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Entries in Canada (6)


An amazing end to the first leg of a very long trip


Location: Los Angeles, California, USA


If you thought I wasn’t lucky enough to get two bluebird days in one ski session, you were wrong – although the second evening of snow was merely a trace, it was still a gorgeous sunny day and I count it.

I took a day off between ski days to relax and allow myself to recover from the first full day back on the slopes since last season. Fortunately, I didn’t need the rest too much as I was surprisingly, not that sore. I slept in late while Dan worked and then he accompanied me on a quick drive into Invermere. The trip was originally intended to catch some photos of some gorgeous scenery I had passed on the way into town the night before, but after getting all the way down the mountain, I realized that I forgot the SD card for my camera… awesome.

So we decided to just chill out a bit. We walked out on Lake Lillian where they had a cute skating rink banked off with snow (although the rink was not skatable as it was mostly covered in snow). After that we drove down to the main lake in Invermere (Lake Windermere) and then drove ON the lake. I was quite a bit nervous at first but Dan coached me through it and we drove out as far as another small 2 wheel drive car. We walked around skated a bit farther out and then the novelty wore off and we drove right back off. What was really cool about this lake was that there is actually a legitimate road that drives right across the middle and where we were parked (on the water) there was an ice hockey rink, a fishing hole, a bonfire pit and an ice garden set up by the park association. There was also a cross country skiing track setup around the perimeter. Really cool.

After we left the lake, we picked up some items at the grocery store for our contribution to Alana’s going away pot luck later in the evening, picked up a hitchhiker (aka one of Dan’s friends) and drove back up to Pano.

Alana is one of Dan’s friends who actually stayed with my parent’s when they did the cross-country drive from Pano to North Carolina and I had heard wonderful things about her. She is moving back home and so some friends put together a little pot luck going away party. Dan and I decided that our contribution needed to be nothing other than… queso. I actually found Velveeta at the supermarket and ghetto rigged up some ro-tel. It was a huge hit and I thought, a very clever contribution to the evening :)

The night ended relatively early after a really nice house party and we all prepared ourselves for a long day of skiing ahead.

We woke up around 9:30 and got dressed quickly to be on the mountain at 10. Dan, Emma, another friend, Harper, and I all met up to ski down some runs before meeting up with Nick and Alister at the base at noon. It was a really fun crowd and we had a great time. The snow was still pretty great and we hiked a bit further down Taynton Bowl to the very end, a run called Whitetail, which was a bit steeper than B1st but immensely shorter. I got some excellent skiing advice from Nick, who coaches on the mountain, and I started to feel a lot more comfortable with the double blacks (just in time for another year long skiing hiatus). We skied all day but never really tired and were greeted at home with another amazing hot meal prepared by one of Dan’s roomie’s, Amy. Tonight, a chicken curry, which was warm and delicious and exactly what I needed.

We took a quick dip in the hot tub before heading to watch Alister play in a broomball game played up on the frozen over tennis courts. The game was hilarious; it’s basically a more formalized version of the street hockey we used to play with a soccer ball back home. Short broom sticks with a flat end and a soccer ball kicked and swatted back and forth between tipsy employees slipping all over the place on the fresh ice. So much fun.

From there we packed up my car and drove back up to the T Bar for “Jam Night” which was basically an open mic night with a full band setup. In theory, it would have been really cool, but apparently, the main guy who runs it was not there this night, so it was a bit disorganized. Dan brought his drum set, and we had some songs lined up to sing and play (Harper plays a bit of electric guitar, with Dan on drums and me singing) but the highlight of the evening ended up being when we plugged Dan’s iPod into the overhead speakers and he accompanied a little Soulja Boy and Lady Gaga with his drumming magnificence. Definitely a fun night.

I left the bar around 12:30 to begin my drive to Calgary. The drive was really pretty boring. The conditions were great, clear skies, not too much snow left on the roads. The only issue was really fog, which wasn’t terrible, but just patchy in parts. The only thing that really happened was at about 2:30 when I hit a patch of fog and then suddenly saw a VERY large silhouette inside it. I slammed on my brakes and came to a halt about 10 yards from a gigantic female moose. She looked at me and then took off up the mountain to my left, but needless to say, I was a bit more careful looking for wildlife for the rest of the drive.

I got to Calgary about 4:30 and parked outside a Comfort Inn to pick up wifi and check on the carry on allowances at the airport. Unfortunately, the websites for both Continental and the Calgary airport were not exactly accurate. I’m going to type up a separate post detailing exactly what went down, and will provide a link here when I finish that up. Summary story, I ended up having to throw away a bunch of stuff in my laptop bag because I couldn’t take it on to the plane with me. I almost missed my flight out of Calgary, as a result, but didn’t, thankfully. I flew from Calgary to Houston, had a quick layover and then flew to Orlando (yes… opposite of the direction I wanted to go) and then to Los Angeles, finally. The amazing Lauren Rudy picked me up from the airport and we headed straight to Sharkeez in Manhattan Beach for some dinner and a couple beers. I had originally planned on staying up all night tonight to get on Japan time a little early, but I think that since I didn’t sleep last night and only for about 5 hours today, that I’m probably already screwed up enough to avoid jet lag completely. So I am off to bed.
Tomorrow, I head to Okinawa. I am so excited I can hardly contain myself. This is going to be a big step for me in terms of culture shock. But I’m ready. Asia, here I come!


Now playing: The Young Dubliners - Rocky Road To Dublin
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A beautiful bluebird Saturday in Panorama


Location: Panorama, British Columbia, Canada


Panorama has to be one of the best kept secrets of the Canadian Rockies. This place is great. I arrived last night late after driving from the airport in Calgary. My flight was uneventful (or rather, I wouldn’t know because I slept through it) and the drive was mostly just annoying. It was snowing rather heavily the entire way (about 300 km) so I spent most of the way stuck behind a semi-truck which continually splashed nasty snow all over my windshield. There was no other option as the only plowed lane was the far right and there was no real way to pass. But it was all worth it, as I was greeted in Pano by Dan and his roommates who were so friendly and eager to get to the bar – which was perfect, because I was as well.
We went to a bar that was about as close to the house as LB Pizza Co (for those who get the reference) and it was great fun to meet all of Dan’s friends (he does a decent job picking them!)

This morning started too early for me, but probably just at the right time. We woke up and strapped on our gear and headed straight to the mountain. It was the most perfect bluebird day for skiing that I think I have ever seen. The temperature was about -8C, the sun was out (not a cloud in the sky) and the mountain got dumped with about 40cm of powder overnight. Some of the big bowls and ridges were closed early morning so we headed down the face for a warm up (HA! If you could call it that). Dan was determined to get up to the ridge (a series of double blacks requiring a short hike and not something I wanted to try first thing in the morning after having not skied in over a year) as soon as we heard they were open but I was determined not to die today, so I forced him to give me some single diamonds (and a trip to the liquor store for some peppermint schnapps) before I tackled the big gun.

But in the end, Dan won. And thank god. I’ve skied ridges on other mountains before, but most of them require at least an hour hike and are rather short. This was neither of those. We hiked for less than 10 minutes before we reached our run but we didn’t go far. The powder was so deep that every other step I was waist deep in fresh goodness. It was fun the first time it happened but when I was suddenly standing on a bank of snow 3 full feet below me, I got a little perturbed. Once we stuck our skies back on, we cruised down and amazing run called B1 and were one of the firsts of the day to do so. There were hardly any treads and it was easy to pave our own way. The powder was fresh and light and the run was littered with trees but not too tightly packed to make me nervous. The best part of this run was that it lasted for a solid hour. We weaved in and out and in and out and crossed over to other runs and back into our little man-made half-pipe. It was beautiful. I was just about to say the best part of this run was… but I realized I already used that line, so I’ll say this was the second best part. I didn’t see another person the entire time. It was just Dan, Julia and I and we made sure we covered the whole area.

As soon as we made it to the bottom though, I felt like I may fall into pieces. I was so exhausted and my body was not exactly pleased with me. So I promised Dan a couple more runs, and then checked off the mountain at about 2:30 and grabbed a bite to eat where Emma works down at the main lodge.

The rest of the evening has been spent lying around doing mostly nothing. We cooked some honey garlic chicken wings for dinner (or rather Amy did) and some mashed potatoes (my contribution) and rice (best recipe I’ve found – thanks Sue Anne!). We had a nice little family dinner and now we’re waiting for Dan to get off work so we can head out to the bars!


Now playing: Alanis Morissette - Hand In My Pocket
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Take me Back to Chicago

Location: London, Ontario, Canada

We had so much fun last night and I’m so grateful for our wonderful hosts!! London was such a fun town and the people were great and so friendly. We hit up a little sports bar after I finished work last night to meet up with some more of Dan’s Pano friends and to watch the Leaf’s hockey game and MNF. The games were pretty uneventful and after some wings and quite a few pitchers, we decided to head to a real club. For a Monday night, this place was packed – we actually had to wait in line to get in! The bar itself was great; had two floors with different music and vibes on each. We camped out in a booth upstairs and chatted, drank and listened to the live music. It was a really great time and we got home quite late.

After a long sleep, we left after noon and headed down to Chicago. Getting back into the US was relatively straight forward (although not nearly as much fun as getting into Canada) and the drive through Michigan and Indiana was… well… boring.

When we arrived in Chicago, it was raining, but not too heavily. We stopped by Sam’s apartment to drop our stuff off and Dan, Brian and Sam all headed to the Metro to see the show we were supposed to see. Unfortunately, I still haven’t been able to get a day off from work, so I’m missing the show to put in the hours I wasn’t able to earlier today. I’m really kind of over this whole work while on vacation thing. I was supposed to be on vacation all of last week also and didn’t break one day. I guess the only thing that’s good about this is that I will definitely have some vacation days to take and relax once I get back to Oklahoma – ok I guess that’s sort of good.

Anyway, I’m in a coffee shop down the street from Sam’s now. Just got done with the majority of the work I needed to do today and now I’m going to go meet the kids at the Metro to grab a drink and then drive with Dan out to the airport to pick up his friend Emma who is coming in town to meet with us today and drive the rest of the drive back to Pano with Dan.


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How not to drive a stick...

Location: London, Ontario, Canada

It has certainly been a long day, but very productive. I stayed up all night last night, and more than anything, got all of my ducks in a row. I made about 20 lists of the things that I need to get done before Thursday, I scoured places for us to stay on Thursday and I did some thorough cleaning of my e-mail boxes. In addition, I made some substantial progress on my project for the Port of Long Beach; not enough progress to be able to relax and go out with my friends tonight, but enough progress to where I didn’t have to work in the car.

The drive today was incredibly short. We just had to pop down from Rochester to London, Ontario where we are staying with some of Dan’s friends from Panorama. We left Rochester at about 11 and headed for Niagara Falls. We ran into an anomaly at the US border when the border guard felt the need to chat us up and joke around with us for a couple minutes. He was so nice and I was glad to not suffer through the nerve racking interrogation that usually occurs when crossing the border.

We tried to find a parking spot near the falls so we could get out and walk around, but alas, we couldn’t find anything for less than $20. So I blurt out, “Well, why don’t I drive and drop you off and just come back and pick you up in like 15 minutes?” Great idea, Hesser… especially since you haven’t driven a stick in like 5 years. So Dan and I switch spots, he cringes as I kick the thing into first gear and we pull ahead… slowly… slow… almost… Yes, no. Stall. Ok, that’s fine, it was my first try in a while, and it’s a new car for me. Breathe. Alright, let’s try again. Breaks, clutch, first gear… slowly… ease… Ahhhh! *Jerks Forward*, *Jerks back* , *Jerks forward*, *back*, KEEP, *Jerks forward*, GOING, *back*… ahhhh… first gear :) And we’re off! I managed to circle the block while the boys jumped out to look at the falls, and didn’t completely strip the gears.

The rest of the way through Canada was smooth sailing. Dan got his first glimpse of Lake Ontario (I tried to tell you it looks like the ocean!) and then we turned south. We arrived into London in time for Trevor (our host for the evening) to take us on a nice leisurely drive through the hotspot that is London, Ontario. It was quite a pleasant place, looks a bit like Tulsa, actually. We’re back at the house now and watching a bit of TV (while I’m getting some more work done and hanging out with my new best friend, Trevor’s cat). Looks like we’re going to head to a sports bar tonight to watch MNF and the Leaf’s hockey game. Excited for a little relaxation!


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I try to try, and I live to live

Vancouver to LALocation: Hollywood, California, USA

I woke up yesterday somewhere in Oregon, which was another beautiful gem to add to my list of unknown states. It had rained some more but now was relatively patchy. Everything was incredibly green because of the fresh moisture and as we wound through the mountains, the light mist turned to light snow. There wasn’t much of it, but it was just enough to flock the trees and dust the roads. It was extremely picturesque coming down into the valley. Then right as we came out of our Christmas tree farm, right in front of us is Mt. Shasta. Now, I had heard of this little bump in the ground before, but NEVER did I expect this. It’s is this GIANT volcano that juts out of the middle of nowhere. There are no other mountains touching it and it is just surrounded by grassland and pine trees. Completely snow peaked and surrounded by some clouds, it looked like a painting. Unfortunately, Herr Brian (aka nazi) wouldn’t pull over to let me take a picture because he said we were running too far behind, so I snapped what I could from inside the car and onward we continued.

It was probably about this point that we ran out of music on my iPod as well. I have about 2000 songs on there, which I guess lasts about 80 hours, because that’s where we were. Not good. So we decide to do a little Chris Cornell marathon and play everything I have before the show.

We continue down central California through the central valley, Sacramento and the San Joaquin Valley. We pass hundreds of acres of cherry trees, avocado trees, orange trees, grapes, lettuce, almonds… pretty much everything. But that’s really all there was. It was relatively boring and redundant. Traffic started to pick up as we passed San Francisco and so did the winds which made it hard to drive a consistent speed. As we got close to LA, I took over driving again and led us into the city. We drove straight to the Wiltern in Hollywood, grabbed some PBR and a bag of chips and parked in the covered garage to change clothes and have a snack.

We walked into the Wiltern about 3 minutes before Chris went on stage. We grabbed a quick beer and ran in just in time to hear the beginning. It was one of the greatest shows I’ve seen, such an honor to watch such an amazing rock legend do his thing. And absolutely the perfect ending to the best and longest road trip any human has ever attempted in one weekend. Brian and I swung by the SM Apartment to pick up my mattress and Tinsley and then I dropped him off in Belmont Shore and headed to my own little pad for a much needed nap. And that’s that… the end of an incredible trip… And definitely one I’ll never forget.

Vancouver, BC, Canada --> Long Beach, CA
Miles travelled: 1319
Time travelled: 24 hours


Now playing: Curtis Peoples - Country Road
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If you catch me at the border I got visas in my name

Location: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

So we hit the border last night around 3:30 AM (slightly later than planned – damn fruitless Yellowstone detour). I was wondering how they were going to receive us… Two Americans, a Scotsman and an Aussie – staying for less than 24 hours in the country except for the Aussie who is staying on a 12 month work Visa… all very complicated. But the only part that caused trouble was Dan’s visa. Apparently, the systems were down at all of the checkpoints across the border and there was no way for them to issue him his work permit. Now we panic for a solid 30 minutes probably. He either has to wait on the US side until 8 AM and then try again, or he can go into Canada as a visitor and return to the border within 10 days to get his permit. Seriously? Not cool.

So we opt for option 2, leaving the border patrol station just glad to be in Canada. That didn’t last long. We quickly realize that we’re almost out of gas and that the next official gas station is more miles away than we have gas in the tank. Now we’re also wondering if we will actually make it to Panorama in time to get Dan to work at 9 AM. There are HUNDREDS of deer off the side of the road and I, having been driving for almost 45 hours at this point without a break, am starting to see things. Thankfully, Mark chimes in with the perfect distraction and teaches us a great Irish drinking song called “Seven Drunken Nights” which we sing and perfect while coasting down the Canada mountains towards the gas station – which we luckily made.

We continue towards Panorama, it’s about 6 AM now, and now the REAL animals start to jump out at the car. We’re talking gigantic horse sized Elk hiding in the bushes and lurching out at us when we drove by. About 15 minutes outside of Dan’s apartment, I hit my brick wall and he takes over driving the home stretch. We arrive at the employee lodge and his apartment is ready and waiting for him. We stumble in, he takes a shower and we pass out three deep on his twin sized dorm style bed while he heads to his first day of work.

After a couple hours snooze, we say our goodbye’s and the three leftovers head towards Banff where Mark has now decided he wants to go for a couple days. We drive through Banff national park, which is, of course, beautiful. It’s always been one of my favorite places and it never gets old to drive through there. We attempt to take our picture at the Alberta border, but that was a disaster without our stellar time photographer, Dan. We meet up with Mark’s friend at the McDonald’s (go figure) in Banff and grab some lunch. After saying another set of farewell’s, Brian and I start the long trip home. As we calculate it, we have 25 hours to get back before the Chris Cornell show starts at 6:30 PM on Sunday. That’s going to require yet another straight through drive – yippee….

We drive through much of British Columbia and stop a couple times to take pictures and once to watch what’s called the “Spiral Bridge” which is a set of tunnels and bridges where trains descend from the mountains down to a lower elevation valley. It’s way cool and at one point you can see the train going in one side of a tunnel, out another and then through a spiral in the mountain and coming out right below itself. It’s just like a train set you would build in a garage, only… real!

About 30 minutes after the spiral train… I am done driving. So Brian takes over and starts his 24 hour streak. I pass out in the backseat for about the next 8 hours while Brian does his thing. We hit a pretty bad storm outside of Vancouver and run over a couple trees (or at least that’s what they looked like to me). Needless to say, I was laying in the backseat with all three seatbelts on in a strange fashion. I knew we had to book it, and I knew if I kept watching, I’d freak out, so I just laid down and said some prayers. I guess it worked fine!

Kalispell, MT --> Vancouver, BC, Canada
Miles travelled: 863
Time travelled: 23 hours


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