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!