Tuesday 29 January 2008

The following is an entry I sent into CBC Radio's Ultimate Canadian Commute Contest:

While I'm not sure if my commute is the ultimate Canadian Commute, I enjoy my ride to work so much that it's my ultimate West Coast Commute.

I live and work in Maple Ridge, a suburb of Vancouver. As an elementary school teacher, I have tried over the years to show, by example, how to do things in a green and environmentally friendly way.

Several years ago, I started commuting on my bicycle. There's nothing like grinding up a hill or zooming along with the wind in your face to relieve the stress and tension that can sometimes be part of the job.

As time passed, however, I found I was taking the family car a little more often - to pick up something on the way home or to grab a latté on the way to school or just because I felt I couldn't park the bike anywhere because it might get stolen. Sometimes, I just didn't feel like getting up early on a dark, wintry morning.

And then, about a year and a half ago, I got my Vespa! With 50 CCs of raw power, 100 miles per gallon and a tiny environmental footprint, I found the perfect complement to my bike. WIth the mild West Coast's climate, I can scoot, rain or shine, grab a latté on the way to work, and pick up a couple of bags of groceries (and even a bottle of wine) on the way home. If it's a nice sunny day or if I'm feeling a bit guilty about that extra dessert, I can ride my bike.

I have had the occasional scary ride (on both the bike and the scooter) where I've had to carefully negotiate some slush or gingerly putt down an icy road. But the thrill never fades - the feeling that every metre is like a restorative for my soul.

Often I take detours - down country roads past horse stables and farms or up into Golden Ears Park to see the mountains and the trees. I sometimes do this on my bike, but it's easier to do on my Vespa and I find that I have more time to do other things after I get home.

Am I saving the environment with my commute? Maybe, I sure want to make a difference with the choices I make, but the important thing is I'm having fun... on two wheels.

Tuesday 22 January 2008

Cool Ride

Although I ride the Vespa most days to school these days, I haven’t gone on a longer trip the last couple of weeks. Today, I had an appointment in New Westminster after school so I took advantage of the sunshine and went for a ride.

I was able to sneak away a few minutes early from school - I was worried about being late - and took the most direct route. Unfortunately, that meant taking the Mary Hill Bypass. And that meant riding amongst numerous buses, trucks and other large vehicles. Thanks to the early start, though, I was able to make good time as the sun warmed me up.

I arrived a half an hour early so I headed to the local Blenz coffee shop for a latté. I believe Blenz is a Canadian coffee company and this one is four stores down from a Starbucks. The Starbucks is a smaller store and is always quite crowded while the Blenz store is quite a lot bigger and not quite as busy. The actual latté is different in both places but both are tasty. The latté was enhanced with an Espresso Chocolate biscotti!

After my appointment, I thought I’d head down to the Casino to spend my obligatory $5. Imagine my shock when the parking lot no longer offered the first hour free! Majorly ticked off, I decided to take my money and go home.

The ride home was a lot cooler. Most of the roads were now in shade as the sun was beginning to set. I was wearing my balaclava, down vest, fleece sweater, several more layers, jeans and shoes. Most of the way I was fine, but because I didn’t put rain pants on (to block the wind), my knees were cold. Also, as I was just wearing regular shoes, my toes were a bit cold, too. Additionally, I had cold fingers and my core got a bit chilled on the downhill parts. On the bright side, I was able to take the longer, less busy route which had a lot fewer trucks. Overall, a good ride.

Monday 21 January 2008

Tokyo Bound

So my daughter, who is in French Immersion in Grade 10, is also in her second year of Japanese. I think she has an affinity for languages - her spelling certainly improves with each language learned!

As part of her course, she has the option of going to Japan during Spring Break with her school on a one week exchange. Well, we thought, great experience, make it so. She’ll be heading to Miyoshi, a city near Osaka.

Now, I worked for a year in Japan in an English language school in Tokyo way back in 1985. In fact, it’s where I met my future wife. Unfortunately, my daughter’s group is not going that far north.

Ah, but then (I think), I have my good friend who lives in Tokyo. We met while I lived there and have kept in petty good contact since (he visited out here a few years ago). And, I haven’t been to Japan in, oh, 23 years.

So the upshot is that I will be going to Tokyo while my daughter is travelling with her school, meet up with her at the end of her trip, take her back to Tokyo, and then show her around Tokyo. Also, a good chance to check out the scooter situation there. Maybe even see Kuni of the Vechs blog!

Yep, I’m Tokyo bound - subarashi!

Sunday 13 January 2008

It's a Happy New Year!

Well, the first week’s done and dusted. The kids are all back at school and actually seem pretty happy to be there!

The highlight of the holiday was a ski trip to Sun Peaks ski resort, near Kamloops. We went up there with two other families and had a great time skiing, visiting and having the occasional glass of wine. The photos in this entry are from the trip and the red toqued skier is me.

I have been continuing my commute on the Vespa. The past week was good for teaching but not for weather. Rain, slush and cold have been the order of the day, but I still get that great feeling when I zip on down the road.

One bump on the road - there’s construction on my route to school and a couple of times I’ve cleared the flag ladies only to find myself heading onto big steel sheets that cover the road for 20 or 30 metres. They scare the pants off of me! Although I’m going slow, I don’t think that there’s hardly any traction on a metal sheet. Could be yet another near death experience!

Today, happily, was great day. It was sunny, clear and cool and I was happy to buzz around town for a couple of hours on the Vespa. My gloves are really working out well as my hands were nice and warm, and my down vest is becoming a stand-by, not only on my scooter, but when I am watching my daughter’s soccer game or walking the dog, etc.

I unfortunately forgot my camera but I am still smiling inside from the good feeling that sunshine and scooting create.