Mini-Adventure: Farewell to the Blue Bridge

One of my first memorable glimpses of downtown Victoria was of the Johnson Street blue bridge. All I can assume from that was that my father chose to drive into the city from the other side so as to let my sister and I see the magic of city unfold before us. This was in 1973, we were teens moving from the north coast to a city that eventually became home, and for me, an island haven in later years. The blue bridge was not actually painted blue until 1979 yet everyone harbours memories of it always being blue! I have no recollection of it ever being given a good, solid new paint job in all the years I have lived in Victoria. (I did not move permanently to the city until 1983) I do however have a few snapshots of family and personal experiences in which the bridge did play a minor role. Yesterday was the last time to walk over the bridge, first time ever on the car lanes. That was how I started and ended my time with the bridge – heading from the other side toward the city centre.

The view from Pandora Avenue. A shift over from Johnson Street. With construction still in progress I am not sure how traffic from the Vic West will now funnel to Johnson – the most sensible route into town.

The other side is generally known as Vic West. For many years it was an area of light industry, the train tracks and the quickest route to the Esquimalt Naval Base. It was the route taken when I brought my second daughter home after she was born. (I do sometimes wonder if that recollection is not actually a figment of my imagination as it seems so out of the way from the hospital she was born at – I will keep it though). I lived on the other side, the Esquimalt side, for a couple of years. Even my parents lived there for a short time after they had sold everything, including their Fairfield home (on the proper side of thebridge) to travel for a year. My sister was married in Esquimalt, at beautiful Saxe Point Park before embarking on a ride, in an open top car to, where else, cross the blue bridge. The groom spotted the bridge operator in his little hut, made the well recognized ‘Toot, Toot’ gesture with the resulting bridgeman response of a hearty Toot Toot!

The bridge operator’s hut. The last operator, retired in the 1990’s died three weeks before the opening of the new bridge. My sister thinks he was most likely the operator who tooted the horn as her wedding car drove into town.

Yes, it was with a bit sadness we crossed over the steel grid car lanes – scary – on foot, with some traces of memories of, early on, a less than pleasant walks before the pleasant waterfront Westsong Walkway was built, then extended to meet the iconic bridge. However, growing cities, and their neighbouring urban towns (there are nine municipalities that are townships under the postal umbrella of Victoria – perhaps addressing a letter to Langford or Oak Bay would arrive with the postal code) tend to outgrow their infrastructure. Bridges are no exception. Old Blue as some Victorians seemed to be calling it, was already elderly by the time the 2009 decision to replace her was made.

A quick look at her history, as early as 1911 the B.C. provincial government saw a need for a permanent connection to the busy industrial areas of Victoria and Vic West that would allow for land and water traffic. However, despite talks between the province, the City of Victoria, E&N Railway and the Electric Streetcar Company to share the cost an agreement, unsurprisingly, was not made. It was 1920, after a referendum, that the city took on the financial load and massive task to build the middle the much needed raised (lifting) bridge. 27% over budget at $918,000 the bridge opened in 1924. It was time, at 94 years, to let her retire with a grand introduction of her replacement standing erect at her side, and a fond farewell, rather than tearing her down with little fanfare. The public was invited to attend, to share a picnic on the steel grid (I was happy to just walk across), memories and dreams of the future as we streamed across the new, sleek bridge.

There were two sections to the bridge, one for cars to pass, another for the train. The track section with its counterweight was removed earlier.

The differences brought to mind how much fashion has changed over nearly 100 years. The blue bridge was all girders, heavy cement – dinosaur head appearance – counterweights, and in 1979, painted blue. She was out of her element aesthetically and functionally. Cosmetic surgery and a slap of paint would only give her maybe another 30 – 40 years. Therefore, a staggering 105 million expense (original budget was pegged at $40 million)for a seismically sound, three lane, two bike lanes to last at least 100 years, remains difficult for voters to swallow, but the deed is done and I, for one, appreciate the aesthetics of the bridge. I also live in one of the outer municipalities so my taxes will not be affected.

It was nostalgia that brought us, and hundreds of others, to walk to the span that crosses from the gentrified city side to the gentrified other side. The new bridge, that does not meet with Johnson Street – perhaps waiting for a new name – not only spans the two areas, it unites them. The landscape is changing, as with so many cities, will continue to change, we can only hope the changes are as easy to accept as the new view of this bridge provides.

Speech from the Mayor of Victoria from the other side of this antique fire truck. We then watched, smattering of clapping, as the bridge was lowered.

The Janion, built in 1891, abandoned for 35 years prior to 2013, refurbished and extended into micro units sits adjacent to the bridges. I nearly bought the third floor recessed space that connects the old & new until I read there was no guarantee I would actually have a decent view from the straight on windows. Made it easier to travel without a mortgage!

Of course, my mini-adventures are not complete without walking too far for too long and having lunch. We had originally planned to choose our lunch at one of the four food trucks, having decided carrying our meal was not going to happen. Unfortunately none of the trucks served anything my daughter could eat, they all appeared to have menus heavy on the burger/bun/chips choices. although we would all have enjoyed the one coffee truck – Discovery Coffee serves very good coffee – we decided to check out, as suggested by Mayor Lisa Helps during the opening ceremony, to partake of one of the local businesses that had been so patient during the four years of construction. I had hoped to visit Cafe Mexico, closed in 2015 after a major fire and reopened in 2017. 2 – 1 decision against my vote means I will go another time. We finally ended up at Willie’s Cafe & Bakery, then still just a coffee shop and bakery when I last visited, and when we still had the train arriving in Victoria. (Last train was in 2011)

I was unaware this eatery had expanded to become a popular breakfast/lunch spot, of course it was quite busy with bridge attendees. We did not have long to wait to be seated – right next to a roaring fire in what was once solely an outdoor summer patio. None of us sat next to fire. If it had been turned down we might have felt a bit of a chill despite the space being now fully enclosed. Service was spotty. Menus were handed out, our server hovered to answer questions and give suggestions, and took our coffee orders. Which arrived fairly quickly – unlike our water. My meal choice could not be made, at least I was informed before the order was put in, so I finally settled on the soup of the day – sweet potato with bacon and a slice of sourdough toast. My daughter chose a salmon omelette, no feta and no toast – thinking it would be only slice I said to get it as my order might not be enough for me. My sister had a waffle with maple cream icing. Everything sounded yummy.

Everything was not yummy. We waited over a half hour for our meals, and my soup was luke warm. It took far too long for a server to come around for me to complain, have the offending soup taken away to be warmed up, and not offer any real apology. The toast was good, I ate far too much of it. My sister declared the maple syrup was fake – yuck! However, my daughter enjoyed her omelette, her aunt and I left only on piece of her toast behind. The coffee was good. Always had been, as had the bakery. Did the owners bite off more than they can chew? Doubtful, breakfast is s big business in Victoria. Too bad the bakery seems to have nearly been set aside. It is unlikely I will ever return, no need to with so many other places and no early train to catch.

After all that toast I was happy we had made the decision to walk to town and back, although I had slowed down by the time we headed back after wearing my knee brace for so long. By the time we said our goodbyes we had walked 12kms. I still had one more stop, renew my insurance. Along with everyone else taking advantage of the long weekend. Happy Easter!

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Roadblock

I have been streaming Amazing Race Canada for this season after watching the first three with my daughter in Kingston and now it seems some of their challenges are seeping into my psyche – which is why I titled this roadblock. Sometimes you never know what might stall your advancement until you nearly smash into it. Stopping shy of a roadblock can actually provide a moment to assess direction or reflect on choices.  I see my roadblock as a little of both. 

I leapt into a temporary job less than a week ago, a very simple retail position that I would mainly be working on cash plus some floor shifts. What I was not ready for was the severe pain in my knees after each shift. In addition, considering I strongly beleive honesty is important when writing my blog, I really did not like the job. Even less so when I realized that minimum wage is even lower than the dreadful amount I thought I was earning. However, I was willing to persevere as the earnings were to help support any veterinary costs that might need covering for my cat while I was away. I had calculated I would take home about $1700.00 before I leave on Sep 17. That is not an amount to sneeze at, and – as I am always saying to my daughters – anything is better than zero. Which meant I was ready to just plow through each shift, bite my tongue when necessary, and tick off each completed night. Most of my shifts were slated for midnight. Which brings me to my knees. 

The pillow self inflates – an early birthday present from my daughter. Might have come in handy for midnight shifts.

I had an unrelated appointment with my doctor, booked before I even applied for the job, and asked if there was time to discuss how my knees have been after he made a cursory mention of a June letter from my physiatrist. The uptake was that if I keep punishing my knees from standing for eight hour shifts with no chance to sit – even breaks were iffy, as well as there being a preference staff take only the paid 15 minutes – the likelihood of causing injury was quite high. Therefore, my GP wrote a letter for me stating that starting immediately I would no longer be able to work. This was only a minor financial roadblock. (I would go on about some of the lack of basic employer/employee standards if I had not left; although if I had stayed I guess I could have been perpetuating things)


So, less money for Mozzy. Which is fine because that roadblock seems to be being cleared away. As previously mentioned, I have been wringing my paws regarding his health. A second dose of the chemo was administered at the vet’s – it generally takes 2-3 technicians to do anything with him – and this time he kept it down! It was also suggested I give him the equivalent of kitty McDonald’s if he will eat it. Anything to entice him to ingest his other medicine I mix in his food. As of the following evening he is EATING!!! His weight was down to 2.80 kg, perhaps when he goes back for his third chemo dose it will have gone up. Paws crossed. I am happy I can spend more time to coax him back towards health before I leave. Even if it is temporary at least I am here instead of working to pay for him. Mozzy will always be my priority and I can adjust my budget accordingly. The four shifts I worked will go far enough to see Mozzy through his remaining doses. Sometimes roadblocks seem ridiculously placed, others do not. Discovering I should not be working reset my priorities on a straight path.

Ten day triangle

That path lead me to start looking at my itinerary again. I had been stuck in a rut for a couple of weeks. I will still do my first ten days loop of Shanghai, Suzhou. Nanning and Huangshan. I am glad I am only doing those as Huangshan can be gruelling if attempting to walk up the mountain all at once. Having my knees give me a severe jolt is a reminder I have always intended on going to fewer places so as to further enjoy where I do stop. I will still do the motorcycle tour; I asked my doctor about that, we both agreed that if I am paying then I have some control – if I need a break we will take a break. I also plan to add another week for Vietnam rather than rush to Hanoi to hop on a train. I will see and experience more. The tour is from Ho Chih Min to Hoi An – about midway. There will still be so much more to see.
First half of my tour – riding pillion on a motorcycle!

I am looking forward to mapping out the rest of my trip in Vietnam and the second section of China I am planning. All I needed was to get around that roadblock.

Pre-trip Preparations: What about the cat? (And trivial stuff like health & rent)

Mozzy 

Insisting I cannot leave him – he threw my clothes on the floor and made a nest.

Smitten with my cat is a mild descriptor for how important he is to me. I have lived with cats, either my own or, by extension family cats, for about 40 years. With just a little effort I could probably name all of them. Which brings me to heading out for a no working 60 day trip. Leaving my cat behind for any length of time is becoming more and more difficult. He is over 15 y/o, born in a hole-in-the-wall shop on the University Road stretch of Nanning, China. These days I leave him at home with my daughter. (In the past he has stayed with extended family) I am grateful she does not currently have my wanderlust. What is most important is to give carte blanche decision making even if it means you, the traveller, might come home to a paw print and a box of ashes and an emptier bank account. The only other choice would be to stay home. Reality sucks, less so if prepared.
He does the best royally pissed off face. In royal comfort.

Am I cruel to leave Mozzy behind? Not if he will receive the same gold standard care and love I lavish on him. Am I sure he will indeed receive said lavishness – absolutely. About the only concern I have is that our vet is a 30 minute drive from home. They know how to handle him, they have his records, they are prepared. My daughter does not drive. Mozzy needs Cartrophen injections every other week for a leg injury from a few years ago. He also has some other issues we have been trying to get a handle on – before I leave. It would help if he would eat his bribe or salmon. Which brings me full circle, it is difficult to leave any loved, elder family behind – even a cat.

This photo always goes with me on my phone

Health
Other than the fact I will be 60 y/o when I begin this trip, which brings its own delightful issues, I do have some health concerns. I would rather ignore them; however, to appease family (maybe some friends if they know – oops, some of them read this) I will take whatever precautions necessary. Main priority, I have non-insulin dependant Type ll Diabetes. Battling the needle is ongoing. Much to the chagrin of my GP and various doctors I refuse to have injections. Keeping my numbers down is part of that battle. One saving grace is that they tend to be lower, not quite where they should be, when I am travelling for the simple reason I am so much more active and not tied down to commitments. As I write this I find my numbers are already creeping up, barely a week after coming home from my trip to Ontario. Back to taking control of the battle.
Then there is travel insurance. I strongly recommend getting some form, even if only basic coverage. Cost will depend on the area being travelled to, age, activities, and medical conditions that must be reported. I was happy when World Nomads raised their pre-screening age from 60 to 65. I do have to look into my status with controlled diabetes. As for activities, the only dangerous one I will do is riding pillion on a motorcycle, which I think is fine. It is important to have coverage starting from home to returning home rather than just once you hit the ground.
My knees are another major worry. I really do not want to collapse in mid-stride. Exercises to strengthen my quads, chair yoga, various unguents, OTCs for swollen joints and pain, and now one brace are helping a bit. I should have two braces. Which is possible if I purchase at the local Walmart at 1/15 the price of just one, not even good for both knees, where I go to see the various doctors about the pain. Walking is fine with a brace, stairs are not. So I am practicing. Gritting my teeth in frustration and at times pain. I just work through it.

Rent/Utilities/Bills

I know I am fortunate to be sharing with my daughter. Not only is she my in house kitty second, we share all the expenses. However, like anyone with a mortgage, rent still has to be paid. We came up with an arrangement that has so far worked for both of us. I pay less rent when I am away; that savings goes towards to accommodation. Although it is not enough to pay for too many days I believe that any amount I can funnel into my overall budget is a bonus. Working out a rough budget prior to leaving is important and knowing I have the funds to cover roughly two weeks of hostels – depending on where I am – is comforting.

Somehow we have managed to deal with bills only when I return from a trip. Yes, a major hit to the bank account, but not when I might need the funds while travelling. We also have everything fixed to equal payments so I tend to have the figure sitting quietly in the back of my brain rather than resting heavily on my mind. All I have to take care of is making sure my phone is paid for. Also car insurance if I do not take it off the road for the time I am away. (Always check this is acceptable if you have a parking spot – you will most likely have to pay a low coverage regardless where the vehicle is parked. I recommend it.)
Packing: Like a June/December romance – it will work
My 40 days in Eastern Canada the tail end of June and most of July was fairly simple to plan for. Shorts, sleeveless tops and sandals. It also helped me decide what I should not take to China and Vietnam. Until I remembered I will be travelling in various regions, varying degrees and seasons. That complicates packing. Summewear sounded sensible for Vietnam until I considered mosquitoes and a ten day motorcycle tour. Long sleeved tops and pants are practically de rigueur for clothing – fashion be damned.
I will hit Shanghai mid-Sep and I already know the temperatures can range from well over 20 c to chillier low teens. Without central heating in the buildings it can also feel dampish when the numbers dip. Without AC to battle the heat – miserable. My itinerary so far is broken into three sections for China. Ten days in a tight circle to get me back to the Pudong (Shanghai) Airport for my flight to Vietnam. Once my motorcycle tour is done I plan to visit the southwest interior of China, where it can be suffocatingly hot or have an autumn chill. As I head north, so far always north, it will only become colder. By the time I reach Shanxi province I may be encountering 5 c and below in November. Yikes! I do know I can wrap my winter coat around my backpack – it is just such a nuisance when the first full month will be warm. Ah, decisions, decisions. 

Looking Back

I must admit that the Facebook Memories is extremely useful. I ended up reading entries from my first blog. Although not strictly travel related, although it is about travelling to places, it does provide some insight to why I am where I now am in life. Still moving, still exploring, still searching. Perhaps closing in on 60 years has brought some wistfulness. With some edits I am sharing some of those entries. Having not finished reading the entries I am not sure how many times I added photos. The following entry explains that. 

Go East Old Woman 

Sunday, 6 November 2011

What to do with my mother and my cat

Fortunately I do have family – they should be able to help out my not yet 76 year old mother. Bigger problem – telling her, clearly versus beating around the bush – that I have, once again, accepted a job in China. This time is different, I will be going alone, and she no longer has my father here.

However, what else is a 54 year old woman with no job in sight to do? I came up with the answer one day walking or driving, might even have been biking – although that less likely. Write a travel book about going through China, with eye catching photograpsh and catchy snatches. Call it, Go East Old Woman; surely some would get it. Problem with that is I do not even own a camera – cell phones do not count – nor the skills to take even passable pictures. I also do not have the means to pay for getting to China let alone traversing around without direction. Then there is Mozzy.