27 June 2014

Succumbing to Optimism

It was a really nice day today, after a couple days of, respectively, threatened toad-strangling rain and actual toad-strangling (or at least "divided highway and subway station flooding") rain.  So I was dithering between riding up the Humber and riding along the Waterfront trail going west (World Pride is on, in a downtown still with much ongoing construction; staying the pluperfect out of downtown is a Good Plan until after Canada Day.)  Turns out my feet wanted to go up the Humber.

The end of the West Humber trail just short of Steeles Ave.
 The last, oh, it's just barely an entire kilometre, of the trail is rather varied in composition; large gravel, stone dust, water-sorted gravel, and it's got noticeable up to it, so it's a small ring and caution stretch.  It's also one of my very favourite trail sections anywhere in Toronto because hardly anyone uses it and the forest has flashes of feeling actually wild.
Reality lacks a road
I had the clever idea of actually emerging on to Steeles, something one does not necessarily ever want to do with a bicycle.  (Reasonably nimble armoured vehicle is more the thing for Steeles.)  I was going to try to drop down at an angle once across Kipling and try for the other branch of the West Humber, which would get me back to the main part of the Humber via at least different tree-shaded paths.

This is complicated by the presence of railroads, divided highways, twisty old subdivision road layouts, and my own rather lamentable tendency to optimism; I wound up well north of Steels on Martin Grove Road (we call this "turning the wrong way"), and started trying to figure out how to pick up some westing without, preferably, having to travel on Steeles or Highway 7, since I didn't have that reasonably nimble armoured vehicle.  The GPS showed a bike-path scale road that might just make it between Martin Grove and Highway 27, and 27 would at least get me south again. (So would have turning around; that would have been much more sensible.)  Said bike-path is actually not, it's a full two lanes and paved and in gorgeous shape, because it's the access road for the Claireville Transformer Station.  Which, alas, has a fence; a large, alarmed, multi-layer, extra barbed wire, fence. Which I crept around, on the little gravel fringe, in the hope of road continuing on the other side.

So, pluses; I can slog through three hundred metres of tall grass, thistles, and whatnot in the new cycling shoes; I can get around the fence on the little gravel border without too many thistles or raspberries, and I even found the actual gate gap in the far fence, the one that picture is looking back from, rather than trying to lift the Hypothesis over full-up pagewire fence.  I should still have turned around.

But I did get back over the 407 intact, despite the best efforts of a concealed ~15cm rise where a sidewalk started at a crossing light (nearly took the rear wheel off!), and was able to mostly follow the plan, so far as getting home goes.  And (so far) my legs haven't fallen off.  (And average cycling speed's up a bit, which the transformer station slog makes less than obvious in the available track stats.)

It's easier when they're not flying

Unquestionably the commonest gull around Toronto, which has (at the tip of the Leslie St. Spit/Tommy Thompson Park) one of the largest ring-billed gull breeding colonies in the world.

Adult ring-billed gull in breeding plumage
It's rare to get a view that makes it obvious how fluffy they really are; all that wing is made out of complex layers of feathers.
Adult ring-billed gull in breeding plumage and looking wroth
The red spot on the bill (not actually a gonydeal spot) might well indicate breeding success, as might the continued red eye ring and gape, but it's hard to say this one looks at all happy.

25 June 2014

It's easier than the swallows

ring-billed gull in flight

another ring-billed gull in flight
There's something about flying bird photography that causes me to go a little mad.   It certainly doesn't always work, and why not isn't always obvious.  Nice when it works, or even approximates working, though.

I will say for the gulls that it's much easier than the swallows.  (Greater diligence in processing may recover semi-presentable swallow images, the rather zoomy wretches.)

24 June 2014

Tiny lurker

white and purple flowers with bonus tiny arachnid
I'd feel better if I were seeing more bees; this stuff isn't clover, but there were big patches of bee-less clover, too.  Still, not doing too badly in this long damp spring.

Another from the roadside

Roadside plant, flowering away
I never see the spiders until I've got the picture to look at.  (I suppose it would help if the spiders were a vivid shade of purple.)

As usual, no idea what it is, but I think it's pretty.  The picture itself is a good explanation for why, compact, fast-focusing, and light though it is, the F900 doesn't entirely suffice as a camera.

22 June 2014

Big Move -- Strachan Overpass

South section of the Strachan Overpass lowered track west of Strachan 
Strachan Overpass associated lowered track construction
In order to be able to electrify the line up to Georgetown[1], Strachan Avenue had to rise up a couple metres, and the tracks had to go down a couple metres.  The resulting work is difficult to get a single picture of without some kind of aerial platform; there's two sunken four rail corridors between high sheer concrete walls and great big steel truss elements across the top, to distribute the force across the top of the pilings.  Looks very sturdy; it certainly has scale. I only hope that sufficient propitiation has been paid to the three chief gods of civil engineering.  (Drainage, Drainage, and Drainage, who are mighty gods, and ill to offend.)

[1] that is, the airport express rail link, much desired prior to the 2015 Pan Am games.

Yellow flower with bokeh

Someone else's front yard.

Still don't know what the flower is, but there's a lot to be said for doing one's flower photography in full sunlight.
Yellow flowers in full sunlight.

Leaning over the fence

Someone's front garden flowers with diligent bee
Didn't see the bee when I took the picture.  Don't know what the flowers are.  Think they're pretty anyway.

21 June 2014

More inappropriate lens choices

 I have no idea what these are; they're nigh-certainly escaped from cultivation, and are presently growing in the grassy lakeward margin of a parking lot, which is why the inappropriate lens choice; this was as close as I could get without leaping over barriers and trampling vegetation, the which I should rather other people don't do, so strive to avoid doing myself.

Unknown purple flower
Three unknown purple flowers past their best
They really are about that purple; I haven't done anything to make them more vivid or futz with the colour balance in processing.  I presume the full bright sunlight helps, and I hope that there were appropriate numbers of pollinators at some point in time.

Experimenting with the Experiment

The idea  of having the Hypothesis and the Experiment was that I could keep the Experiment -- the actual touring bike -- in relatively stable shape while trying out new things on the Hypothesis.  (Despite the Experiment coming first, and this affecting the names, since you perform an experiment and then form a hypothesis...)
So, this has in part come true; the Experiment just got STI shifters on a Salsa Cowbell 2 bar because I tried those on the Hypothesis and really liked them.[1] (I miss the flats on the FSA wing bar but will accept the trade for the greater width of the 46cm Salsa bar.) The R2C bar end shifters I had been using on the Experiment were mechanically excellent but not intended for actual bar ends and as such prone to demanding blood sacrifice any time the handlebars dipped, as they will certainly do while stopped on bicycles with front bags.
Where it hasn't come true is the chain ring; the Wik Werks chain rings presently on the Hypothesis haven't rendered themselves non-serviceable yet, so I elected to leave them there and try the Surly 50t/110BCD stainless chain ring on the Experiment.  (Since, after all, the Experiment is both where a bent chain ring would be worse and where I'm going to be hauling loaded panniers.)

So far, it's working; somewhere around the 50km total distance mark, the annoying noise from the chain being just a little too tight on the teeth of the chainring went away.  (Which would be about 10km into this ride.)  Since there's a companion annoying squeak from the peddle cleats (which aren't latching quite so snugly as one would best prefer) it's not entirely easy to tell.

Shifting, well, it happens.  Shifting the front ring from large to small happens reliably and briskly, which is after all the more important direction (save on those rare occasions where one is being chased uphill by bears and feeling unusually inspired) pretty much irrespective of the cassette position.  Shifting from small to large happens not at all if the chain is in the lower half (by which I mean, lower gear, not, as still seems more natural to me, closer to the axle) of the cassette; in the upper half of the cassette shifting happens with a bit of clanking but quite reliably.  It'll do.

(Rear shifting, via the X9 rear dérailleur, continues to be a reliable delight.  There's something to be said for the huge range of a 12-36 cassette, too.)

It feels like it improves power transmission, too; not just getting sturdier shoes but getting whatever hypothetical wobble out of the front ring.  (This might be an illusion of increased fitness, hard to say.)

The Experiment in current trim
Up against the fence at the current Downsview Station.  (The station is going to be renamed Sheppard West when the line extension goes in to service and the next station northbound becomes Downsview.)  Kinda backlit, but still blue.
Today's route; still mostly downhill despite unplanned excursion
This is a surprisingly nice ride; parts of McNicoll are difficult, but cheating by getting north of the 401 on the subway is a very considerable help.  Didn't plan to go up to Steeles; that's me missing a turn to stay on Old Finch.  It was plenty scenic, though, and novel even to Zingerella, which isn't easy to do in Toronto.  I still want better signage and a better degree of continuousness from the hydro corridor paths; the ones the exist are lovely things, but they're woefully discontinuous.

[1] I've had all the parts, finally, there were troubles involving the computer having a delusive notion of the product code at the supplier all my local bike shops talk to for Salsa, for a month and a bit now.  Last week I had an attack of spoons sufficient to consider changing only the front half of cable splitters, and got the new bars on.

20 June 2014

Flowers and suffering

I went for a ~10 km walk today, which didn't involve any suffering at all; it was a lovely day and I'd been wanting to go for a photography walk for awhile.  The (probable) suffering is yours, since I took a very great many pictures and you're likely to be seeing a lot of flowers for the next little while.

Garden Flower, processed via UFRaw

Garden Flower, processed via Rawtherapee
Exactly the same raw image; I think I can plausibly conclude that Rawtherapee is now doing a better job of substituting for knowledge than UFRaw is.  (Which isn't all the surprising, since substituting for knowledge isn't what UFRaw is trying to do...)

Wild volunteers near Big Move construction
Totally not what it's for, but I like the way the DA200 takes flower pictures.  It's also very handy for flowers that are way over there, back of a fence.

18 June 2014

Sentenced to transportation

Conservation trailer full of Canada Geese
I happened to be walking through High Park today in time to see the majority of the geese -- those without goslings or the gumption to fly away when herded [1] -- be herded into a goose-transportation trailer.  I'm told they're going to wind up at a site near Kingston, after transfer to a truck suitable for highway travel.

If we cannot have enough eagles to keep their numbers in check, someone has to do something, and this seems like a humane response.

[1] there was only one.  These are very tame geese for ostensibly wild birds.

15 June 2014

A misty day at the (squeaky new) Carden Alvar Provincial Park

Carden Alvar's an important bird area, and a lot  of work over a long time has got it designated a provincial park.  This ought to help preserve the habitat, important for Loggerhead Shrike, Upland Sandpiper, and other other grassland species like grasshopper sparrow, bobolinks and bluebirds.  I was up there yesterday as part of the annual Carden point count; teams of volunteers head out to specific points, and count birds.  (The good birders, who can do it by ear, do most of the counting; I get to manage GPS co-ordinates and scan the horizon.  Lots of crows this year and turkey vultures this year; sandhill crane and northern harrier in other years.)

It's been wet, lots of rain, and parts of the access road were twice the road width in stupendous puddles.  It was a misty, cool (~10 C) and dim morning where it almost rained, so not surprising that the overall number of birds counted was down a bit this year.  (They're there, but if they're not singing they're really hard to see.)

Since there aren't any wood buffalo on hand, the vegetation is maintained by grazing cattle; they're generally pretty calm, which is sometimes surprising given the presence of calves and the nigh-certainty there are bears.  (Black bear are seriously hungry until after the major berry crops have been and gone; it's not at all difficult to imagine a black bear trying for a calf in June.)

Probably a bear cub.
Tracks are much too small for an adult bear; that mark in the lower right is some of one of my boot prints.  I'd be happier with the identification if there were claw marks, but the shape and five toes showing sharply limit the options as to what else it could be.
Early in the weathering process
Alvar's a landscape that results from a relatively flat limestone layer at the surface; karst topography.  This bit's new, something's scraped the dirt off it recently.  (No idea what.  The delicate parallel scratches suggest ice, but I wouldn't think there was enough slope where I took this for that to happen.)
Typical alvar outcrop
Here we have what alvar is expected to look like; low, flat weathered limestone outcrop with deep crevices dissolved in the limestone, shallow surrounding soils, and a variety of vegetation adapted to "goodness, what a lot of calcium ions you have" conditions.
Beaver hydrology low water channel
This is up Wylie Road; there's some marsh there (Phoebe, including a rather adorable "wait, wait, grabbing vertical stalks as a perch, I studied that! flaple-grab-wobble-wobble-whew, fledgeling), sedge wren, and random bitterns (they're there all the time, but the calls? by which you may hope to confirm the presence?  those are plenty random).  There's also a beaver lodge, and a new dam, so there's high water in most of the marsh and low water in the stream channels below the dam.  Doesn't seem to be hurting anything, but you can see the accumulated black muck round the roots and a yellow water lily that wasn't planning on being that far out of the water when it grew.

I did manage to see upland sandpiper, snipe (calling!) and shrikes; also common loon (flying over and calling) and bluebirds.  It's hard not to call it a good day when you get a good look at some bluebirds.

10 June 2014

Unfamiliar infrastructure

North end of the Don Mills Trail 
South end of the Don Mills Trail
It's difficult to avoid the sense that the Don Mills Trail was supposed to have a more lengthy existence at one point in its planning history, and equally difficult to imagine how it could; it's a rail trail, and there's substantial rail infrastructure remaining at both ends.

Despite which, and despite the difficulty I had finding the north end, it's a surprisingly nice couple kilometres; leafy, shaded, and quiet.  I probably can't count all fifteen years in Toronto against "well, it took me awhile to get around to that" but I can certainly count some of them.

04 June 2014

Next Attempt

Newly-mounted WickWerks 50/34 compact road double chain rings
So far as I know, WickWerks rings are machined, rather than forged; this is not a point in their favour when considering their probable length of service.  On the other hand, if you look at the upper right, you can see that there's a relatively thick rim in the ring design, which ought to help retard bending.  The rings themselves are a bit thicker than the norm; enough so that I had to adjust the front derailleur.  So that might be helpful.  WickWerks also rates them for tandem use, and the (forged, marginally better-shifting) Praxis rings, which have so far bent the least, are not.

I clamped a laser to the downtube and spun the empty crank, and if it's out of flat it's by a very small amount.  This is pretty strictly down to me pushing too darn hard at this point in time.

There's a 50/34 set of Surly stainless steel rings coming for the Experiment, since I have some hope those will last without bending.  (They will likely also shift like urgh, but everything is tradeoffs.)  And the Experiment is what I'd be riding if the particular horror of being sixty kilometres into a planned three hundred kilometre tour when the big front ring goes non-serviceable happens.  (And, hey, last time took out the small ring, too, nearly; enough top ring bend to interfere with any gear but least and next-least.)

01 June 2014

Another one bites the dust

Optimism.  It's bad for you.

Fixing the rear derrailleur settings lead to, oh, perhaps 10km of really quite nice ride; Downsview station and then up and over along the hydro right-of-way trails just north of Finch.  Quite lovely.

What is not quite lovely is what happened when I stood on the pedals on a short upslope with bad traction. (loose dirt, bad traction.)
Warped Carbon-Ti 50t 110BCD chainring, outer face
Warped Carbon-Ti 50t 110BCD chainring, edge on
This is worse than the Praxis Works rings bent, which is disappointing; there was a gear position with the Praxis that didn't actually touch the front dérailleur, though of course it would have eventually.

Next tries are Surly (flat, stainless steel, shifting will suck) and WikWerks (aluminium, not hopeful at all, but rated for tandems and the shifting is supposed to be very good.)  Or I should just give up and walk more.

(If I ever have enough money and time to start a bike parts company, it's going to be called Ain't Race Day and make things where the point is to not fail, not to avoid those last five grammes.)