Two years of bike commuting

Two years ago when the car insurance expired, we were in the middle of a tight patch financially. I didn’t want to fork out money for insurance, so I thought I’d try bike commuting. One thing lead to another, here I am, still bike commuting after 2 years.

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Early morning detour through Stanley Park on a stormy day

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The ridiculous amount of layers when it was -7c out.

My commute is easy in terms of:

  • Less than 5-km each way
  • Mostly on separate bike lanes (downtown Vancouver, Burrard bridge, Arbutus Greenway), parts on quieter shared roadways
  • Locker, hot shower, and towel service at work (a building managed by Oxford Properties)

Some days it feels like my commute is a bit too short, and I will purposely take the long way to make it a 10-km ride. And since I got tired of taking my pannier rack on and off the bike for commuting vs. gravel rides, I have ditched the panniers and rack in favor of a waterproof roll-top backpack. Adding a pair of winter riding shoes (warm and waterproof) this year has made me a much happier person.

I love riding my bike. I love the fresh air. I love sweating. I love the view over the Burrard Bridge. I love the view of False Creek when I take a detour. I love meeting a friend for dinner anywhere downtown and not worry about parking. I love the freedom. I love that I can hop off the bike and instantly become a pedestrian where the situation suits. I love that I can decompress before I go home.

I can go on and on and on.

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Of course, there is a little bit of this white stuff this winter.

It doesn’t take a lot to start commuting to work (assuming you are within a reasonable distance from work). I would say within 10-km one way is reasonable. I find any further than that, the level of commitment is higher. For longer commutes, you need better gear to make your life easier. My commute is so short that even if I had shitty gear, I’d be totally fine. That’s just my very personal opinion.

To get started, you need:

  • a bike
  • a helmet
  • a backpack
  • bike lights (front white light, back red blinky light)

When I first started, I had a $250 bike that was very old, a $50 helmet that made me sweat buckets, a general purpose backpack (to contain my lunch and change of clothes), and a $40 set of front and back lights.

Only when I decided that I love it enough to be in it for the long haul, I upgraded my gear.

If you are thinking of trying bike commuting, start small. Schedule in 2 days a week to commute on bike, and just see how it goes. You might just like it enough to ditch your car or your bus pass.

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Detour through False Creek

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Detour through Spanish Banks

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The usual view over Burrard bridge

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Great find on another detour.

Day 66/365 {Not just coffee}

I had a really, really, really shitty start to the week. Multiple things have gone wrong both on the client front and on the staff front. I came in to work early this morning to deal with some things, but really all I wanted to do was curl up in fetal position, suck on my thumb, and rock back and forth.

While I was deep into doing some research, Sonia walked into my office and put a cup of coffee on my desk. I was like, uh, what’s this? She said she brought me coffee because she knew I was having a shitty week.

Sometimes, things can get shitty in life. But then when you have friends like Sonia, who reads your mind before you even realize how you are feeling, the shitty-ness all of a sudden does not seem so bad.

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Day 35/365 {Baby Bear going strong}

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If you have been following this blog for a while, you would have read about Baby Bear. If not, here are some links to get you caught up.

The first blog story about Baby Bear

My own reflections of Baby Bear

Adventures of Baby Bear

As Savanna gets older and we “baby” her less, Josh also babies Baby Bear a little less. Having said that, he still takes Baby Bear to the park in the summer when we go play, and always brings her on vacations and ski trips.

Today, we were going out to run errands, and Josh brought Baby Bear. He likes tucking her in his jacket facing out, “so she can see where we are going.”

I love it that he hasn’t outgrown Baby Bear.

Day 23/365 {Diffused}

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Last winter was brutal. At least one person was sick in the house at all times for 10 weeks straight. I felt so beaten up by bronchitis.

Aside from all the regular preventative measures like taking vitamin C, zinc and echinacea, this year I thought I would try a diffuser with essential oils.

The older I get, the more hippie I have become.

Anyway, I got a basic diffuser and some “Thieves”. Apparently some grave robbers used this particular blend to prevent getting sick from all the crap they breathe in when they open up a grave. I’ll report back at the end of winter how this goes.

Day 8/365 {Snow}

It doesn’t snow much in Vancouver. This is the first year in my 24-year memory of Vancouver that we have received this much snow in the city. I did a photo shoot at Pacific Spirit Park yesterday, and came home and told Josh about how beautiful the woods were.

Today he asked me if I could take him to “the beautiful place” I talked about. So between running errands and going to our dinner plans, we squeezed in some time for a short walk through some wooded areas in the park.

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Josh turns six

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Dear Joshie,

If I have to sum up what you are to me, it would be that you are my inspiration.

Last winter when I saw how hard you worked to learn skiing, I was inspired to learn it too and keep practicing. When I saw how much you love swimming and how comfortable you are in the water, I was inspired to re-learn swimming and face my fears. When I saw how fearless you are with trying out roller coasters, I gathered up the courage to get on the ride with you while screaming through the whole ride.

You are kind, loving, fearless, soft hearted, and always optimistic. You make me want to be better, and be like you. Your enthusiasm for life is infectious.

You love to bake. You love riding your bike. You love going to school and being with your friends. You love puzzles and building Lego. Your favorite food is cauliflower soup, noodles, tofu, mac n cheese, and chicken strips.

In the past year, you have revealed more of your personality and interests. You have grown out of the Cars (Disney Cars) phase completely, and pretty much gotten past the peak of the dinosaurs phase. Lego is still a favorite and constant go-to, and you have really taken an interest in Pokemon. Our living room is starting to be taken over by Pokemon cards, and you constantly quiz me about Pokemon characters and their powers and weaknesses. With each phase of your life, I feel like you are just going at the speed of light and I can barely catch my breath when the next phase hits.

You have also really shown an interest in science–anything related to nature, animals, insects, or plants. You often tell me tidbits about a certain fish or a plant that I have never heard of. You amaze me with the amount of information you retain in your noggin.

You can be a typical boy. You run around the playground with boundless energy. You constantly skin your knees and put holes in your pants. You knock over things at home. You step on my toes. You forget your lunch box at school.

Yet, your softer side is present in our daily lives. When you get a treat, you always ask if Savanna can have one. You cuddle up with me in the mornings and tell me you love me. This morning you didn’t want to wake up Daddy to get your birthday present, “Just in case Daddy is extra tired today.”

I love you more than anything in the world. You amaze me and inspire me. Thank you for being my baby. Happy birthday, and I wish you all the love and adventures in the world.

Love,

Mommy

Morocco

“Epic” would be the word I use to describe our trip to Morocco. At the end of the trip, I was exhausted and ready to go home, yet still craving for more at the same time.

First of all, I can’t tell you everything about the trip. I just don’t have the words. I can’t describe how much the craziness of Marrakech hits you like a freight train and leaving you breathless, yet the Fes calms you likes the ocean waves; how all the different shades of blue that makes up Chefchaouen mesmerize you and you can’t stop staring at the walls; how getting lost in the 9,000 streets of the oldest medina can lead to the best smelly surprises of the leather tannery.

The opportunity to share my love of travel and exploring the world with Savanna is something that I wouldn’t trade for the world. What I didn’t expect is how well she traveled. She never complained about being bored. She explored every place we went to, tried all sorts of food, slept in different beds soundly through the night, and just generally enjoyed herself.

I tried editing the photos, but there are just too many. So, here are some mostly un-edited photos, loosely grouped in some sort of order. The camel ride pics are here.

Marrakech: Cooking Class at Amal Women’s Center 

Proceeds are used to fund the NPO that trains abused women to cook and learn life skills so they can work and support themselves.Amal Women's Center Marrakech

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Saffrone

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The ladies who work at the center

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Our tagines cooking on coal fire

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Finished product–which we ate for lunch.

 

Marrakech: Bahia Palace

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Marrakech: Food

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Sheep heads

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Eating where the locals eat.

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From left to right: sheep tongue, brain, and meat

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Sheep tongue sandwich. Sooooo good.

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“Pancakes” with onions. A lot like the Chinese green onion pancake without the green onions.

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Fruits are weighed on the balance scale and sold. I ate some of the sweetest melons I have ever had.

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Pastry shop

 

Marrakech: Random

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Lamp shop in the souk

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Window display of a barber shop

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A random street outside of our riad (guest house)

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The square in front of the mosque is covered with mats for prayer time

 

Fes: Medina and Leather Tannery

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Fes medina–one of the biggest and oldest medinas in the world.

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Inside the Fes medina

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The empty streets of Fes medina, early in the morning

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A section of the medina wall

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Leather tannery–the big vats contain a mix of cow pee and pigeon poop to soften the leather, then later color is added to color the leather

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Despite the smell, the tannery is a visual feast of colors.

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Hanging the leather out to dry

 

Fes: Random

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Moroccans LOOOVE children. Savanna had her cheeks pinched and kissed by so many strangers. This guy is our tour guide, and Savanna loved hanging out with him.

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Savanna and Ali hanging out at the palace.

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The details of brass work on the palace door. All hand made.

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The door knob

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Mosaic tile work

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Hand painting pottery. After firing, the purple turns into blue.

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Mosaic work

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I REALLY wanted to take this mosaic table home

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All hand made tagines of various sizes and colors

 

Chefchaouen

The small town is known for its blue walls.

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Cats

Cats are absolutely everywhere in Morocco. They own the streets. If you are eating on a patio, they come and beg for food. If you don’t shut the terrace door of the riad, they get into the riad to make a mess.

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Hands down, the funniest cat I have ever seen

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They gather and wait under restaurant tables for scraps of food