Monday, January 29, 2007

My Sureal Life

With my ears still ringing six hours after the Billy Talent concert, I hit the road early to make it to Lake Louise for an 8am start to a conference last Thursday. I was tired, having had trouble sleeping because the ringing in my ears was so intense (that can't be good - I'm taking ear plugs next time I get general admission tickets). I fought the fatigue by playing more Billy Talent in the car on the drive out. I love driving alone - I can play whatever I want.

After an interesting but uneventful morning learning about shale gas and uranium enrichment, the conference broke for the afternoon and most of us headed to the ski hill. Knowing that I only had a few hours to play, I figured this would be a great opportunity to snowboard. I had been once before, two years ago, on an icy, busy Saturday. Since then, I had found many excuses not to go again. I couldn't argue with a powdery, half day on a Thursday afternoon as an opportunity to try boarding again. I was even excited to go. That is, until I approached the chair lift and bent down to strap my foot in. Now...if I could only remember which foot went in embarrassing. I stood around and looked desperately at other boarders for some sort of clue, but was unwilling to actually ask the question. Thank god Erik answered his phone and came to my rescue. I admit I'm lacking in the athletic intuition department but, in my defence, it was a brand new board and the leash was on the wrong foot, which totally threw me off. I eventually got going and I survived and actually enjoyed my few hours on the board. I have to say that my pulverized knees were glad when the lifts closed and I had to pack it in for the day.

We had the afternoon on Friday off as well. I accepted an invitation from my boss to go snowshoeing at Emerald Lake. He was the one who took me (and Erik) out for my first snowshoeing experience two years ago. I couldn't turn down the invite this time - it was a great opportunity to try a new trail (which I would never do alone) and to talk to my boss in a non-work context (I think its always good to understand the human side of the people with whom you work). Also, I couldn't exactly say no, it wasn't like my body was in any shape for another half day of slamming my knees, ass and hands into the hard packed snow. Snowshoeing was great. We broke a lot of trail as we headed up to the frozen water falls. It was pretty cool, you could tell nobody had been there for a while; the snow was deep and even our snowshoes sunk a lot. On the way back to the car, we passed a guy trying to hike the trail without snowshoes! You could see the occasional footprint where he had sunk past his knee. I didn't know whether to think he was foolish or ambitious. I wish I would have had my camera (but I felt bad and gave it to Erik to use on his trip to NYC since his is getting repaired due after I dropped it on our bike trip).

From there, I drove to the Engadine lodge, just outside of Canmore, for a weekend of cross country skiing, snowshoeing, great food and relaxation with my friend Kristen. Saturday was a spectacular day for skiing. I didn't quite have my wax worked out, but it was enjoyable nonetheless. Clear skies, perfect temperatures and the trail to ourselves.

On Sunday, we went snowshoeing. Another outstanding day. We found a jump and did some sweet tricks off it. Fortunately, Kristen had a camera to capture our sweet moves on film.

I packed it in early on Sunday so that I could make it back to Calgary to go to my friend Siew-Peng's wedding. As I drove, I tried to brainstorm ways to get my parents out to try snowshoeing. What a perfect activity to introduce them to winter fun in the mountains.

Siew's wedding was lovely. Very tasteful and uniquely hers. She found a way to involve everyone in the wedding - with family and friends making her dress, the wedding cake, the centerpieces, and the keepsakes. It was very special. I contributed my own little something to the evening by singing Total Eclipse of the Heart in front of everyone with one of her sisters. Don't worry, it was the old school version, not the version from Old School.

So, in the last week, I've gone to a kick ass Billy Talent concert, attended a conference, relearned snowboarding, snowshoed at Emerald Lake and Mount Shark, cross country skied, and seen a good friend get married. Not bad. And to imagine that, at one point, I was concerned I might not have anything to talk about. Now, if I only had people who wanted to read about it (besides my mom. hi mom).

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Billy Talent

Last night I went to the Billy Talent concert with my friends Karen and Chris. I missed the band the last time they were in Calgary because they were playing at the University. I figured the audience was going to be significantly younger than me and I foolishly let that hold me back. I regretted that decision so, when I heard Billy Talent was coming again, I knew I had to go.

As an aside, I think this is one of the most under appreciated bands of my time. Their 'first' album (as Billy Talent) is one of those that you listen to for the first time and its instantly one of your favorites. The second is equally outstanding. More intense, angry music about serious stuff, without being too much of exactly the same.

Back to the concert. I scooped some general admission tix on ebay at an ungodly price, but I knew it would be worth it. For two months I anxiously anticipated the event. It was the first time I've had general admission tix at the dome.

We arrived in time to see one of the opening bands, Rise Against, which was great. I looked around at the crowd and saw a lot more braces, peach fuzz and pimples than I've seen for some time. We did see some people we thought looked close to us in age, but quickly determined they were just chaperoning some kids. The plus side of the age disparity was that I was taller than a lot of people, so I had an excellent view of the stage. We stood close enough to watch Ben's sweat fly everywhere as he gyrated around the stage, but away from the mayhem of the moshing and crowd surfing.

Verdict. Worth every penny. This is a great band to see live. Two hours of mind blowing, ear drum shattering, emotionally charged, insanity. There's something very satisfying about watching one of your favorite bands performing with such intensity and passion that it looks like the blood vessels in their necks are going to explode.

Friday, January 19, 2007


Reading Erik's most recent blog, which can be found here, I couldn't help but laugh. It's a story I've heard many times from him. I find it amusing that he still finds himself being "tricked" by the people he knows. He does this to other people all of the time. I'm not criticizing. I'll admit that I have sometimes been accused of doing the same. In fact, last year, after taking a few friends from work out for a "two hour, 60km, ice cream ride" (which turned into a four hour, 85km, uncomfortably cold, survival ride), I was sent the following. It's funny because it's true. Cyclists are the biggest sandbaggers and secret trainers around. They'll say anything to soften you up for the kill. Don't let this happen to you.

"I'm out of shape"
Translation: I ride 400 miles a week and haven't missed a day since the Ford administration. I replace my 11-tooth cog more often than you wash your shorts. My body fat percentage is lower than your mortgage rate.

"I'm not into competition. I'm just riding to stay in shape"
Translation: I will attack until you collapse in the gutter, babbling and whimpering. I will win the line sprint if I have to force you into oncoming traffic. I will crest this hill first if I have to grab your seat post, and spray energy drink in your eyes.

"I'm on my beater bike"
Translation: I had this baby custom-made in Tuscany using titanium blessed by the Pope. I took it to a wind tunnel and it disappeared. It weighs less than a fart and costs more than a divorce.

"It's not that hilly"
Translation: This climb lasts longer than a presidential campaign. Be careful on the steep sections or you'll fall over -- backward. You have a 39x23 low gear? Here's the name of my knee surgeon

"You're doing great, honey"
Translation: Yo, lard butt, I'd like to get home before midnight. This is what you get for spending the winter decorating and eating chocolate. I shoulda married that cute Cat 1 racer when I had the chance.

"This is a no-drop ride"
Translation: I'll need an article of your clothing for the search-and-rescue dogs.

"It's not that far"

Translation: Bring your passport.

Saturday, January 13, 2007


Today I went to a stagette party for a friend that I've known since high school. It was a lot of fun, but I know I'm going to have some regrets it tomorrow, when I wake up and can barely get out of bed. Don't get me wrong, it was great to see some good friends and hang out. It was also great to go party like a high school kid and forget that my 28 year old body doesn't perform like it once did. I didn't show up until 1:00 and, by 5:00, it was game over for me. I can already feel that its going to hurt tomorrow - I can't even walk straight.

But, its not what you think.

This was a different kind of stagette. It was a sports day. If you know Siew-Peng, this will make complete sense. It's the only kind of stagette party I could picture her hosting. She rented out the gym at a junior high school and we played volleyball, soccer, dodgeball, basketball, floor hockey and badminton. My body hasn't moved like this for years. I have floor burn on my knees. I rolled both my ankles numerous times. I rediscovered about a dozen muscles. It was great. And I finally had the opportunity to meet her fiance, Mike. Looks like she found the perfect match. I couldnt be happier for her.

Pictures can be found here.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Meet Rory

This week's main event was my sister, Meriah, coming to visit. She's on her way to Nelson to do a work rotation and figured she'd show off her cute little bundle along the way. It was a good excuse to break my usual midweek routine of working late and going to bed early in favour of some family time. Of course, it was great to see my sister (who's super lean and a total fox), but the big treat was to see my little nephew, Rory. He has changed so much since I saw him in September, when he was only a week and a half old. He did all kinds of crazy stuff, like stare at his hands and feet, stare at my aunt Keli's Minnie Mouse pen, stare at the various Christmas decorations, and stare at Todd's beer. There was a fair bit of hand sucking going on as well. He held my finger in his hand for a bit. He even made funny noises while he was sleeping in my arms. It was an action packed visit.
The icing on the cake was that I also got to visit with my parents, my aunt Keli (aka "The Great Keli Keli") and uncle Keneki, and my brother-in-law, Todd. The novelty of grandparenthood has not worn off for my parents, who graciously held themselves back to let everyone else have a chance to play with Rory (I'm sure it was tough!). It's pretty awesome to see my parents so excited. Todd looked very natural as a dad and seemed was enthusiastic about his upcoming role as Mr. Mom. Keli and Keneki were fun, as usual. Growing up, I always looked forward to visiting with them, not just because they gave me Smarties (including on this visit), but because they are basically two great big kids (if you look closely, you can see that's Mickey Mouse on the top of their Christmas tree). I hope that I can be as much fun for my nephew as Keli and Keneki have been for me. Left to right, this picture shows Rory, me, Todd, Meriah, The Great Keli Keli and Keneki.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Biking Vikings

I always knew there was something a little different about Erik. Recently, there was his three hour weekend bike ride in -25C in the dark. This summer, he rode his bike home Cheif Chiniki (100km?) after running 16km in 69 minutes. Last winter, he rode his bike from Banff to Lake Louise in -25C in the dark and then snowboarded all day. Some people look down on "doing things the hard way", but not Erik. Instead, he seeks out to make things he does more difficult.

I assumed he inherited this gene from his dad, who is also tough as nails (think Ekimov, without the mullet) and willingly subject himself to incomprehensible challenges (riding 600km in under 40 hours). But I'm starting to think this craziness runs beyond the Bakke gene. Maybe it's a viking phenomena?

Check this out:

I'll admit I've toyed with the idea of riding my bike across Canada. It will happen one day. In the summer. This guy is riding his bike across Canada right NOW. It's worth taking a few minutes to read his blog. Pretty amazing.

If you've got an extra few minutes, you might also get a kick out of some of the picture's he's got posted on

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Strictly Business

Wasting no time in addressing my New Year's goals, Erik is helping me get down to business.

For starters, he's helping me address my "improve my power to weight ratio goal", which I will address using a two pronged approach - lose weight and increase power. I'm active on a regular basis, so the trick will be to start training smarter and eating (and, um, drinking) more responsibly. This is where Erik comes in. He is helping design a program for me to increase my power. I'll be challenged enough breaking out of my comfy "I do what I feel like when I feel like it" mode to training with a purpose, it will be nice to have someone that has experience and knowledge to lend a hand to help me make the best use of my time and effort. Besides having first hand experience with regimented training and with the Transrockies, Erik will be particularly helpful in this area because of the level of attention he devotes to these things.

My program will be a work in progress, changing as we learn more about my physical limits and as 'unavoidable' interruptions (work) and obstacles (Billy Talent concert on January 24!) arise. To kick things off, we started with a power test on Friday night (because this is exactly what everyone wants to do at the end of a workweek). The objective of the power test was to determine the maximum effort (measured in watts) I could sustain over a thirty minute period. Yeah, it's almost as much fun as it sounds. Based on this information, Erik will be able to develop some guidelines within which I will train. I haven't really put myself to the test like this for over a year, so it was a bit of a stab in the dark estimating what my power might be. Being the energy conservationist that I am, I initially underestimated myself, but I think we were still able to acheive a reasonable estimate with which we can work. We estimate that my power to weight ratio is somewhere in the range of 3.1-3.2. My target will be to move that closer to 4.0. In the next two months, my specific objectives will be to lose 10 pounds and to see if pointed training can move my sustainable power upward.

I was also able to work on my mental objectives this weekend - "learn to enjoy riding in adverse conditions". On Saturday, I rode my single speed outside with some of Erik's riding clubbies. The temperature was 'great' for January, hovering around the zero mark and there is some ice and snow out there, as is typical for Calgary in the winter. I would normally take these three factors as reasons to ride inside, but I decided to pull up my socks and get out and ride. After all, Erik and five of his friends thought it was ride worthy weather. Turned out to be a fantastic ride, just over two hours. No wipe outs on the ice and I wasn't even cold. Who knew winter could be so much fun on a bike? We followed it up with a ride outside on Sunday, after a good ride indoors. It was a bit windy and I was a bit grumpy, but it was nice to get some fresh air. Based on the last three days of riding under Erik's program, this is going to be a tough couple of months (at least), but at least I know its not going to be strictly business.

Friday, January 5, 2007

New Year's...Goals

I'm not a big fan of New Year's resolutions. I prefer the idea of continuous reflection and self-improvement. But, with Transrockies only eight months away, the new year marks the time when I need to start focusing my attention to preparing for the race. I've got a lot of work ahead of me, so I thought it would be helpful to start a "to do" list to help focus my efforts. These don't exactly qualify as "resolutions", but here are my New Year's goals.

- Turn a stranger into my new best friend
- Learn how to train and ride with company

- Build confidence cycling off road
- Learn to enjoy riding in adverse conditions

- Improve power to weight ratio
- Continue to build fitness and endurance

- Pick a new bike
- Order new bike

Monday, January 1, 2007

Puerto Varas to Puerto Montt

Lazy start to the day. We had our last Chilean breakfast for the trip and looked at the pictures of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid hanging on the wall. We realized that our drive out to Cochamo the day before yesterday took us on part of the Gaucho Trail, which was traveled by the pair 100 years ago. I think Erik got a real kick out of that. I remember him renting the movie for me several years ago when he learned that I hadn't seen it before. It's one of his favorite stories.

I checked around town to see if there might be a laundry service open. No luck, its Sunday. While this means I will have to sit in dirty clothes for the 20 hour voyage home and then have to do laundry when I get home, I kind of like the idea that there's a stinky surprise in my bags if someone decides to snoop.

I bought some fresh fruit from a little fruit stand by our hotel. For about two bucks, I got a big tub of fresh raspberries. It was about six times the size of the little tubs that usually cost five bucks at home. Being closer to the source, they were also in better condition than the ones I'm used to at home. I love good deals.

Erik and I went for one last ride to tucker ourselves out for the long ride home. The weather was outstanding again today. Sunny and just under the 20 degree mark, with only a light wind. Perfect for riding. We chilled out at the halfway spot for a snack and to soak up some rays. I tried not to think too hard about this being our last few hours of our trip, but couldn't help myself. When it comes to holidays, I've heard a number of people say one week isn't enough, and two weeks is a bit too much. I disagree. It's not like I dislike my life in Calgary. There are many things that I'm looking forward to returning to. But I really really like these trips, and its been great to share this one with Erik. I wonder why it is that some people have had their fill after two weeks. Is it boredom? Is it homesickness? Those are two things I haven't felt on this holiday. Boredom has been impossible with all of the things to see and do. Having Erik with me also keeps things interesting and fends off the need for something familiar. I suppose I should just be glad that my biggest 'issue' is that the fun can't last.

We had our last Chilean lunch at a nice italian place overlooking the lake and both faced the water. It was relaxing to watch everyone playing at the beach and the food was great. In Calgary, we often see each other for a short time on weekends, and that's not always even guaranteed. Going from that to 24 hours a day together for two weeks, we actually get along even better. He's a great companion.

We realized that we've been eating lunch at four, dinner around eight and going to bed at around midnight. Taking in to account the four hour time difference, we have been sticking pretty close to our Calgary schedule, which should avert jet lag.

Our flight from Puerto Montt to Santiago featured an episode of the Simpsons as in flight entertainment. Erik and I enjoyed our last opportunity to watch spanish Homer. I still don't know how to say 'don't have a cow man' in spanish.

As we get ready to sleep on our New Years Eve midnight flight from Santiago to Dallas, I feel like this has been a really great experience. I like this part of South America. I think it is under appreciated by many North Americans, who lump everything south of Texas together with Mexico. I'm not knocking Mexico, my point is that I think Chile and Argentina have more in common with Canada and the United States than they do with Mexico. I'm reminded of a quote from Vincent Vega just before he gets into his bit on Le Big Mac.

It's the little differences. I mean they got the same shit over
there that they got here, but it's just - it's just there it's a little

So, I will finish my final vacation note with an inventory of the 'little things' that are different. Here are ten for starters, in no particular order.

Artificial sweetener: noticably more common and popular than in Canada. It comes in more varieties, powder, liquid and tablets, and brands than I ever knew were available. Maybe it's to offset the effect of a diet centered around empanadas, jamon, queso and papas fritas.

Car horns: significantly less malicious tone than in Canada. This enables the horn to function as a useful communication tool, rather than a catalyst for road rage.

Bus service: regular routes running city to city and through urban areas with frequent stops appear to be an effective, economic and well used method of transportation for individuals of all ages.

Cash is king: credit cards don't appear to be well used here. Our airline tickets from Chaiten to Puerto Montt was paid in cash. They even wanted us to pay for our five day car rental with cash. Should I assume this means everyone walks around with several hundred dollars in their pockets?

Debit machines: relatively hard to find, typically only located at the bank. There are two systems operating (plus and cirrus), so the presence of a cash machine doesn't guarantee access to cash. Even if you do find a machine that 'speaks your language', it seems like a fifty fifty shot whether you're going to get what you ask for on the first try.

Accommodation: small scale family owned accomodation with breakfast included seems to be the norm. I like this concept. Fancy hotels aren't really my thing, I just need a clean, quiet, safe place to sleep. Staying with someone that owns the place means the service is good too. They are more willing to go the extra mile to accomodate you than what would be expected at a larger 'chain' style hotel.

Bread: I'm pretty sure that most people in this world would agree on the desirable properties of bread. Yet, it so hard to get good bread in Calgary. We found decent bread even in the most remote little supermarcados in Chile and Argentina.

Attire: the range of attire in Chile and Argentina seems to be more limited. On one end of the spectrum, we didn't see people walking around in junky clothing or sweat pants, and on the other end, we didn't see much by way of flashy, designer fashion. Generally, people exhibited some personal sense of style, rather than store bought style, or foregoing style altogether. While they earned points for style, they lost points for practicality. If you live in a rainforest, it seems to me that a rain jacket should be part of your wardrobe.

Driving: people don't drive as fast as possible everywhere and all of the time. It might a difference in attitude. Or, it might be because it's impractical to race around on roads shared with horse drawn buggies, buses that stop frequently, and tiny little renaults that work part time as offroad vehicles. Whatever the reason, the result is a traffic situation that is substantially better for cycling.

Dogs: Chileno and Argentine dogs are everywhere. It's just part of life. But they go about their business and don't generally initiate contact with strangers. This is in contrast to the typical Canadian dog, that greets strangers by smelling their crotch. But, fundamentally I can attest to the fact that they still share a universal passion for smelling each other's butts and chasing cars.