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.

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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 .

 

 

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 !

 

 

Travel Log:Are you a Professional ?

Day 5 Road Trip : Ucluelet to Tofino .

Weather on the west coast of Vancouver Island can be unpredictable at best , so even in the driest summer experienced by Western Canada in years ,you can still get a damp start to your day .

After a large cooked breakfast made on the barbecue , which involves a great deal of water to douse the flames ,( not sure what it is about men and barbecues ) and enough smoke to worry the locals that an idiot tourist had somehow managed to start a forest fire during a rain storm , we decided to make the best of the situation and set of the neighbouring town on the west coast , Tofino.

Coastal fog is a common morning phenomenon in the summer months and today was one of those mornings . Tofino is located at the western end of Highway 4 , which follows the coast line between the two towns.

While driving this road at a ” I’m on holiday bollocks to you pace” , you soon notice the rather unique roadside sign warning you that you are in fact in a Tsunami zone .The signs inform you of this by using a symbol similar to a wave chasing some poor individual across the beach , a similar mental picture to that of a dog chasing a postman, if you get my meaning .

Fact time : Scientist believe that a giant slab of rock sliding in from the pacific, has been building pressure up in the area for over 300 years . There is so much pressure that the shape on the Island is being altered by a few centimeters every year .

The result of this will be a sudden and unpredictable release of this pressure in the form of a massive off shore earthquake , effecting an area from British Columbia right the way south to Northern California . Experts cannot tell when this is going to happen , only that it is inevitable .Inevitable they say !

The last mega quake happened in Jan 1700 and experts believe that when it does happen parts of the coast will sink over a meter then move to the west between 10 and 15 meters . Now I am not sure how they know this , as I don’t believe there was a great deal of accurate measuring equipment available or trained scientist to measure this in 1700 and Canada didn’t convert to the metric system till 1970, but for ease of conversation lets assume that they are right .

Great . Now I find this out! Didn’t read this is any of the numerous tourist guides on the ferry crossing did I?. Guess they forgot to mention that , bit of a type ” O “.

Managed to find some instructions in the cabin , four pages worth to be exact . When you consider there was only one page on eating out in the area , clearly the owner was as concerned as I’ve just become .

So, what to do in the event of an earthquake followed by a Tsunami? Considering Vancouver Island is covered in tourists for most of the year , and considering how tourists drive when on vacation ( see previous Post: Are you one of those drivers ?)I already have my doubts on how successful any plan is likely to be , however once more let’s get serious.The plan in the event of this happening is as follows :

1/ Drop and take cover under a desk.  Good start . Drop , well as most people will be lazing on their beach towel, they’ve got a head start . However , if the earth is shaking for five or so minutes would you be able to do anything else but drop ? A desk ? Well I’ve already been on several beaches in the area and I’ve seen numerous  surf board and kayak rentals , but yet to see one that supplies desks , but lets improvise and once the ground starts to move, everyone will calmly walk to the nearest beach store where they will  collect their surf board and take cover , got it .Next ?

2/ Hold On .Really ? at this stage I don’t really need to be bloody told to hold on ! Trust me I have that one covered !

3. DO not pack and Do not go to the beach to watch .   What twat (Non Brits may need to google this word for clarivication )wrote this one and how much did they get paid ? Firstly , I’m already at the beach along with thousands of others and try telling my wife not to pack !!!!

4. Be Calm and  make you way to the nearest evacuation zone : Oh you bloody think so do you ? So while the sea retreats at 600 mph , you want me to  calmly get my car keys walk to my vehicle, then  everyone drives carefully , observing the speed limit obviously, to the nearest high ground ?

5.It then goes into detail how the if the earthquake is more than a 9.0 in magnitude and lasts for more than 5 minutes, a series of Tsunami waves are expected to reach the area in twenty minutes and be 20 m high and goes on to lists the areas in that zone that are more than 20 meters higher than sea level .

Fantastic , so while all this shit is happening , I have to time the duration the ground is shaking , reach in my pocket for my seismograph ( which everyone carries don’t you know?) , get the local seismologist ( who just happens to be wondering the beach when I need an expert scientist ) to measure the strength so knowing which area I supposed to go .

Now I don’t mean to make light of this very serious and real possibility of a huge loss of life and damage to the area and an evacuation plan is certainly  required . But seriously, does anyone actually think this plan will work ? or do you think there would be complete panic, mass killings and  breakdown of societies rules , while people scramble to where ever the think is best?

Personally, I’ve decided that if this happens during my stay in the area , forget the plan . Sit back , have a beer, smoke a joint , have sex ( after all apparently we have twenty minutes )enjoy the view and kiss my ass goodbye!

So now that we have decided not to worry about any impending disasters we make our way along Highway 4 towards Tafino, when we come across a rare occurrence around here , a traffic jam . Living in Calgary, I see these on a daily basis ( mainly caused by bad city planners and the inability of drivers here to understand the meaning of Merge , or give way ,to you Brits reading this ) but here they are somewhat of a rarity and frankly I wasn’t interested in joining , so instant reaction, take a left, park up and walk to the beach. So we did.

Combers beach .After a short five-minute walk from the car park through the rain forest that runs adjacent to the  coast line , you come out on a wide open flat plain of sand .IMG_1892The Sitka Spruce forest makes for dramatic walk down to sandy Combers Beach .Part of the Pacific Rim National Park .IMG_1901.JPG

The beach has miles of clean sand , with pockets of dead shell fish, where the last feast took place in the retreating tide . As with any beach  which has heavily forested boarders , drift wood is in plentiful supply . Some of it has been carved so smooth by the ocean, it almost looks to perfect .

I’m told camping on the beach is a favoured past time of the area , especially amongst the surf lovers . My theory for these man-made structures littering the beach ? Obvious, people know there’s no desks available and built their own covers as per the tsunami survival plan . Brilliant .

After a walk ( not hike ) along the endless sands , its time to head back to the truck in the hope that the traffic jam has cleared .Thankfully normal service had resumed and traffic was back to acceptable levels .

On the approach into Tafino , the explanation for why we were delayed earlier came clear .Half the road was excavated away as part of a programme to install culverts( Large open-ended pipes buried under the road) to allow salmon runs from the rivers to the nearby ocean . Mystery solved .

Tafino . What can I say ? Fact time .

Located at the top of Highway 4 , it is a very popular tourist destination attracting surfers , nature lovers,whale watchers and campers.The more well-known of the two towns on the west coast, Tafino has mild winters and temperate summer temperatures ……………………………..ah enough of this I can’t do any more .

I hate the place . All I found is want to be hippies wandering around the town  cramming the small coffee shops , so you can’t get a seat , all sharing one cup of hot chocolate. It seems compulsory for women to not wear a bra ,that’s ok by me in certain circumstances , but not on a cold chilly day and when years of gravity have taken its effect  .The most famous Bra of all was in fact a Canadian invention, so be patriotic and do the rest of us a favour and wear the bloody thing ! . Mini Rant .

Tafino used to be Hip . Back in the day when it was cool to be a society drop out , living on the beach . Now  it suffers from an identity crisis . It still attracts the next generation of hipsters ( minus their bra,  but with cell phones, probably paid for by mommy and daddy ) while the place has now become too commercialised and big business . All the clothes stores sell the same stuff all with the town’s name plastered over it , as if I didn’t know where I was .Obviously once you purchase the surfer logo infested clothing, it makes you a cool surfer and totally hip.

Hotels ,  RV Parks and restaurants are all over priced and over crowded .

Tafino does have a great food scene , that’s part of the problem . Your average city slick , trying to look cool wearing his Tafino T and sandals( whilst still answering his Emails from the office )loves to sit at the fancy eatery and pay top dollar for fish and chips , pretending to be part of the cool surfer hippie brigade . It’s a little like every one on St Patrick’s day seems to be Irish , or as I call it “Plastic Paddy Day “.

Personally, I know I’m in the minority , but it all over priced and over rated . I’m out of here .

Back on Highway 4 heading south, past the road works, and back to the real world in Ucluelet . To get over the disappointment of the other place ( no bra town ) we decided to book a meal at the local floating restaurant, sit down with real people, instead of a bunch of wannabe’s and enjoy a plate of reasonably priced fish and chips .That’s when it happened , for the second time today , whats going on ?A long line up , and an hour and a half wait for a table .

I was then informed for the reason for the mayhem . The road has collapsed between the two towns , so trapping all the day trippers from ” No Bra Town ” in Ucluelet and obviously they now want to eat , hence the long line up ( Que for you Brits ).Well I guess it’s not their fault and thankfully the women seemed to have put their bra on for their day trip , so at least we didn’t have to face that ordeal. Could have put me off my food , but I doubt it  .

So with an evening walk around the harbour to pass away the time waiting for our table , the reason for the road closure was discovered . Not as I thought the beginning of a massive earthquake, but the second half of the road had collapsed, where they were installing the salmon runs .What a relief . This turned to absolute joy when I heard a local fisherman describe the extent of the damage .

Now small town people speak in a certain way. A way in which is calm, understated and to be honest hilarious, without them meaning to be . Coming from a small town myself I simply love it and miss it immensely.

He quotes ” The road collapsed while they were digging those round things into the road for the fish to use . Its pretty bad as I”ve heard they had to bring the professionals in from the other side of the island ” ( Assume he meant from Victoria or another large town all situated on the East Coast ) Laugh? I damn near hurt myself .

“Bring in the professionals?” I asked him for clarification, ” So does that mean around here anyone can dig the main highway up?”

Calmly and without any emotion he replied with “I think so , it”s not the first time it:s happened this year ‘

Oh my God , I laughed so hard . Brilliant . Suddenly my inconvenience waiting for a table to come available at the local eatery all became worth it .

Finally we received notice from the restaurant that our table was ready and ended our eventful day with a fantastic plate of local fish and chips, complete with a couple of beers, fine company and all the women in the building had a Bra on. Perfect .IMG_1101

Ucluelet Marina , in all its splendor. Great to see numerous working boats still active in the area .

 

Start Point : Ucluelet British Columbia

Finish Point Ucluelet British Columbia( via No Bra Town )

Distance Travelled : 82 Kilometers

 

 

 

 

 

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 )

 

Road Trip

Day 3 Victoria

Having had a good night sleep ( Anything was better than the Chevy Pick-up hotel from the previous night ) , we ventured downtown , via the split windshield Hotel Zed VW camper van .

One huge disadvantage of living in Calgary ( which now apparently is in the top ten cities in the world to live in , not sure who decided that , no coast , no work ,high house prices ,in the middle of a slump in oil prices ………………………?) is that we are a 12 hour drive to the coast and therefore the opportunity to eat fresh seafood, is at best somewhat limited , in truth bloody poor .In fact in my opinion , eating out in Calgary is generally over priced and over rated , except for asian food  , the majority of restaurants tend to offer all the same choices, including one of the biggest disappointments to me when I arrived here , that being Alberta Beef ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,aaaahhhhh .

So coming from an island and being bought up on a fish diet we set off on our Fish and Chips finding mission .

A short boat taxi ride from the main downtown area, takes across the bay to a place they refer to as fisherman’s wharf . There , a small number of floating houses and restaurants provide the visiter with a relaxed waterside watering hole . With a busy harbour entrance providing constant entertainment , ships, trawlers , pleasure boats and best of all float planes provide an ever-changing horizon,

With one of the hottest summers of record , a strong American dollar and fires raging in northern regions of the western provinces , the west coast seems to be having a record year for numbers of visitors and on this particular day , many of them seem to be desperate to eat  fish and chips at the same time as us. So much so we had an hours wait for fresh batches to be cooked having arrived ten minutes after they ran out of supplies .

With a little patience, our wait was rewarded with a large plate of fresh haddock and chips ( fries to you north american folk ……………..funny how the restaurants are not called fish and fries here.)Fantastic , Calgary restaurants could learn a thing or two from Victoria regarding food presentation and portion sizes . It’s also great to be served by a server who knows what there doing, not covered in cheap make up and perfume , and actually cares about customer service rather than looking for a large tip for basically doing very little .( My Rant Over for the day ?) Victoria boasts more restaurants per head than any place in Canada and for them to all stay in business, they must know a thing or two .

Having finished our lunch we headed back to downtown Victoria , via a cool little tug taxi, which run continuously from several pick up and drop off areas throughout the harbour area . Any visitor should try these at least once as they give a great service , if a little expensive , but that the price you pay for anything unique.( Had to wait for our taxi , as the first one to collect us had the family on board that was kitted out like they were on a cross continental hike and allergic to the twentieth century and as we had our dog with us they clearly wouldn’t survive such a long crossing in an open aired boat  !!!!!) .Another Rant for those who are counting .

Back into the city we wondered around the stores . As anyone knows with teenage kids , shopping for cloths seems to be high on most of their ” want to do lists “, and my sons are no different . In the age of over indulging our children for fear of them growing up with some mental condition or the latest ridiculous abbreviated condition , I follow along like the modern lap dog Dad, aimlessly wandering the streets , reminding myself of my teenage years when one pair of runners ( trainers as I know them by ) seem to be enough ! ( I lied about the daily rant clearly ).

Victoria has all the usual stores, plus a few that offer more of the west coast hippy style that seems to be coming back in fashion .But what it does make great use of , is maintaining the old buildings that once housed mainly ship related industries and workshops and now offer a wide range boutiques, used clothing stores , endless cafe and small specialist food outlets. Even a reluctant shopper like myself can find something of interest .

To end the day we grabbed a take out from the well-known chinese district , popped a squat in the old district and watched the world pass by , enjoying top quality asian cuisine .To follow, a half and walk to burn off supper back to the hotel . The trendy VW camper only runs to 5.30 pm pick up , so walk back it was . ( I never once a fan of taxi or worst still busses )

With full stomachs ( well mine at least , the stomach of a teenage boy seems to be an ever revolving door ) and tired ache feet , a good nights rest was had by all . Tomorrow we leave Victoria and head still further west .

Start point _ Victoria BC

Finish – Victoria BC

Distance Travelled _ 0 klms . (Not driving , felt like bloody lots walking)

 

 

 

Road Trip . August 2017

After a busy 2016 and early 2017, finally family commitments have all finished and we get to spend some time together as a family .

As with most families in Calgary, kids seem to have their summer breaks organized by their parents in order to spend as much time out of the house as possible , attending day camps or clubs both in and out of the city .

The fact is both parents have to work to pay for these activities, surely the solution would be to stay at home, enjoy free activities , then both parents wouldn’t have to work to pay the fees, therefore enjoying more valuable time with their children .

So after six weeks of endless early mornings for one sons swimming ( why swimmers have to train so early in the morning is beyond me ), late afternoon soccer practices ( football to you non North American folk ), for the other son , my wife having to endlessly change the Calender setting to fit it all in, as well as work during the day ( Wonderful Women) , we have the chance to leave the city and take a trip out west . Vancouver Island

The day before departure, involves , packing, repacking, ( twice in some cases ) deciding what modern appliances we cannot possibly live without ( phones,pads and lap tops , one child even wanted to take a game console !!!!!), cleaning the truck , gas the truck ( Petrol to you Europeans ) rotate the tires ,empty the tool box to allow my wife to take up pretty much the remaining available space. Despite her best efforts to convince the rest of the family she was packing light, we are not convinced, rightly so it turns out .

As cities go, Calgary is a good one . But it’s still a city , and for all its great features I always get a fun feeling when leaving for pastures new . So over the next couple of weeks were out of here, lets hope its a good one.

Day 1   Cancel the Hotel .

When ever I leave heading west from Calgary, the first view of the Rockies along highway 1 never disappoints . The trans Canada highway spans over 8000 klms and is one of the longest roads of its type in the world .

Despite not been a twinned lane road all the way to the west coast, driving it this time of year is relatively relaxing and predictable .The same stretch of highway in the winter months is a totally different challenge .In August, I mainly have to deal with poor drivers towing large RVs ( caravans to you Brits ) with small SUVs , that clearly don’t know how to go round corners without slamming their brakes on , so becoming a total source of frustrating to the ever-increasing line of traffic in their wake .

There are two seasons in Canada . Winter and construction season . This presents hazard number two . No sooner had I managed to get past the rolling road blocks of the city RV driver on his once a year expedition, I enter yet another reduced speed zone , only to pass by a lonely pick up truck parked at the side of the road , amber light flashing , with little of no actual construction work been carried out . I think these are set up for the sole purpose of allowing cops to set up speed traps to allow further taxation of the motorist.

Hazard number three, wild Fires,well smoke from the wild fires burning out of control, at the time of writing over 160 wild fires were currently burning , with vary degrees of control from firefighters . 2017 has literraly provided the perfect storm as far as wild fires are concerned, the worst year since 1958 with over 8500 square kilometers of forest and several towns been destroyed .This all combined to make the drive uncomfortable , but my complaining about not using the air conditioning for a few miles , pretty pathetic really compared to what heartache some people face, due to the effects of the fires .

Despite all this we made great time and arrived at our planned over night stop by 3 pm , way earlier than thought possible , mainly due to the fact the way I approach a road trip . Being an ex truck driver , leave early , don’t drink, no need to pee, stop only for fuel and punch it chewy !!!!!!. My kids know the drill by now .

So the decision was made ( not by me I might add ) cancel the hotel , head for the ferry terminal, catch a late afternoon crossing and risk not finding a place to stay , resulting in a possible night in the truck .

Confidently ringing hotels as we sail from the mainland to Vancouver island , turned into the realization of spending the night in the truck .

Now on an island with hundreds of secluded , quiet spots, with beautiful views of the ocean , I managed to park adjacent to a 24 hour wood yard , with noisy shift change at midnight and 6 am , with a steady flow of trucks through out the night . Perfect .A night sleep was achieved in part by my youngest son, however the remaining members of the party (even the dog) struggled to get any prolonged periods of shut-eye .

So ending our first day .

Started : Calgary Alberta

Finished : Chermainus , Vancouver Island BC.

Distance Travelled : 1050 klms 13 hours driving .

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Day 2  Rough Start :

After what can only be described as a terrible nights sleep , a walk around Chemainus at 6 am on a Saturday morning, gave me the chance to take a good look as to what this unique little town has to offer . The first thing you notice is its covered in cool looking Murals , 39 in total .This town had a successful start, thanks to the arrival of the railway in 1880 combined with a successful spell in the logging business.

Following the recession experienced by the BC logging industry in the 1980″s , Chemainus went through some tough times .Although logging still plays a large roll in the towns economy ( my lack of sleep can confirm this ) , the number of people employed is drastically reduced due to modern equipment and processes . The painting of the murals was part of a planned programme to re generate and diversify the town Economy . Today the town has a charm all of its own , combining active traditional industries of logging with tourism and an active harbour area which even provide a BC ferry terminal .

One claim to fame, on January 13th 2006 a Boeing 747 was sunk of the coast of Chermainus in order to create an artificial reef, to encourage divers to visit the area . This success story still faces an uncertain future as many of the projects used to regenerate the area was financed by government funds , funds that are no longer available . I for one think it will survive.

Following an early breakfast at a local dinner, we were back on the road heading south on the trans-canada ( yes it carries continues on the island ) towards Victoria .

Passing through several road construction zones, with relatively light traffic thanks to our early start , it wasnt long before we were in the BC capital of Victoria .

Being located at the southern point of Vancouver Island , it is a booming metropolitan city, with a population in excess of 85,000, which increases dramatically during the summer months .

Being one of the oldest cities in the region , named after queen Victoria, this place has everything for the modern tourist.

Known as the “Garden City”, it also possess a thriving technology sector , attracting labour from all over the world .

The relatively mild Winters ( relative to the rest of the Canada) , this city is a popular destination for retirees .

For the next couple of nights we were going to stay at Hotel Zed . Located ten minutes from downtown Victoria , this hotels is a great example of a great idea .Take an older type Motel building , decorate with bright colours, fill the rooms with art decor items, groovy telephones and lights , combine with an indoor pool for the kids and a great VW camper van all decked out in the Hotels colours for the adults to be shuttled to and from downtown and you have a great, groovy, memorable place to stay .

Dont expect luxury finishes , everything here is basic and in some areas it lacks the finish I like in my hotels rooms , in main the bathrooms are too 1970″s for my liking .IMG_1795