Epic Journey: North America cross country drive, Sherbrooke/Montreal

I had been looking forward to bringing Ed to my home province for so long. I’m a Quebec city girl through and through and I couldn’t wait to show Ed my old stomping ground. As I look through my photo gallery, though, I realize that I was so much in my emotions that I totally forgot to take pictures. We spend almost a week in French Canada and I took a total of two pictures. One with a high school friend I was visiting (not a blog-type picture) and another for the next post.

So first stop was Sherbrooke. First stop should have probably been Montreal, but the map in my head was wrong so I made arrangements for Sherbrooke first, then Montreal. (By the way, the Quebec part of the trip was probably the most work to plan because there was so many people I wanted to see and I had to coordinate my schedule around them. Which is probably easy for all you socials out there, but I can barely send a Facebook message, much less coordinate visits with 5-10 different parties in a matter of 5 days.)

Oh! And I remembered you can do maps with Paint (I’m so spoiled with nice software that I forget Paint can do a lot of things, and is way easier to use too), so here’s a map:

That's sorta the road we took.

That’s sorta the road we took.

Anyway, to get to Sherbrooke from New Jersey I had to take a tunnel through NYC (a 13$ tunnel dammit. Another thing about East Coast driving, avoiding tolls is waaaaay harder than in the Midwest.) There were lots and lots of cars and it moved very slowly and I gave myself a pat on the shoulders for travelling on a weekend and not during weekday rush hour. From that day onward, I have been bragging about the time I “drove in NYC“.

We stayed with my friend MC in Sherbrooke, whom I was really excited to see again. We became friends in CEGEP in Quebec city and fell out of touch for awhile. She contacted me when she was travelling in the Rockies and her and one of her friends stayed a night or two at my appartment. I have a lot of admiration for MC, she’s extremely genuine, intelligent and thoughtful. Her friend is just like her, so we hit it off really well and I was very happy to have supper with both of them in Sherbrooke.

An interesting fact is that I actually lived in Sherbrooke for nearly 3 years. I did my undergrad at the university there. Another interesting fact is that I remember next to nothing about the city.

My friends took Ed and I for a walking tour around town and, with a few exceptions (funny how well I remembered the bus station) it was like the first time I was there. I mean, Sherbrooke HAS changed in the…8? (omg has it really been 8 years?) since I left, it’s always been a lovely place but I feel like it’s really growing and finding its identity now, but still, you’d think I’d remember more of it.

After a night in Sherbrooke, we got up early and set out to meet my high school friend and her young family in Longueuil (south shore of Montreal). I tried to show Ed my old school on the way out, but the roads were wierd (I accidently even ran a red light..oops!), we were running late and I couldn’t find the way into campus. So I pointed it out in the distance and we drove as fast as possible to Montreal.

The meetup with A and her family was sadly pretty short. I suspect I caught them at a bad time, so we just had brunch together and went our separate ways. A was the first out of our circle of friends to get married and have kids (actually, I think she is the only one married since our other friend with a family doesn’t believe in marriage) and I was so thrilled to meet her little one. It’s funny how I feel like none of us have really changed, yet our lives are so different than they were when we went out into the world at 16-17.

After brunch I painfully made my way onto the island (for the geographically challenged, Montreal proper is an island) to meet up with another friend, also named A. Again, I congratulated myself on the choice of day: Sunday is the perfect time to visit Montreal. The parking was both ample and cheap. And to my greatest relief, no one broke into my car (nor vandalized it for no reason, which seems to happen to a lot of people when they visit Montreal).

A2 had just moved into a trendy apartment near the old port so after showing us his cool new dwelling (and his fantastic workplace…I was seriously considering a career change after seeing where he works!), we brought Ed down to see old Montreal. “It’s like a crowded Quebec city” I explained to him, eager to show him the real thing.

And because I was anxious to get to my brother’s place in Quebec city before it got too late, after supper we hopped in the car, I got us onto the 40 (I know the 20 is faster, and my GPS was quite angry with me but I have so many happy childhood memories of the 40 that I was determined to stir up) and off we went. (Hmm, I made that sound so much simpler than it was… After been honked at dozens of times, caught in a handful of intersections, hyperventilating as I barely made it through a bagillion left hand turns, we made it onto the 40 without me dying of a heart attack. I brag about the NYC drive, but the Montreal one was so, oh so so so, much worse.)

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Epic Journey: North America cross country drive, New Jersey

So much about writing regularly about all my adventures, yeah. It’s been awhile.

I don’t know if anyone still remembers my existence, but a promise is a promise (and that does include post cards which I promised many people… they are sitting next to my bed waiting to be written) so here I am, trying to catch up.

I made it to Australia, I got to tour the Sydney and Melbourne regions a bit and I’ve been working on a farm on the Liverpool plains for the past two weeks. It’s everything I dreamed of when I decided on this part of the Epic Journey so you won’t be hearing any complaints from me! (Except maybe on how expensive the internet is, which is a major reason I haven’t been around but that’s a topic for another day.)

But before we were so rudely interrupted by my lack of writing, I was telling about my drive across the continent. I believe I left off while I was staying with Ed in New Jersey. It seems right to pick up from there.

I did originally write part 2 of the Epic North America Drive as one big post, but even by keeping my writing to the depth of “we went to x and it was fun“, it was too long to be worthwhile. So to make this travelling journaling more readable, I’ll feed it to the blog bit by bit.

Oh and I was going to make a nice map of the whole drive to make visual types, like myself, happy, but I realized I don’t have any imaging software on this computer and not enough data to download one. So you’ll just have to look at the one on the previous post and imagine the line being all the same colour. (The map isn’t 100% accurate regarding my itinerary, but it’s close enough.)

The second part of that journey leg was really different from the first. No less hectic – I don’t know how to be not-hectic, but instead of exploring my focus was more about reconnecting with (and showing Ed) places that are significant from me. Because, no matter how much I try to escape it, I was born and raised on the East Coast.

New Jersey

When you’re driving, you know when you cross the invisible border between the Midwest and the East Coast. Your thoughts go from “why is everyone driving so slow?” to “HOW THE HELL CAN EVERYONE DRIVE SO FAST?!?!” Your bladder becomes easier to empty, the gas prices skyrise and you longingly reminisce on having 6 lanes to yourself as you try to squeeze into the one, winding, hilly lane that somehow fits two directions of traffic, several packs of joggers, a lost herd of cattle and a pair of cyclists (plus that guy who finds some way to pass you).

I’ve always kinda wondered how anyone could live in New Jersey. It has the knack of being too crowded and too sprawled at the same time, it has very little local pride, it’s stupidly expensive for no reason, and, besides beaches and Atlantic city, it doesn’t advertise any really memorable feature. Since sampling its driving conditions, I REALLY wonder how anyone can live in New Jersey and be willing to step outside their houses.

But regardless, it’s Ed’s home state and we had plenty to do. (“What are we going to do at your place for almost one whole week?” I asked. Silly me.) We met up with our guild leader for most of a day (which is something I always look forward to when I got to New Jersey. Meeting up with guildies is like my favorite to do and our guild leader is a super cool guy.) We went to dinner with one of Ed’s clients/friends and her brother in New York (Becco’s – a higher end but still super reasonably priced Italian place in…um… a part of NYC that looks a lot like everywhere else in NYC), also a fantastic evening. Thinking back, I should have used the oppertunity to dress up, with it being NYC and all but… I think by the time I reached the East Coast I was so tired of packing and repacking that I was just wearing one of two outfits (nice outfit or comfy outfit) all the time.

Then Ed talked me into canoe-camping.

Generally I’m the outdoorsey one in the relationship. He’s a great sport (and i mean it – a really great sport. I’ve dragged him to do so many crazy, uncomfortable things and he NEVER complains) about eveything. Camping, though, is one of those things I did lots of as a kid/teenager and I feel like I’ve been there, done that about it. But Ed loves camping. And he likes canoing. I don’t play well with others so kayaking is my sport. My canoeing excursions generally end with me turning my paddle into a weapon. But since he always follows me on my adventures, I gave it a go. And it ended up being really fun.

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We floated down the Delaware River Gap, which runs between Pennsylvania and New Jersey (and not Delaware, at least not at that height).

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I can see why a lot of canoe camping journeys use it: it was perfect. (If you’re looking to do the same thing as us, the company we went with was Kittatinny Canoes. They did a good job and, as far as I can tell, they were easy to book/deal with.)

The water is calm, but there’s enough of a current to keep us from having to work hard. I asked for a shortish route, so we did 21 miles and we probably could have finished in one day. (But what’s the fun in that?) The whole river is beautiful (I swear! My pictures just kinda suck.) and there are nice campspots to choose from along the way.

We were lucky with the weather (besides the lack of light not being ideal for photos). It did rain. And thunder and lightning and flash flood warnings and everything, but it did so after we finished supper and got our campsite all ready. So we barely go wet at all. I was nervous about the canoes getting washed away, but clever thinking had us pull them way up on the shore and tipped outside down, so everything was fine the next morning. (Other people we met were not so lucky: one group had to hunt down an escaped canoe at 3 am. If any of my childhood canoe camping in a wet climate adventures taught me anything, its how to keep canoes from fleeing into a swollen river.)

By morning, the rain had almost stopped and by the time we were ready to set off, it had dried up completely. I know. Look up “lucky” in the dictionnary and you’ll see a picture of our faces.

As a side note, I got really dirty. Like, really, really dirty. No matter how much I scrubbed, it took me a good week to get all the dirt off me. I realize how old and no-fun I’m getting: there was a time where being THAT dirty would have been the coolest. Ah well.

Next stop, the Westernish part of La Belle Province!

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The Epic Drive Thus Far

Blue is what I've done, Red is still upcoming.

Blue is what I’ve done, Red is still upcoming.

I added it up and since leaving home I’ve spent 296.32$CAN on gas. The mileage, I didn’t track. Did have to stop for an oil change in Winnipeg though.

So far it’s been pretty smooth. No flat tires, no car break-ins, no encounters with unsavory types, no collisions… Knock on wood.

I’ve kept with my main goal of “doing cool things in cool places“, but as far as keeping records, well, let’s just say I update Facebook once in awhile so my mom doesn’t think I’ve died a horrible death. Even with forcing myself to take it easy, I still seem keep running from place to place until I collapse from exhaustion.

On a side note, like all trips I do, I’ve been in constant battle with myself, with, on one side, the urge to see every friend ONE MORE TIME and DO ALL THE THINGS, and on the other, an OMG I JUST NEED A FEW HOURS OF PRIVACY. Don’t let it fool you, travelling alone does not mean travelling lonely. Half the time I’m just looking for excuses to lock myself in a bathroom with a book for an hour so I can do nothing and not feel guilty (Disclosure: I am writing these very lines while locked in a bathroom with my laptop and my phone).

Anyway, back to the happy stuff. A detailed recap of everything I’ve done would be super boring and take forever, but for those who are interested in my adventures, or who are planning this kind of journey themselves, here’s a summery of the places I went, the lodgings I found, the food I ate and the fun things I found to do.

Stop: Edmonton

Henna art done at the Pakistan tent during the Heritage Festival. (I swear that my hands are not usually this swollen. Was a hot day.)

Henna art done at the Pakistan tent during the Heritage Festival. (I swear that my hands are not usually this swollen. Was a hot day.)

Where I stayed: HI-Edmonton Hostel (2 nights), Fannon‘s (1 night)
What I remember eating: Food I brought with me, the yummy ethnic food of Edmonton’s Heritage Festival and an amazing homecooked meal at the Fannon household.
What I did: Heritage Days and went to Fannon’s birthday party.
Comments:
I stay in Edmonton all the time, so this was mainly to wish Fannon happy birthday (and return the book I borrowed from him – good book by the way. You should read it.) and meet his newborn son, as well as say goodbye to a former coworker who’d helped me out when I first moved here. My stay happily coincided with Edmonton’s Heritage Days, which is one of my favorite events. Each local ethnic community puts up a tent and sells foods and crafts, presents some samples of their culture and just radiates awesomeness. If you’re in Edmonton, Heritage Days is a must-see. On my way out of the city, I also stopped at Ben‘s. After all those hours in WoW challenge modes together, I was glad to finally have the oppertunity to visit him. I did forget my (horse)riding boots at his place, though. Oops.

Stop: Calgary
Where I stayed: HI-Calgary Hostel (1 night)
What I remember eating: Chicken at Boxwood
What I did: Had supper with Voss and Vid
Comments:
Like Edmonton, I’ve visited Calgary enough times that I was pretty much just there to say hello and goodbye to some friends whom I really don’t get to see enough. If you’re visiting Western Canada, though, stop 3-4 days in Calgary. It has the vibe (and the delicious food!) of any modern city, with some good ol’ fashion cowboy feels. Typically Alberta.

Stop: Regina

The Willow on Wescana.

The Willow on Wescana.

Where I stayed: HI-Regina Hostel (2 nights)
What I remember eating: Soup and bison (or other game…I can’t remember!) burger at the Willow on Wescana.
What I did: Visited the Saskatchewan Legislature Building, rollerbladed in Wescana Centre, explored downtown.
Comments:
Regina isn’t a very big city and I was satisfied after a full day there. Wescana Centre is really lovely and I was super excited to get to take out my rollerblades. The multipurpose path isn’t maintained QUITE well enough for easy blading, but I did manage to skate around most of the park. The hostel was quiet and cosy and I kinda felt bad for the staff. The place is a little run down, but I don’t think they get nearly enough traffic to have the funds to really renovate. Other than the showers hidden in the basement of the hostel (I swear I was terrified of being assaulted each time I took a shower), I really enjoyed the hostel and wished I could do something to help them.

Stop: Winnipeg

What a great view point!

What a great view point!

Where I stayed: Couch surfed with the best host ever! (3 nights)
What I remember eating: Many dishes at Folklorama! Meiji Sushi, Bodegoes at the Stadium.
What I did: The Brazillian, Japanese and Chinese pavillions at Folklorama, shopping at the Forks, touring St Boniface, seeing a Goldeyes (baseball) game, exclusive tour of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Assiniboine Park/Zoo
Comments:
The more I get to know Winnipeg, the more I solidify my belief that Winnipeg is Canada’s most underrated city. (Perhaps because I have yet to see its Winterpeg incarnation!) It seems like there’s always something happening and something new to discover around every corner. The hostel I had stayed at last time had changed ownership and didn’t seem like somewhere I wanted to be anymore, so I decided to try my luck at Couch Surfing…. BEST DECISION EVER! My host was just amazing. I stayed with her for 2 days and 3 nights and she made sure I had a safe and action-packed stay in her city. She worked at the Ballet, so I got a free tour, got to meet many of her coworkers (my little girl within was exstatic about meeting professional ballet dancers and my grown up self was delighted to see some behind the scenes magic), including a world renown choreagrapher. She took me to a baseball game, the local market and to the French district (St Boniface). Once again, Winnipeg was a journey highlight. I’m not really one for long term city life, but I think my love affair with Winnipeg could one day extend to the possibility of me settling there for a few years.

Stop: Itasca State Park, Minnesota

So peaceful!

So peaceful!

Where I stayed: HI-Mississipi Headwaters Hostel (1 Night)
What I remember eating: A can of soup I had brought with me.
What I did: Hiked and took lots of pictures.
Comments:
After the hussle and bussle of cities (and before the hussle and bussle of more cities), I was super happy to turn into Itasca State Park. And while I was expecting some relief, I had no idea how impressed I’d be. I hiked around for a few hours after I got there (saw the starting point of the Mississipi! So cool!), just completely in awe of how beautiful and peaceful it was. And yep, this is coming from the girl who spent the last 3 years hiking Jasper. It’s just a totally different kind of beautiful. After the cliffs and peaks and other Rocky Mountains drama, it was soothing to see Mother Nature take on a more gentle presentation. The hostel was quite exceptional as well. I was the only traveller staying, which was a bonus, but even if the place had been busy, the impeccable rooms, the spacious kitchen, the excellent bathrooms and the lovely manager made me vow to tell everyone about how they should make a trip to Itasca and stay at the hostel.

Stop: Milwaukee

Where I stayed: Oestrus‘ Couch (1 Night)
What I remember eating: Transfer Pizzeria. Stopped at Caleo Coffeehouse in Kenosha on the way out.
What I did: Caught up with the awesome O and hot yoga.
Comments:
Milwaukee is another underated city, although a few wrong turns can bring you into some odd looking neighbourhoods. This time I wasn’t staying long enough to linger (O had to go kick some Magic ass at Gen Con the next day), but we did go to eat at one her favorite places (just in time for their Foodie Week special too!) and got all caught up on our girl talk. I hadn’t realized how much I missed her! After she went to work the next day, I hit up a local hot yoga place for something to do before heading to Chicago. It was glorious! I did a lot better than expected too. Usually I spend half my Bikram classes on my back, on the verge of consciousness. This time I only got really lightheaded 3 times. No almost puking and no blacking out! (One day I’ll reach the point where my hot yoga goals will be to twist myself into barely human shapes. For now, it is still to get through a class without dizzy spells.) After a refreshing shower, I drove to Kenosha, right on the border, to have lunch, drink coffee and plan my next stop (and enjoy my last hour of not stressing over the possibility of my car getting smashed up by thieves).

Stop: Chicago

Chicago: City of the Best Secret Tiny Backyards

Chicago: City of the Best Secret Tiny Backyards

Where I stayed: Wrigley Hostel (3 Nights)
What I remember eating: Chicago Food Planet’s Gold Coast and Old Town Food Tour, Joy Yee’s Noodles, Commonweath Tavern
What I did: Food tour, yeaaaaah!!!!! Explored the Gold Coast and Chinatown. Met up with Team Sport guildies Thespius and Jayme at the Commonweath Tavern, then with Red Tear guildy Noldor at Ravina Park for a picnic on the lawn during Don Giovani.
Comments:
Oh how I love Chicago. Like Winnipeg, this was a city I’d visited before and promised myself I’d visit again. I walk into stuff while gaping at the architecture. I eat so much I get sick. I learn a shit ton. I bond with people on the train whenever it jolts and we fall into each others laps. I have the best times with old gaming friends. I always say I’d never live in the US (or in a city), but for Chicago…. I could be convinced. This time around, Chicago Food Planet’s affordable food tours were one of the many discoveries I made. If you’re heading to Chicago, check them out! (Ask for Krista as a guide – she’s fantastic! I want to be her friend so bad it’s not even funny.) Another discovery was Ravinia Park. I was looking for a show that was more….calm… than those I normally go to and stumbled upon Don Giovani, performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Chorus, at Ravinia Park. Then my former guildy Noldor suggested we meet up so I asked if he wanted to come along. And wow! From now on, this is the official grounds of all gaming meetups! It was perfect – the low key atmosphere, the beautiful music, the picnic setting… I highly recommend it. I also got to hang out with some other guildies whose feelings I probably hurt by not letting them know I was in town (I thought they were going to Gen Con! AND I didn’t want to seem like a creepy stalker). More people that I didn’t realize how much I missed them. Talk of fun friendly game nights was had… Gotta put this together, even if I’m overseas for the near future!

Stop: Malabar Farm, Ohio

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Where I stayed: HI-Lucas Malabar Hostel (2 Nights)
What I remember eating: The Reuben at the Malabar Farm Restaurant
What I did: Hiked, visited the farm and did some tours.
Comments:
After all the running around Chicago I did, the pastoral setting of Malabar Farm was a great place to recover. I set personal sleeping records (the hostel beds there are SO comfortable!) and spend my full day there leisurely strolling through the farm grounds (instead of blogging like I was supposed to). The farm has a lot more history than I expected: Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall were married there, famous author (and kinda of all-around cool guy) Louis Bromfield lived there and ghost hunters flock to catch a glimpse of Ceely Rose.

And then I tackled the 9 hour drive through the rest of Ohio, Pennsylvania and half of New Jersey. But my adventures that point on are for another update.

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The Epic Journey Begins! (Much more quietly than expected.)

Today is Sunday. I’ve been unemployed since Wednesday and technically homeless since Thursday. (I say “technically” since, as far as homelessness goes, living out of my car and sleeping in hostels is pretty luxurious.)

I had lots of notes about moving out of my apartment and into storage. I had notes about my last day at work. I had notes about the fun times I had at Edmonton’s Heritage Days/Festival.

I had so many notes and blog post ideas, but as the stress of customer service, of performing and of not killing people by accident is replaced by the more mundane stress of booking hostels, complaining that the friends I want to visit don’t answer their emails and hoping that no one breaks into my car, all that’s left is a lot of sleepyness. It took a couple of days to kick in- I suppose a lifetime of being ALL-GO-ALL-THE-TIME takes a while to wear off- but more and more I wonder if I’m an early victim of the zombie apocalypse.

My interactions go like this:

Other person: Hi!
Me: Heeeeeeeeyyyy…..
Other person: How are you?
Me: …sorry….what was thaaaaaaat?
Other person: How are you?
Me: Oh… Gooooooood.
Other person: ….
Me: Oooooh, how about youuuuu?
Other person: Good, thank you! Do you remember me?
Me: *little bit of drool*

Yeaaaaaaah

Anyway, here’s the general itinerary. I’ve rehearse it so often that even in my zombiness, I can still recite it flawlessly:

Part 1: Driving to Nova Scotia to leave car with parents
– Edmonton
– Calgary
– Regina
– Winnipeg
– Small town in Minnesota
– Milwaukee area and/or Chicago
– Small town in Ohio
– New Jersey
– Sherbrooke/Montreal
– Quebec city
– Miramichi
– Cap Breton

Part 2 – Australia
– Flying from Sydney, Canada to Sydney, Australia (HAHAHAHA)
– Have surfing/ranch camps in September (That’s right, not too old for camp!)
– May or may not work based on whether someone will hire me only for 2-3 months.

Part 3- South East Asia
– Spending 2 months in a small village in Thailand
– Then going wherever. Planning ahead is overrated.

Part 4- Returning home
– When I run out of money, get tired of travelling, or government wants me home. Whichever happens first.
– Don’t know where I’m coming home to. Would like to work up North, but we’ll see. Would also like to get into international health.

As usual with my backpacking trips, if you’re reading this, live somewhere along my itinairy and would like to hang out, I love meeting new people. Feel free to get in touch.

(And to those friends who never check their emails, please check your emails, hugs and kisses)

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Crossed off my Rockies Bucket List: HI-Hilda Creek Wilderness Hostel

My time in Rockies in running out and I’m racing through each of my free days to get everything done that I wanted to do. This weekend’s tackle was HI-Hilda Creek.

Whenever I drive home from Banff or Lake Louise, I use the outhouse at Parker Ridge. (I affectionately and conveniently call the piece of road just south of Parker Ridge the “toilet bowl” not only because of its proximity to the Parker Ridge Outhouse but also because of it’s build on a down-spiral.) Less than a km north of Parker Ridge, there is a little hostel sign with an arrow and the word “Hilda”. Every time I drive by the “Hilda” sign, I wish I was staying there.

This weekend, I decided to make that wish a reality.

Continue reading

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Because you can never have too many Banff pictures

While Day One was a little rough, Day Two came together wonderfully. I guess it helps when you can actually see the snow! I’m paying for it now (wearing pants is such torture, OMG), but I did manage to ski at pretty much 90% capacity on Monday and Tuesday. Even got a respectable amount of black diamonds and moguls in. Was seriously tempted by some double blacks too (or perhaps it was by the cute Aussie backcountry skiiers…) but I was a good girl (especially since I was skiing alone) and opted to not push myself into situations I might not be able to get out of.

Anyway, since there’s not a whole lot to say and pictures are worth many words, here are some pictures of Days 2 and 3, taken by my shaking, cold hand on my phone:

Early morning on Day 2

Early morning on Day 2

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Banff Trip 041

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Quick pic at a pit stop on the way home.

And for those who can’t get enough mountain pictures, the full album should be public on Facebook.

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First Day of Skiing with a Spinal Cord Injury.

After a long month of long hours at work coupled with an MS attack that took my lower body out of commission, I’m finally back on the skihill!

See?

Morning in Banff

Morning in Banff

You know, I generally have a pretty positive attitude toward my immune-system eaten spine. The rebelious lower body comes and goes and I know one day it’ll stop working for good. I’m ok with that. I work in health care. Every day I see people, even young people, forced to relearn to live due to spinal cord injuries. For most of them, it was sudden. Their sports, their ambitions, their dancing – bam! Gone in a flash. Me, I’m lucky. I’m super, super lucky: I had the fortune of being warned. And a good, fair warning it was: over 15 years later I’m still making nearly full recoveries after every attack. I’ve had lots of time for dance and gymnastics, skiing and hiking. I have one more trip planned and then I’ll be ready. Of course, the more time the better, but yeah, no regrets.

So I haven’t completely recovered from this attack. I don’t have full use of my legs yet but I figured I’d get back on my skis since, you know, having bought a pass and all. Besides, since moving out here, I’ve always found healing in the mountains. Whether I’m sad, stressed, tired, sickly or just in dire need of exercise, they’ve been there for me. (Mountains are always there for you. You can always find them at the same spot, time after time.) So, I thought, why not turn to them for some physiotherapy as well?

Mother Nature at her finest.

Mother Nature at her finest.

Today was the big first day! As you can see by the pictures, the weather didn’t cooperate much. For the most part, it was snowing and winding hard. They even had to close most of the chairlifs early. But! At least it wasn’t -30 or raining.

The flatlight (for you non-skiiers, flatlight happens when the light isn’t bright enough and you can’t see the snow, not even the snow that’s super close to you) was a little hard to deal with too. Even with goggles supposedly made for bad weather, I was blind. On my first run of the day, I wondered for a moment why I couldn’t go forward. Took a little wiggling around to realize that my skis were, in fact, stuck in a snowdrift as high as my waist.

As for my legs…

I have to say, it was a little frustrating to be strugging on runs that I would have flown through normally. Especially since the snow was soft (seriously! It was like light light flour. I desperately wanted to rub my cheek on it. ) and the powder was bountiful. I could picture myself gliding around the moguls, catching the little jumps and digging my edges to carve the semi-steep slopes.

Instead I probably looked like a first timer as I learned to ski all over again.

I’ve been trained to ski mainly with my ankles. It’s hard to convey this to beginners who look down in amazement at the iron bindings firmly clasped around their lower extremities, but my feet are always moving. They feel the ground and they adjust over and over again. But now I have very little control over my ankles. The nerve damage in my feet is a double wammy, making the feeling of pins and needles (very similar to when you stand up after losing circulation in your feet for awhile) quiiiite uncomfortable and masking whatever signals the ground was trying send. Skiing without relying primarily on my feet to read the snow for me was like being 4 years old and discovering long slidy shoes for the first time all over again.

Then, my knees and my hips are still pretty restricted. I don’t use them the same way as I do my ankles, but they’re still supposed to take whatever orders my feet send them. They’re supposed to bend or unbend as needed so that I can flow with the bumps and dives of trails. Muscles that refuse to relax make that usual flexion/extension process a tad more complicated. I felt pretty rigid. In turn, the rigidity forced my weight backwards, causing me to lose my balance a lot. I had a million flashbacks of my ski teachers of yore shouting at me: “Get off the toilet seat! Stop leaning back!”

While I seemed pretty doomed to failure, I got a bit better after the first few runs. It was painful and took a lot of concentration, but I was able to get in a few excellent turns. I mainly stuck to blue (intermediate) runs but I did succeed on a few black diamonds that, I swear, I ended up on completely by accident. I looked a bit stupid, I think, and I was slow, much slower than usual, but thankfully, the flatlight and resulting blindness forced just about everyone to take their time, lest they find themselves falling off a cliff or getting stuck in a snowdrift.

I took an approximately 90 minute break midday to eat lunch and check into my hotel room (staying right on the mountain, yay!). I considered lying down to nap, but I itched with the urge to head back outside for some extra torture. I ended up going on for quite some time, long enough to catch the very last lift up before the center closed for the day.

That last trip was worth it too. The Sunday crowds were gone so I had the hill to myself. And my mountains smiled on me, shining some sun through the storm and giving me a glorious flatlight-free final run.

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