Saturday 27 December 2008

Snow ('s No) Scootering

Well, as you can probably tell, it's been a white Christmas.

Those of you that aren't that familiar with Canada may think that the winter months bring several feet of snow for the duration once you cross the 49th parallel. Although that may be true in some parts of Canada, it certainly doesn't apply to the West Coast.

At least, not until this winter.

We've had loads of snow this month - over 60 cm (2 feet) and it stuck around for more than a week - usually in this neck of the woods, if it does snow, the rain washes everything away the next day. This has definitely turned out differently.

Needless to say, my scooter has been sitting in the garage, gathering dust, for the last month. I don't think I've had a longer down time where I haven't ridden. I haven't ridden my bicycle for a couple of weeks either - and that time was for shopping mall theft prevention for bike patrol.

Still, it's been a good Christmas - lots of time just kicking around at home which has been a very nice change. The dog, Guinness, has been enjoying himself although, unfortunately, he's discovered how to crack and eat from our bowl of holiday nuts.

Thanks to all the blog readers out there that have been checking in on my blog and leaving messages. Hope you all have a great New Year!

Looking forward to some scootering really soon....

Tuesday 2 December 2008

Scooter Medicine

I raised my head above the sea of report cards long enough today to go to the doctor in New Westminster for an appointment. I haven’t had the luxury of extra time to go for longer rides lately and, frankly, the west coast weather has been very wet coast lately.

I have been scooting to school regularly, however, and thought Id take advantage of the appointment to make a longer ride.

Luckily the rains held and I had a nice ride into New West, making good time with surprisingly few close calls on the Mary Hill Bypass. The weather was fairly nice, dry and I was wearing the correct number of layers. The 3/4 helmet with it generous face shield kept my head nice and warm.

I arrived a bit early for my appointment and had time for a latté at Blenz coffee, my favourite alternate chain to Starbucks. Yes, I know I'm Canadian, but I don't like Tim Horton's coffee at all!

I then strolled up to the doctor’s office and walked in, maybe 2 minutes early. The two receptionists looked up strangely as I strode over to their desk and announced my name (Why is it that this doctors' office has at least two receptionists for two doctors?). They looked at each other and then one of them said, “There’s no doctors here. They’ve left for the day.”

I stared at her for a few seconds and then showed her my appointment slip. She apologized - albeit half-heartedly - and then booked a new appointment.

At that point I stared at the large poster announcing that any missed appointments would incur a charge of $50. Remember, this is Canada, and we’re not used to paying money where health care is concerned.

I should have said, “Excuse me, but since you missed my appointment, I’d like a cheque for $50!” or something like that. Instead, I just growled.

But here’s the scooter thing. I left the office, got onto my scooter, and left New West. By the time I was by Riverview (I took the longer way back, avoiding the Mary Hill) all of my frustration and being ticked off dissipated into the wind.

I returned home feeling quite content - happy, in fact!

Still could have used the 50 bucks, though...

Tuesday 11 November 2008

A grey palette paints the day

When we lived in Scotland on my year long teacher exchange, so many days were grey but also beautiful. It looked like God had decided just to use a palette of greys, but still painted a masterpiece.

Yesterday, the rains stopped and, as I had some appointments in Vancouver, I rode out on my Vespa. It seemed that the Scottish palette of greys was in use again, with the occasional splash of fall colours.

Some dark clouds were brooding over Burke Mountain as I rode through Coquitlam. I had a hard time riding in traffic as I saw so many different cloud formations so I ended up pulling over several times.

One of the cloud formations had sun behind it and I was hard pressed to find a place to pull over. It amazes me that I seem to see so much more on the Vespa than when I’m in my car. I really try to take advantage of the many traffic lights on this route so I can rubberneck safely.

The traffic was fairly light as I headed onto the Barnet Highway. This photo of the sulphur piles in the Port Moody Arm of Burrard Inlet is OK - in reality the sulphur is such a deep and saturated yellow that it almost seems to pop out of its surroundings.

Further on up Barnet Highway, I pulled over and took a photo of the inlet looking west. The colours of the palette had definitely gone beyond grey at this point. Unfortunately, my camera kept shutting of at this point because the battery needed recharging.

I continued on into Vancouver with the sun providing some actual warmth. There were no near-death experiences and a bus driver actually honked to let me pull ahead!

In Vancouver, I stopped at the Kits Coffee Company and had an excellent latté and a Sicilian grilled sandwich. I had brought my laptop so managed to mark most of my students’ work that was done online.

My final stop before my last appointment was Granville Island. I never tire of the views from there. The public market is great there as well - I grabbed some sort of French sausage to supplement my dinner - and then walked out towards the water. Luckily, my camera had enough life in it to fire off a bunch of night photos - of which one or two were pretty good.

Unfortunately, at the end of my Vancouver time, I got a phone call that one of my good friend’s father had passed away. A tradition with this particular group of friends is to buy a nice bottle of Scotch and then spend some time with the person who has lost a parent. I stopped in at the fancy Cambie Street liquor store and bought a bottle of cask strength Laphroaig.

An hour and a bit later, I was at my friend’s house, toasting the memory of his father with a couple of wee drams. This “grey” end to the day, sort of a “pre-wake”, was actually a pretty comforting way to end off the day.

Saturday 25 October 2008

In My Own Backyard

Today was a simple ride - I only had an hour or so before I had to drive my daughter to work and I took advantage of the sunny day to take a ride close to home.

Sometimes it's good to remember that big is not always better and a long or far ride is not necessary to have a good ride.

My 50ccs were just fine today, thank you very much. The fall colours, crisp but not too cold temperature, and my generally excellent mood made for a wonderful ride.

Only last week I had managed to fix my camera that I had inadvertently broken a while back. I went to this site and found that the steps actually worked well. Finally, back to taking photos with a decent camera!

I first stopped at the Webster's Corners United Church. It was built in 1912 and I've always been impressed by the look of this building. I can almost see the farmers of yesterday leaving the church as the service ends.

Next was the Bell Irving Fish Hatchery. I wanted to check this place out as I am taking my class here in a couple of weeks for a field trip. The tree leaves turning colour made an awesome site in the parking lot.

I wandered around the hatchery for a while and looked at the fish channels at some chums. On the way back to my Vespa, I took a few photos framing the shot with some rocks and a tree. It wasn't until I returned home that I realized that one of the shots had rays of light emanating from the left side. I was really happy with this one.

At this point, it was time to turn around and head back. I stopped in at Cliff Park and walked down the trail towards Kanaka Creek .I had gone to games at the field with my kids but I don't remember ever going on the trail. The trail came to a bridge where the creek water went rapidly by.

I also took this close up of the water. I liked how some of the water droplets caught the sun.

I walked back up the trail and then headed home. Even though my ride only took an hour or so, it was a good hour, certainly one well spent. I will have to ponder the bigger bike and the long distance travelling issues over the next little while. In the meantime, I will try to make the effort to see more of my own backyard.

Tuesday 7 October 2008

Vespa Mechanics

It’’s been a while - far too long, in fact - since I’ve done any blogging.

A new school year has started and, with the change in schools, I have been very busy. But I am hopefully back to blogging.

To start off, a great little video ad that a friend, Randy, brought my attention to. Sweet!

Last week, I took my LX50 into Vespa Vancouver for a servicing. It’s got 10 000 km on it and, although I get a servicing more often than needed, I am not a tinkerer so several pounds of prevention are in order...

I had originally looked forward to booking an appointment and cruising into the city on a balmy summer day. Imagine my surprise when the earliest date I could get, calling in the middle of August, was the last day of September!

Scooters are becoming more and more popular.

Luckily the day was gorgeous and I met up with my wife for an excellent spicy chicken dinner at a restaurant called Nando’s. I think the best part of the meal was the Pale Ale that I had after the walk from the Vespa store to the restaurant!

The next day, my cell phone rang and the mechanic from the Vespa store phoned. He said that my drive belt was gone - shredded or something - and then he said in a dire tone that it would be about 100 dollars. Not bad, I thought, and carried on.

About 20 minutes later, a woman from Vespa Vancouver phoned with an adjusted price. Great, I thought, here we go.

“I just phoned to tell you that the price the mechanic gave you for the drive belt was wrong. He wanted me to phone you and tell you that it will only be $40.”



This is the opposite of the kind of news I get when I take in my car. The total bill was under $200 - a price that barely gets you into the car shop.

I love my Vespa!

Sunday 31 August 2008

Learner's Test and a New Helmet

As the new school approaches and the warmth of summer holidays dissipates, I find that after my trip to Seattle, I didn’t really go on any more adventures on my Vespa. I did lots of local rides to shop or visit a friend but no long ride - not even to Vancouver. Jobs around the house and family trips stole that last few weeks of August.

I did manage to do a couple of Vespa related things, however.

First, I wrote my motorcycle learner’s license test.

In B.C., if you ride a scooter or motorcycle that is 50 ccs or less (like my LX50) you only need to have a regular vehicle license. I know that this special allowance has been revoked in some provinces and states and may be in B.C. too. This is because some of the 50 cc riders are just not that proficient and it forces them to take a test to ride two wheels.

After my trip to Seattle, I mulled over the idea of getting a bigger scooter. This would give me the opportunity to go farther on my scooter next summer. So I decided to take the test. Once I get my actual license, I will be able to ride bigger scoots.

I walked into the Driver License office, and to my great surprise, it was empty! The young woman behind the counter must have been in her early twenties. She was very nice as she took my money and prepared the paperwork that was necessary. However, when I was about to write the test, she said, “Make sure you take your time as some of the questions are (then she whispered) really, really tricky.”

I resisted the temptation to cup my hand over my ear and yell out, “Eh?”

I ended up with 97 % so I guess I did all right.

The other scooter related accomplishment was finally upgrading my helmet.

When I bought my Vespa, I bought a pretty cheap helmet that was a half helmet - not much more protection than a bike helmet - but that was what I was comfortable with. As time has gone on, however, I’ve talked to several people and read some compelling information and I felt that I needed some more protection.

I tried the full face helmets but I got claustrophobic and very uncomfortable wearing them.

So I compromised on a 3/4 helmet.

The helmet is a ZOX helmet with a face shield. I still find it a bit confining compared to the old helmet but I do feel safer. I’m also finding the ride very quiet as my ears are covered and soundproofed.

Well, now it’s back to school, safer and hopefully a bit smarter!

Wednesday 13 August 2008

The Cariboo

Now that the holiday portion of my summer is over and it’s time to finish jobs around the house and start getting ready for school, blogging about where I’ve been since my trip to Seattle seems like a great way to avoid work.

Last week, I spent a few days in the Cariboo area of BC. The Cariboo (the green rectangle on the map) is in the lower central part of British Columbia.

One of the guys I went with has a cabin - really a house - in a place called Sheridan Lake. We decided to go up there for a couple days of cycling, hiking and relaxing.

The first day was the cycling day. We packed the bikes on the back of a truck and drove off to a place called Little Fort. We chose this destination because Little Fort is at the bottom of a huge hill. We had a nice breakfast to fuel ourselves and then headed up the hill.

It’s not a terrible long ride - 17 km of which about 13 km is a steep hill - but because it is so steep, it took a good long while - over three hours - to make it up the hill. We’d cycle for a km or so, stop, have a drink of water, and carry on. Sometimes, we’d chat about life in general during these breaks.

It was slow going but we were rewarded with the sight of a moose on the road as we reached the crest of the hill. It was a cow, so no antlers, but it was the first time I had seen a moose in the wild. Very nice!

After all of the sweat and exertion of going up the hill, it was exhilaration to fly down the very same hill back into Little Fort. One interesting byproduct of scooter riding is that I’m not as scared by fast speeds when I’m on my bike. I’m not sure if this is the safest thing in the world, but when I hit 62 kmh, I was not bothered at all.

Back in Little Fort, we packed up the bikes and headed back to the cabin.

The second day was a rest day - we were on holiday, after all. We seemed to spend the day eating, reading and talking, and later, drinking beer. The highlight of my day was operating the little excavator at the cabin to help grade a ramp for a dock. In the evening, one of the guys brought steaks so big that each one could have fed my family. And yes, I ate it all up.

The last full day we decided to go on a hike. Now, I like taking the dog on nice long walks but I’m not crazy about hikes in the mountains.

This hike was in Wells Gray Provincial Park near Clearwater. It was the Trophy Mountain hike we went on which ended up being about 6 km each way.

I borrowed a pair of hiking sticks which are sort of like ski poles. These were great for going up hill, especially for the steep parts.

About halfway up, we arrived at these mountain meadows that were bursting with flowers. The photos does not do justice to the beauty and variety of flowers that were there. It was simply amazing.

In the hiking book that was at the cabin, the trail was rated as easy. I know that when I reached the end of the first 5 km (where many people turn around) I was ready to turn around. But thanks to that wonderful mix of testosterone and peer pressure, I went another km or so before I listened to my body.

This picture was taken at my turning point. I was very comfortable lying on the rock and warm, I did not want to get up but after some encouragement, I hauled myself up and headed down the mountain.

The trip down was without rests as it was much easier and the wind had died down, bringing swarms of mosquitoes whenever we tried to stop for a rest.

At the end of the hike, I finished the last of my water, slumped in the seat of the car and wearily smiled as I had successfully made it without being airlifted off of the mountain. That night, I enjoyed a couple glasses of wine and slept surprisingly well, leaving for home the next morning.

The photos in this blog posting are courtesy of my very good friend, Keith Rajala of the Red Lobster Journal.

Wednesday 6 August 2008

New Blog - Our Puppy Maggie

Just a quick note to tell you that my good friend and neighbour, Greg Pace, has newly entered the blogosphere after much encouragement on my part. His new blog is called Our Puppy Maggie.

They have a new puppy called Maggie and his blog details life with this cute but very lively yellow lab pup.

Greg has a very engaging writing style and, if you're a dog lover, you are sure to enjoy reading about the exploits of Maggie - and the reactions of Greg and his family.

Check it out and leave him a comment!

Tuesday 29 July 2008

Trip to Seattle

As I sit here in front of the computer, I am basking in the glow of success after completing my Vespa ride on 50ccs to Seattle and back. Woot!


Odometer Reading - 8661 km

I left yesterday morning,, taking the Albion Ferry once again. I take a photo almost every time I cross lately because the ferry will stop running when the Golden Ears Bridge is complete in 2009. I’ll miss the ferry, especially since I get to jump to the front of the line on my Vespa!

When I got to the border, I had a good chat with the US border guard who couldn’t quite believe I was headed for Seattle. He was pretty amazed at my mileage and wished me luck. Pretty cool!

As I rode into Bellingham, 2 hours after I left home, the weather was still sunny but wasn’t particularly warm. I stopped in the downtown area and parked at a meter that thankfully had some time still on it as I didn’t have any US change on me. As I looked at a couple of restaurants, I was famished as I hadn’t had any breakfast yet.

The first place that grabbed my attention was the Horseshoe Cafe. Looking closer, it seemed pretty empty and was more a bar than a cafe. Around the corner, though, was a restaurant called Little Cheerful. It was busy and smelled good!

I sat down and the waiter greeted me with a “Howdy”, not something I usually hear in Canada. The breakfast I ordered was the Cyclops (one egg) and was very tasty - especially the hash browns mixed with fried onions. I didn’t feel that the portions were huge - they were just right. The coffee was excellent - heady praise from a guy that usually drinks only lattés.

I left Bellingham and headed down Chuckanut Drive. I stopped near a viewing spot and took a snap of the ocean. Sad thing was, there was a car parked beside me with a person living in it. I’ve heard about people living in their cars but this is the first time I’ve actually seen it happen.

Chuckanut Drive was one of the most beautiful rides I have taken.

Imagine, I’ve lived just a couple hours north of the drive and I’ve never taken this scenic route.

It was delightful!

At Burlington, I took the road - under construction, lots of rocks, “motorcycles use extreme caution” - to connect to SR 20 and headed towards Fidalgo Island and Whidbey Islands.

Just before I crossed onto the island, I went to the Swinomish Northern Lights Casino. I spent my customary $5 and lasted almost a half an hour!

I liked the dedicated motorcycle parking at the casino - I’d love to see more of that sort of thing.

The island road was a nice ride but because it was a main highway, and I didn’t really go off that road, the scenery was just OK.

The photo above was one of the exceptions - Pass Lake just past Desolation Pass. This part of the ride was over 40 miles so it took a while.

Odometer Reading at Deception Pass - 8807 km
Fuel used - 0.879 gallon

At the south end of Whidbey Island I took the ferry to Mukilteo on the mainland. It was a $3 ferry which lasted about 20 minutes.

It was a very enjoyable ride on a mostly empty ferry. I had time to eat a bowl of Ivars clam chowder.

Before I went back t the car deck, I took this photo from above of my Vespa.
After docking, I rode south into Seattle. As the weather warmed up, the traffic increased - something that I’m used to from riding in Vancouver (I actually don’t mind riding in traffic).

Odometer Reading at Seattle - 8925 km

Last night I stayed at the Moore Hotel - downtown, clean, and cheap ($74). It was a pretty small room but fine to sleep in. I dumped my stuff, parked the scooter in a secure parking lot, phoned the family to tell them I had arrived safely, and headed to Pike Market to grab a bite.

I ended up at the Soundview Cafe and had an excellent meal of crab cakes accompanied by a nice glass of zinfandel.

That night I got together with Navin, a university fraternity buddy I hadn’t seen in over 25 years. We had a great time catching up on each others lives and mutual friends.

We went to an area called Fremont (Fremont Troll pictured above) and hoisted a few pints at a bar called the Red Door. The years seemed to disappear as we chatted and laughed about things past and present. We finally ended up at the Whisky Bar, near my hotel, for a final night cap before I retired to the room at about 1 AM.


Feeling a bit fuzzy in the morning, I had a cereal bar and headed out into Seattle.

I like Seattle. I like Vancouver more but seems to be a similar type city - sort of a parallel universe version of Vancouver.

I went to the secure parking which only charged me half price because I was on a scooter. Nice!

I left the garage and rode north up a series of giant hills. Poor Vespa! I made my way past forbidding I-5 signs through different parts of Seattle - Lakeview, Kenmore, Bothell and ended up in Woodinside! This was a surprise because that’s where Navin lives! I didn’t try to find his house but at least I’ll know for next time.

I eventually connected with Highway 9, making my way through traffic and construction, stopping at Snohomish for breakfast/lunch. It’s a great little place with western looking false fronts...

That is, except for the neo classical Roman building!

Stopped at Grilla Bites for a great coffee and and sandwich (turkey, avocado and bacon).

Big Lake - Odometer Reading: 9070 km
Fuel used - 0.952 gallon

I continued on Highway 9 because around Big Lake, the traffic disappeared. It was a great riding highway, nice curves, not too hilly, lots of trees.

I stopped at Sedro Wooley for a pop and, despite the beautiful square downtown and the nice residential streets, the rest of the downtown core looked pretty nasty.

Maybe the fact that it started to rain coloured my impression.

I continued on Highway 9 until the Lynden turnoff and then through the border and home. It was the soggy portion of the ride but I stayed warm and relatively dry as I had expected a lot more rain than I actually got.

At home, I parked the Vespa, hung up all my rainwear to dry and sat back, feeling success at completing what was for me a challenging ride. And only 2 or 3 near death experiences!

Now, where to go next summer.....

Final Odometer Reading - 9183 km

Total Distance - 522 km

Average consumption - 94.5 miles/gallon OR 3.65 L/100km

Saturday 26 July 2008

Seattle Bound

Couple of things for today's blog.

First, the comments on my last entry were very engaging for me to read. As I tell my kids at school, I don't care if you agree with me, just make sure you tell me why. I appreciate the time people take to comment - I know that I read a lot of different blogs but I'm terrible at taking the time to comment. Many thanks.

Second, a reader made a comment today on a blog entry from over a year ago (A Recovered Stolen Car and a Ride in Pitt Polder). His comment was this:
Alex said...

Sounds like you're really taking that thing wherever it can go.
By the way, I've been bouncing an idea of taking my Vespa ( Now a 70cc due to an upgrade) across the rockies... Anyone have a suggestion as to the fastest route across, starting from Vancouver....That obviously wouldn't get me run over by an 18 wheeler?
...Ultimately, I'm considering getting across Canada
on my Vespa. But first things first.

I replied:

I think a ride across the Rockies is great - I would suggest using Google maps and check the "Avoid Highways" box.

I'd like to go across Canada too but not this summer....

I'm also interested to see if anyone out there in the blogosphere has a route from Vancouver to the Rockies?

Finally, it looks like I'll be heading for Seattle on Monday. I have a long lost University buddy that I'll meet up with there, I've planned out a route on Google Maps, and the weather looks like it will be OK. I have to say, I'm getting excited! More info to come soon!

Thursday 17 July 2008

Carbon Footprint

Ahh, the carbon tax. A perfect way for me to make enemies of my friends and tick off everyone else I meet.

But first, a little background.

The government here in BC has decided to add a tax to our gasoline - which is already taxed - to help reduce consumption and, therefore, to reduce pollution. It also applies to home heating, propane and diesel.

The tax is stating at 2.4¢ a litre (about a dime a gallon) and will rise each year. In four years it will be about 7 and a half cents. To help compensate people during the initial phase, every person in BC recently received a cheque for $100 to make it revenue neutral - sort of a way to ease you into it.

With our gas hitting $1.50 a litre ($6 a gallon), a lot of people are mad about this.

Not me.

In fact, I wish it was more. Yeah, I know it’s an unpopular stance.

Many people will not change their driving habits or what they drive if they’re told that the environment is suffering. But hit them in the pocket book and, lo and behold, people start driving less, buying fewer SUVs, and thinking about riding a bus, taking their bike or even (gulp) buying a scooter!

I think this is exactly the kickstart that people need to make real change to our environmental challenges. The only problem I have with the whole carbon tax thing is that it’s not certain that the money will go to fighting climate change.

How about this? Add 25 cents a litre ( a buck a gallon) and put that money straight into something that will really change how we do things. Public transit, zero emission vehicles, you name it.

Did I tick you off?

I’ll get off my soapbox now....