Ben Fast

Culture - Community - Museums - Travel

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This time, it’s personal!

Or rather, this time it’s professional!

I am a product of the social media generation.  I’ve had a Facebook account since I was a teen, and while reluctant at first, I’ve been tweeting up a storm since 2012.  For my peers and I, social media isn’t so much a networking tool, it’s a method of conversation.  It is our playground, our dating scene (sadly), our news feed.  And far too often, we consider its impact on our professional image last.

There are no split personalities on social media, if you know what I mean.  We post what we post, with little regard for what people see or think, across all our platforms.  In fact, the only split personalities we might have is between online life and real life!

For three years I have been tweeting about my career in museums and time in school just as much as I’ve tweeted rants at MLB umpires, gratuitous travel pictures, and obscure curling stats.  It’s been great!  I’ve made some great friends and contacts in the museum world – and around the world – at the same time as having once-in-a-lifetime tweet-versations with Canadian Olympians.  My Twitter feed is linked to my Instagram account, so there’s been more than one image of food as well…

Professional networking, Instagram shares, sarcastic hockey commentating, curling, and Peter Mansbridge all together on my Twitter feed.  Any connection?  No, not really, just my unorganized social media profile...

Professional networking, Instagram shares, sarcastic hockey commentating, curling, and Peter Mansbridge all together on my Twitter feed. Any connection? No, not really, just my unorganized social media profile…

But is that what my Twitter account should really reflect?  I have currently 587 followers, probably 350+ of whom are museum professionals or students.  Do they really care about the recent Grand Slam of Curling exploits of Team Mike McEwen or that I’m having Raisin Bran for breakfast?

The answer, I’ve come to accept, is probably not.

While awesome, these aren’t exactly reflecting my choice of careers…

Ok, I’ll stop sharing my old faves.  Well…just one more

I recently attended the BC Museums Association conference in New Westminster, BC.  Conferences are great places to make professional contacts, do some networking, and tell people to “follow me” (it sounds narcissistic, but it’s kind of fun to do!).  One of the contacts I made there was Luc, a really cool guy who works in the museum field in Vancouver.  We followed each other on Twitter and both participated in some museum Twitter chats, I also tweeted about the Canucks and he about craft beer, and then one day — WHAM, he’s got two accounts!

Luc had had the realization I was waiting for: professional networks should be professional.  I don’t know if Luc noticed or cared about my non-museum tweets, he followed me with his new account after all, but it made me think more about my image and ‘personal brand’.  I sent out some emails to him and other museum colleagues asking how they found having two accounts and this afternoon I decided to make the split.

My new professional account (with my RBCM head shot!) and bio.  Why waste the effort (and more than 10,000 tweets) I used to build a network of over 550 followers?  And anyways, who is going to look far enough back to realize those weren't all related to work...?

My new professional account (with my RBCM head shot!) and bio. Why waste the effort (and more than 10,000 tweets) I used to build a network of over 550 followers? And anyways, who is going to look far enough back to realize those weren’t all related to work…?

But I didn’t split it the same way Luc and some of my other friends have by making a new professional account.  Instead I kept the momentum of my ‘personal brand’ going and made a new account for my personal tweets.  Most of my followers are from museums anyways, and they’ve followed me because of our previous interactions, whatever those may have been.  Instead of hoping they’d follow me back again, I’m now devoting my account to professional tweets only and having my sarcastic hockey talk and random image shares on my new account where I don’t really care about my follower/following ratios or tweet analytics.

A little more reflective of my west coast upbringing, and not tied to museums, is my new personal account @BenFastBen. With my bass-face profile pic and a beach scene to match, this is where my other half will live from now on.

A little more reflective of my west coast upbringing, and not tied to museums, is my new personal account @BenFastBen. With my bass-face profile pic and a beach scene to match, this is where my other half will live from now on.

So, if you find yourself wanting a daily museum fix, follow along at @benfaster just like you might already be doing.  And if you have a burning passion for Canadian sports, travel chats and cat videos, you can now find the other real me at @BenFastBen.  Or do both!

Vancouver Museums Weekend

Last weekend I travelled over to Vancouver for an overnight museums weekend trip! I was able to tag along with my mom (who was heading over for a work trip) so I could use the car and go see some museums I haven’t been to yet. Arriving late Friday morning, we both visited the Vancouver Art Gallery that afternoon before her meeting, and I went to the Museum of Vancouver and the Vancouver Maritime Museum the following day.

Here are some highlights from my weekend in Vancouver!

Vancouver Art Gallery

As an employee of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, I felt it was my duty to go visit our friends in the big city. There’s a lot of cross-over between the two organizations, both in shared exhibits and art pieces, and often in membership. I was excited to see the VAG as it is a bigger gallery than the one in Victoria and I was sure it would have some good displays.

Cool stairs at the VAG

Cool stairs at the VAG

I was not disappointed on the quality displays! The VAG is currently hosting the Of Heaven and Earth: 500 Years of Italian Painting from Glasgow Museums exhibition. As someone who likes classical art more than modern art, and given that I’m a sucker for anything Scottish, I figured I’d like this. I’m also a big fan of Glasgow Museums after studying some of their programs in school.

(No photos allowed, as is frustratingly typical of travelling exhibits, but check out this promotional video)

The exhibition was amazing.  I loved the bright colours of the paintings and the great diversity of works (size, subject matter, different periods, etc.) and the presentation was good too. The paintings were displayed through a series of small, well-lit and colourful rooms bringing the viewer chronologically through the history of Italian painting from the late Middle Ages to the 19th Century. The exhibit was crowded, and the other people in there seemed to be really enjoying it and taking their time to look through the works. I’m not sure the small rooms allowed for the best viewing of some pieces, especially the smaller ones when the room was crowded, but I did like the feel of viewing the paintings up close and personal.

I also really liked Material Future: The Architecture of Herzog & de Meuron and the Vancouver Art Gallery, an exhibit about the architects in charge of the future VAG building project (Herzog and de Meuron have designed such buildings as the National Stadium – the Birds Nest – in Beijing and the Tate Modern in London). As the AGGV approaches its own building project, albeit on a smaller scale, it was neat to see such a large project in the early stages at the VAG. This exhibit also included (or was placed right next to) an area showing the growth of the VAG over its 84 years through smaller pieces. These were really fun to look through, and I learned a lot about the Gallery itself – like the fact that, since 1931, more than 8,560 artworks have been donated to the Gallery as gifts or bequests. This represented more than 75% of the 11,537 artworks acquired for the collection! Amazing! Another exhibit that caught my eye – or my ear – was Stan Douglas’s Luanda-Kinshasa (2013) video of a hypothetical psychedelic jazz recording session. While the concept may be hypothetical, the jazz wasn’t, and I enjoyed 20 minutes of sitting and listening to the great tunes!

A visual representation of how I often feel visiting art galleries.

A visual representation of how I often feel visiting art galleries.

While the exhibits were interesting (especially Of Heaven and Earth), I was left a bit disappointed by my visit to the VAG. A number of small distractions got in the way of my full enjoyment and experience. For one, there was a lot of security at the VAG, including at least one in every room of Of Heaven and Earth. Perhaps it’s my naive small-town attitude (we only have one security guard at the AGGV) or the fact that some major touring exhibitions have specific security requirements, but this security presence was surprising and off-putting. At times, security would hover behind you, quite obviously too, from when you walked into a room until you moved away from the first painting. It made me feel rushed, distracted, and watched in a way that really distracted me from the paintings themselves, especially in such small rooms. I haven’t seen security in galleries like this since seeing the Mona Lisa at the Louvre.

I was able to visit the VAG for free as they honoured the fact I too work in the industry, and I’m very thankful for them doing so. I became even more thankful when I found out almost two full floors of exhibit space (out of four) were closed for installations. This was purely bad timing on my part, I missed two exhibitions by one week, and it was neat seeing the packing process in action. It does raise the question, though, should galleries and museums charge a reduced fee when some spaces are closed? Regular entrance is $20, and while I found Of Heaven and Earth alone worth that, do other non-museum people think the same?

Packing up and heading out.  Missed it by that much!

Packing up and heading out. Missed it by that much!

It will be good for the VAG to get a new building too, as some of the exhibition spaces are small and confusing to navigate (NOTE: the new designs were released on September 29.  Take a look here, they are…interesting!). The gallery store is quite impressive though, and with a cool location in the main lobby, but my timing was off again as almost nothing remained from the Of Heaven and Earth save for a few postcards.

15 second tour of the @vanartgallery Vancouver Art Gallery. #yvrart #yvr #artgallery

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Museum of Vancouver

Saturday morning brought some heavy rain and a much-anticipated visit to the Museum of Vancouver. I have been looking forward to visit the MOV for a year since they helped me with my week as curator of We The Humanities.

The MOV did not disappoint! I started with their Neon Vancouver | Ugly Vancouver exhibit of neon classic neon signs. The black room was full of colourful light and cool stories of how the city’s lit advertising grew bright then dimmed with changing attitudes towards aesthetics and taste.

I was blown away by the exhibit, it was such a neat look into Vancouver’s past, a subject I had never seen covered by a museum before, and the signs themselves were lots of fun to look at. I could have spent a long time in that room!

After the neon signs, I managed to get my phone locked into a museum display… Thanks to the nice MOV staffer who got it out for me!

(It worked once for five seconds, but the second time I put it in it didn’t allow me to add time to the safe clock.  Cue the technology anxiety…)

I was excited to see I didn’t completely miss the recently-closed MOV exhibit The Happy Show#makesmehappy is a surprise after-exhibit that the MOV put together in the wake of the tremendously successful Happy Show that inspires people to boost their happiness with simple acts. Ten participants from Vancouver went into the MOV’s collection and selected objects that sparked memories of happiness, which were displayed with short texts and activity prompts in the first gallery room alongside a play area for small children and a post-it wall where people could write what made them happy.

Part of the #makesmehappy display, someone reminiscing about keeping a journal.  The prompt says "if you kept a diary, what would be the first sentence of today's entry?"

Part of the #makesmehappy display, someone reminiscing about keeping a journal. The prompt says “if you kept a diary, what would be the first sentence of today’s entry?”

The other exhibits (c̓əsnaʔəm, the city before the city, which goes until January 2020 and the other permanent galleries) were just as good. Some highlights included the dress-up box for kids at the beginning of the 1900s-1920s: The Gateway to the Pacific gallery (nothing better than getting into character!), the great use of text panels and artefacts to tell stories, and some of the interactive displays throughout the galleries. In the 1950s gallery you can sit down in a recreated diner booth and read stories of life as a teenager in that decade printed on newspapers and menus (I’ve never seen teen stories in a museum before) as well as drop 25 cents into a working jukebox. The diner seat looks out through a window at an amazing old car complete with White Spot drive-in tray! Those were the days… There was also a rotary telephone in another gallery where you can “call” a recent immigrant neighbour and hear their stories of moving to and living in Vancouver. But the trick is you actually have to dial the phone – imagine how many kids have never worked a rotary before!

A great display for the story of internment and displacement of Asian Canadians during the Second World War

A great display for the story of internment and displacement of Asian Canadians during the Second World War

Such a great interactive section! Come sit in the diner looking out at the fancy cars and read about teens in the 50s!

Such a great interactive section! Come sit in the diner looking out at the fancy cars and read about teens in the 50s!

The displays at the MOV are very cool to look at.  They remind me of my trip to the Museum of London last year, similar in presentation style where you can walk through time and learn about the development of a city. It is busy, and could be overwhelming for some people as there is a lot to take in, but well worth the reading and the time spent in the galleries!

@Museumofvan #15secondtour. This place #makesmehappy, so glad I could stop by! #museums

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Vancouver Maritime Museum

After lunch in the car to charge up the phone I walked down the short rainy path to the Vancouver Maritime Museum. It just so happened it was International Talk Like a Pirate Day, so what better way to celebrate than by learning about Vancouver’s and Canada’s maritime history?!

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I started my visit with a tour around the RCMP St. Roch, one of the most important ships in Canada’s history being the first to navigate the Northwest passage west-to-east and back again, and later to complete the circumnavigation of North America (Halifax to Halifax via the Panama Canal). It is quite a large boat compared to the size of the museum and fills the beautiful A-frame building from end to end and right to the top! It’s fun to be able to walk on, around and even through history when that history has a custom-built home.

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The St. Roch goes right up to the ceiling!

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After exploring the St. Roch I ventured back into the gallery section of the museum. Across the Top of the World: the Quest for the Northwest Passage was a fascinating look into the early voyages to the Arctic ventured in an attempt to find a North West Passage. I did not know attempts were made as early as the 1500s, and I know very little about the first successful voyages other than the Franklin shipwreck discoveries that have made national news in Canada recently (although the exhibit showed me a lot about the historical searches for Franklin put on by his wife that I had never known about). The exhibit was very well done, with great text panels and interesting maps separated by some artifacts (not a huge amount, but it’s a small gallery).

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I found the arctic exhibit reminded me a lot of the exhibit about longitude that I saw last year at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, UK. There was the same sense of exploration discovery, of imperial conquest over nature although with perhaps less success, and the exhibits had the same ‘feel’. I really enjoyed learning about the North and those early voyages leading up to the St. Roch.

The rest of the museum is full of great wonders of BC and global maritime history, from the early steamships that arrived in Vancouver to the children’s pirate play area and discovery room (very cool part of the museum). There was also a history of navigational aids (cool for me as I used to work next to Fisgard Lighthouse), the evolution of fire boats, and some beautiful art inspired by West Coast towns.

This model (and a few others in the museum) are made out of bone!  They were made by prisoners during the Napoleonic Wars.

This model (and a few others in the museum) are made out of bone! They were made by prisoners during the Napoleonic Wars.

The Vancouver Maritime Museum has a great children's discovery area!

The Vancouver Maritime Museum has a great children’s discovery area!

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The museum is full of many amazing and highly-detailed models.

The Vancouver Maritime Museum is a smaller museum, and a lot of the collection on display is, perhaps surprisingly, not large boats. This made me think of the fate of my local maritime museum, the Maritime Museum of BC, and how it might look if it is forced to lose some of its collection (with many boats) or move into a place where gallery space changes the approach to the maritime history on display. My visit made me hopeful and positive that it can happen and it can be successful in the long run.

Me with the captain of the St. Roch!

Me with the captain of the St. Roch!

Found it!  ...that wasn't so hard...

Found it! …that wasn’t so hard…

The Vancouver Maritime Museum staff were very friendly and their museum is one to be proud of. I even managed to pick up the final catalogue for the Across the Top of the World exhibit on sale for only $10! I hope to learn more about how they and the MOV work together, if they do, given they are located so closely together (and with the space centre).

The museum faces onto the mouth of False Creek and English Bay.  There's a great collection of wooden boats out in the little marina!

The museum faces onto the mouth of False Creek and English Bay. There’s a great collection of wooden boats out in the little marina!

I had fun taking the 15 second tour videos you see here too, and while I like the idea, I’m not sure I’ll do them again because Instagram doesn’t let you load videos that short (also, reversed type in selfies? ugh…). Something to think about in the future though!

All in all, my trip to Vancouver was a success, I saw the museums I wanted to see, enjoyed my visits, and hope to return sometime soon. Thanks Vancouver!

Putting the ‘Adventure’ in Adventure Tourism

You know those great ideas you have when you go travelling, those ones that will broaden your horizons and make you appreciate the experience of being there, wherever it is you are?  I had one of those in Rossland, BC.

It nearly killed me.

The Rossland Art Gallery, with a great mural on the side, stands prominently over Columbia Ave, the town's main street.

The Rossland Art Gallery, with a great mural on the side, stands prominently over Columbia Ave, the town’s main street.

Rossland is a beautiful little mining town turned ski town up in the mountains of south-east BC.  I cannot say enough about the beauty of this town nestled into the side of the Monashee Mountains of the West Kootenay region.  The main street still has your typical picturesque mining town look with classic storefronts giving way to steep roads climbing up to the dense forests above (and below) and the friendly atmosphere where everyone says hi while passing on the broad sidewalks.  It’s the type of town where people still leave their doors unlocked, where people travel through and stop for coffee only to end up staying for 20 years, and where hundreds of Australians come to work for the winter.

It’s also the mountain bike capital of the Canada.

I arrived in Rossland on Monday night after a 7 hour drive from Vancouver.  I’m here for the Heritage BC Conference, a somewhat small and out-of-the-way venue for this provincial meeting, and I came a few days early so I could catch a free ride with some of the staff.  This meant Tuesday was pretty open for me to explore town, and it turns out there isn’t much to do on a Tuesday in Rossland during the shoulder season!  The museum (my usual first stop) was closed, so I decided to hit the trails.

I rented a bike ($45) from Revolution Cycles and was convinced to buy a pair of riding shorts ($58 after a 50% sale discount, but Tyler you were right: it was totally worth it!) and set off up Spokane Street to the start of the trails.

The poetry library found at the bottom of the KC trail.

The poetry library found at the bottom of the KC trail.

Grab a book of poetry for your hike!

Grab a book of poetry for your hike!

I barely made it.  It turns out us coastal folk aren’t great going up hills at altitude (Rossland sits 1023 metres above sea level), especially when we haven’t ridden a bike for a month…or more.  I had to take a break after five blocks seemingly straight up, having already finished half a bottle of Powerade.  I’ve never ridden a bike with rear suspension, so a lot of my energy was being expended bouncing up the hill.  These bikes are best going downhill!

You can see the majority of my route here, from the Kootenay Columbia summit (I went back down the way I came to avoid the advanced section) to the four way intersection, down North Star and Milky Way before heading up Green Door, Roger’s, Cemetery and Happy Valley.  I walked back into town via Park St. (off the map).  This map of the Milky Way Loop via Kootenay Columbia Trails Society.

After a few minutes I got back in the saddle and set off up the Monte Christo road that connects to the trail leading to the summit of the Kootenay Columbia Mountain (1235m).  Halfway up it all went to hell.

I probably shouldn’t have had the amazingly tasty frittata with the chipotle mayo and Sabrosa salsa from the Alpine Grind  nor should I have eaten it so fast, because it didn’t taste quite as tasty coming back up…  This episode was made a bit more embarrassing by the group of young mom’s who came trekking by with babies strapped to their fronts going about as fast as I had just been on my bike.

A little stone labyrinth found on the way to the Kootenay Columbia Mountain summit.

A little stone labyrinth found on the way to the Kootenay Columbia Mountain summit.

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I did make it to the top eventually, stopping for a moment at the hanging poetry installation and the stone labyrinth somebody had carefully laid out on the side of the trail (and someone else had not so carefully changed to make it impossible).  The view was worth the effort, a spectacular panorama of Rossland and the valley on one side and a glimpse down at Trail, dominated by the Teck Cominco lead and zinc smelter, on the other.  I enjoyed a packed lunch at the top and chatted with a hiker who came up and showed me an easy route back down the other side of the mountain.

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A panorama view of Rossland (on the right) from the summit of Kootenay Columbia Mountain.

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The Teck Cominco smelter in Trail. I’ve been told many people work in Trail but choose to live in Rossland to avoid the fumes from this smelter, but I’ve also seen how much Teck puts back into the community. These are the realities of small industry towns in BC!

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A pulled-back view of Trail and the Columbia River.

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Made it to the top!

Heading down always feels better.  You go faster, it’s more exciting, and there’s far less peddling to do!  The plan was to do a short version of the Milky Way-Happy Valley route (one of the region’s most popular, a 250m drop over about 2km), supposed to be good for ‘letting it rip’ and some classic cross-country before heading back into the top side of town.  Most importantly, according to the hiker I met at the summit, it was supposed to be easy and not a lot of peddling.

The trails are all well-marked and maintained. It was a pleasure riding them, when not throwing up my breakfast..

The trails are all well-marked and maintained. It was a pleasure riding them, when not throwing up my breakfast..

The way down was lovely, lots of bumps and turns and steep sections that kept me on my toes and made me feel I might be able to actually do mountain biking without throwing up or killing myself in a crash.  The trails I had picked were all intermediate rating (perhaps a bit over-ambitious?) but I didn’t find them too difficult.  I only had to save myself from going over the handlebars twice, and I wasn’t going too fast so I was ok.

You can see the pros do it (just a bit) faster than I did:

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I’ll admit, I thought about it…for a second!

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A lovely meadow section near the bottom of Milky Way. It really is a beautiful part of the province!

I decided to skip the wooden jumps on Milky Way, but did stop at a little log cabin in the woods and enjoyed a brief pause in a meadow section at the bottom of the trail.  I was feeling so good about going downhill, apparently forgetting what happened on the way uphill, that I decided to push the route one loop larger, going down the second half of Milky Way with the intention of cutting back around the mountain on Green Door (300m up over 3.1km) and Roger’s (50m ups and downs over half a kilometre) before reaching town via Cemetery and the Happy Valley Connector (combined 200m up over 3.3km).

A rather creepy log cabin I found along the route.  The roof has mostly collapsed but the area is scattered with garbage suggesting some homeless people or partiers might have been using it as a base.

A rather creepy log cabin I found along the route. The roof has mostly collapsed but the area is scattered with garbage suggesting some homeless people or partiers might have been using it as a base.

One more good view of Trail and the Columbia Valley from a bench on Roger's trail.  This was the last time I really looked at the scenery with fondness...

One more good view of Trail and the Columbia Valley from a bench on Roger’s trail. This was the last time I really looked at the scenery with fondness…

It was all great before I reached Green Door, which was at least 3kms of steady uphill gravel trail.  I walked most of that.  At the top of that trail I got back on the bike and went up and down Roger’s, catching another good look over Trail before…

Phhhzzzzzzsshhhh…

There goes my back tire.  I’m about 4kms from the centre of town, my phone’s battery is under 50%, I’ve never changed a bike tire before, and it’s 3pm.  The sun sets at 6pm, but more importantly, my pants, jacket and wallet are back at the bike store, which closes at 5!

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You have got to be kidding me…

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Getting to work on the tire!

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My work station for an hour of my bike ride. Could be worse I guess!

I texted my boss saying I might be late for supper, called the store to get a reminder about the tires (they brief you before you leave, so I wasn’t completely blind), and set about replacing the tube.  It took me about 20 minutes, but the tube was in, the tire was on the rim, and the wheel was back on the bike!

But it wouldn’t pump…

Sitting on the side of a single track trail with dirty hands, two finished bottles of Powerade, unfamiliar shorts, and your mom texting you saying she’s worried about grizzly bears is not the most fun part of adventure tourism, but it’s all in the experience.  I pumped like mad for 20 minutes, getting nowhere.  Time to start walking I guess…

One of the headstones in the Columbia Cemetery, which became a rest place halfway through my hike back to town.

One of the headstones in the Columbia Cemetery, which became a rest place halfway through my hike back to town.

As you can tell by reading this, I did make it back out of the woods.  I pushed the bike over Roger’s, down most of Cemetery (I rode a bit on the flat-ish tire on the dirt, but didn’t want to wear out the rims on the rocks), and up Happy Valley (wow that’s steep!) before pushing it over the hill and into town.  I made it back to the bike shop by 4:30, just in time to grab my pants, borrow the boss’s car, make it back to my billet for a shower, and get back into town before supper!

The Rossland Catholic Church

The Rossland Catholic Church

The Rossland Courthouse.  It is still an active courthouse but is also a National Historic Site of Canada.

The Rossland Courthouse. It is still an active courthouse but is also a National Historic Site of Canada.

It turns out the valve on my second tube was too short, so the pump wasn’t able to get any pressure into the tire.  I think it was really because I was provided with a 26″ tube for 27.5″ wheels, but the guys at the shop said that should have worked anyways.  I’m very thankful for their help on the phone and partial refund for my troubles!

My bike-turned-hike in the woods of Rossland sure was an adventure.  While there was a lot going wrong, with pushing myself too hard and the flat tire, I still had fun, saw some great sights, and was glad I gave it a try.    Most important, I made it out safe.  I don’t think I’ll hit an intermediate trail any time soon, and I might be better suited to biking in the Netherlands (i.e. where it’s flat!), but it all adds to the fun of getting to know Rossland.

My post-bike-hike recovery included sampling the local hefeweizen just feet from where it was brewed.  Thanks Rossland Beer Co.!

My post-bike-hike recovery included sampling the local hefeweizen just feet from where it was brewed. Thanks Rossland Beer Co.!

My legs were dead, my head was spinning, and my chest was not happy about hyperventilating for half the day, but it didn’t stop me from catching the great Jeremy Fisher concert at the Flying Steamshovel Pub that night.  Two nice young ladies who work at the Trail hospital befriended me, which meant I had to get up and ‘dance’ for most of the show.  My dancing mainly involved leaning side to side and clapping my hands.  Sorry ladies!

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They even had a guest birthday harmonica solo!

 

 

BC Day Instameet: #ExploreVictoria

Yesterday, on the afternoon of a beautiful, sunny, and warm BC Day, I joined my first ever instameet (a meet-up of people who use the social media platform Instagram, in case you don’t already know).  This instameet was organized by Tourism Victoria as part of Destination BC’s province-wide #ExploreBC campaign.

While essentially creating free user-generated content for the local DMO, the event was a fun way to meet some good local photographers and see the inside of social media marketing.  We started in Chinatown and ended with some dinner at the Royal BC Museum’s Food Truck Festival, taking photos and chatting all the way through.  Some who came along were real pros, but other were there just for fun like me, but we all had a great time getting to know each other, talking about the city, and taking photos.

I think I went to the event just for something to do, and because it would be a good blog post idea, but I was hoping to see how people engaged with others on an instameet. I was a bit surprised we hardly ever talked about photography, other than a bit of gear talk about the old cameras, a quick reference to the classic Nikon/Canon debate, and quite a bit more self-promotion. I wonder if an instameet simply for regular users of Instagram (or with specific guidelines about what photos to take like the recent and amazing #emptyBM project) might have had a different result. Instead, our talk at dinner was more about the use of hashtags in getting your images to the top of the search fields. Still, a fun time.

Here are the results of my first ever instameet!

1st stop = refreshment. Ok, now ready to start! #instameet #exploreBC #explorevictoria

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#chinatown #exploreBC #explorevictoria

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Chinatown has some amazing sights and is a common spot for photo walks, but I tried to look for some sights I hadn’t seen before, and play off Instagram’s use of colour.

#explorevictoria #exploreBC

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Didn't expect this high on a wall in Fan Tan Alley! #explorevictoria #exploreBC

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This camera was amazing, and Adrian and his wife were really fun to chat with as we walked around the city. Check out his work!

Nice light coming into #MarketSquare. #explorevictoria #exploreBC #instameet

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One of these things is not like the other. #explorevictoria #exploreBC #WaddingtonAlley

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#WaddingtonAlley #exploreBC #explorevictoria

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Ok #yyj, name this building! #exploreBC #explorevictoria

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(It’s the Youth Empowerment Society, by the way)

Ok @ashleyforsilly try this one! Where in #yyj? #explorevictoria #exploreBC

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(After my friend Ashley guessed the previous one right away I stumped her with this. It’s in Bastion Square!)

We are a seaside town after all… #exploreBC #explorevictoria #fish #salmonfishinginBC

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Almost made it to our last location for the #explorevictoria #exploreBC #instameet

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Thanks Katie and Dorothee from Tourism Victoria for organizing such a fun event and for trying to keep our group together as we made it around Downtown! Remember to all others, you’re always welcome here in Victoria!

I ended the day with my cousin enjoying the Victoria HarbourCats win a great game of baseball. There were even fireworks after!

Check out my Instagram feed to follow along with more exploring around Victoria and wherever else I get to!

Kayaking Tod Inlet with Pacifica Paddle Sports

Working in the tourism industry has lots of perks.  Getting tipped in American money when our Canadian dollar seems in a never-ending death spiral is always good, as is getting into cool places free with your tour groups.  One of my favourite perks, however, is how the industry works hard to share experiences around to staff in other organizations.

Allowing other tourism workers from other organizations to experience different tourism offerings is more than just providing perks to workers.  Instead, it provides a great opportunity for cross-promotion and education.  For example, I give city tours to cruise ship passengers but also work at the Royal BC Museum, so if my tour passengers have spare time in the city, I can recommend a visit to the temporary exhibit at the museum.

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As is usual, I trail behind attempting in vain to take pictures of birds and wild animals… Hard to do with a cell phone in a ziplock bag!

In May, while I was working as a co-op student at Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Sites, I met some of the staff from Pacifica Paddle Sports at the Victoria Guest Services Network’s tourism showcase, an annual event where local tourism organizations showcase their offerings to hotel workers.  As is  often the case, Pacifica was offering a free gift to tourism workers who came to visit their booth and learn about their offerings.  Just last week I was finally able to take them up on the free rental offering and enjoy an evening paddling around Tod Inlet and Brentwood Bay.

I got to bring Jenny and Lauren along as well, sharing some quality time on the beautifully calm water dodging jellyfish and laughing the funny boaters we floated by.  Lauren, quite an experienced paddler, asked to use a current design kayak, so Pacifica gave her and Jenny boats with “skegs”.  Now, I don’t really know what it does, but this article makes it seem like a trim device, and being an airplane guy myself, that makes me see it as a way to ease movement through opposing forces (wind or in this case water current direction).  I think…

Thanks to Sandra and her staff for the wonderful opportunity to explore such a beautiful part of our island!  Here are some photos of my evening out on the water with Pacifica Paddle Sports:

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The ladies getting into their kayaks at Pacifica’s cool easy-launching kayak and canoe dock in Brentwood Bay

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Both Lauren (right) and Jenny had kayaks with skegs whereas I had one with a rudder, but both worked out just fine!

See just how calm it was here!

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One of the highlights of our paddle down Tod Inlet was seeing this bird sanctuary. They were so active and noisy!

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Lots of little swallows (or possibly starlets?) make their homes on top of the pillars.

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Notice the house on top?

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It’s from the USS Enterprise!

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There was lots of wildlife below the waves too, including this rock crab which decided to start his climb back down to the bottom after we showed up. There were also thousands of jellyfish in Brentwood Bay! Big suckers, some yellow ones with tentacles four feet long too!

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It was fun getting to paddle with Jenny, show her something I like to do and let her experience the joy of kayaking for the first time. Seeing the world from the water really adds a feeling of relaxation and perspective on other things in life!

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Some of the other locals having a good time on the water. Love the hats!  The Inlet was far less busy this week than the following BC Day long weekend when I returned for a paddle with my mom.  Far less noisy or disrupting, many more animals and a more pronounced feeling of calm.

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On our way back around Brentwood Bay we paddled under a dock where some local lads were celebrating a bachelor party. The friendly fellows even passed down a drink for me to enjoy. Thanks guys! (In the interests of safe boating, however, after a taste most of this went back into the water and the cup was returned to dry land)

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Kayaks don’t really come with cup holders…

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It was a great night on the water in Tod Inlet and Brentwood Bay. This photo doesn’t really do it justice, but the lighting around 7pm was amazing!

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Thanks Pacifica Paddle Sports for the great evening!

Disclaimer: I received one free two-hour rental with Pacifica Paddle Sports and a tourism industry discount on the other two rentals from this trip, but writing this blog post was not a condition of the free rental or discount.  I have spent my own money on subsequent rentals (I brought my mom the following weekend), and will continue to do so, and think Pacifica Paddle Sports is a great company with good staff and a really cool set-up (check out their location next time you’re in Brentwood Bay, it’s pretty cool).
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