Coast to Coast

Saturday March 31, 2012

Well, it is just about over. I have now also seen both of North America’s oceans in the same trip.

West Coast:                                                               East Coast:

Somewhere shortly after I crossed into the state of PA (the only state you can simply call by it’s 2 letter initials), I had to take a leak. After a few minutes of driving through the “mountains” (ha-ha) I found a rest area. At the rest area I saw a sign that was quite disturbing. Between this sign, paying tolls for using roads, and the too heavy, sea level air, I knew I wasn’t out west anymore.

I just bookended the trip nicely with injuries. The very first day and the very last day of the trip I took really bad, painful falls. On the first day I slammed my head on the ski slope and actually broke my helmet. I had to buy a new helmet. Today, the last day, I just slipped and fell in the kitchen on the slippery tile. I have apparently hurt my elbow pretty badly. Of course I didn’t get to see the fall, but I know for a fact it looked just like the crazy cartoon falls that I see on TV. Both feet went out from underneath me, straight out into the air, and straight down on my ass. Ouch. Now I am typing one handed with ice on my elbow. More than anything I wish there was at least someone here to have seen it, what a waste.

Soon I will be reunited with Wifey and two puppies. I am very excited.

Hello America, thanks for letting me back

They’ll let any old scumbag into this country. Nothing like Canada. Made a visit today to Fargo, ND, just so I could say I was in the town that is the namesake of one of my all time favorite movies. While I was there I had tacos, got gas, and watched a person use an actual paper check to pay for stuff at the gas station. What a weird country this is turning out to be.

How do I ever go to Blue Mountain again?

Tuesday March 27, 2012

Seriously, I have no idea how I go back to an everyday life after today. Cross the last thing of my winter checklist, I am the happiest person alive. Today I went heli-skiing. I can’t believe there was even an ounce of nervousness about doing it. It is the greatest thing I have done up until this point in my life. Such an unequivocally amazing experience. I went with a local outfit here in Revelstoke called Selkirk Tangiers Heli-Skiing. They assisted me in Living My Dream. I decided just a few days ago to try to get into a group, I thought it could be a great ending to the trip of a lifetime. I thought correctly. Todays experience was the perfect exclamation point to this entire winter. I am going to start driving toward home tomorrow, there is no sense in even trying to do anything else this winter. Game, set, match…it’s over Johnny.

The day started out with a yummy breakfast, meeting some of the other people in my group (bunch of celebrities), and orientating with the guide. Dave was our guide, but there were 2 other guides that came along. 3 guides and 9 passengers made for 12 in our group. The first stop was somewhere along the side of the road that looked like we could have easily been raped and left for dead in the middle of nowhere Canada. It was time to learn and familiarize ourselves with avalanches, procedures in case of problems, how to use our avalanche beacon, and finally starting an avalanche with only the power of the mind. Seemed odd, but Dave wanted us to know how. After that was helicopter safety and orientation. In total it was about an hour and a half, maybe 2 in safety training and instructions. It was all quite interesting actually, either that or I was just too excited about the upcoming activity to know any better. After all the instructions we were then moved by van from highway rape area number one to potential murder site number two. This was to be the pickup point by the helicopter for my group.

We were taken to a little place known as “I Have No Idea Where I Was”. All I knew was it was at the top of a mountain. We did a total of 4 runs. The routine was dropped off at the top then ride down to a flat area the helicopter could pick us up. After the third run we ate a nice lunch on the mountain. The scenery was gorgeous snowy mountain scenery for as for as the eye can see. The terrain was the perfect mix of extremely steep to moderately steep, perfect for cruising. There was one area that was a giant bowl, then the next time we were going through trees. The variety and assortment of terrain was just perfect. We would all stage up at the top of a downhill and Dave would lead the charge. Then we took turns dropping in about 5 seconds apart. There was nothing but the most pristine, virginal untouched tracks. We were supposed to ride next to the others tracks so we could stay in the group. One time I was the lead guy after Dave the guide. I saw someone hit a tree so I looked over to give myself a good laugh. It’s fine, she was laughing so I knew nobody was hurt. When I looked back Dave was gone. In that split second I lost him. Luckily the guy behind me noticed, called out, and got me back on track immediately. Thanks Paul from Never Summer. It couldn’t have been too bad, it all goes downhill, and I’d have seen him eventually :-). There is only one thing that could have made it better, and this goes for almost everything fantastic, more of it.

I filmed the entire thing, but unfortunately the crappy first person perspective does not really translate the brilliance of today. I did get my new friend Jeremy the Kiwi to wear my helmet for one run and tape me. Because of the way we had to space out it’s not that great, but I truly appreciate the Kiwi efforts.

Our entire group was so diverse and everyone was great. There was a local, me from The States, 2 young siblings from Portlandia, a Kiwi from New Zealand, two ladies from Deutschland, a Vancouverite named Paul, and John pronounced Yon from Holland. Everyone had a great time. Amongst our group there were a couple celebrities, I don’t want to say who they were, so I’ll just say Liam Neeson and NPH.

I’m sure I’ll have more to write about today after I come down from this high.

Aren’t dogs just the greatest?

Monday March 26, 2012

Still here in Revelstoke, British Columbia. I got up early and went to the Revelstoke Mountain this morning. I knew I was only going to stay a few hours at most, so I wanted to get the best I could. What another unique mountain. So many mountains are just vast expanses that sprawl on forever. This mountain is apparently very new and still in development, but already beloved by the local people. This place was recommended to me by at least a dozen folks I spoke with. There are only 3 or 4 lifts on the entire skiable area. The ride down from the top takes forever. It does not seem or feel like it should be that long, but this mountain boasts the longest vertical descent in North America. Fun facts are fun. The place was empty, oddly empty. I was the first person on a couple of groomers as late as 10am. It felt like I was trespassing. The entire place had the feel of someone’s private mountain, but that person said, sure come play on my mountain. The base area is nothing more than a hotel with some retail on the ground level. I read that there are plans to build the place into a giant resort with condos, golf, etc… Right now the entire town is in the middle of nowhere, even the locals will tell you that. I went top to bottom a few times and a few different ways, and then decided I would be done for the day. As I got to the bottom I saw a sign that piqued my interest.

It was an advert for tandem paragliding. Spoiler, I didn’t get to do it. After I saw the sign, realized I had the rest of the day free, and spoke to the chick who sells it (and also done it a few times), I was ready to sing up. My timeline is very limited, so I was being greedy with when I could do it. After finding out that I couldn’t do it until a couple weeks from now I wasn’t too upset. There are 3 pilots that do it, one had a family emergency, another was in Brazil flying, and the third was away on holiday. So I don’t feel like I just missed doing it by a day or two. She showed me some pics and video, it looks amazing. You get into the air by running and jumping off one side of the peak of the mountain. You wear your skiing gear so when you land you land on a ski slope and just take off downhill. I have been lucky enough to check almost everything off my list of things I wanted to do this winter. If all goes well the last thing will be checked off the list tomorrow. That means it will be time to make a new list. I am adding both the paragliding and whatever the hell this is. I saw a couple guys on a frozen lake riding snowboards with giant kites. I guess it is kite snowboarding. I had to stop and take this video. It looks completely safe in comparison to downhill riding. The only danger is possibly plunging below the surface of a frozen lake.

I did see something that I thought very inappropriate. The top of a mountain is a very serious and sometimes unsafe place to be. I do NOT think this is the way anybody should be acting at the tippy top of a mountain, especially when she is supposed to be working. Worse yet was that this gal was hanging around this sign, and yet not at all on guard.

But then later I saw this TV commercial while having lunch and all was forgiven.

Speaking of dogs, I saw these 2 dogs today. This is more proof that Charlie could have come with me. There are plenty of doggies that just hang around and wait for their skiing companions. Seems like it could be a good life for a mountain dog.

And finally I got this sticker for my board. It is definitely the best one yet. Today was a very doggie oriented day.

Oh Canada, I stand on guard for thee

Sunday March 25, 2012

Today started by waking up in one of the quaintest little villages I have seen yet. It felt like waking up in a gingerbread village, much of it looked edible. I had breakfast, packed up, checked out, and went straight to the Sun Peaks Mountain. It was about a 100-yard, excuse me, I mean meter, walk. It was an oddly laid out mountain. The ski areas ran up both sides of the village. Usually it is just one side of a mountain. Because of this layout there were a lot of places that you might have to walk across a street to get back to a lift. Nothing far, but it was unique. For a weekend the place was nowhere near crowded. I think I road almost every lift alone and without a wait. It is apparent that spring is in the air. There has been no fresh snow for about a week and the skies were clear and blue as the Mexican coral reefs. It got quite warm in the afternoon. The lower area of the mountains turned to slushy in typical spring skiing fashion. I decided to split about 2pm and get on the road to where I was going. I made it safely, only about 200 miles, without the assistance of GPS, and all in daylight. I am now in the town of Revelstoke. I will be staying here for a couple days. I need to get some rest, I have a big couple days ahead of me.

The mountain today had some pretty fun trail names. I took a couple pictures that will make a few people laugh when I get home and show them.

I’m not stupid enough to think I am having a midlife crisis. I am smart enough to know that I am well past the middle of my life.

GPS has failed me again

Saturday March 24, 2012

Today I only had a couple hundred miles to drive to get where I wanted to be. Thanks to the Global Positioning System it took quite a bit longer than expected. It suggested 2 routes, one was all major roads and longer, the other was all mountain roads and shorter in distance. I was in no hurry and had plenty of time, so I decided (like always) to take the adventurous route. I got close to my destination, within 40 miles. Then the shortest route was up the wrong side of the mountain I wanted to get to the top of. The bottom line is that I hit 2 complete dead ends and one private property/no trespassing area where I would have certainly been shot on site. I would like to give GPS the benefit of the doubt and say that maybe I could have passed through one of these routes during the summer. To this I say nay, these were dead ends, not even Superior Cutoff Road conditions. I had plenty of gas to get to the town I was going, until all the unplanned traveling. I decided to backtrack to the last major town, get gas, and ask for directions. Getting back proved difficult as I was so completely lost and the GPS seemed to only be taking me deeper into rape and murder land. I finally saw civilization and cruised into a gas station on fumes, got directions, and made it here effortlessly.

The drive was breathtaking. It was entirely traverses along mountainsides with giant cliffs and/or lakes on the other side. I had to yield to wildlife a couple times, including one place for wild horsies, sans winter blankets. A few more horsie pics in the pictures section.

I am in Sun Peaks, British Columbia. Seems like a very small, cute town. From the little I saw before the sunset it looks a lot like I would picture an old European mountain village to look like. I can’t wait to see it tomorrow in the daytime.

Thanks Whistler

Friday March 23, 2012

Today I only rode 3 lifts before I started to go downhill. Holy crap what a giant place. The weather today would be called perfect by some. The sun was out the entire day and there was no wind at all. I was on the mountain today from pillar to post. I heard something today I haven’t heard in a while, “this will be your last ride up sir.”

I have interacted with a couple hundred people since I have been here, and I bet I could count the Americans on one hand. Almost every other country I could name is represented, but not a lot of Americans. Everyone speaks English though, that is really convenient for me. I am sure they took me into consideration.

Today is probably my last day here in Whistler. My room reservation runs out tomorrow and I have spent three full days on the mountain. Even after three full days I bet the percentage of these mountains I saw was low double digits at best, flabbergasting. It seems like today must start the weekend here at Whistler. It was quite crowded at a couple of the lift lines. Luckily, lonesome me can fly right through in the singles line. As many people as there were, I still sat in the woods for about a half an hour today and did not see another single living creature. That is just how giant this place is, that and not a lot of idiots dive into the woods on the edge of a cliff. Since it is about time to start making my way back east I think I will head toward what is known as the interior of Canada. East of where I am now, the coast, there are a bunch of other ski mountains in British Columbia. I keep hearing the same 3 or 4 names over and over again. They are all in a line, due east of here. Seems like it would make sense to pass through each of them if possible.

Thank you Whistler for having me. I will definitely keep you in mind if I am every lucky enough to take another winter ski vacation.

Even Canada has up beat on the exchange rate?

Thursday March 22, 2012

Well, there is definitely no more thinking when someone asks what my favorite mountain is. I have gotten that question a lot and up until this point and I have always had a meandering answer of, “gee, I love Telluride, but blah blah is awesome”. I have a definitive answer for my favorite mountain, Whistler Blackcomb. It’s probably the kind of thing that I will just blurt out at really awkward times whenever I hear someone say the word favorite. I’ll just scream “Whistler!” in their face for no reason. That being said, Telluride is still my favorite town.

The amount of area there is to ride here between to two mountains seems ungraspable. There is no need to take any breaks during the day. The rides on the gondolalas and lifts are plenty of a break. The sun was out for the first half of the day so I finally got some pictures that are worth a crap. I hope they translate the magnificence. After midday the clouds came back, wind picked up a bit, and the snow started falling. Winter may be over at home, but it is still winter someplace. While the wind was down today I was able to ride the “Peak 2 Peak” gondolala they have. It might be the most impressive and scary ride ever. It is one of the greatest human-built marvels I have ever seen. It travels between the peaks of the two mountains on nothing more than cables. Most lifts or rides have a lot of poles or towers for support. These cable cars just dangle over the valley between the two mountains. The only support towers are near the peaks of either mountain. It only becomes frightening if you actually think about it for more than a minute. I say just get on and go for the ride, it is a dazzling ride.

I still can’t believe that the exchange rate for the Canadian dollar has mine beat. Wife is heading to Mexico soon, I hope she makes out better than I am. It is going to be like I’m in the attic and she is in the basement. Maybe if we yell really loud we can hear each other.

Hi Canada, thanks for letting me in

Tuesday March 20, 2012

I am in Whistler British Columbia Canada, barely. I left out of Spokane yesterday morning but not until after I had my free breakfast. It was a very special french toast from Frank’s Diner and it was delicious. Thanks Frank and Ryan. The drive to where I am now was about 8 or 9 hours, no problem. I rolled over to Seattle and started heading north without any issues or hold ups. I got to the Canadian border and waited my turn in line to drive through, about 10 minutes. I pulled up to the window and was as pleasant and conversational as I know how to be. Even though I have nothing to worry about, it feels like there could always be a problem. After the initial stop and round of questioning, which I found pretty in depth already, I was directed off to the side to park my car and go inside. Long story short (which I have written but won’t post here) I was detained for 2 hours, subjected to a ton of questions, and a vehicle search. It was immediately apparent this was not random, but because of my past as a shithead. The officer was really nice the entire time and kept the aura of nonjudgmental and helpful. Whatever, luckily I made it into Canada and am now at Whistler.

I got in here last night just around dark. I unloaded the cruiser, brought everything up to my room, unpacked a bit, and went out into the village to find food. I could tell immediately, even in the dark that this place was impressive. The mountain village area goes on forever. Much bigger than any other mountain village I have seen. This place is 2 giant mountains side by side. Each mountain in itself is bigger than most others, but to have both next to each other? Come on, that seems selfish. They share a base area with a gondola that you can ride up either mountain. There is also a “peak 2 peak” connector, it was closed today. The terrain is so big you could ride lifts all day and not get to the tippy top. I rode 4 lifts this morning before I ever started going downhill. I can already tell the new answer to, “what was your favorite place” is most certainly Whistler.

I road a lift today with a ski instructor from Edinburgh, Scotland. Nice kid, he really is living the dream. He is on the mountain almost year round. He works here and then heads to New Zealand during their winter and skis there. I’m gonna have to figure something out. I did get to say “cheers” to him, that made me happy.

I’m in another country so I don’t really want to use my phone. And I have the data turned off so that doesn’t work either until connected to the internets. It is amazing how often I instinctively just put my hand in my pocket when I want to know something, see something, jog my memory about something, or have 5 minutes to kill playing a game. It took all day but I think I stopped reaching for it. At dinner tonight I just sat there and started straight ahead like David Puddy waiting for the phone to ring. 

Oh Portlandia, I hope you feel better soon

Sunday March 18, 2012

I’m so glad I made the drive back down to Portlandia and went to Mount Hood Meadows today. It felt like I was going backwards instead of moving ahead in my trip, but it was well worth it. It was snowing all morning and coming down fairly hard on my half hour drive to the mountain. It was a Sunday so there was some traffic and they were using overflow parking lots. The first decision I had to make was to ride a bus from the parking lot, or take a nice long uphill hike from the parking lot to the base area. I decided since hike-to terrain was the new thing I do now, I’d take the hike. It was a nice long uphill walk through the woods. Just enough to get my blood flowing and my muscles loosed up. The really cool thing was that as far as it was away from the base area I was able to ride my board back down the hill, into the parking lot, and almost right up to my car door.

As I already said, I’m glad I made the trek back down to Mount Hood. That place holds a memory for me that I’ve long forgotten, so it was nice to refresh it with a new, exciting memory. The weather was great winter weather. It was nice and cold so there was no threat of the precipitation turning to rain. It was either snowing or completely sunny. It kept alternating back and forth like Mother Nature flipping a light switch. It got quite windy at the very top toward the end of the day. It might have been scarier windy than the day at A-Basin with JO. The difference is I was still able to have a blast. That day at A-Basin somehow had the potential for misery any given minute. Something I haven’t seen yet this winter were free cookies at the mountain. I was in the lodge and a guy that worked there was walking around with a giant bin of fresh made cookies handing them out! It was the nice surprise score of the day. I thought it was my lucky day, but apparently not. The guy I shared my free cookie session with said that is the way it is every day. Oh yea.

Turns out that the Portlandia Posse blew me off, so I rode alone all day. I spoke to the South Korean Mafia early in the morning and he said he wasn’t feeling too well. It might be pains from all the balloons he is rat-holing for his upcoming exodus/immigration to South Korea. All the best, I hope they have a blast!

After I rode almost all the way back to my car, I changed, packed up, lit a cigar, and plugged Spokane, Washington into my GPS. Mount Hood is a weird place. As soon as you get to the base of the mountain there is no sign that winter was ever there. I guess that is why they have a ski area that is open year round. Once out of the mountain range the transition from rainforest-like mountains into vast prairies was remarkable. Before I got too far into the drive I made a phone call to my buddy in Spokane to make sure I could still get a free breakfast out of him. I wasn’t going to go 8 hours out of my way if I couldn’t get a free breakfast. Turns out I can, and we are, tomorrow morning. I’m looking forward to it. After breakfast I’ll be hitting the road for an all day drive to Whistler in British Columbia. I made arrangements for a place to stay for 4 nights on the mountain. They currently have some great last minute, end of the season deals. It is probably at least a 9-hour drive from here to BC. I hope to make it all in one day, I should be able to, even with the cruise control set.

Apparently I spent a lot of todays drive on the Lewis and Clark trail again. I can’t see what the big deal was about this expedition of theirs. There are nice big, wide, paved, blacktop roads everywhere they went. Big deal. Name a road after me already. The drive today was another scenic and picturesque one. Being so close to the left coast I saw a beautiful sunset tonight that rivals the sunrises we have on the right coast.