Wednesday 16 December 2009

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas!

It's been far too long since I've blogged - and I apologize. Sometimes the day-to-day action of teacher, family life, home repairman, guitar player, web site designer, pilates rookie, cyclist and watcher of the occasional TV show gets in the way of blogging.

I haven't scooted for the past couple of weeks because of the below zero temperatures and even snow for a couple of days. I had a small scare last year when I slid in the way to school so I've been a bit more careful this year. I've also had to drive my daughter to school at least 3 days a week so that certainly cuts into my opportunities to scoot.

I've also been way too bust so that when I have a free hour or so, there's a million other things to fill the void. Gotta change that in the new year!

I'm still toying with the possibility of getting a bigger scoot but possible travel plans next summer may stall my decision.

Happily, it's supposed to be rainy and wet for the holidays, rather than icy and cold, so I plan to get out at least a couple times over the holidays - and hope to blog as well!

So, I'm still here, still willing to blog if there's someone willing to read. Hope everyone has a great Christmas and a very happy new year!

Monday 12 October 2009

Derby Reach and Return to Fort Langley

It’s been a while.

The weather throughout September and into last week was unseasonably nice. Warm sunny days and mild evenings dominated the weather at a time when usually a moist, coolish blob of grey cloud skies are the norm. Unfortunately I have been busy with school, family and the the house that I haven’t had time to blog lately.

This weekend, however, I thought I’d get back into it.

This weekend was Canadian Thanksgiving (I’m thankful for smoked salmon, poutine, hockey, toques and having signs in two languages at the border and at airports) and all the family stuff (and stuffing) was done yesterday. That left today to go for a scoot.

I started off by getting ready for the weather. It was a chilly day so I layered up and wore my neck warmer for the first time in months.

I decided to head over the Golden Ears Bridge to Langley and stay local. The views off the bridge are amazing but I can’t stop while riding on it so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

The ride was was very enjoyable on the bridge and not very crowded. It’s a toll bridge so it cuts down on the traffic.

I went east along the river and eventually ended up at Derby Reach Regional Park.

Last time I was there was when I was starting out taking daytrips on my bicycle. I made several trips from Fort Langley (after crossing on the old Albion Ferry) and Derby Reach was one of them.

There were a few people there but it wasn’t overly crowded. I walked down to the beach which I find quite interesting because it’s so rocky but almost like a bulldozer pushed a bunch of rocks onto the shore.

I parked near the front of the park and got this shot.

There’s a trail that goes between there and Fort Langley which I think is about an hour hike. I didn’t take the trail but did take the very scenic ride along Allard Crescent and MacKinnon Road east to Fort Langley.

I wanted to see if, now that the Albion Ferry is history, there was still good business in this area that has been a busy tourist area for years. Happily, business was brisk although it was a little quieter than I remember. A couple of businesses had changed hands as well since last time I was there but there weren’t a bunch of empty storefronts. Time will tell.

I headed back west through Walnut Grove which is a busy area with malls and a gigantic movie theatre that looks like a spaceship. Then, back toward the bridge and home again.

It was a very enjoyable day and I realized that I have missed my regular rides these past few weeks. Gotta make the effort!

Sunday 4 October 2009

Hanging in There

September's done. It's always one of the busiest months of teaching in the year. So I haven't really been anywhere exciting on the weekends except in front of a computer screen, tapping away lesson, online stuff, and other teacherly things.

Yes, I've been riding my scooter regularly to work and around town.

Yesterday, I intended to go back down to the States but woke up with a cold and thought I'd wait until I felt a bit better (and, most likely, wait until the sunshine is gone and we have six months of rain).

My plan? Hopefully next weekend (Canadian Thanksgiving) will give me an opportunity to take a ride.

I'll also have to take a ride into Vancouver to the Vespa store as my odometer is approaching 14,000 kilometres (8700 miles) and I like to tune up every 2000 kms.

So all is well, life is too damned busy, and I will do my best to get on my scooter in October!

Thursday 3 September 2009

Friendly USA - Trip to Bellingham on a New Route

I had an amazing ride yesterday.

It wasn't so much the ride itself, it was the slight change of climate in the US when I went across the border.

Don't get me wrong, I find Americans can range from wonderfully angelic to cranky so and sos - much like Canadians - but yesterday was special.

First, though, I had decided to take a different border crossing because I can no longer take the Albion Ferry. The ferry service has ended permanently because the Golden Ears Bridge has opened. I used to take the Aldergrove crossing but now it makes more sense for me to take the Pacific Truck Crossing.

I left at 8 am on a rather grey morning and, after crossing the bridge, headed down 184th all the way down to Zero Avenue. I really like 184th because it is not a busy road and is quite scenic with all of the farms, horses, and generally rural environment.

At Zero Avenue, I turned towards the border, snuck into line and then found myself at the whim of the American border guard.

Things started out as expected - I got grilled a bit about why I was going to Bellingham for lunch (to shop) and who was I meeting there (no one) - but after he found out I was a teacher, he became quite friendly and chatty. He asked me a couple performance questions about my Vespa and was really positive. I took this as a good omen.

I rode into Blaine and then took Peace Portal Way which goes along the coast and then parallels the Interstate highway. It was a great route as there was very little traffic but enough interesting things to keep me going. This is diametrically opposed to the craziness on my last ride from Parksville to Nanaimo.

At one point, near Custer, as I was riding by, an old guy in a baseball hat stood up, grinned, and waved a peace sign at me. This is great, I thought! I then approached Ferndale where I was a bit confused finding the way. A guy in a truck pulled over while I was looking at my map and asked me if I needed help with my scooter. Awesome!

Ferndale was an interesting little town - not terrible scenic but some interesting stores on the Main Street - and then I worked my way to the Pacific Highway.

Unlike its moniker, the Pacific Highway is not a big expressway but simply a two lane road that was mostly empty, paralleled the I-5, and had interesting businesses and other sights as I went along.

A few minutes later and I was at the Bellis Fair Mall. I stopped into Target for some socks and some multi-coloured Goldfish crackers (we can't get them in Canada and my daughters call them Gay Pride Crackers because there is a rainbow of them...) and had a latté. I didn't like the look of the mall food so I decided to see what I could find on the way home.

I saw this top in a store and was struck by the slogan. I'll tell you, nobody in Canada goes around wearing an "I heart Stephen Harper" shirt - no one! Mind you Barack is cool, Harper is soooo not-cool. In fact, Canada probably hasn't had a cool prime minister since Trudeau. I envy you, USA!

Here's an intersting statue by the post office near the mall.

As I drove back on the Pacific Highway, I saw a sign for a casino on the Lummi Indian Reserve. A few minutes later and I was recklessly blowing my treasured US cash on slot machines. I went over my limit and lost $10 and then sheepishly left the building. Surprisingly, the casino allows smoking inside - possibly because it is on reserve land...

I made great time as I headed north and, when I was back on Peace Portal Way, I stopped at yet another mall, the Birch Bay Centre. It's pretty new as there are lots of vacancies. I was looking for a place to eat (Bob's Beer and Burgers?) when I spied a Jack In the Box. Now we don't have Jack In the Box in my part of Canada so I was pretty excited. I had a chicken club on sourdough bread which was quite good (although I must admit I have a weakness for processed cheese slices) and curly fries (which tasted OK but were really greasy).

I upgraded to a medium drink which was the size of a large in most restaurants. No problem, I stuck the drink in my handy dandy drink holder, thinking I could sip away while I waited in the border line up.

A few minutes later I was in the line. Unfortunately, just before it was my turn to go to the booth, my drink holder came unstuck and I had to hold the drink in one hand as I approached the booth. The Canadian guard was a bit cranky, too, which seemed strange but I stuffed my now empty cup in my jacket and headed off back home.

All in all it was a great trip - nice people, good feeling and another great route.

Sunday 23 August 2009

Sunshine Coast and Island Scooter Ride (Part 3)

Here's the last entry about my Sunshine Coast / Vancouver Island trip.

Comox - Nanaimo
Distance: 120 km
Time: Two and a half hours

I proceeded to the Powell River ferry terminal where I had a nice chat with a couple of motorcycle riders, one with a very comfortable, very big Harley and one with a very serious looking BMW complete with a built in GPS!

After getting on the ferry, I grabbed breakfast and then relaxed as the ferry took the 80 minute crossing to Comox.


I left the ferry and headed along Highway 19A - the old coastal highway, also known as the old island highway or the Oceanside route. I was an excellent ride. The highway was not very busy, was very scenic, and actually went right by the ocean at many points.

This huge prop in Union Bay made a nice still life with my scooter.

I stopped in Fanny Bay while a scallop truck went to drop nets into the water.

Qualicum Beach was very nice and I was tempted to stop there for the day, not just get some gas.

I got into Parksville, a popular retirement city, and the wonderful Oceanside Route ran out! I had to join up with Highway 19 for 27 km until Nanaimo. The speed limit was 90 km while many cars and big trucks zoomed by. There wasn't really much scenery and I ended up in the breakdown lane most of the time.

It was during this harrowing time that I decided it would be silly to attempt to ride from Nanaimo to Victoria. The only way I can figure out how to get from Nanaimo to Victoria is Highway 1. Another couple hours of riding in the breakdown lane while traffic screamed by me was not my idea of fun.

At Nanaimo I headed to Departure Bay and took the ferry to Horseshoe Bay.

Horseshoe Bay - Maple Ridge Distance: 70 km Time: 2 hours

I was able to take Marine Drive again without having to go on the freeway - phew!

This time, I was not in a hurry so I was able to stop several times to take photos.

Not only were the views amazing, but there were incredible houses along the way. Definitely million dollar views.

Some vistas forced me to park in any scrap of dirt that was available, others I could only appreciate as I went by on my Vespa.

A great detour was Lighthouse Park. I stopped there and wandered around a few of the trails. The trail markers clearly showed the names of the trails but not the distances - how was I supposed to know how long the trail was? I finally went back to the parking lot and sheepishly noticed the stack of map guides at the entrance to the trails.

I saw this great view of Lions Gate Bridge as I approached West Vancouver.

I stopped in for a visit in West Vancouver at my brother-in-law's house. He has a spectacular view of Lions Gate Bridge as well.

I continued onto Maple Ridge, feeling that I had had another satisfying adventure on the scooter but still happy to return to my own bed. Now, to talk to my wife about that treehouse I want to build...

Friday 21 August 2009

Sunshine Coast and Island Scooter Ride (Part 2)

Powell River

Powell River is a larger community of around 13,000 (thanks Google) and has things like malls, Starbucks, and other important indicators of civilization. I popped in to the Tourist Information for a map and brochure, got a bottle of wine from the liquor store and headed to my accommodation.

The Boxwood Cottages are two very nice cottages, I'm sure, with kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms, etc. I, however, had booked the Treehouse.

At $50, it met the requirements for price and also for adventure.

It is an actual treehouse - the steps up are boards nailed onto logs and, once the door is open, there's a bed, a night table with a coffee maker and that's it. The bathroom is an outhouse across the lawn and the shower is underneath the treehouse - open to nature - although there's a curtain to partly shield you from curious onlookers.

Would my wife like it? Absolutely not. But for me, on a scooter adventure, it was ideal!

There were numerous seating areas around - a table and chair, an outdoor couch, another table - and I decided that instead of eating out, I'd bring something in.

On the advice of my hosts (Anthony and Diane) I went for a ride through the historic site of Powell River. It was interesting as the size of the houses increased as they got closer to the pulp mill.

I then headed back towards town, stopping at Willingdon Beach because I heard music!

The week long Blackberry Festival was taking place and there were families, food, and a live band. I hung around for an hour and then hopped on my Vespa, grabbed some Thai food, and went back to the Treehouse.

I had a very enjoyable dinner, as well as a few glasses of wine, as I sat under the trees thinking that it had been a very pleasant day indeed!

The next morning, I woke up in the Treehouse after a very restful night's sleep. I did wake up a few times in the night, but the sound of the creek below lulled me back to sleep.

Less restful was the funky outdoor shower. The curtain didn't hide much but that was OK as it was early and no one was around. Unfortunately, I couldn't get the temperature of the water above 'really cold' so it was a brisk shower, reminiscent of some Youth Hostel showers when I backpacked through Europe.

I was ready with time to spare so, naturally, I went to Starbucks and grabbed a latté which fit nicely in my drink holder as I headed of towards the ferry, leaving Powell River behind.

Thursday 20 August 2009

Sunshine Coast and Island Scooter Ride (Part 1)

Finally, a scooter trip!

The plan was to go to Horseshoe Bay, and up the Sunshine Coast to stay in Powell River for a night. The next day I planned to go to Comox on Vancouver Island and then to either Nanaimo or Victoria to take a ferry back to the mainland.

Because of the length of each entry (and all the pretty pictures) I've split up the trip into three parts. Here's part 1.

Maple Ridge - Horseshoe Bay
Distance: 77km
Time: 2 hours

Although I have made through a number of renos this summer relatively unscathed, I've managed to injure myself while holidaying - my knee when attempting a cannonball in 4 and a half feet of water ("Don't jump, Dad, don't jump!") and slicing off the top half of my nail and a bit of nail bed with a utility knife while attempting to jury rig a pannier to my scooter. Despite these minor injuries, I headed off today for my circle tour of the coast and island.

The first leg on my route was to go to Vancouver and continue on to Horseshoe Bay where I would catch the ferry for the Sunshine Coast - Langdale. I wanted to get to get the 9:40 ferry so I left around 7 AM thinking that I would have lots of time.

The ride to Vancouver was uneventful except for the numerous construction projects on the way. I figured I was OK as I crossed the Lions Gate Bridge at 8:40.

I love going over the bridge - it's so high up and the view from the scooter is truly spectacular.

I had decided to take Marine Drive all the way to Horseshoe Bay to avoid going on the freeway. As the name suggests, the route goes along the water, snaking around houses, stone fences, trees, and shoreline. It was a very scenic ride but it took a bit longer than I thought, so there was no time for photos.

I arrived in the village of Horseshoe Bay at 9:15 but I couldn't get to the ferries - I was supposed to double back on the freeway four kilometres and then turn around. I really didn't want to go on the freeway and it's also all uphill out of Horseshoe Bay so I started on the freeway but luckily spied a place where the cement barriers separating the freeway lanes had a break. I hopped this break and then a curb and found myself zooming towards the ferries - but without a ticket!

I flagged down a ferry flag person and he radioed his boss:

Flagperson: I've got a scooter here who needs a ticket but doesn't want to go on the freeway.
Boss: How'd he get there?
Flagperson: He hopped the curbs down by the chute.
Boss: He can hop a curb but he can't go on the freeway?

I then went down to the terminal and bought a ticket there. But then I had to do the exact same thing and hop the barrier again to get back in the line up!

By this time it was 9:30 and I lined up with the other motorcyclists until the ferry left a few minutes later.

Langdale - Earl's Cove
Distance: 88 km
Time: 2 hours

From Langdale, I took the Sunshine Coast Highway 101 north.

It's a fairly nice highway but would have been better if it spent more time right near the water. It's also only two lanes so I had to pull off fairly often, particularly until I figured out to let all the ferry traffic leave first.

At Red Roofs, about half way, I stopped in to visit my nephew and nieces. My niece, Charlotte, had her birthday the following day so I wanted to surprise her with my visit and a little something. I also had a quick lunch and a wonderful view of the ocean.

My sister-in-law takes her kids there every summer to their family cabin and they spend most of the summer holidays up there. Nice!

After lunch I sped north to Earl's Cove, about another hour, on the highway. It was better as there was little traffic. I fuelled up about 20 km from the ferry, not wanting a repeat of the White Rock fiasco!

I got to the terminal in good time and had a chance to sit in the sun before I made the 50 minute voyage to Saltery Bay.

Saltery Bay - Powell River
Distance 50 km
Time: 40 minutes

Upon arriving at Saltery Bay, I headed off, jacketless, pulling off the road until the ferry traffic passed.

After that, it was a delgihtful ride on the 101. I stopped a few times for photos as the weather was fine and I wasn't on a strict schedule. It was a lot less stressful as, when there were cars behind me, the breakdown lane was a good width.

It wasn't far and I was in Powell River.

More about Powell River next blog entry.