But Canada is so Close

Welcome

Pat really wanted to take a family vacation. Unfortunately planning for this didn’t start soon enough and our options were limited. Most of us wanted to go to Hawaii but Pat wasn’t to thrilled with that option. We also had issues with timing. It had to happen over the week the kids had spring break. For me it also meant I could only spend a few days because of limited PTO.

The final decision was Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, BC. The family drove up but I took a flight out on Thursday to meet them. From Portland it was only a few hours to get there. It was really cool rolling up to this small little airport and have my own car waiting for me. Bobby threw my bag into the truck and we headed to the house. They had been there since the beginning of the week and done a few things. My time was short but I was determined to make the most of it.

The weather for the most part was pretty bad all week. It often rained and was usually pretty chilly and overcast. We were not expecting bright sun and warms temps, just a little better then this. It really didn’t slow us down which was good. In fact on Saturday since it was not going to rain we changed our plans and went to Butchart Gardens.

Thursday was a travel day for me so we kept things lite. Bobby, Tracy and I went to the Crow & Gate Pub just down the street. This was the closed place to grab a beer so here we went. A classic pub in every way. Dark, huge hearth with a fire, benches and a pretty low rough cut wood ceiling. It was just the three of us so we caught up on the trip so far.

No one much felt like cooking so we decided to head to the near by town of Ladysmith to see what was available. I forget that when you are in the middle of nowhere 8pm is late. We lucked out finding Maya Norte which was still open and serving dinner. It was an awesome tapas place right in downtown. That night there was even a musician playing some really cool stuff which also added to the atmosphere. Not very busy but it was a Thursday night. We ordered so much food and it was all amazing stuff. If you are passing through town stop and grab a bite to eat.

Friday we spend most of the day at Wildplay just down the street. It’s an outdoor adventure park and we split up when we tackled this place. The kids had their own course and we adults did a much tougher one. I had never done one of these before and it was a lot of fun. As the course went on it got higher and higher in the trees. I won’t lie, it was scary at times. I kept telling myself that I was safe and nothing would happen. Fifty feet up tackling a crazy ass obstacle it’s hard to take my own words seriously.

When we all finished we all did the zip line, even Pat got in on the action. It’s actually two zip lines across the river below. The second one is crazy long and a great ride. The weather could have been better but the view was an incredible time at the park.

That afternoon a few of us headed into town. I wanted to cook dinner with Bobby one night and Friday was it. While in town I walked around and found a few spots. First was Smoke Rings Cigar and Tobacco which was crazy. The guy there, Steve, is one of the owners and actually knew Gary. We shot the shit for a long time swapping war stories from days gone bye. It’s amazing how much the cigar industry has changed since I started smoking. Based on Steve’s recommendation I was looking to smoking a cigar with family after our steak dinner.

Next I found Fascinating Rhythm which was awesome. I picked up a new mix record of soul/funk but also managed to score a couple really good used ones too. The coup for the trip was getting Gil Evans Priestess for 10 Canadian. Scoring this was a big win, totally made the entire trip worth it. Shout out to Michael Ruetten for turning me onto this album. I love that guy. I was so shocked when I saw it I couldn’t pass it up. I also found a reprint of Horace Silver Quintet’s Song for my Father for half the price of a sealed one. Don’t mind if I do. Unfortunately this didn’t leave anytime to taste beer but then there should always be a reason to come back.

Cooking can be an adventure and that night it was. The homeowners had two grills and both of them where encrusted with mold. The worst grills I have ever seen in my life, total health hazard. It made me want to vomit when I saw them. Not to let this stand in our way, we adjusted and still put together a great meal for everyone. After the kids went to bed the adults went down to the water front. The weather was pretty peaceful and the temps not bad so everyone hung out while Bobby and I smoked a victory cigar after a tasty meal.

Saturday we all packed into the truck and headed for Victoria. I had been here once before on our Alaskan cruise and I thought it was a great city. I was excited to be coming back, even if it was only for the day. While driving down we made a game day decision and went to Butchard Gardens since the weather had cleared up. We did get a little drizzly but having lived in the PNW for a while now, it didn’t even phase me.

A really cool place with lots to explore and see. This is a garden started by a rich guy a long time ago, typical story to be honest. Lots of plaques all over the grounds that explain the fascinating history of the garden. You can actual track the expansion and growth of the gardens throughout history with these plaques. Umbrellas all over the place if you come unprepared which is something I haven’t seen anywhere else offered.

Having made the long trip to Victory we stayed in town for dinner that night. The family went to church and I scouted around for a place to eat. Did a little shopping but didn’t buy anything. I did find Yates Street Taphouse. It was open to kids, had a great beer list and looked liked decent food. I was overrules. When traveling with the family it is difficult to come to consensus at times. It turned into a giant cluster fuck finding a restaurant that night but I was happy with the choice we made, Earls Kitchen + Bar.

It might be a chain but it was a great place. In a lot of ways it reminds me of Great American Restaurants back east. The service was good, beer was cold and the food pretty darn creative. After our tapas dinner a few nights before we decided on a similar setup. We got a bunch of small plates and pizza to share with everyone. The food was so good, I can only image what an actual meal would be like.

Sunday came all to quickly. We packed up and got out of the house rather quickly which was surprising. It was going to be a long drive getting home. We were going to cross via ferry in Victoria so we decided to hit the Royal British Columbia Museum for a quick cultural visit. About a quarter of the museum was under construction but it was still a lot to explore. What I thought was most fascinating was the emphasis on client change. Government sponsored awareness of client change was pretty cool to see.

The trip across the board home was an easy and thankfully uneventful one.  Bobby has had issues in the past crossing back but not this time. It was a petty long ferry ride and then an even longer drive south. From Port Angeles there is no good way coming home. You have to go around Olympic National Park and its a big park. I don’t remember what time I eventually got home but it was late after a long day of travel. I think next time I would spring to just fly myself home.

It was a short trip but a really good one with the family. Hopefully next time we can pick a warmer location and with enough advanced notice, get Matt to come.

 

Rebirth Brass Band Revolution Hall April 20th 2018

Rebirth Brass was one of many acts coming to town.

This show was kinda a list minute idea I had. As I was checking out what was coming to local venues I found that Soul’d Out was doing a multi venue music festival. One of those acts was the Rebirth Brass Band at the theater in my back yard, Revolution Hall. It was also a special night and a Friday on top of that so I just had to go.

After a regular day of work I got to enjoying the evening with a nice walk around the city. The weather was really starting to break and be enjoyable in the evening with the light being out later as well. I must have walked several miles around, lots of activity along the water and people out enjoying the beautiful weather.

I knew I would need fuel all night so I stopped at Danwei Canting for some street food. I loaded up on some spicy food. From here it was a short walk to the venue. When I walked in the lights were low and a few people milling on stage but nothing official. It seemed to me that some members were ready to start and others needed a few more minutes. The place was already pretty packed and the ticket taker suggested I try up stairs. I tried the floor and got a pretty good spot up front in the seated section near the sound board.

The show was really fun and a lot of energy.  They packed what was a small stage for the band with everyone and played their hearts out.  Not as much crowd involvement as the Antibalas but still lots of energy.  Seemed like a couple people in Portland have seen them perform live in NoLo at their regular gig which would be cool.

A really good night of booty shaking music. I guess my only real complaint is how long the show was.  I got there just before 10pm and didn’t see an opening act perform. I just thought they could have done two sets or at least kept playing. I mean I had time to stop at Voodoo Too for after show donuts and get home before it was even midnight. On a Friday no less. Despite that one hiccup everything else was great.

Rebirth Brass Band
Friday, April 20th 2018
Revolution Hall – Portland, OR

Set stars at 10:01pm
1. .
2. .
3. .
4. .
5. .
House lights at 11:27

Encore starts at 11:28pm
6. .
House lights at 11:31pm

 

Stickmen Brewing Co.

A gigantic brewery in an industrial area on the outskirts of town.

Another dreary Saturday afternoon so I decided to stop by a brewery. It all started because I needed a post office and all the ones in the city are closed on the weekend. I get it but it is inconvenient as hell. It means I have to travel to the burbs and if I am going that far I may as well make an afternoon of it.

I found Stickmen Brewing Co. in Tualatin which wasn’t far from the post office. This particular one I have been to before and has an automatic postal machine so they always have what I need. The brewery is in a large warehouse district and to be honest the place is to big. Their operation are already huge but the space they have, they can expand three times and still not fill it all. The ceilings must be fifty feet tall which is just bizarre to see a place so large.

The bar area isn’t as big as you would thing but its nice. Lots of benches in the place to foster meeting people and talking with them. They even have a nice large patio area outside with umbrellas so on nice days a good place to hang out. There is food onsite but its only pizza. Lots of different styles to choose from and the one I got was awesome.  It was a pear and Gorgonzola pizza which was really good. That is all they have but its really good. Bottles to go if you want to take something home with you.

Stickmen Purple Haze

This turned out to be a good afternoon of pregame. I managed to stick around for three beers which was awesome. The beer was nothing special, nothing blew my doors off or anything. But it was certainly nice just to hangout and relax while drinking beer. Later that afternoon I meet Bobby and Tracy at Church near my apartment. A friend of theirs was celebrating her birthday and they asked if I wanted to come along. Had a couple more beers here. It was great having some adult conversation.

I still needed to drive my car home but I took my time doing it. I walked through a boutique grocery store which was just about to close. Didn’t get a good luck around but had what I expected. Lots of specialty items and looks like some good prepared food too. Then I found The Pie Spot which had of all things, pecan pie. I don’t know what it is about the pacific northwest but they don’t make pecan pie up here and it kills me. I then saw chicken pot pie and got one of those for dinner. Both of these pies were really good and I highly recommend them if you are looking for something to eat in the area.

Hoh Rain Forest Tom’s Creek May 2018

With the weather finally changing there are less excuses for not getting out. This month I have some free nights at Marriott that will expire so this weekend I booked a trip up to Olympia to burn through one of my nights. Years ago I saw a story on CBS Sunday Morning that talked about the quietest place in the continental US and since then I have made it a point to check out the spot. Now they didn’t say exactly where it was but I think its in the Hoh Rain Forest some where in Olympic National Park.

Lots of drift wood has washed up on this section of beach.

I would have much rather camped in the forest but the hotel worked out. Its only a couple hours from home but much closer then my house to the hike. The first real hike of the year and I knew I would be exhausted afterwards so closer was better. On the trail I ran into many people that where out for the weekend hiking. From the Hoh Rain Forest visitor center you can head deep into Olympic National Park. There are really only foot trails into the interior so if you want to go exploring, you better start walking.

From my house I got an early start and left just before 7am. The park is pretty deep in the interior but you are still only barely in the park. Its amazing how much of this park is not accessible by road. You really must hike if you want to get anywhere. There was certainly no shortage of 20+ mile hikes starting from here.

From the visitor center I headed down the Hoh River Trail. My time was limited and in the end I only got two hours to hike into the forest but I managed to make it to Tom’s Creek and hung out there for a while before turning back for my car. Next time I am planning on an overnight stay to really enjoy the park. It was still early afternoon when I had to head back with plenty of daylight left.

So the whole reason to come out to this park was to find some peace and quite. It was a beautiful day so I expected the trail to be busy with hikers. Despite being so hard to reach, the weather was to perfect to pass up. First off in the lower section of the trail you are walking right along the river for the most part. This provides a huge amount of noise as the water rushes over the stones and debris. This isn’t that bad but what I kept noticing was the air planes. At least this part of the park is right over a flight path which is super annoying. Even when I found a nice quite spot near Tom’s Creek to get some writing done I could hear the planes over head.

The hike itself is great. Now and again you get a cutout in the trees so you can see the river below and in the back ground are snow capped mountains. It was so crazy seeing the snow topped mountains.  Coming from the mid-Atlantic you never see anything like this. I have hiked in the Shenandoah when it has snowed but that disappears just as quickly as everywhere else in Virginia. The forest was also just starting to come to life. The ferns and other leafy trees are starting to bloom. Not many flowers were blooming so not sure if I missed them all or just early. The temps on the mountains are probably in the mid 60’s so might be a little early still?

Along the trail there are also two small waterfalls. One you has a pretty good view from a small foot bridge. The second is approximately 200′ further down the trail and is much harder to see. You can hear it and that was the only reason I noticed it. The first has a pretty well defined trail to it. The second, not so much.

One thing you notice walking in the forest is the size of the trees. There are many huge trees in the forest and pictures don’t do them justice when you have no scale for reference. They really are amazing and it’s one of those things you just have to see and experience for yourself.

I had a free night at Marriott that was about to expire and I didn’t want it to go to waste. Olympia had the closest. Who knew that I would have difficulty finding a place to eat after my hike. By the time I got to the hotel and cleaned up it was almost 9pm. Not to worry, its a Saturday night in the capital city of the state of Washington. Surely something must be open. Boy I couldn’t have been more wrong. The entire city shutdown at 9pm it seems. I ended up with fast food because I couldn’t find anything else open.

Originally I planned to hit Three Magnets Brewing Co. close to the hotel but wasn’t feeling it that night. Thankfully nothing to worry about because on Sunday at 8am and start serving breakfast and beer which is awesome. I got their BLT Benedict and their Robust Porter. The place was really busy for a Sunday morning which was nice to see. I took the opportunity to sample a few beers and get some writing done. Olympia isn’t that far from home so there was no hurry to leave.

After breakfast I explored some of the city. I found some great chocolate at Encore Chocolates & Tea. They reminded me Ranger Chocolate is just down from my house. The small art supply shop Olyphant Art & Media was tiny but I found a pen case here so another score. They even had a decent record shop. Rainy Day Records didn’t have anything to deep but certainly a well rounded collection of music. They have a movie club which I thought was cool. A bunch of cheesy 70-90’s cult classics. What a good idea.

Last thing on my list was stationary. What I found was more of a gift shop but Compass Rose had a good selection of cards. I bought a bunch of post cards and a couple note cards and got to work writing at a local coffee shop. The shop overlooked a small park. With such a beautiful day the park was alive with activity.

I really want to go back to Olympic National Park and camp next time. I loved the huge trees and the weather is pretty good for hiking out that way. With such a large park there is a lot to explore so I have a feeling it will keep me busy for a while. As for Olympia I thought that was a great little town. Sunday morning and the place was busy with activity in downtown. I have one more free night that’s about to expire……where to next?

 

Medeski, Scofield, Martin and Wood Ogden Theatre March 30th & 31st 2018

Ogden Theatre marquee for Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood 3/30

Literally for months I have been waiting for this weekend. Oh so long ago a two night run was announce by Medeski, Martin and Wood with the addition of long time friend John Scofield. This was a one off performance and I knew I couldn’t miss this opportunity to see my second favorite band. They never tour any more so any opportunity to see them I jump at it. Hench traveling to Denver in 2017 to see Jose Russo’s Almost Dead only because MMW was opening for them.

I will never live down the day probably close to 20 years ago by now, that I missed MSMW at the 9:30 Club. I thought the show would never sell out and boy was I wrong. Not only did I miss this first tour by the group but it was a birthday show for me too so I was really bummed. Since that time I never miss a MSMW show and I get my tickets early….way early. The day they went on sale early.

This trip really worked out. The shows where on Friday and Saturday which was pretty cool. I would just have to take Friday off to fly out, see the shows, and then fly back on Sunday, ready to work Monday. Eventually I figured out this was Easter weekend and that caused all sorts of issues coming back. Pat was flying into Vancouver for our traditional Easter brunch. I was able to fly into town and make it for Sunday dinner so almost as awesome as brunch. Prime rib was the the choice for dinner.

A huge display of Degas paintings, drawings and other items related to the great master. A great exhibit. I was happy I caught it.

MWMW was playing the Ogden Theatre which is close to downtown so I stuck to my general game plan of staying at the Renaissance Denver Downtown. I can take the train from the airport to Union Station and then a free bus to the hotel. The hotel was only a short 25 minute walk to the venue and the rest of Colfax Ave.

I got into town mid-afternoon and headed to the hotel. Thankfully I got another room upgrade to a corner suite which was really nice. I hadn’t had anything to eat so after a quick stop for essentials I was off to French 75 to get some food and a well deserved beer. The flight over was nothing special but it was finally time to relax. The beef was cooked really well and the pasta was ok. I was trying to relive memories of Paris but that just wasn’t happening at French 75. After that it was back to the hotel for a quick nap before a long night.

I arrived a little late to the venue because I was napping so the first floor was all filled up. I headed upstairs to the second level and found a spot on the left side to catch the first set. The venue us a huge and beautiful place. From the outside it looks rough but on the inside it is a whole different story. The second floor balcony is huge and wraps around the entire venue. Ceilings are Art Deco and the stage is pretty big. There is even seating on the second floor back stage but I believe these seats cost extra.

All weekend it was really nice which was awesome. It felt so good just sitting in the sun.

As for the first nights performance….it was good. I honestly thought that Scofield was bringing the band down at times. His playing was just off for much of the night. It was like his hands just couldn’t keep up with the tempo or the pace of the songs at times. When things got complicated, he broke down. Despite Scofield’s playing it was a killer show and I was so happy to see them all playing together. Chris was really spot on with the bass. His jams were tight and precise and amazing to see. In fact he killed it both nights. After the show I walked to Voodoo to have a little taste of home. I should have eaten the doughnuts immediately instead of taking them back to the hotel. Oh well, still very good despite being smashed.

Saturday was a full day in Denver so I took the opportunity to have some fun before the start of the show. I wanted to hit some breweries in the area and like always, I find myself killing time in the morning waiting for them to open. This time around I decided to head south from the hotel so stopped off at the Denver Art Museum to check things out before getting into an afternoon of drinking. This was just on a whim and I am really glad I stopped.

First off they have demolished the north building since the last time I visited. This was a big shock when I saw this giant hole in the ground and cranes. The other kick ass thing was the Degas exhibit they had. The museum has lost most of its exhibit space so this special showing I thought was a great way to tide everyone over till the new building is completed. The exhibit was really well done. Such a huge collection of Degas, I have never seen so many in my life in one place. I have seen only a few of his works, the ballerinas I immediately recognized for example. The exhibit chronicled his life from his early work to the end of his life. Showing his work in different medias and how the subject matter changes as his life went on. A really great exhibit of his work and if you get a chance to see it, go.

Some of the many barrels for ageing are in the back.

Now that breweries were finally open I started getting down to some serious business. First up was Trve Brewing Co. This place reminds me a lot of Black Sky Brewing. An interesting brewery for sure. Its probably 20’ or so wide but really deep. Front portion has a garage door.  Brewing operations in the back and so is the bar.  Lots of long benches the lead you back to the bar. As is the theme things get darker the further you go into the place, really interesting style. Some nice contemporary art on the walls. Decor and theme is heavy metal and it really works. I actually really enjoyed the music that played the whole time I was there. Candles on the taps make it look like an alter. A good selection of draft but I really loved their bottle selection. Lots of aged beers which where awesome.

Then some quick food to keep me standing so I found Moe’s Original Bar B Que down the street. It was relatively close to where I was and the next brewery I wanted to hit so a perfect location. Since I arrived in the city I have done a lot of walking and the plate of food I got was huge but I devoured it all. It was some really good bbq and some much needed fuel to keep me going. It was already late in the afternoon so I was hoping this meal would keep me going all night. I was expected another late night of dancing and grooving.

For some reason in Denver I was on the sour kick and the second brewery I found was Baere Brewing Co. Another interesting location for sure. Small strip mall with limited parking. Does have a nice outdoor patio area for nice days which is cool. There are also garage doors that open the entire place up. Lots of aged beers here which is awesome. You can see many of the barrels all stacked up in the back. 80’s new wave music going on which was cool. Lots of exposed wood and polished concrete floors. 

By now it was time to start making my way to the venue. I told myself I was going to get a good spot yet maximized my time before the show. Colfax Ave is a hoping place so plenty to do before walking into the show. I found The 1Up, a classic arcade joint, before the show. I have been to the one in LoDo but not the one on Colfax. A low ceiling and cramped place with a decent selection of games. I find Ground Kontrol to be better.

Finally it was time to get to the venue. I timed it to arrive a little before 9pm. I was planning on just walking in, going up stairs, coat check and boom, concert. As I started walking towards the venue I noticed something was wrong but it took a moment to figure out the situation. The block was out of power and there was a line of people standing outside waiting to get in. Not wanting to just stand in the freezing cold I did a lap around the area to keep warm, constantly checking for updates to the power. It looked like literally only two block where without power which sucked. As time went by and no updates being posted I started getting concerned if the show was going on at all. A rescheduled date would be hard for me to make.

Finally around 9:30 the power was restored and there was a giant roar from the crowd. Come to find out the venue started letting people in and then the power when out so everyone had to evacuate. Since most people where already queued outside once everyone got in the show pretty much started immediately. Despite the late start we still got two full sets totaling 2.5 hours which was awesome.

Scofield was off for a second night but still a good performance over all. Disappointingly they repeated a few songs from the previous night. I found out the reason for the two shows too. This was the 20th anniversary of A Go Go and the start of their collaboration with Scofield. This time because of the power outage I got a pretty decent spot on the balcony directly in front of the stage. During the second set there was a lady behind me, Stacy. What an interesting woman she was. Another great show that night and a total blast seeing the band playing again.

My flight back on Sunday was pretty early. My original plan was to get back to Portland at a reasonable hour and then relax the rest of the day so I could start work refreshed on Monday. Since it was Easter and Pat was in town when I got back I took a quick nap and then headed to Easter dinner. Pat was in town as part of a long trip out west to see everyone and for a family trip to Nanaimo for a week.

Whenever MMW play again I will seriously consider traveling to see the show. I love to travel, I love this band and it is something they do irregularly. My hope is that one day they will travel back to Japan or maybe a European tour so I can hit that and really enjoy a vacation seeing MMW.

 

Medeski, Scofield, Martin and Wood
Friday, March 30th 2018
Ogden Theatre – Denver, CO

Show starts at 8:50pm

  1. Sham Time
  2. A Go Go
  3. Light My Fire
  4. Chicken Dog >
  5. Improv
  6. Juicy Lucy
  7. Helium

Set over at 10:07pm

Set 2 starts at 10:35pm

  1. drums
  2. Chank >
  3. Deadzy >
  4. What Now >
  5. Deadzy
  6. What’d I Say
  7. Sunshine of Your Love

Set over at 11:50pm

Encore starts at 11:53pm

  1. Tootie Ma is a Big Fine Thing

House lights at 12:03am

 

Medeski, Scofield, Martin and Wood
Saturday, March 31st 2018
Ogden Theatre – Denver, CO

Show starts at 9:42pm

  1. Boozer >
  2. Southern Pacific
  3. Little Walter Rides Again
  4. I Got a Woman >
  5. Partido Alto
  6. Jeep on 35

Set over at 10:55pm

Set 2 starts at 11:30pm

  1. Legalize It
  2. Chank
  3. A Go Go
  4. Miles Behind >
  5. Sunshine of Your Love >
  6. Fuck You Guys

Set 2 over at 12:41am

Encore starts at 12:45am

  1. Green Tea

House lights at 12:52am

Notes: Power was out to a couple block for a while. Eventually just before 9pm power was restored. We quickly filtered in, security was a breeze. Additional microphone this night.