First of all i have a special thanks to ...

Trip Start Jun 29, 1999
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Trip End Dec 04, 1999


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Flag of Canada  , British Columbia,
Friday, September 17, 1999

First of all I have a special thanks to Timmy Doran of Clearnet for supplying what amounts to a free long distance phone calls for me for the rest of my trip. This got me to thinking that I should pick up a bunch of corporate sponsors to finance my trip. So the rest of this travelogue is brought to you my Summer's Eve feminine hygiene products...

Thursday, September 9th
The morning in Jasper wasn't as cold as it had been the day before which was a relief. I took my time packing up (i.e. letting the nice warm sun hit by campsite and dry up the morning dew). After gearing up for a lot of adventure in the National Parks in Alberta I really hadn't planned anything for what to do in British Columbia besides go to Vancouver. So I winged it for a few days and everything turned out great. I decided to drive the full length of the Icefields Parkway down to Lake Louise so I could all the amazing scenery one last time before moving on. It was a good drive but there were a lot of people on the road and sometimes it gets really frustrating not to be able to drive your own pace. Once I hit the TransCanada near Lake Louise I turned westward through Yoho National Park where I stopped for some lunch at Pass Creek. I then continued on and eventually stopped at a campground in the town of Golden. Even at this late time of the summer it was still mosquito season in Golden. It was a pain in the ass fighting them off while I had my dinner (delicious Chicken Mr. Noodles!). The owners of the campground had a couple of horses that they let roam freely around their property. It was nice until they decided to check out my tent. There was no damage done but I was just praying that they wouldn't decide to use my campsite for a crap. Just after I went to sleep I had my first "Blair Witch" moment of the trip. I was awoken by something smacking into the side of my tent. I was a little nervous and then it happened again. I summoned some courage to stick my head out the door of my tent. As I did a bat swooped right by my face. I was a little shaken but I survived (a bat is way better than the Blair Witch).

Friday, September 10th
This day worked out perfectly even without a plan. Every spontaneous move I made was great. The morning was cloudy and cool which is of no surprise since I was heading into Glacier National Park. There is precipitation in Glacier 3 days out of 5 and the park gets about 60 feet of snow every year. I stopped at the visitors' center at Roger's Pass. At Roger's Pass in 1914 an avalanche killed 62 men working on the railway. After that Canadian Pacific decided to cut a giant tunnel through the mountain. There's a short trail that you can follow along the abandoned tracks where you can still see the remains of destroyed snowsheds which were to protect the trains from avalanches. Just west of Roger's Pass you can hike a very short interpretive trail through an old-growth hemlock forest. It was simply awesome to see trees that were about 300 years old and 4 metres around. Another few kilometres down the road just inside Mount Revelstoke National Park you can walk a similar trail through an old growth cedar forest. These trees were even bigger and were over 700 years old! If you can only do one of these hikes do the cedar forest. I then made it down to the town of Revelstoke where you can take the "Meadows In The Sky" Parkway to the top of Mount Revelstoke. From the top you get a great view of the Columbia River and the mountain range to the north. Apparently the meadows at the top are best visited during July when the flowers are in full bloom. The wind was quite cold up there so I didn't stay long. I was hungry too so I headed back down into Revelstoke for some grub and a stop at the Railway Museum. For a small community museum this one is fantastic. There are many good artifacts including a refurbished luxury car as well as one of the last steam engines the Canadian Pacific company ever used. They even have a retired steam engine driver, Ernie Ottewell, there to answer any questions about life on the rails. After leaving Revelstoke I passed through scenic Three Valley Gap to the spot where arguably the most famous picture in Canadian history was taken. Give up?? I have a feeling a number of you have the image of Yvan Cournoyer hugging Paul Henderson, but you're way off. In Craigallachie, on November 7th 1885, Donald Smith, soon to become Lord Strathcona drove home the last spike in the TransCanada railway as people such as Sir Sanford Fleming and Cornelius Van Horne looked on. It's funny how most of the men in the photo are watching Smith instead of the camera. I suspect those aware few had some inkling of how important that shot was. The sad part about the actual site of the last spike was that I was the lone Canadian there amongst two busloads of Japanese tourists. I then pressed on down into the Okanagan Valley to Vernon where I camped for the night. It was a perfect day but just to make sure I wouldn't forget it my campsite neighbour invited me over for a beer. While I drank a couple of Buds, Pierre of Montreal polished off a bottle of tequila and proceeded to tell me his life story. I could write a lot about this character but the most interesting fact is that he is an arsonist and he makes one heel of a good campfire.

Saturday, September 11th
I was glad to see upon awakening that Pierre had kept his fire within his pit all night. I moved further southward down the valley to Kelowna where I took a couple of hours to do a self-guided heritage tour of the downtown area. Unfortunately, most of the facades of the old buildings downtown have been modernized. I then headed westward again out of the valley along Hwy. #97C to Merritt. If you're ever in Merritt find Fruit Stand Sally who has the best apples and peaches in the world. My lunch consisted of 3 apples, 2 peaches and a can of Coke. I had a good sugar buzz for the rest of the day. I then drove northward up the Coquihalla Highway (Fans of the band Chixdiggit might recognize this road) to Kamloops. Kamloops sits on the banks of the South Thompson River. The odd things is there is almost no development on the north side of the river. The downtown area is on the southside and the rest of the city is built up the side of the valley behind it. As far as I know there is only one bridge across the river (The Red Bridge because it is red) which is barely two lanes wide. On the north side of the river, where the campground was, is the skids - a couple of small industrial plants and a dirty, dusty mobile home park. For the best view of the city at night, cross the river and stand up on the river dike that protects the mobile home park.

Sunday, September 12th
For the past few weeks I haven't really had the urge to drive really fast. I don't think that it's because I've mellowed in my old age. I'm sure it's because most of the roads in western Canada aren't really fun drives. I mean, sure the scenery is nice but that makes it a nice ride not a nice drive. For example, the Icefields Parkway is great place to see the sights but it can't hold a candle to the Cabot Trail for those of us who love to drive. The TransCanada between Kamloops and Hope was the drive I've been looking for. First you head due west to Cache Creek. This part of British Columbia will remind you very much of Arizona or New Mexico. It looks very arid. Once you get to Cache Creek the highway turns south and dips in and out of the steep-sided Fraser River Valley all the way down to Hope. The absolute best part of the drive is between Spence's Bridge and Hell's Gate Canyon. There are a lot of great curves. I stopped to check out Hell's Gate Canyon. This is one of the narrowest and deepest sections of the Fraser river. For $9.50 you can ride in a gondola down to the riverside and it is worth the price. The tourist village at the bottom is a might bit cheezy (51 different flavours of fudge!) but the power of the river makes up for all of that. While winding my way down the rest of this awesome stretch of road I made a mistake (or perhaps I just too mesmerized by the road). I thought the goldrush museum was in the town of Hope but it's not. It was back up the road in Yale. I decided to skip it and headed on into Vancouver. Unfortunately, the 120 kilometres from Hope to Vancouver is exactly the opposite of the road I had just been driving. This piece of the TransCanada is the most boring road I've driven since the New York State Thruway. It was a real pain and I was very glad to arrive at my Uncle George and Aunt Helen's place in North Vancouver.

Monday, September 13th
Monday was chore day. I did all my laundry. I aired out all my camping equipment. I filled up my water jugs. I saved myself $25 by doing my own tire rotation. I went down to Mr.Lube for an oil change. I watched Young And The Restless, Monday Night Football and WWF Raw. It was a great, great day.

Tuesday, September 14th
I awoke with a very irritated right eye. Every time I blinked it caused me great discomfort. I made a trip down to the health clinic and the doctor diagnosed it as a scrape right on the lens of my eye. I was worried that I had contracted cirrhosis of the eye but then I realized that this was an in-joke that most of you wouldn't get. I had to wear a patch for a couple of hours which was disconcerting until the phosphenes started making pretty hallucinations on the right side of my field of vision. The best part was that I had just read in the National Post how applied mathematicians were now working on calculations and theories using differential equations and eye to brain mappings to describe how people hallucinate. For example, they have equations to explain how people taking LSD sometimes get visual trails. After giving the anti-biotic 2 hours to work I ditched the patch and continued my day as planned. My first stop was the University of BC's wonderful Museum of Anthropology. This museum has a stunning collection of West Coast Native Art and some of the pieces are gigantic. The centerpiece of the collection is Bill Reid's wood sculpture of "The Raven and The First Men" which is worth the price of admission alone. This year is the museum's 50th anniversary and the exhibit they had to celebrate was really cool. Each museum worker got to pick out their favourite item in their vast storage area and explain why they liked it. It's an excellent museum and my only complaint is that it's not big enough. Upon exiting the museum I realized that it had become a fabulous day. I made my way down to Kitsilano Beach and soaked up the sun for a few hours. I also made some free phone calls. It felt great phoning people from a beach on a Tuesday in September. I then met Tamra for dinner at Nevermind which bills itself as "undeniably the worst food in town." The food was actually pretty good and the plate of nachos I had was gigantic. Tamra opted for the BC Salmon dinner which looked excellent also. We then headed downtown to one of my favourite bars, Subeez Café. I had a nice Strongbow Cider on tap while listening to some good techno grooves. When we decided to get the bill we had a bit of a problem. It should have been easy enough as we only had two drinks on our bill. The first bill had the two correct drinks but also $25 worth of food. After bringing this to our server's attention she provided the correct bill which came to $11.58. Okay, Tamra hands over her Visa card. When the server returns with the receipt to sign we notice that it's for $30.81. We send it back to the server again. The next receipt we got was for $11.81. It was price wrong but Tamra signed it anyway just to get out of there. We headed over to the Capitol 6 to see that Bruce Willis movie "The Sixth Sense" which is very good. If that kid doesn't get an Oscar nomination there is something very wrong.

Wednesday, September 15th
I realize as I write this that a lot of my activities in Vancouver start with the letter 'a'. On Tuesday it was Anthropology and on this day I started at The Aquarium in Stanley Park. I had a blast here. The highlight is the Amazon room where they have a three-toed sloth lounging about as well as a tank with fresh-water fish that are 4.5 metres long. I also enjoyed "A Ribbitting Experience" and not just for the great pun. This area is a collection of frogs and toads from around the world. I was disappointed that they wouldn't let you lick a Cane toad and that they had no Bulletproof Super-toads that I read about in the World Weekly News. After a slow drive around the perimeter of Stanley Park I made my way over to Granville Island for some Art. This part of town has a neat market like Eau Claire in Calgary or the Forks in Winnipeg but there is also a concentration of commercial art galleries as well as the Emily Carr Institute of Art & Design. My aunt had tipped me off to the seriagraphs of JD Challenger (I did not make that up and neither did the artist, that's his real name) at Native Spirit Art Gallery. These are huge powerful pictures of American Indians. The limited prints go for $1200 (without frame) while originals were about $50,000... a little out of my price range. In the evening I met Tamra at The Starfish Room for a concert I had been dying to see and was distraught when I found out the bands were playing in Toronto when I couldn't be there. I was just lucky that these two bands from Scotland, Ganger and Mogwai, happened to be in town at the same time as myself. Ganger was good. They played a new arty dirge that didn't work that well live but their last two songs rocked my world. They made me regret that I didn't bring along their "Hammock-Style" cd on my trip. Mogwai was the band I had been dying to see and they didn't disappoint. Sometimes I over-hype a band in my head only to be let down when they play but Mogwai chewed me up and spit me out. It's hard to describe their music to the uninitiated. They can play a 16 minute long song like "Mogwai Fear Satan" and still leave you wanting more. As you watch the band you're not so sure they're playing instruments but conjuring up the forces and sounds of the universe. There is something both primal and intellectual going on when they play, like David Banner changing into the Incredible Hulk in order to write a novel. All I really know is that when they finished I didn't want to leave the bar. Something really special had just happened over the previous 75 minutes and I didn't want it to end. For those of you who are interested pick up Mogwai's "Come On Die Young" cd. The first 10 times you listen to it you'll think it's good, the next 10 times you'll think it's great, then, after another 10 listens, the revelation hits you and you realize that this is a masterpiece.

Thursday, September 16th
I really didn't do anything too noteworthy today. I took the bus down to Lonsdale Quay and then hopped on the sea bus to cross over to downtown so I could wander around looking for record stores. To my disappointment Scratch Records has disappeared. Now I'm a little distraught as almost all of my favourite record stores outside of Toronto are gone. No Scratch in Vancouver, Rock En Stock in Montreal got shut down by customs, and I was devastated to see that Shake in Ottawa was gone (I practically lived in that store in the summer of 1994). I walked around the old part of Vancouver called Gastown which is okay I guess but nothing can compare to old Quebec City. The best part of Gastown is that you can walk exactly one block south and be in the absolute worst part of town. It's quite a neat dichotomy really.

Tomorrow I hop on the ferry to take me to Vancouver Island for a couple of days and then I'll be back in Vancouver for a couple more. My time here in Canada is growing short.
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