July 10-12 Trip: Vancouver, Part Deux

I’m assuming, as there were zero comments on Part 1 of this saga, that you’re all either totally bored, or just completely enthralled and eagerly awaiting resolution! Actually, I choose the latter, which I can do, because it’s my fantasy world here at rideblog. Mine! Ha!

Um, yes. Vancouver…

As soon as we’d breakfasted on the rather Euro-meager, sugarless offerings of The Victorian Hotel, The Boy and I took off on our bikes for Stanley Park. We took full advantage of the bike lane system, wherever it was separate and therefore safe for a seven year-old.

Doesn’t he just look like an old pro here? Note that the shoes match the bike. He’s big into monster green right now. He’s also wearing an adult-sized helmet. As I tell The Boy quite readily: that’s why Mama had a c-section! My ex and I were clearly designed to create an entire race of giant-headed progeny, like bulldogs.

Or, in another way to view this problem, I also assure The Boy: it’s just holding all those brains you’re going to use to go to college and support Mama in her old age.

First stop on the seawall route? The big blue thing that might be a giant drop of rain, or um… something else artistic and profound.

What is it about public art that makes normally sane city planners buy stuff that’s totally inexplicable? I mean, I guess I like this thing, but it’s weird. It just is. We decided it was what raindrops look like to an ant.

Uh, Mom, isn’t he on your chainring?

For a full Boy-splanation of The Great Blue Heron, see this post.

Hey, more weird public art! I wish I’d been on the correct setting for this one (oddly, I had the camera set to its super low-light setting, which resulted in a blurry photo in some way I don’t really understand).

Here we both are, in focus, thanks to the kind offer of a stranger to take our picture, and my assumption that he wouldn’t steal my camera in the middle of the circle of Buddhist monk statues (that would result in some seriously bad karma, don’t you think?). Of course, I think I look fat. The Boy assures me that while many people’s mamas are fat, I am not one of those mamas. He thinks I’m quite athletic, which is nice. I realize this won’t last, and in about five years he won’t want to be seen on the same side of the street with me even if I lose 50lbs, so I’m enjoying this while I can. I can hear it now: “Mom, you are totally embarrassing me!”

Vancouver is a lovely city, and looks very different from Seattle. Much of that comes from the high-density downtown area, with its many pale-windowed condos. Why they’re all built to look nearly identical is beyond me, but the city scape is quite harmonious.

This part of the trail wasn’t even really Stanley Park’s seawall, yet. Stanley Park is one of my favorite features of Vancouver. In fact, I think it is my favorite feature. It’s as if someone just dropped 1000 acres of forest into the middle of a massive metropolitan center… oh wait: that’s exactly what Stanley Park is. Vancouverians (is that the right word? Vancouverites? Vancouverists?) take full advantage of it, too. The seawall path runs around the entire park, and is technically eight kilometers. I know from having done an 8k run many years ago, that this is about 5 miles. Right at the start, near where we stopped for the above photo, sits the Vancouver Aquarium.

Like all aquariums, it has lots of cool fish tanks. These aren’t of particular interest to The Boy, though he loves his own fish at home with a passion that moves him to frequent tears when they suddenly drop dead despite excellent care. Anyway, aquariums aren’t usually his cup of tea. This one, however, has an attraction that the Seattle Aquarium doesn’t boast and I knew from having taken him there when he was three that it would thrill him:

We like us some well-coordinated leaping aquatic mammals, yes we do! Immediately after watching the dolphin show, which features three animals rescued as babies from fishing nets, The Boy had to travel to the gift shop to get one for himself (quite necessary for completing his tour, since the dolphin could then return to the tank and see itself, along with the other animals on display. This makes perfect sense when you’re seven).

The only other true attraction, to The Boy at least, was this tank, where one could really become a part of the exhibit:

After we finished the aquarium, we rode the rest of the seawall (which was nearly all of it). The Boy did surprisingly well, and only had to stop for ice cream once. Still, having to remind him constantly to stay on “his” side of the trail as we were passed at least a thousand times by other cyclists, while he tried not to ride off the six inch drop that was on the right side of the trail, was exhausting for Mama too. Why they built the trail to have a drop-off on one side nearly the entire way around eludes me. Dang non-litigious Canucks!

We paused several times to catch our breath. Once at the foot of this bridge (you knew I just had to get that gratuitous bridge shot, eh?)…

And later, facing the entry to the port, with a panoply of tankers awaiting entry.

The Boy did a bit of impromptu bouldering at this point, to keep sharp:

As we continued on, there was also a brief beach stop, as there must be on any ride along the edge of the water. Driftwood is a tremendous temptation to a seven year-old, as it offers many opportunities to shift around and crush one’s limbs or get an enormous, bloody splinter.

In the end, The Boy was very proud of his circumnavigation of Stanley Park. I was thrilled as well, and count it a day well spent in the company of my favorite human being.

I didn’t necessarily feel this way in the car when I took a wrong turn and drove us through all (and I do mean ALL) of Vancouver’s suburbs. I added two hours more to our drive than was necessary.

Before that Catastrophe of Epic Proportions, however, we had a full half-day of fun. First, the Science Museum, always a hit with Wee Boys. We could easily have biked there, but there was the possibility of paying way too much to ride the light rail system for a single stop, so we opted for that, of course. Here, The Boy attempts to use leverage to lift a hippo:

On the way home, we walked through Chinatown, and “ate” the single worst meal of Chinese food I’ve ever had, which was a shame, as Vancouver has amazing restaurants. Can’t win ’em all, but you can pose with your new maze-ball toy in front of the giant lions:

And ponder the hilarity of this barber-shop sign:

Finally, we loaded the bikes back up onto the car to head for the border and get the heck outta Dodge… I mean, Vancouver.

After our… uh… detour through suburban Vancouver, we needed a break, so we stopped somewhere I have driven past several times but never stopped: Peace Arch Park. The Boy had spotted the giant flower flags from the crossing into Canada, and he was adamant that we had to stop so he could check this phenomena out. By the time we arrived there, a full two-and-a-half hours after leaving our hotel (and just 35 miles, you understand), I was ready to shove him out of the car into the flowers myself.

Mystery solved for one seven year-old boy: that’s how they do that! We had to then stand on the border (and play several games of “Hey! I’m in Canada! What are you doing over there in America?” Switch. “Hey! What are you doing over there in Canada?”).

I highly recommend Peace Arch Park, actually. It was gorgeous, and surprisingly big. Families were picnicking on the grass and kids were playing. There was nowhere to bike, but that’s a small quibble. We stopped at the last bathroom in Canada, which I pointed out. As we left, The Boy quipped: “See ya later, Canadian Bathroom. It’s over.”

“Did you just break up with the Canadian Bathroom? Because I so thought you two were going to get married!”

This resulted in many giggles and embarrassed shrieks of “MOM!” Then The Boy had to take one last good roll in the Canadian grass before we headed back to boring old American soil.

You know what they say about the grass on the other side…

Anyway, my final note on this lovely little trip is a bit of advice to the American border guard who interviewed us on the way back. Opening the conversation with: “Well, where’s the daddy?” is rude, and will result in the response: “In his own house, where he belongs.”

“Why were you in Canada?”


“Buy anything there?”

“A stuffed Pacific Bottlenose Dolphin, one maze-ball and a bear with a Canadian flag on it’s chest.”

“Yeah, but what did you get for the kid?”

Ah, America. It’s good to be home, I guess…


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12 Responses to July 10-12 Trip: Vancouver, Part Deux

  1. monk says:

    Bored? Not when most of my rides pass the same old corn and bean fields.

  2. Auchen says:

    I loved those dolphins. Seems like it was a really great vacation for the boy, but after a few hours in the Vancouver sub-bubs (“Are we there yet?”), I’m sure you were glad to be home again.

    Hmmm… I see you took yet another under-bridge photo… Do I see a pattern here?

  3. rideblog says:

    Monk, isn’t RAGBRAI more scenic than that?

  4. rideblog says:

    Auchen, I do like bridges, I’ll admit. I’m not sure what my problem is :).

    The Boy went through a month-long period of whining recently, but he seems to have surfaced after Vancouver, much like the dolphins. Kids are such mysterious little creatures. I have no idea what was bugging him… lack of school, perhaps? 🙂

  5. monk says:

    rideblog, it depends on the route. One year I rode through what’s known as the “green belt” (pretty). Another year I rode through Amish country. Iowa does offer some scenic variety but my training rides are all close to home, which is wall-to-wall crops. This year, I’m starting from Boone, which is home of the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad. That offers some hope that I’ll see something different than I’m used to.

    I do have plans to ride the Katy trail in Missouri and do a factory ride from Precision Cycles in Waterford, WI (where I think my old Schwinn Paramount was built). Whether that happens this year or next, I’m not sure, but they’re goals that keep me stoked. Oh, and next year my cousin from Florida wants to fly back and do all of RAGBRAI!

  6. Jim Duncan says:

    Well, your blog is so entertaining it leaves some of us speechless; that’s why no comments. Seriously, your travels are charming and droll. Lots of fun. Thanks!

  7. rideblog says:

    Ooo, Monk, I love a scenic railroad. The Boy has a train video that features that route, and I seem to recall it being pretty lovely. You’ll have to report back!

  8. rideblog says:

    Thanks, Jim! 🙂 I like your explanation even better than mine.

  9. The last time I rode a bicycle in Vancouver was during a visit in 2001, which was during a very lengthy transit strike. Since we were flying in, did not want to rent a car, and going to a wedding in Kitsilano, we found a B&B there that had bikes available– for free! We rode downtown over the Burrard street bridge and to the aquarium in Stanley Park. I can tell you that 10 years ago, there was pretty much 0 bicycle infrastructure. It amazes me what they have accomplished since then. I continue to be jealous of our neighbors to the north. Your trip makes me really want to get back up there with my bicycle and try it out!

  10. rideblog says:

    Amanda, it would be well worth it. It’s just gorgeous! And without a little kid, you could really ride all over, as most roads have bike lanes, if not separated ones. I just didn’t feel comfortable with him riding on an open bike lane. And I hear the restaurant scene is amazing, but again… not with a seven year-old.

  11. I guess I didn’t read this before, so I read it now!

    I’ve been to Vancouver twice with Shawn (once for my birthday in November of 2010, and then in June of 2011 near the start of our Big Trip) and I love it there, oh so much. It feels a bit like Portland, but much bigger and more international.

    During both visits, we made a point of riding the perimeter of Stanley Park. I still have no idea what most of the inside of the park looks like! And I haven’t visited any museums in Vancouver because I can never get over the sticker shock of the entrance fees.

    And, I have to note: your son looks a lot like you.

  12. rideblog says:

    I love Vancouver, April. It’s one of my favorite cities, too. I’ll be down in Portland hopefully this spring for a day or two, so maybe you and Shawn can show me the sights there. I’ve never been by bike, if you know what I mean. Though I’ll have to hide my wallet when I’m in Clever Cycles, I suspect!

    The Boy is a weird amalgam of my ex and me, and some genes that have arisen from the depths. He’s got my skin color and hair color, but his dad’s hair texture. He’s got brown eyes, but I have gray and my ex has green! He’s built just like my ex, but taller, like the men in my family (if he stays on his current trajectory, obviously). Genetics are a strange, strange thing. My ex has gone on to have another kid with his new wife, and it’s weird to see the two boys together. They’re alike, yet not, in ways that aren’t easy to quantify, so he must look like my ex a lot, too. Bizarreness.

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