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.


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…


…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.


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.


Guyan knew that wouldn’t work…


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


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


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.


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.












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! 


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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