe. This is the go-to coffee shop for our club rides in St. Albert in the summer, mainly because of the large common patio just outside it’s doors. And having decent coffee and treats. A little too cool to sit outside today though.

Warm inside but snowy outside.

Warm inside but snowy outside.

When: Monday, October 10, 2016

Where: Good Earth Cafe, St. Albert

What: Black coffee and praline brownie

Distance: 16.5 km

Ride Link: https://ridewithgps.com/trips/11457311

Bike Friendliness: 4/5. Few bike racks but plenty of space to park bikes by shop.

Weather: -1C, overcast. Snow lingers on ground from recent snowfall but trails are clear.

Two days after our first snowfall. Trails are clear though.

Two days after our first snowfall. Gotta watch out for slippery leaves!

The Sturgeon River in downtown St. Albert on a damp, -1C day.

The Sturgeon River in downtown St. Albert on a damp, -1C day.

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Coffeeneuring #3

After last week’s early snowfall, we had yet another 10 cm dump on October 14th. So much for starting week 2 of coffeeneuring on a high note :(. The temperature has hovered between -4C and +2C all week under cloudy skies so not much melting has been going on. Thankfully, the city has plowed the trails and they are mostly ice-free. Today’s excursion was my usual route out to Big Lake again, with a side trip to the Glasshouse Bistro. I imagine that it gets it’s name due to the fact that it is housed in one of the largest, if not the largest, greenhouse/garden centres in the Edmonton area.

Latte and a chocolatey muffin on a cool day.

Latte and a chocolatey muffin on a cool day.

When: Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Where: Glasshouse Bistro and Cafe

What: Latte and double chocolate muffin

Distance: 18.6 km

Ride Link: https://ridewithgps.com/trips/11564541

Bike Friendliness: 3/5. One bike rack (although it holds ~6 bikes) about 100 feet from the entrance. I have locked to it many times but today I just chained my bike to a fence by the door.

Weather: -1C, overcast, with a penetrating dampness.

The trestle rail bridge on a gray day.

The trestle rail bridge on a gray day.

The viewing deck at Big Lake, complete with snowman on the picnic table.

The viewing deck at Big Lake, complete with snowman on the picnic table. Glad that people are having fun with this early snow 🙂

My requisite picture of the trail though the woods. Looks much the same as a week ago.

My requisite picture of the trail though the woods. Looks much the same as a week ago. Fewer leaves on the trail though.

The beavers doing what beavers do, munching down trees near the river.

The beavers doing what beavers do, munching down trees near the river.

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Coffeeneuring #4

The weather has finally changed to more bike-friendly, and biker-friendly, conditions. After almost 2 weeks of snow and temps hovering around 0C, we are now having “normal” fall conditions – normal for here being sunny and 5C to 10C. The city kept most of the trails swept clean during the cold spell but the thaw has meant snow melting during the day, flowing across the trails and freezing at night. A thin layer of melt on top of the ice patches is perfect for unseating an unwary cyclist 😦 The trails were actually in better shape when it was cold!

I went on my usual ride out to Big Lake, in Lois Hole Provincial Park, around lunchtime. Although my wife saw some trumpeter swans out there in the morning, they must have been hiding by the time I got there. Lots of Canada Geese and various ducks though. The temp was +2C when I left home and I’m glad that I dressed in layers as I was forced to shed a number of times during the ride. Nice to feel the heat of the sun again! The snow has pretty well disappeared, except in the shadowy and north-facing areas. Still some ice on the ponds and puddles though.

After my out-and-back to Big Lake, I decided to head to the north end of St. Albert. There is a new commercial development out by the Costco, which includes a Tim Hortons that I have not visited before. Not that I am a big fan of chain coffee shops – I would rather patronize the independents – but there are also some nice trails at that end of town that make for a reasonably scenic trip. But no independent coffee shops 😦

Coffee and very chocolaty muffin at Tims.

Coffee and very chocolaty muffin at Tims.

When: Saturday, October 22, 2016

Where: Tim Hortons, 1075 St. Albert Trail

What: Coffee and chocolate lava muffin

Distance: 26 km

Ride Link: https://ridewithgps.com/trips/11617660

Bike Friendliness: 3/5. Three bike posts outside the coffee shop and another 3 about 50 feet away, so good for 6 bikes. Other than that, would have to lean bikes against walls or windows. Could be much better since there is adequate space for more posts but, being in a “power centre” where bikes are not the normal mode of shopping transportation, I suppose it is adequate. Typical for Tims though.

Weather: Sunny (yay!!) and +2C when I left home. +6 by the time I returned 90 minutes later.

Snow mostly gone from bush (compare this to the previous entry).

Snow mostly gone from bush (compare this to the Coffeeneuring #3 entry above).

Trail through a park by a decorative, but functional, storm water pond.

Trail through a park by a decorative, but functional, storm water pond.

Still snow in the shadowy areas but trails clear.

Still snow in the shadowy areas but trails clear.

Some nice trails in the north end of town - backyards on one side, bush on the other.

Some nice trails in the north end of town – backyards on one side, bush on the other.

I think the remains of a snowman on the trail.

I think the remains of a snowman on the trail.

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Coffeeneuring #5

Taking advantage of the sunny weather while we still have it, I went out to the garage to prepare for another coffee ride. Well damn! A flat front tire! Thankful that it didn’t happen while on the ride, I put a new tube in and set out. My plan was to ride out to Big Lake (again) and check out a coffee shop in St. Albert that is now under new management, complete with a new name, on my way back. As I noted on yesterday’s ride, all the melting during the day has resulted in a lot more icy patches to contend with after the overnight freezes. It was down to -6C last night so I expected the usual wet areas of the trail to be a little treacherous. After the first 7 km, my front tire was feeling squishy so I added more air. It had me concerned though – I had filled it up adequately when I changed it earlier. Did I miss a tiny wire or stone poking through the tire? I had felt all the way around inside the tire and didn’t feel anything. The hole that I found in the previous tube was just a pin prick so it was definitely something small that caused the flat. I had wanted to do a little exploring today but, preferring to have to change the tube in the comfort of my garage rather than in the cold (it was 0C when I left) I headed for the coffee shop.

As I anticipated, the normally wet areas on the trail were now covered in sheets of ice. I managed a little skid on one of them when I was forced to make a slight steering adjustment but stayed upright. One helpful walker even offered a warning of ice ahead around a bend, which I appreciated. I checked my tire again at the coffee shop and, sure enough, it was down again. I pumped it up again, had a quick coffee and muffin, and boogied off back home.  The Sips and Sweets Cafe – formerly La Crema Caffe, formerly St. Thomas Coffee Shop…) seemed to be no different from it’s previous incarnation, just with a new name on the inside. All the La Crema signs were still up outside. Can’t really say that I noticed any difference at all but I only go there once or twice a year. The latte was passable but the barista was evidently not trained in coffee art. Doesn’t affect the taste, of course, but helps with the presentation!

Once home, I pulled the tube and put in my third tube of the day! Still can’t find the hole though. Some days, biking is just like that.

Latte, muffin, and a slowly deflating front tire.

Latte, muffin, and a slowly deflating front tire. And my Year 2 Coffeeneuring patch (2013, I think).

When: Sunday, October 23, 2016

Where: Sips and Sweets Cafe, St. Albert, AB

What: Latte (nothing to rave about) and blueberry muffin.

Distance: 15.8 km, on a flattening tire shortened day.

Ride Link: https://ridewithgps.com/trips/11632695

Bike Friendliness: 4/5. Three bike posts (good for 6 bikes) across the street and a wrought iron patio fence, good for another 6 or so.

Weather: Sunny, 0C when I left home, +2C when I got back. Nice day for trail riding.

Too much of a hurry to get home so no other pictures from the ride.


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Coffeeneuring #6

After a wet, dreary week I was finally able to get back in the saddle and continue my quest for 2016 coffeeneuring success. Although the weather still wasn’t the best – typical of late October in these parts – it had been a week since I was last on the bike, so off I went to search for new and better coffee experiences. One of the aborted aims of last week’s ride was to find the location of a new coffee shop that I had heard about. Not wanting to just meander last week with a slowly deflating tire, I instead went to a centrally located cafe. This week, after my usual trip to Lois Hole Provincial Park, I cruised around to try to find the hole-in-the-wall location of DaVinci’s Cafe. It turned out to be hidden in a back lane in an industrial park near the park. The place is just a gem though – a small family-run independent shop with great coffee selections and a yummy looking lunch menu. They are actually a gelato making operation and the coffee shop is a new, and very welcome, addition. Thus it’s location in a bay of the gelato plant.

Even cool, grey days can generate some internal sunshine! Glad I went out today.

Treats, coffeeneuring patch and part of my rear tire through the window.

Treats, coffeeneuring patch and part of my rear tire through the window.

When: Saturday, October 29, 2016

Where: DaVinci’s Cafe and Gelato, St. Albert, AB

What: Latte and chocolate chip muffin

Distance: 16.9 km

Ride Link: https://ridewithgps.com/trips/11710550

Bike Friendliness: 1/5. No bike racks, nothing to chain up to, and even limited vehicle parking due to it’s back lane location.

Weather: +2C (36F), misty and damp but no precipitation.

The ever changing patterns of the duckweed on the wetland ponds are always intriguing.

The ever changing patterns of the duckweed on the wetland ponds are always intriguing.

Kind of like a monochromatic pointillism that changes with the meager current.

Kind of like a monochromatic pointillism that changes with the meager current. One of these times I expect “The Scream” to appear!

DaVinci's location in a refurbished bay of an industrial building. Pretty well the only place I could park my bike, with a giant ghost guarding the other empty spot.

DaVinci’s location in a refurbished bay of an industrial building. Pretty well the only place I could park my bike, with a giant ghost guarding the other empty spot.

The trees are almost leafless now, waiting for the white stuff.

The trees are almost leafless now, waiting for the white stuff.

The Sturgeon River from the Woodlands/Oakmont foot bridge.

The Sturgeon River from the Woodlands/Oakmont foot bridge.


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Coffeeneuring #7

October was an abysmal month for biking – cold and snowy when it wasn’t cold and rainy – with only rare glimpses of sun. November, however, has broken all sorts of records around here for warmth! Instead of turning the clocks back an hour, like we have to do tonight, it seems that the weather gods have turned their clocks back a month or two. I wasn’t able to make use of the nice weather earlier in the week (highs of 18-20C) but got out today for my last coffeeneuring ride. Not my last ride of the year though, I hope, with the good weather forecast to last at least for another week.

I did my usual route out to Big Lake, stopping at the waterfowl viewing platform and walking the boardwalk through the wetlands. Not a breath of wind was rippling the water – it was the calmest that I have seen the lake for some time. Still some ducks and geese hanging around and I was able to watch a muskrat swimming back and forth gathering food for future use.

It was a pleasant ride and there were lots of people on the trails taking advantage of the nice weather. I like seeing people enjoy the trail but having to avoid all the dog walkers who think the trail was made for only them and their dogs on 8-foot leashes gets frustrating after a while. But that’s what I get for going out on a sunny Saturday.

I had a surprise at the coffee shop. They rotate their urns through the usual Second Cup offerings and I normally get whatever medium roast is displayed. Today it was “Holiday Blend” WTF?? It’s only the beginning of November, not even to Remembrance Day, and they are already flogging their Christmas offering? Sorry – Holiday offering. It’s akin to stores putting up their Xmas decorations as soon as Halloween is over. I told the barista that I thought it was a tad early but she just shrugged it off. Maybe I was just getting owly after avoiding all the dogs :/ At least it was nice enough out to let me sit outside for the first time this coffeeneuring season!

Able to sit outside for the first time this coffeeneuring season!

Able to sit outside for the first time this coffeeneuring season!

When: Saturday, November 5, 2016

Where: Second Cup, corner of Bellerose and Inglewood, St. Albert, AB

What: Coffee (Holiday Blend, whatever that is) and lemon-poppyseed muffin

Distance: 16.4 km

Ride Link: https://ridewithgps.com/trips/11802151

Bike Friendliness: 2/5. No racks but an iron patio fence to chain up to, good for a few bikes.

Weather: Partially sunny but +9C (50F) and dead calm. Ending the challenge on a high note!

Not a ripple in the wetland ponds, mirroring the boardwalk and vegetation.

Not a ripple in the wetland ponds, mirroring the boardwalk and vegetation.

The trail through the woods, now snowless and dry as well as leafless.

The trail through the woods, now snowless and dry as well as leafless.

A beautiful day for November in the north. Great for getting out in the kayaks and enjoying the Sturgeon River.

A beautiful day for November in central Alberta. Great for getting out in the kayaks and enjoying the Sturgeon River.

 

 

 

Better Late Than Never

I think it is time that I actually got down to work and filled in some spaces in this blog. My intentions have been good but life and summer fun kept getting in the way of me keeping this thing updated.

It has been a summer of some cycling firsts though. Not that I set my bar very high compared to others, but to rundown:

  • most km ground out by the end of August – 4500 km;
  • first Gran Fondo completed – the Gran Fondo Highwood Pass, a 135 km ride up and back down (thankfully) the highest paved road in Canada (summit at 2206 metres);
  • first real century ride – 166 km (103 miles) route in the Tour de l’Alberta;
  • volunteer “hydration staff” at all 6 stages of the Tour of Alberta, a UCI 2.1 stage race – the highest ranked professional road cycling stage race in Canada.

Besides my usual riding around St. Albert, I also cycled in Edmonton, Canmore, Banff, Kananaskis country, Red Deer, Sturgeon county, Strathcona county, and Fort Saskatchewan – mostly with the cycling group in our ski club and Edmonton Bicycle and Touring Club (EBTC).

Alberta has pretty much been in a drought all summer, which is bad for farmers and forest fires but great for cyclists. The minimal snowpack from last winter and sunny and warm days starting in March, meant that the roads and trails were ice free early. My first ride on the hybrid was on March 14th and I was able to get the road bike out by April 9th once the grit had been removed from most of the roads.

I take pictures at the same locations over the biking season to follow the progression of winter retreat, the slow emergence of spring greenery, the fullness of summer and the inexorable march into fall. The following pictures show this progression, month by month, on one of my favourite trails in St. Albert:

March 14, 2015

March 14, 2015 – trail clear but wet. Good to be biking on clear pavement!

April 19, 2015

April 19, 2015 – still a few snow patches.

May 12 - green starting to show!

May 12, 2015 – green starting to show!

June 17, 2015 - summer has arrived.

June 17, 2015 – summer has arrived.

July 25, 2015 - still enjoying summer.

July 25, 2015 – still enjoying summer.

Aug 29, 2015 - What! Are those leaves starting to cover the trail?

Aug 29, 2015 – What! Are those leaves starting to litter the trail? Already?

The lack of snowpack has resulted in abnormally low water levels throughout the province, including the Sturgeon River which passes through St. Albert. The flooding of the Red Willow trail underpasses, a common occurrence most springs, sometimes to the point of sandbagging low lying buildings, didn’t occur this year. The river has shrunk considerably in width and depth over the summer, becoming barely more than a trickle in some places and the torpid flow has promoted considerable algal growth. I’ve seen lots of herons this year though, with a lot more shallows for them to fish in.

March 14, 2015 - river starting to melt.

March 14, 2015 – river starting to melt.

May 12, 2015 - water level at high point.

May 12, 2015 – water level still ok.

August 29, 2015 - water low and slow.

August 29, 2015 – water low and slow.

Heron fishing in the shallow Sturgeon River.

Heron fishing in the shallow Sturgeon River.

The receding water level in Big Lake can be seen in the following photos, using the guy wires from a power pole as reference:

March 14, 2014 - Big Lake ice retreating from shore.

March 14, 2014 – Big Lake ice retreating from shore.

April 19, 2015 - Lake ice free and water level at peak.

April 19, 2015 – Lake ice free and water level at peak.

May 17, 2015 - water level receding.

May 17, 2015 – water level receding.

June 17, 2015 - more a "damp level" than water level.

June 17, 2015 – more a “damp level” than water level.

July 25, 2015 - Lots of new grass where there was once water.

July 25, 2015 – Lots of new grass where there was once water.

August 29, 2015 - waves of grass instead of waves of water.

August 29, 2015 – waves of grass instead of waves of water.

We have had a little more rain in September so far but not enough to raise water levels. I’ll be gone for most of October, cycling in Italy and Slovenia, so it will be interesting to see if there will be any change by the time I get back. Perhaps snow.

The Greening Arrives

The infrequency of my blog doesn’t mean that I haven’t been active on the skiing or biking front! After a long, snowy winter, in which I managed to get in 16 days skiing in the mountains and at least as many at our local hill, it felt good to get back on the bike again and cruise on ice-free trails. On my trips through St. Albert to Big Lake, I (almost) always stop at one particular spot to take a picture. It is a pretty stretch through a treed area and a good place to follow the changing of the seasons. Here are a few of the pics:

April 6 - Clear path but still snow in the bush.

April 6 – Clear path but still snow in the bush.

April 19 - Still a few snow patches remaining.

April 19 – Still a few snow patches remaining.

April 28 - Snow all gone but still pretty brown.

April 28 – Snow all gone but still pretty brown.

May 17 - Finally some green starting to show up.

May 17 – Finally some green starting to show up.

May 22 - After some warm days, the leaves finally burst out.

May 22 – After some warm days, the leaves finally burst out.

Although we had a lot of snow this winter, we have had a long, cool and dry spring, with only a few days making it past 20C (68F) so far.  The slow melt meant that, uncharacteristically,  the Sturgeon River didn’t flood the trail under all the the underpasses.  Not that the city wasn’t prepared this year! They actually built a temporary bridge under a bridge to enable safe access to the Lois Hole Park on Big Lake. Good idea, even though it hasn’t been necessary this year. I imagine it will come out in the next few weeks.

The bridge under the bridge.

The bridge under the bridge.

Now that the lake is ice free, there are lots of birds nesting in and migrating through the area. Among the many ducks, geese, swans, pelicans, shorebirds and such, I have seen more yellow-headed blackbirds than I have in past years.

Yellow-headed blackbird posing cooperatively.

Yellow-headed blackbird posing cooperatively.

I have managed to ride over 750 km so far this spring, preparing my legs for the next few weeks when I will be cycling with friends in Belgium and Holland. No hills to contend with but biking from Bruges to Amsterdam, then around the Leiden area, there will be the North wind (i.e. – the hill that never ends). Next post from there, hopefully. Looking forward to Belgian beers!

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

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 #1 – To The Market

Coffeeneuring is back! Not that it really went anywhere, since I almost always stop for a coffee on my rides. But the official chasing mailboxes 3rd annual coffeeneuring challenge, with rules and all, runs from October 5th to November 17th. All I have to do is ride to 7 different local coffee shops over 7 weekends. Sounds easy until you consider the vagaries of weather in these parts. Riding in the rain when it is hovering around freezing, even with the promise of a hot coffee half way through, is not the most pleasant of pastimes. Cold is fine, cold and wet is a bone chilling challenge. Maybe that’s the point 😉 Add snow and it becomes life threatening unless equipped with appropriate tires. Anyway, for me to successfully complete this challenge, I have to hope for a lack of precipitation on my appointed coffeeneuring days. As a retired guy with no employer making demands on my time, I can invoke Rule 3b and pick any 2 consecutive days as my “weekend”. But I think I will stick to the same Saturday/Sunday option that the working class have to abide by. Now to hope the weather cooperates and I don’t have to do my final ride through 35 cm of snow, like last year.  Or any ride. Are you listening, weather gods?? Yeah – didn’t think so.

I did my initial ride of the challenge today and I made use of Rule 2, i.e. the Coffee Shop Without Walls rule.  As my regular route to Big Lake passes by the Saturday Farmer’s Market in St. Albert, I thought that I would stop by the Molly’s Eats food truck and pick up a hot chocolate on my return home. The ride comes first though!

Although it was an overcast day, the temp was warm (10C) and there was no wind.  The colours have certainly changed over the past 2 weeks.  We have had a few hard frosts and the leaves are more yellow and red than green, the ones that are still on the trees anyway. Leaves are building up on the paths, the geese are leaving in honking droves and the trail walkers have started to trade tee-shirts and ball caps for toques and gloves. The kids are still out playing baseball and football, although I think the baseball season is pretty well over.  The hardass football players, though, will play well into the snows of November.

The leaves are starting to litter the trails

The leaves are starting to litter the trails

Zooming through the leaves

Zooming through the leaves

The wetland is looking like fall

The wetland is looking like fall

Exiting the boardwalk onto the trail

Exiting the boardwalk onto the trail

Pretty soon those bushes will be bare

Pretty soon those bushes will be bare

Not all of the trail was leaf covered.

Not all of the trail was leaf covered.

The kids are well into football season

The kids are well into football season…

and, surprisingly, baseball.

and, surprisingly, baseball (though fans are a tad sparse).

After my ride out to Big Lake, I stopped by the Farmer’s Market to pick up my reward. Since the day was so nice, it was obvious that the reward fairy figured that I didn’t deserve one, since as soon as I picked up my hot chocolate I proceeded to dump half of it down the front of my jacket (some people you can’t take out. With me, it’s safer if I am out).  An auspicious start to the challenge!

St. Albert Farmer's Market

St. Albert Farmer’s Market

Steel drum busker at the market

Steel drum busker at the market

Molly's Eats food truck. Coffeeneuring destination #1.

Molly’s Eats food truck. Coffeeneuring destination #1.

Coffeeneuring #1

Date: Saturday, October 5, 2013

Place: Molly’s Eats food truck, St. Albert Farmer’s Market

What:  Hot chocolate (half of one, anyway)

Distance: 18.8 km

Details: A trip to Big Lake along leafy trails, followed by a stop at the second to last St. Albert Farmer’s Market of the summer for broccoli, kale, granola bars and a partial hot chocolate.

Happy Canada Day, Eh!

Summer seems to have arrived with a vengeance.  High of 31 today so I went for a morning ride to escape the worst of the heat.  I went out for a 100 km road ride yesterday with the EBTC Target the Tour group so I was content to just toodle around town today and take in the various festivities that St Albert was putting on for Canada Day.  I did my usual ride out to Big Lake, which was very quiet (animal wise) in the building heat. Except for the terns on the boardwalk who have a nasty habit of shit-bombing anybody who walks along it. Hope the chicks fledge soon so that they won’t be so protective!

Path around back of the Poole boardwalk. Peaceful and effulgent.

Path around back of the Poole boardwalk. Peaceful and effulgent.

People enjoying the tranquility at the Big Lake viewing platform.

People enjoying the tranquility at the Big Lake viewing platform.

The Poole boardwalk, with terns dive-bombing anybody who crosses their territory.

The Poole boardwalk, with terns dive-bombing anybody who crosses their territory.

A perfect day to kayak on the Sturgeon River.

A perfect day to kayak on the Sturgeon River.

CN train trestle bridge on a hot, quiet day.

CN train trestle bridge on a hot, quiet day.

I arrived back in town just as the St Albert Community Band started playing Oh Canada. Good timing.  There were a few other bands playing in other areas of the park but the sounds didn’t overlap, thank goodness.  Lots of activities and displays for the kids and FREE CAKE!

Bike and cake. Yes, I know I need a new saddle.  I've got a Brooks on order.

Bike and cake. Yes, I know I need a new saddle. I’ve got a Brooks on order.

Kids swarming the army LAV.

Kids swarming the army ATV.

Army helicopter making everyone look up.

Army helicopter making everyone look up.

From Lion’s Park, I pedaled over to the St Albert Grain Elevator Park.  It has 2 rehabbed grain elevators dating from 1906 and 1929, which are open to the public during the summer, and a few historic buildings. More displays and more FREE CAKE!

Old Alberta Wheat Pool elevator, open for tours.

Old Alberta Wheat Pool elevator, open for tours.

Me and more Canada Day cake. Any day with cake is a good day.

Me and more Canada Day cake. Any day with cake is a good day.

Sunny, hot, on my bike and cake. It was a good day. Now for a cold beer.

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Bicycle Adventures in the Great White North

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