Thursday, July 28, 2011

Way out East

So my current employer decided to ship me out for some work to upstate New York. I was to be gone for 10 days, followed by another trip to Los Angeles thereafter. While I won’t post pictures and exactly describe what I did (afterall, this is a personal blog), I did manage to get some photos during my trip!

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Leaving my wife and son, as well as Calgary for 2 weeks left me almost teary eyed, because this is the area I love so much!

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There were obviously some massive storm cells over the midwest. Lucky me, I was in a plane and we managed to dodge that!

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I flew in to Newark, NJ. The initial plan was to spend one night in New York City, then take the train up the next morning to Schenectady. Unfortunately, plans changed and we ended up driving north to Schenectady right after landing. Oh well, New York City will always be there.

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I stayed in a nice little B&B, which actually was half the price of the hotel and included an awesome breakfast each morning! Being the only guest there was a real treat too!

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Schenectady is almost 350 years old, which is like twice the age of Canada. Needless to say, there is a lot of history there and a lot of cool buildings.

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This is St. John’s Cathedral, and it towers above many of the buildings and trees in the town! Very cool indeed! I didn’t have much time for exploration, but I would have liked to have gone into this building.

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On one of the days I was there, I got to go flying in a C-130 for the first time! Now that was cool. We buzzed around for about 3 hours at 7000 feet. It gave a very nice view of the area Smile

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A nice view of Schenectady and the Mohawk River.

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Looking out the bubble window of the C-130 and flying through some clouds! Incredible views!

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I managed to get all my work done a few days early, so I changed my return flight to get home on the Saturday. I had to take the train down to Newark, and that meant I would pass through New York City! Woohoo, even if it is only for 2 hours!

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The train ride was very pleasant and comfortable, lasting only 3 hours. It followed the Hudson River down to New York, so the view and scenery was fantastic!

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You can tell New York is a very old state (relative to Canada, that is), because some of the buildings are just ancient looking! Look, a castle!!!

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I had a 2.5 hour layover at Penn Station in New York city, so I stored my bags at the station and went for a wander! Empire State building!!!!

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Taxis on Fashion Ave! So it is real, and not just some place made up in the movies!

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I remember being a kid reading books about the Empire State Building, and now here I am! What luck!

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I went in the building hoping to make it to the top, but the lineup was too long and I didn’t want to take a chance and miss my train (and then my flight…)

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I walked from the Empire State Building to Broadway and realized I had enough time to go explore Times Square for a bit!

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Times Square! Again, a place that is not just made up! Tons of people and very cool indeed!

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It was such a cool place cause everything was moving and exciting and very neato for this quiet little Westerner!

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There was even a market going on, and I managed to snag a few souvenirs and gifts!

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One of the things on my bucket list was to eat a hot dog from a vendor in New York. Well, I got to cross that off the list. Funny story because I went to buy the hot dog without asking the vendor how much, and I told him I hope it doesn’t cost more than $5 cause that’s all I have. Without hesitation, he said “5 dollars”….. Rookie mistake, but quite amusing. Well, at least I had a Coke with it too Smile

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What amazes me about New York City is that the streets are literally canyons of buildings. Everywhere you look, canyons. There is NOTHING like that here out west.

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I made my way back to Penn station as I had to leave. I only managed to spend 2 hours in the city, but I had a pretty good sample of what it’s like.

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Penn station was a very organized flurry of activity, but it was well organized and quite easy to get around.

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A short 20 minute ride took me out to Newark Liberty Airport, and I was ready to go home. Bye New York, I will see you again soon.

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The flight home was quiet enjoyable. I spent most of my time reading and staring out the windows. At the receiving end of this flight was my wife and son and the area I love so much. I was given a few days rest between trips, and soon I would be headed off to Los Angeles.

As cool as the city streets and activity of New York were, nothing compares to the peace and serenity that is Alberta. There is no place on earth like this, and I would never trade it for anything. Places like New York are very cool to see, but I could never see myself wanting to live in those areas. I like my mountains, my clear blue sky and my fresh air.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Commuting Fun!

As was my goal earlier this year when I bought my bike, I wanted to do a daily commute on the bicycle. Well daily doesn’t happen, but frequent does. Here are some photos (up until the point where my camera ran out of batteries).


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Ok, the exposure settings suck, but there is a deer in the picture as I head west towards the mountains.


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See, a nice deer! Blurry, yes, but definitely a deer.


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Heading south on Horse Creek Road towards the tracks. This morning I had to wait for the train for 5 minutes, but most days there are no trains.


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Riding through the neighbourhoods towards the intersection. Beautiful way to start the morning!


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Coming up to the intersection, you can smell all the fast-foods being prepared. Not exactly the best choice for an active morning, but oh so tantalizing when you’re riding on an empty stomach.


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This is passing the Tim Horton’s in town. It looks as if I’m playing in heavy traffic, but actually I am just passing parked trucks.


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I used to take the pathways under the bridge, up the other side, across on the pedestrian walkway and then back under the bridge to the paths, but I realized it’s safe enough to just ride the shoulder.


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Crossing the bridge over the Bow River. The river has been really swollen this year. Usually in the morning it is quite low then by afternoon it is much higher, but now it seems to be always high. It even floods the parking lot underneath quite often.


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Rather than heading up the highway, I take a right at the lights into Bow Meadows (I think) and aim for Tower’s trail. Sure it’s an additional 10km, but it is so worth every minute of it!


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Ah yes, Tower’s Trail hill. One of two major hills (if you want to call it major) on the ride. Major enough to cause me to pant.


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At the top of the hill, the sun just peeks over Big Hill. Such a pretty way to start the morning!


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At the top of Tower’s Trail hill, some rolling roads that turn into gravel. I figured my ride to be about 56% tarmac, 44% gravel. That’s why I have the commuter bike and not a road bike, as mine can handle the gravel.


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And there I am. At my desk being a good worker.

Commuting on the bike is great cause it’s the perfect way to start the morning, then I spend all day looking forward to the ride home! Sure it may take 1:15, but it’s no big deal to me cause I enjoy it so much! A great way to get some fresh air early in the morning. Usually when I ride to work, it ends up rainy or stormy, but hey, it’s half the fun seeing whether it rains or not! So far this year, I’ve logged 530km, which I think is pretty good (considering I’ve only put 1600km on my motorcycle).


Monday, July 25, 2011

Grand Valley to Horse Creek Loop

So the other day, we (neighbours, that is) decided to go out for a bike ride. Road ride. Yeah, and since we live on one of the most fantastic bike loops in the area, we decided to pedal out the Horse Creek – Grand Valley loop. GPS data can be found here.

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We did the loop clockwise, starting on the highway from our neighbourhood going a few km’s west (into a strong headwind) to Grand Valley road and taking that north. The hills are called the Wildcat Hills.

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Once we turned north, the winds weren’t so bad and the hills provided some protection. And there were some nice views along the way.

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J and his fancy road bike. I have a single speed commuter and had to pedal like mad to keep up. Perhaps that is some incentive to get a hub-gear.

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Taking photos of yourself while biking is tricky, but I think this turned out alright.

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One of the nicest things about this whole loop is that it is smoothly paved the whole way! Very nice for skinny tyres and keeping the speed up.

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Cows! I like cows! They are very photogenic and taste delicious!

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There are no really steep climbs on the loop which is nice. Even though the loop is over 40km, I believe even a novice road rider would have few issues! Plus the scenery is just fantastic!

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And of course, wherever there are fields and hills, there are trees, so they deserve a picture too.

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J and K coming up the last section of Grand Valley Road before we headed east towards Horse Creek Road. Very easily identifiable by the stop signs.

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K coming around the bend and heading east! I think she really enjoyed the ride!

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The connecting road TWP 280 between Grand Valley and Horse Creek Road is very nice, with trees whizzing by you (depending on how fast you pedal) and is quite flat and straight. It’s so very peaceful.

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Having fun with the camera. I sure hope there is no car coming towards me….

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Coming down Horse Creek Road there are some slight downhills and bends in the road. Very fun and quite fast! Again, perfect scenery.

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I was trying to get the camera as close to the road as I could without wiping out or dropping the camera. I think this worked out quite well.

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Riding south on Horse Creek Road gave us a bit of a crosswind, and all the grasses made that nice summer rustling sound that I love so much. Hopefully this photo captures that sound in some way.

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The last stretch of road brought us back in to Cochrane and in view of the mountains. I love living here. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.
The beauty of riding the bike is the quiet and the peace that it creates. There are no motors, no stereos or noisy distractions. Just the road, the bike and your legs hammering away like pistons on your pedals so that you can feel the exhilaration that is road biking. And better yet, the Coke at the end of the ride that you share with friends as you plan your next ride.