29 November, 2012

Welcome Back....

So it was a good ride this morning- no rain, unlike yesterday morning when the skies opened up on the way home. As I was finishing my mid-ride coffee, I could see a bit of a squally shower moving across the bay- what were the chances that I could beat the rain?? I know why I'm not a betting person- traffic and poorly timed lights conspired to make sure that I received a good drenching all the way home- right to the driveway. Felt a bit like Joe Bftslpk from the Al Capp comic strip "L'il Abner"- he was the poor bloke who always had a rain cloud over his head.

But even with rain, any ride from which one returns safely, is a good ride- and there have been many good rides since last I posted (but not much rain).

And there has been much else happening:

I have successfully pollinated a few of these:

These are vanilla beans- we have had the plant for probably at least 10 years and this is the first time I have managed to get the pollination right- it has to be done manually as there are no bees or wasps in Australia capable of pollinating the flowers. The top photo shows a spent bloom in the upper right which I failed to see  on the morning it opened and so another missed opportunity.

I'll let you know in 6 months or so how things are progressing. And now I know why real vanilla is so expensive- the pollination is the easy part- the processing and curing is a long slow process.

And then there were the dove orchids- blooming several times per year, the branches are festooned with short-lived, delicate white flowers with an interesting dusty-citrus fragrance.

Dove orchids
 And in keeping with nature's phenomena- a couple of shots of our solar eclipse on 14 November- we got 96% totality.
14 November solar eclipse

14 November solar eclipse
 Viewed with the latest in solar eclipse eyewear fashion.
Fashion eyewear (of a sort)
 The neighbour's umbrella tree (or at least a substantial portion of it) came crashing to earth on a Saturday afternoon. These things are pot plants back in the old country (no, not that kind of pot)
Well now that's something you don't see everyday
 And in the front garden, amongst the mulch, an ornate burrowing frog.
"I am not a toad!!"

 And last but not least- a zodiac moth.

Okay- I promise the next blogs will be more cycling-focused.

Cheers- ride safe

02 September, 2012

At the top of the Hill.....

It's not a big hill- no craggy peaks or snow-fringed cols up in the thin air. But it is at the beginning and end of every ride we have done so far in Nova Scotia. It's only about 150 metres in height and about 2 km long. According to my GPS, the grade varies from 4.2% to 16.5% depending on which road I take to hook up with the main road which runs to the top. The average grade is probably around 6.8% to 7.0%.

I was hesitant about riding up the hill the first time around. Had to do a bit of on-the-bike coaching- telling myself to just keep the pedals cranking over- "Don't rush. It's not a race. You can do this."

And I did- I wouldn't go so far as to say it was the most fun I've ever had, but it certainly wasn't a stop-the-bike-and-throw-it-to-the-ground moment either. In fact I actually made a point of picking out the hilliest approaches to some of our old familiar neighbourhoods during our trip back to N.S.

It's coming to the end of summer and there is a coolness in the air- not just in the morning but right through the day. A near cloudless sky today and in the bright sun in the backyard, a most pleasant day but step around the side of the house and away from the shelter and the wind has a freshness that cuts straight through. Doesn't feel like it has even made it to 20C today.

The end of summer also is when the harvest is in full swing. We pass orchards on our rides where the trees are heavily weighed under good crops of apples and peaches. Acres and acres of pumpkins turning orange amongst the tangle of vines- a bit early yet for Hallowe'en. And fields of corn stretching almost as far as you can see.

Friday saw us travel down the Annapolis Valley to Digby for a visit with my older brother. We piled into his car and drove up to Bear River- a lovely, vibrant community in a most picturesque setting on a tidal river. In fact it is so picturesque that I was overcome by its picturesqueness and forgot to take any pictures- trust me- it's very nice. Lunch in a wonderful little restaurant perched over the river followed by a wander through a marvellous art/craft gallery/studio/shop.

Then off to one of the local wineries for a tour and tasting. The Bear River Winery is a small operation based in an old dairy barn on a south-facing, predominantly shale-based soil just up the road from the restaurant and studio. The young lady who was our tour guide was a most engaging and knowledgeable employee. She has been working at the winery since she was 15 and shows considerable passion and enthusiasm for the grapes and the resultant end product.

Interspersed throughout the afternoon, no matter where we went, was the rumble of motorcycles- big motorcycles- many, many, many motorcycles. An event called the Wharf Rat Rally is taking place in Digby and there have been estimates of anywhere from 7,000 to more than 25,000 motorcycles may be in town as part of the rally.

I really don't know how many bikes we saw yesterday, several hundred I'm sure and on the drive back to the Top of the Hill yesterday evening, I'm sure we passed at least another couple of hundred headed for the rally.
I hope they have brought in a good supply of earplugs for the locals. Or I suppose if you have enough of these- the sound will eventually just fade away- Alexander Keith's India Pale Ale- "those who like it, like it a lot." (Or like a lot of it....)

Cheers- ride safe


02 July, 2012

Ladders, Lemons and Lengthy Legless Lizards (Oh and a Weekend Race Too!!)

It's Canada Day +1 today. In honour, our city in Australia has declared today a public holiday....not really..... although it is a public holiday here in Townsville. Every year there is a public holiday declared to coincide with the local show.
These were formerly agricultural exhibitions which showcased the best that the region had to offer in cattle, poultry, small crops and home-made goods amongst many other things. These days it's more about the carnival rides and show bags than anything else.
We went once (I think it was only once) when our son was much younger and even he tired of it very quickly so we enjoy the day off and putter in the yard. We will be heading to eastern Canada next month and should be around for the Hants County Exhibition-a regular annual event throughout our youth and even into adulthood. It's the longest running agricultural exhibition in North America.
So what does puttering on the yard on a Monday entail?

Well actually I worked from home for the morning and then watched a replay of last night's stage of Le Tour- great thing those digital recorders- you can really make a 200km road race flash by pretty quickly to get to the pointy end of things.

Then I decided it was time to harvest a few more lemons. Our tree has been loaded this year and there were a few that were desperate to be relieved of their grip on the branch. So I relocated the ladder and grabbed about half a dozen fruit- then moved the ladder around to the other side of the tree- there were a couple of very big fruit- much too high to reach from the ground.
Now that's a lemon!! 566 grams worth.

While I was recovering said lemon from the tree, I noticed one of the branches move slightly and upon closer inspection, found that I had company at the top of the ladder-

A nice little (probably 2.5 metres or so) python was basking in the sun and my harvesting activities had disrupted his slumber and he didn't seem all that happy about it. Needless to say the rest of the afternoon's lemon-pickin' has been rescheduled to a date to be confirmed. Mind you he did hang around while I fished out my phone and took a bunch of photos.

And yesterday and today were a couple of those fantastic North Queensland winter days where it is just blue skies forever with clear, clear air and nary a cloud. Bright and early Sunday morning Dee and I jumped in the car and headed inland to Charters Towers for a road race. A really nice 35km circuit with rolling hills that are enough to test the legs and get the heart rate up a bit.

First race for both of us for a bit- with work and a couple versions of flu and colds keeping me off the bike for a bit, it was nice to have a bit of a hit-out. And everybody in The Towers is so friendly and what little traffic there is, is always accommodating to the riders.

They are trying to revive the cycling club in Charters Towers and if we can help garner enthusiasm by racing there, I'm all for it.

We'll be heading back out there next month for a three stage race (their second year) and a fondo (first year) so it should be a great time.

Cheers- ride safe (and watch out for snakes)


19 May, 2012

Can it Be???

It's good to be home again. I headed off last Sunday on a work-related trip to the northern part of the state. The project I have been working on is getting to the pointy end and we are making every effort to ensure that those who are impacted by the project have as much information, training and support as we can give them.

After delivering sessions on  Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday- Thursday was a travel day so I was in the car and headed further north to Cooktown. It is noted as the location where Capt James Cook had to make repairs to his ship Endeavour after holing the hull on the Great Barrier Reef in 1770. Later it was a port of some importance in the gold mining rush in the late 1800's. On the way north, I stopped at a lookout on the Mulligan Highway and took a few pics........

I was not due to visit the local depot until Friday morning so after checking in to my accommodation, I took a bit of a stroll through the local museum and then climbed Grassy Hill- the spot which Capt Cook climbed in 1770 to see if he could plot a course through the myriad reefs once repairs to Endeavour were completed.

Hopefully the panorama I have stitched together comes through OK on the blog.

Then after the delivery of the session on Friday morning it was back in the car and off to Cairns for the return flight home. It's great to be home.

Thanks to Mae and Eric, my hosts in Cairns, for a great visit, lots of wine and laughs and great food.

And then it was back on the bike bright and early this morning for a nice coffee roll. Tomorrow we'll play a support role for one of the local club's longer road races of the season- Townsville to Charters Towers. Did I mention how nice it is to be home?

Cheers- ride safe


24 March, 2012

Challenges? Well, yes I suppose...

Crit this morning....postponed from last Saturday when the weather wasn't fit for man nor beast- unless you're a duck. The monsoonal rains were wreaking havoc with many facets of everyday life- not just cycling races.

I had been hoping to redeem myself somewhat after the dismal showing in the time trial but if redemption was on offer, it would have to wait another week to be received.

We did manage to squeeze in a coffee ride last weekend but that was about it. The rain returned with a vengeance- and while I don't mind getting wet (and we're talking about having the rain water run down your legs and out the holes in the bottom of your shoes here) while on a ride, I have a bit of a problem heading out into that sort of weather. Once I'm on the road- let it pour- I can handle that and have on many occasions. There just seems to be something about stepping out into the open, from a dry environment, into a wall of water that just doesn't seem to have much appeal.

Looking at our digital rain gauge, it currently reads 566mm. That's over half a metre of rain since I last changed the batteries- and that was less than 2 weeks ago. I think it was on about 680mm just before I changed them. Anyhow, that's a lot of water.

Tuesday morning, I was thinking about my regular training ride- and how I was probably not going to make it. The rain had hammered down for most of the night making sleep a fairly scarce commodity. Just on 5:00am, there were a couple claps of thunder and the wind started to gust- nothing too unusual there. Then the wind picked up further and the power went out- then the streetlights went out.

Over the top of all of this was a loud roar- like a large military transport overhead- but it went on for a few minutes. Even the military wouldn't be heading out in the current conditions- at least not locally. A quick check on Facebook showed that a friend's home (amongst many others) had lost its roof and that there were extensive power outages.

A tornado had formed and torn through an area approximately 500 metres wide and 2 kilometres long. The roar we had heard was the tornado as it tore through the neighbouring suburbs. As the crow flies, it was probably less than a kilometre away.

Through my work with the local electricity distributor, I was well aware of the impact shortly after arriving for work. What I wasn't fully braced for was the level of physical devastation which took place. I saw a few photos of infrastructure which came back from the field crews but that did nothing to prepare me for what I saw on Thursday.

We did our regular training ride and as we passed the affected area, as we do every Tuesday and Thursday, I was struck by the twisted, shredded remains of the vegetation along the road- and the definition of the tornado's path. It must have been terrifying for those who endured those seemingly endless minutes enveloped by screaming wind and flying debris.

As we got closer to my turn off on the return leg, I was shocked at just how close we were to the twister. Tornadoes are not a common occurrence here- cyclones and thunderstorms usually have some warning and time to prepare. This was, like they say, "A bolt out of the blue".

Oh and the results from the crit were acceptable, 2nd in the preem lap and third overall. The result paid for my nomination and coffee with enough left over for the next crit's nomination.

Cheers- ride safe


11 March, 2012

The Results are in.....

The local race season kicked off last weekend with a 10km individual time trial- as it has for the last several years. Same course, same distance, even pretty much the same weather- a bit grey and overcast starting out with the sun breaking through and heating things up toward the end.

Pre-race nomination started at 6:30am with racing scheduled to commence around 7:00. That target might have been achievable if we had the same numbers as last year- around 60 or so. I think the official total for this year was 117 and as a result of the influx of riders, we didn't get started until almost 8:30. It was great to see so much early season interest from the regular club members, new and potential members and a good showing from the local tri club.

I felt pretty good- I had been riding quite well and in fact had ridden the course the day before. Looking at the log of that ride, I averaged about 37 on the outbound leg and almost 39 on the way back in with a couple of high 40 intervals. We had a good meal the previous evening and took all of the usual pre-race prep.

What a difference 24 hours makes- outbound was reasonable- around 35 but just as I hit the turn, I bonked, for the first time in a race. I could not will my legs to turn the pedals any faster- I think I maxed out at 29 km/hr. Looking down at the speed and watching the following riders catch and pass one after another had no affect- there was no response- no option, "this is the speed you're going and this is all you've got."

I have had club members approach me and ask if I had checked my time- surely the result was wrong (it appears there were a couple of riders' times which were out of whack) but alas it was the truth.

So I have awarded myself a little certificate, just as a reminder of how quickly things can change. Don't worry, I'll be back......

Cheers- ride safe

07 March, 2012


Can't find a definition for "blogostomy" but I would submit that it is a blog which has been excised from existence in the blogosphere.

I can hear people saying, "What the hell did you have on your cornflakes this morning?"

To which I reply, "I didn't have cornflakes this morning. It was toast and peanut butter."

 Back to the blogostomy- last week I did a bit of experimentation with one of Dee's photos- the panoramic shot she used of the city looking back across the breakwater and harbour. The only way I could do it was to create a blog, insert the photo and then view the blog to see the result with the intention of immediately deleting the blog.

And that is what I did; however, (and doesn't it always seem that there is a "however" or a "but", or a "whatever") what I didn't realise was that for the many thousands, sorry, make that both, of the people who religiously follow my musings, that moment of digital and binary existence became a bit of a mystery.

The blog showed up as a new post yet when anyone tried to access it, it was a dead end and so I offer my most profound apologies- well, maybe not my most profound but certainly up in the top 10,000.

"So what else has happened?", I hear you ask (Or is that the rain gurgling in the downpipes?) The running program which I embarked on some weeks back has been completed successfully. The Couch to 5 K program is a 9 week progressive plan to get non-runners conditioned to run a full 30 minutes (or approximately 5 kilometres). I would recommend it to any and all.

I have found that my cardio has improved, even considering the amount of cycling I was doing prior to getting with the program and my overall strength on the bike is improving. Although if I had to base my judgement on race results, I would call that judgement into question. Sunday was the first event of the year- a 10km time trial and you know how some days you just don't have it- Sunday was definitely one of those days.

Some project work I'm doing at the moment has seen a bit of an adjustment to my morning ride regime- an early start sees me having to cut my ride short by about 30 minutes. Yes I suppose I could get up another 30 minutes earlier but setting my alarm for 3:45 doesn't hold much appeal.

Cheers- ride safe

21 January, 2012

Where Were you Warnie????

Earlier this week, former Australian Test cricketer Shane Warne created a bit of controversy when he took to the Twittersphere after an incident involving a cyclist in Melbourne.

Here's a couple of pics of S. Warne in the era SWBMLH (Shane Warne Before Meeting Liz Hurley)
Photos from au.sports.yahoo.com and brent-goodman.blogspot.com

And in the SWAMLH era. (From heraldsun.com.au)

According to Warne's tweets and subsequent story in the media, the cyclist had held onto his car for a free ride and then when traffic was stopped at an intersection, the cyclist made his way past Warne's stopped car and then thumped the car with his fist as he went by. He (Warne) was so incensed by this behaviour that he filed a police report and then took to Twitter.
The media jumped (as did Warne's Twitter followers) to the defence of this "larrikin" of a sporting hero. Everything from, "You have no right to be on the roads" to "We'll see how some of these cyclists might like to have someone throw a shoulder charge at them". There was also a resurgence in calls for mandatory bicycle registration as a means of reeling in the "out of control" cyclists on the streets of the nation. (As if that has done a lot to reign in the motorists who are wont to flout the laws)
Then the cyclist decided it was time for his side of the story to be brought into the light. He said it was important that people had both sides of the story- so he contacted cycling blogger Wade Wallace at CyclingTips (this link will take you to the article).
The Reader's Digest version is that the cyclist had weaved past Warne's car which was stopped in the middle of an intersection- against a red light. (I thought it was poor form to enter a blocked intersection but then again, what do I know- I've never played cricket- maybe the road rules are different if you're a former test cricketer). The cyclist made his way past the car when Warne yelled at him- the cyclist responded in kind, Warne had a further exchange and then moved his car forward into the cyclist's bike causing damage to the bike which rendered it unrideable and forcing the rider to carry his bike out of traffic. He subsequently carried his bike to the nearest police station and filed a report.
It is interesting to note that independent witnesses have come forth to corroborate his (the cyclist's) version of events and as far as I am aware, none have come forward to support Shane Warne. The cyclist has indicated that really all he wants is to have is bike repaired but in light of the media coverage and furore, thought it best to at least give the public an opportunity to hear both sides.
But we all know Shane was acting in humanity's best interests and as a revered sporting figure (dare I say hero? I suppose to some he is) was trying to smooth the rough and stormy waters that so often extend across the gulf between motorists and cyclists. I'm not saying that all cyclists are without blame- I see my share of pinheads on two wheels almost everytime I go for a ride- running red lights, failing to indicate turns, riding more than two abreast....all the usual stuff. But I also see motorists doing the same things (other than more than two abreast)- more often than cyclists- and in vehicles which can sometimes be in excess of 20 tonnes.
So where were you Warnie on my ride yesterday morning when the bloke in the sedan failed to give way at a T intersection until he was actually in the lane of oncoming traffic? I had to come to a complete stop to avoid being another statistic....
Where were you Warnie on my ride yesterday morning when a large commercial vehicle with a 30 foot sea container on the back ran a red light at approximately 70 km/hr when we had a green light? I could see he wasn't even considering touching the brakes from about 200 metres from the intersection.
Where were you Warnie on my ride yesterday morning when yet another bloke with his personalised plates (JORDYN) failed to give way at another T intersection forcing me, again, to come to a complete stop?
So Shane, if you're out there, can you send out a few tweets to some of your idolising, vehicle-piloting, adoring fans to keep an eye out for me and my friends? We're pretty fragile you know....unlike a Mercedes sedan.....

Cheers- ride safe

01 January, 2012

By the Numbers....

A happy New Year to all who happen to come by my little missive page. We didn't actually see out 2011- I packed it in around 10:30. We heard the early celebratory fireworks in the distance but the midnight display was lost on me. I was well and truly into Dreamworld by then.

We had done our usual Saturday morning coffee ride and then in the afternoon, teamed up with our son and some of our friends to take in the Tin Tin movie. It was a lot of fun and very true to the books. I think Messrs Spielberg and Jackson have quite a franchise before them should they choose to do all of the books.

Then late in the afternoon, Dee and I did a stage of the "Couch to 5K (C25K)" program. For Dee it was the end of her first week and for me, it was the first session so I really haven't missed out on much. I figure that the inclusion of a few running km's per week will help in my training program and make me a stronger cyclist.

Then some barbecued chicken with pasta and salad, a few glasses of vino, the Edinburgh Military Tattoo (one of our New Year's Eve traditions) and a Bollywood movie (which isn't one of our NYE traditions and which I didn't see through to the end- but my guess is the hero got his woman in the tradition of the genre).

Then this morning it was up and on the road for a leisurely ride into the city and a coffee and back home.

Time to start the 2012 mileage (or kilometres for those of us who are metrically inclined) spreadsheet. If anybody would like a user-friendly spreadsheet, I recommend one created by Mark D. Pankin. It is available free of charge at this site.

For 2011, the total was 11157.5 with December being the biggest month at 1353.1km. February was the lowest with only 4 rides for a total of 135.4. That was mainly due to the cyclone which struck early in the month and the ensuing road closures and hazards from fallen debris.

Here's hoping 2012 is a safe and happy year for all.

Please ride safely