Packed … 😞

Well, I’m packed.

It’s a bitter sweet moment. I’m sad to leave, yet pleased to go home.

I have been at the cottage for 2 1/2 months, mostly on my own, without TV or internet. Few would think this would be much of a holiday. No amenities. A lot of cycling. 200-250 km a week. A lot of reading. 10 eBooks – biographies, historical and mystery novels. And, simple, wholesome meals.

Time alone helps me focus. I train better. I’m more sensitive to what needs the most attention. Cycling is different in these parts. The terrain is flatter but there is a relentless north-westerly wind almost every day. I ride on the drops mostly, and stay on the small ring when fighting a headwind. I eat better. I prepare simple vegetarian meals – vegetable wraps, frittatas, salads, sandwiches. No desserts. No sweets. And, I sleep better. To bed at dusk and at sunrise. This is the recipe for successful training, and why I have begun to refer to the cottage as Camp PedalWORKS.

On the side of my bike travel case, I have an oval sticker of a cyclist heading down a windy road. What do you think? Would this make a good tattoo? And, if so, where would you put it? On the forearm where it can be readily seen and enjoyed? On the back of the calve so those in hot pursuit know you will not be easily passed?

What are your thoughts?

I’m serious about this. I figure it’s about time. While I was packing my bike this afternoon I began looking more carefully at this sticker, and thought, it is me. It is how I enjoy cycling most. Alone on quiet, rural roads. It would make the perfect tattoo for a cycling enthusiast like me.

How appropriate! The perfect tattoo 😏

 

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I’ve been at the cottage a month today. 

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I’ve been at the cottage a month today.

Alone without TV, or the internet.

Time has passed quickly. I’m never bored or lonely. There is always something to do. Cycle. Shop. Cook. Eat. Read. Cut the grass. Vacuum the floors. Write. Text the kids.

I have accomplished a lot. I found necessary services easily. A gym nearby that I never knew existed. A hair cutter that does a better job than the one at home. A group of like minded cyclists who do a weekly group ride. A contractor to install double-paned windows. A local shop where I could purchase a light touring kayak I have wanted for years. An arborist to trim back a 50 foot blue spruce. A contractor to install a gas fireplace. And, a seamstress to make curtains for the bedroom windows.

I’ve read 5 books. eBooks that I could find, and pay for easily. Books from a summer reading list provided by a gym colleague I respect. Books that have given me insight into South African apartheid, the Haiti earthquake, cycling around the world on a “safety”, West Coast indigenous culture, and a “who-done-it” set in northern Ontario cottage country. And, I listen to CBC Radio One throughout the day. It’s commercial-free, informative, and an entertaining glimpse into Canadian culture.

I cycle everyday. Well, everyday it doesn’t rain. There is always wind. A north westerly wind ranging from 10-30 kph. A hurting wind that tests my metal. No matter which direction I head out, I always find the wind. If not on the way out, on the way back. I ride on-the-drops most of the time. There may not be hills, but there is wind.

I eat well. Homemade energy gels for cycling made with dates, raisins, lemon and lime juice, peanut butter, and a pinch of salt. Homemade post-ride smoothies made with berries, banana, more peanut butter, and almond milk. Frittata. Quinoa salads. Cold pasta and vegetable salads. Imaginative stir fry with rice. Wraps with tofu, rice, vegetables, and baby spinach. And, veggie burgers when I want a quick, easy meal.

This is the first year I have been here in the spring to witness the area awaken. The leaves form and blossom on the trees. The Canada Geese parading by with their young in tow. Mosquitos. Lots of them. This has been an unusually wet spring, perfect breeding ground for the little pests. Higher than usual water levels, the result of unusual rainfall. Farmers ploughing and sowing their fields. Weekenders arriving to open up their cottages, and launch their boats for the season. And birds. Geese, Osprey. Herons. Loons. Owls. Robins, And, a plethora of wetland birds I’m unable to name. All harmonizing to the tune that is spring.

I’ve frequently seen the hot, humid summer days. And, the cooler, more colourful fall ones. But I have seldom witness spring here.

It’s the change of seasons that I miss on the West Coast.

The beauty of this place is that there is no TV … 🤔

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When I’m alone at the cottage, I shop, cook, eat, clean, renovate, decorate, cycle, paddle, and read eBooks. I have finished 4 full-length novels already, and began a memoir about the 2010 earthquake in Haiti last night.

When I have TV and the internet readily available, I read much less. I mean to read more, and may finish a book a month, but I spend too much time in front of the TV. Here there is no TV. No internet. I thought of getting it installed. It is available. I even got quotes. The first week I was here, I was in serious withdrawal. I thought I needed it. What was I to do with the long, dark evenings. The days are not so bad. I’m busy. But the evenings just dragged on.

The beauty of this place is that there is no TV. No internet. There never has been. You are outside more. Working. Or, playing. You become more attuned to nature. The wildlife that abounds. The birds. The blue heron that lands on the dock every evening in search of food. The Canada Geese that parade by on the water with their young. The beaver that paddle buy. The bear that lurks in the bush out back. And, if you listen, there is a continuous philharmonic performance from sunrise to sunset. A performance drowned out by TV.

Once again, I digress. I’m here to talk about eBooks. Who would have thought, me of all people, would enjoy reading novels on my laptop. I like my books. I like holding them. Feeling them. Referring to them. Displaying them on my bookshelves with my other trophies. Why would I even consider an eBook?

Money. And space. Those are the reasons. Hardcover books are expensive. eBooks are a fraction of the cost. And, when I travel, particularly to the cottage for extended stays, hardcovers weigh a lot and take up a lot of space in my luggage. You ask, “Why don’t you get books when you are there?”. Well, I have tried that. There is a small local library 15 km down the road but it is small. Very small. With a very limited selection. And, there are no bookstores in this rural community. Can you imagine that? The grocery stores carry a selection of paperbacks, and sometimes I can find reading I enjoy. But not often.

This year, I adopted a different strategy. First, I enlisted the help of another gym regular. A young woman that is an english Professor at the local university. I asked here to recommend some summer reading, and she provided a thoughtful list of 7 diverse works that she herself has enjoyed, or teaches in her classes. And second, rather than purchase each of these books (they cost $25-35 each), I considered electronic versions. I had never done this before but it seemed a practical solution. I’d save money. I wouldn’t have to lug them on the plane. And, I could purchase them on-line, even at the cottage.

I didn’t think I would enjoy the reading experience. I was wrong. I actually prefer it. The type is larger. My eyesight is not the best. I can soften the background colour so it is more relaxing on the the eyes. I can tap with one finger to find the meaning of a word. I love that. And tap with two to highlight a section. It remembers the page I’m on. I don’t need a bookmark or fold a page corner down.

The only thing I can’t do is mount the books in my trophy case.

I have made a few changes …

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I have made a few changes recently.

I have stopped drinking coffee. I am tired of frequent “nature breaks” interrupting my morning rides. I switched to a polarized training schedule. I needed a change as I transition outside on the road bikes. I switched to body-weight strengthening exercises. I won’t have a fully  equipped gym available while at the cottage for the next 2 months. I grew a beard! I wanted a different look. Something more mature, and sophisticated 😂 And, I was so tired of shaving most days.

So, I wasn’t surprised when I purchased an electronic book to read.

I was largely impressed with the ebook reading experience using the iBooks app. The books are displayed in full color, and the page turns are lifelike and smooth with the swipe of a finger. Books can be read in landscape mode. A link at the top takes you to the table of contents, and you can adjust the brightness or text size as well. – LifeWire

I’m late to this party.

Others have been reading electronic books for years. I resisted because I like the feel, and look of hard cover books. I like the look of them on my bookshelves. It’s a tactile thing.

Well, all that changed this week. I have a new friend at the club. I can call her that. I think. We don’t know each other well, but always speak to one another at the gym. After several months of sharing pleasantries, I learned she is an English Professor at one of the local universities.

She looks too young to be a professor but that is another story.

When I learned the focus of her PhD dissertation was autobiographies, and in particular, the impact social media has on personal narratives, I was intrigued. You see, for the past decade, I have studied the various social media platforms from a different perspective. A business one. I thought to myself what better way to come up with an informed, impartial summer reading list than to ask an English Professor with similar sensibilities.

Several weeks ago, I explained to her that I was spending 2 months alone at the cottage without TV or the internet, and asked if she could recommend a few books to read. I read a lot when I’m there but have difficulty selecting good books. I select books like I pick wine. By their cover. Not such a good idea.

To my surprise, my new friend approached me while I was on the spinning bike yesterday holding a type written list of 7 books. Several she “loved” reading. One that she teaches in her classes. And, 2 she thought I would like. One about an adventurous cyclist, and the other a murder mystery set in Ontario cottage country. How appropriate. When I got home, I Googled reviews of the books, decided I want to read them all, and immediately headed to the local bookstore.

One of the books was in stock. All of the others have to be special ordered. I don’t have time for that. I leave in a week. And, they were expensive. Several $35-40. I didn’t want to spend that much. So, I looked on-line for electronic versions. They were all available. Immediately. And, for a fraction of the cost.

I purchased and downloaded one of the books, and spent last evening reading it with the iBooks app available on my MacPro. Surprisingly, I enjoyed the experience. I could change the contrast, background colour and text size, making the pages easy to read. Easier, in fact, than a hardcover book.

Since I always travel with my MacPro and iPhone, it makes sense. I have all I need – photos, internet, blog, books – in one place. I now do all of the things on-line that I said I would never do. Banking. Shopping. Photography (Who would want a camera in their phone, I once thought). And now, reading.

Who said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks 😂

Who knows. I may even try a recreational ride soon 🤔