Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Kelowna & old friends

It must have been a couple of weeks since my last musings, & that has mostly been a blur of (strangely) mostly work. Although, checking the Riding Diary worksheet there have been enough entries in those two weeks to keep the legs ticking over nicely. Rather surprisingly (& to my amusement & I'm sure the amusement of others) I managed to land a part time job baking bagels at the Bagel Company a two-minute walk from home (super convenient). I had a applied on a bit of a whim a few weeks previously & had forgotten about that application - along with plenty of others; the advertised full-time position somewhere along the line had changed in to part-time. So it looks like I'll be doing two or three evening shifts mid-week of about eight to ten hours each (depending on how good I get). It's nice to have a job where I have to think a little more than labouring or housekeeping & be pretty organised. I've had a few training shifts & am now solo baking some pretty scrummy muffins & fifty-odd dozen bagels a shift. Another advantage is the evening shifts - so far I've finished my solo stints at two in the morning, but I'm sure I can get that back to before one, at least with a bit more experience. So that frees up the day for activities - not crucial now, but come the middle of winter & eight hours of daylight, it'll be nice to be able to get out & about skiing & such forth on the clear winter days. While I was starting training for baking, I was also working a bit at a construction site - so with a couple of double shifts & a day marshaling traffic at the Calgary Half-Ironman I pulled my first 60+ hour week of work in ages - it didn't happen much at the steel mill as there wasn't much overtime for supervisors, but I do remember doing six twelve-hour shifts back to back, this wasn't quite as brutal (a word that I've heard a lot over the last few days - more of that later).

Unfortunately, with the change in work schedule & Alex & Megan escaping to the Bugaboos (a provincial park in east BC) I've had to get used to a few more solo rides recently. Those have been pretty quiet & close to home - quiet mostly because I finally got around to replacing the bent brake rotors on my bike with nice shiny flat ones. Also I took my cluster off & gave the freewheel a good clean & grease - so with that & the Rock n Roll lube that came in the package from the UK my bike has a lot fewer sounds going on. That does mean that I'm starting to notice other ones that were previously masked. Early last week I started trading emails with a high school friend, Krysta, who seems to have been in Canada pretty much since university & is back in Kelowna, BC, after a year traveling through the Americas (drive through the North, backing through Central & South) with her (recently) fiancee, Steve. It worked out for all of us that the proceeding weekend was the best for me to visit - so with a couple of night shifts under my belt - & the (once again) kind loan of Megan & Alex's second car I was off to spend my second weekend in BC. After packing up all my stuff (with a bike, I never travel lightly) I first had to ride in to Banff to pick up the car - of course, just as I was about to leave a huge thunderstorm storm rolled in & soaked town. Not overly keen to get struck by a bit of rogue electricity, I held off a bit before hitting the not-quite-complete Legacy Trail between Canmore & Banff (five rather crucial bridges are missing still from this bike path that runs alongside the TransCanada Highway). The trail took just under an hour & I was quite warm most of the way - over dressed in jacket & leggings for the rain that stayed away.

What started out to be a rumoured four-hour drive to Kelowna turned in to a bit of an epic. Up past Lake Louise the TransCanada goes back to single carriage way for most of the time. I stopped briefly at the Spiral Tunnels lookout to see where the Canadian Pacific Railway used two large spirals to turn what was once a 4.5% gradient (& incredibly dangerous) in to a much more manageable slope. Just as I got out of the car it started pissing down & I got pretty wet. Unfortunately, I didn't get to see two ends of the same train poking out different ends of the lower spiral. Shortly after my jeans got a good chance to dry out as I sat in the same queue for construction for about an hour and a half. Traffic management at roadworks on Canada's main highway is poor to say the least - of course, when we actually drove past the bridge there was no work to be seen. By now I was in BC & driving through new (to me) national parks - Yoho, Glacier & Mt Revelstoke. Oddly, the speed limit for most of this rather wide highway was only 90 km/hr - but as in about one-thousand kilometres (the return trip) of driving I only saw one police car it was no surprise the heavy traffic sat quite comfortable about twenty percent higher than that. Turning off the TransCanada & on to the south bound part of the annoyingly circuitous (damn mountains) route I was back in to the land of strip malls & numerous billboards - also there must have been nice lakes close by as there were plenty of boat yards (& all to many houseboats on the lakes - Sicamous claiming to be the houseboat capital of Canada). Eventually I found Steve & Krysta's house in SE Kelowna at a reasonable hour - this only really being achieved by gaining an hour from going from Mountain TIme to Pacific Time. Quite exhausted, it was nice catching up, sharing traveling stories, eating & looking around & enjoying the increase in temperature from being in the Rockies - not to mention being made cups of tea (not quite up to Trish's five+-a-day!).

After a much needed sleep-in due to the evening shifts, long drive & time zone change it was up for a breakfast of bagels (I wonder where they came from) & planning for the day. Various ideas were floated - eventually we decided the weather wasn't quite hot enough to go tubing down at Penticton (the weather was warmer than I was used to but overcast & a lot cooler than Kelowna has had for most of the summer). So, Krysta took me downtown for a brief look there & a small hike up Knox Mountain to help me get a better understanding of where Kelowna sits in the Okanagan valley.
After a quick bite to eat at home, the bikes were organised & loaded on the trailer & Steve shuttled us (another mate, Tyler, joined us) up to the Kettle Valley Rail Trail. The trailhead near the Myra Canyon Trestles was packed with cars & as we road along the wide gentle trail we passed many groups of all ages on bike & foot. It sure is a popular place. There eighteen trestles where it got a bit steep for the railway to stick just to the canyonside. We managed to get over these without knocking anyone over the side (they could get a bit congested with large groups on the bridges). One could still easily see the damage done in the large wildfire in Okanagan Mountain Park in seven years ago.
After about half of the twelve kilometre section with the trestles, the crowds began to thin significantly & our speed picked up. As we didn't have to ride back to the trailhead, we dived off the side on to the Myra Bailout singletrack. It was great to be riding down (mostly) gentle dirt track that just flowed. It reminds me of home a bit - smooth trail, no rocks & few roots. Of course, I flew off a little lip & landed on the only pile of rocks - knowing straight after landing that I would get a flat. A minute or so later here I was:I am at least getting a lot quicker at changing tubes & we quickly back enjoying the trail. Somehow, this part of the park had escaped the fire (it's odd how there can be localised sections that are unharmed while everything around them has been seriously burnt) & it nice riding through the greenery. Reaching the FSR (Forestry Service Road seems to be a common TLA on maps around here) where we were supposed to head back in town, we decided after some consultation with the family group we kept seeing on the trail to carry on down the signposted singletrack hiding at the edge of the parking lot. None of us were too impressed with the odd pinch climb, but soon we were shooting down more singletrack. I swapped cameras with Tyler so we could actually have some riding photos of ourselves. It wasn't entirely successful, the first time I was just about to come in to shot I ended up riding through a wild rose bush & I think this is where I ripped the lockout dial off my forks - grrrr (although it's mostly cosmetic). Here are a couple of the best of Krysta & I ripping down the last little bit - I didn't realise that this went straight on to the road, just as well there were no cars coming for me to T-bone in to.
We didn't come out of the trails as far round as we feared we might, so we had a pretty cruisy ride home through some of the Okanagan Valley's famed orchards.

It's never a good sign when you turn up to a barbecue & there is no one home. After confirming that the BBQ was actually half an hour or more up the other side of Lake Okanagan, we hit a local pub for dinner before arriving at the house of Steve & Krysta's friend - Clint - to watch some UFC. My first time watching UFC was quite cold as Clint had lined his basement & decked out almost entirely in Edmonton Oilers hockey memorabilia & started the themed painting of the room & one of the massive TVs were down there - along with the beer fridge. UFC was funny in parts, but after one guy dominated the big fight of the night & then lost in the last minute I was left feeling rather cheated. Once again, trying to find the equivalent Canadian word for 'bogan' came up - Clint's younger half-brother being a case in point. Still no success. Either way he drives an RX7 batmobile & was quite pleased with it & its acceleration (140 in third on suburban streets was enough for Steve - & I can't say I blame him) - that's just a little odd after growing up in the Bay & studying in Palmy - rotaries engines are just so annoying & have so many bad associations in my mind. Steve didn't really get the English humour of Top Gear's South American episode - but I thought he & Krysta might enjoy seeing a different adventure in that part of the world. Not quite as amusing the second time seeing it, but still good television all the same.

Up a bit earlier on Sunday - Krysta & I were off to do the done thing around here take a look at some of the many wineries. It was a bit like being around the southern lakes in NZ - mountains surrounding lakes & vineyards perched on the side. The first one, Mission Hill Family Estate, had clearly had a lot of capital sunk in to it - the architecture was pretty impressive, as were the views. We did an hour tour & tasting session - there was a very cheesy video at the start & Krysta & I were cringing every time the ex-Montana Wine Chief Winemaker opened his mouth, it was pretty bad Kiwi accent. Obviously, it was rather cool in the cellar & all the arches & darkness made it feel like I was back under a big old cathedral in Europe somewhere.After popping in Quail's Gate & doing a bit more tasting & trying not to spend too many dollars we headed out for another little hike.This time it was about half an hour up Boucherie to get a view from the west side of the lake back to the city. It was quite warm in patches, we were surprised at how few boats were out on the lake - obviously these people are spoilt by good summer weather, it wasn't that bad. This hill had also taken a hit from a fire & as it was so rocky hadn't really recovered too well. Over the weekend I was learning a lot about trees & forests from Krysta who works in the industry. As I was in BC, this continually reminded me of not wanting to do this, but rather wanting to be a lumberjack. Leaping from tree to tree as they float down the mighty rivers of British Columbia! The giant redwood, the larch, the fir, the mighty scots pine, the smell of fresh cut timber, the crash of mighty trees, with my best girlie by my side, we'd sing, sing, sing... A bit more relaxing at home introducing Kyrsta to slightly newer Brit comedy in the form of The IT Crowd before heading out to their weekly dinner at Steve's parents. Great food, nice homegrown raspberries & good company. A few episodes of TBBT when we got home - the early ones with great lines such as: "as much chance... as the Hubble telescope does of discovering that at the centre of every black hole is a little man with a flashlight searching for a circuit breaker" and "Our babies will be smart & beautiful" "Not to mention, imaginary." and "What if she ends up with a toddler who doesn't know if he should use an integral or a differential to solve for the area under a curve?" "I'm sure she'll still love him." "I wouldn't.".

It turned out that Krysta had to start back at work on Monday with a ten-day field trip. This worked out well as I could meet up with Quintin - a friend we used to car pool with to primary school in the Mount back in the eighties & one I have not really seen since. Quintin seems to have been chasing the ski season around the globe for the last few years driving snow cats (the groomers) & is finally enjoying a summer in BC while he does a firefighting course (more learning about bushfires for me). He's recently bought a full noise DH bike & with its Fox 40s it stands in loud contrast to my tame little 4" softtail. We had to find something suitable for both of us. Popping in to a bikeshop, we soon had a map & some local advice. We ended up back near where we had ended up on Saturday's ride - just a little further west. It was mostly climbing up a hill for an hour in overcast conditions - I obviously had the advantage there with a bike that was probably fifty percent lighter & legs that are now well used to climbing. At the top we met a guy from Nelson (NZ, not BC) who had only been in town for a month - the only other biker we saw. We rode together for a while until he went off exploring further up the hill & we hit the Vapour Trail. It was great fun & a little pedally to start with so I was able to keep up. The middle section got a lot more technical & rocky & dusty - I was doing pretty well trying to chase Quintin. But I should've been a bit more wary, I completely stuffed up the last little technical drop at speed & landed quite heavily on a whole heap of flat, loose rocks on back of my left shoulder & my left hip. No damage to the bike & hopefully just bruises & scratches that will heal up in a week or so - but my shoulder is pretty sore, but usable. I was noticeably slower over the last of the descent - but all in all, it was another great ride & the trail was really neat. It's just a while since I've had to chase someone who is a lot faster than me downhill. After more catching up over a beer & pizza, it was back to Steve & Krysta's to clean up & hit the rode. Thankfully the trip was only five & three-quarter hours this time; it's a long time that I've driven five hundred kilometres straight through, but in Canada it doesn't seem to be a long way. Fog in places made the road works & general lack of reflectors (that's not just in the construction zones) even worse than usual - but I made it home safely. I must also note that Canadian drivers have an annoying tendency to drive behind you with their lights on beam - it's dazzling, even with the mirror dipped, & makes looking forward even more difficult.

So a great weekend excursion & I must get around to getting my own vehicle soon so I can continue to explore this great area - wheels are in motion, my Albertan driving licence is on the way.

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