Category: Oh, Canada!

Whistler, BC: Is this love?

If Whistler were a man he would look younger than his years, have hidden scars of past relationships and injuries buried deep beneath his North Face jacket, and either be the greatest guy you ever met or a completely self-centered jerk. Before opening yourself to Whistler you should ask a few of your friends if he is right for you because once you fall for him it is going to be tough to ever find someone/someplace who/that measures up to him. He’s got some serious baggage, but he is also so…so, well you know what it is like to fall for a guy like him.

He looks good. I mean from ten feet away he is one of the most striking men you will ever meet, but once you get up close and start hugging him you’ll notice that he could use a shower and a shave. He’s one of those guys with the residual dirt beneath his nails. He’s cool with it. He knows that hygiene isn’t his strength. Sure he could button up a little more and moisturize, but he isn’t that type of dude, he’s got mountains to ski, trails to hike, and beer to drink. He doesn’t have time to be the perfect man. He’s not going to change for you, so ask yourself,  “Are ready to change for him?”

It's tough not falling for a guy who cleans up so nice.

It’s tough not falling for a guy who cleans up so nice.

Whistler is also one of those guys who is also sneaky expensive. He’s always asking for $40 for this and that, and you’re pretty sure you had a $20 bill in your wallet last night but now you can’t find it. You don’t mind heading back to the room to cook rice and beans, but he wants you to eat out at that corner restaurant with the heat lamps and the tables overlooking the main square. You know the one. Sitting there having a few drinks with Whistler is perfect, but then, when it is time to pay, the bill is always larger than expected and he left his wallet back in the condo. He says he’ll pay you back, but he never will and you know it.

He respects his elders, but you're not sure you want to introduce him to your parents.

He respects his elders, but you’re not sure you want to introduce him to your parents.

When you have just about had it with him, you take a bike ride to clear your mind and you remember why you fell in love with this guy in the first place.

He's smooth in the right ways.

He’s smooth in the right ways.

And rough in the right ways.

And rough in the right ways.

Your friends warned you about him and they were right. You’ll never find a guy who can measure up to him. You don’t need all that other stuff. If you have him, and your rice and beans, what else could you need? He’ll take you out to the lakes during the summer and in the winter, oh, the winter is when he really shines. Those manly slopes, those evening cross-country skiing outings when you spent hours in the warming hut alongside the trail. He can be quite a romantic when he wants to be.

IMG_2654

The warming hut where you waited for that guy from the Czech Republic to leave so you could be alone with Whistler.

IMG_2653

The lake where you two swam in July and August.

You should probably find a more reliable man, but you know you won’t. You’ll stick with him. He could change. He might clean up a little and cut back on expenses. It’s possible, but even if he doesn’t change you can overlook his flaws because that’s what love does.

I know we are wrong for each other, but if this is wrong I don't want to be right.

I know we are wrong for each other, but if this is wrong I don’t want to be right.

I can see you are trying to clean up some. That's why I'll always stay with you.

I can see you are trying to clean up some. That’s why I’ll always stay with you.

 

Whistler: A Guide to Eating

If you travel to Whistler, BC, you will need to eat at some point. You could wander out into the woods and eat berries and tree bark, but I suggest that you don’t. Whistler Village has a couple supermarkets, a couple liquor stores, and plenty of restaurants.  The restaurants range from super expensive to mildly expensive and there are a few good places that offer good food for a reasonable price. Each of these restaurants are a tiny bit off the main street but they are worth finding because the food is good, the prices are not going to send you into “I just spent $70 on a terrible breakfast” mode.

1.Crepe-Montagne

Crepe-Montagne is a small spot behind the big supermarket in Whistler Village. If you are planning a full day and want to fuel up before mountain biking or skiing, then drop in here for a crêpe. You will not be sorry.

Bananas, nutella, and caramel. The breakfast of diabetics.

Bananas, Nutella, and caramel. The breakfast of diabetics.

Eggs, ham, cheese. The breakfast of skipping lunch.

Eggs, ham, cheese. The breakfast of skipping lunch.

2. Peaked Pies

Peaked Pies is a tiny shop. It is just across the street from the crêpe place and down (northwest?) about a half a block. What do they serve? Meat pies! If you grew up in the US and were forced to eat Swanson’s Chicken/Turkey/Mystery Meat pies then you are probably wondering why anyone would willingly eat a meat pie. I feel bad for you if your meat pie intake has been limited to Swanson’s and if you want to discover the greatness of a meat pie then you must go to Peaked Pies.

Meat pie+mashed potatoes+smooshy peas+gravy= Happy

Meat pie+mashed potatoes+smooshy peas+gravy= Happy stomach

You can grab a take-away pie if you want, but you can also get the pie peaked with smooshy peas and potatoes. Do it. They also have veggie pies for people who want to be self-righteous about everything.

3. Creekbread

Creekbread is not in Whistler Village, so you will have to ride your bike or drive back toward Vancouver about five kilometers to get there, but it is worth the trip. What do they serve? Pizza, well kind of pizza. This is one of those hippie places that has taken pizza and made it into something different. Everything is free range-nonviolently killed-gently raised-antibiotic free-vegan friendly and yummy. The pizzas are pricey if you compare them to bad tasting/factory produced/garbage on pizza crust, but since I make the big bucks I like to live big. (I think the large pizza was about $25 Canadian, which isn’t too bad.)

Wood fired pizza oven with lumberjack chopping wood continually.

Wood fired pizza oven with lumberjack chopping wood continually. I assume it isn’t usually this empty, but we were there at an odd time of the day: 3 PM. 

Potato pizza. Yes, this is the one item that you must order.

Potato pizza. Yes, this is the one item that you must order. We put bacon on ours because the waitress said we should. She was right. 

Buffalo chicken pizza.

The salads at Creekbread are also awesome.  Order a large with all the veggies (there are various salad options) and one salad can feed three people while you wait for the lumberjack to cook your pizza.

There you go. I wrote a blog post with 95% information. It won’t happen again.

 

Oh, Canada: Where’d all the drunks go?

I remember sitting in a college class ( Nonviolent Defense and Conflict Resolution) listening to a guest speaker talk about life as a submarine commander. This was a few years ago, but here is what I remember from his lecture, “You can travel the world and see amazing things, or you can find out that a bar in Asia looks the same inside as a bar in England.” (The other thing I remember about the class was that on the final day we had a discussion about how our views of violence had changed. My friend Rick said he would still punch someone if the occasion arose.) In other words: If you travel and want to see something different, stay out of bars. I have not always followed this advice, but in my many years of roaming this planet I will add my own bit of wisdom. “If you travel, and you visit bars, you will believe that the entire country is filled with drunks.” This is true in all countries except England where the country IS filled with drunks no matter where you go. England, it might be time for a few of your friend-countries to sit you down and have an intervention.

My early experiences with Canada involved traveling for college basketball games to distant locations like Edmonton, Vancouver, and Victoria. Now one might think, “Oh, isn’t it lovely that all you boys could get together and go and exercise with other young fellows. That sounds so healthy.” Well it wasn’t. Most meals were at the Golden Arches and evenings when I could have been reading my textbook on Nonviolence I was doing research on drunk Canadians. Where do you find drunk Canadians? Bars, liquor stores, and just about everywhere I went.

Canada has changed. I don’t know what happened to the drunk Canada that I once knew, but these days Canada doesn’t remind me of Canada at all, it reminds me of Norway.  (I have a feeling it wouldn’t take much research to locate this drunk Canada again, but I’ll leave that up to somebody who doesn’t have to be in bed by 8:30.) Canada is on a health kick. I don’t know if it was the Vancouver Olympics or if Canada just decided that it needed to lose a few pounds, but whatever happened has transformed this nation into a bunch of granola eating, flip-flop wearing, tree-huggers, and I love it. Who knew a trip to Norway could be just a drive away?

Spend two hours watching Canadian television (I am American, if I can’t watch TV I go into a diabetic shock) and you will see commercial after commercial selling the outdoors and exercise. These are not ad campaigns focused on selling hiking equipment but commercials for Timmy Horton’s Donuts and McDonald’s. Everyone in Canada is now out river rafting, mountain biking, and hiking. I don’t remember this being a Canadian thing but exercise is now hip in Canada.

Did these rings change Canada's behavior?

Did these rings change Canada’s behavior?

Yes, this is the same Canada that is a frozen land of snow and ice for seven months a year, but just like the Norwegians, Canadians have adopted the “there is no bad weather, there is just bad clothing” attitude about being outdoors. They have also invested infrastructure to support exercise. It was like Canada woke up with a huge hangover a few years ago and decided that it was time to start doing something other than vomiting all over itself.

I’m sure my American readers (Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh) have already seen through this Socialist plot to make people healthy. “The next thing you know, they will have everyone outside doing T’ai Chi every morning dressed in grey jumpsuits.” Yeah, that could be. Maybe since Canadians have socialized medicine it made sense to see if exercise might make people healthier. These Communist plots are the kind of Communist plots I can go along with. That’s right, I’m a Socialist-Communist-Pinko-Pacisfist who believes in universal healthcare. I also think that America needs a new cultural identity. I will borrow from the American classic Animal House, “Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life.” The world’s view of Americans is that we are fat and stupid (and they might be right), but we could follow Canada’s footsteps off the couch and become a nation of people who exercise, not just a nation who watch exercise. Or, or we could just wait another five years and hope that Mexico continues to get fatter. We might still look pretty good if we stand next to Mexico.

 

A Guide To Canadian Radio

I listen to a Canadian radio station*, but I have discovered something, the radio station I listen to is like Radio America. It broadcasts into my country to make me believe that Canada is a wonderland of musical taste and hipness, it isn’t. This radio station is the Siren Song leading travelers to believe that wherever they go, good music will follow. Don’t believe it.

Facts About Canadian Radio

1. There is a law in Canada that says there can only be one rock station in each listening radius. This rock station must play one song from Rush (usually Tom Sawyer for some reason) every hour. They must also fit in a Loverboy song during each four-hour cycle, and four Brian Adams songs must be played each day.

2. Gordon Lightfoot is still played regularly on the radio and not in an ironic, jokey way either.

3. Hockey games are broadcast on the radio. I have no idea how anyone can listen to hockey on the radio and understand what is happening, but this explains how a country could fall in love with the music of Celine Dion.

4. When you go to Canada, make sure your radio looks like this:

Don't keep looking for a radio station playing something other than Rush.

Don’t keep looking for a radio station playing something other than Rush, plug in your iPod.

How Dare You Insult Gordon Lightfoot

I will admit, I liked The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald the first twelve times I heard it, but we all make mistakes in judgement. I lived for two years with permed hair.  (No, I will not be providing a picture. No, I was not trying to look like Gordon Lightfoot. I was trying to look like Rick James…I did look more like Gordon than Rick, but my soul looked more like Rick.)

Canada Has Enriched Music. You, sir, are an idiot

Sure, Canada has given us Neil Young, but for every Neil Young there have been ten Justin Biebers. Maybe all of your taste is in your mouth, Canada. The mouth is a good place for taste, but when it comes to music, Canada, you should use your ears. Don’t get all bent out of shape, a good friend tells you the truth, and the truth is that The Barenaked Ladies always sucked. Sarah McLachlan is only played in America during commercials for PETA. Michael Bublé is the male version of Celine Dion. When Nickelback is played in America we have to drop ten bombs on a foreign country just to get that  sound out of our ears. (Yes, I am blaming Nickelback for America’s overseas aggression.)

Well, American Music Is Terrible Too

Okay, that has an element of truth to it. It saddens me to say this, but one evening while discussing string theory with some colleagues (okay, we were playing poker) I was asked to name the greatest American rock band. I was flummoxed. The group decided that it was Aerosmith…Aerosmith, are you kidding me? That is the best we can produce? Van Halen is better than Aerosmith. Nirvana was better than Aerosmith. Jimi Hendrix was better than Aerosmith. Nope, my colleagues all agreed it was Aerosmith. (Yes, I have considered moving to another country, but Canada will probably not accept me any longer.) The real answer to the question is Pearl Jam. Pearl Jam is the greatest American band end of discussion.  Shhh…no…quiet…take a deep breath…shhhh…stop…this is not an argument…shhh…easy there…okay. Okay?

What Is The Purpose Of This Post?

Oh, yes, the purpose. Canada is a big country and if you are going to drive across Canada bring your own music. Won’t you miss out on the local flavor? No, if you want to sample the local musical flavor just bring one Rush CD and listen to that during you journey. In fact, you can probably just bring one Rush song: Tom Sawyer. Oh, you don’t own Tom Sawyer, that’s okay it’s on Canadian radio every ten minutes.

*91.3 The Zone. Yes, this is an excellent radio station, so I know that you are up to something, Canada.

Those Sneaky Canadians

English: The flag of Canada, flying in Vanier ...

Canada: The only country with a leaf on its flag. It’s tricks like this that make me think Canada is up to something.

If I could sum up Canadians in one word it would not be polite, it would be sneaky. That’s right, I wrote it: sneaky. I don’t mean sneaky like China trying to sell toys painted with a combination of poison and lead, but sneaky like having a toll bridge with no toll booth.

I know, that doesn’t make any sense. A toll bridge always has a toll booth; not in Canada. On the outskirts of Vancouver (BC, not to be confused by the one in WA which shouldn’t be a problem unless you are really lost) there is a sneaky toll bridge. It isn’t like the Canadians are trying to catch you off guard, there are a trillion signs leading up to the bridge announcing: Last Exit Before Toll Bridge, Toll Bridge Ahead, Now Approaching Toll Bridge, You Are On A Toll Bridge, You Just Crossed A Toll Bridge, I Hope You Brought a Computer So You Can Figure Out How To Pay Your Toll, BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING.

Looking for a toll booth? Don't bother.

Looking for a toll booth? Don’t bother.

For ten miles after crossing the bridge (16 kilometers for those of you who bought into the whole “the metric system is the future” thing) I kept looking for a toll booth. There wasn’t one, but there was a sign with a web address. Had I known that there was going to be a sign with a web address I might have been able to write the address down, but I wasn’t prepared because I was trying to see if the downtown area of Vancouver was visible from the bridge. I did this by ignoring the lines on the road and turning around in my seat to look over my shoulder. “Yep, you can see Vancouver,” I said to my family who were watching the road for me so they would be able to file the police report when I crashed the car.  Then, just as I began to think that maybe there wasn’t a toll after all there was an ominous sign that stated, “Pay Your Toll Within 7 Days For The Best Price,” or something like that. That is Canadian code language for pay or you will get a fine for a “licence plate processing fee.”  How did they have my licence/license plate? Those sneaky Canadians got it when I crossed the border, I remembered the border agent walking to the front of my car and writing down my plate. At the time, I wondered if something came up on the computer when I handed over my passport, “KNOWN TO PARK IN CARPOOL PARKING SPACES, WRITE DOWN HIS LICENCE/LICENSE PLATE.”

They also got it because the new bridge has cameras taking pictures of the license plates of all the vehicles crossing the bridge. Pretty sneaky, Canada, pretty sneaky. (Canada loves their hidden cameras.)

How do I know all of this? Well, because some enterprising Americans invented Google. (Okay, one of the guys was from Russia, but the other guy was from Michigan.)  So when I got to my hotel in Whistler I typed into Google: “Toll Bridge Vancouver BC” and this is what I found: https://www.treo.ca/the-bridge/

This was the moment that I realized I would not be getting a free drive across the Port Mann Bridge. They had me. I crossed the bridge. I saw the signs. I would be recrossing the bridge on the way home. There was no way to avoid paying. I paid the toll, but it didn’t feel right. Computers, cameras and the interwebs have made it easier for us to  those daily tasks, but what have we lost? We have lost terrible jobs like Toll Booth Collector. Imagine how mind numbing that job must be. We have lost the traffic congestion caused by people who don’t have exact change. We have lost the challenge of picking the quickest line of cars when approaching the toll booths. Okay, we haven’t lost that much, but I did have to give my credit card number to Canada to pay for my $6 (Canadian) toll, which will probably end up being $20 after all the overseas charges and exchange rate maneuvering my bank goes through for me spending my money in another country.

Why couldn’t Canada just put a booth on the road like the rest of the world? That’s just not Canada’s style. Canada enjoys its reputation of producing maple syrup, hockey players, and Ouija boards. (I made up the Ouija board thing, but it is better than saying Justin Bieber.) Their reputation has allowed them to quietly infiltrate the entertainment industry in the United States. Of course everyone knows about John Candy, Mike Myers, and Martin Short, but do you realize that William Shatner is Canadian? How about Ryan Gosling? Lorne Greene? (The name Lorne should have given him away, but riding those horses with Hoss and Little John made him seem more American.) Tommy Chong? For every Howie Mandel there are three Raymond Burrs (Canadian). You don’t see Malcolm Gladwell walking around singing, “Oh, Canada” but he sure knows the words. So did Peter Jennings and Guy Lombardo. That’s right, Canadians have been sneaking across the border for years and taking American jobs. Where is the outrage? There isn’t any outrage because Canadians have built up years of trust with us. They are the polite nation. The nation that produces maple syrup. They aren’t the job stealing nation, I’m not going to mention any names here but Florida knows who I’m talking about.

Should we care? I don’t know. Should I care when I go into a McDonald’s in Canada and they serve poutine? Does it matter that Canada has a sneaky little maple leaf in the McDonald’s arch? Well, if they can corrupt McDonald’s with their little red leaf where will they stop?

McDonald's Canada

One step closer to Socialism taking over the planet.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maybe it isn’t such a bad thing. Maybe Americans can become more polite. Maybe we can say, “Sorry” before we say, “What’s your problem?” Maybe we can learn to wear sweaters in the winter. I can probably learn what a blue line is in hockey. I can probably learn to like Nickleback. (See, I just wrote that sentence and didn’t throw up on my computer.) I can probably understand that universal health coverage is better than paying $700 a month for insurance that only works when I don’t need it. I can probably be Canadian. I’ll make you a deal Canada, I will learn your sneaky ways if you don’t tell Texas, and if you put up one toll booth on the Port Mann Bridge.

 

Driving in Canada: The Rules of the Road

Driving on the Right Side:

Here is the good news, Canada drives on the right side of the road. There is nothing worse than trying to drive in a country that hasn’t figured out that the right side just works better. Canada might be the only Commonwealth country to drive on the right side and the Queen doesn’t know since she will never drive in Canada. I doubt anyone  is going to tell her.

Why did Canada break with the English Empire when it comes to driving on the right side? I’m pretty sure it is because Canadians wanted to buy American cars and we were not about to put the steering wheel on the wrong side of the car. (Yes, I realize that there are places where American cars have the steering wheel on the wrong side and I believe that is why Detroit is such a mess today.)

This is what a Canadian road looks like.

This is what a Canadian road looks like.

The Metric System:

Next, Canada is one of those countries that blindly followed everybody else in the world down that rabbit hole called the metric system. Here is what irks me about the metric system: everything is shorter and if there is one thing that is universally accepted it is that bigger is better. (A kilometer is shorter than a mile, a centimeter is shorter than an inch, a yard…okay a meter is longer than a yard but I will not be limited by facts in this guide to Canada.)

Why is it important to know that Canada is on the metric system when you are driving? 1. Listed speed limits are in kilometers (which is slower than miles per hour, another reason that kilometers are inferior). 2. Distances on signs are listed in kilometers (which are shorter than miles). So when you see that the speed limit is 80 that does not mean that you get to go 80, it means that you can go 50. If that is too confusing let me give you an easy mathematical guide to figuring out how fast to go: 1 mph = 1.6 kph, so if the posted speed limit is 100 kph, get out your Texas Instruments calculator that you last used in 7th grade and divide 100 by 1.6 and that will give you the correct mph. (I think you can do this while on the road because there is no law prohibiting the use of calculators while driving.)  Or if your eyesight is really good you can use those little numbers on your speedometer. (Those little numbers are actually kph, funny huh? Solving life’s little mysteries is what I am all about.)

What if your eyesight is bad and you don’t have a calculator? Should you just follow the flow of the traffic? No, no, no, no, no. Why not? Because Canadians don’t follow the speed limit. They are either driving 500 kph over the listed speed “limit” or they are diving 20 kph under the speed limit. Does anyone follow the speed limit? Yes, Americans who don’t want to get a ticket.

Speeding:

Do Canadians who drive too fast get tickets? It depends. If you are driving in British Columbia and have BC license plates you can drive as fast as your car will take you, but if you are in British Columbia and have Alberta plates, well then that is a different story.

English: British Columbia license plate França...

BC plate means go fast in BC…do not follow these people if you are from outside the province.

If you are from Quebec, then stay in Quebec because all of Canada hates you. (Quebec is like Texas for Americans. This is not a joke. There are three things that are not laughing matters in Canada: Don Cherry’s jackets, hockey, and Quebec wanting to be its own nation.)

How Far is 45 kilometers?

When an American sees a sign that says a place is 45 miles away we know instinctively that it will take about 40 minutes to get there (45 if you drive the speed limit, which in the United States is 5 mph over whatever the sign says it is). Well how long does it take to drive 45 kilometers? I have no idea and neither does anyone in your car. You could do some math to figure it out, or if you are tired of all the math, which if you are American happened as soon as you drove five miles and the speed limit changed three times, you can choose one of two speeds to drive. If you drive the same speed as the distance on the sign then you will arrive in exactly one hour. For example, if the sign says Whistler is 50 kilometers away you can just drive 50kph and you will arrive in Whistler in one hour. This can be a problem if you are driving a long distance or a short distance, but that isn’t your problem when someone asks how long until we get to Edmonton, just press on the gas pedal take it up to 350kph and say, “We’ll be there in an hour.”

You can also chose to drive 100kph. This method will get you to any location in the time it says on the sign. So if it says Whistler is 45 kilometers away, it will take 45 minutes to get there driving 100kph. Again, there are flaws in this technique, but if you are like me you just want a definitive answer when someone asks, “How much longer?”

There you go, that is everything you need to know about driving in Canada. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask because, as you can tell, I am practically Canadian.

 

What Makes You an Expert on Canada?

Panorama

Images in this picture are larger than they appear.

I can see Canada from my house.

No, this is not a picture from my house, I can’t afford to live up on this hill, but if I stood on a really tall ladder on top of my house (a 200′ ladder maybe) I could see Canada across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Vancouver Island, home of Victoria BC and lots of trees, is a stone’s throw (a George Washington stone’s throw) from the humble village I call home.

Satellite image of the Strait of Georgia, Stra...

See? The only thing between me and Canada is water, and a few laws preventing me from rowing my kayak over there on weekends. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have also pretended to be Canadian when I travel so that people don’t think I am an American jerk. (This has never been successful because I am not polite enough, don’t speak a second language, and think Celine Dion is overrated.)  I have practiced talking like a Canadian and have even adopted a few Canadian mannerisms like saying, “Sorry” frequently (pronounced sOOOry in Canadian).

Now that we have established my bona fides, on to the guide.

Oh, Canada…The Country Right Above My Home And Fatherland

The first mistake an American traveling to Canada makes is to assume that Canada is pretty much exactly like the United States except a little colder. It isn’t. It is a mysterious place. It is a place where an American (United States citizen) can move freely without much trouble, but realize that those Canadians who are being so nice know who you are. They know how you spell favorite and honor. They know you eat your french fries without gravy and cheese. They know you probably have a gun hiding in your shoe. They know you don’t know the difference between a blue line and a red line. And they know you are a visitor because you yell at people letting cars merge at the border crossing.

Some Canadian flags: (left to right) Canadian, BC?, I have no idea, and mystery flag #2.

Some Canadian flags: (left to right) Canadian, BC?, I have no idea, and Whistler’s own flag. The skies in Canada always look like this.

Canadians have a reputation for being polite, friendly, and polite, and they are, but Canadians are also sneaky. They are one of the only nations to attack the United States on our soil. They think their national anthem is better than ours (and they might be right). They have a television show that plays 24/7 where they hide a camera and play cruel jokes on people and nobody ever gets mad. They continue to sneak actors, musicians, and comedians across the border without us figuring it out until it is too late.

I have returned from Canada and have put together an extensive guide for Americans visiting Canada. I will be covering everything from Canadian radio to driving in Canada. This guide will probably become the most important reference since Wikipedia was invented, so hold on to your touk (according to an actual Canadian, this is spelled toque) and get ready for some serious learning in the next few weeks.

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