Less than a week to go now, before the start of the Tour de France. I'm a big fan. But you probably already know that if you read my blog regularly. A highlight (actually two highlights) of our recent trip to France were the days we drove up Alpe D'Huez and Mont Ventoux, two of the most famous mountain climbs of the Tour. I wrote about that part of our trip in a post which you can read here, if you're interested. And now the Tour starts in a few days. Well, five days if you're counting. And I am.
Hubby and I love to bike. We're not great cyclists, we don't do road races or climb mountains. We just love to be out there... in the fresh air and sunshine... riding our bikes. It's fun and great exercise and something that we can do together. And when one is over fifty... nudging up to sixty, even...as I am... staying fit and healthy isn't as easy as it once was. So, we've been in training since we came home from France. Training for the Tour. Well, kind of. Mostly we just ride our bikes like we always do, twice a week. We plan our week on Sunday, around our respective schedules, and the weather, so we can dedicate two days to biking.
We're spoiled for choice, with respect to biking trails, around Ottawa. Sometimes we ride the Trans Canada Trail, that follows the old railway lines. And then hooks up with a local trail that snakes through sun dappled bush.
We often ride on weekday mornings, and then we have the trails mostly to ourselves. Last week we followed this trail that crossed the Green Belt outside of the city...
And ended up at the Ottawa River.
Last Saturday we biked along the Rideau River. While the Ottawa River is wide and fast flowing, the Rideau is bucolic, even placid.
We crossed the river on this single-lane bridge dating from the 1890's.
And tooled around the tiny village of Burritt's Rapids
We stopped for lunch at the locks just outside Burritt's Rapids. Boaters can follow the Rideau Canal system from Parliament Hill in Ottawa, where the Rideau River meets the Ottawa River, all the way to Kingston on Lake Ontario.
This is the view from our picnic table. It was a perfect day. And since it was still June, pretty uncrowded, I'd say. The lady on a boat tied up near here, said she and her husband had spent the night here. And were moving downstream the next day, with an eye to being docked in downtown Ottawa on Canada Day. That would be pretty special, sipping a cold glass of wine and watching the fireworks on Parliament Hill from the deck of your boat.
After lunch we hit the road again. Past farms and a field of animals of all sorts. I think this must be the year of the donkey, for me. And yes, that's a llama.
And eventually rounded a bend ... to see an osprey nest on a platform on top of this pole. We've seen several of these nests in the surrounding countryside. But this one was occupied. And the mother's feathers were a little bit ruffled by our continued presence, so we hopped on our bikes and headed for home.
But the Tour de France hoving into view on the horizon, makes our rides special, these days. We laugh and say how we're in training for the Tour. When we ride, I always lead, because I pedal slower than Hubby and he has trouble knowing what pace to set if he's in front. Then, if it's windy and I'm struggling, I flick my elbow... just like the boys on the Tour... a small motion that says, "Get up here and lend me a hand." And Hubby comes up to be my "domestique." If you're not familiar with cycling lingo, "domestiques" are the riders who work for the benefit of the team and the team's lead rider. They help the cycling stars to win races: they ride in front so the big name rider can save energy by riding in their slipstream; they selflessly surround and protect the star, who then gets all the glory. A "domestique" is quite literally a "servant" to his or her team.
So sometimes Hubby responds to my elbow flick, and plays the servant, and I ride close on his back wheel, making it much easier for me. Yah. I like that part. Sometimes I pull out from behind him like a shot and try to sprint away. Playing the part of that famous sprinter Mark Cavendish. Otherwise known as the 'Manx Missile', because he's from the Isle of Man. I usually shout as I speed by in a blur (I hope) that "Burpee is making a break-away." Sometimes I win and Hubby can't catch up. But not often. I'm not actually much of a 'Manx Missile.' More of a Burpee Bomb. Ha. Well, at least I try. And it makes our rides more fun. And when it's fun, staying fit is so much easier!
This was the route we took the other day. Past lush green cornfields, under a perfectly blue sky.
Past an old farmhouse where the retired farm machinery makes a wonderful planter. I'm pretty sure this is a manure spreader. Quite appropriate, eh?
This is my favourite house on our route. I love the old brick, the clothesline out back where the grass slopes down to a small creek. There's even a lovely swing in that big tree on the right.
Seriously what could ruin this perfect morning? Nothing ...except my stopping to take yet another picture of this sky with one single cloud. One cloud. "Ahhhh. How great is that?" I murmur.
And then Hubby's voice admonishes me for stopping yet again. He's been circling waiting for me. "Come on, Suz! Let's go." And I zip my camera into my pack and pedal off after him. I should know better; we are in training after all.
I do other stuff besides biking to stay fit, and still fit into my jeans. I power walk one morning a week with girlfriends, and ride my exercise bike three times, combined with at least one weight workout. And I take one day a week off. Retirement means that I can't count on all that calorie-burning running around that I would normally do in the course of my day at work. And running around burns a heck of a lot of calories. It's a battle. But it's so much easier to fight the battle if I can find ways to make it fun.
Because of course we're not really in training for the Tour de France. You might say we're just getting into the spirit of the event. Gearing up, so to speak. Being silly, pretending we're famous cyclists, acting like kids, you might also say. Yep. You'd be right about that.
Check out this great blog about cycling. Suze, read my travel posts about France, about Hubby and I driving up Mont Ventoux, and sent me her story about doing it for real...on a bike. You can read her post here.