Halloween had a special treat for me. Stanley Park became the place that did not want me to leave. That is a good start for a horror film.
In the early morning, before the sun had risen, I ran along the seawall from False Creek to English Bay. On the shores of Stanley Park, I continued on. Suddenly, after Third Beach, there was a truck on the seawall path. Easy enough to avoid, so I kept going. When I got close to Lionsgate bridge I had made the distance I needed to so I turned around.
And then I discovered why that service truck was on the trail. They had closed the gates for construction. This was a bit scary, because it was still dark and I was trapped where no one knew I was. The fence had too fine a mesh, so I couldn’t climb it. Fortunately it was low tide, so I ran back a bit and then clambered down into the side of the wall to the shore, covered in seaweed. I didn’t think of it at the time, but this was dangerous. It was slippery and dark and if I fell, I would not be seen by anyone for a long time. Or some ancient horror could have risen from the concealing seaweed and taken me to a watery grave. Either or.
I clambered through the rocks and eventually got to a beach and could take the stairs back to the seawall. I continued my run. I got to see the signs that they had put up after my passage warning about the closure. I guess they didn’t try more to stop me because they assumed I would continue around to the other side instead of turning back.
In the afternoon though my company had encouraged people to do some volunteer work this month. So I walked back to Stanley park to help with removal of invasive plants. (My coworkers took the bus and I saw them pass me both coming and going.)
English Ivy has been planted around buildings, but it is not welcome in the park. It out-competes the native plants. Himalayan Blackberry is also a mean and nasty plant that, although providing nice berries, does not belong. Both of these are very good at spreading. The Blackberry is also mean about it too, with spiky vines that will cut you.
The sad thing is that because they are so pervasive, after we are done removing them, there is only bare earth. We are defoliating. Maybe a fern or two can keep going, but we are removing a lot of plants.
I’ve been told that parks will now be ruined for us. We will now notice the invasive plants and know that they should not be there.
Jamaica was nice. Principally because I got to see Catalina again, but it was wonderful to see all my friends. The resort was the same as last year, which meant it wasn’t the greatest place to stay, but it was a place where we could meet. The food was actually rather disappointing; mostly bland American food. I consistently asked for jerk chicken, but it never came. Well, it did on the second last night, but since I was late for dinner that night, it was all scarfed down before I had a chance to get my share. The solution was a friend who had rented a car; we drove 3.5km down the road to “Ultimate Jerk Centre” where we finally got some chicken that burned our tongue. We were even able to get some Jerk Rabbit; it tastes exactly the same as chicken except more expensive.
A routine quickly developed in this place. This was helped by very consistent weather. It was beautiful until about mid-afternoon, then there would be rain for an hour or two, and then nice weather again overnight.
My day went like this:
Morning Run: I got up before 6:00 in the morning. Not feeling motivated, except by obligation, I would leave the resort and start running. Sometimes to the west. Sometimes to the east. Sometimes towards the interior where I discovered that there are some nasty hills on this volcanic island. If I had been a bit more ambitious, I would have run a bit further to the west and I could have seen Discovery Bay and taken some nice pictures, but I did not have a good enough internet access to plan that kind of exploration.
The first run I did I forgot to zip up my running pouch and my phone took a tumble onto the road. The back cracked, which overall is very minor damage. It didn’t affect the camera, so I could still use it for everything. However, I think it became less watertight. I think this because a few days later, while I was dripping sweat everywhere, my phone acted like it was breaking down; it wouldn’t stop vibrating. I put in dried rice and it got better, but after that I used a waterproof envelope while running.
After the run: I would eat a breakfast that probably broke all of my dieting rules, but it was nice to guzzle juice when you’ve sweated so much. I also discovered cherry juice which is a pleasant change. I would then go back to bed and try to sleep the rest of the morning. Others in the group, including Catalina, would go to an eleven o’clock yoga session. It was very popular and a lot of people were encouraging me to try. I think I was better off catching up on sleep.
After lunch: At this point activities would start happening. Usually some contests put on by the organizer of the trip. Catalina and myself also took the opportunity to try the kayak and go swimming in the ocean. This is when the drinking would also start. The entire time I was in Jamaica, I think I had only three alcoholic drinks. Two of those were Dirty Bananas, and on the second one of those I was avoiding the rum at the bottom because I just wanted the milkshake part of it. If we bugged the right people we could also get coconuts from the trees and drink the water in them.
There was also the afternoon grill that was open. There you could get cheeseburgers and occasionally hot dogs. These were usually better than the actual dinner buffet. You can’t go wrong with a burger, and you know what to expect. There is only so long you can have the baked chicken at dinner.
From a friend I was able to try a mermaid fin; basically just a swimming fin that you stick both feet into, not the full tail thing you see in videos. They are really hard to use; it did not feel very efficient. Would not recommend.
Sunset: At sunset there was a lot of photography, it being the golden hour and all. Some beautiful pictures were taken by people more professional than me. People would disperse after that; too early for dinner, but no sun. But also a good time to have conversations with people by the bar.
Dinner: Bland food. Great company.
After dinner: We put on shows. There was a lip-sync performance and I got good compliments for my usual Proclaimers song. I also tried “Simply Irresistible” that went over well, but I think that had more to do with my backup dancer. The organizer also decided to bring in some strippers. I can’t say I’m a fan of that, but it was nice to see them trying something different than the usual. It would have been better if they had actually, I don’t know, stripped. And speculation was rampant that one wasn’t actually a woman. Good times!
On the final night, there was even a wedding ceremony. That made me a little depressed; Catalina had left a day early. The early departure let her get a direct flight, and popular opinion agreed that no one is worth an extra six hours of travel time.
All in all, I had a good trip. But it is good to be home.
My seat on the flight were in the back of the plane; only one less than the very back. Since a Boeing 777 tapers, they didn’t have room for the usual number of seats. This meant I was in a side row of just two seats: window and aisle. But because it was still a bit wide there, my window seat had room between it and the wall. I was not able to rest against the wall while I tried to sleep. Still, I had more room.
Once in Toronto, I waited for the sun to rise and then I would go for a run. I put my luggage into storage and then went out. I had a route in mind, but no plan survives contact with the enemy. It is one thing to see an aerial view, it is another when you see what those brown smudges are. (Not a gravel parking lot.) It didn’t help that my Garmin is a nervous traveler and takes an hour to figure out I want to use it after any flight. I gave up and used an iPhone application to track the run. I hope I’ll be able to import it into my Garmin tracker.
On the way out I was fairly conservative and stuck to the obvious roads instead of the planned park. I did eventually get to the creek but by then I had to turn around. On the way back I was more aggressive and did a bit of exploring. I saw an Avro Arrow on a pedestal, crossed some creeks. I followed a trail by the baseball diamond that led into the swamp. The trail became fainter and fainter as time when on, and was soon unrunnable. Not willing to admit defeat I bushwhacked through the reeds. I wrecked my goal time, and my legs got all scratched up, but I eventually made it back to civilization. And my shoes are wet.
I would take a different route the next time I try to do this.
Back to the airport, I cleaned myself off in the bathroom, got a breakfast and now I’m waiting for my plane.
Last weekend, for Thanksgiving, I went to see my parents’ in Alberta.
It was a fairly busy time. On Saturday they were having a communal garage sale next to a farmer’s market. I helped as I could, but it didn’t feel like much. I did a drive back to the house to grab something that was forgotten (and wound up never being sold), and I took the dog for a run.
The next day I picked my sister up from the airport from her vacation to New York. She is having a rough time lately. She started a new job and within the first two weeks, another new hire betrayed her and is trying to get her fired. The bosses seem to be taking the other person’s side and were asking my sister to resign. She is a little stressed and I wish there was more I could do. She may have to start looking for work in other provinces now. Which is unfortunate since this was her dream job.
My mother prepared a fantastic turkey dinner. The initial plan was to get a free-range organic turkey from a neighbor. This had been planned for months, and we had jokingly called our turkey Larry. However, Larry was sold to someone else. Despite a phone call confirming it a few days ago, we had missed an email asking if we still wanted it. But the Butterball turkey we got tasted amazingly good.
Other than that, I did my usual daily running, but this time in the foothills. There are some very nasty hills around my parents’.
I returned to Vancouver on Tuesday evening. Surprisingly, the woman I was seated next to on the plane also got off the same SkyTrain stop I did.
Now I’m waiting to board my flight to Toronto and then on to Jamaica. It has been a busy week.
I’m looking forward to seeing Catalina again. However, I got a text from her saying the bus driver missed the resort and she is in Ocho Rios. That’s the last I’ve heard from her so I’m getting worried. Hopefully the bus took her back to the resort, but my mind is playing with worst-case scenarios.