The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

April 25, 2010

Random Notes from the Great Not-So-White North

Filed under: Wanderings — Tags: , , — Brian Lutz @ 1:52 am

I’ve had my current US passport for roughly five years now, and to be honest, it hasn’t really seen much use in that time for anything more exciting than employment eligibility verification.  I initially got it when I was going on a Caribbean cruise about five years ago, and since that time I haven’t left the country once.  I haven’t even crossed the border into Canada during that time, in spite of being only about 110 miles away.  It’s not like Canada is some distant and exotic land or anything like that (every once in a while I’ll catch something on CBC Vancouver and most of the stuff seems pretty normal, aside from the occasional tendency to mispronounce common words.)  Mostly it’s just a matter of not having had a good reason to go until now. 

Today I followed a number of members of my former Singles ward at church up to the open house at a new LDS Temple in Langley BC, near Vancouver.  For those people ho may not be familiar with this, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (of which I am a member) normally limits entry into the temples to members who meet the church’s standards of morality and conduct, but when a new temple is built, the church holds an open house in which the general public is allowed to enter and tour the temple prior to its dedication, which will take place a week from today.  After touring the temple, me and several ladies from the ward then spent the rest of the day wandering around the Vancouver area, visiting a number of interesting sites and trying to avoid getting too hopelessly lost (not my fault this time, I was just a passenger for once.)  The remainder of this post consists of photos and some of the observations (sarcastic and otherwise) that were made along the way.

I offer this post up with preemptive apologies to any Canadians who might actually end up reading this.  The vast majority of these observations come from sarcastic offhand comments made by myself and the other occupants of the car.  To be fair, I should probably note that it might help for you guys to find some better cultural ambassadors to send across the border than Red Green and the Mackenzie Brothers.  That said, after the jump you will find a few of the  interesting facts and/or fabrications that I learned about Canada today.

  • For the most part, Vancouver isn’t really all that much different from any other major city in the Pacific Northwest.  The climate, vegetation, terrain and water tends to look very similar, as do the vast majority of businesses in the area.  This isn’t to say that you wouldn’t be able to tell it from an American city though.  Sure, it seems that you can take pretty much any random American company, insert a random maple leaf into the logo and create an instant Canadian version, but the differences are often much more obvious than that.  Canadian McDonald’s generally bear little resemblance to their American counterparts (from the outside at least,) most of the gas/petrol stations are brands that don’t exist south of the border, and even if you don’t manage to catch those differences, you’ll usually end up passing a Tim Horton’s every two minutes or so to remind you that you’re in Canada.  As Starbucks is to Seattle, Tim Horton’s seems to be to Vancouver.  And the rest of Canada, for that matter.  Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to stop into one on this trip, so I’ll have to save my international donut-smuggling escapades for the next trip, whenever that is.

  • If you ever get stuck in traffic (something they seem to have plenty of up there) the highway department has thoughtfully provided conveniently located checkerboards which can be taken down from the posts and used to pass the time while waiting for the traffic to move (provided, of course, that you remembered to actually bring the pieces this time.)
  • If you bring an American portable GPS to Canada, it’s pretty much useless.  Sure, there’s a good chance that the unit will be equipped with Canadian maps, but it’ll still give directions in miles and yards.  Since we all know that there are no miles or yards in Canada, you won’t actually be going anywhere unless you somehow manage to figure out how to set the thing to Metric.  In theory, a Yank could use this as a convenient excuse to try to get out of a speeding ticket, but since all the Mounties are still on horses, it’s unlikely this would happen in the first place.

  • The beauty of British Columbia does come with its price, and that price is bears.  One has to remain constantly vigilant to avoid becoming an afternoon snack for some wayward Grizzly and her cubs.  This sign, located near the suspension bridge at Lynn Canyon Park, looks harmless enough, but woe be unto whoever disobeys it.  Unbeknownst to most visitors, there are strategically placed bears hiding behind each tree to devour anyone who breaks the rules.  Of course, if that were really true you’d have to fill up a whole section of the paper each day with “Yup, another poor shmuck got eaten by a bear” stories…  But on the other hand, if all the lawbreakers are getting messily devoured on the spot, how would anyone ever find about this?  I smell a coverup…
  • Somehow, the traffic engineers in British Columbia have made a secret technological breakthrough in stoplights that allows green lights to blink, with no apparent explanation for why the lights would be doing this.  After returning home, a bit of reading in Wikipedia (the World’s favorite source of dubious information since 2001!) indicates that the flashing green signal is used to indicate that nobody is there to trigger a crosswalk signal.  That might come in handy someday, if I don’t end manage to accidentally end up on the wrong side of the road first or something diastrous like that…

  • In the Vancouver metro area, high-rise buildings don’t seem to be limited to the big cities like they are around here.  While driving down Highway 1, it’s common to see suburbs like Coquitlam and Burnaby with a dozen high-rise buildings strewn about town.  Sure, around here Bellevue could be cited as a Seattle suburb with plenty of high-rise development going on, but this seems like the equivalent of Renton, Woodinville and Issaquah all deciding they need skyscrapers of their own and tossing a few randomly into their downtowns. 

  • Although some people might say that the Vancouver area has basically the same scenery as Western Washington, I do have to say they’ve got some pretty dramatic versions of it up there.  This photo comes from the aforementioned visit to Lynn Canyon Park comes this picturesque waterfall, as seen from the park’s historic (and suspiciously slippery when wet) suspension bridge.   Yeah, Snoqualmie Falls is quite a bit bigger than this one, but I’d say in terms of looks I’d say this one could give it a run for its money…

  • Kind of an interesting bridge there too, although I’m not sure I’d recommend it in the rain…  What is it with the pouring rain that seems to show up whenever I visit waterfalls anyway?  (It’s a long story.)

…and the view from Deep Cove certainly isn’t bad either, especially with a few low-hanging clouds thrown in to enhance the effect.

  • In case you haven’t noticed, they tend to like their hockey in Canada.  If you walk into a restaurant for lunch and see this display of jerseys on the wall behind two TVs playing two different hockey games at the same time, there’s a good chance you’re in Canada.
  • Incidentally, with the Loonie pretty much running parallel to the US dollar these days, that lunch starts looking just a tad expensive…

  • Oh yeah, and did I mention that the Canucks are in the playoffs?  The city buses in downtown Vancouver were flashing this on their sign every few seconds when we were wandering around there.

  • Take that, ya’ flower-stomping Yanks!  It seems they take this whole Metric system thing pretty seriously up in Canada these days…  Even the flowerbeds are in metric now.  The only problem with that is that the flowers only grow to about half the size, but at least you get 47% more of them.

  • See, even the time is in metric up there.  I have no idea how the heck you’re suppose to convert that into minutes though. 
  • Of course, that brings its own set of problems.  There are restaurants in Canada which claim to be  open 24 hours a day, but in reality that’s actually only 24 metric hours, which is roughly equivalent to about 15.61573 hours a day.

  • Oh, and did I mention that nobody over there seems to be able to spell the word “Center” correctly?  You’d think someone would manage to spell-check that somewhere along the line.

All joking aside, it actually was a nice little trip to take,  and I’ll definitely have to make it back up across the border at some point, if for no other reason than to wander around a bit more, and see if I can’t manage to get myself even more hopelessly lost this time.

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