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.

It’s our time down here

Saturday March 17, 2012

Today was one of the most fun, spontaneous travels days I have had yet. I left out of Tacoma with a destination of Mount Hood, Oregon. It was just a few hours drive and I had all day to get there. I had a short way to go and a long time to get there. Once I was on I-5 south I saw an exit for the Oregon Coast Scenic Byway. It seemed like a sign for me to see the Pacific Ocean during this trip. It was the closest to the ocean I have been up until this point. I quickly checked the map to see exactly where I was. Once I realized my proximity, I set the GPS for Astoria, Oregon. Anybody worth a crap knows exactly why this town is important.

I spent a lovely day carving through the forests of Washington State. I was following the Lewis and Clark Trail. I guess this is better than following the path of the Donner Party and meeting their destiny. After winding my way to the coastline I crossed over a body of water on the Astoria Bridge. In the middle of the bridge it changed from Washington to Oregon. On the far side of the bridge was the legendary Astoria, Oregon. I drove all through the seaside town streets, just taking in the sites and sounds. I pulled over and plugged an address into my GPS, 368 28th Street. Yep, this is the famous house from The Goonies. I parked down the street like the sign requested, strolled up the hill, grabbed a few snapshots, made a donation, smiled, laughed, and left. It was hailing on me while I took the walk and grabbed my photos, which was perfectly fitting. If I had any friends I would have a nice picture of me in front of the house. I can Photoshop that I guess. The whole event made my day. What better way to honor my trip than to visit the place where one of the greatest adventures of childhood lore took place. I just now googled The Goonies movie. The images that came up rather shocked me. Here are a couple.

From Astoria I decided to drive a bit further down the Pacific Coast on 101. I drove and walked around the seaside towns of Seaside and Cannon Beach, Oregon. I believe Cannon Beach is where the rocks are that helped lead to One-Eyed Willy’s treasure, the rich stuff. Don’t quote me on this. It was a gorgeous day in those towns. A perfectly sunny 50-degree day. The beaches were sprinkled with people walking their dogs. The Pacific Ocean is amazing in an indescribable way. The towns were full of tourists wandering, shopping, and eating ice cream and cotton candy. It was an extremely serene experience. Busy, yet quiet and peaceful, nothing at all like the visits to the beach I have.

From the coast I made the rest of my journey back inland and east of Portlandia to Mount Hood. This is where I rest tonight in anticipation of playing tomorrow at Mount Hood Meadows with the Natedawg and his posse. This is the fist time I have been to Mount Hood since I came here about 100 years ago. I came here in a July with LP, who is probably my longest standing friend. We tried to go snowboarding…in July. No we weren’t stoned…well…whatever, the mountain really is open in July. However we were turned away because the Olympic team was training. So I believe I went and played golf instead. Oh, former Jimmy, what a fool you were. I’m really looking forward to tomorrow. I am finally getting around to what I hoped to do more of during this trip, hitting lesser known, random, nonresort mountains. If I had friends this might have happened more or sooner. And I would have a pic of me in front of the Goondocks that didn’t look like this. 

A lot more photos of the Pacific Ocean and Astoria added to the Traveling Photos.

What’s the deal with airplane peanuts?

I went into a diner for breakfast this morning in Tacoma. I found it on yelp, so thanks again yelp. It was called Little Jerry’s, and I had no idea what it was before I walked in. the restaurant is about 6 four top tables. It is entirely Seinfeld themed. I mean entirely. Everything on the walls, the menu, the reading material, the names of the dishes, even every coffee mug was different but all with a Seinfeld theme. I loved it. I was the only person in there eating, so I got to talking to the people working, which were a husband and wife. Turns out they just opened up the joint about a month ago. It was a great American dream story. The husband had the brainchild idea for the restaurant, they put in the legwork and effort, and not it is open. They said they are doing well and have a lot of regulars. That is all any business can ask for right now. The two of them could not have been more pleasant and lovely to chat with. Happening into this diner was exactly the type of experiences I set out to have during this trip. If I had a facebook I’d like them. But what is really important is that I like them in person. If I am every in Tacoma again this place will be my first stop. All the best to them. Oh yeah, the food was dynamite!!!

No, seriously, Washington hates Fonzie

Friday March 16, 2012

I didn’t get much sleep last night. I was up late and up again early this morning. I grabbed a quick, hot, included continental breakfast and a shower. I threw on my warm clothes and dashed out of the hotel expecting a long, scary drive to Crystal Mountain in Washington State (the place that hates Fonzie). After the weather they have been receiving on Mt. Rainier recently, I assumed my drive would be terrifying. I assumed I would be purposefully driving into what could have been the worst weather of the trip. Off in the horizon there were more ominous clouds taunting me. I felt like that polygamist when he was driving directly into that storm on purpose with Paul Reisers’s wife and Auntie Em’s young niece.

The drive ended up not being as frightening as I expected. I immediately loved everything about where I was. The drive was both beautiful and thrilling. I got parked and changed quickly. It looked like quite a long walk to the base, and then I noticed there was a parking lot shuttle. Their idea of a shuttle was a pick up truck with a flat bed trailer in tow. It was like a hayless hayride. Andy the dog would have loved it here. I went into the shop and asked where I could buy a sticker for my board. The young lady said we don’t sell stickers, but we do give them away. What’s not to love about this place. What a different scene and way of life. There is no mountain village or any of the hoopla that fancy people need. Just pure, amazing riding.

One of the first things I saw when I drove in was there are areas for overnight parking. People would show up the night before and camp out in their car waiting to get first fresh tracks in the morning. What is this, the Bethpage Black course? There were plenty of people who utilized these lots. Cars were covered in mounds of snow. On the far side of the main parking lot there was an area for RV’s with hook ups and everything. Pretty badass. Seemed like the only way to fly.

I got one great run in from the top and my leg was as soar as it has gotten all winter. On the second gondolala ride up something terrible happened. I envisioned an end to the trip, at least to my day. My board fell out of the gondola holding compartment on the side of the car. I didn’t see it happened, but all 4 people facing me gasped and saw it fall to the ground. Luckily nobody was underneath. It plummeted several hundred feet at least. If you zoom in a lot you can see my poor lonely board mostly buried in the snow. There was nothing I could do about it. A nice young lady that I was riding with offered to grab it on her way down and meet me at the base. So I had to ride the gondolala back down like a lonely, solo, boardless loser. I waited at the bottom for a few minutes and a different young kid showed up with it. Thankfully it was intact and no obvious damage. I waited for the other chick and let her know that I got it, thanked her for her efforts, and jumped aboard the next car to the top.

Today I checked off another of my to do list items, another first for me. I did my first ever hike-to riding. I rode the lift to the top of where the lift services and then hiked for a while higher and to the other side of the mountain. Holy shit, it was amazing, breathtaking in more than one way. This was one of the things I said I was going to do before the trip was over, and now I’ve done it. I’m not trying to act like I hiked (almost) to the top of Crested Butte Mountain like Wifey did. It was a good 20+ minute uphill, in ski apparel and boots, carrying my board hike. It was amazing. I have ridden on plenty of fresh untouched powder this season, but nothing that has felt quite like this. It was an entirely new experience and feeling. I don’t think the entire mountain has ever heard of, believes in, or owns grooming machines, definitely not in this area. I videoed the entire trek. I can’t wait to see just how boring I can make it.

After a few hours I had a bite to eat and got back on the road. I didn’t have a destination at the time, but there was only one way to go from the mountain, down and away. Good things I didn’t need to go the other way, because it was not an option. The mountain was the last stop on this road, the rest of this road was closed for the season, impassable. I decided to head back to the Tacoma area and find a cheap hotel. On the drive back I stopped in and got Jiffy Lubed and had a couple more window cracks repaired. I’m good for another 7500 miles.

I made it back to Tacoma and am now checked into the un-luxurious Crossland Hotel. I wonder if this place is affiliated with the world famous and preeminent law practice Crossland Law?

It might be just because they are new, but I think today produced some of my favorite scenic pictures so far.

The Oregon Trail, it’s not just a game anymore

Thursday March 15, 2012

Today was an awesome travel day. I traveled from Truckee, through Reno, parts of northern California, all of Oregon (including an great pit stop in Portlandia), and finally somewhere near Tacoma, Washington. I got as far north as I could in hopes of making it to Crystal Mountain in Washington tomorrow. It is a lot later than I planned to get here, I sure hope I can get up in the morning. I still have about 2 hours to where I want to be.

Today’s drive and activities have reinvigorated me about this trip, a second wind. I had lost my momentum and thought I might be running out of Winter Carnival Juice. After I left Truckee and got north of Reno I entered back into California. I saw parts of Cali that I would have never envisioned as California. Of course there are the big cities, San Fran and LA, the impressive works of nature called the coastline, and the gorgeous forests. Today I saw giant expanses of open ranges, farms, meadows, and nothingness. I found myself in the middle of nowhere. Before today I would never have thought that anywhere in California could be considered the middle of nowhere. I am sure that is just my naïve, childlike, east cost impression I formulated from The Brady Bunch and Beverly Hills 90210. I am more than happy to have seen these areas.

At the Cal-Ore border I was welcomed the best way that Oregon knows how, by a dark, ominous, scary, Wizard of Oz like storm cloud. This cloud formation obliterated the idea that a sun may have ever even existed. I could see it coming from an hour away, little did I know it was just hovering over the Oregon border waiting for my arrival. From that point on in the drive it was a mostly miserable, rainy day. This was quite the opposite welcome I received from California, a beautiful rainbow.

As scary and gloomy as the drive was there were also some amazing parts of Oregon I saw today. I drove around and through some lake areas east of Eugene. There were giant lakes I could see on my left intermittently through the tree line. On the far side of the lake were snow-capped mountains. All around me were head high piles of white snow lying at the base of an evergreen forest. It felt like I was driving through a town called Christmas. Once I got through that area I entered what might be a legitimate rain forest. It was bright green everywhere, giant vegetation overhangs, a couple waterfalls, and a screaming river on one side. Somewhere else in Oregon I witnessed a beautiful miracle of nature. I am pretty sure I witnessed a brand new baby goat learning how to walk. Either that or I saw a drunken baby goat.

And then for the icing on the cake called Thursday I stopped into Portlandia to visit my long lost friend Nate.

Portlandia is just how I always pictured it. TV and Fred Armisen didn’t lie to me. Nate apparently lives on the corner of Hipster and Doofus Avenues. I haven’t seen him in years, possibly since my wedding. It was so great to see him and meet his chick. They welcomed me into their home for a fantastic evening of conversation, laughing, and home cooked food. They fed me a delicious meal of lasagna and something he claims was a salad. He also assured me that all the ingredients were not only local, but were all grown within 50 yards of his house. I only eat the best and freshest these days. The lasagna was delicious, I believe it even had ingredients I don’t like, but it was still scrumptious. The conversation and good times were even better. I hope to hook back up with them later this weekend for a day of riding back down closer to Portlandia.

As great as it was to reunite with Nate, meet his chick and her sister, the highlight of the evening was definitely meeting Andy the dog. Andy the dog makes Eddie from Frazier look like a schmuck. He does tricks for treats. When he’s not doing tricks he simply sits around being adorable. They play a cool game every night with Andy that I am stealing and taking home with me to teach our dogs. Be prepared Wifey, I’m coming home with canine expectations. 😉

Apparently Washington state doesn’t allow Fonzie’s.