Fast Food Franchise Hell

Well the weekend that has just passed was a great one to end my 28 days vacation with.

On Saturday Rob and I did our Imperial Century. I was a bit burnt out in the morning (I had already ridden 170km that week) and we kept asking each other, ‘are you sure you want to do this?’. Neither of us would actually admit that we couldn’t really be bothered and so off we went….We parked the car in Grimsby on top of the escarpment and cycled in a big rectangle from Grimsby to Port Colborne then through Lowbanks to Dunnville, back through Caisterville and then to Grimsby again.

At around 3pm we stopped for a late lunch in Dunnville. For some reason (I am not sure why) we were expecting a quaint little town where we could find a nice cafe to eat. Instead Dunnville turned out to be a bit of an armpit of a place. Unless we wanted to eat wings at the local sports bar, or god knows what at the strip joint, then guess what our choices were?? Why, KFC, Tim Hortons, Subway or McDonalds, of course!! How depressing. We had a Subway since that seemed the healthiest option and then got the hell out of there. Rob’s sandwich gave him the hiccups and I could here him going ‘hic…hic‘ in front of me for the next half an hour, even with the raging head wind!

It was an absolutely beautiful day and although we were fighting a bit of a head wind (well actually at times, a lot of a head wind) for the last 80km we finished feeling relatively fresh. It took us 5 hours 47 minutes. We were tired but rather pleased with ourselves. It isn’t a bad route, I’d recommend it since it is relatively flat and for the most part the scenary is interesting enough to keep your mind off your numb bum!

On Saturday night Rob and I did a very deserved bit of couch surfing and tried, unsuccessfully, to eat all the left overs in the fridge since we’d both be away the following week.

On Sunday morning I found out I had won the Salomon Women Will contest!! I was over the moon. Basically I had won a free entry to the next Frontier Adventure Race, and, with one other female winner would be racing on an all female team of three, captained by an elite female adventure racer. I had entered a couple of weeks before thinking that it would be an awesome experience, one, to race on an all woman team, but also to get the benefit of racing with an experienced racer (or, I should say ‘another experienced racer’, since Rob, who I usually race with, is very seasoned). Basically I had to write an explanation of why I should be chosen. I must have made myself sound quite good!

However (and here comes the bad news) the race date is June 17th…….Bugger! I realised I’d be in Africa. I had to write back explaining that I had mixed up my dates and that I couldn’t participate. I was a bit disappointed, but nonetheless thought it was interesting that I had written something that had inspired someone to think I was any good. I must try to remember what I said…

These are a few of my favorite things..

Yup, I know, this is the second post that I have written today, but as usual, when I get verbose, I get verbose…

Last night Rob and I went to a wine tasting and art event at the Paletta Mansion on Lakeshore here in Burlington. Paletta Mansion (built in the early 1900’s) was the holiday home of the people that started the Dofasco steel factory (back then they made fasteners) and affords a beautiful view of Lake Ontario, whilst across the water you can just make out the Dofasco plant on the skyline. The event was held in what used to be the master bedroom. So I suppose the old chap used to get up in the morning and look out the window and genuinely know he was the master of all he surveyed. Jolly nice, I am sure..

Today the house and gardens are preserved for historic interest, for people to have their wedding dos at and for events such as the one we went to last night. We got the chance to look at the art work of one Christine Audit, who was very nice and seemed to be very popular, judging by the amount of work that was being bought there. It wasn’t my taste, but that said, I am not a big collage fan. I like my paintings to look like paintings, which I am sure is not a very cultured or sophisticated thing to admit.

The wine, on the other hand, was definitely to my taste (big surprise there). Rob and I tried 9 new white wines (new to us, they were all of a 2003/2004 vintage), 11 reds and a couple of dessert wines. After each tasting we scored them secretly, without letting the other know what we had given, out of 10. At the end we bought a mixed case of the ones we had both given a 9 to. This ended up being six bottles each of one white and one red. The white, which is only a $16 bottle at the LCBO was the New Zealand 2004 Stratum Sauvignon Blanc. The red was a bit more expensive, but if you have ever tried and liked Chateau Neuf du Pape, then this is the one for you. It was a 2003 Californian Robert Hall ‘Rhone de Robles’ blend. Yum, Yum.

Other notables, in my opinion (though not necessarily in Rob’s) was the (white) French ‘Roux Pere et Fils ‘ 2004 Meursault and the (Red) Californian Redhorse Ranch Merlot.

As you might expect there were some rather flamboyant characters there (anyone who knows me will know that that is exactly the type of evening I love) and so I got to eavesdrop on all kinds of interesting conversations including one that went something like this…‘I love that Syrah. You know why I like it? Because it doesn’t have that burnt out Syrah taste that Syrah has’??????? Everyone in the know nodded sagely.

We also had the wonderful experience of meeting a very knowledgeable gentleman who was involved with the Burlington Children’s theatre. He reminded me in everyway (including personailty, dress sense, body type, and, I’ll be honest, sexuality) of Carson from the show ‘Queer Eye for a Straight Guy’. Now, before you start sniggering, that, in my opinion, is a huge compliment since I think Carson has a phenomenal sense of personal style and is extremely clever and funny.

A good night was had by all and we woke up this morning feeling fresh as daisies.

Timing is Everything

Once again I am in countdown mode for going back to Gabon. This trip has been so good. I am not sure whether I am just a bit of an over-achiever or organized to the point of being anally retentive, but I always have certain loosely planned-out goals going into my time at home. This time it was:

  • Renovate the second of the spare bedroom’s in the attic of our house
  • Ride a century (I was a bit noncommittal with myself about whether this should be a metric or an imperial century)
  • Start going to yoga classes

I have done all of those things. The upstairs room still hasn’t been completed, I am waiting for Rob to finish the floor (I am the walls and trim worker in our house, Rob does floors). The blue air has cleared up there now after the foul language that I used during the wallpapering stage. It was not my forte. Thank you to Paula for helping me out, I could not have done it without her.

Once the floor is laid I am going to put my yoga stuff up there (which is essentially my mat) and use that as a quiet space for practising. I think this is a direction that I haven’t written about a lot in these posts, but I am very interested in Yoga. I have been practising, in one form or another, almost every day since around February. During this trip home, I have started going once or twice a week to 90 minute classes in Iyengar yoga with Nesta at the Burlington Yoga Centre.

I am not going to go into all the benefits that I think it brings me, they are personal and my individual experience would be very different to someone else’s, but I have certainly become more flexible and my attention span (aka boredom threshold) seems to be increasing to something beyond that of someone suffering from borderline ADD.

The interesting thing about this is that I tried ‘getting in to’ Yoga about three years ago and HATED it. Rob wanted to try it as he has flexibility issues and I went along for the ride. I found it uncomfortable, far from relaxing and ultimately boring. My favorite bit was snoozing during Shavasana (the bit where you lie down and relax at the end).

I am not sure what has changed, but it goes to show that things do change. From this, it seems to me, there are all kinds of lessons to be drawn. Like, not writing something off (like an activity) just because it isn’t right at this current time, or not getting despondant with a particular period in your life, or relationship, because life has a subtle way of shifting so that the odds become differently stacked and your perspectives or those of the people around you, change. Now, it is possible that I am just developmentally retarded and this is a universal truth that the rest of the world has known since birth, but at least I know it now.

This change in me has coincided with a major life change in one of my close friends. I am sure they would not thank me for going into details here, so I won’t, but it is an honour to witness and be part of the personal growth of a friend.
Well, before I get so philosophical that I start disappearing up my own backside, I’ll sign out.

Tomorrow is imperial century day, although we are having friends round for a BBQ tonight (yes, I know it is calling for rain..) so it could be another rather long day….

There’s no ‘I’ in ‘Team’

So I am sitting (or rather lying) on my couch writing this. Rob and I just got back from a 130km ride with the Neworld bike store crew. We finished it, and in this semi-comatose state with my legs killing me and my head feeling like I drank 13 beer last night, I am reflecting on why I love endurance sports so much.

I felt, going into the ride, that it was not going to be my day. This was largely based on my observations of the turnout for the ride at 9am this morning. There were about 30 riders and as they arrived at the store I noticed two telling details. One, they were all men, and two, over 80% of them were wearing the Neworld jersey, which meant that at some point they had parted with a fair amount of money to be a member of the club, usually a sign of a serious rider.

So, off we went in a double paceline, taking it in turns to ‘pull’ at the front. The trick to road riding in a group like that is to keep up with the main group because draughting behind, or in the middle of, a group allows you to travel at speed with less effort than if you were riding by yourself. If you get ‘dropped’ it takes a gargantuan effort to catch up, because, not only are you having to play ‘catch up’,  you are doing so without the benefits of the groups collective speed. Even once you are dropped, if you have to ride home without the group it is a much slower and more draining ride than if you hang in with them. So, get the picture? You don’t want to get dropped!
I can’t say the 3 hours and 50 minutes was easy. In fact, including all the adventure races and mountain bike races I have ever done, my legs have never been so tired before. I think it is because it’s so early in the season and spending so much time in Gabon takes it’s toll on my endurance. At two points in the ride, just after the half way point, I got dropped. On both occasions with a little help and encouragement I was able to rally and come back strong to finish the ride.

Jeff who owns Neworld took the trouble to come back for me on both occasions to ‘pull’ me back to the group. Jeff is a phenomenal cyclist, he rides with Elite riders, I rarely go out with his group. There was no reason for him to do that for me, people get dropped from those rides all the time. But as he left me to go off and do a bit more herding, he said that he was so impressed by my ability to hang in there that he wanted to give me a fair chance. That meant so much to me that I dug deep and hung on and ultimately finished the ride with the group, reduced to about 15 riders by the end.

This post would not be complete without paying homage to my wonderful husband who rode with me all the way and  even when he was tired and hurting, gave me a little push up the hills at the end when I was almost in tears with frustration at my fading power and my aching legs.

And that’s why I love this sport. It is about the people you meet and what they give you when you most need it. I hope I can get good enough to be able to return the favour at some point in the future, or at least pay the good deeds forward to those who find themselves in need.

But for now I am planning on how I am going to make up for all those expended calories…I think tonight is going to be a curry night…

Home Sweet Home

I’ve been back in Canada for a week. The journey home was quite eventful. I witnessed the French airport security blow up someone’s luggage. The errant suitcase owner had foolishly left it unattended at Charles De Gaulle and ‘BOOM’ (or should I say ‘LE BOOM’?) it was history. Good to know that security is being taken seriously in France…
I am now a fully fledged Canadian citizen, having taken my oath on Tuesday. The ceremony was a very solemn one and I could not help getting the feeling that I was being a bit of a fraud by being there. There were people in attendance from Iran, China, Pakistan, Roumania and Bosnia to name but a few. Many of whom have, no doubt, had a much tougher time getting citizenship than myself and the emotion that they showed during the ceremony made that very apparent.

In sharp contrast, I have left one rather benign, western, democractic country (the UK, for those not aware of my cultural heritage), for another one and the main motivation for me getting a Canadian passport is to avoid the hassle at the Canadian/US border when we go south on our various road trips (Oh yes, Mr Blair, all that ass kissing has done us British citizens no good at all as far as the US Dept. of Home Land Security is concerned).

The judge got a bit confused by my name thinking that I must be French (happens all the time, darling) but I blew that whole thing as soon as I opened my mouth. However, there was a woman there from NY, so I suspect I wasn’t the only one who’d had an easy time of it, since she didn’t even have to change continents to get here….

Is it really 5 months since I last wrote?

Family with Baby 3.jpgYikes, time flies when you’re having fun. I apologise to anyone who still bothers to look at my blog for not having updated it sooner. To find out what we have been up to in the five months since I last wrote, check out In a nut shell it has involved renovating our basement, visiting friends in beautiful Bagneres in the French Pyrenees, a few days in Paris and then the start of the cycling season in Canada.

I am in Rabi at the moment with one more metric week (a silly way of saying ’10 days’) to go before heading back to my home and my husband. This trip has been great. I have some awesome elephant pictures, which, needless to say I have no idea how to link to this blog, but will try my best. The baby in the picture is only about a week old. They are magical animals to watch.

It is rainy season here and the weather is absolutely glorious in the mornings and then we have huge storms for about an hour or so each afternoon. Very dramatic and utterly devastating to any piece of building that has a minor leak or is in need of a bit of maintenance. It is a constant battle against the elements to keep things ship-shape at this time of year.

Since my last blog, Rob and I had the pleasure of having dinner with two friends of ours, Jeff and Chrisite. Big news, not only because they make a great turkey dinner, but also because they can claim the honour of having given us our first exposure to the idea of the Transrockies Mountain Bike Race. It is a 600km epic through the rockies in Alberta and is staged over 7 days. It is held each year in August and, although there are concerns every year whether it will take place, Rob and I have decided that if the 2007 race goes ahead, we’re doing it…..check out the website at 

Rob celebrated the decision by going out and buying a $4,000 road bike to train on (well nothing focuses the mind like a new toy!) and we both have drawn up a plan of which endurance events we need to do this year to prepare mentally and physically to train for such a long race. So, to anyone who is interested, here’s the rough schedule for summer 2006. There will no doubt be other events and rides in between, but at least we have something to aim for at the moment:

June 10th – Imperial Century Road Ride

Mid July – Double Imperial Century

August 5th – 12 hour adventure race

September 30th – 8 hour solo Mountain Bike Race 

 To me this has meant that I need to haul my butt onto a stationery bike 5 times a week whilst I am in Rabi. It is NOT fun, but it has meant that I have been exploring the world of podcasts so that I have something to listen to whilst I am watching the sweat drip off the end of my nose. Mainly I have been listening to A podcast for endurance atheletes and adventure racers. The interviews are in handy 15 minute slots and offer inspiration as I am grinding out the kilometres. I can’t wait to get on a real bike! I’ll write updates about our success at each of these events as I go along.

Well, my wonderful parents have just finished renovating my flat in Brixton, UK after the previous tenants vacated following a litany of complaints by the poor, long-suffering, neighbours. Major thanks to Mum and Dad and, if anyone knows anyone who is looking for a beautiful little one bed flat in sunny South London, check out search on postcode using SW2 - Mine is the one under the ‘Wingford Road’ heading.

 Well, I think I have written enough for one post. Hope whoever is reading this is happy and healthy. I do read comments so please feel free to add them.


New Year in Gabon

Well, after making the comment that I am becoming more technically savvy, I have failed miserably in my attempts at adding pictures to these last two postings. I will have to wait until the 2006 sun rises over Burlington, Canada and Rob wakes up so that he can give me instructions (probably for the tenth time now) on how to do this. He has the patience of a saint. In the mean time you can click here to check out all the photos I took.

New Year’s Eve was much the same as Xmas Eve with general high spirits etc but the band had three more women in it this time. I think that the hysteria levels amongst the expat, as well as the local, guys increased relative to the number of women. I shall say no more…..It was a really good night though. Not least because I was able to come back to my room and speak to Rob at midnight.

I spent the morning yesterday with Ian driving up to the port at Dianongo, about 60km north of our camp. That’s where all our supplies come in on barges that sail up the river from Port Gentil. It was great to see water and as we drove up we saw a bunch of women and children washing and doing their laundry. There are also a few villages on the way up there to see. Essentially they are just a small collection of huts with a few people living in them, but sights like that provide a real reminder that we really are in the middle of the African jungle here. Something which you can almost forget as you go about your daily life. I watched footage on the news this morning of New Year in Times Square and on the South Bank in London, images that are in stark contrast to the kind of night we had here!

I am quite excited about a bit of news I heard last night. Shane told me that they are going to bring another dog on to the camp from Toucan. They did have one, Zeta, who lived here for over two years and who was loved by everyone. She was attacked by a wild panther one night, a loss which effected the whole camp. Now everyone feels ready to have a new dog. I am really looking forward to it too.

Well, it is almst time to clock off for the day. I am running again this afternoon. Another 12km run and will spend the rest of the time before dinner doing much the same as I did last Sunday; trying to rub the dead skin off my runners feet, manicuring my finger nails and watching movies. Can’t wait.

Happy New Year to everyone who is reading this. I hope that 2006 brings you everything that you need and at least some of what you want.

Xmas in Gabon

It was very hard to leave Rob to come back to work in Africa, especially since he had the whole Xmas week off. I was able to spend the day with my Mum and Dad in London on the way over and seeing a few familiar faces at the airport in Paris made the trip to Gabon much less daunting than the first time I did it in October.

Xmas here is celebrated on Xmas Eve, as is the French way. Sodexho did an amazing job of decorating the restaurant and the food was as good as it looked. We had a seafood buffet including lobster, crab and shrimp as well as a choice of beef, turkey and local Gabonese dishes. The wine, champagne and port were flowing freely and a band had been flown in for the night. The festivities in the bar kicked off at around 8pm. I have never seen anything like it in my life. People were getting up on stage and joining in with the band, everyone had a boogey. I discovered that many of my work colleagues have hidden talents. Gary, our HSE guy has a well disguised passion for dirty dancing, our Fire Chief plays electric guitar, our teaboy is another Michael Jackson in the making and many people seemed to be really good at falling over and slurring….There were a few sore heads next day, but we were allowed to finish whatever we were doing whilst pretending to work at midday on Xmas Day and sloped off to our rooms before doing it all over again the next night.

On Xmas Day I did my 12km long run, although I dropped my running partner who went a bit green after the first couple of km (complaining of one too many ports the night before) and then sat and had an entirely indulgent day of knitting, watching movies and tending to my blistered feet. People from home gave me a whole host of lovely presents to open whilst I was here. I am now the proud owner of Garmin GPS which tracks distance, time, pace and a whole host of other things (if only I could work out what exactly). It is really useful out here to track my running distances since I have no maps to go from. I am a bit limited as to how much I can use it out here on this particular trip since I melted the transformer in the recharging unit by plugging it into our 240V system. I am learning to be more technically savvy, sometimes the hard way…


CoverallsNow I’m on a role with these entries… For anyone who is interested, here is a picture of me in my lurvely Shell coveralls and the dates I am going to be back in Canada. Usually I will fly out on a Sunday evening and arrive back on a Wednesday afternoon, although in January I am spending a couple of days with my Mum and Dad in Lymm on the way home, so I’ll be back on a Friday:

Fri 13th Jan – Sun 5th Feb
Wed 15th Mar – Sun 16th Apr
Wed 17th May – Sun 11th Jun
Wed 12th Jul – Sun 6th Aug
Wed 6th Sept – Sun 1st Oct
Wed 1st Nov – Sun 26th Nov
Wed 20th Dec – Sun 23rd Jan 2007

Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year to anyone reading this.

Finally a new posting!!

Rob modelling my footspaOK, OK, I know, I have been terrible about updating my blog. So I am making a New Years Resolution to be better. Many thanks to anyone that has made a comment and to everyone that e-mailed me whilst I was away. I can’t possibly explain how nice it is to keep in touch.

To bring everyone up to date with where I am now, I came back from Gabon on November 30th and I’m flying out again on Sunday December 17th, which is in three days time. I am not quite sure where the last two weeks has gone but it has been fantastic to be back in spite of the -13C temperatures and the fact that the drivers side window of my Civic is stuck halfway up (I’ve been driving round with a ski hat and gloves on).

We had an amazing Xmas party at our house, complete with Blue Martinis!! Next day Paula and I managed to get up to participate in Burlington’s annual 5km Jingle Bell Jog dressed as ‘Santas Secret Service’ (sort of like a festive version of ‘Men In Black’ only we’re women and we were wearing Santa hats with our mirrored sunglasses). Click here for a very attractive ‘rear end shot’ of the two of us in action…..

Rob and I are doing the ‘five days of Xmas’ leading up to when I go away. As a result I am the proud owner of a Conair Deluxe Foot Spa, an item that I have always wanted. I am enjoying the benefits as I write. I have included a picture of Rob modelling the very same, above. In return Rob so far has received two books on photography and a Diesel shirt that is too small. Can anyone answer the question ‘Why are men so hard to buy Xmas gifts for?’???????

Today we are off to Ellicotville in NY to do some skiing for a couple of days and will be back in time to go to Dave and Lisa’s Xmas party on Saturday night. I have enlisted the help of a personal coach to keep up my fitness levels so I can still compete throughout the year and the next big race will be the Round The Bay 30km in March. Cold, hilly and long…..LOVE IT….. and now I have written it on my blog, there is no welshing out at the last minute.

So, there, I have done, it, updated my blog, it feels good. Watch this space for more updates once I get back to Africa. I hear Xmas there can get pretty interesting…..