Monday, 26 January 2015

The art of living well, or... well, living the art.

A mid-week miracle happened the other day. It was sunny and beautiful outside at the very same time that I had a few hours on my hands. It was the middle of the day in the middle of the week, and I wasn't strictly compelled to be somewhere, doing something, so I went for a ride. Because I could. :)

Isn't it gorgeous? That's Brunswick Beach, the day's destination. I followed the Sea to Sky highway from Vancouver, headed north toward Squamish, which came in at number 32 on the New York Times'  52 places to go in 2015. It must be one of the most beautiful stretches of road anywhere on the planet, that bit, and I love that I can ride there in just over an hour.

photo from The Highway Bandits
That glorious view certainly makes the price of the Whistler Gran Fondo worth your while, especially since there are no cars on the road during the event. But on Wednesday I was happy enough to share the road with the motor vehicles, and delighted to bask in the sunshine for a few minutes on Brunswick Beach. And as I did, it occurred to me that two of my previous employers both live there. Needless to say, beautiful Brunswick Beach, a wee tiny suburb of the lovely village of  Lion's Bay, is one of the more exclusive neighbourhoods in the Lower Mainland. One of my past employers is on the spit, with one beach in the front of his house, and another in the back! Can you imagine? What a great way to live. And as I sat there in the sunshine, it occurred to me that both of them are people who are doing what they are passionate about. One of them is a geologist, and the chairman of a group of mining companies, and the other is an interior designer, and a good one at that. They inspire me because the two of them have both figured out how to make a good living doing what they love. What better life can there be for any of us?

I am certainly happy working with another great, inspired entrepreneur. I am part of a team which is taking the reality gaming world by storm. We just opened the first of three exciting, Immmersive and interactive adventure rooms, which are challenging the very nature of entertainment. No more going to the movies to see Indiana Jones. Now you can come to G.U.E.S.S. HQ and BE Indiana Jones. My current boss is another person achieving success by pursuing his passions, and that got me thinking...(don't worry, I didn't hurt myself this time round. Even small brains need exercise, you know.)

I have always admired artists, because they spend their time creating beauty for the rest of us, and better yet, the beauty that they create challenges people. Good art inevitably causes us to think, an to respond, and sometimes it even inspires us to change our ways.

The writing is on the wall.
I went to the Vancouver Art Gallery the other day, to see the Forbidden City artifacts, and though I did enjoy all of the beautiful and interesting relics from days gone by, I was enchanted with the more modern Unscrolled exhibit upstairs.

Bang at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Ai Weiwei always challenges the status quo.
Art is a noble pursuit, especially when its purpose is social change. Ai Weiwei has another installation here in Vancouver, a part of the new Bienalle exhibit scattered about town, and that one is definitely making a statement. It's called F-grass, and it looks just like a calligraphic F, too, because the Chinese word for grass sounds just like the F-bomb. He is telling the government censors to go fuck themselves, bless his heart. Sometimes art takes great courage.

But thank goodness for courageous souls like Ai Weiwei. It's really no wonder that tyrants are afraid of art, and beauty. Hitler hated the modernist movement, and no wonder. And Canada's very own tyrant has gagged scientists and burnt libraries, so it's up to us to fight back with beauty, and truth.

We went to the Belkin Gallery up at UBC a short while ago, to attend Tom Burrows' opening night. 

He has a long history of challenging the status quo, our Tom.  After the District of North Vancouver burned down his house on the mud flats east of the second narrows bridge, the UN commissioned him to examine squatters' communities around the world.  A few decades on, the Vancouver Art Gallery build a mock-up of that legendary community in front of the Shangri-la, the most expensive real estate in the city. 

From Shangri-La to Shangri-La
Given all of the perpetually empty properties owned by foreign nationals here in Vancouver, the idea of establishing another squatters community, this time in the heart of  waaaay more vacant than it appears Shaugnessy, is more than a little appealing.  After all, housing is a human right, and there are a lot of people sleeping on the streets in this town.  I love the way Tom solved his own housing needs. After he returned from his squatters inquiry, he bought a beautiful piece of south facing property on Hornby Island, and then he built - by hand! - a beautiful little house into the cliff, where he could happily settle in and create to his heart's content. Everywhere he has gone in life, Tom has left behind him a legacy of beauty and social change. I love that in a man.

He always has his finger on the pulse of culture itself, does Tom. He sees things few others are aware of, and he does it decades before it dawns on everybody else. He thinks so far outside the box that the box itself is irrelevant. He is one of those rare, beautiful individuals with a truly planetary consciousness, a man whose life is a kind of switch which serves to awaken the rest of us. A few years ago he held an exhibit of bicycles. Yes, bikes.  He strung them up throughout the gallery, a jungle canopy of two wheeled beauty, hung to inspire contemplation. And this is what he had to say about them.

I hope Tom's messages of sanity soak in soon enough that we see significant change over the next few years. It might still be possible to create a world where all life is honoured and respected, and where we live in harmony and dignity, instead of in absolute obeisance to profit, and the worship of this endless cycle of obscene consumption. Well, it isn't exactly endless now, is it? All lifestyles are created equal, but some are more equal than others.The writing really is on the wall. 

“At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question.” 
― George OrwellAnimal Farm

Harmony. Symmetry. Balance. 
The irony is that there is so much joy to be found in a simple life. And function really does create form. So many people comment on my legs - daily, weekly, monthly... it happens all. The. Time. But though it looks as if I spend endless hours in a gym, I never, ever do. These crazy-assed gams are nothing more than the manifestation of many years of living in my happy zone, and of staying true to my convictions. You know. Four wheels bad, two wheels good. Better than that, though, my two wheeled place of joy keeps me sane when madness rules all around. Harmony, symmetry and balance are yours for the taking, too. Just park the car for a month and give your friendly neighbourhood bicycle a spin. You will be glad you did when all is said and done. Promise. xo

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Woman about town.

Humanity's complete and utter dependence on fossil fuels is something I've been known to get all worked up about. I needed to take my mind off any and all serious subjects this past weekend. It was definitely time to kick back, to become a tourist in my own backyard, and what better place to do that than in Vancouver's historic Gastown?

Sure, the cobbles are quiet now, 

but this is the site of the Gastown Grand Prix, one of the marquee events in BC's very own Superweek, held this year from July 10-18. I would love to compete, but they don't have a Superweak category for us crash test dummies.

John Denniston
Still. I can dream. And this weekend, that's precisely what I did. I sat and dreamt of fast rides

and of ...

artisinal underwear. That's right.

And lo and behold! Imagine that!

Not all knickers are created equal, y'know.  All it takes is mere cash.

A whack of cash will buy you a seriously suggestive ball and chain of a chair, too. If you're into that sort of thing. 

And if you're not into sitting on something so divinely voluptuous,

You can always find yourself seated upon something velo-uptious. I wandered around the hood a little more, but something was missing.

Something really is missing, too. And Gastown is nothing if not creative. You never know what you'll encounter when you go searching for the Gastown steam-clock these days: 

Some days it looks like this,

while others, like this. But in the tourist books it always looks like this:
Things are not always what you'd expect. But never fear. There are some things you can still count upon in this town. No matter where you find yourself, beauty always abounds, and no matter where you're going,

two wheels are always the best way to get around.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

The truth is a well-kept secret here in Ford country.

Hello!  Here you go - an extra large picture of an extra large pick up truck. Way to go, Chevrolet! You really outdid yourself on that one.

When does "Bigger is Better" beome just plain stupid?
Un.  Believable. What would prompt a person to purchase such a Leviathan? It serves no purpose, except perhaps to make up for some sense of SHORTcoming, as it were. It doesn't even have a fifth wheel. It's a four wheel drive with duelies, a super heavy beast of a machine with the capability of hauling five tons, only it's all for show. That box in the back there has no more capacity than any other off-the-lot half ton pick up truck in the country. A Toyota can haul as much, and it can do it with an order of magnitude less fuel. The Dickus Minimus who chose this joke of a truck obviously needs it to haul his ego. He carted it in this monster, along with his ass, clear across the country. Can you see? It's sporting Ontario plates.

And like the rest of us, he has undoubtedly witnessed the effects of climate change over the past decade or so, with the increase in extreme weather events. You've gotta wonder whether he just doesn't buy it, that climate change is real, or whether he figures his actions have no impact on the greater whole.  Either way, we clearly don't see eye to eye, he and I. Pick up trucks are a plague upon the Canadian economy, and the scourge of our environmental efforts, but try telling that to your average redneck.

I've had arguments about climate change with a few people over the past few months. Way back in the day, even before the protests at Clayoquot Sound, back when I first started thinking about my impact on the planet, and wondering about ways that humanity might alter its course to halt the full scale destruction of the Earth's natural spaces, we environmentalists were a rare species.  Sure, everyone was aware of David Suzuki, Canada's very own Lorax who speaks for the trees, but few people claimed much of a sense of personal responsibility until 1993 and the Clayoquot Sound protests. Twenty some odd years on, and the landscapes themselves - both literal and political alike - are vastly different. Literally. Just ask Naomi Klein, or better yet, read her epic work entitiled This Changes Everything. These days, climate change is a concept on everybody's radar, and most people claim an understanding, an awareness of how their lifestyle, their actions, and their habits of consumption impact the rest of the world.

And yet those who deny the obvious are always so strenuous in their protest. Take Mr Moore, for eample. the CBC's early edition introduced him as one of the original founders of Greenpeace. Despite his environmental beginnings, he turned to the dark side. He has become a spokesperson for the very industries he so vehemently decried thirty years ago. But now he earns a comfortable living, so there's that.

The one thing you can't help but notice about climate change deniers is that they tend to make a ton of dosh off the very industries at the heart of our global warming issues. Besides, who want to actually bother to change?  Change is challenging. It's easier to just carry on with a comfortable lifestyle, and instead point fingers, calling the rest of us mad. Mind you, Mr Moore was introduced as Patrick Moore on the CBC, and yet when I tweeted in response to his interview, a fellow named John Charles Moore took up the sword to do battle, so maybe multiple personality disorder explains his change of heart, and his loose connection to his name. You'd think in that case, he would embrace change, and pursue a sustainable global economy, instead of sitting back and calling environmental activists crazy.

And plenty of people truly have gone mad. You don't have to travel all of the way to Paris to find people who have lost the plot. We have our own home grown lunatics right here in beautiful British Columbia. Like the 64 year old woman who was arrested a couple of weeks ago for laying potentially lethal traps for mountainbikers on the North Shore mountains. As if life isn't dangerous enough as it is.

In fact, all you have to do is spend a few hours in traffic, or down at the ports, and you risk changing the structure of your genetic make-up, at least you do if you're exposed to deisel exhaust.  Why?  Some researchers at UBC determined that a mere two hours of exposure to deisel exhaust is all it takes to interfere with the body's methylation, a coating that attaches to many places on your DNA, affecting the expression of some 400 or so genes. And that truck up there? Not just too big to be beautiful, but deisel, too.  Figures.

It's overwhelming, sometimes, how very far we humans still have to go. But I can always find peace on two wheels. Even when the world leaves me reeling in the chaos, there's a moment of inner calm, and quiet contemplation available any time, any place.  All I have to do is head out of doors to go for a spin.

It's not rocket science, but it is tried, tested and true. Riding a bike is guaranteed to bring a smile to your face, even on the most challenging of days. And it's not even one of those guilty pleasures... :)

Works a charm, every time. It's the honest truth: the best pick-me-up is the farthest thing from a pick-up truck. Don't believe me? Give it a go. Try it for yourself and see.

Monday, 5 January 2015

It feels like the very first Time Trial...

Oh wait!  It is the first time trial, the very first time trial, but never mind. I am not a Foreigner to tribulation. We weren't climbing any mountains, but I still felt the pain. Hello, dear reader, and Happy New Year!  I love that you're here... thank you for joining me!  :D

Last time we met, I babbled on about how much of a weight weenie I've become, and I showed you how pretty Ti Baby turned into a mix'n'matched frankenbike to give me a chance at a good showing on Escape Velocity's January 1st Team Time Trial.

It worked! My partner and I somehow managed to pull it off to finish in first, blessed be, thanks to the generous handicaps awarded for age and sex (and honestly, who doesn't love being rewarded for sex!?). Our raw time of 26:08 became a winning score of 23:38 with the 2 minute 30 seconds given to all girl and mixed gender teams. The next team's final score was 24:17, which was very satisfying. The under 15 Devo teams were also awarded extra time, to the tune of 1 minute 15 seconds. As you know, I always avoid thinking of myself as someone with a handicap, but in this instance, I'll take it. And no matter how you slice it, I can't think of a better way to ring in the new year. Sure beats dealing with a hangover! And if you do wake up feeling a little worse the wear for those New Year's Eve celebrations, a good sweat is still the way to start anew, cause it rids your body of all of those nasty toxins faster than anything else.

But it wasn't all sunsine and roses. It hurt. It really, really hurt, and for the first third of the ride I wondered more than once just what I was doing, and precicely why. By the end of the first of two segments, I wondered if I would thow up before the ride was over. But the return ride back down River Road wasn't quite as difficult, cause we had a tailwind instead of the headwind we were working against on the way out. Better yet, on the way back, our team leader was in front of us, and since he is a seriously strong rider, we just paced ourselves behind him and his partner, and then we sprinted for all we were worth for the last few hundred meters. When all was said and done, it felt fantastic to have given it everything I had to give. The suffering was suddenly inconsequential. Funny how the body forgets about pain, isn't it? It's never a viceral memory, blessed be. If it were, women would't ever have more than one child, would we?

2015 is going to be the best year yet, and I plan to push the limits as often as possible. My kind and thoughtful friend, Bill Yearwood, regional manager of Canada's Transportation Safety Board, president of the BC Masters Cycling Association, and spiritual leader to many Vancouver Cyclists, has made a remarkable impact in my life in the short time I've known him. In May of 2014, he flew me in my first helicopter ride ever to Vancouver Island and my very first bike race ever, making it a memorable day on all counts, and not only because I miraculously returned with a few medals in hand. Bill is staying true to form this year, having already made a real impact on my experience in 2015.

Photo courtesy of Duane via SmugMug
He very generously donated all of those lovely light-weight, hi-tech parts that turned pretty Ti Baby into a fast machine, and he continued on his mission to lighen up babble with some old-school Time Ti-Mag pedals. Inkeeping with my love of all things beautiful, I plan to strip the old paint off of the pedals before I put them on Ti Baby, but use them I will.  And who knows? Maybe the next time you see me out on a club ride, that's what you'll find me spinning...

I just hope that the next time I see YOU out there on the roads, you're not full of rage at the cyclists you encounter along your way.  Like the guy we encountered on the Burrard Bridge:

Somebody suggested that he must have been an Escalade driver who lost his license.  Heh heh. Whatever his story, his anger is a reminder to me that while I can't always control the things that happen, I do get to decide how to react to them. And no matter what happens, I am convinced jthat this year is going to be one to remember, and who knows? Maybe together we'll make history.

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

The weight is over. This year, less is more - more or less.

OMG! Where did the time go? I can't believe it's almost 2015. Seems like just yesterday we were down on the beach, hanging out in the sunshine!

I should really stay away from New Year's resolutions at all costs, cause they are nothing more than a recipe for failure.  The last couple of years I tried to quit swearing, but I just can't fucking do it. This year is different. This year I am joining the masses, as it were.  In 2015 I am going to shed a few pounds. Sure, almost everybody wants to lose a little weight. Every New Year, millions upon millions of people resolve to eat healthier, and to exercise more, and that's why the diet industry is worth billions of dollars. And even though I am not carrying a whole lot of fat round the middle, I do want to lose some weight. Five pounds. I want to lighten the load by five pounds.

It's not going to be easy. Or cheap. Some people say it costs as much as a thousand dollars a pound when you're dealing with a hefty, big boned frame like mine. 

Where to begin? The frame isn't going anywhere. Not yet, anyway. And I took care of the seat post last week. What about the crank? There's a few ounces in that baby, for sure. But it's soooooo pretty. I love my Campy crank... it looks like a flower.  See?

But it's metal, and that means it weighs more than crabon.  And this year I resolve to lighten up, so at least for the moment, it's gotta go.  Luckily for me, one very kind and generous soul happened to have a crabon fiber crank laying around in his parts bin, and he very generously donated it toward the lighten up babble project. Blessed be.

Zipp Speed Weaponry - truly a weapon of MASS destruction
It even has ceramic bearings.  How cool is that?! Never mind that until a few days ago I didn't even know that there was such a thing as ceramic bearings for a crank.

These ceramic babies have a lot of bearing on my overall weight.
My friend very kindly offered up some deep dish carbon wheels, too, though only the front wheel is compatible with my bike and its eleven speed Campagnolo groupset.

She's helping, too, only she's shedding hair instead of weight.

I need all the help I can get. I'd have passed on the wheel, but on January 1st, 2015, Escape Velocity is holding a two-up Time Trial on River Road, and as you should always begin the year as you mean to continue, I intend to go out there and give it my very best, bum knee n'all. They're giving teams with girls on them a handicap, and I have always avoided thinking of myself as someone with a handicap, but today I am happy to claim one.

Me and my handy cap.
I have always loved pretty things, too, and yet my precious Ti Baby has become a frankenbike for the sake of a ride which means nothing at all in the grand scheme of things, but matters to me as the best way to begin a brand new year.  What's become of me?!

Cat 1? Naaah. One Cat.
Never would have guessed in a million years that I'd care about shaving weight off a bike. I don't even weigh myself! My bathroom scales have siezed up, so rarely do I use them, and when I bought Ti Baby I chose titanium because other than the odd Gran Fondo, I planned to use the bike to do some touring in the summer. I chose something light but sturdy. Now I dream of riding one of those fifteen pound Fred Chariots, and I hardly recognise the person I see looking back at me from the mirror.

I have become everything that my hero Snobi Wan despises.  I am a stravaddicted weight weenie who loves nothing more than the Saturday club ride, and the Tuesday night criteriums. Yet the one thing I know for certain is that happiness is never 'out there' somewhere. It always comes from acceptance, especially self acceptance, and from finding peace in the moment. So in the end, who cares what people think of me? Lol!! In fact, maybe they should all take a page out of my book and lighten up a little. :D

But who knows? Maybe I'm just being lb foolish.  I'll let you know how tomorrow's race goes.
Thanks for joining me on this beautiful journey, peeps. I hope you enjoy the happiest of new years!

Sunday, 28 December 2014

The year of living dangerously.

What. A year. As always you'll have found me mugging it up for the camera throughout. It was a big one, 2014, and scary at times, too.

January started off with a bang when I went into sinus arrest and found myself in the Cardiac Unit at VGH after drinking some tea which disagreed with me.

In June, I crashed and burned on the Vets' Ride in Richmond, destroying both my scapula and my clavicle in one fell swoop.

The spectacle
It was way past time to bone up on my skillz, so I shouldered on and joined the guys at Escape Velocity, once I'd spent the summer healing up, that is.

My shoulder is much more stable now, but this body is nothing if not unpredictable, and for the last month I have been struggling with a very painful knee. The doctors even kept talking about trying to save the joint.  !!
They say cannabis makes for great pain relief, but this is NOT my idea of a swell joint!
It looks as if the doctors succeeded in their mission, fingers crossed, cause most of the tissue swelling is gone now, blessed be. But the bones themselves are still enlarged. Who knew bones could swell?! Er... never mind! That kind swelling is strictly on a a knee-d to know basis.

It's funny. Even though it hurts something fierce sometimes, and even though I was lucky just to have survived the 2014, I really do love my life.  Seriously. What a gift!! I've been blessed with two gorgeous, kind, sweet, bright sons; I have a remarkably tolerant family; beautiful, wonderful, paitent friends; and the coolest job. Ever. And even though this crazy old body is unbelievably mutarded, it has taught me how to live well, and the pain involved has even made me into a decent athlete. See?  I'm a very lucky woman.  Aaaaaaand, if you ask me what Santa brought for Christmas, I'll smile and tell you it is long and hard, with a knob on top, and  that you can sit on it. Mmmmmm.  That's happy making. :)

You might be a little bit surprised to learn that it's shorter and narrower than the one that it's replacing, and that I'm good with that.

I was surprised to discover that of all of the many the things that happened this year, and of all of the stuff I did, handling the shim was likely amongst the most dangerous of them all.  Really! What, you don't believe me? See for yourself:

You see?  It might look harmless enough, but it's practically a lethal weapon, the shim. 

Cycling can be dangerous, and failure to heed those strident warnings up there "may result in very serious injury or death!"  Even just handling said shim can cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm!  Good thing I've already had my kids.  Poor boys share my defective genes - the last thing they need is some life threatening shim messing things up. And wouldn't you know it? Whilst installing the bloody thing, I didn't wear my hazmat suit. It was at the cleaners.

What a risk taker!
Cycling can be dangerous they say. That's why I like to wear safety shoes as often as possible. When I used to teach kids how to ride horses - now there's a safe sport - we always insisted that they wear a heel so that their foot wouldn't slip through the stirrup, so I like to wear a proper heel to ensure my foot doesn't slip off the pedal.

Safety shoes - they're good for the sole.
Cycling can be dangerous... In this, the year of living dangerously, I couldn't help but notice just how many people driving vehicles were running red lights. Almost every day, I see at least one person in a car run a red, but the real hazard is Vancouver's bus drivers.  In the last month alone, I saw nine separate bus drivers honk their horn, speed up, and run a red - not a stale yellow!!- light.  I kept track of the bus numbers, the times and the routes of the vehicles involved, and after the first two, I wrote to Translink to let them know about what I've seen, and their response was to ask me to keep the details of thier private investigation private.  They asked me not to talk about it. I asked them to ensure that it doesn't happen again, and then I saw seven more drivers do the exact same thing - within a few weeks!  So I'm talking about it. Loudly. In this city living dangerously can mean something as simple as walking across the street with the walk signal. So please, the next time you see some crazy-assed, determined cyclist out there on the roads, trying to get to work and back, please just suspend your judgement for a minute, think about the big picture, and slow down a little.  Cycling can indeed be dangerous, but it doesn't have to be.  Just stop for the lights, and stick to the speed limits, please and thank you.  Cause, y'know what the sticker says... failure to heed these warnings may result in serious injury or death.

Plenty of people think that cycling is a dangerous pastime, even without riding a roadbike, or joining a race team, and sadly, maybe as things stand it actually is. I like the idea of riding safely off into the sunset to live a healthy life - happily ever after...

but humanity is a long, long way from a healthy happy anything. The small boy wanted a snowboard for Christmas, so Santa -mummy indulged him. Only he can't use it yet, because there isn't any snow on the hills. Nothing. None.  De Nada.

Ironic, isn't it?  Sandbags for rising sea levels, and no snow on the mountains. 
But we continue blithely on, consuming without any thought for tomorrow, with cities full of motorists commuting daily, and driving everywhere, all the time. Worse, much of the time it's one person per massive SUV, whilst the tides rise higher and higher around us. Last month the king tide caused damage throughout the lower mainland, and now sandbags seem to be a permanent feature down at Jericho beach. 

Forget bike racing. That's living dangerously. Sit back a minute, and contemplate the big picture. We really are all in this together, and your choices absolutely do make a difference - every single day.

Have hope. The times, they are a changing. This week, a judge awarded a cyclist $100,000 after a confrontation with an angry truck driver who used his vehicle to threaten the men on bikes caused a cyclist to crash. That might not give YOU hope, but it cheers me up immensely. But there's all sorts of evidence that humanity is slowly but surely changing course, if you look closely. Take Medicine Hat, for example. This is a city in Alberta with a history in the natural gas industry dating back over a century, and yet they are facing the future, and embracing renewables. They have installed wind turbines, and even Canada's first solar thermal capture plant in an effort to achieve their 2025 target of supplying 25% of electricity from renewable resources. And even better yet, Toyota has promised to mass produce a hydrogen fuel cell car by 2015.

Who knows? Maybe there's hope for us yet. With any luck... well, and with the courage to make a few unpopular decisions, we can turn this mess around, so that we won't be living quite so dangerously in a few years time.