The bike path that runs right by our apartment is separated from the busy road by a deep curb, so I felt really secure as we joined the intermittent stream of cyclists riding across the bridge.Vancouver's such a gorgeous city in the summer, and last Wednesday followed a run of sunny days that had its inhabitants relaxing into the extended warmth. With the slight cooling of the long evening, the light promising to hang around until almost ten, the beachy fringes of the heavily residential West End, Yaletown, Downtown, False Creek, and Kitsilano, were full of singles, couples, happy groups, walking, running, cycling, picnicking on the grass, playing volleyball on the beach, chatting on benches, or sprawling comfortably wherever a quiet spot could be found.
We headed off the bridge and around toward the Kits beaches. The crowd was mostly young at Kits Point, gathered in clusters, a bit of eating, a bit of drinking, a bit of smoking, a happy buzz of many overlapping conversations, the occasional bike flung down at the edge of a blanket, dogs of every size and description chasing sticks into the water or nipping at another's collar or lolling, exhausted, on the grass. We took a wrong turn, perhaps distracted by the people-watching, and found ourselves dead-ended at the off-leash dog beach.
Turning around, thinking we might head out to Spanish Banks. Pater instead got the brilliant idea that we could stop for an ice cream on Granville Island. . . . Quite frankly, I think he's been trying to up his romantic ante ever since I teased him about a questionnaire one of my daughters had passed along. One of those silly things that gets circulated on Facebook, it quizzed how "awesome" one's boyfriend/husband was. My guy, like my daughter's, had scored very high, but he'd been stung a bit when I'd hesitated over the question of whether we still went on dates often, or at all. Of course, as you know if you've been reading here for a while, he and I share many lovely activities together, dinner and/or a movie a regular feature, not to mention the great travel. But I pointed out that we didn't "date" in the courting sense of him planning a special activity. I hastened to add that, as a feminist, I recognized that our approach was fair, and that I was happy with our overall pattern, but that in the spirit of the questionnaire, our nights out together might not be considered "dates."
Now, you might be secretly agreeing with Pater that I was being a bit tough in my interpretation. . . . I'm not even sure I was right. But ever since, he's been working that word "date" into his framing of activities. And I am not complaining. And I was definitely not complaining when we cycled through Granville Island -- me a little bit skeptical that we'd find a place to buy an ice cream there at 9:00; him perhaps equally skeptical, but very pleased with himself when he spotted a sign for Gelato at Bridges. One chocolate, one pistachio cone later, we'd enjoyed a very pleasant 15 minutes sitting on a bench, watching boats cruise under the bridges, the little passenger ferry disgorging regular blasts of walkers to animate the terraces and sidewalks and roadways framed by the wonderful old industrial architecture of this special place.
By the time we got back on our bikes, we'd planned our route home, an easy 8 or 9 kilometres along a wide, paved, seaside path shared by cyclists and pedestrians. Oh sure, there were a few spots that got a bit bottle-necked by dawdlers, and a few times when racing cyclists came too quickly round a corner from the other direction. But to be able to ride 10 or 12 kilometres on a warm summer evening along the waterfront, with almost no exposure to cars? Pretty spectacular.
The route itself, a regular favourite running route of both of us, passes underneath the three bridges that span False Creek, which could give it an overly urban-industrial vibe. Luckily, though, these sections are exceptions to the general mood of the path which is mainly park-like, on the edge of residential complexes of low to medium density on the south side of the creek, moving to high-density adjoining Yaletown on the north side. Throughout, especially through Leg-in-Boot Square and the condo clusters near Granville Island, there is beautiful landscaping. In some places this is as simple as green lawn over a series of berms, all shaded by a wealth of trees, but in several spots there is a horticultural magnificence that a gardener has to stop and note. Brilliant combinations of tall grasses and echinacea and cardoons with their sturdily bristling purple globes. Lilipads and bullrushes giving way to deep pink rugosas at the edge of large ponds, small lagoons. One turn invites you through a canyon of flowering shrubs, the next opens into a wide flat space bordered by a community garden where neighbours chat as they put their tools away in the shed, ready for another day's weeding.
And all the landscaping decorated by the changing light of end-of-day, the sky breaking up the sun's fading light into a crayon box of dream possibilities.
Once the sun started to drop, though, it plummeted quickly, and after we'd curved our way past Science World's light-studded dome, we had to take extra care with visibility -- both watching out for oncoming cyclists and making sure that others could see us. Before we head out again, we plan to pick up the flashing red lights to attach front and back, as those seemed to be most effective in telegraphing a bike's presence and trajectory. Still, being part of that happy, moving crowd, all united by the call to activity outdoors in a magically warm summer twilight. . . . the sound of glad chatter, bouncing off the particular acoustics of a seaside city, the whirring motion of bike, fast rider, another bike, and then the contrasting rhythm of a mother cycling at a speed to match her 10-year old son's skateboard, the chuntering sound its small, dense wheels made along the pebbled aggregate, the piercing cry of a toddler up a bit too late, complaining on its dad's shoulders. . . .Oh, it was a date, my love. It was a date indeed.