Saturday, June 1, 2013

My Commute

I grew up in the Ottawa Valley, and though I spent little time in the city , I had come to the conclusion that it was kind of lame. 

I went away to Southern Ontario for university, and I fell in love with London - I loved its many parks, and particularly the paths that followed the river.  I even developed an odd affection for Windsor, and I loved its bike paths too.  Then life brought me back to Ottawa.  Now living in the city, I finally got to experience it on two wheels, and it brought me to two important conclusions: First,  that I will fall in love with any city that has good bike paths, and second, that Ottawa has the best bike paths of anywhere I've been so far. 

I think something changes when you get to know a city by bike.  You get to know it more intimately, as though you and the city share some important secret that those driving around in cars will never have the privilege of knowing.  You can go places on bikes you can't go in a car.  You see more of the city from the saddle of a bike.  Most importantly, the best parts of the city are the parts with the bike paths - the canal, the riverbanks, the parks, and the beaches.  Like looking through a person's profile pictures on Facebook, Ottawa only shows you its good side when you're touring the pathways.

Another bonus of biking the city - suddenly your commute changes from a daily annoyance, to a heart-warming daily reminder that life is pretty good.  My commute from work looks a little something like this. 

A tour through the farm (yes, Ottawa has a farm in the middle of the city)

Down a lushly treed, private lane.

Across a fully functional, 200 year old lock.

Along a canal that every winter is transformed into the world's largest skating rink.

Around a bay.

Through a park.

And past a busy, sun-filled beach.

This is one of the many reasons why I love Ottawa, and I get to experience it every day. :)

Gratuitous Tulip Post

It's spring again, and the tulip fest has come and gone - but not before I snapped a few photos of course!  Here are some of my favourite shots from this year (taken May 17th).

It was a perfectly beautiful day at Dow's lake
This pretty, powdery combo was my favourite this year!

Not only are the individual tulip beds lovely, but the combined effect of  multiple tulip beds is always breathtaking!

Waves of tulips - the wind had taken its toll on some of the taller varieties 

Silver Linings

Back in April I was in an accident and totalled my car.  Aside from a slightly busted wrist, I came out of it alright.  I was given a bunch of money for my car, but instead of buying a new one, I decided the time had come for me to invest in a sweet new bike.
1st cast ever! Thank goodness I only had it for 8 days!
You see, dear reader, to this point I had been riding around on an old CCM mountain bike that I got from Canadian Tire back in the mid 90s.  Don't get me wrong - it is a sturdy bike with a good heart, but it wasn't exactly built for performance.  More than that, I'm pretty sure the frame is made of solid steel - this thing weighs a ton!  Anyone who knows me knows how much I love biking, especially in Ottawa.  So it was high time that I got myself a bike that suited the avid cyclist I had become.

Sturdy old Cici

Just after my accident I was in a cast for 8 days until they determined my wrist wasn't broken.  At the time I was pretty bummed about this whole accident situation.  Now that the cast is off and I have an amazing new bike (that I love like a third pet), I feel like the accident was one of the best things that happened to me and makes me feel hopeful that this year is going to be a very good year.  If I hadn't been in that accident I'd still be driving around in a car (that I had been talking about getting rid of for over a year) and I'd still be riding around on my beastly old mountain bike.  In all situations, life is what you make of it.  In this situation, I made my life more awesome!

Touring with B'Elanna through the Arboretum

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Your Guide to an Awesome Day on the Rideau Canal

If you've ever read my other posts in this blog, you'll know that I love the Rideau Canal.  Ordinarily, you'll find me using the paths that run along it on sunny, warm days from spring til fall.  As one who gets cold if it's less than 25°C, I don't spent a great deal of time outside in the Canadian winter.  There is one activity, however, that can get me out on some pretty chilly days - skating!

Having grown up in a small town in Canada, skating was one of the highlights of winter.  The neighbourhood rink was a hub of childhood social activity.  Now that I'm older, I've outgrown the neighbourhood rink, but lucky for me, the canal is a source of winter fun for all ages. 

Top 5 Reasons Skating on the Canal is Super Awesome

1. Skating is Great Exercise: Skating at a moderate pace burns as many calories as doing high impact aerobics [1]. Unless you're an avid inline skater, ice skating will challenge muscles you don't frequently use. Skating utilizes many leg muscles, in particular muscles in the hip joints - you're likely to feel the burn in the adductors, glutes, and quads.  How's your core strength?  While skating, the upper body is held in a forward position, engaging your core muscles. 

2. Skating Keeps you Warm: The great side effect of burning calories is the heat it generates. Like most Canadians, I've spent my fair share of time skiing, I even took up snowboarding last year.  While these activities can keep you warm when you're on the slopes, waiting in lift lines and frigid cold breezes on the chair lifts are less than pleasant.

3. It's Cheap: Skating requires minimal equipment - a pair of skates and appropriate winter clothing.  If you're living in or visiting Canada in the winter, you already have the clothing covered (or at least you should).  Skates are cheap to rent or purchase (especially if you buy second-hand).  And oh yeah, access to the canal is free - no pricey lift passes.  

4. It's Pretty Safe: Sure, you're on ice, and it's possible to take a nasty spill.  But compared to the high rates of hospitalizations that originate on the slopes [2], a few bruises aren't so bad.  And I haven't researched  the statistics, but I'll wager a guess that no one has ever been lost in the wilderness on a skating expedition [3].

5. It's Patriotic:  Maybe not patriotic in the most traditional sense, but few things are more Canadian than lacing up a pair of skates for some fun with friends on an outdoor rink - the largest one in the world.  Add in a visit to the Beavertails shack, a cup of hot chocolate and you've got yourself an idyllic Canadian experience unlike any other.

Now that you're thoroughly convinced that you're overdue for a skate, here are some tips to make your visit to the canal perfect.

Tips for a Perfect Day on the Canal

1. Dress Appropriately: Unless you're visiting the canal with wee ones, you can expect to sweat.  Wear moisture-wicking base layers, and loose outer layers.  If it's a chilly day, track pants to keep the wind at bay are a good idea.  Unless it's very cold, (or you're following new skaters at their pace), snow pants are likely to be too warm.  Depending on the wind direction, some sections of the canal can be very brisk - make sure you have a scarf to protect your face from biting winds.  If you have new skaters, a helmet is advisable.  The most serious injury you're likely to sustain while skating is a head injury.  Hockey and skiing helmets are both designed for multiple impacts and are best for skating (and tobogganing too)[4].  Bike helmets are designed to absorb the impact from a single blow, and are therefore less suitable (but still better than nothing).  Helmets can also be rented at the canal.  Are you planning on skating to Rideau, then heading to the byward market or downtown for some on-foot touristing activity?  If so, bringing an spare dry t-shirt is a good idea - sweat gets mighty chilly when you cool down.

2. Drink Water: Skating is a cardiovascular activity.  When it's cold you may feel less compelled to drink water, but it is just as important to stay hydrated during winter activities as it is in the summer.  Bring a water bottle!

3. Bring Cash: How else do you plan to pay for your Beavertail?  (A classic Cinnamon Sugar or Killaloe Sunrise will cost you $4 on the canal, and they don't take debit).

4. Wear a Backpack: Large enough for your skates and/or boots.  While people frequently just leave their boots by the bench they lace up at (totally safe- it would be un-Canadian to steal someone's boots!), if you plan on skating someplace and then getting off the ice to walk around (say, for a tour of the ice sculptures), you'll need your footwear with you.  It's also a handy place to put your water bottle and dry t-shirt, or anything else you might want if you're making a day of it.

5. Sharpen Your Skates: Preferably before you get to the canal, though there is skate sharpening at the canal.  Taking your skates to be sharpened beforehand will save you time, and will likely be cheaper elsewhere.  Also, dull skates really suck.

6. Check the Conditions: The skateway's website has the latest updates on ice conditions, which sections are open and closed, and where the best (and worst) skating can be had.  Outdoor rinks are at the mercy of mother nature, and conditions can change quickly - best look ahead and know what to expect.

Have any other great tips for an awesome day of skating?  Leave them in the comments!