Fort St. John Hospitality

We spent the weekend in Fort St. John at the BC Winter Games. We are really proud of our kids for reaching some Person Bests this weekend! As well, our son with his friends are bringing home a bronze medal: BC Winter Games Success. But the hospitality Fort St. John offered was amazing.

We stayed at the Pomeroy Inn & Suites. The hotel chain had their first location in Fort St. John back in 1941. There is now 8 locations in BC and Alberta. Their accommodations were clean and the breakfast was filling. It’s no wonder that the Pomeroy also supported the building of the Long Track Speed Skating arena. It helps boost tourism into the city.

For lunches, my wife discovered the most amazing donair place. A little hole in the wall with delicious food. Fort St. John has been hiding this secret place from the rest of us. We ate there three days in a row. FST Donair- remember that name if you ever find yourself in Fort St. John!

After the Saturday events, we went to a Social put on by the Northern Lights College. We enjoyed some beers, snacks and a hot chocolate bar. It was a nice way to mingle with some locals and other parents who came to watch their kids perform in the games.

Closing Ceremonies
(The Big Screen showing off our son to the crowd. Another proud moment.)

Finally, I want to acknowledge the city and people of Fort St. John. They were kind, friendly and very helpful all weekend long. Visiting Northern BC was never really on my must-travel-to locations in the past. But as we’ve been to Fort St. John a couple of times now within the year, I can see why people would live here or visit more often.

I expect to visit a few more times over the years as our son progresses with his Speed Skating goals. Perhaps we will discover some more hidden gems in their city that I can share.

Map It Out

The map you read is not the land you travel.

I realized that no matter what map you follow- there is more to explore if you look around. I have often experienced more from life by just trying to figure out where I am by using landmarks. Maps are just “guidelines” for how to get somewhere. GPS doubly so. When I use the navigation in my car to get to places I’ve been before-it’s more just to see the time when I will arrive, not the route to use.

Maps help you get from point A to point B. They’re two dimensional. Maps don’t give you information on what you will see on your journey or the people you’ll meet. Sure looking online might show a landmark or recommend a sight to see, but that’s still not the land in which you travel.

Life is similar in many ways.

You map out a goal and figure out how to achieve it. There may be stops and detours along the way that your map didn’t show you. If you stay the course, you’ll get to the destination. Or maybe your destination will change. In which case you map out a new route. Just remember to check out the land in which you travel.

There’s more to life than just reaching that destination. Explore the world.

The Floater

My experience at work has me jumping from location to location in my home terminal. Which makes me feel uneasy and a bit doubtful of my abilities.

Am I that good- that my work can move me willy nilly all over the place? Or am I that bad- that they can’t figure out a good place for me?

I’d like to think it’s the first option. I am pretty good at a couple of the locations. But I think I’m just middle of the road when it comes to others.

What has happened now is that I have become a “Floater“. My coworkers say to me, “Didn’t I see you someplace else last week?” Or “Weren’t you at a different location? Are you going to stay here permanently?” I have become like a human version of the eye floater. Appearing in your vision for a moment, just to disappear as you try and focus on me. It feels like I’m here but not.

In the end, I guess I’m reliable enough to help out where needed. Arrive in a flash and gone in an instant- leaving behind nothing more than a memory of my presence.

Joe- The Human Eye Floater

The Void

We always do something unique for every trip we take to Disneyland. This year we hit a place called “The Void” in Downtown Disney. We played though “The Secrets of the Empire” which was Star Wars based.

I wish I could’ve taken photos inside. The VR was more than just wearing goggles. You go in and harness up with a helmet and vest. It was pretty intense. Not only do you see a 360° view of everything, there is so much more. As you turn your head, the sound is full 360° as well. Your other senses also get assaulted. You feel the heat and cold as you actually move through the levels.

Yes- you walk around!

There are smells and scents as well depending on where you go. And you grab at stuff, interact with buttons, and shoot blasters! The storyline reacts to what you do.

My wife and I teamed up while our kids went off on their own. The interactivity in the VR world was incredible. It was a ton of fun. While we were doing it, we were fully immersed. By the end, it was all too real. Afterwards, my wife felt her fear of heights was almost real even though we were planted firmly on the ground. It was sensory overload, but worth every penny.

What we experienced was amazing. Worth the cost and such a wicked memory was created. If I could share what I saw- you’d be amazed. Even though it was about thirty minutes of play, it felt like a full movie. An interactive movie.

Absolutely crazy.

Check out The Void for other adventures.

Steam Train

The best trip I ever took on the railroad was being the conductor moving a steam train from Squamish to North Vancouver. This was on December 7th/2010 in the early morning. I briefly mentioned my adventure in Proud of Where I Work. The Royal Hudson was a majestic machine.

Being canvased to take this train in the wee hours of the morning didn’t bother me at all. When the crew caller told me it was as for a steam train- I bolted out of bed like a kid on Christmas morning and accepted the call. I arrived at the yard office an hour early waiting to get on board.

My engineer and I were taken in a taxi to the West Coast Railway Heritage Park where the engine was housed. We were called more as “pilots” to help the crew as they travelled on CN’s tracks. In the coach cars behind us were media and some higher management types. Once we got going, the trip south was smooth. Mostly I was in charge of lining switches and talking on the radio.

We stopped once on the side of the highway. This was to perform a quick inspection to make sure the wheels weren’t running hot. This allowed for a ton of photos as well. My boss had given me permission to use my camera while on duty- otherwise we generally aren’t supposed to. The public also stopped alongside us numerous times to get a quick photo of the famed Royal Hudson locomotive and coach cars.

When we arrived at our destination- we parked next to a diesel locomotive getting fuel in order for our engine to get filled with more water. Even though my journey as conductor ended here only three hours after it began, I stayed longer to ask questions of the volunteers who take care of the engine.

Yes, volunteerstake care of this engine. There is not a lot of money allocated from any railroad in order to preserve these machines. The museum brings in a bit, but it’s the train buffs who volunteer time and effort to keep these things running.

Alas, two days later, the engine returned to Squamish and has not been brought out on the main line since then. When I retire from CN Rail, I think I may put forth some of my time towards keeping these beauties around for future generations.

Bohemian Rhapsody 

I’ve been a pretty big Queen fan for many years, since before “Wayne’s World” made Freddie Mercury popular again in 1992… (I watched that movie a dozen times in the theater- I could recite it almost verbatim back in the day).  It was back in 1984, at the end of “Revenge of the Nerds” when We are The Champions played.  The song and feel good moment struck a chord in me at the young age of 9.  I was never going to be a jock.  I was a nerd.  That song set my life on a path that made me proud to like what I like.  

Ah, cassettes. Good times… good times.


As an adult, I used to play Queen all the time in my home.  That is, until my first daughter was born.  Before even reaching age two, she cried whenever I put Queen on so I stopped listening for many years in my home.  Even on cd, there were complaints in my car.  This was probably more due to the volume and dad’s *amazing* singing voice than the Queen songs themselves. 

Bohemian Rhapsody is a song that I have heard many times throughout my life.  I’ve rewatched live performances of Queen and wished that Freddie was still alive.  But since that’s not the case, his music lives on in recorded sound and imagery.  The Muppets even made a music video a couple years back as a tribute.  Everyone I know can sing this song… And sing the opera part, and sing the guitar & drums… Lots of singing and head banging.  But Freddie did it best.  Some say he could sing in four different octaves and was able to manipulate his voice in order to create the sound.  Quick link here.

Google. It’s like you’re in my head!


Earlier this month Google released a VR version titled The Bohemian Rhapsody Experience.  So, I downloaded the app.  I have watched and rewatched it numerous times already.  It is visually appealing and is so well done, that I wouldn’t be surprised if living artists try it as well.  Viewing it was reminiscent of watching a Pink Floyd Laser Show at the planetarium… Oooo flashbacks

What’s in the box?


I’m a big proponent of VR and have experienced many forms firsthand.  Now I am tempted to purchase a VR headset for my iPhone in order to truly immerse myself into that world.  Besides a $15 cardboard box from Google, real VR is actually kind of pricey.  VR still remains in its infancy as it jumps from being science fiction to reality.  Seriously though, try out the VR App of Bohemian Rhapsody, you’ll thank me.

Just try not to head bang too wildly, the VR headset may come flying off and you would come back to reality too quick.

Westie For A Day

Here we go…  Yesterday I mentioned briefly about stepping out of my comfort zone.  Now, I’m going to share my experience.  I was invited to attend “Westie for a day” offered up by the Canadian Forces- now in its 15th year.

 

Armory in New West

Our morning started off in New Westminster at the Armory where we were greeted and signed a waiver.  Coffee was offered up and we boarded a charter bus before heading off to Chilliwack.  It was a quiet ride on the bus for me.  Not many people wanted to speak to a guy with blue hair wearing a Deadpool t-shirt.  But I listened to the conversations around me.  It sounded like the experience was going to be new for most of the guys on the bus.  I also overheard some history of the military in the Lower Mainland and how things have evolved over the years.

 

Beautiful scenery for firing weapons off.

We arrived in Chilliwack and were taken to the firing range used by the Armed Forces.  We were all here to experience a bit of what the reserves do.  Some people, like myself, have never fired a machine gun (maybe it’s a Canadian thing).  We were given a quick course showing how to load, unload, and fire the guns.  Safety was reiterated over and over.  This wasn’t going to be a game.

My friend who invited me was there to help out when it came time to fire the guns.  I turned forty a few weeks ago, and now was the time for me to fire my first real gun ever.  Not a hand gun, shotgun, or rifle to start.  I went straight for the big gun- the C6 Medium Machine Gun.

 

Ready to fire my first weapon.

“Son-of-a-bitch” was the term I was told to use each time I pulled the trigger.  That would allow for short bursts of firepower.  Damn.  The term was accurate for how much force the gun had.  It was awesome.  120 rounds went 100 meters in a matter of seconds.  I paused a few times to try and adjust my aim.  Afterwards, my buddy told me that the gun was “dumbed down” because it was too accurate for a machine gun.  The military wanted it to intimidate with a sweep rather than precision shooting.  I still did pretty good and got near the target more often than not.
We then went on to fire a C9 light machine gun.  My accuracy was improving and I really enjoyed firing this gun.  At the end of the familiarization of the use of the guns- I must have looked like a kid at Christmas getting all the gifts I wanted.  I was grinning from ear to ear and had a rush of  adrenaline pumping through me.  Finally, at age 40, I became a man.  Lol

 

I know some soccer moms who could use this to move 30 people around.

We walked back to our transportation and headed for our next location-the Kill House.  This is a location being used for the past ten years to train in urban combat and building clearing.  We, the civilians, were taken inside and given a demonstration of how the training was done.  We were then given the opportunity to try what we had just seen using a C7. We were in groups of three with two instructors assisting us in the Level 4 training exercises.  Apparently Level 4 takes years to get to, but we were doing it on the first day, only an hour after using the firing range!

 

After a while, I became one with my weapon.

We did a few practice shots & then our group began doing the room clearing exercises.  We started slow, to build up a rhythm, and as we went on we worked through the challenge as a team.  Best team building experience I have ever had.  After about 12-15 room clears, we were becoming cohesive.  Darting into a room or hallway, looking around corners, behind doors, and watching each other’s backs was becoming second nature.  By the end, we were sweating but didn’t want to stop.


The day ended with dinner and more discussion about the day’s events.  As a token of thanks for coming out, we were each given a commemorative coin.  We took a bus back to the armory and during the ride I made some new friends.  The guy with the blue hair was now being talked with and we were all connected more than when we started our day.  My comfort zone has now been expanded and I’m glad for that.

I have a new found respect and understanding for The Canadian Armed Forces Reservists.  Seeing and experiencing firsthand what they do and the challenges they meet was eye opening.

Did I mention that I finally fired a gun?