Vancouver Seawall - Stanley Park- on Roller Blades
Trip Start May 04, 2006
14Trip End Ongoing
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The question of where to go on my second outing to Vancouver was quickly answered by a glance at the city map.
On the map, I noticed a red dotted line that follows the outline of the seashore all around a good part of Vancouver.
It starts at Canada Place, around Stanley Park, back to English Bay Beach and all around False Creek to end at Kitsilano Beach for a distance of about 12 km.
This is Vancouver's famous 'Seawall Route or Promenade' which is a combination walkway, bicycle and roller blading way that is arguably the ultimate urban recreational path in North America
It is something I just had to do, the only question was how could I reasonably do it within the six hours available to me? Walking would perhaps take much too long and bicycling would be too quick so I decided on something I had not done in about seven years - roller blading.
By way of preparation I had one practice outing on the road along the Strait of Juan de Fuca here in Victoria. Bicycles and roller bladers are not welcome on the beautiful pedestrian pathway that follows the seashore so if one wants to roller blade here, it will have to be sharing the road with cars which is not the ideal situation.
To my surprise, roller blading is like riding a bicycle, one does not forget how to do it. Having said that, braking on a bicycle is child's play whereas on roller blades it is perhaps the most difficult thing to master and I was obviously pretty rough around the edges when it came to braking. In my favour was the fact that I had the full body armour of helmet, wrist and knee protectors which gave me a sense of security.
So early on May 18, another "business day" for Barb, she dropped me off at Swartz Bay to catch the ferry for Vancouver
Having then caught the 09:00 ferry, I arrived in downtown Vancouver near Canada Place ready to start roller blading around 11:30.
It all worked out well, as I had brought a sports bag with my roller blading equipment and a knapsack. It was now time for a switch as I put on my equipment and placed my street clothing along with the empty sports bag in the knapsack. (I will omit the part where I had previously popped into a restaurant washroom to change into my shorts)
To my surprise, I was gliding easily along the paved divided pathway, which in this section is called the Coal Harbour Seawalk - one section for pedestrians and the other for cyclists and roller bladers.
On a beautiful sunny afternoon, it was a pleasure to join many others out for a some exercise and particularly to see the many business types out for a bit of lunch and afternoon sun shine
Upon reaching the Vancouver Rowing Club, which is located at the far end of Coal Harbour, across the street from Stanley Park, it was time to make a decision. Do I roller blade to the half-way mark of the Lions Gate Bridge that joins Stanley Park to West Vancouver across the narrows of Burrard? This would add about 5 km to the length of my trip.
Faced with such a question, I usually tend to go for the more difficult choice. As a result, I found myself leaving the Seawall and pumping my way gently up the causeway that snakes its way through heavily wooded Stanley Park to the Lions Gate Bridge - a distance of about 2 km.
This is not a particularly pleasant exercise as it is a steady gentle uphill on a narrow bumpy sidewalk just inches from constant traffic flowing towards West Vancouver. However, once on the bridge there is a physical barrier between cars and the sidewalk which tends to lower anxiety somewhat. The only thing to worry about at that point is bicycles coming up from behind.
The effort is however rewarded by the spectacular view from the majestic suspension bridge which provides for a bird eye view of the entire region blending mountain, sea and cityscape in a beautiful mix, making Vancouver one of the pretties cities in the world
Reality reared its ugly head in the form of a bouquet of flowers attached as a memorial to the railing of the bridge at the half way point. Life is ironic, one person may go to this point to partake of the spectacular view, another person may go to this very same beautiful spot for the express purpose of putting an end to their life. Only one little act separate the two extremes.
In a recent newspaper article it was noted that West Vancouver Police have decided to no longer close the bridge during episodes of "jumpers" or "would be jumpers" as the number of such incidences has been increasing and the resulting traffic jams have been monumental.
Police will now send a mobile police station/van to bridge incidents. A perimeter screen will be deployed giving police negotiators and the distraught person privacy without closing the entire bridge. In The Province article by Jack Keating, it states that since 2000, 103 people have threatened to jump off the Lions Gate Bridge. Ninety-six were prevented from jumping whereas seven jumped to their deaths.
Given my euphoria, I must have been here to enjoy the scenery and that point was punctuated when I waved towards the bridge of a freighter passing beneath and I was rewarded by a long blast of the ship's horn
At the half-way point of the bridge, the fun started for it was time to go back and that meant going downhill. If you are inexperienced in roller blading one can't just let it roll because there is no end to the speed that one gathers and at some point one will meet a hard object which is highly undesirable, notwithstanding the body armour.
So there I was, essentially braking for most of the 3 km I had previously worked so hard to gain. If you are not familiar with the braking process in roller blading, it essentially involves tilting your right foot backward to apply pressure on a rubber pad which is attached at the back of the right skate. The more pressure you apply by tilting your right foot backwards, the more braking occurs and believe me you have to apply a lot of pressure. My big toe on my right foot was starting to ache from the pressure of being pressed hard against the top part of my boot in an effort to gain leverage.
However, before leaving Stanley Park, I visited famous Prospect Point which overlooks the narrows leading into Burrard Inlet and the underside of the Lions Gate Bridge
From this point it was back to the Vancouver Rowing Club near the entry point to Stanley Park. The beauty of the building made me think of the town of Mitre, near Buenos Aires in the River Plate Delta, where the most impressive buildings were also those, along the water, which were used as clubhouses for rowing clubs. The common thread must be the long history and money of the people involved with this sport.
I returned to this spot where I had previously exited from the Seawall to make my way to Lions Gate Bridge. I was resolved to take no short cuts and determined to do the entire distance of the seawall.
From here it was past the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club , Deadman's Island and then a Stanley Park landmark-the totem poles made famous by the Haida Native People of the Queen Charlotte Islands. By rounding Hallelujah Point, one is now skating along Burrard Inlet with North Vancouver on the other side and the same Lions Gate Bridge up ahead
The nicest part of the Seawall from a natural beauty standpoint is perhaps from Prospect Point at the tip of Stanley Park back to English Bay Beach.
The city is far away at this point and one is left with beautiful marine, sea and forest landscape. The Seawall Promenade here is very smooth and one-way so it is easy blading. It is now around 14:00 and I am still feeling strong but a stop for some "junk food" is in order.
I normally avoid junk food entirely but when I am on an extended physical outing like today, there seems to be a need for drinking Diet Pepsi and eating hot dogs and French fries. I finally find this opportunity at the Stanley Park Swimming Pool which is not open yet but the snack bar was nevertheless open for business.
Unfortunately, I feel rushed as I have the deadline of the bus leaving for Tawwassan at 18:40 and it is now around 15:30 and there is quite a ways to go yet
During my stop I did however find out, from a fellow skater, that my timing for this outings is good. Due to construction, the Stanley Park part of the Promenade was just re-opened during the last week. The other thing I lucked into was to skate the circuit in a counter-clockwise direction since there are large parts of it which are one-way and I happened to be going in the right direction.
My skate through beautiful English Bay Beach was tempered by the fact that "bad things can happen on a beautiful day". At the time the Vancouver Police was searching the waters off English Bay Beach with a hovercraft and helicopter for a drowning victim. Meanwhile the beaches were full of people frolicking in the afternoon sunshine and enjoying life.
As I passed near the intersection of Denman and Davie I was reminded of my walk through here two weeks ago.
From this point onward, it can be dubbed -- The Skate Under Three Bridges.
Before passing under Burrard Street Bridge I was struck by the beauty and expanse of Sunset Beach Park with its fine sable sand so close to the center of the city.
Entering False Creek and passing under Granville Street Bridge brought me back the highlight of the last tour- Yaletown, only this time not seen from bridge but from the water's edge.
It is a different view, but one is still in awe of the transformation that has taken place here, and as a matter of fact, it extends almost right down to the end of False Creek. It is new condo heaven in this part of Vancouver.
There is a beautiful mix of parkland, urban development and recreational pathways which make inner city living quite exciting. George Wainborn and David Lam Parks provide for beautiful open green spaces for quiet walks or relaxation.
The proximity of Granville Island, just across False Inlet and accessible by mini-ferry, provides the option of cool boutiques, trendy restaurants as well as the Granville Market, with its abundance of fresh fruits, vegetables and food court
I keep glancing at my watch wondering whether if I will have enough time to complete the swing around False Inlet and catch my bus at the end of the Granville Island at 5th Ave. At this point I have abandoned by goal of reaching Kitisilano Beach and I will be happy to just make it on time to catch my bus.
I am also starting to feel fatigue setting in, as it is now past 17:00 and I have been at this since 11:30 with frequent stops to take photos. The camera was a concern for me all day, in view of the fact that the possibility of a fall loomed big. I had visions of a cracked lens and screen and I therefore put the camera away in a pouch at my side after every photograph. That process itself became quite time-consuming and tiresome.
Cambie Street Bridge looms big as it is the last bridge to pass under before returning on the south shore of False Creek. Just past the bridge is the location of two massive sports palaces, BC Place-- the home of the British Columbia Lions football team ,and almost right next door, GM Place - the arena of the Vancouver Canucks hockey team
As one skates furthe east towards the end of False Creek, new urban development finally slows down and there is somewhat of an empty space before reaching the Science Center which is the last vestige of Expo '86. Nearby, but off the Promenade, is Pacific Central Station which is the interesting historical station of VIA Rail, Canada's National Passenger railway. This is the western end station for VIA Rail's transcontinental trains.
At this point I was truly dragging and it was only determination that got me back to my goal -- the Granville Street Bridge.
On the south shore of False Creek is the only part of the tour where the Seawall Promenade becomes a little fuzzy as there are several detours due to construction. Perhaps it was fatigue but, at times, I even lost my way.
It was the mental promise of a good coffee and an apple strudel that kept me going to a café at the Granville Market. I therefore skated into a coffee shop to satisfy my cravings but I was so fatigued at this point that I had to ask the girl at the counter if she could get the cream for me at the other side of the café
From here it was an uphill struggle to get to 5th Ave., where the bus stop for Bus 601 to Tawwassan is located.
Nevertheless, I made it in time and fortunately I had 15 minutes to sit in a park and make the transition back into street clothing.
While I felt tired, there was a deep sense of satisfaction at having done something that, for me, was outstanding right here in Vancouver.
Postscript: May 25,2006
That evening I felt quite tired but for whatever reason I was still too wound up to fall sleep as the days events kept playing in my head like in an I-Max movie.
For two days I felt quite a bit soreness in my joints. It would appear that they were communicating the message that they did not take kindly to being subjected to movements they had not been subjected to in many years.
The end result, however, was a visit to a doctor yesterday. He drilled a small hole into the nail of the big toe on my right foot to relieve the pressure caused by internal bleeding
On the whole, it was a minor price to pay for a super experience.
My only problem now is how to make the next visit to Vancouver as interesting as this one.
Doing the same route in a sea kayak would be interesting, but it would result in essentially the same photos and I think I have enough photos of the exterior of Vancouver (understatement!)
I will have to use my tried and true method of coming up with something at the last minute -- it has served me well for a long time.