Wednesday, July 7, 2010


They have railroads in Canada? Who knew!
I'm back from Canada, guys! While my initial plans called for three weeks in the land to the north, I quickly discovered that it wasn't all that different from the States. In particular, the part we (my friend, my brother, and I) were in bore a striking resemblance to Oregon. Consequently we got bored pretty quickly and began wondering why we'd even made the trip. At the very least I'd expected a good pub scene, but it turned out Portland pretty much had Vancouver beat. Lots of pubs, but as far as we could tell none of them had anything going on beyond televisions with sports. Maybe all the Canadians headed south to take part in the parties on the 4th?

Not everything was completely boring though. Here are the highlights from the trip:

1) Being detained at the border.

Turns out the border checkpoint is not the place to get philosophical. If the guard asks if you are going to meet anyone in Canada, do not pause for a moment to consider how your answer could be considered foreshadowing in a plot, or how cruel Kismet might turn your answer against you. Just say "yes" or "no." Otherwise the guard's next question will probably be "Why did you pause before you answered that?" The situation will then deteriorate and you will be held for questioning while your car is searched.
On a side note, it was somewhat amusing to note how nervous the guard we were passed on to was when he let us through. He'd done all the questioning with an American accent, but when he made the decision to let us through, explaining to us that the Canadian-US border is not as porous as European ones and that we need better documentation next time, he was definitely sporting a strong Canadian one.

2) Zombie attack in Vancouver!
I have never seen so many meth addicts in one place! Nor homeless people. The greatest concentration seemed to be around the corner of Gore and Cordova, ironically just two blocks away from the police station. No exaggeration, it felt like there was a convention in town. I had a flashback to the scene from Shaun of the Dead where the protagonists pretend to be zombies in order to pass through a zombie horde.

It only helped that we'd slept in the car the night prior and hadn't had a shower yet. At that point I felt we blended in pretty well.

3) Getting panhandled
The homeless people in Vancouver are aggressive! If you ever visit Vancouver and happen across a homeless person, ignore them. Otherwise they'll wrest the money for their next meth fix from your succulent little wallet the same way zombies wrest brains from succulent little skulls. I fell for both the good ol' "ask-if-they-can-break-a-dollar-and-then-take-the-money-in-their-hand-and-run-off" trick as well as the "be-as-obnoxious-as-possible-until-they-throw-money-to-get-rid-of-me" trick. After that I got a little better at handling the homeless problem in Vancouver. I'm particularly proud of escaping a pincer attack attempted by a man and a mailbox as I was walking down the street.
Normally I do try to help homeless people out. I used to hand out food and clothes in downtown Portland for crying out loud. It's just really hard for me to believe someone desperately needs money for a bus ticket when their arms and legs are covered in needle tracts and they've got meth sores all over, no matter how many times they yell it or how in-my-face they get.

4) Lake Alice
I have to admit, the forests in British Columbia are really beautiful. We spent our second day exploring the campgrounds at Lake Alice and then visiting places nearby, such as Whistler (which we only passed through as we could see no reason to pay $16 for parking), Britannia Beach, and Pemberton. At Lake Alice everything was really green. There were a lot of coniferous trees. In other words it looked exactly like Oregon, only we'd driven a few hundred miles north to see it.

Beautiful? Yes. Foreign? Not at all.

5) The waiter
I've heard the people in Canada are the nicest people in the world. I've also heard Canadians are pretty much welcome in any country. I always figured that had something to do with the fact that they never invaded anyone else (except the United States that one time. I'm sure you heard about it in history class. After all, they did burn our capital to the ground!) Maybe they really are just super-nice. I don't know. The only people who talked to us were the pan-handlers, the people at the visitor centers, and waiters and waitresses.
By the second day my friend and I had decided there was little point to staying up in Canada and spending a bunch of money when there really wasn't anything there we didn't also have back in the States. My brother took a little more convincing. It wasn't until he overheard a waiter at The Pony in Pemberton bitching to all his staff about how we were only ordering three drinks (and two of them from the cafe side which, apparently, was not part of "[his] restaurant") that he decided Canada wasn't worth paying to stay in.

6) Britannia Beach
Along highway 99 there's a little place called "Britannia Beach." And I do mean little. We spent most of our time there trying to figure out where the beach was and how to get there. Fortunately a local was kind enough to inform us that the little dock we were standing on was the beach!

7) "Where are all the fat people?"
Because I can't allow every single one of these highlights to be negative, here's a positive one: it seemed like pretty much everyone in Canada was fit. We had a hard time finding overweight people. It was noticeable. So... go Canada.

At any rate, even though the trip was a bit of a disappointment, I'm glad I went! Otherwise I might have spent the rest of my life wondering what the hell Canada looked like. :-p


  1. Very well written & informative. I'm glad your trip went so well :) What a nice adventure for you, Brandon, & your friend.

  2. Next time go to the East Coast of Canada :)

    Oregon, Washington and parts of British Columbia all have the same temperate climate. So I don't imagine it was that different. And yes, that part of Vancouver is really bad for the homeless and the junkies.

    Listen to the song "Vancouver National Anthem" by Matthew Good - might describe what you saw.

    If you're looking for a more cultural Canadian experience - I recommend Montreal, or anywhere on the East Coast.

  3. I'm sorry, but you've never seen as many homeless people and zombies, and you're from Portland Oregon?! That place is crawling with homeless people and people dressed as zombies. Last time I was there, I saw a group of girls who looked like their flesh was decaying, but the effect was kind of diminished by the fact that two of them were texting and giggling. You had better keep writing this blog, because I intend to keep reading it, so if you don't write more, I'll be sad.