Monday, January 10, 2011

We could be heroes.

When I used to ride my bike everywhere in Toronto, I would imagine I was a superhero. Cape and mask, darting through traffic jams, risking life and limb battling the inattentive, the aggressive, and the downright insane drivers in order to liberate my city from smog, the clutter, noise and safety hazards of automobiles everywhere and reclaim the streets for people. Perhaps my imagination is just a little too vivid.

Certainly there was no evidence anyone else saw cyclists as heroes. Did drivers wind down their windows, and say thanks for riding a bicycle - you taking up less space than a car makes my commute easier! No it was more like "What do you think you are? A car?" and other much less kind things not fit to be print. Did acquaintances say "It's cool you ride your bike!"? Usually it seemed to be their chance to rant on about the awful cyclists they see, who don't follow the rules and ride around kamikaze without lights at night. Taking the elevator to the parking garage at work, was it thanks for not using up a parking space? More like "Isn't it too cold? Too wet? Too snowy? Too... " something to be riding a bike.

I thought it would be different when we moved somewhere rather more granola-ey. Still spotting other cyclists in the cool rainy winter season is rather a rare sight indeed. I hear people talk about cutting their carbon emissions but usually their plan is to go out less, rather than find alternative ways of getting around. And just ask a dieter - deprivation is not usually sustainable. People are much more polite but there are still comments, "You picked the wrong weather for riding a bike" on the ferry on a rainy day. No silly people there is no such thing as wrong weather, just wrong clothing. Motorists offering my husband a ride when passing him on a snowy highway, as if his current method was somehow torture rather than enjoyable.

Still not a superhero. Fast forward to yesterday. I badly need to get off the island, and so suggest to Dave "Hey wanna drive somewhere to go hiking?". Drive. Yes the dreaded "D" word. After both being independently car-free for 10+ years moving out to the middle of nowhere caused us to buy one 21-year-old manual shift fuel efficient motorized vehicle for our sanity! But that's a subject for another post! We had just watched No Impact Man's documentary on Netflix the night before. Where his family goes without just about anything that can have an impact on the environment with a year. So I start feeling somewhat guilty about burning gasoline to go for a walk.

Use the google! I find a park to go hiking that seems about 4 km south of the ferry and flat. Easy peasy. Lets go bike and hike! It turned out to be 12 and somewhat hilly but no worries, though I've been hermitting too much and not at all in the shape I was used to. Oh yeah I remember seeing the sign for that place before. How easy it is to forget about local amenities. We hiked about 1.5 hours, but didn't quite make the waterfall we were aiming for, wanting to preserve our daylight. I was happy though getting out into a forest in my carboniferous playground! I heartily approve that we have moved to a temperate rainforest area. So lush.

We make it back just before sunset to a pub not too far from our ferry to have some dinner out. We walk in the pub and the most bizarre thing happens. The whole pub is clapping whilst the performers at the open mike are mentioning something about cycling here in this weather! Mind you I thought the weather was beautiful, it was a rare sunny day, and while most non-cyclists would find it too cold for cycling it was above freezing. Ah a proper heroes welcome at last!

Dinner was slightly bizarre (but with tasty local seafood!) - there was an organization selling raffle tickets, but the weird part was they came around selling table-to-table while displaying the prize. Which might not be so strange except the prizes were shrinkwrapped meat (first steaks, then chicken breasts) and we are pescetarians. On our way out there's more commentary from the smokers while we are getting our bikes ready to go. Hey we applauded you on the way in but we should have applauded you on the way out! I guess they were more impressed now that it was pitch black and significantly more frigid. (I took back mocking Dave for wearing big mitts on a "nice" day) One inquired about my recumbent wondering if that ran all under my own power. Yep! (I neglected to tell him about my secret wish for a battery to get up ferry hill)

Dave mounts one of his two Dinotte headlights on my bike so I can see. I don't usually go out on the highway after dark so my city be-seen lights are not enough to see the condition of the shoulder by. He commutes all the time on the highway after dark, although from the other direction past the ferry. These suckers are 200 lumens each, and they rock. After we cross on the ferry, my imagination that I'm Superman going up the ferry hill is not enough, and I get off and push the bike up the steep hill. I can make it up the same hill on Kona, but with my weight further back on the bent I will need to build up more muscle for this one. With a good eye peeled out for deer (they tend to wander in the road after dark at the bottom of a hill just as it rounds 90 degrees and bikes are flying...) we finish the ride home and reward ourselves with hot chocolate and getting the woodstove going again to warm up.

Help spread the cycling love. Thank your fellow cyclist for riding!

I know its been several months since my last blog entry. I'm hoping to get a new blog started soon to focus on more aspects of living with a lighter footprint, and will write more often! I'll keep you posted, thanks for reading. If you're still here drop me a comment! Thanks!