Friday, September 7, 2012

Floating Gas Stations and Beaches

Vancouver, BC

August 16-18, 2012

A family celebration brought us up to Vancouver for a few days.

A = Coal Harbor
B = Kitsilano Beach
C = Jericho

Coal Harbor is the inside elbow of Burrard Inlet that is home to motorized pleasure boats, working boats and seaplanes. The sail boats are moored in English Bay to keep them away from the freighters and the overwhelming currents that flow in and out of the Lions Gate.

Paddle wheel tours like the one in Disneyland or along the Mississippi.

Those two rock mounds at the top of the mountain in the background are called the Lions. If the Russians had explored this area before George Vancouver, then they might be called the Bears. Or a Chinese explorer might have called them the Dragons. Actually, about 2000 years ago, there was a Chinese expedition to what we now call British Columbia, but there was no evidence of a settlement or an attempt to colonize.

The entrance to the Burrard Inlet is called the Lion's Gate. The bridge is therefore called the Lion's Gate Bridge. Lion's Gate Entertainment started in North Vancouver. I actually used to work at a building materials store next to the Lion's Gate Entertainment lot.

I grew up used to seeing these floating gas stations, and I remember there being at least 3 of them when I was younger. That's the Lions Gate Bridge in the background. 3 lanes, only, lots of waiting. :-) The middle lane changes directions regularly with the help of traffic lighting.

While I stood on the pier at the foot of Thurlow Street, there were seaplanes taking off or landing every 10 minutes. Most were on routes to and from Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. A few go up the coast to some of the towns that are only accessible by sea like Bella Coola and Ocean Falls.

The former Olympic flame. Now extinguished, but also free of the chain link fence that surrounded it during the games.

I like this pixilated killer whale statue by Douglas Coupland, who is also the author of the world-famous 1991 novel, Generation X. I'm part of that generation. We were followed by Generation Y? Who are followed by Generation Because I Said So. :-)

Kitsilano as a name is a poorly interpreted memorial of a 19th century Sḵwxwú7mesh (Squamish) chief, whose name is more accurately written, 'Xats'alanexw'. We all called it Kits beach growing up. Kits is also the name of a neighborhood that was home to artists, bohemians and young people in the 1950s and 1960s, but has since been gentrified. If you were to apply a "vibe" and its evolution to Kits, it is similar to North Beach in San Francisco or Chelsea in Manhattan.

The beaches are artificial. There is no surf as the entire area is protected from the open seas by Vancouver Island. The sand was brought in over 100 years ago as ballast on freighters and deposited on the muddy shores. The grass lawn near the beach is popular for just bringing a chair and hanging out.

Beach volleyball has really caught on in the past 20 years. This area attracts players of all skill levels.

We've always had logs on the beaches. You don't need to bring a chair, you can use the log to support your back. Such a good idea, I don't know why you don't see this on Washington, Oregon or California beaches.

Jericho is further west towards the University of British Columbia (my alma mater). The sunsets are beautiful.

I enjoyed most of the trip in the fine company of our family members and only a few hours on my own. The weather was hot for Vancouver, 80's F, which is in the high 20's, Canadian. Only public buildings and businesses have A/C. Everyone's house is built to retain heat and keep out the rain. And, unlike San Jose, it doesn't cool down quickly after sunset. So, it was lovely during the afternoon, but tough getting to sleep at night. The week after we left, the temperatures plunged into the 60s F, teens, Canadian, in Vancouver while we continued to enjoy warm sunny weather in San Jose.

The reality of Vancouver is you pay for the pretty rain forest with about 6-9 months of overcast and cool weather with only about 7 weeks of what most people would call summer weather. There are many days in the off season where the sun comes out, but most who come from elsewhere take a long time to adjust to gray skies. My habit was to work hard during the gloom and then get outside as much as possible in the summer.

In San Jose, we have 6 months of sunshine and it was hard to focus on work when the sun was shining. And even on the hottest days, it doesn't take long after sun set for the temperature to drop to comfortable or even cool levels.  Now, I take San Jose's long period of summer weather with its evening cooling for granted. For example, I can tell you right now that chance of rain in San Jose on July 15, 2013 is next to nil, but the chance of rain in Vancouver on the same day is unlikely, but possible and must be accounted for in any vacation or plans for family outings.

An expert at one of the Napa wineries told me that only 1% of the world has a Mediterranean climate, which includes San Jose and the South Bay as well as the region of Napa valley between the town of Napa and St. Helena.

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