US Air Force brings F-22 Raptor to Abbotsford Airshow

An F-22 Raptor jet fighter flown by the United States Air Force.

An F-22 Raptor jet fighter flown by the United States Air Force. (Photo courtesy Liz Matzelle)

For the first time since American sequestration grounded US airshow acts in 2013, an F-22 Raptor from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia will fly at the Abbotsford Airshow. “It will be the first time that we’ve left the country to perform an airshow since sequestration in 2013,” Raptor demonstration pilot Major John (Taboo) Cummings said. “We’re pretty excited about it.” The F-22 team was in Abbotsford earlier this year for a reconnaissance trip and they’re looking forward to returning partway through a three-week road trip. “That airshow is renowned for its hospitality and they took great care of us,” said Cummings. “We can’t wait to bring the aircraft up there. It might be the first (visit) in Canada for some of the mechanical team members. It should be really exciting.” Cummings is the United States Air Force F-22 Raptor Aerial Demonstration team’s commander and pilot based at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia. He has been flying the Raptor at airshows for two years. He will fly one more year before a new demo pilot takes over.

Major John

Major John “Taboo” Cummings, commander of the F-22 Raptor aerial demonstration team out of Langley Air Force Base in Virginia.

Cummings said he flies in about 20 airshows per season (he’s already appeared in about a dozen) in addition to his regular USAF duties. Sequestration in 2013—which was like a large budget cut across the US government—has meant a more streamlined airshow schedule for American military teams, he added. Sequestration grounded the Blue Angels jet demo team in 2013, and Canadian airshows like Abbotsford lost all US aircraft for a couple of years. Cummings sees that changing, but acknowledges it will never be the same. “In the past the US had seven demonstration teams. In 2014 it was just the Raptor. This year we brought back the F-16. Twenty shows is about as much as we’ve done in the Raptor. I don’t think it will ever be what it was five or so years ago.” Cummings, for one, is excited to be back in the plane and flying in front of airshow crowds again. “This jet goes like nothing else,” says Cummings. “When we’re flying we take off and can be in altitude in minutes. We can be flying through 50,000 feet and it can be 30 degrees outside. It doesn’t take all its power. It’s a pretty incredible machine.” The Raptor has a service ceiling of 65,000 feet and can fly as fast as Mach 2.25, but Abbotsford Airshow spectators won’t see the jet break the sound barrier. “Our demo profile is a little unique,” says Cummings. “While we do some classic aerobatic maneuvres that others do, most of the maneuvres were designed to teach new pilots to fly the plane and demonstrate its capabilities.” The first move in the show is a power loop. Another is the tail slide, where the plane will fall backwards and be completely controllable. Cummings is looking forward to the heritage flight he will fly with a P-51 Mustang and F-86 Sabre. “We’re all flying together, which is pretty cool,” he said. It’s also a challenge to keep up because of the varying flight specifications of the heritage aircraft vs. the F-22. “When it’s just another jet aircraft it’s pretty easy. When you add a P-51…it becomes a challenge. They’re flying near their top (performance) and we’re flying more towards our slow end.” The Raptor is expected to fly both Saturday, Aug. 8 and Sunday, Aug. 9. “It’s the first time (the Raptor) has been allowed to stage from the ground at an airshow in Canada,” Abbotsford Airshow media spokesperson Jadene Mah said. “Usually they just pop them over the border” from an American air force base. The Raptor will be behind security lines on the hot or active ramp at the airshow, but aviation enthusiasts will still be able to see the high-powered jet. “People will get to see it on the ramp but they won’t be able to see it on display,” Mah said. The Raptor is one of three jet demo teams expected at the Abbotsford Airshow this weekend: others are the Canadian Forces CF-18 and the US Navy’s FA-18 TAC team. There are also three jet aerial demo teams—Breitling, Horsemen and the Snowbirds—and the flight commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. For ticket information, directions and both flying and static displays, please go online to http://www.abbotsfordairshow.com or follow @AbbyAirshow on Twitter.

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Year of the Twos

I can no longer call myself a beginner knitter. After nearly three years, I have accomplished a few things (like knitting scarves for my sister, niece and nephews, my first toque, my first sock, my first baby bootie) and had a few things that didn’t quite work out, like the first baby blanket (I finally took it apart and donated the yarn to Hugginz By Angel, a non-profit business run by Angel Magnussen, who sews blankets for sick children and also knits scarves and hats for them) and the scarf I made for my friend Lisa, who has been knitting for several years more than me (I messed it up so badly that I finally had to call her to help me fix it, and she took it away so she could finish it herself).

In between, I developed tendinitis in my right thumb, and being right-handed it was a bit of a problem. I quit knitting for many months so that I could function at my job, when really I should have done it the other way around. But alas, yarn doesn’t pay for itself.

My first toque, Sandoval Hat Pattern (http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/sandoval-hat), a challenge accepted a completed for Chris M., husband of my good friend Charmead.

My first toque, Sandoval Hat Pattern (http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/sandoval-hat), a challenge accepted a completed for Chris M., husband of my good friend Charmead.

The baby blanket, unraveling it using my ball winder. Can't claim originality on that one, but it sure worked well!

The baby blanket, unraveling it using my ball winder. Can’t claim originality on that one, but it sure worked well!

Here’s the problem: I often choose projects that come in twos, but I only finish the first one of a pair before moving on to another project (I haven’t yet learned to make some of these twos two at a time). I switched to baby booties so I could try something small, and something on double-pointed needles (DPNs), thinking something smaller would cater to the instant gratification I often crave while knitting.

My most infamous “two” that has yet to be finished is my sock. I took a sock knitting class three years ago February, which my friend and knitting mentor Beth Scott was conducting at a knitting store where she used to work. She was confident I could finish the sock even though I had only tackled dishcloths and a scarf at that point—all straight things.

I had only been knitting for a year when Beth S., my friend and knitting mentor, suggested I join her sock knitting class. "You can totally do this!" she said. It took me five—FIVE—trips back to the Village Yarn Shoppe in Comox to finish my sock, which I ultimately made into an ankle sock because I wanted to finish it! That was nearly three years ago. I finally cast on the second sock, but still have not finished it.

I had only been knitting for a year when Beth S., my friend and knitting mentor, suggested I join her sock knitting class. “You can totally do this!” she said. It took me five—FIVE—trips back to the Village Yarn Shoppe in Comox to finish my sock, which I ultimately made into an ankle sock because I wanted to finish it! That was nearly three years ago. I finally cast on the second sock, but still have not finished it.

The second sock is still not finished.

Here is the first baby bootie…

Baby bootie No. 1 (Christine's Baby Booties pattern, c/o Ravelry.com)

Baby bootie No. 1 (Christine’s Baby Booties pattern, c/o Ravelry.com)

…and the second bootie—not the same pattern!

Basic Baby Booties, by Bernat Design Team; a different way to make a baby bootie, on straight needles, thanks to my friend Teresa B. for the pattern and suggestion.

Basic Baby Booties, by Bernat Design Team; a different way to make a baby bootie, on straight needles, thanks to my friend Teresa B. for the pattern and suggestion.

(It’s knit on straight needles and I thought it wouldn’t take as long as the first bootie on DPNs.)

Besides the sock, this is my favourite “two”, and the one I will probably finish first: a fingerless glove. My motivation to finish is that my mother also wants a pair, and I already have the yarn for it.

Happy fingerless glove in Noro Mossa yarn, courtesy Pages and Stitches in Amherst, NS. Assistance on the first glove by my sister. Second project on DPNs.

Happy fingerless glove in Noro Mossa yarn, courtesy Pages and Stitches in Amherst, NS. Assistance on the first glove by my sister. Second project on DPNs.

So my knitting goal for 2015 is to finish my twos.

Just don’t get me started on my unfinished projects (UFOs).

P.S.

Here are a few of my favourite websites (although I haven’t figured out how to link them yet):

http://www.hugginzbyangel.com/

http://tincanknits.com/

http://mariknits.com/

http://www.ravelry.com/

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Sometimes, the little stories are the gems

Ever since I learned how to write, I’ve wanted to tell stories. That’s what has kept me going for the past 28 years as a community news journalist. I love the fact that my job is not 9 to 5. I get to ask as many questions as I want, because it’s my job to do so. If I’m curious about something, my press credentials give me leave to find answers. I also get to meet some incredible people, and do some pretty awesome things. This week, I followed British Columbia’s 29th Lieutenant-Governor, Judith Guichon, around the Alberni Valley as she visited a gymnasium full of enthralled elementary school children, took a ride on Port Alberni’s famed steam train and received a walking tour of McLean Mill National Historic Site. She also visited the Tseshaht First Nation to open a new subdivision on the reserve, visited seniors at Echo Village and attended a reception at the Hupacasath First Nation House of Gathering. She had previously spent two days touring Ucluelet and Tofino on the West Coast of Vancouver Island.

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British Columbia Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon tours McLean Mill National Historic Site on Feb. 3, 2015.

Her Honour was sworn into her appointed position on Nov. 2, 2012. Prior to that she owned and operated Gerard Guichon Ranch Limited in the Nicola Valley. She is a down-to-earth person who loves her province and has resolved to visit “every valley” in B.C. before the end of her five-year term. Guichon is the third Lieutenant-Governor I have met: David Lam was the first, when I was a Pathfinder; Iona Campagnolo the second, when I was working with the Comox Valley Record (she lived in the Comox Valley). It was an honour to spend some time following her on her tour; but meeting her was not my highlight this week. Meeting John B. Mager, her chauffeur, was.

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John Mager, chauffeur to the lieutenant governor and a pipe major, before taking a trip on the Alberni Pacific Railway’s steam train. (David Hooper photo)

John Mager is a pipe major (“Now look at this, I’m a pipe major and I’m a Mager,” he said as he handed me his card) and wears his Scottish plaid (I think he said he was with the Seaforth Highlanders, but don’t quote me on that) at the events where he also pipes in the Lieutenant-Governor.

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John B. Mager pipes in local dignitaries and Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon during an appearance at Alberni Elementary School, Feb. 2, 2015.

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John B. Mager wrapping up his piece of music in the Alberni Elementary School gym, Feb. 2, 2015.

He is also the website photographer (he’s a fellow Nikon user) for Government House when the bagpipes and car keys are put away. Mager loves his job, which is a very good thing: he’s been doing it for 33 years. “This is my seventh Lieutenant-Governor,” he said. When he began his job, Henry Pybus Bell-Irving was the lieutenant governor. Then followed  Robert Gordon Rogers, David Lam (first Asian Lt.-Gov.), Garde Gardom, Iona Campagnolo (first female Lt.-Gov.), Stephen Point (first aboriginal Lt.-Gov.) and now Guichon (“I guess I’m the first rancher,” she told students at Alberni Elem.). Mager lives in the coachman’s cottage beside Government House, so he is close by. I wish I had had more time to talk to Mager; he has an ebullient personality, and I didn’t see him without a smile on his face, even when walking through the chilly mist in his kilt at McLean Mill. I’m looking forward to the next time I get a chance to visit with him.

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John B. Mager listening to Neil Malbon during a walking tour at McLean Mill National Historic Site, Feb. 2, 2015.

•••••

If you’re interested in reading about a trip John B. Mager took to play his bagpipes in Dieppe in 2005, here is a link (not my story, but one I found while researching his background): http://www.canada.com/story.html?id=27588073-ae74-4971-8ba8-716beecb3313

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Why do you give?

In June 2014 I was presented with a Gold Merit Award on behalf of Girl Guides of Canada. I am humbled by this award because I was nominated by my peers.

In June 2014 I was presented with a Gold Merit Award on behalf of Girl Guides of Canada. I am humbled by this award because I was nominated by my peers.

“Why do you give?”

The question came up in a passage in a novel, of all things. The characters were discussing personal contributions to a charitable event and became introspective about their intentions.

I stopped reading the page, set the book down for a few moments and thought, Why DO I give?

Volunteerism has always been a way of life for me, and I have my parents to thank.

I grew up watching my parents volunteer. I remember my father was a member of the Lions Club when we lived in Brighton, Ont.; my mom wore the Lions’ mascot costume in a parade downtown one year.
My mother swam with special needs children and teens when we lived near Ottawa, Ont. She became a Girl Guide leader after enrolling her daughters in Brownies.
In later years, they both became heavily involved with the BC Transplant Society while my father was waiting for a heart transplant, then he and a fellow transplant recipient started Heart Transplant Home Society to give others a safe place to live while undergoing treatment for transplants at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver.
From there they became involved in the Gift of Life dragon boat team, and my mom continued with them after my father’s death.

I learned at my father’s funeral that he did the books for a musical society in the city where he lived; although I knew he loved music, especially show tunes, I had no idea.
I’m sure there are many things they were involved in that have slipped my memory, but these came immediately to mind.
My parents instilled the volunteerism quality in my sister and I. I have been involved with Girl Guides of Canada for 40 years (when they wouldn’t let me be a girl participant anymore I became a leader, where I could continue to play, laugh, camp and grow, only this time they put me in charge of other people’s kids).

In the course of my career as a journalist I have volunteered for the B.C. Winter Games, B.C. Special Olympics, ground search and rescue, spoken to numerous classes and given a handful of workshops on everything from photography to how to write press releases. I read in classrooms during an annual literacy event in Cumberland, and am hoping to do something similar in Port Alberni.

I joined our local flying club and a year later was nominated to the board of directors. I’m still feeling my way along the position.

I open my wallet when I can afford it and have certain charities I support financially.

Why do I give?

With Girl Guides, it’s easy: besides the service aspect within the organization itself, I had some awesome leaders when I was growing up who made sure I learned stuff, travelled places, and gained self-confidence along the way—all disguised as fun. It’s my turn to give back.

(OK, some of the Guiding is purely selfish: where else can I get my hands dirty playing with cornstarch and hair conditioner making playdough, or mixing Coke with Mentos to create explosions? In exchange I make sure the girls learn cool stuff, do some camping, learn some skills and challenge themselves.)

My wallet is not fat: but every dollar helps.

A quote in the same novel, by Margaret Mead, has stuck with me: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Why do I give?

Why not?

 

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Flat Mark Twins II: five provinces, 10,600 kilometres

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The Flat Mark Twins have been packed away in their envelope, ready for delivery to Mrs. Schmidt so they can be returned to Real Mark. They have had a long trip to Canada and are taking a well-deserved rest.
The Flat Mark Twins have travelled to five provinces and flown more than 10,600 kilometres (6,600 miles), not including all the driving around Vancouver Island, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec. In all, they travelled to British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick—five of the 10 Canadian provinces (and we have three territories as well).
Here is a pictorial journal of the second half of their vacation with Susie in Canada.

Susie's sister Lori shares her university graduation day with the Flat Mark Twins. Lori graduated from the University of New Brunswick with a nursing degree.

Susie’s sister Lori shares her university graduation day with the Flat Mark Twins. Lori graduated from the University of New Brunswick with a nursing degree.

The whole reason Susie and her Mom travelled to the east coast of Canada was to attend Susie’s sister Lori’s university graduation in Fredericton, New Brunswick, about two hours away from where Lori lives in Amherst, Nova Scotia. It was a joyous day for our family.

Welcome to Tatamagouche, NS (short for Nova Scotia)! Lori and Susie both knit so we went on a trip to a yarn store in Tatamagouche.

Welcome to Tatamagouche, NS (short for Nova Scotia)! Lori and Susie both knit so we went on a trip to a yarn store in Tatamagouche.

The east coast of Canada, also known as the Maritimes, has some really interesting place names. I’m told many of them are based on aboriginal names.

A really big Adirondack chair in front of the Tatamagouche Creamery.

A really big Adirondack chair in front of the Tatamagouche Creamery.

They have some amusing tourist attractions too, like this giant chair. They also have a train station and a train that have been converted into a hotel. People actually sleep in the train cars.

We found some yarn—and the sheep that provided the wool—at Lismore Sheep Farm.

We found some yarn—and the sheep that provided the wool—at Lismore Sheep Farm.

The Joggins Fossil Centre. The Joggins Fossil Cliffs are a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site.

The Joggins Fossil Centre. The Joggins Fossil Cliffs are a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site.

One of the things Susie has always wanted to do is visit the Joggins Fossil Cliffs, which has a lot of really cool fossils that are 300 million years old.

The Flat Mark Twins find a fossil! It is most likely a Cordaite leaf.

The Flat Mark Twins find a fossil! It is most likely a Cordaite leaf.

The beach at Joggins, where many fossils have been uncovered, is on the Bay of Fundy. When the tide comes in, it comes in really fast. The sand is red in this area. If we found fossils we were told we had to leave them on the beach.

The beach at Joggins, where many fossils have been uncovered, is on the Bay of Fundy. When the tide comes in, it comes in really fast. The sand is red in this area. If we found fossils we were told we had to leave them on the beach.

Age of Sails is located at Port Greville, Nova Scotia. More than 700 sailing ships were built in this area from 1812 to 1927.

Age of Sails is located at Port Greville, Nova Scotia. More than 700 sailing ships were built in this area from 1812 to 1927.

A sign showing that we were travelling on the Bay of Fundy shore.

A sign showing that we were travelling on the Bay of Fundy shore.

Soon it was time to leave the Maritimes. We got onto a plane in Moncton and flew to Montreal, Quebec, where we waited for another plane to go to Ottawa, Ontario.

Moe's in the Montreal Airport is supposed to have some of the best smoked meat sandwiches in the city. Montreal is known for its smoked meat.

Moe’s in the Montreal Airport is supposed to have some of the best smoked meat sandwiches in the city. Montreal is known for its smoked meat.

We spent an afternoon at the Byward Market, a famous shopping and eating district in Ottawa. Here is Susie by a Canadian flag.

We spent an afternoon at the Byward Market, a famous shopping and eating district in Ottawa. Here is Susie by a Canadian flag.

While we were in Byward Market, we had lunch with some friends who were excited to learn about the Flat Stanley Project. The woman second from left was Susie's Brownie leader when she was a girl.

While we were in Byward Market, we had lunch with some friends who were excited to learn about the Flat Stanley Project. The woman second from left was Susie’s Brownie leader when she was a girl.

Ottawa is considered Canada's capital city. The Parliament Buildings are where the federal government operates. We took a special trip to the Parliament Buildings with the Flat Mark Twins.

Ottawa is considered Canada’s capital city. The Parliament Buildings are where the federal government operates. We took a special trip to the Parliament Buildings with the Flat Mark Twins.

Parliament Buildings

Parliament Buildings

The clock tower at Parliament Hill.

The clock tower at Parliament Hill.

The Centennial Flame burns all the time on Parliament Hill. It was first lit on January 1, 1967 to celebrate Canada's 100th birthday. It's called an eternal flame.

The Centennial Flame burns all the time on Parliament Hill. It was first lit on January 1, 1967 to celebrate Canada’s 100th birthday. It’s called an eternal flame.

While in Ottawa, Susie enjoyed a super fun day with her cousins and her Mom, which took them to Wakefield, Quebec and the MacKenzie King Estate. Unfortunately, the Flat Mark Twins had jumped out of her backpack while playing in the middle of the night, and they missed the trip! So Susie and her Mom made a special trip back to Quebec, just for the twins.

Susie's Mom with the Flat Mark Twins in Gatineau, across the bridge from Ottawa in Quebec.

Susie’s Mom with the Flat Mark Twins in Gatineau, across the bridge from Ottawa in Quebec.

The Flat Mark Twins in front of the Canadian Museum of History, a beautiful museum in Gatineau, Quebec, located across the Ottawa River behind the Parliament Buildings. It is one of Susie's favourite museums in the country.

The Flat Mark Twins in front of the Canadian Museum of History, a beautiful museum in Gatineau, Quebec, located across the Ottawa River behind the Parliament Buildings. It is one of Susie’s favourite museums in the country.

All too soon it was time to go back home to Vancouver. The suitcases were packed, and Susie made doubly sure that the Flat Mark Twins were safely in her backpack for the trip home.

We flew home from Ottawa to Vancouver in a Boeing 767 airplane, built in Washington State.

We flew home from Ottawa to Vancouver in a Boeing 767 airplane, built in Washington State.

The Flat Mark Twins and Susie had one more adventure before they were packed away. We went flying in a Cessna 421 twin engine airplane at Qualicum Airport on Vancouver Island. Susie’s husband flew the plane and Susie was the co-pilot. The Flat Mark Twins came along for the ride.

Flying in a Cessna 421 twin engine plane over Qualicum Beach, B.C. on Vancouver Island.

Flying in a Cessna 421 twin engine plane over Qualicum Beach, B.C. on Vancouver Island.

Thank you, Real Mark, for sharing the Flat Mark Twins with me. I can hardly wait for the next Flat project!

Look who we found! Susie now owns a copy of the Flat Stanley book.

Look who we found! Susie now owns a copy of the Flat Stanley book.

 

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The Flat Mark Twins Go on an Adventure

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Susie and the Flat Mark Twins

I’d like to introduce you to the Flat Mark twins.
But first, a little history.
Flat Stanley is a character in a 1964 book written by Jeff Brown and illustrated by Tomi Ungerer. In the book, Stanley Lambchop and his brother Arthur are given a bulletin board where they can tack up pictures and notes. In the middle of the night the bulletin board falls off the wall and flattens Stanley.
Stanley soon discovers that his new state is kind of cool: he can slip under locked doors and he can even be mailed around the world in an envelope. He goes on lots of adventures.
In 1994, Dale Hubert started the Flat Stanley Project in Ontario. He thought kids could cut out paper drawings of themselves and mail them to people around the world (https://www.flatstanley.com/about?subpage=project). The phenomenon caught on.
I first met Stanley when he came to visit my Sparks unit in Cumberland, BC, in the early 2000s; one of the girls was hosting a Stanley and brought him to share, and to have her photo taken with him and our unit. I was intrigued and wrote an article about it.
I didn’t see “Stanley” again until three years ago, when Sandi Zeutenhorst Schmidt, a teacher at Abraham Lincoln Elementary School in Wenatchee, Wash., posted a request on Facebook asking people to host “Flats” from her students.
Sandi and I go way back; we met each other as teenagers at an international Girl Guide/ Girl Scout event. We have stayed in touch in various ways through the years, including Facebook.
I said sure, I would host a “Flat”. Soon after that, Flat Sydnie arrived in Port Alberni, B.C. Canada. She had pink and purple hair, and we had some grand adventures. I took some photos, threw together a scrapbook and mailed it off. I also wrote a column about Flat Sydnie. (http://www.albernivalleynews.com/opinion/121745659.html)
I was fortunate that Flat Sydnie’s mom allowed Sandi to send me a photo of “Real” Sydnie, and I still keep it tacked up to my bulletin board at work.
Last month, Sandi contacted me again: Sydnie’s brother Mark was doing the Flat Stanley project with her and would I be interested in hosting another “Flat”?
Of COURSE! I told her. I waited excitedly for the mail.
And I waited…
And I waited…
And waited…..and waited…..
Flat Mark was lost in the mail! Having his own grand adventure, I thought, a little disappointed that he didn’t take me along.
I contacted Sandi and asked her to have Real Mark draw another Flat Mark, and this time scan it so I could print it out.

Flat Mark, fresh off the colour printer in my office at the Alberni Valley News.

Flat Mark, fresh off the colour printer in my office at the Alberni Valley News.

Finally, on April 11, 2014, Flat Mark arrived. Let the adventures begin!

"Flat" Mark and "Real" Sydnie, whose "Flat Sydnie" I hosted a few years ago.

“Flat” Mark and “Real” Sydnie, whose “Flat Sydnie” I hosted a few years ago.

The next day, Flat Mark and I went to the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce and took a photo with the carved bear out front of the building.

Grrrr! Flat Mark meets one of the carved bears in front of the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Grrrr! Flat Mark meets one of the carved bears in front of the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce.

As I was taking this photo, a woman came out of the building and said, “Oh, I see you have Flat Stanley!”

I explained to her that this was in fact Flat Mark and that he was visiting from Wenatchee, Wash. The woman stopped, smiled, and said “We’re from Edmonds, Wash.!” She and her family were visiting Port Alberni.

We went to Cathedral Grove, on our way to Courtenay, where I had to attend an event for a freelance project I was working on. Cathedral Grove, or MacMillan Provincial Park (it’s formal name) features one of the largest stands of giant Douglas Fir trees on Vancouver Island, in a park that has been around since the 1920s. Some of the trees are 800 years old! One tree is nine metres in circumference—I wonder how many students it would take holding hands to reach around that big tree.

Flat Mark stands beneath a very big tree in Cathedral Grove on Vancouver Island.

Flat Mark stands beneath a very big tree in Cathedral Grove on Vancouver Island.

On our way to Courtenay, we detoured to Fanny Bay, where I used to live, and saw the sea lions. It was the end of the herring season and the sea lions were gathered on a float near the government dock at Fanny Bay.

Flat Mark holds onto a rope on the government dock at Fanny Bay while watching the sea lions.

Flat Mark holds onto a rope on the government dock at Fanny Bay while watching the sea lions.

Cool sea lions!

Cool sea lions!

Hey, a tugboat named 'Alberni', just like where Susie lives.

Hey, a tugboat named ‘Alberni’, just like where Susie lives.

We stopped at the Village Yarn Shoppe to see Susie's friend Beth, too. She played peek-a-boo with Flat Mark in the yarn.

We stopped at the Village Yarn Shoppe to see Susie’s friend Beth, too. She played peek-a-boo with Flat Mark in the yarn.

On April 14, Flat Mark met Susie’s Girl Guides and went on a field trip to the Alberni Valley Rescue Hall, where he met Jane, one of the search and rescue volunteers who look for people who are lost.

Flat Mark, Jane and Susie at a Girl Guide field trip to the Alberni Valley Rescue Hall.

Flat Mark, Jane and Susie at a Girl Guide field trip to the Alberni Valley Rescue Hall.

April 16 was a VERY special day. When Susie came home from work, there was a large manila envelope in her mailbox.

Could it be? Flat Mark I has arrived!

Could it be? Flat Mark I has arrived!

The original Flat Mark had arrived! And by the looks of the envelope, he had been to Calgary, Alberta, before he was rerouted to a mail depot in Vancouver, B.C. and then on to Port Alberni.

You know what that meant? Flat Mark was really twins! I had two Flat Marks to entertain.

On April 18, I had to go back to Courtenay to take some photos, so the Flat Mark Twins came along.

We checked out the Comox International Airport (call sign YQQ).

We checked out the Comox International Airport (call sign YQQ).

And the Courtenay Airpark (call sign AH3), where Susie earned her pilot's licence in 1999.

And the Courtenay Airpark (call sign AH3), where Susie earned her pilot’s licence in 1999.

We went up to Mount Washington Alpine Resort, where people were skiing and snowboarding.

We went up to Mount Washington Alpine Resort, where people were skiing and snowboarding.

Then we saw the Snowbirds Canadian air demonstration squadron while we were in Comox! Susie LOVES the Snowbirds.

Then we saw the Snowbirds Canadian air demonstration squadron while we were in Comox! Susie LOVES the Snowbirds.

The Snowbirds come to Comox every spring to train before the beginning of their airshow season.

The Snowbirds come to Comox every spring to train before the beginning of their airshow season.

There is a Snowbird Tutor jet mounted on a stand at the Comox Valley Visitors' Centre.

There is a Snowbird Tutor jet mounted on a stand at the Comox Valley Visitors’ Centre.

On April 26, the Flat Mark Twins went on a BC Ferries boat ride to Richmond, B.C., where Susie, her publisher and two reporters attended the B.C. and Yukon Community Newspapers Association awards gala. Susie won an award, a Silver Quill Award, for 25 years of work and service in community newspapers.

On the ferry on the way to Richmond, B.C. We got onto the ferry in Nanaimo, B.C.

On the ferry on the way to Richmond, B.C. We got onto the ferry in Nanaimo, B.C.

Susie, her award and the Flat Mark Twins.

Susie, her award and the Flat Mark Twins.

On May 2, we all attended the Regional Heritage Faire, which Susie helps judge every year. Flat Sydnie also attended this fair. The Flat Mark Twins met Rosemarie Buchanan, a school trustee with School District 70, and Sarah Bell, a student who won an award for her historical display on the TRIUMF, Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics. Sarah’s grandfather helped build the cyclotron, and that was the focus of her history project.

SD70 trustee Rosemarie Buchanan welcomes the Flat Mark Twins to the Regional Heritage Faire.

SD70 trustee Rosemarie Buchanan welcomes the Flat Mark Twins to the Regional Heritage Faire.

Sarah Bell with her history project on TRIUMF.

Sarah Bell with her history project on TRIUMF.

By this time, the Flat Mark Twins were supposed to be heading home to Wenatchee and back to their owner. But they were having too much fun and refused to get back into the envelope just yet.

So they came to Guide camp with Susie, toured the Courtenay Museum, were snatched from the jaws of a dinosaur!

Hanging out at Guide camp at Camp Gilwell in Courtenay. Susie and the Flat Mark Twins have spent a lot of time in Courtenay in the last month, even though Susie lives in Port Alberni.

Hanging out at Guide camp at Camp Gilwell in Courtenay. Susie and the Flat Mark Twins have spent a lot of time in Courtenay in the last month, even though Susie lives in Port Alberni.

The Flat Mark Twins meet the Elasmosaur at Courtenay Museum.

The Flat Mark Twins meet the Elasmosaur at Courtenay Museum.

Wow, those are big teeth!

Wow, those are big teeth!

Some of the actual elasmosaur bones that were discovered along the Puntledge River.

Some of the actual elasmosaur bones that were discovered along the Puntledge River.

Oh no! That was a close call for the Flat Mark Twins!

Oh no! That was a close call for the Flat Mark Twins!

Now, the Flat Mark Twins are on a cross-Canada adventure with Susie. We left Vancouver International Airport (call sign YVR) on May 24, and arrived in Moncton, New Brunswick very late that night. We are visiting Susie’s sister and her family in Amherst, Nova Scotia, right over the border from New Brunswick.

Welcome to Nova Scotia, Flat Mark Twins!

Welcome to Nova Scotia, Flat Mark Twins!

Visiting Fort Beausejour in Aulac, New Brunswick.

Visiting Fort Beausejour in Aulac, New Brunswick.

An historic cannon.

An historic cannon.

A gun port built into the stone walls of the fort. Many of the fort's foundations are still standing.

A gun port built into the stone walls of the fort. Many of the fort’s foundations are still standing.

Fort Beausejour, Aulac, New Brunswick.

Fort Beausejour, Aulac, New Brunswick.

A little history of the fort, for those who are curious.

A little history of the fort, for those who are curious.

What’s next for Susie and the Flat Mark Twins? More of Amherst, Nova Soctia, Fredericton, New Brunswick then off to Ottawa, Canada’s national capital, where we plan to visit the Parliament Buildings—Canada’s version of the White House.

Stay tuned!

 

 

 

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Where has the time flown?

I think about my blog a lot; have taken photos and jotted down ideas intending to blog about them. Then somehow the time (and inclination) slips by, and I realize it’s been more than a year since I posted anything.
A spam comment has prompted me to return, sheepish at my lack of effort.
Travelling has been a big theme for me in the past couple of months. I have hosted the Flat Mark Twins from Wenatchee, Washington as part of a Flat Stanley School Project (more on that in an upcoming post—really), travelled to the Comox Valley a number of times, Campbell River with my friend Lisa for Fibre Fest, and most recently to Camp Gilwell for Girl Guide camp
I realized that I miss camping at this particular Boy Scout camp, north of the Comox Valley; I feel so fortunate to have shared it with some of my Girl Guides, at a camp hosted by my former unit in Courtenay. Not only did I get to camp in a tent for three nights, but I went digging for fossils on the Puntledge River courtesy of the Courtenay Museum and Pat Trask, who was recently lauded by his paleontological peers for all the work he has done in the field in the past couple of decades. I had the opportunity to pick up a bow and arrow again for the first time in years (and am sporting a nice purple bruise on the inside of my elbow, thanks to the fact they only had a right-handed bow and I shoot left), but more importantly enjoyed watching the Guides try the sport for the first time.
In a really short time, I am going back to Nova Scotia to visit my sister and her family, and am looking forward to the Maritimes again. I am proud to say my sister is graduating with her nursing degree from the University of New Brunswick, and I am going to her graduation.
On the way home I will stop in Ottawa to visit various other relatives for a week. I love our nation’s capital, and not just because my favourite uncle happens to live there.
Later this summer, I hope to visit my first Canadian territory, the Yukon, with my Ranger group, for a brief taste of the north.
I will endeavour to share some of these experiences sooner than later. Now that I’ve put it in writing and put it out there in the blogosphere, the pressure is on to make it so!
Until then, may I share three of my favourite blogs, all written by friends. One feeds my psyche (http://www.inspirationowl.com/), one feeds my inner (and completely inept) foodie (http://www.patentandthepantry.com/) and one feeds my love of (other people’s) adventure (http://2lovecycling.com/).
Enjoy!

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