Monday, January 26, 2009

Choose Ice

Unseasonal weather continues here in Vancouver. After being trapped under an inversion for what seemed like forever, the mist lifted and we have cold, sunny weather. The mist was very pretty when you got up on the mountains. On Friday Big Jon (I forget why he's called that) was in town,  flying an aeroplane from London to Vancouver and back. There was some snow to be found and we had a fun day of skiing on Cypress with one of his crew. Then we ate cake at the Savary Island Pie Company. Some time I will have to get a pie there.

Vancouver, poking it's head out from the mist. 
Photo credit: Sean's Girlfriend. I don't know Sean, or his mysterious girlfriend.

Something else I have at the moment is Emma the cat. Emma came to stay for a month once before when Jeff, Tracy and Isabel went on holiday to Europe. This time they only got as far as Portland, but I got to be entertained by Emma for a few days. Emma's favourite game is to sit on my stairs or windowsill and make threatening faces at birds. The birds so far remain unperturbed.

On Saturday, a few of us headed up to Callaghan to skate ski and watch ski jumping.  Despite it being unpopular around here to say anything good about the 2010 Winter Olympics, I really didn't feel at all bad about our tax money being spent on this place... the ski trails were great and seeing World Cup ski jumping up close was quite something. The winning jump was around 140m... which is a long way to go without touching the ground. The cold, clear weather was great for cross-country skiing, which is convenient as it's not so great for other kinds of skiing out there just now.

I don't remember what was funny...

Yesterday I got my first decent off-road ride, in a long time, on Burnaby Mountain. Paul, Pete and I enjoyed the fast, crispy trails and the odd patch of frozen snow. Well... lower down it was the odd patch. Higher up we enjoyed scrabbling around on the unrideable, re-frozen snow and the odd patch of trail. Well... I enjoyed it. 

On Friday 12 of us are off to the Kootenays to fly into Sorcerer Lodge for a week. Fingers crossed for snow!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I Community Bike

Since April(ish) last year I've been volunteering for Our Community Bikes. OCB is a fantastic thing, and in my opinion one of the things that makes the world a better place to be. Run by consensus by an amazing group of enthusiastic and adventurous people, OCB is a haven of used bike parts, eclectic (and sometimes alarming) music, the dream of getting the world onto bikes, and some fantastic (and sometimes alarming) hairstyles. 

At OCB I've done everything from sorting through the donated bike parts for treasure, helping fix beach cruisers, 3 speeds, fixies, and all manner of peculiar and well used bikes, assembling bikes for health workers to use in Haiti, building a Christmas present for Lina, fixing my own bike, teaching others how to build a bike from parts, and rummaging for parts for friends. 

When Christmas came around I was invited to the OCB Christmas party, which was the only "work" Christmas party I went to... what with my employer being on the east coast of the US. Over time it's seemed that my time in OCB was getting noticed and people liked having me around. I even got a rather accurate nickname "British Andrew". Today I heard the verdict. I am in. At some point (probably in April when I am back from Patagonia - more on that later) I will be welcomed into the fold as a real OCB employee. I am very, very happy to take on my new job as a medical writer/charity bike mechanic. Yeah!

As for Patagonia...  I am going to Patagonia (followed by Peru) for all of March and a bit of April to tramp around in the mountains with Lina. Lina will have just finished a back-to-back race epic of the TransAndes and Patagonia Expedition Adventure Race, which is going to be quite a thing. Go fast Lina! Some of the places we might end up are on this map I have been playing with, but like all the best plans, this one is open to whatever seems like a good idea at the time.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sk8r Boi?

I have a new hobby. Obviously I needed more hobbies... and the gear that goes with them. After a quite a lot of intention, but no action, I finally made it to the Hollyburn cross-country ski area on Monday night to be taught to skate ski by Dan. After an amusing amount of falling over and generally flailing around on the skinny, lightweight skis and funny slipper-like boots I got some kind of forward propulsion going on. Dan made a video of me (for instructional purposes) and kindly edited out all the parts where I fell on my face. Thanks Dan!

Functional, but not stylish.

Since Monday night I have managed to buy myself a complete set of skate ski gear for $100 and go skiing 4 times. I'm hooked... it's so much fun! I've got a lot faster (though not much more stylish) and think that skating around the forest will be a regular part of my life in the winter. Hopefully I will be able to avoid dressing like this.

Of course I haven't abandoned telemark skiing, which after all is still a Nordic style. Kala, Sarah and I headed out to Mt Zoa to enjoy the sunshine and some rather dubious snow conditions. We entertained ourselves by digging a very fine snow pit to do snow stability tests and practicing our beacon searches. The ski down had a few moments of fun skiing and rather more moments of wrestling through trees... but that's the backcountry for you, and the way it should be.

Beacon hunt.

Mountain lunchtime.

Sunshine... a rare January commodity in BC.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

TransRockies revisited

Back in August, Jacek and I raced in TransRockies. It was a lot of fun. Since then we've been riding and sking with Chris "of TransRockies fame" as he is now known... It turns out Spectrum imaging took some really good photos of us. There's 7 pages of Jacek and Andrew photos! I may have to get out the credit card...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Like a wet weekend.

This weekend was damp. The cold weather has passed, the huge heaps of snow in town are melting, and the North Shore has got it mysterious, cloudy cloak back on. This is the Vancouver I know and love.

On Saturday some riding deprived bikers (Jacek, Tracy, Suzanne, and I) made a bold ascent of the towering edifice that is Burnaby Mountain. Well... we pushed out bikes up in the rain and slush for a while anyway. Jacek and I got our lumberjack action going, shifting a few fallen trees from the trail and shovelling off snow from some of the ramps. Some of the trail was clear, but really not much. We pushed up to near the top of Nicole's trail and then had a fun toboggan/bike "ride" down. I made sure I enjoyed every inch of clear trail and it felt great to be back out in the forest again. It's melting fast at low elevations so I think we will have some trail to ride soon.

Crazy wide-angle photo courtesy of Tom

Today we did something more appropriate in the snow and skiied up Hollyburn, the North Shore's original ski hill... and now mostly a snowshoe and cross-country ski area. We ended up with quite a gang making the trip up the hill. Margaret, Kala, Sarah, Tom, Paul, Angie, Dave, Geraldine, Gustav and me. Gustav, Tom, and I made a brave attempt at skiing down through the trees to the road. It was a little adventure in deep, wet snow with huge bombs of melting snow falling out of the trees everywhere, navigating gulleys and shuffling our way through the ups and downs. Dubious skiing certainly, but great to be out there.

It's been great to be back among the trees getting cold and wet with friends and then to find some hot coffee and a cake. I also have some nice new trousers to ski in, which are great. Yeah for friends, new trousers, wet feet, coffee, and cake.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Another thing I read in Nelson.

Cam had an excerpt up on his office wall which I now know is from Robert Louis Stevenson's 1879 book "Travels with a Donkey". I was a little disappointed to find that I got my history mixed up and Robert was not in fact the inventor of Stephenson's Rocket. Oh well. Despite not being the inventor of any steam engines, I really like this bit from "A Night Among the Pines" that Mr Stevenson wrote:

"A faint wind, more like a moving coolness than a stream of air, passed down the glade from time to time; so that even in my great chamber the air was being renewed all night long. I thought with horror of the inn at Chasserad├Ęs and the congregated nightcaps; with horror of the nocturnal prowesses of clerks and students, of hot theatres and pass-keys and close rooms. I have not often enjoyed a more serene possession of myself, nor felt more independent of material aids. The outer world, from which we cower into our houses, seemed after all a gentle habitable place; and night after night a man's bed, it seemed, was laid and waiting for him in the fields, where God keeps an open house. I thought I had rediscovered one of those truths which are revealed to savages and hid from political economists; at the least, I had discovered a new pleasure for myself. And yet even while I was exulting in my solitude I became aware of a strange lack. I wished a companion to lie near me in the starlight, silent and not moving, but ever within touch. For there is a fellowship more quiet even than solitude, and which, rightly understood, is solitude made perfect. And to live out of doors with the woman a man loves is of all lives the most complete and free".

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Nelson - the party's over, time to go home.

Well, after a week of fabulous company, food, snow, skiing, games, plasticne models, cake, coffee... and all the other fine things in life I am back at home in Vancouver. There will be a lot of photos no doubt and here are mine to get things started. Thank you Paul for making it all possible and Suzanne, Meaghan, Kala, Krista, Dave, Geraldine, Jas, and Claire for being there and making it what it was.

And finally, thanks to Oso Negro for putting this on their coffee machine, and to Krista for spotting it.

Krista's photos here (on Facebook). Suzanne's photos here (on Facebook). Paul's blog here and here.