British Columbia, Nelson, August 28-30, 2008

9 01 2012

Nelson, a Charming Town

Organic Espresso at Subway?

I am embarrassed to admit it had been 18 years since my last visit to Nelson (but even then I couldn’t believe how granola the place was). In 1990, Nelson had maybe 2 square blocks of shops and one night club called the Boilermaker. Nelson 1990 was the first place I ever saw a bookstore that was also a coffee shop. Nelson 2008 still felt like the-Nelson-I-Remember, except a lot more developed. It still has a lot of dreadlocked, patchouli drenched girls and boys wandering around in bare feet, but there are people in business suits, too. You can tell it’s kind of a lefty town because even the Subway sandwich shop serves organic espresso.

World's Best Hot Sauce

Most people in Nelson shop for food at the Kootenay Co-op, and we were able to get everything we could want there—kefir, yoghurt, Ebesse Zozo, which is the world’s hottest and most delicious sauce. We bought a bottle of medium spiciness, but when we sampled it later it was almost unbearably hot. I mean, one drop was too much. An insider told us there had been a TV segment done on Ebesse Zozo recently, and they had demonstrated how to make old school Grandma’s full strength hot sauce, then bottled it while filming. They only had medium labels so they put those on the super strength batch, then set them aside. Is it possible that this special batch had somehow made it on the shelf of the co-op, labelled “medium”? (In the future, medium Ebesse Zozo would never be nearly this hot to us). Rather than lament, we just trained our palates to enjoy hotter sauce, and I am am happy to say Ebesse Zozo is now available in Vancouver, and be it medium or hot we enjoy it on meals to this day.

Felix and Quinn at the Redfish Grill

Step Buys Our First Killer Bunnies Game

Jennie, who we had seen in Montreal earlier on our Cross Canada Adventure, lives in Nelson with her husband Erik and her two boys, Quinn and Felix (I love the name Felix. Is it trivial to have a child myself just so I can name it Felix? Only, if it was a girl, I would have to name her Felixia, which sounds really close to Felicia. On second thought, maybe I will just stay personally childless and enjoy Felix when I see him). I tried about a kazillion times to take a picture of Quinn but he made a face every time, except the time I snuck up on him at the co-op. I like to flatter myself I am mostly good with kids, but Quinn and I had an unusually strained relationship, even though I tried every way I could think of to charm him (and I did once or twice get an involuntary smile). I am grateful, though, that that did not stop him from teaching Step and I how to play Killer Bunnies. The game was suitable for players a few years older than him, and he wouldn’t let us look at the rules ourselves, so the version we played was somewhat garbled. But we still had such a good time playing it and he was such a huge fan we that the next day we went to Secret Garden Toys and bought our own copy. We were partly motivated just by a burning desire to actually look up some of the rules, but it is a purchase we have never regretted and have played the game many, many times since then, and have bought several expansions and introduced it to dozens of people. The clerk at Secret Garden Toys told us Killer Bunnies was a mad craze among the young folks of Nelson, and indeed, Quinn talked about it a lot.

Nelson Has Lovely Buildings

We also one evening played Pit with the whole Jennie family, but Felix insisted on playing by himself, (as opposed to on a special adult/youngster team), and as he was reluctant to trade any cards it was almost impossible for anyone to corner the market on anything, so we had to content ourselves with enjoying the free-for-all-ofness of it rather than any glow of winning a hand.

The Preserved Seed

Fresh Organic Street Food!

We visited quite a lot of funky cafes in Nelson; one notable one is called the Preserved Seed and it is run by a sort of—it’s not really a commune—it’s more of a spiritual community that has a couple of farms and an agenda of healthy, vegetarian food, agriculture and cooperation. We didn’t actually know any of this on our visit, but have since visited their satellite cafe in Chilliwack and have learned more about them. Nelson also has impressive street side food vendors (unlike Vancouver, where at the time you could only buy a hotdog from a street cart). Say what you want about hippie people, they have really good food. Jennie, not a hippie, but still a food appreciator, made us a hotdog dinner with amazing homemade ice cream in which she used coconut milk instead of dairy, but we did eat one restaurant meal at the Redfish Grill downtown, at we were served large portions of delicious fresh food.

Keepin' it Real

The people of Nelson are keepin’ it real, as illustrated by a story Jennie told us about local CBC radio journalist (right-leaning) Bob Keating, who became so incensed when local (left leaning) health care activist Earl Hamilton called him a “government toady who was not to be trusted”, that Keating sent Hamilton a box of chocolates which he had rubbed with raw chicken. Keating almost immediately realised the gravity of what he had done, confessed to his wife, and contacted Hamilton and told him not to eat the chocolates. He then sought psychiatric counselling, and was fired from the beloved CBC.

Nelson Farmers' Market

Hippie Shoppin'

We were lucky to be in Nelson on Saturday, since that is the day of the Nelson Farmers’ Market . As well as the produce and food vendors, the market has live entertainment and really good root beer. I tried to buy a t-shirt that said “Stop Wars” in the style of the Star Wars logo, but none of them fit, so I paid the vendor for the shirt and gave her my home address where she could send it next time she printed some. She did send it, but the printing was really off centre so I sent this back (how could the printing be so off centre, you ask? I can’t say, but it was in Nelson, nudge nudge, wink wink). Later, the t-shirt order bogged down and I never actually got another shirt. You win some, you lose some.

Cottonwood Herbal Demonstration Garden

Near where the Farmers’ Market is, (Fashion Island on Hardy Street), is the picturesque Cottonwood Herbal Demonstration Garden, which is organically planted with indigenous medically and culinarily useful plants that attract beneficial insects like butterflies and ladybugs. It has pleasant paths and a creek, and is a nice, meditative place to go for peaceful beauty.
We had a little root beer and lunch with the Jennie family, and Felix cried when I hugged him goodbye (tears of horror, not sadness, I’m sorry to say), and then we were on the road again.

Peace

Bonus Photo:

Linda Looks Like Cher in This Photo!

Advertisements




Manitoba, Winnipeg (again), Portage La Prairie, August 22-23, 2008

9 03 2011

Just Outside of Winnipeg

Like I said before, this is the most boring part of the Trans-Canada highway to drive. It’s not because it’s flat and rural, but more because billboards are allowed along the sides so your eyes are constantly being assaulted with images of fast food restaurants, chewing gum, insurance, and other generic corporate annoyances.

The Forks Market

Because we hadn’t really spent time in Winnipeg on the way out, we decided to just spend a few hours hanging out there, even though we were in kind of a rush to get to Calgary in time to pick up Linda. We don’t know much about Winnipeg, so we just went to the Forks, which is where the Red River and the Assiniboine River meet. There is a giant park and public market. We ate some food fair fare and were happy to notice Tall Grass Prairie Bakery had a kiosk. Months before this trip we had heard the story of Tall Grass Bakery on Stuart McLeans’ radio program “Vinyl Cafe” (CBC, what else?). Basically, some food activisty folks decided to make breads from freshly milled, local organic whole grains, and then sell it for about 400% of the going rate. Banks and investors laughed at them. They opened a bakery anyway, and on opening day, baked 30 loaves of bread, only to find when they opened the doors, about 200 people waiting to buy their bread! That’s just a condensed version but you can read the whole inspiring story on their website. Of course we bought some bread and it was good.

Salisbury House on the Esplanade Riel

In the park next door there was a kind of water skidoo race and show off on the Assiniboine River, which we watched for a while. There is all kinds of stuff in that area, such as a kickass skateboard park, and a pedestrian bridge with a restaurant on it! I think Winnipeg would have had a lot to offer us if we could only get to spend some time there.

Skate Park at The Forks

On our way out we stopped at a roadside farmers’ market and bought some fruit and vegetables.

Now was the time to put the pedal to the metal and really put some road behind us. We put our seriously driving hats on and hit the road. It was a lovely, bright, if windy afternoon on Highway 1. We made it about 80 kilometres before we had to admit we couldn’t safely drive in the winds. The Boogie Bus is really tall and most of its weight is low to the ground, and we were having to wrestle to keep the bus on the road. For safety, we pulled in to Portage la Prairie to stay until the wind calmed down.

We needed a new marine battery for the back of the van anyway, so we went to Canadian Tire and got one and Step installed it himself. It’s the battery that powers our interior lights and it recharges as we drive. Then we hung out in Canadian Tire until they closed at 9pm. I found some great LED Christmas lights on sale which I purchased for a song.

The Shame of It All

At closing time the wind was still going strong and we were at a loss as to what to do. There was no way we could drive and we didn’t know of a campground or a place to park overnight. Yes, after months of traveling all over Canada and often having nowhere to camp and never, ever once staying in the Wal-Mart parking lot, it turned out the Manitoba prairie wind was our Waterloo. There was a Wal-Mart across the street from Canadian Tire, and we pulled on in.

At first we were just going to make dinner but eventually it got late and was still windy so we went to bed. In the morning it was STILL WINDY! We started to get worried at this point. How long would we be in this Wal-Mart parking lot, trapped by the wind? The answer was until about midmorning. Then we were on the road again.

On the Road Again





Labrador, Labrador City and Wabush, Aug 13 & 14, 2008

10 01 2011

Jim Relaxes in Mike’s Living Room

Step Models the Satellite Safety Phone

Like so many Canadian cities, Labrador City and it’s suburb,Wabush pretty much blend into one city, and with a combined population of around 9000, it is not large as cities go. I think the main industry there is iron mining. It’s located very in the interior, and in fact is almost on the border of Quebec. We got to Labrador City in the early evening, and after returning the satellite phone to the Two Seasons Inn, headed over to Wabush for an evening with Mike.

We had never met Mike, but our newfound Newfoundland friend, Todd, knew him through work and we had asked for an introduction. Mike was originally from Newfoundland and he and his brother Jim entertained us like a true Atlantic Canadians, feeding us all kinds of nice foods and large amounts of alcohol, and luring us into the living room where music was played by Mike and Step. I tried to take pictures of Mike but he didn’t like that so instead I show you his cans of Full Monty and Spotted Dick. Mike also showed us some amazing photographs he had taken on his travels.

Interesting Food Stuffs of Our Host

We slept in the van that night and it was odd because we were in a suburban area and it was Wednesday night, but really loud cars kept zooming past us and making the van shake. I guess some Labrador Citians like to drag race in the night, or other such sports. It took me a little longer than usual to fall asleep.

The Fast Paced Streets of Wabush

Not Widely Available

Mike was so hospitable and kind he left his house open the next morning so we could go in and take showers. Then we decided to explore Labrador City a bit. We went to the visitor centre and got the lay of the land, and also tried to purchase an “I survived the Trans-Labrador Highway” bumper sticker we had seen in the gift shop of the Sir Robert Bond. We hadn’t wanted to purchase one until we had actually survived the highway, so we wouldn’t jinx our chances, but oddly there were none to be found in the city. We hit the hardware store because we needed a coffee pot and an under-van water tap. They couldn’t help us with the coffee pot but we did get the tap head and Step repaired ours right in the parking lot. Go Step!

The Unassuming CBC of Labrador West

Robin Has a Dream

Mike works for the beloved Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and in fact, he is the Voice of Labrador West. Anyone who knows me can attest that I love radio and I love the CBC, so I was excited to take him up on the offer of an office visit. I have visited the CBC in Vancouver many times, where it is housed right downtown in a giant, security guarded, concrete bunkeresque building that also goes deep underground, so you might understand my laughing delight when I saw this CBC office. It was also right downtown, but located inside the Labrador Mall next to the Wal-Mart, consisting of one room and the studio booth. I think only Mike and one other guy work there. You know, maybe I’m idealising, but that seems like a perfect life to me. We hung out while Mike interviewed a teenage girl who was on an Arctic boating expedition, and then Mike let me sit in his chair and Step took pictures of me pretending to be Mike.

We walked around Labrador Mall a bit, which looked exactly like Any Mall Anywhere, and I am ashamed to say we went to Wal-Mart and bought some new camping chairs. I don’t usually have anything to do with Wal-Mart but our old ones had literally fallen apart and the shopping pickings were pretty slim. Sorry, World. We also stopped by a local corner store and I bought some frozen Toutons. Then we got in the van and drove about 10 kilometres and we were back in Quebec, and ready for another stint of Trans-Labrador Highwaying.

A Mall Like Any Other