Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Just out for a stroll, officers.

A friend of mine emailed me this story. It seemed questy, and I wanted to share it with the my like-minded readers. My friend has a nephew who has recently left the county. I thought since he is now out of the reach of the applicable authorities, I could safely tell this story... Oh, If you open the title of this post in a new window, you get a map of the activities as described. I didn't embed it cause Vin whines is concerned about load times.
It's been a long time since I felt like getting into trouble on campus. To be honest, I didn't feel like it tonight. Sometimes I get to feeling like I'm too old to be climbing where I don't belong and like the magic of the night just doesn't do it for me anymore. That may be one of the reasons that I had children. Kind of cliche if it's true. Anyway, mine aren't quite old enough to be this kind of fun... yet. Fortunately, I have this nephew of mine. I'll call him 'David,' in order to protect his identity ;)

David had asked me on a couple of occasions if I would take him to the U of S campus and show him how to get into the maintenance tunnels that criss cross beneath the grounds. There had never seemed to be a good time. This evening I wasn't super keen, as I've mentioned, but since David was scheduled to be leaving the country for several months, I thought I had better give up the goods. I mean, if I had waited until he got back, he could very well have turned into a man when I wasn't looking and then how would all my boyish antics manage to impress him?

Off to campus I had to go. I decided to show him the one place that was sure to be accessible -- the air ventilation shaft behind the physics building. On the way we talked about several geographic features of the campus and a number of other places where doors lead into the tunnels -- if only they were ever left unlocked. We took our time and patiently scouted the area. It was late in the summer, so though there were few students around (at 11pm) there we a disconcerting number of workmen in various parts of the neighboring buildings.

We made our way to the shaft and lifted the aluminum cover off, using a flashlight to take a peek. David climbed in and tried to toggle the vent grating, but was a little uncomfortable to try and slide between the narrow slats without something to wedge them open. Coming back out, we replaced the cover and went in search of an appropriate size stick to manage the task. I was beginning to feel uneasy, having been at the location for 15 min, and suggested we go for a walk to check out some interesting man-hole covers that also might provide access. We had only walked 50 metres when we noticed a campus security car cruise into the area from whence we had just come. As we rounded a corner, we sprinted hastily to the end of the engineering building.

As fate would have it, it was just the location that a certain group of errant questers had passed long ago, moments before they were apprehended by campus security. I related to David the ancient tale of our exploits on campus that fateful night in 1991 and how we had been flanked on 3 sides by the cops. In the end they hadn't actually seen any of the childish fun that we were in fact guilty of and merely suggested we leave. I felt a little empty relating the story, as we hadn't managed to achieve any mischief yet and already I was on the run from the mere shadows of authority. After all, no one had pursued us. It was probably just a regular patrol, passing by on it's rounds. At the moment I felt much more of a coward than hero.

I tried to keep up a brave front by doing a little climbing on some parts of the agriculture building, watching over my shoulder for patrol cars all the while. After a dozen minutes passed with little activity, my curiosity began to take over and we made our way back to the scene of our attempted crime. All seemed quite. The car had gone. I still had a bad feeling about the tunnels, though, and I suggested that we check out this great ladder that leads up onto the roof of Voyager Hall, the student residence. I'm sure David was disappointed at my show of discretion, but he was definitely up for a good climb.

Up we went. One long ladder (up about 3 stories) and two shorter ones we went, "swift as weasels in the dark and with hardly any more noise than bats." I immediately felt better. It is a great view from up there. Private, yet centrally located, it feels like you have a secret and intimate connection with the university and it's denizens. As we looked around I saw the flash of a meteor burning up. Then I realized that we were a mere 4 hours from the peak viewing time for this year's Perseids (picture courtesy We watched for a while without much luck, as the moon was near full, but it felt like a treat none-the-less. We messed around for awhile, looking for other places to get up or down and then decided to call it a night.

Just as we were walking past the Arts building, two young students came flying out of the side doors and one of them (a young lady) tumbled and rolled out onto Campus Drive. Campus cops converged on them from two directions. One of them yelled something about "get the FUCK off the grass" (I think it was "grounds" but David insists). They bolted not ten feet from where we were watching wide-eyed, and then disappeared into the evening. As we continued, we saw a 3rd cop up on a balcony. He was watching from above and calling to the ground units on his radio. I decided not to show David that one last wall that I wanted to climb.

As we left campus, we saw the young questers, apprehended and awaiting... I'm not sure what. A stern lecture perhaps, or a 'real' police presence. We passed by and were approached by two of them. I asked what all the commotion was about, but they were unresponsive to my question. The officers asked us if we were friends with "these two" and if we had been up on the roof with them. I answered, truthfully, that we had not. They bade us have a good evening, not realizing that they had just made it for us :)

Pike Lake

Of course I went. The Chariot (bike trailer) that I have been using forever has in recent months been converted for use as a cargo hauler. Leora and Anwyn are such competent bikers (and lets face it a little large) that they have been getting very few trailer rides this year. Anyway, 4 bolts are removed and the fabric seats, belts and a couple of bars can be rolled up and tied out of the way. The result is that it is capable of carrying a surprising amount of cargo. My bike also has a double sided pannier on the back. Wendy has a rack with bungee cords on the back end and a wire-frame basket on the front. What did we take on this trip?
Large items included:
(x1) Tent, tarp, cooler, axe
(x2) sleeping bags, camp rests, pillows, folding chairs
There was all the miscellaneous gear that you might expect: Clean clothes, books, rain gear, bug spray, water, ropes, food, coffee press, cooking stove, pots, pans, fresh spices and some of the best salt in all the shire.
Moving on. With all the last minute planning (not the least of which was watering the entire garden and moving hanging plants and boxes into the shade) we didn't get a move on until after 2 p.m. Here is the route we traveled.

View Larger Map
It was hot. Dare I say "Africa hot"? No, I dursn't. We were bucking a bit of a head-wind, and with the heavy loads we were toting, we really needed a few breaks. We stopped at shady spots on the highway and had ice-cream and a head-dunk at the Berry Barn which, as it turns out, is almost exactly half-way.

The second half of the trip was quite uncomfortable. We both resolved to get better seats for our bikes before there would be any repeat performance. In any event, we arrived triumphant and found one of the few sites remaining.

You may gather from the picture that it was less than secluded.

Things I enjoyed about the trip:
-challenging ride
-free entrance to provincial park (no vehicle)
-camping during a great thunder storm
-getting looks because we biked into our site
-no one at picnic spots

Things I did not enjoy:
-crowded campsite
-listening to a Bluejays game on 4 different radios until 11pm
-my really sore butt

The whole thing made me wish for a bike trailer that could bring the canoe with us. It would be great to bike upstream for a day and then camp on the river on our way home.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Sleepless in Saskatoon

My eyes struggle to open. I've been up a little too late... again. What's my excuse lately? Let's recap on my sleep excuses -- starting from the beginning of summer:

-- Cinderella (-- no, not the band, but a fine selection in video... land) Perhaps not the band, after all, but rather the play that I was in. You may have heard me talking/whining about it? I didn't post my show pictures? Well you should really trust me when I say that if you weren't in the show, you probably don't have a strong interest in seeing them. Since there may be those of you who don't listen, or who have lots of time on their hands to sift through pictures of people that they haven't met... here is the link to the album.

-- Erin, Colin, James and Brad helped me and Wen and the girls build a fence. It was... educational.
Jodi and Brad were my scapegoats for the next couple of weeks. Jodi kept me out to all hours playing pool and even when Brad wasn't directly keeping me up himself, his fiendish ideas were causing me to lose sleep. I'll remind you here that the single Prince Rupert's Drop that we managed to make was accomplished at about 1:00 am.

-- Overlapping their visit, was a visit from Wendy's father, Lee. While it can't be said that he stays up late, he does get up incredibly early. Add to this that I talked him into a leadership role in my overzealous greenhouse construction scheme and, well, late nights, early mornings, lots of physical labour -- you figure out how much sleep I was able to get.

-- When he left, Lee took Leora and Anwyn to Ottawa and I took the opportunity to celebrate by staying up late on the PS3

-- Did I mention that I walked around Saskatoon? Yeah, I thought I had.
    Why have I told you all this? Aside from the fact that if you didn't want to know what was going on in my life, you wouldn't be here... it is to provide the context for my latest feat of exhaustion...
    My eyes struggle to open. It has been about 36 hrs since I walked 70 km over the course of a very long day. Fresh brewed coffee ensures my waking-in-good-faith -- as does a hot Saskatoon-berry scone.  I mumble my thanks between bites of scone and the first sips of still-too-hot dark roast. Years of marriage have taught Wendy that it is now that I am at my most compliant.
    "We should go to Pike Lake for a couple of days."
    "...Camping?" Scone good.
    "I haven't been since I was a kid."
    Sounds relaxing. I can sit around and read... "O.K. Do you want to take the canoe?"
    The short curls on her forehead bounce slightly as she leaps onto the bed. "I don't think I could strap it to the trailer."
    She almost spills my drink. Normally, I'd mention it, but now I'm confused, "We don't have a trailer."
    "Sure we do." She sounds far too chipper as she says, "The bike trailer."
    I pick up my mug and take a long draught. My fingers trace the outline of the silvery quest symbol that I have painted on the surface. 
    "We're biking to Pike Lake?"
    That's kind of how it happened, anyway.

    Monday, August 04, 2008

    18h 38min

    I've done it again!
    Everyone has really been clamouring for details and it has become rather bothersome. I have taken the liberty of compiling an FAQ. I suggest you have a look at it.

    Q-What are we talking about?
    A-Saskatoon City Quest. A once-every-so-often physical challenge of titanic proportions.

    Q-And that is...?
    A-Essentially, it is a hike. I jog some, walk some. Visit when I have company and despair when alone. I take pictures when I can be bothered to carry a camera. The journey started out being roughly 55km (circa 1994) and now stands at 70km in 2008.

    Q-Why would you do that?
    A-Pleased to meet you. My name is Mike... Mike Diakuw

    Q-Can you give me that distance in miles?

    Q-Your time is slower this year, isn't it?
    A-You could say that.

    Q-Care to comment further?
    A-Not really. Why don't you try it and let me know where to shave off some time.

    Q-Did you hurt yourself again?
    A-Hurt myself? What would make you say that?
    Q-I'll be asking the questions here.
    A-Was that a question?

    Q-Do you have a map I could look at?
    A-Funny you should ask... Here it is. The dark orange line is my route from 2006. The light blue is from 2008. The push-pins are commentary and pictures from the 2006 trip. I will add colour coded pins for this year as I have time.

    View Larger Map

    A-You should really brush up on your questioning skills.

    Q-So, if I can't see your pictures on that awesome map, where can I see them?
    A-Unless I am wrong -- and I am never wrong -- they are located here:

    City Quest -- 2008

    Q-Are you getting tired of this "FAQ"?
    A-I thought you'd never ask.

    Well, I was worried that the first time might have been a fluke. It was a great start to the day. James arrived at 4:11am and we were gone by 4:32. Some might have thought that the inverted pick-up truck atop Stonebridge was an ominous tiding, but I chose to think of it as one more reason to do more walking. I was a little nervous about taking pictures, but any injured people seemed to have been efficiently whisked away already, so I didn't feel too paparazzi.

    The morning is always the most fabulous time for a walk around the city. Don't get me wrong, getting up at 3:30 to do it is a little wacko, but the resultant sunrise is very sweet, indeed. We did a little jogging and James and I goaded each other into semi-dangerous feats of physical prowess. Other than a little incident at the train bridge involving James' map and a 15 meter drop into the Saskatchewan river, there seemed to be no stopping us.

    We had some help, of course. Wendy, Jaime and Vin all came out to the Husky on highway 4 to share lunch with us. It was a terrific feast. I especially enjoyed changing into sandals for the next section of the walk. The fresh Saskatoon pie was my favorite. Wen and I picked them at the Strawberry Ranch earlier in the week. With the girls out of town, picking berries was our version of a 'date.' cooking the pies was steamy too. Just like that movie, chocolat. Ahem! To get back on topic, here are my little elves. With them, every walk around the city is like Christmas.

    I'm not going to give a full journaled account of the trip. Most of the page would be taken up by "and then I took another step followed by another and eventually, I looked like this..."

    So regrets to all the former participants who couldn't make it with me this year: Dave, Geof, Nathan, David and Kyro.

    Special thanks to Erin for giving Wendy the ride and to Ellen for calling to offer support.

    And Wendy. You make so much possible.

    Friday, August 01, 2008

    Vacation back log - part the first

    Brad and Jodi were up visiting for a couple of weeks. We managed a trip to the Narrows out at Waskesiu. Click below to see the photos with my oh-so-witty commentary.
    Later, Brad and I managed to melt glass with my new oxi-acetylene torch and to manufacture 1 Prince Rupert's Drop ( at a bargain price of about $100 *ouch*

    Prince Rupert's Drops