Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Hole in Homeland Security

Over the course of nearly three days, I made my way from Jasper, Alberta to Whitehorse, Yukon. I took the long road-- the Cassiar Highway. Off HWY 37 is a spur, 37a, that takes you the small town of Stewart, British Columbia. Keep driving through Stewart and less than a mile later, right past the wharf, you cross into the Unites States and the smaller Alaskan town of Hyder.

This is where I take issue? Where are the Minutemen, Homeland Security or Immigration and Customs? I mean, I just drove into the United States from Canada with no hassle. Of course, I had to go through Canadian Immigration on the way back into Canada where once again I was subject to silly questions and procedure (I was in Hyder all of 20 minutes). I asked Canadian Customs where US Customs was and her reply was, "They always say they're coming, but we'll see."

I mean, anyone can easily drive into our country from Canada and threaten us. Never mind that Hyder only has a population of 97 (2000 Census) and the road ends less than a mile into town. There is no airstrip in Hyder. US Mail comes twice a week from Ketchikan, Alaska (though I haven't figured out if it lands in Stewart or if it is a float plane). You would have to boat down the Portland Inlet and around the southern tip of Akaska to get to the nearest American town, never mind Seattle. Where's the uproar? This town is a threat to our National Security!!

- Stewart and Hyder are small and not much going on there. At the height of the silver boom in the early 20th century, 10,000 people lived at the end of the Portland Canal. Toady, the two towns combine for about 600. The road in is spectacular however. It drops to sea level from over 2200 feet. In this narrow valley is Bear Glacier and over two dozen sublimely beautiful waterfalls cascading from the ridges high above.

- The Cassiar Highway I describe as lonely. 70-90 miles between gas stations. The towns (Iskut and Dease Lake) are tiny and remote. Logging is huge. Signs along the road indicate when an area was logged and when it was replanted. The road is pretty well maintained, but you can tell that winter (and logging trucks) takes its toll on the asphalt. The views are nice. Not Icefields Parkway spectacular, but serene and humbling in the knowledge that you are so far from society.

- Alaska Highway also remote. Also lonely. But more (and larger) towns and more cars. Whitehorse is unremarkable. Nice clean town with good history, but nothing stands out that's good or bad. The guy in the bike shop in Skagway did tell me that Whitehorse has the best mountain biking in the region.

- Envy: Lot's of motorcycles. I've seen more BMWs in Yukon/Alaska/British Columbia than I have in the last two years. For good reason. They are good all purpose bikes that can take a beating. I met one guy who lives in Asheville and was riding the Haul Road (even more remote than the Cassiar) all the way to Prudhoe Bay. I want to go!

- Skagway. Four cruise ships were docked on Monday. The town was overrun with people. It's small to begin with and then each ship has twice the number of people of the entire town, so I was frustrated and annoyed by the tourists. There was no quiet place to eat, read or relax, which is what I wanted to do while I waited for my afternoon ferry for Sitka.

- I tried to get an oil change in Skagway. There was no mechanic, just a guy named Chet "on call". I called him and he said he could do it in two or three days because he has to order the oil filter from Juneau. The idea that it would not be in stock never occurred to me since I have three auto parts stores within a three mile radius of my house (plus two quick lubes and who knows how many mechanics).

- In case you are wondering: since leaving Hendersonville, about 4,800 miles put on my chariot, whom I've since named Pomp or Pompey, after William Clark's nickname for Sacajawea's baby, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, who in the first two years of his life journeyed across the continent and back on his mother's back with the Corps of Discovery.

Non-Road trip Shout Outs:
My good friend who lives, works and trains in Colorado Springs, Ryan Kirkpatrick, home for his Grandpa Kirk's 90th birthday ran, won and set a new course record in the Bele Chere 5K on Saturday.

Bele Chere has record 5K

Another good friend, Jason Joyce, has been promoted to Athletic Director at North Henderson. Which means his golf game will continue to suffer and I will continue to dominate.

North hires Joyce as new AD

Friday, July 24, 2009


There are a lot of places that I like a whole lot. But let's suppose that because of good behavior, or bad behavior, I was forced to choose one place that I had to be quarantined to and never travel more than 100 miles from that one place. The list is short. Asheville would be there. Bergen, Norway. Definitely Jasper, Alberta. As far as large cities, give me: Vancouver, London, Denver.

Jasper has it all. Great scenery, hiking, biking, rafting. Cool town, even if 2 million tourist come through each year. Great people. In the last week, I've seen moose, elk, marmot, badger, coyote, bear. This was my second visit to Jasper and my complaint both times is there are too many trails to hike and things to see. But then again, Jasper National Park is Canada's largest national park.

Question, and post in the comments here: "What 100 mile area would you be 'quarantined' to?" (Only rule is that you had to have been there before). I'm interested to see responses.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Oil Town

I almost didn't come to Edmonton. I liked Calgary so much from my visit a few years back that I thought I might go back and skip Edmonton. I'm glad I didn't. Great city. It's clean, vibrant and rich in natural resources and history. Edmonton has the working class feel of Pittsburgh, the greenspace of Portland and the history of boom and bust of Chicago.
Edmonton Skyline from Old Strathcona
Within Edmonton is North America's largest mall (West Edmonton Mall- 800 stores, 5.3 million square feet, an indoor amusement park, the world's largest indoor waterpark, skating rink, etc, etc), the largest connected urban green space in North America (22 parks situated along the North Saskatchewan River suitable for running, biking, skiing), lots of golf courses in town, the University of Alberta and nifty little neighborhoods. Guess what Edmonton loves? Hockey. My first turn off of Canada HWY 16 took me onto Wayne Gretzky Drive and pass the Rexall Place where the Oilers play and just off Jasper Ave downtown is 99 Street, also know as Hull Road.
South Edmonton view
Rue Hull
I am staying at the Hostelling International Edmonton, located in the hip, old and trendy neighborhood of Old Strathcona. Strathcona's reminds me of the Virginia Highlands in Atlanta. On a Saturday night, that's where people come to see and be seen. Punk, hipster, trendy all come out to Wythe Avenue on a Friday or, in my case, a Saturday night. Guys on motorcycles make lots of noise, while others arrive and park their bicycles. Men pop their collars and show their tattoos while women wear their tallest heels and most fashionable accessories. It makes for interesting people watching.
Old Strathcona

Other notes:

1) Had lunch in Innisfree, Alberta yesterday. Grant, the owner of the cafe/bookstore/video center/convenience store proudly tells me there are 223 people in town. He convinces me to try pyrogy, Ukrainian style. I liked. Gabe, who is a "newcomer" in town (he moved to Innisfree 6 years ago and just celebrated his 82 birthday) comes in and the main topic is how insanely hot it is outside (about 83 degrees). They should come to the south.
197/365 - 18 July [Innisfree]

2) I've never actually been in a tornado. At least I don't think. I have a theory that there was one near me as I camped near Kearney, Nebraska. But I can't prove it. The radio the next morning mentioned the local twisters the night before. It was windy and rainy outside my tent. Of course, I slept through it all.

Last night, I was walking back along Wythe Ave and the night sky became even darker and more ominous. And then the winds came. Not just gusts, I'm talking gale winds (reported 104km/hr winds = 65 mph). The clouds alone were the most awesome: thick horizontal billows moving very rapidly. Blew over potted plants , signs and threw enough dust up to temporarily blind me. Pea sized hail starts to fall. Get back to the hostel and the attendant says that there are tornado warnings and tells me I can go into the basement if I want. It was intense. Power goes out and we don't get it back until about 10:00 AM.

In the morning, the streets are littered with leaves and branches. Power was still out. Apparently, the storm made a mess of downtown. The CN Tower sustained lots of damage. The storm made Canadian national news, though I doubt many American outlets picked it up.
Edmonton Journal Article

Outside Hostel

CN Tower Damage
- Nerd Alert: I like history. I toured the Provincial Legislative building. I love the tours they give. They are FREE and offer so much information on history, architecture and politics. I always learn a lot. A lot more than if I walked through by myself. Today was the third legislative building I have toured (Victoria and Winnipeg are the others). My tour guide asked how many tours I have been in the US and I shamefully admitted none. Next time I'm in Raleigh, I'll have to try to do that.
Legislative Building Fountains
- Terrible night of sleep last night. Those who know me know I am a heavy sleeper. Even that talent could not help me last night. It wasn't the wind and rain. It wasn't the heat of the room. There was a guy in our 8 bed room who must have sleep apnea. All night, it sounded like he was choking. The Japanese guy in the room was pretty happy to see that the guy looked like he checked out today. One of the downsides to hostelling.

- Edmonton is hosting "Taste of Edmonton" this week. My first "Taste of" experience was in Calgary. If Asheville is not doing this, it really should. A festival with Sunny Point, Tupelo Honey, Doc Chey's, Mamacitas, Barleys, Asheville Pizza, Flying Frog and even Grove Park would really showcase culinary Asheville. And you could have a Bier Garden with Highland, Greenman, Wedge, Pisgah and French Broad.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Across the Border

So I hate crossing the border. More specifically, I hate customs. I always feel violated by all the questions and random searching. I know that they are keeping our borders secure, but whether it's the international terminal at Charlotte-Douglas Airport, a big one like El Paso, Texas or Blaine, Washington or a simple outpost near Lancaster, Minnesota, the customs experience is always a hassle.
Bye America

Stayed at the Hostelling International in Winnipeg. Okay place. Nice people. Decent location. I like Winnipeg for it's location on the "Forks" (where the Red and Assiniboine Rivers meet), the cool French neighborhood of Boniface (where I had a terrific Tunisian meal-- eggplant tajine), the murals all over the buildings downtown, the Fringe Arts Festival that was going on and the diversity of the city that includes Aboriginal, Middle Eastern, Asian, and East African.
Exchange District
Go Manitoba
I did not 'connect' with Winnipeg the way I did with other Canadian cities such as Calgary, Victoria and Vancouver. Winnipeg felt more like an American city than a Canadian city in some ways. A fellow hosteller described it best: "Winnipeg is edgy." Not that Winnipeg is a bad city, it really has some things to offer and it tries hard. While other cities are able to hide some of their rough edges, Winnipeg does that less well and has fewer shining spots. There's no Stephen Ave or Saddledome like Calgary, or Pacific Ocean and funkiness of Victoria or Stanley Park, Whistler and trendiness of Vancouver.

Also visited Riding Mountain National Park. Spent the night at the campground in Wasagaming. I wish I had more time at Riding Mountain. There are some nice trails that I didn't have time to explore. I also regret not playing golf on the golf course inside the park. But the town, though touristy, is nice and quaint with it's spectacular location on Clear Lake. It's a lot like the lake communities in upstate New York or Michigan, except that it's in a National Park.
Clear Lake

I'm in Saskatoon. My first introduction to Saskatoon was in a magazine that said this town was thriving amidst the recession with jobs and growth. It's a cool town on the Sasketchewan River. Clean, lots of greenspace and a nice respite from the prairie. Plus, I got to experience "Taste of Saskatoon".
Fish and Chips
21st Street

Quick Thoughts:

1) Why we are not on metric, I don't know. It only makes sense. How many feet are in a mile? A stupid number. How many meters are in a kilometer? 1000! I attribute this fact to the reason why we are lagging behind other countries in math and science.

2) It was 4 degrees this morning. That's about 40 Farenheit. Cold. The high in Winnipeg was close to 55. Apparently, the summer has been cold and wet. Bad for two reasons: farmers are not able to plant and the tourism industry (Winnipeg is located close to two massive lakes) is suffering.

3) Central Canada has a large Ukrainian influence. From Dauphin, Manitoba all the way to Saskatoon, every little town, no matter how small, seemed to have an Orthodox church.
St Johns Orthdox
Ukrainian Orthodox

4) In the tiny town of Wynyard, I had lunch at a bakery/cafe. The ladies asked about my trip and I told them. They told me to be safe and responsible and that they would ask a prayer for me. When I saw them before I left, they told me I was safe now. I consider them to be angels.

5) Gas is killing me. I am paying 99 cents (CAD) per liter for gas. There are 3.8 liters in a gallon, meaning that I am paying about $3.80 (CAD) per gallon. The Canadian dollar is trading at .89 to the US dollar, so if I figure it right, I am paying about $4.40 USD/gallon for gas.

6) I must look French. Three times I stopped and the person helping me started speaking to me in French. Then I talked and they immediately switched to English. This was in Manitoba. Even the locals were surprised that conversations were initiated in French.

7) Why I love Canada: Manitoba has an area 649,947 square miles (twice the size of the United Kingdom). Population is 1.2 million. North Carolina 48,843 square miles and a population of 9.2 million. It's not just the vastness, it's the density too. Sure, we have our Wyomings, Montanas and Dakotas (and Alaska!!!), but Canada is an entire nation of this.

8) Why I love Canada II: "First Nations". Not "Indians". Not "Native Americans". The various aboriginal peoples of Canada are referred to as "First Nations", a term I find not only much more respectful to the people, but also more in tuned to history and the European influence on North America.

0) I wish I would/could have: gone to Churchill. See map above, it's one of Manitoba's northernmost towns. It's terribly expensive to get there, the mosquitoes are torrential and the ground is all boggy in summer. But you see the famous Hudson Bay, polar bears and close-up the effects of climate change. Another trip.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Midwest

There's something special about the Midwest. Maybe it's the friendliness of the locals, the good beer or the endless farms. There's a lot to like:

Madison- what's NOT to like? Good food, clean city, central part is on an isthmus that divides two lakes, the University of Wisconsin, bike friendly, progressive people, pretty girls, free zoo, wonderful ice cream. Camp Randall Stadium is apparently a great setting for football and "Jump Around" before the 4th quarter is a classic and awesome tradition (see videos above).
Wisco Rowing

Mineral Point- historic and artsy. Located in the 'driftless' region, a place untouched by glaciers during the last ice age. Good town with nice folks. They have a local brewery that I enjoyed. I rode 25 miles in tough, rolly terrain along rows and rows of corn and several dairy farms. The crows tracked me and the cows eyeballed me. And I got to visit with friends Dave and Mary Martin.
192/365 - 13 July [Martins]Country Road-Wisconsin
Bethel Church

Mineral Point has places like the Midway Bar and Grill where a guy came in, sat at the counter and the bartender had an opened Miller Light in front of him. It's where everyone knows each other and looks out for each other. Alisha (below), who worked there and just graduated from Mineral Point High School (about 250 students), gave me the lowdown on the wrestling program there. Wrestling is huge in this area and Mineral Point has won 3 state championships in a row. Her brother is trying out for varsity nexy year.
191/365 - 12 July [Alisha]

Small towns- I've been avoiding interstate as much as I can. I get to drive through small towns and communities that I would otherwise miss. Places like Dixon, Illinois (home of Ronald Reagan), Fayette, Wisconsin and Kimball, Minnesota. Perham, Minnesota, where my old high school friend Jeff lives, is another place like that. These are places surrounded by farms large and small and where the pace of life is much different from mine (and I consider myself from a small town). It's really an envious thing to have be slower and less rushed.

Farm Machinery- Minnesota
Jeff teaches and coaches at a school with less than 400 students and while we do the same job, we have very different experiences. Perham is a town of less than 3000 people, the closest Walmart is 30 minutes away and the big industry is dog food and the several lakes around the city that brings in summer and weekend tourists. There are lots of advantages to what he does and how he lives. There are also lots of advantages to the way how and where I live.

By the way, Perham is a good athletic school. They are competitive every year in cross country and track, baseball and wrestling. Their gymnastics team has won 6 straight state championships. That's Jeff and their gymnastics coach talking in the photo below.
Perham Gymnastics
Heang and Jeff

Friday, July 10, 2009

On The Road

Finally, I am moving. Left this morning. Writing tonight from Franklin, Indiana.

For those of you who do not know, I am driving to Alaska. The goal is to arrive in Skagway, Alaska by July 30. Then it will be a few days visiting my buddy Emily on the island of Sitka and a week of bicycle touring beginning back at Skagway. I am very excited to see my dear friend and her home. I am just as excited about being able to explore some of the spaces in between North Carolina and the Yukon

Besides the freedom of the road, gorgeous and interesting places, and intriguing and fascinating people, these are the things that are helping inspire me on the road:

Book I am currently reading:
"Undaunted Courage" by Stephen Ambrose -I should have read this last year before I did the Lewis and Clark seminar in Montana. It's the story of one of the greatest expeditions in history and the president who backed it all. I'm not physically close to the Lewis and Clark trail (maybe on the return drive), but I feel very close to the spirit of the Corps of Discovery.

Books that that have gotten me here:
"On the Road" - Kerouac, "Grapes of Wrath" - Steinbeck, "White Fang" - London

Text message:
"Hey coach can u bring back sarah palin for me if not a shirt lol :)"
from Enrique, one of my wrestlers. I am just glad he knows who Sarah Palin is, even if he has never met a punctuation mark in his life (and no, :) doesn't count).

Theme songs of my trip:
"Lost!" - Coldpay
Running with the idea of "Not all who wander are lost". Plus, it's a great song.

"Rise" - Eddie Vedder
from Into the Wild soundtrack. I have other music on my iphone, but this CD is the one in the car player. Also, the embedded video has sweet scenes from the movie.
Such is the way of the world
You can never know

Just where to put all your faith

And how will it grow

"When You Were Young" - The Killers
This song just came out when I was last in Alberta. I remember ripping around Banff and Jasper in my rented Chrsyler 300 with this blasting. You can believe that this song will be loud when I the Rockies. Plus, I needed a Killers' song on here.

"Highwayman" - The Highwaymen (Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kirstofferson and Johnny Cash)
This is for the Superfans. It's the song the GT Superfans play and sing before we go into every game. I get chills when I watch the video, right about 2:05 when Johnny Cash breaks into verse 4.
I fly a starship across the Universe divide
And when I reach the other side

I'll find a place to rest my spirit if I can

Perhaps I may become a highwayman again

Or I may simply be a single drop of rain

But I will remain

And I'll be back again, and again and again and again and again

"Drive" - REM
The quintessential road trip song.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Orphans and Ambassadors

Last week, Grace's Watershed Youth did work at the Presbyterian Home for Children. Many of the kids there are orphans-- children without parents waiting for adoption. Remember the musical Annie? Annie just wanted to be adopted. In fact, that was the hope of all the children in the orphanage.

The fact is that we are all orphans. We are looking for a home. Like Annie, we wait hopefully that our parents will come back and adopt us. The truth, however, is that we are already adopted. God is kinda like Daddy Warbucks. But he not only promises to adopt us, he promises us the inheritance of his kingdom. I imagine that if Bill Gates promised me a small inheritance of his fortune, I would immediately jump at it. And how much more valuable is the kingdom of heaven?

I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you. - John 14:17

In his great mercy he has given us new birth... and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade-- kept in heaven for you.
- I Peter 1:3-5

One career I always thought I would like to be is an ambassador for the State Department. Being able to represent my country in foreign nations would be really neat. It is a very important job, which is why ambassadors are usually the pick of the litter in the State Department.

Josiah Bancroft stated in a sermon a few weeks ago that an ambassador does not have the freedom to say whatever he or she wants. An ambassador represents a higher power. The ambassador of the United States in Russia is only priviledged to state on behalf of the United States, not for himself.

In the same way, we are ambassadors. Our message is not our own. We represent something bigger and more important than us. If we fail to communicate that message, then we fail as ambassadors.

We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.
-II Corinthians 5:20

Ambassador Apartments- 5th Ave, Hendersonville, NC