#30DaysOfBiking Days 23-25 – A Wrench in the Works

On Day 23 I do a bit of writing, and spend the afternoon procrastinating. I know I’ve got Hindi class at 8PM, I’ve got dinner to make and eat before that. I have spent the day with the sniffles and sneezing like crazy. I’m not surprised, our new cat Squishy has ridiculously soft, thick fur that sheds so much I have to clean out the Roomba brushes and wheels every few runs. It’s been a few days since I’ve run the vacuum and there are a few cat hair tumbleweeds going around the house. It runs for a few hours in the afternoon.

The weather’s cold again and I really don’t want to go outside. I don’t have much energy or motivation and after doing other things all day I really haven’t time to go too far. After all, last time I tried going to far I was late for Hindi class. And this time I have to cook dinner.

So I decide to go back to my original resolution about #30DaysOfBiking: I will go outside every day and ride a bike – even if it’s only a few minutes. I decide that I could do a short distance ride and maybe start with some hill repeats on a nearby hill that leads into the ravine. I zoom down the hill to the bridge over the Don River and turn back around, gear down and head back up the hill thinking I’ll do 3-4 iterations then head home. 2/3 of the way up this hill I’ve been up many times before I have already had enough. I stop for a minute, catch my breath then resume and get to the top. Forget hill repeats. I’ll loop around the neighbourhood. 3.5 kilometres and 14 minutes later I’m back indoors feeling defeated. Surely I’m a stronger cyclist than this. Or maybe it’s just that I’ve been doing this 23 days in a row without a proper rest day. Either way I’m disappointed and resolve to do better the next day.

On Day 24 the house is vacuumed and I’m still sniffling and sneezing. I look online and see that tree pollen is rising. I can actually see some of the trees in the ravine turning yellow with catkins. I go with that answer and true to my resolution to do better I am changed and ready to go out the door within 20 minutes after my last work call with a longer ride.

Down into the ravine I go and soon I’m going along the Taylor Creek, a route I travel often as it leads to a lot of places to the east and is so pleasant. I mean, look at it!

At this point there are actually two paths leading the same way, one on the north side of the creek, one on the south side. I usually take the south side but today I chose to go the other way.

In the book I’m reading, Life is a Wheel, I’m really inspired by the author’s attitude of just taking what comes and dealing with it. He rides on cold days, rainy days and windy days, on hilly routes and flat routes with a tailwind. He obviously likes some of them better but he recognizes that being on his bike is enough to be joyful. I’ve been aiming for that – even when feeling discouraged at doing one 30 metre hill and calling it quits.

On today’s ride there aren’t so many people out. The clouds are threatening, there’s a cold wind and it’s raining off and on.

I think I manage to manifest it reasonably well. Once I’ve been working long enough to get warm, I’m happy to be out here. I’m happy even when my toes start to lose their feeling because I forgot to wear wool socks. I am finding this a little more difficult than usual. The devil on my shoulder says this is what cycling at this age is like. The angel on the other shoulder reminds me I have been cycling for 24 consecutive days after a long time of inactivity – and not only that I got less than 5 1/2 hours of sleep last night. Who wins? It’s hard to say, but it’s a long protracted battle that may take some time to sort out.

I go up another small hill and back on the road to bypass some trail construction, through a suburban neighbourhood and then back down onto a new trail that leads into Warden Woods. Though we’re in the middle of the city this is about as close to old growth forest as we can get here. In the summer the canopy is beautiful and dense. The road turns to dirt and if you looked at this photo you’d be forgiven if you guessed that it was taken in rural Ontario.

But the fact of the matter is, as I’m standing on this road, I can hear the subway every few minutes, on its way between Victoria Park and Warden stations.

As it turns out, the trail ends near Warden Station and I’m at the intersection of St. Clair East and Warden Avenue, two wide and busy streets with 50 km/hr speed limits and no bicycle infrastructure. And here is the big challenge of Scarborough, the part of Toronto I’m in now. There are some beautiful trails through parks, and some nice quiet neighbourhoods but they’re all criss-crossed with these arterial roads packed with cars. I’m somewhat comfortable here – comfortable enough to manage with a few tricks. I cross to the northeast side of the intersection where I’ll be riding north. When the light on the road behind me turns red, I get on my way and go far enough out in the road that I’m really obvious and most drivers then give me the full lane if, like tonight, it’s not busy. I only have a couple blocks to go here tonight so I manage. Others likely would have managed on the sidewalk – which I have done in particularly rough traffic, but it’s technically illegal and enrages the anti-bike contingent enough that I try my best to be the best example as a cyclist.

After a couple of blocks my route takes me through some quiet neighbourhoods and then onto a slightly less busy arterial road, Birchmount. It’s still busy but not as much. To get on Birchmount, though, I position my bike over the marking on the road indicating that there is a sensor that will pick up my bike and the light will turn green for me. After several minutes I realize this isn’t the case and move over to the crosswalk to push the button which, fortunately, works. On this road there are fewer cars and I’m followed by a city bus. My experience with our city’s buses is that for the most part the drivers know how big and intimidating they are and give me lots of space and this one is no exception. But it does take them a while to catch up with me as I’m managing to keep up a pretty good speed at this point.

Next I’m directed to Eglinton Avenue. This road used to be one of the scariest of all the arterials. There are a couple of routes I used to take that would require me to use it for 400-500 metres. If I were feeling confident and traffic wasn’t good that usually meant taking the lane (sitting in the middle so nobody can try to squeeze by by passing too close, forcing them to completely switch lanes) or, if there was a headwind or I was tired, I would ride on the sidewalk. But along with a major project to add a light rail line they’ve also added some bike lanes. They’re not finished yet as they only are painted, eventually they will have physical barriers. Still, that little bit of space carved out for me is a game changer.

With the wind at my back and a bike lane I feel like I’m on a superhighway. But then my route takes me off Eglinton and into an industrial area. As it’s after 5, there is almost no traffic. Soon there’s a smell in the air that I can’t quite place. It smells a little sweet and good. When I turn the corner, there is a factory that makes Halls lozenges – cough drops. The smell makes me crave them. My nose has been running more and more on this trip and I’m sniffling all the time now and it’s really irritating.

A few blocks after the Halls factory, I find myself at the Gatineau Hydro Corridor where a real bicycle superhighway has been installed. Part of The Meadoway, it leads east (with a few breaks) all the way to the edge of the city where you can still find the occasional farm and dirt road. I turn toward the city, though as I need to get home, start dinner and maybe find some tissues.

On the Meadoway I still have to cross the busy arterials in the city, but this time I have a bit of help:

The signals are slower than I’d like but they do function and make for a really safe crossing. And certainly this is even more pleasant than the bike lane on Eglinton that runs just a few hundred metres south of here.

This route continues for a few kilometres west before ejecting me back onto Eglinton – one of the strips I used to be scared to ride on before the arrival of the bike lanes. Now, I don’t feel required to push as hard as I could to get off the road as fast as possible. Still, a nice downhill means at one point I’m keeping up with traffic before turning right onto an off-ramp. (A good sign of a place where a bit more considerate infrastructure is required: drivers and cyclists are sharing the same offramp from a high speed roadway). Still, drivers are courteous, give me space, let me merge and before long I’m zooming back down into the valley for the third time today.

One last climb is ahead of me and though I finish it without stopping (take that, “devil on my shoulder”), it’s tougher than it should be. In fact it feels quite a bit harder than when I climbed it way back on Day 4. Once I get to the top of the hill, I turn right into Flemingdon Park where nearly every street has a bike lane. I relax a bit and ride the rest of the way home – one last sprint across the Overlea Bridge where the traffic can sometimes be a bit aggressive but today seems to be missing, which is good. My energy is lower than it should be after 20 kilometres. Still, I’m pleased. Yesterday I did 30 metres of climbing. Today, I did 138. I still have it in me.

When I get back home, my son has already done my prep for dinner. I take a long hot shower and the steam helps my sinuses a bit. Still, when I get out I’m sniffling and sneezing. Maybe this isn’t allergies. To be on the safe side, I pull out a rapid test. I had COVID back in January so it isn’t very likely but as I’m meant to go in to work tomorrow I take a test to be sure. Fortunately, as expected, I’m negative.

I cook dinner, watch just a few minutes of TV with my family but then by 9:15 I’m wiped out. Tomorrow is such a big day. I have to be at work by 8:00 AM, am going with colleagues for a dinner in the suburbs where I can’t bike to. If I want to do a bike ride for Day 25, I have to wake at 4:30 AM, do another quick lap around the neighbourhood to say I did something and then shower and get on the bus for work.

I’m in bed by 9:20, I try reading but I can’t manage to stay awake and am asleep by 9:30.

At 1:30 I wake again. My left nostril is completely blocked, my right one isn’t doing much better. My nose is running and I have a sinus headache. I groan as I wake up and Sage hears me and asks me if I’m OK. “I think I have a cold,” I tell her. I get up, take a bit of cold medicine left over from when we had COVID and we watch TV while I wait for it to take effect. Two hours later I go back to sleep, reset my alarm for 6:45 and decide I need to work from home. No need to do an early morning ride now.

On Day 25, when I wake up, I still don’t feel good. I’m coughing and sneezing. Coffee helps me get my brain up to speed but I’m in no shape to go for a bike ride, even a rip around the neighbourhood. #30DaysOfBiking has become #24DaysOfBiking. It was a good run though. I’m excited to try for a longer streak soon. And in the meantime, I’m also excited to see how I do after a few day’s break to let my legs recover. With work activity ramping up I’ll be expected to be in the office 3 days/week. That’s up to 120 km of commuting opportunities. I’m hoping for good weather. But maybe, like the protagonist in my book, and like I’m teaching myself, perhaps I should just ride in the day I am given, not wait for the day I wish I had.

One thought on “#30DaysOfBiking Days 23-25 – A Wrench in the Works

Share your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.