While I was at work, I left the camera at home with Wendy, Mark, and Oliver while they set up Wendy’s Christmas village and captured it on video. I know the white balance sucks but since it was Wendy setting up, we will blame her.
Wendy has posted a series of tested recipes for those of you who are preparing for American Thanksgiving or as Ameircan’s call it, “Thanksgiving”. If you are looking for help or ideas, check them out, there are some terrific ideas in the recipe section of the her site.
Hopefully you find something that makes your Thanksgiving preparations a little easier this holiday season.
I attended the funeral of my friend Kristy Dean today. I got to know her through Jerry and Gloria Reimer and we like many others became her friend. As Gloria said today, she crashed there for a night but stayed there for 10 years. With Jerry and Gloria being godparents to Mark and Oliver and the closest thing Wendy and I have to parents, Kristy was close to us as well.
Today her sister and Gloria gave stirring eulogies. I came home and went looking through some photos and found some favorites. I thought I would post some here and tell some stories.
We spent most Christmas Day’s with Reimers and even if they were travelling, we always celebrated Christmas, even if it was early. We also spent a lot of other holidays together. Later on I hired her at the Salvation Army and The Lighthouse where she worked the front desk which if you know anything about shelters, is the most demanding part of the job.
Hiring a friend is always challenging but Kristy was great and found that balance between giving me absolutely no respect as her boss and getting the job done. I appreciate that in any front desk staff.
She had changed a lot by the time she worked with me. She was strong willed, loud, and could be defiant, all skills someone needs working with a challenging population. She also took those strengths and used them to advocate for people. Many time she would call me with a course of action she wanted me to take on Monday for someone who needed help.
Kristy was a quick thinker and good problem solver. She understood the big picture and the system we were in well. That made her a great employee but also someone I could talk with about the job because she understood the inherent frustrations in the system.
She was a passionate Edmonton Oilers fan and I am wearing a Calgary Flames watch while typing this so our friendship was based on either making fun of each other or just prolonged times of sadness when both Calgary and Edmonton sucked at the same time. We went over the Reimers one time and Kristy just said, “I have nothing to bug you about. It’s just pathetic how both of them are playing.”
We did set that aside momentarily on Christmas Day and we would often exchange Edmonton Oiler and Calgary Flames merchandise on Christmas. Just as we were both enjoying our gifts, the other would say something like, “I found it in the trash at Walmart. They tried giving them away but no one wanted it. I got you one.” Those truces never lasted long.
I like to think I won the exchange at least once. Kristy was a photographer and used a Nikon camera. I bought her a Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens mug. The box hides the fact that it is a mug really well and Kristy thought I had bought her a $2000 lens. I was like, “Umm, we aren’t that close of friends”.
So she then realized it was a mug and while laughing about it was still really happy. The weird thing about this mug is that the top seals totally, there is no hole in the top which makes it really annoying. She told me a couple of months later that it drove her crazy every single time she tried to take a drink from it. She cursed my name every time and knew I would be pleased with that. I was.
The above photos of Kristy is my favorite of her. It was Christmas Day 2013 and for some reason after Christmas meal at the Reimers, Jerry and Gloria had somehow talked us into playing charades. The look on Kristy’s face is of her disgust with her losing team mates. If I remember correctly, her disgust was appropriate. Her team was horrible.
Someone asked me today if Kristy was close to the boys. She was close enough that when we brought Oliver home from the hospital, we stopped by Jerry, Gloria, and Kristy’s place before we stopped home. She tormented Mark for a decade and he loved every minute of it.
The day before she passed away, I was looking for something to get her for Christmas. I was going to give her an Edmonton Oilers Goalie Mask because I thought it was cool and I knew she would love one.
I decided to day that I am going to pick one up anyways. None of us are quite ready to leave her memory behind yet.
- Some Charlie Clark supporters need to chill out more. I made the joke on Tuesday about another election happening so soon after the civic election and that it felt like Charlie Clark had accomplished nothing since being elected. It was a joke. Learn to laugh. Either that or you need to stop following me.
- In the run up to the Ford election in Toronto, every time a scandal would hit Ford (and they were serious), people would say that Ford was finished. He actually became more popular. I tend to think the same thing happened to Trump. People saw themselves in him. That isn’t a good thing as we found out with Ford and America will find out with Trump. The good news is that Toronto went the opposite way the next election with John Tory. So if they can survive four years, there is hope.
- Trump did not win, Clinton lost. Trump’s vote total didn’t increase and in fact many Republicans did not vote for him. The reality with Clinton is that more Democrats chose not to vote for her. We sometimes look back at the Clinton years with rose tinted glasses but a lot Americans hated Bill Clinton when he was in office and that hatred and distrust never left. Would I vote for Trump? Never but there is a lot of animosity towards Clinton as evidenced by the fact she lost Arkansas.
- Winning the presidency didn’t make Donald Trump less dangerous and unacceptable. It made him more so
- Trump’s victory will impact Saskatoon. Murray Mandryk hits on the economics in his excellent column today but I am talking in other ways. Wendy works with the public. Many of you see her there and are wonderful to her. Wendy is also an immigrant and came to Canada in 1975. Being from Guyana, she is of mixed ancestry because of their history of indentured slavery. Nothing bothers her at work until this last month when she would deal with a flood of racist comments almost all day long about immigrants, her co-workers who are also immigrants, and people of color in general. It was vile and disgusting. Luckily her company has good policies on dealing with this stuff but the line out there about Trump’s victory normalizing racism and hatred against minorities having an impact on more than just
- For all of the positive talk about Keystone XL, I don’t know if it is the slam dunk that everyone is saying it is. Here is why? Canadian crude flowing down to the U.S. hurts their fracking industry which needs a boost in prices to be feasible. That and Trump is protectionist and I could see that the pipeline being stalled. Again.
- There is the alt right. I also think there is something called the alt stupid. I have been told of how Hillary Clinton had a son that was an abuser and she covered it up (not the son but the abuse). Umm, she has a daughter named Chelsea. There was also the story about how her and Bill raised millions for Haiti but used it to build luxury hotels.
- Kellie Leitch has no soul. She knows that Donald Trump stands for. She knows what Donald Trump did. Yet all she cares about is cheap electoral gain at the expense of Canadians. I have never had as little respect for a MP as I do Leitch and I live in the same city as Brad Trost.
- I tend to think that Trump will spend most of his first term in office enriching himself. This will bring Democratic scorn which will mean retribution from him and the thugs he surrounds himself with like Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani.
- I’ll just toss this in there but it is in-excusable that Saskatchewan Party MLAs blocked an investigation into what went wrong with the Global Transportation Hub. As Murray Mandryk pointed out, In legislative public accounts committee on Tuesday morning, Sask. Party backbenchers Glen Hart, Larry Doke, Warren Michelson, Jennifer Campeau, Herb Cox and Randy Weekes did their utmost to ensure anyone who had anything to do with the GTH decisions (including Boyd himself) will now never be held to account by a formal legislative body. By doing this, they have failed at the primary responsibilities as MLAs which is to hold the government (the cabinet) to account. Those MLAs are representing you, they are representing the office of the Premier.
- This chart shows you the divide in America. It’s an urban/rural divide as much as it is a Republican/Democratic one.
- Despite Trumps win and the dark times ahead, I remain committed more than ever to trying to build a great city and community. It’s not a time to give up, it’s a time to dig in, help out, and serve others. If we don’t, all of the progress that has been made will be lost.
Over the last few years I haven’t paid as much attention to this site as I should have. I have been busy doing other things and to be honest, being sick sucks. I still go home too often and just fall asleep at the end of the day at work
Yet for some reason, more and more of you every day stop by. At time when blog traffic is in decline, traffic here has grown and I have no idea why. What I am told is that it has more traffic many days that some media properties. I find that both incredulous but also a reflection of how poorly run some of the news sites are in Saskatoon.
I know blogs aren’t as cool as they used to be. We have all moved on to other things like Twitter and Facebook. Well you have moved on to Facebook, I still hate it and won’t acknowledge any messages sent to me on it. No I won’t follow you either.
Last week, Twitter announced they’re shutting down Vine. Twitter, itself, may be acquired and changed in some terrible way. It’s not hard to imagine Yahoo selling off Tumblr. There’s no guarantee any of these platforms will be around in their current state in a year, let alone ten years from now. Heck the same could even be said for The StarPhoenix and Postmedia.
There are only four things in my life that have lasted longer than this blog.
- My brother Lee.
- Reading The StarPhoenix every day.
- My marriage to Wendy.
This week I was offered a somewhat lucrative offer to sell advertising on it and I turned it down. I just couldn’t imagine running ads here or endorsing things I don’t believe in.
Here, I control my words. Nobody can shut this site down, run annoying ads on it, or sell it to Verizon. Nobody can tell me what I can or can’t say, and I have complete control over the way it’s displayed.
This space has given me exposure, a place to share my projects and ideas. It’s created new opportunities for me, directly or indirectly responsible for every major project I’ve gotten involved in. It’s a place to play and experiment with ideas, some of which led to big breakthroughs and passions. And it connected me to people who cared about the things I did, many of whom became lifelong friends.
Not only are you awesome to me, you have made the web this awesome place for Mark and Oliver. Instead of seeing the web as someplace scary, it is a place they can talk with cool adults.
So I am putting a renewed emphasis on this place. The first thing you will see in 2017 is a daily vlog. I’ll be using YouTube to host it but they will be embedded here. (I know that undermines my previous points about services going away).
The boys are a huge fan of Casey Neistat and really want to do their own blog and somehow Wendy and I got sucked into it.
So Bridge City has sucked majorly this year in part because I got sick (the infection destroying my leg is two years old this week) and I stopped taking photos which dried up some of the content. The traffic on that isn’t bad so I will keep it going. That being said, the site crashed in early October and I just realized it had last night.
What you don’t see is that this blog is falling apart. Bots are using up a tremendous amount of system resources and I am fighting them, my database wasn’t optimized, and I have an issue with chron jobs which sounds dirty but really isn’t. I may or may not have to upgrade my hosting plan or leave Dreamhost over it. It is just hard to find a host that can handle this much content for what I am paying Dreamhost for.
Finally, we are recording the first episode of The Saskatonian this week. It is kind of a reboot of OurYXE but this time it is going to be less formal, longer and recorded in a bar over nachos. If I am motivated enough to remember the power cord, it may even become a video.
Each year I put together some holiday and Christmas gift guides for the important people in your life. Wendy wrote the first one and here is my first one; a holiday and Christmas guide for the women in your life. It could be your wife, maybe it is your mother or sister. It could be a fiancée or a girlfriend. Whoever it is, here is the guide.
Wendy loves to tell the story of working at Safeway at Market Mall on Christmas Eve. A guy comes in just before close and yells out and no one in particular, “Do you sell any jewelry?!” Don’t be that guy. Get your Christmas shopping done early.
Let me know what you think in the comments below.
The alluring Original Star K Heart Shape 8mm Love Pendant, crafted in 925 Sterling Silver. This design is set with 1 Heart Shape stone prong set (simulated emerald is shown but there are many other options), 1 stone prong set colorless Round Cubic Zirconia. This product measures 8 mm wide, 18 mm long and is a great looking while affordable necklace and pendant.
- Bracelet featuring oval-cut gemstones interspersed with diamond-accented infinity links
- All the diamond suppliers for this bracelet confirm that they comply with the Kimberley Process to ensure that their diamonds are conflict free.
An elegant and timeless gift for the special women in your life.
Simple, but stunning diamond ring. Just like her.
This is a fun gift. It is an Air Plant with clear glass hanging terrarium wide with glass bottom. Kit includes pebbles, moss, glass globe and air plant. The kit is a great addition to any room as it livens it up.
Up her coffee game in one of two ways. If she likes to kick it old school, check out the AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker. Fast and convenient, the AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker makes one of the best cups of coffee you’ll ever taste. This innovative uses the ideal water temperature and gentle air pressure brewing to produce coffee and espresso that has rich flavour with lower acidity and without bitterness. It makes 1 to 4 cups of coffee or espresso (enough for 1 or 2 mugs), features a micro filtered for grit free coffee, and takes just 1 minute to make coffee (actual press time takes only 20 seconds). It’s the number one selling coffee press on Amazon for a reason.
We have one and while we don’t use it all of the time, it’s great for a relaxing morning on the deck or an evening of reading and relaxing. I really recommend it.
Sometimes it is just easier to make a pot of coffee for everyone. Then you want the Cuisinart Perfect Temp 14-Cup Programmable Coffeemaker. It’s an excellent coffee maker at a reasonable price.
There are times for a dress watch and then there are times for a watch you can take hiking or into the backcountry. Since Wendy is one that loves to hike and explore, she needs a watch she isn’t afraid of using or breaking. This is it. Fashionable yet durable.
If you are looking for something more formal, there is this stunning limited-edition watch from Invicta’s II Collection features white diamonds set on a polished stainless steel bezel complete with an opulent mother-of-pearl dial.
The watch not only looks good but is water resistant to 330 feet (100 M): suitable for snorkeling, as well as swimming, but not diving. She will wear it years.
Victorinox Chef’s Knife features an 8-inch blade that is 2-inches wide at the handle. High carbon, stainless steel blade is hand finished at Victorinox in Switzerland by skilled craftsmen. A special tempering process is used to produce an edge that can be re-sharpened over and over again, so the knife can keep its original sharpness throughout the entire life of the blade.
For years neither Wendy nor I paid any attention to the quality of our knives. Once we started to invest in better knives, cooking just got easier. If you are shopping for some one who loves to cook but doesn’t have an amazing set of knives yet, a good chef’s knife is a great investment and gift they will use for decades.
I know how much Wendy loves her chef’s knife in that even when we went camping, a good chef’s knife came along for the trip.
Which perfume to get for her, that’s a tough one but check out Beyoncé Heat because it’s affordable, it looks great, people love it and it’s Beyoncé and Jay-Z we are talking about. What could go wrong? Nothing could go wrong.
Wendy beat me to this and recommended it for men but this a great sounding Bluetooth speaker that you can take anywhere, including your shower.
We have tried a variety of shower radios over the years but they all kind of suck. Lots of static, batteries wear out, and you are stuck trying to figure out what radio station to shower to. With this one, the women in your life can leave their iPod or iPhone outside the bathroom safe from all of the humidity while streaming their early morning playlist to this Bluetooth speaker. If they want to listen to the radio, they can still stream the TuneIn or local radio station app. If you are lucky, they will let you use it and you can listen to ESPN in the shower. Win, win, win.
Of course the other part of this is how portable it is to travel with. You can have it with you while hiking, camping, traveling for work or just to grab and sit outside with. According to reviews, it sounds great as well.
After a long day at work, there is something about coming home, grabbing your iPod or firing up Spotify and turning on your favorite playlist and tuning out the world with a pair of great sounding Marley Positive Vibration headphones. If she doesn’t have an iPod or something portable to listen to music with, consider an Apple iPod Nano. Since it has Bluetooth, the iPod will work great with the Bluetooth speaker.
Treat her after a long day with this bath bomb set. There is the following scents
- RELAXATION (Lavender)
- DETOX (Vanilla)
- ENERGIZE (Grapefruit)
- DESTRESS, SINUS (Peppermint)
- CONGESTION RELIEF (Eucalyptus)
She’s love it and leave the bath feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.
Wendy and I travel a bit. Over the years I have given her some travel gifts to signify that I was serious about her and I spending some time together in the year ahead. The other thing this kind of gift does is remind the person you are shopping for that it is okay to take care of themselves as well.
The Genuine Leather Hanging Toiletry Travel Bag is a staple for the organized traveler. From its rich, 100% genuine leather exterior to its spacious interior compartments, this travel bag has it all! Designed to hold toiletry items of all shapes and sizes, this compact travel bag unzips to reveal two separate zippered compartments, two elastic pockets, and one large compartment. A stainless steel metal hanger extends from the top interior compartment, letting you hang the toiletry bag to maximize your counter space. The small exterior pocket is perfect for holding jewelry or any other last-minute item you might think of.
After using it for a year, she says that it is has done a better job than any women’s razor and the blades cost half the amount. Not only that but they can be found at any Wal-Mart or grocery store. I’ll stay with Wendy’s recommendation this year. Here are some other great ideas for what to toss in there.
- Luxxx Beauty Bare 16 Fl Oz Intimate Shave Lotion for Women
- Aveeno Positively Radiant Skin Daily Moisturizer SPF 15
- Aveeno Therapeutic Shave Gel (Wendy loves this stuff)
I bought Wendy a paint set years ago similar to this because she wasn’t sure how much she wanted to paint. Even when we upgraded it, it was still used as the size and portability makes it easy to work anywhere, inside or outside. It’s a great gift.
What to Make for Dinner
If she loves to cook, get her a great cookbook. There are literally thousands to choose from and many are a lot of fun to read and cook from.
It’s always hard to shop for the women on your Christmas and holiday gift list but hopefully this made it a little easier for you, no matter who you are shopping for. If you have any comments or think I missed something the world should know about, let me know in the comments.
Wendy and I live in a tough neighborhood in Saskatoon. Some of our neighbors struggle and Wendy and I hear about those struggles. For whatever reason they have problems with City Hall and they talk to Wendy about it. The first answer is to have them talk to Darren HIll. The story is always the same. Darren helps them. There is a phrase that you can’t fight City Hall. Well sometimes you don’t have to.
That stuff matters to me. Knowing that people who have had a rough time struggle can get help. They can with Darren. One of Wendy’s co-workers had no luck with her councilor and Wendy mistakenly told her to talk to Darren (thinking about where she worked rather than where she lived). Darren helped her resolve her issue in minutes.
The other reason I endorse him is that a lot of people online think I hate Darren and always want me to run against him. We joke around online and he torments Wendy (It’s a hilarious story and Mark and I are firmly on Darren’s side on this) in person and online but I agree with many of his stands and have no reason to run against him. There were some votes that made me question what he was thinking but overall he does a good job representing the diverse Ward 1 and his constituents and deserves another term on Saskatoon City Council.
Here is funny story to pass along. I can’t remember the reason but someone called The StarPhoenix wanting to talk to me about something. In that situation The StarPhoenix doesn’t give out my cell but I get the message and a return number emailed to me. So I call a women up and somehow it came out of nowhere that she hates Darren so much, she can’t even stand to see his name is writing. Later that day I was talking to him and he knew who I was talking about without me giving him the persons name. He can’t resolve all of the issues but I know he has made an effort on so many of them. For the record, I think that hating an elected official so much you hate to see their name in print in next level.
About that photo, I grabbed it from Flickr account and at first glance, the photo’s thumbnail looked like he was dropping a baby. Instead he is campaigning for white tigers votes at the Saskatoon Zoo. You just know that sometime during this photo op there was some bloodshed as the tiger tried to attack him.
Well this weekend was interesting. Of course it started with Mark getting hurt at football on Friday night. Hard blow to the lower back and really hurt his kidney. Mark made a tackle and someone came in a fraction of a second late and hit him. Weird thing with this is that it can way worse so the doctor gave us a list of what to watch out for.
So instead of getting up insanely early and heading north to Prince Albert National Park, we let him get more sleep while we loaded up the Focus.
He stumbled out of the house, into the Ford Escape, turned on the heat on the front seat, grabbed a blanket and went back to sleep. He was in a lot of pain. The good news is the heated seats made a lot of difference.
By the time we got up, the Park Cafe had a line of people outside the door. After a quick vote, we went to Humpty’s and ordered some Splash Omelettes for Wendy, Mark and myself and a M&M pancake for Oliver. They made the mistake of ordering pierogis as a side and regretted it, you always order the pan fries. You know that means they all took some of my pan fries.
The plan was to head up Highway 42 to Alveena and then cut across to the Battle of Fish Creek (and the cool looking Fish Creek Church) and then 28 kms up to Batoche.
Two days of constant rain had turned our roads to slop. I decided to take the Fish Creek road and see what it was like. I went a kilometer and even with the AWD of the Ford Escape, I turned back to the highway. We went into Alveena and realized the same thing. The top couple of inches of road was waterlogged and moving. If I had to get through, I could have but it wasn’t worth risking it.
So we drove to the Watrous intersection backtracked and went to Batoche. It was closed. For fall, it closes on the weekends which makes no sense to me at all. That would useful to have on the front of your website but it’s the Government of Canada, I should have known better.
So we crossed the river, headed north on Highway 11 and got into Prince Albert and then Waskesiu.
We had booked a lodge at Waskesiu but then a week later they called back and said, “oh, we were overbooked”. In other words they got a longer booking and we got bounced. There is a big fun run up there this weekend and we quickly found out all of the other accommodations were booked. We booked an oTENTik which kind of a hybrid tent and cabin. At first the cost seemed way to high for what I was getting but when we got there, it was nicer than what we would have had at the hotel.
Let’s chat about the oTENTiks for a second.
The first thing is that you need to stay in one. They can sleep 6 really comfortably. You bring your own sleeping bags and pillows and inside they had a platform with four single mattresses along the bottom and a double mattress up top.
There is a table with four chairs and a small bench to toss your bags. Parks Canada also gives you a LED lantern for a light when you check in. It looks cool but kicks out almost no light. We had head lamps and are glad we had them.
The structure is half tent and half cabin. The floor is raised, has laminate flooring, but the roof is a plastic canvas tarp. You can also lock the door. We didn’t need it but there was a propane heater.
There is also a metal bear cache out front for your food. I’ll be honest, it was the only thing I didn’t like but maybe I am a little over sensitive after the wolf incident this summer. I wish it and the barbecue was further way from the oTENTik. It seemed to close but then again, I am probably over thinking this after what happened in Banff.
Finally there is a picnic table that is screened in alongside a fire pit. It is a great setup and I’d rather stay in one of these then some of the cabin’s that are in Waskesiu. It’s really nice.
I don’t know what it is like in the summer. The widows open up but I am not sure how hot it would be but for the fall when crisp autumn weather is the norm, it is an amazing place to stay in and I would pick it over a cottage or lodge any night.
After unpacking, we drove from Beaver Glen campground to downtown Waskesiu. On the way there, we saw a large herd of these guys just chilling out while the male acted aggressive (the rut has begun) and was walking around looking for a fight.
These were taken with Wendy’s Olympus OM-D E-M10 II and her 75-300mm lens (which is a equivalent of a 150-600mm lens). We were a long ways away as I am not sure how Ford Escapes handle being rammed by giant elk.
For those of you who have never been around an elk or a moose in a rut, they are gathering up all of the females to breed with and are constantly on the look out for any other elk or people that could be a threat. They are more or less insane and quite dangerous. I wasn’t being flippant when I said they would ram the Escape because they would.
From there we did some shopping in downtown Waskesiu. Oliver was choked the entire time. He knew Mark was hurt so he was constantly challenging Mark to races which he was sure he could win. While he was right, Mark was too hurt to even walk easily so there were no races.
We did go into a high end boutique that was blowing everything out from 50-80% off and Mark did find an Oakley hat that he liked. I found a great looking shirt that was still $200 on sale. So I passed.
From there, we went to Pete’s Terrace and ordered the Volcano Pizza to share. You can order it in terms of heat from 1-5. We had a two which was hot enough. They did bring us a side of #5 and my mouth still burns. Actually it hit all of us except Oliver who just said, “I don’t do spicy”. Wise kid.
Here is the thing about Pete’s Terrace. The pizza is good and affordable which means in the summer, EVERYONE IN WASKESIU and NORTHERN SASKATCHEWAN eats there which means long waits because the restaurant is packed, the deck is packed, the non-licensed sidewalk area is packed. In the fall, it’s just kind of normally busy and the services is really fast. So the summer of last night was great pizza, great service and I still shouldn’t have tried the #5 hot sauce.
Last night we took a slow drive just past dusk and when I say slow, I mean 30 kph slow. Explaining to Ford why there is an elk lodged in the front seat is not a conversation that I wanted to have (okay, it would an hilarious conversation to have but you know what I mean)
This is what we saw. Elk sleeping on the shoulder and in the middle of the highway. Right in the middle of the highway. Is it because of the heat or because they are in rut (we never saw it but you could hear elk in rut challenging each other in the distance while out walking). It was really weird to be driving (we were going about 30 kph) and seeing them and not moving. Not that I would ever do this but from their non-reaction, it looked like you could have picked one up and brought it home as a (giant, destructive) pet.
I did discover something last night, the Escape’s headlights go from high beam to low beam automatically which is a feature I have waited for my entire life. It really makes driving at night a lot more pleasant and safer. We didn’t drive that long with them on but from what I can tell, they aren’t confused by yard lights in the distance which is also pretty interesting. They only dim for car lights coming at you. Great technology.
Late Saturday night Mark was even in worse shape. We were going to go to Mud Creek Flat to see if we could find some black bears but that was cancelled, also the road still sucked. We talked to locals about Highway #263 and they are about to impeach the Minister of Highways over how long it has been under construction. Also they said, “don’t take it after this rain.”
We had planned to hike to LaColle Falls Hydroelectric Dam today but as well but looking at Mark, he needed to head home so we grabbed some food and got him back to Saskatoon.
In talking with Mark, the heated front seat of the Escape made the trip for him. Yes he was on painkillers but he said he felt uncomfortable as soon as the heated seat turned off and felt better as soon as the seat kicked back in. On the way up, you would see it turn off and then a moment later Mark would take up, hit the button and go back to sleep.
In the end, it wasn’t the trip I had planed (we are blaming Mark for that). If you have ever seen the excellent documentary 180 South, there is a great line in it where the main character goes, “It isn’t an adventure until something goes wrong.” It was relaxing and it was nice to check out the Ford Escape on a trip like this. It just didn’t go as planned.
Here are some thoughts on driving the Ford Escape.
- We took 4.5 three season sleeping backs, a medium sized cooler, three camera bags, three tripods, four pillows and some extra blankets. There were also four backpacks in there and we had lots of room in the back. The Escape holds a lot of stuff for weekend trips like this.
- It’s powerful. When I had to pass, the engine didn’t even work up a sweat. It never kicked into a passing gear despite firing us forward. It may be the form of a SUV but it’s soul is a sports car. The EcoBoost engine is one part of the equation but so is the really smooth and always ready to go 6 speed transmission.
- I like the addition spot for your phone/fob on the console. I think it’s new for 2017 and it’s a nice touch.
- For the first time ever, I actually plugged my iPod Nano into the sound system and played music rather than just ESPN Radio. The sound system is amazing. Rich highs and lows. Ford did a great job with this.
- Fuel efficiency was good. On the trip it was 8.7 litres per 100 km. The highways were quiet and not a lot of passing but still, it was good mileage.
- This the first time I have never noticed this but the GPS was a couple hundred meters off from the map at times. Not a big deal when driving through Duck Lake but for those that rely on it, it may be unnerving. That being noted, my Bushnell and Wendy’s Magellen GPS both have done this while hiking so I assume it is a GPS satellite thing. Also it could have happened before but I just noticed it a few times on this trip. Also to be fair, there was a heavy cloud cover and the GPS could have had a hard time acquiring a good fix.
- I’ll be honest. I didn’t do a fair test on the Escape. I only drove it in drive, not in sport mode and kept it to within safe speed limits. Hey it’s how I drive (despite getting two tickets this summer). Even when you aren’t in sport mode, it feels like a sports car.
- I don’t know how to compare it’s AWD capabilities. I was only a km down the Fish Creek Road but the entire top of the road was moving which is more about the soft sand and gravel of that road than it is about the Ford. I know it has traction control but this was a sloppy mess. It didn’t feel horrible but it was such as short ride that it didn’t seem worthwhile.
I get grief every single time that I say that the Ford Escape is my favorite car out there. We are a family of four. We live for weekend trips like this or heading out to the mountains to hike in the summer. We have a dog that is rowdy. This vehicle works so well for us because when Mark was sick, it was big enough for Mark to ride up front and Wendy to be comfortable in the back. It is big enough to hold our gear without thinking too much about it (although if I owned one, I would have a carrying rack up top for camping). I could tow an ultra light tent trailer behind it. Most of all, I really enjoy driving it.
I have been in love with the Ford Escape for years and in 2017 Ford made it better.
Oh yeah, Mark will be fine. They did a CT Scan at Royal University Hospital and he lacerated a kidney. We technically the kid that hit him lacerated his kidney. He will miss practice this week and the game and start practicing next Monday. He’s just sore right now and doesn’t want to aggravate the injury. It’s football. It could have been worse but he will be fine.
Some of you have asked how the gear we used on our trip worked. Here are some thoughts.
- Our Chevy HHR doesn’t have luggage racks so we bought a CCM rooftop bag from Canadian Tire. The reviews were poor because they said it wasn’t water resistant at all. So we tossed our sleeping bags and some tents into some heavy duty garbage bags. We had extended periods of rain from Rosetown to almost Calgary. When Mark and I opened the bag at the Johnston Canyon Campground, it was completely dry. I am not sure what we did differently that those who had soaked bags but it worked great.
- Nikwax Tent and Gear Solarspray: Provided waterproofing and UV protection to the tents. While Mark and Oliver had a great high quality tent, Wendy and I were using a $100 tent from Walmart. When it rained one night I was laying there going, “this should be leaking” and it never did. So two thoughts from this: Walmart tents are not bad for car camping and waterproofing your tent and tent fly is worth the money and energy. Nikwax says that spraying UV protection on the tents will add years of life to your gear from backpacks to tents.
- We bought a Walmart two burner camp stove instead of a Coleman stove because they were 1/2 the price, the reviews were excellent and I couldn’t tell any difference in build quality or design between the two. It worked great. We didn’t bring my Primus Classic Stove or Mark’s MSR Pocket Rocket but in hindsight, we should have just for making coffee and boiling water.
- If you have a Coleman Stove or need some propane canisters, the Real Canadian Wholesale Club has the cheapest canisters in Saskatoon. They are around $4. We bought three of them and thought we may need some more but we only used one and a bit.
- I bought Marley a red Niteize LED light for her collar. She is a black dog and at night, is invisible. She doesn’t like her natural advantage compromised but I can see her. Other campers got a kick out of her as well. We weren’t planning to do any night hiking but I put one on Oliver and Mark’s backpacks. If we got caught out after dark, I want to see him. Either way every night when Mark would take Marley for a walk though the campground, you could see this blinking from all over the place.
- I had bought Wendy a couple of travel tea presses over the years and she offered to use one for coffee. Big mistake. I might as well just chewed on grounds. The end result was not a single coffee. We bought a GSI Outdoors Coffee Press last week. Wendy can drink tea and hot chocolate, I want some black coffee.
- We have some nice lightweight sleeping bags but while the air was hot, the ground was cold in Banff. It got colder at night which meant with the air mattresses, we froze. Wendy who has never camped before, ever realized that you needed some blankets between you and the air mattress to keep warm. After Oliver was sick one night and we gave him one of our blankets, we froze. We upgraded our sleeping bags this week to some four pound sleeping bags. I had no idea you could sleeping bags for tall people but you can. Mark and I both got tall four pound bags and since Wendy is confident that she will not hit a growth spurt at 46, she got a regular sized bag. Oliver already had one.
- Wendy loves her Olympus OM-D E-M10 II camera but with smaller mirrorless cameras, you have smaller batteries. Wendy brought an extra battery along but in reality she could have had four or five. Meanwhile I had two in my Pentax K-3 DSLR and grip and had two extra batteries and never had to use them. Yes mirrorless cameras are smaller but that size in part comes from a smaller battery.
- The hammocks were wonderful. I am glad I bought them. There is something about a nap in a hammock after a long hike on a cool summer afternoon. The main difference between mine and Wendy’s hammock is hers had hammock straps while I had to use some cordage to tie mine up. For ten dollars they are worth it and are easier on trees.
- I bought a heavy duty pot, tea kettle, and frying pan for the gear. Looking back, we may just go with our camp kitchen setup for next year. They took up a lot of space although a decent frying pan seems worth it.
- No one packed my camping chair but the Compact Lite chairs I bought for Wendy, Mark and Oliver worked out great. They take up almost no room. The ones I bought for them are too heavy for hiking but the Helinox Chair One looks great.
- Get yourself a great camp light. Wendy bought me a 300 lumen light from Walmart for Christmas. It lit up our tent brilliantly and was so useful when looking for something in the car or the campsite at night.
This is why we came to Yoho National Park. “Takakkaw”, loosely translated from Cree, means something like “it is magnificent”. The falls are fed by the Daly Glacier, which is part of the Waputik Icefield. Its highest point is 302 metres from its base. The falls drop a total of 992 feet in four distinct steps, first dropping over two narrow plunges hidden within the slot canyon at the top of the falls (neither of which can be seen from the base of the falls). The river then hurtles 853 feet over the side of the Yoho Valley wall, then cascading down a narrow flume-like stairstep for an additional 94 feet.
Yoho is where the big mountains are. The drive to Takakkaw Falls both terrified and inspired the family. It was worth the trip before we even got there. I have never visited the park before and I can’t wait to return next summer.
Some of Parks Canada famed red chairs.
The appropriately named Cathedral Mountain.
The tradition of dunking one’s head in frozen water continues on.
While driving in Yoho National Park I saw a sign for The Natural Bridge. I would have sworn under oath that it was in Kootenay National Park but I have happy to be wrong and so we went and checked it out.
It was pretty cool and as we were leaving, a family asked if they could have a family selfie with Marley. Again, who takes selfies with strange dogs in strange countries as part of their Canadian Rocky experience? Apparently quite a few people do.
Wendy pointed out that it does look like a giant toilet bowl being flushed.
I should have posted these sooner. When you take several thousand photos on a trip, you have to edit several thousand photos. When I mean edit, I mean hit the delete key a lot.
In our last full day in Banff National Park, we planned to hike some of the trails around Moraine Lake. Those plans were changed when almost all of the trails in the Valley of the Ten Peaks were closed because of grizzly bears. That disappointed Wendy, Mark, and Oliver but I had a plan B, even if they didn’t know it yet.
As we drove up to Moraine Lake, the sign said the road was closed and three cars ahead of us did the U-turn and drove back down the road. A Parks Canada employee walked up and waved us past the closed sign so upward we went. It’s an amazing drive and show a forest that we had never seen before.
We finally got to the full parking lot and parked about a 300 metres down the road which was pretty good considering at times, that road has people parked on it for miles.
After turning my back on Oliver for about a second, he thinks he is in the Logdrivers Waltz and is jumping from log to log to go up the rock pile. Luckily the kid has skills and made it back to shore.
Canoes can be rented for about $60/hour or you can take a well maintained path to the stream/waterfall at the far side of the lake. We decided to walk.
This is the end of the path but Wendy and Mark decided to test their luck and balance and keep going.
Marley decided to test her luck as well and wandered out into the water, fell in, got wet, hit her head and swallowed some water before getting out. There was a Russian researcher there who had just gotten his permanent residency papers this week and was celebrating with his wife. They loved Marley’s clumsiness and we had a great chat about the mountains, Trump, Putin, and dogs while waiting for Wendy and Mark to return.
I need to explain these photos. Last year while at Sawback, I told the boys that there is a Cooper tradition of dunking you head into glacier waters the first time you head to a new lake or body of water. There is no tradition, I just wanted to see if I could make them dunk their heads in the water. This time Wendy and I were no so lucky as they made us dunk our heads in the freezing glacier water.
Just before I did this, I think I said, “Mark hold my camera but no need to photograph this.” He listens like his mother.
Solid hat don’t you think?
Did I mention I didn’t wear a hat in the Banff heat (and no shade) the day before. I was burnt.
Me taking a photo of a person taking a photo.
Don’t worry, it wasn’t a real bear.
While in the Gift Shop, I picked Wendy up a Moraine Lake t-shirt while Mark got her two bear figurines that made her day. She was still on a high from seeing the black hear the day before. It wasn’t quite as large as this one.
Several of you who are parents seem surprised that Mark enjoys going on family vacations still. Many of you hated going with your parents at that age and some have kids who are resenting going on trips with them.
I don’t have a secret but here are some things I have done so Mark wants to go on vacation.
- Scott Theede suggested we purchase Don’t Waste Your Time in the Canadian Rockies which is a book that evaluates hiking trails in the Rockies so you don’t take bad ones. At first glance it seems expensive at almost $60 but it worth it when you consider it is 677 pages and if you are like us, refer to it often. I have read the book cover to cover and so has Mark. In fact he wants his own copy. When we planned this trip (and are already planning the next one), I had Mark plan it as well. I spent a lot of time getting his input and helping him figure out what he wanted to do and seeing how that can happen. Mark suggested going to the Banff Upper Hot Springs and spent some time researching fun things to do. He was also a part of decisions like, “Do we take the dog?” It was Mark that convinced us that we should. At the same time he also said, “I’ll help the dog on the Banff Gondola”, a decision that seemed a lot simpler in Saskatoon than it was in line at the base of Sulpher Mountain.
- Mark and Oliver were comfortable in their own tent. I kept hearing from people how much they hated sleeping in the tent/camper with their parents and how much of a different it made even as adults to have their own space. Mark and Oliver have their own space. They have their own duffel bags, sleeping bags, air mattresses, compact chairs, and gear. They really appreciated having their own space. It was worthwhile. Parks Canada campgrounds only allow for two tents per campground (although I saw some that had a third small one) but I was clear to Mark that if he wanted his own space separate from Oliver, we would make that happen, even if it was a different campsite for him. I’ll post the gear that we have for the boys in a later post.
- I bought Mark the gear that he wanted. In case it rained, he wanted a new deck of cards, a decent lantern for his tent and a great coffee mug. The cost of all of those things was very low when you consider that they all made camping nicer.
- I checked out the day’s itinerary with Mark every morning. Now we have everything planned out a long time in advance but he appreciated the quiet conversation we had about what we were going to do and what ideas he had to make it better.
- Despite being in the mountains before, this was the first trip he ever took where he was in awe with what he saw. He fell in love with Castle Mountain and wanted to hang out and linger longer at the lookout. He wanted to risk life and hypothermia by climbing up a stream and waterfall at Moraine Lake. I just let him soak it in at his pace. Same with Oliver. Oliver’s camera is waterproof and at a certain time he sat on a rock taking underwater photos and was having a blast.
- He had his own money from work but appreciated shopping with Wendy and I as he figured out what he wanted to get. 95% of that time was mocking what we saw but I know he did appreciate the suggestions on what to get. My only disappointment was that he never got a onesie.
For next year we have started out debate about what we are going to do (the big picture is using Lake Louise Campground as a base camp to explore Lake Louise trails and some trails in Yoho National Park before pushing towards Jasper). We are working on a budget and making a list of what gear to upgrade before next year. He is a part of all of those discussions because I want it to be something we all like, not just Wendy and I.
After a day in Banff, I took everyone for a drive up Mount Norquay because Wendy and Mark wanted to see and sit in a Parks Canada Red Chair and I knew two would be up there. At that point, I didn’t realize the upper Moraine Lake trails were closed because of grizzly bears and I hadn’t thought of going to into Yoho to see Takakkaw Falls yet (nor did I think they would have some red chairs.)
On the way to the chair, I got a phone call asking for Wendy. She just got the word her father had died. While she processed that news, a sports car pulls up and a guy and girl pop out because they want to pet Marley. It was so weird and random but it happened that entire day.
Wendy soon joined us and as a family we walked down to this meadow and took in the views of Banff and the Bow Valley.
I should also take some time to point out that earlier in the day on the way to Banff and Sulphur Mountain, Wendy had her own bear sighting. We were driving down the Bow Valley Parkway and a black bear popped up over the guard rail. We had seen another black bear and we are pretty sure we saw The Boss, a giant grizzly bear beside the road but they were in the middle of a bear jam and out of principle, we didn’t stop. Wendy just mocked people for being stupid. So when we saw this bear and we were by ourselves, Wendy was so pumped up. It was hilarious and she was on a high all day.
I am not sure how it happened but it looks like Mark got a hold of my camera.
I was accused of giving Mark the finger here but I think the photographic evidence is solid, I was just pondering what a bad kid he is.
We met this guy (or gal, I really have no idea) on the way up. Wendy took some photos and we kept going. On the way down he (or she) was in the exact same spot. It was probably pondering what a bad kid Mark was as well.