Damn, Canada is a big place. I’m 10 days in, and thought maybe I was 1/3 the way, but looking at this map (pink is where I have been, green where I think I am going) I am lucky if I have traversed a quarter of the Great Baconated North. Heck, Looking at where I am now in Calgary, I am not even east of where I started in Arizona!
Beyond the weekly stats, the blogging here has been light, I know (and my Mom has told me so on the phone). The results are clear, no blogging and the peeps go away:
One obvious insight so far is when I was at home how much time I got to not only blog, but also to read and stay in tune with my networks. With some days of being on the road 8, 10 hours, and then wanting to spend time visiting with the people I am seeing– well, the blogging has slid down the list, but my most reliable updates are daily (network providing) photos at http://flickr.com/photos/cogdog.
But I am damned if I will apologize for not blogging. I may slow down, but will never stop, and when I do get some time, look at, there is a backlog lined up.
Yet, that was not the goal when I started typing in this box, it is to try and get some thanks in to all of the people I have gotten to spend time with on the Canada leg, this stretch special because there are among the friends I have known the longest online. Plus I have had blue sky weather the whole way.
Once being thoroughly inspected by the Canadian Customs cops (they looked in almost every box and bag in my truck, but never flinched at the StoryBox), my first visit was with Scott Leslie, who had set up what will be hard to beat as the best camping of the trip. Before we left, I had some fun time with his son, who has grown a lot since I saw him last. We had walked to the big park in Victoria and came across people playing cricket. I got a nice video of Scott (for the StoryBox) explaining the rules to us.
But the canoe trip was more than perfect as the first activity in .ca:
We took the ferry from Swartz Bay to Salt Spring Island, a place I had visited once before, picked up a canoe at a friends house, and drove to the very north end of the island which is ironically named “Southey Point” We put some hastily collected gear into the canoe and paddled over to Wallace Island, a sliver of land that is preserved as a park, where we camped for two utterly peaceful days, walked, canoed around, watched eagles/seals/raccoons, talked life, Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and basked in some stunning sunsets.
We parted (Scott was staying), but not before I gave a ride to an interesting young woman who needed a ride to the ferry; she was headed to a unique school where she learns Apache techniques for living off the land and learning to read animal and human tracks. Another great interview “in the StoryBox” as was some audio recorded from two guys jamming the blues on guitars on the ferry crossing back.
With some regrets I bypassed Vancouver (and many friends there and my cousin), but heck, I’ve been there almost every year and was there last May. I am driven by this desire to see the parts of British Columbia I have not seen before (almost all of it).
A suggestion from Scott worked out perfectly, I set up a camp spot at Golden Ears Provincial Park and was so happy that Brian Lamb and his son agreed to drive rush hour traffic out to meet me. Brian is a close friend as well, going back to a fortunate meetup at an EDUCAUSE ELI conference in New Orleans and us connecting over our boredom with learning objects.
Brian brought with him a good collection of lager and ales plus a full Mediterranean meal we cobble cooked on my camp stoves. Harry entertained and was pivotal in keeping the campfire going, and even gave me an audio version of the “Golden Arm” story for the StoryBox.
I so enjoyed the time together, I neglected to get a photo of us! Oops. Brian had to return to town because of that four letter word (WORK). Thanks again, mi amigo.
The next day was a long haul drive across BC- and I had several route options to choose from. The target was Vernon BC to be able to visit with Jason Toal (@draggin) who was vacationing with his family. The first leg was out Highway 1, which comes close enough to spit into the US, and I had a great stop over and walkabout in Hope.
Sadly I could not locate any boxes of Snyders pretzels, but did manage to snag the perfect cookies for someone with a PirateBox
It was next out Highway 3 for the southern route, doing my geologic homage by stopping to see the Hope landslide. I was eyeballing the kilometerposts, which went as high as 90, but they seemed to give out, so I got no ds106 photos to add to the (meager) collection of 106 mileposts a subset of my larger finds of 106 photos.
The drive up highway 5a from Princeton was one of the prettiest stretches, a windy 2 lane country road, almost no traffic, that passed by some awesome lakes and groves of aspen. I crested the big mountains going east on 87c before landing in an ugly hour of gridlock traffic into and out of Kelowna. I got in to Vernon in time to set up camp in the urban-ish campground of “Dutch’s Park”, but it was convenient, and about 5 minutes from Jason’s mom’s place.
He shared a great deli sandwich and fresh salad dinner, and broke out a steady stream of ales. We enjoyed some conversation on the back table, taking out the storybox, and got to some great stories from his step-dad. I had no idea, but the sneaky guy had been broadcasting a while to ds106 radio. It was fun to have a bunch of the usual chime ins from @DrGarcia, @noiseprofessor, et al.
The night was capped by some Revelstoke whiskey, and I asked Jason if I might be able to visit their operation if I stopped in at the town of that same name.
Sadly, I had an 11:00pm curfew (that was when the gates to the campground closed) but Jason and I met again in the morning for coffee, he gave me even more videos and stuff for the StoryBox.
Jason did invite me to stick around and participate in his new found sport, paddleboarding, but I was conscious of my need to make some eastward tracks, so we parted ways. It was definitely worth it to spend some time with the genius music mix master!
This day was a lot of driving, and dealing with the regret for quick glances at places I had to skip. Making mental notes for future trips. Listening to music and audio books. Waving at cows. I pulled into Revelstoke, and wandered their farmers market which was winding down, and had an un=impressive lunch at a cafe. I later found myself in “Cheers” liquor store asking about Revelstoke whiskey. It turns out it has no relation to the town besides the name. Oh well.
More eastern progress into Glacier National Park, which is in a valley surrounded by soaring alpine peaks and ostensibly… glaciers. I decided to grab a camp spot at 4:00pm, and while camping next to the highway was not prime, I got a quiet spot. I went to the Rogers Summit visitor center to get some info, and ended up doing a later afternoon hike up to Marion Lake, about 1500 feet climbing in 2.4 miles. Man that trail would not quit climbing but the top revealed some stupendous views.
I also came across a British couple at the top, and was kicking myself for not bothering to ask them for a StoryBox interview, but I caught up with them later on the trail down, and I got some amazing comments from both of them about their lives, work, dealing with challenges. Gems.
Having seen really only a bit one one National park cannot really generalize about differences between ones I have seen in the US, but that rarely stops me. I am gathering the US system is better funded; they collect higher fees to (I paid $7.80 a weird non rounded amount) for a day pass in Canada; and most national parks in the US are more like $25. You get what you pay for? (This did correlate to a recent reading of Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire which features som major rips against the US National parks which cater to cars and people who never get out of them).
The signage in the Canadian parks is lacking, especially for maps, and those brown road signs with dull yellow paint are close to unreadable at highway speeds. On the positive side, this Canadian National Park was not set up as a drive through experience, like I found at Grand Teton national Park. The road was mainly the highway to get through, and to see stuff you have to get out and hike.
Of course the most important things these parks do is to preserve the shrinking amount of wilderness. And that is always a Good Thing.
The next day was also one to cover some distance; I wanted to get to Calgary. It had gotten really cold that night camping in Glacier, I bet it was in the mid 40s (F) so I had it in mind to find some Hot Springs. I opted to take the longer map route and bend south to Radium Hot Springs. After a few short photo stops, I got there around noon. But the info I got at the visitor center revealed that the resort was really the hot springs that are large swimming pools, and by noon it was hot again! I bailed, but had a nice lunch of a wrap and wifi at Higher Ground Coffee Shop.
By the time I was on the road again, heading through Kootenay National Park, I realized I would have to buzz straight on through to get to D’Arcy Norman’s house by 4:30, when he wanted to head out to go to his folks house for a barbecue. I passed a lot of scenery, big mountains, turquoise blue glacial rivers, vast acres of forest fire burnt trees. I had seen a bit of this on a previous trip back in 2004, and did the mental bookmark.
D’Arcy lives in Tuscany… the name of a development in Calgary. There was a bit of challenge since every street name here is some permutation of Tuscany Something Road/Street/Drive, but I eventually found his house with a clear marker:
I got to spend a hilarious evening meeting his parents, brothers, sisters, niece and other relatives. This is the third or fourth time on this trip I was welcomed into a larger family summer barbecue, and it really warms my heart to be able to experience this. It sounds corny and trite to say family is important, but being in it for a few hours, it makes me think more about the investment and pay off of family ties. More thinking on this to come.
The real joy of the last 3 days was not any list of “activities” but just the fun and warmt of getting to hang out with D’Arcy and his family, especially “The Boy” who is adorable in so many ways and adores his Dad. They got right into adding things to the StoryBox:
as well as helping with amping up the sticker decoration:
D’Arcy and I had a great Monday going downtown, including a great meetup with a friend I knew from Vancouver who has moved out here, Doug Symington at what I learned was a prime restaurant, Charcut
Doug had sent before what might be the showcase video contribution to the StoryBox.
D;Arcy and I had a wandering/photographing afternoon, doing the touristy Calgary Tower, stumbling into some great live music in the Olympic park, enjoying beers on the main drag, and refreaining from spending my budget at MEC.
After another homecooked meal by Mr and Mrs Norman, we got to have some fun jamming guitars and playing it out to ds106 radio. Yesterday, D’Arcy had to work, so I went in with him to the University of Calgary, and knuckled down for some overdue writing work for an article I have been successfully procrastinating on.
Last night we did a fun full family bike ride around the neighborhood, which was the warm up for today’s expedition. We drove out to Canmmore, the east entrance to Banff National Park, and rode our bicycles into Banff
I could have sworn we were flying downhill into town, so after a filling burger lunch, on the ride out, I was dreading going uphill, and somehow, it was more down than up! We did 23 miles total, probably not much for D’Arcy who had just clocked his 2300 kilometer for the year, but for me it was a pillar experience.
Its getting late, and i find even in writing this much, I am only dancing over all the experiences. I cannot be more thankful for the overflowing gracious offerings of my friends along the way, welcoming me into their home, families. I do feel like making the lou Gehrig speech about being the luckiest man alive, for these people and connections I have.
And there is a lot more to come in the next stretch, which includes a stop tomorrow in Edmonton (to see Raj Boora and have a late lunch with George Siemens), visit to Rob Wall in North Battleford; then on to visit Rick Schwier and lunch with Heather Ross in Saskatoon; Alec Couros in Regina; Dean Shareski in Moose Jaw, and Chris Harbeck and Darren Kuropatwa in Winnipeg.
Even then, my map shows me I will only be about 0.5 the way across Canada. Ontario looms like a giant landmass– and even them a tweet from a total stranger who lives there has yielded me a detailed list of places to see and camp at.
Yes, I am damned lucky, I know it, and I love it and all the peeps who help make it happen.