#30DaysOfBiking Day 16 – Not Just Microserfs

For a few reasons I’m trying my best to reduce, and possibly eliminate my routine coffee consumption. In great part it’s about the fact that while it might be great at appetite supression in the very short term, I find a few hours after drinking some I am ravenously hungry. As I’m trying to lose a bit of weight, it makes sense to reduce it. I’d also like to actually use it for a periodic boost instead of drinking it just to feel human. So far I’ve gone down from 5-6 mugs of strong coffee a day down to two. This latest drop, from three down to two has been a rough one. I really want that third cup and my mind is rebelling.

It’s really evident on Sunday. I wake up, have two cups of coffee and start my day, read some, do some writing, conscious the whole time I have both a bike ride to do as well as dinner to cook. I flip my procrastination into high gear. Websites are browsed, games are played, YouTube videos are watched. Before I know it, it’s 2:30 PM.

I don’t want to go. What I want to do is brew a pot of coffee and sit on the couch with my book. But I’ve committed to this, and I know it’s good for me. So good, in fact, that I am already thinking of keeping this up indefinitely. I get ready like a 8 year old boy gets ready for school when they’d rather stay home. I put on my jersey then think of something to look up online, an email I should send, anything but putting on my shorts. I eventually put on shorts and wonder of wonders, I get my socks and shoes on.

When I get outside, I load a route I’ve creatively named “Day 7” – the one I intended to use the week before but instead showed you some sculptures close to home. Today I’ll finish it.

One great thing about today is the weather. But it’s a blessing and a curse. It’s really pleasant to go out and so many people of all ages and levels are out. There are pedestrians and dogs. The trail is packed. Normally I’m thrilled by this and even very recently I talked about how we as cyclists should role model how we deal with more vulnerable trail users like pedestrians, kids on bikes and scooters, dogs, and so on as an example for how drivers should behave around cyclists sharing the road.

Which, of course, I do. There’s no question there, but instead of viewing them fondly, I’m irritated by them. When I get to a stretch on the road I’m bugged by other cyclists who go around me to run red lights. I can see that I’m not in a good mood and a lucid part of me reminds me that on a delightful day the lakeshore trail I’ll be taking across the bottom of the city will be packed with people of varying speeds, skills, familiarity with the area and even sobriety. It will be chaos. The correct approach, I’ve found, is to just go slow, relax and expect nonsense and don’t let it bug you. Or, as I’ve advised others, just skip the trail and pick another faster route with fewer cyclists and pedestrians and less chaos. I don’t take my own advice, though, and the trail is in its busiest and most chaotic state ever. As I’m riding I realize it’s even more chaotic than riding busy streets in Delhi. There is order there where slower and lighter traffic keeps left, people honk to let you know they’re passing and you should keep going straight. There weren’t many folks speeding and weaving through multiple people riding side by side blocking the way. Today every bad habit including the tourists standing in the middle of the bike lane not moving. All of which, I must remind you, is completely to be expected and something I am experiencing by choice. Finally, I get to the point I am aiming for at the far end of the track and then, in my own moment of inattention cut off an oncoming cyclist, no doubt putting him in the same mood as I currently am in. I turn north at this point and a couple of blocks later I’m at my first piece of artwork:

For me there are two interesting things about this. The first is that this piece is by Douglas Coupland, the author of Generation X, Microserfs, and a whole bunch of other books. I always thought of him as an author but after learning of this and searching more about him I learned that he’s done a ton of artwork including paintings and other sculptures in Toronto.

I like this piece, called “Monument to the War of 1812” because he did this in response to a trend he saw which was Americans saying either “We won the War of 1812.” or “We didn’t lose.”. Of course the soldier lying down is American from the 16th Infantry. The standing one is from the Royal Newfoundland Regiment Fencible Infantry.” The plaque says “Two abandoned toy soldiers pay tribute to Toronto’s history in this artwork. WIthout Fort York there would have been no Canada – the British would have lost Canada to the Americans in the War of 1812, and Canada would have been absorbed into the United States.

As someone who left the US about 20 years ago I can only say “Thank God that didn’t happen!”

My GPS track tells me to just reverse my path and head home the way I came but I’ve finally come to my senses, realized I’m not in a good mood and I should find a more relaxing ride home. But first I head to another nearby park, “Canoe Landing Park”. Here is another piece by Coupland, “Thomson’s Canoe” named after Tom Thomson, a famous Canadian painter and member of the Group of Seven. In 1917 he disappeared on a canoe trip. Later that day his canoe was discovered and his body discovered eight days later.

Just down the hill from there is another nautical themed artwork, also by Coupland: “Bobber Plaza” that, as it’s integreated into a water play plaza, is a place to cool off in the summer.

From here, I start home, choosing streets over busy paths. Even though I ride on busy streets like Spadina, University, and Dundas, I feel so much more relaxed. There are stil cyclists and sometimes even bike lanes but without the draw of the lake nearby, the traffic is mild. I still roll my eyes at the one guy riding slowly through every red light that I pass over and over again all the way across town, though.

At Broadview I turn north again and then remember that just the night before I learned of an out of the way path between Danforth and Riverdale Park. I drop down into the park and at the very bottom I go behind the trees near the running track and I arrive:

There are people and dogs on this stretch but it’s peaceful and mostly quiet except for the highway noise from the Don Valley Parkway on the left. With some really sticky mud in a couple of places and a few actual stairs, it’s definitely not built for speed. On the other hand, it’s the relaxing break I needed. It goes up a little hill, across a bridge over the onramp to the DVP and then into the parking lot for the City Adult Learning Centre before exiting on Danforth right next to the onramp. It’s not a particularly useful path but I’m glad I checked it out.

The rest of the trip home is along Broadview and other moderately busy streets. I never thought I’d say this but these quiet streets without a bike lane were far more relaxing than the “bikes only” space on the Lakeshore. By the time I arrive at home I’m much more relaxed and excited to cook dinner. Chana masala, anyone?

7 thoughts on “#30DaysOfBiking Day 16 – Not Just Microserfs

  1. The panacea of being outdoors! But I hear you about the great weather & crowds … it really is a two-edged sword!

    Thank you for sharing your struggles with coffee management. I feel you – any concerted efforts to effect change is tough, and particularly when it involves routines. Cheering you on!

    Thank you for the tour of outdoor art near your home – such fun! The last is so curious & engaging!

    Hope you enjoyed your Channa masala – it is one of my favourites!

    1. Hi Ju-Lyn – nice to see you here.

      I think the weather/crowd thing will solve itself. As the weather improves some will take it for granted and move back indoors. Meanwhile, my distances will be going up so I will have more peaceful rides outside the city. But really, how can I, as an advocate for active transportation, begrudge anyone getting on a bike or walking instead of driving somewhere? These are great problems to have.

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