The Year of the Monkey


Coming back from Las Vegas in February & feeling pretty good about my biking, I was preparing myself to go on my dream tour of doing the Pacific West Coast bike route in late summer.  But within 2 months things changed, & the whole world collapsed for me and my family.


“Marlies was never keen on having her picture taken, however here she insisted on one.  According to the Chinese Calendar she was born in the year of the Monkey & Feb ’16 was the start of same.  One of the forecasts was dealing with health issues.” 

My wife, Marlies, was not feeling well when we came back from Las Vegas & went to see her family doctor. After a few visits of seeing doctors and specialists she was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given less than 5 months. All the plans we had for the summer came crashing down. The fun and the will to bike were gone, which naturally did not sit well with Marlies. Do your biking, go swimming, you can’t change what’s happening. Set up and sleep in your tent. Learn to cook simple meals on your camp stove. You’ve got everything here at home so grind your way thru it, until you feel comfortable with what you’re doing. everything had gone normally, she would have made a camp cook out of me by that summer. After 4 months she passed away quietly in her     sleep in September, 2016.

It took me a while to find my way back to reality. Cooking, laundry, house chores, shopping. Now I had to do the work of three: Marlies, my own and the work we had done together.

In spring of 2017, in an attempt to get out of this sorry syndrome, I signed up with Darren Alff in order to get the best out of bicycle touring [Darren Alff – Pro]

Just to keep my mind busy I planned a week-long bike tour thru part of the upper North-West of Washington State for April. With the help of Darren, we laid out the IMG_0664tour together. I would bike from the Blaine Border crossing over to Whidbey Island, down to the Clinton Ferry crossing, then in Everett maybe catch the Amtrak back to Bellingham, where I would be picked up by a family member. But as it turned out, the last two days from Oak bay – Everett to Bellingham were very enjoyable to bike & I never ended up taking the train. In Bellingham I was picked up by my daughter and spent the night back in Canada.


Image | Posted on by | Leave a comment

Red Rock Canyon State Park

Las Vegas, Spanish for the meadows, is surrounded by mountain, so where ever you go by bike you’re going to fight an uphill battle. By car you don’t even notice it, if you’re young and healthy it’s no problem either. As with the trip to Hoover Dam, Don stayed ahead of me while I followed at my own speed. After paying $3.00 Admission to Red Rock Canyon State Park I


proceeded to the Visitor Centre where I met up with Don. We looked around, had something to eat, then we started biking along the Scenic Drive. The further we got into the park, the steeper the road got, becoming more and more of a challenge. At the first lookout Don told me he was not going any further because his ankle was bothering him and he would join Tanya and the kids. Well, I told him, I paid $3.00 and I want to see the rest of the Canyon. So I kept on going. Along the way I met a couple von Calgary who were going back because the road was too steep for them. Then I met a young German guy who had some problems with his saddle, but I couldn’t help him. Another young guy passed me while I had stopped to get some air. He told me not to stop to rest, but to just keep on walking. I followed his advice until I was ready to go again on my bike.

On the very top (High Point Overlook) I became a hero with a Japanese Tourist group. They SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAthought this was great having the courage to bike up this mountain. Taking the elevation from Las Vegas to the Top Point, I climbed 975 meters either riding or pushing my bike. Not bad, I would say.

From that point I thought it would be all downhill, but boy was I wrong. Going downhill was great, a high gear and the wind blowing in my face, and then I came around a rock cliff. There was no time to shift and I was suddenly up partway and stuck in my tracks. The only thing I could do was get off my bike and start pushing. But this time was the last time. For the rest of the drive it was very relaxing and enjoyable. I met up again with the young man who told had told me to keep walking rather stop. He was fixing a flat tire and he was ok, so I kept on rolling.

Back on the highway with an 8’ shoulder and I had the road all for myself. My speed increased until I was going more than 40 km/hr. Tanya, Don and the kids passed me in the opposite direction, but instead of turning around and catching up with me they decided to go and have something to eat because I was making such a good time on my bike and they didn’t want to stop me. After waiting for a while at the location Don and I had agreed on I decided to keep going since it was less than 20 km to the hotel and still daylight.

Rolling towards Las Vegas and happy with myself, I got a call from Tanya. She wanted to know where I was. I told her not to worry about me, I was going to bike back to the hotel. No she said in 15-20 it will be dark and you don’t have any lights on your bike. I gave her my location, biked a few extra 100 meters to a parking lot and made the trip a 70km trip. We loaded up the bike and by then it was dark. Listen to the locals, or in this case, the Southern Californians.

The scenic drive through the Red Rock Canyon is a challenge to any biker, especially in my age group. Biking around Vancouver, every time I came down a hill and saw another ahead of me, it intimidated me. After getting stronger with my biking and I came to the realization that if you’re at the foot of the hill, the hill is really only half the size you saw coming down, and now hills don’t scare me anymore. If I have to push, I push. Going on a longer trip, I think you also need to be mentally in tip top shape, to know your strength and to use common sense. Once back in Vancouver I will get ready and train for a longer trip because I feel confident I can do it.

Posted in biking | Leave a comment

South Nevada

Las Vegas – Hoover Dam.

In February 2016 we had the opportunity to spend a week in Las Vegas with my daughter and her family from Southern California. We flew to Las Vegas while my daughter and family drove up by car, approximate 450km. During our Christmas vacation in Oceanside my son-in-law, Don, had told me Las Vegas had really nice bike routes and he offered to bring his extra bike along so he and I could explore the desert and surrounding area by bike.


Taking a break along Boulder Hwy.

While we were there, the weather turned out to be perfect for biking, a nice 18˚C, meaning no aching bones. After I arrived and walked down the strip the first time and saw all the traffic, I wondered how would I manage riding my bike in this melee of cars. Like Vancouver, Las Vegas has marked bikeways, but it was important that I let everyone know I was on the road, too, so when riding, I took a more dominant position on the road by staying closer to the middle rather than riding close to the curb and avoided being hidden behind cars.

I biked the Las Vegas Strip from South Outlet Stores to the North Outlet Stores and even further, more than once. By taking a more visible position on the road, closer to the middle, I never felt that I was a pushover or that I didn’t belong. And this carried over as I cycled through other parts of the city. One thing I did notice, however, was lots of bikers riding on the sidewalk, so when I had the chance, I asked a policeman. After introducing myself as Canadian, which always softens people up, I asked if it was ok in Las Vegas to bike on the sidewalk. With a smile he replied “No, but sometimes we have to look the other way. Stay alert on your bike and have a nice holiday”. I thanked the officer and wished him a good shift.


Historic Railroad Hiking trail

One of my main goals, while in Las Vegas was to ride toHoover Dam. So one day Don and I set out with our bikes. We got an early start while Marlies, my daughter and the grandkids planned to leave later in the day and meet us there with the car. Don and I started by biking along Flamingo Road to Boulder Highway after which we followed the bike trail all the way to the start of Historic Railroad Hiking Trail. Along the route we followed, the ditches used to catch the runoff water sometimes doubled as the bike trail. The biking along Flamingo Road and Boulder Highway was easy riding as the bike trail was about 8’-10’ wide.

As closer we came to Boulder City, though, the trail got steeper and steeper and I had to slow down or even push my bike up the hill. Don, however, just kept on going up the hill and then waited for me further along. In other words he got nice long breaks while mine were a bit shorter.


Gravel Road and Tunnels

Historic Railroad Hiking trail Riding thru the dessert was really enjoyable. The temperature 16˚C, the bike path was paved, the sun was shining and I had no aching bones. For the last 10 km or so we traveled along a gravel road that was well packed but the last kilometer turned out to be a pretty steep downhill stretch. After that we were back on the highway and then we rolled into the Hoover Dam where Marlies was waiting for us, while my daughter, Tanya, and the grandkids were taking a tour of the inside of the dam. We had a good meal at the dam, planed our next trip to the the Red Rock Canyon and then we all drove home together by car and slept very well from all the accomplishments of the day.


Lunch at the Hoover Dam Coffee

Image | Posted on by | Leave a comment

South – West California

The year of 2016 I will never forget for the rest of my life. 


The beach we used to see befor the storm

Middle of December (2015) we travelled to Oceanside, CA to celebrate Christmas with our oldest daughter and family. The day after we arrived was a big storm and the beach along the Strand Boulevard was gone; rocks and debris were piled up on the Boulevard. City workers worked hard the next day to clean up the road to make it passable for cars and pedestrian.

I thought we brought the weather from Vancouver: rain, windy days and it was cold too.

After the Storm

The beach after the storm

But after all I fixed up my son in-law’s bike and I still managed to get in quite a few miles. It might be hilly but they have nice, well-marked bike paths.

The DND lets you, as a cyclist, bike thru Camp Pendleton where there is little vehicle traffic, so many cyclists make use of it and on weekends it is packed with them.

The San Luis Rey River Trail is about 10 miles or so, both bike and hiking trails. Very enjoyable to ride. But there are still many other bike trails which I have yet to explore.

Now, riding the Pacific Coast Highway was a little bit different as you encounter cars, police officers and cycling groups, up to 15 & they can haul like a pack of wolves. In general everything went fine until I came to a section of a road in Del Mar that was blocked by 2 police officers. They would not let anybody thru, not even a lady who showed her driver’s license with her address. She could walk-in, but not drive in. I don’t know if he wanted to prove something to me but over the years of going down to the states I found American people always be friendly and helpful, except if they held a position whether it was as a Police Officer, Border Guard, Security Guard etc. Just to show you that they had power over you.

Since the road was washed out from the storm & in repair, I had no choice but to either turn around or to take Del Mar Heights Rd, adding another 10 km to my trip to San Diego. Well here again I had to push my bike, the road is pretty steep, but I made it. I knew this detour put me at risk of not keeping my promise to be home in time for a dinner out. North Torrey Pines Rd. was another uphill battle but I never got off my bike and from the Golf Course it was all downhill. I hit rush hour and the traffic was pretty heavy. Then I got a break, a nice-looking girl passed me and the way she handled herself thru the traffic, I just ended up following her. I was impressed as we made it safe to the bikeways of Da Anza Cove Park, where she then made her departure. Well, I made it to Old Town in Sand Diego &, hopped on the Coaster, disembarked at the Poinsettia Station, Carlsbad. Once off the Coaster I then only had 6km back to Lego Land Hotel Resort in the dark. Naturally I got an earful of complaints because the kids were starving to death, but it was only 6pm so I felt I had made good time!

Image | Posted on by | Leave a comment

Setting Goals!

With all the bike lanes here in Greater Vancouver for all different levels, I saw no reason not to improve my strength and endurance by keeping on biking. For me, every time I made a hill, or rode another mile without stopping or pushing my bike was a success. Often you will look at the road or hill in front of you and think you can’t make it without stopping or pushing your bike but, to your surprise, it turns out not to be a problem at all. Now I don’t worry about this anymore. I tackle the hill and keep on rolling.


On our way to Coeur d’ Arlene

Last year, in 2015, my daughter participated in the Coeur d’Arlene IronMan. The whole family came along to support her. Prior to our trip I had heard about the Centennial Bikeway between Spokane and Coeur d’Alene, so after lunch in Spokane Valley, my daughter and I followed this bikeway to our destination. It turned out to be a very enjoyable ride. To stay tuned up for her IronMan, my daughter did many 20 min sprints during our ride.

In Post Falls we hit some steep hills. After tackling a few, but with more to come, I needed a break. At this point my daughter told me I had just tackled a 9% hill – not bad. Well, the next hill was only 6%, but either I did not shift in time or I was at the end of my strength, but whatever it was, I had to push my bike up the hill. Folks, I am not kidding when I tell you I still push my bike to make it up to the top of some hills.

During a 15-minute break my brain started to work in a different direction. I was thinking about my implanted defibrillator and all the medication I have to swallow in order to stay fit and live a normal life. The defibrillator was put in after I started biking; it was, and is, more of insurance for the doctors than for me. In one of the defibrillator brochures it suggests you set yourself some goals to accomplish (something I had already done without knowing) otherwise you may get depressed and all kind of stupid ideas may float thru your head. And even though I wasn’t depressed, I had a crazy idea going thru my head at that moment and it continued to float around for the next few days.


Future Iron Men

After a brief final break we arrived at the house we had rented for the week. All 3 families had settled in and dinner was waiting for us. Over the following days I explored Coeur d’Arlene by bike, rode the running stretch of the IronMan and partially biked the bike route. (No pushing the bike uphill!) But that crazy idea stayed in my head and I started to check things out online.

Des_IdahoWe watched my daughter swim, bike (49C) and run (60c asphalt heat) on the hottest day that the Coeur d’Alene Ironman had ever taken place. The next day I decided to tell my entire family about this idea that had been running thru my head since I had biked the Centennial Bikeway. My idea was to bike from Vancouver all the way along the Pacific Coast down to San Diego. It got very, very quiet. When? was the question I was asked. Me: “Hopefully this late summer” – then all hell broke loose. I will not go into details, but the whole clan was up in arms. That was our last night, and the next day we all departed in different directions leaving me to deal with my wife.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, I had a dental problem that prevented me from going on this biking adventure. But to prove the point that I was fit and able, I biked all the way out to Atkinson Point in West Vancouver and back, a 70 km return trip. I also biked from the Surrey Sky Train Station to Cultus Lake and back to the Aldergrove Border Crossing where I was picked up by my wife and daughter, something I had arranged beforehand.

My next goal now is to bike 70km of different terrain.

Posted in biking | Leave a comment

Biking in and around Vancouver


Biking along the Seawall at Stanley Park

1986 Vancouver hosted Expo 86. It not only opened Vancouver to the world, it also brought about many changes. Beer parlors and pubs were licensed to sell alcohol on Sundays and holidays (while social clubs took a beating).   The Sky Train was constructed,  going from Canada Place in downtown Vancouver out to Scott Road in Surrey.

Grace McCarthy, Minister of Transportation, contacted all multi-cultural Societies to create park-like areas along the Sky Train route. Originally 16-18 ethnic plazas were created but now only four or five are left: the Chinese Garden in China Town, the Italian Plaza on Clark Street, a big A on Victoria Drive and Stainsbury, representing the Austrian Business Association, now surrounded by a community garden, the Philippine community near the Nanaimo Station and the German Canadian Heritage Plaza on 29th Ave and Atlin Street (across from 29th Ave Sky Train Station).


Northern Flicker keeping Eye on Traffic

While many of the parks may be gone, the BC Parkway, sponsored by 7Eleven and other corporations, is still enjoyed by people of all ages in many ways: bikers, joggers, walking groups etc. You can ride your bike from Science World all the way to New Westminster Quay. And if you feel adventurous, you can continue over the Pattula Bridge into Surrey.

With the addition of the Centennial Sky Train Line from Vancouver to Coquitlam and New Westminster, another bikeway, the Central Valley Greenway, was created.


We are cute, but don’t come too close

Regardless if you are on the BC Parkway or Central Valley Greenway, the benefit of enjoying these trails by bike is that a Sky Train station is never too far away should your legs get fatigued.

Over the following years many more bikeways have been created or improved and connected to existing routes. Now you can bike along the south shore of False Creek all the way to Spanish Banks and even further. Or you can double back, cross the Burrard Street Bridge and keep going around Stanley Park and then back to downtown. The north shore of False Creek also makes a nice ride for a Sunday afternoon. (But be aware, there are guys with strollers who will aim for you!)

Visit the City of Vancouver’s Biking Page for more info on cycling around Vancouver. Whatever routes you choose there is no excuse not to spend time exploring Vancouver by bike.

Posted in biking, exercise, lower mainland, vancouver | Leave a comment



Mother Goose with 22 gosling

After spending 3 days in Intensive care for congestive heart failure, just walking 100 feet was a problem. Doctors orders: walk, walk, walk.  Slowly I got stronger,  adding swimming into my program.  My walks now got longer and longer, but going uphill was still a battle. After signing up with My Healthy Heart for 4 months and some changes in medication I also added biking to my agenda.

One day I joined my wife cycling to the farmers market at Trout Lake Community Centre.  Getting there was no problem, but coming back was a different story. On every little hill I had to stop and take a rest, needless to say my wife was not impressed since there were other things that she wanted to do that afternoon.  Well for me, it became a challenge.  Today the 6km  takes less than half an hour.  Going around Burnaby Lake 26 km 2 1/2 hrs. Yes, I’m tired but I feel good and relaxed.


Trout Lake

My next challenge: Stanley Park.  I must say driving and sharing the streets with cars was not a problem, good cooperation between cars and bicycles. On the other hand, biking along the seawall I would almost say that people pushing strollers were aiming for you to get you off the path.  Well, anyway, it was a nice ride along the seawall. Going back home, the little hills became mountains and we have lot of them here in Vancouver.  So I stopped, took a little rest and pushed my bike each mountain. Well, I had to do this too going up to Prospect Point. I didn’t feel bad pushing my bike because there where some young grasshoppers who had to push their bikes also. After a short rest and cooling down I made it home and relaxed. Hopefully I can do another trip before Christmas and this time all around Stanley Park.

Biking thru the city and parks is a very relaxing exercise; you see and observe things which you will never see from your car going from A to B. Plus it is good exercise and it strengthens your heart and mind.  Even on rainy days it can be fun, but dress properly.

Posted in biking, canada, clothing, congestive heart failure, exercise, getting healthy, lower mainland, recovery, senior, vancouver | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment