Odds and ends

I saw a couple of interesting things on TV today. First, there was this report of protest over the Gentilly 2 nuclear reactor renovations1. As you may already have guessed from my not-entirely-green opinions, I think those protests make no sense. Building a new nuclear reactor may be questionable (and then again, maybe not--nuclear waste is a huge problem, but so is the greenhouse effect, and at least the former can be found and contained with relatively primitive facilities). But Gentilly 2 has been built, and we can either get rid of it now (and thus make this costly endeavour more costly), or fix it, run it for 20 more years, and amortize the cost of getting rid of it over a longer period. Yes, Hydro Quebec is building a wind power park; that's not nearly done, and in the meantime, we're stuck importing electricity from coal-fired US electric plants. Turning off Gentilly 2 would make it worse.

On a related note, if the protesters are also those against new hydro dams, I have to wonder how they thing we'll build the windmills they are so in love with. Answer: lots of petroleum, and a bit of hydro to power the facilities while they're assembling the stuff. We'll be lucky if we can maximize the use of hydro power. The fact is, as things stand right now, it's extremely inconvenient to carry electrical power, so we're very much slave to oil when it comes to building stuff using heavy equipment. The energy density of windmills is much lower than a dam's, so I wouldn't be surprised at all if the amount of oil used to up the wind power capacity is larger than that used to build one of the humongous hydro dams that make our pride in this province. The main reason for building windmills is when hydro dams have all been built and the demand still rises.

Yeah, demand could go down too, but it's a bit late to think about this--too many buildings built with poor insulation, too many joules wasted for no good reason except to save a few pennies in construction cost, etc. We'll just have to regulate for better energy efficiency and hope we'll stamp out those obsolete energy wasters sooner rather than later. By the way, I agree with ecologists that both the provincial and federal government are really being idiots about this. I'll excuse the provincial government somewhat because it has no money, but for the federal government, this is unacceptable. They're sitting on a multi-billion dollar surplus, and instead of lowering taxes or attempting to conform to the Kyoto protocol they're so proud of having ratified, they're just pissing off the provinces trying for a political land grab. The tragedy is really the lack of alternatives; the Liberal Party really needs a kick in the <somewhere> to wake them out of their arrogance. If they don't want to lower taxes, the least they could do is gain political favor by showing leadership on the energy front, instead of duplicating provincial programs.

But I guess that while Canada still makes a lot of money off tar sands, there's little incentive to do anything like that. Why not do both, export all the tar sands, let other countries foot the Kyoto fine, and laugh all the way to the bank? Oh, wait, the US is our main buyer and haven't ratified the protocol. Damn it.

And before your friendly neighborhood defender of the A-25 bridge (which, by the way, does not look like it's going to happen--we'll get a "urban boulevard" on Notre-Dame street instead, and I'd rant about this, too, except I'm so disgusted I can't find the energy) is written off as a quack because he's inconsistent, I'll let you all know that I've been biking up a storm lately. I've also been buying local fruit and vegetable as much as I could, which is less than I'd like because growing season is too short here. I'll also let you know that my CO2 emmissions are 1.64 tonnes per year, according to the Climate Change site (which, I guess, is the only tangible thing the federal government has done about Kyoto...). Provincial average is 3.7. I can't go much lower than that if I want to survive winter, either; taking all their suggestions would lower only to 1.4 tonnes per year, mostly by recycling. There is no recycling in this building, because of some lame-ass municipal bylaw, and that's the part that hurts the most.

I find it ironic that the calculator admonishes me for not lowering my emissions by a whole ton, when one ton is 66% of my CO2 emissions. There's not an awful lot more I can do, either; I barely use the car anymore, not using the A/C and dishwasher would save something like 75 kg of CO2 per year, and I can't compost because I have no yard (condo life, you know--I'm sure I'm saving more emissions by having to heat less).

On the biking subject, I'm starting to get serious about it. I bought some new bags for the rear rack (the old one was cheap crap and its zippers broke; the new one uses a pull rope, which is a much smarter system, and it's made in Quebec to boot), a small rear-view mirror for my helmet (looks silly, but still a good idea), and biking shorts. The latter were expensive, but well worth it. I feel like maybe I'll have children someday after a long ride, which is something I wasn't too sure about when I rode with regular shorts. My perineum would feel numb after 25 K or so, 30 K if I was riding on nice, well-maintained pavement (which doesn't really exist in Montreal, I'm sad to say).

Let me tell you about my latest bouts of crazyness.

Two weeks ago, a very good friend (who is now my official biking partner) and I took the south trail. I joined her around St-Michel and Jarry East, we went to Christophe Colomb, all the way down to the Old Port, right to Pont de la Concorde, down to Jean Drapeau park, got lost (laughing most of the time) in Jean Drapeau park, decided not to go to the south shore given we had done the Ile Notre-Dame trail twice, went back up the Champlain Bridge Estacade, through the Lachine Canal trail, then back home after nearly dying on the Berri climb. The Berri climb, by the way, is much worse than I had expected. Halfway up, you feel great. Then the wind blows you nearly back down the hill, and the second part, while shorter, is steeper. You do the whole think in first gear, believe me, especially if you've just done 35 K. Total, about 45-50 K.

Last week, we took the north trail, joined by her brother and sister-in-law. Christophe Colomb to Gouin, west all the way to the Bois-de-Liesse park, then on Pierrefond Boulevard all the way past St-Charles to the next park. Then back the way we came. Much less strenuous, but much longer. The trails that way are extremely nice (though with a not-too-nice view on the Hydro Québec high-voltage power lines), and except for a rather disagreeable stint on Boulevard Pierrefond where there's a one-block stretch without a trail (I swear! This is the silliest thing I've seen in bicycle trails, but it's true!), very enjoyable. Total, 80 K for me. Odd thing was, I felt tired, but I didn't feel cramped up the following day. Admittedly, we took it easy. It's still 80 K, and still impressive. I dislike doing that much distance in a car!

Today, went solo to the east, my friend being out of province on vacation. They have this new trail next to the De Montigny stream, going through the Marie-Victorin college grounds and the Rivière des Prairies hospital. Going to the trail is a pain, though. Up an industrial street, hoping to see it connect. Didn't. Had to cross Henri-Bourassa, a rather busy and wide boulevard. Luckily, this was labour day, so it was rather calm. But you can picture me running like an idiot next to my bike because there was no ramp to go on the sidewalk on the other side of the street. Next time I'll cross elsewhere (Renaude-Lapointe, maybe), but it's still likely to be not much fun. Anyhow, I then lost the trail on Maurice Duplessis, I think I turned left instead of right because I found its end on Boulevard Léger. Traffic is light despite the very wide roads there, though, so not a problem. Then on the East Gouin trail, which was overall nice. Then the Pointe-de-l'Île park, which was a bit swampish, but overall OK and mostly free of pesky insects anyhow. Then down to Pointe-aux-Trembles, which alternated between nice trails and so-so trails next to the railroad (lots of brush in the way there; it seems like they're not really maintained). Then a disgusting segment on the sidewalk in Montréal Est. This part alone makes me wary of doing that trail again; the air was full of petrochemical and solvent smells, and I wonder whether it cancelled any health benefit I got from the ride. Then a surprisingly nice part in Promenade Bellerive, which made me forget about the ugly part from before. Then another disgusiting part in Hochelaga, where I stopped at the local Tim Horton's to get a sandwich. Then a part not worthy of being called a trail on Notre-Dame street; it's so incredibly bumpy and badly maintained that I would've been better off going up l'Assomption to Hochelaga and brave the annoying traffic. Then got lost and missed Viau, ended up on Pie-IX, turned on Ontario to join Pie-IX, up the hill (walking) of the Olympic park (it's short, but it felt like 30% grade), one lap of the Maisonneuve park, then back home through Boulevard Rosemont and Beaubien.

I have no idea of the total mileage; probably around 50 K. But I rode at maximum speed for much of it and stopped only three times (once at the park, once at the Tim Horton's at Notre-Dame/Dickson, once before entering the Maisonneuve park because the hills had taken a lot out of me). I expect to be somewhat stiff tomorrow. Overall, I liked the trip, but the part through Montréal-Est really sucked. I'm likely to go to the Promenade Bellerive in the future to kill a few hours, though; it was a really, really nice place, and not nearly as busy as Parc Maisonneuve; also, going over the A-40 east is less stressful than going over it at Viau, because there's less traffic and the lanes are wider. But I'm not sure I'll do the whole east-end-of-the-island trip again, mostly because of the poor state of the Notre-Dame trail. From a pollution point of view, though, the Champlain Bridge part is probably similar, because you're travelling under the busiest highways of the area. Though, I guess being under means a lot of lighter particulates don't enter your lungs. Still, the west Gouin trail was much nicer, though it is less interesting, in the sense that the east part fools you into thinking you're in the middle of the countryside, then throws you in dense residential areas intermixed with industrial complexes.

So, remember that heading "I must be crazy?" Well, my sanity isn't improving. I suppose my health must be, though. I hope I can do some cross-country skiing this winter, otherwise it's going to be really boring waiting for next spring.

If you want a decent bike shop in the East End, I'd recommend André Lalonde Sport, on Métropolitain East, a bit east of Langelier (though you have to do some creative acrobatics to get there if you're eastbound on A-40). It's pretty close to my home, and they were having a summer sale, with many things 50% off. That's where I got the shorts and stuff. The bikes there look like they're good quality; maybe I'll get one of the hybrids there at the end of next summer. The Schwinn is somewhat capricious (the rear brakes tend to become loose) and heavy; it's perfect to ride to the metro and for the trip to the grocery store because it's unlikely to be stolen, but for long distances, the gear ratios are far from ideal and the fat tires and weight are really dragging me down. But maybe I'll decide it's good enough by next year. Let's say the improved comfort of the biking short have really improved my appreciation of the Schwinn, now that I don't feel like my bee-hind will fall off every time I'm unable to avoid a pothole.

In any case, it's good to have a decent bike shop close by, given that Canadian Tire is a really poor bike shop, Sport Expert is expensive, and smaller bike shops are somewhat far from my place.

  1. Gentilly 2 is the only nuclear reactor in the province of Québec. It's largely criticized, but IIRC, it has had a trouble-free life.


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