Author Topic: +++Rides of 2024+++Add yours here+++  (Read 315 times)

John Saxby

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+++Rides of 2024+++Add yours here+++
« on: March 22, 2024, 01:54:02 am »
By way of introduction:  Years ago, I worked with an Acadian colleague, a very capable guy who was good at his job and told good stories to boot.  He would lighten a staid and stuffy meeting by saying, “Laissez-moi parler un peu avant de prendre la parôle” – “Let me talk a little before I speak.”  As a compliment, I’ll borrow his approach:  This contribution to “Rides of 2024” is less about my brief-but-enjoyable rides in early March than it is about our winter weather – imagine that! how Canajan, eh?

That “winter weather” is really “soi-disant/so-called winter weather”:  I’m writing just after the spring equinox, and there is no snow on the ground, nor has there been any for three weeks or more.  The mildest winter on record has also been very dry: Ottawa’s average annual winter snowfall is 220 cms, and In ‘22/’23, we had well over that, some 330 cms.  This winter, only about 100 cms, and much of that fell in December.  During February, we had days when the high temps were 16 or 17ºC – as much as 6 or 8 degrees higher than the record for the day.  Mixed in with that were wild swings of temperature: in one instance, from 16º in mid-afternoon, to -14 the following morning, a drop of 30º in just over 12 hours.  “Jaysus, Mary an’ Joseph,” sez I to myself and the cats. “I’ve never felt anything even close to that.”

Conversations with fellow customers in grocery stores have taken on a wide-eyed and slightly apocalyptic tone: “Ah, jeez, we’re really done it now.”  I’ve found myself repeating CLR James’ phrase: “We’re seeing ‘the future in the present’.”  In late Feb., I saw and heard a honking great Vee of Canada geese overhead, a good four weeks early.  Even the maple trees are confused.  People who run a sugar bush say that their sap was finished by St. Patrick’s Day, where “normally”, they would begin on March 17.  In the fields and in the woods, the soil is now dangerously dry.

But hey! ‘Tis an ill wind that blows no good…

In late Feb, with “winter” in full retreat, I got my city bike out of my basement workshop and onto the road for errands like shopping for groceries.  (There are people who ride through Ottawa’s (“normal”) winters, but I’m not one of them.  The combination of careless/inconsiderate motorists, roads narrowed by snowbanks, and reduced visibility is too much for my taste.)  By the first week of March, we were all rendered a bit dopey by double-digit temps, sunshine, and snowless road and bike paths.  So—why not??--I hoisted Freddie up the basement stairs, and he emerged blinking into the bright March sunshine.

Over the first week of March I did three rides, each about 45- 50 minutes long, each covering some 14 – 16 kms.  All were on bike paths and roads within the west-central part of Ottawa where I live, and on one ride I also crossed the Ottawa River into Québec.  I hadn’t been on my Mercury since late October ’23 – I used my city bike until late November – so it was a delight to again ride a responsive bike on which everything works so well.

The star of the week was, of course, the soft air and the brilliant early-March sunshine.  (Yes, that sentence isn’t full of fairy tales:  I have felt brilliant early-March sunshine before, but only in places like Central-Southern Africa and ‘Straya, not in the coldest capital city in the world.) (As was, at least.)  The photo below shows Freddie all a-twinkle, propped against a pathside bench.

The bike paths were largely free of cyclists, except for a few haring along with daft giddy looks.  One of my routes took me along the bike path through the Experimental Farm, with a hilly section climbing and descending through woods near a one-time urban ski hill.  There were dog-walkers a-plenty in that section, and they smiled and waved.

Of course some things didn’t change, no matter the transformation of the weather:  I rode across the westernmost road bridge into Gatineau (QC), so that I could then follow the bikepath east (downstream) along the north bank of the Ottawa and recross the river via the pedestrian/cycling Commanda Bridge, a repurposed rail bridge opened to great fanfare and intensive use last summer.  NOT.  I reached the right-hander onto the bridge, and saw to my irritation but no surprise at all, a big orange-and-black “Route Barrée” sign, with no explanation or signal on when (or even whether) that might be replaced by a “Pont Ouvert”.

Other things hadn’t changed much, either.  When I saw & heard the magical sound of the big Vee of Canada geese, I wondered, “Are they this early?? Or did they never leave?”  Whatever it was, there were dozens of geese on and near the bike path on the Québec side, munching on the dry grass, poking around for bugs, gossiping and squawking all the time, and — as they do — poo-pooing human notions of hegemony over the bike paths.

These were stress-free outings, entirely in keeping with rides done in the middle of weekdays well before “normal bike traffic” resumes.  There’ll be other, more demanding rides before long, I hope.  As a rule, snow persists until late April on the roads in the Gatineau Park.  This year, that’s unlikely to be the case:  cross-country skiers have been lamenting the radically diminished snow cover in the hills.  The bizarre-but-welcome warm and sunny weather of early March has been displaced by a few days of “Saskatchewan weather” this week, sunny and cold with a fierce northwesterly, but there’s no significant snow in the forecast.  With any luck, we’ll be across the river and into the trees again before long.

Andre Jute

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Re: +++Rides of 2024+++Add yours here+++
« Reply #1 on: March 22, 2024, 12:50:43 pm »
I feel so sorry for you, John, misplacing the winter and all that. You can have some of our late, lingering winter. Currently sunny and apparently 11 degrees C but with a RealFeel<R>* of 7C, by 10pm sinking to 7C with a RealFeel of -1C. Yesterday I went out to check the level of the central heating oil and still in the living room patio, fully enclosed by a stone wall eight feet high, I made a mental note to wear a goretex jacket over my sweater the next time I did it -- it was nowhere near the supposed 12C, probably below even the 5C RealFeel. I know what 12C feels like on a cycle-able day: it is a pretty common spring and autumn day in the South of Ireland, a place where 16C is a heatwave. The chill was likely accounted for by the stiff wind all the way from the Urals that whipped the branches of a big old eucalyptus violently.

Really enjoyed your description of even short rides, not to mention the obstructions of bureaucrats. Also, I have a fond memory of your photo of that impressive bridge; shame to close it just when it about to come into use again.

*No idea specifically what RealFeel is. It is a registered business usage of someone, though neither claimed nor credited by Accuweather on whose climate alarm page it is used. I'm happier with the concept of a wind-chill factor, for which I suspect it is a relativistic pseudonym registered by someone trying to make a buck out of the commons of everyone's language.

John Saxby

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Re: +++Rides of 2024+++Add yours here+++
« Reply #2 on: March 22, 2024, 01:32:37 pm »
Thanks for your kind words as always, Andre.

The weather, eh? We've had a dose of Yer Typical March weather this week -- last night, it was -15 with a windchill of about -20.  No cycling for this softie in such conditions!

And on the bureaucrats & the Bridge:  This morning's paper had an article saying that the Bridge would soon be reopened.  Sez I, "Surely some dude in one of those grey offices where men's souls drain away didn't read my post in the Thorn Forum, and react with shame and a burst of thoughtfulness?"  The article also included an extended quote from a rep of Bike Ottawa, saying, in effect, "Why was it closed last fall in the first place?"

I expect this triangular tension among cyclists/cycling, city bureaucrats, and The Weather will persist ... wisht I could say it will be a creative tension, but it won't so I won't.

Cheers,  mate.

« Last Edit: March 23, 2024, 11:12:03 pm by John Saxby »