Summertime, and the living is easy …

Reading: Around the World on a Bicycle by Thomas Stevens, written in 1885. (download it for free). This guy went around the world on his bike which meant there wasn’t always a road handy. He once had to take a railroad track for some 6 miles and at one point, perched on the edge of a cross-beam holding his bike over the edge into the precipice below…. quite the read!

Eating: gazpacho, and lots of it since it’s way too hot to cook.

Listening: catching up on old episodes of This America Life via an iPhone app that is truly fantastic – gives you access to all past and current episodes. Check it out!

Watching: just discovered this little Canadian Gem, The Republic of Doyle. It’s great fun. I’m all about Newfoundland these days! If you missed seeing it last fall and winter (as I did) you can buy it on iTunes.

Cycling: all over the Montreal Island. There are some truly beautiful paths in this city. I thought going car-less in the summer would be hard, but as it turns out, it’s a treat. I’m seeing more of the city this summer than I have in the previous 3 put together! some samples…

Lost of paths by the river and the canal, which I love since I really like being by the water. This photo was taken along the south-west end of the island. I could move to this area and be quite happy…

And there are also lots of paths that take you through pretty little wooded areas, like this one. The folk responsible for designing these paths really did a great job.

While going carless is turning out to be much easier than I thought, I did get to visit my old car when I went to Halifax recently. I couldn’t resist taking a quick picture as I followed it down the highway.

By the way, since I no longer have a car, I took a train to Halifax, which is a much more civilized way to travel! Instead of spending 14 hours hunched up behind the steering wheel, we did things like look at the scenery outside the observation deck…

and when we got tired, we curled up in the little flip-down beds and went to sleep. Much, much better than driving for 14 hours!

So, what are you up to this summer?

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my first bixi ride

You’d think that with one road bike and one city bike all my bicycling needs would be taken care of. But, as it turns out, there are times when I’d like to ride my bike to work, but I don’t because I know I’m going someplace after work where it’s too far to ride, or where it’s not convenient to lug around helmet and seat (because you know if you don’t take ’em with you after you park your bike, they’ll be gone when you get back!). And sometimes I don’t want to take my bike because I’ll be out too late and I don’t want to drive home tired (or after I’ve had a couple… a tipsy me does not a good bike rider make!).

On those days, I’ve left my bike and home and walked to work (or even taken the bus!) but … it’s just so much more enjoyable to ride, you know what I mean? I hate plodding along on foot when I could be flying down the streets and back alleyways!

So, last week I subscribed to Bixi, Montreal’s super cool self-serve public bike system. It’s only been around for a year, but it’s been a great success – so much so, that already several other cities have bought their own bixi bike systems (London, Boston, Minneapolis, Melbourne and more…). They’re great bikes. Check ’em out…

Today I finally got to ride one. I rode my city bike in this morning, even though I knew I had an event after work. I figured I’d just stay a short while and then head home, but I ended up staying until it was too late to go back for my bike (the building I park it in closes up at 6 p.m., and while I can get into the area where my office is, I cannot get into the area my bike is at. I have no idea why the security is arranged that way, but there you have it).

So, I walked to the nearest bixi stand, used my bixi key to release a bike, adjusted the seat to fit, and off I went! The bikes are heavy and there are only three speeds, but the whole bike has been very well designed because other than when I had to pull it out of the stand, the weight was not a factor at all. I pedalled my way up Avenue du Parc which has a fairly steep incline at the south end, and I got up the hill with no problems.

The chain is fully covered, so there’s no worry of any messes on your clothes (I do like that. I’m forever getting chain grease on something or other). The basket up front holds a lot more than I thought it would – I stuffed it full with a light jacket, a huge purse, and my lunch bag with no difficulty. The attached bungie cord held it all in nice and secure all the way home. It’s a great design. I’ve never driven a bike with basket up front before, and I must admit it’s not my favourite place to carry stuff. I find it makes steering just a titch awkward, but not so much that it’ll ever deter me from using the bixi.

And now, since my city bike is at work, I’ll get to go for another bixi ride in the morning! And I’m glad. These bikes are amazing, the service is amazing, and this city is amazing for putting so much effort and support into making this a bike-friendly city. The bixi is just such a smart idea! I love it.

Gettin’ around town …

Car-free week 6 –

My wheely buggy seemed so big and clunky when it was emptily rattling and banging against the sidewalk and my heels all the way to the pick-up location where I was collecting the large box containing some 40 red grapefruit I’d ordered. It suddenly looked a lot smaller once it was beside the box of said grapefruit. And truth be told, I had to do some jigging and rigging to make it fit. But fit it did. Quite snuggly. It rattled a lot less during the 30 minute walk home. It was, in fact, quietly unco-operative and I spent most of the walk home alternately dodging and tripping over it. And it took about twice as long as the actual walk to wrestle the box free of the damn buggy once I managed to lug it’s incredibly heavy and clumsy bulk all the way up the steep stairway to my apartment.

But I took solace from the fact that my purchase was helping an acquaintance of mine fund his trip to Prague where he’ll represent Canada in the Ultimate Frisbee World Championship. And yes, as my heels and shins turned black and blue from the banging clanging buggy full of 4o grapefruit, I did wonder how it is I seem to always end up being the one who buys and lugs around grapefruit rather than the one who has stunning and amazing frisbee-throwing skills that persuade others to buy grapefruit to help send me to far off exotic places so I win awards throwing said frisbee….

But at least I don’t have a car to worry about, right?

Today found me taking a metro (subway to non-Montrealers) to a distant Canadian Tire to pick up a cot so I have enough sleeping surfaces for the family that will be coming to visit for Easter weekend. A cot, for those who are curious, may sound light but actually is every bit as heavy and as awkward to cart around as 40 grapefruit. This time, I left the wheely buggy thing at home and just lugged the long amazingly heavy and suprisingly unbalanced cot in it’s “handy carrying case” through turnstiles and revolving doors and from one train to another to a bus.  A couple more bruises later, I realize that the carrying case is only handy if you’re carrying it from the store to your car to your house. There’s nothing handy at all about carrying it any further than that. Nothing!

Tomorrow, I plan to lie down on my new cot and eat a couple grapefruit for supper. While I watch this…

(via Mark Z.)

my so-called NEW life

I’m now close to two months into the Great American Apparel Diet (which gets coverage here), and a month and half into my new car-free lifestyle, and so far?

so far, pretty darn good! I’ve been taking public transit all over, and once I learned the trick of using my iPhone to get directions, that’s been even easier than I thought it would be. I’ve taken a couple cabs, but not as many as I thought I might (though they’re easy too, and around the same cost and often even cheaper than it would be to take my car and park …)

But the first time I really and truly realized exactly how liberating it is not have a car is when I began making vacation plans just recently. I thought this would be one of the real tests: I thought for sure I would want a car to get from here to wherever it is I plan to vacation, but lo and behold… when the first suggestion came in (our second annual trip to Stratford Ontario for the Shakespeare festival) I was a wee bit surprised to realize that when faced with the choice of travelling via rented car (I would do all the driving) versus train, I barely even had to think twice. I asked myself the question and myself shot back “train!” without hesitation. Like a rochart test, only reversed. Where a roshart test usually involves someone looking at an image and then saying aloud the first thing that comes to mind, my brain heard “vacation” and created an instant image of me sitting in a train, my travelling companions lounging nearby, books, knitting, bar car nearby …. (and this was even before I went to the via rail website and read this description)

I immediately realized my brain was onto something … I find that image so much more appealing than the one where I’m sitting hunched over a steering wheel, looking at endless miles of black asphalt, dotted while lines and the rear ends of vehicles weaving in and out just up ahead while headlights swoop from behind and and glare at me from the rear-view mirror just above.

I even did a little digging and learned that while the train won’t be very much less than renting a car, it sure as heck won’t be more. So far, it’s win-win!

I truly did not think the car-free thing would hold when it came to travel outside the city limits. Stratford will work, so will Toronto, Ottawa and most other places.

So, the next test is, how will being car-free impact on camping, biking, and the other fun stuff summer usually brings? I dunno yet, but I’m looking forward to that roshart test!

As for the Great American Apparel Diet? So far, not buying any clothes – Just knitting them. But hey, I didn’t buy new yarn! My rule is (and verified by my fellow dieters) I can knit using yarn already in my stash. Stashes do come in handy, that’s all I have to say!

Winter …

Well, it’s been a while since I posted here… Last one was what, September? And it’s now February … a new season and, in fact, a whole new year!

There have been a good number of hikes since last I posted. It’s been a mile winter weather-wise, I’ve had what I consider to be over and above my share of colds and illnesses. I’ve added a pair of snowshoes to my collection of gear, have sold my car after my mechanic informed me the brakes were rotting from lack of use (which means I am now foot-loose and car-free, and yes I know that’s not all that witty a phrase but I like it and am going to keep saying it so just bear with it!).
Challenges and change abound!
There should be more, and there will be. Just not quite yet 😉