Posted by: denmanrandonneur | November 21, 2008

I sat down to write an introduction…

Well, I guess it’s time to write a bit about myself as I plan on working on this blog over the winter, now that the days are colder and shorter outside.  I think I’ll start with why I moved to Denman Island …  I first came here back in ’93 when I was traveling around Vancouver Island in a VW camper and my mountain bike.  I just returned from 16 month trip that started at Toronto’s Union Station and took me to Jasper by train, bicycle touring to Victoria, hitch-hiking to San Francisco and back, Hawaii, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, Nepal, India, Nepal, India, Nepal, Thailand and then back to Victoria.  I took my bicycle with me and toured through Hawaii, Fiji, 3 months in New Zealand and almost 2 months in Australia.  Travelling with a bicycle opened up so many doors and chance meetings that you aren’t exposed to taking public transportation, sleeping in hotels or hostels and allowed you to be much more independent in the way you travel and live. 

 

I had to get back to Toronto, where I had been living before taking off on this biggest trip for me that far.  I felt like a seasoned traveler by the time I had returned to Canada.  From an early age, I got to see a lot of North America with my family.  My parents idea of a holiday was a long roadtrip – often to Florida or California.  I got to see a lot of the continent from the inside of a car window and I knew from an early age that there were so many incredible places to see and experience in this world, that I travel bug was planted early and I nurtured it!.  After high school, there were summer trips to Europe, road trips, hockey games in American cities, Grateful Dead shows, camping, canoeing and lots of mountain biking.  Before heading back to Toronto where I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, except ride my bike and be outside, I bought a camper van, picked up my bicycle from a friends place that I had shipped there from Australia and explored Vancouver Island and some of the islands in the gulf.  As soon as I arrived on Denman, I knew that it had the feel that I had looking for without really knowing what I was looking for.  I stayed at the campground and did a lot of riding around the island and back roads.  This island had an unspoilt  feel to it with it’s rustic houses and the people that I saw and met.  It was a place where back to the landers had planted roots and getting a good job in an office wasn’t considered.  People had to rely on themselves without the convenience of 137 stores and shops ready to take you money for whatever whim.  It was easy to see that a community existed here and that was an important part of the social fabric.  From that first trip here, I knew that this was the place where I could call home one day.  I could have chosen any place to settle, but it wouldn’t have felt like “home”.

 

After exploring the BC coast, it was finally time to head back to Toronto.  The drive across the country and cycle stops were an adventure in themselves.  When I got back to Toronto, it didn’t take me long to get a job as a bike messenger.  I didn’t know anything about the “culture” or all the streets downtown, but I knew that I had to ride.  I’ve seen myself as a bike rider since I was a kid riding to the beach far away and hoping I’d be back by dinner.  I spent just over 3 years being a messenger full time and another year or so part time while I was going to university.

 

After finishing university in the spring of ’98, I had a few months before heading off to teach English in Japan.  I was able to get some canoeing and camping trips in along with more riding.  I honestly didn’t know how long I would stay in Japan.  If it didn’t pan out, I could be moving on in a year. If I liked it … well, 8 years went by before deciding to return to Canada with Norie (my wife) and our two children, Tai and Ekou.  We had gotten married in 2000 and had our honeymoon was a week long canoe trip in Algonquin Park, Ontario.  Norie loved Canada and it’s natural beautiful and could easily see herself moving here someday.  In 2002 Norie, Tai, my parents and a friend from Japan came to Denman after hearing me talk of it so much.  They too feel in love with the place and it was shortly afterwards that we decided to buy a house on Denman Island while still living in Japan.  I guess my initial plans were to work in Japan and pay off the house, but reason just caught up with me and decided to move here and enjoy life rather than making a lot of money. 

 

We got here on May 31st 2006 and spent the rest of the year just enjoying the island.  Long hikes that I would now call walks, but it felt like we were on vacation, and we actually were.  The kids were 9 months and 3 and a half, so it was a great time as a family because we did so much together.  I really appreciate that summer and one that set our life in a new direction.   In December I joined the Denman Island Vol. Fire Department and carpentry work soon followed.

 

In April 2007, I got the job of “Park Facility Operator” for Fillongley Provincial Park here on Denman Island,  It means that Norie and I look after the park and campground.  What a great break of luck to land this.  I couldn’t think of a better job to have and am thankful for it every day.  Part of my morning routine is to walk through an old growth forest and check the trails.  During the late spring, summer and fall, I was pretty busy with keeping the campground running smoothly and the campers happy (while building a workshop, that will be explained further down).  I’ve got to meet some great people over the last 2 summers and a lot of the worlds problems can be solved by sitting around a campfire in the evening.  The campground is right down by the beach and there are only 10 sites so it is a great place to relax and enjoy BC’s beautiful nature.  More about the kayaks and kayakers to follow later.

 

I spent just over a year and a half with a great building crew here on Denman Island.  I’ve built a few places with them from ground up and a sprinkling of renovations in between.  We worked on the Denman Bakery and enclosed a new café.  That ended around the middle of July and since then I have been busy building a workshop at the back end of the property.  I have to say thanks to Rob and Denis for taking me in knowing nothing.  I was green as a leaf.  Almost 2 years later, I am on the finishing stages of my own workshop.  The workshop is 20×24 with 10 ft. walls and a 200 sq. ft loft.  The woodstove that I got given was from a retired member of the Fire Department.  This is what island life is like.  Last night I just hung the 2 front doors and it felt so good.  A milestone to me for sure.  Last night I took a few minutes to sit back in the realization that it took me 4 and a half months since I first started building.  I’ve pretty much made and did everything except the wiring.  I don’t know enough about it and I wanted to make sure it was done to code. My dad and Norie have also helped out a lot.  Dad was there throughout the framing stages and was passing shingles out of the skylight openings when we were roofing.  He wouldn’t go up on the roof, but banged his head enough times on the skylight opening to make one think that it was probably safer on the roof 😉   With the doors on, it now feels like a workshop rather than working on a workshop. 

 

Today I took it pretty easy and cleaned up the shop in the morning and moved around a few things.  I spent a lot of time drinking coffee and looking around the shop.  I figure that I can start building my first kayak on Christmas Day.  That will be my present.  Now why a kayak you say? I’m still asking myself why as well, but something bigger has pulled me in this direction.  I read Visions of the Wild: A Voyage by Kayak Around Vancouver Island   while I was living in Japan and was hooked and knew that I would some day be where they were writing about.  Now I am here, and it’s getting more exciting.  I’ve got to meet a lot of kayakers that have come to the campground and their boats always draw me in and a good part of the conversation that follows.  A few of the handmade boats that came in really got me excited, especially the cedar strips.  The last year and a half I’ve also been lurking on the boatbuilding and kayak building forums, reading, following links, looking at different boats and designs and finally decided to go with One Ocean Kayaks’ Cape Ann Storm as my first build.  I guess I should introduce myself on the boards now that I have the plans and soon to be a builder.  I have a few ideas for down the road, but first and foremost I want to build and get out and enjoy it.  A canoe will probably follow as it would be good with the kids. (I’m already planning my second boat – am I doomed to many late nights in workshop?  Life could certainly be worse 😉 There were a lot of days that I looked out on the water and wished that I was out paddling and hopefully next summer I won’t have to think that any more.  This part of the world is so exceptional in regards to enjoying the “outdoor life” in that you can do so many things (on and off the water) in such a close proximity.  

 

Now that the winter months have arrived, I’ll be updating more as I’ll make time in the evenings now that the doors are on. My self imposed deadlines with the shop have been met and I feel a shift has occurred.  There is still a lot of work to do on the shop, and you’ll be updated along the way … it feels kind of strange writing this because I haven’t really been on the computer much since I was in Japan.  A lot of people I know haven’t heard from me much since I moved here, as I wanted to get away from the computer for a while after having to take one everywhere I went while working in Japan. It was a nice break, and one that the family and I haven’t taken for granted and I feel that we made to most of our time.

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