Kara and Nate Fly to New York

I found my way to the YouTube channel of Kara and Nate by way of their journey on the Trans-Siberian in 2017.

Despite their increasing popularity, and thus their increasing “today’s episode is brought to you by Audible,” they’ve kept my attention as they continue their relentless life of travel.

Their latest episode, Birthday Party in Cathay Pacific First Class, is perhaps the perfect exploration of the absurdity and delight of permanent life on the road (their happenstance hookup with a trio of jetsetters is totally the kind of thing that happens to Catherine when she travels).

Ignore the promos and enjoy the unadulterated love of constant motion.

(Postscript: after arriving back in Vietnam, Kara and Nate got in a taxi to their hotel, and their taxi was involved in a collision).

My 31 km Electric Bicycle Ride

I put the rented Evox City520 electric bicycle through its paces tonight, riding out of Charlottetown on the Confederation Trail to Charlottetown Airport, and then out the Brackley Path that runs parallel to the Brackley Point Road, rejoining the trail and riding east as far as York.

Cows in York, from the Confederation Trail

The trip was 15.8 km in each direction, 31.6 km there and back. Here’s a picture of my ride, recorded as a GPX file by OsmAnd and displayed over PEI 2 meter contours.

LIDAR map showing my bike route

This is farther than I’ve ever ridden a bicycle before, and the distance was only possible (at least given my current fitness level and strength of character) because of the electric pedal assist, which I used continuously.

The Evox has 6 levels of pedal assist and an 8 speed gear system; heading downhill, with full pedal assist and in the highest gear, I was doing almost 30 km/h. My average speed, over the entire trip, was about 20 km/h.

One of the reasons I suspect I’m not a good candidate for an electric bicycle is that the heady allure of pedal assist level six, with its effortlessness and breezy speeds, is simply too great to allow me to derive a significant enough amount of fitness from the endeavour.

I got nowhere to go, really, and so I think I’d be better off sticking to the grinding effort of my trusty non-electric Palomar, sticking closer to home, and leaving batteries out of it; I think I’d end up a better person.

Which brings up another issue, the feeling of being an asshole that one experiences when you blithely pass the non-electric-riders on the trail, expending half the effort and traveling at twice the speed as they are. I’ve always had a feeling of solidarity with fellow trail riders when I’m riding unassisted, and it’s not uncommon to give a nod of the helmet or a wave of the hand when passing in the other direction; flying by on my electric jet-bike I felt like people in first class must feel when we coach passengers mope by. It wasn’t a warm feeling.

All that said, the Evoc City520 is a nice piece of kit. It’s easy to get on and off, has a low centre of gravity, and is comfortable to ride. As I mentioned earlier, it’s heavy as hell, and was a challenge to wrangle in the front door of the house to charge this evening (I think the battery is removable, but I don’t have the key to unlock it, so I had to bring the whole thing inside for the night).

Evox City 520 Bicycle

The pedal assist system is control by a simple three button toggle and a centre-mounted display:

Evox Display

The display shows speed, pedal assist level, battery level, and an odometer. I like the fact that it is integrated into the handlebar post (in the centre of the “cockpit,” as bike nerds like to say), rather than zip-tied to the handlebars like a lot of other ebike-controllers are.

Perhaps the best takeaway from this evening’s ride was the reminder of how lucky we are to have the Confederation Trail in our midst: 30 minutes from downtown Charlottetown (15 minutes on an ebike!) and you can be in the middle of the countryside, by yourself, hearing nothing but birds and tractors.

Confederation Trail east of Charlottetown toward York

I’ll do some more tooling around on the Evox tomorrow before returning it to MacQueen’s, but I think I’ve got the ebike bug out of my system for now.

Getting Home From Stars for Life

When he finished high school in mid-June, Oliver transitioned to the day program at Stars for Life, an organization I believe in deeply, and from which he will derive great benefit.

The primary logistical challenge of this is that Stars for Life is located 5.5 km from our house, and I need to get Oliver there every morning and pick him up every afternoon.

Map showing route from our hour to Stars for Life.

Given that we own a car, and that I can drive, our fallback position is that I’ll simply drive him to and from.

But as we only have 12 years to become carbon neutral, it’s time to start the planning for alternatives to that, and so I’ve started out by focusing on alternative methods for the trip home.

Baseline

Heretofore I’ve driven both ways. Traffic there is usually pretty light; traffic back is slowed when encountering the mass of public servants leaving the office at 4:00 p.m., which creates some jams, but only in the Charlottetown sense of the word.

Generally I’d leave home at 3:45 p.m., arriving at Stars for life at 4:00 p.m. and arriving back home about 4:25 p.m.

  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Driving Distance: 11 km

Experiment One: Bus, Walk, Bus

Yesterday was the first experiment: Oliver was coming home early, and I needed to pick him up at 1:00 p.m.

I caught the 12:45 p.m. Route № 3 bus from Confederation Centre and arrived at Stars for Life exactly at 1:00 p.m.

Oliver and Ethan the Dog and I then walked down Beach Grove Road to North River Road, across North River Road to pick up the Hermitage Creek Trail, and walked along the trail to the back yard of the PEI Union of Public Sector Employees where we emerged onto University Avenue. We walked down University Avenue to the UPEI bus stop where we caught the 1:54 p.m. Route № 1 bus downtown, arriving at 2:00 p.m.

Statistics

  • Bus Fares: $6.00
  • Bus Distance: 8.6 km
  • Walking Distance: 2.8 km
  • Total Time: 75 minutes

Pros

  • Convenient bus connection, almost door-to-door on the way there, only a short wait on the way back.
  • Mostly pleasant walk along the Hermitage Creek Trail.

Cons

  • The Hermitage Creek trail has some muddy/soggy spots, and could use some maintenance.
  • Connection between the Hermitage Creek Trail and University Avenue is more “cut through a field” than an official trail.
  • Adds 35 minutes, compared to driving, to the pick up run.

Experiment Two: Bike, Bus

One of the things I was curious about is whether having an electric pedal-assist bicycle would make it more possible for me to build cycling into the trip somehow.

Oliver doesn’t have a bicycle yet, so I can only cycle to Stars for Life for the pickup, and need a way of getting the bike back home.

For today’s experiment I rented an Evox City520 electric bike from MacQueen’s for 24 hours. It wasn’t cheap, at $86 taxes-in, but it was cheaper than buying an ebike, and I plan to amortize the rental by taking it for a longer spin tonight.

I left home on foot at 3:00 p.m. heading toward Outer Limit Sports where I’d originally intended to rent the bike; along the way I phoned them to confirm they had something in stock and learned that a 24 hour rental is considered two days in their calculations, and so I’d end up spending $150 for the experiment.

So I rerouted to MacQueen’s, which has a more sensible policy, arriving at 3:20 p.m. I was in and out of MacQueen’s in 10 minutes and it took me 13 minutes to ride the 2.8 km to Stars for Life (maxing out at 30 km/h coasting down the North River Road hill down to Ellen’s Creek).

It was here that things went slightly off the rails, as the buses stopping at Stars for Life–Route № 2 going clockwise and Route № 3 going counter-clockwise–only run once an hour, and when I arrived at 3:45 p.m. the next Route № 3 bus downtown wasn’t for 45 minutes.

So we caught the 3:58 p.m. Route № 2 bus.

Getting on the bus involved a complicated ballet of son, dog, bike, and me. I tied Ethan to a stop sign while I mounted the bike on the cowcatcher and then retrieved him and Oliver and I got on, paid our fare, and sat down. It wasn’t elegant, but it worked, aided by a very patient bus driver.

We had a chance to quicken the journey when we got to the Charlottetown Mall at 4:15 p.m.–we could have transferred to Route № 1– but I wasn’t eager to repeat the ballet, so we stayed on Route № 2 for a complete clockwise-tour of Charlottetown, seeing parts of the city I didn’t know existed.

We arrived at the Grafton-Polyclinic stop at 4:45 p.m. where I repeated the ballet in reverse and we walked the block to home.

Statistics

  • Bus Fares: $4.00
  • Bus Distance: 13.6 km
  • Bicycle Rental: $86.00
  • Cycling Distance: 2.8 km
  • Total Time: 105 minutes

Pros

  • The electric bicycle was fun to ride, and made short work of the hills: it felt like nothing at all to climb the 5% grade up Beach Grove Road from Ellen’s Creek.
  • Despite the complexity of our party, we pulled off the ballet of mounting the bus without problems.

Cons

  • The electric bicycle rental was expensive (although the purchase cost would be amortized across many trips in a more permanent scheme).
  • The bike was heavy–54 pounds–and unwieldy, and so it was a lot harder to get on and off the cowcatcher than my regular bicycle.
  • Although the cowcatcher held onto the bike well, despite the pothole-ridden streets and speed bumps, I had a background fear that it would fall off and I’d be out the cost of an expensive bicycle.
  • The long bus journey home (which could be mitigated by a change in schedule that would allow a more direct return home on Route № 3).

What’s Next

There are lots more options to experiment with, including Oliver cycling (we need to figure out a trailer or basket for Ethan to make this work), repeating today’s experiment with my regular non-electric bicycle, or taking the bus there and walking all the way home.

Stay tuned; I’ll update this post as we forge on.

1Password + TFA + Android

I’d missed this somehow: there’s now a setting in 1Password’s Android app under Filling labelled “Auto-copy one-time passwords” that does exactly that (just as the Mac version has done for a long time):

Screen shot of 1Password showing Filling settings

If you’re using two-factor authentication (and you should be: if you’re not, look it up and figure it out, or ask someone to explain it to you), using 1Password to generate your one-time passwords is light years ahead of using a standalone app like Google Authenticator, and this feature makes it double amazing.

Rediscovering Decentralized Networks

Niti Bhan writes about African governments blocking access to parts of the Internet, Facebook among them:

As civil society groups and others raise their voices in support for peoples disconnected the global digital economy and society today, I believe we need to be cautious about what we’re speaking up for. I would not speak up for Facebook’s rights – there’s ample evidence they’ve trampled on mine even though I’m not a registered user of their platform – nor would I support other private sector tech giants headquartered far away.

The perception that people cannot communicate with each other, nor organize rightful protests, without the use of this one company or that one is a dangerous one in a world where these companies neither care for our rights nor our privacy.

Instead, there’s an opportunity for the emergence of a plethora of independent African “anti-block” social and commercial solutions -whether SMS based or USSD based or whatever the technology specialists deem fit – that can then be supported if shut down, instead of us raising our voices in support of the Facebook Group of Companies.

There is tremendous opportunity here because we already built and have experience using a decentralized Internet and many of those who had a hand in that are still alive. It’s only been relatively recently that we’ve re-CompuServed the Internet, and it’s not too late to rediscover more robust, decentralized networks of networks.

They have such nice accents!”

Tourist season has begun in earnest and with it comes the bane of all pedestrian Charlottetowners, the four-abreast sidewalk-taker-uppers. Here’s an attempt to illustrate one small slice of this today, as I hurried to catch the bus uptown (do they think we can’t hear them?).

Read from bottom to top (that’s a bug in the design!).

Comic

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