Tag: cycling

Cloak of Invisibility

It is December, and right up until last week, I was still cycling to the cafe. This is unheard of!
People are betting on the likelihood of a “brown” Christmas, which amuses me greatly since I remember how hard we used to wish each year for a white one in Darlington. The last no-snow Christnas that anyone in Regina can remember was 1998. So odds are we should be good…
The bunnies are all confused though. There are giant Jackrabbits (technically, hares, I think!) that live downtown, and a couple of them have taken up residence in the car park behind the cafe. We named them Wayne and Waynetta Wabbit and I even have a seasonal Christmas coffee on the menu called “confused jackrabbit” in their honour. They are confused because they have gone white already. Each year, they grow their winter coat, changing them from grubby grey-brown bunnies that match the general downtown concrete, into pristine white bunnies camouflaged against the snow. Except this year, they are white already but there is no snow hide in, and they look very, very out of place.

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I want to stick out like a snow bunny.
I mentioned I am still cycling: Theia can now sit up well enough that she can ride in the forward-facing kid seat on the front of the Taga bike, so after another conversion effort (20 seconds to convert it? My arse! More like 20 minutes. With swearing.) – we are happily pedalling about on what has to be one of the most eyecatching vehicles in Regina, avoiding the seasonal idiots who have forgotten how to drive in ice. The advantage of the Taga bike is that I can pretend it’s Mainly Stroller and ride on the sidewalks with it and thus not risk Death by Idiot-in-SUV quite so frequently.  Unfortunately in Regina most sidewalks are in worse condition than the roads, and having 3 wheels means hitting every slope, hole, chip of broken glass, lump or inexplicably unpaved patch City Hall wish to challenge me with. So, sometimes the road is a better option, but there,  I am small, and low and slow and vulnerable, and because I lack a petrol engine, I mysteriously become invisible. This is a car-obsessed land, and unless you have one, you are a nobody, despite freakish hybrid kid-transportation devices.

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I am having similar issues with the cafe. Not that people are running us over, but just that we seem to be equally invisible because no one gets out of their cars. We thought our spot on 11th would be pretty good because there is a lot of passing traffic headed downtown. We have a bright purple 26ft sign over the equally massive window, chalkboard outside and over the summer, even a little patio table out the front. Yet people drive straight past; I’d like to say they are concentrating on the road but often or not, it’s their phones… And then, 8 months after opening, we get the surprised, “oh, are you new?” questions along with “I didn’t know you were here!”. Yes, this is partially our lack of marketing budget, but also because so few traverse downtown on foot or by bike. Peoples! This winter is incredibly mild! Get out of your cars and take advantage of it!

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Something (vaguely) positive: BIKES!

bicycle-benefits-imageWell, I say vaguely positive.

Three years in Regina, and I still, defiantly, don’t have a driving license. I’ve survived quite happily walking or cycling everywhere, and even managed to do epic shopping trips picking up supplies for the cafe without driving. However, a few weeks ago, my beloved two-wheeled bike, Yoshi (don’t judge, it was green and fast) was stolen from it’s spot chained up outside the cafe. Some little **** didn’t just pick it up, they actually cut through my lock, implying it was premeditated: someone had obviously clocked that I lock it up there every day and had deliberately turned up with bolt cutters or something. Grr! Even worse was how quickly it disappeared. About 40 minutes prior to discovering it had gone, I had been out to load it up with all the dirty rags from the cafe to wash at home. The thief carefully removed the milk-crate bike-basket I’d made and placed it tidily on our back step, (thus leaving me the dirty kitchen rags) and even put the neatly cut lock in the basket too. AAAARGH!!

But this is Canada! I hear you cry…Things like that don’t happen here! Whereas there is no comparison at all with the petty crime rate in Darlington, UK, there are still some arseholes in my little flatland utopia, it seems.

I reported it to the police, but they weren’t really optimistic. Next, I posted this all over the internet:

lostbiketweet56 retweets on Twitter, and about 80 shares from the cafe’s facebook page. My online followers are wonderful!! I never got the bike back, but I’d like to think with enough people on the look out for it, the thief will have a hard time selling it on at least. Then I got a message from someone who I think I’ve only met in the flesh on one brief occasion – he’d set up a ‘Go Fund Me’ page to collect donations and buy me a new bike!!! So, so sweet of him, and that restored my faith in humanity a great deal. To be honest, it wasn’t the money that was the issue. Yoshi was cheap and second hand three years ago and worth virtually nothing anyway. It’s just the inconvenience since I don’t have any other option: my trike was in need of repairs (after doing some serious damage hitting potholes too hard) and walking any distance while this pregnant is increasingly agonising, especially when I had to carry milk deliveries to the cafe. I could have got myself another secondhand bike I suppose, but there didn’t seem much point since I can’t fit the newborn baby on it in a few weeks time.

Instead, Carl managed to bodge a repair job on the trike so I at least had those wheels back again for now. And then I thought, I could treat myself. I need a new stroller (Look! I said stroller not pushchair!! I’ve gone native!) but, I couldn’t get a normal, conventional one, could I? And I miss Yoshi and the trike’s back wheel configuration makes it difficult to attach any newborn baby seats to anyway…

Then, I found this!

Weird trike-stroller hybrid THING!

It’s a e-guruma (or rather, “Taga” bike, as the original company appears to have been bought out!) and it cleverly converts from a backwards trike with two wheels at the front to a “normal” stroller. You pull the seat off and the back wheel flips up over the top and pokes out the front, so you end up with a three wheeled “jogging” stroller thing. The Parents even got me an adapter for it so we can clip in the baby’s car seat until it’s big enough to sit up in that seat by itself. (Yes, “it” – still not sure!)

Miranda can just about sit in that seat and absolutely LOVES it. But she is a colossal weight nowadays and it’s very, very hard work cycling her on it, because the wheels are so small! Steering is very odd, it feels like the love child of an exercise bike and a supermarket trolley, but even when faced with Regina potholes and terrible road surfaces (Rae St and 12th, I am looking at yooooou!) it is remarkably stable, and in comparison with the big trike, it feels far less scary when it tips, because you are only 6 inches off the ground. I feel like I can go much further with it than I could walking with a pushchair, so hopefully when Baby arrives I have plenty of freedom to get around – and I still don’t need a driving license. MWUHAHAHAHAHAAA!

isn't it awesome?
isn’t it awesome?

Poetic Justice

Tonight I pedalled across town on my trike, on my way to a poetry slam, big fat snowflakes drifting down softly.

It would almost be romantic if it wasn’t MID APRIL.

And then there was some frigging idiot who nearly killed me.

 

Potholes and stones

Won’t break my bones

But the words you speak on your mobile phone

distracting, as you plough on in to the night

looking straight through my signal and lights

Those words, and your massive Dodge truck

Driven as if you don’t give a fuck

Those are the things that will crush me.

 

 

Spring, 30x30x30

The early morning radio alerted me to this:

http://30×30.davidsuzuki.org/

Apparently, David Suzuki wants us all to pledge to accept the challenge of spending at least 30 minutes outdoors (“in nature”) every day for 30 days.

Rather embarrassingly, up until this morning I had no idea who David Suzuki is. (a.: an environmentalist). Jess kindly informed me. Equally baffling is why people see spending half an hour outdoors as “challenging”. I do get that the locals really don’t want to be outside in January when its -40ish and you get frostbite in under ten minutes and so on, but surely you must have to at some point? I was outside during the months of utterly stupid temperatures for at least 40 minutes every day, if not longer. I had no choice: I don’t drive and my work was a 20 minute walk there and another 20 minutes back. And then I had to go collect Miranda, and walking the two blocks back from her daycare at Miri-speed usually took longer than 15 minutes again! Now it’s sunny and spring-like finally, I can’t imagine I’m alone in wanting to escape the house, especially after such a ridiculously long winter. It would be a struggle to restrict myself to just 30 minutes now…

Another consequence of the six month long winter was that my beloved trike, Twyla has stayed wrapped in bubblewrap and packing tape since she arrived here from the UK in November. I may have to walk in January temperatures, but I am not daft enough to try and cycle through that much snow!! April was of course, 30 Days of Biking. I eventually unwrapped Twyla on 29th April, so I missed the whole month! Waa!

So, to this end, I am going to take up Mr Suzuki’s challenge AND invent my own belated 30 days of Biking challenge, (because it’s rare that I would cycle indoors anyway!). Here’s some sunny, spring inspired photos of my progress:

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Transport

Ok, so my last post was typed without use of the space bar, thanks to my dearest darling daughter. This post is written entirely on my phone, (testing the ‘post by email’ function on the blog!) also due to aforementioned daughter *breaking my entire laptop!* I am
internet-less. This also means i am TV-less as i can’t play dvds let alone stream anything, i am skype-less so i can’t talk to Carl and i’ll have to become anti-social(media, that is) too! Waa!
People tend to bemoan my lack of transport rather like i moan about their internet usage – what do you mean you’re not on twitter? What do you mean you don’t have a licence? Etc. I for one would much, much rather be without a car than without my computer. I think i would probably even choose it over Yoshi the bike. There was an article in the metro the other day singing the praises of some bloke who spent a month only shopping in ward 3 of regina – pretty much the area i live in. Oh wow. He shopped *local* and this is newsworthy?! I’ve been doing that since i got here – and he was still using a car too. I think he should try it without the car, restrict his shopping to what can be carried by hand, balanced on a pushchair or tied onto a bike and be forced to take am uncooperative toddler with him at all times. In fact, screw that, just let me write the article next time, ok? Rant over.
Anyway, shopping aside, for the sake of my new bosses’ peace of mind, I have acquired an official Saskatchewan learners’ driving licence. i had to take a written theory test. Again. This time i got 28/30 – not bad since I was having to constantly rotate all the pictures in my head so i could figure out which side of the road i was supposed to be on! It’ll be a while before I can take my road test – 4 different people told me 3 different, contrasting views on whether or not they have ‘reciprocity’ with the UK about swapping licences over, whether this applies to learners licences or whether i have to wait nine months on one sort of licence before I can upgrade to another… Gah. It is so needless complicated and it’s not like I even want to drive anyway! Still, at least now I can legitimately get some practice in, i hope.
I wouldn’t be so laid back about driving if it wasn’t for the thought of Carl arriving soon, and because I have Yoshi the bike.
Unfortunately, you really do need to drive in this city. I am lucky in that the Cathedral area is about the only bit you can walk around, and where it is pleasant to do so. Everything else, supermarkets, restaurants, cinemas etc require a car to get to. The downtown area is mainly pedestrianised, but that is confined to two streets. There is no concept of a town centre or even a high street that you can amble round aimlessly. It all requires a specific destination and intention, which is far too much like organisation to me. An alien concept of town planning.
In this sense at least, Yoshi is wonderful, especially as Miri’s trailer has a lot of space for shopping in the back of it. The other week i navigated all the way down to the blueish hell-hole that is Walmart on it, and got a whole week’s worth of food, and Miri, on to the back. Unfortunatelly all that weight made the back tyre go flat. I naively tried to fix it myself, and broke the pump, bent 2 spanners, covered myself in bruises and oil and got throughly cross with it. It was then i learned a great deal more about my neighbourhood. A few weeks ago, I optimistically attended a “bike maintenance” class at the library – which served to teach me how i *could* have fixed the bike if only i possessed a 12mm socket wrench. By fortuitous accident, I ran into the bloke who ran the class, coming out of Safeway the day after the flat tyre occurred. I explained my woes, and he offered to fix the bike – for free! But with the condition that I brought Yoshi along to an art gallery just a little bit outside comfortable walking distance. Comfortable distance or not, I didn’t have a choice: i couldn’t ride Yoshi, neither could I find anyone to look after Miri while I got on a bus with the bike, and I certainly couldn’t afford to pay the bike shop to fix it instead. So i walked 11 blocks, pushing the bike with Miri in the trailer on the back. And we got completely and utterly soaked. First proper Prairie thunderstorm I’ve
experienced! It hit us about the halfway point so there was no point in turning back, and Miri was OK in the trailer, laughing at Mummy dripping wet…. There were hailstones and everything!
We eventually arrived to find that this bloke was also an artist, and he had an exhibition of paintings and sculptures based on the theme of a workshop – a giant roll of duct tape and the WD40 label done in oil paint and so on – and he was sat in the middle of it all, fixing bikes actually as an art installation!! Bloody brilliant!!
So, Yoshi became a work of art for the evening, and I got a new inner tube, the brakes tweaked and the gears fixed, AND a free shower…. I was seriously impressed and very grateful. But the whole adventure taught me a great deal about this area. Only in Regina….?