Desperate For Company

Next Wednesday I leave for Calgary Expo. I’m taking my 11 year old son and we are driving 10 hours from our home to get there. This is immediately after I finish a 12 hour night shift. By the time we get there, I’ll have been awake for over 24 hours. I’m not too excited about that aspect of the road trip…

This year, my wife cannot attend as she is only a couple of weeks into her new job. Because she booked for the show last year, we have a couple of tickets and a place already booked. At the show, my son and I will be able to wander a bit since we have many Convention Carny friends whom we trust that can look after our table. So now I’m trying to find a friend to come with me to share the driving duties. I have to make it through the mountains to the other side.

So I’ve tried to see if my friends on social media want to join me. I’m practically begging. I love my son and his company, but really shouldn’t let him drive the car.

But if it doesn’t pan out, I may have to find a Rest Area and take a quick power nap to recharge my batteries. Pretty sure Alberta has some nice Rest Areas.

I’m looking forward to the show no matter what. I have tons of good friends to see again. If I don’t hear from any of my other friends- it’ll be time to stock up on Red Bull and Coffee!

Center Of The Universe

I am not a spiritual man, nor am I religious. But I do have a desire to understand what it is that people find significant in the world. I have an open mind and respect those who differ from me. I also want to learn from mankind’s past. Visiting castles, museums, or places of worship help me to understand this world we live in.

Back in April of 2011- I travelled to the The Center Of The Universe. According to the Tibetan monks- this spiritual place is located in Vidette Lake, BC. Of course, I had to visit this spiritual location for myself. Thus it became a last minute trip that only my son and I went on.

To get there, we first had to drive from our home to Kamloops. Once there, we had to travel down a dirt road on the outskirts of Kamloops, BC. It felt like we were going to get lost. This was a time before GPS but I had a printed Google Map. Eventually we found the spot. No tourist signs. No kitschy souvenir shops. Not much of anything to signify a Spiritual Center. Here it was, just peaceful and serene.

I can understand why the monks feel it is a significant place. Nature sprawled out, no sounds of humanity, nothing but peace. My son and I have been to the “Spiritual Center Of The Universe”. That’s not something many people can say. It’s also not a place many know about. I hope it remains untouched and clean for others to be able to trek to for years to come.

Humanity’s Spiritual Journeys are an important aspect for discovering oneself.

Share the Road…

Yesterday we had a couple of last minute guests over for a Canada Day BBQ.  One was an old friend of mine from high school.  The other was her man she tagged along with as he brought a trailer down to the Fraser Valley.  He does a trip down to Vancouver once a week. It was neat to hear his stories of travel on the roads from the perspective of a trucker.

We have done road trips as a family throughout BC and Alberta. We have travelled down the West Coast of Washington State, Oregon, California, Nevada and Idaho. I have loved every minute of it. The majority of our drives are pretty spectacular.  The views of the mountains/ countryside/ cityscape are awe inspiring as they appear on the horizon.

As much as I hate being stuck behind a big rig or truck and trailer, I know that those people are just doing their jobs. Sometimes driving for long hours.  Really long hours driving, as I came to hear about yesterday.  It’s not fair to be upset at them for being on the road either.  Especially over a holiday long weekend. Because guaranteed, as much as I may be in a hurry to get to my destination- they are busy leaving behind family and friends. Of course there’s a bit of frustration when stuck in traffic or you set a time frame and miss it by an hour or two. 
But hey, your destination will still be there in the end.  So why not just relax. Read a bumper sticker or two.  Make silly faces at the van full of kids. Wave to the trucker as he safely pulls over to let you pass.

Why Not Fly?

Why don’t you just fly?

The Rogue is our new road tripper.

Because we’d miss out on hours of quality time and conversation. Flying is faster, but the cost is more and sometimes the headaches are too. Besides I just bought a new car only a few months ago and I love the luxury inside. Heated leather seats for the cold mountains. Full sunroof open in California letting in the breeze. XM radio playing whatever music we want. And scenery that is amazingly pretty.

I can’t get away from trains.

Plus with driving we discover parts of the world that we would miss. Today my wife and I stopped in at The Railroad Park Resort for a moment.  The rooms are all made of old train cabooses.  They even have an old dining car modified into a restaurant.  Next trip down- we will likely stay here.

Not only do we discover new attractions, we also stop at in at our favorite places. We hit In-N-Out Burger at least three times every trip.  Best burgers ever.  I think I mention this place far too often.  I can’t help it.  So tasty.

That’s me!

The drive into California is fun.  This may be a business trip for my wife, but it’s a vacation for me.  The art of the road trip isn’t as great as it once was.  That makes me sad.  We have done them for seven or eight years now with and without our children. Even the description of my blog mentions road trips… as well as trains, conventions, being a father and a geek…  That pretty much sums up my life over the past few years.  

I love every minute I spend in the car with my family.  It’s a quality time that usually has us all being nicer to one another for long periods. I miss my kids in a way this time.  But their toys are having a ton of fun!

Vacation Planning

When my wife and I got married, our honeymoon cost us about $400 and lasted three days.  This was our first vacation together.  We made the most of it.  We stayed at a B&B.  We had a couple of dinners out, bought some cheap kites to fly around the lagoon, rented a couples bike for an hour and went canoeing up a small creek.  I learned never to let my wife paddle a canoe, she learned that I can’t fly a kite.  It was simple and relaxing.  We went back for our one year anniversary for a night.  My wife was due with our first child within a few days of this.

But we didn’t vacation much after this.  We began to save for a home.  We also bought our first new car.  Then our second daughter was born.  We became busy with raising kids.  Our family was growing.  We had a third child a few years after.  We were now married for five years and no vacations were in sight for the near future.  Such was life.

First day at Disneyland in 2009. Early enough to stand at the gates waiting with anticipation.

Then it happened.  Early 2009 I got laid off.  I was given two days notice.  We had three small kids.  Six, four and two.  Being forced to take time off, I went on to the Disney website and booked a hotel and park tickets for us.  We left on the Friday driving straight down (24 hours with one four hour nap in a rest area).  We spent a week in Disneyland and forgot about all of our worries.  For under $2000 we had the experience of a lifetime.

When we returned home, we vowed to go to Disneyland every couple of years.  Turns out 18 months is the maximum time away that we can endure.  We have returned for Trick or Treating a few times and once for Spring Break.  Every time we go we make a new experience and set of memories.  I’m no expert on Disneyland, but I have a few tricks up my sleeve on how to make the most of a trip.

Sunset in Hawaii. 2014.

Besides Disneyland, we haven’t done much in the way of vacations.  We made it to Hawaii once for a Cheerleading competition.  We bought plane tickets and booked our hotel so far in advance that we ended up paying less than some of the other families that went along.  We stayed at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, and had all of the amenities we could need.  We loved that trip, but I’m not sure we will ever return to Hawaii.  There are plenty of other warm locations that we would love to travel to.

Side trip back from California through the desert.

Over the years we even incorporated a few extra days into my wife’s convention circuit.  Attending a variety of Comic Cons, we have had opportunities to see more of the world as we drive to and from the venues.  This is another huge money saver for us.  Adding a small detour doesn’t really add anything to our trip.  Plus my wife’s business makes enough that we pay cash for the hotels and use some of it as spending cash as we travel.

All of this is wonderful.  And generally inexpensive.  We budget like crazy to afford the trips.  We also plan months/years in advance.  We also enjoy that aspect of the vacation.  (At least I do.)

Planning their next stop back in 2009.

This year we have a couple conventions that were already booked and we also plan to go for a few days camping.  All of it either paid for already or not going to cost us much.  I have decided that we need to really expand for our next big vacation.  Worldwide expansion…

The Twilight Zone

I spoke previously about how much I love road trips.  Yesterday’s journey was odd…  Probably because it’s the same road travelled as we’ve done many times before: Our children watched DVDs of a show we’ve seen previously.  We have the best restaurants that we’ve enjoyed in the past marked out on a map.  We stop in “Small Town USA” for gas and a stretching of the legs.  We even stay in the same hotels because of the comfort and service we like.

However, with this “sameness” has brought something I never thought possible.  A sense of déjà vu has overwhelmed me.  Not because of the locations or the route we used, but rather everything and everyone else.  My interactions with the cashiers at the gas stations seemed repetitive, as if we’d danced this game before.  Talking about spending time with family and not eating in restaurants because of the cost.  At another gas station I spoke with a couple about their vehicle and every moment felt like I was reliving something from the past.  Even the cars we passed and clouds in the sky all resonated a similarity to a journey we once had.


The end of our day had us staying in a hotel that we’ve stayed at before.  Getting there shared the same issues as we had before: wrong turns and the same parking spot (or so it seems).  I lay in bed still awake watching tv after everyone else had fallen into slumber.  I turned the volume down so as not to disturb my family, and proceded to watch the same shows I watched the last time we were here.  Right before my turn to pass out for the night- I ended my television viewing on a couple classic episodes of “The Twilight Zone”.  Episodes that I know I’ve seen.  Ones that I may have even seen the last time we were here.

My life is in rerun, but now I am aware of what is going on.  Question is- should I change it or just keep on repeating the same mistakes and consequences…

Fast food

When it comes to fast food, something about convenience makes me happy.  I only have a couple of favorite burger places.  But these are located in the United States.  British Columbia doesn’t offer up the same value or quality when it comes to fast food.  I’m not saying I don’t eat from these places, far from it.  I “treat” myself about once or twice a month to McDonald’s or Wendy’s. It’s not really a treat, it’s more that I’m hungry and need something in my belly.

Declaration of Delicious. Americans don’t take their politics seriously.

We, as a family, don’t make a habit of going for fast food. My children have never asked for Happy Meals. But on our road trips, I have mapped out all of our stops and the kids get excited as we approach our next location.  Only a fifteen minute drive from our home in Canada to the nearest Jack In The Box.  I usually buy myself an Ultimate Cheesburger when we go.  So tasty, and bad for me…  I love that they have American Dr. Pepper on tap.  Yes, there is a difference between Canadian and American Dr. Pepper.  We also buy a box of churros to share for desert.

But the best fast food burger restaurant in the West Coast has to be In-N-Out Burger.  I have included on our road trip maps, the locations of the restaurants and exactly how long/far they are from place to place.  Every time we go, the line up is out the door.  We wait patiently.  This is our treat.  The burgers are fantastic and worth the wait.  In-N-Out also had a travel kitchen.  Once a year, over the past few years, it has journeyed into Canada.  They come up to our hometown of Langley, BC every September for the Langley Cruise-In.  Guess what?  People line up for hours for the one day they come here.  The smell of the food fills the air and reminds me of exactly why we enjoy their burgers.

Soon we shall be indulging in their food as we journey on our road trip to our conventions.  Perhaps a chocolate milkshake will be purchased as an extra treat if we all behave in the car.


I just got home from dropping my wife and daughter off at the Vancouver International Airport.  They are heading out for the weekend to Los Angeles for my daughter’s Cheer Leading competition.  It’s a relatively short flight, the competition is for one day, and then home again.  I’m going to miss them, but I hope they have fun.

Driving to the airport in the early morning prior to rush hour allowed us to have a nice conversation and I didn’t stress about the commute.  I even arrived home well before the roads started becoming busy.  I don’t think I’ve ever gone to an airport during the day/afternoon for a departure in my life.  It’s always around midnight or really early in the morning.

Flying metal tube!

There’s something about flying as the sun comes up that makes the experience magical.  Plus, you get to be in the air like a bird above the clouds, how cool is that?  Flying isn’t cheap.  It’s also sometimes a hassle.  Delays, weather problems, stinky passengers, cramped seating…  The list goes on.  What people are paying for- the convenience of getting from one place to another in a short period of time.

As a family, we don’t tend to fly places.  We do a good old fashioned road trip.  It may take longer, but we see more of the countryside and stop along the way to check out places that we would’ve just flown past.  A drive from our place to Los Angeles is roughly 19 hours straight there.  A flight is 3 hours.  Plus checking in time of about an hour or two early and an hour drive to the airport plus disembarking and finding luggage is about an hour or two.  Then finding and getting a ride to the hotel is up to an hour.  So flying in the end, would save about 12 hours travel time.

Driving a family of 5 costs us about $300 in fuel plus snacks/meals one way.  This allows us to have a vehicle at our disposal to travel and see the sights.  Flying a family of five then renting a car will cost $1500 for a non stop flight one way and a car rental of about $60/day.  If we wanted the cheapest flight for five, $950 with two stops lasting 12 hours.  Yes, flying saves time.  But driving saves us money.  I also find less headaches when driving.  I’m not stressed about what I can bring in my carry on, or details about my flight, or where I’m sitting in relation to the exit/washroom/stinky person.  Driving long distances is almost the same as a daily commute except you deal with a stuffy car, an occasional fight, or bathroom breaks.  Road trips aren’t for everyone and don’t get you overseas; and flying isn’t for everyone either.  Having an option of how to get somewhere is great.  Vacations and traveling is fun.

I’m looking forward to when they come home.  It’s always nice to be greeted by a loved one when you get back.  It may only be a couple of days, but it sometimes seems like an eternity.

The Great Outdoors

As much as I love technology, I’m also a fan of nature.  My home is surrounded by trees and we will be growing another vegetable garden this year.  In our last home, I spent four years pruning our two apple trees and kept the cherry blossom tree shaped like a weeping willow.  It sucked to find out that the people who moved in there immediately cut the trees down.  I’m not innocent here either- we cut down about a dozen trees the first year we moved into our current home as well.  But those were for safety reasons.  The trees were either too close to the house, almost dead, or were close to falling down anyways.

We live in a forest, so why not build an AT-ST?

I have a favorite tree in our yard.  We call it the elephant ear tree.  It is a tall crooked tree with large leaves (hence the name elephant ear tree) and it stands alone in the middle of the back of our property.  The tree feels like Tim Burton himself created it.  Throughout the rest of our yard there are firs, cedars, evergreens, vine maples and birch trees.  None of them as majestic as the elephant ear tree (I have no idea what it’s really called).

Living in British Columbia is a real pleasure.  As a family, we often find ourselves going for walks through various nature trails.  We can see many amazing wonders within about a 45 minute drive.  

There’s North Vancouver which had Lynn Canyon Park.  Or head out to Chilliwack and see Bridal Veil Falls.  Or head a little further east and visit the Othello Tunnels located at Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park. Or if water is more your thing, check out one of the many Vancouver area lakes.

We found a little spot five minutes away from home to cool off in fresh water.  We also hike into another spot that remains uncrowded.  Our kids and dog love cooling off in the water and we spend a nice picnic relaxing.

We also have beaches in the Lower Mainland.  My personal favorite is Crescent Beach in White Rock.  During the week in the summer is the best time to go.  Parking is free and there’s always a spot to sit on the sand.  Plus there’s really good fish and chips that you can enjoy while watching the sunset.

It’s great to have so much to do and see so close to home.  But even when we travel, we try and find sights that are awe inspiring.  In Alberta, we drove to the Hoodoos.  In Idaho, we drove out to Balanced Rock and Snake River Canyon.  We stopped numerous times as we drove from Death Valley through Nevada where the sky, the desert, the trails, are all amazing.


The other day I mentioned how much I love my job. I also enjoy my time away from there.  My vacations are now planned out for this year. This is the first time in many years that we aren’t heading to California in October and it seems strange.

Instead, this spring break we will head to California.  My wife has booked a couple conventions and I’m really excited about them.  Because… ROAD TRIP!


The end of Route 66.

We drive south at least once a year as a family.  My favorite part is the small stops we make along the way.  Good food, unique sites, and of course the beaches.

We spend about 24 hours driving down.  We hit Costco for some cheap food and gas.  We also hit at least two In-N-Out Burgers. Part of our journey involves watching “The Blue Planet” DVDs from BBC.  They are fantasticly visual and educational.  I’ve learned so much about our planet and my children enjoy the movies.

The journey is part of the reason we choose to drive.  We’ve seen some cool things and we spend time together talking.  Enjoying a road trip is a dying art.  Yes, my kids play with their Nintendo 3ds, iPads, or cellphones with headphones on when we need that small break from each other.  Surprisingly, the kids have put down these devices on their own accord just to look out the window to check out the scenery.

I know sometime soon we won’t all be going on these trips.  In fact a month later, we are doing a road trip without our eldest.  It will be strange.  I will be sad.  It won’t be the same.  I am putting my daughter’s education first and she is ok having a weekend away from her family.

Vacation is time away from routine.  It recharges and invigorates the soul.