Monday 23 July 2007

Tour of Vancouver

We’ve had the good fortune of having visitors from Scotland over the past couple of weeks. I went on a teacher exchange about six years ago and my family got to know a good number of different people in the village where we lived (Ardaneaskan) as well as the town that was up the road (Lochcarron). Our visitors were good friends with my whole family and it was wonderful to show them around town.

Over the past couple of weeks, we have done some touring around Vancouver. I thought I’d share some places that I have particularly enjoyed visiting lately.

First up is the Vancouver Aquarium. It is in Stanley Park, a huge park area attached to the downtown area of Vancouver. It’s a 1000 acres and is actually a bit bigger than Central Park in New York.

There was once a zoo but there was public pressure to get out of the zoo business and just concentrate on aquatic creatures. There are some seals, otters, whales, etc, but they tend to be rescue animals rather than animals captured explicitly for the aquarium. There are shows but these tend to focus on the animals’ natural abilities rather than tricks.

There are also a huge variety of different tanks, an amazon area complete with a zillion butterflies, and lots of interactive displays for the kiddies.

Next is the Vancouver Art Gallery. We saw an exhibit called Monet to Dali. This is a great cross section of artists on loan from the Cleveland Museum of Art. I never realized that Cleveland had such an awesome collection of paintings.

Outside the gallery, which is located in the old courthouse, there was a film crew filming a large group on the steps leading to the front. The gallery often is used in movies and TV shows for - you guessed it - a courthouse.

The last interesting thing was a countdown clock beside the gallery. The Winter Olympics will be held in 2010 in Vancouver. Reaction to this upcoming event ranges from ecstatic excitement about what is going to happen in three short years to upset grumblings as the costs rise and construction takes over the city.

The third place that the females in my family especially like is Robson Street. It is a shopper’s paradise - several blocks of different stores, ranging from touristy and tacky to music to high fashion to great restaurants.

Of course, I like to spend my time wandering around and people watching. I really don’t like the shopping part but I do like looking at the different kinds of people - different nationalities, rich and poor, young and old.

I also like the unusual things that happen to make their way to Robson. In one block there were two unusual cars - one advertising a restaurant and the other - well, it looked interesting!

Inside one of the stores, there was this old Harley - looks like a heavy duty bicycle with a motor - obviously a precursor to the modern motorcycle.

The final stop for this tour of Vancouver is Little Italy on Commercial Drive. This is the kind of place where you’ll find scooterists getting together before a ride. I also like the sense of humour for some of the signs in the area.

We had a great lunch at an Italian restaurant. I was particularly struck by the pizza oven - not only how it looked, but also how well it worked. I love true italian style pizza.

After a great meal, we headed back home - well, actually, it took a couple of days to see these attractions but what the heck. I guess there are a lot of things to see in Vancouver....

Saturday 14 July 2007

Exploring Glen Valley (instead of Amerivespa)

I spent some of this weekend regretting missing the Amerivespa in Seattle.

I’ve never gone to Amerivespa before but since I’ve been riding and blogging, I feel that I have a potential connection to the scooting world and thought that being in Seattle this weekend would have been incredible. There are lots of people that I would like to meet in person - Dave from SCTRCST, Little Billy, Orin from Scootin’ Old Skool, and many more.

I also was toying with the idea of figuring out a route from Vancouver by Seattle on a 50 cc scooter. I had even gone to Google Maps and checked out a route avoiding highways.

But. alas, we had good friends arrive from Scotland and, as well, I had previously volunteered for a bike patrol shift on Sunday.

So, instead of feeling grumpy about things, I decided to go for a ride.

I went across the Albion ferry once again and rode to an area between Langley and Abbotsford called Glen Valley.

Usually, I take fairly busy routes with traffic, people, etc. Today’s ride, however, was very peaceful. There were few cars on the road and no people, just trees, fields, and sunshine.

While riding, I saw a sign for the Fort Wine Company. I took a slight detour and headed towards this winery which is situated in an area of farms. As I approached the parking lot, I was pleasantly surprised to see a fair in progress complete with tents, people in costume, samples of food and... wine.

There were a few wine tasting booths, each with several types of wine to sample. I was careful to have only a couple as I didn’t want the wine to affect my driving.

The Fort’s wines are all fruit based wines (blueberry, cranberry, etc,) and I tried one or two but really don’t like fruit wines (other than grapes, of course!).

The next wine, made my a company called Township 7, was quite good - the rosé was crisp and clear and the merlot was actually very nice.

After leaving the winery (which was a bit of a chore as their parking lot was thick with gravel), I continued on to Glen Valley Regional Park. This is actually a couple of parks on the shore of the Fraser River. There were picnic tables and benches and I found it to be a nice place to sit down in the shade and have a brief rest.

I spent another hour or so exploring the area. I really enjoyed the peaceful roads and picturesque scenery as the wind breezed over me.

Later, I was back on the Albion ferry, headed for home. On this ferry, motorcycles get to go to the front of the line, avoiding the long car line ups. I was chatting to a guy with a big Harley about a seal we saw in the river. I haven’t quite figured out how motorcyclists and scooterists generally feel about each other but I’ve found that my experiences with motorcyclists - whether they are weekend riders or Hell’s Angels - to be a pretty friendly group of people.

After returning home, I felt refreshed and looking forward to my next exploration. But I was still a little bit sad about that Amerivespa thing....

Saturday 7 July 2007

Day Tripping

Now that school’s over for the summer, I thought that I would be blogging way more frequently than I am now. Unfortunately, life got in the way. Stuff happens, things got busy, and I kept forgetting the camera. Luckily, I remembered Friday when I went on a ride combined with some errands.

The first photo is in Maple Ridge. When I have the time to take the backroads, there are so many picturesque sights and pastoral scenes, that I think I could just feature shots of horse country in Maple Ridge and I’d have a year’s worth of photos.

After a latté with a good friend at Starbucks, I headed off to Port Coquitlam for a massage therapy appointment. I hadn’t been for over a year and my back was getting quite sore.

My massage therapist is a smallish woman by the name of Anna. She’s a bit shy but also good natured. Although she is sometimes tentative in conversation, it never fails that she finds the most painful knot in my back in about 4 seconds and then works it for a good five minutes until I can’t stand it any more - then she repeats with a different spot - on and on - for 45 minutes. The thing is, I don’t particularly enjoy the massage therapy while it happens, but, man, does it feel good after!

Between appointments, I had some time to scoot so I headed north up a part of Poco called Burke Mountain. The most difficult part of the ride was trying to take a photo that showed how steep the hill was! I tried a few different techniques and ended with the photo that you see. It was a nice place to ride as there was little traffic and some nice shady parts. It was a hot day - around 32° C. - and shade was a very good thing.

Speaking of traffic., my last appointment was in New Westminster and I usually take the Mary Hill Bypass because it’s the most direct route. Unfortunately, cars zoom along at a pretty fast clip and there are a ton of big trucks rolling by. It’s also quite hilly and there are long stretches where I am stuck doing under 50 km/h.

I had a little extra time, however, and I decided to take the Lougheed Highway all the way. This stretch of road used to freak me out when I was a kid because there was a couple of mental institutions on the road - big, institutional, grey, faceless buildings with high fences and barred windows.

There is still one left - that’s noted by the red arrow in the photo - but there are not many patients left. Most have long been returned to the community, for better or worse, living in group homes or cared for by family.

The traffic still goes by pretty quickly but there were very few trucks, less traffic, and pretty flat roads. It added some time to my travels but reduced my stress level significantly.

The last little incident - I was stopped at a light and some guy on a motorcycle pulled up beside me. His bike had a huge engine - the word Valkrie was on it - and it looked like a big American car engine turned on its side. Anyway, the guy was very friendly and we had quite the chat while waiting for the light to turn. I’m beginning to realize that all of us people on two wheels are sort of in the same club, whether you’re riding 50ccs or 500. It’s a nice feeling.