Thursday, 29 August 2013

The Trestles at Myra (Again ;-)

August 26 to 28, 2012, I stayed in a B&B in Kelowna and took an old bicycle (ask Jeremiah what happened to that bike) over the 18 Trestles and trough the 2 tunnels of the old railway track in Myra Canyon.  I liked it so much that I reserved the B&B for the same two nights in 2013.  And here I am, riding a new bicycle over the trestles ;-)

The bike ride is ~ 12 kms each way, i.e. 25 kms in total. But it is FLAT!  If you want to avoid multitudes of extended families with babies in bicycle trailers clogging the trestles, try to do the ride before 11am.  You'll get to enjoy the remoteness of the place.  If some of the blackened trees make you think of forest fires, you are a good observer.  A large part of the mountain was victimized by a forest fire 10 or 20 years ago, and that fire also consumed the original wooden trestles.  What one rides over today are replicas built by volunteers for the greater good of cycling ;-)

The following two pics prove that this trip is also good for child inside the man ;-)

Time's a wasting, but unfortunately no waist ;-)

In the afternoon, I couldn't resist getting my feet wet at the beach in downtown Kelowna.

young seagulls

The natives are friendly

Othello and the Quintettes

No, it's not a new band referred to in the title, but some old tunnels close to Hope ;-)
Leaving Hope and heading up the Coquihalla Highway one quite early encounters an exit called Othello. Not the only exit or landmark bearing a Shakespearean name, but to my knowledge the only one leading to railway tunnels right by the river.
Once you've found the parking lot, be prepared for a lot of GREEN!

In case you are wondering: You're in the valley of the Coquihalla River:

After a bit of river valley, one sees the first of the tunnels (there are 5, as the name suggests ;-)

Between tunnels 2 & 3 (or 3&4?), the track crosses the river on a bridge. The sun wasn't hitting the rocks in the water yet, so the pictures are not as amazing as last year ;-(

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

There is HOPE (there really is ;-)

So tired of Vancouver's mad rush of tailgating just before noisily passing on the left or the right, just to be further ahead in line at the next red light (which won't be more than 45 seconds away), I am driving further and further into 'the countryside'.  By now I have discovered that large parts of Surrey & Langley are just vast expanses of car dealerships ( Creeping along the Langley Bypass in heavy traffic and seeing only car dealerships along the sides of the road is one of the most depressing things I've witnessed in a looong time).  After passing through the stretch between Mission and Maple Ridge last year, I am staying far away from that too.  What was a beautiful drive through the country only 20 years ago, now is a crawl through an exhaust-laden maze of bypasses and gas stations.  The Fraser Valley has become a giant strip mall !  Looking at 'camp grounds' in Cultus Lake, I had to laugh it was so sad.  In a forest that looked a little like it was located right below a Tunguska event (not many lateral branches on those 'trees'), tents and cars were crammed together on a barren forest floor like sardines, only separated by those 'trees'.  I was never really a 'camper' but I used to be neutral on the subject.  But how anyone would even consider pitching a tent RIGHT NEXT to their car's hood, and within 2 meters of their campground neighbour's empty beer cans, is beyond me.

So I am driven even further away from the city.  To Hope.  But not to Hope proper; a tiny bit outside of Hope. The Hope Holiday Motel & RV Resort. Sounds fancy but isn't. But the smallish rooms in small wood structures set right against a mini version of the Chief in Squamish has all the stuff I want and can't get in Vancouver. It is set back 2 blocks from the 'major' road, the Hope-Flood Road.  The mountain including Sasquatch Caves starts right behind the bathroom window. TV, coffee maker, fridge, microwave are all there.  A friendly Asian manager makes you feel welcome. On this rainy afternoon, he offers to uncover the swimming pool if I feel like a dip. All this for a low price you can only dream of in Vancouver.

And the distance from the road is doing its magic: I haven't slept this well in a long time ;-)

A note added a few days later:  on the return trip from Kelowna to Vancouver, two noses independently judged that the area of 'fresh air' ends somewhere between Hope and Chilliwack.  To spell it out in sad detail: Taking a car from Hope to Kelowna, one can actually smell trees, soil, cow manure, etc etc, with a few short interruptions (i.e. Merrit).  On the way to Vancouver, this abundance of smells vanishes between Hope and Chilliwack, to be replaced with what Vancouver calls air.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

The van has blue paper wings (or Thank You, Saki! )

I could not help notice that this blog has picked up some readers in Japan (which it never had before) ever since Saki, the guest of Hans & Denise, returned to her hometown of Tokyo.  I assume that these two events are not entirely unrelated.
When Saki was in Roberts Creek she produced quite a number of Origami cranes (Tsuru in Japanese ;-). A blue Tsuru one day was discovered by me on my computer keyboard. I'm not sure I ever thanked Saki properly, but maybe this post will serve to rectify that.
In my travels in the big beige van, the crane now leads the way in a spot of honour right at the front wind-shield:
The Van
When writing this post I also discovered that the Tsuru is not just folded paper.  In the Japanese culture the Tsuru apparently stands for Good Fortune and Longevity
Tsuru leading the way
Watashi no kokoronosokokara arigatō, Saki !

Hansu wa mada ōkina hara o motte i
I hope life in Tokyo is good for you; I am sure that once you folded 1000 Tsurus, you will find the one with the horse ;-)

Has the world gone completely MAD? (Vancouver hotel prices)

In my one year without fixed abode I have had the opportunity to stay in quite a number of motels and hotels in Vancouver. I'm not sure what the high end of the prices for those hotels looks like, but I can claim that I am quite familiar with the low end of the price range. By now I am also familiar with the condition of some of those hotel rooms. And it ain't pretty. Lack of air-conditioning, lack of coffee-maker, lack of a working bathroom fan, lack of cleanliness are just some of the issues that do not prevent a room from being rented for good money. In the winter and early spring you get to spend $50 to $79 per night for a room with some or all of those features. I was quite surprised a month ago in July when tourists apparently were willing to spend up to $109 for these rooms. Or maybe the tourists were not aware what they were getting, but the hotels were not ashamed to ask that much.
Then I looked for a room for today, Saturday, the 24th of August. At first I thought was making a poor joke.  But checking Expedia confirmed it:  The cheapest available hotel room in the city of Vancouver, and one of my standard 'cheap' choices (cheap but not that pretty), is going for $169 per night. I've been in that hotel repeatedly (when it was cheap) and I can tell you:  The rooms are NOT worth that much ! For friggs sake: I paid less for a comparable room in Paris !
Some people might bite the bullet and pay this, but fortunately I know I have choices. For tourists with cars, the cities of Squamish (49 km), Langley (30 km), Surrey (15 km), and even Hope (150 km) offer rooms still in the $60 - $70 / night range with rooms of comparable dinginess (or MUCH nicer ;-).  And sleeping a bit outside of Vancouver proper might even get you some better breathing air,since you're outside of the brown dome of exhaust air. This is particularly true in Squamish, which is also the one that will provide amazing scenery on the drive to/from Vancouver.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Self-induced brain death? ( Or: What is so great about cars anyway?)

This post has been hovering around for a while in an unfinished form. But a drive from Horseshoe Bay to East Vancouver in a jumble of mad drivers who just escaped some BC Ferry, which they probably had to wait 4 hours to get onto, gave me a migraine and flipped me between fits of rage at imbecilic drivers and a state of having no hope for the future of the human race.  (Did you know that one of the triggers of migraines is car exhaust ? ;-)  So this post will go live in its not quite perfect form.

Your friendly oxygen transport system
What happens if you put your car in the garage, close all the car windows, start the car, and connect a hose from the exhaust pipe into the car interior? Actually, if your garage is reasonably air-tight, you can dispense with the hose complication :-)  I guess everyone knows the answer, but what is of more interest here is the Modus Operandi of this silent killer. Carbon Monoxide Poisoning. CO enters your blood stream. Hemoglobin molecules (red blood cells) in your blood stream are responsible for transporting oxygen through your body to keep it ticking. For this purpose, hemoglobin creates a chemical bond with oxygen.  Where oxygen is needed, it is unloaded from the hemoglobin and the hemoglobin goes to pick up more in the lungs. Now for the nasty bit:  Carbon monoxide also fits into the oxygen cargo bay of hemoglobin. So, if CO is present, hemoglobin loads up, looking for a place to deliver. But no one wants the stuff, so hemoglobin keeps running around with a full cargo bay. If a significant percentage of the hemoglobin molecules in the blood stream are afflicted that way, there won't be enough of them left to provide an adequate oxygen supply.  So far so good; the vast majority of people isn't likely to do run their cars in the garage so they should be safe from carbon monoxide poisoning from car exhaust. Or are they?
You think you're not breathing this in?
Bear with me while I give you a basic explanation of the 'inverse square law": It basically says that if you double your distance to a source of light or similar, the amount of light will drop by a factor of 4. If you increase your distance by a factor of 3, the light will drop by a factor of 9. Everyone will have noticed this themselves: If you are sitting close to a fireplace and you are too hot, moving to twice the distance, will make it more than twice cooler ;-)  I'm sure that someone out there calculated the proper mathematics for exposure to exhaust gas as a function of distance to an exhaust pipe. However, the precise formula is probably not that important.  Driving normally with enough distance to the car in front of us, we should get enough semi-fresh ambient air mixed with the exhaust gases of the cars in front of us not to have to worry.
think again !
Of course, CO is cumulative, so even if we only get a little bit, it adds up to some degree, even if the exposure is low, but the exposure time is high.  Enough explanations; let's get to the point: What if your car's air intake is sitting in stop-and-go rush hour traffic no more than a meter behind the exhaust pipe of the car in front of you?  What if you traded cheap living for a 2 hour commute and maintain that distance to an exhaust pipe for 30 minutes? Or and hour?  See what I mean?  If just the thought making you take more shallow breaths right now to avoid taking in too much CO, you must be living in Vancouver ;-)

There must be some highly respected study by a highly respected and highly ethical company like Ford or GM out there ..... STOP!  HOLD the thought!

This just reminded me of something that should really have gone in a separate post with the title of "How is GM doing these days, anyway? (Or How DUMB or CORRUPT is our Prime Minister?). But that would have meant I'd have to do my research right ;-)  So: a Post within a Post it is.

Remember when GM was going belly-up and everyone was screaming for help from the Government?  Well, at that time our wise and well-advised PM gave GM a LOAN from Canadian Tax Payer's money in the amount of 9.6 Billion C$ (That is 9600 Million $s). Sine Canada has a population of somewhere in the vague vicinity of the number 30 Million lets call it 10 Billion for math's sake and find out that every Canadian, including me, you, my pseudo-nephew Mika, my Grandma, and even Jimmy Pattison, 'LENT' 333 Bucks to GM.  Wow!  You'd be happy to get that as a discount in your new car purchase, wouldn't you?  Do you also realize that our wise and well-advised PM gave $100 in YOUR name to Chrysler at around the same time?  Your car purchase discount just went to $433!
NOT. The reason you don't get a discount is because YOU now own a share of GM and Chrysler. YOO HOO!  You'd rather have bought a share in Toyota, you say?  Or Porsche, Mercedes, or VW?  NO, NO, NO: Losers can't be choosers!  But this seems to be kind of a tradition, like with those British Submarines.  Invest in the future: Buy Junk!  I'm sure some digging would produce more purchases along the same quality line.


Saturday, 17 August 2013

Gone Fishing (plus a touch of Creek Daze and another Bear)

Saturday, the 17th of August and it is Creek Daze in Roberts Creek.  I've seen enough people in a daze lately, so at first I was tempted to skip the Daze. But Gerhard and David, who offered to take me fishing today, want to have a look at the parade, so we ended up there after all, fortunately.  Here is a picture of Gerhard and David.

Gerhard and David (Grandfather & Grandson) are from Germany and they're staying at the Stephens Creek Guesthouse for a few weeks. These two are into fishing, big time, and since I have never been fishing in my life, I took up their offer to come along and watch.

But first it's parade time. Here are a few pictures:
This ain't your usual parade ;-)

way cooler

Mr Roberts Creek 2013
When some of the floats start throwing candy, David actually has to be told to pick it up ! Poor kid didn't grow up in a proper Carnival town ;-)

Then it's off to Sechelt Wharf to do some fishing.

Since I am only an observer, I get to take pictures of the surroundings.


Looks easy enough ;-)

First indications had this as a Wels, but this baby has horns and Welses don't, so who knows what it is.
I'd noticed a First Nations man in a yellowish shirt and blue suspenders at the land-end of the wharf and from a distance it looked like he was carving BEARS !  I went to check it out and indeed there were quite a lot of gourgeously carved soapstone bear fetishes on the park bench.  The smallest one of them  insisted on coming home with me, the artist made that possible with a good price, and I had an illuminating chat with the carver Barney McLeod. (The link leads to an article about him in Going Coastal Magazine)

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

The good, the bad,and the ugly

To get away from Vancouver hotel prices (~$100/night for a dive; and I'm not kidding:, just try Motel 2400, Grouse Inn etc) I have been exploring the Lower Mainland for alternatives.
I thought I had found bargain county when I stayed in the Langley Highway Hotel ($72 for 2 including breakfast).  But even though the staff is amazingly friendly, at least the room I stayed in was little on the dingy side. But at least you can tell that they're making an effort.
But not as much of an effort as the Hotel Squamish. $49/night for a room where I would not hesitate to eat scrambled eggs that have dropped onto the floor (Imagine that in the hotel you last stayed in ;-).  The owners/staff are amazing; no private phones in the rooms but a pay phone in the hallway

Pedal-boating in Harrison Hotsprings

So I'm spending an afternoon in Harrison Hotsprings.  What to do?  Taking the bicycle along the water in the western direction from the town centre does not get one far and one's nose can smell the end of the road before one actually gets to: Harrison Hotsprings Lagoon and water treatment area;-(
The road in the other direction from the town centre goes a bit further but it's a main road along the water's edge with quite a bit of traffic, so I did not pursue it for long.  So I still don't know what Sasquatch Park is like.
But there are pedal-boats!  I'm not sure how they can charge $29/hour for a pedal-boat and find enough suckers to pay this much, but the lack of other things to do in this town possibly caused this particular sucker to pay up.

OK, so George did most of the pedaling ;-)

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Places to park (or NOT)

Since I am without apartment but with camper van, I have had opportunity to sample the lifestyle of sleeping in a car parked on public streets.
Before we get to the sleeping, I should clarify the legal aspect:  If you find a nice bit of curb in an area with little traffic and not too many street lights and notice the absence of parking restrictions (i.e. 1 hr, 2 hr only) then you can park there all day and all night. Aside from the fact that the quiet and dark areas of the city are not only sought out by those looking to sleep but also those looking for less dormant activities (and I don't mean jogging ;-), there is one other huge hurdle one should be aware of.  You can park in your spot 24 hours. You're parking.  The very instant you fall asleep, you're no longer parking; you are now camping.  And that is illegal on public streets. I don't think this law deals effectively with Vancouver's increasing homelessness but it is a must-have for people in Kerrisdale or Point Grey, who want to be able to call the cops the second  that someone in a $5,000 residence parks in front of their upward of a 1.5 Million residence.
I was unaware of this until Burnaby Police woke me at 4:30 am with flashlights stabbing into what was effectively my bedroom (Does one have less rights to privacy in a car than in a house?) and after I had my pants on and had unglued my eyelids, asked me the deep question "What are you doing?".  The obvious answer "What do you think I'm doing at 4:30 am? Sleeping, of course!" is obviously the wrong answer given the odd legal situation.  I didn't know that the first time though, so Burnaby police explained to me the parking/sleeping conundrum stated above.  They were very nice about it and let me go back to sleep until the sun rose if I promised to never do it again ;-) And think of this:  judging by a comment overheard before I opened the door, "Probably smells like pee in there" (I think their noses were spared in my van), the cops can think of much more fun things to do on their nightly journeys than waking unwashed people and sticking their noses in smelly vans.  But they have to uphold the law.  Thus the odd "What are you doing?" question.  So if you want to protect copper noses and catch a few Zs, here is what to do:  Get yourself a portable DVD player, put a DVD in and leave it on the menu page, so the screen has some movement, and put it somewhere in the van where the flashing light does not bother you.  Now the police doesn't have to stop and smell your bedroom because you are obviously watching a movie; right ? ;-)  Just don't try this trick in Point Grey or Kerrisdale; I'm sure they have other by-laws in their arsenal.