30-day Writing Challenge – Day 3

What are your top three pet peeves?

I’m pretty lucky in that there isn’t a lot of stuff that ticks me off. Most of the time it ends up being completely circumstantial, and thus something I just need to deal with internally.

I’m finding either through advancing age, the fact that I’ve had a concussion, or that maybe, just maybe, I’m an introvert, that I find noise to be irritating. When things get busy, my mind doesn’t like it. When it’s bad, it sounds like radio static, and it irks me.

Incomplete household tasks also drive me bananas. I love my kids, but dammit, if you use the last of the toilet paper, replace the roll! This comes down to generally cleaning up after one’s self. Yeah, I’ve not ever been the greatest at tidying up, but I sure do try. I’m trying to set the example, and it’s not being met.

Last one for today involves people asking questions that either the answers appear to be obvious, or that they’re too lazy to seek out answers themselves. This usually falls in the category of work – folks just don’t take the time to do a little bit of research and come to the table informed, or even half-way informed. Peer networks are good at solving problems, too, and I feel like people need to take better advantage of that as well.

30-day Writing Challenge – Day 2

Day 2: Write something someone that someone told you about yourself that you never forgot.

This one could go really well, or really wrong, depending on where I, as the writer, am at on any given day.

I could regale you with tales of my youth when I was bullied. These stories have stayed with me, and some still haunt me today, although I’ve all but eliminated them from my thinking.

Instead, I’m going to look at one case that came somewhat recently from my friend Bob Buckley. We’ve done a couple of recordings of his music during my tenure here in Victoria. Most recently, Bob and I were chatting at the Hal Leonard booth at Midwest in Chicago, and he passed along a tremendous compliment – he liked my tone and my playing.

It’s not the first time someone has paid a compliment about either of these aspects, but, being the person that I am, I’m occasionally leery of what folks say about me.

Tone is something that can be intensely personal. It’s like clothing or hair or makeup, and if it’s working for you, it’s great, but if it’s not, it can be a huge challenge. I’ve worked long and hard to get my sound, or at least the sound that I want to hear, out of my bass and equipment. I’m closer than I’ve ever been.

My particular style of playing has evolved. I can’t consider myself a jazz player anymore (or could have ever, really), and I don’t fit squarely into any other camp along the way. I just play bass.

30-day Writing Challenge – Day 1

I’ve always enjoyed writing – I’ve just never sat down with any intent and written for an extended period of time.

Just prior to heading to the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago, while Kristy and I were spending a night just taking care of our own stuff, I stumbled on a couple of 30-day writing challenges. I always come back to my blog with gusto at the top of the calendar – maybe this’ll light up some inspiration to really keep going.

Day 1: List 10 things that make you really happy

This one can go many directions. For all the shit I end up dealing with on a seemingly never-ending basis, there’s still a good amount of happy in my life. These aren’t in order, so don’t get any ideas.

  1. Coffee. Something about coffee lately has really provided me with some joy. The ritual, the habit, sharing coffee and time with folks, these are all things that make me happy.
  2. Running. I never thought I’d consider myself a runner, but here I am. I took it on with some seriousness this past year and it gave me a huge boost in my life in so many ways.
  3. The Outdoors. Certainly in the last three years, I’ve gotten out a lot more. Kristy and I do our best to get outside, go hiking, camping, biking, walking, whatever. See much of the rest of this list.
  4. Bicycles. Two wheels can bring so much joy into my life. Bikes have always equated to freedom and in turn, they’ve allowed me to travel and to see things differently.
  5. Music. In times of darkness or stress or happiness or any other emotion, music is always there.
  6. Time with Kristy. I get that this sounds cliché, and not all days are 100%, but I really experience happiness being with her.
  7. Time with my kids. For all the crazy successes and crazy struggles we all have, I’m so proud of them.
  8.  Learning more about myself. My relationship with myself has evolved tremendously, especially in the last three years. I’ve had the highest highs and some of the lowest lows, and I’m learning to be better to and for myself.
  9. Travel. Music opened the world up to me, and I’ve had my fair share of time on the road. Now I’m starting to travel more for fun, and discovering what a joy that can be.
  10. Health. I often overlook this one, as I’ve generally been healthy, and any illnesses and injuries I’ve had have been generally minor. That being said, I’m happy to have my health, as it allows me to go and do the things that I want to do without limitations. I’m lucky.

ONP 18 Day 1 – Victoria to Pony Creek

We woke at 4am (though neither of us really slept much past about 2:15am). We were out the door on time at 4:50am, and at the ferry by 5:10, all according to plan. Once onboard MV Coho, we got hot drinks and  “breakfast sandwiches”, and shared a table with a lovely retired couple from Langford who were enroute to their cottage in Tucson AZ. It was here that we started getting some actual information about getting food across the US Border. Our plan initially was to pack and bring all the things across. As we started diving into the CBP website, we started seeing the list of restricted items, to the point where we finally abandoned most of what we were going to bring in favour of buying once we got to Port Angeles. Courtesy of our tablemates on the ferry, we figured out that we were probably a lot more cautious than was actually required. We docked in Port Angeles on time at 7:40, and sure enough, Customs was a breeze, even as I told them we had “camping rations” in the back. No questions were asked, we were waved through without issues by 8am. We went to the Country Aire Grocer where we picked up some sandwiches and some higher-end snacks (salmon jerky!). Next was a stop at the Safeway for basic groceries and gas ($2.98/gal, or about $0.80/L!). US grocery stores are a riot, especially with Kristy. We got some fun finds that made our trip grat – foil pack tuna, freeze dried fruit, etc. We then stopped at Swain’s (the local outdoor store) where we got bear spray and impulse-bought the new silicone sink. Kristy gets this gleam in her eye in outdoor stores; it’s quite something to see! Finally we stopped at the Olympic National Park Wilderness Information Center where we grabbed our permit and got information about where we were headed. The counter agent was incredibly helpful and very thorough, and both of us felt very comfortable with our level of planning and the depths at which they were checking to make sure we were ready for this experience. Our wilderness passes came to a total of $64, and we have the option of upgrading to a yearly pass if we come back within that timeframe for more backcountry adventures. Once done with the agent, we took a little time in the parking lot of the WIC to divide up our groceries and finish packing the BearVault so that we were ready to step off once we got to the trailhead at Graves Creek.
Dividing meals and packing the bear canister in the ONP WIC parking lot
On our way to Graves Creek, we stopped for lunch with a view at Ruby Beach. We ate our sandwiches while looking out over the sea stacks. We made it to the Graves Creek Trailhead after passing through the lovely town of Quinault, and we stepped off at about 3pm. We got some information from a departing hiker that they’d left Enchanted Valley that morning (with kids) at about 8am, so the possibility of a one-shot exit was entirely plausible (more on that in a future post).
We made it to camp at Pony Bridge by 4:20pm, having hiked 2.4 mi (3.86 km). My left hip twinged the night previous and was extremely sore for this portion of the journey. Lots of deep breathing and adjusting as my muscles and my brain were trying to figure out how to work around the pain. I didn’t want to think that we’d come this far only to be stuck a couple of miles in. I did a pile of self-massage and munching of Advil to try and counteract what I was feeling. Once at Pony Bridge, we scouted out what was available for sites, and from talking with the other party that was in camp, there was a lovely cliff location overlooking the Quinault River just to the left of the bridge as we entered. We took this as our accommodations for the night.
Supper was Irish Shepherd’s Pie made by Nomad. The portions were tasty, but small. We hydrated, I fetched water from the river, and we played cribbage and drank whisky to end our night.

Olympic National Park ’18

Kristy has been staring out over the Strait of Juan de Fuca at the Olympics for as long as she’s been here. On clear mornings when I’m riding to work, I get glimpses of Hurricane Ridge and the vast expanse that is the Olympic Peninsula. I’ve driven through a couple of times in the last year and knew that it was absolutely spectacular and that there was some good hiking to be had over yonder, so with summer leave plans set, we set our sights on some trails in Olympic National Park for a week of backpacking.

Birthdays are great, and this year, I got Kristy a Silva compass and maps to the North Coast Trail (next year’s adventure?) and Olympic National Park. We both did a lot of reading about all the various trails and opportunities available – Hoh Valley, Sol Duc River, Enchanted Valley, Pacific Coast, and after some research and discussion, we decided that the last two were where we wanted to spend most of our time.

The trip plan ended up being fairly simple – three or four nights in the backcountry up Enchanted Valley, a night or two in some front-country camping, then an out-and-back down the coast to close off our journey.

I have to say, backpacking is probably my favourite mode of camping. I can be ready for adventure in just a couple of hours with everything I need to last me for days. For this trip, we had a couple of extra pieces of gear that both aided us and added some wrinkles to planning. This was also our first foray into backpacking in the United States, which brought along its own set of challenges. I should add the disclaimer that anything you read here is just our experience and shouldn’t be construed as official advice for crossing international boundaries.

Kristy and I are both systems people and list-based folks. If it doesn’t go on a list, we tend to not remember or do it. We did the bulk of our planning through a shared Google spreadsheet, each of us having our own personal sheet for what we were bringing, plus common equipment, and our meal plan. This allowed us to keep tabs on what we were each responsible for, and checking things off the list as they were completed.

In the “extra gear” department, we picked up a MEC Silicone Scout Tarp, a Sea-to-Sky Clothesline, a BearVault BV500, a Sea-to-Sky packable sink, and at last, some bear spray.

I have to say, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) isn’t exactly the most helpful organization I’ve ever come across. Their website is detailed in some aspects and vague in others. For instance, we couldn’t find out a clear answer as to whether or not it was okay to bring bear spray across the border (in the end, we decided against it). Or to what degree we were allowed to bring food (barring obvious things like fresh fruit, meat, nuts). Their 1-800 number went pretty much nowhere as for answers to the questions I had, and it seemed like there was no way to get to a live agent through their phone menu.

We bought a pile of dehydrated meals – Chicken and Rice, Teriyaki Chicken, Chicken with veg, etc, and then went back and re-read the CBP website about importation of food, especially as it related to meat. Of course, this reading was done the night before we left. As I went to try and return the meals to MEC, the lovely salesperson let me know that she could take the returns, but that the food was essentially going in the trash. We kept them – they have a 30-year shelf life, so if nothing else, they’ll end up in an emergency kit, or consumed on a future hike). We had to scramble to find some vegetarian and vegan options locally to fill out our menu.

The BearVault was the biggest investment for this trip, not only in terms of size and price, but also weight. At 1.2kg (2 lbs 9 oz) empty, that was a lot of weight to be adding to my pack. Park rules for Enchanted Valley and the beach trail were that bear canisters were required. There was talk of canisters being available at the Wilderness Information Center in Port Angeles, but we didn’t want to take the chance on the canister being too small or not working with our gear, so we opted to just buy the BV and be done. Besides, there aren’t going to be any food caches on the North Coast trail when we go there next year.

The vault is huge. It’s rated at food for one person for seven days, and I’d buy that. We got four days of food for both of us in there, although it was tight. The vault makes it a little challenging to maximize space – when we did the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, the bag we had our food in could be packed around all the other gear in my pack, whereas the vault is just that, a vault. After watching some videos and playing around with my pack, I found that the best method to carry the vault was in the main compartment of my bag, opposite the front-access zipper.

We booked our ferry trip late in the game, so the only time available to cross was the 6:10am ferry, which meant a 5:10am arrival at the terminal downtown. In the end, this worked well for us as we had a bunch of shopping and prep-work on the US side to take care of prior to heading to the trailhead.

The plan was simple:

  • 24 Aug – pack/prep
  • 25 Aug – Victoria to Graves Creek Trailhead to Pony Creek
  • 26-27 Aug – Enchanted Valley (possibly an extra night)
  • 28-29 Aug – Kalaloch Campground (front-country beach camping, resupply/repack)
  • 30 Aug – Third Beach to Strawberry Point
  • 31 Aug – Strawberry Point to Third Beach, then return to Port Angeles to see Hurricane Ridge, then back to Victoria

The night before departure, we did one last cross-check of all our equipment, sealed up our bags, set our alarms, and got one last night’s rest in a bed before a week of adventures. The following posts are taken from my field notes, edited and augmented with the benefit of being able to look back on the experience. We absolutely loved this trip, and I hope you get some enjoyment out of reading about our experience.

If you, gentle reader, have any questions about our hike, feel free to use the comments section or send me an email.

Dakgangjeong (aka Korean Fried Chicken)

So my daughter is into all-things-K-pop these days (think Backstreet Boys or NKOTB). Our last trip to the library netted a cookbook and a Korean-English dictionary, which she’s made a solid attempt at putting to use. I have to commend her on her keen interest in checking new things out – variety (and no fear in food) is a great trait to have!

I discovered Korean Fried Chicken as a joke based on the name – KFC, as it were, showed up in my life for real when Kristy and I went and saw the Murakami exhibit at Vancouver Art Gallery, and later again when I took Elijah to go see it on a separate trip. Both times we ended up eating at a food truck called Disco Cheetah, and their KFC was delicious.

This recipe is based on the one from the cookbook Koreatown, and proved to be very, very tasty. We made it with rice and Sigeumchi Muchim (soy and sesame spinach), and it was wonderful. This was a take-no-prisoners meal, for sure. Every last scrap got eaten.

Dakgangjeong

Print Recipe

The only KFC you need in your life.
Servings Prep Time
4 servings 25 minutes
Cook Time
10-20 minutes

Servings Prep Time
4 servings 25 minutes
Cook Time
10-20 minutes

Dakgangjeong

Print Recipe

The only KFC you need in your life.
Servings Prep Time
4 servings 25 minutes
Cook Time
10-20 minutes

Servings Prep Time
4 servings 25 minutes
Cook Time
10-20 minutes

Ingredients


Servings: servings

Instructions
  1. Heat the oil over low heat in a heavy pot or dutch oven with high sides until it reaches 350F (or a bit of batter starts to sizzle when spooned into the oil).

  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, flour, baking powder, 1 tsp salt, booze and water. Dip chicken parts in batter until evenly coated, shaking off excess batter and place on a platter or tray.

  3. Set up a tray or platter lined with paper towels. Raise the heat to medium-high and maintain the oil at 350F. Carefully lower the chicken into the oil, careful not to over-crowd, and fry for 8-10 minutes, until golden brown. Remove with metal tongs and/or heatproof slotted spoon onto paper towel-lined tray. Season immediately with salt. While still hot, toss in a bowl with just enough glaze to coat. Garnish with scallions and serve immediately.

  4. Soy Garlic Glaze:
    1/4 cup Korean rice or corn syrup
    1/4 cup soy sauce
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    1 tbsp Mirin
    1 tbsp sesame oil

    Combine all except oil in a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil 1 minute. Allow to cool to room temp and stir in sesame oil. Hold until ready to use

    Hot Sauce Glaze:
    1/2 cup gochujang
    5 tbsp Frank's Red hot

    Combine in a bowl and whisk together until smooth. Hold until ready to use.

Share this Recipe
 

So I Turned My Arm Black…

I’ve been thinking about tattoos for almost as long as I can remember. I’ve been fascinated by them for about thirty years, as a matter of fact, in all kinds of ways. Long has been my want to get tattooed, and it’s been a very long road to be comfortable enough with myself to bring myself to go and do it.

When I got posted to Victoria, I started to do things a little differently. I started to actually allow myself to be me. Some of this came out of some really great therapy work, and the rest of it just came out of sheer will to want to do things for myself. For the bulk of those thirty years where I’ve been thinking about getting tattooed in a bigger way, I finally decided to do something about it.

I had been worked on previously by a fellow named Mikel Johannsen, who, at the time, worked out of a shop in Victoria. He’d traveled to Red Deer and I met him there to work on a smallish piece on my right arm, but the time had come for something bigger. After seeing the Bobby McFerrin video on the power of the pentatonic scale, the idea started forming to do something related (abstractly) to melody on my left arm.

I sent a long essay to Mikel, hoping he could transform that into action.

By this point in time, Mikel had moved to Kelowna, and I’d been posted to Victoria. It didn’t take much to put two and two together, and the next thing you know, I’d booked myself in to start my sleeve.

First session was in March of 2015. I walked into the shop in Kelowna, Mikel pitched his idea, and we went for it.

The first session was outlining three of the five figures in dots. 

Of course, I’m not that smart, so as soon as we were done, I jumped in the truck and drove straight to a friend’s retirement party in Vancouver, then crashed the night at the house of one of my bestest friends, before heading onward to Victoria to start my new job.

Part of the joy of my new job is that Kelowna happens to be in the turf we ordinarily serve musically, so when I found out that we were booked in to play in the Okanagan that summer, I booked another session. On this go-around, we filled worked on filling in the figures with more dots.

Mikel and I talked and talked throughout the whole process – he had a background in audio engineering, having worked for a spell at Nettwerk Records in the 90s, and we had different, though occasionally similar, tastes in music, which always led to great discussions. On this session, we were exploring some of the nuances in music, and for the figure on my lower arm, we talked about how sometimes music just didn’t go where you expected, and things could be random, hence why the patterns aren’t as regular on that piece.

Flash ahead to Christmastime, and I made a quick trip up to see my folks between having finished my work run for the year and having the kids with me over the holiday. Squeezed in a quick session with Mikel to start and finish figures 4 and 5 (inner arm for both). A spicy affair, for sure, as the tender fleshy bits got mangled.

At this point, things started to diverge a little on the path of where I expected this piece to go. I had an idea in my head that I had pitched to Mikel as a next step, and it didn’t exactly go where I wanted it to. I had wanted to have a very subtle background in the negative space between the figures, using music motifs. What ended up coming out was a little less subtle, and altered the course of where we would be headed. For this session, I flew up to Kelowna for a day trip – I found out that cheap flights were available from Pacific Coastal, and so I used as many modes of transportation available to me as possible to make this session a reality. At the end, the result wasn’t exactly where I wanted it to be, but Mikel and I decided to just let it sit, give it a little time, and come back to it on a future session. He took pics, but never posted them, and this one shot was the one I snapped in the airport on the way home:

I liked the blue, but it didn’t end up where I wanted. Mikel agreed with this, too, and so in Feb 2017, again, while on tour, back into the seat I went, having the outlines of the figures shaded, to allow the blue to be sent farther into the background.

Both Mikel and I felt a lot better about this step in the process, and we just let it sit for a while. A lot longer than I’d anticipated, really. I had made plans to get worked on in April of 2017 when Mikel just happened to be in Victoria, but I’d developed a bit of a rash and we both decided it wasn’t worth it to push things.

In the end, I took a bit of a break. I’d look at my arm, and it just felt incomplete, and disjointed, not entirely like what was going on in my head for some of the time. 

Time has a tendency to march on, and things happen along the way. Births, deaths, marriages, divorces, anniversaries, birthdays, major crises, minor crises, celebrations, etc. I just came up to my 40th birthday, and in the spirit of doing things for myself and myself only, I decided that a birthday tattoo was in order.

So in comes the fear part. Like I said, things felt incomplete on my arm. I knew in the back of my mind that there was a quasi-nuclear option – blacking out the negative space – but that it would take a certain amount of personal fortitude to carry it out, and more, a certain amount of fear in the acceptance of what that might look like for those around me, especially those nearest and dearest to me. I don’t consider myself to be particularly hardcore. I’m not a heavy-metal type, not a real rock and roller, just a guy who likes tattoos.

I know that perception in others shouldn’t matter, but at the same time, if I’m going to be spending any kind of time, whether it’s public or intimate, with someone I care about, appearances do kinda matter. I mentioned to Kristy about the idea of filling in the negative space and she thought that would be a fine idea.

As it turns out, it was the best idea. 

Another summer, another Okanagan tour. I booked myself a rental car, had some space in the daily schedule, and made the trudge to Mikel’s new shop in Kelowna.

We got straight down to work, filling in the blanks. I had expected it to be worse off the bat, but it really wasn’t. I’ve seen videos of folks talking about their blackout sleeves, and read reports that it wasn’t as bad as single needle or lining. They aren’t wrong. It hurt, yeah, but not in the way I thought.

Mikel’s a trooper. Between him and I, we just blasted through, stopping basically only to pee or grab a quick mouthful of food or some water.

About 5 hours in, that’s when I started to hit the wall. Our time was coming to a close anyhow, as I had to get to work, and we were only about 80ish percent complete. My body finally decided that the tank was empty and enough was enough, so when Mikel put the tools down for a quick break, that was the end of things. 5 1/2 hours is a long time to sit and get blasted like this.

So that night, due to all the trauma I just caused myself, my arm swelled up by a good 30%. My elbow ballooned, and I still had a show to conduct. We all powered through, and in spite of the self-inflicted injury, I slept remarkably well. I did get a couple instances of very, very fat hand, so much so that it was quite painful and I could move the lymph back into my forearm. I spent a fair bit of time with my arm above my head, trying to drain things out.

I still had a shoulder cap to deal with though, and through sending pics to my sister about what I’d done, found out that she was going to be in Penticton on Saturday, which happened to coincide with another down spot in the schedule where I could sneak back to Kelowna. So I borrowed her truck, ran back, and got my shoulder capped.

An hour back in the chair, much realization that endorphins don’t regenerate that quickly, and lo and behold, it’s done.

It’s bold. Like, really bold. And you know what? I LOVE IT. (yeah, I can hear you saying “well you’d better love it because it’s not coming off” – I gotcha.)

This sleeve seems to confuse people. My poor dad got to see it in its full swollen glory on my birthday, the day after it had been done (it got even fatter the next day). He had no idea what to make of it. Reactions so far have been positive (at least to my face), and certainly, for my kids, there’s been an adjustment period. People are drawn to it, not knowing what it is they’re looking at. A sleeve is one thing – they’re fairly common. A black (or mostly black) sleeve, on the other hand, seems to be confounding. 

Healing has been interesting – I’ve been shedding what Mikel called “black cornflakes” all over the place. I’m almost done the first molt off of the second session, and there’s a little residual flakiness just as things finish settling in and the skin heals up a little better. My arm has returned to its usual size, and aside from some ouchiness in my shoulder (just some expected bruising), I’m good to go. I know there’s some touch-up work to be done, which I think will take place later this fall (yay, we get to redo the elbow!). 

I’m so thankful to Mikel for his steady hand, calming influence, and artistry through this process. Thankful as well to Kristy, who has way better artistic sense than I do, and as a gentle guide.

Skills/Gear Tweaking

If you know me or have been reading some of what it is I do, you’ll know I’m pretty big into DIY. From making my own furniture to generally just trying to get stuff done, I don’t let a lack of skill dampen what ought to be achievable tasks. Along the way, I’ve learned to be a better cook, how to do some (seemingly-modestly difficult) automotive tasks (think stuff like changing brakes, replacing reservoirs, thermostats, etc), along with learning a bunch about how to keep my gear in working order.

Specifically, one year, I asked to get a set of fretboard radius gauges, a feeler gauge, and a luthier’s ruler so that I could really dial in my setup on electric bass. I’d gotten a copy somewhere along the way of Jerzy Drozd’s guide to bass setup, and had some modest successes in adjusting other instruments.

Flash forward a couple of years, and I found myself here in Victoria with this gorgeous Modulus bass that was at work, but the action was so ridiculously high it made it unplayable for me. For the bass-playing set, I’m the guy who likes to dial it down pretty low rather than straining to fret the notes. I know there’s a trade-off for tone along the way, but for the stuff I do, it’s what works for me. I needed this bass for a string of upcoming shows in Portland with work for Rosefest, so I figured it ought to be best to get some adjustments done prior to departure.

I had a couple of extra minutes tonight after getting home to take the time to properly intonate and adjust this bass. I made a quick truss rod adjustment, which helped with the neck relief, but the strings still weren’t any closer to being where I wanted them. One other quirk about this bass is that the graphite neck is one piece, including the nut, so making any adjustments on that side could have been catastrophic.

After the truss rod was done, I noted that the string height at the bridge saddles looked a little on the high side, so armed with another hex wrench, I took the time to lower the strings, ensuring that the notes didn’t buzz. By the time I got to the B string, I’d realized I’d gone too far. I dialed that one back up a little, took out my radius gauge, ensured my strings matched the curvature of the fingerboard, and kablam, wouldn’t you know it, this bass is infinitely more playable. A quick intonation job, and all is good.

Truss rods I’d adjusted before, and same with the intonation, but tonight was my first (educated) foray into string height adjustment. Truthfully, the gauge made it dead simple, as I had the match for the radius. Now that I’ve done the Modulus, I might have to go around and do the rest of my instruments…

Cycling Infrastructure

I kinda die a little on the inside when I read about folks who have such hate for the bicycle. I really wish it weren’t so – there’s so much joy, especially here in Victoria, for the ability to ride bikes in fair weather for more than half the year.

And if there was ever a case for cycling infrastructure, Victoria’s starting to make a point. Yes, I get that the Pandora (and now the Fort) lanes are frustrating (I concur – why would you put a two-direction bike lane on a one-way road, and also complicate every single traffic rule for cars along the way), but also, too, those lanes provide a measure of protection for those of us that use two wheels.

Let me be clear – for as pro-bike as I am, I also acknowledge that bikes aren’t absolutely everything. Transportation systems are just that – systems. They need to be able to cover off a wide range of modes of transportation for the entire population, not just the spandex-riding elite or the dead-dino-burning set.

I read “The Enlightened Cyclist” earlier this year after having spotted it on the shelf at a friend’s place. Some of it was pretty preachy, but there were a couple of takeaways in there that were worth noting. Specifically, it was the need for everybody to just chill the fuck out and realize that NEITHER of us are going anywhere. We each have sacred obligations to not kill each other (wilfully or not). So if we all just calm down and respect each other’s space, we’ll all be much, much better.

So back to infrastructure, because this is where things get good for bikes. I live along the E&N Rail Trail and there was a small section through the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations that had yet to be built. Levi and I had been biking up Admirals Rd, and that, in and of itself, was an exercise in maximum patience, creative language, and near misses for both of us, especially through the shittiest months.

Once the trail had opened, however, it provided a link for us not just to make the commute to work/school that much easier, but to provide a safe, stable route to get all kinds of places, and really open up a world of possibilities.

So with both hats on, here’s how my Saturday went down. Talia has art class out on Latoria Rd. As much as I’m game for long distance riding, she’s not at this point, and that’s ok, so I drove her to class. I also had a few errands to run in the two hours that she was there, so I took care of those in the truck (including picking up my race package for the Oak Bay Half.

Once I got home from T’s art class, though, she was off to a sleepover at a friend’s house. Rather than drive her the 1.5km, I got her to ride her bike – it’s E&N all the way, with one traffic interface along Island Hwy (covered by a traffic light). No problems, at all. She’ll be riding home by herself later.

After I dropped her off, I had some more errands to run downtown (needed a couple of things from MEC, and some brewing supplies). E&N to downtown (lovely ride!), did my one stop at MEC, then headed back across the new Johnson bridge to head along the Goose only to find that my favourite homebrew shop was only a couple hundred metres from the trail.

A quick jaunt back across Selkirk Trestle and lo and behold, Vic West Fest was happening. So many people out, taking in some music and other festivities.

Sunday presented its own opportunities, too. Levi had a birthday party downtown, so rather than drive, the kids and I rode. T and I had a lovely dinner together while Levi played laser tag. We rode home in what T calls the Golden Hour, when everything is bathed in that picturesque hipsteresque instagram fading daylight.

Best of all, we did this mostly on bike lanes and dedicated paths.

Bike to Work (and school!) week is now happening. Levi and I hit our first Celebration Station today, and are planning on several more this week. It was so wonderful to see so many cyclists along the Goose and E&N. Tomorrow will be breakfast at Janion Plaza, again, taking advantage of as many bike lanes and paths as we can on our way.

Well, that was a thing.

So nine weeks ago, I leaned over to Kristy and said “yeah, I think I’m going to run a half-marathon.” I knew about the Oak Bay Half from my friend Roy, so I went online, paid the fee, and promptly looked at the calendar.

Nine weeks to go.

Next stop: Google. “9-week half marathon training plan”.

Ignore the safety warning that said you should only do this plan if you’ve got at least a half-marathon under your belt and have been logging steady miles. Check. (yeah, I’m that kinda stupid – oh yeah, and it was still hockey season for the first month of training, too, so bonus!)

Started running. Felt good. Started running more. Still felt good. Ran a hell of a lot. Felt awesome. Started running less. Tried some new shoes. INJURY. Like, WTAF.

Stretched, debated, freaked out, stretched more, talked to people, stretched again, got out my old shoes, arrived nervously this morning, ate a banana, stuffed a gel down my neck, turned on the tunes, and ran.

And ran.

And ran.

Vital stats:

1:38:27 total time (from the gun)
1:37:51 tape to tape
66/628 overall
20/71 AG bracket
55/289 by gender
4:39/km average pace

Splits:

5km: 23:09
10km: 45:51
20km: 1:32:01 (+46:10)

I texted my friend Jas, who lives in Oak Bay, and mentioned to her that if she happened to be out and about on Sunday morning that I’d make certain times at certain spots for viewing. Jas and her gang were there in full force, cheering me on, and it was such a boost to how I was feeling through the race, especially as the kms started to pile on, especially the last sighting just before the 17km mark (the final hills).

I definitely ran this faster than any of the training I’d done. All the way along, whenever I did my long runs, I always felt like I had lots of gas left in the tank. Today, I got over the line on fumes, which tells me I did something right.

Got a quick message a little later from my friend Beth in Halifax, who is a running/triathlon/awesomeness machine. She sent me a copy of the rules and minimum times for the CAF running championships, and yes, I did cross the line in time. Going to submit my time to the base gym and get myself onto the team going to Ottawa next year!

I really couldn’t have done it without all the encouragement from so many people. From Kristy, who gently provided all kinds of support, to Roy, Shawn and Robyn who peeled me off the ceiling when shit was going sideways, Andrea, who provided some good framing to some of the problems I was facing, and so many others along the way. I feel good about this.