Take a Long Walk . . . It’s Good for the Soul

The first long weekend of a brand new summer is always full of so many possibilities.  Camping, biking, patio parties or beach bbq’s . . . the weather is (should be!) warm and sunny and it’s time to shed those winter hibernation habits and get outside.

My daughter and I both love hiking; from my way of thinking there are few things that can’t be fixed by taking a long walk in the mountains.  So we have made a habit of taking longer and shorter hikes together for . . . well, I guess her whole life.  I wonder where she picked up the habit. We’ve completed multi-day backpacking hikes on the Juan de Fuca trail on the West Coast of Vancouver Island,  scrambled up the Stawamus Chief (fixed ladders and chains included), slogged the 18km up to spectacular Garibaldi Lake and back (and afterwards soothed our aching bones in the outdoor hot tub at the Fairmont Hotel in Whistler) and two years ago made a bucket list trip to Nepal and trekked in the Annapurna region of the Himalayas.

By choice or luck, I’m never quite sure which, we live in a city blessed with endless hiking possibilities. A short drive and fifteen minutes of walking and you are, if not in the backcountry, at least well into the mountains.   It’s called Super, Natural, British Columbia for some very good reasons.

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The North Shore Mountains are part of the Coast Mountain rainforest, making it a spectacular location for hiking.  Deciding to hike the first section of the Baden Powell trail, 12kms across the North Shore Mountains from Deep Cove to Lynn Canyon, seemed like an ideal adventure on a long weekend.

The Baden Powell trail is  41.7 km long and crosses the North Shore Mountains from Deep Cove to Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver. Named after Lord Baden Powell,  it was built in 1971 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of British Columbia becoming a Canadian province. The project was started by the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides of B.C. and much of the work of building it was done by the Scouts, Guides and their leaders.

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I’ve hiked most of the trail in sections by myself, but never a one-way end-to-end route, because you need two cars  – one at each end.  You can take public transit back, but as friendly as bus driver’s are, they are not cool with taking your wet, muddy pooch on the bus and my terrier was often my hiking buddy.

Sunday morning we headed over the Lions Gate bridge and up to Lynn Canyon, our eventual end point, to leave one car.  Fifteen minutes later we were circling with all the other day trippers trying to get parking in Deep Cove.  The Cove, as it’s locally known, is a gorgeous day trip from downtown Vancouver but has, sadly, become a victim of it’s own success.  On summer weekends it’s a magnet for, literally, hordes of camera toting tourists and parking is non-existent.  The local municipality is trying to take back some control of the situation and we noticed new regulations prohibiting tour buses in the tiny village without a permit.  I think it’s a great idea and will limit some of the “dump and run” bus tours.

The starting point for the Baden Powell trail is an inauspicious trailhead between two houses on Panorama Drive in the Cove. It used to be hard to find, you had to know what you were looking for, now two HUGE signs with arrows point to the trailhead and it’s a human traffic jam for the first 45 minutes to Quarry Rock.

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It’s a shame that what was once a lovely morning hike to a spectacular viewpoint is now about as appealing as Costco.   As my daughter said, there is none of the quite, contemplative nature of walking in the forest, it’s an anxiety provoking drudge.  We knew what we were getting into, Quarry Rock has developed an unfortunate reputation in the last few years and is mostly avoided by locals now, but we really wanted to complete the entire trail so we put our heads down and hiked through the first 45 minute section as quickly as possible.   Despite the foot traffic, the view is still gorgeous.

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Immediately past Quarry Rock, we walked onto real hiking trail in quiet forest and all the people magically disappeared.  Heaven.  Finding the tiny, overgrown trailhead after the completely overused, eroded Quarry Rock trail was a bit of a trick, but we found the BP marker and finally headed out into the quiet loveliness of the North Shore Mountains.

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We like to use the AllTrails app for pre-trip planning, as well as some of my dog-eared hiking books, so we expected a bit of a climb up from the Cove and then a level-ish trek across the front flank of Mt Seymour.  Well . . . it was more up than level, we climbed  pretty much steadily for most of the first two hours.  The trail is well signed and well maintained, these little markers became our familiar guide as we headed west.

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About 45 minutes from Quarry Rock we came to the Mt Seymour road and crossed over into Seymour  Provincial Park.  The trail sits about halfway up the the mountain, making it an ideal year-round hike. It rarely gets permanent winter snow pack, although it is often wet and muddy.  Our day started out cool and overcast, but the sun gradually came through.  The trail was damp, but not muddy, making for all in pretty much perfect hiking conditions.   As we traversed Seymour we started crossing the numerous downhill biking trails on the mountain.  We ran into a few groups of bikers and hikers, mostly in 1’s and 2’s, everyone quietly enjoying a day in the mountains.  Downhill riders are a pretty funny bunch . . . I guess someone had a memorable day when they named this biking trail.

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Here’s my pitch for safety in the mountains.  Although most of this trail is less than 30 minutes from someone’s backyard, well maintained and well signed, it’s still mountain hiking.  Unprepared people get lost, injured and sometimes die in these mountains.  They are deceptive because they are so close.  It’s easy to get lost, the weather can change quickly and unpredictably and distances can be longer and more difficult than anticipated.  So always practice some basic safety rules:

  • Tell someone reliable where you are going and when you expect to be back.  Then go to that place!  If you make a last minute change, let your contact know.
  • Take adequate food and water, some warm clothing and a rain jacket.
  • A basic first aid kit, waterproof matches, a candle and a light source are always a good idea.
  • A whistle is a great multi-purpose tool – signal for help when lost, scare off bears and cougars or let good looking bike riders know you are nearby – many uses!
  • One of those shiny emergency blankets is very small and very light, but also really warm.  We’ve never had to use anything but the occasional band-aid, but you never need this stuff until you REALLY need it, and then it might just save your life.
  • Cell phones – we take them but don’t rely on them.  This trail had cell service from start to finish, but lots of trails don’t.  Half an hour out and you can be well out of cell service. Don’t rely on being able to call for help.
  • The North Shore has an incredibly skilled (because they are so incredibly busy) volunteer Search and Rescue team.  Be responsible, they would love to be out of business!

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We made it across Seymour, almost missed the downhill turn for Hyannis Drive and then hoofed it straight down to the Seymour River.  The trail disappeared once or twice, we had to pull out the AllTrails to relocate ourselves and it was rocky, steep and slippery in a few places.  A bit tougher going, but nothing unmanageable.  When we reached Hyannis the sign marker indicated 3.5km to Lynn Canyon.  Yay, we had covered most of the distance and thought we would knock off this last stretch in short order.

Fooled again.  I didn’t take enough water (2 bottles would have been ideal) and the one Lara Bar we each had in the Cove was starting to feel like a long time ago.  And we had no idea the last few K’s would be well . . .  straight up and down the entire way.   Note to self, for a 12k hike take better snacks.

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So we went down and down, across the Seymour River, then up and up and up and then down and down and down again until we finally reached Lynn Canyon.  Those last few sets of stairs were killers and all we could think about was lunch.  We had to make a slight detour as the famous Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge is closed for the summer for repairs . . . repair away I say, that thing better be safe!

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I wish this great pic was mine . . . but all cred goes with thanks to another travel blogger, brownbeartravels.com.

We literally scarfed down all the snacks and kombucha we had left in the car . . . I know, good move right.   All in, it was a fabulous day of hiking, the trail was a bit more challenging than either of us expected, but we loved the variety and it was a great way to explore all the interconnecting trails that weave up, down and around Mt Seymour and Lynn Canyon.  Next section – Lynn Canyon to Grouse Mountain – and things get a bit more seriously backcountry.   And why all this hiking you wonder?   Well . . . life goal for September 2019 . . . hiking at least the first section of the Camino de Santiago, the four plus week pilgrimage route across Northern Spain. I better get some foot mileage in.

I was feeling more than a bit weary when we got home, but since I already had tickets to see the incredible slide guitar player, Martin Harley, I manned up, got cleaned up and put on a pretty dress.   A couple of beers made me forget my aching feet and his Mississippi blues were simply astonishing.   My absolute favourite song was an old Lead Belly classic from 1933.  I don’t know that I’ve ever heard a more beautiful version of Goodnight Irene. Can’t stop listening, it’s on endless rotation!!

 

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Between Heaven and the Deep Blue Sea

Vancouver, my home, is a beautiful, safe, clean cosmopolitan city of glass towers and green spaces perched between ocean beaches and mountain playgrounds.   Yes, this is what it really looks like and yes, we are so lucky.

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And if the city itself isn’t spectacular enough, across the romantically named Salish Sea  we have Vancouver Island, home to our provincial capital, Victoria.  Once derisively called the home of the “newly wed and nearly dead”, Victoria has gone through a renaissance as young professionals seeking (slightly more) affordable homes for themselves and their families move to “the Island”.

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Victoria Inner Harbour

The jewels in our geographic crown are the stunning Gulf Islands, a collection of eclectic, magical islands dropped in the middle of the Salish Sea between the mainland and Vancouver Island.

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Southern Gulf Islands
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Nothing to see here, just another sunset on Fernwood dock.

I have the great good fortune of working in both Vancouver and Victoria, traveling back and forth on a regular basis.   A scenic, but somewhat time consuming way to travel is on a BC Ferry.  Imagine a small cruise ship that loads vehicles from 18 wheel trucks and buses to RV’s and personal cars into the cargo holds, with amenities for several hundred passengers in the passenger lounge areas.  And spectacular topside viewing decks.  If you have the time, the crossing from the mainland to Vancouver via Active Pass and the Gulf Islands is spectacular.

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The last time I sailed over, it was a warm, sunny Sunday afternoon and I was happy to relax in the lounge, reading and taking in the gorgeous scenery.  We were all absolutely thrilled when a pod of Orcas (Killer Whales) decided to put on a show off the bow of the ferry.  On other trips I’ve seen Orcas hunting seals on the rocky shore line and been entertained by dolphins playing in the ferry wake.

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But if you have a bit of spare change, or if it’s a work trip and you have expense account, the only way to go is flying Harbour Air float planes, or in deluxe mode, Helijet.  You can ride in style on a Sikorsky from Vancouver harbour to Victoria in 35 minutes.  And it’s AMAZING!  This was a fun, sunny trip last summer.  My commute never looked so good.

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Tonight it was Harbour Air on a 12 seater float plane and it was my lucky day because I finally got to ride co-pilot!  It was a blast to watch the pilot doing his thing to get us safely back to Vancouver.

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This is what the little float planes look like on a sunny day in Victoria  So cute, so much fun!

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This is what it looked like when we landed in Vancouver today.  Less cute, more dodgy. IMG_0790

Part of the serious responsibilities of the co-pilot is wearing the headset and monitoring air traffic control (well I wasn’t really monitoring, that’s the pilots job).  But I did get to listen in.   Who knew there were so many planes and helicopters flying through the Gulf Islands that they need air traffic control for both harbours.   As we left Victoria we had to check in with air traffic control for a weather update (rainy, not too windy but a growing chop coming up on the water) and then get our direction for take off and cruising altitude.

As we headed into Vancouver, we flew straight into this big black cloud.

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We had a Sikorsky off our right wing, it went past us and then we all dropped down to get under the weather.  We were not much above the water, following each other into Vancouver as we were passed off to the surveillance of the Vancouver harbour air traffic control.  Loved listening to all the chatter between the air traffic control and the planes, it was a whole different flying experience.   Home looked a bit gloomy on final approach, that was only outdone by how damn cold and rainy it was when we landed!

IMG_1104IMG_1106If you live here and have to go to the Island or are visiting Vancouver and have some time and money, fly to Victoria for the day, it is a trip you will never forget, though maybe do it on a sunny day!

Check out our local Island boys, Towers and Trees, with their dreamy song for the magical place we call home, the “West Coast”.

 

It’s the Journey not the Destination

Sometimes the simplest actions create big insights into life.  I had a great few days recently visiting good friends in our beautiful Okanagan wine country.  Since I have lots of time on my hands these days (more on that later) I decided to forgoe the fast highway home and take a back road, quite literally the road less traveled.  The trip became a reflection on my life at present, I have absolutely taken a detour off the well trammeled path and strayed into, for  me, uncharted territory.    

I was on a leave of absence from work since April and am now on a permanent leave  – as in I don’t work there anymore.  The circumstances of that parting means that I have the unexpected and completely unknown luxury of an exended period of time to decide exactly what I want to do next.  Wow.  I have’t not worked since I was 17.   The longest period of time I’ve had off was 2 months in my early twenties.   And the big question is, stay on the career highway or use this as my exit ramp to a totally different life?  

I drove the Summerland – Princeton road, 100km of  well maintained gravel and blacktop Forest Service Road through the South Central interior of British Columbia.  The road goes from the well-tended vineyards of the Okanagan valley through the mountains and plateaus of the interior and ends in Manning Park.  I found some great driving advice on a blog called Don’t Get Any on Ya. 

   
 

I was prepared to be traveling alone, but surrprisingly there were quite a few other people out there also enjoying the backroads.  Another metaphor.  Once I stepped out of my designated box in the tower (the much sought after office with a view) I’m discovering that there is a whole world of people who don’t work in boxes or cubicles and who have an entirely different take on their personal journeys.  They wouldn’t give you a nickel for 12 hour workdays (my standard) chained to a computer screen doing work with little intrinsic value that benefits on the chosen few very high up on the corporate food chain.  I wasn’t making the world, or my world, a better place. And I most certainly wasn’t helping the people I thought I’d be helping when I went into Human Resources.   Looking at those words as I type them, they should have been a clue.  People aren’t “resources”  – human or otherwise.  They are real people with real lives, real famlies and real feelings.  Treating them as just another resource, like a piece of lumber or box of paper, to be utlized to serve “the needs of the company” or used up, burned out and thrown away  – is that really how I want to spend my life?  Emphatically no.

Leaving Summerland wine country behind.   

Into the unknown in my little but sturdy chariot – you don’t need much really.   

Looking ahead – I don’t know what it will bring, but it looks amazing.  Anticipation.  

Choosing a simpler existence, at least for a while?  Try it, keep what works, leave the rest behind.  

And it could be that a long rest in a gentle place will restore the soul.

 
Always remembering that it’s the journey, not the destination that’s important.   

Although I love the roadtrips and adventures LK and I share, traveling alone has a few perks – I get to sing out loud as much as I want and listen to whatever ridiculous nonsense takes my fancy.  This song has never failed to make me sing out loud and get up and dance – which you can do while driving – carefully!!

Earth Wind and Fire – September

Nepal Earthquake – Everest Climbers

Nepal Earthquake – Everest Climbers

I’ve been following the devastating results of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Nepal on Saturday.  Latest reports put the death toll over 4,600 souls and climbing with more than 9,000 injured. As this tiny nation struggles to cope with rescue efforts for it’s own citizens, another drama is playing out on Mt Everest, where several hundred foreign climbers, plus their Sherpa Climber guides and camp support staff are effectively stranded.  According to this first hand account from Jon Kedrowski, a mountaineer at Everest Base Camp, the death toll may be as high as 20 with many more seriously injured.  Up to 50% of base camp was completely destroyed.

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Fortunately, many of the climbers were at Base Camps 1 and 2, higher up the mountain and, at least for now, they are unharmed and have provisions for about a week.  Their return route to base camp is, however, cut off as the climbing route through the Khumbu Icefall was destroyed and the fixed ropes and ladders have been swept away.  A team of specialist climbers, the “Icefall Doctors” maintain the route through the Icefall, their camp was destroyed and three members are dead.

In this video from Chris Tomers, you start to get a sense of the complexity and magnitude of the issues to get the stranded climbers out of Nepal.

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  1. Will the weather hold and are their sufficient resources (helicopters, fuel, pilots) to rescue all the people stranded at higher camps?
  2. Can a new climbing route be established through the Icefall despite the terrible danger from aftershocks?
  3. Once the climbers can get back to Base Camp, many of them will find themselves homeless, their camps and provisions destroyed.  Everyone will have to pool resources to survive.
  4. Base Camp is extremely remote.  It’s unlikely that all climbers, sherpas and support staff can be airlifted out.  This means trekking out, perhaps all the way to Kathmandu.  No-one knows if the trail still exists and the condition of the small villages, where trekkers and climbers would seek shelter and provisions, along the way.
  5. And when they make it back to Kathmandu, which is all but destroyed, what medical aid, shelter and food will be available to them and when and how will they be able to fly home?

The Nepalese government and people are overwhelmed trying to cope with the devastation to their country, what resources can they dedicate to rescuing and assisting foreigners trapped on Everest and what is the priority?

What can we do to help?  Check out the 3 ways you can help from the Red Cross:

The global Red Cross network, led by the Nepal Red Cross, has mounted an international relief effort to provide emergency humanitarian assistance following the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Nepal.  If you’re wondering how to help Nepal earthquake victims, you have three easy options:

1. Donate online to Nepal earthquake relief on redcross.org.

2. Visit your iTunes store to find a donation link.

3. Spread the word on relief efforts and ways to help online. Find and share information on social channels, including the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Twitter account and our very own Facebook and Twitter posts.

Kodachrome #1

Getting rid of the detritus that serves no function other than to take up space in my life can be a mind-numbing chore, but it also means unearthing boxes that haven’t been opened in, well, more than a few years.  But detritus is different than memories.  A box full of old photograph albums (remember those – when all photos were printed and carefully pasted into albums  – or thrown into a shoebox depending on their relative importance) opens a window into a past barely remembered and a self scarcely recognized.  Which is regrettable because those old kodachromes of people and places make up the paving stones of our lives.

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As I started flipping through the spine-broken and dust-bedecked albums I wondered what gave me the courage to set out on some of those adventures?  A gypsy soul for sure, along with a healthy dose of bravado.  In the long ago dark ages before the internet, email and full-time, real time connectivity, taking off for several months to the far reaches of South East Asia was a different undertaking.  If family or friends wanted to stay in touch with you they had to mail letters (yes, actual words written on paper, in an envelope, with a stamp) to Poste Restante, or General Delivery at a distant Post Office in Bangkok or Kathmandu.  Strangest of all, however, was that the system worked.  After several weeks and a few countries you could roll off a dusty train, heft your backpack and get into line with an equally bedraggled crew of travelers to find a packet of travel stained but most welcome letters from home.  There were always people sitting on the sidewalk right outside the post office, pack dropped and forgotten, devouring the news from home. It was like stepping back into a world you had to strain to remember, so different from the reality of your present.

Myanmar (or Burma as it was known then) was one of the strangest and most fascinating place I have traveled to – it really is the Land That Time Forgot.   It was (and is) difficult to get a visa into the country and travel is strictly controlled.  Nevertheless, we were in Bangkok and managed to get an elusive travel permit into Burma for 10 days.

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Fascinating doesn’t even begin to cover it.   Imagine a country frozen in the 1950’s – the few vehicles running were of that vintage.  The military junta had broken off diplomatic relations and isolated itself from the rest of the world, maintaining only the most rudimentary diplomatic ties to China.   “Currency control” was a piece of legal size paper that looked like it had been mimeographed and you were supposed to write down how much currency you brought into the country, how much you exchanged legally and where you spent it. Then you handed back the piece of paper when you left.  Not a word of a lie.  Here’s what actually happened.  You got the piece of paper, wrote some imaginary number on it, stuffed it in the bottom of your pack and didn’t bring it out until you were due to leave.  Meanwhile, you brought in as much whisky and cigarettes as you could carry from Bangkok and traded them on the black market for local currency.  The official rate at the time was about US$1 for 3 Burmese Kyat.  On the black market it was about $1:30 kyat – a more realistic valuation.  And yes, I have pondered why cigarettes and whisky were the currency of trade – human nature is remarkably similar no matter where you are.

Having been in Burma quite literally in the month before the military junta took complete control and placed her under house arrest, I became intensely interested in the life and career of Aung San Suu Kyi (phonetically Ang San Sushi) a Burmese opposition politician and chairperson of the National League for Democracy.  At the time the streets were full of armed military, but since that was not that unusual in parts of Asia, we didn’t think much of it – the protection of fools.  Ms. Suu Kyi is a nobel laureate who spent 15 years under house arrest – the first 6 of which were spent virtually alone – for her stance on democratic government and freedom of expression in Myanmar.

We stayed at the legendary Strand Hotel in Rangoon, much fallen from it’s colonial splendour.

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It had once been the home of many of Britain’s expatriot literary notables, including Rudyard Kipling, who lived and wrote there.   One of my prized possessions is a rather dog-eared copy of The Jungle Book that I bought at a second hand bookstall in Rangoon. It’s been with me ever since.

We travelled by train to the former hill station of Mandalay and took a riverboat down the Irrawaddy River to the city of Pagan.

Pagan is one of the wonders of the world  – built in 1057 it was sacked by Kublai Khan in 1287 and never rebuilt.   It sits on a desert plain, a ghost city of temples and pagodas.  Astonishing.

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I have had these pictures (below) on the wall in every house I have lived in since then.

Becasue of this personal experience I have keenly following the brutal political conditions in this isolated and strange country all these years.  Although travel restrictions have eased and the military junta has taken some rudimentary steps toward relinquising control, human rights abuses remain rampant.

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Reading List:  Working my way through Christopher Hitchens’ memoir, Hitch 22.   He was one of my favourite writers and this autobiography was published before his death from cancer in December, 2011.   Not an easy read – keep a thesaurus on hand, he was Cambridge educated –  but an incredibly well written book about a fascinating life and person.

In Heavy Rotation:  Alexander’s Million Years is such a visually creative music video. Watch it full screen (and maybe twice) to really get the effect.   I love knowing that there are people this creative out there making our world just a little more interesting.

Coming Home

Made it home late Sunday night after almost two straight weeks on the road.  Managed a 36 hour turnaround the previous weekend, which was a whirlwind, trying to spend time with the important people in my life, tossing in laundry, packing and back to the airport early Sunday.  As tired as I am, it’s not all bad.  I am in the middle of an amazing training course (week 1 done, 2 more to go) and got some great work done last week with a very favourable outcome.

And squeezed in some fun along the way. Didn’t really know what to expect when I got to Kansas City last Sunday, only that it’s a long trip  – there are no direct flights from Vancouver to KC.  What I found was a lovely, gracious and very attractive city on the banks of the Missouri River, a city that was once an important junction for wagon trains heading west, for slaves escaping north and cattle drives heading east.  It was the capital of the heartland.   Out of this came a city with some beautiful buildings and a very interesting culture.  Listened to some amazing blues, ate some great BBQ and found a little bit of New Orleans everywhere I turned.  Amazing.

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And I don’t know if I was just lucky, or if karma said, “girl, you need some lovin’ right about now” but there were so many amazing shows playing while I was in KC.  Had planned to see Lyle Lovett and John Haitt at the Uptown Theatre when I arrived last Sunday, but an unfortunate flight delay scuttled those plans.  KC has so many gorgeous old theatres I lost count.  This is the Mainstreet,  in the Power and Light district.  It shows movies, is a craft beer alehouse and on Fridays is a live music venue.  KC is making the most use I’ve seen anywhere of these cultural treasures.

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Monday night a band from Seattle that I have somehow never managed to catch at home was playing in town.  Ivan and Alyosha are some really talented guys from the Seattle area  and the Riot Room is the sort of dive bar music venue that makes my heart glad. As might be expected on a Monday night it wasn’t sold out, but the band put on a fantastic show anyway.

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I also knew that one of my music heroes, Butch Walker, was going to be playing the Riot Room Saturday night.  Despite having listened to his music for years, I still hadn’t seen Butch live, so although that show sold out immediately, I kept the faith that a ticket would materialize.  Posted a message on Craigslist in KC that I was a Canadian in town looking for a ticket for Butch Walker and just hoped.  And the universe answered.  Monday I got a message from a guy in Chicago who had tickets for the KC show, but his friends had bailed on the road trip and he wanted to sell the tickets.  After a few messages back and forth turns out Jason is an ex-pat Canadian living in Chicago and a huge Butch Walker fan.  Trusting that all would turn out well with these credentials, I sent him the money on PayPal and hoped.  And the next day by FedEx . . .my ticket arrived!  Thanks for paying it forward Jason, you were amazing.

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It was a long week of work and I had at least one day where I woke up before dawn in a strange hotel room and had absolutely no idea where I was.  Lost my rental car in the parking garage one day . . . walked all six levels trying to remember where I parked the damn thing.  And spent a lot of time in the gym making up for the restaurant meals.  But knew I had been in that hotel too long when I found myself riding down the elevator, walking through the lobby and across to the parking tower to fetch something I’d left in the car . . in my pyjamas.  Note to self, it’s time to go home when you are in the lobby in your PJ’s!

But all work weeks do come to an end and Saturday I had a chance to explore more of Kansas City.   Had a wonderful morning in the warm sunshine (it was 65F) walking around the River District and City Market.   Spent a lot of time in a vintage musical instrument store.  Fabulous find.

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After all that walking and shopping it was time for an authentic Cafe du Monde beignet at Beignet.  So delicious.

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Had a late BBQ lunch and headed back downtown to Kansas City Live to see the Heroes Show.  I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but as it turned out, I got to be part of a moving and authentic slice of real life in the heartland of America.

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The show was a tribute and celebration for the local veterans, and no matter what people’s philosophy on the US military might be it, it was clear that a great deal of respect and honour is paid to all veterans.  And it wasn’t just the Marines in full dress uniform getting attention, although I saw a lot of people lined up to have pictures taken with them.  There was also the guys in jeans and patch vests from the annual Veterans Ride.  Must have been 50 Harley’s parked out front.  There were older vet’s from WWII and guys wandering around who looked like they had never really made it back from some of the overseas conflicts.  And there were families everywhere, either with veterans or current serving members.  Or, sadly, paying tribute to loved ones they had lost.

A clip from a documentary called The Invisible Ones, about homeless combat veterans, went up on the big screens, it showed incredibly moving photos of injured veterans; it was so powerful it silenced that big, rowdy, country music loving, beer drenched outdoor venue.   There was a mom with her arms around her 10 year old son, both of them crying, and I’m guessing mourning their husband and dad.  There was a young dad, a big, very fit guy, who looked like a marine sitting next to me with his two baby girls and he had them both in his arms with tears running down his face. What was he remembering I wonder?

Saturday night it was back to the Riot Room for my long-awaited Butch Walker show.  It was fantastic.  Epic.  Couldn’t have asked for more.  And I’m so glad that fate, or the universe, or whoever, saw to it that I was in the right place at the right time.

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Here’s an acoustic version of Coming Home from Butch’s new record, Peachtree Battle – it’s a different version from the one I saw Saturday night, but I’m all about the new look!

And just because I can, some older Butch from Sycamore Meadows  “Here Comes The . . ”  And check out the gorgeous Gibson he’s playing . . . I’d love to own that baby, but an Epiphone Hummingbird will have to do for me. If I can ever play as well as Butch I’m getting me one of those.

Dog Days

Where did Autumn go this year?  The dog days of summer rolled on into September, the weather stayed warm and sunny and evenings at the beach were magic.  And there was more than one that had a special magic, when it was still really hot, the sort of hot that leads to drinking all the beers in your cooler and then waiting for the beer vendor guy to come around so you can buy a couple of tall, cold Stellas.  As the light and warmth lingered on you might find yourself later in the evening renewing friendships and celebrating the sunset to the sound of bongo drums with all the other sun-worshippers.   The sort of nights that make you re-think why you ever have wanted to leave paradise on the West Coast.

Then it was Thanksgiving (Canadian – in October) and we started a new tradition of spending Thanksgiving on the beach.  Hard to believe this is Vancouver in October.

My own special place in The Kingdom, thanks R!
And without really remarking the change, suddenly it was November.  The Kingdom retained it’s magical beauty, even as the seasons belatedly turned.  The weather remained warm, but brought with it a blanket of marine fog, blocking the sunshine, making it cool and damp, but with an eerie spell.
It feels like I’ve traveled about a bazillion miles since August, mostly for work but some for fun.  Exhausting, but I’ve got to see a lot of amazing places.  Went back to Toronto and caught up with S, my very first friend in Canada.  We haven’t seen each other in a long time, but as her husband put it, thanks to Facebook it’s like we saw each other yesterday.  I miss her, but not Toronto.  Work takes me regularly to Kentucky, a place that was so completely different from my expectations and that I’ve grown to love.  In August I went to the Forecastle Festival in Louisville, hands down the most impeccably curated music festival of the summer.  I’m usually in Lexington (work), it’s a stunningly beautiful part of the world, but I also learned to love Louisville, a quintessential “Main Street America” town.
The Amazing Grace Potter.
Some down home boys from Virginia, Old Crow Medicine Show (stole my heart!).  Thanks R for the amazing shot.

It wouldn’t be Kentucky if we didn’t drink some moonshine . . .well actually a whole lot of ‘shine!

Louisville is also home to the Louisville slugger factory, where all Major League Baseball bats are produced, a must-see.   It’s only short coming as a city – a shocking shortage of places to find breakfast of any kind, never mind the sort of hangover breakfasts the South is famous for – waffles, fried chicken, red eye gravy, grits and pails of Pimm’s or Bloody’s.  New Orleans has that s*&# totally covered, and despite Hillbilly Tea, a gem, needs to up it brunch game!
And who knew that the quintessentially Canadian game of curling would make me a pretty darn fine shot at Cornhole!  For Canadians who, like me, are somewhat askance at the name, check out this blog, an Ode to Cornhole.  It looks sort of like this (well at least from what I can remember . . .see note above regarding ‘shine).
Every so often I managed to gather a few days in Vancouver, where I basked in the total west coastness of The Kingdom and caught up with the music scene at the Vancouver Folk Festival at Jericho Beach.
And was front row for Blue Rodeo at the Roots and Blues Festival at Deer Lake Park.  Some love for Jim Cuddy, although clearly taken at the end of my long day!

What else has this Autumn meant for me?  It’s been a time of reflection and considerable thought.  I FINALLY got my US work permit, something I’ve been waiting for a long time.  This Canuck is now legal to live and work in the USA for at minimum the next 3 years.  Richmond, VA was where I was headed, but in a somewhat unbelieveable turn of events, I’ve been unable to sell my house in Vancouver, one of the hottest real estate markets in North America.  So the house is off the market until circumstances become clearer.  And I’ve always believed that life will work out as it’s meant to, but that sometimes we just can’t see what that’s going to be, a valuable lesson learned last year.  A friend said to me that when things are meant to be, they will be easy, that the pieces will fall into place, but when they are difficult, pay attention to the message.  And there has been nothing easy about this proposed move to Virginia.  It’s been one stumbling block after another and now there are some compelling reasons for me to stay in Vancouver.   Life is funny that way, you are walking down one road and then when you least expect it (or without really knowing it at the time) you get caught completely off-guard.  I might have to be home for more than a day or two at a time though, patience with my crazy schedule might start to wear thin.  I’m home for 8 whole days in 6 weeks.  Sitting in a hotel in Kansas City, MO tonight, got to finish writing and head out to see John Hiatt and Lyle Lovett at the Uptown Theatre. When in Rome . . . .

There has been so much absolutely great music come out this Autumn, I just can’t decide.  Saw the Avett Brothers again in Vancouver, they are touring their new record “Magpie and the Dandelion”.  By luck caught this amazing shot at the Orphpeum Theatre.
Seth was singing Morning Song . . .   http://youtu.be/09ljktjxHpI
And I’ve been completely obsessing over the new Amos Lee record, Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song and this amazing song, Chill in the Air.
Enjoy y’all, hope to write more soon, time and travel permitting.

 

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