Bridge City 2.0

I have been asked a lot lately if Bridge City is now fixed.  For those of you not keeping track at home, I crashed Bridge City a few months ago and lost about 500 posts and photos.  I was devastated and felt like giving up on the project to document most of the important buildings and landmarks in Saskatoon. 

The Calgary Tower

Since then I have been uploading and putting back parts of the site that I had thought I had lost.  It’s a slow process but one that is making progress.

Right now there are 373 posts on the site with a new one going live each day from now until basically early 2017.  If I keep shooting at this pace, we should be okay through the end of 2018 in a few months.  That is awesome.  I am also backfilling a lot of posts on the day that I took them.  So if I took a photo in 2012, I am uploading it the day I took it in the timeline.  The good news is that it gives the photos their correct chronological context, the bad news is that I didn’t do that with version 1.  So a photo that I once posted in 2015 may be now posted in 2011. 

Some of you have criticized the travel sections because they are not from Saskatoon.  To that I say, “meh”.  I travel, I like taking photos and I like reading about the architects who build stuff.  You can deal with it.

I have also been asked what is the local response.  Traffic is up but engagement with builders, property owners and architects is also up.  I have also had some question the accuracy of what I have written here because their documents are different.  Those conversations are a lot of fun because mysteries or contradictory information is fun to resolve. 

The goal is 1000 posts by New Year’s Day.  90% of that will be Saskatoon.  So if you want to keep up to date, check back daily and browse the archives. It’s a ridiculous project and in some ways I wish I had never started but someone had to figure out the history of every building in the city didn’t they?  What’s that?  They didn’t?!  Darn it.

Having a Bag for Adventure

This is one of the more popular posts I have written at work.  I thought I would put my own spin on it here.

Years ago I was reading Lifehacker and read about the Go Bag which they defined as a bag that you had packed and ready to go for any adventure that came your way.  After a particularly bad summer with Wendy’s depression, I made up a bag for her and she loved it.   It evolved over the last couple of years but we had made them up for Mark and Oliver as well and they leave them packed and ready at the front door ready for a moment’s notice.

They have made travelling way easier because all I have to say is “Grab your Go Bag” and we are ready to go.  No packing or fussing.  It’s all there and ready to go and it makes it so much easier to go and do stuff.

30 litre backpack

It starts with a bag.  Some people overthink this and go all out or it ends up holding them bag but all you need is something to toss your stuff in you aren’t embarrassed by.  We just use backpacks.  For Mark, he just grabbed his “last year” pack that has seen some wear and tear but is still fine.  We got Oliver an inexpensive pack from Canadian Tire that was on sale for $15.

SKROSS backpack

If you don’t have one, the best place to get them is Wal-Mart or Bentley when they are on sale.  It doesn’t need to be amazing, it just needs to hold your stuff and be ready when you are.  If you can’t find one that you like, check out Winners.

If you know you are going to be shooting and need your camera gear around, check out the Manfrotto Off-road camera backpack (it’s available in 20 litre or 30 litre versions)  The bottom half of the bag holds your camera gear, while the top half of the bag holds your other stuff.

Manfrotto Off-road camera bag

The coolest feature of the Manfrotto Off-road bags is their external frame.  Wendy and I both have them for hiking and when we want to go on a photo centric trip.

Mark has a Lowepro Photo Hatchback 22L AW.

Lowepro Photo Hatchback 22L AW

No internal frame but it works pretty well for him.  It’s the same kind of thing as the Manfrotto Off-road.  The bottom have holds his DSLR and a few lenses while the top holds a jackets, drink, and other stuff he may need on a photo centric trip.

Your Rugged Adventure Camera of Choice

If you are looking for a rugged outdoors adventure camera, check out the buyer’s guide I wrote for work.  There are times when you want all of your gear.  There are also times when you need a bag full of gear and a camera to capture your adventure.  For those times I recommend a ruggedized compact camera but really any decent compact point and shoot will do.

I personally like the Ricoh WG-5.  It is 16 megapixels, waterproof, crush proof, HD video and made for adventures.  Make sure you toss a 32 GB card in it and have a backup battery.   With it I can capture all sorts of great moments with still or videos. 

Gerber Ripstop I Knife

Gerber Ripstop I Knife

I always travel with a multi-tool so this is just for times when I need a small blade (I hate using the blade on a multi-tool).  It’s only 3 ounces which is light enough to toss in and forget about it until you really need it.  Plus, you are going on a day trip, not doing a combat tour. Leave the fixed blade, serrated edge, hardened metal knife at home with your camping gear.  The reason you want this around is to cut pepperoni for a sandwich.

Having crossed into the U.S. border many times with a knife in my bag or vehicle, it is a lot easier to say to a border official, “I have a small jack knife in my bag” than a hunting one.  It is a lot less questions about what you plan to do with it.

Multi-tool

I own some great multi-tools but my favorite one is a generic one that I got for $10 at Wal-Mart.  It has multiple tools, grips that don’t hurt my hands and has lasted several adventures and crisis around the home.  You can pay more than $20 but at the end of the day, mine has lasted me really well and there are all sorts of ones to choose from.  If you are determined to get a high end multi-tool, you can do no better then the Leatherman CX Skeletool.  At a mere 5 ounces, it is the lightest multi-tool on the market.  One word of warning, it’s blade comes out of the packaging really, really sharp.   Rub your finger across it and you are bleeding all over your new multi-tool.

Adventure Medical Kits Adventure First Aid 1.0

Adventure Medical Kits Adventure First Aid 1.0

This first-aid kit is affordable and covers all the minor medical issues you might encounter, from headaches to allergic reactions to cuts. Plus, the carrying case has room for any extra medicines you need to pack along.  Like any first aid kit, take a look at it before you need it and add to it what you see fit.  We bought our First Aid kit for $10 from Walmart and it came with an even better equipped kit we leave in the car and a smaller kit we toss in Mark’s bag.

Beyond Coastal Active Face Stick

Beyond Coastal Active Face StickThis sunscreen from Beyond Coastal uses natural ingredients such as coconut oil and beeswax. The result: a face-stick formula that’s easy to apply and stays with you for hours. Bonus: Because it goes on thick, it also prevents windburn.

Off! Active Spray

Off! Active SprayMosquitoes are attracted to body heat, so as you and your family work up a sweat, you can become more appealing to these hungry pests. OFF! Active® products are great for giving your family on-the-go mosquito protection.

I think mosquito protection is a matter of personal preference.  I tend to not use it until it is really bad when I am up north.  That means when I need it, I generally want to use the stuff with Deet.  Since we do a lot of hiking and walking when out, I prefer the Off! Active Formula in the smaller spray bottle but your preference may vary.  The importance is to find a product that keeps you from being eaten alive.

Deodorant

Yes, I have a sensitive nose and yes I may hate body odor as much or more than most of you.  I can’t control how you smell but  I can control how I smell.  I prefer to smell like Old Spice Bear Glove.

Toothbrush and a Small Tube of Toothpaste

I am not one of those that need to brush their teeth 10 times a day but I do prefer a clean mouth after a day of hiking or photography.

Hand Sanitizer

Because I hate dirty hands.  I get one of those small travel ones from Dollarama.

Moleskine Notebook and Pen

Moleskine Notebook

What do you do if you come across a great idea in the middle of a road trip?  Share it with friends and family knowing that haters going hate.  Or do you write it down like Henry David Thoreau would do?  You know the answer.  Grab yourself a decent notebook and a Parker Urban Roller Ball pen.  I find the drive back from any adventure is the best time to plan for your next one.

Extra socks

Merino Wool Hiking Crew Socks

Something cotton and goes with both shorts or khakis.   Get the Men’s Merino Wool Hiking Crew Socks.  If your socks or feet get wet from water or sweat, it makes for an uncomfortable day.  Instead pack a pair of these amazing socks in your pack and change when you need to.  They are perfect for getting you through your day and good looking enough to get you through the evening.   Of course you probably have a pair of socks you have already you can use.

Van Heusen Men’s Short Sleeve Oxford Dress Shirt

Van Heusen Men’s Short Sleeve Oxford Dress Shirt

This is something to wear once your day of adventure is done.  Whether you are going out for a nice dinner, meeting up with some friends or just want to feel good on the trip home, this is the shirt you toss on.  It’s wrinkle resistant, comfortable, and has a timeless and classy look to it.

Nalgene Water Bottle

Nalgene Water Bottle

You can pay big money for a water bottle.  Here’s some advice.  Don’t.  Get a Nalgene and it will last forever.  The narrow mouth makes for an easy drinking experience on the road or the trail. The closure and bottle create a leak proof system with no o-rings that can fall out. All Everyday bottles are made with Eastman Tritan and are resistant to tastes and odours.

Energizer Vision LED Head Lamp

Energizer Vision LED Headlamp

Whether you have to navigate by map in the dark, barbecuing late at night or hike into a cabin or campground, having a hands free light in your bag is a huge plus on a trip.

Clif Bars

If you’re stuck on an airplane or just want to avoid fast food on the road, these bars, will keep you going with 250 calories and 43 grams of carbohydrates.  They aren’t bad but they do recommend you drink a fair amount of water with them.  The biggest advantage is they won’t melt and won’t leave you feeling gross on a road trip.  That being said, some of you prefer the iconic Eat More chocolate bar.  It doesn’t provide the same energy boost as a Clif Bar but it doesn’t melt like other chocolate bars.

A pair of under $40 headphones

Panasonic RP-TCM125 “Ergo Fit” headphones

Since these will spend a lot of time in your bag compared to how much time they will spend in your ears, I suggest the Panasonic RP-TCM125 “Ergo Fit” headphones.  They are The Wirecutter’s budget pick and former overall best in ear headphone pick.  If you find them on sale, you can pick up a pair for $15.   They sound better and more comfortable then the pair of Apple headphones that came with your phone or iPod.

BMO Prepaid Travel MasterCard with $250 on it

BMO Prepaid Travel MasterCard

Technically this goes in my wallet but it’s a big part of my travel arsenal.  Your bank may or may not have a similar option but if it doesn’t, you can get a BMO Prepaid Travel MasterCard.  It works just like a regular MasterCard but it is prepaid.  You can add money to it from an ATM or if you are a BMO member, it is linked to your account.  If you have an emergency, you can pay for a motel room, a tow, or grab a meal no matter how bad it gets.  Not only that but once you have that money down on it, you know that you are good to go for any road trip at any time.

Since it is prepaid, there is no interest or debt to pay back later.

So that is my bag.   Let me know what you think of it.

The Stuff That Costs More When You’re Poor

From Lifehacker

Spend less than you earn, save your money, and—poof!—your financial problems are solved. If only it were this easy. Being broke sucks enough on its own, and then there are obstacles that make it extra hard for poor people to fight their way to financial security. For example, here are a few expenses that actually cost more for low-income individuals.

Toilet Paper and Other Staples

Even if you’ve never heard the phrase “the toilet paper effect,” you’re undoubtedly familiar with how it works.

A study from the University of Michigan tracked the toilet paper purchases of over 100,000 American households for seven years. Researchers found that high income households bought toilet paper on sale 39% of the time, compared to 28% for low income households. They also bought more rolls on average compared to low income households. Overall, the study found that low income households pay about 6% extra per sheet, and here’s what the researchers concluded:

the inability to buy in bulk inhibits the ability to time purchases to take advantage of sales, and the inability to accelerate purchase timing to buy on sale inhibits the ability to buy in bulk. We find that the financial losses low income households incur due to underutilization of these strategies can be as large as half of the savings they accrue by purchasing cheaper brands.

In other words, as the study’s title points out, Frugality is Hard to Afford. We’vediscussed this phenomenon in detail, too. It’s not just toilet paper. When you’re poor, it’s not easy to buy stuff in bulk or buy high-quality items that will last. There are a lot of hidden, systematic ways poor people pay more for stuff, and there are some expenses that aren’t so subtle.

I’ve written about this before but banks take advantage of the poor with higher rates

Bank fees make it expensive just to maintain your money in an account, which is ridiculous. They’re easy enough to get around, though—if you have the money.

For example, Bank of America’s regular checking account comes with a $14 monthly maintenance fee. It’s waived if you have a minimum daily balance of $1,500 or more, which is no easy feat if you’re poor. You can also get around itif you sign up for their credit card and qualify for a certain tier. This might be a decent option if you have solid credit. Some banks let you get around it if you have a direct deposit in a certain amount. That’s a decent option if you have a job that earns enough and also allows you to sign up for direct deposit.

The point is: there are solutions, but in practice, those solutions don’t seem to work well when you’re flat-out poor. Studies show there are fewer financial service options for lower income individuals, so they rely on costly alternatives: payday loans and other debt traps.

For example, a study from the National Poverty Center found that 17% of the unbanked say their application to open a bank account was denied. Many others find their existing bank accounts closed because the minimum balance was too low. Whatever the reason, not having access to these accounts makes it even harder to save, work toward financial security, or build a nest egg. The reasonable mainstream services that are available to most of us just aren’t as accessible for low-income households, which means they pay a lot more for alternatives.

Some quick hits

  • So yeah, the infection in my leg is taking over my body again.  The specialist was hoping we had it killed but it came back in under 48 hours and started to move through my body.  Am back on antibiotics but right now my throat, ear, eyes, leg, and many joints hurt.  Also the fever is something else.  It was a year ago that I dragged myself into St. Paul’s Hospital and the doctor simply said after doing blood work, “this infection is killing you”.  A year later, it still seems able to do that.  Yes it still sucks.
  • Why do dogs sense that you have a fever and decide at that moment above all else, they need to hold you.  I love Marley but I am sick, the last thing I want is to wake up to a dog sleeping nose to nose with me and touching me.  She has twice tried to cover me up today as well.  Also, where is that service when I am cold and she is taking my covers?
  • I keep hearing that Bev Dubois is running for mayor.   This could be the greatest thing over for the Charlie Clark campaign even if Atch does drop out.
  • I watch Ken Burn’s The Roosevelt’s the other day.  The entire documentary series may be his best yet.  If you haven’t seen it, it is on Netflix. 
  • I’m missing something but I don’t understand Black Lives Matter protesting and disturbing the Toronto Pride Parade.   I am totally okay with protesting but I don’t know what disturbing the Toronto Pride Parade accomplishes when they are clearly not the ones that Black Lives Matter has an issue with.   Also, how does a festival that is about inclusiveness has a history of “anti-blackness”.    Then they wanted to kick out the Toronto Police floats who BLM sees as racist, even if their new chief is black.  At the end of the day, I don’t understand activists.
  • Kudos to John Tory, Kathleen Wynne, Naheed Nenshi, Justin Trudeau and all of the other politicians who took stands and participated or lead Pride parades in their cities.  You will notice that I left Atch’s name off that list.  His refusal to march in the parade like almost every other liberal and conservative politician in Canada boggles my mind.

Top #Comedian

Oliver got his report card last week.  He didn’t care about it at all because he was given a certificate by his Grade 2 teacher that identified him as the class’s  best #Comedian.  Yes there was a hashtag on the award.  I asked him who else received an award and he rattled off the girl who won “best behaved” and his friend Pablo who won a technology award.  All of the kids won one. 

I trolled him a bit and asked why he didn’t win the “best behaved” award.  He stopped and stared at me and said, “You can’t be the best behaved one and be hilarious Dad.  It doesn’t work that way.”  He then walked away disgusted at me.

Wendy went out to Dollarama and bought him a $1 frame to put it in.  We framed it up and he asked for it be hung above his bed.  Today he asked if I wanted to grab a Coke and come upstairs and admire his award.  He is so proud of it.

I love the idea.  I have been told by two of his classmates what award they won and both were beaming.  Basically all the teacher did was find some pre-made certificates online, download them, print them out on colored paper and then sign them.  For his students, being recognized for what they are really good at (like making jokes all of the time) gave them all sorts of validation going into summer and Grade 3.  I loved the idea and from what I saw, his students did even more.

He now wants to read joke books all summer.  “Now that I am the funniest kid, I need to keep working on it.”  Wonderful.

Review of the 2016 Ford Flex

Ford CanadaA couple of weeks ago, Ford Canada was cool enough to lend me a 2016 Ford Flex for a week to review it.   We drove it in the city, we took it on the highway, and we took it on a road that was under heavy construction and kind of scary.   Here is what I learned about the crossover.

The 2016 Ford Flex compliments of Ford Canada

Mark and Oliver liked it.  Especially Oliver.  The third row of seats is amazing when you have children.  There is no fighting, no arguing, just peace and quiet.  When they are sitting beside each other, it is like an uneasy truce both sides are trying to break.  When they are separated, it is peaceful, calm, and relaxing.

The second row of seats is large enough for myself and I am 6’4.  The rear row was fine for Mark and was large enough for Oliver to think he had his own apartment back there.  It is a legit third row of seating.

The 2016 Ford Flex compliments of Ford Canada

I should say that the 2016 Ford Flex broke Mark’s heart.  I have been reviewing Ford automobiles for the last couple of years and each one of them, Mark has been too young to drive anything other than his mountain bike.  In his mind, when he turned 16, he was going to get behind the wheel and put it through his paces.   He just turned 16.   Then I told him he had to be 18.  He was crushed.  Devastated.  Forlorn.

So I asked him what he was going to do about it?  I suggested he tweet at Ferrari that he was kid in the middle of Saskatchewan and if they could lend him a vehicle for a week to review.  Mark was like, “Really?”  I then told him to compare his Twitter following to Kim Kardashian’s and evaluate his chances.  Yes, I troll my own kids from time to time.

Oh well, there is hope for him in 2018.

Driving Around Town

I took the Flex to work with me for the week and we pretty much parked the Chevy HHR.  It is pretty agile around town.  It has a tighter turning radius than you would expect and quite a bit tighter than my old Dodge Caravan which made it a nice commuter vehicle.  While I drove it pretty conservatively, I had to stomp on the gas once to avoid a careless driver and it unexpectedly tossed you back into your seat.  For a vehicle that long, you don’t expect it to handle and have the power of a sports car but does.

The kids liked it.  I had to drop Mark off at Bedford Road Collegiate for his school’s canoe trip.  The response was, “When did you get that SUV?” and “Is that a new Ford Flex?”  Not a huge sample size but it is approved by high school students who love to explore.

At least the 2016 Ford Flex looks stylish

If you want to take a moment to point out that Mark did up the hip straps on his backpack to load it into the car so I could drive him like three kilometers to his school, go ahead, I don’t know what he was thinking.  The Flex had a lot of room for his gear but could barely hold all of the geekness.   The design may be a bit polarizing but the shape means there is all sorts of storage.  if you get the optional luggage rails and then add a luggage rack or pod, you have a vehicle that begs itself to be taken for long road trips.

Driving on the Highway

We took the car to Prince Albert National Park where we intended to hike the trail along Kingsmere Lake to Grey Owl’s Cabin.

My sherpa, I mean my son loads the gear in the 2016 Ford Flex

There were four of us and the dog.  We had a cooler full of cold drinks when we were done and three and a three quarters expedition sized backpacks.  They all fit comfortable in the back even if the dog was confused why she wasn’t driving.   Check out Mark loading the gear in he back when were done.  There was lots of room.

Marley and her backpack

It was a quiet drive using the cruise control on the way up but it’s a great highway vehicle.  Lots of room, Sirius XM radio, nice sound speakers and heated and air conditioned chairs.  It was excellent.  A combination of a long wheelbase and Ford’s suspension made for a smooth and comfortable ride.

Years ago a friend of mine bought a Ford Grand Marquis when his father retired from work.  He picked his dad up, tossed him in and they drove the Trans Canada highway to the east coast, came back, went south and joined up with Route 66 and drove that from coast to coast before heading north to Highway 1 again and headed back to Saskatoon.  I always wanted to do that and have always thought of the Ford Grand Marquis as the perfect vehicle to do that with.  If I was going to do a trip like that, it would be the Ford Flex. 

I do have a funny story though about the Ford Flex.  As we were turning into Prince Albert National Park right at LT’s Food and Fuel, I heard a horrible sound from the Flex.

LT's Food and Fuel near Prince Albert Provincial Park

I immediately slowed down but the noise go louder, I pulled into the parking lot and was about to call Ford over the still going loud noise when I realized that it was a Diet Coke I was holding.  I hadn’t done the lid up tight and the road was rough which shook up the pop until air and fizz started to leak out making this noise that had us all convinced there was something wrong with the car.  For the rest of the weekend, every time something in the Flex would make a noise, Mark would go, “Dad, the Flex is breaking! Better stop.”  I deserved that mocking.

The Ford Flex was quiet on the highway and while I didn’t have a lot of traffic to contend with, when I had to pass, there was power to pass which is what is really important.

Leaving the Pavement Behind

The main reason we didn’t complete the trip was that Kingsmere Road was under heavy construction during the week and was closed.  In what we had hoped would be a three day hike instead turned into a two day one which was more than Oliver could handle.

The construction did allow me to see how the Flex handled off the pavement on some soft and sloppy roads.  Parks Canada warned us about the roads before hand.  She said that it was passable but unpleasant.  I took the warning seriously but despite the soft spots, the Flex handled it easily.  Even coming back from trailhead after a large storm the night before where the road was worse, I didn’t worry.  Well there was one part of the parking lot where there was a D6 Cat that looked stuck, I avoided that part of the road.

Final Thoughts

Over a week, I developed some strong opinions about the 2016 Ford Flex.  Let me share them here.

  • For a family like ours that loves to travel, the extra space was amazing.  Three rows of seats but the second one was large enough for the boys travel comfortably without them bugging each other.  It’s the vehicle you want when driving to Disneyland, the west coast or Waskesiu for the day.
  • ESPN Radio.  It may not be your favorite thing on a roadtrip but it is mine.  Sirius XM radio is worth the money and if the car you purchase has it built in and ready to go, you are one step ahead.
  • Heated seats / air conditioned seats.  When you just walk a bazillion miles in the Canadian Shield, things hurt.  Heated seats make that pain go away.  Air conditioned seats cool you down.  They are amazing.
  • Cup holders up front, in the back, on the sides…. Let’s see we had coffee cups, pop bottles, and water bottles all going on the way home.  There was room for all of them.
  • The front and rear sunroofs are a nice touch.  The rear one is split.  At one point Oliver had his one open and Mark had his one shut. 
  • Designed to seat seven adults, the Flex is equipped with large, plush, overstuffed front and second-row seats.
  • The third-row seat dumps into a well in the vehicle’s floor, similar to a minivan, and because the Flex has a nearly vertical rear window and a square roofline, it provides an impressive amount of cargo room even when traveling with a full house of passengers.
  • For the 2016 model year Ford gave us the company’s new Sync 3 infotainment system in the Flex. Sync 3 replaces the MyFord Touch infotainment system, and it represents a significant improvement.

    Highlights of the new system include:

    • Capacitive touch screen with swipe and pinch-to-zoom capability
    • Improved graphics, faster response to inputs
    • Upgraded voice recognition technology
    • Siri Eyes Free, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
    • System updates available via Wi-Fi
  • Fuel mileage wasn’t bad.  You can check out Fuelly and see what other Ford Flex drivers are getting.  The average seems to be about 18 mpg.   I get around 25 mpg with my Chevy HHR but it is a much smaller and less powerful vehicle.

I am a fan of the Flex.  It’s styling isn’t for everyone but I have come to love it.  If you are a family who loves to travel or just wants a comfortable ride to the great outdoors, the Ford Flex is worth looking a closer look at, you will be impressed at what you see.

Promoting Local

The other day I walked into my favorite restaurant and was immediately swarmed by the owner, the cook, and the waiter who all thanked me for mentioning their restaurant in The StarPhoenix and in an media interview I did.  They mentioned how people have come by because of what I say on Twitter and my blog as well.  I thought the whole thing was kind of cool but as I said, “I’m not the one making the killer lunch specials.”

We all know that social media advertising works but one thing is that I have never understood about how politicians don’t use it more to promote their own ward businesses.  Economic development is an important part of any politicians local goals and I think they ignore the platform that being elected and their social media profiles give them to promote just that to promote business in their ward or constituency.

While I want my elected officials to look at the big picture, promoting the underdogs in the ward can be a good thing and as Calgary’s Naheed Nenshi has shown, it’s something that can be easily done in the evening during quieter hours.  Whether as a mayor or a councilor or MLA, what cooler project would it be to visit and promote your constituents businesses and organizations to a wider audience.  I’m talking Walmart’s but the family owned businesses that make up our smaller commercial districts.

Does it make a difference.  You should check out my email when either Wendy and I blog about a local business.  I write about it, you click on it, some of you stop by and buy from them and people are happy.  More politicians need to do this.  If it makes a difference for local businesses when I do it, imagine what can happen when they do it.

Lifestyle Choices

So the Mayor of Saskatoon wrote a statement condemning the attacks in Orlando.  Personally I don’t get these statements.  He is the Mayor of a city of 250,000 people several thousand miles away.  If it as it seems now that the shooter was a deranged ISIL fanboy, what does the statement do.  Cynically I think the statement arose after a large vigil was held at City Hall last night and after seeing it, Atch realized that not marching in the city’s Pride Parade was a political mistake.

So when he does issue it, he uses the phrase, “lifestyle choices” which denotes that homosexuality is a choice that people make and they are not born that way.  It’s politer than saying, “sinners” I guess but the connotation for many is the same.

Today after it was pointed out by myself and others that “lifestyle choices” is offensive, the Mayor’s communications assistant Richard Brown sent out an apology for the phrase which brings up some other questions.  If the mayor read over the statement, did the phrase “lifestyle choices” not jump out at him as offensive or did he just not read a statement put out in his name.  Either way it is offensive.

Is it too much to expect a mayor of Saskatoon to read the statements that go out in his name and understand that certain phrases are offensive?  Is it too much to want a mayor to be inclusive of a good part of the population in his own city?

On being a dad (and hiking with kids)

So we just got back from Prince Albert National Park today.  We had planned to hike to Grey Owl’s Cabin.  We got up early on Saturday, navigated a nasty Kingsmere Drive to the trailhead (it’s under heavy construction) and then started out.

Hiking to Grey Owl's Cabin in Prince Albert National Park

The biggest question I had during the build up to this was how was Oliver going to hold up on the hike and with a pack.  His pack fit him well, only had his sleeping bag, some clothes and his headlamp and knife in it but 40 kilometers over two days is really hard for anyone let alone an 8 year old.

Hiking to Grey Owl's Cabin in Prince Albert National Park

He started out fine but even at the first campground, he was struggling.  As we pushed on we passed kilometer six and he had tears running down his eyes and was saying, “I’m okay Dad, I’m okay.”  He wasn’t.  His feet were killing him.  He had hikers on but it wasn’t working.Hiking to Grey Owl's Cabin in Prince Albert National Park

I have read all sorts of articles on REI and MEC about pushing kids too hard.  It turns a hike into a forced march and makes them hate doing this.  Since hiking is Oliver’s favorite thing in the world right now, I didn’t want to do this too him.

Hiking to Grey Owl's Cabin in Prince Albert National Park

As we came into the Chipewyan Portage, I talked to Wendy and said we are staying here for the night.  He’s in pain and not having fun.  He wasn’t going to make it to Grey Owl’s.

I suggested the idea to him and he seemed so relieved.  Then he came and said, “I’m tough enough to keep going.”  I just said that this looked like a good place to camp (and it was).  Of course we had two tents and it was a one tent campground but I was willing to explain my decision to any Parks Canada warden who came by says it has a two tent campground.  We may or may not have been using that campsite but I’m not sure.  When we got it, it just looked like a picnic area and a one tent campground but I’ll defer to Parks Canada on this one.

Hiking to Grey Owl's Cabin in Prince Albert National Park

Oliver took off his hikers and put on his Dawgs but even then could barely walk he was in so much pain.  He got better as the night went on but he had given it all he had.

Around 8:00 p.m., a light drizzle gave away to an impressive storm.  Mark had a rain poncho on so he got the food up on the bear platform (anti bear platform?) and made sure no food was close to our tents.  We had cooked well away from them but by the fact that you have to do that makes you realize how deep you are into bear country.

The storm continued for most of the night.  The winds came up and we started to hear the trees snap during the night.  Parks Canada does a really good job of thinning out the trees near your campground so there are no “widow makers”  near but hearing those trees snap in the middle of the night is a terrifying sound especially when they are so close.

Hiking to Grey Owl's Cabin in Prince Albert National Park

At 4:10 a.m., I heard an animal near by.  Our tents have gazebos and were shut up for the night.  Wendy and I have the Mountain Hardware Drifter 2 person tent which has two entrances.  I had found a baseball sized branch and had put it outside my side of the tent earlier just in case.  I had grabbed my headlamp and was ready to go check it out but it just sniffed around what sounded like the firepit (which we hadn’t used for this very reason) and kept on walking.   There were bear tracks on the trail area this morning.  It worked out the best for both of us.  For me I didn’t have to get muddy and for the bear, he didn’t get his butt kicked.

Leave No TraceWe had a big breakfast, cleaned up our campground, and started the hike back to the Ford Flex.  We took the Leave No Trace philosophy seriously.  We packed out the garbage from the campground.  Before we left Mark and I restacked the firewood and replenished the wood we used the night before.  The campground was a mess before we got there with several large areas burned for bonfires by the beach (really people) and we did our best to clean some of that up as well.

Hiking to Grey Owl's Cabin in Prince Albert National Park

Oliver was good until the last 750 metres and then he was in pain and crying.  I had Wendy and Mark go ahead and open up the car and get him and I an ice cold Gatorade.  Just as we came out of the trailhead Mark came running up and took Oliver’s pack and gave him and I cold drink.

Hiking to Grey Owl's Cabin in Prince Albert National Park

We met a teen girl who was solo hiking to Grey Owl’s the day before.  I had chatted with her dad as she left and she had made the hike and left early in the morning to get back early to meet her dad.  She was chilling out at the trail head when we got back so Wendy took a cold drink down to her who seemed really happy with it.  She was also surprised that Oliver had hiked as far as he did.  That picked up his spirits and he left feeling in a good mood.  The encouraging words of a mom, dad, and brother mean one thing but a compliment from a girl he only met hours before, well that is next level.

Hiking to Grey Owl's Cabin in Prince Albert National Park

From there it was into Waskesiu to get some Doritos and then the long ride home.

Hiking to Grey Owl's Cabin in Prince Albert National Park

Next year we will try to make it to Sandy Bay.

I can pretty demanding of the boys but as I have always told them, all I want to see is there best effort at things.  Oliver put in a huge effort.  He told me that, “I didn’t have enough left in the tank.” which is a great use of a sports cliche but I said back to him, “At eight years old, your tank may not have been big enough and that is okay.”

Exploring with the 2016 Ford Flex

As much fun as the 2016 Ford Flex is to drive around Saskatoon.  Today is why we have it.

Today starts the 20 kilometer hike to Grey Owl’s Cabin.

A couple of hours ago, we loaded the Ford Flex with a cooler full of ice and drinks (for when we are done the hike and get back to the Flex), topped up the tank with gas, tossed three loaded expedition sized backpacks into it and one smaller one for Oliver and a dog backpack for Marley and then headed out the door for Prince Albert National Park.

After we get into the park, we will register with Parks Canada and then head about 40km north of Waskesiu to the trailhead near Kingsmere Lake.  From there we are hiking 17km to the Northend campground where we will make camp before walking another three kilometers to Ajawaan Lake.

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After we check out Beaver Lodge, we will head back 3 kms back to our camp and call it a night.  Then its up and at it the next morning and back to the trailhead where that cooler of orange juice, Gatorade, Diet Coke, cold water and Coca-Cola awaits.  If we don’t make it back, you know we died a painful death at the hands of a bear in the wilderness.

Can you do me a favor?

Follow Oliver Cooper on YouTube

Oliver turns 8 tomorrow and when I asked him what he wanted to do for his birthday, he said he wanted to shoot a Casey Neistat type video about his day tomorrow.  That isn’t going to be that hard to create or edit and I thought I would just upload it to my channel.  Then Oliver realized that he doesn’t have a YouTube Channel of his own and was stressed.  Last night I built one for him and you can find it here.  He ruthlessly micromanaged me while I made the edits today.

So he was thrilled with it until tonight when he realized he has no subscribers and is worried his video will be a flop.  Can you do me a favor and subscribe to his channel tonight or tomorrow?  A couple dozen subscribers would make his day.  That way when I upload this video tomorrow night, he’ll have an audience.

Thanks!

A Short Disclaimer

Some of you have asked if I am helping with any political campaigns in the municipal election.  The answer is no.  I did no work on campaigns in the provincial or federal election either.

I will let you know that Wendy and I are friends with a few candidates and councilors like Jeff Jackson and Zach Jeffries.  I have hundreds if not thousands of political discussions over the last five or six years with them, often mocking and criticizing them.  I have called out Zach in columns and in the blog and I think I have been fair when I have done it.  I can tell you that I have never pulled a punch or a criticism of a politician because of a friendship and that has ended some friendship (which sucks by the way).

If Jeff wins, I can’t promise to call him out but if he does anything stupid or against the interests of the city, I most definitely will call him out on it somewhere.  He knows that and I am sure will tell me how wrong I am at a high volume when I do.

Some ask me if that influences what I write about.  Yes and no.  No in the sense that they don’t give me direction on what to write about.  Yes in that some of them are also reading and researching aspects of urban life and they bring up some interesting idea of policy being looked at or implemented somewhere, I read it and research it myself.  It’s just nerds sharing ideas on urbanism and cities. 

Wendy and I are both friends with Councilor Pat Lorje.  Both Mark and Oliver would consider her a friend as well.  Now that I think about it, most of our conversations have to do politics outside of Saskatoon.  American politics and even some Spanish discussions.  She also has given Wendy and I some solid parenting advice which we appreciate.  For those of you who follow my writing, you know that Councilor Lorje and I are on the opposite sides of some issues that both of us feel quite strongly about.  She has gone to great extent to telling me how wrong I was on columns in the past and I assure you she will in the future.

I also have a good working and personal relationship with Councilor Darren Hill.  We have grabbed the occasional drink over the years and mostly discussed issues relating the ward and city.  Most of those were constituent – councilor conversations but like all of politicos we do talk politics.  We also have disagreed on things over the years.  I have endorsed him the last two campaigns.  I may or may not this one but I think it is fair to Darren and anyone who is running against him to wait and see campaign platforms before I endorse.

Wendy and I both get along with socially with some other councilors.  I don’t offer up that much in policy suggestions but if I have read something similar to what they are musing about, I tend to fire them off some things.

Before you accuse me of being too close to council, let’s recall they hired a RCMP investigator to investigate non-existent leaks to me.   I also think as a group they collectively are one of the worst city councils in Canada.  Some of them have personally expressed their contempt and hatred of me in person and in writing.   I try not to take it personally.

Those of you who have seen me having a drink or a coffee with a politician need to know this, they aren’t asking me for advice and if they are good at what they do, they ignore any advice they give them.  I don’t care about the political process which is bad for a politician in an election year.  I am not a strategist, a tactician, or anything else.  I am a friend and a pundit but I tend to stay out of it during campaigns other than listen to funny door-knocking stories. 

If you have any thoughts or concerns about my objectivity, let me know.  I’d love to hear them.

A blog about urbanism, technology & culture.