I was riding my bike out of Stanley Park as the sun barely illuminated English Bay. Suddenly I was cruising through a movie set… big men bustling around setting up a scene, road closures, so many gigantic eighteen wheelers, and a fancy food truck serving breakfast to the pretty people. Vancouver is relevant in the movie industry. Movies, another form of digital consumption. Human beings smattered with heavy make-up pretending to be someone they are not for the entertainment of others. Thirty meters away a homeless man lay curled up underneath a bench. The temperature was 36 degrees Fahrenheit. I felt so much anger. Tomorrow I will do better then anger and put some of my lunch down next to him.
I read the other day, “if you smile when no one else is around, you really mean it.” I find myself smiling on my bike in the dark cold mornings as rain whips me in the face. For no particular reason, a shit eating grin plastered across my face. I do it subconsciously and once I realize, I start to laugh. My existence has started to make me laugh. When I think of the outlandish choices I’ve made, I laugh. When I think about existing with other animals like sea turtles, sloths, and bats, I laugh. As I get splashed in the face by speeding car puddles, I laugh. I guess I really mean it.
The trees on campus are changing colors and it is cold all the time now. My mood seems to fluctuate with how dark it is, but the rain doesn’t really bother me. People move with purpose down the main mall in between classes. So many people. Most of them stare at their phone. I am acutely aware that I used to walk down main mall staring at my phone. It was prime instagram time. Now I look at the trees, and other people staring at their phones. The trees are nice.
I was walking across the overly crowded Save on Foods parking lot. I didn’t want to be there. Canadian thanksgiving made it a zoo and I was only adding another vehicle to the parking lot, another body to the saturated aisles. I started to feel sorry for myself. My mood matched the dark sky. The fall chill nipped at my face. I jammed my hands into my pockets and glanced up. A man helped a mentally and physically disabled girl get out of her wheel chair and into a van. She will never know what it is like to food shop in a busy store. She will never walk across a parking lot. I adjust my attitude.
I remember going to REI one evening in early July before leaving for the San Juans. I never dared drive I-25 before 7 p.m. The hot dry summer sun was sinking into the smog filled hazy blanket that covered Denver. I blared music and sang along with my windows down. I cannot remember what song was playing. I said to myself, “these are the things I am going to miss.” And they are. It seems so ass backwards. I should miss the mountains, but there are mountains here. I should miss the beauty, but there is beauty here. Instead, I miss trying to carry 72 bags up 6 flights of stairs to my apartment and being so out of breath at the top every. single. time. I miss trying to do pull ups at Earth Treks before my 8 a.m. at Mines. I miss that one ray of light that got through the crooked curtain in my room and woke me up every morning. I miss the final turn onto W. Dakota Ave after I’d been road tripping for a month. I miss all the Chipolte employees who knew exactly how to make my burrito bowl. It is the mundane, the familiar, the comfort of my old life that leads me into a dream like state at any given moment in my current life. I lean into my desk at University of British Columbia, take a deep breath and close my eyes. I am driving down I-25 towards REI singing and dancing. It’s warm, it’s dry, it’s familiar, and it’s no longer my life.
Some days are awful and some days are good, honestly, I am on a wild emotional driven roller coaster ride and I want to get off. But I can’t because this is just how it is right now. There are a few things I expected out of this move. First mistake, do not expect. Expectations are dangerous and I am really good at 1) recognizing that and 2) saying yes to opportunities without overthinking the outcome. But sometimes expectations creep in the back door and take up space at your dinner table. You’re like, hey, wait, I didn’t invite you, I don’t have enough food, but here you are. Please leave now. Without even realizing, I expected this move to be easy. I am adaptable, independent, and love a good adventure – new places are the best. I am not a tree, I do not have roots, I am freedom Kim damn it. Well apparently new places are the best, but only when you have a little apartment in the corner of Lakewood Colorado to go home to. I lived in Colorado for fifteen years and somehow that sneaky little bastard became my home and that makes the permanence of Canada feel really really really scary. Yes, I know nothing is forever (and I can always go back to Colorado) but 2-3 years feels like forever when you are a stranger in a strange land. For one month I fought these feelings. For two weeks I had several monumental moments where I froze, screaming in my head, WHAT THE F*#K HAVE I DONE!? Now I resign, I am simply going to ride the ups and downs, smile my way through, cry when I need to, kick a wall if I have to, and grow from all the experiences coming my way. I am grateful for not only procuring this opportunity but having the courage to say yes to it.
There is however one thing that feels like home, and that is the friendship I have developed with Kim (other Kim, I am not my only friend). Not only is she down for all outdoor activity any time I ask, but she has a strength in character that I desperately search for in other humans. I have a very hard time with people, I do not like everyone and I am done apologizing for that. I am not a mean person and I generally care about the well being of others however, I only let a few in. When building a friendship I ask myself, what would this person do if the shit hit the fan in the mountains? Well Kim and I have already had a few messy moments and she just rubbed the shit all over her face and continued on. Not literally, her dog does that but we are a good team and I can put my trust in her. In addition, she is a runner but not runner obsessed, she loves all the sports and has big mountain dreams. She is also an incredible conversationalist and has some wildly hilarious stories. Her general stoke for life and inner strength is admirable. I love spending time with her and her little fox (kip the good/bad boy).
Last weekend I took a rock climbing anchor building class. Anyone who knows me knows I love to climb but I also hate to climb. It is the hardest most unnatural sport for me. I do not want to fall, not even three inches on top rope but I want to lead alpine trad. If none of these words make sense (mom), google trad rock climbing and then continue reading. For me climbing has been a long, brutally slow, inconsistent uphill battle. In the fall of 2017 I made an active decision to run less and climb more. And I did, oh boy did I. I followed so many men up multi-pitch sport and trad. I cragged for days at a time. I climbed through the entire winter and I learned as much as I possibly could. Some men were willing to teach, some just wanted a belayer but no matter what, I got to work on my climbing technique. That is how it can be for a new female climber. Climbing is an intimate sport where your life is literally in the hands of your partner. Absolutely no pun intended. If you are trying to learn, you end up with a man who is willing to take a chance on you, maybe he thinks you are cute and it will lead somewhere. It sure would be dreamy to travel all over with your lover and climb up rocks. However, I feel icky when I cannot do something on my own and lead climbing (google it mom) has seriously eluded me. I am scared, period. Until one day I woke up and said, if I can build anchors, I can lead. I signed up for a class, I learned to build anchors, I called Kim, and I said, “hey wanna go to a crag next weekend if we get some sun, just you and me?” Of course she said yes. I do not know this area at all, but Squamish is a climbing mecca so I deep dived the interwebs and found Electric Avenue’s west face, a perfect beginner crag.
On this beautiful sunny day in early October Kim and I tore down 99 towards Whistler. We spent the first part of the day hiking up to a moraine below Brandywine Mountain. We chatted, laughed, threw Kip (her dog) sticks, post holed up some ankle biting snow covered talus,slipped down a wet heather slope, and encountered a massive grizzly bear with her cub. What a magical sight to behold. We had to cross a river and give her a wide berth of space to get out. It was the first time I got to see these beautiful glaciated Canadian alpine peaks with sun shining on them and a bonus grizzly with a cub in tow!
It was time to rock climb, it was time to lead climb, just Kim and I. Kim and I are at the same skill level. Kim and I have both relied on men (mostly) to lead us, guide us, teach us, but in the end do all the rock things for us. Kim and I were both ready to be independent. I think I was so ready to be independent that I did not over think any of it. So in we marched up the steep access road, two ladies with nothing to prove but everything to gain. We picked our first route, I led it, I built an anchor, Kim top roped it, and then cleaned. Next Kim led, built an anchor, I top roped, and cleaned. We repeated variations of this process on different routes, high-fiving, fist pounding, and fully supporting one another. It was so chill and we were there, doing it, doing the one thing I honestly never thought I could do. As anything in life, it is impossible until you decide it isn’t. It really is that simple. I decided I wanted to shift into a place where I am a fully independent rock climber who can pick her own crags and climb her own routes and today I did that for the first time ever with my #1 adventure buddy who also happens to be female. It was fun, it was empowering, and it was addictive. I cannot wait to go back and challenge myself on some more difficult routes. Today was everything.
I have always run my best when I am emotionally distraught. When I began trail running I was getting over Toby and pills and cigarettes. I was an absolute mess and it translated to strength on the trails. Some people eat their feelings, I run mine. I connected the dots after my life stabilized. For one millisecond I got caught up in pace and race and pace and race. That period of my life ruined running for me. Running was never something I wanted to be the best at. Although I totally understand the allure, I always thought paying to run a controlled course was ridiculous. When I ran in groups it was all race and pace talk and I was never really having fun. It took me a year to understand that running is how I beat my feelings out. It is the space in which I solve problems and confront my demons. When I am upset, I run really fast. I have midterms and my hypothesis entry next week so it took me forever to get out the door today but by 5 p.m. I was thrashing around my backyard loop in the Lynn Valley headwaters park. I felt weightless, as if I was floating up the climbs. I was running 7 minute miles on the flats and I couldn’t even hear my breath. I did not hesitate as I slip n’ slid through the soaking wet rain forest. My emotions were driving my legs, my feelings were sending my toes shooting off wet rocks, effortlessly bouncing between rock and root, root and rock. I let my arms fly free as music pounded through my heart. I was so present in the run I had no time to think about anything else except release. The release of disappointment because I am not as emotionally bullet proof as I thought. After weeks of berating myself this release led to a feeling of pride, a gratefulness for exactly where I am instead of anger about where I think I should be. I am rediscovering my love for running at its root. Maybe the root I almost tripped on.
It is Canadian thanksgiving so I have the day off. I don’t care about thanksgiving in any country but the states give more days off. It is raining again but I figure I should take advantage of the day. I climb through the colorful forest up to the north and south summits of Black Mountain. From there I head through a maze of beautiful lakes on flooded “trails” to the poorly signed turn off for Donut Rock. The scramble to the top is sketchy. Any scramble on the north shore mountains in the rain is painfully unsafe. But I do it using what the PNWer’s call a “veg belay.” Turns out I am not on the actual summit. I slide down and bushwhack to the real summit which is a bump in a heavily wooded area. Either way, there are no views. I spend the entire day in a thick cloud/pea soup fog. I would say that coastal British Columbia allows you views one out of twelve mountain summits. You have to really love being outside. I continue on to the Eagle Bluffs, the scene of a double Kim dark rainy scary-ass descent at the end of our self-supported Baden Powell traverse. I enjoy some homemade granola and then “run” out. It is hard to get into a good running groove on such difficult terrain. I have ran trails all over the US but only on the east coast (Maine/New Hampshire/Vermont) have I experienced such fuckery. But British Columbia fuckery is even wetter and steeper. I digress. I will keep trying to run this crap until I can.
I am not one of those people who enjoys silence. I mean real silence. When I run there are forest noises. When I bike there are traffic noises. When I sleep, I do so with a fan. In my truck, music. While I cook, podcasts. You get the point. No better way for me to confront silence then to sit with my two office mates in a rectangular room with no windows where you can hear the dust settle. I should be able to sit comfortably with my thoughts but silence rattles me. Lun likes to talk, Liyang does not, I am somewhere in the middle. Lun comes in and out like a tornado. Liyang tip toes around, sometimes I forget he is there. I am somewhere in the middle. Ironically enough, I also sit in the middle. Hours melt away in that little rectangular room. It is so quiet. The occasional clicking of a keyboard or sigh of distress, relief or just a breath, a subtle reminder that you are in fact alive. I teach myself science all day, so does Lun, so does LiYang. I could be getting paid to do worse.
The Bike Chronicles
I see 1,745 buses on my bike route and they all have billboards or should I call them busboards advertising something. Recently I have been using my deep man voice to turn them into angry songs. For example, “FATBURGER THE IMPOSSIBLE BURGER. I WANT A BURGER AND SOME FRIES. FAT BURGER THE NUMBER ONE BURGER IN PAKISTAN. I WANT A BURGER AND SOME FRIES. THOUSAND ISLAND BURGER. QUEEN LATIFAS BURGER. THE LAST GREAT HAMBURGER STAND.” It’s a pretty fun game to play when I cannot hear my music over the loud ass rush hour traffic. Sometimes the buses get so close to me I feel shit squirts. These are really big buses. Have you ever had a mega bus plastered in a fat burger the size of a high rise building on the tail of your bike wheel? I start chanting, “this is not my favorite, this is not my favorite, this is not my favorite” as if anyone can hear me. No one can hear me. And it’s actually favoUrite here. Favourite. Colour. Vapour. You get the point.
Whew, five days and I have not jotted down any thoughts. The sign of a busy life. I am going to write a little trip report on my past weekend because I managed to rock climb and mountain climb (Mount MacFarlane and Mount Pierce). I am really proud of this past week as I was uber-productive. I managed two 1,000 meter swims, a few indoor rock and boulder sessions at school and one outdoor rock climbing day in Squamish, 230 km with 3200 meters of gain (143 miles with 10,498 feet) on my bike, and 56km with 3400 meters of gain (35 miles with 11,154 feet) on foot – running/hiking. Do my legs feel it? Absolutely. But I still woke up this morning and biked to and from school. My goal for this week is to bike to school every day. I have been doing 4 days a week for the last 2 weeks. On the school front, I have gotten through my midterms, I have a testable hypothesis, and my committee has been chosen. I need to start writing an insane literature review on wood adhesives and I have my third presentation in nanomaterials coming up. I am getting much more comfortable with public speaking. Dare I say, I enjoy it. Do I have a lot more time now that my phone is no longer a distraction? Yes, so much yes.
The best thing about Cinnamon Toast Crunch is that it does not taste like cinnamon or toast.
The Bike Chronicles
I have done it. I have surmounted the insurmountable. I have climbed the metaphoric mountain, which is more like a concrete jungle full of metal machines that want to run me over. I have bike commuted 5 out of 5 days (300 km or 187 miles with 4000 meters or 13,123 feet of gain). At some point I am going to creatively describe what bike commuting through Van City is really like but for now I am just happy to report that my vag-ass is deeply callused and permanently sore. I imagine this is what a porn star feels like most of the time. You see, a person can only do so much thinking, or listen to so much music before they need to laugh. And I do not mean chuckle, I’m talking about that deep belly laugh. People drive scary, so comic relief is necessary. I have adapted a lot of weird behaviors on my bike commute. This one only works on flats or slight ups. I lock eyes with the opposing lane of traffic, make the weirdest face ever, and peddle aggressively hard swaying my body back and forth like a possessed idiot. I can only do it for about 38 seconds before I start laughing. The kind of laughing that quickly escalates into cracking up. The kind of laughing you remember like 15 minutes later and you start laughing again. Allow me to demonstrate……
What a weekend! The PNW has had two weeks of glorious sunshine (about to come to a car crash of an end) and I have enjoyed every single available minute outside. This weekend was epic. On Saturday I climbed a multi-pitch rock route outside of Squamish. 10 pitches, 10 freaking GLORIOUS pitches up to the summit of Mount Chek. If you know me, you know it has been a long time dream to climb a multi-pitch to the actual summit of a mountain. All dreams attained. More important then the accomplishment was the noticeable calmness that encapsulated me. One year ago, I decided I wanted to dedicate more time to climbing and less to running. Last fall I did just that. Rock climbing is the absolute hardest sport for me because I am scared. It is really that simple. I am scared to have my back hundreds to thousands of feet off the ground with nothing behind but air. That fear effects how I climb. Physically, I am not a bad climber but I have a bad head space, and that is extremely self limiting. I have worked so hard on that head space. I am leading outdoor sport and I am calm on ten pitch climbs. Progress my friends!
On Sunday Sara and I reunited in a different Walmart parking lot and climbed Tricouni Peak. This time Grant, Sara’s boyfriend came and man did it exponentially increase the fun level. Grant is from New Zealand and offered to drive to the trail head (thank god). The road to the trail head was death defying. I am not 100% sure Chessi girl would have been okay. But Grant has a tank (tricked out Toyota Tundra), so we made it. Tricouni Peak is incredible and a much more difficult scramble than Mount MacFarlane or Mount Pierce. A little “level-up” action. We met a dad with two twin 11 year old boys who put my scrambling and powerful vertical gainz skills to shame. It was a perfect day. In due time, I will write a separate report on this one.
This is the longest, most drawn out fall I have ever experienced, and I love it. The darkness has returned. The rain is back with a vengeance, punishment for two weeks of perfect weather. However, fall persists. There are a lot of big trees here. The maple leaves are the size of my body. Fall is beautiful. The city is on fire, flamed in yellows, oranges and reds. I never really got to experience fall proper in Colorado because school was always rocking me and I was too busy to go aspen peeping. Colorado has a very one dimensional and rather short fall season. Here in Vancouver, I have been soaking in the diversity and the colors as I peddle my life away (bike commuting is going really well).
I have a favorite road. It is canopied in every color from yellow to deep purple. It is beautiful in the sun and in the gloom. The leaves are falling. Recently, one side was raked while the other side remained a confetti cake. Why? Why rake the leaves into a pile and take them away? Why blow them around? Why take a fun-sprinkled road and turn it bland? Humans and their strange interactions with nature. Leave the leaves man.
I came out of nanomaterials class at 8:10 p.m. and walked on to the set of the CW television series, “The Flash.” Everyone on a television set wears black and is way too cool for me. The guy was like, “ya actually you are in our shot.” Oh well pardon me for exiting a class I pay to take at the university I attend. I should have said, “ya, well you are in my way and I’m trying to go to Chipolte.” Instead I just awkwardly put my hands up and said, “ya nanomaterials.” Apparently movie sets are a part of my life now.
Another incredible weekend. Put the bed back in Chessi my 4runner, packed for an over-nighter and took the ferry over to the Sunshine Coast early Saturday morning. Kim and I climbed Mount Steele which is absolutely stunning. This place is ridiculously diverse and every single hike/climb/run is just so different. I fully intend to see and do as much as humanely possible while I am here. I have really crested a difficult ridge line in my brain. All of my sadness over Colorado has been replaced with gratefulness for BC. There are only seven temperate rainforest ecosystems around the world, and North America is home to one of them. The Pacific Northwest temperate rainforests, which range from northern California to British Colombia, exist in what is the world’s largest temperate rainforest ecoregion. How lucky am I to live in such a special place and have a functioning body to explore? The answer is really lucky, and that is exactly how I have been feeling.
On Saturday evening I dropped Kim off at the ferry back to the mainland and I did something out of character, I went on a date (staying on the Sunshine Coast). After what seems like an eternity (and actually is), I feel like I am ready to date again. However, I still came up with every excuse to cancel. Ultimately, if I want to date, just like anything else in life, I will have to put in some effort. So I went on the date and we had such a great time. And now dating seems more attainable and less scary.
Sunday I woke up to a heavy downpour. Fake news – the Sunshine Coast is actually just as rainy as Vancouver. I went for a short run along the coast and made the 8:40 ferry by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin. A commercial vehicle exiting the ferry ended up clipping the side of the ship and spilling diesel onto the ferry and into the ocean. They completely loaded our ferry but then kept delaying it. It took about one and half hours to leave the dock but they gave everyone free coffee. I used the time to nap in my truck-bed. They canceled the next ferry so I was happy I made it across.
It’s hard to believe it is November. Actually, no it’s not, seconds keep ticking and November’s keep coming. This is my 37th November and I am in a different country. What is hard to believe is how different this November is from last November, how utterly different my life is now. What is even harder to believe is how different I am now. I bike more then I run. I lead climb outside. I like the rain. I would even go as far as to say, I don’t mind being wet. I can now give presentations without turning bright red, holding my breath, and choking on my own spit. In accordance I have become the master of power point. The biggest change however is how much more present I am in my life sans social media.
October ended with a bang……literally, Canadian Halloween is 1,450 times more impressive then American Halloween. We are talking Fourth of July style fireworks on every street and entire neighborhoods turned into haunted houses. I enjoyed the epic weirdness with my Canadian man-friend. The house I live in was in the Lynn Valley epicenter.
I honestly expected to miss social media, but I don’t. I never had withdrawals and on the day to day, I feel like life is so much more full without it. My goal was one month (attained) but I am not ready to come back. It has been nice to jot some thoughts down, I do love writing but I am not sure this is sustainable. I will try. If it becomes a burden, I will stop. I am going to end here. Hope everyone is doing well.
Turnover – Dizzy On the Comedown
Bayside – It Don’t Exist
Japandroids – Love —> Building On Fire
Against Me! – Thrash Unreal
Freedom Fry – Shaky Ground
Drug Church – Weed Pin
Roy Irwin – Demon Cave
CHAPPO – Come Home
And always remember, I am watching you. Just kidding, I’m totally not. I have no idea what anyone except my close friends are doing but I love the way my forearm veins pop in this photo.