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).