Gone fishin’ in Waterloo

I posted about a fish-shaped catch basin grate near the Leaside Bridge a couple of winters ago. It remains the only one I’ve seen in Toronto, but I found the mother lode of them last weekend in Waterloo:

Fishy catch basin in Waterloo

They seemed to be along the entire length of Margaret Avenue in Waterloo, and were probably elsewhere in the city as well. Waterloo Region has a detailed casting design for them (page 20 of this PDF) while also noting that they are only for use within the city of Waterloo and nowhere else within the region. So how did we get one in Toronto? The one here has a slightly different design, or I might have suspected someone at Toronto Water of having sticky fingers.

Penny-farthing spinning

Penny-farthing on display in Kitchener

This penny-farthing is on display at a downtown Kitchener storefront operated by the Critical Media Lab at the University of Waterloo. It looks great and is a treat to see, but the best thing about it is not immediately obvious. If you look closely at how it’s propped up, it’s sitting on a magnetic trainer allowing people to pedal away on the high-wheeler right there in the window:

Penny-farthing on a mag trainer

Unfortunately, the lab was closed every time I went by so I wasn’t able to ask them about it or, more importantly, take a spin. It’s just as well: I forgot my tweed jacket and pipe at home.

Guelph to Kitchener

The road from Guelph to Kitchener

The farm-lined road to Anywhere, southern Ontario.

First, a travel tip for anyone taking a bike into the York Mills GO terminal: the canonical way to get to the bus platforms is to go into the York Mills Centre at the northeast corner of Yonge and York Mills, take the well-hidden elevator up to the second floor, and then walk down a short flight of stairs. It’s not so bad on foot, but it’s an overly complicated two-step when you’re swinging a loaded bike around. It’s way more convenient to ride just a few more metres north up Yonge to the same portal that the buses use and ride in through that as if you owned the place. It’s not only a shorter and easier route to the platform, but it means you don’t have to shoulder your bike down stairs or make everyone in the elevator miserable. It’s also far safer. You won’t be riding into a fare-paid zone, so it’s not like you’re doing anything underhanded.

I made a multi-modal trip to Kitchener this weekend (I’ll write more about that in the future), taking GO Transit to Guelph and cycling from there to Kitchener on Friday morning, and then reversing the trip on Sunday evening. Riding the roughly 28 km from Guelph to Kitchener is unlike riding in the countryside anywhere near Toronto. Oh sure, you’ve got the same corn fields, roadside ruminants, sod farms, rural communities, and quiet country roads, but the terrain is remarkably flat. There were only two noticeable hills for the entire ride and even those were smaller than climbing up Danforth from Coxwell to Woodbine. I’m used to traversing the Oak Ridges Moraine or climbing hills on hills on hills in the Peterborough drumlin field when I ride in the country, so riding somewhere flat is quite a treat.

Highway 7 provides the shortest and most direct route between the two cities, but it’s not very pleasant to ride on. A more southerly route along Wellington 124 is about 5 km longer but it’s at least 10 km nicer to ride on. I took a middle way to Kitchener that had theoretical advantages over taking 124: the route along Fife Road is both quieter and shorter by almost 3 km. It also has a long stretch of riding on dirt roads, which doesn’t usually bother me. It would have been perfect if I hadn’t been riding in Friday’s rain, which begat mud, which begat a poorly functioning drivetrain, which begat sucking the fun out of the ride. I was insanely happy that my hotel room was ready three hours before check-in time. “How are you today Mr. Dodge?” “A little muddy.” “I see that.” In total, the ride from downtown Guelph to downtown Kitchener was 28.5 km and took 90 minutes in the rain with a malfunctioning rear derailleur that left me more or less stuck in an awkward gear.

Sunday’s evening’s return trip was sunny and warm (see the picture above) with a steady tailwind. I took advantage of the tailwind to ride the slightly longer return route along Kossuth Road and Wellington 124. Both of those roads have nice wide paved shoulders for most of their length and are easy to ride on if not quite as scenic as some of the quieter rural roads. The return trip was 30.5 km in just 75 minutes with a tailwind blowing all the way. Not bad for a loaded mountain bike. I’d recommend the Fife Road route if it’s dry and you don’t mind riding on dirt roads. I don’t think I’d do it on my road bike. If you want a smooth ride that’s relatively fast but with less traffic than Highway 7, take Wellington 124 and Kossuth Road. You’ll have to head either north or south to cross the Grand River into town; take whichever way is the shorter route to your ultimate destination.

If you’re so inclined, you can read a more detailed ride report below the fold.

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No public befoulment

No park befoulments allowed in Markham.

Markham sets down the rules about park befoulment.

Oh, Markham. I can’t even count the ways I love this sign. Start with the peculiar wording (“It is prohibited to allow”), work in an odd euphemism (“befoul”), continue with a parenthetical plea for cooperation, and wrap it up by citing a long-obsoleted by-law. And if that wasn’t enough, you top it all off with “Markham” written in that 3D typeface straight out of the ’80s. That’s a whole lot of awesome packed into a simple “stoop and scoop” sign.

‘sup? Just hangin’.

The rigging is checked twice by each of two different people. The harness is double-checked by each of three different people. Even your shoes are checked twice to make sure they’re on tight. You have to pass a breathalyzer test, get frisked with a metal detector, remove all jewellery and personal items, and be swabbed for explosives and narcotics. By the time you step outside onto the 1,168-foot-high walkway, you’d probably be in more imminent danger if you were swaying in a hammock reading a book. Yet casually leaning over the edge of the CN Tower requires your still-unconvinced brain to override your body’s instinctive resistance in order to push your centre of gravity out beyond the relative comfort of the walkway. After all, the next step down the staircase is a ten-second freefall away. By the time you’ve done it forwards and backwards and get around to posing for pictures, it’s almost second nature. Almost.

Right to left: Felicity, Val, and four other people with nothing to do on a Thursday afternoon.

So Felicity and I went on the CN Tower EdgeWalk last week. The walk itself takes about 30 minutes to circumnavigate the Tower on a 150-metre-long track, with nothing between you and your view of the city but the weather. The whole experience starts about 30-45 minutes before you step outside with the signing of the waiver, the donning of the red jumpsuit, and undergoing the aforementioned security and safety checks. Most of these preparations take place in a glassed-in room just off the gift shop at the base of the Tower, allowing a disbelieving public to watch six people calmly preparing for a short urban stroll. When the harnessed and jumpsuited walkers stride out of the prep room toward the elevator, staff and onlookers applaud and cheer. You can’t help but feel like a dorktastic version of the Mercury 7 strutting down the passage to the admiration of all and expectation of glory to come.

In addition to just walking around the deck and seeing the sights, the guide takes everyone through a series of exercises: stepping your toes over the edge, leaning backward, and leaning forward over the abyss. Then it’s picture time and you’re back inside almost before you know it. The funniest thing about it is that walking on the outside of the Tower quickly comes to seem so normal that all of the locals start doing what they usually do whenever they go up to the observation deck with out-of-town friends: they trace streets and scope landmarks, trying to pinpoint their houses somewhere below. I got as close as an apartment building on my street. The EdgeWalk is an expensive way to spend the afternoon, but it’s worth every loonie. I highly recommend it unless you’re completely jaded. And then I’d recommend it just to restore your sense of fun.

The family that recycles together…

This is a recycling community sign

A happy family carries their blue box out to the curb together in this rather idyllic representation of recycling.

As the person who has set the household recycling out for collection since the inception of the blue box program, I can assure the makers of this sign that it’s a solitary, thankless task, frequently undertaken in darkness of night or rainness of morning while cleaning up the mess made by raccoons attracted by the fragrant jars and cans. Never once has anyone held my hand and merrily skipped to the curb with me. I’ve yet to experience the communal joy of recycling with my family as we carry the bin like the Ark of the Covenant to the curb, where Belloq will ritually examine its contents. I’ve never seen mother and daughter in floor-length dresses solemnly accompanying the bin to its final resting place beside the road.

Indeed, when I look up and down the street every Wednesday morning, I see mostly solitary men and women in pymaja pants or nightgowns, flip-flops or boots (depending on the season), and all as bleary-eyed and bored as me, dragging their bins out from under the veranda at some hour so wee it barely qualifies as a time.

But I still think that this is a great sign.

(Seen in Cobourg, which would have you believe that it’s a family-oriented recycling community.)

Pedestrian crossing

Pedestrian crossing in a field

Surely my eyes deceive me, but is that a signed and signalled pedestrian crossing in the middle of an overgrown farmer’s field? I’ve got to check this out.

 

Pedestrian crossing in a field

Maybe I’m not so blind after all. That really does seem to be a pedestrian signal. I must get closer.

 

Pedestrian crossing in a field

Yep, that’s definitely one of Mr. Stickman’s genteel cousins showing me the way across. But across what? What the hell is he doing out standing in this field in the middle of nowhere?

Pedestrian crossing in a field

Sheesh. I know I often complain about bad pedestrian infrastructure, but this is ridiculous.

Still, I’d love to see simple signals like this across tracks in Toronto instead of huge pedestrian overpasses that turn a 10-second crossing into a 3-minute climb.

 

 

Christmas in June

Here’s something you don’t expect to see on the curb beside Rosedale Valley Road in June:

Nativity pyramid abandoned on Rosedale Valley Road

A three-tier nativity pyramid? It was in pretty rough shape and there are no homes around here where it might have come from. It could be another case of a freecycler using someone else’s curb instead of his own. I’m not sure that June on Rosedale Valley Road is the best time or place to recycle something like this, but it was gone by the time I came back the next day.

I don’t have a lot of exposure to items like this, so I had to rely on some creative Googling which not only let me decipher the scene depicted here (baby JHC in the manger looked more like a loaf of bread to my untrained eyes, and the magi appeared to be early 20th-century women clutching their purses while shopping), but also uncovered someone selling this exact model in better condition on eBay. For a surprise bonus, I am happy to present to you the most memorable movie scene ever to involve one of these things: