Monday, May 29, 2017

Westcoast Motorcycle Ride to Live, 2017, Vancouver

Dave is a consumate Harley Davidson ride. After Emory his dog, his Heritage Softail is his second baby.  In all weather he’s riding his machine, often with Emory on the back if it’s not too hot.  Emory doesn’t like motorcycle riding when it’s too hot or raining.  
Thanks to Dave I rode my Harley this year in the Westcoast Motorcycle Ride to Live, the great fund raising event for Prostate Cancer Research.  Postrate cancer is the equivalent of Breast Cancer but obviously Hollywood doesn’t take an interest in prostates so men die annually from a preventable disease.  I’ve ridden in 8 of these classic motorcycle events.  Laura and Gilbert have come along.  I think Emory and Gilbert, the biker dogs,  played together first when Dave and I met up at one of the stops a few years back.  Then it was called the  Ride for Dad.
I’ve enjoyed the beautiful women that attend this event too.  It’s really about men and men’s health so it shows when there’s a lot of drop dead gorgeous biker girls riding along for the fund raising. Each year more women are riding their own Harley’s and Yamaha Star’s.  Most are still riding behind the men taking pictures and doing their nails.  I never know what Laura does back there now that she’s no longer riding her own motorcycle.
“Are you still riding on Sunday, “ I asked Dave. He was playing crib in the back yard with Rick.
“Wouldn’t miss it,” he answered hardly looking up from his cards.
“I’m not taking Gilbert,” I said.
“Too hot for Emory,”
The dogs at that moment were checking each others prostates doing sniffing circles on the lawn.
“I guess I’ll go. Mind if I tag along? "
“I’m leaving at 7:30 am,”
“See ya then."
New thing I know Dave’s rumbling Harley  pipes came by my place at 7.30. I was dressed in chaps and leathers  ready to go. There was Dave, shorts and Harley vest.  Typical.
“They say dress for the slide, not for the ride, but it’s just too hot.” he said.
Loved getting to Trev Deeley early. We lined up near the front of the line with more and more bikes arriving by the minute.  Every type.  A whole lot of Harley’s but also a  group of big Victory. BMW’s, Big Hondas and some Yamaha.   A lot of Trumphs.  Mostly cruisers and baggers for the old guys but a lot of  the young guys were on the crotch rockets, Ducatti’s, Suzuki’s. Quite a few Harley trikes and Can Am Spiders this year too.   Mostly Harley gear but some Joe Rocket. Again the young guys were in the more modern sporting wear with the girls wearing the increasing fashion chic biker boots. Every helmut known to man and all colours beyond  basic black.
I love that the Vancouver Police are there with their bikes.  The Military were there too. Lots of Cav riders.   The guys in cammo had that big awesome Howitzer they bring each year to start the race.
“I want one of those Howitzer’s, “ I told Dave.
I envisioned pulling it behind the bike next trip to Sturges.  Out on the street the Vancouver fire department had their ladders crossed with Canadian flags flying from the tops.
I loved the opening ceremonies, singing O Canada with all it’s politically incorrect words.   The  bag pipes were great too.  Greetings from a famous sports racer.  The blessing from Terry with the words, (paraphrased) ‘man is not for pleasure alone but for joy and I hope you live to know the difference.'
I loved being here.  Murray caught up with us about that time. I love seeing Murray. He’s been coming out to this event for years too.  He’s recovered from crashing his last bite. This year he had  a new ‘bagger’. “I got a road glide,” he shared.
Then the big bang of the Howitzer sent us all off to the motorcycles.
After that it was just a long hot ride through some of the most beautiful biking routes in the lower mainland. For the first part the Vancouver Police escorted us down the freeway.  2 great lines strung out from Downtown to Burnaby. There were so many bikers. We lost the escort at the first poker run stop at Princess Auto. Next we headed on to Garibaldi Secondary school.  Obviously us older guys needed to use the washroom. There we all were walking between the row on row of high school lockers having flash backs.
“I was expelled from high school.” one guy shared.
“Me too.”
“I punched out a teacher."
“I said ‘fuck’."
“i got caught with a cheerleader.” Lots of laughter.
It was a true sit com moment. We were all in our 50’s and 60’s, greying hair,  all riding with $10’s of thousands of dollars of machine and gear. Some were grandparents.  I’d taught at the university.  Another guy was a millionaire businessmen. Here we were back in high school, where we all were voted most likely to die young,  now respectable old guys, fund raising for prostate cancer research, waiting to relieve ourselves.
We drove on to Mission Speedway where more bad boys were gathered. Volunteers in red shirts punched our poker cards at each stop.  
Stave Lake is really pretty. The whole ride in the country was incredible.  Cows and sheep in rolling green pastures. Cool evergreen lined long winding roads. Most of us  were now spread out over the lower mainland making our way from destination to destination, little groups of bikers and solo riders  That Dewdney Trunk sure is a lovely ride.
At Abbotsford we ended up in the University of Frazer Valley.  I only had three nine’s on the poker while other guys were getting Royal Flushes.  I’m more of a chess player.
Dave hadn’t done any better.
“I was picking birthday numbers for luck.” he said.
We had burgers under the tents.  Sweet Max, a real band, was playing, real music,  60’s, 70’s rock.  I don’t think they knew a Justin Bieber song or Beyonce.  No one was asking  either.  I bought t shirts for Laura and myself. I like to support these functions.  It was a great sunny day.  Hot. I’d stripped off the chaps and was down to jeans and armoured shell.  Dave in shorts and harley vest was really cool. Anyone in leathers was sweating up a storm. The sun and wind had reddened all our faces.  In the background beyond the music there was a continuous sound of bikes coming in.
Thanks to Dave, this was the first year I didn’t arrive as a late day straggler.  We didn’t get lost. Dave actually used the map and followed the signs.  Amazing.
All around the lot there were more tables selling leather, helmets, jewelry, accessories, clothes.  We wandered about checking things out.  Talked a bit with some other guys.
Then Dave said, “I’ve got to get home to my boy. Don’t want Emory to get too hot inside."
We geared up again and rode on out of the university.  I cranked up the  Steppenwolf album I had  playing  on my Electroglide’s Stereo
“Born to be Wild.” just blared out!  Fitting departure song.  
Back in Burnaby  Dave and I went our separate ways.  High fives before we headed opposite directions..
“Good ride,” he said.
“It sure was."
 Gilbert, my biker dog ran barking in circles when I came up on the bike. I expect Biker dog Emory was doing the same.
At the same time as our ride started from Vancouver's Trev Deely another  had begun from Chilliwack’s MountainView Harley. A whole lot of bikers and bikes participated to make this another great fund raising year for Prostate Cancer Research.
The Westcoast Motorcycle Ride to Live, 2017 sure was a great event and ride! Thanks to all the organizers and volunteers and riders!

Outside Mullingar at Pacific Theatre

Laura and I enjoyed another rare and precious Pacific Theatre play, Outside Mullingar.  An Irish play set in the farms of the parents of a man and woman who grew up next door to each other, went to school and church together and casually talk of events of their neighbours decades before.  The parents are delightful as they talk of their children. It’s that kind of old world family thing.  Generations and tradition.  So absent in television reality.  A marvellous written by John Patrick Shanly with exquisite directing extraordinary acting.  I felt like I was back at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin.  Leaving the theatre I was truly uplifted by great art done so very well.  Thank you Pacific Theatre.
Now it’s time to order season’s tickets for next year.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

For George

Missing you,
Knowing that,
Knowing that there is no time left
To replace a friend so deep, so rare:
Aging a bitch.

We laughed together about such infinite finitudes;
Sharing thoughts on poetry, philosophy and women,
Talking about God in the wee small hours.
You loved your children and your grand children,
Little dogs and pregnant women.
You hated  bullies in private and in public office.
You became Albertan gone coastal,
A true blue hockey loving jazz piano playing healer.
We loved ‘sole food’ at Chez Michel,
Meetings at Whytecliff.
You talked of the guys and Archie.
We shared our notes on Pacific Northwest destinations,
For long drives and romantic retreats,
Calling all, the  gifts of recovery,
Rolling like puppies, in grace.
You were truly grateful.
You served fine coffee on your Pink Lady balcony.
Where we discussed program and Christ Church sermons.
It was you I called when my brother lay dying.

You loved the ocean beneath the Lions.
You waved your arms wide at God’s beauty on seawall walks
These were the days.
Horseshoe Bay, Le Connor, and Lion’s Gate,
That place of work you once called home.
And when the administration were particularly creepy,
We’d talk of retreating back to the north,
You to the Charlottes.
But really, you had no great desire to travel,
The north shore was your home,
You loved being close to friends and family.

And now you are even closer,
Sharing in that Big Meeting.
Light of light.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

First night Truck Tenting, Duffy Lake Road.

First Long Weekend of Spring. Laura says its the Victoria Day Camping weekend.
I left work on Friday riding the Harley Davidson motorcycle home from the clinic. Id’ made my last phone call to a colleague to discuss the long weekend policy.   It was 2 pm Friday. The long weekend had begun.
Laura texted me. “I”m just leaving work. The bus is delayed. I don’t think I’ll be able to get there till 3 or 4. “  I didn’t mind.  I was already busy in the trailer garage finding camping gear from a year before.I was also sorting through the boxes of ‘stuff’ I’d unloaded from my old truck when I’d traded it in for this one. I love my new white Ford F350  Lariat edition with sun roof and long box. It was finally going to used for one of the prime reasons I bought it for, hunting, fishing and camping.
I have a bear tag. I have a Ruger stainless steel 30:06 rifle and Nossler partition 180 grain bullets. I’m loaded for bear.  Though I’ve shot three I’ve no real desire to shoot another. Mainly because I’m not a really great fan of bear meat. Moose and venison are a different matter.  Bear I can take or leave. The smoked ham is great but so far the sausage hasn’t appealed to me.   Mostly I’ve gifted my bear meat to my aboriginal friends who really seem to love it.  I really was taking the rifle along this weekend, just in case.
The main event of the weekend would be the new “impulse buy” Cabelas Napier tent truck.  Aubrey, Dave, Rick and Rick’s Laura along with Gilbert and Emory the dogs had all helped me put it up the first time on Thursday night. “I still think you’re going to get a motel,” Dave said.  Aubrey helped with the colour coded rods and Rick figured that some went on the interior. Laura laughed a lot.  But the tent did get set up.
By the time my Laura drove over in her little red diesel Smart Car I had packed up my winter clothes to put in the storage locker, cleaned out several bags of garbage and packed all I needed for the weekend.  I even remembered my BC hunting license and the Iridium satellite phone and Motorola walkie talkies.
It was 5 pm when we got to the storage locker.  Rush hour traffic was in full swing.  A little delay on the upper reaches.  I’d forgotten the entrance code but followed a pretty Aussie lady in.  I was able to catch the manager and get the code so I could get out and back in.
The locker was a mess. Tom and I on our last trip had barely found room for “Charles’ the Honda 500 Pioneer side by side. Making room we’d just piled stuff on top of it hurrying to finish after a long drive down from Kamloops with work in the early morning. It was a bit of a chore but finally I found Charles, backed him out and put up the ramps for the first loading.  I’d had this special spray for the truck  box to protect it and give it extra grip. It was about to get it’s first trial.  Charles had started up wonderfully and was just purring after a ride  round of the lot.  I lined up the ramps and taking my life in my hands drove up onto the truck box. I wasn’t quite aligned careening over one wheel hub but stopping just short of dinting the back of the new pristine truck cab.
“Laura, it doesn’t fit.”I said.
“You’re kidding. That’s why you got the long box”.
“I didn’t take into account the winch."
“Will we be able to take it?"
“Oh, for sure, I just won’t be able to close the tail gate completely. It will be up and I could haul the trailer with it like this but it’s not perfect."
(When I’d traded my Yamaha 500 in for the Honda side by side because Gilbert the cockapoo couldn’t jump on and off that height after hurting his back, I hadn’t measured the length of the Honda which turned out too long for my last Ford F350 with it’s short box.  With the tail gate down I couldn’t haul the trailer so when I traded the truck in I got the humungous long box which makes the truck almost impossible to park in the city. All so I’d be able to haul the Honda with the tailgate up.  God made rope and bungee chords for people like me.”)
It was 6 pm.
“I think I should shop here at the Saveon Foods rather than waiting to do it in Pemberton.” I said.
“That’s a good idea. I can wait in the truck with Gilbert and watch the gear,” Said Laura.  I like her doing  that  when I have rifles and ammo in the truck.
One never should shop when one is hungry, tired and thirsty. A full shopping cart and $500 bill.  I know I’ll only use a quarter of what I got but I won’t have to shop for groceries for a week or two after as I ‘ll be able to bring it all back. But i just kept thinking I’ll be off the grid and there won’t be any corner stories or pizza delivery.  So like Ialways I over stocked.  Nobody who has ever sailed ,camped or hunted with me has ever faced a shortage of food.I also confess, since I’m ‘roughing it’ in the woods I like to have the a few luxuries, like the apple cheeses and rainforest crackers and best cut steaks.  It’s alright to be decadent when one is miles from nowhere in a tent surrounded by bears.
Driving out of the city I made a wrong turn and headed across Lion’s Gate. The signs don’t allow you to turn till you’re almost downtown.  I’m distinctly different from the other cars heading out to party at the famed Vancouver night clubs and restaurants. I’m driving a humungous Ford F350 carrying a tall Honda 500 side by side with camping chairs and tables lining the sides. The men may have looked envious at me but the women were giving Laura looks of sympathy.
It’s 730 pm when we’re headed up the Sea to Sky High way between ocean and mountains.  I’d  made the last  to fill up with gas. I filled up Charles and a couple of jerry cans as well.  $200.  Camping is not cheap.  The equipment to do a weekend of camping, the truck and gear and everything else, though acquired over years is more than a $100,000.  No wonder only the city rich or country poor hunt  and those who camp like safety of the "people plush” provincial campgrounds rather than the isolation of the wilderness.  The roads to Canada’s provincial campgrounds, really heavenly places, can be reached by Laura’s Smart Car so anyone with a vehicle can enjoy those. It’s the off roading when the costs start, in vehicles and equipment.
“All the campgrounds are free all across Canada this summer, “ Laura said, “It’s because it’s  Canada’s 150th birthday,”
The Squamish Chief is the most majestic mountain face in BC. I never get tired of looking at it each time I pass through Squamish.  It’s beauty is different depending on the light.  At dusk tonight it was wonderful.
We stopped at Starbucks for coffee.  I bought a very large Mocha.
The police had a road block at Breckenridge.
“They’re having a big festival of the outdoors at Whistler this weekend. They must be checking for alcohol,."
“No,” I said. “That’s not a typical breath check.”  4 cars and a half dozen police.
The RCMP said hello and waved us through.
“He looked everywhere inside the vehicle,”  Laura said.
“He sure did. They were looking for someone.  He didn’t even take a whiff inside. They’d ask if they were just checking for alcohol. This was a whole lot more serious.”
The pink sunset over the mountains was incredible just south of Whistler.  Laura tried to get a picture on the iPhone but it just didn’t do the colours justice.  I loved the endless spruce trees and all the memories of driving this road back and forth skiing with Sherry, then motorcycling with Laura and countless times hunting and camping alone.  It’s always different but always the same like high school friends.
We drove through Whistler with only one glych. A drunk or stoned  guy on a bicycle driving against traffic in the middle of the road. The car a head of me swerved to miss him and then I did the same hardly seeing him blinded by the light of the on coming traffic.
Finally at Pemberton I stopped at the gas station for the final fill up before going onto the bush.  Laura availed herself of the last civilized washroom. We even got burgers and fries at the late open MacDonalds .  Lots of young people texting on their phones sitting in booths working on lap top computers.
“You remembered Gilbert’s paddy’. she asked
“Of course,”
Gilbert loves the MacDonald’s plain paddy. He joneses at the sight of the double golden arches.  Laura breaks it up into pieces to slow him down. Still he’s begging for a bit of my burger before I’m finished.  It’s dark outside driving.  I almost missed the Skokumchuk Hot springs turn off on the Duffly Lake Road.
The first concern is about 50 cars parked along the road outside the first of the Lillouette Lake campsites.  It turns out this is an aboriginal festival so we don’t worry about yahoos and drinking and drugs. We see the folk in native costumes and some carrying drums.
The next campsite is a little more concerning. Lots of cars spilling over onto the road and 30 year olds staggering about in the dark.
“I’m not liking this.”  I say to Laura.
“I told you my niece and her friends come up to Skookumchuck to party each weekend. It’s become really popular with the young crowd.”  I’d heard her but ignored her and here was the evidence against the quiet tranquil place of my memory.
“It’s been taken over like the Chilliwack Lake and  Chilliwack River Road. Young people partying. Loud music and too much alcohol and drugs.  Maybe with the marijuana being legalized they’re stay in the city and leave us the country.” I laughed.
At midnight ,the half dozen guys on motocross bikes careening by us at high speed settled it.  Lizzie Lake Campsite had definitely been taken over by aliens. We could hear the music from cars and dozens of campfire were burning around the lakeside.
“I don’t see this getting any better,”  I said turning the truck around.
“I don’t like to be around drugs and alcohol,” Laura said. “I’ve known too much tragedy and unhappiness caused by it. They never think of what their behaviour does to others and I just can’t stand it anymore.  I’m sorry but it really triggers me.  I get so angry at the stupidity and selfishness.  They frighten me too.  I just can’t relax around people who drink or drug. I’m always waiting for the explosion.  They’re nice and then the accidents happen or the explosions or the craziness. I can’t stand it."
“Too much like work to me.” I said as we made our way slowly back over the pot holed logging road.
That’s when I made the mistake of pointing out the big black bear by the side of the road.  Laura freaked.
“Was that a bear.  It was huge,” she shouted.
“Yes. It was just a black bear.”
“I’m terrified of bear."
I remembered the time along this road when she was on the back of the Harley 1200 Roadster. I looked up on a knoll and there was a big black bear looking down at us.  I pointed it out to Laura then thought nothing of it, knowing the bear was most afraid of humans and machines so was probably headed back into the woods.  It must have been 20 minutes further along that Laura, called into my ear, “Do you think the bear has stopped chasing us?”  It’s an epochraphal story and I confess I’ve told it with way too much glee.  Black bears are mostly only a problem if you show fear.  I’ve been knocked down by them and punched them and know them as the big mean dogs they are.  Despite being the cause of almost all bear mauling they’re only opportunistic. Run and they’re haul you down.  Feed them and they’re maul you. But stand up to them and they’re leave you alone. That’s been my experience time and gain.  Grizzlies on the other hand will maul you.  They’re territorial and if you’re in their territory they are going to punish you if not eat you out right. All you can do  wit them is curl up and pray.  Polar Bear who I’ve been chased by a couple of times are altogether different. They see man as walking seals.  Food. So if a polar bear takes an interest in you, all you can do is run and run fast.  They will eat you.
Now Laura was terrified of bears.  And foolish me I’d just pointed one out.
“I decided to come this way because there’s hardly any grizzly bear over here. They’re over by Meager Mountain and Gold River. This is pretty much only black bear.”  I was cursing myself because I’d forgot the other gun I usually bring when I take her hunting. She has her firearms acquisition and is a great shot.  When I go off by myself she stays in the camp with the truck and tent and has a gun just in case.
“I’m not afraid in the daylight. It’s just at night. When you’d leave pre dawn to go hunting I’d just lie awake holding onto the gun waiting to be mauled until the light came an hour later.” she told me.  I guess telling her that there weren’t that many grizzlies this side of Pemberton wasn’t too reassuring either.  To her bear are bear.   I hadn’t planned to go hunting pre dawn this trip anyway. One of the reasons for the truck tent had been to give her a sense of safety when we were camping.
Admittedly, after a skunk shoved up against the side of the tent scratching at my face last year I too was a bit turned off to camping on the ground. I only realized it was a skunk when I got up with the gun and was expecting at most to shoo away a racoon.  Instead I saw a big momma skunk and her little ones.  That was too close a call.  I prefer my RV but as I live in it most of the time it’s just not worth hauling it for a weekend.  If I was going for a week or two I’d take the RV for sure. That’s Laura and my  favourite type of camping now.
I remember my parents moving up from tenting to trailer tenting to their motorhomes. My brother and I made fun of them.  But dad would say, “when you get my age you’ll appreciate not having to sleep on the cold ground.  Besides you know your mom loves her motorhome."
The other reason I’d not gone over the Merger Creek Gold River way was the flooding this year. Long winter and run off had lots of rivers flooding so there were provincial wide warnings about the lowland areas.
As we drove up the Duffy Lake Road, deer were everywhere.  This was their time.  We’d see their eyes in the lights in the ditch and their ghostly bodies as we passed. I wasn’t driving fast not wanting to hit one.  This was my favourite motorcycle route, Duffy Lake Road, winding road, with it’s great mountain views and evergreen forest, is really one of the famed motorcycle rides of the continent.  It’s a great weekend circle route from Vancouver to Abbotsford to Lillouette to Pemberton or the other way.  The combination of Sea to Sky Highway and then the Duffy Lake Road and Coquihalla makes it some of the most scenic viewing of varying terrains one can ever hope to find.  Not surprising all the little campgrounds along the route were full.
Not only that, I was looking specifically for a campsite near a logging road so I could take Charles for a ride in the morning. Having a mule deer doe tag for Pemberton area for the fall I really did want to find a place I’d like to return to hunt.  I was quickly learning where I didn’t want to hunt but when I did find a perfect little solo campsite by the river with a logging road leading up into the mountains, Laura said, “There’s no one else around."
I knew I shouldn’t have pointed out that bear.
We drove on a little ways further and the really perfect campsite appeared, half empty too.  Nearly all the way to Lillouete but just grand.
3 am.  I unloaded the camp gear stuffed in the box.  With the ramps out I took my life into my hands and backed Charles down off the truck in the dark. I survived!
Now I began setting up the Napier tent in the back, sure glad I’d had a dry run with all the help.  It was a bit iffy at times but working methodically I soon had all the tie downs and poles in.  What a great feeling when the whole thing lifts up.
“Voila! a Truck Tent”.  It looked so spacious, it was almost cathedral.
Now Laura who’d been groggily  waiting with Gilbert in the truck helped get all the bedding out.  She really is a little thing and setting up the tent wouldn’t have gone faster with her helping.  Keeping Gilbert out of the way did.  I felt badly with the noise I’d made parking and unloading Charles and setting up the tent. Our immediate young  neighbours had been woken, their dogs barking but then they’d gone right back to sleep.
Now Laura and I and Gilbert were in our Mountain Equipment Coop -20 degree sleeping bags, foamies under our butts and Gilbert at our head lying on my cammo fleece jacket.  This tent truck was luxurious. I was still wide awake. The late night coffee from Macdonald’s still doing it’s thing.
It was 4:30 am.  Laura and Gilbert were sleeping.  I had the rifle loaded beside me.  Nothing in the chamber.  Just ready.  It was comforting. The sound of the running river was splendid. The air smelt so fresh.  I really did like this Napier truck tent.  Despite Laura telling me earlier that bears could climb it was very very unlikely. We were a whole lot safer.   I knew falling asleep I wasn’t going to wake to a black and white momma skunk scratching at my face.  Life was good. It really was good being off the ground. You’re right too Dad, I do miss my bed.