WANDERINGS: The Ride to Conquer Cancer 2016

Greetings readers!

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Toronto Street Art: Ride to Conquer Cancer

Just completed my 9th Ride to Conquer Cancer, a 213 km marathon charity bike ride from Toronto to Niagara Falls via Hamilton. The Ride is the biggest fundraising success story in Canada. This year over 4000 cyclists raised $17+million for the Princess Margaret Cancer Research Centre, which has spear-headed individual cancer therapy.

My friend, Andre and I did the inaugural Ride in 2008 and it had by far the best spirit. People rode everything from carbon fibre racing machines to old clunkers pulled out of the garage. No cops doing traffic: instead we relied on a friendly motor cycle club. Road signs got lost or misplaced. The route was tres hilly, too. I remember falling into bed at 6 pm, completely exhausted after finishing that first day.

Since then, every year never fails to be an adventure due to the vagaries of weather or the misadventures of crazy cyclists. This year was no exception. 

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Start at Ex Day 1

Here you see me and my buddy, Marci, at the start of the Ride in Toronto. (That’s me on the left.) We were worried about the predicted thunderstorms hence the rain gear. Instead we got major crosswinds that threatened to blow us off the road as we struggled up and down a hilly course in 35 degree weather (that’s 85 Fahrenheit). Almost impossible to avoid serious dehydration: I downed 2 litres of Gatorade en route!

We did get our reward at the end of Day 1 though: 15 km of speedy downhill to the McMaster University finish line and two beers each! To be shared with our faithful husbands and support crew.

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Enjoying much-earned beer with road crew, Tim

Day 2 dawned clear and much cooler. The wind was behind us and we pumped our way through 119 km of undulating wine country. Beautiful!

Riding with 4000+ cyclists is hazardous. We saw 3 accidents involving 3-tiered response with wailing ambulances. The compulsory safety video doesn’t sink in for many participants who freewheel down hills at 30 MILES per hour, pass too closely and indulge in forbidden drafting.

Many participants sported road rash or suffered bike breakdowns. Fancy road bikes do not fare well on rough, pot-holed roads. Elite cyclists may despise my faithful hybrid, which is slow on hills, but it’s rugged and has held me up through thousands of kilometres.

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Crossing the finish at Niagara Falls

Next year will be the 10th anniversary of the Ride. Did I sign up? Sure! And so did Marci. More adventures to be had in defeating this horrible disease!

EAT THIS BOOK: The Mysterious Book Shop, NYC

12742381_10156530658650150_2448979545047805041_nNEW YORK CITY- what’s not to love!!

Our visit took a literary bent. We stayed at the Algonquin Hotel, site of the famed Round Table where sharp-tongued Dorothy Parker and her literary frenemies traded barbs and founded the New Yorker magazine.  Every guest room at the hotel gets a free copy.

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Wham! martinis

What’s it like to stay there? Great, actually! Location is excellent next to Times Square. The rooms are small, like all NYC hotel rooms, but elegant and well-designed. Each door sports a pithy saying from a member of the Round Table. You can download selected best-selling authors for free. And the bar delivers the – wham! – best martinis in NYC. Economy rules: after one, you’re flying all night!

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Algonquin cat history

Another neat tradition: the Algonquin boasts a resident cat. Current version, Matilda, happily sleeps in a  mahogany file tray on the check-in desk, Do Not Disturb sign prominently displayed. You can book Matilda for your birthday party: her fees go to support a local animal shelter. 

I crossed an item off my bucket list when we checked out The Mysterious Book Shop, NYC’s legendary crime book store. It was founded in 1980 by the equally legendary Otto Penzler who  lives upstairs.

Mysterious Book Shop
Mysterious Book Shop

The bookstore is located in the cool Tribeca area of Manhattan at a disturbingly short distance from the former twin towers, now memorialized by two sunken waterfalls with the names of the fallen carved into the stone edges. IMG_3521

20160528_11434920160528_115334The Mysterious Book Shop is not much bigger than my favorite Toronto bookstore, Sleuth of Baker Street though it does sport towering book shelves, easily 15 feet high. You really do need that ladder to reach the top four or five shelves! Like many bookstores today, its stock is a mix of new and vintage books. Signings are held several times a month: if you launch your crime book here, you know you’ve arrived!

Like the Mysterious Press, the bookstore is very active in cyberspace. I recommend subscribing to its newsletter to keep up with the latest and best in crime fiction.

A neat idea: The Mysterious Press prints long stories or novellas by distinguished writers in chap books, costing about $6 US. I picked up The Little Men by Megan Abbott, a truly chilling tale.  Excellent writing: I can’t wait to dive into her novels!

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Otto Penzler

Otto Penzler is regarded as the world’s foremost authority on crime fiction. In 1975 he founded The Mysterious Press, publishing virtually all the greats: Raymond Chandler, Mickey Spillane, P.D. James, Ruth Rendall, Ellis Peters, the list is endless. He also worked closely with many of my personal favs: Sue Grafton, Michael Connelly, James Lee Burke. 

Over the years, The Mysterious Press underwent many changes, thanks to the constantly evolving – or perhaps devolving – publishing biz until Penzler got the name back. In 2011, he founded Mysterious Press.com, a digital publishing house for vintage crime writers like Ross Macdonald.

Every year, Penzler brings out the highly regarded anthology, Best American Mystery Stories. (Canadians are eligible as long as their stories are published in the USA.) To be inspired by the best in crime fiction writing, these stories can’t be beat.  EAT ALL OF THESE ANTHOLOGIES!!

Penzler also includes a long list of distinguished stories in each volume, stories that almost made the cut. My friend, Ray Daniel’s short story made the long list and he believes Penzler’s recognition led to the traditional publication of his debut novel.  (Check out Ray’s most recent book, Child Not Found.

This year,  the Robert Lopresti story in my friend, Caro Soles’ Poe tribute anthology, Nevermore, was accepted into Penzler’s anthology – a dream come true for any crime writer.

EAT THESE BOOKS, TOO!

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CYBER CAFE: Meet Rosemary McCracken

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Rosemary McCracken
Rosemary and I first became friends through our literary critique group which continues to thrive 15 years on. When we met, we'd each had one or two crime short stories published. Since then we've both published several more stories and been short-listed for the Unhanged Arthur and the Debut Dagger awards. And together we have broken through the barrier of traditional publication though Rosemary continues to set the pace!
 
This week Imajin Press released Raven Lake, the third book in Rosemary's popular Pat Tierney series. Rosemary draws on her work experience as a business journalist to create Pat, a tough, warm-hearted financial manager who runs her own business, deals with her family's many problems and solves crimes faster and better than the police! Jack Batten, the Toronto Star's crime fiction reviewer, has called Pat "a hugely attractive  sleuth figure". 

Subscribe to Rosemary's blog, Moving Target. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her website, too.

The most successful novels are sparked by their authors’ passions. What passion did you follow in Raven Lake?

Gliding in my kayak over a quiet lake or creek, preferably one with no cottages, I feel completely plugged into nature. I come upon turtles sunning themselves on logs; loons teaching their chicks how to fish; herons blending in with marsh vegetation as they stalk their suppers; mink and bobcats drinking from the edge of the lake. One day, I rounded a bend in a creek and found a young bear fishing. Surprised to see me, he scrambled up the bank and disappeared into the woods.  

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So it was mandatory that I get Pat into a kayak—and, of course, she loves paddling as much as I do. And when Imajin Books asked me for suggestions for the Raven Lake book cover, I immediately thought of a figure in a kayak. I was thrilled with the cover that artistic director Ryan Doan came up with—complete with the shadow of a raven on the water. The back cover has a flock of ravens—an “unkindness” of ravens is, I believe, the collective noun.

I set Raven Lake in Ontario cottage country in the summertime to celebrate my many wonderful summers in the Haliburton Highlands north of Toronto—God’s country, it surely is! During those months, I spent a fair amount of time in my kayak exploring the lakes of the Leslie Frost Centre, a spectacular 32,000-hectare Crown land nature preserve that was accessible from my cottage.

Did you revisit any favourite topics in Raven Lake?     

In Raven Lake, I took on a new financial crime based on a real scam that was plaguing Ontario cottage country two summers ago: cottage rental fraud. Con artists were posting photos of lakefront properties on legitimate internet vacation rental sites. Would-be renters would wire their money to the “property owner” – discounts were given for payment in full – and when they arrived for their vacations, they were told by the real owners that the property was not for rent. 

A crime perfectly suited to cottage country.

Like Pat, I’m appalled by the financial exploitation of unsuspecting people that is rampant these days. Con artists are swindling their victims out of their savings through investment frauds, identity theft, telemarketing scams and loan schemes. The penalties for these crimes aren’t tough enough in Canada to deter these crooks.

Where can readers buy Raven Lake?

Click on the book cover image above. It will take you directly to the Amazon store in your country. And here’s the link, too: myBook.to/RavenLakeTierney

What do you like about the crime fiction genre?     

Crime fiction gives me an opportunity to work with some great bad guys and gals, characters I can really love to hate. I believe the antagonist is the second most important character in a novel, after the protagonist. I avoid completely evil antagonists because I can’t believe in them. No one is bad all the time.

I like the sense of closure at the end of a mystery or thriller. Peace and order has returned to the world. It may only be a temporary state of order; the antagonist may still be out there. But it’s peace and order for a time.

Tell us about your readers. Where are they located? Which topics have proven to be the most popular with them?     

Many of my readers are women, and judging from readers’ reviews, they seem to be taken with Pat Tierney’s ongoing family problems. They like the fact that she’s an Everywoman: a single mom who supports her family, does her very best for her clients, and has to deal with a whack of domestic problems. They can relate to a character like her.

The beauty of e-books is that authors can reach people who read English throughout the world. Safe Harbor, my first mystery, currently has 115 reader reviews on Amazon.com, and I think it’s safe to say that most are American readers. There are 15 reviews on Amazon.co.uk, so I know I have some British readers. And, of course, I have many readers in Ontario and I credit public librarians with bringing Ontario writers to the attention of library users.

Will there be a fourth Pat Tierney mystery?

I certainly hope so, although I’m not sure where Pat will take me next. I need to spend some quiet time this coming summer listening to her.

 Where can readers buy the first two Pat Tierney novels?

Click on the images below or use these links: Safe Harbor can be purchased at myBook.to/SafeHarborTierney. And Black Water at myBook.to/BlackWaterTierney. These are universal links that will take you to the Amazon store in your country.

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CYBER CAFE: Meet Pat Flewwelling!

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Pat Flewwelling

Pat and I are cyber-friends. We have yet to meet in “meat space”. We first became friends when my debut novel, Windigo Fire, was published by Seraphim Editions. Pat invited me to be a guest on her blog and I was delighted to accept. Pat’s passion, in addition to her busy life as an author, is to promote Canadian authors and Canadian culture through her blog, Nine Day Wonder. Visit her blog by clicking on the above link. Follow her on Twitter and on her Facebook fan page here.

 

How did you start blogging?

The purpose of www.ninedaywonder.com has always been to spotlight authors and introduce them to a brand new audience. My blog has undergone some facelifts over the years, but has been in operation since about 2010, with interviews starting in 2012. I focus on authors, editors, and other artists from small presses, because I’ve never felt like they had enough exposure (and I can only buy so many books on my own).  I wish I could write more consistently, but for the last few months – and for the next few months – I’ll be updating the blog at random. It’s all good news – two editing contracts, a new book being published this fall and another to be written on deadline, plus two short stories accepted for publication, and a horror movie script, all while moving from Ontario to Quebec, and while starting up a travelling bookstore. These days, I post when I can!

What passions keep you going?

I love introducing new authors to an audience, and making those authors shine. I feel like I’m really doing something for authors and for our national culture at large.

Almost all of my interviewed guests have been writers, so we typically talk about the latest book they’re launching, as well as what personal interests help them strike a balance between their writing career and their lives at large. There was, however, one interview that stands out as one of my most challenging: I interviewed a reader who set the record straight on what a “strong female character” really means, and how I’d been wrong all along.

I especially love it when I toss out a bonus question, and the author throws back a wild and hilarious response. For example, I’d been interviewing Alison Sinclair, who writes science fiction and has four science degrees to back it up. At the end of the interview, I asked: “Ada Lovelace, Hedy Lamarr, and Marie Curie are sitting down to tea, and there’s only one piece of cake left. Only the craftiest of minds may take the cake. Who wins?” And she replied: “Nobody. They’d forget all about it because the conversation would be so absorbing, and the cake and all the silverware would wind up incorporated into a model of a device they’d invent between them.”

Tell us about your followers.

The majority of my followers are Canadian, which is all right. I spend a lot of time focusing on Canadian authors, Canadian content, and Canadian small press, so a Canadian audience seems pretty inevitable. But Canadians only represent about 65% of the following. After that come the Americans at about 20%, and the remaining 15% are scattered all over the world. I have one particular favourite blog visitor from Italy – an independently published author herself – and she ended up being on the blog as a guest as well. But I’ve also had regular visitors from Russia, Germany, and India.

What feedback have you had from your followers?

My followers really like the fact that the questions I pose in interviews are thought-provoking, none of the “where do you get your ideas from” sort. I spend upwards of 2-3 hours researching a guest’s work, their own blogs and websites, etc., and then I read through any other interviews they might have participated in before. This way, I tailor the questions to the author, to their work, to their particular interests, and I make sure the questions haven’t been asked before.

 I’ve been fortunate when it comes to feedback. Those who leave a comment are genuinely interested in what they’ve been reading, and they respond positively. The rest end up trapped in my spam filter. I don’t mind. Those comments rarely make grammatical sense, and they always tell me to buy Gucci handbags or Ray-Ban sunglasses or something.

Which blog is your personal favorite?

“Worms on a Train” was my all-time favourite post, even though it was the hardest one I ever had to write. In it, I had to come out and admit that I was struggling with my own internalized systemic prejudice, while at the same time witnessing overt racism in action. It’s not an interview, it’s not fun, it’s not funny, but for a few hundred words, I was more painfully honest and clear than I’d ever been before.  Here’s the link: http://www.ninedaywonder.com/2015/worms-on-a-train

 

Thank you, Pat! It was a pleasure to be a guest on your blog. Thanks for all you do to promote Canadian authors and best of luck in getting all your writing projects done in good time!

 

 

Eat This Book!

12742381_10156530658650150_2448979545047805041_nGreetings Readers!

This week I’m introducing a new post,  Eat this Book, inspired by the adorable black kitten munching on a proffered tome.  Hey, no cat lady crap! I owned ONE bad-tempered black cat for 19+ years. The others were/are black and white…

In Eat This Book, I’ll explore the value of books as entities, starting with the mystery books crowding my own shelves.  I’ll look at market value:  what is that signed P. D. James original today? And/or historical value: author Liza Cody and her amazing Bucket Nut series. Look for my upcoming visits to fab bookstore owners Marian Misters of Sleuth of Baker Street and Peter Sellers of Sellers and Newell

Also I’ll highlight new books that no emerging or hard-working established writer can do without.  To start off, I’m going to tell you about a book by fellow thriller writer, Kristina Stanley to be released on May 28th. (Do check out our interview on Cyber Café!)  I’ve already pre-ordered my copy.

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The most pressing problem authors have is to find readers. How do you find an audience for your writing? Many writers, including myself, rely heavily on libraries and book stores, but what if you reach more people who would like your book? The answer is targeted marketing. 

Kristina and I both write outdoors thrillers. Some possible sales venues include sporting goods stores, ski resorts, boat shows, etc. Authors of culinary mysteries might choose a local kitchen store or cooking school.  The possibilities are only limited by your imagination. In her book, Kristina  also shares how to keep track of your books on consignment and how to manage your sales revenues and costs.

So don’t delay, fellow writers. EAT THIS BOOK!

 

 

 

 

 

Wanderings: Street Art and Alleys

My friend, TO Poet, loves Toronto’s hidden alleys: the laneways that run between the backyards of houses or the houses themselves. He collects images of strange tableaux he runs across on his wanderings: this week abandoned wall units.  View TO Poet’s photos on Tumblr where he posts Tuesdays and Sundays here and check out his website here.

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Biological beer can that bleeds?

The word “alley” – no doubt the corruption of the French word “allee” –  means roadway.  In the past, when land was cheap, in Domestic Land, alleys played the role of the servants’ back stairs,  giving access to garages, garbage cans and compost heaps.

Not so in the city core. There alleys become romantic, sinister, intriguing, seductive. In noir film and literature, urban alleys are the main stage for thefts, assaults, fights and, of course, death.

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Scary urban alley by daylight

Now on my training rides, I’m more and more tempted to steer my bike into these beckoning non-fairways. Taking a short cut, I discovered some fab street art! Feast your eyes, readers!

Strange dino-beasts
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Trash & Star Trek Pt 1
Trash & Star Trek Pt.2
Trash & Star Trek Pt.2

 

 

 

 

 

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Don’t believe all you read!
Even Enterprise crew washes their tights
Even Enterprise crew washes their tights

 

 

 

News: Blatant Self-Promotion – My Novella “Glow Grass” Arthur Ellis Finalist!

WOW! I attended the Arthur Ellis short list event at Indigo Manulife Centre last night on April 21st with fingers crossed for our anthology 13 O’clock. Competition this year was tough in the short story category with nearly 50 entries and many established authors.

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Finalist-400My suspense story, “Glow Grass”, was entered in the novella category.  And it is an Arthur Ellis finalist. I could not believe it!!

I’m honoured and delighted to be in the company of my friends and fellow authors, Barbara Fradkin and Alison Bruce.  Do check out their books.

And special thanks to Carrick Publishing who made both anthologies of the Mesdames of Mayhem possible.

Read an excerpt of “Glow Grass” on this website.

Our Mesdames of Mayhem anthology, 13 O’clock, has garnered two recent reviews, both great.  Don’t miss out on some great stories by leading Canadian women crime writers.

Vanessa Westermann writes in Vanessa’s Picks in the April issue of the Sleuth of Baker Street newsletter:

M.H. Callway very kindly sent me a copy of 13 O’Clock ($15.99), the second crime anthology by the MESDAMES OF MAYHEM. I normally prefer to pick up a novel, rather than a short story collection, when looking for reading material. However, having just worked with a group of budding young authors in a creative writing club and given advice on crafting short fiction, it was a pleasure to read an anthology by lauded female Canadian crime writers and class it as ‘research’. These twisted tales offer entertainment to suit your every whim or perhaps, more appropriately, to suit the time of day. Over crumpets at breakfast, perhaps you’ll find yourself reading “Pulling a Rabbit”, about a woman whose adventurous spirit leads her from theft to abduction. Over a pre-dinner glass of merlot, you may choose to read “Glow Grass”, about dark deeds and blood-shed at a decayed family cottage. Whichever story you choose to read, at whatever time, you’re sure to find a tale of crime that will appeal to you, from the supernatural to comedy capers.

And Don Graves writes in Canadian Mystery Reviews. Don has given us permission to reproduce his review here. It will be up in a forthcoming issue.

A book of short stories is like a box of chocolates. There are those decadent dark chocolate truffles, those syrupy little beehives with a cheery inside and then…you get the picture.

Short story writing is a style where the author gets about a minute to ‘reel ‘em in and land ‘em’. No time to waste words. The author gets one shot to score. Short story writing can be the Waterloo that some authors fear. Enough.

13 O’Clock is a box full of delights. No assembly line writing here. It is short story writing that delivers. Did I like each story equally? No, but all of them got me in that critical first minute. In a long list of fine, hand-made “chocolates” includes “Perfect Timing” and “The Test of Time” by Melodie Campbell, “Thrice the Brinded Cat” by Joan O’Callaghan, “The Bench Rests” by Rosemary Aubert; this story took me back to those poignant legal series featuring Ellis Portal. Stories by Donna Carrick, Catherine Astolfo and M.H. Callway hit the spot. And I must mention one other. I’m sure you’ve heard the oldie about those can’t do…teach. Well, some say, those who can’t write…edit. But “Mirror, Mirror” by Cheryl Freedman blows that saying out of the water. Here’s one of Canada’s finest editors who can write!

 

 

WANDERINGS: Viaducts, Street Art and Suicides

I’m training  for my 9th Ride to Conquer Cancer. Up to now, I’ve braved icy roads and braced frigid head winds.  Finally this week decent conditions, so I took my favorite route down the Don Valley trail.

Spring at last!
Spring at last!

The trail meanders between the bucolic waters  of the Don River and the ear-deafening stream of cars along the Don Valley Expressway.  It’s frequented by dog walkers, elderly hikers, birdwatchers, other bike maniacs, a few homeless and the odd city worker doing some nameless, incomprehensible task.

Street artists have been hard at work, too. Crossing under a viaduct, I spot this amazing painting.

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Street Art at base of viaduct

Sadly the viaducts are a favorite of suicides.  The enormous Bloor viaduct sports a remarkable barrier that has proven 100% effective in prevention though cynics point out that it may merely drive unfortunates north to this one.

 Structurally beautiful, the Bloor viaduct barrier was created by Harvard-educated architect, Ellis Kirkland, who originally designed it to be lit up at night.

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Bloor Street Viaduct Wannabe

In a macabre twist of fate, Kirkland became the centre of a downtown drama last month. She stabbed the concierge at her apartment building, fled and was rescued from jumping off a 27th floor balcony at a nearby hotel.  Fortunately, both she and the concierge survived. Read the full and tragically ironic story here.

 

The Surreal Trapdoor: Snakes Alive!

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Ice breaking Canada Geese

Spring is sprung in a cold Canadian way. Canada geese tread water and shards of ice at our cottage. Getting ready to breed.

And they aren’t alone…

On my friend, Gail Hamilton’s farm, on a warm sunny day, you will encounter THIS!

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Garter Snake Orgy. Photo by Gail Hamilton.

Buried under the heap of writhing reptiles are some very bothered female garter snakes. ARGH!!

Important to remember though that garter snakes are not venomous and perform a valuable ecological service in keeping down the insect and rodent populations. More of them is a good thing.

Our daughter had a pet garter snake named Slither. Caring for Slither introduced me to Toronto’s strange sub-culture of reptile fanciers. Did you know that they hold fashion shows for iguanas? And that iguanas make intelligent pets? This knowledge inspired me to write my award-winning story, The Lizard, which appeared in Crimespree Magazine, Issue 52 and was reprinted in Kings River Life Magazine, August 2014.

There’s a darker side to reptile fancy, too, starting with “pinky”, the most delectable food that no snake can resist. And what exactly is pinky? A euphemism for fresh frozen baby mice. (Ee-yuck!) Snake hoarding figures in a story I’m drafting now, working title Snake Oil. Stay tuned!

WANDERINGS: Bikes and Banksy

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Outside training for The Ride begins in mid-March. And yes, those bits of yellow and purple poking through the dead leaves are crocuses! And that’s my shadow snapping the pic.

I can’t lie, dear Readers, riding a bike in Toronto in mid-March is COLD. You start to pray for heavy duty hills to get the blood flowing, because unlike running, you never warm up on a bike. You slowly get chillier and chillier until your hands and feet refuse to move. If the wind is really bad, you seize up too much to climb off your trusty wheels to stagger into the warmth of that beckoning doughnut store.

But, hey, that’s part of training! On the upside, when biking, you FEEL the world, discover unseen treasures…surreal trapdoors…

 This Sunday, layered in dorky bike gear, I headed out along the Beltline Trail. This defunct 19th century railway is now an 8 km trail used by runners, cyclists and dog walkers.   Most people use the 5 km section of hard-packed dirt; only locals know about the 3 km paved section on the west side of the Allen Expressway. And that’s the pouffy part with historical plaques and stuff.

20160320_135141No signs, no nothing at the east end. To access it, you have to sneak past a body shop and down a narrow sidewalk bordering a townhouse.  I stumbled upon the far west end by accident on an 80 km ride back from the Humber. 

Winter has been hard on the trail. Gates are flaking rusty metal, the plastic covering on the map / plaques has splintered into thousands of cracks. Vandals have scrawled insults sorely lacking in wit or originality.

Then suddenly TREASURE! I adore Banksy and Shepherd Fairey. And here was my reward for braving the cold: a Toronto WOW. Amazing use of building fixtures – and abandoned scary trucks. Enjoy!

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Green tiger burning bright

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Building fan fits in
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Fab croc and entrail design

 

Cool fish
Cool fish
More conventional
More conventional
Scary truck
Scary truck
Scary Easter Bunny
Scary Easter Bunny