Slugs are Cute and Disturbing

On my trip out west this summer, I saw some amazing things…mountains, the Pacific Ocean, sea lions…and on a walk one quiet evening in Redmond WA, a large slug.

B loves snails and slugs. Snails I could get behind, but slugs? Really? Even the name suggests the need to take a shower.

But this little guy/girl was, I admit, kinda cute and B took some great pictures of him/her.  I say him/her because slugs are hermaphrodites.  Dependant on their mood and the sexiness of their slug date, they can pull out either sex organ.  Cool!

Awwwww! Look at that face!

I mean really! How cute is that! With his/her eyes at different angles…so CUTE!

He/she was also incredibly emotive!

Curious slug is curious!

Bored slug is bored!

So, I gained a new appreciation for slugs.

They have a keep-them-off-me-cuteness to them.

And then….oh….and then I read up on slugs.

Don’t do that.

I learned new words, like “Apophallation“.

There are some words in the English language that one just doesn’t need to know.

Apophallation is one of them.

Horseback Riding – For the very first time

Riding a horse has been on my life list for quite a while.

Actually, initially it was “Ride a hose” but obviously that was simply a misspelling. Horse was what I meant and when I arrived in Calgary, it seemed like a perfect place to have such an experience!  Riding a horse that is, not a hose. Just to clarify.

And it was awesome!!!

Sarah and I spent some time looking for a good place to book a ride and eventually we came across Moose Mountain Horseback Riding, a place where we could book an hour and a half ride into the foothills of the Rockies.  Not only was their website easy to navigate, but when I called, the woman who answered was incredibly friendly and helpful. After a number of annoying websites and unhelpful contacts, she was exactly what we were looking for and I booked our riding adventure on the spot!

Bragg Creek is a beautiful location! It was raining and quite wet when we arrived but rather than let it bring us down, we decided to embrace the rain!

The main cabin

We were grouped with two other people, a mother and daughter team, whose skill level matched mine pretty well. The mother had ridden before but was a beginner and her daughter was on par with me, the two of us having no previous experience.

Well, except for my ability to point and confidently say “THAT is a horse.” I could do that pretty well.

First thing we had to do? Pick our helmets!  We were already so excited that even helmet picking was fun! Otherwise, we’d come dressed appropriately. I think I reread their list of TO-WEAR a dozen times to ensure that I would be comfortable and ready to ride.

Once we were helmeted up, it was time to meet the horses.   Our guide, Justine, was awesome.  Very open to questions and understanding when we hesitated and needed an extra minute or two to work up our courage.

She introduce me to Emile, while Sarah got to meet Fury.

When we heard the names of our partnered horses, I think Sarah said something like, “Um, pardon? Fury?”

I would have said the same thing! Justine was very encouraging, however, and told us that Fury was a very understanding, experienced and docile horse.

Sarah and Fury became fast friends…had some good times, some laughs….

Sarah and Fury, two peas in a pod!

My partner, Emile, was laid back and cool.

Emile, just chilling 🙂

Unlike me.
I found myself much more hesitant than I expected.
When I tried taking a “Whee! About to ride a horse!” picture…I got this instead….

Um..yaay horseback riding?

Lucky for me, Emile was very experienced dealing with newbies such as myself and didn’t seem to mind my awkwardness as I fumbled with the saddle and tried to tell my feet where to go.

I’m sure at this point Emile was thinking, “Just get up there already!”

 

He also obviously was used to dealing with silly laugh-out-loud Fury!

 

I love how Emile is just standing there, practically rolling his eyes! Hehe!

We headed out into the foothills after a short introduction to riding: how to direct our horse, how to sit, how to speed up, slow down…the usual stuff.
Of course, our horses were very much used to following each other in a line, as this is pretty much what they do all the time, so hard braking wasn’t really needed.

Emile and I were last in the line-up.  I found my groove soon after we set out…relaxing my body, loosening my hips as I had been instructed and allowing myself to move with the horse. It was the most amazing feeling to be moving in tandem with such a large animal who seemed to respect that I was on his back and didn’t necessarily know what the hell I was doing.

He also took advantage of that fact, stopping to eat….often. 😉
Justine would look back to see us and instruct me to “Let him know who’s boss.” “Don’t let him eat…hold the reins and be in control.” I tried. I really did. I’d prep myself for his next snack and grasp the reins well. Then Emile would see a nice patch of greens, lean down to eat and practically pull me up on to his neck as I tried to stop him.

I was the boss? Suuuuuure. Tell Emile that. 😉

Riding a horse through the woods was one of the most amazing experiences. I felt at one with the rolling hills and meadows.  Rather than traipsing through the trees, cracking branches and making typical obnoxious human noises, we practically glided through the woods. We belonged there. The forest  welcomed us.

I really began to feel this way when we walked across a meadow and passed three young bucks and a doe. They watched us, we watched them, and then we both went about our business.

A blurry picture of the deer in question.

The most amazing experience for me, however, was when Emile spotted something in the woods and stopped in his tracks. He pricked his ears forward and gazed intently to the left. Everyone else continued on, unaware that we had paused.

I followed Emile’s gaze and saw a large brown, hairy butt half hidden behind some undergrowth . It moved. I immediately thought “Bear!” Or it might have been “Bear butt!”
I lightly tried calling Sarah, who was a little ways ahead and at that moment, the animal turned and looked at us. A young moose, as curious as Emile, stared at us for a moment, decided that our presence was acceptable and headed off into the bush.

Wow. Amazing. Mind-blowing. Holy shit! What do you say when you meet an inhabitant in whose world you are the trespasser? I gave him a silent nod of respect and we continued on our way.

 

It was an amazing ride that was over much too soon! It whet my appetite for riding , however, and I look forward to going again.  Now I just have to find some place close to Toronto where I can gain experience points.
Moose Mountain offers all sorts of riding adventures, including an 8-day ride that I would LOVE to do one day! When we arrived, there was a group of about 8 people heading out with a guide. They had necessities with them and a vehicle with camping equipment etc was going to meet them at each stopping point during their week-long adventure. So jealous!

Upon arrival back at the ranch, we were given as much time as we wanted to say goodbye to our horses, so Sarah and I spent some time just hanging out with them and taking pictures.

Emile and I saying goodbye

Then we changed out of our wet clothes and ran through the rain to the car!

Asshats!

So, how do you finish off a lovely afternoon of horseback riding? You go to a pub in Bragg Creek that has swinging saloon doors!

I’ll be back Bragg Creek. Count on it!

 

 

 

 

Giant Jellyfish!

B and I went put cycling today, specifically to go to the Humber Bay Bridge and look at the new art installation we had noticed from the highway. Squid? Octopus?

Ah! Jellyfish!

Pretty cool and nice to see art out in public locations 🙂

20120823-123254.jpg

I should also note that this is my first post done via my new iPhone so, if it’s all wonky, I blame the phone! 😉

Proof that Pink is my nemesis! (Otherwise known as “Bouldering in Calgary”)

A shot of the bouldering area in Stronghold, Calgary.

While I was in Calgary, I experienced a lot of firsts! Bouldering was one of them!

One morning, Sarah suggested we get some exercise by going bouldering. Both her and her husband had the shoes and the chalk, and luckily my big feet fit into his shoes 😉 so we decided to try it and headed off to Stronghold.

I admit the name “Bouldering” had me imagining us crawling over huge rocks, as though on a rocky beach…goat-like jumping from one to other…which suited this Capricorn! Until we arrived, I had no idea that bouldering was effectively rock-climbing without the height or the harness.  Not sure I would ever attempt it out-of-doors without a crash mat, but indoors, it was a lot of fun!

Sarah explained the wall layout, which made me go “huh?” So she had to actually climb a bit and show me how to “boulder” it up! 🙂

Sarah on our first wall showing me how it’s done!

And then, it was my turn!

Oh yeah, I’m so excited!

Like this?

Wheee! Getting my groove on!

The ultimate let-down…where do I go from here?

The first wall I conquered was about 12 to 15 feet across.  Took me a number of tries but I finally figured out the steps and my muscles finally stopped being stubborn and started doing what I was telling them to do.

Conquering my first wall!

The first wall was monumental.  Not only was it a strange thing to try to do, climb a wall and keep your body close to it, but you also have to figure out where to put your feet while predicting  your next step or two ahead. It was challenging. Mentally and physically. But I LOVED it!

That’s right! That wall can bite me! I win!

Feeling pretty good about myself, we moved on to the next wall.

FYI….Um, when you add a bit of an outward angle to a climbing wall, it makes the whole thing HARDER!

Angle Shm-angle! I can do this!

Getting harder as the angle gets a little steeper

Fail.

 

Nope…tried a few more times and the angled wall was beyond me!

I was surprised at how much sweating I did in the first half hour of climbing.  It’s a great workout!  Legs, arms and core…the angled walls kicked my ass but I still loved the challenge!

Sarah also attempted the angled wall….

Woot! Getting there!

And as with me…the angle won.  Stupid angle!

But, also like me, Sarah loved the challenge of attempting to conquer it!

Aaaaand, we identified the actual stone causing all the problems!  (Yes, you can blame failure on a stone.  It works…makes you feel much better…trust me. 😉 )

After we each attempted the wall a few times, we realized that as soon as we were in line with the ying-yang stone below, we would fall.  Evil, I say!  And it’s pink too!

The EVIL stone of EVIL

Any time we got close to passing by this stone, it would use its negative pink energy to send up flying!  Okay, so we’d just sort of *floomp* to the floor…but still!

Sarah just before a burst of ying-yang-pink-stone-negative-floomp-energy!

So to all of you who laugh at me due to my pink allergy…pay attention!  Pink.is.evil.  Pink!  You are my nemesis!  And when I return to Calgary, I will clamber past you and laugh the entire way!  Thus, the gauntlet has been thrown down!

Next time I will beat you! Next time!

I was sore the next day, it’s true. But it was a good sore!  My body telling me that climbing was a great workout and that I should consider doing more of it!  I took that time to research climbing gyms near our new apartment in Toronto and found a bouldering-focused gym only two subway stops away: Boulderz Climbing Centre!  Will definitely be checking that out when I return!

Overall? Bouldering….loved it! Recommend it!

Just don’t plan on doing much with your arms the next day! 😉

 

 

Calgary Stampede Part 2: Tanks, Helicopters and Handguns!

So, if you have read my previous blog post, you know that I recently visited the Calgary Stampede for the first time.  Although it wouldn’t have been my first destination choice had I been on my own, I had a blast and am so happy that Sarah convinced me to check it out!

Not only did it include cattle, horses, surfing, a Native village and deep-fried Oreos, but the Canadian Department of National Defense also had a large presence with a huge contingent of soldiers and equipment on site throughout the week.

I have never held or shot a gun. As a child, I was never overly interested in war and weapons.  Still not overly gun friendly, but it was fun to pretend for a while!

So, as we wandered around Stampede and noticed all the vehicles and weapons on site, Sarah and I decided to check them out!  We seemed to be two of only a handful of adults interested in actually checking out the tanks and the helicopter…most were on site taking pictures of their children…so yeah, we stood out a bit. But we had fun and that was the point!

The first tank we came across was

The two tanks we came across were Light Infantry Vehicles…I believe this one was an LAV III Chassis

This tank was open for people to check out…but it was a climb-up-and-on whereas the other one was a jump-up-and-sit-in-the-back. We waited to approach the second one for a closer look.

 

In between tanks, there was a torpedo….

With a saddle on it!

Which made me think, “You could probably put a saddle on *anything* and have it displayed at the Stampede!”

I’ll just leave that there. Otherwise, such thoughts take us to strange places.

Back to the torpedo, that was saddled and still armed, according to a soldier on site….Of course, we had to ride it! Had to! There was just no choice in the matter.

The second tank was the one we got to sit in. I have never been up close to a live tank before…the ones I’ve stood next to have always been monuments of some kind 😉

This was the tank we actually got to sit in!

Even so, we couldn’t bring ourselves to be serious!

Does this headset make my ears look big?

A pic of the Hornet sign for B 🙂

And the actual Hornet! …Well, okay, just the front of it.

As mentioned, I have no experience with guns. Even toy guns weren’t my thing as child.

Now, caps, I LOVED caps!  We’d buy rolls of them and set them off with rocks! *grin* Never actually used a cap gun!

Anyway, also among the Dept of Defense set up was a handgun simulator.  There were police nearby to explain how to use the guns and how to aim with them. The man who helped us was awesome. He explained the guns in detail and warned us of the kick back.  He also said that handguns with real ammunition would have 12x the kick back that we experienced.  I can’t imagine how that must feel.  I had a hard enough time with the simulation!

Not only was the guy helpful, but he took some bad-ass pictures of Sarah and I with guns!

Somehow I’m betting cops don’t wink at their targets as they aim!

Sadly the day was too bright to know how accurate we were…

Next up, a helicopter!  I had never been in one of those either!

So we beat back the kids and asked if we could sit in it!

Sarah about to ask for permission to climb aboard!

Getting a short tutorial…

“Hey Sarah! Look what I can do!” Once you learn to handle the gun, you point it at your friend of course!

…And then your friend targets you back!

I think Sarah was enjoying the aiming a bit too much! 😉

A total natural!

So, in the end, still not a gun fan, but having a chance to check out a tank and helicopter up close was pretty cool!

And overall, the Stampede is a lot of fun!  Sure, there are crowds to deal with but there is a little bit of everything for everyone and you definitely won’t be bored!

Calgary Stampede 100th Anniversary: Horses, Cow Vaginas & Surfing!

I had no idea this entry would get so long!  So fair warning…there are lots of pictures from my Stampede visit! 😉

I spent my first day in Calgary visiting the Calgary Stampede! Not a destination I would’ve chosen for myself but Sarah has much experience attending with her family and told me she’d take me to the fun stuff.  When I continued to balk, she also suggested that I view the Stampede as an anthropological experiment, studying the cowboy culture in all its glory.  I could work with that, so I said “sure!” after I clarified that under no conditions would I be wearing cowboy boots 😉

The Stampede wasn’t remotely what I expected! There was SO much going on, so much to see, it was fun!…in many ways it reminded me of the Toronto Royal Winter Agricultural Fair, only bigger.

Scroll down for pics and commentary on:

Working Cow Horse Classic competition
Interesting People on site
Artistic Endeavours on site
Native Village
Fake Cow Vagina! (Yep, you read that right)
Surfing!
Stampede Food

My day actually started with an interesting wake-up.  At first, around 5:30AM, I woke up to chattering birds.  Turns out they were magpies.  Really cool looking black & white birds that sound sort of like a cross between a quack and a cat being stepped on.

About a dozen of them were having a grand ‘ol time gossiping outside my bedroom window.  I tried for pictures, failed, decided “Screw it! It’s my first vacation morning and 6am can bite me!” and went back to sleep. Turns out,  I DID get a nice picture of my first Calgary sunrise 🙂

So yes, back to sleep I went! For about an hour.

At that point, Miss Maggie decided that my toes were awesome morning prey and I woke up to this:

Com’on toes! Move! I dares ya!

 And like any feline, once Maggie realized I was awake, it was cuddle time!

I’m cute. Pet me! Or I’ll cut you!

So, yeah, I was up pretty early my first day of vacation. But that’s okay because it allowed us to prepare for STAMPEDE!!

My first five minutes in Calgary, I got carded!! Talk about making a girls day!  Both Sarah and I decided to pee in the Cowboys Casino.  Because that’s what you do.
You see a casino, you think “pee!”

(Those of you who were around years ago for the Halifax Casino/Depends news story can just keep that to yourself! Blech!)

And of course, being carded required a picture!

Look at us two young’uns!

After a much-needed pee, we headed to a Stampede event, the only actual horse-riding event we watched, the Working Cow Horse Classic competition.  This involved a horse and rider chasing down a rogue calf and directing it where they wanted it to go.

Although I know little about horsemanship and cutting cattle, I admit I found the event somewhat enthralling.  After the first few competitors, I began to see the differences in approach and skill.  I began to really notice when rider and horse were completely in synch, riding as one, and it was pretty incredible. It was as though they knew exactly what that calf was going to do before he did, and they were able to share those thoughts and move in complete harmony.

Beautiful horse!

Those calves were wily!

A sudden stop!

As I mentioned, there was lots of cool stuff to see around the Stampede beyond the  horse and cattle competitions, including some interesting people….

My camera settings were off…but I couldn’t let this outfit go!

Awesome living statue in the Oasis area of the Stampede!

Another living statue…

There were a few living statues in the Oasis section of the Stampede, a beautiful indoor arts market and wine bar with water fountains and soft lighting surrounding the area: it was the complete opposite of the chaos taking place outside!

The statues were great! A couple of times, they reacted to cameras by glancing at the lens for your shot, but otherwise, they did…well, what statues do. The male statue kept a straight face even though there were about a dozen people, including myself, hovering around him taking pics…not to mention, the two kids who were in his space, checking him out. I couldn’t help but wonder what he was thinking about to keep himself so still.

So, cool people on site and some cool artistic endeavours too….

Love the old coach with the trunk on the back!

Awesome sand castle!

Treasure trunk made of sand

Next up was the Native Village…there were some lovely performances taking place, not to mention some beautiful wares for sale and a village of amazing tepees constructed just for the Stampede!  A couple of them were open to visitors, which was very kind considering each teepee was functioning as a home for a family while they were on site, so they were effectively allowing us into their private space.

tepees, huge and beautiful!

Inside one of the tepees

Nom nom nom

How did that get on my head?

Native jingle dance

Moving on…

The fake cow vagina!

I didn’t necessarily want to stick my arm in there.  It was strange enough walking around a corner to suddenly see the holes of two fake cows, well technically half-cows as they were missing the front end, without a woman who was standing next to them asking if I’d like to stick my arm in there.

Initial reaction? “Stick my arm in a cow vagina? No freakin’ way!”

But she countered my argument with, “One is pregnant and one isn’t AND I have powder for your hand and arm. It’s all rubber.”

Um. Not convincing!

But eventually, Sarah and I agreed to both do it!  We looked at each other said, “When will we ever have the chance to stick our arm up a cow’s vagina again? Never!”

And besides, this is my vacation and I am fearless, damnit! 😛

It’s a fake vagina! Honest!

What the hell is THAT? Someone’s watch?

Wheeee! Sarah enjoyed the vagina too!

 Surfing!

Yep, I do not lie.  Calgary’s Stampede had surfing on site!

There were about a dozen people taking part and the current was strong enough to eject the bodies upwards after a wipeout!

And now I understand why people watch surfing.  Wipeouts are funny when they aren’t happening to you! 😉

And finally, what does one eat at the Calgary Stampede?  

Alberta Beef and Deep Fried Oreos of course!!

So first off, I had to have an authentic Albertan beef sandwich. I let Sarah choose the place and we ordered.

The beef was damn good!! Sadly, too big for me to finish!  (Sorry, B! You missed out on half of an awesome sandwich!)

No, we weren’t hungry. Not at all. 😉

And for dessert?  Deep fried OREOS!!

Sarah said she’d order them so I could try one.  I’ve historically avoided the deep-fried weirdness that you find at such large-scale events.
Best example? The Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto.

Deep-fried cola deep-fried fudge, deep-fried kool-aid, even deep-fried butter! And that doesn’t even cover the weirdness of a Krispy Kreme Burger!

But this was a day of firsts and us being fearless (I put my ARM in a cow’s vagina for gods’ sake!) so deep-fried Oreos were a YES!

Wheee! Battered and oiled up Oreo cookies! 😉

I DID go into the experience with a mild bit of hesitation….

This is my WTF? face.

But with a little bit of encouragement….I bit into…

…savoury goodness!

 I wouldn’t eat these all the time…probably wouldn’t order them myself, but they were pretty darn good…a warm, soft Oreo cookie!  All that was missing was ice cream!

So, that doesn’t actually sum up our Stampede experience…the Department of National Defense was on site and let’s just say that handguns and tanks are FUN!  But that’ll be for another entry. *wink*

Chilling out with Macy 🙂

Headed to Calgary: First Stop, TO airport!

I am presently seated in the Toronto airport waiting for my flight to board and trying to talk myself out of the desire to go buy Doritos! Such weird place, the airport. We’re all waiting…all in stasis…preparing for the next step to our voyage.  Some of us sleep, play cards, eat (Doritos!!!) or focus on our electronic connections to the outside world.

The rest of us sit and have a beer!

That wasn’t actually the plan until I saw the sign for the bar across from the gate!

I am headed to the west coast for the first time…for 29 days…and aside from mountains —

< inner voice >Holy shit!!! I’m going to see actual MOUNTAINS!  I’m going to go and climb up a MOUNTAIN!! Not a hill…but a freakin MOUNTAIN!!! </ inner voice>

— I am very much looking forward to hanging on some west coast beaches and enjoying the pacific coast!  I have much experience with the Atlantic Ocean but the Pacific Ocean will be a brand new experience…well, except for the Pacific oysters I tried, which sort of gives me a sense what to expect scent-wise while I’m there. 😉

So the BEACH name drew me in! 🙂

After chilling with a pint and an absolutely awesome bowl of Thai soup, I wandered around the airport a bit.

One cool thing about being here is that there is accessible, and free, wi-fi!  Thus, I am able to write this post! 🙂

NO, I’m not writing this from the bathroom!

<Though come to think of it, that would be kinda awesome!>

Point is, wi-fi is available in every little crevice of this airport. Besides, you can’t expect us to go pee without checking our Facebook or Twitter, can you? That’s just crazy talk!

Since I’m headed to Calgary, I considered getting into character….you know, trying to appear as though I’m simply one of the locals. I’m wandering into Calgary at the tail end of the Stampede…it’s 100th anniversary no less!…so I should do my best to celebrate along with the cowboys, shouldn’t I?

Nah…I don’t think any attempt on my part to be cowboy-ish is going to work.