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

Posts tagged ‘Edmonton’

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 😦

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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.

Tour of Alberta 2013

Wow! What a week for cycling fans in Alberta! The inaugural Tour of Alberta, a UCI 2.1 road bike stage race, was held at various venues across the province and was it ever a hoot. I watched the prologue in Edmonton on Tuesday evening, then volunteered for Stage 1 in Sherwood Park (road marshal) on Wednesday and at Stage 2 in Devon (team parking) on Thursday. Of course, the stars of the show were Peter Sagan (the number 2 ranked cyclist in the world), Cadel Evans (winner of 2011 Tour de France), and Ryder Hesjedal (winner of 2012 Giro d’Italia). But there were lots of other world ranked cyclists taking part too, as well as a bunch of up-and-comers. Since the Vuelta a Espana, the 3rd of the big 3 races (with the TdF and Giro), was taking place at the same time, it was nice to get such a quality group.

This was the first time that most Albertans had been exposed to riding of this calibre, except for the lucky few who have purposely gone to Europe for the big races. And I have to say that these guys came as advertised – regular, friendly guys who just happen to be able to ride their bikes insanely fast for hours and hours. Some of the teams arrived in Edmonton a few days before the start and could be seen riding around the city, checking out the prologue route while avoiding traffic and finding out where the potholes were. Traffic wouldn’t be a problem on race day but the potholes surely would be. Some of our club riders, out for our usual Tuesday morning ride, encountered one of the teams when both groups happened to stop for a break at one of the local cafes. Apparently they were very accommodating in answering questions (How much did your bike cost? About 10,00. Dollars?  No, Euros) and posing for pictures.

Of course, there was some complaining from the car-centric portion of the population due to the fact that the centre of the city would be closed to all motor vehicles from 2-9 pm on a workday. But they were in the minority, judging by the festival atmosphere and the number of bikes taking advantage of the car free roads downtown. Churchill Square, the start/finish area, was packed.  I was lucky enough to get a spot right beside the start house, where I got a good view of all the riders and could see the big screen so I could follow the action on the course.

 

Peter Sagan and a pensive looking Cadel Evans at the prologue.

Peter Sagan and a pensive looking Cadel Evans at the prologue.

Peter Sagan waiting his turn at prologue start

Peter Sagan waiting his turn at prologue start

Peter Sagan at prologue start

Peter Sagan at prologue start

 

Cadel Evans at prologue start

Cadel Evans at prologue start

Ryder Hesjedal at prologue start

Ryder Hesjedal at prologue start

My volunteer job in Sherwood Park involved guarding a parking lot for a condo complex on the neutral lap route. Not onerous, by any means, but necessary. The people I dealt with all knew about the race, had no problem with losing access to their driveway for half an hour and were keen to watch the caravan of cops, teams cars, riders, and more team cars go by their door. A fellow volunteer across the street, though, said that one resident came up to him and asked “What’s going on?”.  How is it that people can function in society without reading the papers, listening to radio or watching the news? This event has been publicized heavily for weeks and this guy wasn’t aware of it?  It boggles the mind.  The only disappointing part of the day was the abysmal tv coverage of the Stage by Sportsnet. They lost their remote transmission signals, the ones from the camera motos that ride along with the riders, and the commentators were left to their own devices to try and fill 2 hours of air time with no action video.  There was a lot of cutting to commercial and blathering on while we looked at an empty finish line.  You would think that they would be better prepared with emergency contingencies. The video feed was going to over 100 countries so you would think that maybe checking the equipment to make sure that it worked would be a priority. Because of their screw up, Eurosport dropped their live coverage of the next few stages of the race. How embarrassing. If you want to play with the big boys Sportsnet, get your shit together!

My job for Stage 2 in Devon was a little more interesting.  A number of us were to monitor access to the team bus parking area – not to keep fans out of it but to keep them from getting smucked by the riders as they rode through the mass of humanity up to the start line to sign in, then back to the bus, then back to the start line when it was time to go.  (Any rider that stopped to ask us a question, that question was always “Where are the bathrooms?” Some teams have nice tour buses but not fully equipped apparently.) These pros are not like football or hockey players, with private entrances to their workplace so that the fan cannot interact with them. No! Fans here have full access to the team parking area.  As soon as, say, the Garmin-Sharp bus parks, it is surrounded by autograph seekers, school kids, Ryderphiles, and just the simply curious. As our “boss” said, we had to keep our heads on a swivel to prevent someone from getting hurt. Bikes were coming from both directions through a 10-foot wide entrance to the course that was frequently clogged with fans. The riders must be used to this though – they are not only fast on the course but are very nimble biking through crowds!  The one good thing is that all the riders had to pass us slowly, and in close proximity, at least 3 times.  Most escaped my camera while I was trying to keep fan and rider from an intimate encounter. But not Cadel Evans.

Cadel Evans returning to his team bus after signing in.

Cadel Evans returning to his team bus after signing in for Stage 2

Thankfully, Sportsnet got their technical problems worked out for the remaining Stages.  The one video shot I will always remember, and is sure to be iconic for the tour, is when a group of horses started racing the peleton during the Strathmore to Drumheller stage. Lovely Alberta shot!  This still shot, taken by VeloImages, captures Robert Gesink with 1 of the horses.

Robert Gesink with another racer. Photo by VeloImages.

Robert Gesink with another racer. Photo by VeloImages.

All in all, this has been a wonderful 6 days for this cycling fan.  Got to see some of my favourite racers in person, got to experience a major bike race traversing my province (in Stage 1 on roads that I ride with my buddies), and witness the sheer power and speed of the peleton (they generate a wind like a semi). What a rush!  Sure hope that they are able to get the funding to keep it going for next year.

May Flowers

After a ridiculously cold and snowy April, Mother Nature finally pulled herself from under the duvet and looked at the calendar. May? Already? Time to warm things up a bit…  So we went from a low of -5C on May 1st to a high of +31C on May 6th!  Making up for lost time I guess.  The warm weather not only did in the last of the snow banks but it also brought out the cyclists in droves.

As I have mentioned before, the ski club that I belong to has a large and active biking contingent.  Typically, 60 to 80 of us meet every Tuesday and Thursday morning for rides on the bike trails in the Edmonton area, with a mid-ride break for coffee, and usually get in 25 to 35 km, depending on location and terrain.  We break into small (i.e. manageable) groups according to ability and experience – either green, blue or black, just like ski runs. Those of us with road bikes also get out for Wednesday and/or Friday rides as well, cruising the quiet roads in the countryside.  The  warm, sunny weather and general lack of rain for most of the month meant that we could finally get our legs turning and our butts used to bicycle seats again.

The North Saskatchewan River valley through Edmonton is a wonderful place to ride, with 100’s of kilometres of paved and dirt trails from one end of the city to the other.

Edmonton skyline from the river valley trails

May 14 – Edmonton skyline from the river valley trails

Riding on one of the wider dirt trails in Mill Creek ravine

May 14 – Riding on one of the wider dirt trails in Mill Creek ravine

St. Albert also has a nice trail system, albeit short, beside the Sturgeon River. Unfortunately, the trails tend to get flooded every spring, so cycling there proved to be a bit of a challenge this month.  With all the snow melting at once, high tide swamped the underpasses and forced the 5 group leaders to be a little creative in choosing their routes.

Flooded walkway under St Albert Trail

May 16 – Flooded walkway under St Albert Trail

Flooded walkway under Perron Street bridge

May 16 – Flooded walkway under Perron Street bridge

Flooded trail under railroad trestle bridge

May 16 – Flooded trail under railroad trestle bridge

May 16 - Converging on the coffee shop!

May 16 – Converging on the coffee shop!

The trees seemed to go from bare and wintery to fully leafed out in 2 days, with blossoms sprouting everywhere.

May 21 - Proof that the black group does stop periodically to smell the roses, er, apple blossoms.

May 21 – Proof that the black group does stop periodically to smell the roses, er, apple blossoms.

May 21 - Riding through the Chinese Gardens in Louise McKinney Park.

May 21 – Riding through the Chinese Gardens in Louise McKinney Park.

And, every now and then, we had to contend with other biker gangs on the trails!

May 23 - This gang looked mean.  We gave them a wide berth...

May 23 – This gang looked mean. We gave them a wide berth…

Exploring

One of the things that I most enjoy about biking is the opportunity to explore.  Traveling in the elements, under your own power, you get to see and experience things that are just not available to travelers insulated within metal, plastic and glass conveyances.  Certainly trips that are far afield, such as my bike trip through Belgium and France early this summer, would be a prime example of discovery and adventure.  But closer to home you can discover too – there are unfamiliar neighbourhoods, new developments, parks, and trails to explore. More prosaic perhaps, but there is still the delight of finding someplace new that you can share with others.  Such was the case with today’s ride.

As expected, I took some flak from my biking group for cancelling the ride on Tuesday due to an ominous weather forecast.  As reported earlier, the forecast was totally out to lunch and it was a great day for riding after all.  Instead of having a group ride, we all ended up going out for rides on our own so it’s not like the day was a total loss.  Today’s group ride was the make-up ride for Tuesday.  It was a bit chilly and windy but 6 of us braved the conditions while I led them on trails that were new to all of them.  We started in St. Albert but made our way to the newly repositioned 137th Ave in Edmonton. A 14-block portion of it, between 184th St and 170th St, is still not open for traffic but the multi-use trail beside it is.  We continued on this trail all the way to 142nd St and then north up 142nd back into St. Albert.  On the way, I pointed out that 170th St now also has a multi-use trail developed into St. Albert so there are a bunch of safe, new options to get from one city to the other.  Although there are still many deficiencies in the trail infrastructure, this is a welcome development.

Oct 18th ride

We stopped for coffee at the Starbucks in Servus Centre, the city-owned recreation facility in St. Albert, where I enjoyed a small coffee (I don’t speak Starbucksian, but the barista understood what I meant by small) and a large chocolate chip cookie.

Coffee and a cookie. Life is good.

It was a shorter ride today, only 29.5 km, but the group enjoyed riding on the new (to them) trails.  Although some of them had driven those streets in the past, they were amazed at the amount of new development – upgraded and re-positioned roads, new buildings, separate trails – that had sprung up in the past year.  We will be doing more exploring in that area next year as the upgrading continues.

It not being a Friday or Saturday, my official coffeeneuring days, I can’t count this as a coffeeneuring ride.  With snow in the forecast for 3 of the next 5 days, my biking days are not over yet but I can see the end of the season from here. I only need 4 more official rides over the next 3 weekends. Here’s hoping!

Coffeeneuring 3 – Big Lake, Oct. 13

I had hoped to get out yesterday for my 3rd official coffeeneuring ride but, with the temperature at 3C and raining, I wimped out. Luckily, the weather improved considerably for today and it ended up being a lovely day for a bike ride.  It was 8C and cloudy and a little cool when I left home and I overdressed to start.  By the time I did my usual ride down the Red Willow Trail to the viewing platform on Big Lake, only 7.5 km distant, I was starting to sweat!  Off came the wind pants, under-helmet tuque (what was I thinking!), and upper base layer.  The latter article of clothing, of course, required me to strip to the skin so I’m glad that there was nobody else on the platform.  I don’t like to scare the kids :/  Later, after coffee, I replaced my nylon shell with a light vest. In the hour and a half that I was out, it warmed up to a sunny 12C.  Sun and an extra 4C makes a huge difference!

Mostly there and back on the Red Willow trail, with a slight detour into Edmonton.

Instead of just doing a simple out-and-back, I decided to check out the progress being made on the newly rerouted 137th Avenue, on the border of St. Albert and Edmonton.  It is still not open for car traffic so it was a nice quiet ride on the fresh pavement.  The multi-use trail on the south side of the road has been open for a few months, apparently, but this is the first time that I have explored it.  For whatever reason, probably because the foreman isn’t a biker, the work crew preparing the road on the last stretch, near 170 St, have dumped piles of dirt on the trail.  With the road still under construction in that area, crawling with workers and big machines, and the trail now blockaded by dirt, I rode back on the vacant westbound traffic lane. What a treat to have the whole newly paved road all to myself!  The final paving is supposed to be done tomorrow so this is the last time I’ll be able to do that. Nevertheless, the multi-use lane is great, temporary dirt piles notwithstanding, and will be a welcome addition to the bike trail infrastructure.  I’m glad that whoever does the planning for new arterials in Edmonton now includes separate multi-use trails in the contract requirements. Now if only St. Albert would show the same foresight as Edmonton and Sherwood Park in requiring multi-use trails beside any major new road development.

The Red Willow trail and Sturgeon River. Still a few damp spots remain after yesterday’s rain.

Hay bales in field at exit of Poole wetland boardwalk.

Multi-use trail on south side of 137th Ave. I rode back on the vehicle-free westbound traffic lane, barely visible in this picture over the median.

A wooded section of the Red Willow trail. Autumn is here!

Approaching the trestle bridge from the south.

On the return trip, I stopped for refreshments at Arcadia Cafe, on Perron Street, which is the usual coffee stop on our St. Albert club rides.  It is in a very convenient location, situated right beside the Red Willow Trail, has a nice atmosphere and lots of places to park a bike.  They make quite a passable latte and homemade granola squares that I cannot resist!  Only 23 km but, all in all, a very pleasant ride.

Fulfilled my coffeeneuring requirement at the Arcadia Cafe. Love the granola squares!

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

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