November 5, 2019

#NotAirCanada

This summer, Frank and I took a Canadian adventure. There wasn't a moose, bison or bear in sight, but we did see a motorcycle riding German Shepherd.

In fact, that's just what brought me to Fort McMurray, AB. Some how I convinced Frank to join me and learn to ride a motorcycle so he could haul me in a sidecar to raise funds for Cancer in my mom's memory. Honestly, I did not do any convincing he willingly volunteered. I have no doubt that I am loved. Especially since we departed on this adventure on the 4th of July. Which happens to be his very favorite holiday, by a a long shot.



Allow me to back up a few years. Before my mom was diagnosed with lung cancer, she was actively seeking help for her German Shepherd, Kasey. Her sight was diminishing and my mom was worried she'd further damage her eyes and she ran through mesquite trees with large thorns and thick bushes of Salt Cedar. At some point this search led her to Winky and his human, a Harley loving best friend, Sandy. The duo started to build a fan base outside of their home in Fort McMurray so Sandy created a Facebook page to spread word of their adventures. My mom was their first friend on the fan page.

A friendship grew from my mom's curiosity about Winky's Goggles he'd wear on motorcycle rides. Her and Sandy kept in touch and they planned to meet on his next ride to the States. He often visits Las Vegas to attend boxing matches, and often rides his bike down in summer months. Meanwhile, the duo gained more followers and they used their fandom to support local charities like the SPCA. The following grew with an avid group of supporters. Winky Rides was a grand success!

My mom anxiously awaited their visit. She checked in on Winky and Sandy daily, their adventures brought her such joy. Unfortunately, a month before their visit she was diagnosed with Lung Cancer. Inpatient Chemotherapy was scheduled during their trip. The reality of missing this opportunity to meet them was a crushing disappointment.



A year had passed and it was time for Winky and Sandy's annual ride to Vegas. My mom was not missing this opportunity. Her and Sandy, made plans for him and Winky to ride to her house in Pahrump. My sister had just relocated the month before so she was thrilled Nick would also meet Winky the motorcycle riding dog, and Sandy offered to take Nick for a spin.



Days before the meeting, my mom's health declined. Whenever it did, I would keep her at my house. For extra care and to keep her within proximity to hospitals and her doctors. This time was no different. Instead of Pahrump, they rode to my house for the meeting.

My mom was beside herself for the days beforehand she was so excited. She told me if I saw the duo riding around town to let her know immediately. I never spotted them until they pulled in front of my house. My mom immediately had pep in her step and a smile from ear to ear.

She was utterly overjoyed. The visit exhausted her, but she thought it was simply the greatest to finally meet Winky and Sandy. They were quite the team, bonds like those are rare! They were definitely the ying to each others yang. Winky showed off his tricks, played with his football and my mom loved every minute of it. Sandy was incredibly kind, he brought down some t-shirts and took Nick for the promised ride. I quickly understood they spread joy everywhere they went. The world was a better place with them in it.



10 days later my mom passed away. And then, 13 months later, Winky passed away. We were all overcome with grief. From that grief more friendships blossomed.

In time, Sandy, found a new pup. He'd name him after another legendary boxer, Greb. He hoped Greb would love riding as much as Winky did, but only time would tell. A ride in memory of Winky Rides was the fundraiser that introduced Greb to all of Winky's fans. Thankfully, he took a liking to the sidecar and they continued to spread the joy that Winky ignited.

Much to my surprise, Sandy had asked for our blessing to raise funds for Cancer by hosting the first Ride for Patty. It was such an honor, my family and I were so deeply touched. The first ride was followed by a second a year later. Both were held in September and both rides were chilly and wet. The time of year was difficult for my siblings and I to travel so we were unable to be present other than in spirit.

This year, Sandy opted to move the Ride for Patty to the first weekend in July. Hoping the better weather would make for a more enjoyable ride. It also allowed a trip possible for me. My sister had every intention of going too, but her request for time off was denied. My brother's time off is limited due to health stuff monopolizing his paid time off. When there was no way for Amy to come, Frank committed to joining me.

So, on the 4th of July, We set off for the furthest North in Canada either of us had ever been. I was really ignorant just how far and remote Fort McMurray is. Initially, I thought we could fly to Calgary, and pair it with a trip to Banff. Then, I learned it was much too far of a drive. I thought we could fly into Edmonton, but I was shocked to learn that Fort McMurray was still 5 hours north. A connecting flight directly to Fort McMurray was the only option. I secured the best price on airfare with the help of the Hopper app. It meant flying WestJet there and Air Canada home, but with a few weeks to go we were fully booked.

I began searching things to do, places to stay and eat and I came up with the fewest search results I've ever encountered. We have traveled to several off the beaten path locales before, but nothing ever like this. Most that visit Fort McMurray is purely for work. The oil sands are the life blood of this community.



TripAdvisor is not alive and well in these parts. Yelp has old outdated info, while Google offered the most help, it was pretty slim pickings when it came to reviews or suggestions of things to do. I came to realization we'd just have to roll with it.

I had a difficult time pulling the trigger on a hotel. Usually, I weed through the options quickly by selecting 3+ stars, king bed and desired location. The trouble in Fort McMurray was that I had no idea which of the three locations would serve us best. I was torn between the Best Western, Clearwater Suites and the Radisson. All reviews agreed pointed to BW as the nicest option, but the price was quite a bit more and nothing seemed to be nearby. The Radisson was at the opposite end of town but it seemed to be a solid choice. The wild card was Clearwater right in the center of town, it had favorable reviews. The swaying factor was each suite had a balcony. I thought it might give Frank the opportunity to enjoy a cigar.



I learned about the boreal forest beforehand and devastation of the 2016 wildfires. Neither prepared me for extent of the damage. I thought I knew about wildfire, living in the desert, I mean the carpenter fire and California fires were devastating but this? This was catastrophic. I knew going in that a Northern Lights sighting would be difficult due to the long days, but I never imagined just how bright it was at 230am.



Spoiler alert! It never got dark. There were definitely no Northern Lights to be seen. There was little to pass the time. We did use our balcony quite a bit. Frank would enjoy a cigar, while I worked on my Molson Muscle.



Ketchup flavored chips were more popular than I ever knew. I'm not a fan, however, it just tastes like something was off with the BBQ recipe.



Fortunately, we did find good eats. We had lunch at Mitchell's Cafe to try sunshine bread. Poutine at the Canadian Brewhouse and surprisingly tasty mediterranean at Shawarma Palace. I also had Timmy Ho's for the first time.

Gregoire Lake was our favorite place to relax. It was so scenic and the locals really enjoyed themselves. It was fun people watching. We were a bit cool, but they were living their best hot girl summer. Soaking up the sun and playing in the water.









Giants of Mining is the big area attraction. It's definitely worth the drive. The sheer size of the equipment is so impressive. I mean, look how little Frank appears!



We also checked out the Oil Sands Discovery Centre. The museum is the closest to the Athabasca oil sands as you can get without a hardhat and boots. Again, look at Frank! 6' 3" has never looked so small.





The real attraction in Fort McMurray, though, is the people! The hospitality of this city is unlike anywhere else. I knew Sandy had an amazingly kind heart, but the entire town is special. We met so many new faces that became instant friends. The support for Greb's Third Ride for Patty's was truly touching.

The ride began at Follow the Son Tattoo to nearby Anzac. We had so many join us. The generosity was unreal. Even the Harley Davidson store hosted a barbecue a donated the proceeds to Alberta Cancer Foundation raising a combined total of more than $2600. We had a beautiful day too. We could not have asked for better weather.













Frank did so well. He had only just learned to ride the Harley Softail. Sandy gave him a lesson, lent his bike and let Frank practice several times around the block to get a feel for it.





It was a really special trip. The joy Greb and Sandy spread is truly remarkable. I am so fortunate to call them my friends.



As I mentioned before, we flew Air Canada home. Little did we know that the flight was on Rouge. I was unfamiliar with the airline, but quickly learned what turd it is. Our connection was in Calgary and the boarding process was the biggest cluster I've ever experienced. We fly quite a bit, especially Frank and it's never been so bad. Once finally, on the plane, we encountered the tightest seats. Frank's knees did not fit in the sitting position. It was so uncomfortable. The wing was taped and the interior call light panel was held up with masking tape. Fortunately, we did arrive safely. Though, we swear we'll never book Air Canada again.

November 2, 2019

My Braceversary!

Yesterday, marked one year since my top teeth were put in braces. I'm now 22 months into treatment for TMD. I finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.



There is still work to be done with my twin block and elastics before my lower teeth are ready for braces. I don't know how long that will take, but I've gone this long. What's a few more months?

This has been such a long journey, but I'm so grateful for the relief it provides. I look forward to the final result. There was a time early into treatment that I really didn't think I'd could stick it out for the long haul. I was so miserable those first three months in the expansion appliance. I'm glad I stuck it out. You got to fight through the struggle. It was just a reminder that we can do hard things.

November 1, 2019

Wait up! Sis!

Halloween was great success! Keeping tradition the girls came to trick or treat in my neighborhood. Nick has reached the age that he'd rather do his own thing with friends than hang with us. I wonder how many full size candy bars, he got? The girls made out like bandits.

They are at such great ages. Alexis is three and Addison is five, now. I mean how did that happen?! The big shocker is that Nick turns 13 on Monday!! Geesh! Time never slows down. They weren't timid, this year, they were eager to go house to house. My favorite quote of the night came from Lex, "Wait up! Sis!" as she lagged behind Addy. It was just the cutest. Their relationship is so special. It's been a joy to see it blossom. I have always been close to my siblings, but with a seven and nine year age gap; it was much different. I hope the girls stay the best of friends.

Addy loves Jojo Siwa. She even got to see her in concert for her birthday. So, naturally, her costume choice was an easy one. Lex loves Sky from Paw Patrol. And she was the cutest pup, ever.



I was babysitting the night the kids costumes came in and it sparked the conversation of what I should be for Halloween. Addy was initially pretty insistent on that couples outlet costume. I have no idea why. At least, she let up on the idea and decided I needed to be a unicorn. She picked out one of those giant inflatable kind, but I opted for a the more comfortable onesie version. I added a few accessories to complete the look. They thought it was pretty great. Mission accomplished.


October 24, 2019

Red Sox vs White Sox

Back in June, I was able to cross an item off the bucket list - Catch a game at Fenway. Since 1912, it has been the home for the Boston Red Sox and it is the oldest ballpark in MLB. We were lucky that our summer trip coincided with an evening baseball game where their Sox took on my Sox.



Before the game we met Frank's coworker & friends for of drinks at the Bleacher Bar in Fenway Park. It's a very cool bar and one of two ways to see batting practice (the other being a VIP tour). Frank loved it because it's the only place in Fenway that will serve Bourbon straight.



My goal is to see all the ballparks one day, so it was a big deal to see Fenway. We sat in the original seats behind homeplate. Which sounded like a much cooler experience that it actually was. Not only do I not recommend, I'd advise against those seats. The view was great, but the seats? Man, they are rough! I have sat on tree stumps that were more comfortable. I insist my tailbone was bruised for a week, at least. Frank couldn't sit comfortably his knees were practically at his nose. It was tight.



Our routine is to try the local grub while taking in a game. Tasty's was the place to try. I can't say I was wowed. I enjoyed the tots more than the cheeseburger. Vermont cheese or not, gimme In-N-Out any day.



We also had beef with adult beverages at the park. Frank was refused whiskey without soda. I only found vendors selling Budlight or Sam Adams. Both are a hard pass for me. I saw Harpoon taps and advertising, but none actually for sale. The disappointment didn't end there, our Sox, despite an early lead also lost. Despite the loss, the achy back & butt and dying of thirst. I was happy to cross another ballpark off the list. Especially, one with such history.






October 18, 2019

Kame Omakase

With only two seatings a night, accommodating only eight guests for an intimate affair. We were extremely fortunate to secure seats with no prior notice. Our party of four were immensely grateful for the experience. The Omakase menu packs a punch at $195 per person, but it was worth every penny. We gorged on decadent delights, the freshest fish and simply stellar A-5 Wagu.

Over the course of two hours, you'll be whisked away on a tremendous journey from coast to coast and around the globe. The menu varies day to day, but more than 20 dishes are showcased. It is truly a treat. Especially since the new location is minutes from the strip or a $10 Lyft, it's easy find for locals and visitors.

From my first bite of foie gras of the sea, to the aromatic broth with rare mushrooms and omelet, delicate lobster sashimi, buttery briny uni, the sesame chocolate cake and everything in between is carefully crafted for pure enjoyment. I typically dislike traditional staples like soy sauce and ginger, but even those were unlike anything I've tried before.



























And for the real stunner, I mean. Oh my my!





And last, but not least.



Gluttony at its finest. Truly.