Friday 28 December 2007

What an idiot!

What an idiot!

When I took my dog for a walk this morning, and I saw the cyclist sloshing through the slush on the road. that was the thought that crossed my mind. How could anyone try to ride through that crap?

A few hours later, as I was scootering through a slushy road, I thought,

What an idiot!

When I woke up this morning, I really wanted to go for a ride today. I had new gloves, a balaclava and down vest that I wanted to try out in the cold weather. But the roads on my street were slushy and, being smart, I didn’t want to take any chances.

After lunch, however, thanks to good ol’ west coast rain the slush had all but gone in my neighbourhood and I had a change of heart.

I suited up with winter boots, rain pants, fleece sweater, down vest, waterproof jacket, balaclava, and new gloves. Then I headed out, taking a similar route to my Cold Ride a month ago. It was around 4° C. (about 40°F.) so it was a good test of my equipment.

I was warm - toasty in fact. The first half hour was great - warm and happy to be on my scooter after a long hiatus. Then, as I got closer to the Stave Dam, more and more slush was on the road. I thought, that’s OK, there’s still the tracks where cars have been driving.

As I approached the Stave dam, I stopped and assessed. The road was covered in slush at some places. At that point, I had to make a decision - press on, or return. I decided to carry on.

Luckily, I had been catching up on my SCTRCST podcasts the previous day and was listening to Dave Mangano interview Steve Williams of Scooter in the Sticks about his winter driving. Steve’s advice was to take things slow, especially around the curve and he also talked about riding the scooter like a bicycle. I took this advice to heart, using a bit of self-talk to slowly manoeuvre the slippery, hilly sections.

One thing, though - I was warm the whole time. My fingers were a bit cold but the rest of my body was warm and dry.

Although the ride through slush and even some snow caused a bit of white-knuckling, I was fine because I was taking things as slowly as I needed to and I wasn’t freezing. I realized that being really cold on previous trips affected my judgement - sometimes when I'm really cold I feel that I am in some sort of fugue state - but not today. I was warm and alert.

By the time I crossed the bridge that went over the Fraser River, I was in typical wet, rainy, sloshing weather that I am very happy to ride in. I warmed up my hands with a coffee at a gas station (after filling $4 worth of gas - compared to $45 or so for my car) and headed through Glen Valley towards Fort Langley.

I was successful in avoiding a lot of traffic and really enjoyed the ride. I stopped in Fort Langley for a latté and then took the Albion ferry back across the river.

Funnily enough, I was the only vehicle on two wheels for the first time since I’ve been taking the ferry with my scoot!

Back at home, I was quite happy to sit down and have a glass of wine - a lot different from jumping, shivering into a hot bath or shower like I have after previous rides. Except for the chilly fingertips, the ride was a warm success. Even if I was being a bit of an idiot...

Thursday 27 December 2007


Merry Christmas!

Just a quick entry to say that I’m finally feeling OK after a real nasty cold.

I missed a whole week of school which I hate to do - I haven’t missed that much time for several years. But, I think I’m getting smarter in my old age and thought that rest and relaxation would ensure that I wasn’t sick for Christmas. I was right!

After family dinners on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we went through the consumer orgy of Boxing Day. For our neighbours south of the border, I think it’s equivalent to your Black Friday in terms of sales. Boxing Day is a national holiday here in Canada and celebrated in many other commonwealth countries. It originally was a time for wealthier families to make a donation for the less fortunate in charity boxes. Now, it’s degenerated into a day (and sometimes, a week) where people can get the deal of a lifetime.

Only my eldest daughter was brave enough to venture out into the mobs. I spent the day fiddling with stuff that I got for Christmas.

Today, as the snow fell again, I contemplated my next ride. It’s been way too long and I am really anxious to get back on my scooter.

I received some new gloves in the mail a couple of weeks ago - they are warm and waterproof but I haven’t really put them to the test. In addition, I went out shopping today and bought a balaclava to keep my face warm and a down vest for my core.

Better prepared (I hope), I plan to scoot on out tomorrow, if the weather is not too cold and icy or snowy. Here’s hoping...

Tuesday 18 December 2007

Been a Long Time Since I Blogged and Rolled...

It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged. Too long.


So here’s the reasons why I haven’t made an entry for the last month....

1. School has been busy. I think I’ve mentioned this before. I’m teaching a split grade 6 and 7 class and it is a lot more work than a straight class. I’ve spent a lot more time this year marking and planning for two grades so I’ve really had to work at finding time for both riding and blogging.

2. I’ve been sick. Not deathly ill - just a couple of colds that have got into my chest. Makes me wonder if I was smart getting the flu shot. And, of course, like many other stupid teachers, I somehow feel that the students can only learn if I’m there. So then I’m exhausted when I get home and the cold lasts longer.... see where this is going?

3. School has been really busy. It seems like I spent weeks working on my report cards. They are onerous to complete at the best of time but our school is using a new, web-based system that should make things faster but, because we are piloting the system, takes a lot longer because of all the bugs.

4. The weather sucks. We’ve had way too many days of frost, black ice and snow in that last few weeks. I mean, come on, this is the west coast! I just don’t feel confident buzzing around on my Vespa when there’s snow on the road or big patches of black ice on residential streets.

5. School has been insanely busy. One of the events that parents look forward to, and some teachers dread, is the annual Christmas concert. Between being sick, teaching a split grade and doing report cards, I had to organize my group of 4 classes and get them to learn their songs, etc. in time for the Christmas concert that we presented three times.

Now, what am I going to do about these reasons?

1. I can’t change the fact that I’m teaching a split, but for some reason, the work load always seems to start to ease up after Christmas. Also, I’m trying some different things with another teacher that may make my life a little easier.

2. Right now I’m home. I’m intent on staying home until this thing has left my chest and I feel better. Hopefully, by Friday I’ll be back so I can at least say good bye to the kids until the holidays are over.

3. Report cards are done! Next term’s should go faster.

4. Cant’ do much about the weather, although it seems to have reverted back to the normal west coast of BC rain and gloom. Hurrah! I can ride in that! When I’m done my cold...

5. Christmas concert is over! Ho ho ho!

So, don’t give up on me - I do intend to keep blogging - I still have things to say... oh, and have a Merry Christmas - or Happy Hanukkah - or Joyful Kwanzaa - or whatever.

Friday 16 November 2007

Near-Death Experience #43

I had to wait until today to write this as I was a little shaken up last night.

I have had a bunch of near-death experiences on the Vespa over the past year or so but 43 is just a guess - I don’t actually keep track of them. Usually, my near-death experiences involve circumstances out of my control - a bus pulling out into traffic, a car passing on the right, somebody turning in front of me - but my latest was a bit different...

It was an ordinary day at school. The kids were actually really good yesterday and I had an enjoyable day in the classroom. Unfortunately I spent a bunch of time in what I call ‘the pit” which is the communication closet where our servers are located. We were having problems with one of our servers and I had to figure out what was wrong.

After a satisfying teaching day and a not-too-horrid staff meeting after school, I happily hopped onto my scooter and headed for home.

The road I ride down on the way home, whether by bike or scooter, is a winding, steepish downhill road. I’ve gone down it probably a hundred times on my scooter and a thousand on my bike.

Last night, it was dark, and a bit rainy. Now, I don’t mind riding in the rain at all, especially on busy streets, but this street is dark, so it’s a little harder to see.

As I rode into an especially curvy section, a car approached going to other way. Because of the combination of his bright lights, the wet conditions, and my visor, I ended drifting to the right. I was also going a wee bit fast for the conditions I was in. By the time the car went past, I realized I was mere centimetres/inches from the edge of the road and a muddy, slippery fall.

In a flash, I went from safe, careful driving, to almost wiping out myself, and more importantly, my scratch-free Vespa.

Happily, I quickly regained the middle of the road and arrived home, imbibing a quick glass of red wine to settle my nerves.

And that’s the latest near-death experience. I know there’ll be more but, I console myself with the fact that, the more I ride, hopefully, the less they'll happen.

Sunday 11 November 2007

Cold, cold ride

Saturday was a beautiful day. After days of rain and gloom the sun had finally come out. I felt warmer, better, more positive. A perfect day for a ride.

Unfortunately, life got in the way. I had laundry to do, a bunch of wine to bottle, the dog to take for a nice long walk.... By the time I wheeled my Vespa out of the garage, it was 3 o’clock and the streets were all in shade because the sun had gone behind the clouds.

Never mind, I thought. Take the day.

I put on a few layers and grabbed my newly returned camera. Unfortunately, there weren’t any extra batteries in the house but it seemed OK when I tested it at home. I decided to take a road (Dewdney Trunk Road) that heads east and is a lot less travelled than the highway. I was a bit cold at first but the sun peaked out from behind the trees every now and then. The first photo I took was on the side of the road where I saw a horse, sheep and a llama all together. Talk about getting along!

I continued on until I reached the Stave Falls Dam. I took my class here last year as they do a great tour of the old dam there including the turbines and an interactive area. I stopped at the entrance to The Power House (as it’s called) and, what do you know, the camera’s batteries died after the first photo. I decided to continue east along the road, despite the absence of photos, and see if I could hook up to Mission.

The road seemed to go an awfully long time . On a summer day, all of the trees and lack of traffic would have been fantastic. Unfortunately, I kept getting colder and I had images of of my frost bitten body being picked over by a couple of bears getting ready for winter. Finally, I came to a crossroads and, as luck would have it, I took the right turn and ended up by a place called Hayward Lake.

It was one of those moments where the cold seem to disappear. The sun was setting by the lake and the view was breathtaking. I stopped for a couple of minutes and just stared into the sunset. Luckily, the batteries had warmed up enough in my pocket so that I could snap a couple pictures.

A few minutes later I was on the Lougheed Highway. I had about ten minutes of two lane highway and I did not enjoy myself. The speed limit is 80 km/h and there was a lot of traffic. With no place for cars to pass me, I ended up spending half the time on the shoulder while cement trucks, SUVs and black pick ups zoomed by me. It was a relief to get to the Mission Bridge.

I crossed over the Fraser River into Abbotsford and started back towards home. I stopped at a gas station to see if they had any batteries (they didn’t) and when I returned outside, the warming effects of Hayward Lake dissipated. I was cold and the 25 minute trip to Fort Langley was uneventful except for the shivering and teeth chattering as I figured out my route back. As I explained to a fellow bike patroller Friday night, I didn’t know what cold was until I got my Vespa!

In Fort Langley, I stopped for a latté, warming my fingers and my insides before hopping the ferry and getting home. I parked the Vespa, walked stiff legged into the house and took a long, hot shower.

But you know what? I still can’t wait for my next ride!

Here's a link showing the ride - about 90 km and 2 and a half hours (including the brief warm up in the coffee shop).

Tuesday 30 October 2007

It’s been a busy month. It’s also been a terribly wet month up here on the upper West Coast. And when it hasn’t been rainy, it’s been cold - at least cold for a West Coaster.

The main reason I am really aware of this is I now only have two choices for getting to school - my Vespa or my bike. That’s because number one daughter drives her sister, a neighbour and herself across town to the French Immersion High School every day. That’s mostly a very good thing but I am having to get used to being car-less this year.

This morning, the temperature dropped down to 3° C. (that’s about 37° F. according to a temperature conversion site) and it felt cold to me. Yes, I know, if you’re from the prairies or the mid-west or practically anywhere else but the on a coast, that’s not very cold but to a person born and bred being able to smell the salt in the ocean on a breezy day, 3° is really cold!

I don’t have a particularly long ride to school in the morning but I have been making a lot of trips on the way home in recent days. I’m beginning to find my choice of scooter clothing to be - well - not good enough for cold weather.

So what am I wearing?

In the rain, I have waterproof pants that I bought from MEC (Mountain Equipment Coop). They are completely waterproof and keep my legs warm in both rainy and cold weather. On Mondays, when I teach PE, I even wear them over shorts!

For my feet, I wear cycling shoe covers. These are pretty much waterproof and, as an added bonus, they keep your feet warm. Unfortunately, they only protect the top and sides of your shoes so if you step in a big puddle, your feet will get wet.

For a jacket, I wear a waterproof shell that is really waterproof - as long as I fold over and secure the velcro patches on the front seam. The times I forgot to do this, I had a nice big wet spot across the chest of my shirt. Thank goodness for air dryers.

I have a fleece or two that I can wear under my shell. In the rain, this works pretty well. When it’s cold outside, though, my core starts to get cold. I have put up to three layers of fleece and still will get cold, especially if I am going to the city.
As for gloves, I use kayak paddling gloves when it’s really rainy. They start off warm and work for a while but become soggy after awhile.

During cold weather, I wear lobster gloves - they are sort of like mittens but have two fingers in each part which gives you some mobility but also added warmth. Unfortunately, on longer rides, my fingers start to freeze, even if I wear another pair of gloves inside the lobster gloves.

So, that’s what I am currently wearing for wet and cold weather. Now to look at what’s out there that will keep me warm and dry - or, I should say, warmer and drier.

And, no, I haven’t managed to get my camera back from my sister yet.

Saturday 13 October 2007

Vancouver, Step by Step

Today was another one of those glorious days.

I had to go into Vancouver and decided to scoot in.

There are certain sections to a trip to Vancouver from Maple Ridge so I thought I’d share what the different phases are like. By the way, my apologies for the photos acquired from other sites - I left my camera at my sister’s house on Canadian Thanksgiving....

Maple RIdge - Pitt Meadows

This part of the trip is on the Lougheed Highway and is OK. It’s mostly flat so I can get going at a pretty good clip but I’ve done it a zillion times before so it can get a bit humdrum. Going over the Pitt River bridge is the best part simply because I like going over bridges!

Port Coquitlam - Coquitlam - Port Moody

The next part I don’t go on as frequently as the first part of my trip. The road is fairly flat but there are lots of different stores, lights to stop at, lane changes, and more than a couple coffee shops to stop at when I get too cold. Luckily it was a fairly warm and sunny day today so I zipped right through this part of my trip. I sensibly wore my jeans and had a couple layers under my gortex jacket.

Barnet Highway

I’ve blogged about this highway before. Since I can’t go on the freeway (not that I ever would want to with cars whizzing by at 100 kmh), this is my best route into the city. It is a very pretty ride, with lots of trees and Burrard Inlet to my right as I ride into the big city. There’s two lanes each way and one of the lanes is a commuter lane where motorcycles are free to go on. There’s also usually a fair number of cyclists on the route (momentary guilt) and I sometimes give them a polite ‘meep’ of encouragement when I go past. The only downside of this part, which connects Port Moody and Burnaby, is that it is mostly in shade because of all the trees and so can be quite cold.

Hastings Burnaby

Although Hastings Street has a bad name in the news, the part that goes through the city of Burnaby which is adjacent to Vancouver is quite nice. Two neighbourhoods, Capital Hill and The Heights, are particularly nice and have come back from bad reputations as a result of the residents turning things around. I really like The Heights as there are lots of ethnic shops and restaurants and, most importantly, coffee shops to stop at for a warming latté!

East Hastings

Once I enter Vancouver, Hastings is still not such a bad place. The Pacific National Exhibition is on the right and quiet residential areas fill out the rest. As I ride closer to the centre of the city, however, the street becomes more desolate and depressing. The Downtown Eastside is centred on this area with homeless people, drug users, and a host of other social ills. Still, I don’t mind riding through this area - people don’t antagonize me and it’s probably a good idea to be aware of what’s happening in this part of the city.

West Hastings

As I ride past the Church of Scientology, sort of a marker between east and west, Hastings Street changes to swank, stylish buildings and trendy, upscale malls such as the Sinclair Centre. It amazes me that in just a few blocks the cityscape changes from homeless people to high end designer stores. I ride on, to the edge of Vancouver, sunshine shining down on me as I scoot towards the North Shore.

West Vancouver

After scooting through the causeway of Stanley Park, I rode onto the Lions’ Gate Bridge for the first time on my Vespa. It was incredible! The scenery was beautiful and I felt so high up! I’ve been over the bridge thousands of time before in a car but never on a scooter. It was amazing. I rode onto West Vancouver into the Village at Park Royal to my destination, coffee with my wife at Caffe Artigianno.

And, wonderful as the ride was, after I had my latté, I smiled as I contemplated the ride home....

Friday 5 October 2007

First Month Back and a New Chrome Visor

It’s been a while.

Oh, don’t worry, I’ve still been scooting, but I’ve been so busy with school starting up that I just haven’t had time to blog during the last couple of weeks.

I’ve settled into a bit of a routine to start off the school year. I ride my bicycle on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. It’s about 7 or 8 kms but there’s lots of hills so it takes me about 25 minutes. I’m fortunate to have a shower at my school so I just get up in the morning, grab a quick breakfast, and head out the door.

Thursdays, I head out the door in the morning, hop on the scooter and meet up with a couple of colleagues at Starbucks for a casual breakfast. I’m ready to ride the scooter by Thursday as I seem to get home a lot earlier when I scoot. On Fridays, I also take the Vespa.

If I have an appointment (doctor, dentist, etc.) I take the Vespa on that day - I hate arriving at an appointment all sweaty and I’m paranoid about my bicycle, a Cannondale, getting stolen.

Anyway, when I arrived home tonight, I decided to tackle a project that I had been avoiding the past couple of weeks.

I had read on the BlogLX site about a slick looking chrome visor for the front headlight made by the Jettin company. I ordered the visor and waited in anticipation. In the meantime, I had the flat tire fiasco and lost a little confidence in my mechanical aptitude. And then....

I took out the chrome piece from the shipping box. It is truly chrome, not a hunk of shiny plastic, and was well packaged. There were instructions but they were for a GTS even though the visor is specifically for an LX. However, they are pretty similar so that’s OK.

I took out all the screws I could find on the headset cover and I proceeded to the pulling off the cover step. This proved to be the most difficult, as I had to bend the headset cover back and forth several times and in several directions. I was getting a bit discouraged when a loud noise - sort of a cross between a crack and a crunch - issued forth from the left side and the cover came free.

I then disconnected all the wires and took it into the kitchen to finish taking it apart and installing the cover. It only took me about four tries to get it lined up properly (this is good for me) and then I proceeded to put everything back on.

When I replaced the cover, I was again a bit discouraged as the left side was quite loose. Luckily, once all the screws were back in, it tightened up fine.

Now that it’s installed, I really like the look of the visor. It’s just a little modification but I think it looks outstanding - a really sporty addition. And,. overall, a pretty successful mechanical adventure!

Saturday 22 September 2007

Scootercast (SCTRCST) Interview

Just a quick post to say that last week I had the privilege of being interview by Dave Mangano of the SCTRCST podcast.

I was a bit nervous about the interview but once I connected over Skype with Dave, his calm manner relaxed me and I was pretty happy with the result. Dave did a great job of editing and asked questions that I enjoyed answering.

He asked me mostly about my experiences with scootering and blogging and we spent a bit of time exploring a couple of recent posts including my flat tire and my trip to Lynden in the US.

Unfortunately, when Dave asked me about the scooting situation, I had to tell him that I didn't really know. I guess I'm just not ready to get involved in big rides. Maybe next summer.

By the way, the photo montage was made by Dave. Not the best photo of me, in that tiny little helmet (I only borrowed it for a test drive)!

If you go to the SCTRCST web site, it's Episode 28. And if you haven't already subscribed to Dave's show, please do - it's a very enjoyable half hour.

Tuesday 11 September 2007

Flat Update

Just a quick post to say that, after $300 (new tire, labour and servicing) I once again have my Vespa.

The folks at Vespa Vancouver were great - it was actually ready yesterday but I needed a ride into the city to get it. There was no problem with any part of the repair (well, after I recovered from fainting from the price). As for the $300 - hey, I think I save almost $1000 in just insurance compared to another car, let alone payments, etc.

And now I can have fun again!

Sunday 9 September 2007

Flat to School

Well, it was back to school last week.

After a summer of relaxing, some travelling, a bit of fixing up the house, extended family time and great guests, it was time to head back to the classroom.

As always, I looked forward to the first week with an odd mixture of dread, anticipation and excitement. Once I had my new students,. however, the dread subsided.

On the Vespa front, things were not as positive.

On the way to school on Thursday, it seemed to be going a bit slower. I thought about checking the tires but I didn’t have time.

When I left school that day, I went to an after school presentation on wellness put on by the district presented by Dr. Martin Collis. I hadn’t doubled anyone on the scooter for a while so when I doubled a teaching buddy, I was surprised that the scooter seemed a bit wild. On the way back from the presentation, I finally noticed that my rear tire was almost flat. I was luckily near a gas station so I filled the tire up with air and arrived home without incident.

Fast forward to Saturday. I downloaded a video on how to change the tire on a Vespa, gathered all the tools and studied the video. I then went out to my garage, thinking, I can do this! I arranged my tools and set my laptop on a shelf, set to the video.

Close to an hour later, I still hadn’t been able to get past the first step - removing the two screws that hold the exhaust system to the engine. My fingers are good for hanging on to things, squeezing things, and shaking hands, but they are not mechanic’s hands.

Disheartened, I slowly put back my tools, closed up my laptop, and shuffled back to the house.

I thought, instead of going into Vancouver to get it fixed, I’ll try someone local. I phoned up CR Cycle, the place where I’d first test driven a scooter. After salutations, the conversation went something like this.

“I have a Vespa scooter and I was wondering if you could fix a flat on the rear tire.”

“Well, a tire’s a tire, so we can fix it.”

“Great! Can you take it today?”

”No, we’re really busy so we wouldn’t get to it for two or three days.”

“OK. Can I drop it off today?”

“No, we don’t have room so you’ll have to make an appointment for when we have room.”

“OK. Look, if there’s a problem with the tire, can you replace it?”

“It depends if we have a suitable tire.”

“Well, do you?”

“I dunno.”

“OK. I’ll get back to you.”

Needless to say, I pumped up the tire, lashed my floor bike pump to the back bar of the scooter, and headed into Vancouver, stopping every fifteen minutes to refill the back tire. Of course, I was headed for the people at Vespa Vancouver. Although they weren’t able to work on it right away, they were happy to hold it there until they were able to fix it.

And now, I have to wait, Vespa-less for the first time in a year, until it is ready.


Friday 24 August 2007

Lynden, Washington and Beyond!


On the way to the border, I did something I rarely do - I took advantage of the fact that I was on a scooter. The line up for the border was moving very slowly. Then I saw two motorcyclists zip by on the shoulder. The ‘ah-hah’ moment came and I scooted after them, rejoining the line-up at the duty free store. I’m so ba-a-a-d.

As I approached the border, the sun disappeared and, like a portent of doom, a dense fog descended. The border guard checked my passport and grilled me, asking the usual questions plus some I hadn’t heard before: What is your job? Are you meeting anyone? and my personal favourite, Where are you eating lunch? I thought of asking him for a recommendation but he didn’t appear to have a sense of humour. The US border is not so fun to go across these days.


The fog had risen a bit by the time I arrived in Lynden, teeth chattering. Lynden is a lovely town, famous for tulips and a pioneer museum. There’s a Dutch connection so there are plenty of windmills, Dutch themed stores and streets, and pictures of characters in traditional Dutch garb.

There were plenty of American flags - something I noticed the whole time I was in the US. Canadians show their flag for about a week around July first and then back into the cupboard it goes. The prevalence of American flags just seems so darned patriotic - something, as a Canadian, I don’t get worked up about except, maybe, at an international hockey tournament.

Stopped at the Sidewalk Cafe for brunch. It was in a small mall with lots of Dutch features including big clog shoes and flags from different parts of the Netherlands.

The breakfast I ordered was the typical eggs and bacon special. I think it’s safe to say that what I’ve heard about American servings is true. It was a very generous serving - four pieces of bacon and a mountain of fried country potatoes - but the problem was that it tasted absolutely fantastic! I snarfled up the bacon which was perfectly cooked and had to make a conscious effort to hold back on the fried potatoes!

Samson Winery

As I left breakfast, my optimism rose - the fog and clouds had cleared and it was a beautiful day. I left Lynden in search of the Samson Winery.

It was a very nice ride as I had found some quiet back roads. Unfortunately the winery (“Open every day in the summer”) was closed.

Nooksack River Casino

Sighing, I hopped back on and headed south to the Nooksack River Casino. It was a busier ride but traffic seemed fine. I went into the casino and discovered it smelled strongly of smoke but was quite popular. I spent my obligatory $5 on the nickel slots and left soon after as nothing seemed to hold my interest.

Return home

I took a more direct route home, stopping at the border. I was asked three quick questions, didn’t have to show any ID, and zipped back into good ol’ Canada. As my daughter says, the Canadian border is so much more chill than the US border.

Almost home, on the Albion ferry, I was chatting with another motorcyclist and spoke almost apologetically about the fact that I managed to have a good time riding on only 50ccs. He looked at me and said, “Hey, a ride’s a ride.”

How true.

Wednesday 22 August 2007

New Westminster Quay

This month marks the one year anniversary of my purchase of my LX50. When I bought it, it had 78 kms on it. The other day, the numbers lined up nicely to show all fours. Mind you, the number 4 in Japan has the same meaning as death - oh well...

Looking back over the year I have had a great time on my Vespa and I still have that same excitement when I open the garage door and start out for a ride. It had been both fun and economical and I am glad that I have joined the ranks of other scooter riders.

Yesterday, I went to New Westminster again and I thought I’d check out New Westminster Quay. As I remember, it was a public market with lots of interesting stores. When the girls were small, we used to go there, stock up on a picnic lunch, walk along the boardwalk (it lies along the Fraser River) to a playground and have a picnic lunch / playtime at the park. I have great memories of this thriving market, much like Granville Island. As the kids got older, we just started going to different places and spent less and less time there.

Fast forward eight or nine years to present day. I walked into the market at lunch time and there were only three or four people in the whole market! Many of the stores on the main floor were closed. I went upstairs with the thought of getting something from the food court but the entire food court was behind barricade fencing. Only two or three stores were even open. It was deserted, barely hanging on.

I’m not sure why this happened to the market. The biggest difference is there is now a big Casino boat in front of the Quay that does draw a number of people but the gamblers are probably only there for one thing. Vancouver certainly gets in share of tourists so I’m not sure why New Westminster is doing so poorly - or at least why the Quay is doing poorly.

Just for interest’s sake, I went to the Way Back Machine and checked the Quay website from 1998, about when we went regularly. Back then, the website listed 65 shops and services. The current website lists 25. That’s a pretty amazing drop. Compare today with 1998.

After a last look around (and a quick trip to the Casino where I won $20 on the 25¢ slots) I wistfully got back on my scoot and rode away from New West Quay - probably for the last time.

Tuesday 14 August 2007

Zero Avenue

Today was another glorious summer day.

I decided to go south of the Fraser River, similar to my ride to Glen Valley, but this time continued south towards the US.

My first stop was Bradner. Bradner is one of those little communities that have been around forever but are now part of a larger town or district (in this case, Abbotsford). I took a photo of the general store - and there isn’t much else. There’s a school a couple of other rural looking stores, a police station, and a bunch of houses.

I discovered that the village of Bradner was founded in 1910 and was named after one of the first settlers. Apparently, it is known as the daffodil centre of the Fraser Valley and has hosted a flower show since 1928.

I continued south, taking a detour at the Lotusland Winery. Lotusland is one of the nicknames for the Vancouver area and describes the relaxed, laid back, attitude of many people here as well as the temperate climate. Some say the name also has to do with our fairly liberal drug policies.

Anyway, I liked the name a lot - so I tried a couple of the wines. The rosé was a bit harsh - it definitely had a raw tinge to it. After nibbling frantically on a cracker, I tried the pinot noir. It was a lot better (although I think that, in comparison to the rosé, anything would have tasted better) and I bought a bottle. That night, the bottle was OK, just nothing to write home about. Still, the wine is organic and I am pleased that the wine industry is responding to public demand for organic and eco-friendly wines.

I then continued south until I reached Zero Avenue. This road runs parallel to the US border - literally inches from the border. On one side of the border is Canadian road, Zero Avenue. On the other side of the border is the US road (West or East Boundary Road) that runs parallel to the border. In the middle is a ditch about six inches / 15 cm deep with some bushes in it. In the above photo, Canada is on the right and the US is on the left. There’s no red line, no lasers, no barbed wire, just some bushes in a ditch. Lots of houses have the border as the end of their back yard!

I took a quick photo of one of several metal markers. I was careful when I took my photos that I didn't stray across where I thought the line was. I was tempted to creep around the marker to take a photos of the words “United States” on the other side, but something stopped me from taking a chance. With my luck, a rookie border guard with something to prove would spot me and chase me down, even on my Vespa!

It’s been said that Canada and the US have the world’s longest undefended border. Post 9/11, it’s nice to see that this part of the border hasn’t changed a lot. There are few steel towers on the US side that apparently have high powered cameras and I’m sure there are some other measures that people aren’t aware of. Still, it is heartening to see that, as two countries, we can still trust each other, at least along Zero Avenue.

Sunday 5 August 2007

Saturna Island

As promised, I’ve included a whole raft of photos from our recent trip to Saturna Island.

Saturna Island is one of the Gulf Islands that are between the Lower Mainland (where Vancouver is) and Vancouver Island (a large island with several cities including a favourite tourist destination, Victoria). The islands continue into the US but are called the San Juan Islands in the States.

I have been to several of the other Gulf Islands, but not to Saturna before. Our company from Scotland invited us to stay with them as they had booked a house for a week.

The house we stayed at (the water-colour was done by our friend Cindy) was very nice - and lots of room for eight people. It is called Pacific Paradise and was only a few minutes walk to the beach.

One of the wonderful things about Saturna was the wildlife. There was a flock of wild turkeys on the road on the few occasions that we used the car.

The sundeck out the back of the house was a great place to relax, have a drink, read, and look at wildlife. There were deer coming through regularly - sometimes up to five at a time, nibbling on the grass. They were not nearly as skittish as most of the deer I have seen.

I spent the early mornings walking down to the cliffs near the house and casting my line.

There were some holes in the rocks that caught several of my lures but I did manage to catch a couple of red snappers and hooked into a couple of monsters that I wasn’t able to land. The snappers were a bit small so I chucked them back into the sea to grow a little more.

I have no photos of this but the best part of fishing was when I had reeled in on the last day. As I was collecting my tackle, a pod of orcas swam by, not 10 metres from the cliff I was standing on. Amazing!

On one of the days, we hiked up Brown Ridge which is right on the top of the island. The views were breathtaking.

The trail was actually a mountain goat path so it was definitely single file!

After our hike, we went to the Saturna Winery. They had some nice wines with their pinot noir being the one that is available in liquor stores.

We also discovered a great rosé and a super light red that are both perfect for sipping while the barbecue is on.

There was some nice views from the outdoor patio where we were eating. While we were leaving, the kids managed to find a big flat rock to launch themselves onto.

During the last day we were on the island, we spent a few hours at the beach.

The water was, well, bracing, but there were only fifteen or so other people there. We also went over to where the cliffs were to find some more orcas. While we didn’t see any, there were some otters and seals that were very entertaining.

Alas, our trip was over that afternoon as we headed out and caught the ferry back to the mainland. As the island receded from view, I thought, this would be a great place to take my Vespa!