Archive | May, 2012

Grand Forks, Spoons, and Knives

30 May

All right, get ready, make sure you don’t read this on an empty stomach, lots of food talk coming up.

In Rock Creek we met Dwight, who is cycling to Ontario. We kept running into him along the way, like at this little shack – OK Fruit and Dale’s Honey shop:

We bought delicious honey, orange honey marmalade, and chokecherry jam for very cheap. Dale was nowhere to be seen so after searching for a money box for a while, we finally deposited the money in a little ceramic container. Hope you find it, Dale!

Dwight was really excited to see the little shop. He told us how years ago, he was a vegan and animal rights activist, but since moving to the Cowichan on Vancouver Island he has given it up. There, he had a choice: to buy processed, GMO soy products from overseas, or to go across the street and buy meat, dairy, or fruit and vegetables from his neighbours. He now prefers to buy from people he knows, but that means, he’s not vegan and not even vegetarian.

In Grand Forks we couchsurfed with Nancy, who works at the Kettle Valley Food Co-op. The co-op is just starting up: after two years they have 160 members (of 4000 people living in Grand Forks), and Nancy is their first paid employee. The co-op links the farmer directly to the consumer, promoting the local economy and providing its members with the opportunity to buy locally grown and produced food.

Nancy not only works for the co-op, but also fully supports it. Her fridge is packed with amazingly tasty local products (aren’t we the luckiest guests?!). She is also very conscious about buying organic, which is much easier when you know your farmers as many of them grow organic foods and veggies, but are not certified because the certification is quite expensive.

The co-op is still establishing itself: they are working to get more members and vendors. As the co-op grows, Nancy believes it will encourage local farmers to grow crops year-round, and to develop a market for unique local products such as Haskap berries. Grand Forks, says Nancy, is a fertile area with a lot of potential; historically it’s been much more productive. The co-op will help to bring that back.

Escape from the KVR Trail

29 May

Since last summer I’ve had this idea that it would be so awesome to cycle the Kettle Valley Railway (KVR) trail. The trip never got organized but now that we were going through the Okanagan on bicycles, I was going to make sure we didn’t miss it. So in Naramata we got on the KVR headed for the renowned Myra Canyon. It sounded great: a steady 2% grade uphill, off the highway, with trestles, tunnels, and beautiful scenery.

Not gonna lie — it was worth the trouble! But it was slow going: we reached Chute Lake (~30km from the start) in five hours. Chute Lake Resort serves food, and we were probably its best customers that day: we ate a burger and a giant slice of apple pie each. The people on dirt bikes hadn’t worked up an appetite at all: they just came in for beers.

The KVR is really rocky and bumpy, and actually is more suited for mountain bikes. At one point there was a puddle so deep we had to take our panniers off and walk the bikes across. We made a unanimous decision to get on the highway as soon as we could after seeing the canyon. But a connecting road was not available, so we camped at Hydraulic Lake.

The few roads that do cross the KVR are logging roads in moderate to poor condition. The following day we were still looking for escape routes, until at one point we decided to just take that sketchy logging road forking to the left — couldn’t be that much worse than the trail. Luckily the highway was downhill from the KVR. The sketchy road ended here:

After the KVR, Highway 33 was a big pile of downhill fun! We scanned the roadside for restaurant signs, but there was nothing up until Beaverdell, where we saw an entire two signs! Wow! Choice! Actually, when we got into town we found the second restaurant had closed, and only It’s Mom’s Good Food roadside burger stand was open. (It really is good food!)

Beaverdell, population 400, is a town just off the KVR trail. We talked to Howie, who coaches the girls’ baseball team in town, as well as the lady who runs It’s Mom’s Good Food. They told us that just a few years ago the town would get hundreds of cyclists coming through. But ever since the local keeper of the trail passed away, they’ve heard more and more complaints about trail quality, and the number of cyclists has been dropping. The town’s businesses aren’t doing as well as they did. At the general store, we got another angle on this problem: the motorized dirt bikes and ATVs using the trail are smashing it up quite a bit more so than the bikes, making it harder to maintain.

As Howie said, the good news is that there is a solution: the townspeople can start maintaining the trail. It would be hard to organize, and there doesn’t seem to be very much funding for such a project. But it’s been done. So stay tuned: maybe Beaverdell will put itself back on the map as the town for a stopover when you’re cycling the KVR.


25 May

We are thoroughly enjoying our well deserved rest. Ah, a lazy Okanagan day: tasting wine, treating ourselves to fancy meals, taking in the sunshine and being inspired by the scenery.

So today we’re on our wine tour (de sustainability). Our favourite vineyard, both for the wines and the welcoming hosts, is Ruby Blues. They are a small winery that uses only their own locally grown grapes. The host talked about the advantages of running a smaller operation: you have the luxury to use only your own grapes, which gives you complete knowledge and control of how the grapes are grown. This leads to decisions that prioritize quality over quantity and the production can be more easily adapted to the current season.

Yesteday, we has a great couchsurf with Jarrett, who works for the Forestry department. One of the cool parts of his job is to intentionally set fire to the brush and undergrowth in the forest. This is called a ‘controlled burn.’ It lowers the fire hazard and risk of pine beetle infestation. The biggest challenge with these is to reconcile the need for a controlled burn with people’s concerns about the smoke.

Jarrett also had some interesting job-related stories to share. One time he found out where their bottled water comes from: Bridesville. His crew needed water to extinguish a local forest fire, and they were instructed to grab water from “the spring,” which was in Bridesville, apparently a run-down little town with not much to say for their water source’s cleanliness standards. Lessons learned?! Drink tap water, duh! Considering the regulations for our tap water quality (which do not exist in the bottled water business), the chances are your tap water is just as or even more clean than your bottled water.

Rain, Snow, Hills, and Bears

23 May

In our silly culture we have this idea of ‘conquering’ mountains, nature, and so on. That is total bunk. One can’t ‘conquer’ nature; one can only be spared. In the past few days the BC wilderness has been reminding us of this fact nonstop.

How rainy did it get? Well, on Day 2 it was so wet that Maria’s leather saddle transferred its protective coating to Maria’s waterproof pants. 19 mm of rain came down that day.

Yeah, that’s right. We were lucky to get a great couchsurf at Nat’s place in Hope for that evening. Nat, who used to work at the Visitor Info Centre, advised against cycling the Kettle Valley trail out of Hope, for two reasons: there might be snow at the 1340m high point, and the trail has not been maintained since winter, so washouts were possible. Therefore, we would take Hwy 3 to Manning Park on Day 3, and continue down to Princeton on Day 4.

So on Day 3 we hit our first Big Hill Climb: from Hope (elevation 42m) to Allison Pass (elevation 1342m). Our average speed that day dropped to 10km/h. After the first hill of the day (a 7% grade) we thought we were tired, but then we had to redefine ‘tired’ for ourselves as the day wore on. We had a late start — 12:30pm — and only reached the summit of Allison Pass by 7:30pm. At that point we had a little party and got moving because, man, it was getting cold, and sure enough there were snow patches all over.

Allison Pass Party!

Oh, we also saw some bears, just off the road. Here’s the first one:

Passing cars started warning us well in advance. First they warned about a bear in the middle of the road, then a bear to the side, and then a long silence — we thought he was gone. But eventually we climbed the hill all the way to the bear.

It’s not all bad: that evening, when we finally reached Manning Park Resort, we soaked in the hot tub — a well deserved rest.

Spoking Wet

22 May

We have been so incredibly lucky with our hosts, but not with the weather. We have been cycling in torrential, nonstop rain for the past two days, yet we’ve been welcomed with open doors, tasty meals and comfy sleeping arrangements.

Our Warm Showers hosts for the first night cooked us dinner, which we ate by candle-light (for mood enhancement and energy conservation). They were very interested to talk about our project. We ended up talking for hours.

Daniel (far left) is studying geography and economics, and renting a room in Gary’s house. Gary (far right) is a carpenter, an engaging storyteller, and an amazing cook. Don’t be fooled by the enormous axe, he’s a really nice guy.

One of the first things that came up in our conversation is the issue of salmon habitat conservation. Both Gary and Daniel advocate for preservation of salmon habitat.  Gary’s philosophy is that if there are regulations that you believe aren’t right, it’s important to stir up the sh*t, even if the results are not immediately visible.

No late-night conversation is complete without musings on happiness. We discussed how consumerism promises happiness but does not deliver, and how the abudance of stuff takes the humanity away from human interactions. Gary told a story about meeting Annie Leonard at a conference; he said she was a really inpirational person. In case you haven’t seen her video, The Story of Stuff, here it is:

A Test Spoke

19 May

Tomorrow we start our tour, and our focus is shifting from packing to ‘spokes’,  our catchy word for ‘conversations about sustainability.’  The spokes are going to make our travels so much richer because we’ll have an extra reason to talk to people we meet.

Last weekend we had a test spoke with our friend Anna Tikina, who has done a few sustainability-related projects at UBC Faculty of Forestry. Here are some highlights from our conversation.

At home, Anna works on reducing her family’s environmental impact; often this results in financial savings as well. For example they’ve upgraded the insulation of their house envelope and set up heat recirculation for their fireplace to save energy on heating. They also have a compost bin in the yard to reduce landfill waste. Anna has a personal philosophy of small trade-offs: as she puts it, “I turn off the lights so I don’t feel bad about taking long showers”.

In her teaching, Anna finds that to reach to her students she needs to tell them something they care about. So when she was teaching a course on sustainability to MBA students, she centered the discussion around financial returns. That way, she said, the students are be more likely to adopt sustainable practices for their future businesses.

All in all our test spoke went very well. It was really easy to talk to Anna about sustainability because she is very knowledgeable on the topic and was interested to talk to us. How will we manage with our future spokes? Stay tuned!

Hot Off the Press

18 May

Featured on the front page of the Delta Optimist.

Read it here: Spotlight on Sustainability

(Photograph by: Chung Chow , Delta Optimist)

The Kitchen Sink

18 May

Packing for three months is hard work. You really need to think it through. Did we pack everything but the kitchen sink? Watch the video and find out…

Camera Geeks Unite!

15 May

I choose to believe there are nerds and gear-heads like myself among our readers. I spent a fair bit of time reading product reviews and pursuing Craigslist to assemble our A/V equipment. Here are the fruit of my labours.

Continue reading

Meet Anya’s Friend

14 May

So I haven’t talked to you about my friend yet, so I thought I would show off my new companion before we hit the long road together.

Before we met he was just a new 2011 Norco Cabot, but then the transformation happened. He was upgraded to disc brakes (Avid BB7), straight bar with fancy horny bar ends (Ergon GC3), shifters (Shimano 9 speed) and levers (Avid FR5) to match the bar, solid front (Axiom Journey) and rear (Topeak Super Tourist) racks, virtually puncture proof tires (Schwalbe Marathon Plus), fenders (Axiom Roadrunner), clippy pedals (Shimano SPD) and my good old well molded and tested saddle.

Thank you to the Bike Doctor for the support in the purchase and adjustments. Special thanks to my favourite bike mechanic Alex Ivanov for all the hard work he put into customizing my bicycle.

I present to you the new and improved Cabot, Anya’s edition.

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