52. Texada Island and Run the Rock

From Texada Island to Horseshoe Bay, Canada, 29.08.2017.

After five beautiful days on this amazing island, I am now on my way back to Vancouver’s north shore, back to normality. What a great experience it was to explore Texada Island and to meet its friendly people.

It all started when I luckily got the last ferry to the island on Thursday evening so that I could still drive to my final destination in the night: The Shelter Point Regional Park with its campground. Of course, the campground was already closed when I arrived significantly after 10pm but that did not bug me. I just simply parked in front of the campground and slept there overnight just to wake up at a beautiful scenery in the morning. Then, I decided to get a camping space for 3 days, pay for it and take a shower. Since my marathon was still 2 days away, I decided to climb the highest “mountain” on the isle: Mount Pocahontas. The hike was pretty short and the ascent was not a big challenge but the view up at that “mountain” was really beautiful. Also, I did not encounter a single other person during that hike and that happened to me more than once during my whole trip. In the afternoon, I decided to mainly relax so I drove to Bob’s Lake, swam a little and enjoyed the solitude there while taking a longer nap.

Mount Pocahontas
View from Mount Pocahontas to the north. The white spots are the quarries.
Bobs Lake
Bob’s Lake. Quiet and remote place to enjoy some solitude.

On Saturday, I decided to do the “nature walk” that starts close to the campground and I got to see some really old growth trees there. Also, I took the opportunity to take a walk on the beach and collect some beautiful shells for my apartment. Again, it was all but crowded and I merely met a handful of other tourists during the walk. In the afternoon, I figured it was time to explore the island’s main village, “Van Anda”, to get a coffee and to see the local Heritage Museum. Normally, I am not a fan of visiting a museum if the weather is that good (we had pure sunshine all 5 days, just gorgeous) but in this case it was well worth it. The museum was very informative, had some very nice pieces in it and you could feel that the people who built and maintain it put a lot of love into its exhibitions. Also, I met Peter over there and he guided us through the whole museum and gave us a very informative tour. I have never had a personal guide in a museum and it was so nice to have him with us and bring Texada’s history to live for us. When I say “we”, I mean myself and an American couple (Keith and Becky) who also visited Texada Island and who were also great people to talk to. I later met them again at the “Run the Rock” event when Keith actually ran the half marathon. After the visit to the museum, I spent the rest of the afternoon reading a good book at an abandoned limestone quarry filled with water where a few other people actually took a swim. When I became hungry again in the evening, I went for a good tasty dinner at the island’s only real restaurant, the “Ravenous Raven”. And no, I did not have pasta although it is always advised to eat that prior to a marathon. Back at the campground, I was a bit surprised to see a tent in the middle of my camping space. It turned out to be Rob and Kerry’s tent and they put it up there because they thought this camping space was not yet taken. As there was no empty spot left on the campground (a lot of marathoners there!), I offered them to stay the night in my spot since there was enough room for all of us there. Later it turned out that they were also from Vancouver and that they would also do the marathon. So we had a lot to talk about and it was good to have them around. 🙂

Nature Trail
The nature trail near Shelter Point Regional Park.
Texada Museum
Heritage museum at Van Anda.
Old-quarry
View on an abandoned limestone quarry. Today: A great place to relax and swim.

Early on Sunday, I got up, prepared a little breakfast for me and made my gear race- ready. In this Marathon, I was determined to try out two different things: Firstly, I would carry my own running pack during the whole race to see if I would be able to comfortably run with something on my back the whole time. And secondly, it was my goal to constantly feed on my drink, consisting of 1.5l of water and 5 gel-packs. I just poured the content of the gel-packs into the water prior to the race and made it dissolve by furiously shaking the water bottle. In theory, I thought that constantly consuming this drink during the race would help keep my muscles work and feed them properly so I would suffer less pain in the last quarter of the race. It turned out that this was not the case as my muscles responded exactly as they did in the last races. No problems in the first 20 kilometers, some notable changes in the next 10 kilometers, considerable pain in the last 10 kilometers. So drinking all these gel- packs did not make a notable difference for me. Maybe I will try a different brand for the next race and hope for the best. In any case, I found out that I don’t have an issue with running with a running pack on my back so at least one of my two experiments was successful. The course of the marathon was a lot more demanding than the courses of the previous races I had done. No severe and long elevation changes in the course but a lot of small hills and up- and downs. Also, it was quite the challenge to run one half of the course on packed and loose gravel and one half of the course on tarmac. Overall, I managed to come in second overall at a time of 3:40 (that’s what the official timekeeping says…) which I am totally fine with. On that day with that course and my current training state, I feel that this was as fast as I was able to go. The winner was quite a bit older than me and finished in 3:29. I lost contact to him after roughly 10 kilometers when I decided to not chase him anymore but started running my own race instead. Now do I feel prepared for the 50K Finlayson trail race on September 9th? Honestly: no. That race has a much more demanding elevation profile and it will also be a lot more technical than the “Run the Rock” marathon on Texada Island. But I don’t shy away from challenges so I will just do it and see what happens. It is my great strength to just take the pain and go on. And if that’s what I need to do in the last 20 kilometers of that race, so be it. In any case, it will be a lot of fun and I want to see where my limits are. I also don’t worry too much about the outcome of the race since I will have a lot of time to complete it so that I can run slower overall and maybe even walk the stepper hills…

Marathon1
Start and Finish of the “Run the Rock” marathon, right next to the campground.
Marathon2
After the race: Chatting with fellow runners. This is Keith from America, a relly nice guy.
Chilling
Just chilling…. well deserved. 🙂

 

From Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo, Canada, 07.09.2017.

Yes, I was unable to finish this blog entry during my way home on the 29th of August. I was quite fortunate to actually catch every ferry I was waiting for and I did not have to wait too long for boarding each time. So I did not have the time to continue writing. Then, I wanted to finish writing this blog entry after work last week but never got the chance to do it because I happened to be pleasantly distracted a lot in the last days. However, now I am back at the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal, waiting for the ferry to take me to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. Thus, I now have the time to finish writing this blog entry.

After the marathon, I decided to chill for the rest of the day and to read a little in a “new” Peter May- book which I had borrowed from my local library. On Monday, I decided to look for the caves near Davie Bay so I got in my car and tried to find a road leading to Davie Bay. This was more difficult than I thought since there was no real road at all leading to that bay. Now that did not really deter me. I just parked my car at the side of closest road passing Davie Bay and started hiking through a forest to get to that bay. When I finally reached Davie Bay, I was generously rewarded for my effort with a breathtaking panorama and a really unique experience. Although I looked for the caves all along the rocky and rough coast (great opportunity to do a little scrambling and climbing), I was unable to find them. But then, on my way back, I suddenly heard a loud “Splash” and I wondered who was jumping in the water here since there was no other human being around anywhere. So I went in the direction of the sound and discovered… about 15 sea lions, some swimming in the water, some lying on the rocks. It seemed like they were as curious as I was because they all kept looking at me, swimming around a little but always keeping a distance of roughly 20 meters or more. It was a beautiful experience to actually be so close to them and see them in the wild and not in a zoo. After a while, I figured that I had disturbed them enough so I left and made my way back to the car. Since I had heard lots of good things about Shingle Beach, I decided to camp there for the last day of my stay on Texada Island. The beach itself was as beautiful as promised and I could not resist to take a swim in the clear water. Finally, I spend the rest of the day relaxing at an elevated spot above the beach, enjoying a great conversation with a very sweet and interesting lady.

Davie-Bay
Rough and rocky coast at Davie Bay.
Sea Lions2
Sea lions in the water, looking at me.
Sea lions1
Curious sea lion, diving near the place where I sat.

On Tuesday morning, I decided to visit Turtle Lake before trying to get on the ferry at noon. The lake itself was beautiful but I did not see any turtles and the hike around the lake was less exciting than promised by the reviews I had read about it. In my mind, Turtle Lake is not necessarily a “must- go” on Texada Island. Later, I still had the time to take a brief look at one of Texada’s active quarries when I waited to get on my first ferry at Blubber Bay. And that’s about all there is to write about my little adventure on this beautiful island. In case the Canadian Government allows me to stay here, I will definitely consider returning to Texada next year, not only for the marathon but also to finally find the caves I was looking for…

Shingle Beach
Coast of Shingle beach. Mostly very fine gravel but very scenic.
Crab-water
Small crab trying to attack my feet. 🙂 I left the little guy alone…
Turtle Lake
Start of the hike around Turtle Lake near Van Anda.
Quarry
Active quarry at Blubber Bay.

So right now I am on a ferry again (the “Queen of Oak Bay”) but this time my destination is Nanaimo. Then, in approximately 36 hours, I will start running my first Ultra Marathon, the 50K Finlayson Arm trail race. I am excited to do it but there is also a fairly big amount of doubt about my state of training and the wisdom of choosing to do this race so soon after the last marathon. Anyway, there is no turning back now, just anxious anticipation and an unbroken will to overcome any obstacles thrown in my way. I will write about it when it’s done… Until then, have a little bit of relaxing music, a lovely piece that Glenn made me aware of today. Thanks! 🙂

Yiruma –River flows in you

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37. Long-term decisions

Vancouver, Canada, 11.03.2017.

When I came to Canada in January, I had basically drawn up two viable plans what to do:

1. The Gap-Year plan: Originally, it was my plan to to just travel through Canada during my Work&Travel year, to get a break from work life and to just enjoy my life. I thought about spending a few weeks on Vancouver Island, to drive to the Rocky Mountains again, to go up north to Yukon and then to drive all the way across Canada by car to finally end up in Newfoundland and Labrador at the end of the year. Of course, it was also part of this plan to visit all the sights and parks that were on the route from western Canada to the east.

2. The residency plan: This plan focused on trying to get a decent job somewhere as quickly as possible, to move there and get my own apartment, to then apply for permanent residency and thus to gain a foothold here in Canada. Of course, this plan is the more “responsible” and “mature” plan as it satisfies the common view that you are supposed to work somewhere and be a “good member of society”.  On the other hand, this plan is also less fun and not so much different from what I have been doing so far in my life. So not a great change, really.

To be very honest, I was totally unsure what to do initially when I arrived in Canada in January. I had no real preference for a plan although I clearly saw their individual benefits and drawbacks. However, it was not at all easy for me to weigh them properly and make up my mind what I really wanted. On the one hand, the Gap-Year plan promised to be more fun and it would reward me with a million priceless impressions and great experiences. On the other hand, this Gap-Year would then clearly be a one-shot thing and I would have to go back to Europe at the end of the year and it would become increasingly more difficult after this year to try to gain a permanent foothold here in Canada. So what do you do if you don’t know what’s right? I solved this problem by prioritizing the plans while not discarding either of them. Upon arrival in Canada, I decided to follow the residency plan first and to try to get a job quickly. Then, in case of an unfruitful job search, I was prepared to discard the residency plan in favor of the Gap-Year plan by the end of April. Why not earlier than the end of April? Well, Canada is mainly a cold and snowy country. So leaving the lower mainlands around Vancouver earlier than May does not really make much sense if you want to go up north and see a bit more of the landscape than just the white layer. Also, most of the parks do not open that early in the year and hiking is not too much fun if you have to do it in the snow. So basically the residency plan was my primary plan and the the Gap-Year plan was my “Plan B” or backup- plan. Now why am I writing about all this now? Well, my current situation has significantly changed in the last days and it looks like my primary plan has worked out well. But before I go into details here, let’s take a look at a few pictures first.

Buch
The third book in the triology. Overall, three very good books with a great story line but “The Chess Men” can’t quite keep up with the quality of the first two books. Peter May is a great author, you’ll like him.
Shells
A few shells I found when jogging on the beach.

Last week, my future employer, the BC Liquor Stores, finally received the last reference they needed to take me on board. So now I will start to work as a Senior Store Manager for them in North Vancouver on the 20th of March. However, before I get my own store there, I will be trained in several other stores nearby. So it looks like my primary plan worked just fine and I can now try to apply for permanent residency here. And this is exactly what my next step will be once I have settled down in North Vancouver. Next Monday, I will take a look at a few apartments there and hopefully find a good place to stay there. But I think that will not be a huge issue as I am not too picky about my living places.
Despite the current development, I have not at all given up on my Gap-Year plan yet. And if all goes according to my grand master plan, I don’t have to give up on it anyway. In case I get my permanent residency, I can always do my all-around-Canada-trip at some point in the future. So nothing is really “lost” and by pursuing my current plan I keep most of my future options open. I feel I can always take a Sabbatical later in my life and still do the trip once I managed to acquire my permanent residency and worked for a few years here in Canada.
Interesting side- note: Last week, I also received an E-Mail from Parks Canada telling me that I was chosen for an interview for the site-manager position at the Banff Upper Hot Springs. How unexpected. Last time I heard anything from this application, I was just buying my car. Must have been late January I guess. But there was no chance I would go to that interview as I had already signed the job offer of the BC Liquor Stores. Still interesting to see how long a recruitment process can take. Six weeks in between the end of the application process and the decision who will be invited to an interrview. That is long! Also, I am quite thrilled to see the success of my applications. In total, I wrote just 7 applications, I got invited to interviews 2 times, attended one interview and got the job. Can’t say I am not a bit proud about that. 🙂

Now that should be enought talk about work and me drawing up strange plans. Let’s write a bit about the fun things I did in the last days. I managed to read a bit and I also continued to go jogging regularly (see both pictures above). Now that I know that I’ll be staying in Vancouver a bit longer, I decided to sign up for the Vancouver Marathon on May 7th and do the first full marathon in my life. Seems really fitting that I will do it here in Vancouver on a stunning course that will also lead through Stanley Park. You can check out the course map here. Just a really really nice course I think.
Also, I will get a year membership in one of the climbing gyms in Vancouver and start climbing regularly. Climbing is not only great fun but I realized that it trains my upper body and arms a lot and I feel that this really benefits me. Up to now, I only trained my legs by running and completely neglected my upper body. Possibly not the greatest choice.

When it comes to regular fun activities, I managed to attend some board game evenings in the store in Ladner and I also visited the CatFe again twice. They have three very cute Main Coone mix breeds there, all siblings. They are really friendly and curious and two of them ended up on my lap, enjoying my cuddles. I expressed my wish to maybe adopt them but after having checked the currently available apartments in North Vancouver, it looks like this is not going to happen. Most of the landlords do not want any animals in their apartment and those who tolerate cats will only tolerate one or two. That’s pretty unfortunate because I think this band deserves a second chance. However, I guess that many potential new owners will be deterred by their current age as they are already 10 years old. Now that does not deter me but I know that most of the people look for cats that are still young. That situation makes me a bit sad but there’s not much I can really do about it…

Cat2
Harvey (female) and me in the CatFe in Vancouver.
Cat1
Budddy (male), who sat on my lap for over an hour, enjoying my cuddles.
BoardGame2
Mare Nostrum Empires. I played the green Greece, trying to fend off the Romans and the Babylonians at the same time.
BoardGame1
Castles of Burgundy. Second time I played it. Thanks to Stephan Valkyser, I already had a good insight into this game.

Last week I also managed to make a few trips to downtown Vancouver and I visited the Vancouver Public Library, the Vancouver Museum and the Space Centre. The library resides in a very interesting Colosseum- like building and it has a truly large collection, including some German literature. Unfortunately, they apparently also bought crappy books in the past as I found a copy of a rather infamous German author whose views are much questioned.
The Space Center is a nice place to go and their shows are really entertaining and offer some stunning views. So I can only advise to go there if you’re a bit interested in astronomy or Space exploration. Not the biggest or most thrilling exhibition but it is still worth to go there and take a look at it. Now I wish I could say the same for the Museum of Vancouver but I really can’t. Verena and I went there and we both agreed that this museum is rather boring and that it did not really entertain us. I have seen many better Canadian museums and I would not recommend seeing the Museum of Vancouver if you’re only staying at Vancouver for a few days…

Library
The Colosseum- like building of Vancouver’s Public Library.
Library2
Very surprised to find a copy of THIS book here in Vancouver. Not the best choice to invest the library’s money.

Space1

Space2
A very nice saying, displayed at the Space Center.
Car
Magnificent Oldtimer in the Museum of Vancouver.

Now that I’ve chosen to settle down in Vancouver, I suppose that I won’t be writing that many blog entries in the future anymore. Of course, I will still write about the exceptional events in my life but I also guess that it will start getting a bit more quiet in my life in the future. But that is okay, life can’t always be a rollercoaster ride. Thus, you should not expect so lengthy and frequent blog entries anymore. But we’ll see about that…
Ah, one last thing before I conclude the blog entry with my music advice: I just received my Parks Canada Discovery pass (see cover picture at the top of the entry) so I can visit every one of Canada’s National Parks for free this year. Anyone can apply for this pass and it costs exactly zero Canadian dollars as Parks Canada gives it away for free this year due to Canada’s 150th birthday. What a great gift! I wish I could do both: work in Vancouver and travel to see Canada’s National Parks at the same time. Not possible though. And again, it is always about setting priorities and making (long-term) decisions….

By chance, I stumbled over this interesting piece of music last week. And I simply put it on repeat and listened to it again and again and again. Until I got fed up with it at some point. But it is still a very good song so I happily share it with you here:

Aesop Rock – None shall pass

33. Ups and Downs

Vancouver, Canada, 04.02.2017.

Less than 2 weeks have passed since the last blog entry. Significantly less. ^^ Someone’s keeping a promise. 🙂 And this blog entry will also be a lot shorter than the last one. Everything according to plan, at least with the writing.

So, what happened during the last days? First of all, my car got repaired. I decided to invest a bit more money into it to get it to an overall good standard. For example, I decided to get a “new” (used) steering wheel (costs a hefty 300$) because the current steering wheel is already beginning to disintegrate. Well, no wonder after 19 years. And since I also decided to get new spark plugs for the engine (the old ones were really worn out), I had to bear a little incident today. But I will write about that later. Also, I washed my car from the inside and from the outside. And I realized that an “undercarriage” wash in one of the big commercial washing facilities is just laughable. There was a lot of mud and dirt under my car when I bought it. So I thought it would be nice to have it cleaned. However, the undercarriage wash in the commercial washing facility I went to was so weak and poor that most of my car’s undercarriage wasn’t even wet after the wash. Now, I am noone who likes to complain a lot but this time I asked for the manager and I showed him. He was not very helpful and told me there was nothing he could do. Then, he advised me to get a pressure wash for the undercarriage but could not even tell me where I could get one. Yeah, well, I guess I experienced better customer service already. Definitely the last time that I went to that car wash. I then googled a bit and found a self- service car wash with high pressure washing pistols. And I got my undercarriage cleaned, finally… So aside from a few minor repairs that still need to be done next week, I am fine now and the car is in a good state. And I love having a 4WD in the current snow weather here in Vancouver. It is a blessing and it works so extremely well, unbelievable. Really happy that I bought a 4WD and now that I have seen how it performs in the snow, I am really confident that the car will also be alright in any offroad-action. Can’t wait to take it for a ride somewhere…. 🙂

snow
Winter has returned to the Lower Mainlands.

So what else happened? On Wednesday, I went to the board game night in “my” store. We played a really nice game called “Terraforming Mars”. Not too complicated but it offers a lot of different options and various strategies. And I like having lots of choices when it comes to games. So it was a great experience and I enjoyed it a lot. I don’t know how many points are considered a “good” score in the game but I felt I was doing well. Aside from the board gaming, I also started reading again. I don’t know exactly when I read my last book but I think it must have been sometime in 2014. That was not intentional but rather a reaction to the shortage of available leisure time I had when I worked for my last employer. Anyway, now I bought a book at a local store and I already read it. Very nice story, very entertaining and overall an enthralling book. So after having read this book, which is the first book in a cycle, I went to the same store and just got the second one of the cycle. Can’t wait to see how the story continues. Anyone who likes to read crime thrillers and who has a connection to Scotland will probably love this book. Try it!

board-game
Terraforming Mars. This game is not yet on sale in Canada but will be soon. Current copies are U.S.- imports.
book
Great crime thriller. Setting in Scotland, outer hebrides.

Yesterday, Verena convinced me to go Ice Skating with her in the Hillcrest Rink arena. Now I don’t like Ice Skating. Why’s that? I tend to fall a lot, I am not good at it and there are a lot of things I like better. But hey, I am in Canada now. So I suppose I have to at least try to do those things that Canadians do. And in the end it was quite the nice experience. After initial difficulties, I got more and more confident and managed to even go a bit faster in the end. And I didn’t fall a single time so that was good. But I was pretty close to falling several times…. Must have helped that I did some Inline- skating in the (more distant) past. Although I think that it is a lot easier to brake with Inliners. In any case, I enjoyed it and maybe I will do that again some time. Just to get a bit of practice. Not that I will ever be able to play Ice Hockey in the end, I am still light years away from that. 🙂

hillcrest
Hillcrest rink arena, south of downtown Vancouver.
eisschuhe
I had to lend some Ice Skating shoes but they were overall okay.

Today, I got up early to do the half Marathon I already talked about in my last blog entry. It was a quite expensive one as well since I had to pay nearly 90 Dollars for the entry. Well, the later you enter, the more it costs. Still, 90 Dollars is quite a lot. Anyway, I got in my car this morning, started it and drove roughly 2 kilometers. Then, the engine check light went on. Great stuff! No choice but to drive to the nearest car repair shop and let them have a look at it. As I suspected, the mechanic that had replaced the spark plugs on Friday made a mistake when he did that repair. So it’s not really the car’s fault that it “broke down”. In any case, I had to leave my car there and there was no chance I could still make it in time to the half Marathon using public transport means. Bummer! I would have loved to run in the current cold snow setting. Would have been a great experience I think. Interestingly, I already had a bad feeling when I drove the car yesterday after they had changed the spark plugs. It felt like the motor was slightly louder and there were more vibrations when it was idling. Sometimes I just hate it when I’m right. In the end, the car could at least be fixed today so that I can use it tomorrow. Well, there will be more half Marathons I can run this year so I guess it’s no big deal. Next time….

Tomorrow, I will help Verena to move her stuff from her current apartment to the new one she got in downtown. No big deal, I guess that will be done quickly. After that, I plan to go to Granville Island south of downtown or visit one of Vancouver’s museums. And in the evening, I’m invited at Jen’s Board Game night. Really looking forward to that. I will probably miss the “Super Bowl” but I don’t really care much about that. I don’t have much of a clue about American Foottball anyway and since it’s an American thing, I don’t feel obliged to watch…. Next week, I will focus a bit more on getting a proper job again. So after the car issue is resolved now, I should now put some more effort into writing applications.

Today’s music advice is from one of the most popular and best Punk bands, Green Day. I first listened to the song on the flight from Frankfurt to Vancouver and really liked it. The rest of their new album “Revolution Radio” is also pretty nice so that anyone who likes Punk Rock can buy that album without second thoughs. The chosen song also reflects the current situation on earth quite well (Trump, etc…), think about it!

Green Day – Troubled times