No Better than First Class… Right?

I’ve traveled first class about half a dozen times in my life.  Almost every one of them was a fluke.  Like the time I actually wore dressy clothes to travel and was handed a new boarding pass at the gate.  Or the time I somehow managed to pay $200 for a business class seat from Frankfurt to Toronto (best $200 I ever spent!).

I can’t afford to book first class.  I don’t have enough frequent flyer miles to get unlimited upgrades. I’m definitely in the category of “economy traveler”! I’ve spent most of my travel time crammed among 100 of my closest friends!

So when I do get that rare opportunity to sit up front with the ‘important’ people, I handle it with the style and grace of someone with two left feet.

The warm damp cloth comes out, presented to me with tongs. I say thank you and look nervously around at my fellow frequent flyers before nervously patting my face and hands with it.

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I try to act nonchalant when I order my free drinks, as if  I spend my entire life drinking free booze. Then I try to sneak a photo or selfie of me basking in the ‘First Class Glow’.

Then there’s the time both my husband and I get upgraded and despite having just eaten a full meal during the layover, accept the in-flight pasta dinner and eat the whole thing, washed down with as many alcoholic beverages as the flight length will allow.

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You might think that it can’t get any better than that.  But you’re wrong.

I accidentally stumbled across the PRIVATE JET.  All of a sudden, I have somehow stepped it up a thousand notches. I have effectively avoided the pain and hassle of the AIRPORT. That moment when you drive right up to the plane, hop on with whatever you want in your bag: full-sized shampoo, 500 mL of bottled water, nail clippers, a knife.

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This is undiscovered territory. But avoiding security is not even the best part.  The immediate take off.  This 15 minute timeline between arrival at the airfield and airborne. It’s almost too good to be true. How can I ever go back to flying commercial?

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But I have to.  I have no choice. I’m just not rich enough/important enough/frequent enough.

But now, every time I fly, I wistfully remember what it was like to skip the 30 minute security check, the 2 hour wait, the 45 minutes of trying to cram 100+ bodies into a flying metal tube.

A fleeting memory.

The reminder of what I’ll probably never experience again.  But I’d never trade that one opportunity for anything.  For one exciting flight, I got to experience the best form of long-distance travel until we figure out teleportation…

 

Stompin’ Tom: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

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Stompin’ Tom Connors (1936-2013) was a Canadian folk-singer well known for music solely focused on Canadian culture, Canadian lore and Canadian history.  He was a talented musician and we are lesser without him.  Instead of writing a whole bunch about Stompin’ Tom, I’m just going to share some of his best songs.

Enjoy!

Bud the Spud – based on Prince Edward Island’s fame: “the spuds are big on the back of Bud’s rig. They’re from Prince Edward Island!”

The Good Old Hockey Game – Canada’s most famous hockey song! “Someone roars! Bobby scores! At the good old hockey game!”

Sudbury Saturday Night – “Well the girls are out to bingo and the boys are gettin stinko We think no more of INCO on a Sudbury Saturday Night” (INCO was a Canadian mining company and the world’s largest producer of nickel – most mined in the Sudbury region)

Canada Day up Canada Way – “O Canada, standing tall together! We raise our hands and hail our flag, the Maple Leaf forever!”

Quinte: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

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There were some good Canadian Q words/things.  Quebec and Queen came to mind.  Then someone suggested Quinte and I had to write about it.

 

Do you have that place that you always remember as a place that represents youth and adulthood at the same time?  The Bay of Quinte Region is that place for me.

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Growing up in Kingston, Ontario, The Bay of Quinte was about 45 minutes away from our hometown.  The bay itself is a zig-zaggy bay and the region hosts great Walleye fishing, wineries, golfing and sand beaches.  In Canada, having sand beaches nearby is something not to be taken advantage of.  Basically it was our version of living by the sea!  So where would we go on weekends, or on Fridays during the last couple of weeks of high-school (Shhhhh)?  Specifically – Picton Beach! And the best way to go was along the lake, taking the ferry over.  What an experience!

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Picton Beach is actually Sandbanks Provincial Park, but we call it Picton Beach.  The park hosts the world’s largest baymouth barrier dune formation – 10,000 years in the making – created when the massive Lake Iroquois receded, at the end of the last ice age leaving the puddle called Lake Ontario. The sand from the larger lake blew up, creating the dunes that rise almost 200 feet from the lake and stretch for 12 kilometres!

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Ketchup Chips: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

KYes!  Of course!  How could I not??

Ketchup Chips, although available sporadically through the U.S. as a less flavourful version made by Herr’s, are known as a quintessential Canadian snack. You would think, since Americans put ketchup on EVERYTHING, that Ketchup Chips would be a thing down here in the states.  But for some unexplained reason, Ketchup Chips are not only scarce here, Americans seem to detest them! Buzzfeed asked some of their American staff to taste Canadian snacks, and it seems that Ketchup Chips “taste like a mistake”.

A glorious, dreamy, delicious mistake!

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I will throw out clothes so I can fit bags of Ketchup Chips in my luggage when I’m travelling back home. I will pay $30 for a taxi to take me to where I can get Ketchup Chips. Of all the things that I miss about Canada – Ketchup Chips ranks up there right after my family and friends!

But the trick is this.  Forget those Lay’s Ketchup Chips.  There are only two kinds even worth buying.  The first is the classic Old Dutch Ketchup Chip (not the baked kind – the real chips) and then the President’s Choice Loads of Ketchup Rippled Potato Chips.

These:

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There is so much ketchup flavouring on these chips, it’s almost questionable whether you even need the potato. #sogood.

I still wonder why the stark difference between Canadian and American tastes when it comes to potato chips? We are a lot alike on a lot of things.  So why not Ketchup Chips?

Maybe Canadians actually don’t really know they hate Ketchup Chips because they are so set on loving something Americans don’t.

I asked my Facebook friends what they thought:

American Friend: “Because your tastebuds have frozen off your tongue?”

Canadian Friend: “We’re being patriotic: they’re red like our flag.”

Canadian Friend: “Canadians prefer salty, while Americans prefer sweet.”

American Friend: “Ketchup Chipes are reason number 5751 to be suspicious of Canadians.”

Canadian Friend: “Ew, I don’t like Ketchup Chips. Maybe I’m secretly American.”

So…. what do you think?  Have you tried Ketchup Chips? Would you?  If you’ve tried them, yay or nay? Why do you think there’s such a difference in preference between our two countries?

 

 

Jasper: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

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Out of all the places in Canada, you would think that Jasper, Alberta would be a rather random place for me to highlight – but not after I show it to you!  When people think of the Canadian Rockies, they often think of British Columbia.  But how many people consider the eastern slope of the range? Banff, Canmore, Lake Louise, Kananaskis, Jasper are all stunning Canadian destinations in the Alberta rockies!

Jasper can refer to Jasper National Park or the Town of Jasper. People often say “Jasper” when they’re referring to that whole area in the Athabasca River Valley. The Town of Jasper was originally an outpost for the Hudson’s Bay Company (hey! My “H” #AtoZ!) and then was formally established as a town as the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway and Canadian Northern Railway developed their lines through the region.

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Jasper was also used as an internment camp for six months in 1916, holding Ukranian men (and some women and children) under the terms of the Canadian War Measures act while Canada was at war with Austria-Hungary. This internment across Canada of about 4,000 people left a scar on the Canadian Ukrainian community – which I’ll likely talk more about when I talk about Ukrainian culture in Canada on the #AtoZ “U” day.

Today, Jasper is a Canadian mountain town known for its recreational tourism.  People come from all over the world to visit Jasper National Park and to experience the nature and wildlife in the region.  It is definitely worth a visit if you’re in Canada.

Enjoy some of my photos from my time in Jasper!

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IMAX: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

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This is a fun one because I didn’t know IMAX was invented in Canada! I learned something new!  IMAX (Image MAXimum) came to be as filmmakers searched for ways to make the visual experience even better for movie-goers.

During Expo ’67 in Montreal, some movies were tested in a multi-camera/projector configuration, but it didn’t quite work the way they had hoped. As a result, four men who worked on the Expo project collaborated to form a company called Multi-Screen Corporation, and three years later, debuted the first ever IMAX film called Tiger Child at Expo ’70 in Osaka, Japan.

The first IMAX theatre was built at Ontario Place in Toronto, called Cinesphere.  I remember the dome when I was a child and used to go to Ontario Place, but I can’t remember if I ever watched a movie there. It was probably too expensive!

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Today, there are 1,061 IMAX theatres around the world that show specialty films.  You can also watch IMAX 3D films in many regular theatres. It’s no longer just a theatre. It is digital video at its finest. It’s advanced film development.  It’s specialty cameras that give the viewer the most outstanding point of view. The Soarin’ ride at Disney’s Epcot integrates IMAX technology with a ride.  I went back twice to experience that one!

Check out this video showing the different IMAX 3D Cameras which are used for capturing various types of video for IMAX films! Which are some of your favourite IMAX movies?

 

The art of packing….

Packing when traveling is something I have never mastered!  I ALWAYS bring way more than I need, and usually come back from a trip with only half of what I packed actually used.  Now, I get that you have to be prepared for various weather situations, but it was clear to me that I wasn’t being as efficient as I could be.

My trip to Africa was my first foray into ‘thoughtful packing’. I had a friend assist me in packing up one 60L backpack to last me two weeks.  Not only that, but said pack also needed to hold my mountain climbing clothing, altitude layers, sleeping bag and resort wear for the last two days in Zanzibar.

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Not too long ago, I discovered the freedom of flying without checking luggage.  I flew to Toronto from Denver for a wedding and only brought a small roller carry-on.  It was exhilarating!  I was able to walk in, get on the plane, and walk off!

So a month later, I tried it again – flying from Denver to Bangor, Maine. This time, I was a bridesmaid.  I carried my dress in a garment bag and laid it on top of the overhead luggage. On the way back I just crammed everything into my carry-on suitcase.  It worked so well!

I started learning how to come up with coordinating garments that would allow me to make multiple outfits out of a few pieces of clothing without anyone really knowing.  One pair of jeans, a couple of blouses and jackets.

Then I started rolling my clothes to make more room.  And I came up with this on my most recent ‘checked-bag-free’ trip from Denver to Washington, D.C.:

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This was actually a business trip.  I had dress slacks, jackets and blouses in there, along with workout clothes, a laptop, and toiletries!!

What are some of your light packing tips?

 

JennyRightSide’s 2015 Kayaking Season!!

I’m sure you’ve guessed by now that I love whitewater kayaking.

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I used to paddle a LOT.  In fact, my life revolved around stream flows back in 2006 and 2007. I would chase the rain and drive from Ottawa to Tennessee to West Virginia in order to get on new and fun rivers!

After a bit of a hiatus, I started working with an incredible organization, Team River Runner, which helps wounded veterans and their family in health and healing through paddlesports.  There is a chapter here in Colorado Springs and I’ve been working with them since 2013.  Most of the paddling I’ve been doing lately has been in support of Team River Runner, however I did get a chance to paddle some rivers at my skill level this summer!

April

The season started in April, with two great paddling days.  The first was on Easter Sunday when a group of us met and paddled the Arkansas River with easter bunnies strapped to our boats and some even wore bunny ears!

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Everyone brought a mascot!

Everyone brought a mascot!

The second was the following weekend when a girlfriend and I went to beautiful Steamboat Springs for some skiing.  The snow was very icy and the hills a little painful, so we skied one day, then went into town and she fly-fished upstream while I spent a couple of hours surfing a the fun Charlie Hole on the Yampa. What fun to combine winter sports and summer sports in one trip! And, the Subaru was able to handle us and all the gear!

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May

Then in May we brought three Team River Runner chapters together for CKS Paddlefest in Buena Vista. We have a great campground owned by a veteran that we get to use each year. This year, we had veterans from Salt Lake City, Denver and Colorado Springs together for a fun weekend of paddling, watching freestyle events, checking out company booths and relaxing by the campfire. We were also blessed to have a personal whitewater clinic led by world-class pro paddlers Emily Jackson and Nich Troutman!!

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A week later, I was a student on an American Canoe Association Level 4 Whitewater Kayak instructor course put on by the Rocky Mountain Outdoor Center and Whitewater Attainment. This was a challenging course for me, having rusty skills and working with young, spry kids in their 20’s!  I worked my butt off to keep up with them on the river, and secretly collapsed, exhausted in my campsite at the end of each day!

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June/July/August

Through the rest of the summer, we held pool sessions and ran class I-II river trips for Team River Runner down the Arkansas River. I also taught beginner classes at the local lake in evenings after work.

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I also managed to squeeze in a great run through the now historic Brown’s Canyon with two awesome paddling chicks, Tara and Becky and two play sessions at the Pueblo Play Park!

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Pueblo Play Park

September

In September I was given my first opportunity to run Waterton Canyon near Denver.  Four times!  What a great III-IV run with access to walk back over and over to run it again.  Here’s the video from that great day!

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One of the highlights of the season was an incredible opportunity to assist on a three day Team River Runner leadership clinic through the Ruby/Horsethief and Westwater Canyons of the Colorado River. What an incredible experience and to work with veterans pushing their limits on some higher class III whitewater!

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I have such a feeling of accomplishment from this season, and really enjoy paying my passion for paddling forward to others!

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The Adventure of Home Ownership

This is a continuation of Greg’s podcast, “Homeowner Joys and Challenges”.  In his podcast, he interviews his wife Laura and neighbour Rich who describe the various projects and costs that come with home ownership, but in the end, concur that the joys far outweigh the challenges.

I absolutely concur!  I’d like to share my experience with home ownership.

1999

I was 24 years old when I bought my first house.  I saw an ad in the paper for a rental community which was converting to a condo/townhome community.  Basically, the current tenants were given first dibs at purchasing the homes they were in, and then the homes were put on the public market with an attractive incentive for people like me who only made about $30,000/year. I could rent the home for the first three months, then the rent I had paid would be put toward the 5% down-payment and I could either come up with the rest of the money on my own and accept a reduction in interest rate, or the bank would pay the remaining balance. How could I not!  The purchase price included a total renovation of the house, so it felt as though I was buying a brand new house, and the condo fees $120/month covered everything on the outside of the house and lawn maintenance. Life was good. I later spent about $300 on a deck that my friends helped me build before I had to sell it due to a move for work.

Homemade deck.  Lots of caesars and friends helped me build this baby!

Homemade deck. Lots of caesars and friends helped me build this baby!

2006

The second house I owned wasn’t until 2006.  I had saved the equity from my first home and used it for this house after my second move in four years.  This house was slightly different. It was over 100 years old, had just been completely renovated (sensing a trend here?) and sat on a half acre lot. Property ownership was completely new to me.  Property ownership in the country added a few challenges that I hadn’t previously considered: sump pumps failing during the spring thaw; maintaining the bacterial balance in the septic system; emptying the septic system; ensuring heating oil delivery came BEFORE the oil ran out; paying for your heating costs up front; carpenter ants; push mowing a HALF ACRE of grass (I did the front, side and front half of the backyard, letting the treed area in the back go wild); buying your garbage bags for $3 apiece which would be the cost of pickup included etc.  But, as Jason had concluded, living in the country; low, low taxes, and having a place you can call your own was worth it all for me!

Gorgeous character of a historic home.

Gorgeous character of a historic home.

2008

My third home (another work related move) was an suburbia freehold townhouse. It was a bout 16 years old.  When I first moved in, it seemed to be fine, however within two years, it needed a new roof.  Then it needed some structural work done on the sill plate and floor boards which were rotting due to a leak.  Then more carpenter ants.  Then I had to replace the furnace. Then the chimney started leaking. Then the windows needed to be replaced. Then we decided to finish the basement (once we were sure all the leaks and rotting were permanently repaired).  Then we thought interlocking brick, a newly paved driveway and the removal of some pretty crazy willows/bushes would be nice.

Out the front door of the townhome

Out the front door of the townhome

2010

My fourth home was a downtown condo apartment (another work move. Sigh). I absolutely adored the condo. It was two bedroom, two bath corner unit with views of the river and mountains from downtown. We had no issues with the condo, it was a relaxing, convenient place to live. But way too small for our outdoor lifestyle. No rooms for kayaks, bikes, two cars, golf clubs, climbing gear, SCUBA gear, motorcycle, gym equipment. We just couldn’t make it work. So we lived in it for a year, rented it for a year, then sold it to someone who truly appreciated the place. And moved back into the 2008 place which we still own and have rented out twice now due to other work-related moves. Whew!

View from my incredible condo

View from my incredible condo

And after all that, I still feel that home ownership is a solid financial investment if you’re in it for the long term (why pay off someone else’s mortgage?) but only if you are financially capable of all the costs that you may come across!