Saturday, July 16, 2011

Reflections on Bicycle Commuting: Bike to Work Week 2011 in Victoria

During Bike to Work Week 2011 in Victoria, three of the five work days I biked about 12 km from our home in Gordon Head to my office in the Queen’s Printer building just south of the BC Legislature. I did it for the physical challenge rather than out of any “green” motivation. I haven’t really biked since we moved to Victoria, and I just wanted to see if I could do it.

One of the beautiful views off the Galloping Goose Trail in Victoria.

I had to work through a lot of firsts that week: first time on the Galloping Goose Trail, not knowing where I was going; first time cycling in city traffic, trying to judge how aggressively to ride. The first day was exciting and scary; the second day was better in terms of knowing where I was going but hard physically. By the evening of the second day, I had determined that I would work at home the following day so did not bike in. (It was a bit of a relief to make that decision, and I was heartened the next morning to see that it was raining! I had said I wouldn’t ride in the rain.) By the third day of riding, I finally felt comfortable on the trail and in the streets. I took it easier than the first two days even though it meant that more people passed me on the trail. (I have a deeply buried competitive streak that threatens to surface every once in a while.) I was much less sweaty when I got to work that last morning, and I enjoyed the ride a lot more.

I certainly had my share of mini-adventures on the trail. The first day I almost ended up in a four-bike, one-pedestrian pileup due to the aggressive riding of one of the cyclists. As I rode away, I heard the pedestrian cursing at the cyclist -- and no wonder!

That same day I forgot to check over my shoulder before riding around a pedestrian and in doing so almost ran another cyclist off the trail. Oh, boy! The second day I missed a sign that split the pedestrians and cyclists, and I ended up riding on the pedestrian side of the trail to the disgust of both pedestrians and cyclists alike. No wonder the seasoned riders hate Bike to Work Week!

As lovely as they look, I can do without the wooden plank bridges. They're really hard on the butt!

The Galloping Goose Trail, the middle of my ride, is really lovely, with views of lakes and trees, shaded trails, wooden plank bridges and picturesque tunnels. Some areas of the trail really remind me of our experiences in France, especially the tunnels. (Except in France, most of them would stink due to the odd habit of French men peeing in every tunnel they encounter!)

This is such a cool tunnel, with amazing murals all over the walls!

It’s the beginning and end of the ride that are the hardest for me. McKenzie Avenue is very busy, and it has big trucks and some wicked hills! Plus everyone drives like a bat out of hell travelling westward, encouraged by the long sweep of downhill slopes on the road. On the other end of my ride, Government Street isn’t so busy, but on the way home I have to make a left turn in a busy and confusing intersection, and navigating the blue bridge makes my heart pound every time.

I learned a few lessons that week. First of all, I can do it, and it makes me feel good! Biking to work is worth it for the moral superiority you feel as you walk into your office all sweaty, huffing and puffing, bike helmet in hand. On the other hand, biking to work is hard work! I won’t become a cycling convert because I’m just not properly prepared. I don’t have the panniers, the cycling shoes or the toe clips; I don’t have the Gortex jacket and pants or the flashing lights. I miss my early morning workouts at the rec centre too much to give them up. Even though Bike to Work Week didn’t make a hard core bicycle commuter out of me, I’m glad I did it that week, and I’ll probably do it again.

Check out my Bike to Work Week set of photos on Flickr.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Memories of 2010

2010 was a busy year for us in many different ways. Cameron and Meghan settled in very nicely to life in Victoria, and both of them worked hard at school. Mark and I have been very busy at our jobs, for various reasons. In February Mark was asked to take on a new job in Nanaimo and so has a 1.5 hour (each way) commute to work every day. Luckily he enjoys driving! As for me, a project at work, the creation of a new grade 10 math distance education course, became much more work than anyone could imagine! For the last six months I've been immersed in it, working evenings and weekends, but thankfully it's almost at an end.

For 10 months ending in June 2010 we played host to Beri, our exchange student from Stuttgart, Germany. She's the niece of a friend and colleague of my brother (got that?). Beri accompanied us to Seattle for a few days last Christmas and went skiing with Mark and the kids at Mt. Washington in April, where the snow was so high that it covered the windows of the second floor of the condo building that we were staying in (I've never seen so much snow!) I think Beri enjoyed herself, and she was able to graduate with a Canadian high school diploma. Her parents and brother came to visit and were able to see her attend the graduation ceremony at the end of May. Beri's sister also stayed with us for a month, and we often saw Tessa, another German exchange student who became a friend of Beri's. We had quite a full house for the first half of the year!

In August I decided to get serious about losing some of the weight that has been gradually creeping on since our stay in France, and I've been working out almost every day at the recreation centre that is a short walk from our house. I've lost 13 pounds so far, and my back is feeling much better.

Other happenings of note:
  • A short holiday to Seattle in July with friends Wendy, Ray, and family
  • An equally short trip to Rocky Mountain House in August to visit my mom and other family members, with a lightning-fast side trip to Sherwood Park to see Sheila and family
  • The sad passing of Mark's father in September and our quick trip to Manitoba to be with the family
  • A 10-day holiday to Florida in November, spurred on by my desire to see the Harry Potter Islands of Adventure installation at Universal Studios while I still have kids to drag along!

I encouraged (read: badgered) everyone to write their own summary of 2010, so here they are:

Hey everybody! I can't believe it's already 2011; last year passed so quickly.

School has gone great since we moved here. Grade 7 was lots of fun and grade 8 is also going really well. I joined leadership in grade 7 and I'm in it again this year with lots of my friends. We organize lots of school activities and help out with their operation. I've also joined the volleyball team.

Soccer is going well. Last year I was on the Silver team; this year I've gone to the Gold team. We went up island to Parksville for an overnight trip about a month ago and it was lots of fun. We haven't been winning a lot of games this season since many good players went to Metro, but winning's not everything, right?

So I'm halfway through Grade 8. About 9 more months until high school! I'm excited but also a little nervous. I'll be going to Reynolds, the same school as Cameron. It's about double the size of Cedar Hill (the school I go to now), so that will be a big change.

I had a great Christmas and New Year's, and I hope you did, too. Wishing everyone the best of luck in 2011!

So 2010 wasn't that big of a year for me. It was my second year of high school, which I'm enjoying. I'm still in Flex and French Immersion and things are going well. In Grade 10 so far I've had an easy first semester with Science, French and my two electives, Foods and Drama. I'm not looking forward to the next few weeks, as I have just three left before exams (and my first provincial). I don't think it'll be too bad though, and I'm looking forward to the rest of the year.

I hope everybody has a great 2011!

On the work front, 2010 was a time of change for me. I changed responsibilities from the forest worker safety program to a program looking after finance and assets/infrastructure in the Coast Region, based out of Nanaimo. More recently, government announced another change for the natural resources sector and so we are going through a merging of sorts with other ministries. Quite exciting times ahead! I do have a commute and I’ve found that radio/audio CDs and just driving fill the time nicely – I actually quite enjoy it!

On the vacation front, we enjoyed a short holiday travelling to Rocky Mountain House over the summer and a relaxing 10 day break to Orlando in November. We had a great time visiting the theme parks and just being in the warm weather of Florida in November. We enjoyed several rounds of “butter beer” at Harry Potter’s at universal studios. I have to say that my favourite activity was a 3 hour kayak trip in a mangrove lagoon where we all had single kayaks, navigated through narrow channels and saw lots of wildlife (including a manatee!)

And finally, on the home front, we were saddened in September when my father passed away. He had been suffering from dementia/Alzheimer’s disease for the last few years. Our family travelled to Winnipeg for the funeral and although the reason for getting together was very sad, it was nice the whole family met.

In the garden, we are busy converting the edging around our house from soil (and weeds) to decorative rock. One thing I’ve found about Victoria is that the plants and lawn just keep on growing and it’s a full time job (well, weekend job, anyway) just keeping up.


We had a lot of good times in 2010, and we're looking forward to more in 2011. We hope the same for you and your family!

Chris, Mark, Cameron and Meghan