Saturday, October 31, 2009

Point Roberts, WA: Part One

(Point Roberts, WA border crossing)

Being consumers in Canada means paying higher prices for durables and electronics. I try to purchase locally where possible but sometimes distributors conspire to make that impossible. I don't blame the retailers as their costs are dictated by others in the supply chain, but when the selling price of an item is cheaper in the USA, than the wholesale cost is to your dealer, then something is wrong. Educated consumers, such as I, will scour the internet for pricing before making a purchase decision. I don't mind paying more but within reason. Other times things just aren't available here at all. That is when I will purchase on-line from a reputable source, or from eBAY with a seller with a lot of positive feedback.

(Scorpion LED Voltmeter on left, my electonic gizmo on Right)


Many years ago while purchasing lots of car parts, mostly not available in Canada, I set up a mailing address (PO box) in Point Roberts, WA to save on the exhorbitant charges levied by UPS. I ordered the Scorpion LED Volt Meter from the same place that Charlie6 (Redleg's Rides) (<-- link) obtained his, thanks to a link posted by Chris (Everyday Riding) (<-- link) . So thanks to Dom & Chris I was planning to pick it up today and also to take a few pictures for Mr Conchscooter (Photographer of Key West Diary) (<-- link) . He had asked me months ago and the closest I got was to Tsawwassen (<-- link to prev post) . You require your passport and Nexus to cross the US border, even though Point Roberts doesn't go anywhere and the road dead ends when it reaches the water and I don't normally carry it with me preferring to leave it safely tucked away at home. I haven't made a purposeful visit in a while.

This morning as I was heading out for breakfast with the "guys" at our local motorcycle cafe I decided to check my tires.

(Self contained Portable air compressor with digital pressure gauge)

It was a very good thing. With the lower temperatures and "seepage" my rear tire was only 26 psi, and the front was 28 psi. After a few minutes I had the rear at 32 psi and front at 35 psi. The steering feels more nimble now and I feel more secure as I head out on the road. I had a problem with my other bike due to negligence for not checking my tire pressures and it was only by luck that I escaped uninjured.

(border line-up, Nexus lane)

I don't like border line-ups which is the reason that we are Nexus registered. We are pre-screened by Homeland/Canadian Borders services. We have special transponders and ID cards and enter the USA through special lanes. I left home at 11am and arrived at the Letter Carrier 30 minutes later. Point Roberts is only 45 kms away (25 miles) so it is very convenient for me to collect my US purchases

(The Letter Carrier, Point Roberts, WA)

This is a very busy place for those of us who route our parcels here for pickup. As you can see, many others order their tires from the "states" and ship them here for huge savings. I was talking to another person when I arrived and he just purchased a set of tires which cost him $780. and he said they would be $1,500. in Canada.

The Letter Carrier is about 1 km from the border along the same road. When I turned around I noticed the line-up for those wanting to head north back into Canada

(View North 1 km south of the Canadian/US border: Point Roberts, WA)

I've never seen it this busy so I went over an spoke to one of the drivers. She told me that she came here to fill up her gas tank. It was .85c Cdn/Ltre down here and in Canada I noticed that the price was 1.099 / litre. This is a huge difference

(Cdn .85c / ltr in Point Roberts vs Cdn 1.099 / ltr in Canada)

Using the US gallon conversion of 3.8 ltrs/gal = Cdn$3.23 in Point Roberts as compared to Cdn$4.17 in Canada. This is a huge difference.

There is not much in Point Roberts. There is a post office, 3 gas stations, 2 banks, a food outlet, 2 restaurants and 1 cafe along with a few other businesses. Don't take this as an all inclusive listing, just what I noticed as I whizzed by

I head south and aim for the beach area which used to be so active back in the days when alcohol was not sold to persons under 25 in Canada.

(Main beach area ahead)

Before Expo '86. liquor was also not sold on Sundays in British Columbia

(The Breakers, Point Roberts)

The Breakers was "THE" place to be if you were under 25 or wanted a drink on Sunday. After 1986 things were different and people stopped coming here. It died a slow death into the late 1990's, and now it is just an abandoned building

Across from the Breakers, we have the Reef Tavern. Doesn't seem very busy but they are still here. During the summer I notice many bikes parked outside, usually of the cruiser variety with lots of chrome, leather and loud pipes

(The Reef)

I park my bike in the nearly deserted parking lot and take a break. It is nice to sit on a log, feel the sea breeze and just look out upon the water


If you look out at the horizon you will notice Roberts Bank and the Tsawwassen Ferry terminal in the distance. Roberts Bank is a huge coal port for deep sea vessels. Both of the southern terminus' are in American waters accessed by long man-made causeways from Canada

There is a road which loops completely around the peninsula with many Conch style homes on the waterfront side


While I was riding about I was thinking that Point Roberts is very similar to Key West FL, not in temperature but in the way that it was originally a place for people to have summer homes by the sea. All these cottages are very small and were not designed for year round living. They were places to be used on weekends and during the summer. I noticed that this is changing with new development underway

(New construction in progress)

There is one state park where the public can roam around on the beach, have picnics/bbq's and perhaps camp.


There were a few signs in other areas which proclaimed that "their" beach was on private land and was to be avoided

(NO Trespassing)

On one side of the park you see a new home next to a mobile home. Point Roberts seems to be a place of contrasts, new and old mixed together, permanent homes vs summer cottages. It's hard to imagine that such pristine waterfront property is so sparsly populated as compared to Tsawwassen on the Canadian side where homes command such a premium price.

(Contrasts of new & old, everything goes in Point Roberts)

On the ring road, the houses/cottages on the right are on beach frontage, on the left not to be left out they have made an artificial lake so as to appear to be on the "water"


On the right, water side, most of the homes are smaller cottages, and there are a few empty lots just waiting for development


to be continued . . .

Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Birthday to Mr Conchscooter

To Michael, Key West Diary (<-- link) a special day in your life has arrived. The idea for Key West Diary started many years ago in Italy on October 31, 1957 . I want to wish you a very happy Birthday and may your journey never end, and may it never rain upon your road while you ride your Bonneville through all the back alleys and lanes of Key West.


It really looks like a barbaric way to gobble your food down but perhaps that's the way they do it down in Florida's most southernmost community, perhaps that's the way he was taught back in the old country.

A big thank you also goes to Layne (Mrs Conchscooter), who likes to keep a low profile. We don't get to see many glimpses of her but she is the brains of the household.

(Mrs Conchscooter)

Mr Conch, I want to thank you for all the endless hours of enjoyment you bring to all of us in this internet family by riding down all the streets, roads, highways, alleys and lanes in daylight and during the dark of night showing us the highlights of your world while you ride your Triumph Bonneville, or your wife's Vespa, your bicycle, your Nissan and photographing all those "Keys" along the way . . .


and also while walking about wearing your . . .

(pair of Pink Crocs)

of which I recently obtained a pair and found that they do indead make the wearer possess some sort of supernatural power. The Pink colo(u)r is soothing on the nerves and relieves headaches.

Not to mention that you are also a tour guide extraordinaire giving reviews of restaurants, bars, beaches, motorcycle repair places and coffee bars to mention a few. Even tho you will deny this to your last breath, but that's not what I hear from the Italian Embassy who have your name on file to help those "lost" Italian tourists. If I recall correctly, you have come to the aid of Italian tourists on two occasions.

We also thank you for your expertise in performing Technical maintenance procedures on your Bonneville, such as performing vital change of fluids.

(recent oil change tutorial)

You have also achieved recognition by the Iron Butt Association on your recent goal of riding 1,000. miles within a 24 hour period before you attain the youthful age of 52.

(Getting ready to start the torturous IRA mileage feat of endurance)

With little sleep and only time for a granola bar or two and fuel stops you attained your goal

conch_gas st_crop_1024
(approx half way point of Iron Butt, fuel stop)

While we have not yet met, we have chatted on the phone and I only wish you the best things in life. I am sorry that we live so far apart for I believe that we have the same ideals even though we live in different countries and on opposite sides of the continent. I am very glad that somehow our paths crossed and soon we will be able to meet face to face.

In the meantime have a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY, and I am sorry that your Boss did not give you the day off, but I know that Fantasy Fest brings problems to the city and they needed the best man for the job to be on shift on Halloween night.

Continue to ride safe and snap lots of pictures and make us envious, especially when we are socked in with ice and snow.

(The Conchmobile on the open road @ 5,500 RPM by the Tach)

Again, this is your day. Have a Very HAPPY BIRTHDAY from your friend in Vancouver, BC Canada

Love you, (like a brother)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Slightly new look

As you have probably noticed, I have been doing a little updating to my blog. I have cleaned up my blog list and added some new (blog) sites. I have also taken advantage of new functionality and added a feature photo to my header. Excuse the size, I have been working on "a system" to resize so that the photo takes the whole width of your computer screen but I haven't discovered the sweet spot in size dimensions yet. Also I haven't figured out how to change the font colour as not all of my photos have blue sky (or a blank area) in the upper left corner. I may have to add text to my resized photo in order for it to be read/seen.

It was always my intention to show you sights of the Pacific Northwest taken on my travels throughout British Columbia, Washington & Oregon. Unless you have "clicked to enlarge" any of my photos you may not have been aware that I also increased my upload size. Previous images were only uploaded at 800x600 resolution as that was the maximum displayed image size by blogger. Last week I increased this to 1600x1200 so that any image clicked will now enlarge to full screen. And since all of my photos are inserted using HTML coding individually, they will all enlarge, unlike some other sites where they might or might not enlarge. I mainly use Webshots for my picture hosting and all albums are set to public so you are free to download any image you like. If you would like a larger file for enlarging, just ask. My email is on the sidebar.

When I first started this Blog I wasn't sure where it was headed and what sort of readership I was going to attract. I will tell you that I am truly integrated into our blog community and I have met many "friends" along the way. It is my sincere hope that I will eventually be able to meet some of you in person. This was originally a project for myself to improve my writing skills and also to showcase nature's scenic beauty in our part of the continent. Only recently have I been able to let loose with more personal information and post my likeness.

If you are ever in my area, Vancouver, BC let me know. If I am free I can show you around and even feed you. I have never done a post without pictures, so here is one I may have posted before

(Aerial view of Vancouver, BC: taken through the plane's window while banking for landing)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Fall & Boobies for Jack "r"

I got the idea from Charlie6 (Redleg's Rides) (<-- click link) . You know Jack Riepe (Twisted Roads) (<-- click link) who has a lifetime affinity for anything to do with the female form. I think that it's rubbing off on all of us. During my travels around town whenever I notice anything, of the Jack "r" variety I find myself instinctively searching for my camera to record the event. So it was the other day when we went downtown to Denman Street and while window shopping I noticed this:


I don't know what it is but I am beginning to get drawn to these things. I'm thinking to myself, what is this Jack "r" designed T-shirt doing hanging in this window. Then I noticed another Jack inspired sign


and NO, they don't have any brass poles for sale either. Ever since this particular hamburger franchise arrived in Vancouver a few years ago I have wanted to sample one


I don't know how many calories are in there but a 6 oz patty with all the trimmings, fries and unlimited soda (pop) refills.


I thought that it was JUST OKay, nothing spectacular. I like the patties scorched on the outside edge (Carmelized) with heaps of carmelized onions, with tomato & lettuce. They did include some carmelized onions for me but they were diced not the long strands that I am used to. We used to frequent Red Robin but the last few times the burgers arrived luke warm so I think that they have gone downhill a bit too.


We haven't been going out as frequently as we used to eating more at home for the past while. It just more convenient than having to fight for parking but with the cold weather appearing and the rainy season just over the horizon we thought that we would treat ourselves for a change.


I don't know if the economy is this bad or not but this was Saturday night. During the summer these sidewalks are crowded with people walking about and cars driving up and down the streets with their radios blaring. Maybe it was the cold air and having to bundle up more to keep warm. We entered the restaurant and found that we were the only customers


After we ordered and sat at our table a couple of other customers followed us in. We didn't feel like walking around much but did manage to look into a few windows at their halloween displays. Here is one where Chuck Pefley (One A Day - Mostly Seattle) (<-- click link) had a meal when he was recently in Vancouver.


You can definitely feel the coldness of fall. It is much colder, condensation in the morning and fog on the way to work last week. I leave home in the dark before sunrise but unable to view because of the cloud cover.


so far it has not been cold enough to don my heated vest, but I did turn on my heated grips while on the Lougheed highway to make sure they are working. I wore my riding pants over my work slacks and my JR jacket had the liner installed. The OEM hand grips keeps a lot of the cold air off your hands (gloves). I'm thinking to myself that if I lived somewhere warm I would be in shorts and perhaps wearing my beloved pink crocs, the same ones that Mr Conchscooter, Key West Diary (<-- click link) has down in KW.

You have to watch the roads very carefully during the fall. In the morning the roads are wet with condensation, and the roads are clogged with lots of fallen leaves which makes for a very slick surface and lack of traction


Our variety of trees don't turn the bright red as they do in PA or other areas of the country. Our trees are mostly evergreen and leaves turn yellow then fall to the ground leaving a tree skeleton until the warm weather arrives next spring.

In most of the established areas of Vancouver we find many tree lined streets, sort of like this.


If you encounter a car going the opposite direction you will surely have to navigate the edges of the roadway and ride over these leaves which are very slippery . They actually don't look bad now because they are still dry. As soon as they get wet the leaves will turn into a slippery mush which will result in lack of traction, and this is not good for 2 wheeled machines .


I am a summer person and when I am not at work I am generally in T-shirts, shorts and sandals (or amphibious shoes that don't require socks). I don't mind saying that Winter is not my time of year. All of my activities and hobbies are more suited for more elevated temperatures complete with sunshine, without the need to wear boots, sweaters, heavy jackets nor gloves to keep warm. I find that I am in a losing battle with nature

(now where did I put my winter shoes?)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Downtown East Side, Vancouver's dark side:


Today's post will be a little different. A few photos with a few annotations. On all of my previous postings I have given you a glimpse using Tourist eyes. Places that I want to see when you visit my town and also to record places I have been in the Pacific North West, sort of a documentation of my adventures to out of the way places. Consider this a photo essay without much written substance. I am not political. I do not wish to enter into discussions involving religion(s), points of view nor argue about who is right or what has to be done. This is the Canadian way, we just sit back and accept what it is and mumble under our breath about how things should be. Our drug laws are too lax, we do not enforce them as viciously as they do south of the border. We have a big gang problem here somehow interconnected with the Mexican cartels. Drug dealers are being killed weekly, bodies are found dumped on the streets, then we have the 2010 Olympics where they are trying to hide the homeless from public view. It's a mess . . .

I wasn't sure how I was going to present this but I had been thinking about this for some time and recently I was prompted by a comment from Michael (Key West Diary) (<-- click link)

Conchscooter said: (comment of October 11, 2009)

Quote: "By the way where are all the freedom loving people living in cars and on the sidewalks? Jeez, Key West this surely isn't...."


Let me first give you some background:

Quote: "Sending the homeless out of town might not be official policy, but with the 2010 Olympics looming, some worry it will be the ticket to cleaning up the Dante-like stretch of Vancouver known as the Downtown Eastside.

Every major city in Canada has destitute people, but nowhere are they concentrated in such a harrowing display of human desperation as in Vancouver, where a dense neighbourhood of junkies, streetwalkers and mentally ill people openly challenges British Columbia's licence-plate slogan, “The Best Place on Earth.” The area is a 10-minute stroll from the site designated as the Olympics' international media centre."

You can read the complete article here:

The Downtown East Side of Vancouver straddles an area adjacent to Strathcona, one of the oldest areas of Vancouver

(Strathcona elementary school)

It was a grand area, once the premier area of the city with ornate buildings

(notice the bars)

It is a contradition of values. Drug dealers, homeless, artists and includes ordinary people just trying to make a living. while many homes have deteriorated and on their last legs

(Vancouver's Conch style housing)

many others have purchased into the area and restored their homes to better than new condition while retaining the character of times past

(typical period homes)

Others prefer to live in their townhome surrounded by chain link fence complete with barbed wire as a prisoner confined to their cell, while the criminals are allowed to roam around unencumbered.


The hub and epicentre of drug activity is centred on the intersections of Main & Hastings Street and compasses the poorest postal code in Canada which runs for 10 blocks west to Victory Square. It is not an area to frequent during the darkness of night and preferrably not by yourself even during the day. The "residents" do not take kindly to images of their likeness so taking covert photos was the priority of the day. I was not able to capture all of the images that I would have liked and feared that someone would notice a large camera with a longer lens. I opted for my small palm sized one and tried to hide it best as I was able. I used to do a lot of street photography down in this area years ago when some of the pawn shops were still operating and stopped when we perceived that it was too dangerous. The "bad dudes" (for lack of a better word) have an excellent radar system. They are able to immediately spot people who do not belong. I thought I was doing well during the torrential rain all bundled up in my Gortex Jacket and hat and someone came up to me with a sports bag and asked me if I was interested in a Video Camera. He opened his bag a bit so I could take a peek at it so obviously I wasn't as covert as I thought. The police started to enforce some by-law rules last year in anticipation of the 2010 Winter Olympics and just managed to move the drug dealers to another area farther west into some of the tourist areas of Granville Street and very close to Sunset Beach. I see them camped out in the lane with their garbage bag tents and cardboard mattresses but I didn't have the nerve to snap any photos. There are dozens of them and only one of me, and I didn't want to damage my handsome physique.

I can't post all of the photos here so have only selected a dozen or so. If you wish to view the whole set, just click on one photo and it will take you to the album hosted on Webshots. You should really avoid this area if you are visiting Vancouver. Whenever we see people who who obviously don't belong we try to steer them in the other direction. This "forbidden" zone is only one block north of Historic Chinatown and one block south of Historic Gastown and only one wrong left turn from the cruise ship terminal so you can see that it is very easy to stumble into this area by accident.

Every business has steel bars for security



(watch out for used needles discarded on the sidewalk)

(keeping out of the rain, in the bus shelter)


(living on the street)


(The Only: once the best seafood cafe in Vancouver)


(Carnegie Centre, once the best library in town)

(Insite: safe injection site government sponsored)

(even this temple is behind bars)


Strathcona and the Downtown Eastside: a contraction of old and new, of crooks, thieves, drug dealers and ordinary people living side by side trying to survive -- one day at a time. Be careful where you park, monitor your surroundings and don't go alone