Farewell Bike

After agonizing over the best action to take regarding cycling I finally hit the dust with the permanent decision to focus on giving my meniscal tears heal without feeling guilty that Bike was dripping oily tears from its gears. Not that gears are supposed to drip or be oily. We did try, Bike and I. A tune up and new front tire, nice cozy spot in the bike room, sturdy lock but no trips this season.

My first attempt was in February – we generally have great cycling all year round unless there is a rogue snowstorm. Chilly, knee highly sensitive. Fine, I could wait. Finally, May arrived, the weather has been great and I had gone for an x-ray and an MRI. The results were positive – actually worse than what I thought. All because I tripped on the road in Beijing. I also refused to go to a doctor, which meant my travel insurance was not used. Oh well. It also took several months to convince a physiatrist and my GP I had really done some possible major damage. I figured the cut, and now lovely scar, on my knee should have been a clear indication it was more than a scratch.

Dropped the physiatrist (that was for my other knee) insisted my GP do more. So, now that we know the extent of the damage – I also managed to pull the medial collateral ligament, damaged (not broken) the patella, and tore those darned menisci I am waiting to see a surgeon to discuss if surgery is necessary. It is amazing just how much injury a person can do just by walking! Put me on a bike; go on a hike; climb umpteen steps no problem – well, until recently.

Bike looks rather forlorn – I had not realized I was so attached.

So why give up riding? Why not wait? Go back to the guilt. Bike belonged to my mother, she could no longer ride I took the bike. She had named it Bike because it was rugged and zipped. My mother was never a keen cyclist and, like me, eschewed riding on the road. Bike is meant to be ridden. Bike is also, like me, getting on in years. I decided Bike should live out its remaining years being ridden. I contacted Island Metis Community & Family Services – in the same building where I once worked – where there is a donation ‘cupboard’. Larger items are not usually taken. However, it was decided that a sturdy bike, two helmets, etc. would be quickly snapped up.

As for me, I have a sturdy stick and walking poles. I also still have my stubborn streak. Perhaps I will see bike zipping by when I am walking one of the trails.

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!

Saying Farewell 

By the time this post is published I will be in Shanghai. By the time this post is published I will have had long enough to stop crying. By the time this post is published Mozzy, my 15+ year old kitty, born in Nanning, China will have had his last bits of candied salmon before meeting his ancestors. This is a safe enough place to write what I am going through emotionally before we say goodbye to Mozzy. The decision was not easy to make – even with the support of our veterinarian. The practical side of me – a word I think was voiced far too often because what else can be said – knows the decision to stop treatment and let Mozzy be pain free is for the best. We know the decision has not nothing to do with my looming departure. And loom it does. Like a monster of guilt. 

My favourite photo of Mozzy, from about three years ago when he was still healthy.
This is Mozzy’s, “You’re what?” look.

Guilt with wondering if I did enough. We did. Guilt with wondering if Mozzy could have lived longer. Yes, but in a deteriorating condition. Guilt wondering if he is happy on this, his last, day. I think so, he ate a little salmon. Guilt also, wondering if I waited too long. That thought alone is what will get me through the day. During a long talk with the vet we both voiced our amazement that Mozzy made it beyond the end of August. Did I prolong his life for him or for me? Perhaps a little of both. Until last night Mozzy was making every attempt to appear well despite the severe weight loss and pain. By morning he was not. I can only hope he understands and will still love me until the end. 

A screened, open window, a Tibetan pillow – life of a Mandarin cat.
My youngest daughter called Mozzy, ‘My Prince’. The chair became his favourite place to sit.

 My daughter threw a birthday party for my that Mozzy took control of. I think he thought it was for him – typical kitty. However, I needed to let loose some of my sadness before it swallows me up. I could not post anything to friends, not yet. So, by the time this is posted time and distance may have helped with the healing. Mozzy is just as much a family member as my children. They know.

Wasn’t that a party! (After everyone had left and Mozzy’s chair was in the wrong place)
Post Script: I did eventually write something on FB, there are people who would want to know. It dawned on me that some friends even knew Mozzy when my youngest daughter first brought him home at seven weeks old from the hole in the wall store outside the school I worked at in Nanning after seeing a child kick him. Mozzy had been promised to us but I was not ready for him at such a young age. He immediately squirmed his way into our hearts. Either my sister or the vet said perhaps Mozzy will be with me in spirit when I am in China. I like that. I miss him.

Last Days of Semi-Solo Travel: or ‘Final Countdown’

At Christmas I was given one last gift to be used just prior to going home. Tickets to see a local little theatre production. Before we would meet one of my daughters for dinner and the show, her sister and I managed to have a wonderfully stress free day despite dealing with banking and other stuff. With all of that out of our way we decided to have lunch at a small pub in a small strip mall along one of the main roads in Kingston. The Rose and Crown on upper Princess. They even have live music on Wednesday nights, sadly we were there far too early and had other plans.

Knowing we would be going for dinner later I chose from the lunch menu. Breaded sole, a small side of chips (aka French fries) and a side order of coleslaw. The sole was fine, chips not greasy and only lightly salted (a bonus in my books) but the tartar sauce was a poor concoction of green relish, mayonnaise and mustard. My daughter said she needed a photo of me using ketchup to show my grandson. The coleslaw was crispy, lightly dressed, quite nice. I only ordered that because there was no vegetable offered with my meal. Rather disappointing.

My daughter had the meat pie with Caesar salad and a small side of previously frozen vegetables. She declared the meat pie good although most likely too salty for my taste. The Caesar looked nice, I neglected to ask, the sad looking vegetables were not touched. The atmosphere was simple, a good place to stop at if in the area – perhaps while out shopping for a vehicle, which is how my daughter and her husband came across the place a few years ago. That is an indication of most likely not a place I would purposely seek out in the future.

We then headed to a mystery appointment. My daughter had something planned on her hands. I really could not think what it might be as she was talking about meeting a co-worker I did not know. We were getting pedicures and manicures! Although this can be a solo activity, and I have done so often, the interaction with others, and, this time, with my esthetician, who may have missed his calling to be a comedian. We also talked about Vietnam, his home country and where two of my daughters have been, It did not hurt that he was a nice looking young man and served us chocolate. Twice. Full chocolate bars. I stashed mine for emergencies. So far they are still stashed. There is something about getting a pedicure in the middle of winter that seems positively sinful.


Dinner and a show (I am not at all spoiled):

I was determined to eat at a favourite place I found last year, only to be stymied with recalling if it was Mango Thai Cafe (also a nice choice) or Taj Curry House. The styles of cooking only sort of touch regionally so it took some sleuthing on my part. My memory served me well, it was Taj. A small, family operated eatery. We had three dishes and were thankful we did not order four! Vegetable Biryani, Beef Ragan Josh and chicken Dansak. A small appetizer of onion Bhaji, some naan to share and we were all well satisfied. Much like Crave for a coffee out, Taj Curry House is a restaurant I will make a point of visiting when back in Kingston. Of course I am always game to seek other eateries and activities.

The little theatre production was put on by Blue Canoe Productions. This is primarily a youth company, 13 – 30, many performing for the first time. Their enthusiasm certainly helped to hold up the production. Peter & the Starcatcher, written in 2006, played on Broadway April 2012 – Jan 2013. This is the story that tells us how Peter Pan became a lost boy. A young girl, other lost boys, Smee of course, a nasty pirate captain, mermaids and the crocodile are all included. I could not catch some of the very quiet lines and the poor sight lines for the many occasions the players were sitting on the deck of the boat or the sands of the shore were frustrating.

There is nothing more irritating than having to peer over shoulders for a glimpse of the action or to hear the lines. We were there for opening night, the audience was well peppered with family, friends and production people, so a full house. Encouraging for actors. The Baby Grand Theatre is a cozy set up, and would work much better for players rising up, rather than sinking down. I believe this production might play better with a raised stage. We joined the audience and actors for a post show gala – we must have been the only ones not somehow connected to the show. Having been involved in many theatre productions, a lot of higher caliber, I left thinking how fortunate I am no longer.

Farewell hug to one daughter then back to the countryside. Some serious packing was on my agenda for the next day.