Escape the City

Story by Lesley// Photos by Lesley
November 1 2007

Gridlock. Traffic.

Anyone who lives in the City knows what it’s like.

It sucks.

Now, there are two ways of looking at it:

One…you’re breathing toxic carbon monoxide emissions and you’re going to fall off your bike unconscious.


Two…you’re riding a very fast motorcycle and yes, you can escape. Or at least split lanes.

So, that was me…trying to escape the City, trying to breathe and contemplating the $225 dollar ticket for illegal manoeuvres between traffic.

It was a dilemma.

And man, was I frustrated. Realistically, there should have been no reason for this traffic jam. My exodus out of the City had been in the works all week, even the departure time was down to a science, I avoid rush hour like the plague. Regardless – here I was. Stuck in it. Stuck, dripping and barely breathing. This was my condition in the downtown core, a hot autumn sun and too many idling vehicles around me – I was ill. Totally ill.

Now, this brings me back to my first point regarding air quality. Honestly, there is nothing worse than sitting in the heat of the day amongst commuters who are pissed off and idling anxiously in their cars. I was suffocating from the emissions, my head frying in the heat – a perfect combination to create one miserable Motorgirl.

Lane splitting headache.

Now, at this point it was getting ridiculous. I tried looking ahead but even the HOV lane was blocked. The main road going from the west end through Stanley Park and over the Lion’s Gate Bridge was absolutely blocked. It had been almost an hour and I couldn’t take this anymore. I wasn’t even near the entrance of the bridge that appeared to host the real problem. I took a huge leap of faith, looked around for police and then split some lanes. Now, lane splitting is illegal, but I figured that if I didn’t do something, a policeman would soon find me, an asphyxiated puddle of leather on the side of the road. So, I took a chance.

With a twist of the wrist, my bike almost wheelied along the yellow line and I’ll tell you, the commuters were not happy. Drivers yelled at me through their windows and trucks honked at me. I half expected someone to open their door and clothesline me; the road rage was spiraling upwards at such a steep curve. Then, like some oasis, the green of our majestic City Park opened her arms to me, or at least Lord Stanley did. The statue of the Governor General of 1888 graces the entrance to Stanley Park. His arms spread out, almost embracing me into his thousand acres of primeval forest. Lord Stanley had dedicated the park “to the use and enjoyment of peoples of all colour, creed and customs for all time”, and that includes one pissed off over-heated motorcycle girl.

Relief at Deadman’s Island.

I took the park entrance and almost instantly my blood pressure lowered. The cool blanket of the forest canopy immediately washed away all of the residual commuter goo. Relief was good, but I needed to get off my bike for a short break – the vibration in my boots needed to stop and my clutch hand was killing me. I immediately pulled off to Brockton Oval, one of the first tourist stops after the Aquarium. This was also where a collection of traditional totem poles reared their mighty heads. Ironically, most of them faced outwards gazing at Deadman’s Island macabrely named since the Squamish Nation had traditionally used it as a burial ground – now, the site of the Naval Reserve Unit HMCS Discovery. Of course, sacred ground… uhmmmm… military… uhmmm… yeah. Tried hard not to scowl. One tidbit of information I read about later was that in 1860 to the early 1880’s, settlers in the area used Brockton point and the island as a cemetery and during a small pox outbreak in the late 1880’s, Deadman’s Island became a “pest house” for quarantined victims of the disease and a burial site for those who did not survive. This spot, although tainted with its grim history had the most panoramic view of the downtown skyline and Canada Place. A gentle reminder to count my blessings living here in Vancouver.

A tourist in my own city.

It was decided. From this moment on, I was going to explore this bountiful park from the perspective of a moto-touriste. Since I live nearby, I often frequented this park on foot and explored the hundreds of trails. The ironic thing was – I had never driven around the park, at least on a motorcycle. So, screw rush hour – I was escaping the madness within this ecological wonder that wound it’s way around the nine-kilometre seawall that surrounded the park.

Totally magic.

Plain and simple. Riding along an ocean road, even at the speed of 25 km/h was enchanting. I rounded the twisty road and maneuvered myself past Hallelujah Point that hosted the 9 o’clock gun (a large cannon that goes off every night at 9 p.m.), around Prospect point and the lighthouse, back around a beautiful sculpture of a woman in a wetsuit reminding me of Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘Little Mermaid’ statue in Copenhagen. Apparently, when the ocean is at high tide, the water reaches her toe. I continued to meander past the Kids Ocean View Water Park and then up through the wooded area on the north side of the park, then up and under the impressive expanse of Lion’s Gate Bridge. Built in 1938 for a staggering $5,873,837.17 by the famous brew master family, the Guinness’, it towers a hundred yards above the inlet, enabling mammoth tankers and ships to pass underneath with ease.

Clean up your act.

After riding by the busy tourist area of Prospect Point and the coolest looking old ‘lightning struck’ stump called the Hollow tree (apparently one of the most photographed landmarks in Stanley Park), I decided it was time for a swim. I pulled over and hiked down towards the rocky area that lies adjacent to the Siwash Rock. The legend, translated by Mohawk poet Pauline Johnson-Tekahionwake, about Chief Joe Capilano in the early years of the 20th century, has it that a young chief and his wife came to Prospect Point for the birth of their child. In order to be clean and vicariously impart purity to their baby, the couple went swimming in the ocean. Custom deemed that only when they were so clean that wild animals could not detect their scent were they fit to be parents. When the mother went ashore to give birth, her husband remained in the water. As the chief continued to swim, a canoe with four supernatural Giants (the Transformers, emissaries of Tyee, the Creator) came upon him. When asked to move out of their way, the chief refused for the sake of his unborn child. The four, who were impressed by the chief’s fearless commitment, transformed him into Siwash Rock to stand as a permanent example of ‘clean fatherhood’. So that he not be separated from his wife and child, the Transformers changed them into two rocks, a larger one side-by-side with a smaller rock, which is in the forested hillside above Siwash Rock.

Quickly pulling on all my leather gear before any tourists with cameras managed to spot my “newly cleaned” backside, I then departed west towards the ensuing sunset at Third Beach. The road then meanders by the neighbouring Second Beach, which contains a large public pool, a beautiful local beach with lifeguards all dressed in red, and a great playground and picnic area. Once you pass this area, you can either go back towards Georgia Street (and in my case – traffic hell) or continue through and out of the park onto Denman Street and the famous English Bay.

And this is where I ended my day. The sun was starting to set. Performers, sculptors, painters and locals playing their guitar and carefully hiding their bottle of wine gathered to watch the sun dip deep in the Pacific blue. Locals and tourists soaking in the evening sunlight and me with my trusty motorcycle, parking near one of my favorite middle eastern cafes in hopes of scoring a delicious schwarma.

I escaped the City within my own City. Buddha would have been proud. MMM


For more information about Stanley park and all the natural wonders of our amazing City Park, go to: and look up Stanley Park along with all our other attractions.

For more stories and artwork by Lesley, go to Stay tuned for the new update of the Motorgirl site.


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