Jul 18, 2005

Truly disjointed.

My father takes care to remind me that I should make the most of enjoying this summer, since it could be my last summer spent as a "kid." He means, of course, that after I graduate college, I will be thrust into the work force, and work doesn't typically provide long, carefree summers. By the end of the fall semester, I'll have to have a job or career lined up for myself. Though I know the entire situation is going to be challenging; searching for a job while taking 18 rigourous credit hours; I have the confidence in myself that I can manage it. I always seem to be able to make things work out for myself when I put my heart to it, and I am sure this will be no exception. As for now, I plan on enjoying the rest of my summer, and Rayg knows there is still plenty of it left. A certainty is that I will be staying in Hawaii for awhile. In Hilo, I live about the perfect distance away from my parents. ...Too far for either of them to find the commute worthwhile in almost all situations, and close enough for me to conveniently visit on a weekend just to escape the grind. Living such a distance away seems to be ideal for my relationships with them. I can still visit them without going too far out of my way, but I don't see too much of them to the point where we get on each other's nerves.

So frequently, I hear someone mention how "dreamlike" or "surreal" an experience or event was for them. I have done so countless times, and have realised that any experience far from the ordinary or expected could be considered "dreamlike." We seem to develop this mental construction of "reality"- the procedural, routine, systematic, mundane, predictable day-to-day way of life that we foresee for ourselves everyday, and all that defies this construct projects a sharp contrast which can easily be perceived as surreal; imagery from a dream. And then I reason to myself that life is really nothing more than a dream with three major dimensions--that which is jointly perceived amongst different individuals- what is known as reality; that which is imagined; and, of course, the sub-conscious that produces involuntarily hallucinations. At this point, my entire North America trip, for the most part, feels like something I dreamt up one night. I recall several occasions while I was there that time seemed to creep along very, very slowly, and I just wanted one day to pass so I could get to the next. Now that it is over, I feel like it all went by in a flash. How that works is a phenomenon, something I cannot even rationalise. I imagine the entirety of one's life works the very same way. Childhood seemed to last a long, long time while I was enduring it, filled to the brim with innumerable bland, unmemorable moments. Now that it is confined strictly to my memory, childhood is just one extended highlight reel. I most easily recall the very best and the very worst, but the in-between is all but gone forever; not worth putting on a slide, and 99.99999% qualifies as "in-between." These deductions only further prove that life is really just a series of moments, those most treasured, those most lamented. Who knows when the next big memorable moment will take place? In the present, I could say life is going by awfully slowly, being only 23 years of age and sometimes feeling twice that old in terms of mentality. I am certain that when I turn 70, though, most of my past life will be a gigantic fuzzy blur and I will finally be able to say, "well, that went by awfully fast."

Searching the world for answers to explain our existence is a waste of time, when no such answers are to be found. Our existence simply is. It alone carries no bias and pushes no persuasion. It's up to us to devise the answers ourselves, for ourselves. Dream Theater said it best in their masterpiece of a song, "Take the Time":

Life is no more assuring than love
(It's time to take the time)
There are no answers from voices above
(It's time to take the time)
You're fighting the weight of the world
And no one can save you this time
Close your eyes
You can find all that you need in your mind

Life is what you make it, it's as simple as that. The real question is, how adventurous are you willing to be? How much are you willing to open your mind to what the world has to offer? The beauty of it is that there is something out there for everyone. The beauty of it is that beauty itself is not an exhaustible resource. It is my personal opinion that too many people look up, down, and around for all the answers, when they should really be looking in.

*Sigh* The moon is gorgeous, and so is the breeze... tomorrow night or perhaps the next, I may explore the ruins above Trey's horse ranch up the hill in the silvery moonlight. Maybe I will prance around barepawed on the old, overgrown tennis court. There is always room for a liberating moondance, especially in that wide open sea of tall, lush grass beyond it all. I love the supernatural presence I sense amongst that strange old temple... it always make me feel very welcome, even if the raucous mutts across the street from the grassy road in do not.

There is so much to look forward to, and I feel like shedding tears of joy, but I believe I will save them for the wander so that they may fall upon the natural earth.

Jul 17, 2005

Here's a toast to not being a complete tampon.

So, I saw the following ridiculous specimen floating about the Internet once again, and thought I would share my reaction to it:

This is a tribute to the nice guys. The nice guys that finish last, that never become more than friends, that endure hours of whining and bitching about what assholes guys are, while disproving the very point. This is dedicated to those guys who always provide a shoulder to lean on but restrain themselves to tentative hugs, those guys who hold open doors and give reassuring pats on the back and sit patiently outside the changing room at department stores. This is in honor of the guys that obligingly reiterate how cute/beautiful/smart/funny/sexy their female friends are at the appropriate moment, because they know most girls need that litany of support. This is in honor of the guys with open minds, with laid-back attitudes, with honest concern. This is in honor of the guys who respect a girl’s every facet, from her privacy to her theology to her clothing style.

This is for the guys who escort their drunk, bewildered female friends back from parties and never take advantage once they’re at her door, for the guys who accompany girls to bars as buffers against the rest of the creepy male population, for the guys who know a girl is fishing for compliments but give them out anyway, for the guys who always play by the rules in a game where the rules favor cheaters, for the guys who are accredited as boyfriend material but somehow don’t end up being boyfriends, for all the nice guys who are overlooked, underestimated, and unappreciated, for all the nice guys who are manipulated, misled, and unjustly abandoned, this is for you.

This is for that time she left 40 urgent messages on your cell phone, and when you called her back, she spent three hours painstakingly dissecting two sentences her boyfriend said to her over dinner. And even though you thought her boyfriend was a chump and a jerk, you assured her that it was all ok and she shouldn’t worry about it. This is for that time she interrupted the best killing spree you’d ever orchestrated in GTA3 to rant about a rumor that romantically linked her and the guy she thinks is the most repulsive person in the world. And even though you thought it was immature and you had nothing against the guy, you paused the game for two hours and helped her concoct a counter-rumor to spread around the floor. This is also for that time she didn’t have a date, so after numerous vows that there was nothing “serious” between the two of you, she dragged you to a party where you knew nobody, the beer was awful, and she flirted shamelessly with you, justifying each fit of reckless teasing by announcing to everyone: “oh, but we’re just friends!” And even though you were invited purely as a symbolic warm body for her ego, you went anyways. Because you’re nice like that.

The nice guys don’t often get credit where credit is due. And perhaps more disturbing, the nice guys don’t seem to get laid as often as they should. And I wish I could logically explain this trend, but I can’t. From what I have observed on campus and what I have learned from talking to friends at other schools and in the workplace, the only conclusion I can form is that many girls are just illogical, manipulative bitches, but this is not their fault, society makes them that way. Many of them claim they just want to date a nice guy, but when presented with such a specimen, they say irrational, confusing things such as “oh, he’s too nice to date” or “he would be a good boyfriend but he’s not for me” or “he already puts up with so much from me, I couldn’t possibly ask him out!” or the most frustrating of all: “no, it would ruin our friendship.” Yet, they continue to lament the lack of datable men in the world, and they expect their too-nice-to-date male friends to sympathize and apologize for the men that are jerks. Sorry, guys, girls like that are beyond my ability to fathom. I can’t figure out why the connection breaks down between what they say (I want a nice guy!) and what they do (I’m going to sleep with this complete ass now!). But one thing I can do, is say that the nice-guy-finishes-last phenomenon doesn’t last forever. There are definitely many girls who grow out of that train of thought and realize they should be dating the nice guys, not taking them for granted. The tricky part is finding those girls, and even trickier, finding the ones that are single.

So, until those girls are found, I propose a toast to all the nice guys. You know who you are, and I know you’re sick of hearing yourself described as ubiquitously nice. But the truth of the matter is, the world needs your patience in the department store, your holding open of doors, your party escorting services, your propensity to be a sucker for a pretty smile. For all the crazy, inane, absurd things you tolerate, for all the situations where you are the faceless, nameless hero, my accolades, my acknowledgement, and my gratitude go out to you. You do have credibility in this society, and your well deserved vindication is coming.

Coming out of the closet: the first step is always the hardest! Seriously, I feel it's hardly a coincidence so many homosexuals also happen to be nice.

I can safely say I generally dislike women myself, not to mention testosterone-crazed men who are essentially walking hard-ons, but I really don't have much respect for the utterly pussy-whipped pincushions either. They're just setting themselves up to be taken advantage of, and they deserve to be manipulated mercilessly for all their stupidity and incredible meekness. I wouldn't be at all surprised if more women preferred men who appropriately acted upon their masculinity as ordained by animal nature and understood that many women already have "girl friends" to do the jobs of "nice guys" for them. I do believe in chivalry, and treating your loved ones with respect, dignity, and compassion, but this incredibly deluded wally is preaching something entirely different. Either he is going to continue inevitably living a life of utter misery or start goal tending for the other team; I suspect by this time he has already done the latter. Increasing estrangement from the opposite sex probably means the gateway to gaydom is at least partially ajar at this point.

Honestly, "nice guys," it's hard to imagine that many "illogical, manipulative bitches" would be very sexually attracted to you when your overflowing syrupy sweetness completely overshadows your limp little libido. Personally, I wouldn't mind giving the author of the above post a nice, hard kick in the balls just to remind him of his manhood, providing he has any balls to kick. It's such a well-perpuated myth that what women are really looking for above everything is romance, chivalry, and in the perception of "nice guys," endless sucking up (though they would -never- call it that)! Women desire and think about sex just as much as men do; they are just much less vocal about it. If you want to get "laid," good sir, quit bitching about it and playing the victim and try making a quality pass sometime, showing that you do, in fact, have something in your pants besides a fistful of pubic hair. It's probably the only hope you'll ever have of scoring a touchdown.

Jul 15, 2005

No, it's not "awesome."

Though I have poked at it in a jesting manner in the past, I believe it is time I lay down a few serious words about the word "awesome" and my sincere thoughts on the excessive contemporary usage of it.

First, let me emphasise that I have nothing against the word "awesome" per se. In essence, it is a perfectly suitable word to describe something that is characterised by fearsome power or whose presence is greatly intimidating or capable of leaving one in awe. Then, there is the very unfortunate slang version of the word, which is basically used by the feeble-minded and ineloquent in speech and writing to describe everything that they find "great." Example:

"Did you hear the latest song by the awesome silent metal band Nightshush? The guitar solo was awesome, and so was the part of the spoken chorus that goes " " Words can't describe how awesome it is."

Even as a slang term, the word would not bother me nearly so much if so many people didn't use it to such a mind-numbing, nerve-grating excess. Considering all the beautiful, euphonious synonyms available, why not use one of those instead and at least distinguish yourself from the crowd in your verbal mannerisms? I mean, come on, take your pick:

...and many more!

Why so many people insist on using the word "awesome" over and over again is beyond me... it's a horrible pandemic, and I cannot be the only one who notices it and so strongly disapproves of it. The only way it could get any worse than it already is is if it was somehow turned into a verb: "Oh yeah, you better not awesome me! I'm much too awesome to ever be awesomed!" Of course, I expect to be spurned for making mountains out of molehills, but in truth, I'm not just lashing out against everyone because of a silly little pet peeve I have--I'm fighting for the integrity of the English language, both in the present and the future. I almost feel the need to applaud anyone who uses such words as "fantastic" or "magnificent" in an exclamatory fashion. Rayg bless their souls. Of course, I'm aware that what I say doesn't amount to much and that I do not expect to be taken at all seriously, but at least it does me good to get this off my chest.

The language can sound quite splendorous when used tastefully, but certainly not when the word "awesome" is used 500 times in a day. To be fair, I wouldn't care much if one used the word occasionally, or just let it slip out now and then, but honestly... start expressing yourself like you're older than your shoe size, please.

Jul 14, 2005

I really am looking forward to seeing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Honestly, it would make me feel like Nutty in a candy store.

Wolvenspirit's Summer Excursion Part V of V: The California Experience

I have never been that interested in photographing people. It isn't a stretch to conclude from viewing a single gallery of mine that I am much more nature-oriented in just about every respect, including photography. It has never been encouraging that just about every person or domestic animal I've offered to photograph seems to have a natural aversion to being photographed, either. Well, actually, my cat doesn't care, but that is somewhat beside the point, as he simply acts disinterested in most human affairs, aside from the administration of cat food. I can't say I blame him.

In the case of northern California, what I found most interesting there were the trees. It was still dark by the time I drove past the first series of really big 'uns, but even seeing the massive trunks illuminated by the headlights was impressive. Where I come from, trees don't get nearly so big. Most of the trees around these parts aren't nearly so old, either. Dawn had made some headway by the time I reached an exit for 'Avenue of the Giants,' a scenic alternative to the main freeway which was fashioned into a national park. We decided we had the time and energy to stare in awe at a few giant trees, so off the beaten path we ventured. As we proceeded slowly along the road through the dark forest, seeing no other signs of human life anywhere, one particular grove beside the road caught my interest. I just had to stop, jump out, and walk around. See, the trunks some of these trees were boasting were about as wide as the rear door on our SUV--and our SUV was rather large. To stand under these specimens and look up was, well, a very psychologically dwarfing experience. They seemed to rise up into the sky forever. If one was actually nimble enough to climb up on one of the fallen logs, they could get quite a view from the top. This was the kind of forest I would love to live in--the atmosphere was incredibly enchanting, the understory very clean and attractive, and the wildlife abundant--we saw a mule deer, a few bunnies, and a raccoon. I felt very much at peace there. These were the kinds of trees that tree huggers would hug if tree huggers could only save trees they hugged. To imagine one of them being sawed down for the benefit of mankind was, well, heart-rending.

A couple miles down the road was a side route which led past the largest tree I have ever seen. I mean, it was unfathomably huge. This picture wouldn't look nearly as impressive if I hadn't parked the SUV right next to it to provide some perspective. No photography/Photoshop tricks were used, I swear. The SUV is parked no more than a couple metres away from the base of the tree. If that tree fell in the middle of the forest, it has a good chance of making a few people care.

More of the park remained to be seen, but we decided we would better manage our time by merging back on the freeway and moving along. Once again, I turned the driving duties over to my much less road-worn father. Honestly, to attempt to drive all the way to San Francisco in my present condition would have been idiotic. I must have slept for a good couple hours, as by the time I woke up, we were only 90 or so miles from the city. He mentioned when I once again took the wheel that I had missed plenty of "awesome" scenery (yes, he uses that dreadful word excessively too, unfortunately). I was given the opportunity to see wine country, something I saw plenty of in the one-small-step-above-mediocre romantic comedy Sideways. Somehow, the scenery all seemed a little duller in person and without Paul Giamatti.

I was happy to finally arrive in San Francisco, though. It marked yet another milestone in our trip; another huge chunk of driving conquered. Interestingly, as we stopped at the Golden Gate Recreation Area and viewed the famous bridge from the lookout, I felt like I had just been there yesterday. I'll even go so far as to say that I felt like I lived there. San Francisco was, in fact, the first stop in our last mainland trip, and we had stayed there for a few days before catching a train to Portland. Our last mainland trip covered only the western section of the U.S., though, and was very relatives-oriented. Everything seemed very familiar to me, and I wasn't all too comfortable with that fact. It was the first time on the trip that I ever got that feeling. Then again, I had never been to most of the places we had previously visited, save Seattle and Portland. Golden Gate Park seemed less familiar, most likely because I had never been there before. For some reason, I didn't find San Francisco as fascinating as I thought I would... mostly due to that feeling of familiarity. I felt like I was a native, not a tourist. I felt like I should have been hurrying back to my day job in a high rise.

There was one place I had my sights set on visiting, though--Amoeba Records. I had heard from my friend that this store was one of the best music stores he had ever set foot into, and I wanted to see it for myself. Once again, it took about half an hour of wrong turns and screwing around before we finally found the correct address on Haight Street. Oh, but it was Love at first sight. This store was massive, selling new and used CD's of every possible genre, music posters, LP's, and even DVD's in an entirely separate section. I must have spent at least an hour and a half there poring over the huge selection of music. The electronica section alone could have taken an entire day to properly browse through. In the end, I bought a few CD's, and ended up very satisfied with my selections.

I was blessed indeed to have music to keep me company during the drive--crawl, rather, out of San Francisco. Due to some accident or another, getting back on the I-5, just a few miles away, stole at least an hour from our day. I was reminded of the opening scene from Falling Down, only I wasn't on my way home from work, we weren't yet in L.A., and the A/C was working. I could feel my temper rising, but did not let it get the best of me. The next place we stopped, I decided to again rest in the backseat while my father drove, not volunteering to take control of the wheel again until Los Angeles was just over the mountains. Truth be told, the L.A. stop was something I wanted to get over with as quickly as possible. I wasn't looking forward to spending a night in Hollyweird, and dare I say, I wasn't looking very forward to having to socialise with my brother. When it comes to the subject of my brother, I always can't help but stress how we are different as night and day. It's not because I want that to be true- it's because that is true. It often seems as if he stands for everything I don't, and vice versa. I refuse to delve too heavily into the subject at this point in time, though. Contrary to years past, we are able to treat each other with a modicum of civility, but we certainly not in a very friendly way. There is always too much tension present between us.

Darkness has already fallen by the time we finally interpreted the directions he gave us correctly and found his little dwelling in Hollyweird- an apartment building on the third story, only about a quarter mile from Sunset Boulevard. Though it was the last sort of place I would ever consider living, it seemed suitable enough for a night's stay. His apartment was at least twice the size of mine, though I can't say the atmosphere was any more cheerful. Unfortunately for my tendency to be a light sleeper in new environments, the city never slept. Throughout the night, I would be awakened by someone revving their engine or honking their horn or shouting and carrying on like a drunk. Some places... they just make you appreciate home even more.

I must say, I had been looking very forward to the next morning. This was the day I would get up before everyone else, gather a few things of mine, and take the SUV by myself out of Hollyweird and down to San Diego. I would finally meet my best online friend in person, so he would forever shed the status of "online" friend, at least in my book which has yet to be published or even written. Our initial plan was to head up to San Bernardino together and attend a music festival there until the wee hours of morning before heading back to my brother's place and sleeping for a few hours. From there, we would drive back to Ian's place, and my father would take the SUV back to Hollyweird, and allow a couple days for driving it back to Seattle and returning it and flying back to Hawaii on the 28th. I was scheduled to return to paradise on July 5th, leaving me about ten days to spend with my friend. It all seemed to work out splendidly, save for a few minor twists, most of which turned out to be positive ones.

Unsurprisingly, Ian and I were so delighted to finally meet one another that we could barely contain ourselves. Considering we had been communicating online since February of 2004, and had grown close even from a distance since then, this was a much anticipated moment. It was an utterly joyous sensation. I was given the opportunity to meet his folks and become acquainted with his bedroom, where I would be spending the night for the next week or so. His mother, out of concern for us, booked a hotel for us to sleep in after we decided to leave the festival, rather than attempt to drive all the way back to Hollyweird from San Bernardino in our potentially exhausted state. As soon as we were given clearance, we took off!

Even the drive up there was very memorable. We listened to good music, conversed a little, and generally became familiar with each other's physical presence. When we reached San Bernardino, it must have took at least an hour driving around looking for the National Orange Show (the grounds upon which the festival was held), much less the hotel we would be staying in. Finally, we had to stop at the Hilton and ask for directions to the Radisson. It turned out to be a few miles from where we thought it was. Some help your maps were, Yahoo!. The hotel room turned out to be quite luxuriant, certainly a safe haven from the rest of San Bernardino. We both agreed that it was truly a disgusting desert town, a place that neither of us would ever want to live in, much less visit unless for a very good reason. That evening presented a very good reason- the Electric Daisy Carnival. The following is a C/P of something I posted elsewhere, which is conveniently suitable for this entry:


The EDC was the first rave I have ever attended. For years, I have been desiring the opportunity to experience one. My interest in raves has greatly increased in the past two years, as well, as I have become very passionate about electronic music and its culture. I must declare that Saturday's rave was nothing short of mind-blowing. It was easily the most affecting musical performance I have ever attended. Of course, the magnificence of the experience was also due in large part to having gone with Ian, who besides being an amazing individual and friend, is also responsible for fueling my interest in such music over the past year and a half. We are both devoted electronica fans, and it seemed as if this show was tailor made for us.

The event ran from 4 in the afternoon to 2 in the morning, and was comprised of several high profile deejays performing on four different stages. The audience was allowed to wander between stages at their leisure to attend different performances, and there were plenty of free amusement rides, food stands, and music/rave merchandise for sale. It was such a terrific venue, featuring quite a few artists performing live who we were at least somewhat familiar with. Not to mention, it was incredible how friendly practically everyone seemed to be. If someone bumped into you, they would stop and apologise, and then get wrapped up in a ten minute conversation with you about how sensational the music was and the wonderful feelings that were prevailing. Everyone seemed open, approachable, and sincere. Ordinarily, I am not one to feel comfortable in large crowds of human beings, but I actually felt at home with these people. I was quite taken aback by this, but I found it very comforting. As soon as we stepped out of the car in the parking lot, someone complimented Corrupt on his wearing a Happy Tree Friends t-shirt. We knew the evening was going to be something special. I was proudly wearing my Sonic the Hedgehog t-shirt, representing one of my favourite furries of all time. Like us, many were prepping themselves for the show by playing electronica in their cars. Before we even stepped in through the gate, I felt as if I actually fit in somewhere for once.

The two ultimate stand-outs of the show for us, though, were Infected Mushroom and Junkie XL. I remember the days of being obsessed with IM's earlier music but having no idea who they were, what they looked like, where they were from, or what they were about. Seven years later, I can safely say that I have come a long way. When we shuffled into Kinetic Field, feeling that familiar infectious beat pulsating through our bodies, I nearly orgasmed. I was quite convinced I was dreaming when I saw the two stellar deejays up there playing "Electro Panic." They played quite a few of our favourite songs, in fact. The lighting effects were spectacular, and the intensity of the music was overpowering. We wouldn't have been able to stop our bodies from moving to the beat if we had wanted to. After awhile, I absolutely felt one with the crowd. The building was packed, and I was surrounded by bodies in motion, all infected and infused with the same melodies as mine was. Some guy randomly put his arm around my shoulder and took our picture together, which I actually did not mind at all. Whereas I would ordinarily feel unacceptably violated by such an act, I instead gave him a high five. And when a girl dancing next to me grabbed my paw and waved it in their air with hers for a few moments, I felt quite ecstatic, to feel so connected with people of such similar passions. It's something I truly have never experienced in person before. It felt no less an appropriate place for my body and spirit than a deep forest draped in the twilight fog. It is my dream, though, to someday set up or attend a rave in such a setting, amongst many others.

When Junkie XL appeared on stage immediately after IM's stellar performance, I began to really feel the euphoria settling in. We managed to squeeze our way in to the very front so that only the railing and the speakers separated us from the stage. I could actually feel the air emitting from the speakers as they thumped with that beautiful rave beat and rattled my internal organs with their bass. Junkie XL has a way of riling up the audience, not only with his splendorous music but his behaviour on stage. He went wild himself at times, letting his music take hold of him as he gazed over a sea of ecstatic faces. He was no less absorbed in the music than the adoring crowd before him, and he wasn't afraid to show it. In fact, neither were we. My self-consciousness around other people all but slipped away as I let my body groove and move to the music. I am convinced that only a rave of this calibur could possibly have such an effect on me. It was just incredibly liberating and euphoric, even more than I ever imagined it to be.


Near the end of his performance, we decided to depart, the noise and the commotion finally beginning to overwhelm us. It was nice to step out into the cool night air once again, our ears ringing and buzzing. In fact, neither of us could hear much, even the lady shouting at us to let us know we couldn't get back in if we exited. We finally heard her, though, and let her know as she moved the barrier out of our way that we had our fill for the night. We were both still infused with euphoria, the music still pounding in our heads, the dreamlike atmosphere of it all leaving us in a state of awe. On our way back to the hotel, we received a nice little sample of just what a pathetic scumhole the town really was. Outside a convenience store, a bum was trying to get us to listen to his life story so we would eventually spare him a few quarters, but inside, it got even worse. The clerk was behind bullet-proof glass, and we actually had to scan our own merchandise and slide her the money underneath it. Any more telling evidence that this was a high crime area would have been downright terrifying. We scooted out of there as quickly as we could, in a rather shocked state as we completely ignored the bum by the dumpster. This simple stop was enough to make both of us happy to live where we did, and feel thankful that we were heading back to a decent hotel.

It wasn't long before we both fell asleep, only to have to rise at the ungodly hour of 5:30 in the morning. The goal was to arrive back at Hollyweird by 6:45 so my father could drive us back to San Diego and be at his coin convention on time. Getting up wasn't easy; we would have much rather enjoyed the nice room for a greater duration of time, but we managed. The drive west wasn't painful, with minimal traffic and, as usual, good music. Good music, after all, seems essential at times. When we arrived at my brother's apartment, well... my father was asleep, and my brother and his friend were on the couch, wide awake as if they had been waiting up all night for us to come in. Unsurprisingly, Ian on a dime decided that he didn't like my brother. I certainly wasn't expecting someone so much like myself to, especially with the sorts of comments he made. "You should've went to the after-party, that's when hot chicks start making out and stuff." "Hey, want a hit of my bong?" Really, it was his general machoistic attitude, his "holier-than-thou" aura about him which made us both of us wanted to leave as quickly as possible. At the very least, he was kind enough to wake up my father, who complained about getting only a couple hours' sleep because my brother and his friend had kept him up all night. I begrudgingly gathered up all my possessions and packed them in the truck, assuring Ian that it would be much better if he just waited outside. We finally took off, and it was... a somewhat tense trip back to San Diego, with my father's crankiness and everyone's tiredness. Fortunately, he kept quiet most of the way. When we reached Ian's house, I extracted all my baggage from the SUV, and it seemed like it took an eternity for my father to finally leave. We were both positively delighted when he finally drove off, leaving us to our own devices.

Every day I spent there in Ocean Beach, we did something special, even if it was as simple as a stroll down along the west coast's longest pier at twilight. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, his company alone being more than enough to do so. I knew we would connect so well in person. He showed me a variety of great restaurants, from Ortega's to the Olive Garden, and was in general an excellent host, like Wayne Campbell. Ian and I can relate in so many ways, it's frightening. It's easy to consider the possibility that he is my true long-lost brother, and that my other so-called brother is just a poser. In fact, our relationship can best be defined as "brotherly." We don't mind sharing the same straw, or talking about anything, or spending all day in each other's presence. I honestly feel that we were meant to be meet, and we finally did. I also got the chance to meet a couple friends of his, both of whom turned out to be very nice people. One of them I actually knew online since the year 2000, so finally meeting him was quite a fascinating experience. It all still feels like a dream. On the 20th, he is coming to Hawaii, and isn't to leave until the 19th of August. We shall have an exceptional amount of fun together, yes. I may very well find a few opportunities to write about our experiences here during this duration of time.

When his mother dropped me off at the airport on the 5th, I told her I loved her, and I did mean it. I did find her to be an amazing person, a jewel in the rough, just like the person she created who I had, by some odd twist of fate, met online and hope to be friends with for the rest of my days. It was a perfect conclusion to a splendid adventure, one I shall never soon forget. The ride back to Hawaii seemed to last an eternity, as I was seated next to a couple and their detestable toddler who insisted on crying and screaming on a regular basis, but my iPod, particularly Wolfsheim and Hybrid, helped me through it. When we finally landed in Kona, I was quite happy to be home. There was nowhere else I felt more at home.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Buy my album, please.

His true holiness.

Seeing as no one ever knows what the hell I'm talking about when I make references to Rayg, readers of my journal will have a leg up on everyone else!

You see, I just find the conventional god to be incredibly dull and boring, and he really doesn't do anything for me. Rayg, on the other paw, is a tall, divinely powerful, all-knowing gargoyle that does! This Magnus interpretation of Him is the best that I have seen yet.

You can have your awesome god; I'm perfectly happy with my magnificent Rayg. Rayg bless all that is good!

Wolvenspirit's Summer Excursion Part IV of V: New Places, Old Faces

The second half of our epic trip, it seemed, was much more "people-oriented." That is, we met up and stayed with a few different individuals; a couple of my father's friends from way back in the day, my brother in Hollyweird, and my friend in San Diego. Much of our time was spent socialising with these people and having them show us a good time, rather than us constantly trying to show ourselves a good time like typical tourists. As soon as we rolled into Calgary late in the evening, the trip began to carry a much different complexion.

I did enjoy the drive up to Calgary. It did offer me my first taste of the flat grassy plains region east of the Rockies; that type of landscape which made up so much of Canada. Something was absolutely phantasmagoric about the way the yellow moon rose above the soft, gently sloping hills in the distance. It was quite a dramatic change from the mountainous terrain I had already grown accustomed to, but not an altogether unwelcome one. A feeling of dread didn't begin to settle in until we actually arrived at the outskirts of Calgary. As soon as my eye caught some of the suburbs near the road, I knew I was not going to like this place. In these dismal little lots, every home seemed squished together all too closely, and each one looked exactly the same. The same dull, characterless shades of white and grey, repeated a few hundred times. I found it absolutely depressing, even aside from the fact that I couldn't see so much as a tree anywhere. The closest homes, in fact, were located right next to a railroad track. How pleasant. I would hold my judgment of the city, though, until I saw the actual city.

At around 10:30, we stopped and met Mark Fellowes, my father's old friend, at a Tim Horton's (Canadian equivalent to Dunkin' Donuts) in the drab little suburb of Airdrie. We was truly the jolly old Englishman type, and one would think from his heavy British accent that he had never left the United Kingdom. Amusingly, he was wearing an aloha shirt, shorts, and sandals, -the- Hawaiian style of dress. He and my father greeted each other like two good friends who had not seen each other in decades, which was indeed the truth. Mark did remind me of my father in personality: he was talkative, opinionated, had a sense of humour and irony, and had a wealth of fascinating stories to tell. After the initial meets and greets, he drove his Blazer back to his homestead and we followed him. Unfortunately, he lived in suburban hell, but I was hardly given to complain, considering we were given a place to stay cost-free from a couple nights. The house itself, in fact, was very nice and well-kempt, due to the fact that he had a cleaning lady, despite a wife and two daughters also living with him. I politely sat in the living room for awhile, enduring the whole social routine of introducing several aspects of myself to him and his wife. I did find some of the conversations between him and my father about the "good old days" mildly interesting, but for the most part, I was too exhausted to pay much attention. I was thankful for the opportunity to finally go to sleep on the couch in the basement, after enjoying a nice, hot shower.

My father and I slept in late the next morning. In fact, morning had already vanished before either of us awoke. As it turned out, he and Mark had played Chess until 5 in the morning. When I stepped outside into the backyard and noticed what a sultry, dreary sunny day it was, I was thankful that I had slept in so late. The backyard, though, was turned into a beautiful English garden, full of magnificent flowers and smashingly handsome plants. Besides that, directly over the fence opposite from the house was a sprawling green football (soccer, you American jokers) field. I certainly found this preferable to, say, even more seemingly identical houses standing there instead. Even still, I could not help but find this place as a future living prospect rather dismal. In the distance, I noticed but one construction site after another, a sure sign that the entire community was rapidly growing, and that there must have been a good job market. Moving from paradise to a place like that, though, was something I would probably never even consider.

I can assert without a shred of doubt that the afternoon we spent touring a section of downtown Calgary was probably the worst time I had on the entire trip. It wasn't the company I was with at all that made me so melancholy- I enjoyed Mark's personality and found him to be a very likeable "Fellow," and his wife was also hospitable. It was something about the city's atmosphere, something about the dry heat and the hot sun beating down on me as we strolled down a crowded downtown avenue. It all made me very, very depressed, but I just tried the best I could to simply go along with it. I found absolutely nothing I liked about the city at all; the cowboy/rodeo culture only got on my nerves, the cityscape seemed almost obscenely formulaic. It was hot and breezeless, the streets reeked of car exhaust and fast food grease, and my ears were violated with the sounds of loud people, noisy traffic, and the booming bass of rolling stereos. I was sweating not only from the heat, but all the energy I was consuming simply in trying to keep a cool head. Thirsty as I was, when they tried to drag me into a Starfucks cafe for something to drink, I politely declined, insisting that it was against my politics. I abhor Starbucks with a passion, and almost considered it adding insult to injury that they would stop there of all places. In all honesty, I wanted to either go on an anger rampage or go hide in a corner and cry. If I had brought my iPod, which had been a lifesaver in more than a few occasions, I would have been able to settle myself down much more easily, as music can be very soothing. But this time, I didn't even have that much going for me.

When I took a small excursion by myself to a local cafe and bought a large smoothie, downing it in a dark, cool, quiet corner for a few minutes, I started to relax, and the day improved from there. I headed back to Starfucks and recongregated with my companions, and from there we returned to the Blazer and Mark drove us to the local mall. Now, as much as I am not a huge fan of malls, my experience there was a thousand times more enjoyable. We all ate in a fairly nice Mexican restaurant before going our separate ways. I found an HMV store and bought a couple CD's I had been searching for for quite some time, and finally got a chance to explore The Bay, an unbelievably expansive, three-level department store that sold just about everything but kitchen sinks (or maybe I missed that section). Mark's wife offered to drive me to Best Buy before going home, and there, I found another FM radio tuner for my iPod, seeing as I had somehow lost the one I had received in the mail a few months ago. I must say, the day had improved greatly, and twilight was a beautiful sight.

Later that evening was just another living room social festival, and I accepted an offer for a Canadian beer. I wasn't expecting to like it, but I found that it tasted rather pleasant, relative to the American garbage. The best experience of the night, by far, was stepping outside into the yard and looking up into the sky. A band of extremely dark clouds had formed directly above, and they looked so awesome and intimidating in the fading daylight. When I heard that first clap of thunder, witnessed that first flash of beautiful, brilliant white light, I wanted to jump for joy. I did, in fact, let myself out into the soccer field and prance around for awhile, the jovial, invigorating, and anticipatory atmosphere of an approaching storm infecting my spirit and my body. I was witness to a few beautiful bolts of lightning streaking across the sky, and a few ground-rumbling bursts of thunder. I considered the storm cell some gorgeous monster I had secretly befriended. I was standing upon its shoulder as it roared and rumbled over the neighbourhood it chose to threaten that evening, applauding its every jaw-dropping display of stupendous power and patting it on its back for a job well done.

The next morning, it was time to move on. We said our goodbyes to our excellent hosts and to my delight, somehow found our way out of Calgary's suburban hell. The next few days would be spent driving, driving, and more driving, with only a few rest stops. We chose to follow a lonely highway out of southern Alberta and into Montana, with every intention of going through Kalispell and visiting Glacier National Park on the way to Oregon. Getting back into America was no issue, and the scenery began to change immediately after we crossed the border. It filled me with a sense of glee to see the Rockies again, this time in Montana. Sunny days have a tendency to look much better up in the mountains, where everything is cooler, sunshine isn't so ordinary and expected, and the brilliant light brings out the best in almost every physical feature.

Glacier National Park was simply amazing. In a sense, I found much of it even more impressive than most areas in the Canadian Rockies. Though it could have just been the conditions of that particular day, everything seemed even more colourful and spectacular. Some of the waterfalls that could be witnessed from the side of the road were breathtaking, as were the gorgeous snow-capped peaks. The road itself was a blast to drive, as in many places it was very narrow and neatly hugged the cliff faces, and it was always characterised by incredible scenery on either side. In a couple places, small waterfalls splashed directly onto the road, serving as a sort of free complementary carwash. We certainly took our time getting through the park, as I stopped and took photographs obsessively.

A stroke of misfortune did occur there, though. When I reversed out of a pull-out, convinced there was no one behind me, I was startled by a honk of a horn, and almost simultaneously, the realisation that I had backed into something. That "something" turned out to be a mini-van full of Asian tourists, which had somehow appeared seemingly out of nowhere. How I didn't see his vehicle was beyond me. At any rate, my father insisted on trading places and pulling back into the original position we had been in. It's quite funny how it worked out, actually. The occupants of the van, particularly the driver, was rather late in emerging from his vehicle, and didn't even notice that I was the one that had in fact backed into him. Seeing my father come out of the driver's side, they assumed it was him who did it, which was fortunate, considering the rental was registered to him and I wasn't even -supposed- to be driving. We were also quite lucky to have this happen in America, since we would not have covered by insurance in Canada.

It turned out a small section of the van's bumper was caved in, which ours barely had a scratch on it. I was definitely not impressed by the weakness of their bumper, nor was I impressed with myself for dealing such damage. Some young girl insisted on annoyingly videotaping everything, including the exchanging of contact/insurance information and the filling out of an accident report. This little accident put a little damper on the day, but I do have one good thing to say about it: we haven't heard from them or their insurance company to this day. They had also been driving a rental, so at least they couldn't have complained about us undermining the vanity of 'their' car. About half an hour later down the road, my father allowed me to drive again, but not before giving me an earful. What else can I say but accidents happen, especially when driving oh so many miles? I feel lucky that was the only accident that happened throughout the entire trip, with the way some people drive.

It was already dusk by the time we traversed across the Idaho panhandle, and I ended up driving through another thunderstorm near Couers d'Alene, much to my wonderment. We ended up stopping in Spokane for something to eat, and I also found that city somewhat depressing. There was absolutely no nightlife to speak of unless you count city construction crews, the air was uncomfortably cold even in the early summer, and everything looked unbecomingly funky. This -was- the main downtown section, mind. At this point, I already felt like I had my fill of mainland cities.

Finally, I turned the wheel over to my father, as I had truly become sick of driving freeways in the dark. I believe I fell asleep for a considerable length of time, as the next thing I knew dawn had arrived and we had just about made our way into Oregon along the Columbia River. For some reason, my memory of passing through Portland is rather hazy. I recall that it was extremely foggy, and exceptionally verdant. We had originally planned on spending at least a day in Portland so I would get a feel for the city, but alas, we passed it by on a freeway in less than half an hour. It's not as if I would have experienced anything particularly new, either; we had visited relatives in the city the last time we had gone in a mainland trip around ten years ago. I was in a trance of sorts all the way down to Salem, where I finally began to snap out of it and insisted on driving again. I wasn't exactly well-rested, but I at least felt I could keep my eyes open for a duration of time.

Admittedly, though, the rather boring scenery along I-5 had a certain sedative quality about it. Staying alert was gradually becoming more and more difficult the closer to Winston we got. My father had arranged to meet his other old friend named Mark at his house just outside of Winston, and it was quite a bit of an extra drive from Portland, especially at this point. Taking a pit stop at a rest area truly helped me overcome my weariness, though, for being able to move around a little, "evacuate," and get something to eat and drink truly helps in such situations. Eventually, I finally made it to the Winston exit, and we stopped at a convenience store, where my father tried calling Mark again for some exact directions. He didn't answer his phone, leaving us to go searching for a map. When we obtained one, we tried driving down main street looking for the first road that led to his house, but to no avail. I cannot say I was really in the mood to deal with much screwing about. When we stopped at a 7-11, something rather impeccable happened. We asked the ditzy clerk behind the counter if she knew where Byran Creek Road was, and she just gave us a blank stare. Another customer, however, said he happened to be heading over to Byron Creek Road, and offered to lead us there. What was so amazing about this was that Byron Creek Road was several miles out of town, reached by quite an assortment of other separate roads. What were the chances that someone else in the store would be heading all the way over there, not to mention overheard our question? It has got to be Luck of the Irish.

I followed his white pick-up truck way out into the backcountry, trying not to lose sight of him as he was a very fast driver. The gravelly one-lane Byron Creek Road led past a few modest rural homesteads, and we had but one address in mind. Unfortunately, we experienced great difficulty finding it. Between a lower address number and a higher address number, we expected to find Mark's house. All we found, though, were patches of forest and a creek. We searched up and down for awhile, before finally venturing down a backroad and, by chance, creeping through a gate and happening upon him and his place. We were also greeted by a couple of scroungy-looking, but very friendly three-legged mutts and a large, full-grown Sharpie named Lucy, who just happened to be his dog.

I definitely remembered Mark Jackson from my early childhood. He had played a rather large role in it, after all, as he had been a best friend of both my parents for years and years. He was about as "hippie" as they come, never seen without his long hair and long beard, and showing an otherwise ungroomed appearance. He didn't just look it, though, he acted it. He had lived in a 'commune' with my father for a good number of years, and I can hardly imagine what that must have been like. Living as cheaply as possible and keeping it simple was always his motto. He had taken care of our homestead in Oregon while we were away having a disastrous vacation in Mexico, and also put our old golden retriever, Heather, out of the misery associated with her old age. Amusingly, one thing I remember him best for was the large buckets of home-made cheese dip he would bring over with him nearly everytime he visited us. I loved that stuff as the Canadian summer days were long.

Mark does remind me of myself in a lot of ways. He is a leftie with a very quirky personality, a dry, oddball sense of humour, a deep fondness and appreciation for the outdoors, and a very autonomous, free-spiritedness nature. It was very interesting to shake his hand and meet up with him for the first time in seventeen years, and I imagine seeing that I had become as tall as he was was even more fascinating for him. He and my father had barely talked at all for several years, so we had had no idea how much or how little he had changed. Come to find out, he hadn't changed much at all. He was living completely on his own in a very modest, private little place in the Oregon backcountry, and had no computer, television set, or even a bathroom. He and my father made a living designing, creating, and selling jewelry at craft fairs for a number of years, and he still had a jewelry shop set up in his house- I imagine that must have one of his primary occupations. Oh, there was also a nice little football (no really, football) field nearby, and I kept myself entertained for a spelling kicking the ball into the goal from a considerable distance. The contrast between the way this Mark was living and the Calgary Mark was living was, needless to say, extremely heavy. Though Mark Fellowes was essentially doing his own thing as an independent graphics designer, this Mark didn't even require a job with his mode of living. He insisted that the occasional social event with his neighbours kept him from ever getting too lonely; but then again, Mark is the kind of man who rarely gets lonely. I rather admired him for what he had going for himself. He was living exactly the way he wanted to live; he wasn't a slave to some suburb or city, but rather an occupant of a very peaceful, health-promoting environment. One theme that was repeatedly driven into my head throughout the course of this journey was, "the closer you live to a city, the more of a slave to it you are."

He did offer to let me crash in his old camper, where he normally slept. I was grateful for the opportunity to finally lay down somewhere soft, and fell fast asleep, dozing through most of the afternoon. When I was finally rested enough to get up, my father had just gone to bed. Yup, you guessed it, another few long rounds of Chess with his old friend. I spent a good amount of time exploring the backcountry and mentally and physically preparing myself for the remainder of the drive into California. Everything was right on schedule for us. We would end up leaving Mark's place later in the evening (after having gone up to his German neighbour's house to watch the last game of the NBA finals, bleh) and cruising down into northern California via the coastal highway. My father had a fabulous time communing with his friends from yesteryear, and I enjoyed the company of both of them. And hey... nothing beats staying for free.

Jul 13, 2005

Wolvenspirit's Summer Excursion Part III of V: The Canadian Rockies Experience

The clock on the radio read 3:15 a.m., yet somehow, I could already see the earliest signs of dawn. That daylight could possibly rear its head so early was mind-boggling to me, until I saw an Alberta checkstop sign and realised that we must have crossed into mountain standard time. Even still, dawn at 4:00 in the morning was not something I was accustomed to. Spending the longest day of the year up at this latitude was, in fact, fascinating for me. The longest daylight lasts in the Hawaiian islands is around fourteen hours. Up there, the daylight persisted somewhere around twenty hours. I suppose they are used to it, but I certainly wasn't.

As the dawn gradually grew brighter, I began to witness more scenery, and found it, well, nothing short of breathtaking. We were descending a wide mountain pass, looking down upon several steel blue lakes and snow-capped mountains. It all looked positively majestic in the youthful light. Admittedly, at this point I was tired, but riveted by the scenery at the same time. We finally passed through the gate to Jasper National Park, which was of course unmanned so early in the morning. After another 45 minutes or so of driving, we reached the town of Jasper, where we refueled and inquired as to where the campsites were. We ended up driving through Whistler's, a very large, spread out campsite located in the foothills of Whistler's Mountain, much of which was not populated at all. We found ourselves a very secluded, tranquil campsite amongst the evergreens and decided to pitch our tents and settle down for a spell. It was still only 6 in the morning or so by the time I nestled down to sleep. Sleep was something I desperately needed.

Unfortunately, at around 8:30, we were both awakened by a park ranger who ordered us to pack everything up and sign up at the front kiosk for an assigned camping spot. The section of the campground we had chosen was "closed" until peak season, apparently. I was half-expecting something of the sort to happen, and wasn't exactly thrilled when it did. We were charged a considerable amount per person for camping, and shoehorned into a little site located in a ring of occupied campsites. Having last camped at a secluded little lake, this was rather difficult to adjust to, having people camped on either side of us and totally within our view. This is the sort of camping I never cared for, personally, but we didn't have much of a choice. I built up my tent as quickly as I could and retreated into it, thankful for the privacy, and laid my weary bones to rest for a good few hours.

Once again, my father hung around the camp all day long, while I took the car and explored a few locations in the park. I was delighted to discover a small cemetery on the outskirts of town. Though there was not anything truly exceptional about it in comparison to other cemeteries I had been to, I was able to bask in the serenity and solitude it offered for about an hour. Honestly, I am one of the very few individuals I know who enjoys cemeteries so much. It was one of those very comforting overcast days, where it felt only natural to be wandering around outside, especially in such a beautiful area. Amongst all those deep blue lakes and tall white mountains, I truly felt at home. This was a very wolf-friendly place, to say the least. In the charming little town of Jasper, I even found a gift shop by the name of "Timberwolf." Perfect, no? Later in the day, I returned to camp and helped gather some firewood. I ended up going to sleep before the last remaining traces of daylight faded from the sky, around 11 in the evening.

The following day proved to be even more interesting. The weather was much clearer than the day before, and the sun even shined at times (go figure!). We left camp to head up the hill to the Jasper Tramway, another money vacuum which is still a fairly obligatory tourist activity, heavily purported to be worth doing at least once. A ticket cost $21 per individual--to get to the summit, it was either pay that much for a tram ride or hike 9 or so kilometers up the mountain while watching fat, lazy people ride up without moving a muscle, teehee. If I was alone and had more time to spend at the park, I may very well have opted to hike, but considering the situation, I happily agreed to riding. Well, my happiness faded somewhat when I realised how many human beings they were going to try to cram into a single tram car. I swear, it was elbow to elbow, torso to torso. They loaded us in like cows and sheep. As we ascended up the cable, a girl with an incredibly obnoxious, almost monotone voice began rambling various tidbits of trivia about the park. Feeling hot, uncomfortable, and utterly claustrophobic, I stared out the window as we rose higher and higher into the sky, concentrating on how pleasant it would feel to get the hell out of there. Fortunately, the ride lasted only eight minutes, and I was one of the first to step off the lift. Even the upper tram station had a gift shop of its own, not to mention its own restaurant. The view from this point was marvelous, for I could see the entire town of Jasper and countless peaks near and far.

A summit trail led to the very zenith of the mountain, and it was incredibly steep. I had to pace myself, due to the lack of oxygen at such an elevation. I was far from the only one up there, and I shuddered to imagine what the place must have been like in peak season. Almost everyone I encountered along the trail seemed to be of European descent. When I finally did reach the summit, I was pleased to discover that I was just about the only one up that high. The scenery up there was to die for; something I could only hope to describe in a photograph.

After finding my way back down, I met up with my father again in the restaurant and enjoyed a good salad. We then rode back to the lower tram station, this car not being nearly so unbearably packed as the previous one. A good portion of the day was spent tripping about the park on scenic roads, simply driving and walking around and becoming lost in the natural beauty. Late in the afternoon, we made our way to the Maligne Canyon seven bridges area, as the guide books made it sound very appealing to both of us. Considering the daylight was already starting to fade, we did not initially plan on going very far down the trail. When we crossed the first bridge and looked down into the canyon, though, we were blown away by what we saw. It was almost mind-boggling, difficult to comprehend, how deep and narrow the canyon was, especially in the dying light. We progressed down the canyon, always promising ourselves we would stop at the next bridge and turn around, but no, we just -had- to keep going. The scenery was simply much too riveting, and we got completely sucked into it. The experience just seemed to get better and better, as we passed by underground river outlets pouring into the main glacial river, and a beautiful multi-tiered waterfall on the other side. It was already too dark to take any quality pictures, but we promised ourselves we would come back tomorrow. We did, in fact, get all the way down to the lower parking lot, and at that point, we concluded that it was already too dark to walk back up the way we came. Oh, the spontaneity of it all was just so romantic. We decided we would just hike back up the highway to the parking lot we had originated at, feeling that would be the safer bet. It was a much longer, more roundabout way to go, too. This was one of the more surreal events of the entire trip, walking up a desolate highway with my "physically disabled" father (he discovered on this trip just how much more activity he could endure with a new medication) at 11:30 at night, where it was still not completely dark. To tell the truth, I was loving it. I never could have predicted such a thing would happen. When we finally reached our vehicle, we returned to camp, and once again had another good night's sleep.

Returning to Maligne Canyon the next day was the first entry on our to-do list. This time, I dropped my father off at the upper parking lot so he could walk down the trail and I drove down to the lower parking lot so I could meet him somewhere on the way up. If anything, the canyon looked slightly less impressive in full daylight because it was more predictable and less mysterious. ...Naturally. I was, however, satisfied with the fact that I could take good pictures this time around. Even still, photographs fail to capture the true majesty of the place- it is something that must be seen in person.

On the northern edge of Jasper National Park, reached by a scenic drive up Fiddle Canyon, are a couple of hot springs. For some reason, I had this image in my head that the springs would be two completely natural pools deep in the woods somewhere, reached by a rugged and unimproved two-mile trail. I came to discover, however, that I was thinking far too heavily of my hot springs experience in Oregon when I was six. When we reached the springs later that afternoon, my heart just about sunk down into my knees in disappointment when I found out just how commercialised it all is. They charge a fee to get in, and the springs are really just two naturally heated concrete swimming pools in a fenced-off enclosure. Essentially, it's laid out so you walk in to the entrance building, pay your fee, walk into one of two locker rooms depending on whether you're a guy or a girl, change your clothes, and proceed to the springs. It's oh-so bloody procedural and automatic. The springs actually were not as hot as usual due to heavy rains bringing an excess of cold water into the enclosures. Still, after taking a quick dip in the nearby unheated swimming pool, it felt very, very nice. Unfortunately, there were simply too many humans around for me to thoroughly enjoy the place, even though the high mountainous setting was simply magnificent. At the very least, the drive up and down Fiddle Canyon was very nice, and this time, we actually got back to camp before dark!

When I first caught sight of the resplendent full moon shimmering through the spruce trees above, I decided that I must go for a stroll. I ended up at the edge of a large clearing, a sprawling grassy field completely unoccupied by anyone else. As I slowly proceeded onto it, my gaze fixated upon the moon rising above the trees on the other side, I was overwhelmed with a profound sense of euphoric nostalgia. I was reminded of my night wandering days in Arizona, where I found a clearing of the same size up in the mountains late one evening, and the spiritual ambience of it made my heart want to sing for joy. I'll probably never understand why certain places I visit or things I do invoke these sensations, but perhaps I don't need to. I spent at least a couple of hours moondancing in the clearing, soaking up the beauty of it all and simply being free . . . simply being myself. It was only when I heard a dog bark and turned to see a nocturnal human couple walking along the nearby road that I was snapped out of my trance. Had they seen me, I could just imagine them thinking, "what in God's name is that furry freak doing?"

The next morning, it was finally time to pack up our possessions once again and truck along to Banff National Park. The two parks are connected by the Icefields Parkway, a famous scenic highway that leads past many ...icefields. Actually getting to Banff took us most of the day, not necessarily because of its distance from Jasper, but because I could hardly resist stopping at every pull-out to admire the remarkable vistas. In all sincerity, the scenery along this highway was among the best I have ever witnessed. We passed by one series of impressive mountain peaks after another, countless marvelous lakes, spectacular glaciers, and towering waterfalls. At one lookout, I was fortunate enough to have a wild mountain goat and her kid run right past me, down along a high river bank. I was the only one there to take a few glorious photographs of them both. Farther down the road, a small herd of wild horned sheep crossed the highway right in front of us. I was one of the first to stop and take a few pictures of them, but it wasn't long before more humans stopped and began to encroach upon their space a little too much. One clueless idiot, in fact, began throwing them food scraps, even though countless signs advise against feeding the wildlife. I peeled out of their before an entire tour bus of tourists began joining the mix. Honestly, I believe those animals either loved the attention, or simply didn't care about being gawked at, as they appeared to be in no hurry to move along.

We did make an extended stop at the Columbia Icefield, a convenient roadside glacier. To have passed through the Canadian Rockies without visiting a glacier would have been, well, silly. It was a brisk, steep little hike over barren rock up to the edge. Along the way, about two dozen warning signs covered every conceivable threat glaciers posed to humans, using a "this could happen to YOU" mentality and quite a few corny illustrations. A trail up the steep field of ice was marked with cones, and only led on for about a quarter mile or so. If the visitor chose to go any farther, well, it would totally be at their own risk! They way they discouraged it, you'd think you were dancing around a minefield. I noticed a few individuals walking well beyond the limits of the "trail," so I'm sure it wasn't as dangerous as it was made out to be. Still, I was content to go to end of the trail and stay there for a little while, enjoying the coldness of the place and the surrounding physical beauty. Ah, and it's always beneficial to be able to say that you have walked on a glacier before.

Before we reached Banff, we stopped at Lake Louise, a smaller town along the way. While I stopped in a deli for a few bites to eat, my father phoned a friend in Calgary; someone he had known for decades and had just spoken to recently about visiting. It was his vision that we might end up at his homestead in Airdrie and experience the comforts of home for "free" for a couple days. As it turned out, that is exactly what happened. He invited us to drive over there that night and see him. Of course, we still wanted to see Banff, but fortunately, it was conveniently on the way.

We approached the Banff townsite late in the afternoon, and I would have to argue that it could not have looked better any other time of day or year. The way the golden sunshine of the late afternoon drenched the verdant town was simply marvelous. The real heartbreaker was that we could not spend much time here at all, having such a strict schedule from now on. At this point, we had to start planning out the rest of our days, so that we could successfully reach San Diego by the 26th, the date my father wanted to be at his coin show there. As of this point, it was already after the 20th, so yes, every day mattered. We made a beeline for the Banff Tramway, hoping it was still open after 8 in the evening. Surprisingly, it was, so we took a little ride up to the top of a mountain. I declare, this tram ride was much, much better than the last. We got an entire tram car all to ourselves, and it was quite comfortable too. Not to mention, it was a ten minute ride. There weren't too many tourists at the top, and the late afternoon views toward Banff and the distant mountains, with the sun at my back, were simply stunning. I only wished that we had enough time to walk up the series of stairs to the highest point of the summit, and just bask in the euphoric atmosphere. Unfortunately, we had to elevate back down before long, and hit the highway for Calgary, racing to meet up with Mark Fellows by an agreed-upon time in the evening. From this point on, everything more or less seemed like a race.

Jul 12, 2005

Wolvenspirit's Summer Excursion Part II of V: Victoria Island and the Road to the Rockies.

In the early afternoon of Monday, June 14th, we left the great city of Vancouver in our wake. Seeing the region between Vancouver and Tsawwassen in the daylight, I was surprised to learn that much of it was flat prairie. The drive was not particularly interesting until we reached the ferry port. The ticket booth collected nearly $50 Canadian from us, and directed us to one lane of many where vehicles idled, waiting to board the ferry. It was about an hour's wait, but my music kept me from growing too impatient. My lane finally started moving, and I followed the ramp which led directly to the car garage on the vessel. From there, we basically did what the Canadians did, exiting the car and climbing up the stairs to the main floor.

The ferry boasted quite a few amenities: a small gift shop and snack bar, full-fledged diner, arcade, sun deck, and some very nice areas to simply lounge around. The food was surprisingly decent, considering it very closely matched the standard American menu. It's a convenient place to eat, anyway, since it wastes no extra time to do so. After finishing my baked potato and caeser salad in the dining section, the desire suddenly hit me to go outside and escape from the hustle and bustle of the surrounding people. I walked up another flight of stairs and opened the door to one of the sun decks, and I literally felt like I had stepped into a brand new world.

It was no longer at all sunny, and surprisingly few people were loitering outside. I had a nice little stretch of the deck entirely to myself. As soon as I felt that chilly Canadian breeze against my face and my body, I knew I would be staying out there for awhile. It really only made sense to me that the majority would stay indoors where it was warm, safe, and settled, and I would feel much more compelled to lean against the side railing and be entranced by the elation of cruising along the water at a decent speed, watching the ferry approach a big band of rainclouds over distant realms as the cold wind caressed me. It's hard to describe in words the feeling that comes about in situations like these. I feel so liberated, invigorated, and euphoric. In a sense, it "feels like flying." I would say it's an emotion to die for, but more accurately, it's a sensation to live for. I love gazing over distant landscapes, watching the rain, feeling the strong wind, moving at a rapid pace ... this ferry trip was all that in one.

About an hour and fifteen minutes later, we reached the Nanaimo port on Vancouver Island. All the vehicle passengers were asked to return to their vehicles well ahead of time. I remember spending a good few minutes standing by the rig, looking through a window at a large flock of seagulls swooping up and down behind the ship, certainly appearing as if they were having a whale of a time with the quirky air currents back there. Eventually, we exited out the opposite end of the ferry and immersed ourselves in the new terrain. It was no less lush and verdant than I expected, and seemed very rural. It was also raining quite heavily at the time, and my father could not seem to stop himself from complaining about it. I ignored him, though, instead concentrating on the music playing on the surprisingly good electronica music radio station.

In truth, we had no real plan; just ideas. We had previously been considering bungee jumping at Nanaimo to kick things off, but because of the weather and the fact that we could not even get ahold of the outfit, that fell through rather quickly. In actuality, since it was already approaching late afternoon, our primary focus became the search for a place to stay. A hotel was not in our interests so much as a decent place to camp. We stopped at a Husky gas station to pick up groceries, and spent awhile scoping out nearby campsites, none of which looked particularly special or suitable for tent campers. Eventually, we got ahold of a map and located an interesting feature by the name of Cowichan Lake, which apparently offered a large variety of campsites. Therefore, the winds of fate just happened to sweep us in that direction.

A lonely two-lane highway led farther into the central regions of the island, deeper into the countryside. It only seemed more beautiful and pure the farther we went. Not to mention, the weather seemed to be breaking. We passed through a very secluded lakeside town, full of charming summer residences, before the road turned to gravel. A few more miles of passing through deep forest and turnoffs to old logging roads, we reached a place called Pine Point Campground, and decided to scope it out. I fell in love with the place almost immediately. It was a beautiful wooded area right by the lake, offering dozens of campsites, a very, very small fraction of which were actually occupied. After all, we were actually there just before the peak season. I was content to throw down my sleeping bag and stay there for the night, and that is precisely what we did. We chose a spot which contained a picnic table and a firepit about fifty metres inland from the lakeshore. The atmosphere of this place was simply stunning. In certain places, I truly feel as if I belong. It leaves my soul in an unparalleled state of contentment. As I strolled alone along a stretch of beach at twilight, gazing over the distant mountains, I was reminded that I would always feel much more at home in a place like this than in an upscale hotel where you could phone in a clean towel anytime you wanted to. This was a place I could simply be myself--and wanted to. Though I may have been taken lakeside camping when I was much younger, I had no memory of it, and I could now see why it was so highly rated. It was much different, even, from camping next to the ocean, which I was much more accustomed to. The lake was even more peaceable, the distant tree-covered shores and mountains across the water providing a sense of visual harmony and ambience I had never experienced before.

The next morning, I was awakened early by the shrill cries of black ravens, which would be a common sight throughout our entire Canadian trip. I ambled over to the picnic table to discover that they had stolen and devoured an entire bag of potato chips that my father had left out. I didn't care much about what the camp robbers did, as I find potato chips to be mediocre at best. Those pesky birds, though, clearly have a master plan, and that is waiting for unsuspecting campers to wander away from camp just long enough to steal as much of their food as they can. I am sure similar incidents have happened to countless naive campers. Fortunately, we had a way to keep our food out of their reach.

This was essentially a day off for us. My father more or less slept all day, and I spent much of it simply prowling around, riding my bike along scenic backcountry trails. I went almost as far back into the small town we had passed through, but determined a turning around point a little sooner than that. I can honestly say nothing particularly exotic happened that day, but I enjoyed the calm and relaxed nature of it- and I certainly did not mind spending more time with my thoughts in such an inviting spot. I literally did not see a human being all day long. I truly was happy to be there.

When tomorrow afternoon came, though, we packed up and moved on, journeying back closer to civilisation. Again, we had no specific plan, but made a spur of the moment decision to take a survey of the city of Victoria. On the way there, we stopped at a few points along the wonderfully scenic Cowichan River. Even the drive to Victoria was quite interesting, passing through pleasant forest and by high scenic overlooks. My father decided that a hotel stay was in order, for the purpose of doing laundry and having an actual bed to sleep on, so one of our missions was to locate a decent play to stay. We ended up in downtown Victoria without the aid of a map, and coincidentally parked right in front of the famed Emperess Hotel. I bought a couple post cards in a harbourside gift shop while my father went to the nearby information centre and found us a cheap hotel only half a mile away in downtown.

And it turned out to be a very unsettling place. The lady at the front desk actually recommended we check out the room to see what we think of it before paying up, so we did just that. The rather dirty elevator was frightening enough in its tendency to creak, groan, and rattle every few seconds. When we entered our room, flies were buzzing everywhere; there were no screens on the open windows. We had a very nice view of a brick wall and an alley full of garbage dumpsters. What a far cry from the Renaissance. This was a real dirtbag motel, and though my standards aren't exactly very high, this was far, far below any place I would feel comfortable staying in. I probably would have been more comfortable sleeping out in the street. My father and I agreed that we had to find something better than this. Though I found Victoria charming, I had an underlying urge to escape from it as quickly as we had arrived and head up to the Canadian Rockies, back to the soul-soothing pleasantness of the backcountry. We returned the door key and headed back out.

I actually decided to spend a couple hours shopping around downtown Victoria, getting an overall feel for the city. For some reason, something about it felt somewhat unsettling. I could not seem to feel as comfortable there as I did in Vancouver. Perhaps it was something in the air that day, or purely my imagination. Whichever the case, I was not heavy-hearted about leaving. I did find a precious little wolf plush that I could not bear to forgo purchasing; I figured it would make a nice gift.

At this point, we were just about on schedule to depart from Vancouver Island and head to Alberta. A few kilometres before the port at Schwartz Bay, though, we found a Quality Inn whose rates were actually cheap and was of reasonable quality. Since the daylight was fading and the concept of hot showers, warm beds, and clean clothes appealed to us, we opted to settle in for the night. It was quite a pleasant little inn considering the price, and it was hard to imagine a much more convenient location. The windows in the room were open, but there were no flies buzzing about, and the view was satisfactory, featuring a grassy courtyard area and beyond that, a residential garden. Staying in a hotel can be a nice experience after spending a number of days outdoors.

After a free, but utterly mediocre continental breakfast, we packed up, did our laundry, restocked our goods, and jumped on a morning ferry. The ride back to the mainland was every bit as pleasant, and instead of getting the "Queen of Westminster" boat, we got the "Queen of Victoria." I rather enjoyed watching the seagulls gliding effortlessly in air currents alongside the ship. They were barely moving along faster than the ship itself. The ferry ride was at least two hours long, and by the time we returned to Twawassan, it was already mid-afternoon. Days spent traveling can fly by all too quickly it seems, which makes me more appreciate the days spent relaxing in one place. They seem to progress at a much more comfortable pace.

The next few hours would be spent driving great distances. We made only a couple stops between Vancouver and Jasper National Park--Wal-Mart for a metric ton of groceries and miscellaneous items, and one or two fuel stops, yet we did not reach the actual town of Jasper until around 4:30 a.m. the next day. Incredibly, I managed to do absolutely all of the driving. Several times, my father reminded me that he would be willing to take over the responsibility if I became too exhausted, but I was compelled to challenge myself to drive the entire distance. There was something spectacularly surreal about driving through the middle of the night along a desolate highway through beautiful, unfamiliar countryside, my favourite music blaring on the stereo and a sleeping passenger in the back. It was also raining rather heavily most of the way there, which only supplemented the effect. More than once, I found myself driving through fog so heavy I had to slow down to a crawl just to proceed through it safely. Some food and a large caffeinated drink facilitated my efforts in reaching our destination. There was something very magical about plunging deeper and deeper into the great beyond, clicking off the kilometres in murky darkness through what was not too long ago in history an unpenetrated frontier. At this point, if they hadn't already, things were truly shaping up to be an adventure I would not soon forget.

Wolvenspirit's Summer Excursion Part I of V: The Tale of Two Rainy Cities

Brief Introduction: I plan to write about only the highlights of my trip that I found particularly interesting, or those details that set the stage for said highlights. I could write a novel about this trip if I was so inclined, but I have not the motive for that, I'm afraid, and I am sure it would bore its readers into a slumber (like the prolific narcotic metal band Children of Boredom's sleeper hit song, "Fate of a Yawner." Please refrain from inquiring). And no, I refuse to go into depth about the noodle incident. The noodle incident is not an appropriate topic for discussion.


June 9th was a very hectic day. I had one final exam in the morning and one in the afternoon. Concentrating on tests that day was not an easy feat, with the excitement of adventure looming ahead that very evening. I successfully went through the motions, though, like an obedient little cub. Immediately after the final one, I had to throw a heap of luggage into the back of my vehicle and hightail it from my apartment to the house. There, my father and I gathered what seemed to me at the time like an excessive amount of things together and packed them up rather securely before heading off to the airport, an hour's drive.

Admittedly, I enjoy the atmosphere of airports, particularly in the evening. I am particularly fond of their inherently transient nature; the constant bustle and rapid pace of their terminals, and the quality of their amenities. Gazing at the long strips of glowing runway lights as the jet took off into the air instilled a feeling of elation within me. I watched the black void rush by, the vast array of vanishing lights on the ground my only point of reference. I did not mind the crowds, nor the strict security measures, nor the cramped conditions of the flight. I was much too giddy over the fact that the much anticipated moment of departure from the familiar had finally arrived.

We landed in Seattle around 6:00 in the morning, though of course accounting for the time zone difference, it felt like 3 a.m. for me. I find it very difficult if not impossible to sleep in an upright position, so I was rather weary, but keyed up and prepared for a long day. It took us about an hour to locate the proper Budget rental car counter, while we juggled about all our bulky baggage. After stepping outdoors for the first time, I noticed one striking feature immediately--the continental air. It felt so much different than what I was accustomed to; much crisper, cooler, and drier. I didn't find it any more or less pleasant, but different.

Our SUV rental turned out to be very nice and spacious, chock full of luxurious amenities I never would have dreamed of requesting- an oil change indicator? Backseat heater? Electronic chair position controls? Driving this massive, fancy thing was fun. My father drove out of the airport and through Seattle to our hotel destination, and I can humbly declare that I feel much safer with me driving than him. Something about his tendency to frequently and needlessly change lanes and swerve around while searching for this and that in the backseat made me wish I could snap my fingers and magically replace him in the driver's seat. Fortunately, we survived the trip to our hotel in Lynnwood, a north Seattle subdivision which looked like a typical American town. We were pleasantly surprised to learn that we could check into our hotel before 3 pm, as we both craved a nap or two in the very near future and the time was only 9 in the morning or so. After breakfast at IHOP, we crawled back to the room to crash for awhile. By the time I woke up around 1 in the afternoon, sufficiently rested, I felt as if the entire day should have already gone by. In fact, because the blackout curtains were completely shut, I was convinced it was actually 1 in the morning until I completely came to. Oh, the power jet lag can have over the mind. It was a very strange day.

Later in the afternoon, we shopped until we almost dropped, purchasing a few articles of warm clothing, camping equipment, and electrical accessories. Mind, there are no stores where I come from by the name of Eddie Bauer, REI, Best Buy, Sports Authority, or even Target, so I made the most of my shopping experience while I was there, as much as I don't much care for the activity. By the time we returned to the hotel again in the evening, we had shopped for hours and were even more exhausted than earlier in the day. Personally, I slept very well that night, even through my father's ever-reliable snoring across the room.

The next day, my father took off for his coin show at the nearby convention centre, and I kept him company for a little while. It wasn't long before I was bored out of my mind and decided to split- fortunately, he let me have the Explorer for the day. I spent most of it exploring some of Seattle's very scenic parks and absorbing the overall flavour of the city. I must say, what I saw of it rather agreed with me. The overcast sky accented with random cloudbursts certainly appealed to me; it was lovely weather for ducks and certain water-loving wolves. The day seemed perfect for leisurely strolls around the city, where I could try my damnedest to look like a native who knew where he was going, when I really didn't. Unfortunately, I couldn't make my skin a few shades paler to -really- fit in. My favourite area was Discovery Park, which contained a few trails weaving through large patches of deep forest and descending a high cliff to a charming little lighthouse. I witnessed a good deal of wildlife, including a woodpecker, a few skunks, and myriad squirrels going about their business. As we have no such wildlife where I live, I was rather fascinated with the fauna that I did witness. I concluded that Seattle's green spaces indeed would make the city a very liveable place for me.

Unfortunately, I made the mistake of driving past the university on commencement day--I wasted a good hour getting caught up in heavy traffic due to detours. That time could have been better spent sitting in the hotel room playing Starfox Adventures (yes!). Yeah, I know, I didn't come to the mainland for that, nor getting stuck with a bunch of buffoons honking their horns and screaming like they just won the lottery. At any rate, I feel like I got a very nice taste of suburban Seattle, and I was rather impressed with what I saw.

The day after, though, I got into the actual city. We did the most typical tourist activity conceivable- visiting the Space Needle. The surrounding area was very nice, save for all the cheesy little amusement rides located right next to the tower. The ferris wheel particularly caught my attention. Considering many people ride a ferris wheel partially for the view at the top, why in Rayg's name would anyone locate it right next to a tourist-accessible tower several times its height? Eh, the entire trip was just one elaborate money vacuum, and we knew it. We got our tickets, scaled the ramp to the entrance, stood in line for at least half an hour to get to the elevator, and rode it to the top. I must admit, the views of the city were very rewarding, though I still felt too much like an average generic camera-wielding tourist just going through the motions expected of him. Fortunately, much of the rest of our trip would not be so... commercially indulgent.

Later, we toured the Seattle Aquarium, another very 'touristy' thing to do. Already being from a maritime environment, I found much of the tour only somewhat interesting. Besides, it seemed very children-oriented, and would have been much better suited as a sixth-grade field trip. I managed to enjoy a few features of the aquarium, though. Some of the vibrant, colourful artwork on the walls greatly appealed to my tastes. Watching small sharks swim about their tanks only confirmed my suspicion that were truly as cute as they appeared in photographs. Honestly, I hardly perceive them as threatening or fearsome. They are simply adorable, not to mention sleek-looking. The highlight of the visit, though, were the otters. I adore these precious creatures and their inherent playful personalities. I insisted on watching them for at least twenty minutes, and made my father rather impatient in the process. I didn't care. I'm an otter lover, and definitely advocate their protection. Go away, fur coat lovers and Exxon. OTTER POWER!

An hour later, we enjoyed Chinese cuisine in a quirky little restaurant in Pike's Plaza. It felt like I was sitting in an RV protruding over the edge of a large building. Strange atmosphere, I know, but the uniqueness of it appealed to me, and the view was pleasant. After refueling, we finally set sail for Canada. I was definitely looking forward to crossing the border and being in a new country for the very first time, even if it wasn't a huge cry from the United States. The border patrol guard asked us how many passengers were in the vehicle (the rear windows were nicely tinted so they couldn't see for themselves) and what the purpose of our trip was. We were then waved through, simple as that. Obviously, all the trouble my father went through to gather all the appropriate identification documentation was for naught.

It actually rained heavily the entire way to Vancouver, making for slightly more challenging driving. Of course, even more challenging was adjusting to KPH speed limits. I had never seen a speed limit of '100' before. Also, I found it awfully queer that some traffic lights flash green in Canada. I never quite figured out what that signified. Flashing red means stop, flashing yellow means proceed with caution, but flashing green..? While we initially entered the outskirts of Vancouver, I noticed another regional difference--narrower lanes.

We reached the Rennaissance Hotel at about 11 pm, and it was quite a step up from the Marriott in Lynnwood. I am not accustomed to having someone step up to me on the curb, offering to bring all my junk up to my room on the fourteenth floor and safely park my vehicle for me. Despite the way I was dressed, as I stepped out in the shadows of the tall buildings and brilliant city lights, I felt somewhat like a celebrity. I cannot say I felt entirely comfortable with it, either. Of course, this hotel was located in downtown Vancouver, and was ritzy as hell. It was, without a doubt, the nicest hotel we stayed in. The view from the patio of our room was splendid; I could see Stanley Park and across the inlet to northern Vancouver, then the mountains beyond. A pantry next to the TV was loaded with snacks and cold drinks that no doubt carried ridiculous courtesy fees. The bottle of Evian water, in fact, would have cost $4.50 if I broke the seal on it. There's nothing like having a great big chocolate chip cookie staring at you in the face while you try your damndest to avoid scooping it up for fear of it costing as much as a gourmet meal. Around 2 in the morning, I decided to throw on my bathing suit and investigate the 24 hour indoor pool and spa on the fourth floor ... and I was glad I did. The place sported an expansive exercise room, a large swimming pool, an elevated jacuzzi, and a cozy sauna. The best thing is that I was the only one in there. I spent at least a couple of hours down there, pampering myself as I went from sauna to pool to jacuzzi to pool to sauna. This was the life, yes? I slept like a cub that night.

The day after, we went out to take a tour of the Museum of Anthropology, whose main displays I found interesting for a little while. Some of the exhibits, primarily the totem polls several times taller than myself, were impressive, but before long, I found myself bored out of my wits. For some reason, I was never very fascinated with human cultural artifacts or learning much about human history. I would much rather spend my time outdoors and immerse myself in natural beauty, studying and admiring the behaviour of wildlife. Of course, a museum excursion only lended itself to the overall diversity of this trip. In the late afternoon, we ventured into Stanley Park, easily the most beautiful city park I have ever visited. Everything was so clean, so green, so pleasant. The scenery was magnificent; it was like a large wooded haven in the middle of a bustling metropolis. I rode my bike along the entirety of the famous Seawall, simply taking in the views. The path was divided up by a yellow centre line, one side to be used by walkers and joggers, the other by skaters and cyclists. It was also strictly one-way, so any rider and skater who had the gaul to go against the grain most certainly would have been greeted with a few sour expressions. Oh, I cannot neglect to mention that I encountered a raccoon along the roadside on the way back to town... she was beautiful. Being nocturnal and all (good taste!), I figured she was probably just out for her breakfast, since she had something in her paws. I was only one or two metres away from her, but kneeled down and spoke gently to her. She gazed at me as she nibbled, obviously wary of my presence but seemingly not phased at all. I wish we could have shared this moment longer, but for a noisy RV that came barreling down the parkway in the nearest lane, compelling the animal to go dashing back into the trees. Still, it was absolutely a highlight of my day.

As dusk fell, I still wasn't ready to head back "home." Cycling around Vancouver at twilight, especially on the shoreline bike path, was truly a fabulous experience. Not only was I able to view the magnificent lit-up skyline and marine ambience, I was able to truly immerse myself in the overall culture. A large crowd was gathered around a torch-juggling busker on the beach, and I stopped to watch his antics for a few minutes. He communicated to the audience through a microphone headset, displaying a rather refined Canadian sense of humour. One thing I did notice is that the Canadianfolk I happened to run into (not literally) seemed nicer and more easygoing than the average American. This did not really surprise me, but I still found it very reassuring. I actually did not mind being out and about in crowds of people. They had good taste in being out at twilight on a drizzly evening.

Vancouver had a very pleasant ambience about it, more so than any other city I had been to. All in all, I was very impressed with what I experienced. I had suspected I wouldn't enjoy the city portion of my trip very much, but I was proven wrong. At this point, though, I was looking forward to escaping into a more rural area, and spending a night out in the great outdoors rather than within the confines of a fancy hotel room. The day after, we took off for the ferry docks at Tsawwassen--the launching point for our next big adventure: Vancouver Island.