Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Seattle Day Trip

Road Hammer and Gunner are off once again! We packed up nice and early Saturday morning looking for new land. E-Gnome from Travelocity tagged along with us after being poorly neglected during the last road trip. It wasn’t easy but we convinced him to join us on this one. Another addition to the traveling party is Joe Dirt. JD is a co-worker of mine hailing from Thunder Bay. His real name is Joe Saliba but I’ve always called him Joe Dirt partly due to his evil nature… and the name is funny to me. Joe had never been to Seattle before and since he’s a pretty fun chap AND doesn’t have many, if any, friends, he was all for tagging along with us.

The A-Team

Okay! Now that we have set the stage and introduced everyone let’s move on to travels. We made it to Seattle around lunch time after a quick stop at a Best Buy along the way to pick up a (sweeeeeet) digital camera and messing around with Guitar Hero 2, a Playstation 2 that involves rocking out to a guitar a la Dance Dance Revolution style but I may end up covering that as a post if I succumb to the temptation of buying the game.

Upon entering Seattle, we made it straight to Seattle Center and parked the car for the day. The Seattle Center is home of the famous Space Needle and a few more attractions such as the Experience Music Project and the Sci-Fi Museum. Before we started touring, our bellies grumbled at us and we looked for a place to eat. Luckily for us there was a food joint called the Revolution Bar & Grill next to where we parked.

Welcome to Seattle Gents

Being the tourists we are, we asked our waitress to point out the city’s main venues and she gave us a map with a few of them marked out. After eating a true American meal (too much food – no wonder they have an obese population), we walked up to the Space Needle to see what the fuss is about. Think of the Space Needle as a west coast rendition of the CN Tower that is smaller and older looking. Having seen the CN Tower before I was mildly impressed and I certainly had no intention of paying something like $14+ for an elevator ride. I did find this picture showing the view of the city from atop the tower. We were also told the Space Needle is a bigger attraction during the evening because it is fully illuminated but we had other stuff on the menu so we didn’t come back to check it out.

Hey Look! A Needle From Space!

Next, we ventured onto the Monorail that takes you close to downtown. Funny how Rob and I never even took the skytrain in Vancouver yet but 1 hour after being in Seattle, we were already using the city’s public transportation system hah! That being said, we made it into the core and headed straight to the Pike Place Market.

The Market

The market was fun to walk around in. It reminded me of the Farmer’s Market in Fredericton but bigger and less crowded (I didn’t have to fight through a mob of people gathered around the samosas stand).

Elliott being the douche he is HAD to go walk by Elliott’s Bay so we walked right down to the waterfront through sketchy parking lots with bums and stuff. We get there and what do we see? WATER! No kidding eh? A few minutes after Joe realized what we were looking and why Rob was taking pictures, and laughed at him.

That day was the playoff game between the Seahawks and the Cowboys so we decided to continue our walk towards the stadium (QWest Field) to see what kind of action was going on there. As we approached the stadium, we saw a crowd of people (Seahawks fans) gathered in a “parking lot” with music, food and … BEER!

Home of the Seahawks

TAILGATE PARTY!!! Woohoo! Talk about a gong show in there haha! It was pretty cool to see people all setup with TVs and huge barbecues just having a great time waiting for the game to start.We had the opportunity to by tickets to the game for about $140 and all three of us considered dishing out the cash for it but you know after the holidays, money can be a bit tight and we ended up not buying anything. We started to regret our decision after seeing all the people and the ambience. After we saw the final score and how it ended in a dramatic fashion, we REALLY regretted no attending the game. The hawks better make the playoffs next year ‘cause we’ll be there “comme un cheveux sur la soupe” as the French would have it.

Second home of the Seahawks (read the sign)

To finish off the day the trio headed to the Experience Music Project (EMP) , which is an interactive music museum that covers, for the main part, artists or bands from Seattle. We got to see some really cool stuff on Nirvana, Pearl Jam (!!!), Jimi Hendrix and then some. The cherry on the cake of the tour was definitely our live performance in front of a large crowd. I think the picture below speaks for itself…

"Rocking in a free world!"

We have tons of new trips planned out and with Joe now officially being the 3rd member of our group you can expect more laughs and random (mis)adventures in the near future.

Do I Sense a Mariners Game This Summer?
You Betcha!

Next Stop: San Francisco
, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Whistler, Astoria, who knows?!?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

2006 Year End Review

2006 has already come to a close and with my lack of regular updates, here’s a chance to get everyone caught to the multitude of events that have happened here in Vancouver.

First off, for those who don’t know already, my car, Desert Storm, was stolen from me in late November while I was at the biggest mall in town. It’s a real shame that anyone would even consider touching such a beautiful piece of history. Long story short, I went in at the mall with Rob on a Saturday afternoon to buy a microwave and parked my car right by the door (and I’m thinking: “what a score!”). I came out about 2 hrs later and my car was… gone! Without jumping to conclusions or showing any signs of panic, I walked around and talked to mall security for another 1-2hrs and subsequently left the mall without my own wheels. Unphased (sp?), I went to the restaurant that night, had a few beers and shared a few laughs.

Side note: Funny Rob found an article online and the most stolen car of 2006 was a 1991 Honda Accord EX-R and the picture showed was of my car (same colour, everything). I’m just glad to be able to contribute to the statistics. I also saw on TV the other day that Surrey (next to Vancouver) is the stolen car capital of the world. If only I knew that before I would’ve at least get a “Club” or something!!

I proceeded with an insurance claim and all the other fun procedures involved with a stolen vehicle and ended up buying a 1992 Accord EX-R. I call her… Angel Dust! I thought I had a picture around but I apparently don’t. This brings me to my next item; expect more pictures from me since I received a digital camera for Christmas! Well I don’t have it yet but I am heading to town this weekend and will pick up one (My parents sent money up to go buy myself a nice camera). I’m pretty stoked since I have been thinking of getting myself a camera for the last couple of years haha!

Oh and my car was eventually recovered 4 weeks later. It was in better shape than I thought it would be but the stereo system was gutted out and it was in no driving condition. I was able to say my goodbyes to my precious automobile at 340,728km and put some closure to all that had happened. I salvaged what I could but my valuables were also taken… *sigh* Desert Storm, you will be missed. The places we have been, the memories we’ve had….

Aside from that, I’ve been pretty busy with work and other daily activities. I haven’t really had time to tour the city a whole lot. The party scene has not been evaluated fully yet, bars are expensive to go to and for some stupid reason, the “really good bars” start to line up at like 10pm!!! What the hell?!? I did however go on a Christmas Party bend (3 parties in 4 days) and all I managed to get out of that was a beat up immune system and a cold. It was fun nonetheless and I’ll do it again if the opportunity shows!

For those who watch the news I’m sure they have noticed has had quite a streak of extreme weather condition from snowstorms, to wind storms, to heavy rain falls. I didn’t get hit too much where I live compared to other areas of the city. Apparently “This is not normal” but I don’t know the difference so I’ve been taking in all I can from it. You like rain? Well head on the west coast I say, it rains every day here that it’s almost awesome… almost.

As mentioned earlier, my parents did send money up and some other Christmas presents in the mail since they had no idea I was going to come home to surprise them! Mwhahaha I am so evil! My sister and I have been lying through our teeth since November making up all sorts of stories about how I could not come home for the Holidays because I had to work etc. Well let me tell you we played it right because when I popped in the house with my Santa hat and my bouquet of flowers, everyone was so surprised to see me, Good times J

My stay in New Brunswick was short but tons of fun and I had a great time to see my friends once again and just hang out like ol’ times.

I hope this makes up for a lack of updates in the last 2 months. I could say that I will try to update this more often but I’d rather not make empty promises. I do have a bunch of topic ideas floating in my head and I just need to take a few minutes to write something, and now that I will have a camera ready, it will be easier for me to include visual aids and work stories around them. So with that I will try to try to update on a semi-regular schedule (once or twice a week to start off).

On that note, it’s already time to start a whole new year. Happy New Year everyone, I heard that 2007 is suppose to be a good one! J


Monday, November 13, 2006

Presenting: House of Brian

Finally some down time to be able to sit down and write about the great city of Vancouver. To bring you up to date, I have found a job 2 days after I made it to Vancouver and I spent the 3 following weeks living out of a hotel room searching for an apartment to call our home. I'll probably go more in detail about my job and such but right I'll be going over the basement we have found. So anyway, we finally found a place in North Vancouver after making many phone and late nights doing research and classified papers. We moved in 2 weeks ago and are still in the process of getting settled in and acquiring the right furniture and ALL the fun stuff with everything involving moving!

Without further ado we have found a decent sized basement suite in a cul-de-sac at the base of a mountain with a short drive to the local ski hills. The neighborhood is very nice and quiet. There are a lot of riding trails nearby and I can't wait to test them out once I have my bike over. Mountain biking is pretty big around here so I should be able to meet fellow riders relatively easy and go on treks and stuff.

The Neighborhood

Checking up on Desert Storm

So anyway, one of the main features of our basement suite that really made us want the place even more was the gorgeous backyard. The landscape here is pretty stunning: there are a bunch of plants (some tropical) starting from the driveway going to the back of the house to a fire pit with a deck surrounding it, there's also a creek going through the plants and the landlords have an upper deck overlooking all of this.

The Backyard

View of the Fire Pit

The inside comprises of a large kitchen with new-looking appliances, a spacious living room with a gas fireplace (that ended up being my room - details to come), a large bedroom, a small bedroom, bathroom and shared laundry room.

Le Kitchen

Living Room w/ Fireplace for the Romantics

Rob's Bedroom (No Romance There)

The 2nd bedroom turned out to be smaller than I originally viewed it and since I had lost the coin toss to get the bigger room, Rob and I decided to switch around the suite layout. The small bedroom will become the TV room so to speak and I was going to be living in the living room. To give me more privacy, we hung some curtains to block off the view from the kitchen so it does end up looking more like a room than a living area.

Our landlords are really nice (so far) and they just happen to have bought the house not that long before we moved in so the place is kind of new for both of us. There's a bit of work that needs to be done with the cable hook ups and the internet access and so forth but the landlords are really good about it and willing to improve the house.

Once we are fully settled in I will post new pictures to show everyone the final outcome of our home.

So long!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Travel Log: Day 6

Last day of driving hurray!!!

After a late night of partying in Banff we woke up first thing the day after to a rainy/snowy (yes, that's right - snowflakes) morning to pack up the car and get everything ready to go. We went up the Banff Gondola for breakfast. This is where Andy works and he was kind enough to pull a few strings to get us lift tickets for free... again - Thanks pal!

We made a few friends during our stay in Banff (Ally, Kim, Nicky "9-Stitch", Jodi and Tom) and most of them are moving to Kelowna in the winter so I will definitely go visit them soon to hit the slopes.

Andy gave us a wicked carved grizzly bear eating a fish as a home warming present. We named the bear "Maurice". It will look great in our living room as a center piece. Details from how he obtained this grizzly bear cannot be shared to the public for security reasons.

We went back on the road after supper for the final leg of the road trip. The scenery in BC was fabulous; the skies had cleared up, the moutains were bigger and the highway was really hilly and turny (fun fun!)... but the traffic was slow (no fun). The road was so hilly and since we were in fairly high altitude that the cars were cutting out on us (Thin air = less oxygen = partially incomplete combustion = less power). This made the drive very sluggish at times; I was down to 2nd gear up a hill just to keep the speed constant. At first I thought Desert Storm was dying on me but after talking to Rob I found out he was having the same car issues (wheeww! relief).

On the way to Kamloops for eats, we stopped in Craigellachie to visit the "Last Spike" historical site. This is where the last spike was driven in the ground for the canadian railway system back in 1885 - Another important event of our Canadian history.

We drove in to our hotel at around 8pm. Rob's boss was very generous to have a suite ready for our arrival. Thanks Rob's boss!

Distance Traveled: 880km

Total Road Trip: 5,660km

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Rest Day in Banff

Today was our day off yay! We basically hurried to Banff so we could spend the entire day to act like tourists and go sightseeing. Andy pulled a few strings abd abused his Banff staff powers to score us a couple of free tickets to go on the Columbia Icefield tour ($135 value each person). We did have to lie about being on Banff staff before getting on the bus. The bus driver caught us off guard and I had to whip up something good... the things you do for free stuff. The weather wasn't as good as we have had thoughout the week. It was rainy in Banff but as we made our way to the Ice Fields the sky cleared up and we were able to entirely see the gigantic mountains.

"Banff Springs Hotel"

"A Mountain"

Our first rest stop was in Lake Louise. The scenery out there is breath taking and so is how much stuff costs at the Chateau Lake Lousie ($6.15 for a regular size bottle of water). Apparently rooms at the Chateau ranges from $800-$1500 per night. Needless to say we felt out of place walking amongst the rich tourists with our beards and big tuques. Some people there even thoguht we were mountaineers due to our rugged looks Ha! ha!

"Lake Louise"

"Chateau Lake Louise"

After a 45 min break, we hopped back on the bus to make a couple more stops to act like real tourists. We finally made it the icefields mid afternoon. I could try to go in the details of what the icefields are and everything else I learned about the rockies but I don't want to bore anyone or start to give out false information. Anyway back to the Icefields, we got to drive in a pretty cool bus with Timberjack tires called an Ice Explorer. The tour guides out there are pretty funny and full of good knowledge of the area. Giving tours all day to about 5,000 people per day during the peak of the season will do that ya eh.

"Ice Fields"

"Ice Explorer"

There were people from all over the world: Ireland, Brazil, Japan, Korea, United Kingdom to name a few. Most tourists that were there were asians (bus loads of them) and I can honestly say that Rob and I were close to being the youngest people on tour. I recommend anyone who has the chance Banff to do so and if it was up to me, I would do it towards the end of September since I hear it's mental during the summer.

Well I better get going because some beers need to be drinked.

Distance Traveled: zero, zip, nada!

Today is also my long time friends from home Eric and Nathalie's wedding. Unfortunately I obviously could not attend the wedding and am utterly disappointed by it. But I want to wish you guys the best of the best in life and you guys look great together!

Travel Log: Day 5

Today (well yesterday since I didn't have time to write up a post) was the big mother effing day of driving we had been dreading since day 1 and it lived up to its hype. The plan: travel from Winnipeg to Banff in the span of a day. That's going through 2 and a half provinces with limited breaks. We took an early start on the sun this morning by getting on the road at 5h30 local time but it (sun) still beats us by reaching the other side of the sky before we did. We drove through most Manitoba in the dark and before we knew it we entered Saskatchewan.

"Prairies in the morning"

My uncle told me that you realize how empty Canada really is after you drive through the prairies and I have to agree 100% with him. Southern Saskatchewan is so bare it's crazy. the first 6hrs driving through flatland was pretty fun for the 6hrs, seriously, but after that it gets pretty old with the sun beaming on you non stop (there wasn't a single cloud in the sky today). The landscape is so vast with the odd farm house. We didn't hit real flat plains until after Regina. The town of Chaplin was pretty neat to drive by because the ground was all white like it had snowed. Turns out the soil was salt flats or salt dunes like you see in Nevada... we think?

"I'm a poor lonesome Co'boy!"

"Scouting the prairies"

"This is as flat as it gets"

We drove through Calgary during rush hour for some time well wasted. By the time we got out of there, the sun had already set but it was really cool to see the Canadian Rockies unravel themsleves right before our eyes as we were getting closer to them. We couldn't fully enjoy the scenery because it was getting dark fast and we were so tired of driving that I was more concerned of getting to final destination ASAP.

"Rockies Preview"

Our (driving) journey ended in Banff at my friend Andy's house, 15hrs 30min later. But our day did not end here, since it was 8pm local time, we headed out to the pub to watch the hockey game and down some well deserved beers. On our walk back home, we saw a deer walking around on the main street. It was pretty funny to us, especially Rob who couldn't believe his eyes but I guess it's a pretty common thing in Banff.

More to come!

Distance Traveled: 1450km

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Travel Log: Day 4

I just want to thank everyone before I start off about my day for the blog comments I have been receiving so far. I really enjoy reading them and it’s good to know that my fan base is growing as fast as my beard =)

On today’s agenda: another day in the car whooppeee! I almost feel like a trucker. Thinking we had a long day ahead of us, we woke up at 6h00 (AST) to be on the road by 7h30-8h00, after we shower, gas up and grab some b’fast.

"Balmoral Ave. in Thunder Bay"

We hit the road before the sun rose and cruised right along Hwy 17 in very minimal traffic. The landscape was basically the same as yesterday for the first couple hours of the trip: long straight roads, wooded areas and barely any houses except when we drove by small communities. The car ride did become more interesting after we drove through Dryden because we started driving on a mountainous landscape: windy roads, big hills, cliffs and everything else except mountain goats. We didn’t stop as much as we did yesterday because in the end, everything ends up looking very similar to each other.

"Don't drive off the edge!"

"Desert Storm Leading the Pack as usual"

We grabbed lunch in Kenora and had an encounter with native Indians. They were pretty messed up telling us all kinds of nonsense stories and ended up bumming us for a couple of bucks in the end. Some things don’t change much across the country after all hahaha!!! To our surprise we ended in Manitoba sooner than we anticipated this morning and got a glimpse of what the plains look like; everything suddenly went flat about 30km outside Winnipeg.

"Watch out for the Bisons"

"Manitoba Skies"

So now the warning signs changed from moose to deer and bears now and we finally went back to a 4-lane highway (the highway had been a 2 lane highway since leaving Ottawa). Some interesting we noticed about Manitoba highway system is that they don’t have on and off ramps like we usually see in New Brunswick - and everywhere I can think off actually. Instead every is wide open and people just cut in and out to the back roads. We also drove through the Longitudinal Center of Canada (approx. 96° 45° 55° or something like that).

We drove in the west side of Winnipeg at around 4h00 (AST) and checked in a much better hotel room than the night before; no smelly room this time. After a short break, Road Hammer and I went out for some supper and a little drive downtown Winnipeg. After driving around for like 20 minutes, we knew Winnipeg in and out with all the little roads and one-ways and the mass amount of traffic. Winnipeg is kind of like Fredericton with its useless 1-ways at the most awkward locations but with roads 4 lanes wide, each way. We tried to find the old Winnipeg Center where the Jets used to play but we couldn’t find it. I think it might have been taken down already. We did drive in front of the MTS Center and Canad Inns Stadium where the Blue Bombers play (CFL). Here are a few pics off Winnipeg to finish things off. I am super tired and my brain is about to shut off, good nightand enjoy the NHL season opener!

"Shiny Skyscraper in W'peg"

"Winnipeg Train Station"

"Home of the Blue Bombers"

"MTS Center, home the of Manitoba Moose (AHL)"

Distance Traveled: 800km

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Travel Log: Day 3

Day numero Trois and we are on the road again! We left Hearst around 8h30 for a short day of driving...

"Day Three!"

The drive started out on a pretty dry note. Woods, woods and more woods for the first 230km. I counted a generous 15-20 houses between Hearst and Longlac. The drive was so boring that we turned to a different source of entertainment: I ran down an errand rabbit (by accident).
Clean Hit! It was pretty funny to see him barrel roll in the rearview mirror at first but I did feel bad afterwards... for real (no picture available).

On a brighter note, I was really looking forward to this day because we were driving through Beardmore. "What's in Beardmore?" you may ask. Well only the largest Snowman in the world! I found out about Beardmore on Canadian Roadside Attractions but even if I didn't know about the snowman beforehand, the thing is so freaking huge you can't miss it!

"Can't go in Beardmore without growing a beard"

We were taking it pretty easy for the most part of the day since we knew we would get in Thunder Bay sometime in the afternoon so we easily took half a dozen pit stops for pictures, laughs and eats. We were fortunate enough to not see a single moose in what is supposed to be a moose infested forrest. And here's a few snapshots of the kind of scenery you can expect
in Northwestern Ontariooooo (go'geous!), courtesy of Road Hammer:

"Abandonned Church, Longlac"

"Lunching at a rest area - Notice the PB Jar on the table"

"Pijitawabik Palisades - Impressive"

Another highlight of our daily travels that I really looked forward was the Terry Fox memorial statue just outside of Thunder Bay. Terry Fox is one of the greatest Canadian of all time. His story is truly inspiring and having ran the annual Terry Fox run for a few years now, I had no choice but to come visit where Terry's final strides of his Marathon of Hope occured.

"Stick that in your tourism guide!"

"Checking out Thunder Bay Docks with the Panoramic Telescope"

And our resumes in Thunder Bay at the Econo Lodge in a room that smells like a mix between body odour and wet towels. We tried to vent out the room before we went out for supper by opening the windows and cranking up what seemed to be a air exchanger? We came back with high hopes but the room only went from hot to cold. I better not asphyxiate tonight to a smelly carpet.

I give the Econo Lodge: minus 1 star

Distance Traveled: 540km