Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Dry (and wet) Run

I was awakened early this morning by the sound of Canada geese honking overhead and as I opened my eyes and glanced out the window I noted the direction they were flying. South. I know it's only early August, but it's a sound I associate with autumn and my first conscious thought of the day was "Oh no, summer's whittled away...."

Time to reach into the bucket list. I figure today's the day to start transforming intention into action: fully load up my crazy rig and go for a test run. I had done some packing last night, all the essentials for a 10-day trip (alright, maybe the netbook isn't that essential but it will allow me to continue this blog). I packed lighter than I would for a regular cycling trip — less clothes thinking I would just wash as I go, and because services are relatively accessible along the Erie Canal. It still added up though, but neatly packed in different sized dry seal bags so they can fit in the odd-shaped compartments in the bow and stern of the boat:

So my bags match, big deal. "It's not how you feel, dahling, it's how you look". An aside about me and the colour yellow: Growing up with 4 brothers our parents often bought us identical or similar toys to keep us from arguing and they were colour coded. My oldest brother would get the blue thing, the second got the red thing and I being the third got the yellow thing. I was forced to like yellow.

I had some work to attend to in the morning but much of my afternoon was free so the plan was to cycle-tow the loaded kayak to Dows Lake (6 km) Paddle the whole barge load downtown and back on the Rideau Canal (12 km) and then cycle back home (6 km). The equal distance would let me figure out the speed ratio between the cycling part and the paddling part, and allow me to estimate the distance and amount of each activity I would do  in a day. Lock and load the GPS.

The route to Dows Lake from my house is not entirely level, there are some good inclines which was fine. The tow paths along the Erie Canal which I intend to cycle are be quite flat, but the gravel surface might slow me down a bit so it balances out. Although I had towed a kayak on this route several times, it was never with such a load, which somewhat made me nervous. I could definitely feel the extra load. I may change the gear cassette on the Bike Friday, the smallest cog is probably too small for the load — 9 teeth! — and I was too concerned with using the high gears.

I got the usual double-takes on the road and when I got to the boat ramp the gate was locked. Luckily the kayak was low enough to slip under. Figuring out how everything would fit in properly was like one of those 3-D puzzles. I was a bit self-conscious because the boat ramp is within view of a restaurant patio and people there were intently watching the transformation. Once on the water, the boat actually handles really well with the load, feeling much the same as when I took it on the Trent-Severn even with the additional weight. The maximum capacity of the boat is 400 pounds and I am sure my gear plus myself are well below that by at least 120 pounds.

Past the lake and into the narrows of the canal, I was going at a good clip, even passing some people paddling tandem in a canoe. Got a lot of smiles from cyclists on the adjacent pathway. I kept on seeing one family cycling along the way as they stopped quite often and arrived downtown the same time I did. The father asked me if I wanted to have my picture taken so I handed him my camera. A few tourists took my photo as i floated by — I wonder how I will be portrayed in some stranger's vacation photo album. I think I kicked up the weirdness factor of this government town up a notch. I chatted with a bunch from Austria and I told them of my plans and they said I should go do the Danube sometime.  Hmmm, ideas.

I didn't even flinch when this boat came speeding up towards me.
He threw up quite a wake but I just rode it like a bronco.
On the way back I hit a groove with my my paddle strokes, keeping up a good pace with a tour boat slowly plying the canal. I think the captain directed a few quick friendly toots from his horn at me in the end when I turned away towards the lake. Transforming back into a land-lubbing rig took a lot less time and got home in a breeze. Total time a little over 3 hours, not bad considering the bit of fiddling around. Speed ratio between cycling and paddling is about 3:1, translating on average to 18 kph (in traffic) and 6 kph respectively.

So aside from the slight gearing issue on the bike, which I will ask the bike shop about tomorrow, I think I am good to go!

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