Thursday, July 30, 2009

Merritt MB Getaway

Angelo and I were back in Merritt last Saturday and Sunday to ride and hang out and celebrate his birthday. We had lapsed in the tradition last season, after having met up there in April '05, June '05, May '06, June '07, November '07, but we made up for it this time by doing it as a proper overnighter (sans families) so we could get a couple of rides in (Coutlee Plateau and Godey Creek) and throw in a good, long pub session in between. It really couldn't have been more fun, although my photos were mostly duds...maybe I was too busy enjoying myself for a change:We both haven't been riding as much this season as in previous years, so it seemed extra-special this time around. Time to start planning something more ambitious, methinks: Kootenays, Whistler or the southwest states.


Monday, July 20, 2009


The Smithsonian Magazine used one of my photos from the museum in Drumheller in a recent post on their site. Considering the ads on the page, it would seem to be stretching the concept of the non-commercial attribution license I use on all my photos, but it was properly attributed, and I thought it was pretty cool to see it appear there.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Smoky Saturday

Update: The Saturday plan unfolded as...umm...planned. Ivy and the Fiddlekidz rocked the farmer's market and filled a violin case with busking cash. We jumped in the lake at Skaha Beach on the way out of town, and the mango veggie curry at Sanderson's in Keremeos was outrageously good. Bromley Rock is the best place in the world to swim (I'll debate anyone on this point) on a hot afternoon (and jump off cliffs into a river, apparently). And Aimee's place is incredible -- a massive log home perched up above Yellow Lake on 10 acres. We had an excellent visit, getting the full tour...and the girls mastered the impressive zip line with beaming pride.

When we got home after dark, we found out about the Westbank forest fires, which have been blanketing us in thick smoke this morning. Ugh. Not again. Yesterday it was so surreal to be having a normal hot summer Sunday -- going riding with Richard, hitting the beach, lounging around the yard -- while fires rage and people flee their homes 50kms north of us. The water bombers flew over all day and smoke blew in and out, depending on the wind. Cousin Jay got some dramatic photos from across the lake the other night. Scary stuff...





Friday, July 17, 2009

Camp Mates

These two are my camp mates tonight, as they talked me into sleeping in the playhouse with them on a night that just never cooled off. CBC says it's still 30 degrees at 10:30pm. The playhouse has excellent airflow with all the windows open, and it's awfully cozy in here with the two of them snoring softly with the crickets providing the accompaniment.

On our way back from Penticton, we skipped supper and opted for snacks from Blossom Fruit Stand instead...then went straight to Powell Beach to swim and lounge. The water's really warmed up the last few days, and fresh peaches were delightful. The girls ran into friends there, which makes them happy...including the Hermans, who they had been visiting in Penticton an hour earlier. While they played in the afternoon, I holed up at Fibonacci's with a smoothie and worked in a much cooler environment that our overheated home office.

Last night I hung out with a bunch of Myron's friends at his place -- good guys, mostly teachers he works with -- enjoyed a few beers and laughs on his patio. Tomorrow we're hitting the farmer's market again, then Keremeos for curry at Sanderson's, and finally a first-time visit to our friend Aimee's place in Twin Lakes. If we get really ambitious, we might try to hit Bromley Rock again, our favourite swimming hole...

Friday, July 10, 2009

Manitoba Trip Wrap-Up

Wow, that was a serious travelogue rampage. Here's the list of recent posts covering most of our trip:
  • Gramps -- reflecting on my visit with my grandpa
  • Motocross Action -- hanging out with Milt and Carla
  • Prairie Landscapes -- photo gallery and my wandering around places from my childhood (Note: I updated this post significantly since it first went up, adding lots of links and photos)
  • The Friesens -- family fun and our Whiteshell weekend to open the trip
  • Prairie Friends -- mid-week visits with friends in the country
  • Road Trippin' -- heading back home
If you want to see just the photos, they're all here in a Flickr set (and slideshow).

Road Trippin'

While Ezra and Tannis flew both ways, this trip was a full-on, legit road trip for me and the girls. They were excellent traveling companions, fueled by junk food, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire on CD, mp3 players and hotel pools. I kept entertained by soaking in the landscape as it crawled by. On the way back, we joined Bill in Regina, a city I have long reviled (but had to admit seemed pretty cool this time). We stayed in Swift Current and shared one of the worst microbrews I have ever encountered (but which yielded a favourite photo).

The next day we hit the dinosaur museum in Drumheller, which was even better than I had remembered it. We were all a bit tired and strung out from the driving, but it seemed to be a hit with the kids. We stayed at a nice place in Canmore that night, then zoomed home the next day with quick stops to develop a strong hatred for Revelstoke and experience the dumpy tourist hole otherwise known as The Enchanted Forest. And then home sweet home, where my parents had kept our garden thriving and cleaned the house! Talk about a sweet welcome.


Prairie Friends

We had it scheduled so we'd be seeing MB friends in the country through the middle of the week. I love this photo of all the kids at Lorne and Nada's reading -- even Ezra might be reading over Ella's shoulder a bit. While it was pretty intense socially for this somewhat-antisocial creature, the mid-week adventures were most excellent:
  • Tannis got a nifty haircut from old-friend Lisa Monday afternoon, which meant we got to have a glass of wine with her at her new house and meet her family.
  • I hung out with Plett and James at their place and spent the night -- the next evening, Tannis and Ezra joined us all there for a feast and playground session with da boys. Nice and mellow, with lots of laughs. It was pretty cool to run into old-friend Kent at the playground and chat with him a bit.
  • In between there, Aunt Helen hosted me for a delightful breakfast. Once she gave them permission, Marj and Kim joined us too. They've got a great new place in town, and we were looong overdue to catch up. Seeing Kim was fun too, as I hadn't hung out with her in a long time -- she also delivered one of the best gifts I've ever received: a stack of amazing prints from her uber-creative daughter Megan (who was sadly out of the province while we were there).
  • Marj was saying farewell to Billy that afternoon as he headed across the country, but she invited me to join them for a tasty lunch. Dummy me didn't have the camera along. It was cool to see Marj's clan at Jen's grad party too -- got to meet Kate's gorgeous baby and chat with Jen too.
  • We spent two nights in Altona with Bill and our friends the Hildebrands (who moved from Summerland last December). The kids were seriously amped up on this get-together and it did not disappoint. Great food, lots of laughs and discussions, killer fireworks on Canada Day, multiple sessions at the pool, late-night beers and smores around the campfire...this was the heart of the trip and the reason Bill initiated the whole cornball plan in the first place. Hanging out with Lorne again only made me miss him more, as we slipped right back into our groove immediately. Luckily, they're coming to see us in August, so it won't be long before the next round of good times.
  • Thursday afternoon, it was off to Milt and Carla's, which turned out to be a total blast. Tannis and the kids swam and stayed for supper while I got to stay over until the next afternoon.


The Friesens

Our girls only have two cousins, so it's a big deal when they get together. My own selfish reasons aside, this was one of the main motivations for the least as far as they were concerned. And it was great for them to hang out with Marissa and Tyra. Chad and Crystal brilliantly set it up so we could all stay at Pinewood Lodge for the first weekend after we arrived. The weather refused to cooperate, but the wonderful pool area was so warm and inviting that we all felt cozy indoors. Stupidly, I took very few photos...
  • Ivy and Ezra and I headed out to the local museum at Nutimik one rainy afternoon, which was excellent -- the park interpreter was knowledgeable and friendly. A live turtle and a snake that arrived while we were there were highlights for Ezra.
  • Chad and I had a fantastic jam session in the breakfast room one evening. We had never tried the viola and guitar together, but made some nice sounds together, almost like old times.
  • We were on vacation, so of course we had plenty of treats.
  • I took my bike out on the Trans Canada Trail Friday afternoon, getting some much-needed exercise and enjoying the beauty of the Whiteshell.
  • More cousins enjoying each other's company.
  • We spent a lot of time playing in the pool. Larry and Pearl were amazing with the kids, and of course the little ones wanted to swim all day.
Larry and Pearl's was home base for most of us the whole week, and they were gracious, generous hosts (as always). We enjoyed their backyard a bunch of times for BBQs and just hanging out. They hosted a sleepover for the cousins, and Tannis also took the kids over to Chad and Crystal's later in the week. Good times had by all.



Prairie Landscapes

When I previewed our trip to Manitoba, I had specifically mentioned my desire to do some prairie wandering to steep myself in the beauty and nostalgia of the landscape. It's always a trade-off because we have so many dear people to see in such a short time, and I wouldn't blame the Carons or Niverville Hieberts (and others we didn't see) for reading this and thinking, "What a jerk, wandering along ditches in the boonies when he could have been hanging out with us!" And they'd have a point.

In my defense, I get dysfunctional after days filled only with socializing and racing from one event to another, and these bits of quiet and solitude were essential if I wanted to feel like I had some actual vacation. I took 450 photos, many of them of clouds, creeks and fields.

I also rode my bike on dirt and gravel roads with the wind somehow blowing continually into my face, eventually visiting both of the yards where I grew up. The one northwest of Rosenort where we had our trailer for a few years isn't really a yard anymore, although two of the three rows of trees are still standing. The abandoned yard across the 205 still hides the pond Ryan and I learned to skate on. A kind Holdeman offered me a ride back to town after finding me in the middle of nowhere -- on the way back he lectured me about why I needed a cell phone and how to manage it properly. Yes, I'm technologically behind the Holdemans.

The farm closer to Morris, where we lived from about '83-'90, is still occupied. I drove onto the yard and met the family living there now. Neat to chat with a 10-year-old boy who's growing up there, riding his XR80 on the same paths, just like we always did. It was a bit shocking how different most of it looked -- some things just deteriorated and neglected, and trees gone or grown up. The owner was super nice and let me wander around the back boonies to check out the pond. Everything was thickly overgrown, but I enjoyed the sights, sounds and smells of my past.

I visited graves and climbed grain bins, walked through tall grass and threw stones into muddy water; swatted mosquitoes and got scolded by red-winged blackbirds; counted telephone poles and found patterns in fields. I tried to remember and feel and breathe. The prairie landscapes also kept me entertained while we drove across three provinces (twice) -- I hadn't expected to be so blown away by the beauty and variety in hills, fields, trees and sky.








Thursday, July 09, 2009

Motocross Action

I spent an afternoon/evening/night/morning at the Fun Zone surrounding FXR headquarters. Milt has always taken his fun very seriously, and he now he's really doing it right. We dipped into his toy room before airing things out and moving some dirt. As usual, I was pitifully weak and afraid on the track, but gradually found my groove again. Jumping motorcycles seems more insane every time I try it, but what a rush to look down and see the the plains stretching out in every direction, 20 feet below you. I probably should have spent more time riding and less time taking photos, but Milt was a great subject soaring through the sky.

Carla also made us all an excellent feast one night and we hung out in the pool for most of the afternoon. Lauren kept the girls busy and happy, and Carla snuggled Ezra while we played some intense pepper with Milt and Chloe, who has turned into a remarkable young woman. Milt and I even fit in a jam session with guitar and viola, which we had never done before -- good fun to connect in so many ways. A few more shots of Milt hangin' it out:


My grandma and I went to visit my grandpa one afternoon. I had been dreading it, leaving it until late in the week because his Alzheimer's has robbed him of his memory and recognition. I realized with shame later that I had been thinking of him more as an issue than as a human being.

When we got there, he was in pretty rough shape, obviously tranquilized and despondent. We took him outside to a garden area, which my mom had wisely recommended after her last visit a few weeks ago, and he perked up considerably. Over the next couple of hours, his level of consciousness varied a lot -- at limes it seemed like a window would open up and he'd be quite animated, much more like the grandpa we remember, but then it would close again and he would stare at the ground with his eyes at half mast for several minutes. He often started speaking, but then stumbled on a word and lost the train of thought. At one point he leaned over to Grandma and said, "I like you".

In the alert times, he hummed and talked and was quite eager to touch and handle anything we had along with us. At one point I gave him my wallet and he explored it for some time, feeling the texture on the outside and pulling out cards. Then he folded it shut and pretended to slide it into his shirt (as if it was an open jacket with an inside pocket) with a mischievous chuckle. Those moments of clarity were awesome, but also painful because we know that most of the time he's shut down, with little opportunity for engagement.

Uncle John and his wife Ellen dropped in while we were there. He played the harmonica a fair bit, and I had also played a bunch of my viola songs. Grandpa responded well to the music, tapping the beat, singing quietly and giving me a piercing stare as I played. He's got music in his blood, that one. I ended up being very happy to have been with him, to hold his hand and see him respond to Grandma's warmth. It was sad too, of course, but being there helped me see that this is just part of life; a part we don't experience enough, as it's easier to just lock it away.