On T-rusty Metal Steeds

FCR 3 BLK largeVW-Jetta4Today something miraculous happened. I had a choice of heading out of the house in our car, or I could take my quite neglected bike. Normally, I would rationalize my choice of the 1.5 ton dinosaur-juice fueled as time savings. Truth is, I’ve grown scared of my super light two wheeler.

I’ve gotten tangled up in having to have my cycling computer, shoes, and all the accompanying gadgets so much that I’ve forgotten the basics of it all. Any shoe, helmet and some will to push on the cranks. As soon as I set off I felt a bit naked – my Garmin Edge wasn’t on the handlebars and I didn’t get the instant satisfaction of knowing that I was going northeast at 18.3km/h. At the same time it was somewhat liberating. No more chasing the numbers. No more worrying how many (or few) kilometers I’ve ridden. No more trying to log every inch I’ve travelled. Just the rush of air to slice through.

Permanently attached to my bike are couple of essentials for city riding. Small bell, sturdy rear rack and an Air Zound horn. The horn is the safety factor for driving in traffic. I’ve ridden my bike in Toronto and Mississauga around the airport area, where the cabbies believe no other should tread – four wheels or two. The land where yellow lights are suggestions to step on the accelerator pedal and the horn is a warning device that the brain and brakes are malfunctioning. However, this little gem stops them (and by extension should everyone else) dead in their tracks. The looks of horror and confusion of bike being able to heard over top of both the bluetooth handset in their ear and the radio that is cranked to the ethnic station.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to use it today. On the trails I usually use my tiny bell, but sometimes there is that stray jogger that has his iPod blasting and the only way to get their attention is the horn.

I have to admit, it’s kind of fun to see them get startled.

Laptop got stowed in the pannier, along with a whole mess of accompanying wires, pump, glue-less tube patches and a lock. I used to ride with a lot less, but once you get yourself a flat 10km from home, you rethink your options.

Being back in the saddle was nice. Dealing with the traffic was a bit unsettling, but the awareness quickly came back.

Will I ride again? Definitely. St. Albert is quite a bit smaller than Edmonton and everything seems to be closer together. And to be honest, I’m looking forward to trying to go faster than the speed limit on couple of the hills. But for that, I will want to have my Garmin charged and ready 🙂 Does anyone know if you’d get a photo radar ticket? What would they do if you blew by at 5-10 over the seed limit?

I guess those answers will need to be investigated.

Missed Opportunities

I work in downtown Edmonton.  Now this has never been my favorite place as I am more of a burbs or rural girl at heart.  Having said that, I do like some city down towns, just not our own.  There are some nice spots here and there and some pockets of development that have really enhanced downtown. 

Some good restaurants have cropped up and more and more I see people out and about going for walks, jogs or enjoying a fat frank on the street.  My problem is this - there are so many wasted opportunities to improve public spaces.  A couple of examples come to mind.

The downtown library.  Behind the library there used to be some planters, benches and tables where you could go sit, take your lunch and enjoy the sun for a bit.  When you work in a tall building all day, little breaks outside are really energizing and often relaxing.  Last year they started to tear everything out, benches, planters, all gone.  I was excited because I thought they were going to improve the space and make it even nicer.  Once it was done I went back and there it was.  A giant pad of concrete with just a few benches and a whole lot of nothingness : (   wtf?

This is the same with Churchill square.  Now I understand the need to have a nice surface for festivals and events, but what about the times when they are not going on?  You end up with another large mass of nothingness and people hovering around the outskirts where there are a few tables and trees. 

I feel like our city keeps missing the mark on public spaces.  I work on Rice Howard way which is another location with lots of potential.  The street has some good restaurants and a few patios.  The city could easily close down a couple of those streets to traffic and make them more pedestrian friendly.  I could envision restaurants having patios that spread out into the street.  It would be nice to have a few more street vendors and some places to sit and eat that hot dog or whatever!

I think a downtown core has to offer more than buildings and concrete.  I see improvements happening but its very slow.  I think public spaces can really add value to peoples lives and I hope that future planners give this a lot more thought than they have in the past.


Let’s Go

The odour of exhaust from the midway rides mingled with the shrieks of jubilant children, the clack-clack staccato of the cash wheel, and the heat of the afternoon sun pounding down on the Leduc Fair.

For as long as I can remember, the Leduc Rodeo and Midway has graced the presence of the Black Gold Centre’s grounds on the first weekend of May. Since I was a teenager, I’ve also known it was a proving ground for hot-headed morons looking to vent some steam.

Not counting wrestling, which is a sporting contest, I have been in exactly two fistfights in my life, one of which was during a street hockey game and was moronic. Wait, the other one was moronic, too. I’m sensing a pattern here.

I’ve made mention before of a fight that I avoided – one that should have had me in mortal terror, but all such opportunities are not set against such a dangerous and alien circumstance.

As I said, the Leduc fair was loud, it smelled, and it was hot. My friend Merlin and I were leaving. I’m not sure there was something better for us to do, but we were in high school and we were easily bored. There was nothing interesting enough in the fair to keep us there for long.

As we were leaving, a classmate of ours, Lance, stopped us.

“Hey, Liam, you should stop hanging out with loseWeight Exercisers,” he jeered.

Let me stop there. Merlin was not a popular kid in junior high school. He was a farm kid. He liked WWF wrestling. He didn’t make any huge efforts to fit in. Aside from the farm kid thing, we were basically the same kid. I grew up with Rob’s brothers, watching wrestling and emulating wrestlers on their trampoline. So it was a shock to discover that enjoying wrestling was something to be ridiculed, or at least something to be done privately. Merlin and I first bonded over WrestleMania IV, actually.

So you can understand that I have a sore spot for so-called cool guys (of which Lance wasn’t one) picking on him, basically for being someone who didn’t conform.

“Why, Lance? I’m not hanging out with you.” Hey, I’m no Don Rickles, but I do have a tongue that can run away with me. Merlin and I left him to mull that over as we cut through the Black Gold Centre in search of Merlin’s car. (Did I mention that he had a car before everyone else?)

Apparently, the wheels were turning for Lance, and he must have run around the outside of the Black Gold Centre to cut us off.

“What? That supposed to be funny?” I didn’t say anything. Obviously, it was supposed to be funny, or hurtful at least. He didn’t appreciate my silence.

“Wanna go?” He didn’t push or shove or anything.

Okay, here’s a little bit of history about Lance. The guy was in probably more fights than anyone else in the school, but he was clever. Oh yes. He would push someone into a fight and then let them beat him up and then press charges. Yes, he was THAT guy.

“What?”

“You heard me. Let’s go. Let’s FUCKIN’ GO!” He was working himself into a good temper at this point.

“No.” I laughed, investing all of the disdain I could into the sound.

What does a quasi-bully do when his tactics don’t work? I turned my back on him and Merlin and I walked away.

It would be kind for me to say that I was the bigger man and that I turned away from a fight because I was above such petty things, and maybe that’s partly true. I knew he wouldn’t hit me first, and I knew that if I left it where it was, I won. Most of all, it was like that night after the game. I was surprised and more than a little annoyed that someone would want to fight. But I suppose that if your only communication tool is your fists, every confrontation looks like a fistfight.

[Yes, I realize Let’s Go is a song officially released in 1979, but it was still huge in 1980, so I figure that makes it an 80s song. --L]

Nice

Last night my new (3 months) computer decided to surprise me with a corrupted registry. So now, instead of a machine that sounds like a harrier jet (the video card fan is stupidly loud) I have a brick.

Tonight I plan on reinstalling Windows (and perhaps picking up a new graphics card) and hope that it's back up and running soon.

Otherwise, expect a few hastily-thrown-together-while-I'm-at-work blog posts for the next few days.