What Do You Do?

When we meet someone new this is often the first question that is exchanged – “What Do You Do?”.  In many ways it helps to form an understanding about the person we’re talking to.  I’ve always felt a bit awkward answering this question – I don’t really feel like my occupation defines me very well.  Maybe you feel this way too?  I’m also not really one to talk a lot about my interests and the things that are most important to me, so I thought maybe I’d make a list. Perhaps I should make up a business card that has a link to this post 🙂

The Stuff About Me List (in no particular order)

  • handyman – When I met my spouse she kept being told that “I’m a handy guy to have around”.  I think that’s true – I like building and fixing things – I’ve built more decks in my lifetime than I can remember at this point, as well as renovating houses, tinkering with electronics, fixing and building all sorts of contraptions.
  • creative person – I get inspiration for new ideas fairly regularly and keep a notebook of things that I think are interesting.  Some of them turn into actual things – many are ideas that may have a future sometime, or that someone else has also come up with and put into action.  For the record, somewhere in my notes is something that looks kinda similar to what we now know as social media – just saying 😉
  • reiki energy healer – This is a fairly recent addition but one that I’m feeling more and more is an important part of my life.  I first experienced reiki over 10 years ago and now, after taking the first 2 levels of reiki training, I’m able to channel the energy myself and learning a lot as I go.  I plan to complete the master course next year.
  • artist – I am a continual student of the arts.  I have done acrylic painting for a number of years now (mostly abstract) and I read and study a fair bit about art/colour/composition etc.
  • scotch – I’m a bit of a beginner scotch enthusiast. Not that I just started enjoying scotch, it’s just that I don’t consider myself much of an expert on it.  I just enjoy it and like exploring the different types and tastes.  I follow this blog written by someone who knows a ton more about scotch than me.
  • beer – Same goes for beer.  I have an app I use to keep track of beers I’ve tried and that number has gotten up pretty high over the couple of years since starting to log it.
  • musician – I love music and enjoy playing music.  I play at the guitar, hack away at the piano/keyboard and enjoy music composition.  I haven’t done as much with music as I’d like – I think there will be more to come – someday.
  • father/husband – I am both and I think I do a pretty good job at it. My family is very important to me and we often do many of the other things I’ve listed here together.
  • cars – I’ve always been interested in cars and know a fair bit about different makes/models.  I can often barely remember the names of people I’ve met but I could tell you the make and model of many vehicles just by looking at the tail lights.  This year I finally got to drive a Lamborghini – which has been a dream of mine since I was a kid.  I’ve also been fascinated with the idea of autonomous vehicles since I first heard about the concept, probably 20 years ago now.
  • outdoors – I love nature and the outdoors.  This includes hiking, camping, kayaking, boating, atving, gardening etc.  Exploring different parks/forests/trails/waterfalls/lakes around Ontario is lots of fun.  My favourite place in the world is still our family cottage on Basswood Lake.
  • photography – I have a lot to learn when it comes to photography but it’s something I dabble in and enjoy.  I take a lot of photos (and video) – with my Canon Digital SLR, GoPro Hero5 and the plain old smart phone.  The GoPro is a fairly recent addition and I’ve experimented a bit with underwater and body/bike mounted action video.
  • dj – This one has lain dormant for many years now, but back in the day I used to dj a bit – some dances, a couple weddings, house parties etc.  I’m afraid (or thankful?) that my taste in music and collection hasn’t much kept up with the times.  In many ways I never really moved past the 90s grunge era 🙂  Oh, and my favourite musician of all time is Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails.
  • softball – For the last 2 summers I’ve been playing in a small softball league here in the Soo.  I hadn’t played in years before that and it’s been nice to get back into it, get some fresh air and meet some nice people.

So there you go, a bit more comprehensive understanding than what you might get from my intro as “web programmer at the Canadian Wildlife Federation”.

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.