Ben Fast

Culture - Community - Museums - Travel

Category: Reviews (page 1 of 4)

Wild Romance at RBCM’s Night Shift

Normal me on Valentine’s Day prefers to stay home, watch some sports or TV, and treat the day like any other (although I will bow to corporate pressure and buy some chocolate, of course).  Museum me on Valentine’s Day…well that’s another story!

With all my energy these days being spent on my thesis, I’ve found very little inspiration for writing a new blog post about my work in museums.  I’m most often found sat in front of my computer screen at home, struggling to keep my eyes focused on the latest article or with fingers flying to keep up with the latest interview I’m trying to transcribe.  With all this going on, however, I did manage to sneak out of the house each Tuesday morning for the past month for a few hours of volunteering at the Royal BC Museum to help plan the 2016 Valentine’s Day Night Shift event.

I’ve helped out at two Night Shift events before: last year’s Valentine’s Day event had me running the pheromones activity and Halloween saw me dressed as Judge Begbie leading ‘Dark History’ tours through the Modern History galleries.  But this year I wanted to do something a bit different, I wanted to help more with the planning of the event and learn more about what goes into putting on an event for 600 people.

The schedule for Night Shift: Wild Romance

The schedule for Night Shift: Wild Romance

Working with Kim G., the RBCM’s Adult Learning Team Lead and one of my mentors at the museum, and members of the Marketing department, we pieced together some ideas for activities guests could take part in during the night.  Some ideas were borrowed from the previous event, including the scavenger hunt, Sex Talks With Scientists, and dance areas throughout the galleries.  We also added some new event ideas, like the live model sketching, dance lessons and a missed connections activity for singles.

Because I could only help out on Tuesday mornings, I took on researching content for the activities.  Originally, I started with ideas for a Dating Game-styled improv activity, but we put that aside when we were able to confirm Paper Street Theatre and their awesome improv for the event.  I then went to work creating the scavenger hunt activity.  The scavenger hunt is one of the big ways guests can interact directly with the exhibits in a more formal museum way.  We decided on five stations across the two floors that would be far enough away from loud activities for volunteers to tell guests special information about whatever was on display.

The scavenger hunt sheet.  Volunteers were stationed (top to bottom) at the Climate Change display, Ocean Station, First Nations Body Adornment cabinet, uniforms next to HMS Discovery, and the Gold Mining display.

The scavenger hunt sheet. Volunteers were stationed (top to bottom) at the Climate Change display, Ocean Station, First Nations Body Adornment cabinet, uniforms next to HMS Discovery, and the Gold Mining display.

Though we had 100 gift card prizes to give out for the first completed surveys, only about 90 sheets were returned.  Looking back on the event, I can see a few reasons for this low number: drinks couldn’t be taken between floors meaning people would stop the scavenger hunt in favour of a drink, there were other activities with long line ups that people didn’t want to miss, answer stations were only marked by the volunteers wearing a red lanyard, and it’s really easy to get distracted by all the other cool events happening that night!  While these are all valuable lessons to learn, I think the event was still a success as many people engaged with the volunteers regardless of if they had a scavenger hunt sheet or not.

Someone drawing a Vancouver Island Marmot, one of the already-endangered animals facing further risk of extinction due to diminishing habitats caused by climate change.  Did you know marmots in the wild will sleep up to 210 days a year?!  They have 2-4 pups each year as well, in the few days they're awake.

Someone drawing a Vancouver Island Marmot, one of the already-endangered animals facing further risk of extinction due to diminishing habitats caused by climate change. Did you know marmots in the wild will sleep up to 210 days a year?! They have 2-4 pups each year as well, in the few days they’re awake.

Word Play in the Port Moody Train Station (Old Town).

Word Play in the Port Moody Train Station (Old Town).

Sadly, one of the activities we wanted on the schedule (a costume specialist undressing through the layers of clothing a bride would be wearing on her wedding night in Victorian times) had to be cancelled last-minute because our presenter got injured.  One week before the event, Kim, myself and one of the museum’s educators named Adriana had to come up with a new activity!  We decided on something to do with poetry, which morphed into romantic Mad Libs as an activity people could do on their own time or take home with them, and that we could ‘perform’ in between music sets.  The activity was a blast, and Adriana was amazing in both compiling the Mad Lib sheets and coming up with the idea of ‘performing’ the Mad Libs improv style.  Needless to say, they weren’t very poetic, and it would be a stretch to call many of them romantic, but they were lots of fun and the Train Station was full of laughter!

Paper Street Theatre Company's Dave and Missy performing some improv love stories between animals you wouldn't expect to fall in love.  I think this was the Squirrel/Salmon combo!

Paper Street Theatre Company’s Dave and Missy performing some improv love stories between animals you wouldn’t expect to fall in love. I think this was the Squirrel/Salmon combo!

Paper Street Theatre always draws a big crowd, and there was no exception for Night Shift!

Paper Street Theatre always draws a big crowd, and there was no exception for Night Shift!

Sex Talks With Scientists in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibit!

Sex Talks With Scientists in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibit!

Lots of the activities were consistently packed throughout the night.  600 people attended the sold-out event and feedback has been positive in the evaluations so far.  Night Shift is definitely becoming one of Victoria’s most popular cultural evenings!

DJ Kwe in the Totem Gallery

DJ Kwe in the Totem Gallery

One thing that the planning team really felt was important was to have some First Nations presence at the event.  While the First Nations gallery was closed off out of respect for the Halloween Night Shift event, the First Peoples exhibits and Totem Gallery were open for exploration, relaxing house music, and a chocolate tasting activity by one of the event sponsors.  It was great to have DJ Kwe, a First Nations musician, be able to come and perform in the Totem Gallery.

Chocolate, a favourite for couples or singles on Valentine's Day!

Chocolate, a favourite for couples or singles on Valentine’s Day!

Snuggle Stations provided some great places for couples to get away from the bustle of the event and see some of Victoria's inner harbour

Snuggle Stations provided some great places for couples to get away from the bustle of the event and see some of Victoria’s inner harbour

Thinking there wasn't much to lose, and that I should try and help promote the new activity where people might need some convincing to participate, I donned my singles badge and waited for someone to notice me...

Thinking there wasn’t much to lose, and that I should try to help promote the new activity where people might need some convincing to participate, I donned my singles badge and waited for someone to notice me…

One of the new activities we tried this year was Objects of Desire, a missed connections-style activity where singles – or people wanting a little more fun – could wear a button and hope they were noticed by another guest.  Singles are hard to plan for on Valentine’s Day when it is so much about couples and love and sex, so this was our attempt at something specifically tied to the romantic theme that anybody could take part in.  As the museum tries not to exclude anybody based on orientation, but knowing there were so many categories we’d need to cover to be completely politically correct, we made three button options that would indicate interested in the opposite gender, interested in the same gender, and ‘anything goes’ and let people make their own distinction or decision to reply.  People who found someone interesting and wearing the relevant button could go to our Objects of Desire wall to leave a message on the same-coloured sticky note.  While it did take a little while to warm up, the event seemed popular by the end of the night, though I can’t say if any partnerships did come out of it!

The Objects of Desire wall near the end of the night.

The Objects of Desire wall near the end of the night.

Someone even wrote a message for me!  There's a story here, as the person saw me while I explained a scavenger hunt answer in the Ocean Station.  You see, the male Neon Flying Squid reaches sexual maturity earlier than the females, so he leaves a spermatophore (sperm package) under the female's cheek until, a few months later, she reaches sexual maturity and takes advantage of the package she's been carrying around.  So, yah, that happened...

Someone even wrote a message for me! There’s a story here, as this person saw me while I explained a scavenger hunt answer in the Ocean Station. You see, the male Neon Flying Squid reaches sexual maturity earlier than the females, so he leaves a spermatophore (sperm package) under the female’s cheek until, a few months later, she reaches sexual maturity and takes advantage of the package she’s been carrying around. So, yah, that happened…

The whole corporate Valentine’s concept gets a lot more fun when you can go to a museum and explore the collections in a whole new light, and I think that’s what makes events like Night Shift so popular.  It takes some pressure off the holiday, bring about more fun and learning than a typical rose and chocolates gift.  If you love me, bringing me to a museum is far more effective than a flower!

People will love just about anything!

People will look for love just about anywhere!

At the end of the night I did have a thought or question in my mind, though, about the programming of an event like this.  Does (or how does) the message of the holiday change when presenting it to a mass audience?  When I think of Valentine’s Day I think of love, not just the act of sex, but that can be a difficult subject to put across as love means many different things to many different people.

For example, when Valentine’s Day has for so long been presented in very heteronormative ways, and many museums don’t have a large amount of collection material or exhibits that could present all aspects of love, then it’s easiest to present a topic (usually) common to all.  In a debrief meeting a few days later, the refrain “Valentine’s Day is sexy” kept being used when discussing the difference in feel between this event and the rowdy Halloween one.  Having half the museum (and thus half the event) about natural history also makes it a lot easier to focus on sex as animals don’t often exhibit the same romantic notions of love as humans do (some animals bond for life or do courting rituals, but it’s usually described as ‘mating behaviour’).

If you work in a museum, how do you approach the topic?  Do you struggle to find a balance between love and sex?  I’d be interested to hear what other museums think of this, how they tackle the subject of inclusivity in large events, especially ones relating to sometimes-touchy or weighted subjects like love and romance, and also just if anyone else has thought about the presentation of love versus sex in museums on this holiday.  Feel free to comment below or email me.

A big thanks to one of the Truffles chefs who I have worked with in the past who set me up with this amazing Tuna Donburi dish (rice, dash, shaved daikon, pickled shitake mushrooms) at the end of my long night!  I think the Sea lion was a bit jealous!

A big thanks to one of the Truffles chefs who I have worked with in the past who set me up with this amazing Tuna Donburi dish (rice, dash, shaved daikon, pickled shitake mushrooms) at the end of my long night! I think the Sea lion was a bit jealous!

Being able to help plan Night Shift: Wild Romance was a great experience for me.  It was…enlightening looking up all the animal sex facts (I’m so happy my computer didn’t get ‘red screened’), fun working with my friends in the museum, and educational to see how many people need to work together to make an event as big as this so successful.  As someone wanting to work in museum programming, it was a great opportunity to get some experience in a big event too.  I hope I can work on many more Night Shifts to come!

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

A post shared by Ben Fast (@befaster) on

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

A post shared by Ben Fast (@befaster) on

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?!

IMG_7160

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.

IMG_7164

The St. Roch goes right up to the ceiling!

IMG_7222

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).

IMG_7161 IMG_7179 IMG_7180

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!

IMG_7195

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.

IMG_7296 IMG_7294

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.

IMG_7309

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

IMG_7305

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!

IMG_7303

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

IMG_7311

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:

IMG_7327

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

IMG_7325

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!

IMG_7330

You have got to be kidding me…

IMG_7333

Getting to work on the tire!

IMG_7332

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!

IMG_7357 IMG_7362

They even had a guest birthday harmonica solo!

 

 

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.

IMG_6649

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:

IMG_6640

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

IMG_6642

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!

IMG_6672

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

IMG_6683

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

IMG_6675

Notice the house on top?

IMG_6682

It’s from the USS Enterprise!

IMG_6667

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!

IMG_6658

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!

IMG_6688

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.

IMG_6695

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)

IMG_6705

Kayaks don’t really come with cup holders…

IMG_6698

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!

IMG_6690

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).

Being a Tourist at the Royal BC Museum

On Monday, my only weekday off until mid-May, I used the last of my Be a Tourist in Your Own Hometown coupons to get 50% off admission at the Royal BC Museum.  There were two exhibits I really wanted to see, Our Living Languages and the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2014 visiting show.  But this was no ordinary visit to the museum, as I would soon find out!

Started off by being first in line!

Started off by being first in line!  #MuseumBingo

I came to the RBCM for more than just seeing exhibits.  I had arranged meetings with some contacts there who I enjoy working with, look up to as mentors, and who might be able to secure internships, volunteer positions or even (someday, maybe, hopefully) paid work.  I had a great morning meeting with some really good opportunities presented to me, so I have a lot of thinking to do over the next week.

While walking to my first meeting I ran into Adriana, one of the people I volunteered with at the Wild Romance event in February.  She is an educator at the museum and we chatted over coffee before her next tour group came through.

It’s always fun talking with other younger museum workers.  We have such similar thought processes about weighing opportunities and employment, about how to get our ideas out into the world, and about what museums should really be doing.  Adriana has great energy in her museum work (she works at two museums!) and a great passion for education within the museum, so I was very excited when she invited me to tag along with her next tour, a group of grade 4 students from a local school.

Oh the questions these kids have! So inspiring!

The two-hour tour by her and fellow educator Bobby included a tour of the collection storage and accessioning areas of Fannin Tower, an art activity, artefact handling, and a jaunt through the exhibit space.

Sitting in on the RBCM’s Heritage School Program. Thanks Adriana and Bobby!

We examined how the museum accessions and stores artefacts, and why they do it. And anyways, what’s an artefact? Great exploration of the Fannin Tower

It was a great tour, really fun to see the energy and excitement of the kids, cool too to see their questions and thought processes.  It’s quite evident that Bobby and Adriana have a lot of patience, they described the class as a regular group, but any group of kids is a handful!

One of the coolest parts of the Heritage School Program, in my opinion, was watching the students get to handle real artefacts. Here, Bobby has just asked the students to examine the item in question and come up with evidence-based arguments for what it is. This group was smart, and with just a little prodding they determined it was some form of measuring or weighing device. True! It’s a portable gold weighing scale from the BC Gold Rush!

I also managed to arrange a coffee with Kim, one of the people I’ve volunteered with before and who organized Wild RomanceShe is a museum programmer, involved in creating the activities people can take part in at the museum and that the museum brings to people around the province.  I admit I used the opportunity to think through my museum future out loud while picking her brain about what I should do with my life, but she also told me of some great projects she has on the go and ideas about how the museum can operate in the future.  It was really insightful and inspiring, I hope I can be a part of some of those projects!

What a busy day — oh! And I haven’t even seen the exhibits yet!

This great theatre is the focal point of Our Living Languages

Our Living Languages: First Peoples’ Voices in British Columbia was inspiring and very well done.  I loved hearing the greetings in all the different languages, learning about active language teaching, and trying to guess the pronunciation of some very difficult and distinct orthographies.  The theatre presentation in the middle of the exhibit, the interactive language panels, and the video vignettes were very well done.

Such amazing and complex orthographies to try to make written sense of a truly oral culture and language. These listening stations were great, and really made the impression of being welcomed by the First Peoples themselves, not just some museum exhibit.

I was most impressed by the clean lines of the exhibit – it really looks modern and professional – and by the prominent mentions of First Nations advisory members, contributors and commissions.  This is not an exhibit about historical artefacts, it’s about living languages, and seeing contemporary artwork and First Nations perspectives is very important to making the exhibit mean anything.  There is a powerful use of the words “we” and “our,” alluding to the exhibit’s focus on First Nations culture and language as it stands today and as it is being strengthened in looking to the future.

Definitely inspired by the Our Living Languages exhibit.

This important exhibit should be visited by all Victorians, and by tourists visiting these lands.  It provides a great understanding of contemporary First Nations culture and language in a way I haven’t seen before.  It runs through June 2017, so there is no excuse not to see it.  It’s also conveniently located in the main third floor entrance way, so there’s no avoiding it!

The always good Wildlife Photographer of the Year show

I also saw the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2014 exhibit (no photos allowed, of course, which is somewhat ironic).  This travelling show from the Natural History Museum is celebrating 50 years of photographic excellence and raising awareness of animal and environmental conservation.  I’ll admit, as a photographer with no money for a new camera set up, I sometimes get jealous of the winners and their gear.  The 8-year-old who won the under-17 category has a camera worth three times as much as mine, and it’s hard not to think “well I could have done that with that camera.”

Regardless of the gear envy, these are amazing photographs (many by professionals, so it makes sense) of some of nature’s most phenomenal animals and environments.  This exhibit is always worth a visit when it comes to town, although someday the photographer in me would love to see real photographic prints of the photos alongside the back-lit screens.

I’m also really excited for this Gold Rush exhibit opening this summer!  All in all, a great visit to the RBCM!

This should be great! I hope there’s an exhibit opening event I can attend.

Older posts

© 2017 Ben Fast

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑