Canadia

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So, Canada, aye? Aye[, aye]…. okay, enough of that.

So I flew up in the morning, but with the delays – I suspect they tried to cancel the flight (as it was so empty) but couldn’t find a replacement, so they eventually ran it anyway – I didn’t get there and to the hostel until mid afternoon, so the first day was a bit of a bust. I met up with Laz in the hostel, where he was camped out in the common area on his laptop, naturally, pissing away the time. 😛

We went shopping and other such tedium, though I did pick up a Camelbak which was invaluable over the trip.

That night I ended up in one of the random Irish pubs – Doolins, from memory – near the hostel, just watching the band play. It’s so refreshing to see a live band again. [[ I’m tired of repeating myself, so just insert your favourite previous monologue about how boring S.F. is ]]

That was good, apart from some random guy who was way too far gone and seemed to alternate between hitting on me and trying to start a fight with me. All in front of his girlfriend, who was clearly embarrassed. Awkward.

Anyway, the next day is when the touristing started proper. Laz had his own stuff to do – job hunting and whatnot – so I went off by myself down to Stanley Park and the aquarium there, taking the long route starting at Canada Place. That (the long route) was spontaneous, actually – I was walking down towards Stanley Park and happened to look up a side street to see Grouse Mountain framed brilliantly by the skyscrapers. Fantastic. I had no real idea what Vancouver looked like – it’s not a place you seem to get a lot of holiday snaps from – so it was a complete surprise. And a very good one.

The aquarium was pretty cool… much like aquariums everywhere, really, though I did like both that they had dolphins and that they do shows with them – tricks, jumping out of the water etc – very cool.

The weather was a little cool, so although I walked for a while along the seawall in Stanley Park, I quit that once I got to the aquarium. I wandered more or less straight back, but sort of through the West End area, which was amazingly quiet and consequently quite pleasant. Talking to some people later on, it was noted that the real estate anywhere in Vancouver central is ridiculous, and it’s easy to see why.

That night Laz & I went off down to the Gastown area for dinner. It’s really just one street with a bunch of restaurants in it.. lots of cities have similar things, although – despite the similar name – it was thankfully much more affordable than San Diego’s Gaslamp district. Later in the night we ended up back down that way again, at yet another Irish pub called the Blarney Stone or somesuch. It was a long way from pretty much everywhere, but Laz was adamant that we find somewhere not overrun with Aussies. Which was fair enough – everywhere you went on the main strips it really was overrun with us. Which is great, sure, but not much good when you’re out to meet girls, since the Aussie girls are likewise looking for someone who’s not actually Aussie as well. Snowball effect. 🙂

And brilliantly Laz did manage to get us both invited to join half a dozen girls, out for their friend’s birthday, so we had company for much of the night. Very cool.

Given my ridiculous propensity for spontaneous dancing, as all who know me can attest to, ;), it should well come as something of a surprise to know that I did actually dance a fair bit that night, largely because some random girl asked me to. Twice, in fact. Each time she ultimately disappeared as suddenly as she came. Very mysterious. Laz was flying my wing, but nonetheless couldn’t find her later in the night before he himself piked. It was fun for what it was, anyway. 🙂

We’d actually gone to that particular pub because Laz intended to meet up with some other guys he’d met in the hostel, one of whom – J.W. – was leaving the next day. Distracted by the lovely girls as we were, we didn’t actually bother to catch up with them until 1am or so, where I think Laz had to actually hang with them for at least a little bit to save face. 🙂 So we did, and I hung about a bit after Laz left, meeting all the random people and doing some very bad line dancing with them. 😀 Drunk people are very easily impressed, so by that late hour it was actually possible for me to do so. Hooray!

However, we’d already talked about going skiing at Grouse Mountain for the next day, so about 2am I too piked.

It was quite interesting walking back – I cut a straight path, which took me through the seedier part of town, where I got offered drugs twice within – literally – 50 feet of four police cars, whom had gathered around because some dope had rear-ended one of said police cars at the traffic light. Oops. Right out the front of a club, too, so there was an audience of sixty or so people for the whole event.

Why you would put a club in such a down part of town, I’m not sure. :/

We did indeed go skiing the next day, Laz trying snowboarding for the first time. There was certainly a lot of emotion on his part, if nothing else… 🙂 I had warned him that snowboarding was the more frustrating of the two (vs skiing), but he insisted, so… as expected he spent 99% of his time on his arse. I managed to convince him to keep at it at least once when he was otherwise going to give up, but eventually I ran out of patience for noobs, so I went off and did my own thing while Laz went in search, ostensibly, of an instructor.

He never found one, and I found him just wandering about. He ended up heading back pretty early, I think, but, ah well… I myself kept at it until closing, which there is 10pm – night skiing for teh win! Consequently, even though we were slow getting out there and didn’t really start skiing ’til noon, I got in a good eight or nine hours of skiing. I was surprised that I didn’t tired out. Though it was pretty easy skiing, admittedly – it’s only a small mountain, a dozen runs or so, so I was quickly familiar with most of them.

It was a very good day, anyway.

So that was Saturday. Sunday morning we packed up all our crap and hoofed it to the other side of the street, where our tour was to begin. We spent Sunday just cruising around in the van, checking out the sights (which I’d already seen a good portion of, but anyway). A little superfluous, but I suppose a nice enough idea if you’re assuming that people doing the ski tour don’t otherwise stay in Vancouver. And we did go to a few places that were more out of the way and tourists might not make it to as a result, including Lynn canyon which was very pleasant even in the rain.

’twas the next day, Monday, when we finally headed out. Off to Whistler. Alas, the road was closed for a few hours, so we didn’t get up there until about noon. Then there was a long delay in getting the lift tickets, and I had to get rental skis, so I don’t think I was actually on the snow before 1pm. 🙁

While we’d been stuck on the road, a bunch of us had needed to get out at one point and push the van, as it was really icy on the road and once we stopped – forced to by the traffic in front of us stopping as a result of some other van spinning out – it was a real pain to get going again. Anyway, given I was out of the van at that point anyway, I just kept on walking down the road, intent on at least stretching my legs, and hopefully finding out what the hold up was.

We were about 15km from Whistler at that point, and I probably walked nearly half of that while we were waiting. And that’s including some time where I turned back – thinking traffic was flowing again, but alas it was just a temporary thing. We were stuck for a while. It took ages, when the traffic did get going again, for the van to finally catch up to me. At some point we’d seen a wolf next to the road – well, virtually everyone but me, alas – so apparently some people had started getting worried for me. 🙂

It seems I’m forever fated to take ages to get to and from skiing.

One thing which made the trip a whole lot more pleasant for everyone was Daisy, a rather cute little blonde Brazilian girl who hitched a ride with us after missing her intended ski bus. Given there was only one other girl on the tour at that point, Jenny, we were as a group unanimously willing to be so chivalrous. 😉

Anyway, Whistler/Blackcomb… I went up Blackcomb the first day, just going in random directions in search of good skiing. Unlike Grouse Mountain, which had a plentiful 3 metre base, Whistler has been suffering just like the California ski fields. It wasn’t quite as bad, but as a result of a few pitiful inches of new snow the night before, they had deliberately neglected to groom anywhere that day. So it was really, really cut up, and not that much fun to ski at all. Towards the end of the day I found some half-decent runs, but when I concluded and met everyone again around 4:30, I was quite unimpressed overall.

That night we didn’t do much – Flash, Drew, Laz & I hit the town to grab something to eat and to hang out for a bit, but being a Monday night in a really slow season, Whistler Village was really quiet.

Now, Flash… he was something else. You’d swear he were gay if you didn’t see him with a woman. He wore a big boofy, fluffy hat a lot of time – like you see on stereotypical Russian soldiers and all that, and a bright orange ski jacket, but mostly it was his pants… he designs clothes part time, you see, so he has quite the collection of rave pants and stylised jeans and whatnot. [[ he’s in several of my photos ]]

Anyway, it was one of the only times where I’ve been walking around in t-shirt and shorts – old habits die hard, so sue me 😛 – and not one person cares, because they’re all completely taken by Flash instead. He was forever getting compliments from random people. A very ingenious plan to engender attraction, I must say. 🙂

We ended up back at the hostel fairly early – before midnight, I think – and in bed not long after. Not a whole lot to do. :/

The next day was significantly better all round for skiing. They actually groomed most of the two mountains, so the conditions were infinitely better, and consequently I had a lot of fun. I checked out a lot of Whistler on that second day, as well as repeating a few of the better runs on Blackcomb.

The facilities at Whistler/Blackcomb are quite good compared to a lot of mountains, in that at the top of most lifts there is a snack bar or somesuch. A lot of resorts make the rather unforgivable mistake of putting all the food at the bottom of lifts, ensuring that after you emerge from the heated buildings into the cold, you then have to endure a ten minute chair lift ride as well. Not so at Whistler/Blackcomb! Which is good. However, particularly on the higher parts of the mountain the facilities are sometimes a little.. bare. At one place in particular, the toilets were of the wooden-box-over-a-hole-in-the-ground kind. Worse, the hole was shared by the bathrooms of both genders, which meant whenever either door was opened, a wind would rip through… it would have been quite unpleasant if it weren’t so humorous. 🙂

At at least one other point there were toilets similarly, but marked “for emergencies only” – because, honestly, they don’t want the hole to fill up any quicker than it has to. Supposedly this whole lack of plumbing is done because it’s more environmentally friendly, though I fail to see how dumping sewage in a hole on the mountain is more friendly to anyone than just piping it away for treatment like everywhere else. Anyway.

So the second day redeemed Whistler/Blackcomb for the most part. It ultimately still came in last for my favour of all the mountains we visited on the trip, but still, not by that much and it wasn’t bad by any means. And I suspected it would be the case from the start, as it struck me that Whistler is this golden destination for Australians, yet you won’t find people in other countries crowing over it like Aussies do – in fact most probably have never heard of it. There’s so many resorts in Canada, most of them probably better than Whistler… why Whistler has affixed itself so well into the collective Australian psych I don’t know.

At the end of skiing we headed straight away back to Vancouver, where we stayed the night back at our origin before heading off towards Kelowna the next day. That night, in Vancouver, we just went out as a group to some random Chinese restaurant. I mention it mostly because, well, this was the night that Pies first tried using chopsticks. It seems a little odd to me that someone from Oz would never, by their 20’s, have used chopsticks, but here was the proof of such. Anyway, he was doing most admirably, and things were going fine, until all of sudden there was a crack and someone two seats to the left of Pies found their own meal being attacked by bits of chopstick. Pies had somehow managed to snap both chopsticks in half. Plastic ones, not wooden ones. I mean, these aren’t iron hard but they’re certainly strong enough that it boggles the mind to imagine how someone can, in normal and completely serious use, accidentally snap them clean in half.

It was quite hilarious, and we summarily gave him permission to use a fork instead subsequently. 🙂

Also a good laugh that night was when our tour leader, Matt, went around the table checking that he had people’s nationalities right. Drew was sitting on his right, wearing a shirt with an outline of New Zealand on it and the words “Born Here” or somesuch on it. He was the only person Matt got wrong, labelling him erroneously as Australian. I suppose it doesn’t convey so well in writing in hindsight, but it was just one of those hearty-laugh moments, as Drew feigned gross insult (well, mostly feigned 😉 ).

Back to the travelling… we headed off towards Kelowna in the morning, having not done anything in particular that night that I recall… *ponders* no, can’t remember doing anything after dinner. Anyway, we headed off, having picked up one more person – Jamie, our second girl and American to boot – and arrived… late. We didn’t ski that day, from memory, but instead did the shopping and whatever else that needed to be done, as well as generally touristing around Kelowna and the lakes there, stopping once or twice for photos and snowball fights.

While we were in town and people were out shopping, I found myself back at the van with time to kill, so I made a little snowman and stuck him on the front of the van. Matt added some eyes and turned him into a male snowman (men *rolls eyes*), and we headed off. I didn’t really think he’d last more than the first couple of corners, but it turns out he was perfectly capable of handling them. It was only after ten minutes of driving or so that he finally started to suffer, exposed to the warm air off the engine as the poor guy was, and he did eventually turn slushy and start to slump. Matt them hit the brakes and sent him hurtling down the bonnet to his doom. Flash & I photographed the remains, for forensics to pore over later. 😉

So that night we stayed at Big White, in the village, which was cool, although the hostel we stayed in was a bit divey. For a start the door to our room didn’t lock. The place was also generally messy and the staff there a bit useless… Matt noted that they always had trouble with this place. That night in fact the door to his room locked him in – the pin fell out while the door was closed – and they ended up bashing the whole door handle off. So he didn’t even have a door handle, let alone a lock.

That aside, it was a good little place, the village. After a warning that there was a rapist in the village – not the best way to set a light mood, I can only concede – we had dinner as a group (well, more or less… Pies, Ryan & Chris went off earlier, but the rest of us coincidentally ended up hitting the same restaurant and sitting two tables over :D). Afterwards some of us hung out in one of the bars there for a while – Drew, Jamie, Flash & myself, where we were all impressed by Flash’s dancing, though I piked fairly early and went back to bed. The bar had been 80% guys, and the 20% otherwise were either waitresses or wasted, so while it was good to hang out with Flash et al, there wasn’t really anything to do there. Nor any band; just the usual house music and snowboarding videos.

In the morning ’twas skiing Big White. It was better from the outset than Whistler/Blackcomb, especially once I found some really great blacks off Gem Express, on the far side of the mountain.

There were only two skiiers on the trip – Drew and myself. And Jamie, supposedly… though I could have sworn she was snowboarding. Anyway, consequently most of our group spent the majority of their time in the terrain parks. I was off by myself the whole time to this point, as I’m terribly impatient when it comes to getting out there, and wasn’t inclined to wait while everyone else piss-farted around and made their way down the runs. I have no problem skiing by myself, since I have a very erratic pace in any case, but I was at this point a little left out; the others that were hanging together were gathering the usual stories of jumps taken and failed, falls fallen, etc.

I had tried to meet up with Matt, but despite hanging around the chairlift he said to meet at, we somehow missed each other – and me everyone else to boot – so I ended up by myself, as noted, anyway. The next day I did go out with the group, since we actually started together, so that was better. But Matt took us straight over to Gem Express, where I’d been anyway, so it was old hat to me by then. 🙂 And the conditions were quite poor – visibility was down to a handful of metres on the top half of the mountain, and there was a strong wind, so after just one run all the snowboarders couldn’t hack it and left for their precious terrain park. Pfft, pansies. 🙂

But I’m getting ahead. To cap off a great day skiing, we all went on some snowmobiles leading into dusk. That was a lot of fun – they weren’t nearly as limited as I had expected, being capped to a still-respectable 100km/h or so, and additionally were really unstable, so, plenty of entertainment and challenge. Though I was stuck behind grandpa Flash for most of it. 😛

So that was all very cool, in summary. That night… that night Matt made a giant pot of chilli for dinner, which was very good (and ridiculously giant… eleven people didn’t get through even a quarter of it, I reckon). Afterwards… I really can’t remember what we did… I had wanted to go in the spa, but they’d just refreshed the water and it was still warming up. We hung out in Matt’s room for a while, I remember… Jenny fell asleep on his bed and was subsequently heckled and teased appropriately ;)… hmm… but I can’t remember going out.

Oh, I did do some night skiing for a little while, but that was before dinner in any case, and only for an hour or so… what was lit up wasn’t particularly entertaining, being just greens. I spent some time practising skiing backwards and doing spins, but after pulling my hammy for the tenth time on the latter, I had finally had enough and quit for the night.

Well anyway, the next day was more skiing as previously introduced. Despite the weather it was good, and the weather improved gradually through the day, so by afternoon it wasn’t too bad.

One highlight of that day was where Matt dropped a pole on the Gem Express, near the bottom. I was quite happy, as that gave me an excuse to go fetch it – under the chairlift there is mostly black and I’d done about half of it the previous day and had a real good time… anyway, Drew & I did that, but Matt seemed to think we could just cut across from one of the runs rather than going down under the chairlift the whole way. Despite being pretty sure that the run he was talking about wasn’t the one he named, he was adament, so Drew and I went down the named one. Sure enough, it was the run over, so when we tried to cut through the trees we quickly gave up. But by then I’d slid just a little too far down the hill, amongst the trees, and I had to walk out. Well.. I say walk… the snow was three feet deep and too brittle to hold my weight standing up, so in fact I crawled out. It was amusing, but really tiring – usually the way.

Anyway, we ran past Matt at the bottom where he was waiting, informing him that we were still on the quest albeit slightly set back, :), before going up again and this time getting it right. Drew was a similar level to me – probably slightly better – but in any case we were a fine pairing. Which was lucky, because as mentioned other than Matt we had nothing but them wanky snowboarders :P.. Also, Matt wasn’t such a great skiier, as proven by the several hilarious videos Drew & I have of him failing to do what are honestly some very pathetic impressions of jumps… 🙂

Anyway… we got the pole back eventually, and further skiing and amusement was had by all.

However, most people piked quite early – around lunchtimish or somesuch – and I too decided I’d had enough by about 2:30 or something… we ended up all congregating in one of the bars (the one looking over the ice rink), which while it did make me a little uncomfortable for wasting otherwise good skiing time, was really comfortable and relaxing. 🙂

Plus, it had been noted that on the tour that day is usually a short one, and that if we were all finished early we’d head off early, so I hadn’t wanted to drag that out and be the one guy holding everyone up.

From there we headed over to Silver Star. We arrived at night, and Matt first dropped us off at the tube park where we all had a few goes. That was good fun, even if it was a little below our collective demographic – a sentiment entirely supported by the fact that we were all ten years [or more] older than everyone else there. 🙂

But it was good fun, and surprisingly cruisy – I had expected there to be spills and catastrophe, yet you were surprisingly stable on the tubes. I think the fastest I managed to get going was 67km/h – they had a fixed radar at the bottom. Alas they don’t let you do running starts – you have to be pushed off by one of the guys working there – so that was probably about as good as I could get. Matt had laid down the gauntlet at 84km/h or somesuch for his personal record, when we arrived, but that was with a running start.

And 67km/h was fast enough – that sent me straight into the inflatable barrier at the end of the run, to the mild annoyance of the people working there, so I didn’t want to be too boisterous lest I get our group into trouble. Though having said that none of the employees there had any problem with Flash, Jamie and I having a snowball fight as we were towed up the hill. 🙂 Nor with Jamie attacking me, someone significantly taller and bigger than her, which sadly resulted in her on the ground with ice down the back of her shirt. Tragic accident, that. 😉

I was apparently the most amused by the whole thing, as everyone else was well over it by the time I finally finished. Matt eventually picked us up again, though not before Jamie tried attacking Flashing, resulting in her yet again lying in the snow – and half buried by Flash, doggy-style – and we hit the hostel.

I distinctly remember that Matt had unloaded everyone’s gear into the hostel for us, while we’d been fooling around on the tubes. That was very cool of him. Granted he’s technically working and he’s paid for all this, but nonetheless it wasn’t necessary and consequently well appreciated.

He took us on a tour of the hostel when we first arrived, which was a little odd because when we went down to the lower level, with the kitchen and all the common areas, there was like forty people all seated at the long table… so it was kind of like being on show as we were introduced as a group and all. Little awkward. 🙂

Anyway, after getting everything sorted and settled in everyone made their ways down to the various bars in the town.

I’m reminded at this point that at Whistler we wandered through pretty much the whole village looking for the most happening place, and one in particular – Moguls I think it was, was a laugh; the guy on the door admitted straight up that there were literally two (2) other people in the place already. He suggested hanging in the bar ’til it picked up, but the bar we had already tried, and had found that were were literally the only people there. A little too quiet for my tastes. 🙂

Back to the present… so to speak… nothing particularly interesting came from our bar-crawling that night, that I recall… we tried at least two places that I recall, but there wasn’t any particular excitement to be had in either of them. I probably had a fairly early night… I don’t recall.

The next day was skiing Silver Star. It turned out to be a very cool mountain – right above the hostel were some cute little blacks (Show Off, Face, etc) that I started on – mainly because I’d wanted to get some photos from the top of them first up – and then I eventually found the blacks and double-blacks down the ‘bottom’…. it was a very confusing mountain to get around, I found… when you looked at things on the map it all made sense, but when you were actually out there and catching the lifts about, I kept getting lost. Partly that’s due to the village being towards the top of the mountain, I think… another part is that I went down some of the blues and ended up over to one side of the mountain without realising it… then when I was traversing across, thinking I was getting away from everything and heading towards the assumed backside, I suddenly found myself coming into the village. Kind of like leaving a room and impossibly walking into it from the other side…

I wasn’t doing any drugs, I swear. 🙂

At one point on one of the mountains I shared a chairlift with a guy that reeked so strongly of weed, I’m amazed he had any motor control left. At another time – at Silver Star, I think – again I shared a chairlift with a guy who lit up a joint while we were on the chairlift. I’m not sure what the intended benefit of being high while skiing is… seems to me it would impair you and consequently be a bit dangerous… though these were both boarders, naturally, so they were probably parkrats in any case…

So anyway, I mentioned double-blacks, and I do so proudly because I did in fact go down two of them by the end of the day. I’d been eyeing off double-blacks the whole trip… in fact this whole season I have. I can’t recall ever doing a double-black prior, so it somehow got built up a bit in my head. Anyway… the first one I went to had a sign at the start saying the conditions were “very, very marginal” in red. I’ve seen plenty of signs warning about marginal conditions, but this is the first one ever that felt the need to prefix it with not one but two “very”s. That spoke to me in some fundamental way to say “no, this probably isn’t the best double-black to make your first”. 🙂

The second one I looked into was called “Freefall”, and the name isn’t ironic. I stood at the top and looked down, and thought… you know, I could probably handle that. It wasn’t that scary in itself. However, if I did fall, it was steep enough and flat enough that I would not stop until I hit either a tree or… well, a tree, since that was all you had at the bottom ultimately. In hindsight I should have gone for it – I would have been alright, I reckon – but as it was I played the patient card and kept searching. I think the germ that really put me off was the fact that one of the other single blacks I’d done had been steep enough that I couldn’t actually stop on it; you’d just slide straight down if you weren’t moving fairly fast so as to cut in.

So I eventually found an easier double-black, Spirit Bowl, which turned out to be only mildly challenging – given it was very moguly and so ‘safe’ enough – and so I dub it a great first double-black. I had afterwards intended to take it easier, getting later in the day as it was and trying to be conscious of my level of exhaustion, but I couldn’t resist going down Three Wise Men as well, which was also good fun.

Now, granted both of those were pretty easy double-blacks, so it’s not as great an achievement as I would like, and I took them pretty slowly to boot… but if nothing else it’s torn down the psychological barrier of doing double-blacks. I now feel comfortable enough to try pretty much anything short of a cliff, which will be good for the rest of the season. I’ll finally go up The Wall at Kirkwood, for example, if I’m there again this season.

Also, I practised jumps a bit with Matt & Drew that previous day at Big White. Normally I suck at jumps – roughly a third of the time I land them perfectly, and the other two thirds the landing is horribly rough and I often pull something. I’d done that a few times over the trip up to that point, and while luckily nothing serious enough to stop me skiing, I did have a few very tender muscles by then. Anyway, somehow I got it together while practising with Matt & Drew, so I now feel a whole lot more comfortable with jumps as well.

So all in all, a real good trip in terms of not just enjoyment but also development.

Alas it had to end, and so skiing concluded for that day. We didn’t stay there that night, which was a shame because the hostel there is really nice – especially after the relatively shitty one at Big White – but instead went down to Kelowna. First up we went to an ice hockey game, which was a lot of fun – as idiot tourists we had no real idea who to go for or what was going on when it came to penalties and all that sort of thing, but it didn’t stop most people from yelling insults the whole time. It was all very redneck, but very entertaining. Also, Matt knew one of the wigs running the place, so he was able to choose Flash and Jamie to partake in the little games they do inbetween periods. Flash did great, but alas was – grossly unfairly, I might add – handicapped by the fact that the last item in his run was a chocolate bar, whereas at least one of the other guys had a box; much easier to grab. Backing up, Flash’s challenge was to run the length of the ice with a shopping cart, picking up four items at intervals while wearing big, bulky hockey gloves. He had two challengers. Most notable about the whole thing was that when they introduced the contestants, Flash got a huge applause, and then for the other two guys – both locals – it was cricket-chirping quiet. Everyone noticed, and we all felt a bit bad for the other two guys. 🙂

Jamie’s game was a little less entertaining – she simply had to shoot the puck at the net, though said net was covered by a board with only two smaller holes in the bottom. She hit the board, but not the holes. So she didn’t technically win anything, but it turns out she’d bet one of the guys running the challenge that she’d actually hit the board. Consequently he had to buy her five beers, or something. Which explains why it took half an hour for her to turn up again after that challenge – no-one had any idea where she was. 🙂

So that was all really good fun… in contrast to the Superbowl, which I had deliberately chosen to watch while I was in Vancouver, in the Beaver. The place was mostly full of Aussies of course, so the atmosphere was surely nowhere near as charged as a typical American bar would have been at the time… nonetheless, it was decidedly not charged mostly for the fact that it’s just a really boring game to watch. Granted there were a few exciting bits, such as the two-yard intercept right before half time. But otherwise… meh. But I did at least give it more than a fair go, so I can fairly say now that American football is paint-drying boring. And this from someone who can actually watch a good portion of a five day test match… I mean, the bar was about as low as it could get, but nonetheless it was not met. 🙁

Anyway, ice hockey is infinitely more interesting. Not something I could do regularly, but certainly a good evening to be had sporadically.

After that it was off to some favourite bar of Matts where it was promised that the girl/guy ratio would be 4:1 in our favour, directly converse to the state of affairs pretty much everywhere else we’d been on the tour. It was a little less than Matt made out, but by midnight it was at least pretty even, which is, in contrast to ‘home’ in Silicon Valley, ridiculously promising. So it was alright. 🙂

Alas I just didn’t really feel the mood to dance, even though most others did quite a bit, so I sat there looking uncomfortable – as I was told by some random girl that stopped by briefly – until some fairly early hour, where I gave up and headed out. Along with everyone else, as it turns out, though it was close to 2am by then and as it turns out most of the places were closing, so that became, for most people, an unexpected end of the evening.

It was a bit of a flat night, sadly, especially given it was the last time I saw most of the group; I was headed back to Vancouver while all but Jenny & Laz were continuing on further east with the tour, or flying out from Kelowna directly. I blame Flash (partly in jest, but partly seriously) as he was distinctly out of it that night, for reasons unknown but suspected to involve Jamie. 🙂

Though Pies and Ryan both went home with some new girlfriends, so it’s not like there was anything wrong with the bar. 🙂

Anyway… ah well. I’d had a great run in Vancouver for the few nights we were there, so I guess when Matt was repeatedly building up the place, my expectations just went stratospheric.

In the morning it was a 10am departure or somesuch, so a relative sleep in. Back to Vancouver. It was a fine ride back – largely uneventful and a little quiet, as we were all a bit tired. But good.

I have no recollection of what we did that night… at first I thought that was the night out with Matt and Candy and all, but I realise after writing as such that no, that was Monday night, because it was my last night.

Anyway… so the next day I again went off by myself. ’twas Monday. So I figured I’d hit up the maritime and space museums. Alas, they were closed as it turns out – pretty much nothing touristy was open; all closed on Mondays only. I did go up to the top of the Harbour Centre, which does actually have a good view despite what my initial suspicion was; that it was too built up around it to see much. And I ended up following the seawall all the way from the maritime museum back around False Creek and up to Stanley Park, just in time for sunset. I stopped at the Granville Market for a while, checking out everything there. We’d stopped there briefly the previous Sunday, on the tour, but had only really had enough time to wander the market quickly and get food. This time I was able to check out all the other stores around the place. There’s one there devoted entirely to dragons and fairies. It was sweet. 🙂

Alas there was no-one carving totems in the exhibition area they have there, which would have been cool to watch.

One advantage of Canada is that it has a large ‘French’ population, even in Vancouver, so the French bakery next to the market was genuinely French.

It’s a really nice walk, along the seawall there. It’s trivial to imagine living there and going out for a morning jog or ride.

I wandered through the Olympic village being constructed. They even built a little fake island, for some reason. I also saw a bunch of police or military or whatever out on their boats in the ‘creek’, practising their whole anti-terrism schtick. It seemed a tad pretentious to me, but whatever.

I wandered up to the Museum of Science, but it seemed very kid-orientated so I didn’t end up going in. Though I did watch the ball machine out the front for a while… alas only half of it was running, but such machines have always enthralled me since that first one in Northland.

So yeah, I ended up rocking back up to the hostel well after sunset. When I got back I chilled in the hostel’s common area for a little bit, chatting with a few of the people that were there. Matt came in and hung out for a while too, prior to Laz’s friend “Candy” finally getting her arse ready so we could all go out for dinner. (“Candy” in quotes because it’s not her real name, which annoyingly escapes me currently). Candy Laz met before I arrived, during the Australia Day celebrations. We went to some fairly nice Thai place which has hosted Pierce Brosnan (as demonstrated by a photo on the wall), so it must have been good. 😉

Afterwards we hung out in the Royal or whatever it’s called underneath our original hostel, the HI Central. We were there until closing at 2am, though it was a little… meh. I was actually quite happy, but Laz piked pretty early (it was back to 4:1 ratio against us) and Candy repeatedly noted that she wasn’t much interested – rubbish music, she insisted. Not sure what was going on there all told. Anyway, I did meet a bunch of Irish and English guys, friends of Candy’s, who were really cool. Couldn’t dance to save their lives, which made them even more entertaining. 🙂

Notable is the fact that there was a girl there, with her friend, that quite caught my eye. But she was intercepted by some random guy before I had a chance to make a move, and by 2am when we were getting booted out I was too lazy to do anything. Go me. 🙂

Laz & I had both, via Facebook, been attempting to tease out for that last night the girls we’d meet a week earlier in the Blarney Stone. Granted half of them had boyfriends as it turns out – which was a welcome confirmation that my spidey-sense was not in fact on the fritz when I got the impression that they were being nice but not that nice, despite Laz’s optimistic assertions otherwise – so it wasn’t with any biblical intentions… alas we didn’t hear from them. Still haven’t in fact… awww, blown off. 🙂

Which reminds me – when Daisy left us at Whistler it was abruptly; she went off to get her rentals with Matt, and only Matt returned. So only Matt got her contact details, the devious little bastard.. 🙂 And this was after she’d actually said to us that she wanted our contact details, and had seemed genuine in it too… shit! Matt then refused to share, metaphorically blocking us at it were. Ah well… I think we got over it. But, the worst thing is that Daisy was heading back to Brazil on Thursday or somesuch, and that night we came back to Vancouver on the tour, it turns out she had invited Matt (and presumably anyone else) out. But poor Matt, poor baby, he was feeling tiredy widey, so he said no and went to bed instead. And didn’t tell anyone else. Bastard. 🙂

So she left for Brazil and no one had a chance, even given she was actually interested in hanging out. Yep, that’s about my luck. 🙂

So anyway… back to the future again… so the last night ended grandly enough with the bar closing and us heading to bed. When I woke up in the morning, though, I really didn’t feel so great. At first I thought it was just the normal slow-morning feeling; dehydration and atrophy and all that – so I ignored it deliberately and set about doing things for the day. The girl at the front desk of the hostel recommended the Museum of Anthropology at the university there. Matt had also mentioned it as somewhere he really liked, so it came with enough rave reviews to well convince me to visit. Alas, it’s closed on Tuesdays (but not Mondays, argh for bad timing). Thank heavens the hostel girl checked for me while I was still there, so I at least didn’t get there to find that out. Instead, I ended up going around the corner to the Vancouver Museum of Art. And I forced myself to go through the entire museum before heading back to the hostel, despite being obviously crook at that point – I was wearing my Central jacket and yet was still freezing, literally shivering, which I just don’t do…

Back at the hostel I went to bed. Laz also did, too – as he later confessed, he too felt like rubbish at that point as well. It turns out Jenny was also sick, which aside from Matt covers everyone in the van on the way back. So something we all came into contact with was no good, evidently.

Anyway, I slept for a few hours before I had to head out to fly back, and when I woke I actually felt better. But I then got some real rum directions from the guy at the hostel desk about where to go to catch the airport bus… long story short I didn’t end up in the right place, so I was standing in the cold (2°C and at one point snowing) for nearly an hour before I first realised the error and the cab I called instead finally turned up. I made it to the airport with more than enough time to spare, but the damage was already done, I think – I felt really terrible by then, and having to push myself through the airport and the flight back, then wait again in the cold and rain in S.F. for the shuttle, etc… it was just exactly not what I needed at that point. I thought about, at the time – and in hindsight absolutely should have – moving the flight back a day or two. As it turns out all I did when I got back was sleep until Saturday, basically, missing those three days of work anyway.

’twas just the flu, I guess, though it’s the sickest I’ve been since I had glandular fever, as I think I noted previously. I’m mostly over it now, though there’s still a real bugger of a cough that I can’t quite shake, and an ever so slight lingering tiredness. Still, I rarely get anything worse than a 24-hour cold, so I’ve no real right to complain.

And it was nice to just sleep for a few days, and take a real relaxing break rather than adventurous one. I didn’t miss much at work, in any case, luckily… it’s been same old since I got back, for better or worse.

So that covers it, and signals a return to actually writing here in my journal (there will be an after-party, I’ll send out invites 😉 ). It was a real good trip – great to get out, do lots of skiing, see actual girls again; all the usual stuff. Now I’m back in miserable, raining California for another six months or more. 🙂

In vaguely related news, my finances are now at least laid out even if not fortunate, so I can affirm that I’m not needing to move into the gutter just yet. But unless the Aussie dollar fortuitously crashes for me in the next few months, it’ll be at least my birthday before I knock out my HECS debt. Which leaves precious little time, especially with my reduced income now, to save for any kind of trip in the summer. I haven’t spent any significant time contemplating it yet, short of this little blabber, but I may have to fall back to a November trip, as seems to be my inescapable habit. Still, could be worse.

Oh, and almost forgot, photos are up. I’ll also put up the videos at some point.

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