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Showing posts from 2018

The point of no returning

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I have a slightly annoying mental habit of replaying, as I ride my bicycle home after occasionally complicated work days, the conversations of those work days, or, worse, fictionalizing them, pretending that I had made this excellent point to that person or imagining how I had delivered this effective line to that person, until, soon, the rut my thoughts run in takes the shape of a loop that shuttles a chain of replayed or imagined conversations back and around and down and back and around again in what is, believe me, a slightly annoying mental habit.

This is why I have a point of no more returning—the point on my commute home where I insist on letting the day's back-and-forth break into pixels and blow away. For me, this point is the 142 St bridge over the MacKinnon Ravine.

The bridge is about two-thirds of the way home. Two-thirds of the way home is about one-third of the way home farther than I feel spinning thoughts of the workday should rightly intrude. The bridge routinely…

A note to my Miyata, long overdue

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It was the font.

It was that familiar Miyata font—the lower-case, Japanese-styled letters with breathing room between them, and the way the decalled m, i, y, a, t and a leaned slightly forward, and, placed on the down tube, the way they guided the eye up, reminiscent of a bicycle moving slowly up a mountain pass—that took me in, and for a couple of seconds, made me stand there the other day, just stand there, staring at brand sticker on a bicycle locked to a street sign, staring standing still, while old images flickered back to life, and burned.

Back in the 1980s, I had a grey Miyata 1000. It was a touring bike – it had a long wheel base, it featured "triple-butted chromo tubing," which, I think, meant it had a strong and stiff frame made to carry a lot of gear. If it was a bit slow and ponderous to maneuver in the city, with the city's stops and starts and turns, it became what it truly was doing work out in the open on the highway. There, it was a steady and trusted …

Trail 9, Jasper

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At times, I take things a bit literally. Like yesterday afternoon as I hauled my mountain bike up the path on the side of a mountain that was, in places, too rock-encrusted and root-gnarled to actually ride my mountain bike up. That's what I'm going with.

"Nice job, man, good work!"

Those were the encouraging words tossed my way by a hiker on his way down the path as we passed. He moved a bit to the side as his knapsack bell jingled.

He was right. Walking my bike up and down single track was work. By the time I had brought my bike up to the top of the rise, my heart was pounding against my ribcage. When the path evened out, I was back on the saddle and when the pitch down wasn't too steep, it was thrilling to write a zig-zag line around rocks as big as tombstones. Then the rain started. It polished the rocks and slicked the roots. I was off my bike and walking it more than riding. I stopped encountering hikers coming from the other direction. Thirty minutes alon…

Here's to the pavement!

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Riding a bicycle every day means looking at the pavement. Riding a bike every day is, added up, probably 80 per cent pavement time and 20 per cent sky.

That's too bad. The sky gets more than its fair share of attention. Attention from the painters and the poets. The sky attracts the longing souls and the dreamers, and those hooked by augury or meteorology or just plain eternity. Stephen Stills did not sing Southern Cross to an intersection.

But we city bicycle riders are pavement and intersection people. Riding a bicycle in the city is inconceivable without the sheets of black paper we scroll across and feel and glance at. So, here's to the lowly street. Here's to the cracked pavement. Here's to the curbs and the gutters that are, and are not, beneath us.

The curbscapes are kinds of forlorn beaches. The curb is the end of the line for the jumble of city material tossed by wind and passing traffic, the wreckage that bicycle riders cannot help but see and register.

Torn…

Renewlyweds

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On August 19, we became Renewlyweds, then pedalled away together. The ceremony happened down from the funicular because that spot gathers a lot of what we stand for: the river valley, rail tracks, public infra that lets people get down the bank, Edmonton. We brought wonderful musicians (Jenesia, Luke Ehrenholz) to sing their Funicular Song live because that little piece of poetry hides a big challenge: if the ride is only 37 seconds, how will you spend your short time? (The young people still have the answer.) We rode our bikes because it would have been harder to see Shelagh's dress from a inside a car. I make no apologies for riding next to beauty for the last 29 years. :) Carole Kellough was our amazing marriage commissioner.

Hello, everyone!

We are gathered here today on treaty land to witness the formal, or, informal, I suppose, rejoining of Shelagh and Glenn Kubish in the legal state of matrimony. You are to be remarried according to the orders, customs, and the authority gra…

On tacks on bike lanes

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My first thought was not that someone had deliberately sown tacks on the bike lane.

It was a Saturday morning a couple of weeks ago. The air was pleasant. We were pedalling down 102 Ave to meet friends from Holland for brunch. A metallic sound, a kind of clank, from the back of Shelagh's bike made her pull over for a quick inspection of her machine.  Not looking for tacks, we didn't at first find two of them embedded in her back tire. The spokes were good, the chain guard was good, maybe a rock had kicked up into the fender? We rode the last block to Blue Plate, locked up and forgot about the mystery sound.
While we talked and laughed and reminisced across a table inside, the back tire breathed its last on the sidewalk outside.

"Something's not right," Shelagh said a block into the ride home.

Flat tire. Or, if optional spelling is allowed, a pfffffflatt tire. The p and the extra f's somehow do a better job of capturing the sense of immediate exasperation pre…

Stop that ball: reflections on tonight's sunset in Edmonton

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Tonight the sun in the smoky sky in Edmonton looks like a lot of things. It looks like payload being lowered to the horizon.



And it looks like those flabby red balls we would kick onto the roof of the school during summer holiday. After six or seven attempts.



The sun tonight proves the First Law of the Goodness of Riding a Bicycle in the City: when you are on a bicycle, it is easy to stop for a big, glorious red light.



I am not the only one feeling the need to make time stand still this evening.



Commonplace red lights are coloured with new meaning.



That ball is outta here!



Stopping moves us.


The colour red—we carry it with us. 


This was my favourite book when I was a young boy.

A bus transfer

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I pushed open the door of the University LRT station this morning and felt the short surge of electricity that prepares me for a bodily encounter with a stranger who is going to ask for money.

"Hi, buddy, do you have a bus transfer?" the man asked. He seemed friendly.

Bus transfer, I said to myself.

"No, sorry, I don't have a transfer," I said quickly, eyes down.

That wasn't exactly true.

I was on my way to campus to find a place to read or write or try to read or write while checking social media. The truth is I had no real place to go this morning, and I realized that slightly disturbing fact reading Knausgaard on the train across the river from downtown. I have gotten to Book 5. Our teenaged hero  is back in Kristiansand after a minor hitchhiking odyssey from Norway to Greece.

I ended up at the library. It was habit that drove me there, some of the same sensation of panic I'd had when I walked around there during my years at gymnas had me in its gri…

Early morning thoughts on rainbows, bicycles, email...

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This picture captured me this morning.

The elements came together. Rainbow, shining birds, stormy and clear sky, light, dark, river, bicycle, the University of Alberta, a man with orange hat, arms crossed, standing in witness. In the bottom right corner a kind of shadow signature.

I thought: How lovely it is to know how to ride a bicycle so that you can easily stop riding a bicycle and stand and watch a rainbow when your heart tells you to stop and watch a rainbow.

I took the picture and then took a chance.

"Hello," I said to the man with the orange hat.  He took an earbud out of his right ear.  "Hi. I took a pic and you might like it and if you do, here, take my phone and email it to yourself."

He looked at the picture and smiled and said wow or that's cool and he took the offered device and entered his email address. While this was was happening, my friend Maryanne recorded the scene of two men, two rainbows, one phone.


The man in the orange hat said thank y…

Oliverbahn 101. (Okay, 102 :)

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The "Oliverbahn" is a stretch of protected, treed, life-lined bicycle lane that runs along the north side of 102 Ave through Edmonton's Oliver neighbourhood. There is a lot to notice and consider on the way to and from the city's downtown core. Today, I saw:

A neighbourhood that provides space for pedestrians, bicycle riders, bus passengers, motorists, and, with all the stately elm trees, birds.



Families awheel.



Homes for fans of Hobbiton.



Hobbits.



Two built for a bicycle built for two.



The cool Lord Simcoe apartment font on brick.



Trees with bark and bite.



Walkers who wave hello.



Automobile drivers who wave hello.



A boy who says "cool bike" to his mom about me and hears me say "cool bike" right back to him.



People on bikes.



The 1913 telephone exchange building by Alan Jeffers.


Signed but self-regulated intersections that reveal where we're at with each other:



People on bikes:



A tipi above the hedgeline in the Christ Church yard:



At the end o…