Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ready to ring out 2009, bring on 2010

Another year nearly done. I've noticed that I have blogged significantly less here compared to years in the past - perhaps it is because of twitter, perhaps it is because I've gotten lazy. It's a statistic and I'm not going to read too much into it. There were certainly things to blog about, like participating in the Ride to Conquer Cancer, crashing my bike while training for said ride, rediscovering my love of just about all things bicycle related as well as my first taste of durian (flavoured gelato).

There was also a lot to write about locally, including the Burrard Street bridge bike lane trial, the metamorphasis that Vancouver has been going through as it prepares to host the Olympics (just a month and a half away now!)

There was also a lot not to write about. I tried not to comment too much on my progress with various video games I played throughout the year, despite how fun I found them to be. I continue not to write too much about work because well, I guess I'm a little old and cautious about mixing such things still. not a lot was written about our two crazy cats but I think that had more to do with the fact that I kept up the blog for our dog and that was time consuming enough.

So what will next year bring? Hopefully a lot of Olympic gold for the home team. Hopefully another bike adventure, although ideally not something that takes quite so much time to prepare for. Also it would be nice to bring a few house projects to conclusion, like properly finishing our patio area (while it is still warm enough to be enjoyed, instead of well after) and at least one more round of de-cluttering.

Happy New Year wishes to the three or four people who still read this blog. May the next year bring you closer to realizing some of your dreams.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Virtual Heat Wave

Vancouver is finally into the negative temperatures and if anyone noticed, it certainly was our pets. Our first pet, Sophie, is such a heat-hog that she will go out of her way to position herself in front of the heaters we have around the house.

Yes that's right, we find it is way cheaper to use plain old space heaters instead of the baseboards. Besides, our condo is barely 600 sqft so it's very easy to heat such a small area.

Anyway, Sophie will contort and stretch herself beyond what would be considered reasonable, or at least comfortable just to get better access to the heat. She's like this in the summer too, sitting in the sun just baking, reveling in the hotness. While our other pets enjoy being warm, none are quite as hardcore about it as Sophie.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Birthday for Takaki-san

I had lunch with Kevin and Behzad today, celebrating Kevin's birthday. It seems that we tend to get together as a group of three these days, which is somehow appropriate. You see, I have worked with Kevin and Behzad, but at different times and for different companies. Further, Kevin has also worked with Behzad independent of me. It's an interesting intersection of circles that makes for fun conversations where sometimes only two of the three participants really knows what is going on.

Okay, I'll be honest - I'm the one usually in the dark.

It's ok though. We are three guys who really have very little in common other than a shared work experience and possibly a common interest in video games. Yet I count both of them as more than just casual friends. Maybe it's because while we were working together we ended up chatting about whatever was going on in our lives so we just got to know each other well. Who knows? However it happened, I'm happy.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

End Credits

The other day I completed Far Cry 2. At the end of the game, the credits roll. While this used to be just an afterthought, if at all, I've noticed that it is becoming a much bigger deal for a lot of games. Last year I played Portal, a much shorter game and got a huge payoff with the ending credits. They had put together one of the most memorable endings to date, complete with a catchy tune and retro ascii art. While the end credit sequence for Far Cry 2 wasn't as original as Portal's, it was still polished and did include a separate musical score. I did find it was a bit long though.

The other thing about ending credits is that often, they aren't interruptable. You have to let it play through. This is in contrast to say, a movie, where you usually stop watching. I think it is why some films started putting in out takes and using better music - most people just aren't there to read the fine print.

Another game that handles end credits well is Left 4 Dead but in that case the credits are just a fun way of displaying player stats for the round. But then, you can complete one of the campaigns in that game in a little more than an hour, far shorter than a typical computer game.

Of all the games I have played, I probably only finished about half at best. In all cases, they are my favorite games. I guess this makes sense as I wouldn't continue playing a game I didn't really enjoy.

As usual, I've put up photos taken from around Vancouver. Also as usual, they have nothing to do with what I'm talking about. But I figure every story ought to have some pictures.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Not Selected

Jury Selection. I was actually excited about participating in this process until I learned that it also meant going a month without pay. When faced with that reality it became clear that I needed to prepare my reasons to beg off, at least for this trial.

Still, on the morning of, I arrived at the courthouse with the excitement of a kid on a factory tour. Okay, a factory that produces something the kid is at least somewhat interested in. It was a new experience.

Just because it was a new experience did not mean I was to arrive unprepared. As luck would have it I recently purchased a paperback novel and was careful to make sure my ipod had the most recent podcasts and a fresh charge. This was court afterall and if one trial was estimated to take four weeks, then the selection process was likely to go all day.

I could not have been more right.

It took hours just to get inside a courtroom, where the selection process still would not happen. This was just a holding tank. I made myself comfortable and settled in to read my book as this wasn't going to be quick. Coffee was provided to keep the mob from getting unruly.

Eventually some lawyers showed up and so did a few more baliffs (ie. cops). They brought in the accused and a hush filled the room. A hush that lasted about three minutes before people resumed chatting among themselves. I continued reading until eventually a judge arrived. Charges were read, the plaintiff plead not guilty, a list of witnesses was read and then they ushered out the man who now faced a murder charge. The judge stayed a little longer to explain the rest of the process to us potential jurors.

The basic idea was that they would randomly select about twenty people at a time to take into another courtroom to undergo the selection process. This was where the lawyers could challenge or accept a juror as well as the one time we would have the chance to plead hardship, play the senior card or give whatever other excuse for why we could not be a juror. In other words, so long as I stayed in this room, things would work out okay for me and they would end up selecting twenty OTHER people to serve on the jury. Given that there were over two hundred of us, my odds of being selected were a mere one in ten. I could live with those odds.

So the process took all day but I was one of the 'lucky ones' who was not called. I didn't even have to plead my case, which is kind of too bad because I had this fantastic story about the judge who stole Christmas all worked up and ready but whatever. The verdict is in, and I get a paycheque this December.

Friday, October 23, 2009

It's the Olympics! Welcome?

This shot was taken at the Downtown campus for UBC. This secluded little rink is hidden underneath Robson street and is right in front of the main campus entrance. I am fortunate enough to be taking a course there over the next few weeks for work. I have walked past this campus hundreds of times without ever having a reason to go in and explore so it was nice to finally check it out.

There has been a lot of activity around Vancouver in preparation for the Olympics. We have had police drills lately where officers were climbing Science World and helicopters were flying around at low altitudes. At this early stage it is all a novelty. I'm curious to see how novel it all is two weeks prior to the main event. I fear the world may be introduced to some grumpy Vancouverites who are near the end of their collective rope.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Hair today, gone tomorrow

Ever since I hurt my back last, I have stopped shaving. While the natural result was that I was sporting a full beard, it was also driving me crazy. My facial hair tends to be very coarse and somewhat curly which means that if I manage to get past the first 'itchy phase', I have the pleasure of going through it again usually a few days later.

It also didn't help that the beard wasn't very popular at home. My wife put up with it at first, but after a few weeks started to protest. From then it was really only a matter of time before I was to shave again.

Anyway, at this point I am once again clean shaven. It took me two days to get the beard off but the job is done. Normally the first shave after a while is extra smooth, but this one was very difficult. I was just happy to get the job done without too much discomfort.

Friday, September 25, 2009

My first taste of Durian (gelato)

It was done on a whim, but I must admit I have had an odd fascination over the durian fruit for a long time now. Greg and I decided to try durian flavoured gelato today.

Luckily it is only a block away - this is the kind of distance I can still hobble without too much worry. Yes, the back still hurts when I move wrong, but the doctor does say I should try to keep moving as it's the fastest way to recovery. But back to durian gelato - we wander into Amato Gelato, which is conveniently empty due to the construction on their street - they face the Olympic Village site and their block is being resurfaced. This is a store that takes their gelato seriously. There must be over fifty different flavours on display - durian is the only flavour they keep covered up. (The lady behind the counter doesn't like the smell.)

I ask about the durian gelato and she offers to let me taste it first. She is expecting that like so many other customers, I will try it and then move on to a different flavour. My first reaction to the taste is to comment 'Wow, I can see why so many people hate this.' Our server was surprised when we proceeded anyway to get an order of durian gelato.

We took a minute to sit outside where we could eat our gelato and contemplate this strange flavour. Later I was asked if it was 'good' and it wasn't an easy question to answer. My guess is that there is not much of a market for artificial durian flavouring, so this stuff is probably made with real durian fruit. It was not overly sweet - in fact, I do not remember much sweetness at all. I do remember the taste, which is not nearly as strong as the aroma.

I'll leave it to others to describe the taste and aroma of durian. The net result of my gastronomical taste test is that now I am less intimidated by the real thing. Gelato is already creamy and the thing people always talk about with durian is the creamy texture. Now that I understand the flavour, I'm game to try it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Not a good start to the week

Warning, this is a whiny, complaining post. I pulled a muscle in my back again this morning - not nearly as bad as the last time, but enough to remind me that things aren't well with my back. I was swimming this morning and then later pulled it while lifting the dog into her stroller.

I'm beginning to wonder if the stroller is a good thing or not.

I know that I am supposed to bend my knees and stuff when picking up the dog, but there are times when I have to act quickly, like to prevent her from getting into something she shouldn't. Today was one of those days and I knew immediately that I had hurt myself again.

Mostly I'm just grumpy because someone switched the coffee beans at work and now I can't (or don't dare) have coffee anymore. I didn't realize I was drinking caffeinated coffee and had a couple cups on Monday morning. By the afternoon I had the usual chest pains that I get when I over caffeinate, and Tuesday had the withdrawl headaches. I really don't want to wake up on Thursday now.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

High Speed Adventure

Friday was the last day for Greg's car to be insured. We also weren't sure how much gas was left in it. The second statement is pretty much normal as the gas gauge hasn't worked in quite a while. Naturally, it was a good day for him to bring his car to work, which inspired the Quality Assurance Lunch Drive 3000. (I don't know where I am going with this, Tommy made that last bit up.)

Anyway, Greg, Tommy and I left the office for lunch and all piled into the Charger. I managed to call shotgun, so all was good in the world. At least, if I was going to die in a head on collision, I'd see it coming. Here's a photo of Greg in action - as you can see, I had every reason to fear for my life. The next is a self portrait of me, doing the aforementioned life-fearing. You can just see the raw terror in my face. Look hard, you will see it.

We had only travelled about five hundred yards when Greg stopped the car abruptly. Standing on the street corner was a former co-worker of ours, Phil. No wait, this was clearly Phil's evil twin brother, as you can see by the fu man chu he was sporting. Since Phil's evil twin is even cooler than Phil, we stopped to let him in and he joined us for lunch. Tommy was not dismayed.

Once underway, we were in search of some open road - not an easy feat in Vancouver. We settled for a bridge, where Greg could stomp on the gas for a minute at a time. We enjoyed the note of the exhaust, all noted the strong presence of gas fumes (this was reassuring, as it meant the car wasn't yet empty) and enjoyed the ride with all the windows down. I do believe that Tommy enjoyed this part of the trip.

The plan was to meet up with another couple ex-co-workers at H-Mart for some Korean food. Andy and Neil eventually arrived and from that point on my little story gets boring. I'll understand if you stop reading here. See this picture of Tommy? Even he was losing interest by then.

We made it back to the office without running out of gas, although I don't remember the fumes being as strong as when we set out. I do hope Greg made it home later that night without incident. I guess we will have to hop over to his blog to find out.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Jury Duty

I have been selected for Jury Duty. Yes, I capitalized it because well, it's a rare event in my life. In fact, I have never served on a jury before. I believe I have been summoned once before but there was some reason why I could not attend - it was many years ago when I was still on the east coast and my memory isn't serving at the moment.

I haven't got anything more to say about this right now. I'm a little excited at the possibility - I still have this naive sense that 'courtroom' and 'drama' are words that belong in the same sentence. Intellectually I realize that I will probably need more coffee than I have ever used before just to stay awake through what are boring proceedings. But one can always hope, right?

Of course if I am selected I will take the role seriously. Just because serving on a jury is a new experience doesn't mean I can't do the job properly. I may have to find someone to give me some guidelines on what I can and cannot blog about though. Who wouldn't?

Oh yeah, I had a filling at the dentist today and this was the first time in my life that my dentist was late for the appointment. This is something I just took for granted before. He seems to have done a good job though so if I had to pick the failings in my dentist, that would be it.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Summer Vacation

After a few failed attempts, we finally managed to fit in a vacation this summer. My in-laws arrived for a week for a visit and that was enough for me to take some much needed time off from the office. It was a lot of driving around and sight seeing, but really, we don't do that sort of thing enough as locals so a lot of the sights were still kind of new for us as well. Or at least, they were places we would want to go.

The important part for our visiting family was that they wanted to see where we were living now and get an appreciation for our neighborhood. So the first half of their trip was spent here in Vancouver, where we ate locally, took several walking tours and generally just woke up each day and figured out what to do. It was a little stressful at times figuring out what to do, but we managed to do it without any fistfights. That's good for family visits, isn't it?

I'm kidding of course - the vacation was a good one in part because the second half of the week was spent in Seattle, where all four of us were tourists. While we have made many trips to Sea-Tac airport to pick up or drop off folks, this was only my second time to see some of the sights in downtown Seattle. I had just as much fun this time as I did then. As an added bonus we also were able to take in a lot of Bellevue simply because that is where our hotel was. They had quite a lot there that we would never have found if not for the fact that we I had forgotten to print out the hotel address, forcing us to wander through downtown Bellevue asking for directions (futile, both times the locals had no idea where our hotel was) and searching for free wifi, which ultimately gave us the info we needed.

Overall it was a good vacation. My litmus test for such things is to consider how many times I thought about work while I'm away. This week, the only consideration I made was what little trinkets to get for my team back at the office. Oh, and the dragonfly was one that my wife spotted while we were out walking the dog and showing her parents the sea wall along English Bay.

Friday, August 28, 2009


I recently got a replacement phone, since my old Nokia has caused me one too many problems. The transformation isn't complete yet - I still have to pull a lot of information off of it and transfer to the new phone - but it's definitely underway.

One of my habits is to put stickers on the things I use, especially if I use them a lot. It's not something I do to everything I own, but I have been known to decorate my bikes, and have pictured my decorated phone next to my ipod - both proudly displaying stickers from local breweries.

The interesting thing about the ipod sticker is that it really isn't a sticker at all, but a neck label off of a beer bottle. Well that, and the nice patina it has taken on as the ink wears off in an uneven way. For the record, green ink is apparently very good - it seems to be lasting much better than the black or gold used in this label. Makes me interested to see how the red ink will fare from the Russel label.

Oh and no, I did not opt to get an iphone even though I had a great excuse to do so. I already have most of what the iphone offers with my ipod even though it's now a couple generations old. If I am going to spend money on a luxury item, I'd rather spend it on a bike, so that's what my savings will eventually go to.

Friday, August 07, 2009


I don't mind saying that we bought this cheesecake from Urban Fare. Nope, I don't mind it one bit. This cheesecake looks as good as it tastes and was on sale for about ten bucks to boot. Basically one of the world's perfect desserts.

Which was appropriate, since we also happened to have one of the world's perfect dinners: lobster. Yes, this evening we had a meal to remember, if for no other reason other than the stars happened to align to make it so. The creamed lobster was a couple days in the making, and the dessert was a last minute touch.

So tasty.

Ok, I'll stop. I know that when I read this later I will regret it because it will make me hungry just thinking about it. Even the green beans were tasty! (My mother will probably faint if she reads that.)

Sunday, August 02, 2009

It is Finally August

August is my favorite month of the year. There are just so many celebrations and things going on around town, my birthday falls in this month, it's summer, so the weather tends to be hot, etc. Overall, I have very little to complain about at this time of the year.

We attended the final show for the Celebration of Light and while I got a few photos, I forgot to bring a tripod so they all turned out a little shaky. Still, a couple were blog-worthy and I've posted them here. I particularly like the one of the girl standing on the back of a bike while wearing a traditional kimono. She was one of many people we saw dressed like that this year.

For the past week or so my cell phone has not been working. I took it in and had someone look at it and they proclaimed it dead, so I had been on the hunt for a replacement phone. I'm too cheap to spend the money on an iphone so I have been looking for a basic cell that will do the job. After all, I already have an ipod touch and a camera. Later in the week, as I was taking out the memory card I noticed a screw was loose. I tightened it and voila, my cell started to work again. This is good because I'm with Fido, the cell phone company with a few perks and even fewer phones to choose from (most of which suck). Hopefully I can wait until later this month when they release some newer phones that I might be interested in. Failing that, I guess I will be looking at other alternatives.

Biking across the Burrard Bridge has become habitual now, it's just part of how I get to work. I think I prefer riding along the seawall (and not taking any bridges) for the scenery, but the bridge is not a bad alternative. I don't participate in Critical Mass, so I guess this is the little bit of cycling activism that I do. No, I have still not purchased a bike either, although I figure I should probably go in and get a proper fitting, especially if I decide to pick up a classic Italian road bike off Craigslist instead of buying new. Of course, there is also the option of taking track lessons at the Burnaby Velodrome, something I've always wanted to do.

The other thing I have been doing when I can is to play a few video games. Yes, I said it. I'm a gamer. It's pride week, remember? If people can be proud to be gay, I can be proud to be a gamer. I have still been playing a lot of Left 4 Dead but realize that there are a few really good games that came and went that I missed. Games like Far Cry 2 or Dead Space. The reason I was wanting to try Far Cry 2 was mostly because of the setting. Set in a make believe African country you are some miserable mercenary who has a bad case of malaria and a penchant for setting fire to things. Apparently the way fire is modeled is quite realistic. For Dead Space, it's a creepy alien shooter set in a defunct space ship. The hook here is that it is supposed to be a thriller, which my wife will likely hate since she already gets creeped out with the zombie groans from Left 4 Dead - so much so that I had to switch to headphones.

Ah yes headphones. While my headphones work great, one thing I am missing is a working microphone. It might be time to get one of those headphone/microphone combo units, and then bring my old headphones back to the office.

The best part about older video games is that the prices drop after a while. Also, I've been using Steam, which is basically iTunes for video games. It's nice because getting games through that means no more packaging to deal with, and often one can get better sale prices as well. A few of us have been 'gifting' games through this system over the past year and it has worked out well.

Another side effect of summer - it's getting hot in here, so I'm going to wrap up this post. Time to get outside, maybe take the dog out for a swim.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Phoenix Festival

This year it is called the HSBC Celebration of Light, but if you ask me, it should be called the International Phoenix Festival, because this is one event that keeps rising from the ashes of the one before.

It used to be known as the Symphony of Fire, and has a troubled history of losing sponsorship every few years or so. I'm happy it's still around though because it's one of the events that has become a summer tradition in Vancouver. This Wednesday is the first show and I expect the usual pandemonium to take place. Police will be on high alert, residents will be alarmed at how inconsiderate people walk over their lawns and flowers, suburbanites will not understand why there isn't more parking downtown and the helicopters will fly all night. I still love this festival.

Ok, enough of that, I'm sure I'll be blogging more about the fireworks later in the week. If all goes well, I will also still be riding across the Burrard Bridge a few more times. By Friday of last week my back was still pretty sore, forcing me to take it easy again this weekend.

I was originally planning to just go to the Vancouver Aquatics center but it is scheduled for maintenance from tomorrow until... September 8th. So it looks like I will be finding a different pool. I guess I could do some swimming out at UBC once the Sports Medicine department starts working on my arm. That might be a good possibility.

Monday, July 13, 2009

New Bike Lane Day, update on my arm.

Starting off the post with another x-ray - how cool is that? It's not the most informative one, but it was the one that had the best focus at least. The reason I am starting with this one is because it turns out that my arm has been broken for the past two months.

Yes, I rode to Seattle with a broken arm.

Obviously, it wasn't broken in half or anything like that. After 8 weeks, the fracture looks like a very small crack, in part because it has been quietly healing during this time. There is still an excess of fluid in the joint though, and none of this is visible to the untrained eye, especially not in this particular view of my elbow. (The crack is only visible from another angle.)

I got the x-rays done today and the doctor at the lab made a point of speaking to me prior to letting me leave, pressing on me the need to get into the hospital to get a cast on my arm. The situation sounded dire. I came home to drop off my bike and planned to head to the hospital. Holly suggested I call first to see what the wait times were - the hospital close to us had close to a two hour wait but they suggested I call the UBC hospital - a good idea since they don't receive ambulance patients. I called and they suggested I come over as they weren't busy and could patch me up.

I bus over to the campus, enter the hospital and the guy there informs me that after 8 weeks there is no point in putting a cast on and that they wouldn't be doing anything for me as it clearly 'wasn't an emergency'. I explained that the doctor who saw me earlier that day insisted I come in to get a cast and he informed me that said doctor was wrong. After being ushered out, I was perplexed. I still have the x-rays so I figure I will take them back to the doctor who originally requested them, and let her at least decide what is best. The whole thing seemed a bit odd to me, with such conflicting opinions on what should be done to treat me.

So it's an update, I'll have more to this story later I suppose. Oh, and for another update, the rest of the photos I took while riding across the new bike lanes on the Burrard Bridge! Apparently it was quite a big deal, with media camped out on both sides interviewing anybody and everybody they could convince to stop. But hey, notice how many bike helmets you see? Twenty-six in the last photo, or loosely translated into 'every single one of the bike riders.'

Saturday, July 11, 2009

I'm moving around a bit better today. I would have been pretty concerned if things weren't improving. I didn't stray too far from the house, but did manage to take the dog out for a walk and got as far as Coal Harbour and back without any real drama. That and well, I've been able to sit at the desk without problems afterward too.

I just hope I'm well enough to ride my bike soon. Monday morning is the opening of the bike lanes on the Burrard street bridge and I plan to participate if possible. Of course, at some point I also have to fit in an appointment at a medical clinic to get an x-ray on my arm. It feels like I have been saying this a lot, but I realize it is because I've been twittering and posting to facebook like a bored madman. There really is little else to do (aside from play sudoku) on an ipod with wifi. In hindsight, the laptop vs desktop decision takes on a new dimention. Laptop would have won this past weekend.

So it looks like I will have to take up yoga. Either that, or at least I have to be more consistent with stretching and strengthening my abdomen muscles. These past few days have sucked pretty bad for me, so I have the motivation (at least for now) to give this a real shot. Holly also suggested that I start swimming laps at one of the local pools, another viable option. All I know is that I have to do something if I don't want to continue pulling back muscles.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Self Inflicted Torture: back pain strikes again.

As I was leaving the office on Wednesday, I managed to hurt my back again. I was lifting Louise into her stroller and felt things go bad instantly. I made it home but the next morning was pretty clear - I needed to see a doctor.

The doctor examined me and ensured that I wasn't suffering any other more serious problems from this, but really the focus was on what I can do (ought to have been doing for years) to help prevent this sort of thing from happening again. We talked about yoga to help strengthen core muscles, among other exercises. We also talked about my arm, which is still not completely healed from the bike crash I had weeks ago. I have instructions to get an x-ray on it for them to determine what needs to happen next. I had been meaning to get in to the doctor regarding my arm - it just took back pain to get me there.

The second worst part about all of this is how boring it is at home. There is nothing good on TV in the daytime, I can't be out enjoying the sun very much and even being on my computer is pretty painful, except in small doses. I'm on it now, but figure I will have to lay down again within an hour or so. If I was sick, I could at least medicate myself to sleep.

I can tell when my time is up on the computer. I start shifting positions a lot, leaning forward, leaning back, anything to find something comfortable. Since I am shifting a lot right now, I should probably wrap up this post.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Two Weeks wait for Burrard Bike Lane

On July 13th Vancouver starts a trial on the Burrard Street bridge to reconfigure it so that one of the lanes normally used by cars is dedicated to cyclist traffic. One of the pedestrian walkways will be used for bikes as well.

This means that in two weeks I will adjust my commute to work so that I ride across the Burrard Street bridge in support of this measure.

Could this have been done differently, or perhaps better? Definately. But I see this as a step in the right direction and don't mind showing the city some support by making use of the lanes allocated for cyclist traffic. I am sure that over time some valuable information will be gathered from this trial and that like other traffic measures, it can evolve into whatever makes sense for the city. The point is, they are recognizing that many more of us are choosing to commute by bicycle instead of by car and at least they are willing to try new things to better accommodate this growing segment of Vancouver's urban commuter public.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Nous Allez! Ride report

Seventeen hundred and one riders. $6.9 million dollars raised. After day one we had used all of the medical crinkle tape. By day two getting Advil was becoming more difficult. I got mine from the doctor's personal stash - he was a rider too but happened to drop by the medical tent when I was there.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

This was the first time I participated in a charity event like this, so the whole experience was new to me. I have seen thousands of riders together before, but this was different - I was now one of them. Collectively we were slowly freezing as we stood around in our riding tights waiting for things to get underway.

A feeling of intimidation swept over me as I looked around me. Easily four fifths of the riders here were on road bikes of one sort or another, most either aluminum or carbon fibre in construction. These bikes were all less than twenty pounds, while mine probably came in close to double that with everything I had on it. Could I hope to keep up? As I kept looking around I did identify other mountain bikes and that did make me feel better.

Speeches. Stretching. Then finally, Starting! The ride started on time and we stormed the gate with helicopters watching above. It felt good to finally be riding - it was cold standing around in a parking lot and it felt like it would rain. Best to leave Surrey as soon as possible.

Our first pit stop came at 35 km and was at the border. We had to line up with the cars but they did have two lanes dedicated for cyclists. News broadcasts were advising drivers to avoid the Peace Arch crossing at all costs. None of them looked too pleased to see us ride past. If it comes as any consolation, it still took me about 45 minutes to clear the border. The only ones getting through quickly were those who had a Nexus pass.

One thing about the border though was that it thinned out the pack considerably. No longer did I have to push through dozens of cyclists clogging the roads. Now they came in groups of 4 or 5 at a time. I was starting to get a little confidence. Or maybe it was just warming up some. Either way, I found myself at the next pit stop filling up on oranges and bagels with peanut butter. I did not want to run out of energy from a lack of food. This plan almost backfired as I wasn't able to eat all of my lunch - I was still full from all the snacks at the pit stops!

The stops were fun though and I am glad they were so frequent. The support crew were friendly and helpful - there would always be people cheering for us as we arrived at a stop - a welcome crew, I guess. All I know is that poor lady with the bull horn must have been pretty hoarse by the end of day two. Yes, that guy is wearing denim coloured tights.

The lunch stop was 88 km into the ride, at Lake Padden Park. It's ok if you don't know where that is, I certainly didn't. What I do know is that getting there required us to ride up a long, slight climb to the top of some hill with a lake on it. I made it up but was feeling some pain in my right knee. It was time to visit the medical staff.

My leg was wrapped up, they gave me some Advil and told me that should get me through the day. I tried getting some good photos of the lake but they didn't turn out. Just as well, since this blog post is already too long.

I got back on the road - only one more pit stop before arriving at Edgewater Park, where we would be spending the night. The route out of Lake Padden should have been fantastic - lots of curvy downhill with very little traffic. Unfortunately I was faced with a headwind that kept me from gaining any speed at all. Still, I made it into that stop and then on to the camp in good time. It had warmed up and turned into a nice day after all.

I checked in my bike and then collected the gear I had checked in at the start line. This process took mere minutes and worked very well. The tents were all set up and ready. The tent pictured here was reserved for one of the guys who raised the most money. A nice gesture, I thought.

My tent mate, Simon, arrived at camp about 15 minutes ahead of me and was unpacking. We spent the afternoon chatting and relaxing - trying to remember when we passed each other, things like that. Both of us were already tired but we knew we had to eat and drink as much as we could first. We did turn in early but neither one of us could say we slept 'well'.

It rained in the morning but that stopped by the time the ride was ready to start again. Still, the roads were wet and once again we were cold. Simon and I rode in the same pack for a while until I noticed a rider with a flat tire and no pump. I stopped to lend him mine while they continued on.

So many riders passed me while we got his bike working. I know it's not a race, but the people I rode with were getting further away. Once he was patched up I was ready to press on, sore knee be damned.

Eventually we got on to the Centennial Trail. This was a fantastic paved bike path that we took for many miles. I only wish I was with those road riders for this part - I'm sure they went fast. It was during this stretch that I came across Theresa and her crew, the Screamin Beavers. Theresa has done some technical writing for us at the office so of course I had to do some trash talking as I caught up to them. We rode together for a while but eventually I pulled ahead, hoping to catch up to Simon. At one point the Beavers made an effort to catch me which added some fun to the ride. They chased me into the lunch stop but I didn't see them after that.

I'm glad they did however, because at lunch I spied a couple riders from earlier in the day, before my delays. Robbie and Dan were also hoping to catch up to some faster riders, so we decided to make a go of it. We set out straight away before cooling down. Riding with this pair was fun and we stayed together to the finish line, at the University of Washington. The last twenty kilometers or so were still on a bike path, but they were rough as we were all pretty saddle sore and roots had pushed bumps into the pavement. I remember one rider laughing because we all groaned as we went over the same bump.

So that's the report. I might wax philosophical about the implications later, but for now, I wanted to record this new experience for what it was. One hell of a good ride.