Happy Holidays! – Canada

Dec 24, 2001

You know those infrequent mass e-mails veiled behind the Blind Carbon Copy feature feigning intimacy while delivering a self-serving update on Rick’s recent doings?

This is one.

(Disclosure: I stole this introduction from Dean Kalyan)

rick_mugFall in Saskatoon is a wonderful season. Beautiful. Unfortunately — it’s winter.

I’m living near the University again. I love the buzz and energy of the U of S. There’s always something happening.

I’ve been working a bit for Keith at Kinesiology. It’s rumoured that my office is Browser’s Internet Café at U of S.

I was impressed that the E-plant came off again this year. It’s symbolic of the glorious chaos that is the University phase of life. In this annual frosh ritual the Engineering students kidnap one of the Agricultural students; lock him up for a week, feed him only beer and pizza, then crucify him on a gigantic E in the centre of the University.

The Agros rally to rescue the captive. A sprawling melee ensues where the painted combatants (red agros and blue engineers) grapple, ripping each other’s clothes off. (Warriors duct tape their clothes as armour.)

This year, for the first time, the kidnap victim was a woman. At U of S, I run noon hours with Bill and Doug. We were hitting the shower post-run along with dozens of blue-painted naked engineers. In walked one lone red naked Agro student … I’ve got to admit, that guy had balls.

I’m coaching at Taiso — but not too many hours / week. It’s been nice after my burnout last season.

It may be time to find a paying job in 2002. Let me know if you have any suggestions for me.

Earlier this Fall I stayed up late to watch the Leonid meteor shower — amazing.

Good on Canada for honouring our hero Nelson Mandela with Canadian citizenship. (Which Alliance MP hinted that Mandela was a terrorist and refused to return his phone call?) There are some true freedom fighters … Mandela, Gandhi & the Dali Lama.

I took a trip to Kansas City in October to help document the Kansas City Royal Barbeque Championships. Attracting 50,000 people, this is the biggest barbeque competition in the world. Huge prize money.

My friend Ron’s team had qualified for KC by winning US$1000 in Oregon.

Barbeque competition is weird and wonderful. But why do people take a perfectly tasty activity — scorching dead beast — and obfuscate it with rules, alcohol and the most subjective judging scheme conceivable?

Odd.

The only thing odder would be to reward little girls for doing difficult stunts high on a narrow beam.

All the best to you and yours in 2002!

Rick

p.s.

Last time I asked for intelligent, left-wing spokespeople who might responsibly balance all the (high-paid!) right wing types. I got some suggestions:

Billy Bragg
Rick Salutin (Globe and Mail)
Rex Murphy
CBC radio
Peter Gzowski

Happy New Year!

Humans Are Animals Too – West Coast Trail

Dear Parks Canada,

Humans are animals too.

A murder of crows took my bagel at 8:15 am July 25th at Camper Bay on the West Coast Trail. Please have the crows there humanely dispatched as you put down troublesome bears, cougars, banana slugs and Killer whales. …

For the rest of this comic travelogue on the WCT jump to the permanent webpage in Rick’s photo archive. OPEN icon

Zion – Vegas by Greyhound

July 2001

Zion, Utah is one of the best National Parks in the USA.

rick_mug

Where is everyone?

Of the 16 hikers booked on the 6 AM shuttle to the trailhead, I’m the only one that showed. The rest we assumed decided to go back to bed after checking the dark clouds overhead that morning.

I was waiting to hike Zion Narrows, a 12 mile slot canyon river walk.

Narrow canyons have a distressing tendency to flash flood. In 1998 two California hikers drowned here, their bodies washed miles downstream.

Still, there have been only 22 flash flood fatalities in Utah since 1950. The far greater danger is hypothermia. You can freeze in the canyon when the temperature is 100 degrees F+ up above.

narrowsTurned out I had the canyon to myself, wading the shallow stream, scrambling boulders, red rock cliffs towering as much as 1000 feet on both sides. These are the Narrows of the Virgin River, and, as you know, Virgin narrows are tight. It’s a fantastic, eerie feeling to slosh the canyon alone, wind blasts alternating direction.

I looked for high ground when it began to rain. (There’s no chance of a flash flood in June — I’d been assured by the guy who rented me “canyoneering” gear.)

In fact, I did not go for a sudden high velocity swim. I walked 10 hours before sighting day hikers splashing at the Canyon exit.

Zion National Park is amazing, one of the best of the dozens of attractions in the U.S. South West. I’d long wanted to hike here and in the hoodoos of nearby Bryce National Park, also great.

The big U.S. Parks are installing shuttle buses and removing personal vehicles from park roads. VERY convenient. This green forward thinking does not extend outside the Parks, however, and I had to hitch out of both Zion and Bryce.

Hitchhiking seems a lost art in the U.S. of A. I didn’t see any other hitchhikers in 2 weeks. One character who gave me a lift was organizing the “National Mountain Man Rendezvous”; thousands gather to relive Western life in the 1800s, full regalia required.

Hitching is a drag, but it may still be faster and more convenient than the bus. I had a 15 day Greyhound pass. OUCH! Greyhound U.S.A. is bad, much inferior to Greyhound Canada.

The main upside is the entertainment value of the passengers; mostly elderly, ethnic, and/or eccentric. There’s no better people watching to be had. And I built up some good karma; spotting midgets up bus stairs, assisting a gent with his 11 bags, rescuing hapless customers from rude Greyhound employees, translating for confused Hispanic mothers.

One loco enviromaniac sat down beside me. He lived on roots, moths, rabbit and road kill fox in the Mexican desert. On one bus I missed was an “escaped” man infected with T.B. — passengers were later asked to report to medical authorities.

You do get a weird perspective on the U.S.A. when you travel by bus. It’s like traveling in a third world country. Small town ramshackle buildings collapse on main streets. There seems to be no zoning bylaws (or any laws at all) in ghost town wannabes like Dillon, Montana and Goldfield, Nevada (on the “Extraterrestrial Highway”).

Cramped and dirty, Greyhound depots in the U.S. are often awful; plastic food displays, hairnets, stern warnings against smoking and boozing on the bus. Some depots have been moved to McDonald’s; “McChicken, coffee, and a one-way ticket to Vegas, please.”

Last time in Vegas I left convinced the world must end soon — no God could allow the kind of flagrant excess of this new Gomorrah.

Well … Vegas is improving. It’s now touted as a family destination. The gambling, free booze, and show girls are lesser attractions than the shows, restaurants, and the outrageous resorts themselves.

My terrific hosts in Vegas were Dan & Terri. I saw the Cirque du Soleil shows “Mystere” and “O”, both excellent.

A friend from Lethbridge, Steve, arrived the same day. We trekked the billion dollar casinos (all built with the money of “winners”) and tucked into a Vegas buffet.

slots_addict
Steve’s a winner at slots

With Tom & Karen, two more transplanted Cirque Canadians, we celebrated Terri’s birthday at a Mexican restaurant; saw a prop comedian named Carrot Top; and finished the evening with Las Vegas crooners at the Brown Derby.

Too much fun.

A US$100 round of golf was fun — but not too much fun.

mcfollowthru
McFollowthru (more golf photos)

I went with Dan & Terri & family up to Navajo Lake, Utah for a relaxed camping and fishing break, a nice escape from the heat and excitement of Vegas.

Dan fishing

Next stop Vancouver to visit Ron & Kate. I foresee great food, great drink, kayaking, beaching, hiking, running … and getting stuck half way up a crack scrambling The Chief near Squamish.

Wish me luck.