Bomb Cyclone

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You always know it’s going to be a bad storm when they name it. Usually, it’s something cute like Amy or Cindy. I knew we were screwed when the storm rolling up the east coast was called The Bomb Cyclone. I had no idea what that was but it couldn’t be good.

Calm before the storm.
Sunset Ptown

We first heard of it when we were in Provincetown on the end of Cape Cod. It was going to hit in two days: the day that we were to fly back to Seattle from Boston. It didn’t take us long to realize that this was the real deal and we quickly changed our flight to the day after the storm.

We were spending the night before the storm in Providence, RI seeing old friends. We could have driven back to Boston early, which would have been the sensible option, but we had been looking forward to this visit.

We rolled into Providence on a beautiful, crisp, sunny day with no hint of the approaching doom. We had a lovely, late night out on the town with our friends Rich and Sheryl, and still no hint of snow in the air. I woke up at 6am and looked out the window. It had only just started snowing, “H, if we go now it might be ok”. She rolled over in bed with a firm “no”. Fine by me! When I got up at 8am, it was snowing sideways with a few inches already on the ground; good thing we stayed put.

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By mid-morning, the snow was piled higher, the streets were abandoned and everything was closed and we were getting hungry. We figured the big hotel restaurants might be open. I gave The Biltmore a call and they were open so we bundled up and headed out into the nor’easter. Stomping through snow drifts and shielding our face from the driving ice, we managed to make it the 4 blocks! We peeled off layers of clothing and ordered Bloody Marys from our genial server, Josh.

Bloody Mary’s inside. Plows outside

I think there is something about massive storms that make people drink heavily and this was a big one, so we would have to pace ourselves.

It wasn’t too long before our friend Rich called with a crazy plan: #abadideaforgoodfriends. “The local bar in my neighborhood is open. I’m driving down to pick you up”. It seemed unnecessarily crazy, but we were game if he was!

The valet was shocked when he pulled up and we hopped in. He deftly maneuvered through the streets, busting through snow drifts, running red lights. It didn’t matter, no one else was on the roads.

Cheers

At his local, the bartender was obviously not as excited as we were to be there. We spent the afternoon drinking and talking of travels and the old days when Rich and Helen ran wild in Seattle. By late afternoon the grumpy bartender had had enough, closed down and kicked us out. The wind was howling and it was still dumping snow.

Everything else was closed so we stopped at Rich’s house for a quick one. He pulled out some old photos of the past that he and H cackled over. He insisted on driving us back, it was now or never as there was over a foot of snow on his street and it was still piling up. We had a little trouble extracting ourselves from the driveway and got stuck. I furiously shoveled around the car as we pushed, and luckily a plow came by and we were free. On the way back, we returned the karma; we were good samaritans and helped a solo female driver whose’ car was hopelessly stuck. With some heavy pushing she was back on the snow covered streets.

Stuck

As we got back to The Biltmore. Our favorite waiter Josh from earlier in the day greeted us with ‘you want your usual round?!’ he was surprised we were still going strong!

After dinner we walked back to our hotel as the snow was finally subsiding at 10pm.

Bomb Cyclone you ain’t that bad, you couldn’t keep us down.

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Categories: 2018 | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Can’t win them all

For the second year in a row our beloved Sounders have made the major league soccer finals in against Toronto football club. We went to Toronto last year and the Sounder were lucky to pull off a victory. We have been season ticket holders since 2001 and knew championship games are rare and it may never happen again, we were wrong.

As the Sounders stormed through the playoffs this season we still weren’t planning to go if they made it to the finals this time. After all we went last year. Plus flights, game tickets would be difficult to get and it hard to top the experience of last year. But in the stands in Seattle as the minutes ticked down on the final playoff game, and it became clear that it was going to be a Sounder’s victory, slowly our mindsets started to shift. H started to muse, “we might be able to get flights on air miles and maybe I can get Monday off.” Even so, we had plans that coming weekend and it would still not be easy to get tickets, so we were still leaning against it.

Sounders win. Next stop Championship game in Toronto

The game ended and indeed our Sounders were going to the championship game again! As we cheered, celebrated and jumped around, our good friend with connections to the Sounders came to find us. “I can get you tickets for Toronto!”

We got the red-eye out of Seattle on Friday to Dallas then to Toronto. Not the most direct route but the only option. We landed at Toronto at noon. Train to hotel, check-in, shower, 1:30. Quick lunch and we met our friends by 2:30 for some pre-game ‘Loose Moose’ beers and off for the 4:00pm kickoff!

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The Sounders were in trouble from the beginning. Toronto was laying siege on our goal and our keeper had to basically do somersaults to keep the ball from going in the net. We were lucky it was still 0-0 at half time.

Things didn’t change in the second half and a relentless Toronto scored in the 66th minute. Sounders struggled to get the equalizer, but to no avail. Toronto scored again in extra time and when the final whistle blew the local fans went wild. The better team had won on this night. A shame but I don’t get over-emotional with these things, it is only a game after all.

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We spent a wonderful few days touring around Toronto seeing the sites and getting some rest. We actually stumbled across the Championship parade through the streets of Toronto with the team riding high on massive trucks. There were some very happy Canucks lining the route, I was glad for them, it was their time. Plus the people of Toronto and the fans of their team were great to us again.

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We said that this is the last MLS championship game we will travel to. But there is always next year and so never say never.

Categories: Americas, Toronto 2017 | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

The River

River
Beauty, power
Churning, flowing, imposing
Creator of Grand Canyon.
Colorado.

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I was mesmerized by the power and beauty of The Colorado River when I first saw it. The undulating, dancing water, deep in the Canyon it had carved, was hypnotizing. We spent nine days on it and there was no one section that looked the same. The river was always there, the one constant of the trip.

It was our means of locomotion; We floated on it for 142 miles, bouncing down rapids, drifting through tranquil sections; the walls of the canyon always towering over us.

River edge at dawn.

The Colorado was omnipresent; You could always hear it at camp; it was the first things you saw in the morning coming out of the tent; It was cool to the touch. It was always only a short walk from wherever you were in the canyon.

It was our coolant; By 9am it when it was already well over 100 degrees, The Colorado was 50 degrees and we would dump buckets of it over our heads. Before hiking we would fully immerse ourselves in it.

We drank it, we cooked with it; Filtered and purified, we consumed a lot of the Colorado in the crazy desert heat.

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We peed in it; It was required we all peed in the river to avoid stinking up the small and limited camping areas. We peed in paintcups overnight in the tent and then emptied them in the river in the morning. We peed off the raft during long days on the river. This was no trip for the shy. By day two, we were peeing within full view of everyone, without a second thought. It was easy for the men to pee off the raft in motion. I won’t go into detail on how the women hung off the raft to pee. Whalen asked during one such complicated maneuver, “Did you imagine you’d have to be peeing off the boat on this trip?” Katie promptly replied “Yes, but I didn’t think I’d be talking to people while doing it!”

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The river would look different with every bend; Changed color as the sun traversed the sky. On the last day we woke up at first light to discover the overnight storm had flushed out the tributaries and turned the river a deep, dark brown, like flowing coffee.

For nine days the Colorado was our life blood.

“The river flows not past, but through us, thrilling us, tingling, vibrating every fiber and cell of the substance of our bodies.” – John Muir

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Categories: Americas, Grand Canyon - July 2017 | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Swimming the Grand Canyon

Swimming the Grand Canyon

When Whalen said nonchalantly, “coming up next is one of the rapids you can swim,” I thought, “you can choose to swim in the rapids?” That never even crossed my mind before; I had been doing everything I could to stay in the raft and not swim. Before I could decide if it was sane, Helen responded “I’m in!” So in solidarity, I followed with my own ‘In!” And eventually everyone in the boat volunteered – We were basically all abandoning ship on Whalen!

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Luckily, he didn’t take it personally and mentioned it was a good idea early in the trip to voluntarily learn to swim a rapid, a ‘training swim’, just in case you involuntarily got ejected from the boat later in the trip. He gave us some tips on how to breathe in the whitewater; which didn’t totally make sense to me.

Too late! The whole boat jumped in and floated swiftly downriver; a bunch of heads bobbing like corks as we drifted steadily towards the rapid. You don’t really swim, it’s more about treading water and keeping your head high and facing downstream.

I gained speed and hit the first wave head-on, and went straight through the middle of it. I was stunned, gasping for air, flailing my arms. This was totally full-on – I asked myself… Is this supposed to be fun?!

Then I remembered the advice The River Buddha had given us and quickly gulped a big breath before I hit the next wave. This worked much better as I started to get into the rhythm of the water. I tumbled through the rest of the rapid with a big grin on my face; Wait! This IS fun!

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Before I knew it, I was at the bottom and was hauled unceremoniously onto a different raft. There were people scattered all over the river, and we worked together to pull some other crew mates on board.

I finally spotted Helen. She had been swept over near the rocks, close to another raft who hadn’t seen her; she was having a harder time. She adeptly kicked off the rock wall bank and latched onto the back of the raft before it pinned her. She clinged on for a ride until they were able to get her in. She had apparently lost a contact lens and she is completely blind without them; so thankfully she was only half-blind!

Now we were still missing one from our raft. We maneuvered across the river and plucked our final crew-member who was trapped in an eddy upstream and finally we were all back on board together, soaked yet exhilarated.

Back on the boat

Whalen mentioned there would be more chances to swim other rapids later in the trip; I’d have to think on that. It didn’t take too long. Despite the fact I had just drunk a gallon of the Colorado River; Obviously, I was in.

 

Categories: Grand Canyon - July 2017 | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Rapids

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The strange thing about rapids when you’re on the river is that you hear them long before you see them. Some of them sound like you left the tap running, some sound like Niagara Falls. Obviously those are the ones to worry about.

It was day two, we were still green and we were running some of the biggest rapids of the trip. Our guide for the day was Whalen: The River Buddha. A calm, confident captain, storyteller, mischievous jester; He gave us a quick crash course: some basic commands and tips on how to paddle the raft in unison.

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Whalens pre-rapid pep talk

I heard Granite Rapid in the distance, a faint rumble at first, but I knew it was a class 9 out of 10. I’ve never been on a 9, but as Whalen started lashing down everything in sight, I knew I was going to get wet. “Get a good foothold, don’t forget to paddle, we’re gonna go BIG.” He shouted

Granite was a deafening roar now, but I still could not see it. Then almost in slow motion, the Colorado River looked like it was about to fall off a cliff. Now coming into view was total whitewater chaos. Huge waves rising above whirlpools; it looked like the river was boiling.

As we paddled we picked up speed into the oncoming mayhem and I questioned how this was going to work without me getting catapulted into the water.

We hit Granite Rapid dead center. It felt like being in a washing machine, and not the delicate cycle. Whitewater rushed past both sides of the boat; it was hard to tell which way was up; we were flung out of the wash spun sideways. We started to approach a growing, angry standing wave, broadside. I was naive but still even I figured that wasn’t the best way to hit the rinse cycle. With a sense of urgency I hadn’t yet heard from Whalen, he yelled “LEFT BACK!”. In unison, we on the left side paddled a hard backstroke. The boat spun straight and we hammered through the huge wave straight up. A quick rinse through the turbulent water and we were safely through Granite.

We had it more together as we hit the next powerful rapid; Hermit. We hit it square and plowed powerfully through the tsunami wave. Then we discovered these these two were just an appetizer, because Crystal Rapid was coming up next; One of the biggest and more technical rapids we would run all trip.

Crystal Rapid looks mellow from this distance.

I knew Crystal was big when Whalen said, “you hear that?….Sounds like a 747,” and it did and it was still very far away.

I knew Crystal was big when we all got out to scout it before we ran it. When I saw it from an overlooking bluff I understood why it had the 1-10 rating of 10 +.

10 + ? That’s like a 110%.

Whalen started talking us through how we were going to run it. Pointing out the line through all the unseen dangers in a calm and reassuring Buddha sort of way. It still looked scary but I started to feel good.

Then I walked by Tommy, one of the other river guides, as he intensely briefed his paddle crew, circled around him listening to his every word; “It looks like you can go through on the left. You try that and the current pushes you off that wall into the middle” he pauses, and starts slowly spinning his arm in a circle, “and into a hidden hole there” he points to a vortex in the river. ” His arm spinning faster. “It will take a raft, flip it over and over until it decides to let you go”; his arm abruptly stops. His crew is completely silent, everyone looking at him, then at the river. Hidden by their sunglasses, you couldn’t see but you knew everyone’s eyes were really wide, as were mine. He was freaking me out, I headed back to the raft.

Crew looks ready

We quietly loaded up and pushed off. It wasn’t long before we were launched into the teeth of the rapid. It was hard to paddle the chaotic whitewater, sometimes missing altogether as the raft bucked. We dug in and avoided the hole, coming within feet of the cliff bank to hit our line for the rest of the run. We powered through whirlpools, waves that towered over the raft; it was like being power-washed. But we hit it perfectly and came through unscathed.

A celebratory Pabst post-Crystal Rapid.

Sometime early in the day I invented a call before we hit a rapid. Some other paddle boats shouted and whooped before they dived in. My call was a rather unique high-pitched double squeak; ” Eek Eek! ? Not sure where it came from, it was a little strange but it became the rally cry of the boat all trip.

Our confidence had grown as we went through the rest of The Gemstone Rapids. They were all good-sized and we had some fun with them. Whalen always hit them big, and we started to mix it up; some we’d go through standing up, and Whalen had us spin the raft in circles as we bounced down Bass Rapid.

Standing on the rail in Gem rapid.

As we pulled into camp we had paddled 28 miles and 22 rapids under the majestic walls of the Grand Canyon. Hard to believe; an insanely fun day. It was only the first full day on the river but if this was any indication of the rest of the trip, it was going to be something I will dream about for years.

Categories: Grand Canyon - July 2017 | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

It begins

Bright Angel trail at dawn

I wanted to do something big for my 50th birthday. I figured rafting for nine days, down one of the biggest, deepest canyons in the world would do it. It has been something I’ve always wanted to do and this seemed to be the perfect occasion.

We were lucky to get spots on an AZRA all-paddle rafting trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, traveling 136 miles over my birthday week. One of the first, and most important things we then did was organize beer and wine for the trip. We pre-ordered the maximum amount, (obviously) and AZRA would then pack it all into the raft before we embarked so we didn’t have to carry it in. I liked this rafting company already.

We started packing our stuff months before, but it didn’t take long. It turns out that you don’t need much in the desert, we had limited on space on the raft and we had to hike in anything we wanted to take down The Bright Angel Trail. We packed a lot of cotton clothing, as it keeps you cooler when soaked in river water; and it was all about keeping cool. This was odd for me; I’m used to packing polypropylene for camping trips.

The night before the big trip, we arrived on the touristy south rim of the Canyon, and headed to the trip orientation. They outlined the basics of the trip and gave us some necessary equipment; 2 dry bags, snacks, electrolytes, a coffee cup and a pee cup. Yeah, we had to pack a plastic cup in case we had to pee in the night to then dump in the river in the morning. Interesting, all pee was to go in the river, but you didn’t want to risk being swept away in the night!

We talked about the next morning’s hike down the legendary Bright Angel Trail and that it was a grueling 8 miles that drops 4300 feet and that it would be stupid hot. The guides stressed how difficult this hike would be and so to beat the heat we would start out at 4:15am! Noooo.

4:15 am!

But oh yes! Our alarm went off and it was just starting to brighten in the east as we headed over the rim. We were just able to make out the trail at first but as we slowly made our way down, the Canyon revealed itself in all its glory as the sky gradually brightened. Shadowy outlines gave way to brilliant red walls as the sun rose higher.

Sunrise

We were lucky though; A light cloud cover kept the sun at bay and the heat down;
to a manageable 95 degrees! We had a quick snack under the trees of Indian Garden and then sweated our way around the steep corkscrew section of the trail. After 6 hours, we finally reached the powerful Colorado River, dumped our packs, soaked our feet and scrambled for shade.

Colorado river foot bath

After a few more hours, everyone was assembled and we loaded up our boats, pushed off and caught the current; we were off. Finally, this was it.

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I hadn’t known exactly what to expect; 9 days rafting, totally off the grid, camping deep in the Grand Canyon with a bunch of strangers. But what I did know now – It was going to be epic.

Categories: Americas, Grand Canyon - July 2017 | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Dead relatives tour

On our travels we often search out graveyards, and we have visited hundreds all over the world. It may sound a little strange, but we wander these boneyards searching out famous, infamous, political, and historical graves. Over the past few years I have become slightly obsessed with discovering ancestors in my family tree and I have spent countless hours locating every gravesite of my dead relatives. As many are buried in New York City, upstate New York, and Boston, when we visited the East Coast for thanksgiving a few years ago, I was determined to visit as many of them as possible.

Greenwood Cemetery

Greenwood Cemetery

My great, great, great-grandfather, Thomas Craddock born England 1822, died NYC 1882. Buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn, NY.

It was a warm fall day; the trees were bare as we kicked through their leaves, past weathered gravestones and gothic mausoleums. We had a map with the rough location of the final resting place of my great, great, great-grandfather, but realized it could still take a while to locate; Greenwood Cemetery is almost the size of Central Park. It opened in 1848 on a Brooklyn hill overlooking Manhattan, and is now filled with elaborate victorian crypts under hundred-years old oaks.

Grave plot #

City grave plot #10975

We finally arrived at city plot 10975, the supposed location of my relative. Unfortunately, it was almost the size of a football field with hundreds of marked and unmarked graves; this was not going to be easy.

Helen and I started a systematic grid search of the area, looking at every grave we passed. We had almost finished our sweep with no luck, when Helen spotted an old-timer studying a three-ring binder full of maps. When she asked him if he could help us, he was more than willing. A classic New Yorker, he chain-smoked and swore like a sailor with a heavy Brooklyn accent, as he told us this was his hobby, finding and recording missing graves. He showed us his historical maps of the area, still somewhat incomplete and vague.

Location of Ed Craddock

Location of Thomas Craddock

For a half hour we searched together, cross-referencing graves, pacing off distances between plots. Finally he looked at me, “OK, I believe he is buried where you are standing right now.” I looked at the grass under my feet, I spun around. As we had already realized, there was no gravestone, but I was more than satisfied. We thanked him profusely and he said he would do some more research to confirm it. So we gave him our email and then we hurried off, late but happy, to meet an old friend.

My great-grandparents Patrick and Hannah Ford born in Ireland. Buried in Calvary Cemetery, Newton, MA.

My Irish grandparents died before I met them. I’ve heard a few stories and seen pictures and knew that they lived in my hometown of Newton, Massachusetts. But I had never given much thought before to where they were buried.

A few years ago, when I was looking into my Irish heritage, I realized that they were buried only a few miles from where I grew up. I thought back; I don’t remember visiting a cemetery as a child or even my father mentioning it. I called my sister in Boston, and she too had no idea. My 89 year-old father’s hearing has deteriorated, so I called my Aunt Coupie and she confirmed their location.

Grandparents

Patrick and Hannah

So this trip back home, my sister and I went to the Calvary Cemetery office and got a map with the location of the grave. We found a large, beautiful, dark marbled granite family headstone. Not bad for poor Irish immigrants; some of our cousins had apparently done well in America.

Mom. Buried in Newton Cemetery, Newton, MA.

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My mother’s grave is the one place I always visit when I’m home. This trip was no exception. Helen, my brother Mike and I drove the familiar road through the cemetery, up to her gravestone. Mike, like he always does, immediately started cleaning up leaves and twigs and the shrubs on either side. And, like I always do, joined in. We paced around cleaning up debris, until the whole area was clean. We left a poinsettia in front of her marker before heading off to Mom’s brothers for dinner.

William Archibald 1822-1883. My great great great-grandfather. Born in Scotland. Buried Bovine Cemetery, Catskills, NY.

We had to drop off the rental car back in New York City at 5.30pm, before we flew home. We calculated that we had just enough time to visit Archibald in a small town deep in the Catskills, but there was no room for error. The economy car’s engine whined loudly as I floored it, up and over the rolling, forested hills.

We pulled into Bovine Centre and stopped at the old town store for directions. Swinging open the wooden screen door, it felt like stepping into a museum from a hundred years ago; Original cabinets and furnishings filled the massive wood-paneled store. I asked the two older women wearing dresses from decades ago: “Just down the street.”

The cemetery was on top of a small hill. We had a picture of the gravestone, but had no idea of its location. Because of our strict schedule we only had about 15 minutes, so we divided up the cemetery and started searching.

William Archibald

William Archibald

The cemetery was old and the stones weathered, so it looked like it might be a slow process. But just as time was running out, Helen found it! The gravestone was in good shape for being 127 years old. I took a picture and we raced back to NYC. We returned the rental car at 5:25pm, just in the nick of time.

Searching for these graves seems like a big game of hide and seek. But there is always an emotional feeling when you’re standing there, looking at the name of family member on a tombstone. I have recently discovered that there are a few more buried relatives scattered around upstate New York and Vermont. Only a few more to visit, in America, but I know my family originally came from Ireland and England. I think there will be a dead relatives tour the European addition in my near future.

Categories: Boston - November 2015 | Tags: , | 1 Comment

MLS Cup 2016

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We have been season ticket holders for the Seattle Sounders since 2001 (pre-MLS!) and we were not going to miss their first trip to the Championship Cup Finals, even if it was in Toronto in December.

CNN Tower

CNN Tower

After arriving late the previous night, we got up and hit the town. We wandered around Toronto and kept on running into Seattle fans in their green Sounders gear. Hours before kick-off we went to The Loose Moose bar where Sounder supporters had planned to meet. The bar was packed with a few hundred Seattleites; We fought our way through and ordered a beer and talked with our fellow fans. The bar occasionally erupted into raucous song and chants about our beloved team. Everyone was all smiles, but they became nervous smiles as game time quickly approached.

Cold but all smiles.

Cold but all smiles.

When we headed off to the game the temperature was in the low twenties. That’s football weather, not the usual temperature for a soccer match. We layered up, put on knit hats and long johns, but I wore my lucky Van sneakers, not the most ideal cold weather footwear.

Walking through the streets and into the stadium we talked with Toronto fans. You gotta love Canadians, so friendly and welcoming. Waiting in line for drinks, we exchanged some friendly banter with a Toronto fan wearing a funky red wig. We bought him a beer before setting off to our seats high up in the stadium, in the area designated for Seattle supporters.

Toronto fans

Toronto fans

I was already freezing cold as they kicked-off and sadly, the game was not poetry on the pitch. Play was slow and the game dragged on and our nervousness increased. After the end of regulation and two extra time periods the score was still 0-0.
Finally after 3 long, cold hours, we won the game on penalty kicks, not the best way to win, but we didn’t care! We jumped around and shouted ourselves hoarse with the rest of the Seattle fans for another hour, which finally stopped feeling so cold! Yes!

I can’t reveal how we obtained access to the team after-party back at their hotel, but we did. It took a few beers but I finally built up the courage to shake some players hands. I tried to keep it short, I didn’t want to act like a stalker; “Congratulations… I’m so proud…. I’ve been a ticket holder since 2001…” But it was late, I was a tad bit tipsy, so it came out a little incoherent at times. The Spanish-speaking players clearly had no clue what I was saying. It was past 3am by the time I met the coach, Brian Schmetzer. My speech was impaired and my train of thought, derailed. I blabbed nonsense at him as he made his escape.

Helen and her favorite player Tyrone Mears

Helen and her favorite player Tyrone Mears

It was a long way to go. It was the coldest match I’ve ever been to. It was one the worst games I’ve witnessed. But we won and in the end that’s all that matters.

MLS Cup 2016

MLS Cup 2016

Categories: Toronto, ON - December 2016 | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Rationing

While kayaking, there is limited space for provisions. During long trips I have to ration and on this ten day trip it was vitally important. If you get stuck out there for a few more days because of weather, or even a simple thing like lacking willpower you could easily run out of the necessities. That would be serious.

To be clear, I’m not talking about food, or water. It’s the inadequate supply of beer and chocolate, that I sneak into every possible nook and cranny of the boat. Did I forget to mention the bottle of Jamison I stuffed into the bow of my kayak? That’s also under strict rationing. Every night, I could have beer or two, a few squares of chocolate, and a shot at sunset.

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Things simplify when you camp; you have little more time to deal with the basics. One basic is spending hours trying to keep your beer cold, in any way possible. It usually involves some scenario with me trying to submerge them in the ocean.

 

Kayak beer cooler

Kayak rudder beer cooler

Beers cooling in the surf.

Beers cooling in the surf.

Bad weather and a terrible forecast cut my latest cruise short by a day. As I kayaked to the take-out spot, I realized I had one beer left. It is bad luck to return from a trip with any beer left.

So I stopped for lunch and rescued the lone beer that had been rolling around the bottom of the kayak for nine days. The can was dented, covered with sand and warm. But it was satisfying. This last beer symbolized the end of my voyage. I couldn’t help but reflect on my trip as I sat on the beach nursing the warm Ranier. An epic trip filled with adventure in a pristine wilderness. This expedition had it all; sun and rain, was both terrifying and relaxing, yet always stunningly beautiful. One thing is for sure, after nine days in the wilderness I had happily settled in; a wild child, and was reluctant to return to civilization. Yet return I must, I was out of beer.

Last beer standing.

Last beer standing.

Categories: Clayoquot Sound, BC - August 2016 | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

It rained all night.

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I set up camp, high on the beach, during a brief lull in the rain. I positioned the tent behind a large driftwood stump to block the wind; The swell and waves were getting larger in the bay as the westerlies kicked up. As the sun dropped below the horizon, the rain started to fall. I retired to the tent. It rained all night.

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The rain starts

12 hours of continuous rain.
I woke up the next morning to torrential rain. I stuck my head out of the tent into a gale to view chaotic seas. Way too rough for the kayak. Clearly I was going to have to spend another night on this beach. I sat in the tent and read, only finally crawling out at 11:00am into the downpour. I decided to take a big hike though the coastal rainforest, which was fully earning its name. Down the trail, that resembled a stream more than a trail, past huge hundred-year-old cedars dripping with moss. I continued along the coast in the afternoon fighting along the wet and overgrown trail, as far as the small First Nation reservation with run-down houses and packs of dogs.

When I got back to camp late in the day, the weather was getting worse, not better. I set up a tarp in the only suitable place I could find; On the trail as it entered the forest. No big deal really, it was pretty deserted. I then moved the tent to a more protected spot behind a rocky outcrop on the beach. I have never been stranded for long before, but I had a bad feeling about this storm. I battened down for the long haul. It rained all night.

Camp night 2

Camp night 2

36 hours of continuous rain
The next morning it was pouring and the wind was howling. I got out of the tent and was surprised to see a small stream had formed in the sand and was running under the corner of the tent. It was raining so hard that all along the beach rain run-off had formed rivulets running from the forest to the ocean. I dragged my tent out of the running water and built a barricade with driftwood to divert the stream away. I retreated under the tarp as the wind kicked up; I wasn’t kayaking anywhere today.

Tent under threat of wash out.

Tent under threat of wash out.

I decided to stay at camp, under the tarp. I couldn’t afford a big hike and getting soaked again, I was running out of dry clothes. It was a pretty relaxing day, I read, drank lots of coffee and battled to keep my tent from getting washed away. Most importantly, I stayed dry, but I was going stir-crazy stranded on this beach.

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48 hours of continuous rain
It was raining hard as darkness fell. Big waves were crashing and the tide was coming in fast. So I retreated back to my last line of defense; I dragged my tent underneath the tarp at the trailhead. It was a good spot, I could hold out here through anything. Although I was starting to wonder if I would ever get off of this beach. It rained all night.

Last line of defense. Tent under tarp. Heavy rain.

Last line of defense. Tent under tarp. Heavy rain.

The next morning I opened my eyes, it was so quiet… I sat straight up, stunned – It wasn’t raining! After well over fifty hours of relentless rain, it had finally stopped. I peered outside: Dreary, low fog, but relatively calm seas. I’m out of here!!
I packed everything as fast as I could. The tent was soaked, I balled it up and just stuffed in the kayak. Like I did with everything else – A panic pack. H and I have a name for this type of advanced backwoods packing: ‘Chuck and go’. I wanted off this beach as fast as possible.

On the water, finally

On the water, finally

I launched in a heavy fog and had to navigate by compass; not ideal. I didn’t care, I was off the beach.

Categories: Clayoquot Sound, BC - August 2016 | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

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