My closing thoughts…

Now that it has been a few months since this trip took place, I think it has given me ample time to think about our time soaking in the experience that was the 2010 Winter Olympics.

From the time the Games were announced that they would be held in Vancouver, I had this inner desire to attend. This desire was kept to myself for quite awhile. When ticketing information was announced I got a little more excited and brought my idea up with my parents and brother. They liked the idea and said to keep them posted. As the ticketing lottery deadline approached, we had several family meetings to decide what packages and events to try to get. We submitted and waited… we got 4 pairs of tickets; it was official, we were going to the Olympics! However, 4 pairs didn’t seem like enough for such an international event. So, in June I picked up 4 more pairs via the online ticketing system. That seemed perfect! As time ticked away and the Games grew closer, our excitement mounted exponentially too!

Once there, we became glued to the TV watching the coverage or were visiting with family or taking in the electric buzz that permeated through Vancouver or were experiencing world-class athletes compete live.

Not enough can be said about the feelings and emotion the Olympics brings to an individual. Words will never do it justice and must be felt first hand to truly understand. If anyone ever has the opportunity to experience the Olympics, Winter or Summer, do not pass this up.

The hospitality we were shown by our family and friends made this trip even better, thanks!

People have asked me “how was it?” countless times since I’ve been back and my answer I give them is “trip of a lifetime”. This is the answer that I think sums up my emotions best. Will there be another “trip of a lifetime”? Possibly. This will be hard to beat, but if the Olympics are in North America again, I’ll probably be there to cheer Canada on wearing the red and white. That’s a promise.

I put together a video that showcases our trip put to music by Vince Vaccaro, a local BC musician, and Foo Fighters, my favourite band.

Until next time, its been great sharing my stories with you, thanks again, so long…

Antics in the city

During my time in Vancouver, many of nights were spent exploring the different exhibits, pavilions, and houses for many countries. I spent these experiences most often with my cousin Monique and her boyfriend Jeff. There were houses (really just bars) for each Canadian province and many countries that had athletes. These houses had beer, drinks, food, and entertainment from each of the provinces/countries! The one downfall with the houses was the wait to get in to some of them. Over the course of the Games we managed to make it to many, including the Alberta house, Quebec house and Irish house. Outside the pavilions the streets were crazy, I’m not quite sure if Robson street ever slept.  The streets were full with everything from dancing, screaming, bands to people dancing in fountains! One day at the beginning we cruised Robson Square, the centre of the festivities where there were activities for the family like outdoor skating, games and a zipline. The feeling was of good nature and fun all around. We also checked out a native exhibit that featured First Nations art and carvings. Very cool! Due to mine and Monique’s French heritage and Monique being a French teacher, we went to the Francophone pavilion for a bit one day to see what was happening there.  They had a marching band, which began on the ground and then was elevated on a crane high into the sky where they continued to play as an acrobat preformed above them.

In the city

First Nations carving

Robson Square

Flag wrap

Monique and Jeff

Fountain Dancing

I spent a Saturday with my Uncle Craig and cousin Noah. It was a nice day so we decided to head down to Granville Island. However, the lineup to get on a tram car that had been borrowed from Germany to transport people was so busy that we decided to take the ferry. Walking around there was quite busy, but a splendid way to spend a day in February. This place has a great micro-brewery called Granville Island Brewing; if ever in the Vancouver area, try a bottle or six!

My buddy Eric was in town for a few days, at the end of a trip across the west snowboarding, to catch some of the fever, as well as a Men’s preliminary hockey game. Some pints were consumed while he was there and late nights had. My other good buddy Duncan showed up for the final weekend to watch the Snowboard Giant Slalom. We dined on some spectacular west coast seafood and partied a couple of nights away.  Also, as well as previously mentioned in the last post, we went to the Closing Ceremonies! In his words, “if I knew the Olympics were this good, I would’ve come for more!”

One of the greatest antics in the city was the tram ride home after the closing ceremonies were I happened to pick the right train car where there was a 4 piece band rocking out as people were packed right in and we just partied on; banged the roofs to keep the beat and chanted for more!  Make sure to check out the vid!

The city was full of fun and excitement all the time and it was great to experience it with my friends and family.

Closing Ceremonies!

So going to the closing ceremonies was not on the original plan, but when the opportunity for tickets at face value came up (still enough $$) how could I resist!  It had been a great time in Vancouver at the Games and this seemed like the only way to cap it off properly.  It would be a once in a lifetime experience and who better to go with than my good buddy Duncan who was coming to Vancouver for the weekend to check out a snowboard event.  I bought the tickets Friday afternoon as Mom and I were on the way back from Whistler.  As Duncan was not aware of the tickets I promptly called him just as he had landed to say, “Sunday we’re going to the closing ceremonies!!”

The Sunday afternoon first began with Canada winning gold in men’s hockey (and Paul trying beer)!  I then took the sky train with a lot of rowdy people into the city where the party was just getting started.  The scene outside BC Place was crazy with flags, screaming and hockey games starting in the street.

It was time to leave the streets for a bit and enter the stadium.  Our seats were quite high, but they allowed for a full view of the show.  On each seat was a case that contained coloured placard cards, moose antlers, a flashing light as well as a flashing globe.  These were for crowd participation during the ceremony. When motioned by one of the volunteers we would have to hold up cards, put on antlers etc.  Mostly everyone got into this and taking part was pretty cool!

Making light (no pun intended) of the one arm of the cauldron not raising in the opening ceremonies and having to raise it manually was a good little laugh and very Canadian!  The athletes then entered and their smiles and flags emitted such good energy and an overall feeling of pride!  I was happy we were there.

I was impressed with the graphics and reflective imaging that was done during the show, as well as the ‘I am Canadian’ speeches and Russia’s presentation.

Now prior to the musical acts they started bringing out large inflatable moose, mounties, beavers etc; I thought this was a bit of a lark and lasted too long.  Interesting concept but for international viewers I’m not sure if they got it, instead it probably just reiterated that the stereotypes of our country are true.  Then the musical selections are another story and won’t get into a rant here, lets simply say that they could have been much better and representative of the talent Canada has.

All said this was an excellent way to round off a great trip!

Bobsleigh!!

The day of the 4 person bobsleigh qualifying runs (#1 and #2) started very overcast and with light rain in North Vancouver.  This was an unfortunate change to the fantastic spring conditions we had been experiencing; yet Mom and I were not discouraged and headed for the bus to Whistler in hopes that the rain would be snow in the mountains!

Once we got up to the village, the rain had stopped and it was simply overcast, a positive sign!  We stopped at a little cafe for a hot drink and AMAZING cinnamon buns (umm I wish the internet could share taste and smell) before taking the gondola up to the Sliding Centre.

The conditions were wet up there, so the warming tents were a nice plus to get a bit of warmth and the cold out of our bones.  For this event we had bleacher seats at the final turns.  The weather it seemed had deterred a number of people, but the show went on and those that were there cheered the athletes on.  Including a Swiss (I believe) man whom came up into the bleachers with a huge instrument case, I thought maybe he was playing a show later in town and didn’t feel comfortable letting it out of his sight.  Not the case though, inside was a huge horn like used in the alps (think Ricola commercial).  I was stoked by this, but became disappointed as he began to put it together and was told for whatever reason he was not allowed to play it from there and forced to go now to the general viewing area.  As the afternoon progressed a cross of rain/snow began coming down, huge flakes fell that turned to water once landing.  Much more fitting for a winter event!

Wow were these guys and ladies moving fast and it was unbelievable how many sleds we saw crashing coming off turn 16 and 17 and finishing the course with their heads smacking against the ice.  I think it may  now be clear to me why these athletes continue to do the crazy sport they do, you smack your head enough times at those high speeds and you’re sure to loose some brain cells and venture back to the top for more!

All and all a great day!

Gold Medal Hockey Day!

Entering the final day of competition at the 21st Winter Olympics, Canada had 13 Gold medals, a tie for the most by not only the host nation, but by a country ever at a Winter Olympics. Canada would surpass this mark and set records this day, and do it in style!

This day was like many others when Team Canada played hockey, we settled into our spot at the local watering hole in Coquitlam, the John B Neighbourhood Pub. Joining me for this exciting and memorable day was my dad, my brother, my cousin Ken, my cousin Monique and her boyfriend Jeff, her dad Albert, and her grandpa (my grand uncle Johnny). A good crowd if I do say so myself! The pub was packed with everyone in their Canada gear.

Once the game started at just after noon, everyone was on pins and needles waiting to see if our boys in red and white could bring it home (I guess technically it was “keep it here”). Boy, those guys sure made us tense! As millions across Canada watched, we all had a united “ohhhhh…” as those pesky Americans scored to tie the game at 2 with 24 seconds remaining in the game to force overtime. The 20 minute wait between the 3rd and Overtime was very stressful. Overtime begins, here we go, all on the line now boys. Here’s the setup: Canada comes out guns a blazin’, about 7 minutes into Overtime Canada makes a rush into the Americans’ end, they get it deep and start to cycle the puck, Iginla gets the puck, feeds it to the golden boy Sidney Crosby who fires a shot immediately through Ryan Miller into the net. CANADA WINS, CANADA WINS, CANADA WINS!

Could there really be a better ending to this, almost scripted?

The pub erupted and went absolutely nuts! High fives all around, spontaneous singing of O’ Canada, beer being chugged in true Canadian fashion!

Now back when we got the tickets, I made a promise. The promise was: if Canada wins the Gold medal in Men’s Hockey, I will drink beer. Well, Canada won, so here’s the moment many of you have waited to see for years…

That’s all I drank. Was kind of disgusting. However, it was a free pint of Canadian courtesy of the pub because Canada won Gold. I’ll try beer again, just not Canadian draught.

We then awaited the Closing Ceremonies that evening to conclude the past 17 days.

Speed Skating (Feb 27) – GOLD!

Let me start off by saying WOW!

I went to this event with Chris and it was so awesome to experience it with him. We had fantastic seats once again, mere feet from the track. This venue, the Richmond Olympic Oval, is truly a beautiful structure!

This day was the Finals for the Team Pursuit in both Men’s and Women’s. First off were the ladies.  Unfortunately, the Canadians weren’t in contention for a medal, but raced their hearts out to place 5th out of 8 teams. The Germans won gold over the Japanese by 2/100ths of a second!

The Canadian men had the crowd on their feet this day! The men were favoured to win this event, and that’s just what they did! As the men got ready and began to warmup for the race of their lives, the energy from the spectators grew, you could feel it. As they took to the starting line for the final race of the day against the Americans to determine who would emerge victorious, the crowd went crazy. From start to finish, chants of “Canada!” and “Let’s Go Canada!” could be heard to give our boys the strength and energy to bring home the gold!

To see our flag raised above the rest, with O’ Canada playing, brought this great feeling of national pride over me (along with chills, and I’ll admit it, a tear or two). At this exact moment, I think I found the feeling I’d been searching for for the entire Games, that feeling that words won’t do justice too, a feeling where inside you’re so overwhelmed with pride and happiness that you feel you’ll explode. I found it. What I didn’t know was that I’d have the same feeling the very next day.

Roadtrip #2 – Days 5-9 (March 8-12)

Yes, I’ve taken a long time to do this post…

We left Great Falls on the morning of March 8th heading eastward to Rapid City, South Dakota. Boy, that was a maze getting out of there! We decided to take a shorter route that took us off the main Interstate, Highway 15. This showed us rural Montana taking us through winding hills and small towns. In fact, one of the small towns we stopped in for a rest was called Ryegate. The funny thing about this little town was the sign they had at the local bar, or saloon as they probably call it. Here is a picture of the sign:

Testicle Festival

For those of you that can’t read it, the sign says “25th Annual –  Testicle Festival – Sat June 13 – ‘Nuttin But Fun'”. Funny to me at least. This is obviously from 2009 as 2010 doesn’t have a Saturday June 13, yet I’m sure it’ll happen this year too, so you can still go!

After leaving Ryegate we returned to the Interstate and made our way through Billings, Montana and settling in Sheridan, Wyoming for the night. We had a fantastic pizza that night from an establishment that’s been there for 38 years called Ole’s Pizza & Spaghetti House. If you’re in Sheridan ever, check it out, its on the main drag and sells spaghetti and pizza.

Day 6 began by leaving Sheridan, heading for Rapid City, South Dakota. We went through the town of Sturgis, South Dakota which is renown for their annual motorcycle rally. We stopped at a rest area along the way and as we were entering the area on the ramp there was a sign that caught us off guard and for that we unfortunately don’t have a picture of it. The sign said “No Hunting”. This ultimately begs only one question, what kind of person hunts at a rest area? Once making it to Rapid City, we figured we could make it to Sioux Falls for the night. However, what we didn’t know was that we’d be driving into a blizzard. The weather got pretty bad and visibility was low. As we approached the town of Murdo, South Dakota we decided we better find a place to stay for the night and wait the weather out. Our venue of choice was a Days Inn parking lot.

The snow stopped overnight and we left Murdo in the morning. The weather was not completely optimal, having to drive through some fog while we made our way to Sioux Falls. We cut south down to I-80 which took us to our end destination for the day in West Des Moines, Iowa. A pretty good day driving-wise.

Day 8 saw us traveling through 4 states, leaving Des Moines, Iowa in the morning, crossing into Illinois at Davenport, driving south around Chicago and into Indiana, finally stopping in Kalamazoo, Michigan for our final night on the road. The rain became quite heavy around Chicago and increased its intesity as we approached Kalamazoo. Just outside Chicago there was a billboard along the highway for the gentleman’s club Club390, which read “All the liquor. None of the clothes.”. Only in America!

Illinois state sign

Indiana state sign

The final day of our 39 day adventure began with our approach to the border at Port Huron/Sarnia. On our way to the border we passed through the lovely and bustling metropolis known as Flint, Michigan… ya, right! The border crossing went just fine with minimal questions. After we crossed, we drove to Wardsville, Ontario which is just outside London, for a short visit with old friend Frank Csenki. Here we dropped off our navigator Mike Murphy. So with a man down, it was left to Dad and I to get this rig back to Toronto. As we got closer to Toronto the rain started, and boy did it pour! Fortunately, the rain broke as we got into Scarborough, allowing us to unload without getting soaked.

Oh ya, my bed felt absolutely amazing!

Roadtrip #2 – Days 1-4 (Mar 4-7)

Our trip back to Toronto got delayed by one day due to me coming down with a bit of a bug, so instead of leaving on March 3rd, we left March 4th.  Day one started out leaving our residence for the past 3 weeks at Albert & Michelle’s, my dad’s cousin, at about 10:30 am.  Our drive took us to Revelstoke, BC where we met up with my dad’s friends Robert and Julia.

Day 2 was spent in Revelstoke getting a guided tour by Robert.  We drove up to Revelstoke Mountain Resort where my Dad and Uncle Mike took the gondola to 5000ft.  Unfortunately, the terrain was not accessible, so I had to stay back and get a full report upon their return.  Other places we visited were a few local highlights such as the Revelstoke Dam, the second largest dam in North America after the Hoover Dam.  We spent the night there and prepared to leave in the morning.

Revelstoke - Mount Mackenzie view

Revelstoke scenery

Day 3 was a shorter drive to Banff, Alberta where we met up with Jon Whelan, a long time friend of my dad and Uncle Mike back from their days working at Chateau Lake Louise in the 1970’s.  En route to Banff we stopped at Lake Louise, where once again I had to miss out on the great, great vista due to the icy terrain.  This does however mean that I must come back to both Revelstoke and Lake Louise at a later date.

Rogers Pass

Lake Louise 1

Lake Louise 2

Chateau Lake Louise

Lake Louise - Ice sculptures

Day 4 started at about 8:30am and made our way out of Banff to just outside Canmore where we had breakfast.  From there we made our way through Calgary, down to Lethbridge, and crossed into Montana, without trouble, where we have settled for the night in Great Falls, Montana.  Tomorrow’s goal is make it to Rapid City, South Dakota.  More to come later…

Three Sisters - Canmore, AB

Alberta

Montana sunset

Aerials @ Cypress

Thursday, Feb 25th was the start of an event packed weekend.  Thursday Dad and I went to Cypress to see the men’s aerials.  Are those guys ever amazing, off the jumps, 50 feet in the air doing 4 backflips with twists etc!  There were 12 competitors who each did 2 jumps.  One of the Canadians was 1st after the first run, but unfortunately his last run did not cut it and he finished 5th.

Ice Hockey – CAN-USA (Feb 21)

Now that I’ve had a chance to reflect and come down off the natural high I experienced on Sunday, I can fill you in on the magic. As soon as my dad and I were dropped off about a block away from Canada Hockey Place, you could instantly feel the energy. There were Canada jerseys in every direction you looked. It was a beautiful day in downtown Vancouver with the sun shining and not a cloud in sight. Walking to the venue, there were chants of “CAN-A-DA” and people spontaneously singing O’ Canada. The feeling that I had is nearly impossible to explain.

Once inside, we made our way to our seats. Our seats were in the USA zone for the 1st and 3rd periods, in the first row of the upper level. We watched the Canadians and Americans warm up. The energy only began to build at this point.

The time we had been so eagerly awaiting had finally arrived! As the Canadians came out of the tunnel and stepped on the ice, the sea of red and white erupted. Wow!

Unfortunately, the Americans scored in the first minute and from then on, the Canadians never got the lead. For me and my dad it was about the experience more than anything (not to say a win wouldn’t have been appreciated). For the entire duration of the game the crowd was electric and it just intensified. The Canadians did end up losing 5-3, but it was a hell of a game that I’ll never forget. It was such a pleasure to be able to experience this event with my dad.

After the crowds cleared a bit, we made our way to the SkyTrain to get back to Coquitlam.

What a day!