Isaac stopped briefly in Vancouver today, on his way home from Hong Kong to Toronto. He was here for a few hours so Josh and I had time to go out to the airport, pick him up and take him to The Elephant and Castle on the little branch of the Fraser River between Lulu and Sea Islands.
It was good to see him even if under rather sad circumstances. And of course I had to snap a few pics of Josh and Isaac together, since this is once-in-a-blue-moon kind of stuff; Josh and Isaac in the same town at the same time.
On Thursday, Johanna and I met Zorica for dinner at Felico's, another Greek restaurant in Richmond. It's not that I have a thing for Greek restaurants, that's just the way it worked out!
Zorica and I started working at a company called Techware on the same day, back in 1995. We learned our respective jobs there together. Eventually Techware became Brooks Automation, and Johanna started working there shortly before I left the company, in 2001. I had not seen Zorica since I left Brooks, so it was very good to see her and reminisce about our times at that company, and catch up on what various other folks who used to work there were doing now. Zorica has been very good at keeping in touch with all those people.
Friday I stayed home.
Saturday I met with Sam in the afternoon to pick up a few things I forgot at his place in D'Arcy the week before; we had something to eat at Boston Pizza and did a bit of "hanging out" at Metrotown and out around Burnaby in his truck. Later in the day I went to Josh and Kim's condo in Sapperton for dinner. They've been living there for half a year but to me it is new, I hadn't seen it since the year before when it was still under construction. They showed off their condo (and little pup, a Shih Tsu!), I showed off my kayak. I brought my camera but forgot to take any photos!
Josh and Kim were just back from two weeks in Europe so they showed me some of their photos from their trip. They travelled mostly in France and Italy. They had some great pictures of Rome, especially the Coliseum, and of the chateaux along the Loire. Many many years ago I got to go on a tour of the chateaux on the Loire, some of the ones Josh and Kim visited looked familiar, but it was so long ago for me (forty years!) that I don't know if they are familiar because they're famous and I've seen them in pictures, or because I was actually there.
Today the sun came out. It has been raining and dull for over a week, so having the sun come out is a major event here. I didn't know what to do with myself! Kayak? Sit in the sun? Bicycle? Oh yes, I got my bike fixed, finally, and it was no big deal. I took it to another bike shop (The Bike Doctor) and they had no problem fixing it for me. They said it was a good bike, nowhere near ready for the trash! Glad I got a second opinion. In the evening Dave, Johanna and I went to a local pub, The Thirsty Duck, for steak and beer. Cheap. Not exactly gourmet quality, but cheap.
I tell people that I am stocking up on socializing now. I didn't get to visit with friends in Nova Scotia near as much as I would have liked, and I don't know a lot of people in Toronto, so I am expecting a fairly solitary winter there. So I am visiting with old friends (and family) while I can!
This past week has been a busy social whirl for me. I went out for dinner with friends and family four times!
On Monday Lea-Anne and Tamara and I went to the Greka Taverna in New Westminster, a favourite haunt of ours. We have been meeting for dinner on a fairly regular basis for about ten years now, ever since we all joined the STC West Coast Chapter Programs Committee together. Actually, Tamara was the first to join, she was a newbie technical writer in with a group of presumably more experienced technical writers, but hardly had she joined the committee than they all jumped ship, leaving her holding the bag.
Somebody in the chapter did a bit of scrambling and managed to dig up Lea-Anne and myself to flesh out the committee, and I think we made quite a success of it. None of us knew what we were doing but we learned pretty quick and had fun doing it I think. Eventually we all moved on to other things, but we had such a good time working together on that committee that we continued to meet regularly for dinner, and long may it last!
On Tuesday I had an appointment to see my financial advisor, John, in downtown Vancouver. I drove to the old Planetarium (it's now the Vancouver Museum and Space Centre), parked there, and walked to John's office across the Burrard Street Bridge. Just about the only place left with free parking is at the Planetarium and I used to take advantage of that and walk from there to many different places (Kitsilano, Kits Beach, Granville Island Market, False Creek parks and trails, across the bridge into the downtown and West End areas). It is still free. It only took about a half hour to walk to John's office tower near Canada Place and the Vancouver Harbour.
John and I met at the Vancouver Shambhala Buddhist Centre many years ago, we've done a few retreats together and I am very happy with him as my financial advisor. He takes the time to understand how I want to live and gives me financial advice accordingly. John was quite reassuring about the latest market turmoil, I am not sure whether to believe him entirely but he sounded like he knew what he was talking about and I have every confidence he wouldn't lie to me.
A long time ago I used to live next door to a stock broker and she told me that it was entirely reasonable for me to not only know little about stocks and markets and such, but to not want to know. She said we don't have to know everything about everything, and should hire people to know about the things we don't know about and don't particularly want to know about. So on that basis, I am glad I know John. And it helps that he's a Buddhist, or at least subscribes to Buddhist ways of thinking about life and such.
My appointment with John lasted three hours, and with him, that's normal! I was a bit impatient about it when I first started going to him, but now I am used to it and plan for it.
Later that day, I went to Catherine and Asoka's place for dinner, Catherine and I used to work together (and so did Lea-Anne for a while) at a company called Brooks Automation. We also spent one summer doing research for a book that Catherine wanted to write. We were both unemployed at the time, Catherine had a brainstorm for a book that she thought would be worth millions (or something) and I tagged along just for something to do. It was interesting research, basically involved visiting potential venues for reception events, and then Catherine got a job and the idea got shelved. Catherine's pretty happy with her job now and she and her husband have recently bought a house that they will soon commence to renovate.
Wednesday I took a break, Johanna and I watched the TV show Heroes.
Sometime yesterday my ex-husband, father of two of my sons, died at age 64. Apparently a heart attack. He was living in Hong Kong with his wife Ali, teaching English and enjoying travel. He had recently returned to Canada, visiting friends and family in the Vancouver, Victoria and Edmonton areas, in August.
The photo above is from 1969, shortly after he first arrived in Canada (he's originally from California).
I will miss him. I know he was a regular reader of my blog, and I followed his activities on Facebook. We last talked to each other via Skype sometime during the winter, it was a good conversation and I always meant to call him back but somehow never got around to it. I thought I had lots of time.
The second photo is recent, I copied it from his online photo album of his visit to Canada last month.
My plan was to go straight from D'Arcy to Brentwood Bay to visit my brother Peter. Brentwood Bay is just north of Victoria, about half way between the ferry terminal at Swartz Bay and the city of Victoria.
September 15: Best laid plans, changed on the fly
I left D'Arcy around 10:00am, after saying goodbye to Sam and a brief Hello-Goodbye to the fellows at Island Expeditions. If it had only taken three hours to get back to Vancouver I think I might have made it to Tsawwassen for the 3:00pm Victoria ferry as I told my brother I was going to. However, driving on the Sea to Sky Highway was again quite slow, so I opted for the Nanaimo ferry from Horseshoe Bay at 3:10pm and then a drive down the Island Highway.
In one of the line-ups waiting to get through some road construction on the Sea to Sky Highway I met a man who travels the ferries a lot and he recommended that, even though Brentwood Bay (my destination) is much closer to the Victoria ferry terminal, I should take the Nanaimo ferry from Horseshoe Bay instead of the 76 km "drive through hell" that is the route through Vancouver to the Tsawwassen fery terminal. As it was, I just barely made it onto the Nanaimo ferry. Unfortunately I had to pay the oversize fee of an extra $30. I met the same guy again on the ferry and he said I should complain, that my truck and kayak sure didn't look overheight. Even though they (the BC Ferries guys on the ferry) counted my vehicle as underheight once on the ferry, they couldn't do anything and recommended that I stop by the ferry terminal in Nanaimo. So that is what I did.
At the Nanaimo ferry terminal, the manager measured my truck height and showed me that it was actually 2 inches overheight. So, they wouldn't give me my money back but now I knew how much I needed to somehow get rid of in order to avoid the overheight fee the next time.
I arrived at Peter and Pat's home in Brentwood Bay just as they were setting dinner on the table. How fortuitous! We ate at the table on their backyard patio, it was very pleasant. They have a very nice house surrounded by big trees, and the gardens that Pat has been working hard on for the past year. They just moved in about a year ago and are still meeting their neighbours, getting to know the place, and making changes to make their home more comfortable and beautiful.
September 16: Foiling BC Ferries
Peter took on the project of getting my roof rack down by at least 2 inches. In the end he was successful but it was quite a job. First we moved the roof rack mounts forward so that they could be attached lower on the truck canopy (the cap on the bed of the truck). Then Peter tried reducing the size of the extra spacers in the forward rack mounts, but when we put the kayak on after he had done that it turned out to be not sufficient. It was better to removed the spacers altogether.
By suppertime we were satisfied that it was well under the seven foot limit for overheight vehicles on BC Ferries. However, the rear rack was now mounted so far forward that I had to change my kayak mounting technique to get it up there. A little more awkward but still doable.
September 17: From sea to sea
Today Peter and I went kayaking in Brentwood Bay.
Peter rented a kayak and I took mine.
We paddled down a long narrow inlet that was at first very quiet and peaceful but when we got near the end of the inlet it was full of noisy high school kids out paddling canoes. Ah well!
We passed through a great underwater cloud of white jellyfish, ranging in size from a couple of inches to maybe eight inches in diameter. They were very beautiful. We also saw starfish and spiderfish (they look like starfish but have many many legs) on the rocky bottom. At one point we thought we saw a river otter swimming across the inlet, but it turned out to be a harbour seal. It dove, and then later I saw it under my kayak slowly spiralling up to the surface. It broke the water just behind me, sat there for a few moments blinking its eyes and looking around, before diving below again. We also saw a couple of kingfishers and turkey buzzards, and some Canada geese.
A number of Brentwood Bay residents have homes right on the waterfront, each with their own little dock and boats. At the tip of the bay is a marina full of pleasure craft and rows of condos that Peter refers to as The Chicken Coop.
So now I have officially gone a mari usque ad mare in my kayak, dipped it in both the Atlantic and the Pacific, as well as one freshwater lake, Anderson. The only thing 'missing' is Lake Ontario, but I probably won't be able to do that this year.
After our paddle we went for lunch at a local pub and had quite a good chat about our respective plans for the future, family, and various other topics. Later I went for a walk with Pat around the neighbourhood, she showed me some of her favourite gardens and spots to view the ocean. Gardening is big, very big, in the Victoria area, you can grow so many things that just don't grow anywhere else in Canada. The gardens are lush and varied with many beautiful shrubs and trees as well as flowers.
September 18: Friends and family
Today was very social day, Peter and Pat invited their friends John and Debby for a pancake breakfast and later in the afternoon we went to visit Aunt Sidney and Uncle David.
Earlier I had asked Peter what his opinion was on how much longer I could expect to keep my truck running, whether I was better off to keep it going or look for another one. He suggested that his friend John could give me a better idea than he could, so after breakfast John took a good look at my truck and made his recommendations. Basically, he thought that I could probably get another 50,000 km out of my truck if I did a few crucial repairs, and that rather than try to keep it going any longer than that or embarking on major repairs, I should start looking now for a replacement. He recommended that I look for a good used Mazda B2200. More importantly, he told me my fan belt needed to be replaced immediately, like before I left Brentwood Bay, and there were a couple of other things he thought my truck needed. He could get me a deal on parts if I wanted to return to Brentwood Bay in a week or so. I was extremely grateful for his opinion and careful examination of my truck.
In the afternoon we went over to Sid and David's place for tea. Sid is my mother's sister, the last of the three sisters still alive. She and David are in their 80s, and they have lived in the same house just about since they were married. In fact, it is the house that David grew up in, it was bought by his father when David was eight. It is a lovely old house on a beautiful lot overlooking Oak Bay in Victoria.
Among other things it is filled with examples of Sid's fine needlework, which unfortunately she no longer does. They also have many fine old paintings and a lovely garden. Sid's favourite pastimes are golf and gardening.
Sid told us the story of the AY Jackson painting they had that has now ended up in the Ontario Art Gallery. They sold it a few years ago and apparently it got the highest price of any AY Jackson painting ever. It was little known, since Jackson's work was mostly in Ontario and Quebec, few knew that he had come out to BC and done some painting here as well. This painting is a view of trees and mountains rising from a waterfront, perhaps somewhere along the coast. She said they were glad that it ended up in Ontario, Jackson's home province.
Sitting with Sid and David was almost like having my mother back, Sid looks a little like my mother and shares some of her mannerisms and way of talking. It was kind of poignant, flipping between seeing her as Mum and Sid, and being aware of how frail she is and how one day she will be gone too. Not that she is unhealthily frail, she does after all continue to golf every week. But they have largely given up sailing even though they still have their boat.
Sid urged Pat to take some of her plants, but Pat feels she already has enough for now. Sid and Pat enjoy each other's company very much as they share the gardening in common. Mossom, their son, was there for awhile. I did not talk to him much although Peter and Moss went out for a chat probably about cars.
Peter is very much into cars, especially his two Mustangs, a Cobra and a Shelby. I understand that the Shelby is very valuable and powerful, Peter keeps both vehicles in immaculate condition. The Shelby is not for everyday driving, he uses the Cobra for that.
September 19: Back to the mainland
Peter changed the fanbelt and the oil on my truck, I will be returning in another week or so for new shocks, a new gasket in the engine (twice I asked the name of it, twice he told me, and twice I forgot it; I just know that it is not the head gasket), and a transmission servicing. I am kind of annoyed that the last two shock absorber changes made no difference to how the truck ran and John said the reason is because the shocks are inadequate for my truck. The new shocks put on this summer should still be good but they are not. John will order some heavy duty shocks for me. John also recommended a heavier oil in my truck, so that is what Peter put in.
So that's it, I am on the ferry heading back to the mainland after my week of travelling and visiting, I did not have to pay the overheight fee this time. I hope to get back to Sam's place and I am committed to going back to Peter's, in another week or so. Then I will probably start thinking about heading east.
On Friday I drove to the little tiny village of D'Arcy, which is about 50 km north of Pemberton, north of Whistler on Highway 99. Went there to visit my son Sam (Number Three Son) and to put the kayak into the water again. It has not been in the water since my first paddle in Kingsport, Nova Scotia.
September 12: Getting there
I left New Westminster around 2:00pm thinking it would take me three hours to drive to D'Arcy, but the road construction between Horseshoe Bay and Whistler is worse than it was the last time I drove this road in June 2007, so it took more like four hours. They are preparing the road for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, as some of the events will be held in Whistler.
The views from the Sea to Sky Highway (Vancouver to Whistler) are fabulous but you have to really pay attention to the driving, so no attempts at taking pictures while driving! However they have cut an awful lot of rocks and trees to widen this highway, the environmental damage is rather painful.
Sam and I met in Pemberton for a bit of supper and some grocery shopping, then headed to his place in D'Arcy. Well, just outside of D'Arcy actually. He lives in a cabin on 90 acres of land just south of the village. His place of work, Island Expeditions, is in the basement of the cabin.
I love it there, it was so nice to be back. I was only staying for the weekend, I had scheduled to be at my brother Peter's place on Monday the 15th, but the weather was perfect in D'Arcy, sunny and warm.
September 13: On the water
We took my kayak down to the boat launch in D'Arcy and I went for a 90 minute paddle on Anderson Lake. Sam wanted me to stick to the side of the lake with the railway tracks, in case I got into trouble and he had to come get me. I dutifully did that, but was sorry since the more scenic route would have been along the other side. Next time.
The lake was rather busy with motor boats and even water skiers, but it was nice to be out on the water. We had agreed to meet back at the wharf in D'Arcy at 4:00pm, so I really only had an hour and a half to paddle about, not a huge amount of time.
It was a good thing Sam was there to help me unload and load, although I did most of the work. It just wasn't that easy. I still need to work on the technique. My parking spot wasn't the best either, but it was what was available.
September 14: In the water
I thought it would be a good idea to practice putting the kayak on and off the roof rack, and Sam's place was ideal for that: lots of space and grass all around. Sam had some ideas how to make it easier, such as loading the kayak from the rear rather than the side. This was the original way I tried it but at the time I thought I could not slide the kayak over the rack rails, which I now know is not true. It did work easier to do it that way, but getting the kayak down is still tricky.
I spent so much time loading and unloading, and it was so hot, that we thought it might be better to go swimming rather than kayaking. So we took Sam's truck to Gates Lake and found a nice spot to get into the water from a small dock. The water was cold! Swimmable once your skin was numb and you couldn't feel how cold it was though. We just went for a very brief swim.
I enjoyed the time I spent with Sam very much, we had some good chats and relaxed a lot.
Sam is not keeping deer mice any more, he still traps them but he releases them a ways down the road so they can't get back.
I brought my bike along in hopes of getting out on the trails there but we never actually did that. Sam said he had seen a mother bear and her cub by the road on one of his walks and she had actually reared up in a threatening manner when she saw him so he was warning me to be careful if I decided to go for a walk in the woods. That kind of made me feel less inclined to go walking, or biking for that matter.
I hope I can get back here again before I leave, I was very reluctant to leave this time but had already committed to visiting my brother Peter and his partner Pat on Vancouver Island just outside of Victoria.
I just heard on the news that Elizabeth May is now in the leadership debates on TV, Oct 1-2. That's the one piece of good news I've heard today. What with polls now forecasting a Conservative majority here in October, and a McCain win in the USA in November, I was starting to wonder if anything was working.
I heard Elizabeth attribute the about face on her participation in the leadership debates to the power of public opinion and she's probably right.
Spent a couple of hours last evening getting my kayak back on the truck roof. In the process, we weighed it and it comes in at 52 lbs. Considering that it is supposed to weigh 35 lbs, I guess there is a tad more epoxy on the boat than is called for, like 17 lbs of it! No wonder it's so difficult. And the combination of high roof rack (6') and short stature (5'3") doesn't help.
However, we think we have developed a system that will work in most circumstances, so the next try should take a lot less time. I am trying to get the kayak on in such a way that the truck plus kayak is under 7' tall and 20' long, that being the lower limit for paying the oversize surcharge on BC ferries.
Basically, the system is, lay the kayak on the ground beside the truck, on the passenger side with the bow toward the front of the truck. Turn it upside down. Maybe put a blanket or rug under the stern end. Lift the bow end up and pivot it onto the forward roof rack. Lift the stern end up, slide the kayak forward until the cockpit is positioned between the two racks as close to the forward rack as possible, then pivot the stern end onto the rear roof rack. Place the foam cradles under the kayak on each rail, tie it all down.
The big trick will be lifting the kayak over my head. I have a short step stool to help with getting it up to the desired height.
We also made some modifications in the wheeleez to make them more effective. Instead of fastening the kayak to the wheeleez with the provided tie-downs, we used one 36" bungie cord. Then we attached two strings from either wheel axle to the bungie cord on the kayak near the cockpit, fairly tightly. The new bungie cord holds the kayak firmly to the wheeleez, and the two strings allow you to steer the wheeleez much more effectively. We also laid the kayak on its side rather than upright on the wheeleez, it seems more stable that way. Our improvements made a huge difference, I felt like I had way more control of the movement of the kayak and the wheeleez and it felt much more securely fastened.
[the wheeleez are a little trolley affair that you attach to one end of a kayak or canoe to help move it from one place to another]
Today is the first grey drizzly day since I arrived on the wet coast over ten days ago. Ah Vancouver, I remember you well. All that sunshine was just too good to be true...
So, I am sitting in Coming Home Cafe, my old haunt, drinking Kick Ass coffee and watching the traffic. At some point I will get up and go do something, but for now I am content to just watch.
My truck is all better, at the grand cost of $8.96. Note the decimal point after the eight. Turns out I should be checking the oil a little more often now, it was down two litres and apparently that was what was causing the nasty clicking. And to think I actually had a spare litre of oil in the truck, I just never thought to check if it needed it.
My bike on the other hand might be a write-off. There's this "Dirt Cheap" bike repair shop just up the street from the garage where I took the truck, I took the bike in there for what I thought were minor repairs: new pedal, replace the fender on the front wheel, and tighten up a wobble in the handlebar stem.
That last item turns out to be the kicker, the guy at the bike shop says it is jammed in there and he can't fix it if he can't get it out. He told me that I would have to trash the bike if he can't get it out. He asked for another day to try to force it out. Hmph. Well, whatever. It's an old bike and I do like it but it won't be the end of the world to leave it behind.
Isaac and Gretel, if you are reading this, don't sell my electric bike just yet...
This past summer I got into the routine of writing a blog entry for each day, following the kayak building process. Now I am going to ease myself out of that habit. It is too preoccupying, I end up spending way too much time either writing or thinking about writing. Like to have time for other stuff.
The high school kids are trooping in now, must be lunchtime.
A little bit of sadness here. My dear friend Sheila in Baxter's Harbour has lost her younger brother to cancer, after a long struggle. I know how much he meant to her and what a loss it is for her, and I feel sad about that. And reading Gretel's blog I see that my son Isaac's dear friend and work partner is now mortally ill, another sadness. I feel sad for him too.
Oh the losses! Sometimes life sucks. The black background to brilliant specks of light.
Last night Morrie and Sher and I attempted to go out to dinner in Sechelt. They came up to the coast in their Jeep, but they had taken out the back seat so they only had two seat belts. They thought that as long as we didn't run into any cops we could get away with it, but we did and we didn't.
We got pulled over by a local cop, he laughed and said, You can't do this, and instructed Morrie to drive Sher and I home, one at a time. He waived the fine, but I guess we don't really want to try his patience. So getting out and about is going to be difficult. It's really too bad that I couldn't bring my truck (and kayak!) up here.
However, I have some old friends, Alison and Eddy, living up here, and as it turns out they are only a few blocks away. Today I walked to their house and knocked on the door, Alison answered. We hadn't seen each other in a few years so it was fun to catch up.
I suggested that the five of us go out for dinner that evening and everyone agreed. Alison and Eddy took us to a nice pasta place in Sechelt, and after a great dinner we returned to Morrie and Sher's for a bonfire and roasted marshmallows.
In this neighbourhood all the lots are a half acre and quite heavily treed. It's almost like a campground, only each campsite is a house site, mostly hidden in the trees.
Morrie and Sher have a few lovely old cedars on their lot, and a peekaboo view of the ridge between this neighbourhood and the town of Sechelt.
They love their address: Wildwood Road in Welcome Woods, by Halfmoon Bay on the Sunshine Coast.
Today I got to go flying with Josh, my Number Two Son.
Over the last two days we called back and forth to arrange the details, whether I should go to Sechelt and he would pick me up there or go to Horseshoe Bay and meet him there. In the end we agreed on Horseshoe Bay.
That meant I had to be packed up and ready to catch the little foot ferry from New Brighton on Gambier at noon, then transfer to the big car ferry in Langdale back to Horseshoe Bay. Josh would drive there and pick me up at the ferry terminal and then we would drive to the small plane airport at Boundary Bay.
Everything went smoothly and we had our little plane by 3:00pm, Josh had to complete some paperwork and then do a visual inspection of the plane before we could take off.
He also had to instruct me in various safety measures.
We were ready to go at 3:45pm, and got in line behind a couple of other planes waiting for take off. We watched as half a dozen small planes landed before we were given the OK to take off. Busy day!
Our itinerary was to fly over the Port Mann bridge then along the North Shore out to Howe Sound, across and up the Sunshine Coast to Sechelt.
We took a short detour to go to Gambier Island and circle Johanna and Dave's house there a couple of times while I attempted to photograph it from the air.
Out of four photos the house showed up in two blurry ones, not a particularly successful effort. But I didn't want to circle the house a third time.
We landed successfully in Sechelt, where my friends Morrie and Sher were waiting for us.
Morrie has his pilot's licence but has not flown for a long time, they were happy for the opportunity to get up in the air in a small plane again. Plus, they had recently purchased a house near Sechelt and were curious to see it from the air.
We did a little circle tour, up the inlet behind Sechelt as far as Earls Cove and then down the coast back again. We saw lots of gravel pits and fish farms.
Finally, Josh dropped the three of us off in Sechelt and returned to Vancouver, I went home with Morrie and Sher to spend a few days on the Sunshine Coast with them.
My camera battery pooped out somewhere over the inlet behind Sechelt and Josh suggested I take more pictures on his camera, but I haven't seen any of those photos yet. Besides, there's only so many aerial views you can take in! Half my pictures I have no idea what I was photographing at the time.