Great Week on the West Coast

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Hello gang. Well, right off the bat, it looks like I’ll have to apologize for the non-catchy title. I simply can’t think of a better title than what you read at the beginning. Since I’ve been back from my extended trip to NZ, I haven’t really taken any substantial time off from work. Actually, scratch that, I haven’t taken any time off apart from stat holidays. However, since Jody’s cousin Renee was getting married in BC this summer, it gave us a great excuse to book a nice week of vacation over on the far left side of Canada. The trip ended up not costing us too much, since we flew out on points, and then stayed mainly with Jody’s folks on Gabriola Island. As a result, we managed to squeeze in a couple fun activities while we were there, and spend quality time with the family playing extreme bocce, watching the Olympics, and enjoying some great home cooking. There are of course many pictures up on Flickr, which you can check out at your leisure. I also put together a map of one of our activities, a hike up Mount Benson, one of the nearby ‘peaks’ in Nanaimo. When you’re done checking that stuff out, come on back and read on for more details on the week.

As most of you well know, this past summer in Ottawa has been a pretty mixed bag of weather, but has generally remained sort of grey with lots of rainstorms through the past months. We were excited to be heading out west, because in a bizarre twist, they’ve actually been having the good weather for a change, with plenty of sun. With high hopes, we blazed our way by air across Canada only to arrive to a BC which was in the midst of changing to the more usual grey skies. Most of the week, we were accused of having brought the poor weather, but luckily, come the wedding day, there was once again brilliant sun. Whew. After all, this was an outdoor wedding and reception, so having rain would definitely have put a ‘damper’ on things 😉

Personally, the weather didn’t really get me too fussed. After all, I was still on vacation, and didn’t have to do anything in particular, and had no real responsibilities for the week. First order of business for us was a run to the local beach to try some swimming. Brrrr! Much colder than I remember it. Even Jody’s dad let out a little expletive at one point when describing the temperature. I put on a brave face and snorkeled around a little bit, but damn was it cold. After that little trip, we didn’t make it back into the water (well, we did go on top of the water lots, but not back into it!). There were more things to do than freeze out butts off (yes, I said butts, not the other one).

Another little side project I busied myself with while hanging out on the island was to rejuvenate a couple bikes that were kicking around Jody’s house. These were Jody and Jason’s bikes from years ago that had sat rather neglected. We did a very thorough washing of all the parts, and I set about tuning them up and re-setting all the brakes and gears and such. After John bought a couple new wheels for one bike, and a few new tubes, I was able to get them back up to respectable running shape. Happy times for me, since I didn’t get to bring a bike with me. However, with the weather being what it was, we never really got to go out much on them, but luckily, they’re all set to go for whoever might want to use them out there. It was kinda fun working on these older bikes. You have to make do with the equipment that’s on them, which was far different (read: older) than what I’m used to. But you know what? The basics are all the same, and once you get them tuned up, they work just fine. 15 speeds instead of 27? Well, that actually just sounds easier, doesn’t it? I know Jody’s dad was appreciative, and hopefully they’ll be put to use.

There were really only two things on my wish list for the week. The first was to get in a good paddle, and the second was to get a good hike, and we had our chance to do those on days 3 and 4 respectively. For the paddle, we headed over to Nanaimo to a kayak rental place that I’d looked up before heading to BC. For under $75 we got a really nice composite tandem kayak for the full day, including skirts, and all the safety gear we’d need. In case you’re wondering, it was from the Alberni Outpost Adventure Centre in Nanaimo. I started out looking pretty calm that day, and Jody and I made our way all around two different islands, Newcastle Island, and Protection Island. We saw some great nature, checked out Canada’s only floating pub, the Dinghy Dock Pub, and got to experience the joy of cold seawater entering the boat before you get your skirt on. Okay, that was mainly me, and boy was it cold! When we were on the seaward facing side of the Islands, the swells picked up a little bit, and we had some good fun paddling our craft along. Happily, we found a nice spot to pull up for a picnic lunch, and the rest of our paddling adventure was without major incident.

The next day, I somehow convinced a slightly tired Jody that it would be a good idea to head back over to Nanaimo and tackle Mount Benson, the dominating peak of the Nanaimo skyline. Although the weather was a little iffy upon starting out, we had high hopes that the sun would shine on us at the peak. The main reason we decided to tackle it anyway was that the extended forecast was calling for clouds and rain pretty much for the rest of the trip, so we didn’t want to take a chance when we had a reasonable window of weather. So, we quickly through a few things in my day pack, and grabbed a ferry over to Nanaimo. Quick stop at a grocery store for some lunch food, and we hit the trail, literally. We probably could have gotten to the top very quickly if we’d taken one route, but we opted for a different trail, which was longer, and even took a couple detours in order to take in a few views from along the way.

The first few stops were pretty good, with nice views down to the town of Nanaimo below, but as we got higher and further along, we started getting a bit cooler, and noticing a bit of precipitation. D’ph! Also, the map I was using wasn’t exactly perfect, and there were no trail markers, so we added a few extra meters to our overall route. On the plus side, we ended up taking a really cool mountain biking route up a really steep section with some really sick obstacles for the bikers. However, they were in a state of disrepair, and there were no bikers. At one point on the final leg of the trip up, we actually came across a group of 4 guys in a truck that were just at the top doing some maintenance work. The news wasn’t great. Visibility had gone to pretty much zero. With that in mind, we decided to just turn back from where we were, and beeline it back to the parking lot before we got totally rained out. We’d already had a great hike, and were happy with the time we’d spent on top of ole Benson!

After those two activities, our only real task left was to head on over to Vancouver for the wedding. The wedding was on Thursday, and Jody and I opted to stay over and spend Friday wandering around Vancouver city. The wedding itself was a very laid-back affair, with the ceremony taking place literally steps away from a beach. We had great weather, and before we even knew it, Renee and Mike were married! They looked very relaxed and happy, thanks no doubt to the sun shining on their special day. The reception was only steps away, so we didn’t have far to go to start enjoying the cocktails and the rest of the evening’s fun. I was even given my own special role in the evening. I was the DJ. Well, sort of. I was responsible for pressing play on the iPod a few times, and queing up the right playlists at the right time. 🙂 The food was outstanding that evening, and it was good to hang out with some of my extended family for a while.

Next morning was explore Vancouver day, and to do so we decided to pick up a day pass for the transit system, which included the Sea Bus, the metro system, as well as the buses. This gave us the chance to see Vancouver from a number of different vantage points. We also headed over to the Science Center (you know, the big shiny globe from Expo 86). Enclosed within the globe is now an IMAX theater. While there, we took in a great movie. Namely, Alps! Man, I can’t wait to get back to the mountains over in Europe :-). We then wandered through Gastown since I’d never been through that part of town before. I even found a great little shop there. Kites on Clouds. And guess what? I bought a stunt kite! Yup, a great little starter kite from Prism Kites. I only got to try it a couple times so far, but I really like it, and can’t wait to become a great pilot 🙂

Well, that’s pretty much my week in a nutshell. I was once again reminded of why I love western Canada. The mountains! I love them. Some day I’d like to get closer to them. Imagine having snowy peaks as your backyard. Imagine getting the chance to run and bike and just generally play in them whenever you had the whim. I could only dream. Oh well, till then, I’ll take the occasional vacation, and have to settle for our own great little Gatineau Park. Hope all of you out there had a chance to also do some relaxing of your own this summer. Next real break will be Christmas, so I guess that’ll have to tide me over. Till then, adios.

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