Vegas Experiences

We recently spent a few days in Vegas.  Krista was attending a conference for public historians and I went along to see what this Vegas place is all about.  I didn’t do a whole lot of gambling but there are plenty of other things to do around this city.  I spent some time touring the strip and most of the hotels/resorts that can be found along the way. One day walked all the way up Las Vegas Blvd through some rather rundown areas, which of course included numerous garish and cheesy wedding chapels, as well as the pawn shop made famous by the tv show “Pawn Stars” (it was crazy busy in there), all the way up to Freemont Street.  That’s the pedestrian zone with the zip line that runs directly above the street.  There are all sorts of interesting and bizarre people and things to see there and along the way.

Before heading down to Nevada I did a bit of searching online to see what kinds of things I might want to do while there.  My search unearthed all sorts of possibilities but the one that caught my eye immediately was the chance to drive a Lamborghini on a race track.  I’ve always dreamed of driving one and here was a chance to get in one and really see what it can do!  So I signed up at Exotics Racing and on April 17, 2018 I finally got to drive a Lamborghini.  It was a Gallardo – the smallest of the 3 current production models – but still plenty of power for this sports car newbie.  The only other thing close I’ve driven before this was a 1980’s Porsche 911 – under the watchful eye of it’s owner.

The experience at Exotics Racing is very professional.  After checking in the first step is attending their classroom training session where they go over the basics of driving a high performance vehicle as well as what you can expect for the rest of the experience.  Next is a couple test laps driven by a staff member in a Porche SUV.  They take it easy on the first lap explaining where to aim/look around each corner, when to brake etc.  On the 2nd lap he really opened it up and, given that it’s an SUV with a higher center of gravity, you really feel the g-force around the corners and the somewhat disconcerting seeming potential for roll-over.  But they are professional drivers and know the limits of these vehicles and like to push those limits within the range that is safe.

After that’s completed the “main event” comes.  Each person is taken for their drive with an instructor “co-pilot” who provides verbal instructions for when to brake, shift gears (all cars are paddle-shifted – no manual transmissions) and where to look etc.  It can take a while to wait your turn with the size of the groups so they encourage everyone to look around and get into any of the cars you want until they’re ready for you to hit the track.  I was surprised at the open access to all the cars – it was really cool being able to hop in and out of so many supercars. Here’s a few video clips I took with my GoPro wandering around and getting in and out of some of these very expensive vehicles.

The other cool thing they do is record the entire experience on the track for you and put together this neat video (below).  There is an additional charge for the priviledge of having the video to keep of course, but it’s a very well done presentation and in my case I know it’s something I will watch over and over again.  Near the beginning you’ll see another car enter the track before I go – that is a professional driver taking someone for a ride in their Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat edition (over 700hp).  He gets the back end drifting around all the corners.  Near the end of the video my instructor makes a crack about me being a pretty good driver “for a Canadian”.  Bit of an inside joke since before hand he told me he was born in Red Deer Alberta 🙂  Apparently the Gallardo is one of the more difficult cars to handle as well – the brakes are very sensitive especially.  All things considered I think I did pretty well, and managed to pass the more powerful Huracan to boot.

This experience was definitely the highlight of the trip for me.  There are lots of other “extreme” experiences available in Vegas – shooting off many types of guns is one of them, and I heard that you can even drive a tank over a car at one place!  But driving a Lamborghini was the experience of a lifetime I was looking for and I’m so glad I did it.

B is for Biking

Photograph of bike

New bike!

Until this year I hadn’t rode a bike since I was a teenager.  Even as a kid my bike exposure what some what limited, I grew up on a hilly country road so going for a bike ride wasn’t something we didn’t do on an every day basis. There was one summer where I biked to the next concession every day for a couple of weeks to cat sit.  That was my first experience biking beside a highway and really turned me off biking on unpaved shoulders.  I also biked occasionally in town when visiting my Grandma.

Since our move into town in January Andrew and I have been talking about biking and this Spring I got a bike! The Soo has some surprisingly bike friendly areas – the bike lane on Queen Streets makes a bike ride to my work not so hazardous and the hub trail is a great way to explore the city on a bike friendly path.  As a family we’ve been using our bikes to visit local parks and playgrounds.  It’s been a joy to explore our neighbourhood via bikes and to find new places for us to play as a family.  I’ve also loved looking at the gardens on the numerous side streets we’ve been biking down.

Next week, while Little Miss is staying with her grandparents, I’m hoping to bike to work a few times.  I love the idea of an active commute and seeing the city from a different perspective.

Natural Heritage: Pancake Bay

PancakeBay

Pancake Bay

A few weeks ago we went on our first camping adventure visited Pancake Bay Provincial Park for the first time.  Pancake is located on the shore of Lake Superior, has more than 3 km of sand beach, hiking and nature trails, and a location on the paddling route of the Voyageurs.  The shoreline is beautiful, the park is well maintained, and there is educational signage throughout. The only downside of the location of the park is that is right next to the Trans-Canada highway, so on a still night you can hear transport trucks on the road.  During the first night of our stay Lake Superior was so rough all you could hear was the sound of the lake – it was a great example of the power of the big lake.

While at the park we explored the campground area and the Pancake Bay Nature Trail.  Many of the central points in the campground have educational signage about wildlife, Lake Superior, and the surrounding natural environment.  It was nice to see this natural heritage education material being included in central areas so that even those who don’t participate in formal programming could read about the area.

Pancake Bay Nature Trail

The nature trail was an easy 3.5 km walk that included views of the shoreline, forested areas, and a boardwalk through a wetland.  The interpretive signage through this natural heritage was well done and had a lot of educational information about the ancient beach ridges, rock formations, flora and fauna, and water.  There was one sign that had fallen down and there was a section of the trail that was extremely muddy.  The muddy section looked like it could use some signage or physical maintenance.

Pancake Bay Park staff also run a natural heritage education program during the summer months.  The timing of the guided walks and educational programs didn’t work for us, but it was great to see the signage relating to these events and I hope they are well participated in.  One of the programs while I was visiting included a guided walk on the beach and a discussion about the history of the Voyageurs in the area.

So far I’ve only visited a handful of Provincial Parks in Ontario but Pancake Bay was by far the most popular park I’ve visited. There are drawbacks and upsides to this popularity.  On the plus side there was a lot more educational signage and interpretive programming available in the park.  On the downside the natural heritage is heavily influenced by people and you’re bound to run into others when exploring the landscape.  Regardless, it was an enjoyable visit.

This post was cross-posted from Krista’s heritage focused blog at kristamccracken.ca

Camping: A Weekend of Firsts

This coming weekend we have booked a campsite at Pancake Bay Provincial Park on the shores of Lake Superior. This will be our daughter’s first camping trip and that makes it an extra special outing for us!  It’s also our first visit to Pancake Bay. We’ve heard good things about it and are looking forward to checking it out for ourselves. Additionally it will be the first time we take our little camper trailer out since we purchased and refurbished it.  I bought it a couple of years ago and have been slowly working away at getting it roadworthy and ready for camping again. It’s been a lot of work and there is still more to go but it’s been an enjoyable and rewarding process.

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Our refurbished camper

Upgrades to the trailer have included: new axle/rims/tires, exterior LED running/tail lights, battery, solar panel, power inverter, leveling jacks, sofabed cushions, curtains, window screens, roof vent, front window covers, exterior storage hatch latch and door step. I also removed a storage closet to make the interior space more roomy and replaced rotted wood where there had been leaks in the past (oh and fixed leaks!).

Still to come is interior and exterior painting, new flooring and whatever other new projects I come up with! In the mean time we will be enjoying our first trip in our little camper that is uniquely ours.