Saturday, December 25, 2010

Sheffield Wednesday, Southampton Thursday

We got to Sheffield (via Edinburgh and Manchester). Hooray! We had 2 missed days to make up for, so we started an intense program of mountain biking, beer drinking, curry eating, fish and chips, more mountain biking, and cups of tea. What more could I ask for? Thank you Duncan and Amelia.

Lina's first experience of Sheffield mountain biking, in unusual conditions.

I've never seen Rivelin Valley like this before
Fox Hagg slippery climb
Duncan's jump bike with bald tires treated me well
We bid our farewells and set off for Southampton for a marathon of friend and family visits. The weather held up, and we saw everyone. Last stop was Breamore Church for midnight mass. Happy Christmas everyone!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Snow to city

Lina and I are on our way to the UK for Christmas... but our route has become a little more complex than we expected.  But before I get into that, Paul and I took a pre-work ski up Mt Seymour on Friday and saw a great sunrise.

So, back to the collapsing travel arrangements. We were due to be in Sheffield right about now, but our flight was canceled... and our new flight left us in Newark without a connection. In order to make the best of this sad situation we've spent a day in New York City and will get back on our way to the UK tomorrow (fingers crossed). I've never seen NYC before, and it's been fun. We staying at the quirky, but rather good Pod Hotel.  Tomorrow we're going to run around Central Park before we had back to Newark in the hopes of getting on a 'plane. Fingers crossed!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The need for Strong Bread

It's been a festive weekend. On Saturday, Lina, Paul, Kala, and I went out to play in the snow. Our snow-fun involved a really very strenuous 1200m ascent of Singing Pass, to the Whistler backcountry. Once we got up there, we found ourselves surrounded by lovely snow so took a run on each of Cowboy Ridge, Oboe, and Flute. After all that, our legs had nothing left and we skied back down with the rest of the backcountry skiers and other stragglers through the closed-for-the-day ski resort.

Lina and Kala on the way up Singing Pass

Lina on Cowboy Ridge

Paul on Cowboy Ridge

Paul in Pillow-Hopping Action

Kala in flight too...
And here are a couple of me that I stole from Paul:

A couple of years ago I made some Italian Christmas cake as presents for friends. It was a right pain to make, and it's "firmness" resulted in a hefty dental bill for Paul. I decided not to repeat the experience last year. This year, to my surprise, I received quite a lot of encouragement to make it again. To ease the making process, Kala and Geraldine chipped in with some candied fruit peel... and to ease Paul's dental health I added a bit more sugar syrup to the recipe. So, Lina and I produced Panforte MkII. Here it is, looking tasty:

Panforte, ready for action.

West Coast Panforte - by Margaret Gallagher
1 cup almonds, lightly toast
2/3 cup hazelnuts, lightly toasted
1/3 cup shelled pistachios, lightly toasted
2/3 cup mixed candied citrus peel (orange, lemon, citron)
1/3 cup dried currents
½ cup chopped dried apricots
½ cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup unsifted, unbleached flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch process)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons powdered espresso
1/2 cup mild honey
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Confectioners' sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
2. Cut a round of parchment to fit the bottom of a nine-inch springform pan. Cut a
strip (or two shorter strips) about an inch and a half wide to go around the sides
of the pan. Butter the sides and bottom of the pan. Put strips around sides of the
pan. Place round in the bottom of the pan. Butter the papers on the bottom and
the sides and set aside.
3. Put all the candied fruits in a large metal mixing bowl. Working over the fruit,
sift together flour, cocoa spices and espresso. With your hands, mix the fruits
with the dry ingredients, thoroughly separating and coating the pieces. Add the
nuts and mix again. Set aside.
4. Put the honey and sugar in a medium over moderate heat. Stir with a wooden
spatula until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture comes to a boil. Insert a
candy thermometer in the pan and let the mixture boil without stirring until the
thermometer registers 248 degrees (stiff-ball stage). (This will happen soon after
the mixture comes to a boil.)
5. Working very quickly, pour the hot syrup onto the fruit mixture, stir with a
heavy wooden spatula to mix (you may work up a bit of a sweat!).
IMMEDIATELY transfer the mixture to the prepared pan.
6. Moisten your hands and firmly press the mixture into an even layer. Press very
firmly to make sure there are no air bubbles.
7. Bake for 35 - 40 minutes.
8. Set aside to cool. When the cake is completely cool and firm, remove the sides
of the pan and the paper strip (or strips) on the sides. Turn upside down on a
piece of wax paper and carefully remove pan bottom and parchment paper.
9. Through a fine strainer, generously sprinkle on icing sugar, forming a thick
coating. Carefully turn the cake right side up repeat.
10. Wrap in airtight plastic and store a room temperature. It also freezes well.

Monday, December 6, 2010

6th Annual Comox Mud Ride

It was more of a snow-ride this year, due to a few "scheduling difficulties"... but it was a good time and the key ingredients of hot chocolate and large quantities of food were present. Oh, and bikes.

Lina keeping her feet dry

Mathilda not keeping her feet dry

Comox Mud Ride 2010 from Andrew Dye on Vimeo.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Monster chair

The tendonitis in my wrist is improving steadily, but one problem seemed to be that the chair I sit in to work was too low. My desk is unconventionally made from two small sets of drawers (of indeterminate origin) and a nice piece of kitchen counter top that I found in the "scratch and dent" area of Ikea. Luxurious as this sounds, the ergonomics aren't that great. My chair (which I think was previously thrown-out of Paul's employer's office) was a good few inches too low.  What I needed was a suspension-lift kit for my chair. If you can do this to a car...

...then I can raise a chair a couple of inches.

Home Hardware sold me some bolts, some big washers... and a found a piece of ABS pipe in the cupboard left over from making Lina's kayak cart. A couple of moments sawing and some fiddling later, I am triumphantly sitting on this:

"Bigfoot" of the office-chair world.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Baker dozen

Well, it would have been if that meant 8 skiers. But it doesn't. Anyway, here is a video of some snow.

Mt Baker, November 2010 from Andrew Dye on Vimeo.

Then Kala, Paul, and I went to the Callaghan Valley for a bit of explore on Sunday. We explored plenty, found some great snow... and entirely failed to ski any of it. Word of the day was "fruitless", but not pointless.

Meeting other skiers in the giant marshmallow patch

Possibly the only turn performed all day

Sunday, November 21, 2010

First Turn

Brrrr. Winter is here. It was -15 degrees centigrade on the Coquihalla, which was chilly... but we found some good snow!

Zoa Ski Tour, November 2010 from Andrew Dye on Vimeo.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Creaky tendon

I am lucky... in many ways now I come to mention it. But, my point is that I am lucky to have had a relative lack of injuries over the years. This is great, considering I fall off my bike a lot, I hit trees and rocks... and I ask my body to do things that it finds strenuous. I like to think that my fairly relaxed approach to things helps with that. If it hurts too much... I slow down.

Still, I have finally achieved a genuine "sports injury". Hooray! Oh, that's not so good is it. After out trip to Tofino, I had a bit of pain in my right wrist... so I ignored it. That proved to be a mistake. After a week of typing and fixing bikes I had a big red lump on my forearm, and a horrible "creaking" feeling when I moved my wrist. It has since become a party trick of mine to have friends put their hand on my arm and "creak" it for them. The reactions are usually something along the lines of "You want to put some oil on that".

It's getting better though. I refused a bike ride (imagine that) and ended up running along with the riders instead, taking a few grainy and blurry photos in the dark forest. I was pleased with these of Conor and Suzanne...

I had a relaxing weekend, watching some folk music, eating food, and enjoying the company of visitors Marc and Nikki (plus "live animals" Pippa and Mathilda). Between the rest from fun activities, a less crazy week of typing, and the inti-inflammatories the doctor prescribed me... I'm on the mend. Paul and I might go hunting for snow at the weekend... the winter is upon us.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


We went to Tofino for the weekend to surf with Jas, Suzanne, and Julia. We found some waves, some rain, a rainbow, a great cup of tea (thanks to Ucluelet local Jessie for that), and a great way to wash the dust off my under-used whitewater kayak gear.

Tofino, November 2010 from Andrew Dye on Vimeo.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Stop. Hallow's time.

In stark contract to my last couple of posts, I have no pictures... moving or stationary to share. I've been able to get out quite a bit on bikes lately, including a couple of rides in Squamish and Whistler which happened as a by-product of buying a new (to me) bike. Exciting stuff. I have a strict "One in, one out" rule on bikes, being the sort of person who would have about 7 bikes if left unrestrained. I don't think anyone needs that many bikes, so I limit myself to 5... if you don't count my pub-bike. Or the one in my mum's garage... hmm...  Oh dear.

Anyway, the point is I have retired my old cyclocross bike and will sell off the parts I can't use. A sad day, but we move on and I will have a new mountain bike, which is far more fun than a cyclocross bike anyway. Besides, I only have 2 mountain bikes already. Oh dear.

To balance things out, I did something which involved no bicycles at all on Sunday.  I ran in the Hallow's Eve trail race on the North Shore. The results are here, so you can play a for of textual "Where's Waldo" if you are inclined. It was quite fun, and there was lots of mud, and free cake afterwards... so that's good.

Halloween is nearly here, and I haven't got a stitch to wear. I'm sure I'll wing it somehow. Besides, I fixed 3 bikes tonight and will probably fix many more tomorrow at OCB... maybe I can just cover my hands with grease and go as bicycle repair man.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Starring in my own Western

Our (now traditional) Winthrop Thanksgiving at Chris' place was full of all the usual cowboy mountain biking goodness, and I made a video! I'm liking this video thing, but maybe I will forget how to write. Paul has some pictures here, including this one... which I like a lot. I took a couple of non-moving pictures, which are here. Ten minutes of moving pictures, all involving bicycles, wait for you below...

Winthrop 2010 from Andrew Dye on Vimeo.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Thank-you Winthrop

Last year we spent Thanksgiving in Winthrop with Chris and Kathleen. This weekend we'll be doing the same. Last year Megan made this great little video of the weekend... which I saw for the first time last night. What will happen this year?

Untitled from Megan Rose on Vimeo.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Magic numbers

This weekend has been great for biking. On Saturday I rode on one mountain, with six people, for six hours, on seven trails. Good times. I have no idea how many numbers were involved, but today Suzanne, Paul, and I rode our last day in Whistler bike park for the season... and I had a new toy to play with to create six-and-a-half minutes of self-indulgence.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Today was my birthday. In my honor (or probably not), a new trail was opened on Fromme. So, we went and rode it... and some other trails... in the sun no less. Then we had people come to our place with great food and I made cake and beet soup, good times.

Andy (not me) and Luisa with North Shore concentration on their faces

A birthday boy on 7th Secret, featuring Andy's dramatic contribution

Monday, September 20, 2010

Bike, Hike, and Home.

We're back in rainy Vancouver... though rainy Vancouver is quite a bit warmer than exotic Wells BC where we spent the past week or so. Our finale was racing in the Wells 7 Summits Bike and Hike. The race was a challenging, often confusing, and generally adventurous trip around Barkerville and Wells surrounding 7 peaks. There was plenty of vague route finding, spectacular views, a few punishing climbs... and lots of general fun in the hills. To my dismay I found I was doing quite well at the half way point, which meant I couldn't justify slacking off. With some moral support from my fellow racers I rode my rather small borrowed bike across the line in 3rd place, to win a piece of cake and a cup of tea (of my choice). You can't argue with that.

Meanwhile, Lina had suffered from the tricky course following and climbed an extra mountain. Whilst this had the benefit of getting to ride some extra bike trails, it didn't help her out in getting across the finish line. Luckily Lina also got the benefit of the fine volunteers and other racers and found her way across the line, having completed most of the course (though one wrong mountain). Over 6 hours after I finished the last racers crossed the line... in the dark, around 13 hours after the start. Epic.

I have just uploaded a whole heap of photos here.

The start line in Barkerville at 7.30am. Brrrrr!

Lina at the finish line 

The honeymoon is over... but there are 700 photos to sift through.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Like all the things you can't explain...

Another update from the road. We made it from Quesnel to Wells, made it down the dirt road to Bowron Lakes... then got in a canoe and paddled it through rain, sun, hail, mist, rain, sun, repeat, for 6 days. We were definitely the only people on the circuit with bike panniers for dry-bags, and possibly the only people without a propane barbecue, sun parasol, lawn chair, and kitchen sink. This did make the portages easier though. Tomorrow we ride and run in the Wells 7 Summits race, before we head home to Vancouver on Monday. The honeymoon is almost over. Here are a few photos of the things we saw on Bowron Lakes...

Portage... you get to do lots of this
Lina in her bannana suit
Some tourists on the Bowron Lakes
There was sunshine... sometimes
Bowron style yoga
Mrs Moose and calf
Lina watching Mrs Moose
Mrs Moose, standing rampant (ish) in Swan Lake

Monday, September 6, 2010

Luxury wetness

We're in Quesnel. Our day off yesterday in Williams Lake was great... we looked around town, went for a hike around and decided that we have to make a long-weekend trip back out here with mountain bikes to ride the trails... and then watched a movie. This was all punctuated with lots of eating, and a little bit of watching the provincial barrel-racing championships (where you race horses, not barrels) which happened to be going on in the campsite (the stampede grounds)where we stayed.

The ride from Williams Lake to here was really, really wet. We ot rained on all day. In contrast... our ride into Williams Lake a few days earlier featured some of the best riding we've had so far, including a real mountainous switchbacked descent down to the Frazer River and over this bridge:

Can you find Lina in this picture?
Today, we experienced the foulest riding of the trip. The day was saved by a healthy dose of "second breakfast" and tonight we're enjoying the luxuries of the Travelodge (pool, sauna, dry clothes). We just picked up some excellent tips on stuff to do around here while playing pool and drinking beer in the pub too... so a pretty good day after all.

Soon we'll be back into the wilderness on the Bowron Lakes, so it's time to enjoy the luxuries of cleanliness and dryness (and the pub) while we can.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

It's going a little something like this...

We're on the road... and just arrived in Williams Lake. There are a lot of horses here. Over the past week or so I've been keeping notes and taking photographs (of course). So, here's what I have to say...

The North Coast Trail

First Day – Shuartie Bay to Cape Subtil.  We were dropped off by the Cape Scott Water Taxi, in the rain. The boat ride over from Port Hardy had been fantastic in itself, we had porpoises surfing our wake on the way over... it was amazing to look down into the water and see the animals speeding ahead of us. I managed to get a few photographs of splashes where a porpoise had just been. A couple getting picked up by the boat gave their verdict of the trail: “wet”. Crossing the slippery rocks and trying to fill out our BC Parks registration and re-fold the map in the rain was a little frustrating, as was walking off in the wrong direction for the first 10 minutes. Once we had got on track, passed the family group who came in with us for an eight day trip, and got ourselves dressed for the warm and wet conditions (gaiters, board-shorts, and rain jacket) we started making good progress. The mud was deep... real boot-losing mud. There were some treacherous wooden steps clinging to the mud in places which gave us a break from hopping around mud holes, and boardwalks over the sections of marsh-land with weird stunted forest growing in it. Later we were told that there in a surprising amount of old-growth forest on the Island (I thought the whole place had been logged). Because of the poor soil in some places, the trees are small but hundreds of years old and aren't of any interest for logging.  We met two girls who were on the last stretch of their hike, heading in the opposite direction, and who had done the route in 4 and a half days (our plan too), so we at least knew what we wanted to do was possible.

We passed by a potential camping spot of the day (probably where we should have stopped) and made our first cable-car crossing. After hauling the car back from the other side of the river and hauling ourselves and our pack back again we had both tired arms and legs. But... we carried on. Once on the coast we were hopping between tiny beaches, clambering up steep muddy slopes and lowering ourselves from trees down the other side. There was a water source marked on the map, but where was it? We crossed a dry creek. Oh dear. Fortunately we found the water source in the next and I added another 10kg to my pack, which is just what I wanted at that point. At last we reached Cape Subtil, and despite being on the end of a 10 hour day of hiking through deep mud we took in the fantastic deserted beach, and even found that there was a food cache and outhouse where we expected nothing. We set up camp, ate dinner, and started a reluctant campfire to end a long day.

Second Day – Cape Subtil to Shuttleworth Bight. We were determined to have a less fearsome day of hiking, and just needed to make it to the next campsite on the trail. It happened that this was for me the best portion of the trail too. Almost all day we were hopping across tiny beach, then back into the forest, climbing over logs... onto the rocks, looking in rock-pools, and back into the forest again. Our easy day still took around 6 hours, but that felt like nothing compared to Day 1. The campsite was hidden away in the trees so we set ourselves up a clothes drying and cooking area on the beach before we retired into the forest fr the night. We kept a look-out for whales swimming by, but they must have all been hiding. We did get a great sunset with the silhouette of a fishing boat... one of the only signs of other people we had seen since the first morning.

Third Day – Shuttleworth Bight to Nissen Bight. Whilst nothing compared to our first day, this was another long one. Very long beaches... some of which were a strange spongy (and smelly) mixture of dead seaweed mixed up with pebbles. The beach markers for the trail were all old buoys, broken free from their anchors and hug in the trees to mark the entry and ext to the beaches. Most of the other human detritus washed up on the beaches was fishing related too... which somehow seemed more appealing that the usual beach junk. Of course there were logs too. When I first came to BC I was amazed by the size and number of logs on the beaches, but now I couldn't imagine it without them. I love finding logs with old holes bored in them, and rusty staples and chains attached. I got to take some photographs of rusty metal, which is a beautiful thing (to me at least). 

Fourth Day – Nissen Bight to Eric Lake. Whilst we had officially ended the North Coast Trail at Nissen Bight, complete with it's fishing-net volleyball court, hammock, and hanging chair (among other driftwood and fishing-debris furniture), we had a few more things to see. Eric Lake had a Ewok Village style camping arrangement of tent pads connected with wooden boardwalks. We had a quick dip in the lake but both quickly got too cold to brave swimming. We were tantalisingly close to Cape Scott at this point and could have made it out there if we had made another long day... but decided against it. We will come back with kayaks for that one! Our last morning of hiking was spent heading out to San Josef Bay, which is a beautiful beach. Small rocky islands stand on the end of sand bars, and at low tide we were able to walk out to them. The beach apparently gets good surf in the winter...

We were picked up by the shuttle van for the trip back to Port Hardy. Apparently only about 600 people will have hiked the North Coast Trail this year, but that number has grown dramatically in the few years since the trail was built. Along with the Juan de Fuca and West Coast Trail the North Coast is a punishing, but beautiful journey. Barely making over 1km per hour on our first day was hard, but you have to measure this trail in hours, not distance.

Back in the Saddle Again.

Phase... err, three? of our trip began by rolling off the ferry on a damp morning in Bella Coola.  By not checking the ferry schedule we had a nice surprise visit to Bella Bella, en route... followed by a good sleep on the floor of the ferry. The day before had been punctuated by eating, and running over to whichever side of the boat whales were swimming past at the time. Not a bad way to pass 20 hours.

We rolled into Bella Coola at a rather early hour of the morning, but did a bit of “sighseeing”, hen headed for the cafe for a giant breakfast. It turned out we would need this later on. Bella Coola was a moist, but pretty mountain town, with steep mountains all around. Arriving by bike made us an instant conversation piece in the cafe (as it does everywhere else) and we got plenty of advice. The most useful piece turned out to be “get out of the valley before dark”... due to bears. There are an unusual number of salmon in the rivers this season and we'd seen then jumping by the ferry dock at Bella Bella. After another chance meeting on the road with a bear-tour operator on our way up the Bella Coola valley, we decided to tackle “The Hill” - 60km of unpaved road with a fierce 5000ft climb. We'd been told there was a good spot to camp half way up if we needed it, and we'd be out of the way of the bears.

The Hill was a monster. Heavily loaded bikes didn't help, but we plugged away at it and were at the camping spot far earlier than expected... so we filled up our bottles with glacier water and made a charge for Anahim Lake, and the start of the paved road. The plateau at the top of the climb was beautiful, with snow-capped peaks of the Rainbow Range all around and lakes by the road side. We maybe saw a handful of cars all day. I got the first (and so far only) flat tire of the trip, which led to a bit of strategic duct-taping the next morning to repair my slashed tire. If we were going to do much more of this, we would need beefer treads, but the paved road was so close... and we made it.

We arrived in Anahim Lake to find... not much. We did fine the best gas-station in the world though, who sold us chocolate milk, homebrewed beer, and a cinnamon bun. Plus they gave us directions to Escott Bay Campsite, a frustrating 7km of unpaved road away... but so worth it. We camped by the lake, and were able to cook and eat in an indoor shelter, compete with indoor fire-pit (exempt from the fire ban). Very content, we got a good night's sleep after a 150km and over 11 hours of travelling. Anahim Lake's only cafe (Donna's Place) doesn't open until 11am, but Donna was very friendly and sold us coffee and cakes at 9am. This is a happy situation for bike tourists.

Day two was a lot easier than Day one, riding on mostly a gentle downward slope for 116km to Graham's Inn at Tatla Lake. We loaded our stomachs with nachos, beer, and fries... we rolled the last 15km to the lakeside campsite. Another beautiful night of camping, and some dubious dried food later, we were still feeling good and 1 day ahead of schedule.

Our third day brought us about another 100km closer to Williams lake, through some of the areas of Highway 20 hit by recent forest fires. It was sad to see the devastated forest, with smoke still blowing across the road in places. We know from people we have met along he way that it has been much worse than this lately and e are lucky to be passing through now, and not two weeks ago.

Tomorrow we should arrive in Williams Lake, and are planning a day off (with our hard-earned spare day) before we tackle the West Fraser Road up to Quesnel... avoiding Highway 97. Then it's on to Wells and ditching the bikes for a canoe!