Saturday, 31 August 2013

And so it ends...

Well, it's official, another summer holiday is coming to a close, and I've got mixed feelings about it. I'm excited for the return to routine, and for my daughter to be reunited with her school mates. I am also excited for fall; crisp evenings, cozy sweaters and the changing scenery as the leaves turn from green to red, orange and yellow. The fall is also full of things that bring people together. From thanksgiving, reuniting with the parents I commiserate with on the school ground and various dinner parties. And then, of course, we are just under four months away from the Christmas break! What's not to get excited about?

On the flip side, the end of summer also means the end of warm sunny days at the beach, and just a general relaxed feeling to the days. I have already seen an increase in the workload through the month of August, but September marks my bi-annual travel for sales markets, the return of my PAC responsibilities, and the inevitable return of the myriad of extra-curricular activities for my children. I must admit I have truly enjoyed this summer and its relaxed nature, and am apprehensive about saying farewell.

So it seems only fitting that to close out the summer I do everything I have come to enjoy these past two months. From lots of time with friends, to "date night" with my husband at the Whitecaps and of course plenty of family time, I have to say my labour day weekend was pretty perfect. Be it the fact that this summer held less change for my family and I as we have settled into new roles (blogger, sales rep, student, social media guru), or the excitement of our travels back East, there was something that made this summer one of the best I've had in sometime. So as I write from a hotel room in Edmonton, fully immersed in the insanity that is the fashion buying season, I am nostalgic for the summer that was.

But, as with all things, summer must come to an end, and I do look forward to fall and winter. I look forward to crunching leaves under my tires, and new beginnings, with my son ever closer to riding  a bike on his own, my husband busy with more inspiring films, another exciting school year for my daughter, and for any challenges and changes that come my way. I also remind myself that I am just three months away from the next break, and lots of fantastic adventures with the family. I may be sad to say goodbye to summer, but to fall I say, "bring it on"!

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

I am not "every cyclist"

Once upon a time, I was on my bike, picking up my son from daycare. While travelling along a dedicated bike route, I came to a traffic circle, slowing down to be sure to check for cross-traffic. All of a sudden, a motorist approaching the circle decided it would take too much time to drive around the traffic circle as is mandated by law, so they turn left by cutting me off. I was frustrated with this motorists lack of respect for the law, but thankful that I am a cautious cyclist and didn't just rush through the intersection. Moral of the story: some drivers behave badly.

This account actually happened to me just yesterday, but this is the first anyone will hear about it. It's likely no one ever would had I not been inspired to write this post. The fact is that every day I'm out in the city, whether on foot, bike or the occasional car, drivers all around me behave badly. From speeding, running stop signs, talking on cell phones or any other myriad of offences, I would surely have dozens of stories to share each day.

There are cyclists who behave badly, too. I know, I encounter them on my travels as well, and could go on about their offences near as much as I could about motorists. But for the most part, I don't. Thankfully, though, since I am an avid bicyclist, I have become the go-to for every motorist complaint about people on bikes. Yes, that statement was dripping with sarcasm, but it has become the norm for me, sadly. Whenever anyone finds out that I ride a lot, I must endure tales of cyclists "taking the lane on a two lane road", rolling through stop signs and red lights, riding erratically on busy streets, or any other number of complaints.

Well, enough is enough. I am not responsible for the poor behaviour of my two-wheeled counterparts, in as much as my mother, for example, is not responsible for every bad thing a driver has ever done simply because she gets behind the wheel of a car to get around. In fact, I'm pretty sure if I sat down with my mother and moaned incessantly about the silly things drivers do, asking her why "THEY" do things like that, she would be hurt that I had lumped her in a category of people she doesn't deserve to be in. When I get on a bike and set off to my destination, I do not assume the role of "every cyclist", nor do I deserve to be lumped into a broad and general group of people.

Lately, I have come to sit quietly and patiently for my motoring storytellers to finish their tales of encounters with cyclists. Why? Because my mother, that same woman who shouldn't have to hear my complaints about motorists, taught me if you can say anything nice, don't say anything at all. While some of the accounts I have heard do warrant frustration, many motorist complaints about people on bikes are based more on the fact that they have slowed them down rather than broken any laws. 

I was recently recounted a tale of a driver on a country road getting stuck behind a group of training cyclists. When that driver was finally able to pass the group, they honked angrily at the group, and various members of the peloton gave them the finger and yelled at the driver. This driver was astounded that the cyclists could be so rude, and questioned me as to why cyclists get so angry. At the time, I just shrugged, smiled, and went about my day. What I wanted to say was, "I'm sorry, but you're reaction was wrong. Those cyclists, while perhaps not dealing with the situation in the best way, were likely startled by your horn, and concerned about the car racing past them in an angry and dangerous manner." This is how I feel many of the times people regale tales of cyclist encounters, because many times, cyclists were doing nothing more than exercising their right to be on the road.

In general, people, regardless of their means of transportation, can behave badly. What's important is to remember that just because someone shares that means of transport, in my case, a bicycle, does not mean that they should be held accountable for the actions of everyone else who travels the same way. It really is just a means of respecting our peers. Maybe by keeping this in mind, we can start to work past this endless "battle" between cars and bikes. We're all just trying to get from point A to B in a safe and respectful manner.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Not too old to have a bit of fun!

All grown up and ready for the big rides!

Friday was my little girl's seventh birthday, and as a treat, we decided to go as a family to the PNE for opening day to celebrate. We try to visit the The Fair at the PNE every year, but in the past, we've been limited to the kiddie rides because our children weren't tall enough. This year, though, with Coralie being taller than the 48" necessary to go on nearly every ride, and Etienne not far behind at about 45", we were treated to an extra special day filled with the rides my husband and I enjoyed as teenagers. As excited as I was, I will admit I was worried that now that I'm a bit older and it's been a good eight to nine years since being on a roller coaster. Would the motion sickness I experience in cars and on buses carry through to speeding roller coasters, or my aversion to swinging affect my enjoyment of sudden dropping and swaying? Time would only tell.

Not too far behind his big sis
Yay for unlimited rides!
First up...log flume!

We arrived at the park just after the gates opened, taking advantage of a highly underused bicycle valet service. Then, at the kids request, it was straight to the log flume. Last summer, we took the kids on the smaller, kids coaster, only to find out they did not enjoy it at all and wouldn't go near any other rides like it the rest of the day. So the two drops of the flume would be a great indicator of how the rest of the day would unfold. I'm happy to say, that despite our youngest being a little unhappy with the larger of the two drops, both kids said they had fun and were ready for more. 

Ready to soar on the swings
Shortly after came the next test - Coralie's first ride on a big ride, the large Wooden Coaster, which she would ride with yours truly while dad took our son to enjoy some of the smaller rides. She waited with nervous excited, unaware that her mother was equally as nervous. I loved roller coasters growing up, living just a little over an hour from Canada's Wonderland in the Toronto area. I really hoped that love had not dissipated. As we hopped into the train, I was excited for my daughter and I, being sure to sit in the middle, nice and safe, and then off we went, click, click, click up the hill to our first drop. As we started our decent, it all came back to me. The rush of excitement, laughter and the occasional scream. Sadly, my daughter was not as excited, getting no enjoyment out of her stomach dropping with every hill. We would later find out that having a chest restraint and corkscrews were absolutely ok for her, so not all hope is lost.
The before shot...on our way up the Wooden Coaster
 After a long day of fun and excitement, we left the Fair exhausted but completely happy with a day well spent. My husband and I got to relive the excitement of the rides we enjoyed from our youth, and we got to share in the fresh exhilaration that our children felt going on a few of our old favourites. I learned that age has not effected the thrill of roller coasters for me, although rides with lots of spinning must be taken in doses now. All in all, it was a fantastic way to celebrate a birthday, and I think we may started a lovely family tradition - as we left, my daughter declared, "Best! Birthday! Ever!"
One happy family!

Thursday, 8 August 2013

The Tactile Beauty of Car-Free Travel

Running my hands through the
grasses in Olympic Village
While away visiting family in Ontario and Quebec, the Velo Family spent a lot of our travels in cars. Not by choice, but out of necessity, with our destinations being so far off the beaten track. On our trip back from my in-laws trailer, while driving along country roads, we passed some wheat fields. Out of sheer instinct, I went to reach my hand out and run it through the golden stalks when my hand hit the glass of the window. Aside from being mildly embarrassed by my forgetfulness as to my mode of transport, it dawned on me that I get so much pleasure from the tactile nature of walking and riding a bike. I also realized that so many people who spend most of their time behind the wheel of a car miss out on this sensational experience.

I've mentioned many time before about how intimate the experience or walking or riding a bike is. You are completely free to see, hear and smell the world around you without any obstructions or filters. The sense of touch is no different. Every ride I take I am drawn to reach my hands up to touch the low hanging leaves of the trees I pass, or stick out my leg to run it through the tall grasses. I can't help but feel one with my surroundings, and I find it surprisingly calming to have the ability to interact with nature in such a tactile way.

Walking is no different, although you are slightly less likely to miss the prickly chestnut burr growing on the tree when you aren't spinning past on a bike (yes, I did do this just last weekend). Last Monday, the Velo Family, along with my visiting sister and boyfriend, successfully completed the Grouse Grind. While the trek was gruelling, nature's stair-master provided many trees and rocks I could touch as I made my way up. I feel a bit silly saying this, but being able to touch the trunk of a tree as I hike through the forest is almost my way to say thank you for allowing me to experience the beauty of it all. I know my husband has caught me on many occasions just absentmindedly grazing a tree, a smooth rock, or any other parts of the natural world when we've been out, and has been known to comment on it with a chuckle from time to time.

My ability to both transport myself on foot or by bike while intimately experiencing the world around me is a privilege I will no longer take for granted. The sheer beauty and joy of feeling the wind in your hair, touching the rustling leaves and grass, and being exposed to all the elements is too often minimized as our society rushes through life. But now, having spent many hours inside cars and buses during our travels, I know what I'm missing out on and will relish each tactile experience with Mother Nature I get!