camping · cycling · fitness · inclusiveness

A Milestone & Kind Strangers (Guest Post)

On September 5th, my trip tracking odometer rolled over to 501km as I reached the boarding dock for the Chi Cheemaun. Such a great feeling… and a very cool spot to reach that milestone too!

Celebrating 500km into my trip while waiting to board the Chi Cheemaun!

Throughout this trip there has been no shortage of challenging situations where the kindness of strangers made my day far easier. Here are a few of those highlights:

  • Emergency phone charge at Seaforth Mini Storage when I made a wrong turn on my way from Exeter to Bayfield. I now have two robust charging blocks!
  • Frozen water bottles from beach goers at Port Albert when I asked about a place to buy water.
  • Help lifting my fully loaded bike up when it fell over. This has happened a few times, but was especially notable when I arrived in Kincardine feeling exhausted, ravenous after running out of protein bars, and maybe a bit dehydrated too… it was a hot day with temperatures in the 30s. I missed my aim when I went to prop my bike against something and it went down. All I wanted was food and *cold* water. I sighed, then sat down to drink water before unloading my bike, lifting it up, and reloading it. But before I’d even moved it to the sidewalk it fell over again! I was sooo tired! So I went to the road and flagged down a driver to help me pick my bike up without needing to unload again. The driver also topped up my water bottle and pointed me toward an excellent restaurant.
  • Free produce from Earth Bound Gardens in the midst of a food desert near Red Bay. Surprisingly this was my first roadside produce stop in all my travels! There haven’t been a lot along my path. Their gardens were also a hidden gem and I felt like I’d stumbled into gardens from a fairytale. More on that another time though.
Some of the produce Earth Bound Gardens gave me.
  • A tampon. Everyone who menstruates can relate to needing feminine hygiene products when out and about!!
  • Help getting my stove lit when all I had was a cigarette lighter. Maybe ten minutes earlier I had watched a group of Muslim women figuring out how to set up a privacy shelter for the first time. They worked together and seeing their collaboration made me smile. I struggled for a few minutes on my own, before asking the group if they had a BBQ lighter or matches. It was easier to ask them for help since I’d seen them struggling earlier. They didn’t have an alternative, but came over to help when they realized I had a cigarette lighter. One of them suggested we try lighting paper first, a couple of us blocked the wind, and together we managed to light the stove. That night I cooked my first (very basic) camp stove meal. A couple days later I bought a pack of 3 BBQ lighters, so I’ll be set for a while yet! This is key, because stores are further apart now, so I have to be able to cook my own food.
Dinner at Black Creek Provincial Park
  • Creative problem solving regarding where to put my food bag when it was tricky to find a decent tree to hang the bear bag in. We ended up putting it in a locked outhouse with rocks blocking it. Yes… I know it probably wouldn’t have worked if a bear came along and wasn’t satisfied with the nearby garbage, but it was a good team effort. Don’t worry, I camped waaaay down the beach from it so I was safe either way!
Food bag in the outhouse! Creative problem solving at it’s finest! LOL
  • Directions plus loads of useful local info when I had no cell service to check my map. Yay friendly and resourceful librarians who are eager to help even when they aren’t at work!
  • Just before I caught the Chi Cheemaun to Manitoulin there was a power outage and everything shut down. I had intended to restock food and water supplies before catching the ferry and since I hadn’t had access to the internet for a few days I wasn’t sure what would be available on Manitoulin. As I made inquiries about where to get supplies one person offered me a bottle of water, another a granola bar, and another 4 bottles of water! This helped me realize that even if there wasn’t a grocery store, I could likely knock on a few people’s doors and ask to buy a few eggs from their fridge to get me through.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the way perceptions and stereotypes impact interactions between strangers. How much more readily have strangers helped me because I’m white, thin, and female in a society that views those attributes as safe, non-threatening, worthy of care, and even of needing protection? What role do my academic background and social skills have? What about the fact that I can often present as middle class, even though in reality I live under the poverty line?

Today I am absolutely loving this journey, but how might I feel if strangers weren’t as kind to me? What if I were experiencing microaggressions rather than support and kindness? It’s difficult to imagine what some days would have looked like without kind strangers. Even more so if I was experiencing microaggressions.

cycling · fitness

Ode to my e-bike (Guest post)

Sam here. I’ve been back and forthing on the blog about e-bikes. See Sam is sorry she was a bit of a fitness snob about e-bikes and Women and e-assist bikes… Sam has some worries and Sam is feeling grouchy about e-bikes. After sharing the recent post on Facebook some friends who are e-bike riders and lovers came out of the woodwork rushing to their defense. I loved their happy stories and their enthusiasm for their e-bikes and asked if I could share their stories. Here’s the first. There will be more to follow. Enjoy!

By Alisa Joy

Samantha asked why women ride e-bikes, and I totally get why she would worry that women might be getting the message that they are just never going to get up whatever hill-of-doom exists on their bike ride. Because she asked, I’m here to tell you there are so many great reasons to consider an e-bike.

I think to answer the question of why an e-bike, I first have to answer the question of why I bike at all. Biking for me is a mode of transportation. I will use the bike to get somewhere and, most often, that somewhere is to my job. It’s hard to fit exercise in at all as a working parent; if I can ride my bike instead of driving the car, then that’s exercise I can sustainably get.

As a social worker, my job can be pretty stressful, and I find the immediate and substantial mental health benefits of biking are my greatest reward for overcoming saddle-but every spring. I’m so lucky to live in Ottawa where my bike commute is largely along the river and is often peppered by reflections of sunlight on the water poking through the gaps between the plentiful trees.

Biking home from work provides an effective transition period from work to home, a stress hormone dump, and a nature bath. When I first got an e-bike, I worked 26 kilometers from my house. I would bike once or twice a week, at most, and it took me 75 minutes of medium-to-hard exertion. And, yes, there was a killer hill on my path behind the parliament building. I would arrive at work drenched in sweat and any hope of having good collegiate relationships required that I immediately shower. That meant I had to pack an entire change of clothes, which was just one more thing.

One day, it was windy and fighting that wind meant it took me over 2 hours to cycle home; shortly after that, the e-bike was purchased. What was better? My commute went from 75 minutes of medium-to-hard exertion to 45 minutes of light-to-medium exertion. That meant I had an extra 60 minutes a day. Fit is a feminist issue, and part of the reason feminism and fitness go together is that many women just have less access to time. I need every minute I can get, so 60 minutes is huge. Because I didn’t have to work as hard physically, I can skip the at-work shower and its complementary change of clothes. Less hassle. Less things that topple over my fragile exercise routine.

I have lots of polyester dresses that I wear over bike shorts that are good enough bike wear and good enough professional wear. If I am tired and got a serious case of the I-don’t-wanna-bike, I tell myself that I will just use more of the assist and take it easy on the e-bike. Sometimes I actually do take it easier on the bike but often I wind up biking with the same e-bike support as usual. People who keep anti-anxiety meds in their pocket tend to actually take fewer pills, so it’s the same thing. The e-bike is my “in the pocket” support so I get on the bike more often.

The above factors meant that I was often biking 5 days a week which is a huge increase in actual minutes on the e-bike. In terms of my mental health, this is absolutely amazing because I get to work off extra cortisol way more often. I’m sure it’s also good for my physical health, but those are not the benefits I am thinking of day to day. The bike is actually feasible as my primary mode of transportation nearly 8 months of the year. I will hop on it to bike 20 kilometers to meet a friend for dinner at the pub. (You winter bikers have my utmost respect.)

And, fine, I admit it. I enjoy passing the bro-dudes in the spandex suits on the tiny lightweight bikes. I’m taking up space, literally and figuratively. So, yeah, I can get up that hill eventually because I’m fit-fat, but it isn’t about getting up the hill. It’s about being in a committed relationship with my e-bike as a mode of transportation. On that front, I am super successful.

Alisa Joy McClain spent the first half of her life thinking she couldn’t do cool exercise-y things because she was fat and is now spending the second half of her life enjoying the body she has and all the cool things she can do with it like rock climbing, cycling, and scuba diving. When not trying to be a fat athlete, she can be found reading books, playing pinball, hanging out with her family and children, and ranting about various social injustices.

accessibility · cycling · fitness · holiday fitness · holidays

eBikes: Moderate Exercise for the Un-Stationary (Guest Post)

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Elan Paulson is a moderate, unstationary exerciser.

You know about the health benefits of cycling, but you don’t prefer to exercise indoors and on a stationary bike. You also know about economic and environmental benefits of outdoor cycling, but unlike your cycling-obsessed social media friends (it’s the shorts, isn’t it?), you’re maybe not quite ready to commit to battling hilly terrain on human- rather than horse-power.

Enter the eBike! (“e” is for “electric.”)

I watched a bunch of Youtube videos about how they work, and I recently spent 4 hours riding one around the coastal city of Wellington, New Zealand. So, I am by no means an expert on eBikes (except to verify that it makes very good sense to own an eBike in this lovely but hilly, windy city).

eBikes sell for between $1000-3000. Apparently there were over 32 million of them sold in the Asian Pacific in 2016, compared to about 150,000 in North America. In 2017, Buddy from Forbes was fairly impressed with his eBike experience, describing lightness, ease of use, good top speed, and rain-proofing. As with all batteries, eBikes have a defined life cycle (Buddy reports 2-4 years, about 500 charges).

My report on eBikes, based on my limited but quite fun experience, will be simple:

  • EASY: With all the same gears, brakes, pedals, etc., it’s literally so easy it’s like riding a bike.
  • CHEAP: This is likely true if comparing money invested in both cars and gym memberships.
  • GOOD OUTDOOR EXERCISE: Go not with the throttle type but the type whose motor engages only when you pedal, and you can actually cycle in all types of weather.
  • FLEXIBLE INTENSITY: If you’re not feeling the burn on any particular day (or part of the ride), you can instantly toggle between electric gears to get a moderate to high “boost” when you pedal.

Just like any other device of convenience, you’ll have to remember to plug it in. And you may have to put up with jibes from your purist cycling-obsessed friends when you’re out on the trail together. (But when you’re passing them up the next steep incline, who will be laughing then?!)

Above: eBiking. Scenery and vistas will vary.

Have you used/owned an eBike? What was your experience? Are there any downsides I have not considered?