Snow cannons and craft mead, hahaha! (huh?)

I think it is time for a suitably seasonal travel tale. How about a mighty mountain road adventure? All that follows is (mostly) true. If it helps, I hear the voice of Brian Blessed in the parts where there is a weather god laughing. I hope you know what I mean, there. Where is this going? Where were we going? Read on, if you have the time. We certainly had an interesting time as we travelled across Western Canada earlier this week.

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A snowy Calgary? Nope. Another Chinook arch? Yup. Let’s pack the car, head to somewhere else!
If you’ve read one or two of the more recent posts, there’s a chance you have spotted a recurring theme. Theme is too strong a word – it is more realistic to describe it as a repetitive sulk – where I might have mentioned a distinct lack of snow the past six weeks? So of course the day we decided to leave a little earlier than planned (due to the lack of snow, why stick around any longer?) and head to the coast, was the day the snow gods decided to heed one man’s whining:

“Is that another snow prayer from the plaid clad little man? We cannot and should not put up with his incessant complaining any longer – it’s headache inducing, and I already have a slight hangover and blurred vision. That new mead with the lavender honey is quite delicious, and rather potent too. Just look at all this snow we’ve made, it needs using. We can’t keep it in the house, erm, I mean the great hall, any longer, there’s no room for our new barrels of craft mead. That checked-shirted irritant drives a black Jeep. He was packing the car last night, so when he leaves later, let’s point the snow cannon at his vehicle. He wants snow? Then snow he shall have, hahahaha!”

You have to love the snow gods, they’ve got a great sense of humour. Snow gods do exist, don’t they? Not too sure about all the craft mead – and adding honey/drinking from a cup in the shape of a horn doesn’t make for a better beer. Still, I guess if you’re a weather god, you get to drink what you like from any cup you choose. Lavender, though? Shudder…

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Canmore had snow
Our trip got off to a great start! Approaching the mountains on Highway 1, we could see there had been snowfall. When we passed through Canmore, there was fresh snow! Yes, we did stop at Le Fournil to top up our coffee and buy a pastry for later…

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Field had snow
When we paused to pee in Field – my goodness it was cold there – they had received fresh snow. It looked properly wintry.

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This wall in Revelstoke had snow (what a terrible photograph!)
On we went to Revelstoke, stopping to gas up the car, and refill the travel mugs – Tim’s dark roast – and the first few real flurries of the day were starting to fall. Clearly the snow gods were recovering from their hangovers, and their blurred vision was clearing – the aim on our car was much better.

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“Target this Jeep, hahahaha!”
By Salmon Arm the flakes were really quite impressive, and along the valley towards Kamloops, the weather gods let loose with their celestial snow cannons! Big flakes in what we are more used to seeing as summertime high desert country.

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“Hahahaha, he asked for it, hahahaha…”
At Kamloops, the overhead traffic signs warned that the highway ahead was closed beyond Merritt due to heavy snow. Thanks, Drive BC, that was good to know. (There was no mention of annoyed snow gods targeting the route – essential information, but there isn’t enough room on the signs to include all the details or hahahas…) What to do? Stay in Kamloops or push on? We decided to press on – our motel room in Merritt was booked, and if the route beyond was closed, we could worry about that the next day.

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“Snow, hahahaha!”
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Next time we’ll stop in Kamloops! Poking the sleeping – drinking? – snow gods is not a good idea. The Coquihalla Highway between Kamloops and Hope is a high mountain road that can get snow any time of year. On a clear day, the drive from Kamloops to Merritt is less than an hour. If the weather gods have you in their snow sights, it’ll take well over two hours, and it won’t be fun. I like driving, and I like snow, but sometimes it turns out you don’t want both. What kind of fool would offer up a prayer for snow?

The light was fading – it hadn’t exactly been bright all afternoon – and the snow was very heavy. Yikes, that part of the journey was a white-knuckle whiteout! I am forever grateful to the driver of the white pickup just in front of us. S/he had their hazard lights flashing, and from time to time, if they hadn’t been on, I’m not sure I’d have picked out the road quite as well in the snow and dark. We were stopping in Merritt anyway, but even if the road had been open further ahead, there was no way I’d have continued. It was a scary ride, and not helped by the occasional brain dead driver hurtling past in the unploughed lane. Hey, you brain dead drivers? Thanks for throwing up the extra snow, because honestly, it wasn’t challenging enough already. Do you have sight that allows you to see through a snowstorm at night? You do? Oh, my apologies, and what a gift…

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A fine SN winter ale. It’s not mead.
Anyway, we made it to Merritt, and after checking in and eating that pastry from earlier, I popped into a beer store and bought a horn of craft mead. Isn’t that something, mead by the horn in Merritt – who knew? Stepping outside into the cold and snowy night air, I raised it to the skies, and gave thanks for our safe arrival. I also put in an apology for all those pesky snow prayers, and made a request for clear skies the next day. No harm in asking. Then I hurried back to the motel. People were staring…

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The Coquihalla Highway, the following day
What do you know, dawn revealed clear skies and an open road all the way to the coast. Thank you snow gods, and gods of weather and travel in general – I knew you were real, and you’re the best!

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Lots of highway snow, and doesn’t it look lovely?
“Hahahaha, that little fellow in the patterned shirts won’t be bothering us for quite a while, hahahaha! Ooh, the lavender honey really works in a horn of mead, doesn’t it? Fragrant! Is there any more?”

Thanks for reading, and if you celebrate Christmas, enjoy the coming weekend and beyond. Perhaps you’ll drink a horn of mead, hahahaha?

Small towns, and mountain towns

Just love them! And if the small town is also a mountain town, so much the better!

We went to visit friends in Canmore last weekend. Oh, wait a moment – before we get to that, what about the newish weekly PlaidCamper weather report/complaint? You really want to read that? OK, I’ll get it out of the way early – yes, there was some mountain snow, but it was all at higher elevations, nothing new lower down, and still no sign of snow here in Calgary. On the afternoon we headed for Canmore, the city afternoon high was 16C. Hmm.

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The road to Canmore!
Not as scorchio! as that in Canmore, but when we went for a short wander, it was still rather warm for the time of year. Luckily, Canmore made up for the lack of winter by being a small mountain town. Almost wherever you are in town, look up and around and you’ll see mountains, a constant reminder you’re nestled in the big outdoors. 

If the weather isn’t cooperating for your hoped for adventures, Canmore has the right ingredients for spending time in a small town. Micro-brewery? Check! Visit The Grizzly Paw, either at the pub on Main Street or at the brewery on the Old Canmore Road. I wasn’t a huge fan a few years ago – many of their beers seemed too sweet and sticky to me – but when they opened their new facility and launched the Rundlestone session ale, I was a convert. (Also, I’m going to have to find a bottle or two of the seasonal Larch Valley porter before it sells out – oh no, another trip to Canmore seems in order!)

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Above Canmore
Coffee shops? Check! Whenever we are passing through, we often (always?) stop at Le Fournil Bakery. Here you will find some of the best flaky pastries outside Quebec – that could be an exaggeration because we haven’t tried all the pastries in or out of Quebec, but the mission is ongoing –  and excellent coffee. A quick stop often turns into a longer stop, and you might as well buy a baguette or a croissant or two for cabin breakfast the next day…

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Main Street
If you’re heading to a cabin, won’t you need something to read when you’re sipping your evening session ale by the wood stove? Independent bookstore? Check! If you’re down to the last chapter or two of your current read and didn’t pack another book, no worries. After your coffee, stroll over to Cafebooks and choose your next great read. It’s comfortable in there, and perhaps you’ll pause for (another!) cup of coffee, or tea. Go on, the cabin isn’t going anywhere, you’ve got time…

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Fifteen minutes from Canmore
Hungry? Maybe more time passed in the bookstore than you realized, and you fancy something to eat before moving on? Great restaurants? Check! I’m biased on this one, because Junior trained and worked at The Crazyweed Restaurant, but even if she hadn’t, I’d recommend lunch or dinner here. Great menu, good beer and wine selections, and an easy walk from where our Canmore buddies live, so no short straw game for choosing the designated driver. There are many great dining options in Canmore, but they didn’t train the next big thing in the culinary arts, so no mention for them…

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Bow Valley
Alright, maybe that’s enough – I’m not being paid or sponsored by the town tourism board – but I really like Canmore! It is a lovely example of a small mountain town, and fun to visit in any season. Biking, hiking, climbing, paddling a canoe, clinging onto a raft in whitewater, skiing, snowshoeing, snowboarding, xc skiing, camping, horse riding, or simply wandering about the town, Canmore is a great base for Rocky Mountain adventures. (I get pleasantly exhausted just reading that list!) You could spend a week or two, make it a weekend visit, or a quick stop on a longer trip, and you’ll always want to return. You might even want to make Canmore your permanent home – this is what our friends did after many years of vacation visits. Good choice!

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Hanging out above Canmore
Thanks for reading, and if you’ve a favourite small town to recommend, mountains or not, feel free to share it in the comments. Have a wonderful weekend!

A murderously early spring? (Is it really winter?)

A strange blog post title – what’s going on? Best answer these questions, PlaidCamper.

I thought I’d write this a few months early, as winter appears to have come and gone, and Calgary is gripped by an early spring. Temperatures hitting 12C (!) the next couple of days, and last time I checked the 14 day forecast, the seasonal daytime high of 0C won’t be happening until late December. If this keeps up, expect a photograph of a daffodil next week…

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Taken this time last year

Calgary has spring, and I’ve had man flu – very disappointing to have a winter affliction when it isn’t even winter outside. Doesn’t seem fair. Luckily, I’d never complain about the weather, and likewise, I’d never complain about feeling under the weather. Nope, I may be gripped by man flu, or worse, but you won’t hear a peep. Perhaps a sniff, sneeze, cough, and a small whimper, but that’s about all.

Having been confined to my sick bed (or sofa), I thought I’d recommend a couple of movies where winter does make an appearance. It’s the only snow we’ve seen for a while.

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Snow!

Let’s start with Wind River (dir. Taylor Sheridan, VVS 2017), one of the few decent movies  for grown ups (they let me in) released since the summer, worth your time if you enjoy a slow burn story, arresting scenery, and great performances. Sheridan wrote this, and he wrote Sicario and Hell or High Water, also good movies. If you’ve seen the others, you’ll know Sheridan enjoys a stand off. The characters he creates aren’t always the most immediately accessible or likeable, but you’ll care about them when the stand off occurs.

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More snow!

In Wind River, we start with death on a reservation, followed by death in the past, then more death on a reservation, and finishing up with a bit more death high above a Wyoming reservation. It isn’t the most cheerful of movies, although there are glimmers of hope in the troubled lives of key characters. The story touches on family grief, notions of justice, wasted lives, greed over resource extraction, racial tension, friendship and duplicity. Fortunately, there is also a sprinkling of deadpan humour. And lots and lots of snow. All this in less than two hours, and it is a taut little mystery.

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Snow in the city! A happy memory…

Elizabeth Olsen and Jeremy Renner are convincing in their roles, Renner as a hunter, Olsen as a rookie FBI agent. We can thank Sheridan as writer for avoiding what could have been a horribly cliched relationship between these two. The smaller roles are well cast and well acted, and the snowy mountain landscapes are beautiful. When the mystery of what happened to the original victim is revealed in a long flashback, it adds to the drama of what happens next. Great storytelling.

If all the gloomy death and despair of Wind River isn’t for you, then let me recommend a different movie. Be warned, it also features death, but there is far more fun to be had in Murder on the Orient Express (dir. Kenneth Branagh, 20th Century Fox 2017), if you are ok with watching a retelling of a story told countless times before.

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Train glamour (and snow)

I wasn’t too sure about seeing this one. I’d seen a trailer, and it was a touch off-putting. That moustache! The hammy-sounding Brit accents (I have one of those) and ‘eavy Belgian prrro-nun-cee-ation. Hmm – cliche and scenery-chewing alert!

Well, it was a blast! It’s hard to complain about a wonderfully familiar cast of good actors clearly enjoying themselves. Branagh is confident marshalling his players, giving each just enough space to shine.

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I like the snow in this one

The train is rolling through striking mountain scenery when a disaster strikes! It is stuck on a huge trestle bridge suspended over a deep, deep gorge after an avalanche blocks the track, derailing the steam engine. There is lots and lots of snow. There is a murder! Poirot has to solve the case before the avalanche is cleared, the engine restored, and the train is able to continue.

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Mist, not steam (and sn- ok, I’ll stop now)

In what is essentially a one set movie after the murder occurs, the delights are in the encounters Branagh’s Poirot has with character after character. The movie isn’t derailed and the story doesn’t run out of steam, even if you know what happens. Branagh himself gives a distinctive performance as Poirot, humanizing him behind the huge whiskers and sharp detective intellect.

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The Prairie Express

This movie is good to look at! As well as the colourful period costumes, the train’s interiors are glorious, all cut glass, wooden sheen, crisp tablecloths and gleaming silverware. This is a throwback movie, old-fashioned yet revelling in subverting an age that wasn’t as golden or glamorous as it appears. A fun film, if a story about murder is allowed to be fun.

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I hope it is winter where you are!

There you have it, a couple of deeply different movies to enjoy on a dark winter (fake spring?) evening if you are feeling sorry for yourself with a bit of a cold. Thank goodness I was able to get a winter fix, even if it took a murder or two and some CGI…

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Tipping points and falling out…

A brief post this week, and not as dramatic as it sounds – oh no, not the tipping point! Falling out? The drama! Nothing exciting like that. Simply a short piece about not falling out (so far)…

An uphill struggle?

We picked up a couple of kayaks a little while back. Hours and hours of research, window shopping, daydreaming, comparing different boats and their capabilities (bearing in mind our limited capabilities), materials, and price points. What fun I had, and how happy Mrs. PC was that there was a little project to keep me quiet. Once I’d made a final choice – and there were many final choices, me being a decisive sort – Mrs. PC pointed out that the real limitation wasn’t what would fit on the car, wasn’t even price, but the fact that we have limited storage space. I’m not the practical sort – I like boats because they’re old and/or blue, remember?

So we picked up two short kayaks a little while back, and they fit into our storage space. You have to be practical…

Green – from a blue boat

I love bobbing about in my little (blue) kayak! I always find kayaks feel a lot more tippy than a canoe, but so far – at the time of writing – I’ve yet to tip either, more through luck than skill or judgement. We’ve stuck to very calm bays and inlets along the shore, and made every attempt to choose the least windy parts of the day. This seems to be mornings, and late afternoons and evenings. No doubt, as I become overconfident, I’ll discover the tipping point, and rest assured, I’ll write about it on here. No misadventures will be hidden by this almost outdoorsman. Of course, if there are no pictures, that’ll be because I should have put my camera in a better dry bag…

Not too blurry?

I like playing in the boat, and I like taking pictures. A new challenge is combining the two! Canoes on lakes are wonderfully stable, and mountains and trees keep wonderfully still. Kayaks on tidal waters, with wash and wake from other vessels – you should see how many photographs I’ve deleted. I like that they can be straightened after the fact, but how off the mark I’ve been is something. I was tempted to post a few of the really poor ones with this piece, but I’ve tried your patience long enough.

More about our kayak adventures and explorations in the future. Much like our initial excursions, I’ll keep it brief – as promised. Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Washed up and washed out blues

Oh the blues…

Not the “life is so sad, lost my job, s/he left me, the roof is leaking and my dog, cat and hamster died on me” blues, although there’s a time and a place. Rather, the “I love the colour of those boats in the harbour” blues. Not sure if there is a song in that, but maybe there should be. If you write it, I promise not to sing it.IMG_20170731_202257

We were wandering about Ucluelet Small Craft Harbour, admiring the variety of boats, watching the comings and goings of craft large and small, and admiring the catches of the day. A mixture of busy and quiet, it is a lovely place to find a seat and enjoy a warm summer evening, so we did.

My eye is always drawn to blue and green, and here it was no different. There was a smattering of beautiful blue vessels tucked in between the more prevalent greys and creams. I’m hugely ignorant of matters maritime, and it is a good thing I’m not in the market for a boat because I’d choose a blue one before choosing the right one.

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The right one?

A fool and his dollars are easily parted – that is why I rarely shop, and when I do, Mrs PC is there to rein me in. So when I saw the lovely Tromso was for sale, and for a mere $8000, she shook her head, took me by the arm and led me away. No, we don’t need to live on a boat, there’s nothing “mere” about $8000, and we don’t have $8000.

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Character?

I thought Tromso had character, and I could relate to her age. She’s rusting, I’m greying. Weather beaten and a bit worn around the edges? Yup. Some bulging and sagging where you’d rather it wasn’t? Okay. Looks good in blue and green? Enough already…

So the nautical life remains undiscovered by this old PlaidCamper, and the harbour side blues play in my head every time I look out and see the Tromso tethered and rusting down by the dock. She looks a little washed up and washed out, but I think there’s some life left in her. I hope the right person comes along and sees the potential. I’ve been searching down the back of the sofa, but to no avail.

Sing along if you want to – “I love the Tromso and I don’t have a cat…” – oh my unnecessary nautical blues!

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

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I might be whistling Dixie…

Plains, a train, and an automobile…

Hmm. A messy borrowed – sort of – title, and a short post.

We’re staggering towards the end of this academic year – I can’t remember it being this busy in other years, so I guess early middle age must be catching up with me. We did find time to take a short trip out onto the prairies and plains. We passed through grasslands and ranch lands, tracking the Red Deer river, and stopping in the small (very small) town of Big Valley. Friendly small towns and big spaces – that calls for Paul Brandt on the radio:

Small Towns and Big Dreams

Big Valley is nestled in knob and kettle country, and what lovely scenery that is. Plus, you know, knob and kettle. The childish delight I have in writing that…Almost every kettle had ducks on the water – it was a waterfowl wonderland, and a very pretty habitat. And yet I don’t have a duck in any of the photos? To be honest, each little family of ducks looked so content, I couldn’t bring myself to stop and take a picture in case we disturbed them. The kettle lakes are close to the road, and although they were visible in all directions, we would have been too close.

Old train cars and trucks aren’t sensitive, and parked, they can’t escape. Yup, here comes another old truck photograph. This one, parked up in Big Valley, is the oldest we’ve seen recently, and a beauty:


The railway used to run through here, and enthusiasts keep part of the line open and run trains between Stettler and Big Valley. Maybe we’ll make time to take that short trip one afternoon, for the fun of it. We were happy enough to sit in the sun, and then wander around the train cars and old farm machinery. A couple of pleasant Big Valley hours, and then back through knob and kettle (can’t help it) country, heading home, with a little more Paul Brandt. He is Mr. Alberta summer soundtrack!

Alberta Bound

A brief post, as promised. I hope you enjoyed the music, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend – thanks for reading!

This river is wild…

Or if not wild, certainly rising. Keeping a close watch, given the heavy flooding Calgary and other places on the Bow experienced a few years ago.

I like this truck!

As spring turns to summer, or as we skip spring for summer – tornado warnings/sightings, and gajillions of mosquitos being my prime evidence – I’m putting together the dreaded OldPlaidCamper road trip mix tape. Just to be clear, and for the record, Mrs. PlaidCamper has excellent musical taste, and a remarkable ability to fall asleep in the car when my mix tape is up next. That might be one of the rock solid foundations of a successful road trip…

You might be asking Why the bit about the river, and then the bit about mix tapes? Good question! This River is Wild is a track on the Sam’s Town album by The Killers. I like the album, and I like the track, and it has popped up in my head each time I’ve crossed the Bow this past week and seen the surging waters. Yup, I’ve got a fairly empty head most mornings, and this is what fills it – plans for a road trip mix tape.

That Killers track! I do enjoy their wailing histrionics, in small doses. You can’t fault them for effort, and the albums Hot Fuss and Sam’s Town include killer, haha, tracks. If you’re interested, follow the link for a live version – I prefer the studio version, but couldn’t find a link – The Killers – This River is Wild 

I like this truck as well!

On my little walks around Sunnyside, in between downpours and battling the bloodsucking bugs, I’ve stumbled across some more old trucks and snapped a few pictures. Old trucks always get me thinking about road trips and wide open spaces. The sad truth is, if I owned a cool old truck and was responsible for the maintenance, our road trips would be short. We’d see lots of verges, and be on first name terms with tow truck owners. Sadly, I can only look and dream when it comes to older trucks (or I could learn to be a mechanic – don’t let Mrs PC read that last part, she’s seen me fix and build…)

I really, really like this one!

Oh summer, I can almost see you there, just a little way ahead, and around the next turn! Here’s hoping the river isn’t too wild, the road is long and open, and an as yet unknown distant (wealthy) relative decides to lend me an old truck on permanent loan…

Thanks for reading. Keeping it short this week – mix tape planning can take a lot of time, you know – I hope you have a wonderful weekend, and please feel free to share a road trip song suggestion!

And I like this one!