The Westender

How to get out of town— without a noxious fume machine

By Tom Zillich

The Westender May 30, 2001


"...a frank, sensibly written and slightly political guide..."


A new guide book written by a West End educator assumes people don’t need a car to enjoy the natural beauty of B.C.

The auto-addicted among us might not agree, which is one of the reasons why Brian Grover felt compelled to write B.C. Car-Free: Exploring Southwestern British Columbia Without a Car ($19.99 at local book and outdoor stores).

The 344-pager is a frank, sensibly written and slightly political guide to getaways within reach to Vancouverites by bus, boat and other non-auto modes of transportation.

A glitch in the timing of publication has been the region’s two-month-old transit strike. Optimistically, Grover points out that of the 94 excursions detailed in his self-published book, just 15 are wiped out by the labour dispute, most of them out of season anyway.

B.C. Car-Free is billed as the only public-transportation guide to outdoor recreation in Canada. In great detail, the author maps access to destinations such as the Stein Valley Mini-Traverse and the Orcas Islands assuming the reader lives in the heart of Vancouver, a starting point for any number of well-researched bus and SkyTrain routes, ferries, water taxis and foot paths. Maps, checklists and warnings guide the reader to hiking, cycling, whale-watching, kayaking, cave-exploring and other outdoor experiences.

A West End resident for 13 of the past 20 years, Grover says very few guidebooks even pay lip service to public transportation. Determined to avoid the headaches and expense of owning a car, he set out to find out just what could be undertaken without one.

"This book is dedicated to and written for those who do not want to sit around complaining about the high cost of gasoline or auto insurance at dinner parties, do not want to spend their Thursday afternoons getting a brake job, who dislike parking fines, speeding tickets and tow trucks with equal acrimony," he writes in his introduction.

Grover packs B.C. Car-Free with so much information—ferry schedules, rates, phone and fax numbers—that he runs a serious risk of having the book rendered out of date in a short period of time. The shelf life of a typical travel guide is extended greatly by avoiding such detail. Grover is attempting to navigate around this pitfall by directing readers to a website message board for information updates submitted by the author and readers. "I’m swimming against the current on that one," he says ruefully.

Grover’s wife, Manami Kimura, contributes illustrations and some photos to the guide, which she translated into Japanese for the couple’s website. Together they pay the bills as E.S.L. teachers at their apartment-based school, dubbed Brian and Neko’s Place. Grover is a former communications officer with the Outdoor Recreation Council of B.C.

Irreverently, Grover includes a "mystery photo" of a mountain range in the book’s introduction. "I’m 60 per cent sure it’s Mount Arrowsmith on Vancouver Island." Those who recognize the peak are encouraged to inform the author at his website address.

The End