2019 Tour de Victoria

Our trip to Victoria wouldn’t be complete without taking part in Ryder Hesjedal’s Tour de Victoria. For me, it was my fifth participation (2015, 2016, 2017, 2018). For Tammy and Miranda, it was number three, and Ian’s second! I can’t type that without smiling. Everybody did an amazing job and made it safely around the 140, 60 and 30 km courses.

It was almost perfect weather: there had been a few showers overnight, but the morning was dry with a mix of sun and cloud and temperatures climbing to only about 21. No wind. No smoke. It might not have been as picturesque as a brilliant sunny day, but it was great for riding, especially when yours truly forgot to put sunblock on. 🙈

It was an early morning. The 140 km distance started at 7:00, so we were up at 5:30 and down at the parliament buildings by 6:30. We ran into my friend Keith, who I have ridden with many times. I didn’t ride with him today: he was “resting” in preparation for a 26 km run the next day, and I was planning to test myself.

Simon, Tammy, Keith and Miranda before 7:00 am

As usual, there was a big crowd of riders. There were two groups: the 160 and the 160 distance, but you line up based on how long you think you will take to finish. I placed myself right at the tail end of 4-5 hours. In previous years, I’ve taken about 5:45 to finish but today I was going to see how quickly I could do it. Not racing, just working hard.

The crowd gathering

Where’s Simon????

As you can see, I still started pretty far back. I held my position until the 4 Mile Pub hill and the Colwood Crawl, where I moved forward. I was even close enough to the front that I saw the blue and red lights of the lead police motorcycle when I turned off of Ocean Boulevard and onto Lagoon Drive! (tiny cheer) I was committed to giving it an effort, but when I reached the top of Kangaroo Road, I realized that I was ahead of schedule by a fair bit. Stephanie had said that she and the family would be on the course near her house to cheer me on, but at this pace I was going to get there faster than usual. So while climbing Lindholm Road, I texted Stephanie to let her know. But as you can see: it wasn’t enough. I missed them. 😢

The rest of the day went well for me. I ended up riding most of the way with a fellow from Vancouver named John, until my legs fell off in the Uplands area. Because I was so far ahead of my usual schedule, three unusual things happened:

  1. The lead group of the 160 km riders didn’t pass me on Munn Road. They only caught me at the aid station on Hastings Street, 90 km in.
  2. The climb up into the Highlands was very peaceful. I beat the leading 100 km riders to it (they started at 9:00) so it was only a handful of 140 riders around me and not a traffic jam.
  3. I caught Tammy and Miranda at the aid station at Cordova Bay Elementary, where last year they finished before I did.

But as I mentioned above, my legs fell off not long after passing Tammy and Miranda. I was already tired, and the hills in the Queenswood area finished me off. By the time I got to Uplands my thighs felt like cooked pasta. I still managed a reasonable ride to the finish, largely thanks to the lack of a headwind this year. I finished in 5:09, much faster than my previous best.

Dad was still there after seeing Ian start, and I got to watch Tammy and Miranda cross the line!

Dad putting up with my moaning after the ride

Tammy and Miranda started at 9:00 and rode together.

Girls ready to go!

Tammy said that she was proud of how she’d done. She felt stronger on the steep hills and didn’t have to walk up any of them this year. (The hills on the course are much sharper and steeper than we have around Calgary)

Tired but smiling

Dad brought Ian down for the start of the 30 km ride at noon. His biggest problem was finding a place to park. Everywhere was full. He ended up parking under the Empress Hotel and walking over with Ian. They made it on time, but we definitely were not as organized this year. We neglected to put Miranda’s SIM card in his phone, so we couldn’t track him, and we didn’t leave him any nutrition bars to put in his pocket for the outbound ride. It was 15 km to the aid station at the turnaround for him, so he was fine but it would have been better to be prepared.

Ian ready for the start

He did great. He says he pushed hard this year, and he was back in 1:33, eleven minutes faster than last year. Who knows, maybe he’ll be ready for the 60 next year?

Tired and sweaty at the end

Here are links to all of our rides on Strava: Simon, Tammy, Miranda and Ian.

 

Squeak Biickert, November 25, 1998 – August 13, 2019

We got a call just after 6:00 this morning from Springbank Pet Resort. Squeak was barely breathing and her heartbeat was very weak. We chose not to have her rushed to emergency. Michelle, the manager, stayed with her for a while longer and when it was clear that Squeak was not going to make it, she had to ask us to either send Squeak to emergency or clear them to euthanize her. We chose euthanasia, and that’s when I broke down.

We called back later after Tammy and I went out and got some air and coffee and Squeak passed away at around 8:20. We came back to Dad’s and told the kids.

I made a point of getting Tammy to talk to the kennel about what would happen if this happened. Squeak was very old, and she had definitely been slowing down. Lots of sleep and not eating nearly as much as she used to. Michelle said that Squeak had been doing great until this, so that is a comfort. It was her time.

Squeak was the luckiest cat in the world. She was lost and found the kindest family she could have, that night in Prince George.

The night we found her.

Vacation Day Five: Victoria at Last!

There’s much less to tell about today’s travels. We slept in until 8:00 before Tammy ducked out and picked up some breakfast sandwiches from A&W while the rest of us got ready. We started out in the rain in Port Hardy and things generally improved as the day and Vancouver Island went by.

Gassed up just south of Port MacNeill, lunch at McDonald’s in Courtenay and then stopping for some Timbits just north of Duncan. We arrived at Dad’s around 3:30 and then moved in. Bikes are with us in the guest suite and the kids are set up with the air mattress in Dad’s living room.

We’re only here for a short while. We might get to see Stephanie this evening, and the Sylvesters tomorrow. Then Stephanie and the kids on Thursday and Friday. The bike ride is Saturday and then we’re off to Calgary on Sunday.

Time to relax. Posts will come as events warrant.

Vacation Day Four: 16 hours of BC Ferries

I will update this later, when I’ve had some sleep. It was a long day that started around 4 am, and now it’s past midnight. Let’s just say it was a long time to be on a ferry without the Internet. Lots of photos to come.

Updated on Highway 19, south of Courtenay

Tammy’s got the wheel, so I’m posting about yesterday. The whole trip is anchored by the Tour de Victoria on the tail end and the ferry trip from Prince Rupert to Port Hardy on the front end, so how did it go?

The short version: it was a 16 hour ferry ride. For anyone who has travelled by ferry with Ian, that means:

  1. Walking around on the outer decks until you’re cold
  2. Come inside and do something for a while
  3. Repeat (sometimes with a meal thrown in)

Whereas on a Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen run, that cycles about 2-3 times, for a 16 hour ride it was innumerable. Since my Apple Watch is out of commission, we have to consult Tammy’s: she got about 70 flights of stairs climbed.

The morning was early, but everyone was up and ready to go by the time everyone’s iPhones’ alarms went off at 4:45. A toasted bagel and coffee at the hotel’s complimentary breakfast and we were packed and out the door. We were at the ferry by 5:40, but Ian was chewing his nails to nubs as the line moved so slowly. We were supposed to be checked in before 6:00 or our reservation wouldn’t be valid! We were only about 10 cars deep, but our line was the slow one and we didn’t get our turn until 6:10. When we got to the booth, we understood why: the fellow taking reservations and selling tickets was very sociable. As it turned out the ferry was only about 80% full so there was no cause for worry, but we didn’t know that. Then we were the last car on, thanks to Miranda’s bike on the roof.

All aboard the Northern Expedition

From there, the stress was off and we could just take it in. We watched Prince Rupert disappear, and the Northern Adventure docked after we left. Watching the cranes unload containers from a container ship was fun when we passed.

Ian watching the Northern Adventure maneuvering to dock

We had pre-paid for the buffet breakfast and dinner. The breakfast was excellent, with so many good things to eat. The kids were all over the dim sum (go figure) as well as waffles, peach-coconut pancakes, three-cheese omelettes, hot and cold cereal, etc. Tammy got creative and tempted me with a croissant that she filled with whipped cream and strawberries.

Temptation accepted

Stuffed full of food, we settled in. We found a spot near the kids’ play area where there were available plugs and few people. The only kids playing for a long time was a family of Dutch kids. That entertained Tammy for a long while: trying to figure out what germanic variant they were speaking, because it was different enough from German that she couldn’t understand them.

The scenery outside was amazing, if somewhat one-note: rugged islands with trees and ocean. There was plenty to look at. The highlight of the trip was seeing a pod of humpback whales in the channel south of Bella Bella. They were too far away to photograph with an iPhone, but we got to watch.

Surreal, eh?

Ian taking it all in while making a time lapse

A vista on Pitt Island

As the day wore on, even Ian was feeling it. Sometimes we would just go outside and sit together on a bench with him leaning back on me and snoozing. We still were all smiling, though.

Everybody say: “Almost there!”

By the time dusk came and the boat was out on the Queen Charlotte Sound, everyone looked and felt tired. The ferry docked a bit early in Port Hardy and it was only an 8 kilometer drive to the Providence Place Inn where we showered and crashed.

Almost literally: the overhand at the front of the inn was lower than I was expecting and Miranda’s bike was on the roof. I was only rolling slowly and realized what was about to happen just as it did. The bike bumped against the roof, but no serious damage done. It could have been disaster, though.

Updated again

It seems I should put in a word here about the quality of the hotel in Port Hardy. Let’s just say that Tammy was not impressed. It’s a good thing we were unconscious for most of the time spent there.

Day Three – Transiting from PG to PR

A day of two Princes: George and Rupert. I don’t have as much to say about today, since it was pretty much all in the car. We checked out from the hotel after our complimentary breakfast. I think it was a pretty successful stay. It was the same “Esther’s Inn” as in 2008, but under new ownership. It might not be glamorous, but I really liked the atrium and the ability to sit out on the couches with the water fountains and read. It didn’t take long to get packed up, and we were on our way by 8:15. We stopped in Vanderhoof to get coffee at Timmy’s.

Rolling into Vanderhoof

Fraser Lake, Burns Lake and Houston followed. We stopped for lunch at DQ in Smithers. It was interesting how different Smithers feels compared to the other places we rolled through. It really has a “tourist destination” feel.

Rolling into Smithers

Then it was New Hazelton (the most northerly point of our trip) and then Terrace and finally Prince Rupert.

Ian and I at the Visitor’s Centre in New Hazelton

Looking at Terrace

The geography really got wild after Terrace. The mountains were so impressive, and worn by glaciers in the past into wild and wonderful shapes. The problem was that the sunlight was ahead of us, making it really difficult to get good photos.

I call this “Sad Trees with Hanging Valley”

Miranda took this across the Skeena

We pulled into Prince Rupert a few minutes after six and checked into the Pacific Inn. It’s… quaint. No A/C. The water’s off-color. But we needed a place to sleep before getting on the ferry tomorrow. There is a Save-on-Foods next door, and we got a roast chicken and salads for dinner and some sandwiches for tomorrow’s lunch. We went out for a walk after dinner, but it was a little run down for us to feel really comfortable walking around. Not a ringing endorsement for the town, I know.

Walking to the bookstore, of course

Ready to call it a night

We’ll be up before 5 tomorrow to be down at the ferry by 5:30ish. According to BC Ferries, we have to be there 90-120 minutes before sailing with a reservation.

Vacation Day Two – In PG

It’s our second day on the road, and we haven’t gone anywhere! That’s according to plan, though. We intended to stay one full day in Prince George. It was an opportunity to revisit old stomping grounds and either reinforce or dispel impressions of the place we lived in 19 years ago.

And there’s no better way to visit places than on a bicycle, amirite? After our complimentary breakfast at the hotel, I got my cycling gear on and headed out on a 58 km bike ride. I rode past the house on Skinner Street where Tammy and I first lived in PG, and then up to UNBC, then to the Hart Highlands and past our old townhouse and finally out Northwood Pulp Mill Road to the JD Little Forest Centre, where I worked for the McGregor Model Forest Association.

Outside my alma mater

Prince George from University Way

Our old townhouse – there was one for sale in the complex!

JD Little Forest Centre

After I headed out, Tammy and the kids rode up to the University, too. It’s quite the hill and she had never tried it before. As you can see, they were tired but still smiling at the top.

Before I left, I emailed Sean to say I was in town. By the time I got back, he had replied and we arranged that I would meet him at his office. He showed off some stuff he’s been working on. It’s amazing, considering how primitive it was back in the day when Jonesy and I helped him put together his original website and Tammy worked for him, making maps. We had lunch together at a place called Crossroads Brewing.

Sean and I and a couple of pints of IPA

Hard to believe he’s 50, but then I’m 46. When I got back, Tammy and the kids had had some amazing Japanese food for lunch and were in a food coma in the hotel room.

Bento box – there was an appetizer, too

I enticed them out with a promise to find a bookstore. Miranda jumped at that. We went to Pine Centre first, and I think she was disappointed. But we got to see Mr. PG before ending up at Books & Company, which was much more to everyone’s liking.

Books & Company

Ian, Tammy and Miranda all bought something. Then we went by the school where Tammy used to work for LINC, and saw the parking lot where she found Nochie, so many years ago.

Now we’re back at the hotel. It might be a quieter evening as we prepare for tomorrow’s drive to Prince Rupert.

Updated a little later

I was wrong: it wasn’t a quiet evening (for me): in fact, it was very loud. I went out to Nitro Motorsport Park where there was a Friday night drag racing event on. The main event is Saturday and Sunday, but a lot of drivers, cars and bikes were out and practicing.

At the start line

It was a large group of cars and bikes. My only regret was barely getting to see the fastest car of the night. It was a sleeper white Mustang with a turbocharged engine. It was about the second race after I arrived and I was fooled by the car. It was a vanilla Mustang and not very loud. But it hooked up and shot down the track. I was going to get a video of it on the next run, but that was the only run it made tonight.

Ian was in the pool again tonight. He just loves that there is a pool right outside the room (inside the atrium).

Vacation Day One – Arrived in PG

We’re doing things a little differently this year: normally we drive all the way from Calgary to Victoria in one day, in time for checking in for the Tour de Victoria. Then the rest of the visit in Victoria follows and we head home. This time we are taking four days on our trip to Victoria, going by way of Prince George, Prince Rupert, and Port Hardy. The whole thing is centred on the ferry ride from Rupert to Vancouver Island, which will be on Sunday. Today was the first leg of the journey: driving from Calgary to Prince George.

We had a bit of a leisurely morning by vacation standards: because we only had 8-ish hours to drive and no ferry to catch, we could leave when we wanted to. We ended up leaving a bit before seven. We drove to Lake Louise and then left the Trans-Canada and headed northwest on Highway 93: the Icefields Parkway.

The Parkway is a nice, relaxing drive. It certainly has breathtaking scenery.

The Bow Glacier

We took lots of photos. I will try to add more later. The most dramatic landscapes are on the southern end, towards Banff. Towards Jasper, the landscape became more forested and less rugged. We stopped for lunch in Jasper, using a picnic table along Connaught Ave. to eat some Subway.

Ian in the sun in Jasper

It was warm in Jasper and in Mt. Robson Park: 28 degrees. We stopped along the way at the Visitor Centre at Mt. Robson and at Purden Lake as well.

Tammy and the kids goofing off in front of Mt. Robson

Purden Lake, looking towards the ski area

We rolled into Prince George just around five, as expected. We checked into the Super 8 on the Hart Highway (used to be Esther’s Inn) and went for a walk up and down the strip, eventually settling on dinner at Denny’s. Then it was back to the hotel for a dip in the pool.

Tomorrow is a day in PG. I am planning to take a bike ride and we’ll probably scope out some old haunts, like our old townhouse, etc. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

Updated on Day 2 – with more pictures!

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Cycling from Banff

I’m not sure where to start with this one. On one hand, we had a great day out: we got to see Banff (the town), Tammy and the kids rode the Legacy Trail to Canmore and got to see more of that town, too. I got to ride Highway 1A to Lake Louse and got to see Moraine Lake.

Then on the other hand, Miranda got sick on the way back from Canmore, leaving Tammy to nurse them the 25 km back to Banff and making her do most of the work with the headwind that wanted them to not make it back.

I think I’ll focus on the good parts, okay? I mean, check this out:

Color is not doctored. Moraine Lake is that color.

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Mid-Season BCC Update

Today’s the first day of August. There’s about a month of summer riding left before the weather will start getting more unpredictable. It’s Calgary, so we’re talking snow as a possibility.

This year I made a major change: I shifted my ride leadership from Wednesday+Sunday to Wednesday+Saturday. This was major because it forced me into riding long rides (80-110 km) every weekend and riding with the “A” riders every week. It has had the result I expected: I’m a lot stronger than I was at this point last year (2018). I would say this has been my most ambitious riding season, maybe even besting 2017, the year of five gran fondos (MEC x 2, Cycle of Life, Badlands, Tour de Victoria).

The best part has been that the feedback has been very positive. I was worried about how  I would be accepted by the Saturday ride regulars, considering that they had a reputation as being take-no-prisoner all-out rides and I like to make things more inclusive. But for the first time ever, I’m getting regular kudos in the form of comments directly from riders, notes on Strava and even emails to myself and the director complimenting me on the way I’m running the rides. It’s really put a shine on this year for me.

This Saturday will be a special Saturday ride: we’ll be starting in Banff and riding to Moraine Lake. That’s a ride I’ve never done before. Looking forward to it.

Here are a couple of photos from last night’s Wednesday night ride. We stopped on one of the lookouts over the Bow River and took a group photo.

Summer Baking

Not sure what the whole story was, but this morning Tammy and the kids did some baking. Ian made a sour cream and cherry brownie, while Miranda made vanilla-sea salt ice cream.

We tried them out at dinner tonight. Delicious!