Tuesday, 31 July 2012

For love and cycling

Yesterday was a pretty special day. My husband, Chris, and I celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary. It really is hard to believe it's been so many years since we said "I do" in Guelph, ON, and how much we really have done in such a short time. 

Being pretty passionate about riding our bikes, Chris and I started incorporating them into our anniversary celebrations 2 years ago. This year was no exception. After taking in The Dark Night Rises, which was fantastic, we head out on our bikes over to Olympic Village. There we tested out the new restaurant, Tap and Barrel. I decided a nice glass of red was in order, and was more than pleasantly surprised. Everything there is local, and they're also trying something new with the wine. Instead of buying it bottled, the owners of Tap and Barrel have decided to get their wine in the barrel, and serve wine directly from them. This apparently minimizes the oxidization, and in my opinion, produces a great tasting wine!
A flavourful red for the lady and a tasty
beer for the gentleman.
Our bikes relaxing with BC Place in the background
After a couple drinks and appies, it was time to head home. Once again, we enjoyed a nice, leisurely night ride home. We chatted about life, how far we've come since our wedding day, and planned some adventures for the future. Overall, it was a great way to celebrate our lives together, with a beautiful city as the backdrop and a couple of bikes as our transportation.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

An outdoors kind of weekend Part Two

Today turned out to be another great day, with clear skies above and the second Velo Family group ride in the early afternoon. We set out shortly after lunch from Commercial Drive, through Strathcona, along the Dunsmuir and Hornby separated lanes to our meeting point at Canada Place. The theme of today's ride was for the kids to dress in whatever they thought would be good for a ride on their bikes. Of course, that meant all the girls showed up in skirts or dresses. It's pretty fantastic how simple something like biking in a skirt can seem to a kid, and strange why we make it more complicated than it needs to be when we get older. But I digress...
Daddy and Etienne cruising through Strathcona, ready to ride
Our group set off from Canada Place and along the seawall towards Stanley Park. While I was technically our ride organiser, our leaders for the first part of the ride were my daughter Coralie and our new friend Diane who joined us for the first Velo Family Ride. I love seeing that confidence in young people, knowing that all the adults and the rest of the riders are following them. 

Our riders:
Julie, Des and their daughter, Diane, Martha and her daughter, Jenika, and,
of course, Coralie, Etienne and Chris and I

Our seal friend just on the right,
enjoying a midday snack
From Coal Harbour, we took the long way around Stanley Park's seawall. Because it was sunny, it was busy on the seawall, but we just cruised along at a pace suited to our younger riders. Going at a slower pace allows you to really take in the views, and along the way you can hear the kids calling out about seeing the float planes, the boats and one very special surprise. Just past Lumberman's Arch we saw a group forming, and in a moment saw what they were looking at. A small seal had come onto a rock to take a bit of a lunch! All the kids were so excited, as was I, since I have had yet to see a seal in my five years living here.

Coralie, our little trooper

We set on again, with the destination of Third Beach. It was pretty smooth sailing, until Coralie slipped off the cycle path ledge and fell off her bike. She got pretty banged up, and has a couple of battle wounds to brag to her friends about, but thanks to a kind passerby, she got a few bandages on the more serious scrapes.  Then, she got right back on her bike and rode the rest of the way with little complaint, knowing that she had little choice but to grin and bare it, being we were so far from home.

Finally, we reached out the beach and everyone got a chance to cool off in the water and play in the sand. We really are quite lucky to have access to all these beautiful beaches here in Vancouver. It's a nice reminder that no matter how much we want to travel to new places and experience different cultures, this is still a pretty awesome place to live. And so ends a busy weekend, and another successful ride with a great group of people.
The young riders playing in the sand after a long and exciting ride!

An outdoors kind of weekend Part One

This weekend was yet another jam packed couple of days, filled with all sorts of outdoor activities to keep us active and exploring. After a few gloomier days this week, it was nice to have such nice weather to great us on Saturday morning. Our initial plan was to spend the day at Wreck Beach, but seeing as it was still a little cool, we figured risking a day at the beach may not be as much fun as we hoped for. So we did something we haven't done in quite some time.

After the kids finished up their swimming lessons, we booked a Zipcar for a few hours to go hiking. We really don't take the time to do this often enough, so everyone was pretty excited. Only problem was, the nearest car to us at Commercial and Broadway was at Main and Broadway. So we hopped a ride on the B-Line, picked up out car, and headed downtown and over the Lions Gate Bridge and off to Cypress Mountain
Waiting for the B-Line bus in their car seats
The view as we head over the Lions Gate Bridge
We decided to do a hike that we had done in December, that took us up to Hollyburn Lodge. It's a really easy trail to take the kids on, and if you need proof, just know that my kids ran all the way up! Once we reached the top, which took considerably less time than we thought it would (again, the kids ran), we faced two questions; which trail to take next, and why wasn't Santa here serving breakfast?! Little note, if you go to Hollyburn Lodge before Christmas, you can have breakfast with Santa, but in July, Santa is not there. Imagine being three and a half and finding out that Santa doesn't actually live up the mountain.
I told you they ran
Our ride for the afternoon waiting for us after our hike
After our hike we squeezed a stop in at the viewpoint to take in the view of the city and the surrounding water. It's something we don't get to do very often being a carfree family, and every time we stop there it's a nice reminder of how pretty Vancouver is. Then it was back in the car, to bring it back to the lot and catch the B-Line home for some dinner.

The view from the Cypress Mountain Viewpoint...
Pretty spectacular
After that, what could possibly be better than joining some fellow cycling friends in a park for some Bike Bowling. For those unfamiliar, this is an extreme sport involving a small child's bike, several large garbage bins and a steep enough hill. For those feeling daring/foolish enough, they ride the small bike down the hill and into the bins stacked in a pyramid, trying to knock over as many as possible and get a strike. It's not something I have any interest in doing, but funny enough, my husband and kids love it! Don't worry, the kids were slowly rolled down the hill with Daddy who protected them from any of the bins hitting them, meaning he was a little banged up by the end of the night. The sacrifices we make for our kids.
My husband in proper form before he takes down some bins
So that was part one of our weekend. A bit of hiking, a bit of driving, and some extreme cycling...all I can think is it's good to keep it interesting!

Friday, 27 July 2012

Foodie Fridays #1: Cinnamon Rolls

I've decided to add a new feature to the Velo Family Diaries, Foodie Fridays, where I will share some of my trusted recipes. Feel free to share your favourites with me, and I may just post them here for others to try! 

For the first instalment of Foodie Fridays. I decided to start out on a sweet note, because this one is a huge favourite in our home, and a great dessert after a nice Sunday meal. It does take a bit of preparation, but is so worth it.

Bon Apetit!

Cinnamon Rolls

1/2 tbsp yeast
3/4 cup warm water (45 degrees Celsius)
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 egg at room temperature
2 1/2 cups flour

Filling (note, double this for extra gooey-ness):
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 tbsp cinnamon
1/2 brown sugar

Cream Cheese Icing:
1/4 cup softened cream cheese
7 tbsp butter, softened
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp milk
1 1/2 cup icing sugar
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water and let stand until creamy, approximately 10 minutes. Add sugar, salt, egg and one cup flour, and stir until well combined. Stir in remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time, mixing well with each addition (I use my hands at this point). When dough has pulled together, turn out on a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, or about 8 minutes. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise 10 minutes. Roll out dough to a 1/4" thick rectangle. 

In a small bowl, mix together filling ingredients. Spread filling mix over entire surface of dough, then roll dough along long edge. Slice dough into 8-16 equal size pieces, depending on the size and quantity of rolls you desire. Place pieces in a lightly greased 8"x8" pan.

Cover pan in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight OR cover with a damp cloth and let rise at room temperature till doubled, about 45 minutes. Bake rolls until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

For icing, beat together cream cheese and butter until creamy. Mix in Vanilla and Milk, then gradually add icing sugar and salt until smooth and fluffy. Top warm rolls with icing and enjoy!

Thursday, 26 July 2012

I love my boys!

After the overcast and rainy weather earlier in the week, and my urban cycling drama a couple days ago (click here to read Tuesday's post), I was feeling pretty low. Add to that the fact that my daughter is now off to day camp for seven hours every day and it seems like summer is over for me in a way. Back to routines, rushing kids off to programs, etc. But today, with the beautiful sun shining, and Etienne done his soccer camp in the late morning, I decided we take a trip to Granville Island for a picnic with Daddy and, of course, some time in the water park.

So we made the trek along the 10th Avenue Bikeway to Ontario Street...I had learned my lesson from Tuesday and steered clear of the CVG. There's something so spectacular about the tree lined streets along 10th Avenue that are so calming and lift my spirits every time. Plus, Etienne loves the hills and shouts "Weeeeee!" every time, which is so awesome.
I love that kids can vocalise what we feel inside
without qualms! I wish I could say "weee!" every time
I coasted a hill, too, without looking crazy
After a lovely and peaceful seawall ride, we set up and waited for Daddy to come and meet us. Once the three of us were together, we enjoyed a nice picnic in the park, just me and my boys. After all the negativity, it was so nice to just relax and enjoy their company. Even more spectacular was sharing a total of four slides down the water slide with Etienne, who was simultaneously scared and overjoyed each time.
A short but sweet visit with my honey
With the unimpressed look only a mother could love

It really is the little things that can make everything better, and while my husband and son are not small parts of my life, the simplest of moment are such a treasure, and for that, I love my boys!
Photo care of our 3 year old photographer, Etienne

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Disoriented, disrespected and disappointed

My plan for this blog was to keep things positive, showing the happier and accessible side of being a car-free family who ride bikes. I think I have achieved this pretty well so far, but today, readers, I need to share some frustration, so you know what we as a family are up against some days.

Today started like most days will for the rest of the summer. The kids and I walked to their day camps a short distance away at Trout Lake Community Centre, and I got a bit of free time to take a walk around the park and get some fresh air after being stuck inside for a few days due to rain. Then I picked up my youngest, as he's not in full day camp yet. We came home, had some lunch, and I spontaneously decided to take him to Science World, where we enjoy the privilege of having a family membership. Little aside here - if you're on the fence about a membership here or at similar centres in your city, I assure you it is a fantastic idea; it is the easiest way to entertain the kids time and again for the price of two visits.
Etienne in the Mirror Room in the DaVinci Exhibit -
Boy am I glad I only have one of him!
Back to my day...after taking the 10th Avenue and Ontario Bikeways to science world, we enjoyed a mommy and son afternoon, spending about an hour and a half at Science World before heading home to pick up my eldest from her full day camp. I decided to take the Central Valley Greenway (CVG) home. It is the quickest way to get from False Creek to Commercial and Broadway, but is also, unfortunately, populated with a few really intense uphill climbs. But I have no problem getting off and walking up hill if I have to, so off I go. 

This is when things started to go south. The City of Vancouver is currently doing some road construction in 1st at the CVG. I knew this, but also knew that they had left a cycle path open on the bikeway for cyclists to get by. Or at least I thought they still had. I was wrong, and the road has been completely torn up, leaving cyclists to dismount and take the sidewalk. Well, this is certainly a pain in the butt, especially when I had to move some pylons out of the way so I could fit my bike and trailer past to walk up the hilly sidewalk. But hey, road construction is a necessary evil, right, and I can live with the temporary inconvenience and take another route next time. 

The road work on 1st Avenue.
What bothers me is that this construction has been going on for several weeks, and yet there was no signage warning cyclists they were going to be losing road access in the near future. Meanwhile, back in May, while walking South on Main Street towards Broadway several times after work, I noticed signs warning motorists that there would be lengthy construction in the area in the coming months. Now, what I want to know is, why can this courtesy not be shown to people on two wheels on their dedicated routes? Are we not to be afforded the same respect?

Respect, that brings me to the next unpleasant part of my day. While hauling the bike and trailer up the sidewalk, complete with a napping child, I heard some yell from behind me incomprehensibly. I turned around to see what was going on, to see a Lycra clad cyclist coming up behind me. I wasn't sure why he yelled at me, as there was plenty of room to go around this struggling mother, so I kept going, ensuring there was still space for him. He then passed me, turned around, and gave me the nastiest look. Apparently, my use of the sidewalk was a massive two second inconvenience to him, causing him to divert slightly from his straight line. What brings people to be so disrespectful? It caused me to immediately tweet, "What kind of a-hole yells at a mom pulling a child uphill?" It really makes me sad that some people seem to have lost the idea of common decency toward another human being. But, I needed to get home, so I continue on, fuming but figuring he must have had a bad day to be so rude.

Me shortly after being yelled at by a fellow cyclist.
I really must have looked like the biggest jerk.
So, you've heard how things come in three's, right? Well not two minutes later, while travelling along the downhill stretch of Great Northern Way, I had to get off my bike AGAIN, as there was MORE construction blocking the cycle/pedestrian path, forcing cyclists and pedestrians onto the road and into traffic. I ask, once again, can cyclists not be afforded the same respect as motorists and be warned when their main arteries will be unaccessible due to construction?

Lane Closed to cyclists...too bad!
So now I'm left disappointed in my city. The safe cycle routes I use nearly daily are frequently blocked for construction, without notice, putting my family and I in danger sometimes. There are also people out there who refuse to give others respect if they're in their way, even if they're on a bike, too. So what do I do now to lift my spirits and hope for my city?

What I will do is take tonight to relax, remember why it is I do what I do, and live how I live. I do so because I want to be a positive role model for my children and other families out there trying to do what we are doing. I will remember that some people have bad days and take it out on others without meaning to, and some people are just grumpy people, and no amount of kindness can change that. Tomorrow is a new day, and I will do my best to keep a smile on my face as much as possible, and just keep riding!
After all the crap, spending some quality time with
my little man is what matters most

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Party under the stars

Riding down the Windsor bikeway,
kids in tow
Last night we had the exciting privilege of joining some of our friends for a random night party near the Fraser River. Away from the residential areas, nestled between the river and darkened offices and industrial buildings is an unlabelled park, which became our own little musical hideaway for the evening. The family and I packed up our gear, including our portable BBQ, and took the 12 km trek on bike South to the river. I've done this ride only once before, when we went to the Richmond Night Market, and have to admit that it's pretty cool to cycle along the empty Kent Road Cycle path amidst old train tracks, trailers and closed factories. The only trouble is doing the immense climb North when the evening comes to a close, but I'll get to that later.

The view of the North Arm Bridge, the skytrain, cycle and
pedestrian bridge crossing the Fraser River
Our DJ's for the evening
So, as everyone arrived, under the growing cover of darkness, we began to set up. The BBQ cooked up some food for anyone looking to satisfy a late night appetite, others set blankets and caught up after a busy work week, meanwhile some of our friends set up a generator powered sound system and projector to provide us with some excellent music and entertainment for the night. Excited by all the people, it took a while for our kids to fall asleep, finally nodding off close to 10:30pm in our trusty trailer.

The night view of the North Arm Bridge
reflecting on the river water

It was such a casual gathering, everyone just having a relaxed, social evening, and exactly what we needed. As much as we enjoy all our usual activities from Whitecaps games, trips to the splash park, and cycling along the seawall, getting to be a part of these simple get togethers makes living in Vancouver all the better. It gives us the opportunity to really catch up, and also to allow our children to experience the excitement of being out in the city after dark, seeing the stars and watching parts of the city light up. Plus, what kid doesn't like knowing that they've been allowed to stay up way past their bedtime to hang out with the grown-ups?

Our sleeping children in the
family station wagon
on the way home.
As our energy started to dwindle, Chris and I were faced with how to get home with my hauling 100lbs in our trailer. Well, thanks to the still new Canada Line, we "cheated", or at least what we call cheating, and we took the relatively flat ride to the Marine Drive Skytrain station, and caught a ride up to City Hall Station and the 10th Ave Bikeway, to ride the rest of the way home. It was a nice, quiet ride home, being passed only by the occasional rider on their way home from their own parties or the beach. I've said it before, but I love night riding. It's so calm, quiet and free of the car/cyclist conflicts that can exist in the daytime, and is the perfect way to end a unique but fantastic evening!

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Dress for the destination

Enjoying a ride in heels and a long skirt. a perfect match
Photo by David Phu
With all the riding I've been doing this summer, along with all the riding I do most of the year, I get to see an array of fashion choices from my fellow bike riders. I also get to see their quizzical looks my way as I pass in a variety of presumably strange looking outfits. On a typical summer day, that can include a brightly coloured sleeveless top, a skirt, and a pair of gladiator sandals. My family and I are firm believers in dressing for the destination, meaning that someone can ride to where they are going in exactly the same clothing they would walk, transit or drive in without buying all sorts of activity specific clothing.

The notion of buying dedicated cycling clothing is still quite a new idea for me, and when I started riding my bike for commuting more consistently a few years back, I totally started buying in to what seemed to be a popular idea for most people on bikes. I bought the rain pants, cycling shorts and was completely ready to purchase a pair of clip shoes. In my defence, I was planning on participating in a long haul ride from Vancouver to Seattle, but when that plan fell through, the desire to get "kitted out" didn't go with it. 

My husband a son on a fall ride sporting stylish
wool coats. Photo by David Phu
Then it happened, one day I decided to ride to work in a skirt without my cycling shorts underneath because they added too much heat at a time when we were experiencing a heat wave. I was deeply concerned that while I was much more comfortable riding, my skirt would blow up at any moment, giving much of East Vancouver a show. But instead, I had a revelation! My concerns had no basis in reality, as my skirt stayed put for the most part, even as I pedalled up one of my notoriously large hills on the route home. Better yet, I realised that riding in my normal, every day clothes was completely doable, without all the special gear, and I was set free to look as stylish as I saw fit on two wheels. Nowadays, my main concern when dressing to go out is which shoes will go best with my outfit. 

My daughter on her way to school, in a dress as usual
I often think that something was lost along the way somewhere between childhood and adulthood for many (but not all) of the cyclists I pass when I'm out on my bike on the way to work, school, the park or a play date. In our years as children and teenagers, cycling gear was an extremely foreign concept, I, myself, riding to meet friends in whatever I happened to be wearing at the time they called. The same still seems to ring true, as many of the people I pass that are head to toe in dedicated cycling clothing are adults. Meanwhile, the children I see on their way to school when taking my daughter in the morning are decked in running shoes, jeans and a t-shirt, the perfect ensemble for running, jumping and playing with their friends at school.

I should explain that I understand wholeheartedly that dressing for the destination doesn't apply to those that are, in fact, training for a race or long haul ride. I have a neighbour I see coming back from a training ride looking like she's about to ride the Tour de France. But to me, it's not strange to see her that way, as it's highly likely she has just completed one third of her daily training for one of the numerous triathlons she does throughout the year. So for her, cycle gear makes sense, especially when she's booking it at top speed.

Here in Vancouver, there is a lot of talk about increasing the mode share of cycling, to help us achieve the goal of being the world's Greenest City. To increase mode share, riding a bike needs to be appealing to anyone and everyone in the city. The best way to do that is to show people that riding a bike is easy and takes little to no effort. This means seeing people riding bikes in normal clothing, and letting people know that you don't need specialised equipment to do it. 

My husband on his way to work this
morning, dressed for a casual day
at the office
So I would like to set out a challenge to my local readers, and to any other readers who tend to wear lots of lycra, waterproof clothing and other specialised gear. When you get on your bike to ride to work or what have you, try setting aside the cycle gear and just ride in what you planned on changing into when you got to your destination. This may mean riding a bit slower to reduce the amount of sweat you produce, and choosing a less challenging route to get there, but you never know, you may have a revelation, too. It could be the start of something, and the journey to your end destination may be forever changed. 

Happy riding!

Here's some info that may help:

Sunday, 15 July 2012

New friends in a beautiful city

Our mighty group of riders
Today marked the first of what I hope will be many Velo Family Diaries' group rides. We had some old and some new friends join us on a 5.5 km ride from Trout Lake through East Vancouver to Southeast False Creek Olympic Plaza in the Olympic Village. Luckily, the first rain in two weeks held out for the early afternoon and we were on our way! Riders today were as young as two years old, and it was an exciting trip as a small but enthusiastic group.

Coralie leading the way out of Trout Lake
Coralie making new friends with Lisa of The Sprog

Meet Diane, our small but mighty rider!

We travelled along the Tenth Avenue Bikeway, which is a beautiful ride along a thickly treed street, which provides a very peaceful and safe ride for even our youngest of riders. One in particular was young Diane, who was riding her first bike, still with training wheels. I think she surprised all of us, including her proud dad, as her little legs pedalled fast to keep up with the group, even in the more hilly areas!

Beautiful street art on St. George Street
To make our way down to the Olympic Village, we headed down St. George Street, at the recommendation of our new friend, Lisa (@blauelibelle), writer for the blog The Sprog, and my friend, Shahira, who lives in that area. She and her neighbours got together and created a beautiful piece of public art right on the street, which put smiles on everyone's faces. The project reminded my husband of an article he read about DIY street calming measures in the LA Times, and I think this is a fantastic way to calm streets while also adding beauty and colour to a neighbourhood. All us riders couldn't help but follow the artwork as it weaved across the road!
Following the path of the artwork
Nearly to our destination...what a great
start to new tradition!
Once we reached our destination, it was wonderful to sit and share stories with our new friends, some about cycling, some about our children and living in the city and getting around with them. It's always nice to expand your community and meet people who have many of the same experiences as you. I am also very proud of the children on the ride, whether they cycled on their own or with mom or dad. I feel very strongly that the best way to promote bikes as a normal mode of transportation is to show positive images of our next generation using them to enjoy a journey throughout the city. As we get older, many of us forget the pure joy of riding a bike, and hearing their excitement, including Coralie shouting "This is totally awesome!" as we coasted down one of the hills reminds me that riding a bike is simply fun and gives everyone, no matter their age or ability, true independence.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Why separation is a good thing

Coralie on the Dunsmuir Viaduct

Back in May, I read about a proposal to add separated bike lanes in my neighbourhood in one of the local papers. I am a huge supporter of this kind of infrastructure for cyclists, so much so that I wrote several of the local papers, numerous MLA's and the city council to show my support for the idea. A portion of my letter was even published in the Courier (click to read).

Separated bike lanes are a controversial talking point in Vancouver, and I honestly don't understand why. They create barriers between the cars and cyclists, reducing crashes and overall just make people on bikes feel so much safer. 

Travelling safely away from cars
Today, for example, I rode with Coralie and Etienne out to Coal Harbour, and the easiest way to get there is through downtown Vancouver. Without the separated lanes on Dunsmuir and Hornby, I would never have dreamed of going downtown on our bikes, and would have either opted to take the longer route or just take transit. The ease of the trip even encouraged Coralie to travel home on her bike, too, instead of opting to take the train home. Really, how can anyone think this is a bad thing?

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

My kind of drive-in

With the excitement of the summer starting to wane now that we've settled into a routine, this week seems to be a bit quieter than last. Spending the morning having "home school", as the kids call it, and then heading out to one of the local parks in the afternoon seems to be our set schedule, and no one in my home is complaining about it. 

Riding with the kids all set in their
PJ's for a late night
However, never being one to settle for routine, I suggested last minute that the family head to Stanley Park Second Beach for the Fresh Air Cinema and a screening of one of my favourite comedies, Zoolander. For those of you unfamiliar with the Fresh Air Cinema, it is something run every year where movies are shown on a giant screen in parks in and around Vancouver and greater BC. Best of all, they are completely free! So, after dinner, Chris and I hopped on our bikes, kids nestled in the trailer in their PJ's, and we took the journey through Strathcona and along the Seawall to Second Beach. It was a full house, with people scrambling for space to sit before dusk and the start of the film. Amazingly, both our children stayed awake for the entire movie, catching on to none of the jokes, but loving our idea of a "drive-in", and, of course, getting to stay up way past bedtime. Coralie has already made plans for our next outdoor movie night, including Labyrinth in August, and all the awesomeness that is David Bowie. What can I say, she's got good taste!

The view along the journey to Second Beach...spectacular!
My kind of Drive-In
Sunset date for our bikes
For me, while the notion of cycling to an outdoor movie as a family is a fantastic way to spend an evening, the highlight for me is the ride home. As many young families know, it is incredibly difficult to get any time off without the children, especially when you're on a budget. So the quiet ride home with the kids sleeping in the trailer is pretty spectacular. Chris and I get to ride side by side and talk about our days, enjoy a slow, peaceful night ride, and have a bit of a mini-date. We have been known to go on bike dates, simply riding around the city together, so these moment are cherished, even if I am hauling 88lbs of sleeping children behind me. I would recommend to any other parents out there who enjoy a nice bike ride and haven't thought of riding together before to try it. Ride without a destination and enjoy the journey together. It really can be quite romantic, especially if you steal a few moments in a park or on the beach to watch the sunset!

One last thing, for anyone interested, I an hosting a family ride this Sunday, July 15th at 2pm leaving from Trout Lake and riding to the Athlete's Village. It will be a great way to meet other people and families on bikes and enjoy what should be a beautiful sunny ride through East Vancouver! More info: Velo Family Ride Facebook Event Page

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Free for the weekend

What a beautiful weekend! We here in Vancouver have finally got the sunshine and warm weather we were waiting all of June for, and the family an I made sure we got out and enjoyed it as much as possible. Like most families, we like to find affordable ways to get out and about with our young children. This weekend, the goal was to keep it as free as possible, and I'm very pleased to report that we didn't spend a dime, but still had a fantastic weekend doing a variety of things around Vancouver. Here's a taste of our weekend on the cheap...

Friday night there came an out of the blue request from my husband to go catch a Whitecaps FC PDL game out at Swangard Stadium in Burnaby. For those who love watching our local MLS team but maybe can't afford to take the whole family to a game at BC Place, going out to watch the Reserve or PDL team is free, and you can see some of the up and coming stars of the beautiful game. We headed out to the game with some friends on our bikes, and watched as our team won 4-0, all with the backdrop of the North Shore Mountains and the huge trees in Burnaby Central Park. All in all, it was about a 15kms journey, with Coralie trailing behind her dad on the trail-a-bike for most of the journey, then joining her brother in the trailer behind me for a snooze the rest of the ride home. For an impromptu trip, it was great to ride in the cooler evening and do something new.
Whitecaps FC PDL playing to win against a stunning backdrop
Coralie trails Chris on the night ride home from the stadium
Saturday brought a long awaited meet up with some old friends for a picnic on Kitsilano Beach. I'm sure it's news to no one that a simple picnic on the beach is a great way to get out and not have to spend tons of money on food. But I am definitely thankful that I have so many beaches here to chose from, especially when a beautiful day can be followed by watching the sunset over the mountains. We all had a great time, what with the ride along the seawall, playing and relaxing on the sandy beach, splashing in the ocean, and enjoying a picnic with friends, there was little to complain about. It was another lengthy ride to and from, total 20kms. Coralie took the chance to rest this time, with Etienne trailing Daddy on the way and both sleeping in the trailer behind me on the way home. It's funny, but I hear so often now from our single friends that they wish their parents had a trailer like ours to take them home instead of having strapped them in a car. I guess that makes our kids pretty lucky, and I'm pretty darned proud of our family "station wagon on two wheels".

So happy to be able to ride behind
Chris was pretty happy to be able to join us on our sunny adventures,
even if it was only for the weekend
That's right, we take her to the beach, she reads...I'm not complaining! 
For the first time, Etienne enjoyed the ocean water, waves and all! 
Very happy to spend the day together in the sunshine
Watching the beautiful sunset over the water 
He may be a rascal, but he's still Mama's boy 
And of course, we have Daddy's little girl
So, if you've gotten this far, you know we did a free soccer game on Friday night, a free day at the beach on Saturday, so what do we do on a hot Sunday afternoon? Go to a splash park, and it was back to the slide and splash park at Granville Island. This time Chris and I brought our bathing suits so Etienne could actually go down the slide...although one time in the cold water was enough for him! The splash parks in this city are fantastic, and best of all, they're free! What more do kids want on a hot summer's day than a bunch of spraying water to run through screaming...and that's exactly what our kids did for 2 hours. 
Waiting in line for the first ride down the slide
after the 7.5km ride to Granville Island
Coralie enjoying one of a dozen slides 
Etienne's only ride...fun, but cold and not to be repeated 
Coralie, after her rest the day before, rode her own bike for the 15km return trip, and she was such a trooper yet again. This past week, she has cycled a total of 46kms on her own, and about 15kms trailing behind Daddy on a trail-a-bike. She has received kudos and applause from strangers, and her tenacity has encouraged people we do know to have their young ones try a longer ride, too. We are incredibly proud of her willingness and strength to do these rides with us. It seems such a small thing sometimes to go for a ride out with her, but we quickly realize with all the comments and smiles she receives that she is pretty awesome. Hopefully she's inspiring other youngsters out there to ride, too!
The family "station wagon"
A well deserved ice cream after a long but exciting weekend!