Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Southwest Passage

I'm heading into week three at my new job - which, incidentally, I'm thoroughly enjoying - and I have finally, finally cracked the code, put the pieces together, and traced one warm line through a land so wide and savage, and made a Southwest Passage to. . . well, to the Skyline Complex at Baseline and Merivale.

It doesn't help when your first weeks at a new workplace come with one of those deadly January weather combinations: major snow, then rain, then a deep freeze which calcifies all that rutted slush and pooled water into sheets of unrideable glassy crap. Last week I tried getting to work via Carleton University and the canal path west to Hog's Back. It was terrible. The canal was a glassy treacherous rink, I wound up walking lots of it, and I got turned around at Hog's Back and Prince of Wales, and then ended up a long way out of my way on Meadowlands, where this happened:

Anyway, I was late for work and starting to despair. When you can drive to work in 15 minutes and park there for about the same cost as bus fare, and you can bus in 45 minutes which is actually faster than riding, but you really, really want to keep biking because you enjoy riding your bike, it's a little scary to have a week and a half or so where you don't, actually, enjoy riding your bike and can't see a decent reason not to just drive or bus.

But I'd been asking around, to find out from other bikers who know the area whether the fabled Brookfield connection was cleared in winter. They said it was, and over the weekend there was a thaw that cleared some of the really impassable ice, so on Sunday, with the help of a MapMyRide route worked out on my computer and downloaded to my phone. I set off to see if I could find the link and track down a non-terrible route.

The ice is still pretty bad (especially if you're still waiting for your bike shop to get you in a set of 700X40 studded tires), but there are two things that make this route manageable: a small paved pathway that cuts between Bank Street and Brookfield on the east end, and the multi-use pathway that connects Brookfield on the east side of the train tracks and the Airport parkway to Brookfield on the west side.

Brookfield turns into Hog's Back and joins Fisher, where I can duck over onto some quieter side streets (which are still full of ridges and islands of ice that are an inch or two deep, but you can ride it with some focus, determination, and the occasional dropped foot to skid along the icy bits and provide some stability: man I enjoy having those skills). At the far end I cut through a parking lot and across Baseline, and I'm at work. There's a bike cage in the parking garage.

It's still got its moments: if you want to stay on the roads, you get to have a fun five or six minutes on Hog's Back, where you pedal madly up and over the bridge in the middle of the lane, holding up the cars behind you, knowing that the minute there's a break in the line of cars coming the other way all the drivers behind you will be gunning it to pass, closely and in quick succession. But this evening I decided that the pathway running alongside Hog's Back between Mooney's Bay and the traffic circle is fair game to ride on, thus improving the route considerably.

It's such a relief to enjoy the ride again.

It also helps that the sun goes down a couple of minutes after five right now, and I'm not riding in the dark in the icy suburbs. Hey, tonight there was even a Super Blue Moon lighting my way.

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