Insight Into Canada

Archive for April, 2009

Saskatoon to Regina: First my tire now my windshield… it’s rough out here in the real world!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

 sask-regina_thumbIt’s a beautiful spring morning in Stoon, as the hip locals call it, and me and my driver are raring to go. We are headed to the town of Craik, about two-thirds of the short distance to Regina. Since we are on a time frame for getting there, we head for the main divided highway, and there is no more flat or straight road in the country. I settled in to a little above the 110 speed limit – just on principle, you understand – and made sure my driver wasn’t getting too drowsy. My fuel consumption was about 5.5L indicated on the computer – pretty darn good, and much better than I got with that lead-foot guy yesterday!

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After about half an hour, around Dundern, we saw a hitchhiker. Not that unusual, except that the sign he held said “somewhere near Toronto would be nice.” Now, I am going to Toronto and could have given him a ride, but he probably wouldn’t want to take another week to get there. He might have done better with a sign that said “Regina.” Or even “Winnipeg.” But Toronto??? My driver was laughing too hard to go back and take a photo.

So we found the Craik Ecology Centre, and my driver got a nice tour from Shirley Eade, the manager, and her colleagues Glenn Hymers and Crystal Stinson. The conception and construction of this building was a community effort, on land donated by the regional authorities. Every environmentally-friendly technology available is incorporated in this building, which is a sort of community centre and restaurant arrangement.

dscn0249The toilets are composting, so no water is used. Glycol fluid is piped outside, 10 feet underground where the temperature is a constant 11C, and then piped back into the building to either heat or cool it, depending on the season. Hot water heating is via solar panels. Rainwater is captured, and treated biologically with charcoal and sand to make drinking water. The walls are insulated with hay bales. And on and on. You can check out the building at www.craikecovillage.ca.

After that, we had the afternoon free to explore the countryside, so my driver put the navigation system to good use and visited a small resort area on a lake north of Regina. The water was still a bit frozen, which was the only indication we saw that winter wasn’t that long ago. Frankly, after the snow I saw in Alberta, I was happy to see bright skies and 11C!

I was driven on many kms of gravel roads; it seems that Saskatchewan is not real big on pavement in rural areas! Saw lots of farms, but of course it was too early in the year to see fields of wheat or canola. We did, however, see lots of derelict old farm houses and barns, and even old grain elevators no longer being used. That was kind of sad, as the old way of life here on the prairie appears to be over.

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We were close to getting as far south as Highway 1, the TCH, between Moose Jaw and Regina, when we were passed for the first time all day – and not because I was being driven fast, but because you can go many, many kms without even seeing another vehicle. I moved over to let this old minivan past me at what must have been 120 km/h, and sure as heck, it threw a big rock at the windshield, and officially christened my pristine new windshield. I was not a happy car.

My driver thought, maybe he’d find an auto glass shop in Regina, and sure enough, we found a Speedy Auto Glass right on Albert Street, and we were welcomed right in, whereupon technician Bart Klein used this incredible machine to almost completely eliminate what had been a big ding and cracks already extending out to the size of a twoonie.

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So, if you get a big rock chip in your windshield, you may not need to replace your windshield for $1,000. Just pull into Speedy and let them work their magic. Thanks guys!

From there, we were going to drive around Regina a bit and sightsee, but the traffic was ridiculous – the big cities had nothing on this! So we went straight to the hotel, and I got a much-needed rest and a bath.

I had a great day, especially since I got my wound fixed up. On to Winnipeg tomorrow! 

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Edmonton to Lloydminster: the Graveyard… not!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

So, today…well wait, first I should say I had to go to the Edmonton airport last night to pickup up that racing/journalist dude from Toronto…..bad fuel mileage, here I come, lightly on the pedal isn’t in his vocabulary.

This morning we all headed to the Edmonton Waste Management Centre of Excellence for a tour. Sad as it is to think about it right now, this is actually the sort of place that will be my re-incarnation center in about 20 years as I am over 90% recyclable.

We – machines – have evolved quite a bit faster than you humans – you still end up in the ground. That is so 1990’s for us.

Could I end up here??

Could I end up here??

Now we get a new lease on life thanks to the “Geep-sters” as I call them. GEEP, okay, if you must know is the Global Electric Electronic Processing company that takes us apart and recycles us to raw materials for new products. I could tell you how much of me is manufactured from recycled material to begin with, but there was something way more interesting to see than that.

I had to text Mom back in Japan to tell her I found Uncle Maytag and Aunt Frigidaire in the Edmonton pile along with a high number of the Sony clan.

Don't want to come back as a Mac!

Don't want to come back as a Mac!

They really do an amazing job, and it’s good to know that by the time I get there, they should be able to knock me out in about a day or two, but I hope I don’t come back as a Mac!

After leaving there, I shuffled that racing dude through Elk Island National Park – he had to go on the dirt roads – and he used me as a shield as he took happy snaps of the bison…nice guy.

We stopped at a huge egg, actually a pysanka…like the coffee, and then headed to Lloydminster where…surprise, surprise….racing dude got the worst mileage of the trip 6.0L/100km….

The Pysanka in Vegreville

The Pysanka in Vegreville

I didn’t have the heart to tell him that is still miles better than he would get driving anything else at 130 on the highway, plus it was good to stretch my legs a bit.

Tomorrow we are off to Saskatoon, but I hear there maybe some bird watching sites on the agenda… (note to self; keep an eye out for car washes).

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Lloydminster to Saskatoon: Honda Insight…now we know

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Hybrid on the Prairies!

Little Hybrid on the Prairies!

Today was the day that I really realized just how deep this environmental concept – and practices – are being practiced in Western Canada, which is the only part I have seen so far.

My handler for the day seems to have this knack for leaving the main roads. This time he said it was for a “Timmy’s stop” whatever that is, but trust me, even I could see a little town in the middle of nowhere, Saskatchewan called Maidstone was not going to have a coffee shop. Hell, the population was about 12, us included.

So we toured the back roads of Maidstone, and we found the coolest thing. A city group had made a neat little park out of used tires. The walkway was rubber. It was very cool and very springy to drive on….rubber on rubber is cool.

Katherine Finn (L) of the North Saskatchewan River Basin Council and Russ Bond, my human-for-the-day.

Katherine Finn (L) of the North Saskatchewan River Basin Council and Russ Bond, my human-for-the-day.

After that we met Katherine Finn from North Saskatchewan River Basin Council. She – fresh out of school a year or so ago gave us a really interesting demonstration of how the waterways get infected by what we do at home and at work. She showed us why it’s not good to have cows beside a river, or why you shouldn’t wash that oil off your driveway down the storm drain.

Her – very visual – presentation put it all in perspective that even a journalist could understand…

Well, so he can’t set a clock. We got to the Saskatoon airport an hour early – even though we spent a good hour trying to find the town of Environ which is supposed to be just outside Saskatoon. My journalist/comedian driver thought it would be good to make a sign that said, “mental” and hang it at the end of the Environ sign.

A very visual presentation of how water and eroded soil end up in rivers

A very visual presentation of how water and eroded soil end up in rivers

I’m sure the fine people of Environ are glad they can sleep well tonight without wondering who molested their sign.

Mike Bauche, an interpreter at the Meewasin Valley Centre, springing into action!

Mike Bauche, an interpreter at the Meewasin Valley Centre, springing into action!

In Saskatoon, I actually had to go clean up after the messy humans. It seems the winds in these here parts are quite strong and tend to blow garbage around. That’s what Mike Bauche told us anyway. I think some people just haven’t yet figured out that whatever you drop outside or throw out a window that doesn’t belong out there is bad for the earth. Geez, seems like such an easy concept!

Mike is from the Meewasin Valley Authority, a conservation agency in Saskatoon, that helps protect the cultural and natural heritage of the South Saskatchewan River Valley.

I peered over the river bank as Mike led my human-for-the-day along the trail of the River with green latex gloves on, holding big bags to collect the garbage. Kind of gross but totally necessary.

Every year since 1981, citizens of Saskatoon register for the Spring into Action Clean-Up Campaign, some 22,000 of them annually, and pick up trash all over the city.

Blue Skies for our Children and Big Sky for Me.

Blue Skies for our Children and Big Sky for Me.

The Meeswasin and Affinity Credit Union team up to provide bags, drop-off locations and prizes for the trash collectors that gather the most garbage. Prizes! Don’t know who won this year because the campaign is still on until May 9th.

Oh yeah, about the clock…we got to the airport early, and then decided to take a trip to the Saskatoon Wildlife Federation that he found on some map. It’s basically all dirt roads, and I dodged the first zillion boulders, but it’s always the one that you don’t see that gets you.

About a kilometre from the SWF, bang goes my right rear and now the genius has to change the tire. It took about 8 minutes…not bad for a rookie I thought.

I smiled all the way back to the airport. See you, Mr. 6.4/100kms, and you’ll just have to see the video on how he explains aerodynamics…it’s priceless!

New lump is coming in tonight, see you tomorrow.

The Prairies are not just endless fields of wheat, you know!

The Prairies are not just endless fields of wheat, you know!

Calgary to Edmonton: If you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

If you look at the map on the home page, my job is pretty much driving “across” the country from the West coast to the East coast.

However, today is a little bit different, instead of going East, I’m traveling from the South to the North in the Province of Alberta.

The uber-sustainable house at 3 Landry Close in Red Deer, Alberta

The uber-sustainable house at 3 Landry Close in Red Deer, Alberta

My first stop today is in Red Deer, after a dry and sunny morning drive on the Queen Elizabeth II Alberta highway for slightly over 90 minutes, I reached the first destination. And then it snowed. Big fat western flakes.

I found two brand new homes that had something in common with me. We are all environmentally friendly and trying to help reduce the resources and energy we use the best that we can.

EQuilibrium Health Housing for a healthy environment is a national housing initiative led by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and brings the private and public sector together on research and development to develop homes that address occupant health and comfort, energy efficiency, renewable energy production, resource conversation, reduced environmental impact and affordability.

The Avalon Discovery 3 Project, Red Deer, Alberta

The Avalon Discovery 3 Project, Red Deer, Alberta

There are 14 homes across the country under this EQuilibrium Health Housing for a healthy environment program and two of them are in Red Deer; I got to visit both of them. One is built by Laebon Homes, known as the CHESS project.  The other is the Avalon Discovery 3, built by Avalon Builders.

I learned so much about how energy efficient appliances, solar thermal and water re-use can really help sustainable living.

These two environmentally friendly homes in Red Deer are pretty much like myself, a hybrid vehicle, for a changing world.

The 'bowels' of the CHESS Laebon project

The 'bowels' of the CHESS Laebon project

Final pitstop for the day at Good Earth Café in Edmonton. Good Earth Cafés, in Calgary, Red Deer, Okotoks, Edmonton and Kelowna, are 100% Wind Powered – one of the cleanest sources of energy available. They choose as little packaging as necessary for their products. They look for recycled content, recyclability, and minimizing impact. They use whole foods, whole grains, and organic ingredients in their products. Their coffee is 100% Organic, Shade Grown to protect biodiversity and Fair Trade. They even give away their coffee grounds for compost. Makes for lively and energetic gardens!

The Prairies are calling tomorrow morning… open road, open sky, yeehaw!

And now… for another side of my story:

Why is it I kept hearing “North to Alaska” on my radio? I was told we weren’t going that far north, but rather just from Calgary to some place one of my drivers called “The City of Champignons” – I’m not sure why, though he (a Calgarian) mentioned something about a cloud that shape being a good way to treat Edmonton. I didn’t really understand what he meant, but I think it had something to do with hockey, or football, or maybe politics.

Straight and flat, straight and flat. My drivers said it’s called the Queen Elizabeth II highway, obviously the sequel to a successful highway somewhere else. Leaving Calgary, my drivers activated my cruise control and it stayed activated most of the way to our way point – Red Deer – where my humans visited a couple of places they called green houses. Funny, though, while there were some big glass panels, it didn’t look like the type of green houses I’d heard about, where humans grow vegetables.

Cruise control was a good way to control the cruise up to Red Deer and, later, Edmonton. It let me monitor and handle the duties of driving that, if left to the humans, would have been far less efficient. After all, I’m the one with the insight into efficiency.

My humans stopped for lunch after visiting what they called EQuilibrium Health Housing – those strangely named green houses – and, perhaps to continue the environmental theme, the male was looking quite green afterward and he kept whining about Philly Cheese Steak not sitting well. But he seemed to be sitting fine once he adjusted my driver’s seat a bit so I think it must have been something else he meant.

About an hour and a half of more straight and flat driving (though there were actually two curves and a hill!) in cruise control  got us to that City of Champignons, and talk about the traffic! I threaded my way between pickup trucks and big SUV’s and beaten up old junkers that really need to be replaced by my brothers and sisters to the Good Earth Café – a place they serve something called coffee, despite the name of the place making me think they served excellent dirt. Maybe the coffee was fresh ground…

I don’t know why my humans insisted on stopping for lunch, for coffee, for dinner. Heck, I was fresh as a daisy and ready to keep going and wasn’t even half hungry. I drove all day, carrying two people comfortably and helping them find their destinations with my navigation system, and when those fragile humans needed to top up their tanks I was content just to wait for them outside, ready and rarin’ to go again.

Should be interesting tomorrow. I heard we’re going through Lloydminster, and someone told me that city really crosses the line. I’m not sure what that means either, but I hope it doesn’t mean there’s going to be a fight….

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Out of the mountains, into the wind

Sunday, April 26, 2009

What an insight I’m getting into Canada …ocean, islands, inland cities and towns – and mountains.

It’s morning at the The Three Bars Ranch near Cranbrook. The sky is dull grey, it’s chilly, rain, maybe even snow, threatens.

It’s 6 a.m. and I wonder why roosters don’t come with snooze buttons. But I had such a good night’s rest – fresh air, quiet. Until the rooster!

horsie

There’s no sign of my new humans yet. Surely that rooster roused them, too.

Finally, there they are, a male and a female, just leaving their log cabin. Wait! They’re ignoring me! Going the other way! Hey, look over here, see the lovely decals? My sinuous shape?

Oops. I forgot. Humans need to fuel up with something they call breakfast before they  face the rest of the day. If I had to refuel as often as they do, nothing would ever get done.

I’ll wait here and catch a few more ZZZs since the rooster has shut his beak. He’s probably egging on some chicken back in the coop. I hear he’s a brooding sort.

Ahh, here they come from the ranch lodge, looking well-fed and happy, we’ll soon be on our way to Calgary. I’m looking forward to “Cowtown” – I understand the streets are crowded, just the place for me to show off my stuff.

It looks like the male is going to guide me while the female tells him where to go. That seems to be a standard human trait: one always telling the other where to go.

I can SHOW them were to go. My navigation system has the capability and nobody seems to argue with ME!

As we leave, two horses stand by the gate as if to say goodbye. They are beautiful beasts.
Now the road is clear and the gravel crunches under my tires. Its raining now and I can’t see the mountains at all. Sigh. It was pretty here yesterday.

Mmmm... muffins just out of the oven, made with local ingredients only.

Mmmm... muffins just out of the oven, made with local ingredients only.

The humans decide I need some breakfast, too. Something to drink would be nice since my next sip won’t be for several hours and we have places to go. People to see.

Rolling into Fernie, B.C., my “crew” decides it’s time to top up their coffee tanks.

The Cincott Farms Organic Market run by Scott and Cindey Taylor is perfect. It’s one of those “field to fork” businesses that are becoming popular. Even the take-out cups and lids are biodegradable. (851-7th Avenue, 250-423-5564, Fernie, BC)

Next stop is Sparwood where we find the nearly-perfect contrast for my economical attributes: the largest truck in the world, a Terex Titan. Talk about beauty and the beast.

Sparwood, BC - Home of the World's Largest Truck. I saw it tremble as I pulled up. Honest.

Sparwood, BC - Home of the World's Largest Truck. I saw it tremble as I pulled up. Honest.

At Lundbreck Falls in Alberta, we come across the first of the hundreds of wind turbines that rise from the landscape all the way beyond Pincher Creek. It’s a private power operation belonging to the land owner. He even has bison.

A few minutes later we meet up with Hal Jorgensen, operations manager for the wind farm owned by TransAlta Wind. I like Hal, he and I have the same attitude: let sleeping dinosaurs lie. It’s power to the people in an eco-friendly way.

While I wait at the base of a giant wind turbine, Hal takes my two humans into the base of the giant tower to show them how things are controlled. He says there are more than 400 of these things around Pincher Creek and that brings a huge tax benefit to the people and community.

Hal Jorgensen, Operations Manager at TranAlta's Pincher Creek Wind Farm, showed us around.

Hal Jorgensen, Operations Manager at TranAlta's Pincher Creek Wind Farm, showed us around.

Wind is becoming more popular since the cost is now so much closer to that of coal or gas-fired power sources. People in Calgary can now sign up for “wind” power, he says.
As we leave, the female takes the wheel. (The male makes no attempt to tell her where to go).

Calgary here we come: Past Fort Macleod, site of an early NWMP fort; Claresholm, which touts its environmental sustainability; Nanton with its WW 2 Lancaster bomber.

Clouds close in, the headwind increases, making it difficult to maintain my pace without dipping more deeply into my fuel supply.  No big thing, really. We’ve come 398 km, my tank is still more than half-full and there’s just 80 km to go.

Then we’re at our rendezvous with expedition directors Garry and Lisa. They take over from my two companions for the day and we drive off in the rain.

Tomorrow I meet another new driver who will guide me into another new insight into our Country.

I can hardly wait!

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Kelowna to Cranbrook through the Kootenays. InCredible!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Left Kelowna in the soft morning light with spring in the air and a spring in my step, I mean, roll. I had a lot of fun twisting and turning south on Highway 33, up and down over mountains, alongside rushing rivers and past rolling valley ranches that begged me to stop and just ‘set’ a while.

But no, I was so looking forward to the drive through the Kootenay Rockies. They were even more stunning than what I was hoping for. The sky was the kind of blue that can only happen when you’re up on top of the world.  The impossibly straight pines almost touched that sky. The clouds were a perfect cottonball white.

This place has everything: rivers, lakes, waterfalls,  beaches, mineral hot springs, alpine meadows and snow-capped mountains. Four of British Columbia’s seven national parks are located here. And barely another car in sight!

Do you know those signs that say ‘Check your fuel. Next fuel station 75 km’? Well, I saw so many of those signs today and the only time we stopped was so that my drivers could, you know, empty their tanks!

Oh, but we stopped in this neat little mountain town called Greenwood and the humans filled their travel mugs with coffee (first they empty, then they fill… kind of backwards). There’s a building in Greenwood that gets its power from the solar panels installed on it.  Hot diggity, my kind of building.

I came in for a landing in Castlegar, a city that’s deeply wedged into a beautiful river valley.

Diana Lunde (L) and Sandi McCreight, community garden gurus of the Castlegar Community Garden

Diana Lunde (L) and Sandi McCreight, community garden gurus of the Castlegar Community Garden

I visited with Sandi McCreight and Diana Lunde, two wonderful ladies that excitedly talked about their community garden. Sandi is the unstoppable force behind the fundraising and general rallying of the troops for the Castlegar Community Garden. Diana’s the one with the magic hands that tends to the plants (only edible ones allowed). I didn’t get to meet the team leader, Betty Offin, aka the Worminator. Next time, though, when I return to see how the planned ‘living labryinth’ is coming along.

Going into its third summer on land donated by the city, the Castlegar Community Garden has already expanded the size and number of the planting beds, from five to 34. Members of the community pay just $5 per year to cover insurance costs and for that they can come and grow vegetables and play in the dirt, anytime they want. The gate is always open.
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It’s a real community effort with the local lumber company donating the landscaping materials and lumber need to build the beds and prepare the land. Two Thumbs Up Greenhouse donated tomatoes and cucumbers galore last year. And the garden gives back to the community too. Check out this video of the building of the wheelchair accessible beds.

All this talk of tomatoes, garlic, sweet peas and brussel sprouts has got me thinking about dinner. We push on to Cranbrook and find Three Bars Ranch just outside of town. The Rockies in the background are so jaw-droppingly tall and snowy, they don’t look real. I’ll find out tomorrow whether they are or not.

I park for the night and get stared at by cows and horses. Love this Wild West stuff!

Sunset at Three Bars Ranch in Cranbrook. Aaaah.

Sunset at Three Bars Ranch in Cranbrook. Aaaah.

Vancouver to Kelowna: Summits, bottomless lakes and Chutter Ranch in between

Friday, April 24, 2009

Oooh … there they are, my new drivers for today’s leg of my tour… my, don’t they look handsome in their matching jackets!

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Today I’m headed to Kelowna in B.C’s dry interior.  Weather gorgeous!  I’ve got a full tank of gas so let’s go!  Leaving the city, it was nice to see Stanley Park, the “green lungs” of Vancouver so close to the downtown core.

So much traffic coming in… Wonder how much exhaust emissions are coming out of all those vehicles stuck in traffic? Me?  My engine’s not running while I’m stopped.

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I cross the mighty Fraser River using the Port Mann Bridge and it’s into the Fraser Valley… where some of the most fertile farmland in BC provides fresh fruit and veggies for dinner tables around the world.

The weather is beautiful and the skies clear in the valley… not the case in the past because air pollution used to be a problem prior to the introduction of BC’s vehicle emissions testing program called Aircare – it’s gone a long way to improving air quality.

Heading out into the Interior, it’s my first photo session with my new handlers. And what better location than in the Fraser Valley.  My drivers told me the snow is melting off the Coast Mountains, but I can see snow sprinkled on the mountaintops.

A quick peek and I’m doing fine on my fuel economy at 4.7 litres per 100 kilometres.

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Close to Hope my drivers get out and we try to find our next destination Dino Town. Hey! It’s on the map on my rear door, guys!

We stop and take a few shots of the sign for Dino Town, a kids amusement park that, like myself, is doing its part for the environment… the rides are all powered by human foot and hand power. No wasteful carbon-burning gas engine there.

My Drivers want to stop and play on the rides… but Kelowna beckons and onwards we go.

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Next stop is the picturesque town of Hope, gateway to the Coast Mountains, a lot of wooden statues of animals, quaint buildings.

Lots of road construction on the highways and a trip through the avalanche tunnel on the way to the BC interior. My engine is kept very busy coping with the steep mountain passes.

I’m sad to see the dying red and grey pine trees.  Global warming has allowed the Mountain Pine beetle to infest most of BC’s Lodge Pole Pine.

We continue on to our main ‘green’ destination out in the Nicola River Valley. We are off to see Chutter Ranch and owner Dave Chutter, a cattle rancher who is participating in the Interior wetlands program to preserve and enhance fish and waterfowl stocks along the Nicola River and its tributaries.

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I see lots of cows passing their own emissions as Dave takes us on a little tour of an area of his ranch given over to the program.

Ouch!  My suspension hurts on the ranch’s gravel roads as we tour.

Dave explains how over the years agriculture and other land uses have led to the loss of cottonwood trees, shrubs and grasses that once boarded the Nicola River. Without sufficient vegetation, Dave explains, the riverbanks become prone to erosion and collapse and affect water quality and valuable fish habitat.

Dave’s ranch devotes 65 Hectares of land without cattle to demonstrate how the use of building up riverbank dykes, adding trees, vegetation, controlling livestock can restore and improve the rivers and increase fish stock such as salmon.

After we say our goodbyes to Dave, I get my picture taken with a bunch of cows… one cow seems to like me in particular!

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Back on the road to Kelowna we pass the Pennask Summit.  Wow!  I’m at the highest point in my life and ask the guys to take my picture. Brrrr… It’s mid-April and it’s one degree below zero.

After hours of climbing we descend into the Okanagan Valley and I’m using hardly any fuel.  My instrument display tells me I’ve averaged only 5.4 litres per 100 kilometres of fuel.

Not bad for a 500-kilometre drive over the trip over the mountains.

We roll into Kelowna and my drivers go into the Hotel Eldorado. Bye, guys! It’s been fun. The Hotel Eldorado is a lively hotel with a sweeping mountain view out the large front windows and beautiful Okanagan Lake right at the doorstep.

The other vehicles in the parking lot tell me that the original 1920s building was rescued from certain death and floated 5 km up the lake to its current location. Wow! There’s an airy addition that uses a geothermal heating system (it was the first hotel in Kelowna to use this technology) to heat guestrooms, the indoor pool and the hot tub. Now that’s cool!

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Tomorrow… the Kootenays!

Insight Canada1′s Excellent Earth Day Adventure in Vancouver

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

 

Doggy doo-doo gets a new life at City Farmer.

Doggy doo-doo gets a new life at City Farmer.

I feel like it’s my Birth Day but wait! It’s Earth Day… close enough! It’s also the day Honda Insights go on sale across Canada.

I’ve had a great Earth Day here in Vancouver. Checked out Westin Bayshore’s soon-to-be complete rooftop herb garden where the Chef will grow herbs and vegetables to use in his special edible creations.

Then off to City Farmer where Director Mike Levenston and Sharon Slack, gardener extraordinaire, toured me through the year-round garden. I learned about urban agriculture, a subject on which Mike is an expert and a true pioneer. He started City Farmer 31 years ago and is still as passionate and enthusiastic about the renowned educational urban farm today.

The ingenious pulley-system-recycled-spades-and-garden-tools gate at City Farmer at 2150 Maple Road in Vancouver.

The ingenious pulley-system-recycled-spades-and-garden-tools gate at City Farmer at 2150 Maple Road in Vancouver.

The composting hotline was abuzz with activity and it’s probably one of the few places in the world where worms are a hot topic. At City Farmer, they even put doggy doo-doo to good use… back into the earth.

In the sunny afternoon, it was time to head to Shaw Tower where the wildly popular TV show ‘Urban Rush’ is taped. Hosts Mike and Fiona drove and interviewed me. I felt like a rock star. Again!

One big disappointment about being on Urban Rush… I didn’t get to go to the Green Room. Shouldn’t I, of all cars and stars, be in the Green Room? On Earth Day? Geez.

I left Urban Rush just in time for… hmmm… rush hour. My favourite time of the day. When I can quietly sit at traffic lights, quietly contemplating my Earth Day, quietly thinking how quiet I am because… I don’t idle. I ‘auto stop’. Do you?

L to R: Sharon Slack, gardener extraordinaire, and Mike Levenston, Director of City Farmer... 31 years and still growing strong!

L to R: Sharon Slack, gardener extraordinaire, and Mike Levenston, Director of City Farmer... 31 years and still growing strong!

Dinner tonight at Raincity Grill, a member of the Green Table Network, a growing group of leading restaurant professionals and the people who supply and support them. Members of the network have made a conscious commitment to a shared goal:  a deliciously sustainable future. Greentable.net provides a convenient guide for conscious diners.

I sat and watched the sunset over glistening English Bay while the humans feasted on organic and local goodies from the 100-Mile Menu.

But that’s alright because tomorrow I hit the eastward trail into those snow-capped mountains off in the distance.

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Mile Zero: where the rubber meets the road and begins to roll eastward

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

mile0mayor1Greetings, Canada! Well, today is the first day of my cross-Canada tour and what a day it has been. I woke up bright and early and had a meet and greet with the Mayor of Victoria! How exciting is that?! Hon. Mayor Dean Fortin greeted me along with the first media team of Insight into Canada, Jeannie Owens-Wallace and Alexandra Straub, at “Mile 0”. Mayor Fortin presented a gift that I have the honour of taking to the Mayor of St. John’s.  A local TV station came on board to check out all my neat features.

I felt like a star.

We left there and popped over to visit Cliff Leir from Fol Epi (101-398 Harbour Rd.).  This is my kind of guy – he really cares about our planet.  Cliff owns a bakery situated in Dockside Green, one of Canada’s greenest building projects, and has some of the best bread around – all made from Canada grown Red Fife wheat.

Then it was “up Island” to Cowichan Bay to visit a group of very inspirational kids at Bench Elementary.  Not only has this group of phenomenal grade 2-5 kids done wonders in their community to save and preserve Somenos March, like making a video and posting it on YouTube, they have also raised thousands of dollars for the people in Myanmar and homeless in their own community. To raise the money (and awareness about the harmful effects of plastic bags) the Make a Difference Club colourfully hand-decorate cloth bags and sell them.

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The Make a Difference Club at Bench Elementary in Cowichan on Vancouver Island hang out with Insight Canada1

The drive down the Malahat was gorgeous as the sun was shining so brightly.  We even saw some local deer grazing as we passed. So cute.

Back in BC’s capital, lunch is at Red Fish Blue Fish.  Red Fish Blue Fish serves up the yummiest food from inside a recycled cargo container, supporting  sustainable fishing and aiming for zero-waste. So while the girls devoured the delicious grub, I sat near the wharf on the Inner Harbour, sunning and watching the sea planes.

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The 1st Insight into Canada team, Alexandra Straub (L) and Jeannie Owens-Wallace, on the wharf at Red Fish Blue Fish.

OK, to get from glorious Vancouver Island back onto the North American continent, if you have four tires, there’s really only one way… Ferry Boat! I’ve been dreaming about this.

I guess I never realized that a ferry boat ride from the perspective of a car isn’t that much fun. No big views, no hanging  off the bow with Celine Dion singing in my ears, no waving at passing boats. But that’s OK. BC Ferries have been plying these waters for many years and they’ve begun upgrading their fleet in earnest to newer, more energy efficient vessels. I hang out on Deck 2 of the Spirit of British Columbia waiting for landfall so I can get back to work on the asphalt.

Tomorrow, I get to celebrate EARTH DAY in Vancouver! Lots of activities planned so check back here tomorrow night to see what I get up to. And my siblings all go on sale at Honda Dealerships across Canada. Big day.

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Saying goodbye to the Pacific Ocean (sniff!) but the Atlantic is calling.

Insight Canada 1 gets dressed for action

Monday, April 20, 2009

The big day is coming. Mile Zero tomorrow morning at 8:30 a.m. The Mayor of Victoria, Honourable Dean Fortin, and me!

My handlers, Lisa Calvi and Garry Sowerby, arrived this morning at Campus Honda where I’ve been patiently (not!) waiting. They took me to GraphicFX Signworks to get my party clothes on – my Insight into Canada decals. Don’t I look sharp? They tell me they’re using eco-friendly inks on my decals and that makes me feel good all over!

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I stopped in at The Good Planet Co. on Broad Street and Lisa and Garry picked up some travel mugs for my drivers tomorrow so they don’t have to toss any coffee cups into the garbage on their trek on Vancouver Island. The Good Planet Co. (www.goodplanet.com) is a cheery store where you can buy everything you need for an earth-friendly lifestyle. Bath products, organic mattresses and bedding, neat solar gadgets, natural pet treats and, of course, travel mugs in all shapes and sizes. Found some that are perfect for my cupholders!

I wonder what my drivers are going to be like?

Pretty big job ahead of me, driving to the Atlantic Ocean at the other end of the Trans-Canada Highway and checking out Canadians’ eco-efforts along the way.

But first, the Mayor! I’d better get a good night’s sleep.

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