Hmm, something seems to be missing at 2200 Danforth Avenue. I can’t quite put my finger on it, though. Maybe if I look from another angle.
Speaking of the Toronto Moose, I’m reminded of my experience with Bay Street Moose a few years ago. He originally stood in the concrete meadow at the corner of King and Bay, where I passed him every day on the streetcar for six months. Of all the moose I saw on my daily travels, he was both the most familiar and my favourite. When he was finally carted away in the autumn of 2000, I figured I’d never see him again. Fast forward to July 2001: I was in the Netherlands on a business trip and had the weekend to do some quick exploring. I took the train to The Hague and decided to stroll through the city in the general direction of the Binnenhof and Queen Bea’s office. I ventured down a tree-lined path between two streets and discovered an outdoor exhibition of various sculptures from around the world. The sculptures ranged from interesting to weird, and my mouth dropped to the ground when I spotted my old friend standing proudly among them:
It was jarring to see a piece of my daily Toronto life on display 6,000 km away, where I happened to find it because I wanted a bit of shade on a sunny day. I gave him a pat, took a couple of pictures, and shook my head all the way home.
Last seen in their native habitat in Y2K, the Toronto Moose continue to pop up in all kinds of unexpected places. This one guards the tiki huts, (fake) palm trees, and teak carvings of…Port Hope? Standing guard at the entrance to Primitive Designs in Port Hope, this moose migrated here by way of Pickering, where it resided for a number of years before being bought earlier this year by Primitive Designs owner Ron Dacey. Unfortunately, I can’t tell which moose this was; I can’t find a matching mug shot in the City of Toronto’s mooseum gallery. Either it’s one of the missing portraits or (more likely) it’s been repainted since leaving the big city.
Ron wasn’t around when I popped by for a visit this week, but staff were split 2-1 on whether the moose was even for sale, never mind the asking price. Majority opinion was that Ron likes it too much to sell it just yet. But everything has a price, especially in retail.
Step 1: Get a folding bike. Mine is a Bike Friday Tikit. This bike has a million options, from the most basic Model T (the one I have) all the way up to a fully tricked-out road bike with drop handlebars, lots of gear inches, and just about any component choice you could imagine. The hyperfold model folds in five seconds. I don’t have that one, so my Tikit takes a full 15 seconds to fold. The best thing about the Tikit is that although it looks weird and the wheels are tiny (just sixteen inches), it feels and rides like a normal-sized bike. My riding position on this bike is basically the same as on my mountain bike, which is perfect for commuting and tootling around the city. But don’t take my word for it, get yourself to Urbane Cyclist and give one a test ride for yourself.
Step 2: Get a suitcase that your folded bike will fit into. The 30″ Samsonite F’Lite GT is the case that Bike Friday designs their bikes to fit into, so it seemed like a good choice. With only minor disassembly (one wheel removed and a half-dozen bolts loosened or removed), the bike fits neatly into the case with lots of room left over for a repair kit, pump, locks, and other cycling gear. Because the bike is designed to fit into a suitcase, there’s no guesswork involved; the manual shows the packing process in detail, right down to the correct way to orient the cranks. I didn’t manage to squeeze my helmet in, but I’m sure I could with a bit of practice. Practice could also get my packing time down from around 45 minutes the first time to maybe 15.
Step 3: Get a crush protector to keep the side of the suitcase from collapsing on your fragile bike. Even a hard-sided suitcase like the F’Lite has a lot of give in it and given the way that baggage handlers toss luggage around, it would be pretty easy to end up with a bent wheel or chainring after a flight. The crush protector is just a support that keeps the sides of the suitcase from compressing, ensuring that there’s never any weight bearing down on the sensitive bits of the bike itself. Bike Friday sells crush protectors for $7, or you can make your own for about the same cost from parts available at any hardware store with a decent stock of electrical supplies. That meant Home Depot for me.
Step 4: Pack the bike in the case, following the instructions in the manual. Bike Friday sells packing kits that include little fabric bags and sleeves to help protect the sensitive bits, but I found that a short length of packing foam, some old rags, and a few elastic bands did the same job.
Step 5: Check your bike at the airport, now indistinguishable from any other piece of luggage, and laugh at those ridiculous charges for bike boxes that airlines love to charge.
Step 6: Unpack at your destination. It only took me about 20 minutes to unpack and reassemble. I didn’t do too badly for my first-time packing: the rear reflector was broken in transit, but everything else survived without a scratch.
Step 7: Have a good ride!
So I’m in Austin, Texas at the moment, midway through a week of working hard, eating meat, and riding a bit. The Texas Capitol is about 2200 km from home, or a much more reasonable 10-minute ride from my hotel. Work commitments are keeping my exploring to a minimum, but I’m trying to get as much in as I can. There’ll be some more random posts about Austin in the days ahead.
These signs are scattered all around Hamilton Township at the entrances to many dirt roads that run between two or more adjacent farms. They’re municipal roads that are used primarily for access to back fields, so the only traffic that they really see are tractors and the occasional dirt bike or ATV. Most are only 1-2 km long and are classified as “summer maintained” or “unopened road allowance” by the township. Some, like the one above, are navigable by your average family sedan. Others, like the one below, call for more of a sense of adventure and either a larger or smaller vehicle:
The road here just kind of disappears into weeds and neatly growing rows of wheat, bordered by trees on one side and a corn field on the other.
Some of the roads not only seem well-maintained in the summer, but also form part of the snowmobile trails that criss-cross Ontario? in the winter:
So, is “Dangerous unmaintained road” a warning or invitation? It depends what you’ve got underneath you at the time. The roadies that I passed on the asphalt a couple of clicks back would have nothing to do with roads like these. A rider on a touring motorcycle was checking one out, but probably wouldn’t take another. But for a guy exploring on a mountain bike, they’re just about irresistible.
You remember the Moose in the City, don’t you? For six glorious months in 2000 more than three hundred moose statues stood watch over Toronto, succesfully saving us from the shame of having flying pigs instead. Although some locals didn’t fully appreciate the fibreglass wildlife, I’d rather have the moose than any of the subsequent visitors to our fair city, including aphids, SARS, and Chilean soccer players.
Most of the moose had disappeared by the end of the year, but a few can still be found on display around the city. I recently stumbled upon this poor fellow behind the Ontario Science Centre, covered in dust and jammed up against a wall behind piles of discarded shipping pallets and recycling bins, begging for some dignity in retirement.
Time Moose Scape began life sponsored by none other than the very organization that callously threw him outside like so much trash. Oh, he tried to stay on their good side by getting a new paint job, donning a new suit and bow tie, trimming off his gangly antlers, and even going so far as to have a giant red clown nose surgically attached to his snout. It was all for naught. More enamoured by the latest plastination and big boat toys, Time’s masters cruelly cast the gritty seven-year-old out into the world to fend for himself.
Like any abandoned child, Time has remained close to the only home he’s ever known, scrounging for food and affection in the nearby recycling bins, eventually settling among the empty water bottles and flattened cardboard boxes. But despite the hard turns his life has taken, he keeps a smile on his face. That big red nose could have become a mark of his failure, but Time has chosen to wear it as a badge of courage. It proudly proclaims that one day he will be back among the adoring children inside.
A version of this article originally appeared on Torontoist.