# Shenanigans Are Nigh

Okay, maybe it’s not exactly the time for shenanigans, but shenanigans are nigh – so very, very nigh.

For those not in the know, I’m about to take a real vacation. What do I mean by real vacation? Only that I’m about to board a plane (requisite number 1), travel afar (requisite number 2), and do something crazy (requisite number 3) with someone almost as crazy as me (requisite number 4).

In this particular case, I’ll be boarding my flight to Calgary on Wednesday eve. You can rest assured knowing that my flight will more than likely include a scotch or two – because, well, VACATION!

On the other end of my flight will be fellow partner in adventuring shenaniganery, Mr. Rick. You may remember Rick from last year’s Big Mountain Challenge. You may also remember that last year’s Big Mountain Challenge happened at approximately this time last year – which makes this trip our Big Mountain Challenge-versary. While having a “versary” isn’t a requisite for any of my travels, it does up the awesomeness that is this trip.

What crazy things are we going to be doing? Well, in true “versary” style, we shall be celebrating the Big Mountain Challenge-versary by climbing several mountains. This may or may not include (but most likely will include) jump shots, yoga, high-fives, and seemingly death-defying photos that aren’t really in any way death-defying. Okay, maybe the death-defying photos involve things that most people would find crazy and such, but never fear – Rick is the voice of reason and has the power of veto should any of my ideas push the envelope of good taste or safety. Actually, he’s only ever vetoed things that push the safety envelope, because let’s face it, good taste is not really in our vocabulary. Ha!

So far I’m only aware of two adventures that we’ll be doing. The first – retake Mount Yamnuska. Apparently the first time Rick and I did this, we actually didn’t hit the peak. Clearly this is a mark on my otherwise spotless (Ha!) record, and it must be rectified. The second – conquer Mount Bourgeau.

I can’t freaking wait.

Of course, I still have a bunch of work to do before all of this happens. Which means I need to focus. Easier said than done. My brain is full of outdoors-y thoughts, mountains, fresh air, adventures, shenanigans, laughing, chatting and spending time with someone I don’t get to spend nearly enough time with.

Sigh. Only 52 more hours until my flight leaves. But who’s counting?

# A Cure For Last Night

Last night I had the pleasure of seeing my friends Lorna and Rick – correction, Dr. Lorna1 and Dr. Rick – become Dr. Lorna and Dr. Rick, married couple. While both of them looked absolutely fantastic – she stunningly breathtakingly beautiful, he tall and handsome – the best part would have to have been the way they both lit up when they looked at each other.

The ceremony was short, included some tears, but was filled mostly with laughter and fun. Kudos to the couple for dropping an awesome high-five when the vows were completed.

The reception was held at Hernder Estate Winery, and it was absolutely beautiful; great atmosphere, fantastic food, and of course some delicious wines to sample. Thirty different types to be exact. And sample we did. I particularly enjoyed the Riesling, but there were some reds that seemed to be popular at our table as well.

Given all of the liquid courage, the party went late into the eve. The dance floor was full, the music was fantastic; at some point glow sticks made their way onto the dance floor. The party was definitely worthy of a wedding celebration.

And then I woke up this morning. Blargh. While I wasn’t terribly hungover, I was definitely feeling the effects of drinking too much. I was sluggish, my stomach was doing a most unfortunate dance, and my muscles were rather sore. Oh, and then there was the dehydration. I couldn’t drink enough water this morning.

Fortunately the weather was amazing, so after lazing in bed for an hour or so hoping my hangover away, I got up, had a really hot shower, and then got ready for my day. My mission – head into Toronto before coming home to Guelph2. The purpose of my mission – there was none. I was just going to store my bags at the bus station and wander about. And that, dear readers, is what I did.

I arrived in Toronto shortly before 2pm, ate some food, drank some more water, then got myself a walking coffee. A walking coffee, for those not in the know, is any coffee that you get to go, for the purposes of strolling a city on a beautiful day such as today. And today was a walking coffee kind of day.

I had no particular goal in mind, no particular thing I wanted to see. I simply wanted to wander and people watch3 and perhaps just breathe in as much of the beautiful autumn air as I could. To be honest, with every breath in I started feeling more and more human and less and less like the hungover zombie I was. Every exhale seemed to remove a tiny bit of the poisons I’d pumped into my system the night before.

It truly was a fantastic day to wander around Toronto.

And now I’m home and relaxing with the wee fuzzball – thinking how full my weekend was. I really am a lucky bastard.

1 The recently minted Dr. Lorna!

2 As there is no direct bus route from St. Catharine‘s to Guelph. Unless you call driving to Toronto first direct.

3 People such as the preachers and prophets preaching about Jesus or Islam or any number of other religious views. I believe on one corner there were three separate groups for Jesus, and I’m not quite sure they were all preaching the same thing. When asked if I wanted a pamphlet about Christ – which I turned down – I was promptly told that I was going to burn in hell. I simply smiled – chuckled actually – and carried on my way.

# Walking The Edge

Apparently it’s almost the end of July.

While I love August, my feelings about this point in the summer are mixed. This probably relates to the fact that August serves as a reminder that the new semester is almost here and I still have so much to do to prep for it. There’s also a nagging voice in my head reminding me that there are several grant applications which need to be written1, and a stack of papers that I’m trying to write and submit before I get bogged down with teaching responsibilities.

To be honest, I have no idea how I’m going to complete everything that I need to complete by September. I’m sure I’ll manage it, I just fear what that might mean for my sleep.

And there’s always the important concept of time off to consider. I really need to take vacation between now and when the semester begins because I’m not going to have the time during the semester. More importantly, time off isn’t just a luxury, it’s good for me.

This is why I took yesterday off2. This is why I’m taking vacation beginning Thursday3. This is why I’ll be making a trip out to visit Rick for more mountain climbing at the end of August. And this is why I said Yes! Yes! Yes! A thousand times yes! when my friend Gerarda asked if I might want to join her on the 19th of August for the CN Tower Edge Walk. Given that I’d already suggested that this would happen, my answer should come as no surprise.

So today, between wandering downtown, enjoying the market, having coffee with friends at Planet Bean, wandering to With The Grain, and finally having a mid-afternoon snack of raw oysters and onion rings4 at Baker Street Station with Dr. Mark (@DrMarkKubert), I managed to send off an appropriate sum of money to Dr. Gerarda to cover the expense of dangling myself over the edge of the CN Tower.

I can’t wait to feel the adrenalin rush of leaning back from the edge and letting go. I can’t wait to experience the thrill of falling but not falling. And I can’t wait to dive – face forward – over the streets of Toronto.

Yes, the next month and the next semester are going to be insanely busy with work. Regardless, setting up these little oases of time off for relaxation, or running, or adrenalin seeking will no doubt get me through.

I am stoked!

1 All of which are due within the first 6 weeks of the new semester.

2 And holy flying crapshark it was awesome. So much so that I’ve been convinced today was Sunday pretty much the entire day.

4 Sounds like an odd combination, but oh so freaking tasty.

# Mmmmm, So Many Marshmallow Dream Bars

At some point in the next 48 hours I’m going to hit a new milestone on RunKeeper, and to be perfectly honest, it’s blowing my mind.

What exactly are you yammering on about? you wonder to yourself.

Well, dear readers, within the next 48 hours – assuming I walk or bike to work tomorrow, and assuming I go for a run tomorrow night – I should cross the threshold of three hundred thousand Calories tracked using RunKeeper.

I repeat. Three. Hundred. Thousand.

I started using this app in December of 2008 (sporadically), and if you had told me then that I’d track so many Calories1 I’d have thought you insane.

Since installing it on my iPhone, RunKeeper has become a staple in my exercise program. I log all of my walks, hikes, bikes, and runs with it. Even the seemingly trivial jaunt to the grocery store is logged, because every step, stride, and pedal count when it comes to health2.

As of today, I’ve logged a total of 886 activities which have burned a collective 299111 Calories. Since Starbucks no longer offers my old staple treat – the Old Fashioned Glazed donut – I will instead convert this Caloric total into the equivalent of my new staple treat – the Starbucks Marshmallow Dream Bar. Each and every Dream Bar – also known as a Rice Krispie Square to most of the world – has 210 Calories. That means I’ve burned off enough Calories to eat approximately 1424 Dream Bars. And that, dear friends, is a butt-load of marshmallowy gooey goodness.

So far this year I’ve burned 83821 Calories by walking, hiking, running, or biking for approximately 216 hours and covering a distance of 1625.9 kilometres.

All I can say is Yowzers!

How does this compare to previous years?

Excellent question. According to RunKeeper (which automatically plots some pretty sweet graphs),

• 2011 saw me log 120605 Calories, 371 hours, and 2868.5 kilometres, while
• 2010 saw me log 85450 Calories, 262 hours, and 2546.2 kilometres.

Based on these numbers I think it’s pretty obvious that 2012 is going to be an epic Calorie burning year. Beyond the numbers, it amazes me how much more active I am than last year or in 20104.

Anyway, for those who haven’t done the calculation, I have only 889 Calories to go before I cross the three hundred thousand Calorie threshold. And what’s 889 Calories? It’s a bike to and from school, and about an hour on the treadmill.

I’ve so got this.

And you know what – I think I’m going to celebrate with a Dream Bar. Maybe two. Because it’s all about balance.

1 Especially since each individual exercise event seems to burn off so few.

2 The only thing I don’t record are my yoga sessions3.

3 I have a spreadsheet for tracking those, naturally.

4 Of course I realize that last year I was sidetracked by my hernia surgery, so last year was still pretty awesome, all things hernia related considered.

# A Great Start…

The Canada Day weekend is on us, and I have to say it has started off most excellently. Most excellently indeed.

For starters, the weather has been beautiful – blue skies with just the right amount of clouds, lots of sunshine, and for me at least, hot but not too hot. I’ve managed to get to the market, have coffee with my friend Bang, go on a long walk, go biking, go running, and relax with the wee fuzzball.

And that was just today.

Yesterday – the official beginning to the Canada Day long weekend – included a farewell party of sorts for Dr. Dom. He’s leaving Guelph on Sunday for his new home of Regina. The celebration began at The Baker Street Station. Of course that meant tasty beer, tasty onion rings, and tasty chicken wings. A meal fit for kings – or in this case, four nerdly friends.

We eventually made our way to the Red Brick Cafe to enjoy the night air outside with a bottle of white wine. I can’t recall what kind of wine it was because by that point I was two-beer drunk2. Regardless, I remember it being quite tasty but I also remember having to pass off most of my glass to Dylan because I was already two-beer drunk.

Now I’m off to Jamie’s (the Jamie of the original Jamie and fuzzball team1) to sit outside in the garden, have a few drinks, and enjoy the last moments of the day. Which seems like the perfect end to a pretty fantastic day.

Oh, and in honour of Canada Day, and because William Shatner is the man, I offer you the following video (which was passed on to me by Aqleema).

Happy Canada Day weekend all y’all. And Good luck Dom in your new home. You’ll definitely be missed3.

1 You may recall that I adopted the fuzzball off of Jamie when he had to move.

2 Technically I was well past two-beer drunk, but I wasn’t counting, and really – I was drunk after two beers. Because I’m apparently a lightweight.

3 P.S. Elliot says meow. I assume that means thanks for the treats, because he pounced on them like a fat kid on Smarties.

# The First Step Is A Big One

So apparently I really like jumping out of perfectly good planes1.

That’s right folks, today marked the second time in my 36-point-something years in which I hurtled myself towards the earth from a height in excess of 12000 feet, with only fabric preventing me from plummeting to a very flat end. And as was the case with my first jump, I loved every freaking second of it.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Today was a very long day – but for all of the right reasons. It started relatively early so that we3 could try to get through Toronto rush hour traffic prior to our 10am appointment with gravity. The day started with a warning-slash-educational video; the same video we saw when we were jumping in Hawaii. After that we were given a booklet of waivers and forms that we were to review, sign, date, sign again, date again, sign once more, initial, check, date, sign, and witness. Oh, and sign and date again.

After so many pages, I basically gave in and just signed and dated anything – even if it asked for a phone number or address. I’m pretty sure that in the chaotic symphony of signing and dating, I signed and dated away the parental control over my first-born child. This means I don’t need to save for their education, right?

Next up – further training, some waiting, more training, and then we were fitted for our jumpsuits. This included a sporty jump-cap, gloves, and of course the harness that makes sure we remain attached to our jump-master.

In no time the plane was taking off. Rick and I were sitting near the back going over last-minute instructions with our jump-masters, chatting with each other, checking our altimeters, and watching as the ground sped away below.

And then the door was open and Rick was gone. I watched in amazement as he fell away beneath the plane.

And then I was at the door’s edge with crossed arms and an arched back. I took one as-deep-as-I-could-breath and then I was falling. Or floating. Or flying. I’m not really sure which. Perhaps all of these. The sound of the rushing wind filled my ears, I saw the ground beneath me, I saw the sky above, and it was all perfect. Absolutely perfect.

Around 5000 feet the ripcord was pulled. The roar of the air stopped and everything became serene as the parachute slowed our descent. I could see Barrie, Toronto, Lake Simcoe, and so much more. The air was cool and the sky was blue with just the right amount of clouds. We couldn’t have asked for a better day.

Of course eventually we had to land. The ground came up quickly but we still managed a very smooth return to terra firma. After watching Rick land, and after celebrating another amazing adventure together, we returned to the terminal to process all that we’d done. It was at this point that I started wondering when I could jump again.

Clearly I’m hooked.

Rick, thanks again for another awesome adventure. It really wouldn’t be the same without you4. Thanks also to Verena, Rob, Ryan, and Mum for welcoming me on this little adventure, and for making today so awesome. You are all amazing.

For those interested, I’ve posted some of the pics from today below. Enjoy.

1 And by that, I mean that I’m looking forward to my next skydiving adventure2. I’m not exactly sure when that will be, but I’m pretty confident that it’s going to be this summer.

2 In fact, I think my next adventure is going to have to involve a solo jump. Which means I really should update my Not-So-Bucket-List list to reflect this new challenge.

3 Me, Rick, Rick’s two brothers (Rob and Ryan), Rick’s sister (Verena), and Rick’s Mum, plus two of Ryan’s colleagues – Barb and Jenny.

4 Sentiment.

# As If Getting My Nerd On Weren’t Enough For One Week

I’m stoked. Tomorrow I’ll be jumping in the car early in the morning with Rick, his mom, and his siblings for yet another adventure. Which adventure is this? Only Skydiving Part II: Flight of the Nerdlies. In this version, Rick and I shall be playing the part of the Nerdlies1.

For Rick’s mom and siblings, this will be their first jumps. For Rick and me, tomorrow’s jump makes jump number two3. Our first jump was in Hawaii just over 16 months ago, and it was incredible. In fact incredible doesn’t do it justice. When my feet had been safely returned to terra firma I knew that I was hooked and had to jump again.

Tomorrow ends the wait. We’ll be heading out early in the morning for Skydive Toronto. There we’ll likely sign a bunch of waivers, listen to some safety videos, get strapped into our jump gear, and board the plane. Once we reach a height of about 13000 feet we jump. According to the website we’ll reach speeds of approximately 120mph.

So. Freaking. Stoked.

Anyway, while I haven’t booked it I’m going to try to get photos of the event. This clearly means that I’ll likely be posting the ridiculousness of the adventure tomorrow.

Consider yourself warned. Ha!

1 Since I’ve only met his mom once (briefly), and just met one of his brothers yesterday when he picked Rick up, I can’t honestly call them nerdly as of yet. Of course, I can’t imagine how Rick’s nerdliness wouldn’t have rubbed off on them2.

2 Fortunately his ugly didn’t. ZING!

3 One of my grad students has recently discovered the thrill of throwing oneself out of a perfectly good plane, and has decided that he needs to go again at the end of this month. I haven’t decided if I’m going yet, but he has extended the invite. Perhaps jump three and even my skydiving certification isn’t far off?

# Flight Of The Nerdlies

Several months ago I posted a couple of previews for movies directed by Sebastian Montaz-Rosset. These included the documentaries I believe I can Fly: Flight of the Frenchiesand One Step Beyond. To say that I found both movies inspiring would be an understatement. To be honest, they both gave me a list of things that I want to try before I shuffle off this mortal coil.

The other day, thanks to the powers of the interwebs, another movie was brought to my attention. The movie is also directed by Sebastian Montaz-Rosset, but this time the movie follows – based on what I can glean from the preview – runners, not just skydivers, base jumpers, and the like. For your viewing entertainment, I suggest you watch the embedded video below.

Sadly, the full movie will not be released until the fall. This means that I’ll have to find inspiration in the older movies (not a difficult task), or fill my time between now and then with a bunch of awesome adventures.

Done and done!

The first of my upcoming adventures starts this weekend, and as per usual Rick is involved1. Adventure the first is a 6 or so odd hour day of ziplining in Elora. I’m stoked. The last time I ziplined was several years ago on my trip to Honduras. I’m sure this is going to be hilarious and insane.

The second of my upcoming adventures involves me, Rick, his brother and his mom being tossed from a perfectly functional and safe plane next Friday. That’s right folks – once again I’m going to brave the world of skydiving and aim to conquer another small slice of it. I am beyond excited about this.

Of course, these adventures only take me to next Friday night. The question becomes What will I do to fill my time between next weekend and the movie?.

So, beyond running and biking and ziplining and skydiving, what other adventures or shenaniganning might you suggest I get myself involved in?

1 It just wouldn’t be right if Rick weren’t involved in at least 50% of my adventures and shenaniganning. He is, after all, an expert in both the art of shenaniganning and the science of adventuring.

# I’m Suddenly Craving Wine

Today was day 2 of teaching CIS*2170, also known as User Interface Design. Honestly, it was even better than day 1. I’m having so much fun teaching this course. Perhaps too much fun. Maybe I should pretend that I’m not having fun lest someone decide that I’m having too much fun to get paid. Because I’m having so much fun, I can’t believe I’m actually getting paid for this.

Perhaps the honeymoon will end soon. I hope not.

Today we discussed the evolution of form despite function remaining constant. I decided that the best way to demonstrate that was by bringing in several different types of corkscrews. Apparently I have a collection of them. I’m not sure why I have a collection of them. It’s not like I’ve actively sought out these particular tools. I just do. Don’t read anything into that.

The point is that they all perform the same function. That is, they allow those of us that require a thirst quenching glass of the vino access to the container that houses that sweet, sweet adults-only grape juice. Sure, some corkscrews come with a few extra bells and whistles; such as the additional functionality of beer-bottle-opener (praise the designers for that added B&W), or possibly a fancy blade to slice through the wax or other sealant that protects the cork.

Despite essentially the same functionality, some corkscrews are better designed than others because someone out there realized that the old-time-y cork screw just wasn’t good enough. I imagine the levered varieties were developed because someone was trying to open a new bottle, having already consumed the first, but was too drunk to get enough force behind them to open it. Then, in a drunken stupor a bolt of inspiration hit and the levered corkscrew was born.

The good thing is that the students connected to my stories (which included the evolution of the corkscrew, selecting a Calorie counting app, and a discussion of not knowing how to wash my hands because a sink was poorly designed – at least to me – who may have been under the influence of several beers when trying to use it).

It’s easy to tell when the connection happens. The students are more animated in their responses, they contribute more (sometimes a lot more than what I might expect), they laugh where I hope they will laugh, and they ask questions. A lot of good, well thought out questions. And they engage in debates with each other.

And this is why this class has been so much fun. I really hope that I can keep this energy going, because it’s awesome.

Anyway, moral of the story: I’m pretty sure my class thinks I’m a drunk.

Note: corkscrews are not the only way to get to one’s wine. There’s also this way:

# A Perfect Trip-iversary

Today I decided to clean out the closet in my guest room. Or for those who aren’t familiar, the closet that time forgot. Also affectionately known as the abyss. For me, the guest room closet is that place in my home where I dump anything that I don’t want to see. Papers, files, boxes, books. You name it, it’s probably in this closet. It was also my secret shame because of how chaotic and messy it was. Thankfully, it’s no longer my secret shame.

Anyway, I decided to do a giant purge today. Sadly I never took a before and after picture, but trust me when I say I have exorcised the demons. Of course, there are still boxes in this closet – about 6 of them to be exact, plus a bunch of books and other bric-a-brac that all need to be taken to the dump. But at least now I know what stays and what goes. And it’s organized. That ain’t half bad.

Strangely enough, while cleaning out the closet I came across several things that made me smile. First, I found an old expired passport. The same passport that I used when I treated myself to a trip to Peru to celebrate my 30th birthday, and to celebrate the successful completion of my Ph.D. qualifying exams.

After that, I found some bills crumpled up in a pile. It wasn’t until just now that I looked at them closely and realized they were Peruvian nuevo soles (nuevo sol, in the singular); something I had clearly saved from my trip.

Lastly, I found the activity book that Dr. Steph made for me so that I might not get bored while hiking in the Andes, or travelling through the rain forests. The book included such activities as sudoku, a treasure hunt1, and ample space for which to keep track of my adventure. It also included the following warning:

DON’T FALL OFF THE MOUNTAIN!

Now all of this is awesome in its own right. But, what if I also told you that today is the 6 year anniversary of that trip? Crazy, right? But there it is; I left for my Peruvian adventure exactly 6 years ago today – November 12, 2005. Awesome!

I can still remember my brother Aidan dropping me off at the airport. I was flying to a land I didn’t know, alone. I didn’t speak the language, I knew absolutely no one there, and I was meeting no one that I knew. It was the grandest adventure that I had ever been on, up to that point in my life. I was definitely nervous, but also excited. And I remember saying to my brother when we hugged goodbye that it felt like I was leaving forever. It was a very weird experience. In retrospect, I think the Dan that left that day was not necessarily the same Dan that returned. Not that I was completely changed or anything that profound. However, the trip renewed or deepened the sense of adventure I had. It also let me realize that I was capable of so much more than just book learning. And that was probably the best thing I could have asked from any trip. It definitely fed my wanderlust, and has been the source of inspiration for most of my other trips since.

And since I’m all about numbers, finding all of these things on the 6th anniversary of my trip is especially significant, because 6 just so happens to be the first perfect number; that is, a number that is the sum of its divisors (excluding itself). In other words, $6=1+2+3=1\times 2\times 3$. It’s also a triangular number. Awesome!

Clearly, a 6 year anniversary calls for a celebration. If only I had some ceviche on hand. Or perhaps a Pisco Sour. Sadly, I have neither. But I do have the memory of these things, and the memory of one of the best trips I’ve ever taken. So, I’ll take those, and perhaps a tasty scotch, reminisce a little more, and look forward to my next big adventure.

Happy Saturday all y’all.

1 which required such things as:

1. a lock of hair from one of the sleeping passengers,
2. something that had the airline logo on it that was not paper (i.e., a flight attendant’s scarf),
3. food from someone else’s tray, and
4. another passengers toothbrush.

# Failing To Be Awesome Makes Angels Cry

Remember how I mentioned that Rick had sent me this text (left) just the other day?

Well, today Rick noticed something on his Facebook wall. Specifically an advertisement for a particular Calgary based activity. Guess which one?

If you guessed Ice Climbing, reward yourself with +1000 interweb points; to do with as you see best.

Clearly, we both took this as a sign that we needed to do this. I mean, the advertisement had to be a sign from the universe, right? Mr. Zuckerberg and his band of merry Facebookers wouldn’t be trolling our conversations (or worse, our brainwaves) to know that we are interested in such things. That would just be crazy, right?

Of course, it’s not that we needed a sign. I mean, I think based on the fact that a) Rick knows me well enough to know that I would say yes to this type of crazy adventure, and b) I responded with a resounding yes, and c) Rick is into this type of crazy adventure, and d) Rick would have responded in a similar manner had I sent him the initial text, it’s clear that nothing would really stop us from doing this. In fact, the decision was essentially made the minute the text messages started flying back and forth.

Anyway, getting back to the sign. The best part of the ad that was staring Rick in the face was that it offered a 50% discount for a second person if we booked before December 1. Clearly, we had to act. I mean, what if all of the spots filled up because we failed to act? Angels would cry, that’s what. It would be like smacking the universe right in its face. And that’s just wrong. Especially when the universe is encouraging us to do something awesome.

Thankfully, Rick was on it. And I am happy to say, dear readers, that my next adventure is booked. Well, save for the flight to Calgary.

The adventure itself is offered by the good folks at the University of Calgary. Don’t worry Mom and Dad; day 1 includes training in a safe environment. Day 2 is when things get real; we carpool to wherever the ice falls happen to be and start our slow (I’m assuming) but steady way to the top. I can’t wait.

For those curious, this epic adventure occurs over the weekend of February 25, 2012. Only 113 days away. W00t!

Let the countdown begin.

# It’s A Dark Wet Hole. It Must Be Fun.

Yesterday Rick and I went caving, and I can sum up the adventure with one word:

AMAZE-BALLS.

It was an incredible experience. Absolutely incredible. I’ve gone caving before with my brother many years ago, and Rick and I did some caving when we were exploring Hawaii and also at Rattlesnake Point, but this was caving on an entirely different level.

As with all of our adventures, the day began with a requisite visit to Starbucks, and then we were on our way to Canmore to meet our caving guide Russell and four of Rick’s friends; Chloe, Sanjay, Rachna, and Roshan.

The adventure itself took place in Rat’s Nest Cave. Despite the fact that the name might read as some place that most wouldn’t want to go, after strapping on our gear (harness, knee pads, overalls, helmets, headlamps, and smiles) we dove in. Pretty much literally. The beginning of the cave consisted of a short descent while attached to guide lines. Not too challenging, and definitely in an area where room was readily available.

We eventually made our way to the area of the cave where we needed to rappel to a lower level. I’ve never rappelled into anything, but it was something I’d wanted to do for a long time. Of course, I was the last in the line for our group so I sat around for a bit while I waited for each person to, in turn, drop into the lower layers of the cave. Once it was my turn, Russell quickly set me up and then I jumped into position. My first few steps were a bit, um, shaky. But I think this was mainly due to not knowing what I was doing or how to really step (despite some very clear instructions from Russell), and not so much a function of nerves, because I wasn’t nervous at all. Once I got the general feeling for it, I made my way to the bottom of the cave without incident. I definitely want to do some more of that.

The environment of course was not to be an open one for long. That is, we soon found ourselves in some very tight, and for some of us, uncomfortable situations. For whatever reason, most of these tight squeezes don’t freak me out (too much). Don’t get me wrong; there is an air of discomfort, and my mind sometimes says what the hell are you doing? but it passes quickly and I just push on through wherever I’m going.

I guess my mettle was first tested when we were presented with an offshoot from one of the main caves we were in. Sanjay crawled into it head first on his belly. I decided I’d go on my back, but realized immediately that this wasn’t going to work for me. Not because I was freaked out, but because I had a bunch of snacks stuffed in my pants that were getting in the way. Anyway, after adjustments and such, I followed Sanjay’s example and crawled on my belly. On the other end of the tube was a small cave that allowed those of us that crawled through a chance to sit and relax. We gave ourselves a minute to recoup, and then turned around to return to Russell and the remaining members of our group.

Next up, the Laundry Shoot. The Laundry Shoot is essentially a straight and narrow drop that suddenly requires a 90 degree turn once you get to the bottom of it. You then have to crawl a little way until you hit another patch where you just slide down a tear shaped tube. It was awesome. While Chloe dove in head first right from the start, I opted to go feet first for the initial drop, then switch it up and go head first for the second drop. Amazing. I want to do it again, but all head first this time. Head first was definitely the way to go. So much fun.

Following the Laundry Shoot, we explored deeper into the caves while Russell taught us about stalactites, stalagmites, columns, deposits, etc. It was all truly fascinating, especially for someone who used to read geology books as a kid.

Before leaving the cave, Russell presented us with the ‘challenge’ cave. After Sanjay and Roshan had checked it out, I thought screw it. I crawled my way to the entrance and peaked in. It represented 7 metres of crawling on my stomach with very little room to move. My brain raced – Am I really going to do this? Yes. No. Yes. No. Sweet Jesus, am I insane?

About a microsecond later, with the support of those behind me, I dove in. To get through this particular cave I had to crawl on my elbows and drag myself along in that way. I pushed as best I could with my feet but they weren’t really providing much help. In the middle of the crawl, the floor dipped a bit, requiring a bit of a back bend. Interesting, but not impossible. Near the end of the crawl things tightened up and twisted. The only way for me to get through was to put both arms out in front of me and wiggle-pull myself through. It was AWESOME! Once I made my way through, the cave opened up into a small chamber that continued to descend quite a way. I didn’t go down there as Russell hadn’t mentioned that we should and I figured I shouldn’t risk it.

Shortly after I made my way in, Chloe popped through in typical Chloe fashion – all smiles. And then, despite being out of his comfort zone, Chloe and I helped pull Rick through. We were pretty much all smiles; laughing and amazed at what we had just done, and thoroughly enjoying the tiny chamber that we found ourselves in. I really can’t describe how amazing it felt.

Of course, to get out we had to go back from whence we came. Chloe led the way, with Rick and I following behind. I got a bit too close at one point and ended up with a Rick-boot to the face. Thankfully I had a helmet on so it wasn’t too bad.

After that, my level of feeling awesome was through the roof. Sadly, the tour was all but over. We investigated several amazing geologic structures, stopped for snacks, and then made our way out. It was great to see the sunshine, but I could have spent a few more hours in the caves. Thankfully, I know I’m going to do this again.

A huge thanks to Rick for organizing this. A most awesome adventure, and something I won’t ever forget.

AMAZING!

# All The Classy Bitches Drink Mountain Top Scotch

We just finished hiking Nihahi, the same mountain ridge that Rick hiked last weekend. It was awesome! Round trip, it was 4hrs, 15 minutes, including about 30 minutes for lunch. Despite the cold and despite the snow, it was amazing. The views were great, the company was fantastic, and I’m a big fan of conquering mountains.

Anyway, we picked up Rick’s friend Paul around 9:30 this morning, after making the requisite stops at Starbucks (go-go juice for us), the gas station (go-go juice for the car) and the grocery store for snacks and such (I may have purchased 2 of the dark chocolate sea salt bars from Lindt).

After a short drive, we parked and started our adventure. The weather started out being quite beautiful; relatively clear skies, sunshine, and not too cold. But as we climbed, things began to get a bit worse. Not terrible really, but definitely colder. And then the snow started. Of course, neither of these things would keep us from our goal – reaching the top of Nihahi.

The climb was quick – about 2 hours to the top. There we were able to see some great views, even if they were obstructed by the snow and cloud. And yes, it was cold. Thankfully, we may have brought a small tipple; specifically scotch and a thermos of Kahlua laden hot chocolate to warm ourselves. And both were quite delicious. There’s really nothing like having a proper glass of scotch at the top of a mountain as one looks out over some incredible expanses of nature.

After warming ourselves with the tasty treats, we also grabbed some lunch. We didn’t stay too long at the top however because we were freezing. So off we went to hit the trails back down. The descent was far faster than the climb because we were able to scree. By scree, I mean that we slid atop the loose rock that made up the side. This was the first time I was able to scree, and it was awesome. Seriously freaking awesome. While the rocks were unstable, they still provided enough stability to basically fly down the mountain. It’s almost as if we were surfing the mountain. Amazing. I definitely will be doing that again.

After we returned to the car, we ventured off to Elbow Falls for more photo opportunities, and to enjoy the sights that it had to offer. Overall, an amazing day. Tonight we’re heading for food, and then tomorrow off for a caving adventure. I can’t wait!

As per usual, photos of the hike are provided below. More to come later.

# Spelunking!

And just like that, my adventuring continues.

This time, dear readers, I have booked myself a trip to the west coast city of Victoria, British Columbia. Why Victoria? Well, as I had mentioned in a previous post, I have been invited to the GeoMED conference to give a talk about some of my nerdly research. I’m pretty stoked about it because I’ve never been to Victoria, and because there will be a large number of rock star statisticians in attendance.

Given that I will want to make the best impression that I can, I’m flying out a day early to deal with any potential jet lag. The bonus to this is that Dr. Beth is going to try to join me for the day – and since my flight takes me through Vancouver, she’s going to join me on the plane in Vancouver – which means I can check off item #144 from my Not-So-Bucket-List list. Which also means the two of us will be wandering Victoria for an entire day, taking in all that it has to offer. And I assume that it will offer beautiful scenery, great food, and tasty beverages.

Since the conference runs for only 3 days, and I figured that the cost of flying out there wasn’t worth only a 4 day visit, I’ve decided to use the trip to stop in Calgary to visit Mr. Rick. This makes up for the Calgary-trip-that-wasn’t that was supposed to have occurred in September if my silly hernia hadn’t changed those plans.

Weather permitting we’ll be able to get in some hikes, and possibly some mountain climbing (although winter is setting in to the mountains already, so that’s probably a long shot). We are also going to go spelunking. W00t!

Say what? Spelunking.

For those unfamiliar with the term, it means we are going to go explore some caves. Rick just so happened to stumble on a spelunking adventure and it really seemed like something that we had to do. The following is an excerpt from the website that describes the adventure:

“Along the trail, your guide will explain the geology of the area; how caves are formed; show you fossils to examine up close; look for bighorn sheep; maybe spot a bear or a cougar. Inside the cave, you’ll get to climb, crawl, slither and get muddy. Soon after entering the cave you’ll rappel 18 m on a rope (with safety line backup) then on to the Five Way Chamber, Laundry Chute, Grand Gallery and finally to the Grotto, a chamber full of stalactites and stalagmites with a crystal clear pool at the bottom of the cave. Return is via the Box.” (visit www.canmorecavetours.com for more details)

Not only will we see fossils (which makes me happy in that zone of my brain that is still a kid and giddy every time I learn about dinosaurs), but we might also run into a bear or cougar. That is amazing. I’m also super excited about the 18m rappel into the cave, and the thought that we are going to have to crawl, slither, and get muddy.

Clearly this trip has the makings of an awesome adventure; fun times with Beth in a new city; presenting an invited talk to a bunch of rock star statisticians; fun times with Rick in Calgary; and spelunking. Spelunking I says!

# Très Bien Montréal. Très Very Bien.

This morning I awoke around 3:30am. I know, I threw up a little in my mouth when I wrote 3:30am too. But such is the life of this intrepid explorer. Okay, maybe not so much intrepid explorer as wanderlusting nerd. POH-TATE-OH, PO-TOT-OH.

Why, pray tell, did you wake up at the ungodliest of ungodly hours, when there are so many godly hours for which you could have woken? you ask. Well, today was the day I had to say au revoir to Montréal. T’was a sad parting, but I made sure to let Montréal down easy. I also reassured her that I would not be gone long. How can one be gone from such an amazingly vibrant city? It’s not possible I says. Not possible.

Back to the story at hand. When last we spoke, nigh on 3 days ago, I had just finished a most excellent Friday night of gallivanting with my dear friend Rick. When I awoke on Saturday at the reasonable hour of whatever-it-was, I was a bit parched, and perhaps a bit on the hung-over side; a sign that the night before was just as fun as I had remembered (thanks Mr. Rick). But, being the up-and-at-em sort of fellow that I am, I got up and headed out for some hangover cure-all; Starbucks.

Since I had Ville-de-Montréal all to myself (Rick had other obligations, and Dr. Steph wasn’t arriving until Sunday eve, and Dr. Beth was at home), I struck out on an extended walk. I toured Rue Sainte-Catherine and all of its lovely stores (Hugo Boss, I’m looking at you). I also spent an extended period down by the water, wandering Old Montréal. I opted to have lunch at Les 3 Brasseurs, which of course had to include a beer. Hair of the dog if you will. Following lunch, I returned to my room for a bit of a nap. Apparently the late hour from the night before followed by an extended walk demanded a rest.

That night I returned to Les 3 Brasseurs for a bottle of La Belle Province, a very tasty 750 ml bottle of heaven. And by heaven, I mean delicious amber beer. It’s 7% by volume, so of course, I was a bit toasted by the time the bottle was done. I wandered the streets some more and then returned to my room for a relatively early night.

Sunday was a day of work. And by that, I mean I spent the day in various locations writing up one of the 2 grants that I have been working on. Thrilling, I know. The day started weighing on me, what with the grant writing, and how grant writing can suck the life out of you like a Dementor. Thankfully, Dr. Steph, Jamie, Kathy and Jon arrived just in the nick of time. I haven’t seen Steph in far too long, so of course there was much catching up to do, as well as much hugging, and general shenanigans.

To celebrate their arrival, and the 2 year anniversary of Steph’s Ph.D. defence, we opened up a bottle of champagne, and may also have had some delicious cupcakes, and then another bottle of wine – this time a Riesling. It was an awesome feast. But, one cannot survive on cupcakes and booze alone, so off we went in search of food.

Dinner was found about 25 minutes away (by foot), at a tapas and paella restaurant called Sala Rosa. Much was ordered. If I remember correctly, this included the chorizo frito, aceitunas, rapini con ajillo, patatitas fritas con romero, ensalada de espárrago y champinón, plato anti-pasto, and the paella de pollo y mariscos (but they were actually out of pollo). The meal was fantastic, and was washed down with several rounds of sangria. Jon and I topped it all off with a very nice glass of scotch.

After wandering home, Steph and I stayed up chatting for a bit before hitting the hay. All said, it was an awesome ending to a very draining day of grant writing.

Anyway, this post is verging on too long, so I’ll leave the final full day of adventuring for later.

I miss you already Montréal. I miss you long time.