July, 2011

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Road trippin

So the road trip has come to an end.  Yesterday was a long long day.  I spent about 10 hours on the road with very minimal stops.  It was all easy driving with 80% of it just following I5.  I only had to really do anything once we got double digit miles from San Fran.  Luckily most of it was easy to navigate as Brad was sleeping instead of navigating.

Due to making good time we did make a late lunch stop in the Napa for a quick sandwhich (love the fact you can buy fresh made to order sandwhiches in supermarkets) and a stop at one random winery.  $10 later and 5 tastes of wine and I’ve ticked another thing off the list.

It gave me a good buzz for the final drive into San Fran.  I was excited!  But before I go through my first impressions of San Fran, let’s discuss gas stations here in the USA.  For some dumb reason you only have two options of payment.  Credit card at the pump or prepaid cash.  When your trying to just fill the tank cash is no good.  So you need to use card.  But the pumps require a 5 digit zip code.  Therefore international cards aren’t accepted.  Some stations will hold your ID and card while you fill, some are cash only.  Typical nonsense.  It made life a little tough at times, but I survived.

San Fran… wow.  The bay is beautiful (well what I saw of it from I80 and the Bay Bridge).  The city is hilly and definately going to work the calves, so going to focus on my legs in the gym for a bit.  I don’t really know what I’m going to see yet, but I should have a better idea later today.  There is a whole foods around the corner from my hotel so I can enjoy good food if need be.  But here is to arriving alive in one piece after 980 miles on the wrong side of the road.

Current Location: Dotties True Blue Cafe, San Francisco
Countries: 3
Canadian Provinces: 2
US States: 3

Shopping & Stress… not the best combo

The title is not the best intro to this post, but i will get to where this is coming from. But first up i left you after 3 nights in Seattle. Our last full day in Seattle, we were going to head to the Museum of Flight in the morning then pretty much had planned on whatever comes to mind the rest of the day.

Well After much to and fro, we decided on Museum of Flight, then a tour of Safeco Field, then off on our own for the rest of the evening. Museum of Flight was going to be good, but rushed as we had to be back in Seattle for the field tour. But I was willing to make that sacrifice. What I didn’t plan on was Brad winning tickets on arrival to tour the new Boeing Bee. A WW2 B17F that was located at the musuem. What a score. The tour was great and i was definately more into it than Brad was.

So a good way to end my #avgeek time in Seattle. I was in heaven. I spent a bit more $$$ in the gift store on some geeky stuff (including a Pan Am Passport Cover!). We headed back to the City to Safeco field and did a tour of the ground which was interesting. After that I left Brad to walk back the 5-6kms back to the hotel. Brad was heading to the Space Needle, i was heading downtown and depending on weather I was going to detour. Detour I did. I ended up at the best kept secret in Seattle.

My new friend Christina had told me about the Columbia Centre as an alternative to the overpriced Space Needle. She was right. This place is not as good of a view (bout 280 degrees compared to full 360) but it is higher (73 floors up) and 1/4 of the price. The cost of admission $5 for adults. The guy on the desk let me in for $3. Couple of tips though. If your thirsty, they have a Starbucks on Level 40 with great views and its free. Also there are no signs to the Skydeck so just head to the lifts and head up, or ask the guy on security (which is what I did).

All in all a fantastic day!

Yesterday we were due to check out of our hotel in Seattle, head across town to the National Car Rental Depot (at the Hilton) and pick up our car. It was time for a Road Trip. We were going to spend the next 3 days driving south to San Francisco. I had never done a road trip of this length before and to be doing it in the USA on the best interstate Road System (in my opinion) and to be doing it on the wrong side of the road. Totally awesome! When picking up the Car i was given 4 choices. Chevy Impala, Chevy Malibu, Nissan Altima or Dodge Charger. Pass, Pass, Pass, HELLO!!

This car is awesome, I love it. Smartkey system means we dont even need to insert a key into any ignition at all, I just keep it in my pocket the whole time! awesome++ Its got all the bells and whistles and makes the drive so easy. What doesn’t help is Portland’s streets. Every street downtown is one way and its a freaking hassle, as some streets wont even allow turns at all, so it was a made house and meant we did not even get to do some stuff and I was majorly stressed trying to navigate and drive as Brad couldn’t read the map we had.

We found a AAA and got a much better map but it still wasn’t the best. But there was a few saving graces in Portland, and I will list them in order of epicness:

1. Voodoo Doughnuts
2. Street Food
3. NO SALES TAX

Lets cover the no sales tax first. This was a good thing, with no sales tax, our $$$ at an epic level it meant one thing. SHOPPING TIME! I had been putting the shopping off for months and months telling myself I can just get it in the USA cheaper. And i was right. For instance I got two pairs of Oakley Sunglasses over here for $300. Back home both sunglasses would set me back a total of $500. with the conversion i will probably only pay about $280 or so. AWESOME++

Picked up some football jerseys and a heap of running gear both Nike and Under Armour. I also bought 2 pairs of shoes (throwing away one pair that ive been wearing so far) and a few polo shirts. Add this into the tshirts and other stuff I bought at Boeing and a few other things, this has been awesome so far. Also picked up a new pair of Noise Cancelling headphones and lots of other small things. Love it! total spend in Oregon… $1500.

Now we come to the food side of things. Lets discuss the Street Food. Some people think the street food capital of the USA is Portland, and I had high hopes. It did not dissapoint. In our little harshness of trying to find something quickly while negotiating the Portland Streets, I just picked one little area where there is a heap of Food Trucks/Carts and just went for it, I’ll eat whatever is dished out to me. Well I scored. Ended up seeing a sign that said “Voted Portlands Best Burger” at a cart called “Happy Grillmore”. That seems like 2 wins to me. An awesome burger AND an awesome name. They had a Blackbean & Chipotle Vegie Burger. YUM! and it was DELICIOUS! Street Food FTMFW!

The last thing Portland has going for it. Voodoo Doughnuts. I do not need to say much more than this place makes THE BEST DOUGHNUTS EVER. I mean it. I don’t care what anyone else says, these doughnuts are like Crack. I had a doughnut that was recommended by the server as her favourite called the “Old Dirty Bastard” which was a cake Doughnut, with Chocolate Frosting, Crushed Oreos and Peanut Butter. OMFG best thing known to man. It should be just called “edible crack” I wasn’t going to go for a run this morning but after the doughnut/crack last night, I just had to! Only ran 3.8km which is lower than what i normally do, but me no care.

Today after the last bits of shopping we continued on the Road Trip south along US101 along the Oregon Coast. It was beautiful and the driving was good. Lots of beautiful scenery. We made a pact to just find a small diner for lunch and go for a road trip staple, PIE.

Had a piece of Very Berry Pie in Reedsport at a place called “Dan’s”. They advertised the best pie in town. It was worth it. Diet go to hell. I can afford it. Unfortunately though we miscalculated and could of continued on past Roseburg this evening (we had a prepaid rate) and gone for either Medford or hell even somewhere over the border. This little Miscalculation means we have about roughly 500 miles to cover tommorrow along I5 and that means skipping Napa Valley. So one thing on my list has now been cancelled unfortunately, but my diet thanks me for skipping the wine.

Anyway time for bed, very early morning tomorrow. Keep an eye out for Tweets under the hashtag of #roadtripI5 tommorrow.

Trip List Update

Well I thought i should pull my finger out and Update what I have completed on my trip list. So here it is.

Photos of each thing will come once I have started uploading photos (probably at the end).

1. Drink a glass of French Champagne in France
2. Drink a glass of Champagne onboard a long haul flight (Onboard Air NZ Flight AKL>LAX)
3. Run Through Central Park
4. Pastrami on Rye at Katz’s Deli NYC
5. In’n’Out Burger (LAX In N Out)
6. Drive a car in the USA
7. Walk over the Brooklyn Bridge
8. Ride a “Bullet Train” in Japan
9. Hot Dog from a Cart (Japadog in Vancouver)
10. Food from a Truck in Portland
11. Sushi for Breakfast at Fish Markets in Tokyo
12. Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace
13. Visit Borough Market
14. Fly Upper Deck on an A380
15. Visit Hiroshima (Japan)
16. Visit Normandy (France)
17. Touch the Berlin Wall
18. Ride a Train on 3 Different Continents
19. Sit in a Backwards Facing Airline Seat
20. Plane Spotting in San Francisco, Vancouver & Narita (Vancouver Completed)
21. Catch a “Flying Fish” in Seattle
22. Visit Alcatraz
23. Ride a Cable Car in San Francisco
24. Go Hiking in the Rockies (Went Hiking in Jasper) 25. Ride a Bike
26. Go White Water Rafting in Canada (Jasper as well)
27. Visit a Location where Macgyver was filmed (Several Locations Around Vanvouer)

28. Eat a Celebrity/Celebrity Chef’s Restaurant
29. Eat Chicken Rice in Singapore
30. Buy Clothes at a store in New York
31. Visit Macys
32. Go to the Rodeo in Canada
33. Drink a Glass of Wine in the Napa Valley
34. Visit a Brewery (Jasper Brewing Company)
35. Visit a Temple
36. Visit a Cathedral
37. See the Mona Lisa
38. Make new friends (All the time on Holidays)
39. Go Airline Lounge Hopping (Brisbane & LAX so far)
40. Try to Meet a Flyertalker/Milepointer
41. Do Something Crazy (Ziplining In Whistler)
42. Go to a Baseball Game
43. Eat a Voodoo Donut
44. Visit the UN
45. Walk up the Eiffel tower
46. Wasabi Kit Kat
47. Buy Football Jerseys in the USA
48. Visit “China”
49. Buy a Fake Rolex
50. Spot a Retro Jet
51. Pay Tribute to a Flyertalk/Blog idol
52. Write a Trip Report (Underway)
53. See a Broadway Musical/Show
54. Meet up with some “Tweeps” (2 so far @pacificairphoto & @futureofflight)
55. Go to a Whole Foods Market – Top Chef Style (Seattle)
56. Eat a “Giant Cob of Corn Husk on” at Calgary Stampede

57. Eat a Canadian Baked Potato at Calgary Stampede (Did Not Complete)
58. Spend the entire day at Calgary Stampede all the way to closing time
59. Walk the Highline in NYC
60. View a Ceremony that not many people ever get to experience
61. Eat in Restaurant that was famous for a General/President who ate/stayed there
62. Eat a “Concrete”
63. Visit a Crumpler Store Overseas
64. Drink some Siphon Coffee (Seattle Coffee Works)
65. Tell a Good Looking Stranger Its “My Birthday” on My Birthday in New York City
66. Go Spotting in LAX with a Travel Blogger (Went Spotting with Brett from Cranky Flier)
67. Eat a Dennys Grand Slam (Canadian Grand Slam in Kamloops)
68. Find the Most Random Food at the Stampede & Eat It (Mac & Cheese Pizza)
69. Pretzel M&Ms (Eaten at the movies in Seattle)
70. Climb a Mountain (Grouse Mountain)

I still

God I love this city.  I really do.  Seattle was always going to be the city that I would move to if I got my green card.  Even though I didn’t I will try not to let that dampen my mood of the city.

This city is like heaven to me.  Here’s a few reasons why:
* Pikes Place Market – fresh market produce, gorgeous artisinal foods, atmosphere, pure awesomeness
* Boeing
* Coffee (not just starbucks)
* Boeing
* Beautiful scenery
* Museum of flight
* Boeing

Ok so I slipped Boeing in there a lot but its a big thing for me in this city.  One of the reasons I love this city is because it is heaven for avgeeks.  Where else can you openly be an avgeek and not be ashamed.  But, its not for everyone and frankly I don’t care haha.

After we got off the train on Saturday we had an easy day planned that first day.  Bit of orientation, pick up some essentials and the movies to see Captain America.  I also got to wipe off one of my trip list items.  First thing we did after getting some sim cards was head to Seattle Coffee Works where I could get a cup of Syphon Coffee.  The experience was fantastic.  The whole process was a great spectacle.  Best cup of coffee I have ever had.

That evening we caught up with Cory for some dinner and a movie as Captain America was showing as it was released the day before.  Movie was awesome but that’s for another day.

Yesterday was a late start after our free breakfast at the hotel. O how good it was to get a bowl of cereal.  Pure bliss.  We hit Pikes Place Market in the morning, it was great.  I spent the morning grazing over amazingly good fruit and veg (cherries are definately in season right now).  I got to tick off item list number 2 for seattle as I got to catch a flying fish at the Pikes Place Fish Market.  It was an awesome experience.  Also got to add some gum to the chewing gum wall.  It was gross but awesome.

In the afternoon it was getting pretty warm so we retreated to the hotel to cool off.  It was here that I found out that there was a wholefoods store closs to our hotel.  Time to tick off another item.  I scooted over to the store and started to explore.  My god it was awesome.  I was astounded by the sheer scale of the fresh food on offer.  I was going to return for lunch that’s for sure.

For dinner again we were going to meet up with cory but I had tweeted out for recommendations for dinner.  One that came back was the Steelhead Diner.  So with approval from the others we booked it in.  It was fantastic, and with an indulgent few scoops of local ice cream for dessert I was spent.

Today was a big day for me, it was time to free the avgeek, to let it fly with free abandon, to hell with what others think.  Off to the Boeing Factory and the Future of Flight.  It was also another chance to meet up with a tweep as Sandy who looks after the @futureofflight account was friends with a twitter friend of mine, so with a bit of organising I got to meet another “tweep” and get my photo taken.

The tour was great, even if u can’t take photos.  So many sites to see, so many sites to spot.  787s from JAL, ANA, Air India, China Southern, Royal Air Maroc and Etheopian. 747s from Lufthansa, Cargolux, Cathay Pacific and Korean and lots more.

I missed two take offs but you can’t have it all.  I spent up big in the stores ($130) on lots of geeky goodies.  After lunch at Wholefoods and a coffee from a donut shop that Obama frequented we checked out the Experience Music Project and Sci Fi Museum.  It was great to get in and finally see these museums and then I did a Duck Tour around Seattle as well.

Tomorrow its off to the Museum of Flight and also a tour of Safeco Field hopefully and then Wednesday we hit the road.. jack.

Current Location: Holiday Inn Express Seattle City Centre

Trip Report – Around the World on a Star – Vancouver to Seattle – 23rd July

Up at OMG o clock today for the first Journey South on this trip. So far I have headed east, north and now headed south (no West Travel yet). But this was not to be a tough one, this was to be a relaxing journey today. This was also the start of my journey with Brad really. We had been on contiki together but from this point on, it was just Me & Him.

With morning formalities out of the way and a quick trip to reception to get some credit card statement issues out of the way, we were in a cab heading for the station. Thats right, I said station. Heading south over the border today by Train. Rather than fly the 20 minute segment and spend hours in security at the airport, we had planned on the Cascades south to Seattle. The train was an easy choice, with AAA discount, a nice big comfy business class seat for $12 extra and free wifi, i mean seriously, why not!!

We had picked up tickets nice and early for cheap ($45 one way in business) so the costs were pretty good. With pre clearance of immigration at the station in Vancouver it meant that the turn around would be quicker rather than sitting at the border for a train load of people. Easy as!! We arrived at the station in the pre dawn twilight to see half the terminal either shut or under construction…. damn. Looks like a final breakfast of Tim Hortons. O well.

Walked into Pacific Station and saw that nothing was open other than MacDonalds so while Brad waited, I ducked over to Tim Hortons to grab a coffee and some breakfast/snack supplies for the train. When returned, still nothing so time to fill out the Customs forms and wait.

Amtrak Cascades – Train 513
Vancouver to Seattle
0640-1105
Business Class – Car 2 – Seat 5A

Boarding: 0530
Departed: 0655
Arrived Border: 0800
Departed Border: 0830
Arrival: 1115

Around 0525 a line formed around the customs area for documentation check. This looked about right so we kinda snuck over into the line a head of a few people (suckers) and headed to the check in area. Boarding began shortly after with Business Class line given preference into the documentation check and we were amongst the first group through immigration.

Was grilled at immigration about absolute random topics but meh, didn’t care and the security screening was non existant. No taking out of laptops, no shoes off, no belts off, fully intact dignity at all times! That wont last for sure. Once through “security check and baggage screening” you are funneled down a chainlinked area (since you are technically in the United States now and out of Canada towards the train.

Checked luggage was collected directly at the train itself (didn’t realise this earlier) and we headed for our seats, all the way at the other end of the train, meh what can you do! A little bit of walking never hurt anyone. As we approached our seats we dropped our gear, and i went for a little walk around to suss out the train, take a few snaps for the report and then came back and fired up the laptop thanks to the power port at the row and then logged into the wifi ready to do some work.

Managed to get a number of things done on this train journey, managed to organise some tours/attractions for the coming week or two, managed to work out other things and also enjoy the ride south in peace, quiet and gentle rocking motion. We ended up departing late but had been working for so long on the wifi, never really noticed apart from the few lurches as we crossed switcing points.

Pretty soon we were smashing our way south on the train at speed. The cascades went a fairly decent clip so that was great. Once ticket check was done we were free to “move about the cabin” so I jumped up and grabbed a coffee as we were warned that once we got to the border it was “sit in your seat and DONT MOVE” time and they would give a 30 minute warning. I was in the line to get coffee when the 30 minute warning was given, and the 20 and 10 minute warning… dear lord could this line move any slower. Thankfully i was just getting liquids and not trying to eat my breakfast at the border!!

Business class gives you a $3 discount on all drinks and food and they accept Canadian Note Currency at a 1:1 ratio of CAD:USD so that was a good way to get rid of some of the smaller notes. A coffee, water & juice with $3 discount came to $3.25. When asked to wait for change I said keep it and scurried back to my seat. With the border fast approaching it was time to hit the bathroom as well before it closed at the border crossing.

We arrived at the border with pretty stern warnings of not touching technology equipment (laptops, phones etc) or moving or really even breathing until customs had inspected the train fully. First customs officer into our carriage was carrying a massive backpack with arm scanner (probably looking for some form of explosives or something), 2nd one on was carrying a geiger counter by the looks of it and the 3rd was grilling people and collecting Customs forms. With our carriage done, laptops went back on, so I joined them and got back to reading stuff.

Within 30 minutes the train was done, a blast of the trains horns and we were rolling out of the border. Hello USA! Pretty soon we were at speed againt hurtling down the Washington coastline headed for seattle. The Cascades can get up to a fair clip and it makes it just nice and comfortable, with a coffee or drink and free wifi, I am in heaven. Even had a stash of Tim Hortons Tim Bits for a sneaky snack onboard.

Pretty soon we were approaching Everett (no sign of any 787s etc) and that meant we were getting close to seattle, so with the stop before seattle made we had picked up a bit of time since we were running about 20 mins late at that point but with some good signals and plenty of schedule padding, they were announcing a departure from Seattle on time.

We arrived around 1115 or so, and they were already starting to turn the train around for the further south journey and restocking once we barely even pulled up to the station. It was off and into another Station that looked like a construction site. Crazy. Bags took quite a while and then we were out, through the taxi touts, having to tell Brad to keep on walking through them, dont stop, out to the metered taxis. Soon enough we were hurtling along the elevated Waterfront I5 north to our hotel near the Seattle Centre.

V-Town

God I love Vancouver. It is one of those cities i could easily live in. I mean seriously, why wouldn’t you. The city is amazing. Unlike the first few days pre tour, i had a decent amount of time to explore the city this time and do heaps of stuff, and I was going to enjoy doing it :D I had a few things planned but other than that it was all good to just explore and do random things.

Of the things I wanted to do, the main thing was the Grouse Mountain Grind. Why catch up a Gondola up a mountain when I can challenge myself to a grueling trip to the top on foot. Commonly reffered to as the “Vancouver Stairmaster” this was going to be fun for me. One of the girls on the Tour Christina was up for doing it as well, my day looked up as I would have some company rather than doing it alone.

The Grind was great, even in the cold temperatures (8c) and the wet with cloud everywhere. I still managed to have fun doing it. It was not easy, step after step up we went. It was done fairly well though the steps were fantastically set up with lots of stone steps along with wooden as well with only a small percentage of dodgy looking steps.

The time on the Grind was 1h20m47s. A great achievement for me and christina. It was a great feeling at the top to have concurred the mountain. But with so much cloud and fog at the top, it was not worth sticking around as you could not see anything, so I came down the mountain and ended up working my way back to Vancouver on the Seabus (like a ferry pretty much).

The other days in seattle were spent just enjoying the outdoors and either catching up with friends or exploring the city and doing a little bit of shopping. With plenty of canadian dollars leftover, it was good to know that I could just buy whatever I wanted without an issue. I even sent home 2 boxes of souveneirs so far at a cost of $177 CAD. Ouch :/ Might have to curtail the souveneir collecting a little…. NAH!

During my time in Vancouver we did some special things. One of them included a nice dinner at Tojo’s Sushi. A tour buddy, Cory, was organising a dinner at this special sushi restaurant that everyone raved about so I just had to go. It was an amazing night, now it was not cheap at all ($85 each including drinks for 7 people) but to be honest, I did not care. The food was amazing, the company great and I had a fantastic time spoiling myself the night before the Grind. We also trekked out to La Casa Gelato out in the inner suburbs around Vancouver. This Gelateria has over 218 flavours out daily out of a range of 518 flavours they offer. CRAZY! it was great. Some of the sampled options (you can try as many as you want) included Curry Peanut Butter, Chilli Chocolate and Vegemite, yeah thats right, vegemite!

Yesterday on my final day in Vancouver, well I had a great day planned. The Aviation Geek in me demanded some time out in the open, it wanted to be released. Thanks to twitter there is a giant collective of #avgeeks around the world. One of them who I have mentioned in the past Leighton (@pacificairphoto) offered to take me out to YVR (Vancouver Airport) and let me do some spotting and was going to make the day special. What I didn’t realise was that the day we were going spotting was also the day of the Vancouver Airport 80th Birthday celebrations! AWESOME!!!

Special events were being held around the airport and i ended up taking around 1700 photos while out there. I shouted Leighton lunch at the Flying Beaver bar which is part of the Seaplane Terminal down on the River. It was a great lunch spot, with good food, good company and lots of Seaplanes coming and going around us.

I also caught up with my friend Trista who took me up to the top of the Harbour Centre (for free thanks trista!) and we had a good catch up for a couple of hours over coffee and random shopping. All in all a great time. I was pleasantly suprised at how great Vancouver was, it is a city i could get used to and if my friend Chantelle has anything to do with it, it may be possible. She put the idea in my head to apply for my Canadian work visa. I dunno if I will but we shall see.

Managed to tick off more things on my list including a Bike Ride, Plane Spotting and the first of the Train trips. More on the train trip in the trip report (later tonight probably while I do my washing). Farewell Canada… i will be back, not sure how long for but stay tuned!

Current Location: Onboard Amtrak Cascades Train 809 – Bellingham, Washington
Countries: 3
Canadian Proviences: 2
US States: 2

Cowboys, Country Music & Beer

When my friend Brad made the off to do this tour, stampede was going to be my big big reward to myself. How could it not be. If you haven’t heard of the Calgary Stampede before, well think of a country rodeo, then add in a heaping dose of crack and you have what is described as the greatest outdoor show on earth.

We left Banff pretty late morning allowing for a good rested morning, before what was sure to be the reason people were coming on this tour. We got into Calgary around 12 and it was evident the party atmosphere was not going to just be at Stampede Park. The main mall was full of bars and restaurants in the middle of the street, live music, lots of BBQ on offer. Looking good so far. Did a bit of shopping to finish out my cowboy gear (shirts mainly as already had my hat and wasn’t getting boots).

The afternoon was spent pretty chilled before we headed off around 730 to our first big Stampede Party at Ranchmans. The night was fantastic, lots of quality “talent” everywhere, lots of good company and plenty of fun. I bailed a bit early to make sure I fully enjoyed the next day, but not before watching a number of people on the mechanical bull.

Stampede day came along. The 17th July, the final day of the Calgary Stampede. I had a good work out in. the morning to make sure I was fully clear and ready to go. Light breakfast so as to leave room for the crazy and awesome food to come. Once everyone was all kitted out in their cowboy best (some went all out) we headed off to Stampede on the tram. The ride was short and my anticipation was evident.

A few photos at the gate and then it was through the gate. First stop a guest services booth to grab a map and directions to a few stops. The day flew by in a flurry of random events and fun things. I got to test drive some GMC vehciles including a GMC Sierra 3500, Camaro Convertile and a Cadillac CTS-V, all for free. Also got my photo taken with a proper RCNP mountie, replicating a draft horse pull and also while wearing some helicopter pilot gear.

The cowboy part of the day was fantastic. The weather was bright blue sky, lots of sun so they had turned it on. The day looked perfect. Our seats where in the sun so lots of sun burn expected but who cares. The afternoons events included Steer and Bronc riding, Ladies Barrel racing, calf tieing and the bareback events. I didnt stay till the major finals of the rodeo events as i was turning to lobster pretty quick, so escaped for a while.

The evening show was the chuckwagon races. This is not what you are thinking. The chuck wagons are designed purely for races and only look slightly similar to the old version used back in the day. The races were hugely competitive and absolutely fantastic. The people are fanatical about the sport as well. There may have been some betting on the races in the stands around our seats ;) After the final race was done, the tropheys presented (to much fanfare and explosions of course) the big finale show was put on. This was definitely a lot different to what was expected by everyone. The first thing was that it was huge. Massive does not give it justice. The stage took up most of the ring area and it had several levels and floating spaces. CRAZY!!! Then there was the style of the show. It was a lot more artsy and storyline ish a la Cirque de Soleil. But it was good, very well done and the fireworks at the end… FANTASTIC way to end the night.

Now we come to one of the things I was looking forward to. The crazy ass food! Now I had a few beers (first beers in like almost a year) and then here are a few highlights of the food from the day that I consumed… There will be full details in photos when I upload the photos:
* Moowich (Ice Cream Sandwhich)
* Pulled Pork Sandwhich with home made BBQ Sauce
* Deep Fried Pickles with Blue Cheese Dressing
* Wagon Wheel Cookie with Milk
* Clamato Juice (Clam & Tomato Juice)
* Wagon Wheel & 2% Milk for $1 (Cookies & Milk)
* 2 Scoops Ice Cream – Stampede Breakfast & Beer for My Horses (Pancakes, Maple Syrup, Bacon & Beer Flavoured)
* 2 Muffins bigger than I have ever seen before for $1 (that’s total)
* Corn on the Cob
* Mac & Cheese Pizza

It was an absolutely random day but I loved every minute of it. Now we are back on the road heading back to Vancouver. Today was spent on a bus pretty much with a long ass road day. The day has been spent getting over the day yesterday, trying to be healthy again to make up for yesterday (although we had an ice cream stop again today and it was GOOD, ps Orange & Licorice flavoured ice cream is awesome), but I will keep running with the fitness level up. Need to tackle a big hill trek on Wednesday.

Current Location: Sandman Inn & Suites Vernon – Vernon, BC

Mountains, Snow & Ice..

Now that I have some free time it is probably a good idea to give you guys a full on update since it has been several days since a decent one. Internet has been totally unreliable the last 4 days but then again it has been a mixture of crappy hotels and then rooms so far from the hotspot its not funny.

Jasper was great, I had a fantastic time playing up in the mountains with the hiking etc and then we headed to Banff via the Columbia Ice Fields. All I can say is WOW. I had never been to a Glacier before and holy cow was it awesome. I loved it!! Got to experience how a Glacier is formed and exists and that was great, plus driving up onto the Glacier in an Ice Explorer Vehicle was totally cool. It was FREAKING COLD though.

After the Glacier we went straight to the Helicopter point and i decided to drop a large chunk of $$$ and do a 25 min Wilson Glacier Helicopter Flight. It was well worth it and managed to take 530 photos in the 25 mins (thats right roughly 1 shot ever 2-3 seconds). The scenery with the mountains was absolutely unreal and blew my mind. After the helicopters it was back on the bus and off to Banff. We had a good time that day and was expecting a big night in Banff but to be honest I have been enjoying the relaxation and not really up for partying every night.

For instance in Banff i was craving some ice cream and after a big day of movement, decided to just indulge, but by the time I had finished, I was sleepy! So gave in and ended up ditching the group and heading back to the hotel (turns out it got VERY messy). Banff was unreal! Again more mountains, lots of hiking and exploring, a few highlights from my free day there. Got up early and went for a run up Tunnel Mountain, managed to get about 2k before totally running out of breath and having to turn around and walk back, ashamed! The Gondola ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain was great, and the 2k walk at the top was even better!

I hiked down from the Gondola to the Fairmont Hotel. This hotel from the 20s was built Chateau style and is absolutely stunning (can’t wait to compare it to Lake Louise) and made for something different. Managed to explore the village of Banff (it is definately only really a village) while scouting out gear for the Stampede.

That evening we had a Horse Ride and Steak Fry optional. Now to give you a bit of info, I have never really liked horses. I rode one when I was like 10 and a scout, during the ride I fell off while the horse was trotting down hill, not a good thing, and have always had problems with them since. So since I have been trying to combat these issues for a while now, well you can see where this is going. I signed up to do the Horse ride but was quite hesitant. I jokingly commented that I wanted a horse that was “almost dead” in the hopes that it would be so placid I would not need to worry.

Well that didn’t happen. I got a horse by the name of “Target.” He was ok on the way out to the campsite for dinner, he was a bit stand offish at times, ignoring commands etc, but all in all he did as he was told when needed. Dinner was great (the beans phenomenal) but on the way back, things started going differently. I was one of the last horses to be remounted and by this time the corral was jam packed with people and horses and target did not seem to like this one bit. He was pushing his way around, going crazy and all the time making me more and more nervous.

No matter what I did, he just did not want to listen at all. Several times I had to yank so hard on the reins I was thinking I was going to rip his head off, but he just ignored it. In the end he went crazy as and one of the guides had to come up, hold him still and calm him down while I got off and then refused to get back on. I had had enough! They offered me other horses but by that stage I was in full on panic attack mode and just decided to walk. Fuck it, I’m going home. I was jittery as all hell. The walk did me good, It was great to get out and hike some more, hell I even trail ran the last 1km back to the stables.

After that we had a beach party at the hostel next door to the hotel, but to be honest I was still a bit all over the place, so made an appearance at the party for 30-40 mins and then bailed to calm down and get a good nights sleep.

But now we come to the whole reason for this trip (and I will cover it more in depth with a post Calgary update). I am sitting here in Calgary. The whole reason I came on this tour was for the stampede, and now that reality is possible. All bets are off today. Mal will eat and drink and damn sure put a dent in the hard work I have done over the last 18 months, but FUCK IT! I deserve it! Here is to an awesome day… YEE HAW!!!

Current Location: Sandman Hotel Calgary Downtown – Calgary, Alberta
Countries: 3
Canadian Provinces: 2
US States: 1

Quick Update…

Well its been a few days but i figured I would throw out a quick post update (full one tomorrow morning probably). The last few days have been great since leaving Jasper. I have done and seen some amazing things.

Highlights have been hiking some more in the mountains, managing to run out of breath while running, trying to combat some fears with horses and failing and also getting to step foot for the first time on a Glacier.

Tonight is going to be crazy, off to Ranchmans here in Calgary. O dear! I might even take a stab on the mechanical bull!

Current Location: Sandman Hotel Calgary Downtown – Calgary – Alberta

Book Review: Twitchhiker

I wasn’t going to do any book reviews while I was away but with an hour or more on a bus to kill between stops and having just finished an inspirational book (well for me anyway) I figured I should.

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The book is Twitchhiker by Paul Smith. The book is pretty much about a guy who travelled from the UK to New Zealand using nothing but the power of Twitter. This is probably about the point you will yawn, think to yourself “boring” and move on, but hear me out.

Twitter for those that don’t know is a social media platform that allows you to send short messages (140 characters, roughly an sms) to the web and people can follow along, comment or just read if they so desire. When it first came out it was always described as “self indulgent losers talking about themselves and their everyday boring lives). I don’t see it that way and I am sure millions of others don’t either.

I won’t go into depth on my thoughts on twitter but what I will mention is that this book reiterates what I do generally think of Twitter. People brought together with a common bond, show a level of generosity and kindness that is never talked about. I have had some amazing experiences and met some people who I never thought I could before. Without twitter life would not be as fun as it is, in my opinion.

To be honest, I was given this book by Air New Zealand so I am putting this out there early. I am not getting paid for this review in any way nor am I required to write one. I am doing this because I believe in the same thing those who gave their time and money to help the @Twitchhiker out on his journey.

The book follows paul on his journey from Newcastle in the UK to his intended destination, Campbell Island off New Zealand. Clearly not an easy task but you kinda expect this when someone sets what is likely an impossible task, but the twitter users the world over came to his need. People donate flights to cross oceans, time, money and more just to help him out, but also donated money to Charity: water.

I absolutely loved this book and to anyone who likes to travel, this is a great light hearted read and to anyone who likes or is into social media, this is a must read.