Sunday, July 24, 2005

Gone hiking

I’m heading to Vancouver Island tomorrow morning to hike the West Coast Trail with some friends from my swim team.

This can only go one of two ways: it will either be an amazing experience or the stupidest thing I’ve ever done.

I’m excited about the hike, which stretches 77 kilometres along the rugged west coast of Vancouver Island. But I’m nervous about hiking through the backcountry with a 40-pound pack on my back for eight days. I’m worried my foot injury will flare up and leave me stranded in the middle of the wilderness.

I’m not totally stupid, though. I’ve been testing my foot by cycling up to Grouse Mountain and hiking the grind after work (see previous post). I promised myself if the nerve flared up, I would back out of the trip. But I haven’t felt one twinge of pain in at least two months.

If it does flare up, I can tough it out. We're only hiking about 10 km a day. Besides, I’ve done loads of backcountry trips where I've suffered through way worse -- extreme weather, altitude sickness, raw blisters, bloodthirsty mosquitoes. This trip can't be any worse.

It's a lot more fun that it sounds, honestly! I'll be back in Vancouver on August 3rd, hopefully with only good stories to tell. . .

The things we do for poutine

It all started with a dare. I was tired of being ostracized by my co-workers because I like to ride my bike to Grouse Mountain, hike the grind and then ride home every Wednesday night after work.

The reaction was always the same: “What the hell’s wrong with you? Are you crazy? Isn’t hiking the grind hard enough? Why would you ride your bike up there too?”

So I decided that whenever someone asked me about my after-work adventures, I would invite them along. Only Jenny and Sheldon were brave enough to take me up on the offer. Of course, it only took an entire year to convince them it would be fun and not a hellish slog from sea level to the top of Grouse Mountain. So after 12 months of arm-twisting, the three of us finally set out to ride the hills and conquer the mountain on Friday.

Let the adventure begin! Jenny (left) and me (right) point to Grouse Mountain in the distance. It’s amazing to think that in a few hours our legs will propel us to the top of that peak. Jenny and Sheldon start having second thoughts: “Um…it seems kind of far. How about we just go for coffee instead?”

The mountain gets a little closer with every kilometre we ride. The fact that we are already tired before crossing the Lion's Gate Bridge isn't a good sign. Sheldon notices a nice restaurant along the way: “Why don’t we just go there instead?”

After the long, steep ride up Capilano Road, we arrive at the base of Grouse Mountain, sweaty and out of breath. We lock up our bikes and start the brutal 3 km hike straight up the mountain. Although they look dead, they’re not. Jenny and Sheldon are just taking a little nap on the rocks.

After being eaten alive by bugs on the trail, we make it to the top! High fives all around. Jenny and Sheldon admit that it was fun and say they will join me again. Vindication at last!

Mmm…poutine. The reward at the end. Well, not really the end since we still have to ride home. At least it’s all downhill from here. Maybe next time I'll have something healthier, like a banana. Flying down a hill at 60 km an hour with a bellyful of poutine isn't as fun as it sounds.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Tour de Gastown

It’s not exactly the Tour de France but the Tour de Gastown is just as exciting. It’s like Christmas in July.

We scored a park bench and stood above the crowd to watch some of the best cyclists in North America whip around the 50-lap course earlier tonight.

It’s hard to describe what it’s like to watch a pack of top cyclists fly past you. They were going so fast my eyeballs were getting whiplash.

The Tour de Gastown is tight, fast and technical. Which means there are a lot of crashes. There was a scary crash right in front of us when two guys went down. Because the riders are so close together, there’s little time to react. When one rider goes down it can cause the whole pack behind him to go down. Most riders avoided the crash, like the one who simply rode over the neck of the guy on the ground. (He eventually got up and wheeled his mangled bike off the course so I think he was okay.)

Most of the spectators crowd around the hairpin turns hoping to see a crash, which I find weird. They remind me of the people who watch hockey for the fights.

But cycling is so much better than hockey. It’s fast. It’s tactical. It’s exciting. It’s just too bad we only get to see races like this once a year.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Sleepless in Seattle, sleepy in Vancouver

I learned an important lesson at the Chris Isaak concert in Seattle on the weekend. Don’t mess with the groupies. I learned this after the drunken blonde girl standing behind me put her hands on my hips and pushed me out of the way.

You see, Chris Isaak has two very different types of fans -- those who love the music and those who love the man. My drunken blonde friend fell into the latter camp.

It wasn’t the way she was gyrating like a stripper and using her friend’s leg as a pole that gave her away. It wasn’t even the way she kept yelling at Chris Isaak to "take it off!" It was the terse explanation she gave me for pushing me out of the way: "He can’t see me if you’re standing in front of me."

I was too flustered to think of a clever comeback line. She went back to gyrating but kept lurching and crashing into the other groupies up near the front of the stage. It would have been impossible for Chris Isaak not to notice her. And not in a good way.

Aside from jockeying for position among the groupies, the concert itself was great. The band played for almost three hours and Chris was very charming. The fact that I got carded while ordering a drink was the icing on the cake.

My friend Leandro liked the concert too but his favourite part of the weekend was visiting the Abercrombie & Fitch store on Sunday.

Just like Walmart, Abercrombie & Fitch has greeters that welcome you when you walk in the door. Unlike Walmart, the Abercrombie greeter was a shirtless guy whose jeans hung so low it was almost obscene. It seems wardrobe malfunctions aren’t as much of an issue in Seattle as they are in the rest of the U.S.

Speaking of music (okay, I wasn’t really), I went to the Deep Dish concert with three girlfriends last night. The experience solidified my obsessive love of techno for the way it gets under your ribcage and compels you to move as it builds to crescendo after crescendo. If you ever get a chance to see Deep Dish, go.

Friday, July 15, 2005

An action-packed weekend

I’m taking a break from blogging for the next few days. My social calendar is suddenly booked solid. I usually pencil in lots of quality lazing around time. But every minute of every day is accounted for this weekend.

The insanity begins at the crack of dawn tomorrow when I meet Donna and Norm for a four-hour bike ride (okay, a two-hour bike ride and a two-hour coffee stop).

Then it’s back to my apartment with just enough time to shower, change and eat before Leandro and I hit the road to see Chris Isaak in Seattle.

Actually, the real reason we were going to Seattle this weekend was to compete in a three-mile race across Lake Washington. We booked the Chris Isaak tickets thinking it would be a nice treat after the swim. But the race was cancelled after a salmon derby was booked on the same day. I guess the race organizers worried we might get hit by a boat or tangled up in fishing line or something.

Leandro booked our Seattle hotel room, which makes me a little nervous because the last time I left him in charge of booking a hotel room, we ended up staying at a dumpy "inn" attached to an even dumpier "saloon" in Whitehorse. It was the first time I learned not all gay men have good taste.

If we survive the night at our Seattle accommodations, Sunday will be spent shopping and sightseeing. If we get back to Vancouver in time, Sunday night will be spent at my friend Paul’s housewarming party.

But the excitement doesn’t end there. On Monday night, a bunch of us are breaking out the glow sticks and the whistles to see Deep Dish play a four-hour set at Celebrities. (I’m kidding about the glow sticks and the whistles, by the way. The only thing we’ll be breaking out is the double shot of espresso to keep us awake.)

Whew! The weekend hasn’t even begun yet and I’m already exhausted.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

What not to wear

Watching Stephen Harper self-destruct isn’t pretty. I almost feel sorry for the guy.

His dream of becoming prime minister is unraveling faster than a cheap sweater from the BiWay bargain bin.

Just when you thought his image problem couldn’t get any worse, this happens. . .

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Fear mongering

So Anne McLellan says Canadians need to be "psychologically prepared" for a terrorist attack. I’m having trouble wrapping my head around this one.

How exactly do we psychologically prepare ourselves for a terrorist attack? When I wake up in the morning, am I supposed to mentally rehearse getting blown up on the bus on my way to work? Is there a book on psychological preparedness I should read?

What’s the point of being psychologically prepared anyway? If I’m unlucky enough to be riding a bus down Granville Street when terrorists blow it up, well, there’s not much I can do about it. I’m not going to live in a constant state of fear and paranoia waiting for that to happen.

The only thing Canadians need to be psychologically prepared for is more idiotic statements from politicians like Anne McLellan.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

A love letter to the man in the pink jersey

Dear Jan Ullrich,

You don’t know me but I’ve been watching you for years. I stay up late at night obsessively following your every move. Seeing you fly up those mountains makes my pulse race.

Lance Armstrong is the golden boy and you’re the underdog. My heart, therefore, automatically belongs to you.

Lance may be a god but you’re a kindred spirit -- always a bridesmaid, never a bride. Well, technically you did win the Tour de France once but that would wreck the metaphor ("a bride once, a bridesmaid five times after that").

Plus, we’re the exact same age (31). I checked your website to see if we had anything else in common but your site is in German and I can’t read German.

The stuff other people say about you isn’t very nice. They say you’re too old. They say you’re overweight and out of shape. They say you’re the most overrated cyclist in the world, the "eternal second."

A lot of people turned their backs on you when you tested positive for ecstasy in 2002. I thought it was unfair the way they lumped you in with the cheaters who pump their bodies full of steroids, EPO and growth hormones.

It’s punishment enough that you are forced to spend the entire month of July wearing the ugliest team uniform in the Tour. Pink helmet, pink jersey, pink gloves, pink bike. What’s that all about anyway?

But all of it just makes me like you more. I don’t care if you win or lose. Just giv'r.

Love, Sarah

p.s. I found this picture of you with some half-naked guy on the Internet and wanted to let you know that I’d play doctor with you anytime.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Sexy environmentalists

Okay, so maybe “sexy” isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of environmentalists. But not all environmentalists are humourless tree-hugging, tofu-eating, Birkenstock-wearing, bongo-drumming, deodorant-hating slobs.

Some of us are hot! According to Playboy’s website (no, I was not downloading porn -- a friend sent me the link), the magazine is devoting an upcoming issue to eco-babes.

An excerpt:

Playboy magazine is searching for the sexiest environmentalists in America, women willing to take it all off for their favorite cause.

The magazine is planning a pictorial for an upcoming issue featuring women involved in environmental causes or with groups dedicated to saving the planet or protecting wildlife. In addition to a modeling fee for each of the participants, Playboy will make a donation to the favorite causes of the women chosen to appear in the pictorial.

Enthusiastic and uninhibited environmentalists interested in posing for this special Playboy magazine pictorial can apply by mailing or emailing at least two photos of themselves, including one head and shoulders shot and one full-body shot along with a clear and legible copy of a government-issued photo ID (driver’s license, passport) proving they are 18 years of age or older to Playboy’s Chicago headquarters.

It's about time a little sex-appeal was injected into the environmental movement. I think Playboy's onto something here. Maybe the best way to turn people on to the environment is to turn them on . . .

Friday, July 01, 2005

True patriot love

I celebrated Canada Day today the same way I always celebrate Canada Day -- by waking up at the crack of dawn and risking hypothermia. Who knew it would become a tradition?

For the past several years, I’ve competed in the Canada Day Challenge with some friends from my swim team. The "challenge" is a four-kilometre swim around Sasamat Lake in Port Moody. In theory, swimming around a lake is a fun, and very Canadian, thing to do in the summer.

Swimming around a lake when it still feels like winter out (hello, Toronto? stop hogging all the good weather) is not such a fun, summery thing to do. The Arctic-like air temperature wasn’t so bad once we started swimming. What really hurt was standing chest-deep in ice water trying to sing O Canada through chattering teeth and blue lips before the race started.

Turns out it was a good thing it was so cold and overcast. Without the sun in my eyes, I was actually able to see the large orange buoys and didn’t veer wildly off course like I normally do.

Because it was so cold, I was forced to swim the entire four kilometres at a fast pace to stay warm. I ended up setting a personal record with a time of one hour and two minutes. Although I placed third in my age group, I still got my ass kicked by a bunch of teenage Olympic wannabes.

Still, I wouldn’t want to celebrate Canada Day any other way. There’s no better place than the middle of a lake to reflect on how lucky we are to live in such a tolerant, beautiful country. Happy birthday, Canada!