*to Hanlon's razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Friday 30 January 2015

About that plan: cycling and coasting Canada's 'Maritimes'

One of Japan's ad nauseam platitudes is that people are mountain or ocean persons.  Why choose?  Well, unless one is in British Columbia, you get only one or the other here.

If I do not have a partner for this canoeing trip, as is likely, I'll go off cycling Les Isles de la Madelaine, PEI, Cape Breton, and the south coast of Newfoundland, with a side trip up to Gros Morne to hike, and St. Pierre et Miquelon to say I've been to France.  The plan to go by bike and ferries, camping as available, but getting under a roof every time I'm knackered or need to scrub out my kit.  I see this taking three weeks in July.

This trip would once have cost a fortune, when Canada had only one air-carrier of any size: Air Canada which every Canadian resents.  It was not long ago consistently cheaper to fly Toronto to London or Hawaii than anywhere but Montréal or Ottawa, which you could still drive to for a fraction.  Flights within Canada now are just expensive, rather than usurious, now that Porter and West Jet compete with them.

As much as I'd rather take this boat to start my journey, it's twice the cost of flying, and with a train Toronto to Montréal and an overnight there, nearly three times.  A shame.  However, my bicycle and I on various ferries will get enough coasting, in a more rustic manner, than a cruise full of bourgeois: after the islands, next to Souris, PEI by ferry; some cycling there, another ferry from Belle River to Pictou on mainland Nova Scotia; yet more cycling, and a ferry from Sydney to Port aux Basques, Newfoundland; my ride to Burgeo with a side trip to Gros Morne to hike, followed by ferry coasting along the south shore including the trip to St. Pierre et Miquelon; then a ride into St. John's and a flight home.  Something like 1700km by bicycle, and nearly as many by sea.  The sea routes making fortunate 'rest days'.

Nobody does this here!  Canada's coastline is ignored for tourism.  A bicycle's an ideal way to travel the road bits in between the sailings, since it costs a fraction to have with you than a car, and then there's not being a 'cager'.  A motorcycle in Canada would just get you dead for our shit drivers. I have been through New Brunswick and the main of Nova Scotia, and the coasts between them and Maine, so this would all be new to me, and seafood!

These are the sea legs.

The south coast may, or may not, have discontinuous boat routes, and I would not want to have to go far out of my way via Stephenville to Burgeo to make it work, by bicycle.

The road bits are tooling about Les Iles, and the following.

Not certain I won't sometimes cheat so that I do not have to backtrack on the bicycle.  I hope beyond hope that the ferries connect across the south coast of Newfoundland, otherwise, including the side trip to Gros Morne, I am facing this much more by bike, or car or bus if I cheat.  There seems to be a 20km stretch on that coast without a link, which I should be able to pay someone to ferry me, ideally not paying it alone.

Going all the way north to L'Anse aux Meadows...?  Nope.

Thursday 29 January 2015

"I love it when a plan comes together"...?

So I have a mad idea for July,,,
Either canoeing the Missinaibi as posted previously...
Or, bike Charlottetown to St. John's, via the Cabot Trail, and... taking the ferries past the outports of NFL's south coast, stopping by France (St. Pierre) on the way. Include a short side trip by rental car to hike in Gros Morne.
1500km of riding, and about as many by sea.
All paved.

i think Missinaibi solo is mad
this trip will be a lot of fun
The cycling?
Flights for me only $600 CAD.
Whole thing not much over $1500 if camping's invloved over three weeks.

wish i could join - I've always wanted to see Gros Morne park
'Tis a long way from where you are [California].
You could take the family, and we meet up for that part, but... coordinating would be a stretch.

ya, there's a very low chance of that happening

we'll probably be doing family visit in China during vacation this summer
My lungs will certainly be better off...
I shall probably have to take my slower touring bike, esp if alone to carry the gear, no matter how light I go.
Either that, or pay for a lot of hotels...
I have gear to carry 100l of baggage, and a tent and pad strapped on back. I'll take HALF of that, but doubt I could get 50l on my road bike. OTH, I do have racks for it I just do not like to use...

Monday 26 January 2015

Children on bikes: longtail preferred

This is a $2500 CAD proposition, so the J-wife will nix it, and I'll be lucky to get a trailer; however, if I can convince her, a longtail bike is the better option to box-bikes or trailers.  If I can get her to keep living without a car...


Box Bike


Why not the others?
- trailers may be cheapest, but are a bitch to haul, put your kids far out of communication, and they tend to find it boring
- box bikes are great, if you have a garage, never climb a hill, never need to lift its bulk, and are of precisely average height as they are one-size (i.e. you are in Amsterdam) unless they are bespoke and cost a fortune
- box bikes stick your children far into the intersection before you can see into it

Why a longtail?
- multi-purpose for hauling kids and/or cargo
- easy to switch out any of the components as need or destruction requires
- does need a better rider than the others, but I am
- much easier to store than the other options

Which longtail?
There are very few as the Trek Transport and Kona Ute are discontinued, and neither was ideal in any case, except the Ute's price.  I have settled on a Surly Big Dummy, but the deciding factor is my height of 6'1"+: the Dummy comes in more sizes.  Worth noting that Xtracycle's also discontinued the Free-Radical, which had its own issues.  Other options are the Xtracycle Edgerunner 27D (too small), the Madsen Cycle or Yuba Mundo (one-size and poor components), and Bike Friday's version (small platform, proprietary parts and Bike Friday's complicated ordering system and no chance to test ride).

The Surly Big Dummy would never get sold after you stop putting children on it, because it's so fucking cool.  It's a long mountain bike frame, indestructible, so one could load it up for any purpose or duration.  The only thing I would regret on the Dummy, besides the loss of a few thousand dollars, is not having Madsen's box, which wouldn't fit: it saves futzing with cargo straps and child seats.  Might be a way to make one's own.

Monday 12 January 2015

'Adventure sports': a poor partner is easy to find

Another item retrieved from an old HD, altered to protect the guilty.

Of the moderately dangerous sports I do (canoeing, kayaking, climbing/mountaineering, cycling...) it is better to go alone than with people who'll put you in danger by their ignorance.  This is gained from hard-won experience; the most egregious example was my trip on Lake Superior kayaking with three other people.  Though they were confident they had experience enough to make sensible decisions (they did not), none had as much paddling experience, camping experience or sailing experience as myself (experience relevant to wind and waves).  Being short of plain common sense was the greater danger.  Here's how my lessons can be compartmentalized, most of these examples from a kayaking trip on Lake Superior.
Does anyone know where the love of God goes
When the waves turn the minutes to hours? ...
The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee
Superior, they said, never gives up her dead
When the gales of November come early
Trips should have an overwhelming number of members from one gender, because nature or nurture, the genders do not solve disputes in the same way.  If one gender dominates, everyone at least knows which code to communicate with.  If the numbers produce a stalemate, my odds are on the gender known for not sticking to playground rules, especially if I can count on one to manipulate a whipped boyfriend.  Perhaps such miscommunication with gender, as a cultural issue, can happen between cultures.  Worth considering.

Every North American thinks they have a valid opinion.  Most people know shit.  The person(s) with the best knowledge and experience should make the decisions.  It’s safer, and it’s sensible, but uncommon.  Everyone gets a veto, but not planning powers.  These terms have to be explicit, maybe signed upon.  They will be most unacceptable to people with an inaccurate appraisal of their own expertise.  They should be encouraged to stay home or plan their own disasters.

Weather Forecasts
If you get a ‘small-craft wind and weather warning’ it means something: don’t sail something under 40’, and don’t paddle anything.  People who think they have valid opinions may not understand this or listen to you.  They may deduce from the calm water of a sheltered bay that the water is calm on Lake Superior.  They may do it the day after you were sandbagged by large steep waves exiting a sheltered bay.  Don’t invite them.  If you've only just found out they are idiots in the middle of the trip, invoke your veto.

It will not be fun trying to explain the causes of waves to people who think their opinion is more important than knowledge.  They will make incorrect assumptions even after they have pretended to understand the three main engines of waves: wind speed, fetch and water depth.  They may argue idiocies: waves go down if the wind hasn’t, waves in a bay have much to do with waves outside of it, and wind-shifts don't create chop.

It is alarming it's not obvious to as many as two of four people not to kayak on a lake with large swells if you get sea-sick commonly.  You cannot presume people have the sense to mention this to you before you are a day into your trip.  Ask in advance.  Ask everything.  People are too stupid to live.

'Rules of the Road'
Any sensible person knows that you do not cut off people driving, nor step in front of them; nor should you paddle across their bow.  Those who don’t have this sense of consideration may also not look around to make sure anyone is having trouble.  Hang back so you can mind all idiots and do your duty, but you won’t get help should you need it.  Thus, you’d better have gone solo.

There has to be a leader if there are more than two people.  This is a basic rule of human-sociology.  Acknowledge it.  It must be the person with sound judgement and broad knowledge; it doesn’t have to be you.  If you understand, great.  Get the others to sign.  Don’t want to spark a confrontation before the trip?  You will during: weather, safety, pace, meals, campsites, privacy… all of the above,  fuck.  You might also be concerned by any member who is uncompromising over petty points before the trip: their behaviour will not improve under stress and away from society.

Ever noticed the most social people are those least able to understand a need for your privacy to read, or what-have-you?  Ever noticed they consider you anti-social?  Ever noticed a book is more satisfying?

What you can do in an hour, because you get sea-sick and don’t want to stay still, has nothing to do with what you can do in a day.  The hare did not win the race.  The hare would have drowned if he was in a kayak, and everyone needs strength in reserve for: a surf landing; making camp when wet, cold and tired; should a thunderstorm came up; there is distance to cover before a safe take-out.  If hares leave you behind, remember they are unreliable for safety and this has become a solo-trip.  Paddle conservatively.

Loneliness doesn’t seem so bad now, does it?

Thursday 8 January 2015

Travels as a misanthrope

This is another rescued post from something I left on a hard-drive.

I have a list of planned journeys taller than my piles of maps and guidebooks.  I plan to sail the length of Superior and Georgian Bay; cycle Gaspé, the Cabot Trail and Newfoundland; paddle any number of Shield and Tundra rivers; and hike the length of the Japanese Alps.  Very little of this happens.

I chose teaching in part for the time it gives me, but the shame of it is none of my friends have the time or inclination to join me.  I love my fiancée despite the fact she won’t spend more than two nights in a tent.  My secret shame is that I am too needy for company to go solo.

Oh, I have done solo trips.  I have paddled on Georgian Bay, in Algonquin, cycle-toured Ontario, and hiked in Japan and the Adirondacks.  To be modest, these have not been much longer than my fiancée will spend in a tent.  Then again, even short solo trips tend to be dramatic.  It’s more exciting alone to be in high waves, chased by a dog, or fall into various dangers.  Stupidity is a better story after the fact.

Most people go squirrelly alone.  History abounds with ‘Mad Trappers’ and other desperate souls.  There is much to be gained by solitude, but once you’ve done it, you realise how daunting it is.  Everyone ought to make a solo trip, but they should do it ignorant.  It’s too late for my ignorance, so this summer I did not paddle a week on Georgian Bay, cycle the Gaspé, and last year was no better.

It’s taken me some time to realise I need company, which means I’m a little thick, but that is the least of my faults.  There is a reason I don’t get company.  It might be that I’m a son-of-a-bitch.  It can be a good thing to be a son-of-a-bitch.  Your friends may even appreciate that you are a son-of-a-bitch.  But it doesn't mean they want to go, again, on a trip with a son-of-a-bitch.

A son-of-a-bitch can put out a fire, on two occasions, when the person responsible is frozen in panic.  A son-of-a-bitch will get camp set-up and warm food into people in a thunderstorm.  A son-of-a-bitch keeps an eye out for other paddlers in two meter waves, and doesn't back down when anyone wants to make the same mistake the next day.  A son-of-a-bitch has forced his delirious friend into dry clothes and a sleeping bag when showing signs of hypothermia.  However, my friends are still friends, but oddly busy on long weekends.

I could work on my expedition inter-personal skills, but I don’t know how to separate my gruffness from my diligence, and I am too smug about my friends' continued survival, due to nothing on their part and entirely on mine.  I will ask readers one thing: please remember what a son-of-a-bitch has done for you.

Sunday 4 January 2015

Canada: my sporting to do list

I was overhauling my laptop and came across a document made years back of items to do someday.  I have updated it a little, adding some, and removing some I have finished.  I have also moved most of the kayaking to sailing, because fuck paddling if you can sail.  The numbers are days required to complete each trip.  I can see some of these happening this summer.

Sailing Great Lakes and East
Entire northern coast Superior & Georgian Bay
Mingan Archipelago and PQ North Shore
Île D'Anticosti
Îsles de la Madelaine
Newfoundland, St. Pierre et Miquelon 
Labrador Coast

Skiing Québec
Chic Chocs Ski Touring

Skiing Ontario
Algonquin Ranger Lodge XC

Cycling Ontario
Toronto - Tobermory
Burlington - Port Dover - Dunnville  - Burlington
Trenton - Montréal

Point Pelee & Island
Cape Breton
Prince Rupert to Victoria via ferries and drive
Canoe in Ontario
Nottawasaga River 1
Mattawa River 2-3
The Mississagi River 5-6
The Missanaibi River upper 14
The Missanaibi River lower14
Temagami area
- Sturgeon river 5
- Chiniguchi 4
- Kiosk Loop 5-6
- Petawawa River 7

Canoe outside Ontario
Thelon River
Kazan River
Arctic Red River
Seal River
Nahanni River
Moise River
Dumoine River

Bugaboos guided

Saturday 3 January 2015

Torontonians, Toronto; apple, tree: delusional.

The Bank of Canada's recently announced that Canadian real estate is 10-30% over valued.  National banks do not tend to exaggerate these things: the contrary.  I can buy a middle-class house as close to downtown Tokyo as I live in Toronto for a third the price.*  My brother, who's been on Wall Street, and has an important enough position that I can neither name him nor the position, said over Christmas dinner:
I don't see thirty-percent happening; however, I did just unload my other property.  You can read between the lines.
And yet... and yet... banker friend-of-a-friend today insisted that we're not in a bubble, because 'if you compare Toronto to other international cities...'

Fuck me.  I am a bad guest.  I'm afraid I shouted the refrain nobody native to Toronto will hear:
For fuck's sake, Toronto is NOT an INTERNATIONAL CITY.
Looking at its size and economy, it's the lesser Great Lake city to Chicago by half.  It's Houston.  Kita-Kyushu/Fukuoka.  Birmingham.  And like all of these places, not integral to it's home economy.  The Canadian economy has long lost its sovereignty: Toronto's is regional.

And there's this:
Toronto in '88...  I went off to McGill University when the economy was humming, aiming for a BA that wasn't yet the entirely idiotic idea it turned out to be not half a decade later when I had it in hand.  Oh yeah, my father was soon out of work too, as happens with a trend like Toronto's '88-'96.

What's more, as I pointed out to the banker, the only thing that fueled the (inflation adjusted) growth in house prices for the Boomers, so that any but the most brain-dead made out like bandits on real estate, ain't going to happen again unless we send our children to the salt mines: a second income from women joining the workforce.  But I'm just a fucking teacher and he's the banker.  God help us all.

*Though Japan's having it's own economic issues, Tokyo largely isn't: the hinterland's gangrenous, but the core won't die for a while.