Tuesday, February 25, 2020

The ghost of winter present

I went skiing without children, and without Lina. At first this felt odd, but I got back into the swing of things before too long. We were at the Lequereux Outpost for a week, which was awesome and the kind of place I would go back to despite being generally against going back to places. Incidentally,  was the only person flying their food into the hut in daiper boxes, which made me feel like a very special snowflake indeed.

Other people skiing looked like the pictures below. Me skiing looked like a man with a larger backpack than everyone else (evidence may emerge in due course) doing similar things. I'm not sure why that was, perhaps I didn't get the memo that small is beautiful in 2020, if not indeed always.

Skiing with just your friends and the mountains  is a lot of fun, and I hope one day to introduce Tav and Aise to such things. In the meantime Tav is getting very interested in the terrain park at Silver Star, which I can extrapolate into him doing alarming things that I can't do before very long. Perhaps I will be one of those people who live out their fantasies through their children... and perhaps I'm ok with that, so long as it was "their" idea :)

LQ Outpost 2020

Monday, January 27, 2020

Where did winter go?

Whilst we likely have at least another six weeks of winter around here, it feels like it's almost over already... here are a few family highlights.

Ski 2020

Thursday, October 31, 2019


This post serves to memorialize our first electric car road trip, and the seven things we learned along the way. For that reason, it's mostly going to be about public electric car chargers... high excitement indeed.

We wanted to go to Squamish for the weekend to visit visiting friends, and also resident friends. It's not quite winter yet, the weather forecast looked good, and it's a 1000 km round trip which isn't exactly cheap to do in Big Stupid. So, we (mostly I) thought for reasons of economy, science, and adventure we should take StEVe the electric car.

I looked at Google map. I looked at Plugshare. I did some rudimentary arithmetic, and came to the conclusion we would need to charge the car somewhere after conquering the wilds of the Okanagan Connector, and again somewhere before we got to Vancouver. This seemed almost too simple, which of course it was.

Fast chargers everywhere - we are living in the future already
After a reasonably prompt start we wasted an appropriate amount of time getting stuck in traffic in Kelowna, doing Kelowna chores, and buying food... then we headed up The Connector and found the decent weather, rather like myself, had taken the afternoon off. 

Not quite the road conditions I was hoping for
Learning experience #1 was that driving through deep snow uses a lot of power. This is perhaps obvious, but there's not much you can do about it when there's deep snow to be driven through. Happily just after the summit there's a rest area at Loon Lake with some thoughtfully placed fast chargers - in the middle of nowhere.

Learning experience #2 was that not all fast chargers are as fast as you would expect. Whilst finding car chargers of any kind on a mountain pass in BC is a wondrous thing, we were later to see that Loon lake doesn't offer your fastest charging fast chargers... but at least we could make a snowman.

Learning experience #3 came on the descent from The Connector. Last winter I learned that regenerative breaking and snow aren't friends - lift your foot too fast and you lock up the front wheels, with the only way out of that situation being to step back on the "gas". Whilst that sounds thrilling, I'm not a fan, so I just turn off the re-gen in slippery conditions and use those old-fashioned brake things. Of course this means no battery charging on the downhill. Disappointment.

Some loons, charging their car at Loon Lake
...and this was before only 2 hours into the 11 hour trip west.
So off we went again. Unfortunately The Connector was only the first mountain pass of the afternoon as the joys of the Coquihalla (or indeed the "Highway Thru Hell") came next. Predictably, a thrilling mix of snow, rain, and general dankness was served up and StEVe's battery suffered the consequences. As unlikely of a place as Loon Lake seemed for car chargers, Britton Creek is even more so. Three gleaming actually-fast chargers in a row cranking out 50 kW, in the snow, surrounded by mountains and trees. How convenient.

Two chargers checked off, we stopped in Hope for a much needed coffee break and plugged the car into the thoughtfully placed charger on the street where the Blue Moose is. At some point on this trip I had the thought that keeping our Jetboil stove in the car for these trips would make coffee preparation while charging a thing in those wilderness rest-stops. That thought may have come on the way home, but for the sake of storytelling continuity let's pretend I had it while drinking coffee and charging the car.

At this point, with the perils of the mountains behind us, our charging and driving plan was complicated by news of over an hour delay on the highway heading into Vancouver. Rigorous Googling revealed we could divert into Langley and charge the car at either a Harley Davidson dealership on a BMW dealership. This all seemed rather unlikely, but we chose to vorsprung durch technik and visit BMW. That decision appeared to have been a good one, until the charger stopped working and told us to go away. We had planned to stop for groceries at a shop with a charger in the parking lot anyway, so undaunted we continued. 

Learning experience #4 came in the form of the realization that "fast" is a relative term. The Superstore "fast" charger did at least have the decency to have a sign on it apologizing for it being so slow. Having bought some bananas (probably containing more energy than what the charger managed to add to our battery) among other grocery items, we headed for Horseshoe Bay in search of a charger that could help us get to Squamish. 

To cut the rest of this part of the tale short, we made it to Squamish, having stopped to charge the car no less than six times... though only successfully doing any charging at four of them. Given the experimental and rather ambitious nature of our journey of 500 km over two mountain passes, in the snow, with four people*, five bikes*, and a huge roof-box, that didn't seem all that bad. At least we didn't get towed.

*Some small people and small-people bikes included

We had an excellent weekend and over Saturday night charged our car the way nature intended... in a driveway, while we drank beer inside with friends. In contrast, according to the internet, "plug rage" is now a thing and people don't like to charge their cars at home, or their friend's houses. Learning experience #5 was the confirmation (via true facts) that using public chargers is only a thing to do when you're on the way somewhere and stopping there when you don't need to is just silly. 

Squamish Electric Road Trip

Before long, Sunday afternoon appeared and in setting off home we had a few things going for us. Better weather, a better idea of what we were getting ourselves into, and calculations courtesy of the incredible ABetterRoutePlanner, (learning experience #6) which told us to do this:

Passing through Abbotsford, things were going incredibly well... so we decided to ignore the route planner calculations and hope we could make it to, you guessed it, Hope. Coasting into Hope with all the low battery warnings flashing (familiar to us from our arrival at Britton Creek on Friday), we plugged StEVe into his feeding hose and went to the playgound, and then the Blue Moose. Probably our slickest charging performance so far.

Next stop was Britton Creek, and from there we (I) thought we could make it all the way to Kelowna, pick up a little more charge and then home. Then "range anxiety" got the better of me and I imagined being stuck on The Connector in the cold and dark, with only hungry bears for company. So... we stopped at Loon Lake for 15 mins extra power. This turned out to be completely unnecessary (learning experience #7) since the enormous downhill into Kelowna gave us back around 50 km of range - which was sadly not quite enough to get us home. Sigh. So we made another 15 min stop at our first paid charger of the trip. This is where the $3.68 cost of our journey was incurred, and I'm sure will become the norm for public fast charging. After all, nothing worth having comes for free.

Final conclusions from our experiment were that even in the cold, with a lot of stuff, big mountains, and completely compromised aerodynamics - Vernon to Vancouver can be done with two 45 minute stops and a 15 minute one. One of these stops (Hope) has a playground and a coffee shop, and another (Britton Creek) would be nice for a picnic if it wasn't freezing. All in all, I see potential for electric road-tripping, just not in the snow.

Monday, October 21, 2019


To finish my most prolific blogging spree since January 2016 (perhaps not in word count, but number of posts must count for something), here are pictures from Aiste's second birthday celebrations:

Aiste's second birthday


Yesterday we took our annual spin along the Myra Canyon trestles. This year 's fresh new features included: Some dirt-road testing of the electric car, the arrival of winter when we were at the furthest point out, and the opportunity for me to ride Vapor Trail back down the hill at the end of the day.

Now that Tav can pedal a bike, we have an inconvenient speed difference between Aiste and everyone else, though I'm sure that situation will resolve itself over the next year or two.
  Myra Canyon 2019

Facilitation of carrying bikes on the electric car involved putting  bike rack on the back of it. I had some help...

Helpful helpers, helping.

Friday, October 18, 2019


In the aftermath of Aiste's 2nd birthday party, which I think we'll be discovering the debris of for months to come... here's something about my birthday and me in general.

Back before I spent most of my time distracted by two small (but rapidly growing) reproductions of myself and Lina... I mostly spent most of my time distracted by bikes. To be honest, I do still spend quite a lot of time distracted by bikes. So, in my 42nd year of life I was amused to find out I was ranked 42 in our district in my BMX racing class.  The fact I have a BMX race ranking for the first time at the age of 42 is perhaps even more amusing in itself, but let's not get into that.

It's like "Where's Waldo", but not so much fun
Since bikes are so important, I decided to attempt to keep myself relevant this year and sell one of my "old" bikes and buy a new one. After a great deal of time wasted on the internet investigating fashion-bikes, I essentially bought the new version of what I had before. This one was made by someone in Taiwan instead of Chris Dekerf in Richmond, and whilst I will never know the name of the person in Taiwan who put this frame together, I can say that they did it very nicely - thank you whoever you are. Over Thanksgiving, Jacek commented that this bicycle looks very long at the front and very short at the back. I think that pretty much sums up everything important about it, other than that it's yellow.

A yellow bike. It's like an orange bike, but more zesty.
My actual 42nd anniversary of life happened on Amami Island (refer to previous blog post), and notably involved catching the best wave I caught of the trip, on a deserted beach, at sunset. So that was good. It also involved a party at some kind of holiday camp with an alarmingly steep driveway. It was all quite unexpected and excellent.

Pesky kid getting in on my birthday action

I was told that's my name... but I should probably confirm that.
I'm no numerologist... but when I showed up to my first cyclocross race of the season, can you imagine what I would not have expected my (randomly-assigned) race number to be? Yes, it was 42. Clearly, evidence of a mystical alignment of forces beyond our comprehension (probably mice).

Not evidence since you can't seem my number, but you can see that I enjoyed this pile of sand.
In summary, I'm 42, my race number is 42, and perhaps it's all to do with mice. I have a couple of 'cross races left this year, and I'm going to ask if they have 42 left in the box... just in case.

Japan Part 3: Amami Island

The Amami islands are something I had not heard of, and judging by the lack of other people visiting there I'd say I'm not alone in that. However, if you imagine Hawaii but with Japanese culture you'd be close (at least superficially). The reason we ended up there is hard to explain, so I just won't.

However, I will explain that we hung out and ate excellent Italian (yes, really) food at the Paradise Inn and stayed at the wonderful, and inexplicably named Villa Funny. If you ever have a hankering to visit a place with deserted beaches, goat milk ice cream, and a small but eclectic selection of tourist attractions you could do well on Amami.

Someone's been paying attention...

Mangroves in Japan. Japangroves?

An overcrowded beach on Amami

Strange fruit

Tropical goats

Another one of those beaches, over-run with a tourist.

Paddling home

The deck at Villa funny. Not particularly funny, but very nice indeed.