Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A little more BC riding.

Making bagels seemed to go pretty well last week for the most part - I was able to get through the last of my three shifts with no little (or large) stuff ups, leave sixty-six dozen bagels in the fridge & finish earlier than I had been the previous week. A more-interesting-than-other-jobs opportunity came up at the temping agency - two or three months working at the cement plant fifteen minutes down the road. It pays a little more & I jumped at the opportunity to get back in to industry a bit & maybe get the brain ticking over a bit. It does mean that with my commitment to the Bagel Co (& a certain fondness for doing a little bit of baking a week), that I will be doing two (maybe three) doubles a week - sadly the first one will be on my birthday (that'll be one to remember). Summer break is due to finish shortly, so the number of bagels required during the week should drop off & make life a little easier.

It seemed that a lot of the smoke from the BC wildfires had decided to visit Canmore on Friday morning & then sit in the valley for the rest of the day - it was pretty hard to see more than a few hundred metres across town (Calgary & Edmonton were worse apparently). Sitting around thinking about the possibilities of the next few days' riding, I got another great job offer from PPP. This one was quite different - basically the owner of PPP (who works in Calgary) was going through town to Salmon Arm for a family reunion over the weekend. Having just returned from vacation, she had heaps of work to do & wanted someone to drive while she sat in the back & worked. So I played chauffeur for the weekend - & in return I got the weekend in BC, paid for six hours' driving each way, put up in a comfortable hotel, the car for the weekend & more than enough spending money to cover the rest of my meals & a lift ticket at Silver Star (more of that later). So I jumped at the opportunity, with the one condition being that I could take my bike, for a weekend on new trails. So after a rush-pack, Nancy turned up at 4.30 on Friday afternoon. I had been dreading having to drive some huge SUV or pick-up for 400 km, but I was pleased to have a nice little turbo Audi (& a stick shift too) to drive around for the weekend (it went like stink). The Friday evening drive through all the construction was a bit of a drag, we eventually got to the family reunion at about 9.30 (gained an hour going in to Pacific Standard Time), I dropped Nancy off (after having been fed well by the rest of the family) & had the rest of the weekend to myself.

When I was riding with Quintin two weeks ago he was raving about the downhill trails (lift-assisted) at Silver Star & also mentioned how there was a good range of trails for different riding styles. So on Saturday, when the smoke didn't look too bad I loaded up the car & made the seventy-five minute drive south to Vernon & up to Silver Star. Here I sort of joined the downhill set; sure, I didn't have a full-face helmet, body armour, flat pedals & 8"+ travel on my bike - but I didn't have to ride up hill for more than five seconds at a time so it was more 'Downhill' than I'd ever been. The day started pretty mild, but fine & I started to hit the blue trails. Super Star was my most ridden - it really did make one feel like a better rider. In parts it flowed really nicely & for once I was actually clearing & landing (modest) table-tops. Another trail, LTG, had lots of wooden features on it - about half of which I could ride. The snaky wall-ride at the start & this series of planks & teeter-totters were most enjoyable.
After ten runs on various trails my hands were pretty sore (by the end of the day I was having to uncurl my fingers by pulling them back with my other hand or the handlebars - I perhaps over inflated my (measly 2.1") tyre in the hope of avoiding more pinch flats. Strangely, I was quite exhausted by 4 pm & as it was getting quite cold at the top of the chair lift I called it a day & headed back to Salmon Arm.
It was a lazy start to Sunday with a nice lie in & then lounging on the couch reading a Rebus novel (Resurrection Men - pretty good so far, not sure how I've missed this one in the past) before checking out. The grey & wet weather didn't exactly have me bounding out the door, but I was determined to check out some local trails before I had to pick Nancy up at five. Five minutes down the road were the South Canoe trails - I managed to start chatting to a couple of local roadies that had ditched the skinny tyres for the day & were heading up the hill on their Giant Reigns.

Once I finally organised myself, we all headed up the fire-road - they were planning on heading up to some lodge & then doing a big loop back to town. It eventuated that they joined me for a bit more singletrack than they were planning on - I was more than happy to have local guides & people to talk to. The forest was really reminding me of riding in Rotorua - damp dirt-based singletrack, through beautiful green undergrowth & big tall plantation forest, & it flowed well too. I was really enjoying it & trying to show the roadies up (not too difficult). After we had been riding up for about an hour (with a brief singletrack interlude), I realised that we were now above the trail network & if I went any further with my new riding buddies, I'd be on fire-road for ages - so I hit the first trail down (Lee's it turned out - this one was quite new). The few features were super slippery from the overnight rain & that made the otherwise easy wood rather tricky to negotiate without losing one's front wheel.
Coming back on to the road we had just ridden up, next it was on to the appropriately named This started out really mild & it got me out of the rain that had started to set in - it came out on to a nice clearing for a while that on a fine day would have given a fantastic view. The trail then changed in to a nice flowy section then suddenly there was a big switchback & the trail plunged steeply down for quite some time. I was pleased to get down there mostly in control & without bailing. All of a sudden the trail was back to being tame again. I was spat back on the road near the transmission tower that we had passed earlier, so in the rain I headed back up for ten minutes to reach Lumpy. This was also a very damp trail that had some nice steep, but easily rideable, sections piled in with some fun little features (also some I wasn't going to touch). Although quite gloomy in the trees, it was still beautiful & nice to riding some smooth & sublime trails. Getting a little cold in my shirt & rainjacket I'd had enough climbing for the day, so continued down on to the lower trails (much tamer & wider) to the car. Of course, when I got back to the car it cleared up & nice warm sunlight beat down to dry me out a little. I wasn't too disappointed - I had some great BC riding & was off to a local brew pub (they're everywhere in North America it would seem) for a late & very large lunch.

We got back to Canmore at a reasonable hour (10.30) & I was determined to get to bed & get some sleep before what will be a sixty-hour, five-day week. Of course, as always when you need to sleep, I couldn't. I think this was mostly trying to work out whether Megan & Alex's sudden trip to Calgary was anything to be concerned about - hopefully it's just precautionary & the little one arrives safely soon. Plus, with the spare car gone & a little confusion getting keys for the other Outback I had to find a new way to the cement factory for my new job in the morning. Steve came through for me & leant me his very new & very large Dodge Ram pick-up - I managed not to knock anyone over & was stoked to find the Steering Wheel Heater - fantastic little device that is on chilly mornings. Despite my tired state, I enjoyed getting back in to an industrial environment & seeing things that are quite familiar to me. They have two kilns there (4 & 5), I thought 4 looked about the same size as one of the ones at NZS - then I realised that the other half of it was behind the building in the middle. It's one long kiln! 5 is more the size I'm used to.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


After only two night shifts making bagels last week, on Thursday Alex & I were back riding up to Jewell Pass & then down the other side to climb up Barrier. This time we were riding with James & visiting Australian friends of Megan & Alex - Rich & Kylie. They had just been riding at Whistler for a couple of weeks & had hired XC bikes from the Nordic Center for this ride as their DH bikes weren't really suitable for all the pedalling. Being mid-week there were very few people on the trail - I don't think we saw any until we were more than half-way around. Even with Alex flatting (for once it wasn't me) shortly after the Jewell Pass descent we were making reasonable time. The middle-ring grind up Prairie View was a bit more difficult this time as we had also climbed up Jewell Pass, but I made it well in front of the rest of the group. Stopping briefly to refuel & look at the view (it's never been quite as good as the first clear day that we went up there), we headed up the last push/hike-a-bike to the lookout & then hit the nice rooty downhill section. With lots of stops we made it around in three hours & forty minutes - a good twenty minutes faster than the first & only other time Alex & I have down the same loop.

I'm settling in to my baking role now. While I haven't had any absolute disasters, I'm yet to have a perfect shift - so there is still room for improvement. Because I only had two shifts baking last week, there were a few nights to try something else new - temping serving banquets. One was two nights at the rather cheesy dinner show - 'Oh, Canada eh?' and the other a large banquet at the Radisson. On Saturday morning the TransRockies rolled in to town to finish a week & 600 km-long event. It's quite the multi-day epic event & from some of the trails that I was familiar with it must have been a hard, but rewarding week - the mud may have had something to do with that. Alex, Megan & I watched some of the riders finish at the line, then wandered up the street a bit to sip a chocolate chai on the Bagel Co patio. Alex & I managed to fit in a G8 loop - I was feeling decidedly slow & worn out from all the recent activity. The gig at the Radisson that night turned out to be the ceremony & prize-giving banquet for the TransRockies - it was pretty neat to be in the same rooom as 500-odd mountainbikers & supporters. One of my tables had the only two Kiwis in the event & their wives (to do the whole event you have to ride in pairs - that is my understanding anyway), so it kind of fun to hear some strong South Island Kiwi accents.

It was just Alex & I riding on Sunday, so we decided to do a loop in K-Country (as that doesn't require a big car shuttle or a long ride on gravel roads). We headed to the Elbow River parking lot to do the Little Elbow - Big Elbow loop. I see now that this is where the TransRockies stayed on the second to last night. We had a 45 km loop planned, mostly fire road - the two guide books we had recommended riding it in opposite directions. We opted for anti-clockwise as that made the climbs more gentle, the descent steeper & the singletrack down (mostly). The start of the route was a little ambiguous in my mind, so we crossed the river on the bridge & then after a little confusion headed upstream on a muddy & boggy in patches (damn horses) path. We then had to ford the (cold, but not too chilly) river & then found ourselves on a fire road with a lot more traffic on it. It was a gorgeous morning & it seemed a fair chunk of Calgary was out here - there was a wide range of bikes & riding levels on display. The riding was pretty easy up the hill, so there was ample opportunity to look at the views.
I was glad for the little detour we took at the start, as it was a lot more interesting than the twenty kilometres of fireroad. Eventually, we passed everyone there was to pass on the trail & reached the top of Elbow Pass, looking out towards Mt Tombstone (which doesn't look like one - but there may be one up there or maybe a change of perspective brings the tombstone-ness in to view).
Sick of the mosquitoes, we hit the really steep downhill on the fire road - the road condition deteriorated here & it was a lot of funny blasting down dodging the rocks. Making a left turn we got close to the Big Elbow River & finally hit some singletrack - which was a lot of fun. Mostly it was fast, but every so often there would be a big dip or a sudden appearance of rocks & loose gravel. Also, the vistas were starting to get nice & scenic.
That last one is Mt Forgetmenot, & by this stage the trail had flattened out & we were blasting down in the big ring. In a different twist to a familiar story - I flatted near the end. However, it was my front wheel this time & that is unusual; I wasn't going particularly fast & then all of a sudden had no steering & rode through a big puddle & got splashed well before stopping. As we were so close to the car & I knew that it's very difficult to get the Nevegal off the front rim, I decided to walk/carry my bike out. This did mean that I would either have to walk up stream a bit to the bridge or ford the river - I got wet again carrying my bike across. A rush back to town to meet some mates I met working in Banff - they were coming to Canmore for me to show them the DH trails around.

While I was rushing around eating lunch & trying to replace my tube (it took twenty minutes to get the damn tyre off), I found that a small leak around the base of the valve stem (it was an old tube) - that explains why I pinch flatted, I'd lost just enough air pressure to increase the risk of a puncture. Dale & Adam had somehow managed to cram two big rigs in the back of a three-door Laser, so realising that that wasn't really viable as a shuttling option I quickly arranged the kind loan of the Outback. Adam & Dale loved both Riders of Rohan & the Reclaimer (not the coal or PC type); I was tempted to ride, but was a little tired from the early forty-six kilometres & they were having so much fun I didn't have the heart to get in there. Plus, I didn't want to have a big stack in my tired state. With a bit of luck, I'll be able to get over to Banff soon & go for a ride with them on their local trails (seems a bit funny saying that, as Banff is only twenty minutes' drive away - but I just don't go there that much now that I'm not working there).

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Kelowna & old friends

It must have been a couple of weeks since my last musings, & that has mostly been a blur of (strangely) mostly work. Although, checking the Riding Diary worksheet there have been enough entries in those two weeks to keep the legs ticking over nicely. Rather surprisingly (& to my amusement & I'm sure the amusement of others) I managed to land a part time job baking bagels at the Bagel Company a two-minute walk from home (super convenient). I had a applied on a bit of a whim a few weeks previously & had forgotten about that application - along with plenty of others; the advertised full-time position somewhere along the line had changed in to part-time. So it looks like I'll be doing two or three evening shifts mid-week of about eight to ten hours each (depending on how good I get). It's nice to have a job where I have to think a little more than labouring or housekeeping & be pretty organised. I've had a few training shifts & am now solo baking some pretty scrummy muffins & fifty-odd dozen bagels a shift. Another advantage is the evening shifts - so far I've finished my solo stints at two in the morning, but I'm sure I can get that back to before one, at least with a bit more experience. So that frees up the day for activities - not crucial now, but come the middle of winter & eight hours of daylight, it'll be nice to be able to get out & about skiing & such forth on the clear winter days. While I was starting training for baking, I was also working a bit at a construction site - so with a couple of double shifts & a day marshaling traffic at the Calgary Half-Ironman I pulled my first 60+ hour week of work in ages - it didn't happen much at the steel mill as there wasn't much overtime for supervisors, but I do remember doing six twelve-hour shifts back to back, this wasn't quite as brutal (a word that I've heard a lot over the last few days - more of that later).

Unfortunately, with the change in work schedule & Alex & Megan escaping to the Bugaboos (a provincial park in east BC) I've had to get used to a few more solo rides recently. Those have been pretty quiet & close to home - quiet mostly because I finally got around to replacing the bent brake rotors on my bike with nice shiny flat ones. Also I took my cluster off & gave the freewheel a good clean & grease - so with that & the Rock n Roll lube that came in the package from the UK my bike has a lot fewer sounds going on. That does mean that I'm starting to notice other ones that were previously masked. Early last week I started trading emails with a high school friend, Krysta, who seems to have been in Canada pretty much since university & is back in Kelowna, BC, after a year traveling through the Americas (drive through the North, backing through Central & South) with her (recently) fiancee, Steve. It worked out for all of us that the proceeding weekend was the best for me to visit - so with a couple of night shifts under my belt - & the (once again) kind loan of Megan & Alex's second car I was off to spend my second weekend in BC. After packing up all my stuff (with a bike, I never travel lightly) I first had to ride in to Banff to pick up the car - of course, just as I was about to leave a huge thunderstorm storm rolled in & soaked town. Not overly keen to get struck by a bit of rogue electricity, I held off a bit before hitting the not-quite-complete Legacy Trail between Canmore & Banff (five rather crucial bridges are missing still from this bike path that runs alongside the TransCanada Highway). The trail took just under an hour & I was quite warm most of the way - over dressed in jacket & leggings for the rain that stayed away.

What started out to be a rumoured four-hour drive to Kelowna turned in to a bit of an epic. Up past Lake Louise the TransCanada goes back to single carriage way for most of the time. I stopped briefly at the Spiral Tunnels lookout to see where the Canadian Pacific Railway used two large spirals to turn what was once a 4.5% gradient (& incredibly dangerous) in to a much more manageable slope. Just as I got out of the car it started pissing down & I got pretty wet. Unfortunately, I didn't get to see two ends of the same train poking out different ends of the lower spiral. Shortly after my jeans got a good chance to dry out as I sat in the same queue for construction for about an hour and a half. Traffic management at roadworks on Canada's main highway is poor to say the least - of course, when we actually drove past the bridge there was no work to be seen. By now I was in BC & driving through new (to me) national parks - Yoho, Glacier & Mt Revelstoke. Oddly, the speed limit for most of this rather wide highway was only 90 km/hr - but as in about one-thousand kilometres (the return trip) of driving I only saw one police car it was no surprise the heavy traffic sat quite comfortable about twenty percent higher than that. Turning off the TransCanada & on to the south bound part of the annoyingly circuitous (damn mountains) route I was back in to the land of strip malls & numerous billboards - also there must have been nice lakes close by as there were plenty of boat yards (& all to many houseboats on the lakes - Sicamous claiming to be the houseboat capital of Canada). Eventually I found Steve & Krysta's house in SE Kelowna at a reasonable hour - this only really being achieved by gaining an hour from going from Mountain TIme to Pacific Time. Quite exhausted, it was nice catching up, sharing traveling stories, eating & looking around & enjoying the increase in temperature from being in the Rockies - not to mention being made cups of tea (not quite up to Trish's five+-a-day!).

After a much needed sleep-in due to the evening shifts, long drive & time zone change it was up for a breakfast of bagels (I wonder where they came from) & planning for the day. Various ideas were floated - eventually we decided the weather wasn't quite hot enough to go tubing down at Penticton (the weather was warmer than I was used to but overcast & a lot cooler than Kelowna has had for most of the summer). So, Krysta took me downtown for a brief look there & a small hike up Knox Mountain to help me get a better understanding of where Kelowna sits in the Okanagan valley.
After a quick bite to eat at home, the bikes were organised & loaded on the trailer & Steve shuttled us (another mate, Tyler, joined us) up to the Kettle Valley Rail Trail. The trailhead near the Myra Canyon Trestles was packed with cars & as we road along the wide gentle trail we passed many groups of all ages on bike & foot. It sure is a popular place. There eighteen trestles where it got a bit steep for the railway to stick just to the canyonside. We managed to get over these without knocking anyone over the side (they could get a bit congested with large groups on the bridges). One could still easily see the damage done in the large wildfire in Okanagan Mountain Park in seven years ago.
After about half of the twelve kilometre section with the trestles, the crowds began to thin significantly & our speed picked up. As we didn't have to ride back to the trailhead, we dived off the side on to the Myra Bailout singletrack. It was great to be riding down (mostly) gentle dirt track that just flowed. It reminds me of home a bit - smooth trail, no rocks & few roots. Of course, I flew off a little lip & landed on the only pile of rocks - knowing straight after landing that I would get a flat. A minute or so later here I was:I am at least getting a lot quicker at changing tubes & we quickly back enjoying the trail. Somehow, this part of the park had escaped the fire (it's odd how there can be localised sections that are unharmed while everything around them has been seriously burnt) & it nice riding through the greenery. Reaching the FSR (Forestry Service Road seems to be a common TLA on maps around here) where we were supposed to head back in town, we decided after some consultation with the family group we kept seeing on the trail to carry on down the signposted singletrack hiding at the edge of the parking lot. None of us were too impressed with the odd pinch climb, but soon we were shooting down more singletrack. I swapped cameras with Tyler so we could actually have some riding photos of ourselves. It wasn't entirely successful, the first time I was just about to come in to shot I ended up riding through a wild rose bush & I think this is where I ripped the lockout dial off my forks - grrrr (although it's mostly cosmetic). Here are a couple of the best of Krysta & I ripping down the last little bit - I didn't realise that this went straight on to the road, just as well there were no cars coming for me to T-bone in to.
We didn't come out of the trails as far round as we feared we might, so we had a pretty cruisy ride home through some of the Okanagan Valley's famed orchards.

It's never a good sign when you turn up to a barbecue & there is no one home. After confirming that the BBQ was actually half an hour or more up the other side of Lake Okanagan, we hit a local pub for dinner before arriving at the house of Steve & Krysta's friend - Clint - to watch some UFC. My first time watching UFC was quite cold as Clint had lined his basement & decked out almost entirely in Edmonton Oilers hockey memorabilia & started the themed painting of the room & one of the massive TVs were down there - along with the beer fridge. UFC was funny in parts, but after one guy dominated the big fight of the night & then lost in the last minute I was left feeling rather cheated. Once again, trying to find the equivalent Canadian word for 'bogan' came up - Clint's younger half-brother being a case in point. Still no success. Either way he drives an RX7 batmobile & was quite pleased with it & its acceleration (140 in third on suburban streets was enough for Steve - & I can't say I blame him) - that's just a little odd after growing up in the Bay & studying in Palmy - rotaries engines are just so annoying & have so many bad associations in my mind. Steve didn't really get the English humour of Top Gear's South American episode - but I thought he & Krysta might enjoy seeing a different adventure in that part of the world. Not quite as amusing the second time seeing it, but still good television all the same.

Up a bit earlier on Sunday - Krysta & I were off to do the done thing around here take a look at some of the many wineries. It was a bit like being around the southern lakes in NZ - mountains surrounding lakes & vineyards perched on the side. The first one, Mission Hill Family Estate, had clearly had a lot of capital sunk in to it - the architecture was pretty impressive, as were the views. We did an hour tour & tasting session - there was a very cheesy video at the start & Krysta & I were cringing every time the ex-Montana Wine Chief Winemaker opened his mouth, it was pretty bad Kiwi accent. Obviously, it was rather cool in the cellar & all the arches & darkness made it feel like I was back under a big old cathedral in Europe somewhere.After popping in Quail's Gate & doing a bit more tasting & trying not to spend too many dollars we headed out for another little hike.This time it was about half an hour up Boucherie to get a view from the west side of the lake back to the city. It was quite warm in patches, we were surprised at how few boats were out on the lake - obviously these people are spoilt by good summer weather, it wasn't that bad. This hill had also taken a hit from a fire & as it was so rocky hadn't really recovered too well. Over the weekend I was learning a lot about trees & forests from Krysta who works in the industry. As I was in BC, this continually reminded me of not wanting to do this, but rather wanting to be a lumberjack. Leaping from tree to tree as they float down the mighty rivers of British Columbia! The giant redwood, the larch, the fir, the mighty scots pine, the smell of fresh cut timber, the crash of mighty trees, with my best girlie by my side, we'd sing, sing, sing... A bit more relaxing at home introducing Kyrsta to slightly newer Brit comedy in the form of The IT Crowd before heading out to their weekly dinner at Steve's parents. Great food, nice homegrown raspberries & good company. A few episodes of TBBT when we got home - the early ones with great lines such as: "as much chance... as the Hubble telescope does of discovering that at the centre of every black hole is a little man with a flashlight searching for a circuit breaker" and "Our babies will be smart & beautiful" "Not to mention, imaginary." and "What if she ends up with a toddler who doesn't know if he should use an integral or a differential to solve for the area under a curve?" "I'm sure she'll still love him." "I wouldn't.".

It turned out that Krysta had to start back at work on Monday with a ten-day field trip. This worked out well as I could meet up with Quintin - a friend we used to car pool with to primary school in the Mount back in the eighties & one I have not really seen since. Quintin seems to have been chasing the ski season around the globe for the last few years driving snow cats (the groomers) & is finally enjoying a summer in BC while he does a firefighting course (more learning about bushfires for me). He's recently bought a full noise DH bike & with its Fox 40s it stands in loud contrast to my tame little 4" softtail. We had to find something suitable for both of us. Popping in to a bikeshop, we soon had a map & some local advice. We ended up back near where we had ended up on Saturday's ride - just a little further west. It was mostly climbing up a hill for an hour in overcast conditions - I obviously had the advantage there with a bike that was probably fifty percent lighter & legs that are now well used to climbing. At the top we met a guy from Nelson (NZ, not BC) who had only been in town for a month - the only other biker we saw. We rode together for a while until he went off exploring further up the hill & we hit the Vapour Trail. It was great fun & a little pedally to start with so I was able to keep up. The middle section got a lot more technical & rocky & dusty - I was doing pretty well trying to chase Quintin. But I should've been a bit more wary, I completely stuffed up the last little technical drop at speed & landed quite heavily on a whole heap of flat, loose rocks on back of my left shoulder & my left hip. No damage to the bike & hopefully just bruises & scratches that will heal up in a week or so - but my shoulder is pretty sore, but usable. I was noticeably slower over the last of the descent - but all in all, it was another great ride & the trail was really neat. It's just a while since I've had to chase someone who is a lot faster than me downhill. After more catching up over a beer & pizza, it was back to Steve & Krysta's to clean up & hit the rode. Thankfully the trip was only five & three-quarter hours this time; it's a long time that I've driven five hundred kilometres straight through, but in Canada it doesn't seem to be a long way. Fog in places made the road works & general lack of reflectors (that's not just in the construction zones) even worse than usual - but I made it home safely. I must also note that Canadian drivers have an annoying tendency to drive behind you with their lights on beam - it's dazzling, even with the mirror dipped, & makes looking forward even more difficult.

So a great weekend excursion & I must get around to getting my own vehicle soon so I can continue to explore this great area - wheels are in motion, my Albertan driving licence is on the way.