Mark turned 13 on Sunday while we were at the cabin. He is now old enough to walk into an A&W and legally order a Teen Burger. It was a big day for him. For his birthday we chilled out at the lake but we did give him a new basketball, InFAMOUS 2, and a Wacom Bamboo drawing tablet. We also picked Oliver up a battery powered Super Soaker so he could shoot Mark (who was thrilled with that).
Mark, Oliver, and I went to the cabin today. Wendy was working so we got up and drove on out there. We brought out the electric oil heater, some clean sheets, the first load of non-perishable foods, and our deck box packed in the back seat.
We unloaded the car and observed the carnage that is my bird houses. Every spring when I go to the cabin, I have bird houses all over the lawn. In the past it looked like the deer had eaten the twine that I had used and that is why they hit the ground. This year I used some wire to hang the birdhouses and it was still on the ground. As Mark and I were picking them up, I realized that the deer had eaten the branches they were hanging on. Well played deer, well played.
Other than that, it looked good. Last spring it looked like teeth marks on the cabin but this year it doesn’t look like any deer chewed on the cabin on at all. I’ll call that a win.
Of course taking Oliver to the cabin for only ten minutes was not my best move. The entire time home I heard him grumbling about not going swimming, not being able to get to the horses, no beach, no ice cream, no badminton, and not seeing any snakes. Apparently I am a horrible father. It was looking better once we got to Pip’s Esso in Watrous and we got a Freezee but his displeasure in my parenting was made really clear.
We should be back for Mother’s Day. I doubt the ice will be off the lake but we should be able to play some badminton. Hopefully he’ll be happier that trip.
I haven’t tossed him out yet but he has a new website at www.markcooper.ca that I hadn’t pointed out yet. Since he has told me he babysit’s Oliver at below market level rates (it is the westside though), he wants a link. He did post that he is on the move in the real world as well as he is leaving Caswell School for the Let’s Lead program at Westmount School. Instead of doing a normal grade 8 year, he going to be hiking, camping, canoeing, and exploring a lot of Saskatchewan for about 30 days of the year. Or as he sees it, original content for his blog.
Wendy knows the teacher who has sold her on the prospect on Mark freezing to death in northern Saskatchewan being trampled by buffalo in the south. Either way Wendy is so desensitized to Mark and physical risk by the stunts we have pulled around here that she is okay with the decision.
I had planned to go to the cabin this weekend but last week Chris Powell came into my office and asked if he could borrow Mark this weekend. A good parent would have gotten some details but I said, “Sure, what do you need him for?” Chris said, “A human piñata”. Sounds reasonable to me.
Later I asked, why Mark was going to be beaten with sticks and I found out he was planning to have a Star Wars themed birthday party for his six year old and he needed someone for them to hit with lightsabers and he thought Mark could take the punishment and be Darth Vader.
Now that is some fine birthday planning folks. Not only is Chris putting on a good party but he has outsourced the pain to someone else. Of course it isn’t all good. We had a heated discussion at the office when we found out that Chris is not sending home party bags. Chris’ weak argument is that parents and even kids hate bags full of toys that are designed to break in the car ride home. If they do make it inside, parents just step on them and hurt themselves.
To that line of reasoning we say, “I want a guy with a parachute to throw down the stairs”. That and Mark is now available to be rented out for beatings at your own kids party.
A couple of months ago I was surfing the web and saw this great post by explorer Alistair Humphries on micro adventures (it also caught National Geographic’s eye) and it started me thinking about life and my life when we lived in Calgary.
I loved Calgary. My bedroom looked out at the Rocky Mountains and it seemed like I was only hours away from adventure whether it be in the Banff National Park or in Kananaskis. Closer to home there was Fish Creek Provincial Park which had it’s own element of adventure for us as kids. We hiked, explored, drank water we shouldn’t have (it looked so refreshing coming off the mountain), and even fed deer out of our hands (friend’s timeshare had a sign up that said, “Don’t let deer inside the building” which I have always wondered if that went up before or after a deer came into a room).
Ever since moving to Saskatoon in 1984, adventure was something that you experienced somewhere else. Our zoo isn’t fierse and every time I drive by “Mt” Blackstrap, I struggle with momentary depression. Adventure without hills? Pffft. It can’t happen.
The adventures that I have had since moving to Saskatoon are urban ones but in other cities. Exploring south central Los Angeles alone and at night. Riding the subway in Chicago into the most violent neighbourhood in the United States. Breaking into abandoned churches and apartments to hand out cigarettes and make connections with homeless people during the middle of winter. Having breakfast in a stairwell to stop a local gang from using it to move drugs. It’s something but not what I was looking for.
A couple of weeks ago I started to talk to Wendy and Mark about doing something this year. Mark will be 13 and Wendy just turned… ummm… she looks 25. After the usual suggestions of camping (umm, we have a cabin) were tossed out, I suggested we walk the 20 kms to Grey Owl’s Cabin in Prince Albert National Park. I figured it would take us 5 hours but according to the video below it took the Saskatchewanderer over 8 hours.
This is the hike.
As far as a backcountry hike goes, it is really easy. It’s only 20 kms each way, it’s impossible to get lost and there are some backcountry camping spots that do include bear caches. While we are in black bear country and we will have to cook 100 metres downwind of our campground, there isn’t a lot of danger. The plan is to camp at the Northend Campground, make camp and then head to Grey Owl’s cabin. It looks easy but again it was an eight hour hike according to the video and some articles that I have read. Personally I would like it to take us around 6. I always assumed that there would be others on the trail but after reading some of the accounts of the hike you are often totally alone out there.
To start the process, we need some backcountry camping gear which sent me to Wholesale Sports, Cabela’s, and MEC.ca for advice and information on what to buy and bring along with us. Do we want a light weight stove or cook with fire? Do we want to boil water, chemically treat it or use a filtration system. What’s more important, saving weight or sleeping comfortably? Mark insists that he wants his own tent and plans to carry his one person tent up there with him. We’ll see how that one works out.
We will be taking the plunge on June 15 and 16th which is before Waskesiu gets too busy and yet there is still a chance for some cool evenings. The funny part of the trip is that last year I watched this video featuring Ben Saunders planning The Scott Expedition using Basecamp and thought it was pretty cool.
Wendy, Mark and I are using Freedcamp to use do the same thing albeit on a much smaller scale. So it will be our micro-adventure for 2013. A 40 km walk in the backcountry where we will see a fraud and bigamist’s cabin that he shared with a beaver. Now I need to go and find expedition sponsors. Anyone have a contact with Land Rover or The North Face?
It’s been so busy the last week and I have been so incredibly sick that I never posted this last week. Since a bunch of you have asked how our mini-vacation went, here is the summary… just really late.
On Thursday morning we got up early, checked out the highway conditions and headed out to Calgary for the weekend.
It was Oliver’s first long road trip and we packed pretty well. In his backpack he had his VTech tablet and some kid’s volume controlled headphones as well as a cheap set of binoculars. Mark had his PSP and a National Geographic History magazine. The end result is that we stopped in Kindersley (for a 5 Hour Energy Drink for me), Hanna (for windshield washer fluid), Drumheller (to take Oliver for a walk up the giant dinosaur) and the boys were remarkably good.
The trip took up around 6 1/2 hours which is pretty good but like I said, our stops were quick. The stop at Drumheller took the longest and Oliver wasn’t that thilled with the idea of running up the “butt of a dinosaur” and I carried him most of the 100 steps to it’s mouth.
After heading back down, we were off to Calgary and checked into our hotel at around 2:30 p.m. Calgary time.
The hotel was the Best Western Plus Calgary Centre Inn and was quite nice. Our room was massive and the photos on their site don’t do justice to how nice the pool area is. They have a normal pool, a hot tub but also a small pool that is only 2 feet deep for kids. Oliver loved, “his pool” and spent all of his time in it. They also have a free continental breakfast that was varied enough that we didn’t get sick of it. Of course it’s central location meant that it was out of the way of everywhere we wanted to go but not so far out of the way we didn’t go.
All day on Twitter, Mayor Nenshi was warning of the snowfall which we didn’t really notice until we hit Chestermere and the highway was closed because of a rollover. I am not sure what happened as we didn’t find the highways that slippery. There was some black ice but nothing that bad; then again I am used to driving in it.
We were two long blocks away from the 39th Street LRT station and took it downtown where we went for a long walk. We had plans to head up the Calgary Tower but visibility was really poor so we just took in downtown Calgary. The snow was really coming down but all over downtown were snow removal crews sweeping sidewalks and streets even as the snow fell which is quite a bit different than Saskatoon which puts the onus on store owners who may or may not shovel out downtown. It’s almost as Calgary’s downtown is a place of commerce.
That night we headed back, checked out the pool and ordered in from Mother’s Pizza, something that I have done since I was old enough to know what pizza was.
Friday morning the roads in Calgary were reported to be in bad shape but in reality were quite good. Thanks to Saskatoon for lowering my expectations for snow removal. Mark spent the summer and fall saving up for a new iPod Nano and despite being $4 short that I kicked in for him, we went to the Apple Store in Chinook Centre where a clerk named Jazz managed to help him pick out the one he wanted.
While Mark and Jazz finished the deal, Wendy pulled out her Samsung Galaxy and started to text something. She was lucky she wasn’t tossed out. As we were leaving, Wendy had a minor fit as she saw a Lego store and insisted that we had to purchase some Lego for Oliver for Christmas. Long story short, Wendy always wanted Lego as a kid and never had any. She had more fun than any of us in there.
As soon as we hit Highway #1, roads were perfect until we hit the Banff National Park gates and they never got the snow the rest of us got so it was a fun trip up with lots of stories and sight seeing along the way. We went straight to Sulphur Mountain and took the gondola to the top of it. Excited does not describe the reaction of Oliver and Mark who loved every second of the nine minute trip to the summit. Once at the summit I was tempted to hike to the science station but it was blowing and cold up there so we ordered a bite to eat and chilled out at the top.
Once back down we did some shopping and Banff didn’t disappoint. Every single shop had the exact same touristy junk. As I told Wendy, I spent most of my life trying to buy something nice in Banff and failed. Wendy found some earrings and found some Christmas gifts. Mark managed to get some more money out of me and bought some magnetic rocks and a Gondola souvenir. The highlight of the shopping was a large male elk meandering through main street and within inches of the car.
I personally love Banff in the off season and hate it during the peak season. The lack of tourists and crowds are nice, even if the weather is not. What I loved about Banff is that there was absolutely no trace of snow along their main street. Every flake was removed… again, it’s a place of commerce.
Finally we took the boys to Bow Falls where a combination of the cold, wind and humidity almost froze Wendy, Mark and I to death while taking some photos. Oliver just said, “I want to wait in the car”
As we were leaving, we went to Walsh’s Candy Store where I bought Mark and Oliver two massive jawbreakers and challenged them to finish them by the time we got to Calgary. It’s an impossible task (knowing first hand) but neither one of them talked all the way back to Calgary. I love it when a plan comes together.
For supper that night, we went to Five Guys Hamburgers for the first time. We need one of those in Saskatoon in the worst possible way. We ordered burgers and fries and couldn’t even start the fries as the burgers were so filling.
Saturday morning we met our good friend Dave King at Nellie’s where we had a good talk about politics, urban planning, cycling and photography all over a fantastic breakfast. It was cold out that day so instead of going to the Calgary Zoo, we went back downtown and checked out Mountain Equipment Co-op (twice), the Calgary Tower, Glenbow Museum, and snagged some milkshakes at Peter’s Drive-Thru.
While at Mountain Equipment Co-Op, we did some Christmas shopping and Wendy agonized over which bag to purchase (which she always does). She finally got one of these and seems at peace with the world. Meanwhile I got a sleeve for the MacBook, a left handed sling pack, some gloves, bike lock (as well as one for Mark) and a lantern. Mark also bought a sling pack which means that we kind of match which is awkward. At least his is right handed.
The Calgary Tower is always amazing and we spent a lot of time up there. The glass floor was fun as people were absolutely terrified to walk out on it while kids seemed to not even notice. Both Wendy and I took a bunch of photos with other people’s cameras while they stood out on the glass. We went back downstairs and across the street to the Glenbow Museum where Mark really had a good time. Wendy enjoyed the section on the National Energy Program and on Peter Lougheed. It was weird to see a display honouring Preston Manning and not Joe Clark or Ralph Klein. I know Manning has significance but so does Clark and Klein.
Saturday night against my better wishes, we went to Swiss Chalet. Wendy and the boys had never gone but the meal was what you expect of Swiss Chalet. Personally I am still bitter that St. Hubert is not in Calgary. Sadly everyone in the family like the meal which means that I am going to have to fight not to go back.
Sunday we drove back home after some more running around. The trip was quick as I had two boys chilling out to their iPods and sucking on jawbreakers. The only excitement was when we were back in Saskatoon city limits when we found out again that snow removal baffles our fair city.
Last night Wendy and I had Sean Shaw, Jeff Jackson, Pat Lorje, and DeeAnn Mercier over to watch the results come in. The wifi was reinforced, I bugged DeeAnn about her new job, the NDP jokes were sharpened, and I prepared a story about Joe Clark in case Jeff and I needed to reminisce.
Wendy made a bunch of food, Sean brought over a bunch of food, and others brought over stuff as well. We ate well. Other than Obama’s personal victory, the win of the night was that Sean was able to get a box of candy for next to nothing. It’s rumoured that when Karl Rove had his meltdown it wasn’t over Ohio but rather over what Sean paid for his candy.
All I know is that between Wendy and Sean there was more food here than at either Mitt Romney or Barack Obama’s parties.
It was a weird night of television. We alternated between arguing U.S. politics and then would go argue a couple of city reports. It got confusing. In the end I think we all agreed that Barack Obama has not been strong as he should be on our north commuter bridge and I think Sean Shaw is thinking of running for a U.S. Senate seat. It was all a blur.
Some things broke out on Twitter. I was assailed for not inviting more of you. Next time we have an election night, I will invite more people. While we were all really happy with the election results, I was haunted all night by a comment by Coun. Lorje who reminded me that Mark is closer to growing up than I like to admit. I worked on my first election when I was age and he already has a couple under his belt. He reads the Economist. Girls are starting to call for him. Pat’s comment made me realize that I was soon to be a parent of a teenager. I don’t think I am prepared well for it. Mitt Romney lost the election, I entered into a mid-life crisis. Maybe I can ask Mitt Romney for advice. He has time on his hands.
Update: Take a look at President Elect Romney’s transition website. Awkward.
Speaking of awkward, here is Ezra Levant giving his prediction that Mitt Romney will win big last night. Awesome.
So after spending last night at City Hall waiting for the election results to be made public, here are my thoughts.
- It was fun doing a quick segment with David Kirton and CKOM on the election. I have always been a fan of Kirton and my only regret was not seeing more traction on food trucks (Twitter joke).
- I was shocked to see Troy Davies win in Ward 4. I had picked Sean Shaw and all of the metrics that myself and others have used to determine campaign victories showed Shaw winning. Apparently I need new metrics. Either that or I need to start putting polls in the field. Congrats to Troy Davies for winning and earning the right to be Ward 4 councillor. Sean is a good friend and I am sure he will be back politically but it’s hard to see friends lose races.
- I was also surprised to see Ann Iwanchuk win as after 10/11 polls reporting, Mike San Miguel had a sizeable lead but as the old saying goes, “it’s not over until it’s over” and all of a sudden I was looking at a result that I couldn’t believe and that is that Iwanchuk won by 28 votes. When I talked to her and Andy last night, they kind of had the same reaction. Congrats to her on a well run race.
- If I am Mike San Miguel, I have to questioning my decision to go negative late in the race with a pamphlet that attacked Iwanchuk and an attacking robo-call that attacked her NDP background. If anything it probably motivated people to turn out for Iwanchuk. It was a great campaign to watch that came down to under 100 votes.
- Zach Jeffries not only becomes the youngest member on council ever but knocked off three term incumbent Bev Dubois.
- So Tom Wolf came within a hair of defeating a long term incumbent after getting in the race in September. Impressive campaign by Wolf and they had by far the best campaign t-shirts.
- Pat Lorje won again in Ward 2 which is what I predicted.
- Since this will be long forgotten by 2016, I am planning to do a series of push polls, probably just to candidate homes that go something like, “Would you prefer crazed socialist (or robber baron) [insert councillor's name here] or well respected columnist Jordon Cooper to represent your riding?” just to feed on their paranoia. I have no intention of running but it would be fun to do.
- I had a fun conversation with Andy Iwanchuk which is the first time we have ever met. When you think of it, the Iwanchuk family has been in campaign mode for a long time with Ann’s election a year ago, Andy’s provincial campaign and now her re-election campaign which makes for a hectic year. No truth to the rumour that both of them are getting away for a vacation by working on someone else’s campaign.
- After following the council pretty closely, I found the entire election disillusioning. Part of it is the sausage philosophy where you don’t really want to know how it is made. At the last of the last term, it was a very politically divided council. That division came across during some of the FOI requests that dropped and also it showed that more than one councillor/candidate had lied to me about some issue or another. Hopefully with some new councillors on council those bridges can be rebuilt but I am not hopeful that the partisanship will change.
- I want to thank each of you last night that aggressively shook my hand. If you noticed tears in my eyes, it wasn’t because I moved talking to you or about your victory, it is because I HAVE A TORN ROTATOR CUFF and it really HURT ME every time we shook hands. I was ready to be put down by about 8:45 p.m. It hurt that much.
- The election day someone put up an anonymous Twitter account bashing Darren Hill to the media and anyone who would listen. Sadly it was done by someone that knows Wendy and I and lives in Mayfair. I have a pretty good idea of who it was but it’s still sad. To be honest, if I was going to attack Hill I would stand behind them. An anonymous account doesn’t do anything other than provide something to laugh at.
- Got to hang out with Alex MacPherson and Liam Richards for the first time last night. I always enjoy MacPherson’s writing in Verb and I have long been a fan of Richard’s photography (which always envying his gear).
- So this will be it until the next federal and provincial election when some councillors decide to run. If they win, we get by-elections and the process starts all over again.
Last night Wendy and I watched Mark be presented with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal for service at the Delta Bessborough downtown. Several months ago our local MLA Cam Broten nominated Mark for the award and he was accepted based on his service first at the Salvation Army and later at The Lighthouse. Mark has served meals, cleaned up coffee houses, dumped soup all over himself, cleaned that up, and even helped me combat bed bugs. He has grown up around shelters and has never hesitated to do anything anyone has asked him to do.
Last night, the Honourable Vaughn Solomon Schofield, Lt. Governor of Saskatchewan presented Mark with his medal in a fairly informal ceremony. After the ceremony there was a reception and then on the way home we decided to stop by for a bite to eat where I took this photo.
So yeah, Wendy and I are really, really proud of him.
Mark’s football team, The Babineau Warriors went to 3-0 on the season with a 17-8 win over the Tinkler Raiders. I had my new 100-300mm camera lens out today which I bought for the purpose of taking some photos of the Warriors. I was given a sideline pass which meant that I could hang out in the coaches box and roam the sidelines while snapping some shots. I took over 400 photos and around 200 of them survived to be uploaded to Flickr.
Mark lost one of his Nike football gloves two practices into the season. He thinks it may be at the cabin but it’s more expensive to drive out there than it was to get him another pair. Wendy took him to Olympian Sports but the women helping him got him non-tackified gloves that were way too small so that wasn’t going to work. I told Mark to come down to The Lighthouse yesterday and I would take him to Sport Chek and we would get him some gloves that fit.
Mark couldn’t find his cell phone and was late coming down which was okay because I was busy taking a benign interview into a controversial one and was tied up. He did get down there, got harassed by our Housing Plus Coordinator, Chris Powell and we headed out. Outside The Lighthouse, we ran into a couple of guys who I introduced Mark to and told them why we were heading out early. They are both nice guys who started to give Mark a hard time about football. I found out that one of them used to play for the Saskatoon Hilltops. He told us some fun stories, gave Mark a simulated head slap (don’t worry, it’s a football move) and had a good talk about the difference that David Dube is making with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies football game experience. We all took some time to explain to Mark what stickum is.
As Mark and I walked to the car he asked me why they were at The Lighthouse. I explained that with some it’s an injury, others it can be illness, or sometimes bad luck and places like The Lighthouse are the best places to start over again.
For those of you who think I am difficult, meet my son as I try to take a nice photo of him. Of course he is on his netbook right now, typing this tweet to Sean Shaw.
I had fun talking politics with
@seanshaw last night.It’s going to be awkward if I ever run against him in the future.
— Mark Cooper (@coopermark) August 5, 2012
If Sean wins in Ward 3, he has a deal to take over the live blogging of city council meetings. That’s scary enough, what’s scarier is that it already clicked in that he can use that ability for evil. I need to start controlling who he is folling on Twitter and online a lot more carefully.
I woke up this morning and was met by two boys and Mark’s Hoodie (don’t ask) who gave me some nice Father’s Day gifts.
We we had hoped to take some cameras out on the town but the weather stopped that idea. Instead we went to Smiley’s for brunch and had some horrible food and then hung out at home over coffee. I wanted to go elsewhere but was overruled. Apparently I get the gifts but no input on lunch. I missed that in the Father’s Day Charter but they assure me that is the case.
A couple of months ago I got a note from our MLA, Cam Broten who knew that Mark did a fair amount of volunteering with me at The Salvation Army and now at The Lighthouse whenever I have a task that needs to be done. Cam nominated Mark to win a recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal. A week or so ago this arrived in the mail inviting Mark to the Saskatchewan Legislative buildings to meet Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall in a ceremony and tea. Tomorrow morning we will be driving down to Regina so that Mark and Wendy can be a part of the ceremony. Yes I said, Wendy as Mark only gets one guest and I am not it. Wendy would prefer that I go as she is nervous about it but I saw the Duke and (then) Duchess of York in 1989 in Saskatoon and I thought she would enjoy it.
Sadly I couldn’t even get into the Legislature as the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall are apparently a really big deal so I have a couple of hours to kill in Regina by myself while Mark and Wendy are living it up.
I hate to post this here but Wendy snores. Like a lumberjack on a rampage. She isn’t the only one. Mark snores (but he lives downstairs), Oliver snores, and even the dog snores. Many nights I have been driven from our bedroom downstairs because of the snoring and then the dog senses something is wrong so she follows me, snoring as she goes. It drives me crazy.
We have tried the nose strips and they help a bit but I finally found a solution that does work and that is the WhiteNoise app for the iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad.
The free version is, umm, free while the paid version adds more sounds and some more features.
I have a cheap docking station upstairs in our bedroom and I put my iPhone on to charge at night beside me and tinker with the audio for a couple of seconds until I get it right. I tend to use ocean waves crashing (which reminds me of the Bahamas) or rain. It also has a cool feature where it turns your iPod into an LED clock that you can adjust the brightness with a touch of the hand. If you live with a snorer, try the WhiteNoise Lite app. If it works, upgrade to the full version. It’s worth it.