Beer Bottles

When I was a kid, back in the 1960’s and early 1970’s,  bottle picking along the road was a regular pastime. I grew up on a relatively busy highway, at least for our part of rural Ontario. A long walk, on a sunny afternoon in the spring, could yield a few dollars worth of bottlesIMG_0307. Many of these were pop bottles, worth a deposit of a couple of cents. The big ones, those 26 ounce glass bottles, were a real find because they were worth a whole dime. Mixed into our collection were beer bottles too. Stubby brown bottles, still holding a yeasty smell  foreign to our noses. They went into our feed bags as well, dragged home and returned….well, I don’t know where we returned them. The pop bottles went to a local variety store, but our household had little to do with beer, and I really can’t remember where those bottles went.

IMG_0306 IMG_0305On a bike ride yesterday, as the snow melts off the side of the road, I notice the treasure trove is still there, but it has changed. There are more beer bottles now, beer cans too, and hardly any pop bottles or cans. Of course the latter aren’t worth anything at all and often end up being mulched into the sod by roadside mowers in the summer, but I am surprised by the number of beer and alcohol bottles.

The local drive-by–don’t even get out of your truck to make a pick up–bottle picker has already been by. I saw him.  Yet, on a bike ride yesterday, I was able to count more than ten bottles and or cans emerging from the snow every kilometer. In an age when drinking and driving is socially unacceptable, where a single impaired driving charge can effectively ruin your life, how is this possible? Can drinking beer be so important that the bottle is best held between legs extended to a gas pedal, underneath a steering wheel? Are the risks involved providing some sort of thrill?

I do know this areaIMG_0304 has a problem with alcohol use. According to the police reports there are a surprising number of older people charged with drinking and driving. These are not necessarily high school kids out gravel running.

I really don’t see the same density of empties anywhere else as I travel slowly by bicycle. I wonder what it is about this area that makes this problem so much more obvious. I have traveled in many other parts of Canada and the US and nowhere are the bottles and cans more numerous than here.




2014 Cycling Summary

The tamdem along the Natchez Trace Parkway

The tamdem along the Natchez Trace Parkway

This morning it is snowing. It looks like the cycling season is likely over for 2014. This year the lion’s share of the season has been on the tandem. J and I had a good start with the trip on the Natchez Trace Parkway followed by a three day trip in Ontario. It seemed that every other opportunity to cycle involved the two of us out together. A good thing really…..

So here is the final tally (unless we happen to get some more days over 10 degrees C when it is not raining)

  • Tandem: 2166 km
  • Road Bike:287 km
  • Touring Bike: 168 km
  • Total: 2621 km

Its a bit of a surprise that we were significantly higher than last year with all of the extra kilometers (and more) on the tandem. The touring bike got more use this year as well, but we still question the practicality of keeping the matched Opus Legattos.


First Ride of 2014

Finally, today was the day. The first bike ride of the season. We are a little picky about the first day. The temperature needs to be above 10 degrees Celsius, it can’t be raining, and it shouldn’t be too windy.

BkkLcoYCcAAuC8MToday it did make it to 10 degrees, but with the breeze, which was not strong enough to keep us home, they say it felt like 8 degrees. It was dry though, but, with the snow banks slowly melting the shoulders of the road were pretty soft. We dressed for the weather, lots of layers and made the initial ride on our touring bikes.

I don’t think we have ever had such big snowbanks on day one.

The ride felt good. We’re looking forward to lots more.

Bike. Camp. Cook. our First Adventure in CrowdFunding

It was with great excitement that we received a package from Vermont this week. Just feeling it we knew it was a book, and getting new books here is nothing out of the ordinary, but this one was something new, something special.

A couple of months ago, one of my Twitter contacts promoted an effort by a young woman to fund a cycle tourist’s cookbook. She was using Kickstarter, a crowdfunding site, to fund her idea. Since we are long distance cycle tourists, and she did such a great job of her promotional video, we bought into the plan. It wasn’t really a huge risk, twenty five dollars for any kind of book, delivered to the door could be a good deal.

downloadOpening our package, we were amazed. Tara Alan’s Bike.Camp.Cook. was a wonderful surprise. Two hundred and seventy five pages of wonderful pictures, stories, hints, tips everyday wisdom, and of course, recipes. The book is more than just a recipe book though, its an inspiration to ride and explore. The descriptions of cooking out of a pannier bag are simple and straight forward, wrapped up with lots of practical advice.

I can’t find the book listed on Amazon, which is a pity, but, if you are interested in a copy you can order directly from the authour at

In the meantime, we are enjoying the book and planning our next adventure, looking forward to the amazing meals we are going to have on the way.


The Annual Cycling Summary

The Cycling season is definitely over. Outside, there is over a foot of snow, and the chance of another ride this year seems pretty remote. The road bike is now attached to the trainer in the basement.

The Santa in Ireland

The Santa in Ireland

This year the new tandem got the most use with the majority of those kilometers done on the narrow roads of western Ireland. Somehow,  for the rest of the spring, summer and early fall, we had a hard time finding the opportunities to get out on long rides. There were lots of short ones, but they really don’t add up quickly.

The final tally then:

Santa Tandem: 1670km

Canondale R600: 568km

Opus Legato: 48km (all while camping)

Total: 2286km, just slightly less than last year.

Ireland: Postscript

We’re home again. Jet lag is playing havoc with our sleep patterns, but it is good to be back in familiar surroundings, the quiet, the relative solitude. Distance provides an opportunity for some reflection. While we were away, we were able to reflect on our lives here, next steps, with no conclusions (although we did get some great ideas for bathroom renovations).

Now that we are back, we can take some time to sort through the experience Ireland was, the way it may have changes our perspectives, our thoughts. A month is a long time to be away from home, but spending a month in a country does have its benefits. During the first week of our trip, everything was new.

An old abbey church arch over 800 years old.

An old abbey church arch over 800 years old.

As we cycled the country we were continually rubber necking, amazed at the ruins, speculating on their history, confounded  each one didn’t at least have a set of sign boards telling the story of the place. By the end, we knew the stories, St Patrick, the Normans, Henry VIII’s reformation, the Potato Famine, the rebellion, the financial crash of 2008, all written for us in the ruins left to mark the passage of time. I’m not sure a two week, whirlwind tour of the popular coach stops could have given us the same depth, could have gotten us past the ohhhh and ahhhh stage.

20130606_111223We did find the bicycle to be an excellent way to experience the country. We were odd enough, riding a tandem through the back roads of the country, that people stopped and talked to us. This happened much less once we joined the tour, although, since our tour was very small, we didn’t totally get tied up in the closed ranks of the tourist swarm. These contacts were invaluable to our understanding of the place today. We heard about the struggles folks were having with the country’s economy, first hand. We heard their interpretations of the ruins around them (no where near the romanticism we placed on them). We learned about how they lived, their schools, their churches, their sports, their opinions about the world. These folks were our tour guides, and because we were odd, interesting, they offered their “tour guide” services free and unedited.

Our bus and fearless driver, Owen. It is just a small bus!!!

Our bus and fearless driver, Owen. It is just a small bus!!!

The bus had its advantages as well. Rain did not prevent us from getting to the places we wanted to see, although getting out of the bus for a close up look was still an issue. Distance was less of an issue as well, allowing for a broader picture of the entire country. The tour guides are trained to give a full, and possibly correct, commentary as we go, while the bus driver provided a “man in the street” view of what we were seeing. The group dynamic, which comes with a bus, can be trying. To gain the advantages, one gives up a lot of freedom. Bathroom breaks take longer, folks wander off, back to the bus deadlines are stretched, but community is built and new friends are made. Its a balancing act.

We bought a map of Ireland just before we left on Friday. This morning we opened it up and traced the journey of the past month. We realize how little of the country we actually saw. We are drawn to the idea of returning to the Emerald Isle, with its wonderfully friendly people, its deep history, and its beautiful landscapes, but the world is big with so much more to see……..

Virgin Tandem Ride

Today, the temperature got up to 10 degrees Celsius,  it wasn’t raining, and we had a couple of free hours in the morning. What could we do…..?

Back in December, I introduced our newest bike, a tandem that breaks down and fits in a big suitcase. We built the bike back then, in about three hours. We practiced taking it apart, putting it away in its box. This may remind you of a Stephen Leacock Christmas story, but what else can you do with a take apart bike in the middle of the winter?

A couple of weeks ago, we put it together again. Yes we were bored, but it needed to be done so it would be ready for the first good weather. This time it only took an hour. The only thing we needed now was weather, the right kind.

Earlier this week the stars appeared to be coming together for today, and for once the forecasters weren’t wrong. We sort of wanted the temperature to go above 9 before we started out but our day was full enough that waiting till the afternoon would not have worked. We bundled up and went.

Not a great picture. Ever try to get a picture of yourself riding a bike?

Not a great picture. Ever try to get a picture of yourself riding a bike?

Went is really the wrong word. We flew. This bike is awesome and with my faithful stoker pounding away on the back, its a true joy to ride. Surprisingly, apart from a few seat adjustments, the bike seems to be properly adjusted. She slides through gears effortlessly, she stops on a dime,and coasts in near silence. She’s light and yet very stable. She’s a big improvement over her predecessor.

Post Script: The title for this post originally comes from a conversation, over coffee, in which J referred to this ride in these terms. She was corrected, and maiden voyage was suggested as a more appropriate description. Her original terminology is catching on.