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….sometimes it’s the pits.

Just as I was becoming hopeful that my vision was improving with the monthly eye injections from my ophthalmologist that were reducing the edema causing my original vision problems, things have taken a turn for the worse. After my last injection on April 28, my vision briefly improved after the local anaesthetic and drops wore off, my vision deteriorated again.

Three days later for another visit to the ophthalmologist and after an examination Dr. Wittenberg discovered that the cataracts previously seen but not a concern at the time had suddenly changed. They had become abnormally fast developing cataracts requiring urgent cataract surgery. She immediately referred me to a local cataract surgeon, but due to his schedule he can’t see me until May 30th. So this coming week I see him for the initial consult and hopefully the surgery for both eyes can be scheduled quickly as my vision has now deteriorated to the point of not only being unable to ride my bike yet again, but now having to go on disability leave from work. Being an IT Administrator, my work is pretty dependant on having better vision than I currently am experiencing. even this post has taken several days to compose and only after reconfiguring my devices for larger fonts and high contrast display in low lighting.

With it now noticeably deteriorating on a weekly basis, first forced my off the bike, and now off work. I have not been able to drive since the whole episode began in late January but I *REALLY* miss cycling especially with the wonderful cycling weather we have been experiencing. Yes I can ride my bike on the trainer but riding a stationary bike on a trainer is not nearly the same thing as getting out on the road and putting some road miles in the saddle.

I had 3 distance cycling events I had wanted to participate in this year and this means I may have to scrap them all. The first was the 100km Pacific Populaire in April, the second the 147km Canada Day Populaire on July 1, and the 160km Prospera Valley Gran Fondo in late July. If the cataract surgery can be scheduled and completed in the first two weeks of June the latter two events may still be possible. Unfortunately since I have not been able to get the road and distance training that I need to prepare for these events, if I do participated I will have to do them more slowly than I am capable of.

There is one event however that my vision must be better by and that is the FIFA World Cup coming up in late June because in my current state even watching the UEFA Champions League final and Whitecaps FC versus Seattle Sounders game today was challenging.

The research I have done and people I know (having been through the cataract surgery) I have heard from have indicated that the cataract surgery should restore my vision to a point much better that even before this all began. several of them have stated that if I can handle the eye injections the way I have then this surgery will be a walk in the park. I am hoping and praying that this is the case because right now this sucks, big time.

An anniversary…of sorts

Yesterday was an difficult day for me, it was an unwelcome anniversary actually. It was exactly one year ago yesterday that I was diagnosed with Parkinsons Disease. Debbie and I sat in my neurologist’s office after his examination, questions about symptoms and a review of several test results when he uttered the words I will never forget, “I’m sorry to say Richard, that your family doctor’s suspicions are correct, you have Parkinsons Disease.”. Of course the news hit us like a ton of bricks and made for one of the most difficult and conflicting days of my life.

Yesterday was certainly not an anniversary to “celebrate” which is one reason I am writing this on July 5th and not yesterday. Instead I did something yesterday to “mark” the event by doing something decidedly “anti-parkinsons”, I went for a 20 km bike ride. Since exercise, and cycling in particular, has been found to be neuroprotective and can actually slow the progression of the disease it seemed like an appropriate way to mark the day.

So here we are, one year later and looking back over this time I have to say that I have not handled things as well as I could have or should have. I have allowed this disease to affect me in more ways than I should have and have not coped as well as I would like to have done. It has essentially invaded every aspect of my life. Work, social, home, sleep and of course my health. Though I have attempted with all the energy I can muster to try to prevent it from controlling me, I have failed in more ways than I can count. Does this mean that I have given in? No, I cannot give in or give up, instead I can learn from my mistakes and fight back.

A few of my greatest challenges this past year have been with engaging socially with friends and family, physical challenges, stress and overwhelming fatigue, depression, apathy, daytime sleepiness, and memory all a part of and symptoms of Parkinsons. In fact over the last year, several physical changes have resulted in forcing decisions that I had hoped I would not need to make for a few years yet.

Because I never know how I will feel from more than one hour to the next, short and long term planning presents challenges for committing to social engagements. This has dramatically interfered with my social life and I have pretty much shied away from most social engagements over the last year. They are especially difficult as I often have to explain things about my condition when symptoms such as tremors, sudden contorting cramps (dystonia), sudden bouts of sleepiness manifest themselves. Social gatherings with other PD patients is no problem as I don’t have to explain anything or try to hide the tremors or other symptoms. Decreased strength, stamina, pain have all made it more difficult to engage in physical activities. Even my beloved cycling has been adversely affected and has prompted another decision I was not expecting in order to be able to continue this all important activity. This will be covered in another blog post for reasons that will be clearer then. Work and technology has become more of a challenge related to low energy levels, fatigue, lack of concentration and increasing inability to effectively multitask. The latter has always been one of my strong points so it is especially dis-heartening to lose this.

Needless to say, a lot was going through my mind yesterday as can be seen from the above. One important conclusion I have drawn is that for the next year I need to do better, and tackle these issues head on. With the ever present help, encouragement and love from my wife Debbie, this would not be be possible and would make life most unbearable. She gives me the strength and love to take each day at a time and to fight the battles I can win and is largely responsible for the smile on my face each day. Also my faith in God helps me each day to be thankful for the many blessings I do receive, to enjoy the victories however small they may be and He gives me the strength to keep fighting. The staff of the Parkinsons Disease Society of BC and our monthly support group have also helped me in countless ways, most importantly to know that I am not alone.

So here’s to hoping and praying that the next year I will cope better, one day at a time.
Richard

It has been a long time since my last blog post partly due to the topic of this post. I have been somewhat guilty of succumbing to a few of the non motor symptoms of Parkinsons Disease, withdrawing from personal contact and social interaction and general apathy. It is an easy trap to fall into and it is distinctly possible to do so without even knowing it. I was made aware of this recently at the Parkinsons Society of BC annual general meeting where we heard from Dr. Janis Miyasaki. Dr. Miyasaki was the guest speaker and gave a presentation titled The Hidden Face of PD: Personality, Mood, Memory, and Self-Image. Her presentation had also served to confirm what I had been recently reading about this subject from the book Living Well with Parkinsons Disease and caused me to examine my own situation more closely.

It seems fitting then that I have made a conscious decision change the situation now during Parkinsons Disease Awareness month. It seems I was in need of a greater awareness of some of the less outwardly obvious challenges of Parkinsons Disease myself. Don’t get me wrong, it will still be a great challenge to fight the tendency to succumb but I will give it my best effort. Without support though it will be near impossible to accomplish but i have to take the first step and becoming a more active blogger will be a part of this process. Support is one area where I am greatly blessed as I could not ask for a more loving and supportive person than my amazing wife, Debbie. Please remember Debbie in your prayers as it will only become more difficult over time for her being my primary caregiver as well. We have been through thick and thin together for the last 26 years and she has vowed to fight this battle with me, whatever it takes. I also couldn’t ask for a more supportive group than the staff of the Parkinsons Society of BC and my fellow parkies in the new diagnosis support group. I must also give a shout out to my IT co-workers and friends who have also been very supportive with their prayers and actions that have come to mean a great deal to me.

In recognition of April being Parkinsons Disease Awareness month I would be remiss if I didn’t also do something to raise awareness of Parkinsons Disease for others. Recently in my reading I came across a letter that expresses things much better than I could. It is a letter written by another person with Parkinsons Disease to friends and family and was published in an American Parkinsons Disease Association newsletter. They could just as easily be my words since I already share some of the challenges listed. As PD progresses this is the stark reality of this disease for which there is no cure. As challenging as it is living with Parkinsons Disease we all still hope in a future with better treatment and even a cure.

Letter to my Family and Friends

I have Parkinson’s Disease. It is not contagious or hereditary. No one knows what causes it, but some of the dopamine cells in the brain begin to die at an accelerated rate. Everyone slowly loses some dopamine cells as they grow older.

If the cells suddenly begin to die at a faster rate, Parkinson’s Disease develops. It is a slowly progressive disease usually occurring as people get older. Medicine can help. I’ll take newer, stronger kinds over the years. Some make me sick and take lots of adjustments. Stick with me. I have good days and bad days.

Emotions: Sometimes I cry and appear to be upset and you think you have done something to hurt my feelings. Probably not. It is the Parkinson’s. Keep talking to me. Ignore the tears. I’ll be OK in a few minutes.

Tremors: You are expecting me to shake. Maybe I do, maybe I don’t. Medicine today takes care of the tremors. If my hands, feet, or head are shaky, ignore it. I’ll sit on my hands or put them in my pockets. Treat me as you always have. What’s a little shakiness between friends?

My Face: You think you don’t entertain me anymore because I’m not grinning or laughing. If I appear to stare at you, or have a wooden expression, that’s the Parkinson’s, I hear you. I have the same intelligence; it just isn’t easy to show facial expressions. If swallowing, I may drool. This bothers me, so I will mop it up.

Stiffness: We are ready to go somewhere and I get up. I can hardly move. Maybe my medicine is wearing off. The stiffness or rigidity is part of Parkinson’s. Let me take my time. Keep talking.

Exercise: I need to walk each day. Two to three miles is good. Walk with me. Company makes walking fun. It may be a slow walk, but I’ll get there. Remind me if I slump or stoop. I don’t always know I’m doing this. My stretching, bending and exercises must be done everyday. Help me with them if you can.

My Voice: As my deeper tones disappear, you’ll notice my voice is getting higher and wispy. That’s the Parkinson’s I know you can talk louder, faster and finish my sentences for me. I don’t care for that. Let me talk, get my thoughts together and speak for myself. I’m still there. My mind’s okay. Since I’m slower in movement, my thoughts are slower too. I want to be part of the conversation. Let me speak.

Sleeplessness: I may complain that I can’t sleep. If I wander around in the middle of the night, that’s Parkinson’s. It has nothing to do with what I ate or how early I went to bed. I may nap during the day. Let me sleep when I can. I can’t always control when I’m tired or feel like sleeping. Be patient, my friends. I need you. I’m the same person; I’ve just slowed down.

It’s not easy to talk about Parkinson’s, but I’ll try if you really want to know. I need my friends. I want to continue to be part of life.

Please remain my friend.
========

For more information about Parkinson’s Disease please go to the Parkinson’s Society of BC web site. To support the excellent work they do visit the Parkinson Superwalk 2013 site to register as a participant or donate to this year’s Superwalk to raise funds and awareness of PD.

Abby’s Story

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Abby on her arrival at her new home

This is the story of Abby, a toy poodle mix dog that has had a very difficult life for her first two years. She bas been living in very poor conditions that constitutes an all too common form of animal abuse. She was kept in a wire cage in a dark building without windows, experienced no human contact other that the owner who only provided her enough to keep her alive as breeding stock. Yes it was a puppy mill and was located in Abbotsford. Fortunately for her along with several other dogs housed there for the same reason an alert and caring neighbor upon walking near this property was suspicious of the activity there and called the authorities. The Abbotsford branch of the SPCA paid a visit to the location and confirmed that it was indeed a puppy mill and the animals were being housed and cared for (if you could call it that) in a state of affairs that constituted animal cruelty. They proceeded to confiscate all of the dogs and begin the process of holding the.operator accountable. She was then taken to the Abbotsford SPCA Animal Shelter along with the nine other dogs and treated, vaccinated, spayed and lovingly cared for by the excellent staff at the shelter. This was probably her first experince with human contact and certainly her first co tact with human beings that really cared. She was then given the name Honey, prepared for adoption and placed in kennel #10 while waited for some to adopt and take her to her forever home.

This is where Debbie and I entered the story. After losing Coco, our 20 year old Lynx point Siamese last week, I knew I couldn’t get another cat, not for a while. Coco was too special to me and I still grieve his loss, but I also have peace about it knowing he lived a long, fulfilled and mostly heathy life for a cat, but felt that another cat would be too difficult. We had been talking about getting a dog again but are restricted to two small pets (we have another cat named Mango)

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Mango lounging in his cat tree.in our strata so until now it was out of the question.

Saturday, August 5

We explored several options including obtaining a purebred Cavalier King Charles Spaniel as it was the right size and tempermant, but were also willing to entertain the idea of a rescue dog. As result we began a search starting with local and non-local shelters and dog rescue agencies. We certainly had no expectations of finding an appropriate dog quickly and fully expected a search to take weeks or even months. We started with LAPS shelter in Aldergrove whic we found to be an excellent facility with many caring staff and volunteers. They have an amazing facility for both dogs and cats and it was obvious that the animal’s care and adoptability were their primary concerns and that their wbole focus was born of a love for all animals. As expected we did not find a dog there to meet more requirements. We were looking for a dog 7 kg or lighter to take on bike rides in a suitable carrier, good with cats, not yappy or noisy and a relatively calm disposition.

After this I decided that since we were in Aldergrove, the Abbotsford SPCA would be the next logical place to go and then it was on my mind to return home to try others another day. First we checked their site online to see what types and how many adoptable dogs they may have available. Abby (they named her Honey), an apricot/white poodle mix caught my attention among several other small dogs they had available. They had so many small dogs as they had just shutdown a puppy mill, the same one Abby (Honey) was confiscated from. At first Debbie wasn’t too excited about Abby from the description and photo, but since they had several to look at we decided to go anyway. The Abbotsford shelter is older but was clean and well run and just as with LAPS the staff and volunteers there obviously love animals and the work they do. Upon entering the shelter we initially saw a few dogs that at first glance seemed to meet our criteria but it was obvious that many if not all of the puppy mill breeding dogs had experienced only the poor side of human contact and many shied away or responded poorly. We then arrived at kennel #10 where this beautiful little apricot/white colored poodle cross named honey gingerly walked toward us and made direct eye contact with us. She proved to be attentive if a bit shy and understandably and quiet through our entire visit with her. We asked to take her out of the kennel to walk her in the dog walking area at the back of the kennels within view of other dogs. A volunteer doing some cleaning moved a large plastic garbage can and the noise startled the dogs which had them all barking madly, except Honey. She did pretty good on a leash for a dog who had spent most of her life in a small dark wire cage with the only socialization coming from the 2 weeks or so at the shelter. We then took her back to the office after both agreeing and stated to the staff that this was the dog for us. Unfortunately it was nearly closing time and we would not be able to take her home that day since our adoption application needed to be filled out and approved first and there wouldn’t be time to do that and process the adoption. We were okay with this and agreed to return on Sunday upon approval of our adoption by the shelter.

We returned to Langley and stopped at Petsmart to purchase a dog bed, dog dishes and doggie waste bags then went home for dinner. After more discussion we were more convinced than ever that this was the.dog for us so we began preparations for bringing her home on Sunday. The plan was to stop at Leroy McNutt’s Dog Emporium in Fort Langley to purchase a few items we would need, first and foremost a suitable pet carrier to bring her home in.

Sunday, August 5

The day began with some housecleaning and more preparation for the arrival of Abby (our name for her) along with some sprinkling, cleaning of the canary cage, litter box etc. We then headed to Fort Langley to stop at Leroy McNutt’ Dog Emporium to purchase a few needed items before heading out to Abbotsford. As luck would have it they were having a 25% off sale on everything we needed. From there we headed to the Abbotsford shelter to pick up Abby. It took a little while to process the adoption papers, pay the fees and review what is included with the adoption. We then headed to kennel #10 to get Abby and take to her forever home. We put on the new collar and leash I picked out and thanked the staff and headed toward the car. We took some time near the car on the grass in front of the shelter to help he become familiar with us and the car and took a few photos.

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Abby when we picked her up at the Abbotsford SPCA.

We then hopped in the car to head home. She took to riding in the car and her carrier extremely well, trembling a bit at first always seeming eager to respond to our touch and assurances. We then spent some time in the back yard next to the patio still leashed were she seemed more relaxed while adjusting to her new surroundings.

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Abby in the back yard on her first day home.

Once she had a chance to explore within the limit of the leash she had a brief and cautios intoduction with the next door neighbor and their Chihuahua, Shelby. Cheryl asked about the dog knowing she was new to us and we told Abby story. It turns out that Shelby was a rescue dog too with many challenges but like us, she is willing to work through them and give her dog everything necessary to give her dog a better life.

We had made an appointment with our vet for 3 PM today so we packed her up to take her in for her examination. Dr. Garg our veterinarian, was pleased to see us again and was also pleased with our choice. Abby handled it really well and came through with flying colors so we set up and appointment for her next shots for Saturday, August 11.

After arriving home we introduced Abby to her bed and food/water dishes out next to the patio and let explore on her own. It wasn’t long before she was drinking and checking out her bed. We couldn’t be happier that she has adjusted so well so soon. We know there is still a long way to go as she is not house trained yet in spite of being two years old, but we himageave been through this before and are undaunted by the task. We are patient with our pets and as we stated on our adoption application, we are prepared to do whatever is needed to give Abby the love and care she needs. We are looking forward to the next dozen or so years sharing our home and our love with both Abby and Mango.

A Special Gift

It has been nearly three weeks since my diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease and we have both been through quite a time in making the necessary adjustments while trying to carry on as normally as possible. Thanks to the inspiring documented journeys of others before me I have hopefully avoided some of the common unproductive missteps of others though without their candor and honesty these initial paths would have been very easy to follow. There but for the grace of God go I.

I have pretty much accepted the diagnosis and hopefully am moving in the correct direction. I have connected with an amazing bunch of people in a newly diagnosed support group through the Parkinsons Society of BC. I have also been trying to absorb all the latest information on available treatments that will allow me to lead as long and normal a life as possible. It also seems that I have already been doing one of the best things that I could be doing to fight this disease, cycling. There is a growing body of research pointing to vigorous exercise as a possible treatment for parkinson’s disease with cycling as one of the best forms of exercise. It also appears that not only does it improve the symptoms, it may also slow the progress.

This leads us to the title of this post. During the early uncomfortable discussions, my wife Debbie and I had soon after the diagnosis about some of the difficult decisions that she will have to make should I reach the final stage 5 of this disease (I am currently at stage 1) I made it clear about what needed to be done and the difficult decisions that she would be facing should that time arrive. While it may seem premature to be thinking that far ahead, if we waited until stage 4 or 5 it is not likely I would be able to make or understand the decisions that would need to be made. I wanted to make it clear that Debbie should proceed as required without any qualms or concerns about making the inevitable choices. After a few tears I also promised that I would do all that is within my power to prevent or delay reaching stage 5 until a cure is discovered. We both decided there and then to fight this battle to the bitter end and show this disease absolutely no respect whatsoever. As it turns out I had already been performing an activity that has been found to be one of the best treatments second only to the best available parkinson’s disease medications.

This brings us to the title of this post “A Special Gift”. Over the last several months even before pd raised its ugly head I had been admiring a custom built bicycle at my favourite local bike store, Fort Langley Cyclery. My cycling style of late has been heading more toward a casual laid back type of cycling, mostly for commuting or leisurely weekend group rides. I had in fact sold my road bike a couple of years ago to buy the recumbent trike that I have so this bike that I have been admiring was a step back to more of a fitness style of riding. Remember earlier that I had pointed to research that used the term “vigorous exercise” so this type of bike would make it easier to meet that criteria. Being as it was built more as a touring or randonneur (marathon cycling) bike rather than strictly a road bike it would be suitable for all seasons as well. Well unknown to me Debbie had quietly taken note of my admiration of this bike and she decided on Friday, July 20th to buy this bike for me. It would be for the purposes of defying this disease and its threats of poor balance, stiffness, muscle rigidity and tremors and fight back back with an effective weapon. As a result I will using this bike as one of several options at my disposal to fight back with a more structured fitness and exercise regime. In the tradition of many cyclists including myself I have also decide to give this bike a fitting name that also shows no respect to this disease. Based on a appropriate comment from another pd patient I have come to know online who refuses to capitalize parkinson’s disease or its acronym pd, I have followed his lead and named the new bike “pd Avenger”. I have included in this post links to photos taken of the bike posted from my Flickr site for those interested along with my bike geek friends who I know will want to see the photos.

Posted with the utmost gratitude and love to my wife Debbie. We’re now in this together and we will fight it together for as long as it takes.

D-Day – July 4th 2012

Strange title to a cycling blog post I agree, but its meaning will become clear in a moment. First the reason for this post so long after the last one in Sept. 2011. There has been a lot of water that has passed under the bridge since then and during that time I had not been very enthusiastic about a lot of things, cycling or posting about cycling not the least of them. Well as as it turns out it has all culminated in a visit to a specialist today, a neurologist in fact. One of the results of which means that cycling has become a more important function of my life. This too will become clear soon. Rest assured these are not the musings of a mad man, though sometimes I wonder.

It also has a direct  tie in to the title of this post, but first a bit of history. Several years ago I had been experiencing a number of symptoms (at the time seemingly unrelated). It was eventually diagnosed as Fibromyalgia by a previous GP and a couple of specialists. In late October 2011 I suffered from a serious anxiety attack after a few years off and on of depression and a great deal of work related stress. This was a tough one in which I needed to be transported by ambulance from work to Langley Memorial Hospital. I was not able to return to work until January and only because of the excellent care of my current GP (Dr. A. Van Wyk) and invaluable help from an excellent therapist (Marion McCristall). In April I made an appointment to see my GP about another previously insignificant symptom (or so I thought) that I have had for a few years, but was now becoming worse. After an examination and piecing together data from my medical history, he became concerned and set up an appointment for the neurologist. They are the ones to make the diagnosis of what GP had suspected,  Parkinson’s Disease. Initially this appointment wasn’t to occur until April 2013, but was moved up to July 4, 2012, again thanks to the efforts of my GP and his staff.

This now brings us to today and the reason for the title of this post. PWP’s (People With Parkinson’s) refer to the day they were diagnosed as D-Day and a day that will go down in infamy, a day when their life and the lives of their spouse changes forever and a day they will remember for the rest of their lives. The PWP now has to deal with a progressive, degenerative and incurable (at this time) neurological disease. This disease while not fatal will still steal function and capability away without mercy and turn the PWP’s soul mate, lover, best friend, family member and/or spouse into their primary caregiver.

July 4th, 2012 is my D-Day. Yes I have Stage 1 Parkinson’s Disease, a confirmed diagnosis through another new health care relationship that started today with my neurologist, Dr. Stephan Botha. This means another chapter to my life and one I did not choose, but it chose me. It has become apparent that I was being prepared for this without knowing it. I am filled with mixed feeling and confusion with the last few months being an emotional roller coaster. Even today in the neurologist’s office, though I thought I had prepared myself I still shed more tears. Fortunately I had recently read and absorbed as best I can inspiration from two people who have helped me deal with my challenges,  by being candid with their own far more serious challenges, Lance Armstrong and more recently Michael J. Fox. Now through the peace, understanding and strength that comes from my Lord and Saviour, the support and love from family and friends, the unwavering support, love and encouragement from my loving wife, I know I shall overcome and deal with this the best that I can.

Now my treatment plan begins in earnest, which is how cycling has become even more important to me. It now is a critical part of my treatment program. Recent research has shown that physical activity may actually delay the advancement of the disease and has been found to be neuroprotective. While many form of exercise are beneficial, cycling has been found to be one of the best and can be as important as the medications.

Today has been a bit overwhelming so I must close with what is now an appropriate quote:

“The one choice I don’t have is whether or not I have it. But beyond that my choices are infinite. How I approach it is up to me. It has a lot to do with – and this is hard for people to understand – accepting it.”   –   Michael J. Fox

 

Or by another title we have given it, “Richard and Debbie’s Great Adventure”. Yes, as I am sure you have figured out by now, today’s blog entry (as well as the next few) are not about cycling. What?? A cycling blog talking about something other than cycling, that shouldn’t be…it’s….wrong.

Anyway back to the purpose of this post, our “Great Adventure”. Not only is this week a great adventure for us, being our 35th and getting to this point in time a ‘great adventure’ as well, it is also our first vacation away from home in quite a few years. Preparing for this trip the past week has allowed me some time to reflect on just what a wonderful adventure it has been for the two of us with highs and lows but far more highs than lows. Sickness and health, richness and poorness, love and sorrow, laughter and tears.  In other words many of those things you say in your wedding vows which only really sink in when you experience life together in this great adventure called marriage. I wouldn’t trade a single minute of it for anything. It has been quite a story, but that is not what this entry is about, it is about our trip to Saltspring and Victoria for our 35th Anniversary.

So here we are today and have embarked on a mini “Great Adventure” and as I write this we are sitting in our room at the amazing Hastings House Country House Hotel. We left home a bit early on Saturday as Debbie was a bit ‘ansty’ to be on our way. Since we had plenty of time we decided to stop at our favourite Starbucks at 200th St and 86th for a coffee to start the day. The power went off as we were waiting for our drinks so the trip started a bit ominously. We soon discovered that the power outage was a little more widespread than the local Starbucks. Our attempts to leave Langley were thwarted by a traffic jam on 200th Street due to traffic lights not working. I turned off 200th and took an alternate route and we were on our way.

I think Debbie's excited about the trip,

It was a beautiful day and we arrived at the ferry terminal in plenty of time allowing us to relax and enjoy the ocean breeze while sitting at a picnic table next to the car. The ferry ride on the Queen of Nanaimo allowed us more time to relax as we ate our lunch and then ventured out onto the deck to admire the views and let someone else do the “driving”.

Not having been to Saltspring Island before, this was a new adventure for us. We weren’t disappointed because from the moment we drove off the ferry and into Ganges we fell in love with the place.

We drove into Ganges to have a look around the village before checking into our hotel since check-in time wasn’t until 3 and we had arrived in Ganges just before 2 PM. It turns out that there is a weekly Saturday Market Place in the village every Saturday between April and October so we decided to take in the local color and characters. We ended up meeting some of the most friendly and fascinating people we have ever met, as welll as a few ‘characters’, of which there are more than a few. But the atmosphere, the tranquility and the easy going manner of the people here was enviable and a very welcome change from the stress and much more hurried lifestyle even in Langley. Each person here I am sure had there own story have what brought them to Saltspring Island and what keeps them here. To find out more I purchased a book written by local writer Roger Brunt titled The Salt Spring Chronicles that tells the stories of several of the local residents and how they came to be residents of this beautiful place.

A view of Ganges Harbour from our room.

Upon checking into our room at Hastings House we were taken on a short tour of the place and given a short history by very friendly and attentive staff. This place has greatly exceeded our expectations with beautiful scenery, lovely english style gardens and with a beautiful view of Ganges Harbour. It very much is a park like setting and we have been treated like royalty. If you are looking for excitement and bustling activity, then this isn’t the place for you. It is instead the picture of peace and tranquility and has an amazing atmosphere and leaves you with an overwhelming feeling of harmony and peace. We can’t wait to explore the immediate surroundings and gardens. It is a very historic place where they also grow some of the herbs, vegetables and even lamb for their highly rated restuarant which we will get to experience on Sunday for our anniversary dinner. In the meantime, we were able to enjoy an afternoon tea served from a beautifully restored former living room adjacent to the dining room. We took our iced tea and snacks out to the patio to relax and take in the surroundings. After tea we wandered to the grounds and sat in a couple of the Adirondack chairs situated around an open green space overlooking the harbour. After a long day, we retired to our room and sat up for a while quietly reading and reviewing the day. Life is good.

We can’t wait until day 2.

 

An amazing day

The beautiful thing about riding a bike is that it will take you places you can’t go by car and allow you to see things would wouldn’t normally see while driving or even as a passenger as the scenery passes you by so quickly you end up missing so much. Not so on a bike and it can take you exploring in places difficult to get to otherwise. If you see something interesting, you stop and enjoy. If you see a road or trail you haven’t explored before, away you go. If you meet someone interesting  you stop and have a wee chat. It is an amazing experience and if you don’t walk, run or cycle, you are missing a great deal of what our local environment has to offer along with some amazing scenery and experiences. And if you think “normal” cycling can be amazing, cycling with a recumbent trike is an order of magnitude more amazing. On the trike I have my own natural “3D big screen” with a 270° view without me turning my head.

One of the most wonderful aspects of cycling is the ability to just head out on a ride..anywhere, no destination in mind nor route planned, just go wherever the road/trail and your feet take you. This past Sunday was precisely one of those days for me. I had originally planned to go for a ride on Saturday morning but a call from the bike shop who sold me my trike called to say the remaining accessories I originally ordered with the trike had arrived. This meant a trip into Vancouver to pick them up and a bit of shopping on the way home.

After arriving home, I installed the accessories which included a side bar for holding a handlebar bag, new pedal straps and a front light mount. While I was at it I re-installed my homemade lighting system as Fall and darker evenings will be here soon enough. This ended up taking me well into the evening so a Saturday ride was out. I had not intended to ride on Sunday, but with the beautiful sunny day, my trike was calling my name so out I went leavinghome at about 11:30 AM. Here are some photos taken along the way.

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I headed out toward Glen Valley, along 240th where I came across several cyclists riding in the RSVP event from Seattle to Vancouver. I knew of the ride this weekend, but thought it was the usual Friday and Saturday and was not expecting to see them on Sunday. I ended up riding along with several, talking to a few as I rode. I would soon leave and re-join them at various points along my way as they cycled some of the same route as I did. I stopped briefly at Muench Bar picnic site and then over the Golden Ears bridge (encountering and riding with more RSVP riders). After getting over the bridge I decided to look for a coffee shop I had heard of from a Velomobile builder who lives in Maple Ridge and wrote in his blog about it. That’s when I discovered the very picturesque Shoreline Park along the Fraser River with a view of Barnston Island to the south. I stopped for a coffee and a delectable chocolate dessert (it’s okay I burned that off quickly enough :-) ). I then discovered a trail along the Fraser and decided to follow it which was a part of the Pitt River Greenway. I rode all the way along to and under the Pitt River bridge and back via a paved MUP that runs parallel to the Lougheed Hwy and back via Harris Road, Airport way and the Golden Ears bridge.  Here is a map and data of the route taken.

Tynehead Park Trail opening

It was a very soggy morning as we started out from Fort Langley to head to the Tynehead Park Trail opening and ribbon cutting ceremony in Surrey. The Fort Langley group ride was organized as a Valley VeloRiders ride and I was joined on the ride by Will Danicek and Angus Hawksby. Only the three of us turned out for today’s event and ride from Fort Langley. There were two other cycling groups setting out to support this event. A group from Maple Ridge (see Alex Hope’s blog post and photos) and a group coming from Surrey’s King George Sky Train station were also planning to be at the event. We met with most of them at Tynehead. No doubt the poor weather had a great deal to do with the low turnout, but in spite of it we all had a great ride and a great time. Due to the weather Angus and I (Will continued on to Barnston Island) returned back to Fort Langley a slightly more direct route than planned via the Golden Ears Way multi-use path and 96th Ave.

Route Map Here is a map of the entire ride. The intent from our group was to attempt to ride as much of the route there and back as off the road as possible using area trails and multi-use paths. Our intent was for the ride to be a leisurely family friendly ride to demonstrate that there are a growing number of family safe areas to bicycle. With the addition of the new Tynehead Park trail, a connection to North Surrey from North Langley and Maple Ridge now exists beyond 176th where the Golden Ears Way multi-use path ends. With the addition of the new Tynehead overpass, Barnston Island is also more accessible via a safer route.

The three of us arrived at Tynehead in plenty of time taking a short trip to the bridge for photos before heading back around the Tynehead trail to join others at the ribbon cutting at 11:30. After cycling west on the trail which was quite a downhill, we stopped briefly at the VACC booth to have a look at the display and chat with a couple of other cyclist gathered there before heading to the bridge. DSCN0796 As it was quite a hill back the way we came and to give Angus a breather as his asthma was acting up in the muggy wet weather we headed back by choosing the more northerly section of the trail which was much less of a hill. It also gave us an opportunity to check out some of the other information displays along the way. After returning back to the park entrance we arrived just in time for the ceremony. Through representation from Surrey (Bob Bose), Langley (Gayle Martin) and Coquitlam (Richard Stewart), as well as City of Surrey and Metro Vancouver Parks staff we were given a summary of the project and a little bit of the history of the park and trail project. The federal government was also thanked for their contribution of $1 million which allowed the trail to be paved. After the short speeches Bob, Gayle, Richard proceeded to the vine ribbon prepared by Metro Vancouver Parks staff for the ribbon cutting ceremony and photo opportunity.

Tynehead Park Officual Opening

All told about 40-50 people braved the poor weather to turn out for the event. Around the park trail there were interpretive displays and booths set up, including one from the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition. Caterers were also present to provide food and beverages allowing us to gather and sit at the wet picnic benches to eat as the rain let up somewhat. As we “refueled” we had the opportunity to hear from Richard Stewart who provided some insight into the issues and many jurisdictions that are involved in such projects. He was able to illustrate to us some of the complexities involved which gave many of us more of an appreciation for what it takes to take on and complete such a project let alone get it off the ground. It further illustrated to us that advocacy for such facilities and infrastructure has to be thought of as long term commitments by all involved.

I had been around this trail a few weeks prior to be a bit prepared for today’s ride and as mentioned even though the weather was less than ideal it did nothing to “dampen” our spirits and I believe everyone had a great time and enjoyed seeing this new park and trail with its focus on being pedestrian, cycling and family friendly in an area also seeing such massive urban growth alongside infrastructure that is assuredly not pedestrian, cycling, or family friendly. It shows more than anything, that one type of infrastructure does not have to be sacrificed in favor of another, and that there is room and a need for both.

For another perspective and photos regarding this event be sure to visit Alex Pope’s blog “Living in Maple Ridge” and his post on the “Tynehead Perimeter Trail Opening“.

Richard

Another milestone

It was a short bike ride today. It would normally have been a group ride for an informal cycling group that I lead called Valley VeloRiders but likely due to other commitments I was the only one of the group took advantage of the fine cycling weather for today’s ride.

It was a great day for a bike ride and the weather couldn’t be better. I had thought of doing a much longer bike ride today, but with the Canada Day ride last week I am ahead of schedule for meeting my distance goal for the month and I did have a few things to take care of at home. Besides Debbie and I had agreed to meet at Euphoria Chocolates for coffee and a muffin after the ride. We then decided to enjoy the rest of the day together.

Well since the title of this post is “Another milestone” I had better get on with just what that milestone is. With today’s ride I have just passed the 10,000 km mark since I started recording my cycling distance in March 2008. I had just started back into cycling casually a couple of years prior to that after a 30 year hiatus. Most of this is covered in my “About” and in previous blog posts, but the gist of it is that I only started into cycling as a casual interest to supplement other methods of exercise I started in 2004 to do something about my rapidly declining health and dramatically increasing weight. Well little did I know just what this “casual” cycling interest would lead to and now here I am 10,000 km later even more committed to cycling than ever. Many non cycling friends and aquaintences have thought me crazy and/or obsessed, but if they were to truly understand what cycling has done for me they might reconsider. It is currently one of the most important aspects of my life and when increased levels of chronic pain threatened to cut it short, I stubbornly refused to accept it and found another way to keep cycling. And here I am now 10,000 km later, over 4000 km of which have now been ridden on my recumbent trikes.

Cycling has become as much an emotional, spiritual and physical experience that many cannot comprehend. In the 3 1/4 years it has taken me to reach 10,000 km, I have participated in and successfully completed, the following events:

BC Lung Association 200 km Bicycle Trek for Life and Breath (2008, 2009)
Group Health Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic (2008)
100km Pacific Populaire (2009, 2011)
144 km Canada Day Populaire (2011)

To some completing these events and accumulating 10,000 km cycling may not seem like a major accomplishment as I know many cyclists that regularly cycle 8000+ km per year, but all of these personal milestones were hard fought considering that when I started an exercise plan in 2004 at 50 years old even walking 100 meters was an extremely painful experience. However I persevered through the pain having been inspired by others far worse off than I. Few can imagine the emotion that consumed me after completing the first BC Lung Trek for Life charity bike ride.

There is much more to come as I have just made a further commitment to long distance cycling by joining the BC Randonneurs Cycling club submitting my application on July 1 at the Canada Day Populaire registration.

So here is a summary report of what 10,000 km on a bike looks like.

Progress Summary Report for rjedge1954
 Count: 768 Activities
 Distance: 10,002.89 km
 Time: 508:06:26 h:m:s
 Elevation Gain: 77,459 m
 Avg Speed: 19.8 km/h
 Avg HR: 141 bpm
 Avg Run Cadence:
 Avg Bike Cadence: 84 rpm
 Calories: 411,202 C

Here is the map and data for the ride today which helped me to reach this 10,000 km milestone.

I close with one of my favourite quotes and part of my email signature.

“Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.” – Lance Armstrong

Ride On!