Thursday, May 31, 2012

Vancouver Bloggers Rock & Roll!

The original plan was ambitious, in a modest way.

I was going to be in Vancouver on business, with a weekend layover.  Spend some time with my son and his girlfriend.  Take the Saturday morning; arrange to meet a blogger or two; rent a little 50cc scooter; ride to the meet-up; have a bite; chat; go for a little ride; return the scooter before the cost ran through the roof.  Elegant and understated. A simple little plan.

I knew I had to meet Bob.  We just have too many freaky things in common. Age.  Grey hair.  We ride.  We had red convertible two-seater sports cars. We  are quirky.  Plus other stuff that I won't bore you with.  Then there were the things about Bob I didn't know.  That he was a wizard, for instance.

My first clue came on a Saturday evening in Toronto, of all places, where we were visiting my sister and brother-in-law.  My daughter called me on my cell from home in Montreal .  She sounded the way daughters sound when they find out something weird about you they didn't already know. "Dad? This guy Bob Leong called you from Vancouver? I gave him your cell number".  "Ya, OK, I know who it is, no worries... thanks!"

No sooner did I hang up, and the phone rang. "Dave? It's Bob... Bob Leong." There was a quiet urgency to his voice.  It reminded me of how I imagined Ford Prefect spoke just before the Earth was destroyed by the Vogons in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  I  instinctively thought he was about to say that he was going to be out of town on the fateful weekend, sinking our plans for the meet-up.

"Dave, I know you're at your sister's, I don't want to disturb you...".  "It's fine Bob, no trouble at all"  I said, waiting for the disappointing shoe to drop.  "Dave, I got you a 200cc scooter.  A Kymco Frost.  It's brand new.  My buddy Gary is going to let you have it when you're here.  It's no trouble.  He's happy to do it.  He's the Kymco dealer here in Vancouver.  It won't cost you anything."

The news came fast. Bob doesn't mince words. It was unexpected.  I was caught off-guard. For more than a moment I was speechless. I must have looked like I was feeling.   My wife was watching this and grew concerned "What's wrong?" she mouthed from across the room, as only a wife can do.  I shook my head to re-assure her.  She went back to her chat with my sister.

"Bob, I don't know what to say!" I finally managed.  "No that's good..." Bob said.  "I'll let you get back to your evening, bye now!"  It took some time for the news to sink in.  I re-joined the Saturday night chatter.  "What's up?" my brother-in-law said.  I explained what had just happened.  They didn't seem to comprehend the enormity. "Wow!" I said to myself "Can you imagine...".  I often speak to myself this way when incredibly good things happen unexpectedly.

Now it's that Saturday morning.  I'm in Vancouver.  At the Fairmont Pacific Rim.  Spectacular place, in a spectacular city.  It's 5:55 a.m.  Dawn is already doing it's magic light show with the city.  My iPhone chimes in a text message.  "if u r up, we will start earlier, I will get there around 7:15am".  "I'll be ready" I reply.

I shower, put on my gear and head down to the indoor garage.  I fumble with the seat lock on the Kymco, cursing, wondering why I didn't pay more attention to Gary when he was showing me around the scoot.  My gear stowed, I hit the starter and wind my way out into the morning light.  It's about 7:18.  Bob is there in front of the hotel, waiting patiently.

"Good, we've got a little more time" he says, pulling on his helmet.  "Let's go".  And we're off.

We take the strange tunnel that runs under the hotel and swing east towards Hastings along the docks.  We stop on an overpass to snap some pictures of the skyline.
While we're there, Bob strikes up a conversation with a passing homeless man.  He gives him some change.  "He's not a bum, just down on his luck" he explains to me.  Bob has a heart of gold.

Now we're moving in earnest, along Hastings, then Cambie, over the bridge, and then I think we're headed east.  We must be because we are going to meet Dave Dixon, Sonja Mager, and her husband Roland for breakfast at the White Spot in Coquitlam at 8:45.

We begin to climb.  Bob swings onto a side street and the hill becomes steeper.  Dead end.  No explanation needed, we turn around, get back on track.   Still climbing.  Bob hangs a left onto Burnaby Mountain Parkway and we move on to Centennial Way.  The park road reminds me of Camilien Houde Parkway on Mount Royal back home.  The climb is substantial now, the road nice and twisty.  The Kymco struggles.  Wide open throttle and my very capable Frost is maxed out.  Bob's V-Strom growls and he sails ahead.  We coast into the parking lot at the summit.  Now I get it.  The view!  It doesn't say 'Beautiful British Columbia' on the license plates for nothing.  Vancouver's high-rises loom in the distance.  
Helmets off.  My Kymco clicks and ticks away, discretely trying to dissipate the heat generated by the climb.  It's the only sound.  Well, yes and no.  You'll soon see.

"Let's walk over there" Bob suggests, pointing to a walkway on the other side of the park.  "Oh my!" more descriptive words fail me.  The other side of the lookout yields the most beautiful view of a fjord, still tinged with morning mist.  Far below, out in the expanse of Burrard Inlet sits a large freighter anchored in the middle of the sound.  "Over there, at the top of the fjord, beyond where you can see, we're headed that way" Bob says.  More pictures.
We chat. Bob offers a photographer's wisdom.  I nod my appreciation.  Time to move on.  Breakfast beckons.  I'm getting hungry.

When we get to the White Spot, three Vespa GTs sit waiting.  Two red, one black.
 I know those bikes.  I've seen them many times before, in blogs.  We enter the restaurant.  It only takes a few seconds to spot Dave, Roland and Sonja patiently awaiting our arrival.  Any awkwardness there may be burns off in the first heated eager minutes of conversation and there is a kinship that rises above it.  This is how friendships are born.

We spend too long chatting, getting to know each other.  Soon Bob and Sonja remind us that we have places to go, and things to see.  To see this meeting from a different set of eyes and ears, read Dave's observations in his excellent post by clicking here.

We gear up, saddle up, and Roland takes the lead, with Bob as the sweep, and we're off to Buntzen Lake.  Suburban Coquitlam yields to a more pastoral scene.  Soon we are riding on a ribbon of perfect asphalt snaking our way through a majestic old-growth rain forest.  Moss covers the massive trunks of the soaring pines and cedars and the heady aroma of the forest wafts into my helmet.  The morning sunlight filters through the canopy to dapple the road in splashes of light.  It just doesn't get better than this.

We reach Buntzen lake and park the bikes to stretch our legs and take in the scene as canoeists and kayakers lay out their gear and prepare for a day on the water.
Bob sets up his tripod and gets us organized for a group shot.  Predictably, he takes one normal one, one peculiar one.
Copyright - Bobskoot -
Copyright - Bobskoot -
So refreshing.  I love that man's mind.

Bob looks at his watch.  It's time to leave this little blissful corner of the universe and head off to... Belcarra.  As with everything else I'm experiencing, it's all foreign.  I am like a hitchhiker in the galaxy, I have no clue where I'm headed, and I haven't a care in the world.  This is happiness.

It turns out that I have seen this Belcarra before.  From the top of Burnaby Park.  Belcarra  Regional Park is at the end of the fjord I had seen earlier in the morning.  The freighter I saw from the mountain is out in the distance.  Hasn't moved.  Bob and I can't help wondering what it's doing there.
More pictures.  More memories of a perfect ride.
Copyright - Bobskoot -
No time for lollygagging, time marches on.  Bob feels that our plan for lunch at the Tomahawk will have to be scrubbed. He shares  his concern with me.  As pleasant as this adventure is, he doesn't want to run past the 1:00 o'clock target for lunch and the end of our ride.  I quickly decide to lift the 1:00 p.m. curfew, wipe the Tomahawk off the slate.  The merry wanderers confer and effortlessly agree to set a course for Horseshoe Bay.  There is an expressway leg involved.  The consensus comes quickly: let's do it.

As we wind our way out of Belcarra, we soon return to urban riding.  Traffic.  Lights.  Heat.  Finally Roland leads us onto the freeway.  Roland and Dave have the least experience, but you'd never know it.  It feels good to open the throttle and get up to speed.  Bob and I switch on the GoPro POV cams.  I am at the back of the pack with Bob still sweeping.  I pull out into the passing lane and gun the Frost moving to the front of the pack to get some video of our little band riding at speed.  [Ed: My GoPro was mismanaged by the production staff (yes, that's me) and the card filled up: no useful video of this bit - curses!  Bob saved the day (not surprisingly). Want excellent video of this adventure? See the link to Bob's blog (that's almost as much fun to say as "Bob Loblaw" if there is such a person) below.]

It doesn't take long before we find the coast and head up Canada's version of the Pacific Coast Highway.  I've done this weeks before in L.A., but now I'm riding.  A Kymco Frost sure beats a Volvo S-60.

We reach our destination.  No one says so, but we know this is the apex.  We've reached the end of a delightful adventure.  All that's left is the ride home.

We settle in for some west coast pub grub on an outdoor terrace (that's the Montreal term, in Toronto it's a patio, I wonder what it is in Horseshoe Bay... oh that's right, it's delightful).
Copyright - Bobskoot -
Our tummies full, we wander across the street to take in the harbour sights and Bob does his group shot magic again.
Copyright - Bobskoot -
Copyright - Bobskoot -
All too soon it's time to saddle up once more and begin the ride back to Vancouver.
Copyright - Bobskoot -
The ride soon becomes an endless sea of cars as we wend our way through North Vancouver.

The treat and silver lining hidden in the unremitting congestion, is the portion of the route over the Lion's Gate bridge.  This is Canada's answer to the Golden Gate.  In some ways I prefer it.  Stanley Park is every bit as much a prize as Sausalito.

Sonja takes the opportunity offered by the bumper-to-bumper ride to snap some shots of us as we make our way to the Fairmont Pacific Rim.  I particularly like the long-arm self portrait shot that's got me in it.  So I stole it to re-post here.
Copyright - Sonja Mager - Find me on the road
And that's how this story ends.  Under the portico at the Fairmont.  One saddle-sore tuckered-out band of two-wheel humans, now fast friends.
See how easy that was.  A modest little adventure that became a very-big-deal thanks to a light touch of wizardly magic courtesy of Bob Leong.  At least that's the way it is for me.

Here's hoping for many more amazing adventures to come.


Bob posted a video compilation on his blog post for this adventure that is the perfect cap for this epic adventure.  You can get there by clicking here.   Thanks Bob, you're the bee's knees!


Troubadour said...

Great post, I can hear Bob's voice and sense his urgency as I read your blog. I like the wizard reference, it fits.
Glad you enjoyed your visit, thanks for sharing.

Unknown said...


I am humbled . . . glad you enjoyed your visit

Riding the Wet Coast
My Flickr // My YouTube

Dave Dixon said...

And I thought I was the only one that thought it was a magical day! Thanks to you, Bob, Sonja and Roland, I now expect all my group rides to be unforgettable experiences!
Really enjoyed reading this - you have captured the day perfectly!
Comparative blogging is so much fun...
Can't wait until you're out on the West Coast again - that was such a splendid day!

SonjaM said...

Yep, you get what you paid for. Now wait, you didn't pay for the scooter, and the city tour... I guess you are one lucky guy with lots of good karma going your way.

So obviously you got Bob's famous complete Vancouver-come-for-one-day-and-see-it-all tour.

David Masse said...

To all of you who have posted comments on these Vancouver posts, thank you. As you may have read in the news, the company I work for announced the largest takeover in its history that will double our size when it closes. I have been very, very, very busy with that deal, and just haven't been able to do more than struggle to get those Vancouver posts up. To Sonja, Dave and Bob, my posts are a labour of love and a tribute to your amazing hospitality. I am forever in your debt. Needless to say there is a red carpet waiting for you should you come to Montreal. My very best to you dear friends.

Trobairitz said...

I am glad you had such great tour guides. Soon you'll have to go back to work just to relax from your vacation.

Canajun said...

Great post, and a great group of west coast bloggers. Kudos to all for a job well done!

The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.