Setting Up A Budget

A negative mind will never give you a positive life.

I think in my case , better late than never….

As part of my programme to change my lifestyle around, I needed to know how much money my family required to live?

Seems a simple question. But one that I could not answer .Now I am not alone in this. Recent polls suggest that only 30% of North Americans actually have a budget. That means the vast majority of people have no idea what they spend their money on and my household definitely fell into this category.

Now in order to change, you first have to establish where you are?

I”m not a financial expert in any way and my aim here is not to become a financial expert.I am finding out what works for me and maybe it would work for you.

My aim here is to change my lifestyle from working in jobs I hated just to make money to pay the bills, to working at things I love to make a living.My trusted method in the past was , ‘We need more money! ” I  would go and earn some more money, in a job that I hated, next stage? buy some “crap” I did not need, as a mental reward. ( for example, my house has five televisions of which only two are used ???)

Result? “We need more money!!”……So the cycle continued.

How to break this cycle? I decided to basically record all of our spending habits over a three-month period. I felt this was a good period of time. Long enough to give me a reasonable level of understanding as to where the moola went?

Your Budget should not only contain all the areas that you spend your “miserable” cash, but also include all of  your income. I am no computer tech, so decided to record ours the old fashion way and purchased a simple accounts book, in which I wrote my own headings.( long live paper)

1/ Food – simple enough . All groceries but not including take-out or restaurant meals.

2/ Household – Mortgage or Rent and all utility bills.

3/ Insurance- House/ Motor and personal.

4/ Motoring expenses. – Gas , repairs etc.

5/ Debt management.- Interest paid on Loans,Credit cards bank charges etc.( Shocking!!!)

6/ Entertainments_ Coffee, pub, take out, restaurants, pub , pub ,pub ……

7/Clothing- Obvious, no explanations required

8/ One off expenditures.- Every month there”s something. Birthdays, school trips etc

9/ Other – everything else, just write what it was when entering the amount .

 

Now your budget may look different to this. For example, if you did”t own a vehicle , you are not going to have motoring expenses, however you may have public  transport costs or taxi fares instead. Where”s your investments? you may ask. Quite simply at this stage, apart from some Mutual funds for my kids college education, there are no investments!

Keep it simple stupid ( Love this saying, my first boss used it all the time )

banking business checklist commerce
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It is very easy to get carried away and make your budget way too detailed and complicated. In my case, if I am going to carry it through, I have to make it simple to use and  simple to understand. Otherwise, I would get “fed up” with it very quickly and not bother with it . Again, make it personal to you and/or your family. This is the one that worked for us .

The point of this exercise was to clearly identify where our money was being spent and how much we actually spent. I did not want to change anything at this stage, however I did find that after recording our spending in the first few weeks, our spending habits started to change, as the shocking numbers sank in .

After the three-month period was finished, the results were amazing.

Spending money wisely on “needs” rather than “wants” in order to be able to work less and have more time to do things I love.

Its worth while reminding yourself of why you are doing this? Like most things in life, if you don”t have a target or aim that is measurable , in time, you will wonder from your path and not get the results you were looking for.

Again, this was my aim. Yours will be different . Maybe you want to save for a particular trip to the sun or a big box item? Instead of following the modern disease of putting everything on credit.

It is worth noting, American”s credit and store card debt hit over a trillion dollars in March of 2018, according to figures released by the Federal Reserve. An average of over five thousand dollars per card holder.That”s a lot !!Just saying .Not to judge anyone. I don”t want to be like those reformed smokers who don”t shut up about giving up smoking.( used to have to listen to those “muppets” when I smoked).

The important thing here is to be able to recognize your current situation. If you are happy with it the way it is, great! Bully for you and move on . For me, this was not the case and change is required.

By recording our expenditure over the three-month period, the first and most important question was answered .

1/Do you earn more than you spend ?

This has to be the starting point for everyone. You don”t have to be a  genius ( luckily for me) to work out that if you spend more than you earn over a period of time then the likely outcome is going to be…….DEBT! . The debt you incur will then cost you money every month and so your expenditure increases etc etc etc. If  you are like me you have no idea how much your  debt  is costing you each month? ( Bet you can”t give me an explanation for APR? ) Surprisingly, we were on the right side and our earnings were more than our spending, which begged the question…..

2/ Where are you spending your Money?

The fact that we earned more than we spent was an encouraging start. However, the answers to where are money went? was, to put it bluntly, bloody scary. Small, regular amounts go un-noticed especially when you pay by debit or credit card, instead of physically handing over the cash. When you see it being spent over a three-month period, then multiply it up to what it is costing you over a whole year, it can be quite shocking.

A good example of this. One of my sons is a competitive swimmer. After each early morning practice, we would get him breakfast from an extremely well-known fast food chain. Not expensive right? Well, when I did the calculations from my three months of records , it worked out to be over eighteen hundred dollars a year. For a lot of people that’s one whole pay check per year! Needles to say , my son now takes breakfast from home. He”s not happy about it , but it teaches him a valuable lesson and I”m happy because he is now having a healthy breakfast and we are saving money. Win, win.

3/ Prioritize which debts to pay off

Finally, the exercise showed which debts cost us the most each month. This automatically gave us the order of which we should reduce our debt . Next stage.

Anyone want to buy a TV ?

 

To be Continued……..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mellow Monday Drive

IMG_0363Mon 3rd September.

Primm NV to Colton CA

189 Miles Driven.

To find confidence, we must first find the courage to act .

Up around 5 am local time.  Despite my hope that many of the weekend party goers had left on Sunday to get back to suburbia, the interstate was already getting busy.  So morning routine complete, I left the truck stop and entered the steady stream of traffic.

When leaving Nevada into California, all trucks have to enter the largest scale and inspection station I have ever seen.  Firstly your’re asked what your load is.  Frozen Fries clearly was not an issue, as I was waived straight through. Maybe the fact it wasn’t even 6 am  and the inspection guard could not be bothered to take it any further.  Secondly, you are then guided through a series of control lights as to which of the many scales you drive across.  Having just fueled up, I knew I would be close to my maximum weight allowed, especially on the front axle, so it was with a little relief when the green arrow flashed for me to leave the facility and re-enter the freeway.

California, is not a truck friendly state.  Not only do the fuel prices drastically increase here, but the speed limits drops to a ‘ granny paced” 55 mph (88.5 Kmh for everyone else ) and there are plenty of officers waiting on the side of the highway with their electronic devices to remind me of that fact.  So progress was leisurely, however it was steady as everyone seemed to be satisfied following the new speed limit and there was little in the way of delays.

I am determined in this latest venture back into trucking,  not to get as stressed out while driving.  In years past the idiots you see every day in this job, would really have a negative effect on me.  As previously mentioned, I used to be a fairly heavy smoker . The amount of cigarettes I smoked would greatly increase as soon as I got behind the wheel of a big truck.  After several unsuccessful attempts to kick the habit, I finally managed it around 3 years ago. This would be the first time I’ve driven professionally since quitting the disgusting habit .  Maybe its the fact I’m older and eventually realized that there will always be idiots on the road, so screaming and yelling at them makes no difference.  Maybe its the fact that I’ve eventually come to the conclusion that life really is too short and its better to enjoy it , than to fight it .

That’s one of the reasons why I came back to trucking.  I can make a lot more money working in my previous profession, but just hated it. So now I’ve decided that its better to make what I now refer to as “Happy Money ” What I mean by that, is its better for me to make $150 and enjoy what I do, rather than $200 and totally hate what I do to earn it.  I think in the long run I will actually be better off .

When working in a job I hate, I purchase things I don’t need , just to cheer myself up. These are purely emotional purchases done for a short justification for working in a job that makes me miserable.  So to summarize, I had to do a job I didn’t enjoy, to make a certain amount of money, so I could buy things I didn’t need, in order to make me happy, if only for a short time.  Strange but true.

Bet I’m not the only one, am I ? Let me know, by completing the contact form below.

cash coins money pattern
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When the interstate dropped down to the San Bernardino region and the traffic finally thinned out I was still calm and collected and to be honest with you , very proud of myself . There was also a sense of relief, because I was concerned that I may slip back into old habits and the blood pressure would be through the roof on a regular basis .

Finally, it was time to find  the location of my first drop and suitable parking hopefully close by . Now this was another occasion that new technology has made life easier . In the past to find an unfamiliar location would involve , maps , notes and possibly asking strangers for directions or using the CB radio to ask other trucks local to the area. Not today . Simply copy and paste the address on to my Google maps app and the automated woman’s voice guides me into position . My issue is just one of trust . I was considering purchasing a trucking specific GPS system, however, the $400 to $500 price range put me off making that purchase so early on, so I decided just to use my smart phone.

To my surprise it guided me, without issue, right to the building. I was equally pleased to see a large open yard with plenty of room to park for the night. Not only that, there was a truck stop ( full of trucks waiting out the holiday as suspected) within walking distance, several fast food joints and believe it or not a coffee shop . Happy bloody days mate !

So with in the warm September sun, I nice gentle walk of the neighbour hood was in order, smug in the fact we had successfully got here without incident ,fuss or bother .

Home made supper ( not a fan of fast food , except after too many beers) , make some notes for my blog and that was my day . Tomorrow , we face 3 drops all in the LA area . Probably going to be a test of my middle age Karma.

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Sunday Lunch in Vegas

IMG_0338Sunday 2nd September

Mona, Utah to Primm, Nevada

388 miles .

My plan to spend the night in a smaller parking area had paid off . The first good nights sleep since I left home , meant I felt fresh and prepared for the day . Well , I was after my compulsory 2 cups of freshly brewed coffee and a bowl of  porridge  . Having my dog with me on this trip, meant a walk is required every morning to allow him to do his business.This he did  by  marking every available post or tree. I found that the twenty-minute walk really helps wake me up and by the time my pre-trip inspection was done, my electronic log updated with a the relevant information, I was keen to get going .

Now this weekend is actually a holiday weekend , which  meant I basically had an extra day , as my first delivery was not until 8 am Tuesday morning .Because of this, I had decided to do two relatively short days , rather than getting into the Los Angeles area a whole day early, as I do remember parking in the area is likely to be full of other trucks seeing out the long weekend .So my plan today was to get somewhere south of Vegas.

Once passing by Cedar City , the I-15 goes into a twisty section, when concentration levels need to be increased .A look out for traffic cops is also a good idea, as the speed limit  is reduced on this section of the highway.Although I haven”t been on this road for nearly 11 years ,I recognized this area immediately and I find it a welcome break from the normal “straight line” highway driving. The scenery then opens up as you cross the border into Nevada, giving you a view of vast open space , with the occasional empty derelict building serving as a reminder of years gone by, when people actually lived here , before moving to the city

I was considering taking an alternative route, highway 93 south, as I was informed by a friend of mine who ran this route some years ago , that it was a beautiful drive and very popular with commercial drivers, mainly due to the fact there are no scales and inspection stations going this way. As it was my first trip, I decided that this would have to wait for another time and  stuck to the I-15 south.IMG_0333

I-15 southbound . A sign of things to come ?

 

After a relatively un eventful mornings drive I was once again planning where I was going to spend the evening . This time fuel does come into the planning . Due to the cost of fuel in California companies require you to be smart and fuel up in Nevada, as this can greatly reduce running costs . I also remembered that this highway becomes very busy on a Sunday afternoon with all the weekend party goers leaving Vegas and heading back to their Los Angeles homes . So with this in mind, I decided to park up earlier in the day at the last truck stop before entering California, a flying J at  Primm Nevada  .

It seems that they are forever doing road repairs in the party town and my Sunday afternoon drive was slow and boring  through Las Vegas, but it didn’t affect me too much as, like I’ve said, I have “plenty of time” on this trip . Even so , I was glad to get through the remainder of the always present road works  and park up half an hour later , before the crazy traffic started .IMG_0342

Primm Truck stop , Clark County , Nevada.

 

Now the truck stop here at Primm is a little different in the fact that not only does it have the usual  fuel station, restaurants, lounge and wash facilities, but this one has hotels, casino, an outlet shopping mall, theme parks and most importantly to me a Starbucks . As you can probably guess, I am a bit of a coffee fan . Up to now I have been brewing my own morning boost juice myself in the cab, as generally speaking ,coffee in most truck stops is frankly disgusting and worthy of the title .

So after a short, but hot walk with my dog ,its in to the cool air-conditioned building for a much-needed shower , followed by a fresh cup of Americano. The showers were old but clean , much the same as the towels provided, however it did the trick . Feeling fresh and ready for coffee . Well , I am not sure whether it’s the water they used or the coffee itself is different to Starbucks in Canada , but this did not taste anywhere near as good . What a let down. Oh well , not to worry , with the current exchange to US dollars rate not in my favour, it made this coffee quite expensive . Brew my own it is .

After catching up on some news from home , cooked supper of fish , rice and a salad ,I spent the rest of the evening reading , before taking an early night .

Now, I know there is mixed feelings amongst drivers over E logs . These devices record all the movements of the truck over a 24 hour period . I for one, have already realized that I am a fan . Under the old paper log book system , it was very easy for drivers to cheat the system and drive a lot more than legally allowed. Most drivers , including myself, have done this on a regular basis . However , the load Gods ( my term for the dispatchers) agents , shippers and receivers all knew this . So , if a truck was sat waiting to be loaded or unloaded for hours on end, the driver was then expected to drive all night in some instances , in order to get to their next appointment .No surprise to see truck stops full of energy drinks!

Aside from the obvious dangers to themselves and other road users , these practices were also extremely un healthy for the drivers . I can remember in my younger days driving through southern France , heading back to the UK , driving all day and night , surviving on endless cups of coffee and packs of cigarettes ( Yes I still do the coffee, but limited to two or three cups a day , thankfully, I”ve managed to kick the smoking habit finally). In a world of increasing awareness of health issues caused by excess stress, poor diet and irregular sleep patterns , this new system introduced to regulate drivers hours, will only improve the industry in the long run. It may also help to attract much-needed young blood into the trade and decrease the driver shortage problem.

Please let me know your thoughts, I welcome all comments by completing the contact form below .

 

Re- Thinking Middle Age Finances

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Study Hard. ( I did not do this ) Get a good job. Buy a big house . Be a good parent.( I do my best at this one ) Save for retirement. DIE !!.

This is the traditional view of life that formed my up bringing . Now I realize that this is not for me.  Shame it took me so long to figure it out, but as they say “better late than never”.
At my age, with my children getting older,the traditional financial suits  would be telling me to maximize my earnings to “top-up’ my investments to boost my retirement income.

There is a couple of issues with this view . Firstly, I don’t have a great deal of investments. Life ( 4 kids and 2 marriages) happened to me , instead of a stable investment plan . Secondly, retirement doesn’t seem that appealing either . ( I suck at golf)

How many people earn money doing something they love?  Well not me. Not for the past thirty years. Apart from a few remote occasions, I have done jobs for one reason only, Money.

At times I have earned decent money, but would then purchase items unnecessarily as a self reward for working hard at a job I hated. Work more.Spend More. The cycle that has dominated my life since entering the work place. This is a common feature of modern society, in fact recently it has been reported that 50% of north Americans spend the same or more than they earn on a weekly basis.  Aimlessly working hours, days, weeks, months, into years at jobs that were not enjoyable or satisfying in any way .

I am now approaching the age at which my father passed away, and determined not to waste anymore of my life. Time to change things up. So, instead of working harder, I want to spend my money smarter on things my family actually need, rather than what I  want as compensation. By doing this I am hoping to create enough time and more importantly, the energy to do things I love to do.

I have always loved metal work . In particular sculptures and figurines made from metal. Never had the mental energy to start producing my ideas.

This  has not  been exactly a “Eureka!” moment and I don’t really have a master plan.  In fact I have no bloody idea how I”m going to do this.  I guess like most problems that seem insurmountable, you pick a point to start and do just that, start.

Stage 1: Identify what was wrong

Stage 2: Prioritize the order of which I would change it.

Now time for a reality check . There are some areas of my life  I cannot change immediately. For example, as I have previously mentioned, I no longer like to live in Calgary AB.  Living in this city is not the reason why I moved to Canada and I would leave here in a heartbeat. However I can’t. My two remaining sons living at home are both at critical times in their schooling.  Schools here are good and well-funded (although this is getting less so with the decline in the oil industry and incompetent politicians) So being  the responsible parent, I am stuck living  here until the time is right.

I think its important to start at where you can make quick changes, to gain some mental momentum.

With that in mind I started to look at the obvious. Like most people of my generation, work seemed to occupy my whole life. Not at anytime could I say I have enjoyed work. Some people say they love their work , but when asked if they would still do it if they won the lottery, most reply with a confident “NO!!!”.  So to me, they are not being honest with themselves.

My end goal here is to make a living doing something that I would actually do for free . I think there are a lucky few that manage this, sports stars, musicians, actors etc. But even these are only a small percentage of people who actually play sport or music.  So, I realize this is not going to be an easy task.

How do you eat an elephant?

One fork at a time .

Having worked in the construction industry for most of the my time here in Calgary, I had earned a fair living from it.  Long hours, especially in the summers, increasing levels of incompetence and stupidity, combined with workers who cannot show up every day, customers who want top dollar work done for bottom dollar prices, delays in payment, as well as decreasing profit margins, has taken the shine off working in the industry in recent years.

Over the last year I have slowly moved away from my line of work. Firstly, I picked up part-time work with a local contractor who transported cars for a well-known car rental company. This enabled me to actually have a summer this year. A visit from my family in England,my eldest sons wedding and the birth of my second grandson made for an eventful and memorable time .

At the same time I started making some metal sculptures and selling them through an online store and even made a few sales.

Problem with the part-time work is that it didn’t provide enough income to keep my,  family. What it did though was to show me what I was missing. I really enjoyed trucking again. With the shortage of truck drivers in western Canada I started to look for work.

At the end of the summer an opportunity arose for me to take a load from Calgary down to Los Angeles. I took it.

Over the next eight days I drove down and back and really enjoyed myself ( see my other blogs on this adventure)and as if confirmation was required, I had definitely made the right decision .

The right decision to go back into trucking was confirmed, however the type of trucking work was not the perfect fit.  Long distance work by its nature meant I would be away from home for long periods of time.

Looking at the big picture and with my target to make a living out of metal art and sculpture, long distance trucking would not allow the time to develop this area.

Now sometimes things happen for a reason.  Not sure why this happens, but sometimes things just work out that way.  It was at the exact time I was preparing to go back out on my second  trip south, when I received an unexpected call from the car rental company. It appeared that their contractor had quit his position and they offered me the work .

There we have it.  Times are a changing. I am now working on hauling cars on a full-time basis, but with enough time for metal work and I even recently managed to find a retail outlet locally that have agreed to stock my work.

Little steps, but in the right direction.  I have along way to go but I believe I can do it.

Next step. Setting up a Budget!!!!

To be continued…….P1030631

 

Where Did Summer Go?

Great Falls MT to Mona UT

Saturday Sept 1st 

644 Miles drivenIMG_0321 (1)

Cool old D11 dozer parked up near the truck stop in Utah.

After a terrible nights sleep ( Fridge motor , see previous blog ) I was up at 6 am.  The driving hour regulations meant my compulsory break period ended in one hour . Just enough time to make breakfast . Porridge loaded with fruit and a freshly made coffee, followed by another coffee and a walk with my dog , meant it was  time to leave my overnight parking area .

Pre-trip inspection completed and breakfast packed away, quick clean of the cab and interstate 15 southern bound by 7.30 .

Within an hour of leaving the truck stop the views from my office window  changed dramatically . The section of the highway from Great Falls to Butte takes my breath away. A stunning mountain backdrop combine with twisting sections of road , following a river basin, provides me with a great morning drive and I soon forget about my lack of  sleep . I am wide awake now and determined to enjoy every moment . Whether it’s the scenery or the two large cups of coffee I had early I’m not sure , but what a start to the day.

A beautiful mornings drive comes to an end with a lunch break taken at a great rest stop at Pocatello IdahoIMG_0319Under the new regulations in effect in the States , a driver has to take a minimum of a half an hour break within the first 8 hours of the working day . This is an improvement in my book . I was grateful for the opportunity to take a break on this first day of September . This particular rest area has a nicely laid out trail which took about twenty minutes to stroll around , providing myself and my dog the opportunity to stretch our legs giving us both exercise and fresh air.

I don’t actually eat lunch as I find its makes me tired in the afternoon, I prefer to snack as I drive to keep awake and hunger at bay .

After my break , I pass through the remainder of Idaho and enter the second state of the journey south, Utah . This State brings me into the first large city since leaving Calgary . Salt Lake City on a Saturday afternoon gave me refresh into the joys of  heavy traffic when driving a semi truck. Something I had not experienced for over ten years . This was fun . Seriously I enjoyed it . I had forgotten how people behave when in their cars .  Driving a truck,  you are quite a bit higher up than cars and this elevated position gives you a bird’s-eye view into people’s vehicles as they pass you . I am amazed that people don’t think they can be seen or no one is watching when they are driving . This provided me with some  funny and other  stomach turning sights when driving through Salt Lake on this sunny warm afternoon . “Hey Lady in the fancy SUV stop picking your nose and wiping it on the dash !” Seriously .

Once the free entertainment had died down I was beginning to think where I was going to stop this evening .As I had fueled the previous day it wasn”t necessary to do the same today . This truck was fitted with two very large fuel tanks and I could easily drive for two days without the need to refuel . This gave me the option to park in smaller rest areas . While having no facilities , they offer a peaceful evening and a different experience altogether .

My Saturday  afternoon cruise through Utah was interrupted by a vehicle fire on the side of the highway, causing traffic to come to a halt for around an hour . Thankfully it didn’t appear as though anyone was hurt and I passed the time away talking to a fellow trucker from Nevada, who had pulled up next to me during the incident .

Already in my second day , I have noticed how much modern technology is making life easier . Firstly, my hours of driving , resting and sleeping are all recorded automatically my a machine connected directly to the electronic management system on the truck . This has replaced the need to manually record each event in a log book and hope you did it right when inspected by the  DOT. Secondly, my border crossing paperwork is now done via an electronic log process , making the whole process easier for the driver . Lastly , the days of driving and looking at the map and a directory of truck stops to figure out where you are going to stop for the night or get fuel etc have been replaced by a very useful app called “Trucker Path”.This app tells the driver  where the parking areas are located, gives to directions via google maps if required and even shows you space available ( although this does rely on drivers inputting this information when the get to that particular rest area so this  information could be unreliable ). This gives the driver the opportunity to pick the truck stops of their choice depending on what type they prefer or what services they or their truck require .

So armed with this information at lunch time , combined with the knowledge of how many hours I had left to drive , I picked a small rest area near Mona,Utah. So it was with an hour of day light remaining I pulled in a small gravel parking area next to a new BP gas station with a Subway attached . Treated myself to a large sub and an ice tea for supper , followed by a nice evening walk with my dog to finish off a great second day .

 

 

Moving to Canada? A Divided Country.

pexels-photo-756790.jpeg Canada Area      9985 million square kilometers

UK Area              241,590 square kilometers

Canada, the second biggest country in the world after Russia. This place is bloody huge . I come from a  tiny country where you can drive from one end to another in a day , well as long as the M5 motorway is clear , so night driving would be required , but you get the picture, its small .

When I first moved to Canada, I arrived under an immigration programme called a PNP. This basically meant you stayed working for the same company , doing the same job for approx 3 years and in that time you hopefully get your permanent resident card, which then allowed you to work anywhere for anyone . ( that is a whole different story , which was not a happy time I”m still not over it !!)  Canada is divided into Provinces , 10 in total , with 3 more Territories in the North of the country , very confusing I know, no-one has ever explained the difference to me.

In 2006 the province of Alberta was crying out for class 1  Truck Drivers and as I had held a license and even owned my own truck in the UK, it was an easy step for me to make and enabled my family to move relatively quickly .So this gave me an opportunity to travel through the country and get a good feel for this vast land ( earning a pathetic wage at the same time ) It quickly came apparent to me how huge this country is but also how divided a nation this is .

Most people outside of Canada would know that the Province of Quebec is the French-speaking part of the country and a lot will remember the movement for independence from the rest of the country , In fact it had referendums on its sovereignty in 1980 and 1995, both of these were a defeat for the independence campaign , the latter by a very narrow margin. As far as I can see these referendums were a waste of ballot paper and TV coverage full of politicians wearing bad suits and even worse haircuts ( wow barbers have really improved lately ) as Quebec people still regard themselves as independent  to the rest of the nation and I can confirm that the people who live in the Western Province of Alberta have few good things to say about the province of Quebec . Similar to the rivalry between the UK and the French-speaking nation in Europe. ( France , for those who can’t figure it out )

After  six months of truck driving around Canada , I realised that I hadn”t moved to Canada , but moved to a single province of Alberta . Each Province has its owns laws ,        even down to the age at which teenagers can get loaded at the bar! . Each Province , thinks it contributes the most to the economy, whilst the others contribute nothing . This is particularly bad in Alberta as its people here think the revenue from the vast oil sands situated in the northern part of the province, pays for everything nationwide whist everyone else in the country spends their time fishing or speaking French or collecting government handouts whilst smoking pot !.

I know people who live here that regard themselves as almost American rather than Canadian .Most of this countries population lives within 100 miles of the USA border to the south . Most of the people here , travel regularly to the more famous southern neighbour , especially in the Winter months when the “Snowbirds” ( Old people with money ) head to the warmer temperatures of Phoenix , Vegas or Florida the see out the bitter  weather, the rest of us are left to cope with .( Yes , if that sounds like I”m jealous) In fact , until recently Canadians didn”t even need a passport to travel south , a quick flash of their provincial driving licence would see them across the border .  International terrorism has caused a rapid increase in Canadian passport holders.

Most people here ,prefer to purchase “Domestic ” vehicles, as they feel it’s better for the economy . A loose term of the word Domestic, as in fact the Fords, GM”s and Chrysler made vehicles are  American owned and in the case of Chrysler have large Italian influence in the shape of Fiat , yet Canadians regard them as made in their country. Strange, but true .

I know each country has regional divisions , ” north south divides” and even local rivalries are common , but bottom line those divisions are put to one side when it comes to national pride or interests . Not here . In fact , in my time here I see these divisions have become wider and deeper . Only this week the news is dominated by the story of the Alberta premier banning the sale of Wine from British Columbia, in retaliation to that Province not wanting a pipeline across “their land” in order to reach world markets of India and Japan .As far as I can see that just means one province can”t have good wine and the country as a whole cannot benefit from exports of Oil. This has been exaggerated by the down turn in world oil prices ,causing a downturn in the once prolific western Canadian economy and the presence of a Prime Minister who seems to be following a policy of making himself   a proclaimed leader of human rights , rather than a leader of a nation . I don’t know anyone here in the west who would admit to voting  for him, but due to the fact that the majority of people live in the Eastern Provinces of Ontario and Quebec , making voting in the Western Canadian Provinces of Alberta and British Columbia almost pointless .

So if your thinking of moving for a new life in Canada, make sure you research the Province , not the country as a whole . Living in Toronto has no relevance or connection to living in Vancouver . Apart from the fact you will be dealing with one Canadian Immigration  department you will be wasting your time and energy . Focus on what sort of person you are ? What you like? what you want from life ?

Look upon moving to Canada in the same way you would moving to Europe .Living in Germany would be vastly different to moving to Italy . Apart from a common language    ( Although Canada is officially bi lingual , no-one outside of Quebec speaks French on a daily basis) each Province is very different. In the words of a good friend of mine ” I”m Albertan first then Canadian! “. Strange ,but true .oil-monahans-texas-sunset-70362.jpeg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winter Blues ( Grow Some !)

pexels-photo-844343.jpegMost people’s images of Canada must include snow. We have wonderful summers , spring last for around two weeks and fall (autumn to my English readers ) is truly beautiful time in the mountains of Western Canada, but winter dominates your life, like no other season when you live here .

Not having grown up here , I don”t ski, can”t skate and fail to see the enjoyment of spending hours on a frozen lake , dangling a fishing line through a drilled hole , hoping a passing fish will take your bait, before you completely lose all feeling in your lower limbs, otherwise known as ice fishing !

The recommended temperature for your household freezer is -18 degrees C . This winter in Calgary is proving to be one of the coldest, in fact the New Year started with a bone chilling -30 degrees C on News Years Day .

Now I hated the Winter when I lived in the UK , damp, dreary days that seem to go on for ever. I still hate Winter ,but surprisingly less so here . I know what your thinking , but here even when it’s very cold the sky is a clear blue ,with bright sunshine . It”s just you need to wrap in multi layers of specialist clothing and put on footwear that look like moon boots, to go out side to enjoy it!

I have learnt to approach Winter with a positive attitude . It comes every year and it”s  always a shock to the system when it does . Unless your prepared both physically and mentally, you are in for a tough five months .

Physical preparation always comes too late . Like I said , fall here is beautiful, the colours are amazing and with daytime temperatures still in the comfort zone its easy to forget whats around the corner . Then one morning you look out and wham, there it is , six inches of snow has fallen overnight and the morning commute is a nightmare . Now this shouldn”t happen , but it does , for some reason every year the weather forecast ( which is very accurate here ) informs people of the upcoming snow storm , but it gets ignored .

So whats a the physical preparation? Firstly , winter tyres fitted to your car . In some provinces this is mandatory ,from October ,that you put on a special set of tires for the winter months . Here in Alberta it’s not compulsory, it’s just recommended . Well there lies the problem . You are now likely to be driving on snow , ice or at worst freezing rain for a period of 4 to 5 months and the winter tires are still in the garage! So , every year on the first snow fall day we have hundreds of accidents and the roads are a complete war zone . ( a little like my home country when they have one little snow storm every five years of about 2 inches ).

There after follows a period of time when the busiest people in the city are those who work in tire stores . From dawn to dusk , lineups of cars wait to have their winter boots put on .After a few days of this , people then regain their winter driving skills thanks to the latest in rubber technology, apart from the newly arrived immigrants , me being one in 2006 , who are experiencing Winter driving for the first time . It’s then you ask yourself Why did I move here ?

Preparation number two . Snow shovels . Make sure you have several and they are easily available , because you are definitely going to need them . For the wealthier residents, this means making arrangements with the same guy that mowed their neat little lawns in the summer , to come out every time its snows and shovel their paths and driveways clear of the latest level of white stuff .( One big mystery to me is why people spend a fortune on getting their lawns in perfect golf course condition , only to see them disappear in a layer of snow and ice for 5 months , then  re-appear in the spring all brown and dead looking, just in time to start the whole process over again? )

For us poorer people , Winter snow shovelling becomes part of your daily routine . A chance to get out of the house , meet the neighbours and spend twenty minutes shovelling snow into ever-increasing piles . Hopefully you achieve this without having a heart attack , pulling your back out or falling on your arse . I’m not sure of the numbers involved, but all of these things happen to many people whilst participating in this unique , non olympic winter pastime .

Further physical preparations include , getting your heating system serviced , putting all garden furniture away , drain your lawn irrigation system ( why have one in the first place , but we”ve already covered that one ) , change the oil in your car to a thinner one , much better for your engine on cold morning starts . Bring out your heavy-duty power cords to plug your vehicle in overnight ( all vehicles have block  heaters that actually heats the coolant and keeps the engine block from getting too cold ) this way the poor thing has half a chance of starting , but only if you”ve checked your battery is still good , most only last a few winters .

Summer clothes packed away , to be replaced by over priced winter wear ,transforming the residents of Calgary into want to be “Scott of the Antarctic”s “, apart from all teenage school kids , who would sooner look cool and feel freezing . Head to the doctors to have your flu jab , seems like all Canadians do this , not the immigrants , don”t know why this is . Finally , all summer toys , fishing gear, motorcycles , camping equipment and RV”s , winterized and stored away , not to be seen for the next rew months .

Now your ready . Well Physically anyway . The secret to getting through the Canadian winter is all in your head . Cabin fever is a very real thing . A claustrophobic reaction that takes place when a person ends up stuck indoors in confined quarters for an extended period . In other words, you go slowly mad , looking out the window at tomorrows shovelling task . If you are not Scott of the Antartic, or into winter sports , this is a very real problem . Endless trips to the nicely heated shopping malls, eating crap food ,( A very big part of North American Life ) lack of fresh air and endless series on Netflix all combine to turn your once active brain and body into a useless rotting cabbage.

Now here”s the answer to this problem . Stop feeling sorry for yourself , get off your arse and do something !! It really is that simple . So if you are a  negative , wining product of modern society , who is not prepared to face up to mother  nature and take her on , forget moving to Canada .Stay where you are, softy !

The first Winter you face will be tough , be prepared , but don’t let it beat you . Grasp it , feel it and enjoy it , because sooner or later she let’s go and the two-week spring time arrives , followed by the glorious summer months . Winter defines Canada and your mental attitude to Winter, will define you .

Happy Shovelling !!

Calgary .Wednesday 7th February 2018. Todays temperature  a low of – 17 C currently under a Winter Storm Warning with up to 35cm of snow forcast over the next 36 hours . Get in !

 

 

How to be a successful Immigrant. (To Canada ) 5 Golden Rules

Moving your family across the world to a new country is to put it bluntly ,scary . For what ever reason you decide to undertake such an adventure, you need to follow some  basic rules to make your move a success .

I moved to Canada over 10 years ago and  in that time I have learnt a thing or two about moving and more importantly ,settling in to a new nation .  Remember you are and always be an immigrant, where ever you move to , so get used to a description that does not sit well with some people. So if your going to do it? Do it right .

1/ Get out and Make some friends

I moved to a country that speaks English ( Don’t ask someone from Quebec , you might get a different answer) so it was  a lot easier to get out there, meet people and build friendships . In the early days it is down to you to make the effort .This is a must .You will always have the “nosey” people who approach you , but in my experience don’t waste your efforts with them  .If you have children , a great way to meet people is through their schools and any clubs they join . Try to avoid joining clubs that are full of people who come from your homeland , as this will not help the process ( Not unless you want to sit around and reminisce about how good the homeland was , so  good, you all left)

2/ Adjust

Most people become an immigrant through their desire to improve their standard of living , both for themselves  and that of their families . For some reason they then try to make there lives the same as they were back in their own country .You have to realise that basic ways of life vary in different countries . Simple every day tasks, like parking your car , driving in general , shopping, going to work, watching TV , going out for a meal , will all be different to what your’re used to .Yes, some of these tasks will be harder and not so pleasurable . As they say here “suck it up princess” So, the quicker you accept this, adjust to your new world and stop comparing , the easier life will become .

3/ Be Open Minded

This one was the hardest  for me to achieve . I have always been used to doing things one way. My way . You have to open you mind up to accepting new ways of doing things , as people are not going to change their ways just to make you feel comfortable .If I can do it anyone can .Open up your mind to the new experiences with alternative cultures and a different way of living .

4/ Patience 

A close second for me  . Never been the most patient person, however if you don’t want to end your days by hitting your head against a brick wall, you will require patience by the bucket load . When moving countries you will have to deal with those strange individuals called ” civil servants” or as I like to call them, “idiots”. Despite the best efforts of modern technology , paperwork is still king . Your whole life will be recorded , scrutinized, checked , double checked , sent back because you ticked the wrong box in section 123 subsection 567, then finally just when you are about to give in , a government immigration worker will actually put in a full weeks work and put his little stamp on your documentation and your life is back in order …………………eventually . Be prepared these people are not normal , trust me .Hang in there, tough it out , it will be ok ….maybe.

5/ Be yourself

You will always be different in your new country  , you may look different , definitely sound different , dress differently , eat differently and generally will never blend in . So don’t bother trying to be someone you’re not . I still wet myself laughing when I see people dressed and acting in a way that they think they should to blend in , when in actual fact they stand out even more.

 

When I arrived in Canada, my flight landed at 3 in the morning , in a city called Saskatoon . Where ?I hear you say. Exactly . Its was snowing hard and at -30 degrees ( yes Minus!)it was bloody horrible, my immediate reaction was  turn around and wait for the next flight out. Thankfully,I didn’t. I made my way to the hotel, stayed there for 3 weeks, completed my training with the company I was to work for ( lying to my wife on a daily basis on how great it was ) then moved to my next location of Calgary .

So to summarize. In these days of the internet, if you  think you  can research your country of choice and  have everything figured before you arrive,then think its going to be plain sailing ahead , you are sadly mistaken and my advice is to stay at home, and live in your comfort zone .

At some point you have to jump in feet first and just go for it .Be Brave and be lucky. cropped-p10303401.jpg

Travel Log .Did you see the Bear ?

Day 6 . Boat Trip  Ucluelet/Broken Islands British Columbia .

Now I am a huge fan of the internal combustion engine and a driving enthusiast . I love all things motorized ( apart from mini vans……see previous posts ) and love to drive , whether for a living or for pleasure . But today is a day for leaving the keys behind and take shank”is pony ( My late fathers saying for walking … I never understood it either ) down to the harbor , grab a coffee and see about a boat trip around the Broken Islands .

These islands are part of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and are located off the Barkley Sound coastal area . This area has wild life in abundance and a whole industry has grown in Ucluelet taking tourists on a variety of different types of boat trips

For the more adventurous type, hire a sea Kayak , pack a tent and paddle yourself around the area over a few days , camping on the islands where you are permitted to do so .

For the speed junkie , hop on to a highly powered zodiac , whizz out to the ares where whale sightings are common place, and watch the splendor of the show . Now given the fact, as I’ve already explained, I love all things motorized, you would think this would be the one for me . Especially when you consider I have the attention span of a gold-fish , and get very bored very easily ( I am sure if I was at school today , they would have attached some disorder label to me )

Not on this occasion . I wanted to slow things right down and take it easy . Don’t panic my friends I’m still staying faithful to the engine and decided to take a trip on a converted life boat , which takes a 4 hour trip on a leisure cruise around the islands . I wanted to take in the views of the coastline and see all the wildlife available . Speeding across the water, wrapped up in a survival suit, bouncing my teeth out on one of those speed boat things just didn’t attract me today . Plus the fact this one had a toilet and I”ve never heard of a life boat sinking, so that’s the one for me .

So after a leisurely couple of hours doing nothing but drinking good coffee and watching the morning activities of a charming little harbor, we wait for a journey to begin .

Now one thing Canadians love to do, is to drink coffee and since moving here I have become a huge coffee fan , or as the rest of my family believe , a huge coffee addict             ( Same thing as far as I’m concerned ). Food in Canada tends to  copy the American style  menu of  Burgers , Ribs, Hot Dogs , Burgers, Burgers , Fries ( chips to you Brits ) Burgers ( you get the picture ) But definitely not Coffee . For those of you that have visited the famous neighbours to the south, will know that in general coffee served in the States is to be honest ………shit !

Here in Canada we have quality coffee for all tastes and pocket .

Fact Time : Canada is ranked 3rd  in the Top 10 coffee consuming countries of the world , behind Netherlands ( crazy dutch people ) and Finland ( suspicious) . It is believed to be linked to the cold weather in winter, but in main I think its down to the sheer number of outlets and people like me haven”t got the will power to pass them by .

Tim Hortons is by far the most popular chain with 1 store for every 9000 people living in Canada . Compare this with the Golden “M” from down south ,which has 1 store for every 25000 people living in the country .

Hardly surprising really, as this chain gets its name from a Canadian Hockey player and if it’s the second thing Canadians are obsessed with is hockey ( Ice Hockey as known by all you  non Canucks). So put the two together and instant success story .

My home city of Calgary , has hundreds of coffee outlets and I frequent them all the time . While the standard of coffee is high , there are some annoying features of these stores .

People actually use these stores as a mini Library, Office or Study Room . Mainly students and realtors ( Estate Agents ) are to blame for this , but also its increased with the down turn in the economy ( World oil prices taking a kicking ) and the cold winters experienced in Calgary . Mini Rant .

The problem is lack of seating space and combination toilets ( bathrooms as they call them here , not quite sure why as I have yet to see one with a bloody bath in it ).Now there is plenty of seating in these buildings , it’s the fact there is never enough available for when I want to sit my Fat arse down and enjoy a cup of south America”s finest beans .

All the seats are occupied by these people , all sat with a cup of water ( to cheap to purchase coffee) working on their lap tops or reading some 1000 page obscure novel . Now Canadians are nice people . Very nice people . Sometimes too nice and this is one of those occasions .You see the staff working in these establishments never say a word to these seat huggers and even fill their water up on demand . So I feel its rime to help them out , as I’m not Canadian and not that nice .

To all those people sat reading this in a coffee shop , without a cup of coffee in front of you and you have been sat there for more than half an hour , with no more seats available for paying customers ( except for the one next to the multi sex bathrooms, that no one ever uses )Bugger Off!!!!. Stay at home , go to a Library or just go somewhere else and let people sit down in comfort and drink their hot beverage that they actually paid for !!!To all you staff that work in the establishments, grow some balls , kick these people out and increase your companies profits, who knows , you might even get a bonus!

As far as the joint sex toilets , I feel sorry for women . Men have generally disgusting bathroom habits and that’s that . Sorry ladies, I am trying to improve my aim , can’t speak for other men . End of Rant .Turned out to be quite a big one .

With all the coffee shops I have been to ,I have never sat in one where you can get a great hot brew as well as the latest deep-sea fishing gear , but you can at the Cap”N’Hook in the harbour area of Ucluelet . In doing so, it offers everything for the fishing tourist that flock to this area all year round. The staff here are very knowledgable and can answer any questions you have about fishing tackle ,licenses,or even the best guides in the area to take out on daily fishing trips! Well worth a visit even to a non fisherman like me , just to drink coffee , listen and meet the local characters , of which there are many.

One of the local well-known captains owns the converted life boat that we”ve decided to take our leisurely coastal tour on .He has been doing this for over 30 years and previously worked for Parks Canada as a wildlife officer , so he should know his stuff . So when the time came for our departure we met him at the dock where Brian from Subtidal Adventures introduced us to his 1953 former rescue craft . Considering she was even older than myself it was in great condition ,clearly benefitting from all the care and attention from her captain. ( Looked seaworthy, that’s all I care about)

After a brief safety orientation and instructions on how to use the life jackets, we gently left the harbour , in search of the areas finest wildlife .

The other  passengers were in fact fellow Europeans , a Dutch couple ( they were in the coffee shop, no surprise there !)and a German couple ( Don’t mention the war or the world cup, I instantly thought to myself……..focus )made up the complete party .With such a small party ,it meant our host could answer all our questions and really give a personal touch when pointing out different wildlife . P1030231

Fact Time :The symbol of United States , the Bald eagle , is a common sight in these areas and in fact can be seen all over Western Canada and as far up the west coast as Alaska .

An opportunist feeder it subsists mainly on fish , which it picks right out of the water with the use of its impressive set of talons. A spectacle I am pleased to say I have witnessed on previous occasions , however , today this guy was happy to sit on a warning buoy , not fifteen minutes into our cruise.

The bald eagle is not actually bald , but gets its name form the old name meaning “white Headed” and it only gets this white head once it reaches adult maturity . This magnificent bird was once on the brink of extinction, however through cross border environmental efforts it was removed from the endangered list in 2007.P1030229 The next animal guaranteed to bring out the camera and the funny noises ( listen to the ooooo”s and aaahhhhh”s next time . For you Brits this is probably best witnessed at the zoo as you have no interesting wildlife left , apart from football fans and Saturday night kick out time of the bars and clubs)is the bear . This junior black bear was probably around 3 years old, so was facing its first year away from its mother and by the look of it , was doing a pretty good job of it searching for food along the shoreline.

I still look on in amazement every time I see a bear and I have seen many since my move here .Living so close to the Rocky mountains they are a common sight , especially the Black Bears with over 390,000 in Canada.The Grizzly Bear is far more rare, in fact in ten years I have only ever seen one and of course the Polar bear far up north is probably the most symbolic animal of Canada, especially when it comes to environmental issues and Global Warming topics .

Unfortunately, Bears also seem to bring out the “stupid gene” in tourists when they come across one . Our local news in the summer months reports incidents of people walking up to a bear to try to get a “selfie” with it . If they happen to come across a mother with her cub , they have even been seen trying to touch the baby . Never stops amazing me how dumb people are . Of course the reaction of these bears usually leads to an attack on the dumb tourists and some are seriously hurt even killed. The result is then the animal is usually put down , as apparently it develops a taste for dumb tourist meat.

Tourist Guide Fact time :If by chance you come across a bear , keep your distance and try not to surprise them, you are better off making lots of noise, than trying to creep up on them . They do not want to hurt you and will only attack if they feel  threatened.( You Brits should treat it the same way as approaching a football fan of the opposing club ). Take your pictures from a distance and then use the latest photo app to make it look like a “selfie”.Job done , you get a great picture for your friends to see on Facebook, the bear’ goes about its day and lives to see another one , and you get to keep your facial features .

P1030247
Loved these guys. Harbor Seals lazing around in the morning gloom. Reminded me of politicians

As we left the protection of the bay and headed out to the Broken Islands, the morning mist had yet to clear and the sea began to swell, along with my stomach. Suddenly that last cup of coffee, didn’t seem to be a wise choice . In fact everyone on board ( except for the Germans obviously) began to turn a shade of green .For those of you that have never felt sea-sick , its similar to when you have drunk to excess, without the early benefit of being drunk . All the pain with no gain .

Despite his crew dropping like land loving flies, Brian continued to cruise merrily away pointing out interesting wildlife in the increasing fog .( At this point I couldn”t care less to be honest , but faked my interest similar to math class at school ). After what seemed an eternity, was in fact 4 hours, we finally saw harbour the of Ucluelet, and the sky cleared to welcome home the intrepid voyagers.

Even though we all felt pretty rough at this time , these cruises are a fantastic experience.If ,like me, you come from a country where the wildlife is pretty tame and boring , these trips will really impress . Back on dry land , time for a coffee .

Start : Ucluelet Harbor

Finish : Ucluelet Harbor .

Distance Travelled : No idea , but it seemed along way .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Travel Log: Are You One of Those Drivers?

Day 4     Road Trip Victoria to Ucluelet .

Get the hell  out-of-town , before Monday morning traffic builds up too much and reminds me of home .

The trans Canada highway (Highway 1) begins its 8000 kilometer  journey across the country from here in Victoria . So here we go again, this time heading north following the east coast of the island re- tracing our steps back through to Nanaimo , where the sea crossing had ended two days earlier .

After bypassing the town of Nanaimo ( sorry my Canadian readers it’s not big enough to be called a city ) we head west on highway 4 , towards Port Alberni ,

Before getting to Port Alberni, we take the short detour off the highway into a small town by the name of Coombs, home of the goats on the roof market . Guess  what , it’s a market with goats on its roof . Straight up my friends , look !FullSizeRenderStarted by a family of Norwegian Immigrants in 1973 , when it was no more than a road side fruit stall, it has grown into a must see attraction. As rumour has it , the goats appeared on the roof several summers later , when after a certain amount of alcohol was consumed , it was suggested that they borrow some goats in order to reduce the height of the grass now growing on the roof .As with all  ideas involving beers , it was a good one and proved to be very amusing to passing motorists and so increasing the markets business . Great marketing ideas are not always taught in business school , sometimes it just takes imagination and beer( and an immigrant who likes to drink ).

Today the market is open  from 9am to 8pm and has a wide range of vendors , including one that sells the largest wooden penis I have ever seen , kid you not. So with goats and large wooden penises in the same area , why wouldn’t you stop ?

After purchasing some fresh vegetables and fruit ( yes it still has it original fruit stand despite the invasion of Phal’lic wooden sculptures ) we continued our journey west , along highway 4 .After passing through Port Alberni , never stopped here never felt the need , (something to do with the large golden “M” upon entering,put me off stopping at together , sorry Port Alberni , I’m sure you have lots to offer the average traveller, but not this one !).The road becomes increasingly narrower and more twisty by the mile . Here comes a Rant !!!!

Now I’m not an expert on the development of vehicles over the last thirty years , but having done a lot of driving in that time , I am sure millions of dollars, Yen , Euros, or whatever other currencies there are from large car making countries , have been spent on improving handling and performance of the average family form of transport ….. be it the Albertan favourite the pick-up truck , the tree huggers and students favourite small economical hatch backs , or those bloody awful vehicles driven by families where the men have little or no testicles , the scurge of 21st century motoring , the mini-van !!!!!!!!!!

I can also say with confidence that the worlds tire companies have spent equal amounts on developing their product to enable these vehicles to take a corner at greater speeds than a horse-drawn carriage . Clearly this money has been wasted . ( if any car manufactures are reading this , please divert some of this money into developing windshields that don’t ever crack , a car alarm that people actually take notice of and air conditioning that doesn’t freeze your feet ,as people in summer actually wear summer footwear ).

Despite all their efforts , a large amount of drivers have no concept how to take a corner correctly , how to accelerate out of a corner and not to enter a corner by slamming your brakes as hard as you can , going round a bend in a series of short jerky movements of the steering wheel, only to exit the bend at approximately a third of the speed that the  vehicle is actually capable of safely doing . So please do us all a favour . Either concentrate on  your driving and be more aware of fellow motorists, stop texting or trying to watch the kids DVD playing in the back ( maybe teach the kids to look out of those see through things running down the sides of the vehicle called windows, at the beautiful scenery that this country is blessed to have )use your mirrors and lay off the big pedal and give its little brother next to it a little more attention, or sell your penis shrinking mini van and buy a horse and carriage . At least you with be saving the world’s oil for those genuine driving enthusiasts and the horse has probably a greater ambition to take the corners at a reasonable speed . In addition to this, the environmental Nazis will love you , as no pollutants into the air and you can use the horse droppings on your home-grown spinach garden ,your wife forces you to grow in your cookie cutter house in the sub-burbs ……..loser ! Rant over .That feels good .

So after enduring a painful  display of driving skills , we arrive in the coastal town of Ucluelet, the gem of the west coast . Where”s the ship ????. On previous visits to this coastal delight , upon arriving in the town , one of the first things your met with is the sight of a large ship tied up in the harbor.The Canadian Princess has left town. Since 1979 she had dominated the harbor landscape . In her working life she was named The william .J.Stewart and spent her time mapping the west coast of Canada .With a change in ownership of the complex she was attached to , the new owners, probably wisely, decided they didn’t want the ship and she was towed away as part of the deal . Her age and possible liability in the future for any environmental issues, meant the modern business model has no room for sentiment .Still its always sad to see a landmark feature of any town disappears , that’s progress for you ,

The word Ucluelet , means ” people of the safe harbor” and to be honest I couldn’t think of a better named town anywhere in the world. I feel safe and secure as soon as I arrive . The slower pace of life on the west coast immediately takes effect , and the stress of living in the city seems to fall like one of the stunning sunsets , this part of the island experiences on every clear night.West Coast Sunset

Having settled into our  cabin, which will be home for the next five nights , we set off to the local store to stock up on supplies for the week. Ucluelet still has a core of year round residence and workers from the fishing industry which means the stores here have not gone  completely tourist based , so finding food and supplies for the week was no problem .The little supermarket was probably a quarter of the size of the one we use in Calgary , yet still managed to stock everything we needed and sold a selection of camping and fishing equipment along side the bacon and eggs .One shocking thing for me was the lack of fresh fish . In a town that is literally surrounded by some of the best coastal fishing grounds in the world, I was surprised to see little or no fresh sea fish available . When asking the locals it seems yet again big business is taking over . Ucluelet still has several processing plants , however all the fish from these plants are taken by truck over  the island to the mainline where they are frozen and distributed in Vancouver . So basically the supermarket gets its fish from Vancouver , even though its caught a couple of miles away , another case of where so-called development and supply chains make no bloody sense .

To finish the day , time to take a walk along the many trails that run along the coastal area of the Pacific Rim ( Or as my family like to refer to it as the pacific asshole).Now notice I used the word ” walk ‘, not a hike . To me a hike is something that involves a great distance walking over variable terrain so needing specialist equipment and involves a fast pace . A walk on the other hand can be done with no specialist equipment , over shorter distances and doesn’t require you to be that physically fit .

That is the one for me . Flip Flops a Camera and that’s about it . Now you may be wondering why I’m going into so much detail on this ? Well if you have read any of my earlier posts, you will know this is an observation I have made regarding people in Calgary walking , or as they put it Hiking .

Calgary has many beautiful scenic areas to walk and despite the fact it has grown tremendously over the last ten years , it still maintains its green spaces and areas of recreation . So it’s not uncommon for me and my wife ( having two dogs means it’s almost daily) to take a quiet walk and take advantage of the city planners good work . However , quiet is not experienced very often . Not through traffic or aircraft or any other of the usual city noise suspects , but through the need of people in Calgary to dress up like the are competing in the Tour de France ( famous bicycle race ,just in case you didn’t know ) and tour the same footpath , sounding their bloody bells with a constant ” to the left ” or some other pointless warning ,as their  overweight bodies struggle to overtake me on my leisurely walk .

Those of you that know me , will be shocked at this next line . I’m sorry . Sorry , because I thought this was a normal Canadian thing , to squeeze your candy packed body into a tight  figure hugging cycle outfit , don a very expensive aero dynamic helmet , get on your overpriced bicycle( complete with annoying bloody bell), load up enough water bottles to last a camel three weeks , attach some sort of electronic device that records everything from your heartbeat to how many pedestrians you have pissed off and cycle around the footpaths as fast as you can . No . I’m mistaken . At no point in my travels through British Columbia, even in the fairly yuppie infested areas of Victoria , have I witnessed this disturbing event . No , only in my home city of Calgary does this seem to happen . You muppets !

I digress , as I tend to do a lot . As we walked around one of these trails taking in the beautiful coastal scenery ,it came to my attention that not one of my fellow walkers was dressed in the latest voodoo lemon like, brightly coloured outfit. Complete with water bottles, an electronic gadget counting your paces ( even my mother in law has one of these around her wrist , as noted on her last long visit to my home , but that’s another story ) and the latest running shoes or hiking boots . In fact most people were actually wearing normal clothes ,  flip-flops or some other type of casual summer shoe  and actually enjoying their walk , regardless of  how many steps it took them to get back, or how long it took or how many calories the managed to lose .

Breathtaking is a word that is over used today, and I’m not a person who is easily impressed by the average , just ask my kids , but the views were literally that . P1030161.JPG

The over cast skies only added to the dramatic views and really showed the power of the sea.  The way it carved the rocks along the rugged coast line .P1030106

Amphitrite point lighthouse , is the main stopping point on the aptly named lighthouse walk . With free parking to dump the wheels , this 45 minute walk is easy on the eyes and the feet . Around the half way point you will come across this lighthouse , which replaced the original building in 1915, as the 1906 original was not strong enough to withstand the pacific storms along the west coast .

This iconic building has kept watch over the ships from Barkley Sound and the broken islands ever since . With over 300 species of migrating birds that pass through this area every year its a popular spot to watch nature at her finest . Best thing about the trail …….. No cyclist allowed, yes !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Start :   Victoria British Columbia

Finished: Ucluelet British Columbia

Distaced Travelled : 504 klms  ( seemed longer thanks to you drivers )