Saturday, August 31, 2013
Next morning, I set off on the third and final day of cycling the Lulu Loop. I started by visiting Village Bikes, who had provided my trusty 18-gear steed. Ray Mystiuk said, “This shop has been a local fixture for four generations. My grandfather started Steveston’s first barber shop here in 1940. Now my son runs the bike shop.”
Ray, who operates Steveston Water Taxi, and I pedalled to the wharf, where we boarded his boat. We puttered along the river, passing Fisherman’s Wharf, an immense tangle of spars and masts. Ray described the vibrant estuary nature including seals, sea lions, blue herons and sea birds. “I do water tours, but at-sea memorial services have become my main business.”
Soon after I was cycling along the riverbank through the Britannia Heritage Shipyard, a National Historic Site, where Steveston’s history is laid out like a delicious buffet. I meandered amongst the restored buildings where boat yards and living quarters once thrived.
I reached London Farm with my stomach growling. Jenny, a delightful lady, showed me the 1880 heritage building and kindly offered me Lady London tea (blended on the farm) with a cranberry scone and a lemon square. I was in heaven, sitting in the cool veranda, enjoying the tea and listening to Jenny describe the farm’s history.
The sun beat down. My wheels rolled along the path. Fishing boats chugged past in the river. Then I came upon Finn Slough, probably the strangest place in Richmond. More than a century ago, Finnish fishermen built houses on stilts in this swampy river branch. Today, about two dozen people live here as squatters in derelict homes, paying no tax and enjoying a hippy-style existence.
Cycling along, I heard the sound of a bongo drum. Soon I was chatting with Raph, a member of the Latin American band, Rumbacalzada. His playing and friendliness inspired me as I pushed on.
A little later I met Morgan who was juggling with three lemons. He was far from joining Cirque de Soleil, but kept trying over and over again.
The path ended and I turned north on No. 5 Road and then east on Steveston Highway. Crossing the overpass at Highway 99 caused some anxious moments, but soon I was at the Holiday Inn Express at Riverport, my refuge for the night. After a luxurious shower I went to explore this area, known as the Entertainment District, which includes a mammoth SilverCity cinema complex, the Six Rinks (yes, with six sheets of ice), a huge Watermania pool, The Zone bowling lanes and a Go Bananas play centre.
Best of all, I found the Big River Brew Pub, where I celebrated the end of the Great Lulu Loop. The bicycle, I decided, is the perfect way to travel. Sipping a Sawmill Alley Brown Ale, I re-lived my adventure, overwhelmed by the amazing range of sites and people I had encountered. I had experienced big city bustle and bucolic rural roads. I had peeked back in history. I had witnessed Richmond’s vast ethnic diversity. The Richmond Oval was grandiose. Life at Finn Slough was simple. I had eaten Asian cuisine, enjoyed tea, feasted on seafood and munched on blackberries.
My butt was sore, but I was one happy guy.
Need to Know
Village Bikes - www.village-bikes.ca
Steveston Water Taxi - www.StevestonWaterTaxi.com
Britannia Heritage Shipyard - www.britannia-hss.ca
London Farm - londonheritagefarm.ca
Holiday Inn at Riverport - www.ihg.com/holidayinnexpress/hotels/us/en/richmond/yvrtr/hoteldetail
Big River Brew Pub - www.zbowl.com/Richmond_BR/BrewStory.html
More Info - www.tourismrichmond.com
Friday, August 30, 2013
I was nearing the end of day two of my grand loop of Lulu Island, aka Richmond. After visiting with Harold Steves, I continued along the dyke path. An information sign described a fort that stood here during World War 2, although no sign of it remained. Surprise! The sign showed an old photo of soldiers saluting Harold Steves, at age seven, dressed up as an officer.
With sweat trickling down my back I reached Garry Point, a peninsula jutting out from the southwest corner of Lulu Island. The park catches sea breezes and is popular with kite enthusiasts. I spoke with a chap flying a model airplane. “She’s difficult to control in these winds,” he said, but he flew the plane beautifully.
I cycled slowly into Steveston alongside beaches dotted with umbrellas and children playing in the water. Every now and again, a dark, rusting fishing boat cruised past in the river.
Steveston is home to the largest commercial fishing fleet in Canada. Fittingly, my first stop was the Gulf of Georgia Cannery, a rambling old building on pilings over the Fraser River. This National Historic Site gave a vivid insight into the times when the Fraser was the richest salmon river in the world and Steveston boasted 17 canneries.
I cycled a few blocks to the Steveston Garden Suite, a luxurious one-bedroom suite. Ravenous, I wolfed down the cheesecake the proprietors had kindly left.
I sought dinner along the boardwalk at Fisherman’s Wharf, which was crowded with smiling tourists. The smell of fish and saltwater hung in the air and fishermen hawked salmon, halibut and prawns direct from their boats. The restaurant tables overflowed with clinking glasses and plates piled with seafood. Selecting a restaurant was a daunting task but I finally climbed the stairs to the Charthouse and nursed a beer as I gazed upon a forest of masts. The lowering sun poured in the windows, and the wild salmon was delicious.
With a full tummy I pedalled onto a pier to watch masts silhouetted against an orange sky. Then I went to Garry Point and watched a glorious sunset, with the horizon turning fiery reds and oranges. Thinking my great Lulu Loop couldn’t possibly get better, I turned around to find a full moon beaming down on me. I slept well with pleasant dreams.
Need to Know
Gulf of Georgia Cannery - gulfofgeorgiacannery.com
Steveston Garden Suite - www.tourismrichmond.com/listings/Steveston-Garden-Suite/537/
Thursday, August 29, 2013
I was into day two of my grand loop of Lulu Island, aka Richmond. I left the Golden Village and joined the riverside path. What a transformation! This section of the path leading to the Richmond Oval, blessed by federal funding for the 2010 Olympics, is magnificent with large sculptures and playgrounds lining the paved path.
Arriving at the Oval, I was awe-struck for the building is an architectural masterpiece, and of gargantuan proportions. The Oval contains two hockey rinks. A training session for goaltenders had just finished and I was surrounded by young men, who, encased in their goalie pads and masks, looked like giant robots. The Oval also has six basketball courts, dozens of ping pong tables, six badminton courts, a track, volleyball courts, towering climbing walls, an endless row of exercise equipment and more. One of the largest and most magnificent sports facilities in the country, the Oval is a wonderful legacy from the Olympics.
I cycled on. At a viewpoint, I gazed across the river at a small seaplane terminal, with noisy floatplanes landing and taking off on the river. Behind it, enormous jetliners from the Vancouver International Airport were constantly landing or soaring high into the sky.
I pedalled on, enjoying the fresh air and hot sun. As the river widened into a broad delta I made a sweeping turn to the south. Here the path is on the dyke that protects low-lying Richmond from high tides and storm water. I passed picnic tables, wooden benches and other smiling cyclists and then turned into Terra Nova Rural Park. The community gardens have 120 individual plots, each uniquely different, but all overflowing with an abundance of roses, tall sunflowers, and vegetables.
I met Ian Lai, the driving force behind the Richmond Schoolyard Society (KidsintheGarden.org). As he tended to several beehives, he said, “We teach children to appreciate food and how it is grown. I also teach them to slow down and to be mindful of all around them.” I nodded, feeling that more of us should heed his philosophy.
Back in the saddle I headed south on the well-maintained West Dyke Trail under a relentless hot sun. I waved to passing cyclists and sipped frequently from my water bottle. The path ran beside an attractive parkland of driftwood logs and greenery dotted by purple loose strife.
I made a short detour to visit Harold Steves, a long-time Richmond councillor and a font of historic knowledge. He lives on the farm started by his great grandfather, who arrived in Richmond in 1877, and after whom Steveston is named. While showing me his heirloom seeds, he explained that Lulu Island was named after a dance-hall girl. “This was one of the first farms in BC,” he said. “The houses were on stilts because the dyke wasn’t built until 1908.”
Need to Know
Richmond Oval - www.richmondoval.ca
Terra Nova Park - www.richmond.ca/parks/parks/SigParks/parkinfo/park.aspx?ID=80
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
I was touring the perimeter of Lulu Island, aka the City of Richmond, in a counter-clockwise direction and, late in the afternoon of a sun-kissed day, had reached the easternmost point. With a pleasant feeling of fatigue I turned westward along the northern edge of the island. Residences and light industry changed briefly to major roads and big box-stores and then back to residences. I detoured to seek out Paulo`s Pizzeria, the easternmost restaurant in Richmond. Starved, I wolfed down a House Special pizza. Delicious!
Refreshed, I headed toward the sinking sun in a rural landscape along River Road, which was narrow, gently winding and seemed endlessly long to my tired body. A log boom about 600 metres long snaked upriver towed by three tugs. More logs were anchored all along the shoreline.
Much of my enjoyment, I realized, was because I had never cycled these paths and roads before. I felt like an explorer, with a sense of exhilaration, anticipation.
Twice, bike racers, dressed in colourful, sleek garb, flew past making me look like a doddering slowpoke. But I didn’t care; I was enjoying myself immensely. Finally, I entered an urban area, passed under the Knight Street Bridge, cycled along some streets and dismounted at the Accent Inn, which features a Bike Love program, complete with washing and tune-up area.
After a shower and brief rest, I place my weary butt back in the saddle and pedalled to the International Summer Night Market. What a vibrant place! Over 60 vendors offered a wide variety of mostly Asian food including hurricane fries, squid jerky and fish balls. I munched a waffle-on-a-stick while mingling with the happy throngs. A continuous stage show featured local young people hip-hop dancing and singing. Vendors sold crafts, mobile phone covers, jewellery and assorted odds and ends, all at cut-rate prices. As dusk crept over the market, I headed to a well-earned sleep.
Next morning, I gently rubbed my sore behind, mounted up and headed north to rejoin the river-side path. I rolled along watching sleek Canada Line trains cross a bridge, log booms in the river and beautiful purple loosestrife and other wildflowers along the shore. Ah, the lazy dog-days of summer. I briefly joined two young ladies picking the first blackberries of the season. Yumm!
The path ended and I followed streets through an industrial area to the River Rock Casino. I stepped into the main lobby, which towered elegantly over me. Feeling out of place in my scruffy biking gear, I mumbled an apology to a statue of a Chinese man and departed.
I detoured inland a few blocks to explore the Golden Village, an area that feels like the Orient for Richmond has an enormous Chinese population. I entered the Yao Feng shopping centre and the Osaka Supermarket where I was almost the only non-Chinese shopper. The store had a Dim Sum bar and the shelves were stocked with unusual Asian foods. Next I cycled along Alexandra Road with more than 200, mostly Asian, restaurants in a few blocks. Alas, it was too early for lunch.
Need to Know
International Night Market - www.summernightmarket.com
Accent Inn - www.accentinns.com/vancouver-airport
River Rock Casino & Hotel - www.riverrock.com
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Afflicted by islomania (an unswerving love of islands), I was delighted to learn the city of Richmond lies primarily on Lulu Island, which is shaped like a whale, swimming west in the delta of the Fraser River. I immediately made plans to bicycle around Lulu’s perimeter, rolling along at my own pace, the wind and sun in my face.
Richmond has much to offer, so I planned a three-day, 85-km counter-clockwise tour of the island. My goal — other than sheer enjoyment — was to see if the circumnavigation of Lulu would make a good stand-alone tour, through which visitors could experience Richmond. The answer is a resounding ‘yes.’ The tour was so action-packed and rewarding that I need five posts to give it proper credit.
I set out on a sun-kissed day from the junction of Steveston Highway and No. 6 Road, on the southern underbelly of the whale. I headed north as the shoreline to the east was blocked. (Hopefully, this will be fixed in the future.) No. 6 Road is delightfully rural. Numerous blueberry stands and U-pick farms tempted me. The air was fresh, with an occasional earthy waft of manure.
I turned east on Westminster Highway, following a paved bike lane, passing cornfields and greenhouses. Soon I rolled into Lulu Winery, where Kathryn led me on a tour and explained that Lulu is BC’s fifth largest winery. Sipping a limited-production Meritage, I concluded Lulu makes darn good wine! After an icewine, their signature wine, I wobbled off.
Within minutes I arrived at an ornate, exotic building, a Sikh temple, the Nanaksar Gurdwara Gurusikh Temple, which seemed to have been transplanted straight from India. Many men wore turbans and many women wore saris. I entered the main worship area, first covering my head with a scarf and removing my shoes. Everyone sat on the floor, men to the right, women to the left. Three men beat drums and chanted. A large man stood behind the altar, frequently waving a large whisk, as though chasing away flies or perhaps demons?
Soon I was outside again, blinking in the brightness. Cycling onward, I promised myself to return and visit the rest of the 20 temples, mosques and churches on the nearby “Highway to Heaven,” the most concentrated and diverse religious area in Canada.
Turning south at No. 9 Road and onto the path along the Fraser River, the mood changed from rural to nautical. I rolled past boat works, marinas and houseboats as well as some light industry, commerce and residences. The varied character of Richmond was revealing itself.
Rolling along, I passed under the Alex Fraser Bridge, past a residential development and reached the very easternmost tip of Lulu Island. A gazebo-style sitting area offered a resting spot with views onto tugboats, pleasure boats and high-rise condos across the water.
Need to Know
Lulu Winery - www.luluwinery.com
Sikh Temple - www.worldgurudwara.com/V4/402078.asp
More Info - www.tourismrichmond.com
Sunday, August 18, 2013
Pointing to bullet holes in the wall of the rectory, the guide said, “These were made by a Gatling gun. The government forces also used cannons and cavalry.” I gulped as I envisioned the hopeless position of the Métis. I was at, Saskatchewan, a key battlefield in the Rebellion of 1885, when government troops quashed an uprising by Métis and Natives. The only armed conflict in Canada since confederacy, most of the battles raged in Saskatchewan. The roots of the conflict, however, lay in Manitoba, and some clashes spilled into Alberta.
To commemorate the rebellion and its impact on a young nation, an ambitious project, the Trails of 1885, is being launched, which, once complete will be of national significance. The Trails will span three provinces and consist of more than 20 sites that played significant roles in the rebellion. Visitors will be able to drive all or parts of the Trail, which approximately follows the Carlton Trail, along which Red River wagons rumbled in the 1800s between Fort Garry (Winnipeg) and Fort Edmonton.
With many sites lying along the South Saskatchewan River, north of Saskatoon, a delightful way to gain insight into this rebellion is by a one-day canoe tour, the River Trails of 1885. We paddled 23 kilometres, visiting Fish Creek battlefield, Middleton’s camp, Petite Ville, Gabriel’s Crossing and the village (now abandoned) and battlefield of Batoche. Pelicans, wildflowers and Saskatoon berries now thrive where, in 1885, gunsmoke and bitterness prevailed. At the end, I was bushed, but much more knowledgeable about Saskatchewan’s early history.
Next day, I explored the Trails further, this time by car. I started at the Duck Lake Museum, which shows how the pioneers lived in those turbulent times. Accompanied by Céline, the museum curator with Métis roots, I drove to the Duck Lake battlefield, where a few lonely cairns marked the place where men fought and died.
A long plume of dust trailed behind us, as we headed west, passing yellow fields of canola dotted with dark sloughs. Fort Carlton was wonderful. A Hudson Bay trading post, the re-constructed fortification houses buffalo skins and many furs that were soft and silky to the touch. I could imagine Natives trading pelts for modern goods with canny Scotsmen.
The final stop was the Lady of Lourdes at St. Laurent. There has been an annual pilgrimage to the shrine for 134 continuous years. The Métis flag flapped on a rise of land, marking a cemetery where four Métis soldiers were buried.
That evening, sipping a beer at the Bessborough, I mused about having travelled pieces of the Trails of 1885 and what I had learned. I quietly planned to drive it from end to end.
Trails of 1885: www.trailsof1885.com
River Trails of 1885: www.canoeski.com
General Information: www.sasktourism.com & www.tourismsaskatoon.com
Friday, August 16, 2013
Ah, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The words roll around on the tongue. And the city is just as intriguing as it sounds. I stayed at the Bessborough, aka the Castle, and loved the grand architecture of a bygone era, complete with turrets, gargoyles and grotesques.
Even better was the glorious sunshine as I traveled a short five kilometers north to the Wanuskewin Heritage Park, where I climbed into a trench marked by a grid of string and red tape. No ordinary hole in the ground, this is part of Canada’s longest continuously operating archaeological dig. Ernie Walker, an internationally acclaimed archaeologist, waved a stained cowboy hat and said, “This is a research project gone wild. It’s a treasure trove of Native culture and history.” Over three decades the site has unearthed a wealth of Native history dating back 6,000 years — twice the age of King Tut’s tomb — including tipi rings, camp sites, two buffalo jumps, a medicine wheel and a buffalo rubbing stone. The archaeological work has revealed so much about Northern Plains people that it led to the creation of the park, complete with visitors center and interpretive trails. The Park was designated a national heritage site in 1986, and is currently undergoing major expansion“Can you imagine,” Walker enthused, “we’ll have live buffalo in an urban site.
Later, I watched Julian Kakum, a Plains Cree dressed in full regalia, perform several traditional dances. The bells on his regalia clinked, drums beat rhythmically and guttural singing sounded. He wore a full feathered head-dress, a bright yellow shield with red bear-paw prints and carried a stick topped with eagles talons. Later, I spoke with Kakum and learened that the park, which is considered sacred ground, has become an important focal point for regional Natives. Pow wows, horse ceremonies, sweat ceremonies, a Cree wedding and art festivals are held here. Furthermore, the Park has become a showcase for teaching non-aboriginals about Native culture offering dance performances, craft classes, tipi sleepovers, Native cuisine, classes on Indian culture and much more.
I was learning that Wanuskewin Heritage Park is one of the most important archaeological and Native centers in North America, and an under-appreciated gem of Saskatchewan.
Later I strolled along an interpretive trail and came upon the buffalo rubbing rock. I couldn’t resist. “Ah, that feels sooo good.”
Delta Bessborough Hotel: www.deltahotels.com/Hotels/Delta-Bessborough
Wanuskewin Heritage Park: www.wanuskewin.com
Tourism Information: www.tourismsaskatoon.com