9-1 My Off-season Projects

By now you may have noticed my purpose in life isn’t just to fix bicycles. Its to make room for more than bill-paying toil. The best time for me to do that would seem like the winter, when my work stand is empty. Oh, I try to persuade my clients to bring bikes ready for a spring tune-up in the winter, but the season brings its own set of distractions. I get it.

A bicycle won’t get rid of that toil, but by using mechanical leverage, elegantly and efficiently conceived, a bicycle can make the toil a lot easier. In my adopted small town of Smiths Falls, plenty of rattling chains can be heard and scrape marks across the pavement can be seen. Yet my local contemporaries cite again and again how, when they were youths, they’d cycle everywhere.

As you can read in the sidebar to the left, I started a Smiths Falls Bike Map--a Safe Bicycling Map for this community. I did this to re-introduce residents to their local landscape, removing another obstacle between their feet and the pedals. Most of the town’s neighbourhoods have been surveyed and mapped. Check out "2-3-2 Bike Map 3” on the left to see an example.

I’d like to spend part of winter finishing the survey and neighbourhood-mapping but I haven't because its winter and I have utility bills to pay. Once the maps are complete they still need to be refined and then publicized. Then the whole idea behind them needs to be widely disseminated. Well, shouldn’t this be a Municipal project? My Municipality is strapped for cash and bureaucracies move like molasses. Besides, they didn’t exactly get it right the last time...

In the Bike Routes Map project the Town published five years ago, the illustration directs riders in Victoria Park (E) to turn south onto Merrick Street. This is impossible because there is no route, just a chain link fence behind houses. The map should have directed riders south out of the Park entrance a block east at Lavinia. Thousands of brochures were printed with this mistake. Also, the Bike Routes Map is a map for long-distance recreational highway rides, not commuting to school or getting to the grocery store. Tourism is splendid but for local residents getting from Point A to Point B matters the most.

The point of this project is to get more people to use their bicycles to get around by persuading them as effectively as all the other media does to prevent it, without endangering any lives. Producing this material is also needed to persuade local stakeholders to add infrastructure like secure bicycle parking racks at stores and other sites. Some discussion on this in the left sidebar item “Smiths Falls Bike Racks”.

My town can’t help but maybe you can. Will you contribute $20 or $200 to help me complete this project? My budget for this will be $2,000 and ten weeks of labour. Given what professionals charge to do this type of information work, that’s a huge bargain. Please write to me at davidhoffman@magma.ca if you are interested. 

In the meantime, I have been doing other things during my winter off-season. In early 2015 I picked up a short-term gig to build miniature trees for Monolith Studios, a local architectural model maker. Miniature trees are scale representations of real, deciduous trees made from electrical wiring, solder and model railroad foliage. 

The same model railroad foliage is also used to make shrubs. From February through April, I built over 200 trees of about four inch height, a half-dozen trees twice as tall, and several hundred that are hardly an inch tall. They all went to models for three different developer clients in eastern Ontario and in Ottawa. 

I enjoyed both the work itself and the camaraderie at Monolith, even though it cut into the start of my spring bike repair season.

Another winter, I was editing university student papers for grammar and style. Sometimes english-as-a-second-language student papers. Most were about historical topics. I liked editing and I liked having to familiarize myself with the specific topics. I went down many a rabbit hole for hours on most of them and discovered more than a few books I'd never heard of and had no previous reason to read.

Home reno work I have been paid to do over the past five years includes interior house painting and post-tennant clean-up, laying laminated flooring and tearing out post-flood basement carpeting. Work I have done at home include roof shingle removal and installation, lawn-mowing, cement step repair, drywall installation and archeology.

Do you know of unusual projects I could undertake before the spring arrives? Let me know: davidhoffman@magma.ca