Biking

I meet my daughter, Allison, at Sushi Yoi, one of three fine Japanese restaurants within a square block of my mother’s apartment building. She arrived on her bike. She asks if I think it will be okay with her Oma if she stored her new ride in my mom’s apartment. Her new bike cost three grand, and she hasn’t had time to replace the standard grade lock she has on it with one of the expensive theft-proof shackles it demands.

I say mom will be happy to shelter the bike, and she is.

My middle daughter gets into things with a passion bordering on mania. Her latest, and I hope lasting, passion is for biking. Over dinner she regales me with descriptions of her biking adventures in Vancouver, Burnaby, Port Coquitlam, Surrey, North Van, West Van, and Richmond.

I’m impressed by the ground she’s covered.

“I used to bike a lot in VanEast and in North Burnaby back when I was a kid,” I tell her.

“The next time you’re here,” she says, “we should go for a ride.”

“I’m looking forward to it,” I tell her.

It’s almost two months before I’m back to make sure my mom’s affairs are in order.

“Still up for a ride?” I text Allison.

“Yes!! Meet me at Nanaimo and Hastings.”

I walk to the Gilmore Sky Train Station and grab the Millennium Line to Commercial and Broadway, intending to take the train to New Westminster east for a stop to Nanaimo, but things get complex. The track workers are replacing six kilometres of track. Trains running both ways are running on the remaining rail, result in that what appears to be over a hundred passengers and counting jammed up and waiting for the train I need.

“Things just went sideways,” I text.

I take the Millennium Line, east this time and realize that it doesn’t stop at Nanaimo. Renfrew is the closest stop. I de-train there and walk up a steep hill to Broadway in 25º heat where I wait for a west bound bus, my shirt sticking to my back.

After about 15 minutes, a bus arrives that takes me to Nanaimo where I wait another sticky quarter of an hour for a bus that takes me to Hastings where Allison awaits.

With one stop to buy a smart looking shirt for two bucks from a woman having a yard sale, the walk to Allison’s takes ten minutes. The bike I’m to use is an Opus. My daughter tells me it cost her $800 retail.

“I should buy a bike,” I say.

“You can buy this one,” she says.

“How much?”

She hesitates, “Uh, three hundred dollars?”

“Not enough,” I say, “I’ll give you five.”

“Okay.”

With new steel pedals, a new seat, and a rat trap suitable for a pannier, I still feel I’ve got a smokin’ deal.

My bike courier son would disapprove, but I haven’t a helmet.

We’re off and across town North to South on one of the designated bike routes where there is almost no traffic.

At the top of the first hill, I’m not breathing hard.

“I’m impressed by your fitness dad,” Allison says.

We shoot down to Broadway, wait for a light, then shoot down another exhilarating slope to one of Vancouver’s dozen urban trails to a nicely paved path under the Sky Train track.

This is the Central Valley Greenway, Allison tells me. It’s part of the Sea to River bike route that takes you from the Stanley Park Seawall to the New Westminster Quay, or Surrey, if you want to go that way.

I revel in the natural air conditioning afforded me by the bike-generated wind as it cools my sweat-soaked back. The bike traffic is steady but not heavy. Bikers of all ages pass us as we head east, bound for New Westminster.

A kilometre east of Boundary Road we stop for a drink alongside Still Creek.

“This,” I say, “is where my pals and I used to play. We used to build rafts and paddle this creek.”

“Right here,” I said, pointing to a bridge just downstream of a creek confluence, “I watched an older kid catch fish after fish.”

“What kind of fish?”

“Squaw fish.”

“What are they?”

“So called coarse fish. He threw them all back.”

Almost sixty years ago now, tossing those fish back into the stream, was incomprehensible to Walter Stief and me.

It occurred to me at the moment of the retelling that this was the first instance of non retention angling I’d witnessed.

“There was no freeway then,” I told Allison. “On spring nights the croaking of the tree frogs dominated the area. I wonder how many there are now?”

We biked on to North Road when I got a call from the superintendent of my mother’s building.

“Oma’s lost her keys and fob. We need to get back,” I told Allison after talking to him.

In five minutes we were aboard the SkyTrain, bikes and all. And a short time later we were opening the doors for my mom.

“Why would anyone need a car here?” I asked Allison on the elevator ride up.

…to be continued…

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