Ride to Conquer Cancer 2015

Last weekend, I cycled from Vancouver to Seattle—well, actually Surrey to Redmond, with a bit of a gap in the middle—in support of the BC Cancer Foundation.

It was my first year doing the Ride to Conquer Cancer, and I was well-prepared: I’ve been cycling for years but I trained hard for this event, participating in a number of 70-90km team rides. A couple of weeks before the event I got an amazing new bike, which seemed to make cycling effortless. But the real story was the weather. Apparently the Ride was moved from June as it had been raining that month consistently for several years. But as the last weekend in August approached, it became clear that we would see the first real rain in months. So I was ready for a slog through the wet.

And at the start, at the Cloverdale Rodeo & Exhibition Fairgrounds, it certainly was raining. With over 2000 cyclists participating, the first few kilometres were slow, and I started to get a bit cold. But once we arrived at the border, the rain stopped, and it was almost completely dry for the remainder of the two-day trip.

The first day, there was an optional “Challenge” route, and partly on the prompting of friends, I chose to give it a shot. Just south of the Peace Arch, I swung East.


I heard that only something like 60-100 people tackled the Challenge route this year. The whole ride was very well supported, but there was one stretch on this route, about 60km, between pit stops. At times I cycled with others; other times I cycled alone. I took off my rain jacket and enjoyed the day. As this was a ride for cancer research, I thought about my mother, who died of cancer in 2007.

Somewhere south of Sumas, heading up some long, brutal hills and into the trees, there was a fair amount of debris on the road. I pressed on alone and somewhere past Everson, cycling into the gusting wind started to be an ordeal. I met up with about ten other riders and we headed south along Noon Road. Battered by the wind and at risk of being blown into the ditch or into a car, we stopped. It was so gusty that at times it was hard to stand and hold onto our bikes. We huddled in the ditch for about an hour, and a county sheriff stopped by to check in on us. Support crew started picking up some of us to take us on to where the Challenge and “Classic” routes met up for lunch. But we’d set out to ride to Seattle, and we didn’t want to miss more of the ride than we had to, so a few of us decided to press on to Bellingham. From there, we were shuttled down to the Mount Vernon camp. I was disappointed not to have cycled the whole way, but I got in 113km.

It rained overnight, and after a bit of a restless sleep—my tent neighbours were partying pretty hard—the sky cleared and we set off again. I awoke to see on my iPhone the news of Oliver Sacks‘ death from liver cancer, and resolved to cycle in his memory.

Everyone cycled the same route on the second day. It was a bit longer than planned, due to detours because of the storm the previous day. We passed some flattened corn fields south of Mount Vernon. It was a more social day, which was enjoyable. There was one segment along a beautiful paved path through the woods. Sadly, during the ride I received an email informing me that a relative was in the final stages of terminal cancer. So the second day was a reminder of why we were all riding.


I did almost 137km on the second day. We reached Redmond in the late afternoon and my daughter picked me up; I’m glad I didn’t have to pile into a shuttle and head back to Surrey.


The only downside was some scratches on my beloved new bike from the Bellingham to Mount Vernon transport. Overall it was a great experience, including the adventure-by-weather. I’m really grateful to everyone who helped get me to the minimum $2500 fundraising goal. I now have a bit of a bug for long-distance cycling, and I may even consider doing this one again. It’s a good cause, and there is a lot of enjoyable camaraderie.

But probably my favourite part of the journey was the Saturday morning, riding alone through Washington State farmland in the unexpected dry, before the wind picked up. Far away under my own power in the quiet, alive.


Three Tracks: 2014

Three tracks that defined my year:

Sun Kil Moon, “Richard Ramirez Died Today of Natural Causes”

Chilling, intense. One of the best-ever songs about death of all sorts. “And I remember just where I was/When Richard Ramirez died of natural causes.”

Cloud Nothings, “I’m Not Part of Me”

One of the best shows I saw this year. “I’m learning how to be here and nowhere else.” And: “I’m not! I’m not! You.”

(I included the audio-only YouTube link as the official video is just distracting.)

Spoon, “Do You”

Song of the summer, and it’s been a while since we had one this great. The wistful ending—sort of like the end of summer, come to think of it—puts it over the top. “Do you want to get understood?”

See also Three Tracks: 2013.

Three Tracks: 2013

I had this in mind a year ago, but never got around to posting it (see Three Tracks: 2014). Three tracks that defined my year:

Jon Hopkins, “Open Eye Signal”

The track is a journey, a revelation (and the video is actually pretty great). Saw Hopkins in November (and again in July 2014), and it was brilliant.

The Knife, “A Tooth For An Eye”

It rocks. “I’m telling you stories/Trust me.”

Vampire Weekend, “Ya Hey”

Like a 21st century Paul Simon; the whole album is great. “Who could ever live that way?”

Nk’Mip 2013 Dreamcatcher

This is a blend of Riesling (73.3%) and Chenin Blanc. Pale gold, medium-whiff citrus and sage. Off-dry, high acidity, intense lemon and apricot, distinct from the aroma. Full body. Good length. Very nice overall. I want to try their (100%) Riesling.

$20.90 at Crosstown.

I visited Nk’Mip Cellars in Osoyoos last summer and it’s a worthwhile trip.


Brian Francis Loch Ryan, 1931-2014

Note: I planned on submitting this to papers in Vancouver and Queensland, but the quoted costs made me laugh out loud (e.g. $1700 for the Brisbane Courier Mail). Posting it here will probably make it more accessible to people who actually knew him, anyway; and it will not expire.

Brian Francis Loch Ryan, age 83, of Vancouver, BC, September 19, 2014, at St. Paul’s hospital, from general infection and complications of Parkinson’s disease. Rugby player, teacher, poet and jester; husband, father and friend to many. Finally at rest after an interior psychological revolution and what he called “the best years of his life.” He loved life, animals and the great outdoors. He will be missed.

Born in Blackall, Queensland, Australia, March 27, 1931, to Dorothy Madge (née Loch) and Francis John Ryan. Grew up in Goovigen. Educated and abused by Christian Brothers, St. Brendan’s, at Yeppoon.  “Best and Fairest Player,” 1954, Past Christian Brothers Football Club. Teacher’s College in Australia, completed degree at UBC. Moved to Canada in 1957 and taught high school physical education, science, social studies, and library in Kamloops through to 1987. Retired to Halfmoon Bay in 1994. Pilot and home-built airplane enthusiast and member of the Experimental Aircraft Association. Poetry enthusiast and writer; onetime winner of the Globe Challenge limerick contest. Loved skiing.

Married Diane Joyce Frederickson, July 21, 1962. Survived by children Chris and Jennifer, and granddaughter Karina; and three of four sisters in Australia, Jacqueline, Dorothy, and Veronica; and in-laws John and Marg Frederickson and their children. Predeceased by wife Diane in 2007; his sister Pat in 2013; and his beloved dogs Scout, killed by a snake November 23, 1943; and Chester, 1994.

Donations to Parkinson Society BC appreciated.

Robin Williams

He’s been remembered in recent days for the obvious stuff: Mork; Good Will Hunting; Doubtfire; and so on. All great. But for me, and I think my daughter Karina, it’s his reading of “The Fool and the Flying Ship” that is most memorable. All of  his manic inventiveness is here. The voices, the enthusiasm, and what I assume is a good dose of improv are hilarious. He was one of a kind.

Meyer 2013 Riesling

I visited Meyer August 9, 2014 and picked up two bottles of this Riesling along with a couple of their great Pinot Noir releases. It’s well worth visiting their tasting room.

This Riesling is their first, and produced in small quantity; I believe it is only available at Meyer. It’s clear, light gold in the glass, with medium intensity aromas of citrus and minerals, along with subtle ripe apricot. Off-dry, strong but well-balanced acidity, and a medium body. Stone fruits dominate; there is a lemony acidity which develops nicely in the finish; this wine has good length. Overall very good; I’m looking forward to future vintages. 11.5% alcohol. About $20 at Meyer.

See also the winemaker’s release notes and tasting sheet (PDF).