Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The anti-vacation vacation

I don't know about you but whenever I go on vacation, I always feel like I need a vacation from my vacation.

I don't come back feeling rested and relaxed. I come back feeling drained and exhausted.

So this year, I'm doing something different. I'm taking my three weeks vacation and staying put. The anti-vacation vacation is the new vacation! Or something like that (the slogan needs a little work).

Vacationing at home isn't lame, it's liberating. There are no sights to see. No planes to catch. No suitcases to pack. No souvenirs to buy. No postcards to mail.

There's no pressure to go anywhere or do anything because you're not in a new and exciting environment. This is, quite possibly, one of the best vacations I've ever had!

That's not to say I'm doing absolutely nothing while I'm on vacation. I have a very busy schedule. I sleep in until noon. I walk to the video store and rent movies. I eat popsicles. I hang out with my unemployed friends. Actually, that last point is critical to the success of the stay-at-home holiday. It's much more fun when you have unemployed friends because they can do stuff during the week. It's like you're all on vacation together.

I'm also taking lots of little trips. My unemployed friends and I went to Kelowna on the weekend. While we were there, we entered a 5 km open-water swim race in Okanagan Lake. Despite a complete lack of training and preparation, I managed to place second in my age group (beat that, Michael Phelps!).

We also went hiking in the mountains near Chiliwack (yes, that is snow in August).

This weekend, my friend Annelle and I will be heading to Penticton for three days of cycling, swimming and camping in the Okanagan. After that, my final week of vacation will be spent relaxing in Vancouver.

The awesomeness of Summer 2008 continues . . .

Thursday, August 07, 2008

It's not about the bike. It's about the cinnamon buns

Let's face it. The real reason most of us exercise is so that we can overeat and binge-drink.

I don't ride my bike for the health benefits. I ride my bike so that I can eat all the cinnamon buns I want without gaining 200 pounds.

My bike is simply a means to guilt-free gluttony.

With that spirit in mind, my friend Akua and I decided to cycle (and eat) our way up and down B.C.'s Sunshine Coast last weekend.

We had originally planed to make our three-day trip a real cycle-touring adventure. We talked about outfitting our road bikes with a couple of trailers in order to tow our sleeping bags, tent and cooking supplies behind us. We figured we'd spend two nights camping in provincial parks and three days riding the roads.

In the end, laziness and convenience won out over roughing it. We left the heavy gear at home and decided to stay at a B&B instead of a campground. It was so decadent and luxurious I may never camp again.

The first leg of our trip involved cycling from our doorsteps to Horseshoe Bay, where we caught the ferry to Gibsons. From Gibsons, we rode halfway up the Sunshine Coast to Halfmoon Bay. We stayed at a B&B in Halfmoon Bay for two nights and used it as a base to ride to Egmont and back on our second day. On our last day, we rode out the same way we came in.

It was liberating to take off for the weekend with nothing but a bicycle, a credit card and a small backpack filled with the bare necessities -- you know, toothbrush, sunblock, mascara, sexy nightclub outfit.

The mascara and sexy nightclub outfit were Akua's idea because she figured we'd go out on the town at night. Little did we know that "downtown" Halfmoon Bay consisted of nothing but a general store and a government wharf.

The other surprise was how hilly the terrain was. We quickly learned that cycling on the Sunshine Coast means you're either going up a hill or you're going down a hill. It made for some pretty tiring days, especially with the hot, sunny weather. On the upside, it gave us a good excuse to make frequent stops for cinnamon buns and ice cream.

Other highlights included:

1. Shopping at the general store in Madeira Park. This store puts the "general" in general store. It sold absolutely everything -- from cat food to sexy lingerie (one shelf was stocked with crotchless body stockings).

2. Eating at the Gumboot Cafe in Roberts Creek. Best cinnamon buns ever!

3. Renting pirated movies in Halfmoon Bay. Because our B&B had a DVD player, and because there was nothing else to do at night, we decided to rent a movie from the general store. Getting a video membership usually involves two pieces of photo ID, a credit check and a mountain of paperwork. But in Halfmoon Bay, all we had to do was write down a name and a phone number. We didn't even have to show ID. I thought this honour system was folksy and refreshing until I found out the real reason they didn't really care if people walked away with the movies was because they were illegal copies.

4. Avoiding death on Highway 101. The Sunshine Coast may be beautiful but it's not the most bicycle friendly place around. There are lots of trails for mountain bikes but the only option for road bikes is the highway shoulder. This wouldn't be a problem except for the fact that there is no shoulder on long stretches of the highway. It was actually pretty scary in places. Wait a minute. This isn't a highlight at all.

5. Checking out the Beachcombers memorabilia in Gibsons. This also wasn't much of a highlight for me since I have never seen a single episode of the show. But it sure seemed like the thrill of a lifetime for some of the grey-haired tourists wandering around. Here's a photo of the cafe featured in the show. I figured someone out there might appreciate it.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Bongos and other forms of noise pollution

Of all the different kinds of pollution out there, noise pollution is the one that really drives me crazy.

Littering is annoying but at least it's easy to deal with. If someone tosses a cigarette butt on the beach, you can pick it up and throw it in the garbage. But if someone is playing bongos on the beach, it is much harder to pick them up and throw them in the garbage.

I'll probably be run out of Vancouver for saying this but there is nothing worse than being forced to listen to some talentless, dreadlocked white guy banging away on a set of bongos in public.

No wait. There is something worse -- being forced to listen to a whole bunch of talentless, dreadlocked white guys banging away in a drum circle in public. (Hippies. Drum circles. Matthew McConaughey. Shudder.)

I don't have a problem with bongos per se. They're all well and good when played by a real musician in a real venue or when played in the privacy of your own home (preferably with the windows shut and not at 2:30 in the morning).

What I have a problem with are the obnoxious idiots who think it's perfectly acceptable to pull out a pair of bongos in a quiet park and start slapping away without any sense of respect for the people around them.

Unlike other musical instruments, you don't actually have to know how to play bongos in order to play them. You can also be completely drunk or stoned and still be able to play them. Which explains why the "wicked groove" you think you're banging out is actually nothing but noise to the rest of us.

Anyway, this entire preamble serves to set the scene for a run-in I had with a bongo player in Vancouver the other week.

I was on my way to Bowen Island but missed the ferry because the bus was stuck in traffic for two hours (don't even get me started on public transit in Vancouver. This is a rant about bongos, not the bus. But, on a side note, why is it that so many bad things start with the letter b? Bongos, buses, Bob Saget).

By the time the bus finally arrived in Horseshoe Bay, the ferry was long gone and the next one wasn't due to arrive for another two hours. Since there was nothing I could do, I decided I may as well get some take-out food and try to decompress in the park.

Just as my blood pressure started to go down, a white guy wearing a puffy wool cap over his dreadlocked hair sat down a few feet away from me. My heart sank when he pulled out a bongo and started to play.

For those of you who have never been to Horseshoe Bay, let me describe it for you. Horseshoe Bay is a small, um, bay shaped like a, um, horseshoe.

It is ringed by steep mountains on all sides (well, except for the side facing the water). Its size, shape and geography makes it a natural echo chamber, which serves to amplify the sound of bongo beats as they ricochet off the mountain walls.

In other words, there was no way to escape the sound. Trust me, I tried. I walked all the way to the far end of town but I could still hear Mr. Rude Obnoxious attempting to bang out a rhythm on his drum.

Badda badda BAM! Badda. BAM! Over and over and over again.

What would drive someone to impose their loud "music" on innocent bystanders in a public space?

Judging by his counterculture uniform, I assumed the bongo player wanted the world to know he is a socially conscious, politically aware, left-wing kind of guy. Maybe playing bongos in public was his way of rebelling against "the man."

Personally, I don't trust these sensitive new-age men with their patchouli oil and their "I'm so deep" attitude. My experience with these types of guys is that they're usually just overcompensating for the fact that they are huge assholes with rage issues, brought on by the guilt of being raised in wealth and privilege.

Leave the drums at home.

While we're on the subject of summer noise, honourable mention goes to the excessively loud motorcycles that cruise up and down my street all day. The modified mufflers on these bikes are so loud that they actually set off car alarms.

Also, lawn mowers, hedge trimmers, weed-whackers and leaf blowers? Hate them!

All of this noise is driving me crazy.