Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Nashville, Tennessee 2014 -- Day 2

BTW, when I say "Day 2," I'm not counting our first travel day. Deal with it, or do some mental math. On-the-fly. Your choice.

Thought I should say something.

Day TWO begins with another neighbourhood walk. This time through Historic Edgefield.

It's a pretty amazing place. Large yards, grand pillars and chimneys everywhere. We tried to go to the highly rated Sky Blue Cafe but, on a Sunday morning with 20 churches within a 5 block radius (I'm not joking), people were bursting out the doors, the wait list was huge and I couldn't even find an employee to talk to. 

I was disappointed. Then, a botched google search for "pancakes" lead me to Bagel Face Bakery. I was worried as Wendy and I approached the door. It looked like, possibly, an old laundromat had been converted to a dining room, or something. Walking in, I could hear a groovy bass-line that I recognized. A good sign...
Bizarre Bagel Face Bakery Mascotts
Inside, 20kg bags of flour stacked on randomly placed pallets, table tops made from cabinet doors and a sorry looking bunch of misfits having breakfast. From tattoo'd bikers to soccer moms to post-church grandmothers. What they lacked in numbers was made up for in diversity. The friendly staff in the kitchen looked like juvenile detention rescue cases with dreadlocks, shavings, piercings, bling and make-up in a rastafarian/punk/goth mashup. I was in heaven!

Just enough of a good thing
Wendy got a bagel with cream cheese. Sure. I was a little more adventurous and had peanut-butter, banana and honey on a pumpkin/cranberry bagel. The peanut butter was as thick as the thickest thick thing you could fail to come up with a simile to describe. Maybe thicker.
After two nights, it was time to check out of our house and into the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center. More on that in a bit. Shortly after Ubering our way to the hotel through heavy football induced traffic (Titans vs Giants) Brad and his $9 car came to our rescue for a little more city exploration.

Our Uber driver, Misty, was a talker. She insisted we go to a cupcake store in German Town(map). We decided to have lunch first. Monell's was another odd eating experience. We were ushered into a large, dark, dining hall with tables seating 10-12 and told by our matronly hostess to put away our cell phones. Brad, Wendy and I were seated with 6 strangers and brought dish after dish of southern comfort food and told "pass to the left!"

  • scones
  • corn bread
  • some sort of white gravy
  • green beans and lard
  • corn pudding
  • asparagus casserole
  • mashed potatoes
  • pulled pork
  • fried catfish
  • fried chicken
  • meat loaf
  • pecan pie
  • 3 kinds of iced tea

Obviously, I could only eat half the items they brought, but I was stuffed, none-the-less. Don't know how Wendy or Brad managed it. As you might imagine, we thought we'd let dinner settle before ordering the cupcakes that we had come across town to try.

We went for a long walk in Bicentennial Mall State Park. Google reminds me that "this 19-acre plaza tells the story of the state's history through plaques, tours & water fountains." It really did. More importantly, it contained a giant granite globe for me to climb on.

After a couple of hours of walking, climbing steps, sliding on bannisters and rolling down hills, I was really ready for cupcakes. 4pm. Naturally, the store had just closed :(

So I did what I do best; I smiled at the girl mopping the floor and made a puppy-dog face as I pressed my nose into the glass of the door. Suddenly, the Cupcake Collection was no longer closed. Wendy was more than a little irritated by the success of this transparent manoeuvre. But, hey, CUPCAKES!
Delta Island
Back to the hotel. I don't know what to say about the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Hotel. I've never been to anything quite like it. Huge. Beautiful. Opulent. Excessive. Captive. I don't know... There is a map of it here.
Besides People and Plants, this was the only other life
Whoa, Christmas Tree. Whoa, Christmas Tree...
Elevator Action
I expect there will be more photos of the hotel tomorrow. I may not be able to escape.

The G+ photo set is still here and growing... Newest ones are at the bottom.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Nashville, Tennessee 2014 -- Day 1

When will disaster strike?
Okay, so the whole reason I was able to come on this trip with Wendy was because of the horrible flight problems that we had with Delta when we travelled to San Francisco, last winter. With serious arm twisting, Delta conceded to give us several travel vouchers each and with even more arm twisting, were convinced to allow them all to be used on the same future trip.

Wendy, on the other hand, is being paid to fly to Nashville to present on Purposeful Professional Learning at the Learn Forward 2014 conference. On the whole, it should be a pretty cheap vacation... for me ;)

So, the flights? Surprisingly, no problems. Everything ran about on time and the airport was busy, but sane. There was a bit of confusion when, on the second flight, we weren't seated together. A kind woman who was on her own, offered to let me have the seat beside Wendy. After what happened with our San Francisco flights, this was definitely the most uneasy part of the trip for me. I know that Wendy can't have a good trip if things are out of control. So far, so good.

Our first 2 nights imbedded near 5 points
omelette with smoked cheddar and pickled turnip--WOW!
It was dark and rainy when we arrived in Nashville... but at least it wan't snow! I used Uber for the first time to get us from the airport to our Airbnb home. It was a quick, pleasant and cashless transaction. LOVE IT!!!

Our Airbnb host, was not home, but left us instructions how to get into the house and work her smart TV. I "had" to hop the back fence (no side gate). Could have walked around the block into the alley, but seemed unnecessary. Did I mention it was dark and rainy? I was very heroic. Wendy says, "lucky nobody called the police."

We went for an early morning stroll and found a really pleasant bakery for breakfast... Bella Nashville.
The coffee was quite good and the bread was spectacular. Great way to start the day. We picked up some fruit and yogurt from a local grocery store, dropped it at our house and walked into downtown Nashville. I was enamoured of the charming, run down brick houses, shamelessly bright paint and cobbled sidewalks.

Wendy thought perhaps I was rose colouring things a bit...
Famous saying: "Don't judge a community by the dead fauna."
I had heard that Nashville is considered the "Athens of the South," but hadn't realized that it may also be the "Mordor of the South." The downtown skyline sports a good imitation of Barad-dûr.
Eye of Sauron overlooking the Cumberland River
Brad and Simone decided to meet up with us for a couple of days, which we thought was pretty sporting of them. We met them at a highly (over)rated coffee place downtown. Crema looked pretty great inside, but felt a little too "hipster." Many beards. Much plaid. Plenty laptops. I don't know what my problem is. Just a little too polished for my taste.

Brad rented a car for $9/day! Kind of makes all our walking seem idiotic. Anyway, we drove out to Belle Meade Plantation, paid for a tour of the Mansion and walked around the grounds. Sadly no photos allowed inside. Although, if you watch Downton Abbey, you won't have any trouble imagining.
Belle Meade Manor
The original homestead
Wendy is dismissive of the gardener's abilities
Family Mausoleum.
There were lots of great things to look at, but Wendy was disappointed. The tour focused heavily on the families that owned the plantation (and would gradually shape early Nashville), but other than obligatory mentions, pretty much ignored slave life. No slave quarters restored. No record of their daily lives. There were 8 different Victorian Christmas trees, though. Each representing a different decade in the life of the house and the evolution of North American Christmas.

We had supper at The Wild Cow, a vegan place. The food was adventurous in the ingredients department, but sadly, a little bland. However, it was really nice to have the pick of an entire menu, rather than just salads and sides.

What? Oh, the weather. This time of year, the sun is setting around 4:30pm (though it rises at 6:30am) and the daytime highs have been 10-15 degrees C. May I continue?

We spent the evening wandering around the state legislature, touring the Tennessee State Museum and enjoying the "Athenian" vibe.
War Memorial Auditorium A.K.A. Minas Morgul of the South ;)
Well, some of us enjoyed it. Brad complained that "this sort of architecture is all over the US and what makes Nashville so special?" I asked if Newport News had a full scale Parthenon (Which I hope to see it on Tuesday). Check and Mate.
Legislature Building Decked out for Christmas
Wow. We kind of did a lot today... About 15,000 steps for anyone who cares ;)

Here is my Google+ Photo Album of Nashville (this will continue to grow throughout the trip)

Friday, December 05, 2014

Fall Update 2014

Wendy and I are leaving for Nashville today. I'll start posting about that in a few days. Today, just a little update for those of you who are either far flung or have been too busy to catch up since my last mountain trip. As a disclaimer, many of these pictures have already appeared on G+ or FB.

We did a family photo shoot at a couple of locations on the river bank. There was some grumpiness and hard feelings (aging parents and teenage girls have some body issues, in case you were unaware), but mostly we had a great time.

There were Halloween shenanigans...
Wendy is a genius when it comes to Value Village shopping. Months ago she found me some great felt boots. They were the basis for one of my favourite costumes ever. Sure, you say... Mike as a pirate, how novel! Get over yourselves. Yes, I could have (and have in the past) whipped up a costume for free. However, this is a costume that required some effort.

Boots - Felt VV find -- $5

Pants - Lululemon. I wear these (or their doppelgangers) EVERY DAY. So comfortable. I could go on, but it's a little embarrassing how much I love these pants. -- $130

Belt - VV -- $2

Shirt - Commissioned from a friend in Meadow Lake in 1999. Modeled after my wedding shirt -- $35

Jacket - Used woman's coat from VV. It was way to large and the sleeves were too short. I had to take in the waist (the belt really) add some fancy cuffs, add interfacing to stiffen the collar and throw on some extra buttons. -- $20 (30% of that is buttons and Jodi let me use a half meter of some awesome fabric for the cuffs).

Hat - Cheap costume hat. Looks far better than it deserved. Wendy glued a little foam on the inside to make it fit better -- $5

Sword - This was an impulse buy, but I just love it. I have a couple of sparring swords already, but not really anything befitting a pirate. Fortunately, Cutting Edge (facebook) had this wonderful combat ready, PVC, basket handled sabre -- $100

Just in case you think this was the only dressing up I did this fall... think again.
I am a "lost boy" through and through...
Leora and Anwyn have finished up with volleyball season and Anwyn is on to basketball. Leora had to forgo more sports since debate and playing Dorothy in Walter Murray's version of The Wiz kept her insanely busy.
Scarecrow and Dorothy get an education from the Tin Woman
Fortunately, they found just enough time to hang out with their father at the Western Development Museum's Festival of Trees. I was quite fortunate. The library paid me to tell some adventure stories to the kids at the Peter Pan Pajama Party. Anwyn was the Christmas fairy and got to help Tinkerbell sprinkle pixie dust on all the children. Leora was Peter Pan. She came on stage and had a bit of a sword fight with me during my storytime. It was great fun and I felt exceedingly fortunate to have the opportunity to perform with them and to see how wonderful they are with children.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Yoho 2014 - Featuring Mt. Kerr

Sunset Giving Me the Finger
Dave and I managed to miss two years in a row of doing a mountain trip together, but schedules and luck finally co-ordinated. On September 3rd I jumped in the van and drove the 8hrs to Canmore, AB.  I love the time driving... exploring new music... stopping to take pictures on pure inspiration. If I had thought carefully, I probably would have planned to be near Drumheller for the sunset. I was just lucky, I guess.
Horseshoe Canyon -- Sunset
Knowing I was going to be in just before midnight, I never lingered long while taking pictures. There is no sense in making a long drive dangerous by being tired on the road.

Dave and I were up mid morning and hit the road. We passed by Banff and Lake Louise and crossed into BC,  winding up at Yoho National Park. 

We began our journey with some quick elevation gain following the Iceline Trail. Dave reckoned that doing the more difficult hike when we had lots of energy would be better. I found it challenging with a 30lb pack, but still very manageable. There were constant and spectacular views, but I was less able to enjoy them as my shoulders complained of their load.
Master Mountaineer in Repose
Dave looking small under ominous clouds
Isolated Peak looks quite Tolkienesque from this angle
This marmot had good camouflage, but terrible flight instinct.
We arrived a couple of hours before dark at our campground near Stanley Mitchell Hut (which you can book for a comfortable stay, here). SM was some big-shot in the mountaineering world of Canada (he was a co-founder of the Alpine Club of Canada). The hut was all rented out for the weekend, but no one was there yet. Since it was rainy and cold, we took the opportunity to cook our evening meal on their porch.

We are cold and damp. The cabin so inviting.

At least we would manage to have a hot meal.

High-Class Food

The cabin would have been soooo nice and warm. Instead, though, we ran our food up the flagpole to see who'd salute and retired to our tiny tent for the night. It took a long time to get to sleep. The full moon kept peeking out from behind clouds and lighting up the whole campground. Also, two dudes eating trail food all day and then staying in a confined space. You have to be pretty tired to overcome all those obstacles. Oh, did I mention that my damn bedroll wouldn't hold air. #lumpyground

The next day was our "big adventure day." It was a chance for us to be away from more casual hikers and for Dave to get to some places he hadn't been before. I wasn't quite as sore as I would have anticipated, but the morning seemed just a little colder than I had wanted. I mean I brought the right clothes, but it is hard to be prepared for a hard frost on Sept 5th. On the upside, Dave's mug looks positively picturesque covered with the filthy stuff.
Sometimes a thermos can be too good. An ice cold river cools my coffee.
After coffee and oatmeal and a little stretching, our creaky joints started to function and we set off for the days mission. The campsite is still below the treeline, but only just. It was only about an hour until we were out on bare rock with  a bit of scrub. Below and right, I'm standing on a beautiful and perfectly flat natural bridge over this waterfall. It was only a little ways off the path plus an insignificant climb on incredibly sharp rock.
Daaaave Down Below...
We came from way down there...
Mike On Waterfall
Pretty Pleased with this Perch.
A few hours in saw us arrive at Kiwetinok Lake(map), which Dave tells me is the highest named lake in the Rockies. I believe him, because, well... I don't really know anything. I'm just along for the ride.
Dave checks the map while I photograph Kiwetinok Lake
There are several interesting objectives nearby. Dave wanted to try some interesting climbs going up Mt. Pollinger(map). Unfortunately, an early snowfall means that the climb we wanted most to do had become a lot more technical. We would certainly have needed crampons(wiki) to safely negotiate several parts and my inexperience would also have been a liability that I think we were smart to avoid.

Instead we decided to find a route up Mt. Kerr. There are a lot of places to read up on routes that people have successfully done up these slopes. That really seems like the easy way, so we decided to make our own path.
Kiwetinok Lake as seen from a dead end on Mt. Kerr
That didn't work out so well. Dave thinks we were only a stones throw from the top, but it might as well have been a mile. The fresh snow (and accidentally choosing nearly the most challenging face) stopped us short of our goal. The good news is (above) Dave finally managed to take a photo that actually captures how steep the slopes feel! That and I got to use an Ice Axe ;)
No Sand People were harmed during the wielding of this axe
We weren't particularly upset that we didn't summit. The journey is the real destination, and as you can see, we didn't suffer for great views. On the way down we took our time photographing a lot of the fabulous rock formations that we had passed by during our rush to get higher.
An embarrassingly great view
Confusing Angles
We arrived exhausted back at our campsite. Fortunately, it was much warmer than the evening before. We were even tempted to do a bit more climbing to get in a good position to enjoy the sunset.

Now, sunsets in the mountains are a bit strange. At least, from a prairie perspective. Here, a sunset could last in glorious colour, spraying the sky's entire expanse, for an hour or more. In the mountains it is more fleeting. Much more. And, you don't quite know where to look. Little shocks of colour peek out frosting mountain tops or glaciers in glowing pink for sometimes only 30 seconds. It was a treat to experience something so different, but I'd be lying if I didn't say, I'll take a Saskatchewan sunset any time.
The sun has been long gone. And, it's actually mostly BEHIND me?!?
The next day we had to make it back out of the valley. We wanted to have some time to relax, so we set off pretty early. Making my head really cold in this stream helped me to forget how sore my back was to become as we shouldered our heavy packs again.
My (in)Famous Head-dunking Ritual (and I saw Highlander only days before!)
The lower path out of the valley didn't have the same spectacular views as on the way in. But, it was far more green. I spent a lot of time getting lush, mossy photos for Wendy. At one log in particular, Dave and I spent 20-30 minutes just taking close ups of the fungus. He called it the "Tiny Fairy Kingdom" to the amusement of some passing hikers.
The turrets are Powdered Funnel. I'm told this pinkish stuff is colloquially called "Fairy Puke"
Quality time photographing the "Wee Folk"
The real reason that the lower path through the valley exists isn't for the fungal photography, but rather because it is both easier and populated by several extraordinary waterfalls.
Laughing Falls
Duchesney Lake may have be beautiful once, or at a wetter time of year...
A tree straight out of Lothlorien?
Point Lace Falls
Of course the Jewel of all of these falls is Takakkaw which, yes, I just had to stick my head in. I was looking forward to it for three days and it did not disappoint. Even though there is a glacier very near the top, it was not all that cold by the time it falls 384 m to the bottom. It is the second highest waterfall in Canada.
I dried off as we drove back to Canmore. That evening we had an enormous amount of pizza and watched some Star Trek TOS followed by an episode of Mystery Science Theatre 3000. It was way funnier than I thought would be possible.
I must have lost those mountains somewhere...
In the morning I took some macro photos of some of Suzanne's flowers. They will be dead by now, but thanks to me, she will always have the memories ;)

Then I got home.

Thanks again, Dave for all the sore muscles and the great views. I can't wait for the next adventure.

264 photos from this trip can be found here