My vacation last week was a little bit of a joke in that it mostly didn’t happen. I have one of those jobs that means I can get away sometimes but I can’t necessarily stay away, especially as we’re weeks away from the start of the university semester. I knew it was a stretch to try and I did have time away recently so it’s all good really.
I even managed to work from a vacation like spot–Sarah’s family farm in Prince Edward County–and I did get some activity in between emergency meetings. Since I don’t even have time to write blog posts right now this is more of a photo essay of my triathlon of vacation activities.
Let me recommend the G2G as a great way to get started trail riding, maybe even with small children.
Why? It’s relatively, wide and flat. It’s well shaded. It travels through lots of small towns with convenience stores and ice cream not far off the trail. For those over the age of 19, there’s also Cowbell Brewery in Blyth which has a pretty nice restaurant too.
There are many entry points with dedicated parking lots making it easy to bit and pieces of the trail at a time.
Of course, once you get to Goderich you can continue on to Bayfield if you haven’t ridden enough that day!
Here’s me on the pier in Bayfield. Wearing a dress and riding a bike, which I like to do sometimes!
My word of the year is flow. It’s a good thing. My July vacation was very planned, down to the last detail, in the way that long canoe trips need to be. Thanks Sarah, trip planner extraordinaire. It was going to be our longest canoe trip yet, 8 days in the woods, moving and traveling every day, but the world had other plans.
In the end our 8 day canoe trip turned into three mini vacations not one long canoe trip, but it all felt suitably vacation-like and restful once we got creative and went with the flow.
Part 1: Algonquin
Our trip began with a massive thunder and lightning storm so bad that we spent the first night sleeping on our inflatable mattress pad in the back of Sarah’s Subaru. We had a site on the first lake so it would be easy to get to but I hated the idea of starting with everything soaking wet.
So we were heading out on day 1–putting in at Magnetewan and paddling and portaging our way through Hambone, Ralph Bice, and staying the night on Little Trout. But en route we broke one of the canoe’s thwarts that provide stability to the boat. Given the rain and how wet everything was, our duct tape fix wasn’t going to hold. We talked about options but there was no good one other than coming out of the park and repairing the canoe. We couldn’t rely on meeting up with other paddlers with duct tape. Leaving the park was sad but it really felt there weren’t good options. Leaving was the adult, responsible thing to do.
It actually was strangely liberating to know we could sleep in the Subaru in a pinch. But in the course of doing that we punctured the mattress pad and so we ended up heading out with only a single sleeping pad purchased at the last minute from Algonquin Base Camp outfitters in Kearney. It was all they had.
We tried to rebook the trip so we could fix the canoe and the pad and go back in but there weren’t any available reservations. The good news was that we were heading back in with a tail wind. Sarah said it was a sign we were going the right way. We made it down the length of Ralph Bice Lake in a record 45 minutes. That’s a trip that can take hours going into the wind.
We had a lovely couple of days of paddling. And we learned that we can pack and carry enough food for an eight day trip. Next year, friends, next year.
Part 2: Massassauga Provincial Park
So once we knew we couldn’t get back into Algonquin, we headed home to Guelph to execute canoe repairs. But we were also still fully packed for canoe camping and viewed more canoe camping as the best possible Plan B. We bought a replacement inflatable lightweight mattress pad. This time we went high end and got the one that matches our Big Agnes Fly Creek tent.
Enter The Massassauga Provincial Park which had a couple of free nights available, on two different locations. There’s very little portaging at Massassauga. Our trip had none. It did have a very active beaver, excellent yoga rocks, terrific swimming, and a great spot for the hammock.
Part 3 Biking to Port Dover
We arrived home on Saturday with some holidays still to spare. I’ve always wanted to bike from Brantford to Port Dover on the trail and so we did, staying over at the Erie Beach Hotel in the middle of the 100 km round trip. Great trails, some paved sections, some chip and some packed gravel. All easily ridable on the gravel bikes. Sarah got to try out her new large under-the-seat bag and I put panniers on my bike. We left the Bob trailer behind this time. Next time I do it though, I hope there isn’t a heat wave.
2021 has been a very unusual year, and brought us a very unusual summer. Vaccination for many of us has made possible more close encounters with those we love, like, and hardly know. But it’s certainly not business as usual– that’s for sure.
However, looking back to mid-May, and looking forward to the end of August, I can’t say I’m feeling disappointed with how this summer has unfolded and will proceed. Here are a few ways I’m spending my summer that are a departure from my usual gadding about– conferencing, visiting family and trying to arrange a far-away vacation.
No air travel: all my visiting and vacationing and exploring is happening by car this summer. I’m super lucky that I was able to finally give my 13-year-old manual transmission Toyota Matrix to my niece Gracie and buy a 2021 automatic Honda Civic Hatchback. Two bikes plus gear will still fit in the back with the seats down, but the interior is much more comfortable and gadgety. I love it.
A new car means I’ve happily undertaken the long drive (1000 miles/1600 km) to South Carolina to visit family, and I’ve stayed longer with them. Driving also means I take more breaks, generally in the form of walking in some green area en route, and also using hotel pools (now that they’ve reopened– yay vaccination!). And yes, driving means I can take my bike plus whatever other gear I want with me. I love love love not having to pack light or worry about carryon restrictions. Finally, driving has meant carpooling with friends and family, too– we’re all more slowed down and a teensy bit more flexible about schedules. Huzzah to that!
More walking with friends and family and their dogs: even after getting vaccinated (did I say yay vaccination? Yay again!), almost everyone I know is still in the habit of passing time together on foot, tooling around the neighborhood, to a local place for something to eat or drink, doing errands, or just to enjoy the warm weather. It’s been such fun walking with friends and family, as well as friends’ and family dogs. Yes, I’m talking about you, Baxter! And you, Dixie! And Kita! And Wylie! And Mopsy! And other canines not mentioned here. The thing is, I’ve got the time. Imagine that.
Upping my swimming game: this is a project still in process, but I’ve gone swimming much more this year than in decades. Fresh water, ocean, warm water, cold water– I’m dipping in when I can. Friends are a huge help, as I tag along behind them, taking advantage of their slipstream of purpose and intention. Yes, I’m talking about you, Norah! And others, too. Again, it feels to me like it takes more time and effort to go to a lake or beach to swim, but oh, the benefits and the joys! I’ve got plans to swim in two different states (Massachusetts and New Hampshire) next week.
Vacationing regionally with friends: In years past, I would try to do a longer-distance vacation, sometimes combined with a conference. This year I had planned to go to Utah with a friend and her family to visit Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks. But as time grew nearer, I found that I just wasn’t feeling it. I wasn’t psyched about getting on a plane, going to what are apparently super-crowded parks during record heat in the west while COVID cases are on the rise. Hard to argue with that, right?
Instead, I’ve gone to Cape Elizabeth, Maine for a long weekend with friends, am heading to Brattleboro Vermont to see a friend, visiting friends in their new apartment in NYC, and going on a meditation retreat with friends in Rhinebeck, NY. All of these trips are short, an easy drive away, and involve fun times with good friends I didn’t get to see in person during the past year. Yay for being with those we love again!
Rethinking time: I’m not even sure what I mean here. But it’s true that since March 2020, I’ve had time to think about what’s important to me. Like many of you, that means friends, family, projects, pets, creativity, helping others, movement, and home. Cultivating and maintaining connections to those things takes time. And it turns out, we’ve got time. Who knew? More on this as it becomes clearer, but for now, I’m so enjoying just spending and passing the time of the summer, doing basic and satisfying activities.
Will I get on a plane again? Yes.
Will I take a far-away vacation again? Yes.
Will I go to an in-person conference again? Yes.
Will I forget these lessons I’ve learned about the importance of spending time, lots of time, on what I care about? I hope not. This is why I’m writing it down here and now.
What about you, dear readers? What are you doing differently this summer? How are the pace and scope of your activities different? Or are they? I’d love to hear what you’re up to.
Last month I wrote about my slowness plan for the summer of whatever-this-is-with-respect-to-the-pandemic. If you missed it, here’s the short version:
Feel free to go slow.
Just to clarify, the slowness plan is not this:
Nor is it this:
My slowness plan is about paying attention to what I want to do, how I’m feeling (physically, emotionally), and how adjusting my pace or frequency or duration will affect my ability to do things and also my satisfaction in doing them. This reads well on the page, but is not so easy to implement in reality. Why? FOMO– Fear Of Missing Out.
I love being with my peeps, doing what they’re doing. Saying no to something that’s potentially fun or interesting is hard.
But, this weekend, on a trip with friends to Cape Elizabeth, Maine (yay for vaccination!) I tried out POMO– Pleasure of Missing Out– instead. How is POMO possible?
Because, in reality, we all have needs and limits. Some of us (in this case, me) aren’t early risers. Others of us, aren’t into ocean swimming. So we don’t all need to do all the things all the time. We can take a pass. As my friend Madeline says, we don’t need to have ALL the fun. Wise words, those.
So I did, on Saturday morning. Instead of cycling to the coffee shop and cute general store 3 miles away, I stayed in bed another 45 minutes in a very quiet and peaceful house. It was … heavenly. Then I got up, made myself a latte, meditated, and worked on a piece for my writing class (I’m a student for the next month! Yay!)
When the coffee riders returned, I was happy to see them. Michele offered to take a short ride with me to nearby Kettle Cove. It turned out to be a sort of POMO pilgrimage site– not much going on, but loads of pleasure in just being there.
You might be thinking, hey– you didn’t miss out! You did a thing and enjoyed it. How is that POMO? Well, for me, giving myself space to NOT do everything that’s offered allowed me to take great pleasure in the things I ended up choosing instead:
sleep (oh, sweet sleep!)
coffee (oh, necessary coffee)
impromptu short ride with friend
Hey readers, have you tried saying no to a thing and watched what happened (and didn’t happen) instead? Have you pulled off the POMO state? I’d love to hear from you.
I shared this to my Facebook page the other day, mostly because I noticed that my upcoming canoe camping trip is the exact length of the ideal vacation!
I was amused at the heated debate that ensued among friends. You never know what’s going to bring out competing views and strong opinions!
There were the stereotypical American friends who claimed never to have taken a vacation that long. There were the Europeans who spoke up in favour of their two months off.
To be clear, I do take a month’s vacation each year. Eight days isn’t my only vacation. But I like to take time off throughout the year rather than in one big chunk.
For me, the ideal length of any one chunk of vacation really varies. If I am flying somewhere, especially somewhere with a time difference, I like to allow some time as part of the trip to recover when I get there and when I get home so it’s usually two weeks all told but not all of that is the vacation itself. I schedule time to decompress, do laundry, and get caught up on sleep when I get back. Getting sensible in my middle age!
My biking trips south are usually a week off work but bookended by weekends for travel.
My best bang for buck vacation time wise are my canoe camping trips. Even my four day back country canoe camping trips feel like real vacation. There are no phones, no email , lots of natural beauty, and lots of movement. I sleep very well! I come back rested and sometimes feel like I’ve been off for weeks.
This is my longest back country canoe camping trip yet. Sarah is carefully planning all the things so that we have food but not too much food and we’re being very weight conscious because of portages. A couple of years ago we invested in ultralight weight camping gear so we could keep doing this even with my knees in the state they’re in.
You would think that, now more vaccination is happening in the US and Canada, that we would all be waiting at the thresholds of our homes, raring to go, just waiting for Dr. Anthony Fauci’s starter pistol (which, in a way, has already gone off). Time to get out there, do the things, see the people, go to the places!
I’ve gotten the message, and am venturing forth. I’ve driven through 9 states and back to see family and friends, had a bona fide dinner party, and eaten in a few restaurants inside, with no masks. I’ve been to the beach and the pool, the grocery store and parks. It’s so nice to see other people I know and don’t know, out enjoying everyday life. Yay! Whew. Thanks, science!
But, life doesn’t feel back to normal. Not yet. Not even close. Just thinking about adding new things to my to-do list, filling my social calendar, resuming all the activities I used to do, makes me anxious and fearful. I’m not ready. Or at least not ready to do it all right away and fast, like the pandemic never happened. No sir.
But, but: life is returning, coming at us, speeding up, expanding to fill all available space and time. What are my options?
I can go slow.
You know– slow.
Turns out I already have the start of a library of how-to-do-stuff-slowly books. Here are two of them.
I’m taking a memoir writing course online with an old friend and former colleague, Edi Giunta. One of the things she assigned for us is being part of a 100-word writing group. It works like this: people are assigned different days of the week. One starts, writing 100 words exactly. Then the next person writes exactly 100 words, taking inspiration from whatever strikes them in the previous writing piece. And so on.
I love this! It’s breaking down writing into sentences, words, punctuation. I admit I don’t write my pieces very slowly; but, given that it’s just 100 words, I feel like I have all the time in the world to complete it. What luxury– the feeling of rafts of time to do something, and then doing it within that time. WOW.
So I’ve been thinking: if slow writing feels this good, what else will be very satisfying doing slowly? Here’s one: swimming. After reading the Why We Swim book (which we reviewed extensively, you can start here if you want to take a look), I felt the urge to be in water, but not to swim fast or hard or long. I like just being in the water, moving around at my own paddly pace, stopping and treading water or floating to look around. There are slow swimming groups (here’s one on FB; I’m guessing Diane knows about them), but I am happy (for now) being a group of one or two or so.
There’s also slow hiking. Admittedly, I don’t have much choice on this one: I am a very slow hiker, no matter what my age, fitness level, geopolitical situation, etc. If and when it’s okay to hike slowly, I almost sort of like it a little bit. I mean, the outdoors, and woodsy hilly outdoors, are lovely. Being able to appreciate however much or little I want of it seems like an good approach for me. And yes, there is internet information on it, but I warn you: several pages I went to (like this one) featured a picture of a snail. Sigh… Still, it seems promising. And when I’ve done this with fully-on-board-with-the-plan friends, it’s been marvelous.
And then there’s slow cycling. That one’s hard, because I remember being not-as-slow and am not as satisfied with slow-as-I-am-now. But maybe this is the most important one. Why? Because 1) I love cycling; 2) I’ve missed cycling; and 3) I simply am a slow cyclist. At least right now. Given the choice between slow cycling and no cycling, I pick slow cycling.
My sister and I have done a bunch of slow cycling on beach bikes. It’s so much fun. She likes riding around beach neighborhoods, looking at the houses, and wondering aloud how much they cost. I like riding with her. This situation suits us both. In lieu of my sister (who lives, alas, far away from me), I’ll have to slow-cycle on my own or with friends who I’m comfortable slow-cycling with.
Dear readers, what do you like to do slowly? Anything? Have you considered taking up an activity or returning to it, but in the slow lane? I’d love to hear about it.
For most of us on the college and university academic calendar, the disjointed, overwhelming, surreal and non-spatio-temporal spring semester of 2020 is staggering to an end. College administrations have already been frantically calculating about what is possible for fall 2020, with some having declared an all-online semester, and others (like mine) wishing and hoping to include some face-to-face instruction (who knows how…)
But for now, there’s an opportunity for us to take a breath. It’s mid-May, and where I live the flowers and trees are bursting out with new fresh color. Normally I would be heading to South Carolina to see family, and then to Dallas, TX for my friend Matt’s lovely conference on Medicine, Science and Technology. But nothing is normal right now, except for those flowers and trees.
Okay, moving on from that: now that my grades are in (and by now, I mean “just now– like 45 minutes ago.”), I want to do something to mark the space between the end of the term and the beginning of my summer work (academic writing, non-academic writing, course planning, teaching a summer course, among other things).
But what to do?
One of the unexpected side effects of large-scale physical distancing is our new access to just about everything everywhere on Zoom. Samantha is cycling with famous and non-famous cyclists from all over the world, and some of my logic students joined me for a free restorative yoga class. We are working out, tuning in, focusing on our breath, stretching, you name it, all from our individual spaces. Here are some zoom options I’m looking at:
More yoga: I’ve been using this enforced home time to try out Zoom classes by non-local yoga teachers. Many studios offer cheap introductory rates, making it possible for more people to try them out. I’m definitely getting a one-week pass for Nest Yoga studio in Oakland, CA. One of their teachers, Leslie Howard, is a specialist on pelvic floor yoga.
I know, you’re maybe wincing a little. But this is a thing. And we are feminists here, which to me means speaking truth about women’s bodies. Okay, I’m done with that for now. Except to tell you that Leslie wrote a book called Pelvic Liberation, which I immediately ordered. Yes, I’ll be blogging about it.
So, Nest Yoga has a ton of classes that look intriguing to me, and I can partake of one week of them for $25. Seems like a deal.
Also, I can take more Zoom classes offered by my local studio, Artemis. I’d enjoy spending more time with the teachers I know and who know me.
More Meditation: Meditation is something I’ve been doing off and on for a couple of decades now. I’ve been in an off phase for a while, but once we went into stay-at-home mode, I found that I needed the focus and calm and present-here-now feeling that I sometimes get from meditation. My friend Norah told me about this site, Trike Daily, which has live streaming meditation sessions and loads of recorded sessions, all by well-known Buddhist meditation teachers.
I bought Sharon Saltzberg’s book Real Happiness, and she has QR codes to downloadable meditations. I will be checking them out.
Strength training: I got started on this before the shutdown of everything, purchasing a 12-week plan rom Bad Yogi. Honestly, it was a little much for me, but I could modify the workouts. However, I didn’t modify them, I just avoided them. But, today is a new day, and I am still interested in strength training. And those Bad Yogi workouts are still there.
One thing I haven’t done is explored live zoom strength training classes. I know a number of the bloggers do this, and others have set up at-home equipment and schedules. I admit to being a bit at sea about this.
But maybe all this is beside the point, re vacation. Maybe it’s time to step away from the computer and refrain from all unnecessary Zooming for a bit. Even with physical distancing and mandatory mask-wearing in public (it’s required in MA, and I encourage everyone to do this all the time), I can still GO OUTSIDE.
Maybe I should just go outside. On foot. On my bike. With my phone camera. With a water bottle and a snack. It’s a thought.
What do you think, readers? If you were taking a week-long vacation, what would you do, given the rules and recommendations for where you are? I’d love to hear from you, and I will report back– both with my plans and with your comments.
It feels like it’s cheating. But I did count Zwifting inside as winter biking. Anyway, for me, the main point of these social media challenges is to just increase the number of days I ride. I’m a pretty decent tough weather cyclist–I’ve got the gear and it still makes me smile–but even I can find January with its ice and cold and very dark days just a bit much. Enter the #31DaysOfWinterBiking. But also, for me, enter a week long vacation at the end of January riding my bike in Florida.
The plan: We loaded up the Prius and Jeff, Sarah, and I drove Saturday and Sunday from Guelph to Central Florida. It was about 20 hours, door to door. We stopped for the night on Saturday in a roadside motel in West Virginia. Sunday night we checked into our very cute cottage. Five days of Florida bike riding and then Saturday, tomorrow, we check out and do the same drive in reverse.
It’s a repeat of last year in some ways. Last year we went riding in Clermont though then Jeff was already on his boat in Florida and Sarah and I flew down. I liked where we stayed in Clermont but it wasn’t free for these dates this year. Instead, we’re in nearby Mount Dora, home of the Mount Dora Bike Festival.
The bike festival is in its 45th year and it brings hundreds of riders to this old cute Florida town. Their route maps are here. Our plan was to hang out and ride bikes in a leisurely, vacation style way, making use of the Mount Dora route maps and also driving back to Clermont to ride some of our favorites again.
Day 1: Tangerine Ride
When we arrived in Florida Sarah was sick–cough, cold, sneezing, sore throat. On holidays! So not fair. So for our first day we noodled down to downtown Mount Dora, an old central Florida town full of coffee shops and gift stores, sat outside and drank lattes. Properly fortified we did the Mount Dora Bike Festival’s family friendly Tangerine Ride. I recommend it!
“With 10.8 miles and + 394 feet of climbing this is a nice, mostly flat, casual and un-guided ride out to one of our beautiful lakefront parks, Trimble Park. Enjoy the park and then ride back through the historic town of Tangerine.”
We’ve been amused, as Canadians, with all the bear warning signs. Do they come south for winter? Turns out, upon googling, that Florida black bears are a sub species of the North American black bear. You can read up here.
“The park is in a known bear habitat and you may also see alligators, squirrels, raccoons, gopher tortoises, slider turtles, snakes, lizards and many bird species including eagles, osprey, pelicans and hawks.” From a guide to Trimble Park.
Total distance ridden: 28 km
Day 2: Shortened version of the Three Bob’s Ride, including thrill hill
“With 41.6 miles and +1112 feet of Climbing this route was named after three cycling friends all named Bob. This route was created from their friendly challenge to see which Bob could create the ride where you could spot the most lakes in Lake County in 40 miles. This was the winning ride and the route brags about having a water feature for every mile it is long! Rolling hills and great forested land are also highlights of this ride.”
Highlights: So many lakes! Also “thrill hill.” It wasn’t really that big of a hill but this is flat Florida. Still, it was a fun descent. Lowlight: lunch stop ended up being MacDonald’s since the local diners closed at 2 pm, after lunch.
Total distance ridden: 55 km
Day 3: Shortened version of the Metric Swamp Century
“Very scenic ride through northern Lake County, it is named for the Emeralda Marsh Conservation Area that this ride will wind through.”
Highlights: Praline pecans with sweet Georgia heat spice for snacks, also an alpaca farm with alpaca boarding, you know in case you own an alpaca and need to take a vacation. Lowlight: Keep America Great signs. Sigh.
Total distance ridden: 70 km
Day 4: West Orange Trail
The West Orange Trail is 21 miles long and so out and back makes a pretty good ride. It’s a multiuse pathway, yes, but nicely paved and plenty wide. You can actually ride at speed through sections of it. We loved it last time and so we were determined to do it again.
Highlights: Love the wide paved pathway and the town of Wintergarden. We stopped there for coffee and lunch and I bought an Orange Trail bike jersey. Lowlight: Trying to navigate four way stops when the path crosses roads with riders with different tolerances for looking and riding through. I’m the nervous nellie in this crowd. Also we encountered our first rain on the way back.
Total distance ridden: 45 km
Day 5: Sugarloaf
It was supposed to be the “Assault on Sugarloaf” but by Friday I’d caught Sarah’s cold. With a sore throat and cough I agreed to ride up the local big hill but I wasn’t about to be mounting an assault on anything.
“The sugarloaf mountain is situated in Florida (US). This climb belongs to the Florida hills. The sugarloaf mountain via clermont, fl is ranked number 1 of the Florida hills. The climb is ranked number 427 in United States and number 11779 in the world. Starting from clermont, fl, the sugarloaf mountain ascent is 1 km long. Over this distance, you climb 67 heightmeters. The average percentage thus is 6.7 %. The maximum slope is 16%.”
In the end it started to rain and got dark and once we got off the lovely bike paths the cars were passing too close for my comfort. Sarah made it up Sugarloaf but I called for Jeff’s rescue wagon. Here’s the lovely bike trail.
Total distance ridden, for me: 15 km For Sarah: 38 km For Jeff: 0 km (he was also getting sick and was driving the support vehicle)
I made it through January! Yay! It’s been a long month. And a very gloomy one.
From here on in it’s a quick countdown to spring. Right?
As of today there are 45 days left in 2019 and I just logged my 260th workout. It’s Sunday so I worshipped at the church of Zwift, riding 27 km in one hour in virtual London, England. Doing some basic math here that means I’ve got 40 workouts left and 45 days. Given that I also aspire to one day rest day a week, the math should work out perfectly.
I’ve often enjoyed having some sort of challenge through the holiday season to keep me focussed on exercise and not letting that be the thing that gives way in the face of all the extra socializing, shopping, hosting, wrapping, cooking excetera excetera. In the past I’ve done running streaks from American Thanksgiving through until New year’s short distances say 1 mile a day. My running days are over so this is probably a better focus for me anyway.
What will the next 40 workouts look like? My guess is we’ll be spending some extra time in the virtual cycling world of Zwift given a bit of extra flexibility around my work hours. I’m either walking or riding to work most days and doing some extra activity to make that count either yoga at home or planking. Sarah and I were talking this morning about making it out to the hot yoga studio in Guelph finally. And I’ll be sure to get some weight lifting in as well either with a personal trainer or on my own.