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Todayville Travel: Home-Swapping and Hard-Falling In Whistler

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I was navigating a black-diamond run at the end of our last day in Whistler. The path dropped through a steep mogul-field then narrowed to a single track in thick forest. I veered hard right through a tiny opening between two Douglas fir trees. I emerged blindly from the dark boughs. Terra firma vanished. I was hurtling off a ten-meter cliff, in free fall.

What was I doing here?

My date with this Whistler precipice had its genesis in – of all places – a golf course in New Zealand. We were teeing it up last March in Nelson, on the South Island, when a fellow-duffer approached us on the first tee. He was solo so Florence and I asked him to join us. He introduced himself as Russ, from Vancouver. We played a pleasant nine holes together, shook hands and parted ways.

“This is just too weird,” said our fellow Canuck. “Let’s have lunch.”

Two weeks later –and a thousand kilometers distant – we were hiking Mount Maunganui, on the North Island. As we arrived huffing and puffing to the summit, there stood Russ and his wife Barb, chatting affably with a fit young Kiwi. We laughed at the coincidence, commented on the fine Austral weather, and moseyed off.

Two weeks distant– and another thousand kilometers removed – we were examining a cross-section of New Zealand’s biggest and oldest tree – a 3000 year-old Kauri – at the aptly named Kauri Museum in the tiny west coast village of Matakohe, when who to my wondering eyes should appear but good old Russ.

“This is just too weird,” said our fellow Canuck. “Let’s have lunch.”

So, over flat-white coffee and whitebait (a hideous Kiwi delicacy consisting of fried egg and a worm-like fish), the four of us sat, laughed and marvelled at the wonders of New Zealand – and our trifecta of coincidental encounters.

The Feehans were – as usual – travelling without reservation, flying by the seat of their pants and scrambling daily for nightly accommodation. Russ and Barb were at the other end of the organizational spectrum. They were happily bunked in just two spots during their entire two-month sojourn to New Zealand. As members of www.homelink.com/ they had exchanged their house in Vancouver for accommodation Down Under.

Russ and Barb travel in a sphere of gratis lodging, swapping their Vancouver abode – and Whistler condo – for digs the world over.

I pondered the merits of our pleasant home in Red Deer and looked at Russ, wondering whether he and Barb might enjoy a holiday in frozen, flat central Alberta. But Russ didn’t look like he’d been born yesterday.

Then I remembered our condo in Kimberley. It’s a great spot in B.C’s lovely Purcell mountains.

And that’s how we ended up in a quaint ski chalet for a week on Nita Lake, in Whistler. In return, Barb and Russ will be golfing and biking the Kootenays for a week in September chez Feehan.

Preparing for a day of skiing at Chez Russ and Barb

We haven’t signed up for Homelink yet – but what a great concept: why leave your home vacant and idle, spending a whack on hotels, when you can swap for free domicile across the pond (or at Whistler)?

My only previous Whistler experience occurred in 1984, and although the 80’s weren’t exactly the 60’s, still I recall very little of that trip. I do remember a wild and crazy Doug and the Slugs concert, performed al fresco in the Whistler Village common. And I recollect that Bill Johnson won the World Cup downhill in 1 minute 54 seconds. (Billy was the quintessential American bad-boy. The great Franz Klammer derisively referred to him as a “nasen-borer”.)

We skied that same downhill run with our friends from Saskatoon in January. It took me just under nine minutes top to bottom – and I cheated, stopping the clock each time I paused to rest my weary legs – or discreetly probe my proboscis.

Whistler is slightly more sophisticated than sleepy Kimberley. Kimberley’s Northstar Mountain has five chairlifts. Whistler and her sister mountain Blackcomb have 37, including the incredible Peak 2 Peak gondola that spans 4.4 kilometers and whisks skiers between the two resorts in a matter of minutes. When completed a few years ago it was the longest and highest lift in the world.

Peak 2 Peak Gondola

The lift capacity at Whistler/Blackcomb is an unimaginable 65,507 skiers per hour. At that rate the entire population of Red Deer could be boosted to the top of the mountain in about an hour and a half.

Gerry’s Volkls (front right) stacked amongst hundreds of other skis

Snow conditions throughout B.C. have been great this year. Each day tens of thousands of stoked skiers shared Whistler’s terrain with us. The 2010 Olympics ended nearly 9 years ago, but the party carries on. The hills and streets echo with languages and accents from around the globe.

The Olympics ended almost nine years ago but the Whistler party carries on

Our Saskatchewan friends, Joe and Carla, are gung ho: first in line for the 8:30 a.m. gondola opening and last down the hill for après ski festivities. They frequent the blue runs (easily logging over 20,000 vertical feet in a day). I enjoy these cruising runs but find I lack speed restraint – and my aging bones aren’t up for a high-velocity crash. My new passion is tree skiing, a slower but more rewarding, methodical way of descending the hill.

And that’s how my encounter with the Whistler precipice happened.

Arcing headfirst, I careened down the snowy cliff-face, employed an unintended somersault and landed flat in the middle of a cat track.  I lay still, a puddled mess, piecing together the previous few moments of existence.

Miraculously, I was unscathed. My skis and poles were jammed part way up the cliff, deeply scathed. I climbed up, retrieved my battered equipment and tentatively skied down to the chairlift where my Saskatoon acquaintances awaited. It was they who had suggested I might enjoy that treacherous black trail.

“How was the run?” asked Joe.

“I wouldn’t recommend it,” I said, emptying snow from inside my goggles.

That night we relaxed in front of a roaring fire, enjoying the view across Nita Lake and the glowing mansions fronting Whistler.

The foggy daytime view across Nita Lake

In the morning we bid adieu to our prairie friends and our Whistler digs, packed the Subaru and, avoiding the congested Vancouver corridor, took an alternate route home, north up Hwy 99 through Pemberton and down the narrow, perilous pass into Lillooet and thence back onto Hwy 1 at Kamloops. En route I had a rather close call with a cliff. But that’s another story.

Hwy 99 North through Pemberton and Lillooet is spectacular and avoids busy Vancouver

Gerry Feehan QC practised law in Red Deer for 27 years before starting his second life as a freelance travel writer and photographer. He says that, while being a lawyer is more remunerative than travel writing, it isn’t nearly as much fun. When not on the road, Gerry and his wife Florence live in Red Deer and Kimberley, BC. Todayville is proud to work with Gerry to re-publish some of his most compelling stories from his vast catalogue developed over more than a decade of travel.

Gerry Feehan

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8 miles off the coast of Ireland Gerry Feehan’s “Buddy-Hike” discovers the Skellig Islands

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Skellig Islands, Ireland (part 3 of a 3 part series)

Click to read Part 1, Gerry’s buddy trip to Ireland

We will travel again but in the meantime, enjoy Gerry’s ‘Buddy Trip to Ireland’

Click to read Part 2, Hiking in Ireland

Hiking in Ireland (part 2 of a 3 part series)

 

The remains of Skellig Michael’s 6th century monastery

Although the fine details of our trip to the Emerald Isle had been neatly settled months before leaving Canada, the folks at www.irelandwalkhikebike.com contacted me shortly before our departure to suggest a change in the itinerary. We could skip a day of hiking Ireland’s west coast and instead visit the Skellig Islands, a craggy set of rocks poking forlornly out of the Celtic Sea, eight rough miles off the Kerry coast. Initially I was reluctant to dedicate an entire day to seasickness. But there was something in the tone of the email that suggested this was an opportunity not to be missed. And so, foregoing my own health and thinking first of others—as I am wont to do—the boat trip for our group of six was booked.

We arrived in the sleepy seaside town of Cahersiveen on the fourth day of our weeklong Irish trekking adventure. Elaine, our hiking guide, drove us to the boat and cheerily waved goodbye. She doesn’t fare well at sea either and was happy to keep her feet dry for the day. When we arrived at the pier the sky was grey and the sea looked rough. There were a lot of anxious-looking people milling about the wharf. I wandered over to a fellow who was tying knots or scaling barnacles or some such other salty-dog task that identified him as a mariner. He was in fact the first mate. I inquired as to how the boat ride might be.

He turned to me, squinted, looked up at the sky and said, “It’s going to be terrible.”

“How terrible?” I asked.

“Miserable terrible” he said, with conviction.

“Can things get worse than miserable terrible,” I asked.

“Aye,” said he, “there’s awful terrible. That’s when, as you leave the pub, you hold your hand over your face so the wind don’t blow your teeth out.”

Reassured, I stepped around the back of the boat, practiced my vomiting stance, then returned to the gangplank, stepped aboard and prepared myself for a truly awful experience.

The 90-minute motor out was windy, choppy and exposed. The small boat rolled and rocked in the constant swell. But I’ve learned from vast seafaring experience that the best method to prevent seasickness is to stand up, hang on and concentrate unfailingly on the horizon. This I did for an hour and a half and landed with a full stomach—which is more than I can say for the pretty young Irish lass who, by the time the Skelligs came into sight, was tossing her breakfast of rashers and black pudding over the stern.

We weren’t sure what to expect of the Skelligs—other than the rough boat ride, a lot of nesting seabirds and a steep set of steps up a cliff to some ancient Gaelic ruins. As we neared the tight landing at Skellig Michael, birds were soaring and diving in a feeding frenzy. “What are they?” I asked the first mate.

“The big ones, those are gannets,” he answered, “And the little colourful fellars, them are puffins.”

My wife Florence looked up from her knitting. (Yes, she can knit onboard a dinghy in a gale.) “Puffins? Did you say puffins?” “Aye, Atlantic puffins ma’am, in breeding plumage.”

Florence was so excited she nearly dropped a stitch. She has yearned to see puffins for years. I thought we’d need to visit Greenland or Labrador or some other remote, inaccessible place to view these remarkable birds. And lo, here, on a last-minute Irish hiking side-trip, the cute little cliff dwellers appeared in unexpected, colourful brilliance—magnificent mating feathers on full display.

The small boat rocked into the landing. The first mate quickly tied off as the captain helped us hop-step onto the pier. Within seconds the boat was gone, back into the rough offshore sea, where she would wait, bobbing like a cork, for the two hours of our Skellig visit. We stumbled off the landing, regained our land legs and looked up. A narrow, exposed staircase, carved into the uneven rock face rose steeply upward, beyond the ken of craned necks.

Access to the islands is forbidden without a local guide. Our escort, Sinead explained that Skellig Michael was inhabited by Gaelic monks starting in the sixth century and then abandoned a few centuries later. It was these early voyagers who had carved the sheer staircase directly into the rock. At the precarious summit 180 meters up, they had built a few lonely stone structures. Here they lived a life of cold, isolated austerity, living off fish and bird’s eggs—scraping a meagre sustenance from the infertile rock.

The guide told us the steps were steep and uneven, with no handrails – and that those with even an ounce of acrophobia in their veins should not attempt the climb. Properly forewarned and with eyes cast downward to avert the consequences of a misstep, we began our ascent up the 880 steps to the monastery on the stony peak.

It’s 880 precarious stone steps to the summit

As we climbed nesting puffins, mere feet away, went about their business, oblivious to our presence. These birds evolved in an environment lacking predators. With its magnificent ruins and endemic unworried birds, Skellig Michael is a perfect mix between Machu Pichu and the Galapagos Islands.

Atlantic puffins in full breeding plumage

When we reached the top, the summit flattened into a small walled compound of beehive structures made entirely of stacked stone. And despite the absence of masonry, these lonely dwellings have withstood a thousand battering years of Irish rain and wind.

 

The Skellig Islands poke forlornly out of the Celtic Sea

The opening scene in the newest Star Wars movie was filmed at Skellig Michael. An unfortunate bi-product of this Hollywood notoriety will be a “Star Wars” chaser industry, where tourists converge on the island, not to observe the stark beauty of a 6th century monastery or the glorious plumage of horny puffins, but to see where Luke Skywalker eerily pronounced, “It is time for the Jedi to end.” Even without the boat ride, it makes one want to puke.

When we returned to the wharf, the weather had softened. The return boat trip was reasonably benign. Elaine awaited us when we docked, looking refreshed after a quiet stroll in the green fens above Cahersiveen. “Well, how was it?” she asked. The others gushed on about the stone stairs, the view, the ruins and the Darwinian fauna experience. I looked at her, holding my hand over my mouth in feigned illness, and said, “Wow”.

If you go: www.irelandwalkhikebike.com

Gerry Feehan is an award-winning travel writer and photographer. He and his wife Florence now live in Kimberley, BC!

Thanks to Kennedy Wealth Management and Ing and McKee Insurance for sponsoring this series.  Click on their ads and learn more about these long-term local businesses.

Angling and adventure greet our intrepid traveller on Padre Island

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Because it’s Friday – Here’s WAFFLE NYC – Unbelievable video shot in a moving train

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Happy Friday from Todayville!

Here’s a short pick me up that you’ll want to be watching and sharing all weekend.  This incredibly talented group is WAFFLE.  Their bio is below.  You may want to hit up their Facebook page if you just can’t get enough.  Get ready for the best subway ride of your life!

Hands down the Best Subway Ride ‼️🚇🕺🔥🧇

Tag a friend 👥👀 || #Wafflenyc #Dance #viral #viralvideo #AGT2020 #GoldenBuzzerFollow our Socials 📱⬇️IG: WaffleNYC TikTok: WaffleNYC 🧇🍽‼️

Posted by WAFFLE NYC on Friday, July 10, 2020

WAFFLE (We Are Family For Life Entertainment) is an innovative New York City-Based artist collective from almost all 5 boroughs. The group was founded by Andrew Saunders (Goofy), Yushon Stroughn (Sonic), and Joel Leitch (Aero Ace) in 2011. The inspiration behind the name came from hearing “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge.

Many of the members knew each other in their mid teens through weekly LiteFeet battle events but were in different crews at the time. On their way downtown to these events, they would perform on the subway to be able to pay the entrance fee. You wouldn’t win anything but it was a way to gain exposure in the neighborhood/NYC boroughs. After a while it became very repetitive and the exposure wasn’t enough. Select members from other crews came together with the common goal to branch out and reach a bigger, more diverse audience. What better way to achieve this? Continuing to perform on the NYC subway was just the thing to do and this was the beginning of WAFFLE.

Learning how to work together and taking commuter’s advice built their character as young entrepreneurs and helped save their parents’ money. After a while, other LiteFeet dancers caught on to what WAFFLE was doing routinely. Many were afraid of judgment so they didn’t perform. Other dancers started catching on and non-dancers started copying their daily routines. Many didn’t know how to make the transition from just dancing to actually entertaining. At first people enjoyed the performances but due to the rapid growth, there were more complaints.

Luckily the crew’s mindset was on reaching above ground before this all occurred. The money earned was invested into growing the crew. Buying uniforms & business cards helped separate them from others around this time. The crew would randomly hand out business cards without knowing whom exactly they were given to until people started to reach out. Social media also played a big role in their success.

WAFFLE has also had the opportunity to do work outside of New York City. They’ve traveled to Los Angeles, Atlanta, Paris, Argentina, London, and Turkey. People weren’t exactly familiar with LiteFeet so they would label them as break-dancers and call them “Showtime Dancers,” which is the popular catch phrase for subway performances. Most people had some knowledge of what LiteFeet was but for those who didn’t, a brief explanation was given to them.

LiteFeet is an underground dance style that originated in Harlem in 2005 and ventured into all five boroughs of NYC. Its creativity began once it hit the Bronx. It has even expanded to countries such as Japan, Paris, Argentina, Russia, etc. The term means being light on your feet while dancing. Some of the basic moves of LiteFeet consists of dance trends blended together such as the “Chicken Noodle Soup,” the “Harlem Shake,” “Tone Wop,” and the “Bad One.” There are many more. You can also blend any type of dance style with LiteFeet as long as you use some of the basic moves and lock in. “Lockin’ in” is the term used to describe the finishing move just as a period would end a sentence. What differentiates LiteFeet from any other dance style is the use of props such as sneakers and baseball caps. Using any type of sneakers doesn’t work so Adidas Superstars are favored when doing shoe tricks. Many believe LiteFeet is the rebirth of hip-hop culture not only from dance, but also from the music aspect of it. It has a boom bap feel with an extra kick to it. The thumping beat box tunes is called LiteFeet Music, which mixes hip-hop, funk, electro beat & any other genres with a hip-hop structured sound.

WAFFLE Members Kid The Wiz, Chris Designs, & Lil Live serve as producers to help create the unique sound for the LiteFeet community. People don’t realize that the culture is still growing. WAFFLE’s ultimate goal is to expand the knowledge of LiteFeet and to be a positive influence to everyone around the world

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november, 2020

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