Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Coldplay on a Cold Day

What do you do when it’s the weekend, work is slow enough that your dear husband doesn’t have to spend a full day at the office, and the forecast is beautiful blue skies, nary a cloud to be seen?  Well, for Saturday, you pack up everyone and go over to your parents’ house to watch the Huskies game and eat all afternoon.  But that’s not what this blog is about—on Sunday, we packed up a lunch and all the bikes, cranked up Viva La Vida by Coldplay on the iPod, and headed off to Stanley Park, in downtown Vancouver.

Stanley Park is a large park (10% larger than Central Park in New York) that jets off the downtown core of Vancouver, BC.  There’s an aquarium (with several beluga whales, an Amazon rainforest display, dolphins, etc.), a miniature train, a petting zoo, a putting green, a lawn bowling center, tennis courts, several restaurants, a rowing club, and more and more and more.  But what we were going for was the ~5 mile jogging/walking/biking/rollerblading path all the way around it.

We’ve done it before—last summer, in July 2010, the boys and I went with our friends the Lyons.  Owen had a tiny little bike, and any time the group would wait for him to catch up, they’d take off again as soon as he caught up.  And, he didn’t have any water the whole trip (my bad.  my very bad…little dehydration problem after five miles in ~70 degree weather).  And, he skinned up his fingers when he rode too close to a barricade—he still has the scars to prove it.  His first experience on his own bike around Stanley Park, to say the least, was not a pleasurable memory.

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Check out the tiny little 16 inch wheel bike that Owen had.  No gears like the big kids—just pure kid power kept that thing going.

(July 2010)

 

So THIS time, Dad could come with us…

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…and we had a new bike for Owen, complete with shifting gears that he knew how to use, and two water bottles secured to Mom and Dad’s bikes.  How could we go wrong.

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Only thing we didn’t have—warmth.  We had decided to go early in the morning, so we were riding bikes at around 10:30 or so.  Most of the trail was in the shade, and it was SO COLD.  So, so, so bitterly cold.  Okay, it was probably in the forties, so we weren’t in danger of freezing to death, but it was our first experience this fall of REALLY wanting gloves.  I was the only one who brought any (after I realized they weren’t working that great anyway, I let Guyan use them—I’m so giving that way).

Owen spent the first third (at least) trying to get us to turn around.

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Guyan knew that wouldn’t work…

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…and just looked for sun to stop and bask in (that kid is so TALL—all legs).

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Owen wouldn’t even do jumping jacks with me to keep warm.

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And even with all my jumping jacks, using gloves for most of the ride, and a positive attitude, my hands still did that little Raynaud’s disease-esque yellow waxy thing they do when they get cold.  …must get that checked by the doctor…  This picture doesn’t do it justice; they get quite freaky looking, and I can’t feel them at all (which is why I figured I could give up the gloves to Guyan—I couldn’t feel my hands anyway).  Yay.  Good times.

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So—Stanley Park solo bike trip #2 for Owen was…better.  But not great.  We’ll have to try again.  Next summer, say, on a 72 degree day with Dad, water, and shifting gears.  That would be perfect.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Grouse Grind (or, Why I Love My Backyard)

I’ve told people often how great Vancouver is—it’s just over the border from where we live, and adds so much to living here in this little pocket of the world.  I love living in a small town, with my library, bank, gym, grocery store, and not much else…’cept cows, good neighbors, and good schools.  But I also love having a major metropolitan area within one hour from my house, complete with all of its culture and activity.  Even better that there’s an international border that separates us, because that metropolis won’t grow and take over little ol’ Whatcom County (not including the dairy cave at Costco).  It’s perfect.

Ferndale…home

 

 

 

 

Vancouver…backyard

 

 

 

 

 

A metropolitan area has a lot more to offer in activities.  They have the people, they have the tax money, and if you paid any attention to the 2010 Winter Olympics, Vancouver definitely has the landscape.  A few months ago, a Canadian friend of mine, Amy (she’s lived here for quite some time, and apparently soon will be my Canadian-American friend!), invited me to do the “Grouse Grind” with her.  I’d never heard of it.

I looked it up online.  Nature’s Stairmaster, they called it. 

Trail Facts

Length: 2.9 kilometers (1.8 miles)
Elevation Gain: 853 meters (2,800 feet)
Base: 274 meters above sea level (900 feet)
Summit: 1,127 meters (3,700 feet)
Total Stairs: 2,830

Statistics: Annually, over 100,000 people hike the trail.
Average Time: On average it takes up to an hour and a half to complete the hike. For novice hikers, two hours is recommended.

Ohhhhh…sounded like fun!  And because it’s in a big city like Vancouver, there’s no need to hike up and down.  They have a fancy gondola that we could just take for the ride down.

Actually scheduling the day was a bit harder than selling the idea of doing it.  Amy has three kids, I’ve got my two boys, and summer was just crazy with activity.  But fall is upon us, and winter quickly approaching (Grouse Grind is closed as soon as snow falls), so we finally squeezed it in today.  Living in a small town, it makes sense that Amy’s sister Lisa is my neighbor and watched my kids before school so we could do this (thanks Lisa!).

It was a little cold, a little drizzly, and a lot cloudy.  But so COOL! 

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The feeling of accomplishment at the end was fantastic (but the ride down in the gondola through the clouds was a *little* unnerving).  It took us a little over an hour to do the Grind, so now we have a time to beat for next time.  I loved it, and want to do it again (and again and again and…).  If you’re ever looking for a workout and experience in Vancouver, let me know.  I’m game. 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Perfect Pickin'

It's the first day of October, and if we had paid any attention to the forecast, we would have stayed in the house and waited out a cold, wet, and dreary day.  Approaching midday though, the clouds were there, but the rains was still holding off.  "Off to pick apples!" our fearless leader cried!
And his trusty soldiers obliged…after much whining at home (no whining once we got there, though, true to form).
Bellewood Acres is a local apple orchard in Whatcom County that we’ve gone to several times in the past few years. John and Dorie are fantastic hosts—just about all of the operations buildings are open to the public, and you can look around to see how the apples get picked, washed, sorted, packed, made into cider, baked goods…everything. They have a great gift shop with lots of items from local artisans, they’ve got taste testing, and they’ve broken ground on a restaurant, even. We rode a tractor train out to the new U-pick pumpkin patch, with the driver being one of the owners (John). It was fun to hear him talk about the operation, and where they’ve come from, and what their vision is for the future. Kinda wish we didn’t disembark at the pumpkin patch, but the patch was very nice too. It’s the most beautifully kept pumpkin patch I’ve seen in Whatcom County—not muddy at all, and a wide variety of pumpkins.
Without the tractor, we had to get back to the farm store using a little muscle.
But of course, before we checked out, we had to get apples! In the past, Bellewood has not allowed U-pick; everything was done for you and you bought it at the store. But after years of hearing their customers say they “wanted the full experience,” they opened up a few rows for U-pick. We decided to pick only Honeycrisp. They’re a spendy apple, but FANTASTIC. Very crisp, sweet, and juicy. With each bite you take, you have to swallow twice—once for the juice, and once again for the pulp. Yummers. And to think, if we hadn’t gotten to pick them ourselves, we wouldn’t have these photos in the orchard…
An apple orchard is a perfect place for a tree pose…

…or two…
 
It was a great day. Minimal whining and bickering. Heck, we even came home and played good old fashioned Monopoly for about three hours with the boys. It was the first time we’ve played with them (1) where it wasn’t “teams” (i.e. us helping them with all the little nuances); (2) we finished the game; and (3) we enjoyed it…mostly. Except when people were losing. Owen beat the pants off of all of us. Totally.
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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Yes, We Are Crazy.

The Tomato Battle in Seattle, 2011. If it weren't for bad influences (my cousin Julie and GROUPON), we never would have done it. But heck, it was going to be on the day before Sean's birthday, and Julie had fun, so why not? I sent out an email to our friends and got a resounding, "ARE YOU FREAKIN' KIDDIN' ME???" So Sean and I did it alone. With about 500 strangers.

Before the festivities, we took part in the Beer Garden. The event was held at the Pyramid Brewery (actually in a parking lot in back of the brewery), right by Safeco Field in Seattle. The people watching was great, and the spelling was bad. Really bad. Tomatoe, tomatos. Who really cares, anyway?


There was some eye-candy. The gladiator was generous enough to wear just enough clothing to please the women-folk, but not so little clothing to turn them off (no pictures of the several Speedo-Men, you're welcome).

There was also lots of eye-candy for the men, specifically two "silver clad women" whose bikini bottoms were about as big as a hair band. No pictures of those ladies, but judging from the flurry of phones that were taking pictures, and strained neck muscles of many, many people, I'm SURE you could find some pictures or video online. Just look for "Tall Blond Silver Tomato Battle Seattle." You're bound to get a few hits (make sure the kids are out of the room).


Sean and I ran into his old college roommate, Dan, and his wife Leslie. Haven't seen them since their wedding 13 years ago, and lost touch with Christmas cards even. But heck, in a situation like this, when we saw them, it was like running into our best friends.

Soon it was time to go to the tomatoes. There were two dump trucks worth of "not for consumption" roma tomatoes. Some green, some discolored, all somewhat smelly, but not much mold. The two piles didn't look like much. But the website said 30,ooo pounds of tomatoes, and Sean guesses there were about 500-600 people there. So that'd be about 50 pounds of tomatoes per person, and I estimate about three tomatoes per pound. One hundred fifty tomatoes can keep a person busy for a while.


Melinda, Tomato Warrior.




I thought I was ready to go.



I thought I was ready to fling tomatoes with wild abandon (I was wrong). We got into position, and watched the staff organizers try, pathetically, to keep the crowd under control for the twenty more minutes that needed to pass before we were supposed to start. We saw people picking up a tomato, juggling it, planning their first few "hits." Maybe we did a little of that ourselves. But the staff was saying, no, no, no, not yet.



We put on our goggles (swim goggles gave just as much clarity and visibility as a phone camera in a Ziploc bag), we got into postion right up next to the tomatoes.
At a certain point, the crowd said "screw the staff," and let 'em fly.




There was a minute or so at the start that I had thoughts of how stupid it would be if I got trampled to death in a pile of tomatoes. Seriously. I was knocked down to my knees, it was slimy, and people were EXCITED. I fought my way back up to my feet and stood tall--this meant getting quite a few hits on my chest, neck, face. But I was gonna live! Sh*t. ....strong...quads...must...stand...up...must...move...out...of...crowd...


I got out of the middle after a minute or so, and found my happiness along the outskirts. Picking up the ramdom tomatoes that made it to the edges, and flinging tomatoes from there, with really bad aim. Much more fun than possible trampling in rotting tomatoes.


And all that slime felt kinda good. Sean got a few comments on his jersey--but he was making a statement; the Seahawks are rotten tomatoes this year...and thankfully, all the clothes washed up fine after two loads.


Who needs a spa day? All those anti-oxidants...

Fun time had by all...or at least us. Would I do it again? Maybe...with changes. It'd be more fun with friends, and I'd never get anywhere close to the front line. Maybe next time I'd do snow angels in the sauce.


Monday, September 12, 2011

ZIP-ah-dee-doo-dah!

We went ziplining in Whistler yesterday! It was, sort of, a last minute decision. The weather had finally turned into summer weather, even though the boys had started back at school. Sean has been working six days a week for almost the entire summer, and not only has it been a strain on him, the kids and me as well. This was a way to spend the absolutely beautiful day together in a way that we wouldn't forget.






Before I start on the ziplining pictures, I've got to say something about the drive! It was about 3 hours, which we kind of were dreading...packed the laptop, games, books, knitting, etc. to keep us occupied. I do believe though, that it was the most beautiful drive I have ever taken. Whenever I go to Whistler again, if it's clear day, I'll make sure to go in the daytime. So incredibly worth it. There's lots of places for tree pose...



This is Squamish Chief Mountain, just south of Squamish, BC, the rock climbing capital of BC. We saw it in the morning and were so amazed we had to stop again in the afternoon.

Apparently, you can also hike to the top; it takes about an hour, although it looks like it would take DAYS. Return trip in the future.


And the river. The sound was so cool, and the water so cold!




So we got up to Whistler at about 10:15, and after taking a little while to find our bearings and the Ziptrek check-in, we wandered around for a while. In the summer, Whistler is a mecca for mountain bikers. They ride the ski lifts up the mountain, and ride down the mountain like crazy lunatics. It looked like suicidal tendencies to me, but lots of fun to Sean. Return trip idea FOR HIM in the future. I told him I'd park it and sip on a drink or find something else to do all day. Way too scary for me.


When it was time for the tour, we got harnessed up. There was another boy in our group, Lucas, who was the same size as Owen. They had lots of fun together, and I think it made the whole experience more fun and less frightening for O. He was nervous in the days coming up to it, but was a trooper during the whole tour.




After getting our harnesses on, we took a little hike up to the "tester zip" to get a feel for it. I raced to the front of the line to get pictures--that's Guyan there in the front. There was also a couple on the tour, plus Lucas, his dad, and his dad's friend.

When we got to the structure to climb up for the tester zip (looked strangely like a gallows to me), I quickly realized first in line was NOT where I wanted to be. So I offered up my firstborn son to go first. He did great.


Experienced zipliner, ready for the next offering.


Here's Sean getting locked in. My camera died soon after taking this picture...so Sean took most of the rest of the pictures and videos with his phone. With no wrist strap to tether it to his harness, that meant not getting too fancy with the twists, twirls, upside down moves, etc.




So I made sure to get in plenty of that.


Guyan was so calm--never a scream, or a nervous look.


Unlike his mother.


The scenery up there was bee-yooo-ti-ful.



One of the guides, Darraugh, was from Ireland. Awesome accent. He taught the boys how to be Bravo Force members with their harnesses. You could tell he really enjoyed his job.



OH!! Another highlight. We saw a bear! The guides told us that the bear population around Whistler is high enough that you are never further than a kilometer from a bear (usually a docile black bear, not an aggressive, huge Grizzly). We were pretty darned close to a black bear! Right after Guyan zipped across one of the long zips, the photographer on the course radioed that there was a bear below the lines. Guyan and I were watching it for a few minutes while the others (including Sean, with the only working camera for our family) were zipping across. By the time Sean got there, it was hard to see the bear from the platform (and thankfully no chance--that's what I like to tell myself--of the bear joining us on the platform, since there was a VERY steep incline between it and us). One of the Ziptrek employees took Sean's phone out further on the platform and took this photo, sans zoom.





Maybe if I digitally zoom, you can see it better...

Seriously...we did see a bear. Awesome. It happens periodically, but not an everyday thing, the guides said. I think the black blob to the right of the "digitally enhanced" bear is the real thing. Or maybe it's the blob above it. Or maybe that's all shadows and the bear was climbinb the incline.


And now for the videos! As we were getting ready to leave for Whistler, I was stressing to Sean that it was important that we wear bright clothes, so that we could identify each other as we're zipping around the forest. I think he thought I was being a little over-dramatic, but now as I look at the grainy still shots from the videos I've uploaded to this blog one at a time over the past few hours, I can only identify, for sure, mine--'cause I'm wearing hot pink. Sean should've worn fluorescent orange or something. I figure I'll post and then move them around if they're totally messed up.


This first video, I know, is of me.


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The remaining five videos...I got them all messed up, except the last one (mine!). After posting and watching them all, now I've moved them around and they're right.


Sean's view of his own zip.


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And this is Guyan...


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This is Owen, in his first big solo zip.



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On the real long zips, Owen had to go tandem with a guide, to make sure he made it all the way across. Umm, good idea. Goes a lot faster when you add ~150 pounds!



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And finally, on the last short zip of the day, it was freestyle. Upside down? Tree pose? Twirl? Upside down tree pose with a twirl? I couldn't make up my mind. Before doing this zip, I had specifically asked one of the guides if we had to get upright before hitting the brake. It seemed like a good idea. "Yes. Get upright." I tried, I swear, but arrived at the brake in a horizontal flailing mess. Sorry 'bout that. Re-do?



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