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  • Bicycle Maintenance: What’s That Wobble?

    Posted on May 18th, 2018 admin No comments

    Got a kind of weakness or wobble in the front end of my touring bike.  Going to put it on the stand and have a look.  Might just be a poor weight distribution, as I don’t recall having this issue on earlier trips.   Probably I have a bit too much weight in the front panniers.

    * * * * * * * * *

    Spent some time truing the front wheel, and checked everything for tightness.   It was definitely better for this afternoon’s ride — 41 km, avg speed 17 kph.   A leisurely loop to Beaumont, a nearby town, with lunch in a park there.  But of course, today the wind’s from the south so I was riding into it part of the way coming home.

  • Weighing in for a Bike Tour

    Posted on May 17th, 2018 admin No comments

    I just weighed myself, my bike, and my panniers as part of my planned trip to Saskatoon. It’s an OMG total, for sure! Am I packing too much?   How much is the right amount of gear weight for a two-week summer tour?

    My friend Susan is planning to cycle solo to Newfoundland.  We’re both part of a cycling group and have been on many trips together.   I offered to travel with her for the first week, to keep her company and see her off.   She’s planning to loop south on Hy 13 in Alberta to Hy 31 and 15 east in Saskatchewan.   Okay, I said, I’ll come with you to Rosetown and loop up to Saskatoon and back.

    We did a 76 km overnight training run last week, fully loaded, into moderate headwinds.  Tough, tiring ride, but we both did okay.   I had 42 lbs (about 19.1 kg) and Susan carried 66 lbs (30 kg) of gear.  We both agreed that we needed to pare down our loads.

    LIGHTEN THAT LOAD!

    When we first started training, it was March, about the coldest March in memory, and the forecast for May was more of the same.  High temperatures in the low teens, lows in the single digits and down to freezing.   I had lots of cold-weather gear and my panniers were stuffed full.  Long undies, warm base layer,  fleece pants, wool socks.

    But what do weathermen know?  Nothing.  Their computer models just provide a best guess (and meteorologists have the hubris to think they can predict climate!)  By the time May rolled around, we were seeing unseasonal highs in the upper 20s and lows around 10C to 15C.

    So, out went the long-johns, the fleece, and all the other stuff to keep me warm.  And out went a bunch of other stuff that I hadn’t used on any of my training rides, such as a nice plastic mess kit, an extra nylon tarp, some clothespins (I might regret leaving those).  Took out one bike jersey.  I cut down on spare undies and sox to two pairs of each in the pannier.  And I might yet cut down to a single spare of each.

    OH, LOOK, ROOM IN THE PANNIERS!

    On the training runs, I had no insect repellent: too cold for bugs.  But now the mosquitoes have hatched.  Add bug spray.  OMG, 30C on Sunday?  Add sun-block.  A week of hot weather?  Hydration is vital.  Add another litre bottle of water.  With the two bottles in the cages, that makes 2250 mL of water…almost 5 lbs!!

    One problem with handlebar bag is that it’s so handy, anything you need quickly can go there for easy access.  One problem with a large Arkel handlebar bag is that you can put so much in it.  Bought a beautiful ultralight nylon wind jacket, only 4 ounces, gotta put that in.  Mini-binoculars, missed them on the training rides, toss them in.  Oh, need a ball cap….

    Stocked up on Clif bars, granola bars, fruit leathers.   Gotta have snacks to keep the energy up.  That’s one pound of stuff that will get lighter quickly!

    My panniers aren’t stuffed full.   There’s room in three of them (and the Arkel) for food, souvenirs, extra clothes, whatever.  Available room tends to get filled.  They won’t get lighter as I travel.

    WEIGHING THE PANNIERS

    After taking out and putting in, here’s what I have (all numbers are in pounds):

    • Rear rack bag (tent, sleeping pad): 5.2
    • Front A (sleeping bag, stuff sack, liner): 6.0
    • Front B (rain gear, repair stuff, electronics accessories): 6.0
    • Rear A (camping & cooking): 9.4
    • Rear B (clothing): 9.2
    • Handlebar Bag: 6.4

    Add that all up and you get… 42.2 lbs.  Exactly what I had before.  Who would have thought that the added mass of a little tube of sunblock, a bottle of bug spray, and compact binoculars would equal the stuff I took out?

    Now, that’s not really bad.   Most bike touring sites recommend a load of under 20 kg (44 lb).  Note that my bags are pretty well balanced left to right.  Ratio of rear to front is (5.2 + 9.4+9.2) to (6+6+6.4) or 23.8 to 18.4 or pretty much 4:3.   The recommended balance rear to front is 60:40.   I’m a little heavy on the front.  I might re-arrange while en route, or after tomorrow’s training ride.

    AND THE GRAND TOTAL IS:

    Add it all up:  44 lbs of gear.  Plus 5 lb of water.  Plus 30 lbs of bike.  Plus 165 lbs of me, fully clothed.

    That’s  242 lbs of stuff to move down the road with every pedalstroke.

    It sounds enormous.  I’m sorry I worked it out.

     

     

  • Scientists Wonder: Why Do We Dance?

    Posted on May 14th, 2018 admin No comments

     Why Do We Dance

    My wife and I are square dancers (and also do rounds and contras, ballroom, and social dancing).  Why do we love to dance?  Let’s look at some scientific answers to the question, “Why do we dance?”

    A PSYCHOLOGIST’S ANSWER

    Kimerer LaMothe, Ph.D., writing in Psychology Today, labels dance as “a quintessential human experience.” She considers dance to be those movements which define who we are, as individuals and as a species. “Dance is not an accidental or supplemental activity in which humans choose to engage or not. Dance is essential to our survival as human beings.” In other words, circularly, we dance because we are human (she ignores the mating dances of many other species) and we are human because we dance.vector-kokopelli

    LaMothe feels that “Any dance tradition or technique represents movement patterns that those persons have found useful for connecting them to something they perceive as having value—whether tribe or tradition, pleasure or skill, community or divinity, heaven or Earth. Dance as movement is inherently relational.”

    IT’S EVOLUTION

    An article in LiveScience takes an evolutionary approach. Here, dance seems to be defined as movement coordinated with rhythmic sounds. “The answer to why we dance – and even why some people are better dancers than others – can be found in evolution,” writes Assistant Managing Editor Denise Chow. “A study published in the Public Library of Science’s genetics journal in 2006 suggested that long ago the ability to dance was actually connected to the ability to survive.

    PSM_V41_D770_Dance_of_nahikaiAccording to the study, dancing was a way for our prehistoric ancestors to bond and communicate, particularly during tough times. As a result, scientists believe that early humans who were coordinated and rhythmic could have had an evolutionary advantage.” (For a detailed if out-of-date and now politically incorrect account, read “The Evolution of Dancing” in Popular Science Monthly, Oct. 1892)

    IT’S IN THE GENES

    “A more recent study suggests babies are born to dance, with the ability to bop to the beat as young as 5 months old. The scientists aren’t sure why humans might have this innate ability.” There is an amazing number of cute Youtube videos of toddlers bopping to the beat. This is probably the best time to get the kids out on the square dance floor!

    NEUROLOGY: BRAIN REWARDS

    Writing in Scientific American, neurologist John Krakauer suggests that we dance because “coordinated movement” acts to “stimulate our brains’ reward centers.” There seems to be a three-fold pattern involved in the neurological rewards of dance.

    First, movement itself provides pleasurable stimulation. “Scientists aren’t sure why we like movement so much, but there’s certainly a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest we get a pretty big kick out of it,” says Krakauer. Most of us are familiar with the pleasant tiredness that follows exercise—and dancing.

    Secondly, “Music is known to stimulate pleasure and reward areas like the orbitofrontal cortex, located directly behind one’s eyes, as well as a midbrain region called the ventral striatum. In particular, the amount of activation in these areas matches up with how much we enjoy the tunes. In addition, music activates the cerebellum, at the base of the brain, which is involved in the coordination and timing of movement.”

    So combining movement with music is doubly pleasant. “Maybe synchronizing music, which many studies have shown is pleasing to both the ear and brain, and movement—in essence, dance—may constitute a pleasure double play.”Young people on the party .

    A third factor is social. “…Mounting evidence suggests that we are sensitive and attuned to the movements of others’ bodies, because similar brain regions are activated when certain movements are both made and observed. For example, the motor regions of professional dancers’ brains show more activation when they watch other dancers compared with people who don’t dance.”

    The result is a kind of neurological trifecta: music plus movement plus other people moving to music gives the brain a triple whammy of joy-juice.

    Whether the explanation is psychological, evolutionary, or neurological, the scientific answers to “Why do we dance?” all boil down to the reason my wife and I like to square dance: It’s friendship set to music, and it’s a heck of a lot of fun.

     

  • Happijac Wireless Wiring Kit

    Posted on April 19th, 2018 admin No comments
    Screenshot-2018-4-20 Amazon ca happijac

    Wireless Wiring Kit — I mean — WHAT??

  • Recertify That Propane Tank, or Buy New?

    Posted on March 27th, 2018 admin No comments

    I’ve got a couple of old propane tanks, so the question came up:  should I have them recertified, or should I just buy new ones?  One is a 30 lb RV tank and the other is a 20 lb BBQ type tank (though it came from a truck camper).

    A couple of years ago I was able to exchange a recently out-dated 30 lb tank for a recertified tank, full of propane, for $10, but that was a special deal, propane guy said customer hadn’t come back to pick it up and he wanted it out of the way.  Maybe a little shady, but I was happy enough.  Can’t expect a deal like that every time, though.

    RECERTIFY OR NOT?

    A lot of outdoor/RF forums seem to thank that recertification is not worthwhile.    For example, this post by Clgy_Dave2.0, dated 06-17-12 on Alberta Outdoor Forum:

    It costs just as much to get them recertified as a new tank.
    Just buy new ones. Costco is the cheapest place by far. I bought two new 30lb’ers for $80. RV place wanted $89 EACH!!!!

    Wow, gotta love those 2012 prices!

    The consensus of such arguments seems to be

    • It’s inconvenient to recertify as you have to go to a place that will do it
    • The cost of recertification almost balances the cost of a new tank
    • If you recertify, you STILL have an old tank; why not go with new for peace of mind
    • New tanks can be had at almost any service station
    • Many places, such as Costco, sell new tanks quite cheaply

    IS THAT ‘RECERTIFIED’ TANK RECERTIFIED IN FACT?

    Exactly how rigorous is the requalification procedure?  Posted by RIF, Oct 6 2015, on RV Network:

    I’ve had two cylinders re-certified, both times at propane dealers. Simple process. They just looked them over and tested for leaks, then slapped a new sticker on them. I think one place was $5 and the other $7.50 or so. Not a big deal and certainly cheaper than buying new cylinders.

    Many posters report having got a “new” or exchange tank at a service station, only to discover that their “new” tank has only a year or two left on its service date, or has even already expired!   It seems that some companies do not recertify the tanks; they simply clean them up, repaint them, and put them back into service.   If you exchange or buy a “new” tank from one of these bays, you are advised to check the date of manufacture before you accept the tank.

    ACTUAL COSTS OF RECERTIFICATION VS NEW TANK

    A lot of people rely on assumptions or outdated information in making decisions of this type.  Is it, in fact, in 2018, cheaper to buy new than to recertify?   Here are the prices, as of the date of this post:

    Costs to recertify at TempHeat, Edmonton:20 lb tank

    • 20# recertification – $25.50
    • 30# recertification – $41.50
    • Cost to refill – $0.80/lb (to 80% capacity, $12.80 and $19.20 respectively)
    • So a 20# tank, recertified and filled, would cost about $38

    Cost of brand new tank, Costco online:

    • 20#  – $59.99
    • 30# – $79.99
    • Cost to refill – varies; at one time they had a flat rate offer of $9.99 for a 20# tank
    • So a 20# tank, filled, would be about $70

    Cost of “new” refilled, exchange tank at Alberta Co-op, Leduc

    • 20# – $65

    Cost of new empty tank at Co-op

    • 20# – $49.99
    • A 20# tank contains about 18 L and a 30# tank about 26 L
    • Cost to refill – $0.899/L  (to 80%,  $12.95; 30# $18.70)
    • So a 20# tank, filled, is about $63, not much different from the exchange cost.

    Why do I mention 80% capacity?   There is some headroom left in the tank to allow for expansion.  A good explanation is given here.

    AND IN CONCLUSION

    Clearly, it is far cheaper to have a 20 lb tank recertified and filled at the place that does the recertification.  In fact, it is about half the cost of buying a new tank at Costco and having it refilled there, even if you can still get the $9.99 flat rate deal (which has apparently expired)

  • A-Printing We Will Go (3D Printing, That Is)

    Posted on October 18th, 2017 admin No comments

    Having spent most of the past week getting my Kodama Trinus 3D Printer up and running again, and having spent a little more time getting it properly adjusted and tuned up,   it was time to print.   Last spring, while playing with the 101Hero,  I had begun scouring the Thingiverse for interesting projects.  Most of what I found interesting was way beyond the ability of the 101Hero.  Also beyond my ability...then.

    But now, with the Trinus armed and ready, I decided it was time to tackle a few of them.

    Ready, Aim, Fire:  Micro Catapult

    To warm up, I made this micro catapult.  It works, and fires a little paper ball two or three metres.

    20171014_185403

    Getting the Cover On

    For one reason or another, I haven't put the enclosure on the Trinus.  Sure, it looks cool, and it's supposed to make the printer quieter, and it protects innocent eyes from the laser engraver when it's installed.  But it's also a bloody nuisance and I never quite got around to printing a filament spool holder for it that I liked.   But the enclosure has been on the floor in my office for months, in the way, holding up junk and dust.  Enough.

    So I got some cheap fidget spinners, extracted the bearings, and got to work.  BTW, did you know that only the center bearing is really good?  The others are a bit stiff.   Anyway, I printed these things that sit on top of the enclosure and hold the filament spool.20171013_184721[1]They seem a bit tippy, but in a few days I'll get them onto the enclosure and we'll see how they work.   Using them involves cutting a hole in the top panel of the enclosure and inserting this filament guide (this isn't mine; mine is in the garage being painted)da92284951d2f7f0e4927156010dc199_preview_featured

    Venus Fly Trap Box

    Okay, these were a trial run for the next project, a really cool thing called the Venus Box from Tom West, aka Prot0typ1cal.  To save you checking the link, here's what his looks like:

    It took over an hour to print each part, at relatively low resolution.  I did it with two modifications, putting teeth on it and using a fluted cover.  Here's my version:

    My Build

     

    As you turn the bezel, the "mouths" open and close.  It's a bit stiff yet, would have been better printed at a finer resolution, but with a little sanding and post-processing it will be great.  Here's what I'm aiming for, as done by jedynak:

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Off to a good start, I think.

  • Kodama Trinus 3D Printer LCD Holder Mod

    Posted on October 14th, 2017 admin No comments

    After I installed the bed leveling platform for my Kodama Trinus 3D printer, I discovered that when the Y-axis ran to 125 mm, it knocked the LCD screen off of its anchor on axis bed.  The adjustment screws stick down and hit the LCD mount.   Every time.

    3D Printed solutions to the Problem

    Probably the best long-range solution would be to redesign the holder with longer arms so it would stick out further.  The next step would be to print it at a cost of several meters of filament (no big deal) and another several hours of design and print time (big deal!).

    Another published solution is to print an extension such as this one by John Sanford aka drofnas.   No design time, but more filament and print time.

    Think Simple - No 3D Printing Required

    In the end, I chose a far quicker and simpler solution.    I noticed that the "arms" of the mount sat squarely on the metal bed of the Trinus with the bottom of the mount sitting on the desk; it was low enough that the knurled adjustment knobs of the levelling bed passed over top.

    I simply used a hobby saw and a flat file to cut notches into the arms:20171014_151158

    I might have taken them a bit further back, but it didn't seem necessary.  Those few millimeters were enough to snap onto the Trinus base and hold the LCD firmly.

    20171014_151136

    A simple and IMO rather elegant solution that took only minutes to do.

     

     

  • Arkel Handlebar Bag

    Posted on October 11th, 2017 admin No comments

    Woot!   I just got a terrific deal on a large Arkel (pronounced Ar-kel’) handlebar bag.   $159.99 for only $29.99 plus tax.

     

    The note said "Not in Inv".

    The note said “Not in Inv”.

    I had ordered online from United Cycle in Edmonton an Axiom Randonée 10 handlebar bag that was on sale ($109.99 marked down to $29.99).  It was out of stock and they had this one Arkel bag that they offered me at the same price.

    Arkel handlebar bags are made in Quebec.  They are waterproof, made of tough cordura (each bag comes with a sample with a cut in it, and a challenge to tear it.  You can't.) with an aluminum and heavy plastic frame.

    Old Arkel large bag, circa 2014

    Old Arkel large bag, circa 2014.  The sewn-on label and reflective bar along the bottom serve to date the bag.

    They're a bit heavy, but rock solid, and don't distort under load.  They have a sturdy aluminum clip-on mounting system that stands up to a full bag and doesn't slip under road vibration.

    The bag mounts are adjustable aluminum, firmly bolted to the internal frame.

    The bag mounts are adjustable aluminum, firmly bolted to the internal frame.  A quick-release spring locks into place.

    This particular bag is old stock and I think they had it lying around and wanted to clear it out.  So I said, sure, I'll take it, provided it includes the mounting hardware.

    20171011_152426

    In fact, it actually included TWO sets of mounting hardware.  That second set of mounts is worth another $27 plus $8 shipping plus tax.

    It's missing a removable map case (that might still turn up somewhere at United Cycle) but that's no big deal.  A large zip-lock bag will do the same job.

    SO.... for my $29.99 plus tax (plus the gas and time to drive in and pick it up), I got a $160 bag plus $35 worth of mounts.  Almost $200 worth of bike gear for just over 30 bucks.

    I should always be so lucky!

  • Naturehike Mongar Two-Person Tent

    Posted on October 7th, 2017 admin No comments

    Continuing my exploration of lightweight tents suitable for bike touring, I picked up the Naturehike Mongar2 for $163 CAD from AliExpress [as of 2017/10/07 it had gone up to $190 CAD].

    Naturehike Mongar 2 Specifications

    The  Naturehike Mongar2,  Model NH17T006-T, comes in three colors:  Purple, Green (a kind of yellow-lime), and Gray.  Mine is green.
    • Tent fly material:  20D ripstop nylon
    • Tent fly waterproof index:  PU coating 4000mm
    • Inner tent materiatl:  20D nylon
    • Mesh material:  B3 breathable mesh
    • Tent bottom material:    20D  nylon
    • Tent bottom waterproof index:  4000mm
    • Tent poles material:  7001 Aviation aluminum alloy
    • Package size:  500*?150mm
    • Tent size:  210 cm long x 125 cm wide x 100cm high (about 83" x 49" x 39")
    • Vestibule size:  two equilateral triangles each of base 210 cm, width 65 cm (0.27 sq m)
    • Mass: about 1850 g (including guy lines, gear loft, and guy lines, but not the footprint)
    • Accessories: Aluminium tent pegs (10pcs), guy lines (4 sets), gear loft, footprint & bag

    Roomy for one, probably cozy for two, this ultralight tent is an interesting compromise.  The poles are surprisingly sturdy.  The tent itself is minimal:  a bathtub floor with 10 cm (4") sides, topped entirely with fine mesh.  The fly sheet, while waterproof, is almost translucent.

    Top: pegs & bag; gear loft; footprint in bag Bottom:  fly with guylines attached; tent; poles & bag; storage bag Missing:  containment strap

    Top: pegs & bag; gear loft; footprint in bag
    Bottom: fly with guylines attached; tent; poles & bag; storage bag.  Missing: containment strap  Photo courtesy naturehike.com

     

     What I Like About the Mongar2

    I liked this tent for many reasons

    • its appearance - it looked like it would suit my needs
    • the brand - I've had a few Naturehike products and have found them to be of reasonable quality for the price
    • light weight, only 300 grams more than my 1-man cycling tent (despite packing to roughly the same volume!)
    • two roomy vestibules for gear storage
    • a roomy gear pocket at each end, plus an included gear loft
    • a roof peak pole that extends the fly over the doorways

      The Mongar 2 without fly, showing pole structure and roof peak poles

      The Mongar 2 without fly, showing pole structure and roof peak poles

    I consider this roof overhang particularly desirable during the rainy weather that I so often seem to camp in, because it helps shelter the doorway and keep the tent itself drier.  I say drier because chez moi, rain and wind usually go together so some moisture always blows into the tent when the vestibule is unzipped in the rain.

    Mongar2 set up with one vestibule door tied back

    Mongar2 set up with one vestibule door tied back

    According to my scale, this weighed in at under 1750 grams all-in, plus another 240 grams for the footprint.  Naturehike says the tent, pegs, and guylines are 1900 grams and the footprint only 120 grams.  Not sure how that works, but our total mass measurements (2100 for NH and 1985 for mine) are reasonably close.  My 1985 grams is  70 ounces (4 lbs 6 oz).  For comparison, the MSR Elixer2, a sturdier and arguably better quality tent at almost twice the price, weighs in at 4 lbs 10 oz (2100 grams)

    Less than 1800 grams all-in

    Less than 1800 grams all-in

    20171007_105253

    What I Don't Like About the Naturehike Mongar2

    The pole attachment is peg-in-hole, using tiny aluminum tabs, similar to many MSR tents.  While they do cut down on mass, I found these clips a bit awkward with cold wet hands, and impossible with gloves.  As a result, it took me an average of 9 minutes to get this tent erected, compared to about half that for my smaller tent; roughly the same to take it down.  That's based on only three setups, so I may get faster with practice.

    The ridge cross-pole, showing strap and tab attachment used to anchor all poles

    The ridge cross-pole, showing strap and tab attachment used to anchor all poles

    When I first settled into the tent, my thought was that there was better ventilation than in my 1-person tent with storm flaps.  Later, when the wind started blowing under the fly and through the tent, I snuggled deeper into my sleeping bag and wondered if I should wake up enough to close the vents.  No snow seemed to be coming in, so I didn't bother.   But I came to have a greater appreciation for storm flaps and for tents with higher sidewalls.  The Mongar2 might not be a great tent for inclement weather, when you most need a tent.

    Although it takes 12 pegs to completely fasten down the Mongar2, for some reason it comes with only 10.  They're tiny 10 cm (4") aluminum tri-fin pegs, but I guess they're adequate for the job.

    I was surprised to note that the hooks for attaching the tent to the poles are considerably heavier than those in the other NH tents I've had.  Presumably, they are properly sized for the weight they bear.

    Heavy-duty hooks attach the Mongar2 tent to the poles

    Heavy-duty hooks attach the Mongar2 tent to the poles. Note the heavily reinforced corner.

    The vestibule flaps are double thickness or even triple.  Not sure why.  The result is that they're thick and heavy and the bottom velcro doesn't seem to hold.  When you're outside, you can stick it down, but when you're inside it's hard to reach around under the flap and pull it sealed.  Not sure that's a big deal.

    Nylon fly sheets always stretch when wet, but this one seemed to be particularly saggy.  Sure, there are tension straps at each corner, but who gets up in the middle of a rainy night to snug them up? I plan to get some heavy elastic bands so that the vestibule and end ties are stretched out.

    Life in the Mongar2: Snow Load

    I did a test run in the back yard.  It was cold, forecast low of  +2C  with wind, rain and possibly snow, but I had planned for that and was warmly bagged.   The expected storm came in around 10:30 pm,  with rain and high wind.   Even though I'd staked out all four guylines and snugged up the corners, the fly flapped and banged....until the snow came.  The wet, heavy snow settled down the flapping fly.

    20171002_082730

    The Mongar2 is not a four-season tent, and as the snow built up -- five centimeters (about 2") in all -- I was concerned about the snow load.  The tent's relatively flat roof does not shed snow well, so I woke up every hour or so and pounded the snow off the tent from inside.  Not a good night's sleep.  I've had tents with fibreglass poles completely flatten out under similar snow conditions (leaving the Scouts inside sleeping on, blissfully unaware) but I was not sure how the aluminum poles would fare.

    Mongar2 from Naturehike:  Keep it or Sell it?

    The tent seems to be well-constructed and the price was excellent.  It's certainly roomy for one. Packed up, it's the same size as the Ultralight Cycling Tent, and weighs only slightly more, so I'll probably keep it for a couple of trips at least.  Late September is pretty much the end of the season, but we might have another warm spell before winter sets in.  I hope to test the tent in more pleasant weather with a couple of modifications.

    Surely I can get in at least one more overnight tour!

  • Thunder Lake Cycle Tour with EBTC

    Posted on August 8th, 2017 admin No comments

    On August 5-6 I went on the Thunder Lake trip with Edmonton Bicycle & Touring Club.  Earlier this year, Ed Weymouth had come out to the Millet Circuit Cycle & Sports bike Meetup some time ago to talk about touring, and he met us at the start and finish in Onoway.

    Concerns About the EBTC

    Before the trip, I had several concerns

    • I'd heard that the group rode very quickly, and I was concerned about keeping up
    • Perhaps they were all younger riders and I'd feel out of place
    • It had been suggested to me that it was a tight clique of riders who'd didn't warm to strangers

    I'll address those concerns as I describe the trip.

    Day 1:  Cycling From Onoway to Thunder Lake

    We assembled in Onoway at 09:00, a group of people around my age, so I fit in well that way.  Introductions and a bit of chat took care of another concern; people in the group obviously knew each other well, but they were friendly and  I felt welcome.  After packing gear onto the SAG van, we left around 09:30 and rode off.   The day was cool, and we rode through some spooky, damp fog patches.  We stopped about 25 km to the Esso station at Hwy 43 for ice cream.  This was actually the wrong place -- we were supposed to have taken our break a km or so back at a Domo station.

    Through the fog.

    Through the fog.  Photo by Greg

    The next leg took us at a crisp pace.  I pumped hard to keep up with another rider, who told me we were travelling at 24 km/h.  This is a bit faster than I'm used to, my first concern, but with effort I was able to keep up.  The only result was that I worked a bit harder than usual, and was a little more tired.

    Tom working hard but being passed by Barbara and John

    Tom working hard but being passed by Barbara and John

    We zoomed into Cherhill,where we stopped for lunch at the local ball diamond.   Lunch was do-it-yourself sandwiches: fresh crusty rolls, tomatoes, lettuce, three kinds of sliced cheese, three kinds of sliced meat (ham, chicken, beef), dill pickles, apple juice, cookies, bananas, oranges....   It was at this point that I realized the truth of something one of the group had said, "We are an eating group with a mild cycling disorder".

    Lunch at Cherhill -- making sandwiches and spraying for mosquitoes.

    Lunch at Cherhill, making sandwiches and spraying for mosquitoes.

    A short leg, 18 km, took us north on Twp Rd 764 to a rest stop at Meadowview Community School.  I was getting pretty tired, some 68 km into the trip, so the break was welcome.  We finished off some fruit and granola bars and cookies left over from lunch before setting off on the final 20 km section.  We rolled into the provincial park at 15:37.   I had really wanted to take a photo of some cyclists in front of the park sign, but I couldn't catch up to them in time.  Guess I could have waited for a couple to catch up, but by this time I really wanted to get off my bike and set up camp!

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    We grabbed another ice cream break at the camp store, where we sheltered under cover during a brief rain.  Then we set off up a winding gravel road to the overflow area, another couple of kilometers away.   Yay, 89 km over and done.  I think this was my longest ride to date.

    Camping at Thunder Lake Provincial Park

    There were signs of recent heavy rains -- a soggy parking lot and wet grass.   We set up our tents around the perimeter of the area and settled in.  The overflow area was beside a creek draining the lake, with a nice bridge (though the trail on the other side was overgrown) over a waterfall.

    Irene poses by the waterfall.  Photo by Greg

    Irene poses by the waterfall. Photo by Greg

    The lake was beautiful in the evening.  This shot was taken from just behind my tent.

    Thunder Lake that evening.  Photo by Greg.

    Thunder Lake that evening. Photo by Greg.

    I was beat, so after I got set up I took a nap.  Didn't really sleep, just dozed, and woke up when I heard Debbie, the trip organizer, call for supper.

    My tent in the misty morning

    My little orange tent in the misty morning

    Ah, supper.  Ribs barbequed over the open fire, cole slaw, corn-on-the-cob, boiled baby spuds, baked beans, with red wine courtesy of John and Barbara; for dessert, meringues with Greek yogurt and fresh blueberries and raspberries.

    The group at supper, checkered tablecloths and all.

    The group at supper, checkered tablecloths and all.

    After cleanup, the group sat around the campfire with a desultory discussion about immigration; although it was interesting, I think most people were tired enough not to get into it.  Certainly I was beat.  I wanted to go to bed at 21:30 but the group persuaded me to stay up a bit longer.  Nonetheless, at 21:50 I excused myself and hit the tent.  The rest followed shortly.

    Irene, who claimed to be the oldest rider in the group, showing off her tattoo.

    Irene, who claimed to be the oldest rider in the group, showing off her tattoo.

    Day 2:  Return via Barrhead

    We were up around 7:30 for "First breakfast" of coffee, juice, fruit, croissants with jam.   People packed up with great efficiency -- they have obviously done this many times -- and to my surprise I was one of the last to load up.

    Getting packed to leave Sunday morning

    Getting packed to leave Sunday morning

    The day's first leg was a nice stretch into Barrhead, where we stopped at the A&W for "Second breakfast".  Hadn't thought I'd need anything, but croissants don't stay with you, so  I had a pancake, bacon, hashbrowns, coffee.  As always when I've been pedalling, whatever I eat tastes delicious.

    Lunch at Meadowview School on Day 2

    Lunch at Rich Valley Agriplex on Day 2

    Oooh, a long stretch of 32 km along Hwy 333 to Rich Valley, where we enjoyed watermelon and whatever was leftover.  A few cookies, a piece of orange, a Clif bar that I had in my bag.  Filled my water bottle with Biosteel then left it behind.... good thing I had a second full bottle.

    This is a good time to mention bikes.   I was happy that the gearing on my new bike made the hillsf a lot easier, but not happy with the pedals, seat, or bars.  More work needed on fitting.  Most of the bikes people rode were top-end, a lot of Specialized, a couple of Italian bikes, a couple of carbon frames; the members have been riding for 20 or 30 years or more and seem to be continually upgrading equipment.  Interesting and educational for me.

    Another 12 km took us to the junction with Hwy 43, where I took another brief rest with two other cyclists, then one final 12 km push (which wasn't bad) back to Onoway, where I recovered my water bottle and said goodbye to everyone.

    The traditional end-of-ride group shot in front of the van.

    The traditional end-of-ride group shot in front of the van.

    Was it a bit of a challenge?  Yes, because the ride was a bit faster than I'd have done on my own.  Was it fun?  Overall, it was an enjoyable ride.  Was i glad i went, definitely.  Would I go again?   For sure.

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