Friday, September 30, 2011

Maglianero Cafe

I tried another visit to Maglianero, a cafe quasi bike riders' hangout on the ground floor of the Jager Di Paola Kemp advertising building. Just a few yards off the waterfront bike path there are two ways to approach the cafe: one is through an alley and down stairs; I chose the pedaling route, through a well-used partial dirt parking lot - unfortunately just as a truck rumbled past, kicking up dust. It seemed appropriate that Terry Bicycles new headquarters' office space was on the left.

The loading dock-type entrance brings you to this non-descript door. The bicycle ramp is a nice touch...

...though I had to wait for a car to back out to use it. Obviously, there could be some improvement here, or the nearby handicap ramp could be marked for bikes.

Inside, I like the innovative bike rack, using a u-shaped configuration of pipes suspended from the ceiling. Hook the seat over the tubing and it's amazingly stable. No worry about locking your bike or getting scratches from a traditional steel rack. The place provides a stand up pump for public use.

The decor is sparse, as in concrete, brick, and exposed duct work. The feel is cavernous. Not exactly cozy, yet spartan enough to find a quiet corner away from others and peck away on my blog - free WIFI. A large conference table, a lending library, a corner with skateboard ramps, a public shower, outside secure bike parking, all are unusual amenities for a cafe until I realized that this place is geared for meetings and to encourage the use of bicycles as transportation. A calendar hangs on the wall to promote events; next up is a Tweed Ride.

I tried their basic coffee, Black Jersey Blend (Maglianero means"black jersey"). It was a generous sized cup and so yummy that I went back for another. At 50 cents a refill, it was a bargain.

The coffee selection is intriguing, but the pastries could be more extensive. Vegan options abound though the ubiquitous muffins, croissants, and cinnamon rolls were non-existent. The Montreal bagels are yummy, if somewhat unattractive and a bit burned, but they are local, dependable, and cheap. Disappointingly the cafe didn't have any butter. The staff was friendly, especially the chap in wool cycling cap.

I like the premise of the cafe: to support commuters and provide meeting space. A few plants would spiff up the concrete decor. Rock and Roll at 8:30 am is a bit much; a variety of music would appeal to a broader clientele. The space shows promise and, having only opened since May, has plenty of room to grow and should evolve over time. The coffee itself is enough to draw me in for another look.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sharpie Madness

There are advantages to owning a really scruffy bike. You can lock it most anywhere and not worry about it. If it falls over - which this one inevitably does - oh well, just pick it up. I also view this bike as a learning process: experimenting with accessories, riding it in the rain, on dirt trails, hauling groceries, and testing its limits. It also has mismatched tires (one smooth, one knobby) as I try to utilize all the leftover half-used tires in our basement.

My Ross has so many nicks and scratches that I decided to color it with black Sharpie. It's permanent ink so I went at the rust and scrapes.

fork before Sharpie application
While not quite the same luster, the overall effect is wonderful.

fork after the Sharpie madness
I kept going, coloring every nick and spot.

seat tube before paint
Inspired by Lovely Bicycle's post on painting lug work, I bought a Sharpie paint pen and pinstriped the only lugs on the Ross. It was fun to personalize it too.

Oh, so pretty.
 I also added my name on the top tube.

I'm not sure what to do about the stem. The green Sharpie did not adhere to the metal so I'll leave it as is, for now.

Next up: the chain stay.

Kelly green duct tape as chain guard.

It was an interesting project and - I wouldn't attempt this on every bike but - for the Ross it's a perfect way to experiment with paint pens. The coloring spruced up an old well-ridden clunker.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

I Bike for Plants

Last weekend I met a girlfriend for an hour of "plant time" at a local nursery. Patty helped me choose bulbs and a purple aster to add to my fading front garden. She is an eye care professional, but would rather be gardening full-time. As a second job she tends 4 gardens, plus her own extensive rock gardens and communal neighborhood plot. Her dream is to attend a Master Gardening course.

The Ross has turned out to be the perfect load carrying bike. I packed the flowers in the rear basket, supported with the five boxes of bulbs: black tulips, blue tulips, red tulips, allium (recommended by Patty), and daffodils. I said goodbye to my friend and continued to our camp where I harvested two huge basil plants. As you can see, I shifted the flower cargo to the front and bungeed the basil across the back rack.

I wasn't sure if I could manage the entire load 6 miles home without some adjustment, but it proved quite stable.

After viewing my bike from the rear, I can see why everyone on the bike path gave me a wide clearance! I loved the fragrance from the basil. Later, my husband helped me make it all into pesto - yum.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Cork Bar End Plugs

For a time I was baffled why the bar end plugs on the mustache handlebars kept falling out. I lost at least one a month and often two in the same week. The black rubber type would remain longer, but my supply dwindled (I collect these babies from the side of the road). All that remained were the cheap silver type that comes with bar tape. Those are too loose for these bars, even with electrical tape folded into the cavity.

A bit of Yankee ingenuity - cork as bar end plug. Notice the corkscrew hole.
I believe it is inherent with mustache bars to catch themselves on objects. Mine rests against another bike in our garage and if it's jostled I discover the curved bar hugging the stem of my Trek. I lost the last plug on the 3 hour trip back from Montreal. As we unpacked the bike rack, once again I found the handlebar wrapped around another bicycle, my husband's Bridgestone. Maybe the Miyata is just lonely?

I am wondering also if these steel bars, as opposed to the aluminum or alloy bars, tend to flex or vibrate more. I don't feel this happening while I'm riding, and if anything, I find these bars quite comfortable. So I may be plucking ideas from the clouds.

I've pondered the perfect solution to the bar end plug dilemma for a while (lots of thinking time on my commute). I cut a cork in half and shaved a bit from what would become the inserted end. Amazingly it was the correct diameter. I used one of the newer, fake corks so often found in wine bottles in recent years. In the future I'd like to try real cork with cork bar wrap. Problem solved. 

Think of how much fun it will be when it needs replacement. I will push the corkscrew in, turn, and pop - ahh - my favorite vintage!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Woolly Bears, Asters, and Boots

Last weekend was a bit nippy. Definitely autumn is on its way. Huge waves are crashing the already battered shoreline, thanks to hurricane Irene. As I set out for a short ride, the brisk wind reminded me of how wonderfully lucky my husband and I were with weather on our Ottawa bike adventure. This morning I am contemplating wearing gloves.

A woolly bear caterpillar inched across the bike path.

Bumble bees extract nectar from the lovely purple asters, one of my favorite late summer flowers.

I was delighted to wear boots and tights again. It's like going shopping in your own closet!

I hauled out my stylish hounds tooth coat for warmth and those funny white glasses for eye protection.

Welcome, Fall!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Montreal to Ottawa - Part 4

L'Orignal to Pointe Calumet - 50 miles

Sunday morning Jacques had left us Google directions for where we wanted to pick up the Hudson/Oka ferry, but still remain on the quieter side of the Ottawa River. Along with the printed directions was a tenting fee of 30.00 - which is a fair price - though we recall Jacques saying our stay was free. Had I known, I would've taken advantage of a shower instead of a towel bath. In the future we should clarify any hospitality. As it was, we were very happy tenting, the price was less than the municipal campground, and Jacques' companionship made up for any miscommunication. I imagine we might have been the first campers.

La Tourelle d'Argent Bed & Breakfast

La Tourelle d'Argent Bed & Breakfast

On the left is Jacques & Chantal's lovely home.
For the first 30K (or "clicks" as the Canadians like to call kilometers) the directions were easy to follow. It was a very cool morning and we happily cruised, slowly at first to warm up our muscles, constantly heading eastward. My lips were chapped and both my husband and I had sunburns from 6-8 hours of daily exposure - we clearly underestimated the sun's intensity. We shook our heads at the incredible luck with weather. 

En route to recommended Goodies restaurant, we passed Jacques and his cycling group heading in the opposite direction. It was fun to raise hands and yell out "hello" and "bonjour". Jacques rides on Wednesdays and Sundays with area cycling enthusiasts.

As the route headed inland the Google directions became sketchy. We relied on our instinct and turned into Voyageur Provincial Park, reviewed directions with the booth attendant, and made our way in and out without a wrong turn. We turned onto a dirt path which headed towards a large dam that crosses the Ottawa River. We pushed our loads through a rough patch but otherwise quickly regained the pavement. Thereafter we relied more on other maps and a general sense of town names and the eventual ferry crossing.

East of busy Rigaud a little park decorated with bikes stands at one end of a gravel rail trail. 

The bumps in the road every 15 feet jolted me and I complained, lifting myself from the seat with each "thump". When you travel for miles each day, good asphalt becomes of increasing importance. I have narrower tires on the Miyata than my hubby does on his Bridgestone, so I presume his riding was smoother. Fortunately, after 5 miles, we spied our turn off for Choisy and Hudson.

We cruised along side the river again, on narrow but blissfully quiet roads. Groups of bicyclers passed. Huge trees hugged the roads while iron fences enclosed long well-kept driveways. Entering Hudson Heights was a pleasure, with quaint touristy ice cream shops, restaurants, brick homes, and lots of shade. After a few more "clicks" we stood behind a long line of autos waiting at the terminal.

I cruised to the attendant and discovered that bikes board first so we pulled forward and watched the ducks scamper away from the incoming ferry boat.

Some bike love aboard the crossing with Oka's church slowly appearing on the horizon.

An easy six miles brought us back to our car. 

Tanned feet from my cycling sandals.

Things we learned:
  • Weather is an important factor
  • Have an alternative - our plan was to drive to Ottawa and spend time there, with bikes in tow of course.
  • Bring sunscreen, even in September
  • My Miyata worked out well on this flatter route
  • The Miyata was a fast compromise to keep up with my husband, the Trek would've made me too slow
  • My rear panniers were ungainly stuffed, I want to devise better load capacity for the front rack
  • We now have a wonderful collection of Ontario maps, even a bike map that shows a rail trail going eastward from Ottawa - have to check that out at a later time.
  • Ottawa is an impressive, clean city - I have to return!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Montreal to Ottawa - Part 3

Ottawa to L'Orignal - 62 miles

We were tired Friday afternoon, especially after checking into the Ottawa Jail Hostel and lugging our heavy bikes up and down stairs and through a warren of rooms to a secure courtyard. That particular storage area is a beer garden at night, so the husband and I fretted a bit, wondering whether our panniers and tent would be pilfered (had this trouble in the past), but we just decided to let it go. Neither of us wanted to unhook and lug the extra baggage to the 3rd floor, only to stow it in a bunk room with 8 beds - there was miscommunication with our private room reservation. It was a similar situation, leaving the car in a parking lot for four days. Some things are just not worth the worry.

After a rejuvenating shower we set off on a walk. I immediately noticed the BIXI public bikes, same type as Montreal.

Black squirrels are a common sight and I finally photographed one, nosing around the Parliament building.

From the hill the view is breathtaking. Public parks line both sides of the river.

Looking back on the Victoria Bridge.

The ornate library connected to the Parliament.

I'm constantly amazed at what one can discover by bike, but this miniature housing arrangement we would only come across on foot. It's a shelter for cats, started 20 years ago by one person, and taken over recently by another to continue the love for the homeless felines. All cats are spayed or neutered, and fed daily. Notice the occupant at the food dish on the right - it's an opportunistic black squirrel.

A short amble along the canal... There is a 10K bike path on each side. But we were exhausted, even for walking. Though Ottawa was our turnaround destination for the trip, we plan to come back with our family as there are multiple paths and museums worth a whole vacation - only a 3 hour drive from home. I'm also intrigued by nearby Gatineau Park.

Our bicycles outside the Ottawa Jail Hostel. The jail was in use until 1972.

Saturday morning, after a good night's sleep and breakfast in the hostel's kitchen, we set off in the chilly air. We wore sweaters and tights. The plan was to follow Brian Hedney's cycling route on the other side of the river back towards Montreal, on the promise that it would be quieter.

I loved this metal spider sculpture, approximately 3 stories high.

Following a bike lane on a parkway past lots of embassies, we eventually pedal on a separate path graciously hugging the river. The surface was sometimes smooth gravel. The locals walked dogs or jogged the pleasant trails. 1-, 2-, 4-,6- and 8-person sculls skimmed the glassy surface, reminding me of gigantic water striders. Someday I'd like to try out this type of boat as the movement looks graceful and methodical. The river and sky were constant companions for 30K of trail. What a world of difference from the two previous days' rides! 

When the route headed inland, it followed a busier highway, unfortunately with rolling hills too, but after 10K we headed back toward the river again, passing in and out of small towns. We purchased juice at a grocery store and brought our bikes to where the back parking lot emptied onto this welcoming grassy bank. A perfect place for a picnic.

By days end we entered L'Orignal to tent at the municipal campground. But providence shined again in the form of a biker who invited us to use his lawn or stay at his bed & breakfast. It reminded me of our  tree house adventure in Bromont on last year's Canadian trip.

The narrow property extends all the way to the river.
Jacques Riopel invited us for a beer on his terrace. Thankfully, he confirmed our inquiry regarding pedaling East of Hawksbury - current directions had us crossing a bridge thus repeating 30 miles of Route Verte 1. A chill and heavy dew promised a cold night so Jacques and I biked to a store - I borrowed his wife's Electra Townie for the hurried trip. With its upright style and hands way above my shoulders, it was an odd change from my Miyata. A convenient picnic table stood at the river's edge. Hot soup, cheese curds, and pie (we do like our pie!) rounded out the evening..

Looking uphill from the table. Jacques' home in the background.
Tired and cool, I hunkered in the tent and perused the new maps from Jacques while my husband went for a walk. A creek bordered Jacques' land, spilling into the Ottawa river, providing a soothing backdrop aided by a chorus of chirping crickets - for the first time I didn't wear earplugs. L'Orignal is, thankfully, a sleepy town, even on a Saturday night.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Montreal to Ottawa - Part 2

Montebello to Ottawa - 50 miles

My husband woke up with sore knees, a persistent reminder that riding his 30 miles two days a week wasn't enough preparation for this adventure. We started slowly, spinning in high cadence (I run the Miss Gulch pedaling tune from the Wizard of Oz in my head for the right pacing). We visited  Chateau Montebello and wandered around inside the massive stone and wood structure. I had heard much about Montebello from the people I work with and it's grandeur did not disappoint. Check out this bicycle entrance, curving around the log formation that welcomes vehicular traffic.

At 8:30 a.m. the lodge was quiet. A handful of people wandered into the breakfast buffet and a small party filled a conference room. The main room with massive multi-sided fireplace towered three stories high. I love the 1930s clunky wood furniture, lamp stands made of tree trunks, and wrought iron fixtures and chandeliers. This place reminded me of Timberline Lodge in Oregon, but on a spectacular scale. Both buildings were created during the depression, employing loggers, builders, and artisans.

Outside again, we walked to the harbor of boats, and noted the 3K of trails, stables, curling center, and pool facility.  There were bikes for rent complete with this kiddie dirt park. We giggled over the checkered flags at the start and finish line.

Back on route 138 we were blessed with a minor tailwind as the day wore on. Sometimes Route Verte 1 veered into a town and right back out again. Many homes were for sale - I imagine the recession had hit this area pretty hard.

This sculpture attracted our attention, boasting 75 degrees west and 45 north. The earth clock was surprisingly accurate, accounting for daylight savings time.

My husband's colorful bicycle has enormous front panniers. He loves to haul stuff. I purposely go light while he is a pack mule. Note how he carries his sandals, one on top of each bag.

A delightful park on the river banks and a good place for a snack. We tuck our bathing towels under the bungees to dry out.

We'd been looking forward to Plaisance Park, a route that would've taken us away from the highway for 10 miles, but the bike lane access was cordoned off. Disheartened, we entered the roadway lane to cross the bridge and were midway when a truck came towards us, which would've been fine except - with the narrow shoulders and guardrail - I spied another huge truck in my mirror. Pulling up the rear I yelled "truck back!" because my husband doesn't have a mirror and, I presumed, couldn't hear the second 18-wheeler over all the noise. Fortunately he immediately stopped, but I was so close to him that I didn't have time to reposition my hands and grab the brake levers before I slammed into his rear pannier. At the same moment the trucks passed each other, a raucous noise drowned out sound, the bridge shook, wind engulfed us and my husband miraculously maintained his balance while we both had the presence to lean into the guardrail. Phew! I prayed to the bike gods for our near miss and was shaken and unusually quiet for a while.

Sadly, we never regained the route through the park. With my husband's health in question (he had a rough time all day, fretting about his knee pain and popping ibuprofen) we eventually enter parkland and the lovely well-used bike paths between busy Gatineau and Ottawa. To arrive on the Victoria Bridge is an awe-inspiring gateway to downtown Ottawa. We crest the bridge on a two-way bike lane next to a pedestrian walkway, all safely sectioned from the main flow of auto traffic.

Just to the right of the left most building is the waterfall that tumbles down the stairways of the canal lock. The castle-like Parliament edifice engulfs the skyline. Even if you tried, you couldn't take a bad photo with this view.

Many hugs and kisses to my smiling, very-happy-to-have-made-it husband.