50 Crazy Things in my 50th Year – Thing #12 – A spontaneous thing! Let my cousin drag me around a lake while she tries to kill me.

When we were kids my brother and I spent all of our Christmases and summers at our family farm near Perdue, Saskatchewan. That side of my family is small and extremely close. My cousins are more like brothers and sisters to us.
 

Loral, my maniac cousin.

Loral, my maniac cousin.

One of the things I remember doing in my early teens was skidooing. The six of us (cousin 7 was pretty little at the time) would go out to the field next to my aunt and uncle’s house at night with a skidoo and an inner tube from a tractor. On a cloudy night we would only see the lights from the house. Everything else was pitch black. The field had a stand of trees at the far end and a slough with tall reeds and grasses in the middle. It was always incredibly cold (it was Saskatchewan!).
 
Once we got out there, inevitably, a ‘game’ of crack the whip would ensue. The idea behind this activity was simple. One person drove the skidoo. Another rode behind him / her, and four others would ride the tube. It was a big tube. Unlike the tubes people use on lakes now, these tubes didn’t have handles or anything to hold on to. You had to squeeze your legs and arms around it and hope for the best. Nobody ever lasted long, but we kept trying thinking, “This time I know I can hold on!”
For those of you who don’t know what Crack the Whip is, here is the Wikipedia definition:
 

Crack the Whip is a simple outdoor children’s game that involves physical coordination, and is usually played in small groups, either on grass or ice. One player, chosen as the “head” of the whip, runs (or skates) around in random directions, with subsequent players holding on to the hand of the previous player. The entire “tail” of the whip moves in those directions, but with much more force toward the end of the tail. The longer the tail, the more the forces act on the last player, and the tighter they have to hold on.

 
Sounds simple, right?
 
When we played Crack the Whip the driver of the skidoo would drive around in large circles, building up momentum, as the tube and its passengers swung around faster and faster. In the early days of the game, when we were just figuring out how horrible it could really be. It was enough that the driver would go over bumps, or go fast. If people fell off, the driver would need to stop and turn off the engine to hear the screams because seeing the stranded pre-teens and teens was impossible. Once you heard the screams you could head off in a direction toward them. For those who fell off and were waiting to be rescued, the sound of coyotes and other creatures of the dark off in the distance was unsettling, to put it politely.

Crack the Whip... how I missed you... not!

Crack the Whip… how I missed you… not!

In the advanced form of the game, the driver of the skidoo would drive around and around and then direct the circles in such a way that the tube flew up over a jump made from reeds from the slough that were laying down because we had driven over them with the tube so many times. They formed a sort of ramp. Ah the memories! Now, when we flew off the tube, because it was absolutely impossible to hold on, we were flying through the air, in pitch blackness, waiting for the inevitable hard landing in a snowbank. I actually clearly remember a moment where I was flying through the air and I was unsure of what part of my body was closest to the ground, and what position I would land in.
 
Isn’t it amazing we all survived to adulthood and the only injury I remember was my cousin Lisa getting frostbite around her ankle because she had grown since the previous winter and she, of the long legged variety, had exposed skin from where the legs of her skidoo suit were too short.
 
Now, fast forward approximately 34.5 years. My last night at the lake this summer in July was supposed to be uneventful until my cousin, Loral, walked by me and said, “Come on, you’re going to be spontaneous and it will be crazy. You and Ben are going tubing.” Ben is her son, who is about 8, and fearless.
 
It’s important to note here that Loral was frequently the driver of the skidoo. Are you seeing the picture here?
 
So, an unplanned crazy thing happened and apparently, I survived.
 
Ben and I got our lifejackets on and got onto the tube. This tube had good sturdy handles and the grip I had on them reminded me of being on the Tower of Terror at Disneyworld with Amanda. I had a death grip on those handles.
 
Loral towed us out into the middle of Jackfish Lake, and proceeded to try and kill me…. Ah, Crack the Whip, how I missed you! My other cousin Krista took pictures. None are great because Loral was driving like a maniac, but they prove I was there.
 
It felt like it lasted for days but it might have been an hour in total. I was screaming the entire time, which Ben thought was hilarious. I seriously thought if I let go of that handle I was going to be flung half way to Alberta. I was screaming to slow down, my butt wasn’t even touching the tube, and Ben, holding on with one hand, is telling her to speed up. I love my family… freaks! The only way it would have been scarier is if it was at night…. on ice!
 
The next day I had to drive home and my arms were screaming at me the whole 14 hours… something about, “What the hell were you thinking?”
 
Why was this crazy?
I’m not a very spontaneous person. I like to plan things and know what to expect. All I had to go on was that Loral was driving and that memory from my teens of flying through the air and not knowing if I was going to land on my head or my butt.
 
Would I do it again?
Probably, I think Ben is counting on it. He took too much pleasure in my screams. He is definitely his mother’s son.

Ben... he is his mother's son.

Ben… he is his mother’s son.

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50 Crazy Things in my 50th Year – Thing #11 – 10X Up the Steps to the Lighthouse in Cochin, SK

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So, apparently professional tower running is a real thing. I don’t see it as a key part of my career path but I do enjoy the challenge!

Last year on my annual holiday at Jackfish Lake in Saskatchewan I needed to do a workout that alternated with running as I try and not run back to back days unless I’m silly enough to be training for back to back races. The town of Cochin is about a 10 minute drive from Aquadeo Beach, where our family has had a cabin for over 60 years. Cochin is the home of the only lighthouse in Saskatchewan (for more 20150730_110633information on the history of the lighthouse click here). It’s a cool hike up on 158 uneven wood and dirt stairs and when you get to the top the view is spectacular. In order to make it more than a 10 minute workout I decided to do the stairs 5X. I survived! It was hard but I felt good for doing it.

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When I was planning my 50 Crazy Things I decided to up my game a bit and do those same stairs 10X. What was I thinking???

So, the day after a hard run and two days after doing some serious squats in the cabin when the weather was a bit fowl, I set out to tackle the stairs. Every year I try and count the stairs and get horribly muddled. I’m glad the website for the town of Cochin has an official record.

When I started the first time I picked up a small rock. I carried it in my hand until I reached the top and then put it in my water pouch. I knew I would lose count of how many times I’d gone up. I started do go back down and promptly turned my ankle 20150730_110705badly in a hole in the dirt on the top stair. For the rest of the workout that leg was super shaky going down and I held on to the railing for extra support. Another woman, super fit and looks like she does these stairs a lot, started just after I did. She wasn’t very friendly and she was racing the whole way. At the top she did push ups and other exercises before going down again. She was frustrated when families with little kids were blocking the stairs so she would go up or down half way and then back to keep moving. I politely waited at the top or bottom for them to get out of the way. My manners gave me a chance to catch my breath – ulterior motive! On her last way down, when I was on about my fourth ascent, she was shocked. She took off her headphones and asked how many I was doing. When I told her I was doing 10 she nearly fell down the stairs. My smirk was only mildly visible on the outside and pretty freaking huge on the inside. A story about a tortoise and a hare came to mind!

There were two other guys who came later. Very buff and macho, they also asked how many I had done. When I told them eight they were slightly deflated. They

I went up this many times!

I went up this many times!

each did two and gave up. Just call me a tortoise!

Each time I reached the top I put another rock in my water pouch. When I was

finished number nine I wanted to confirm I only needed to do one more. I pulled out the rocks and only found eight! I was panicked until I found another little rock tucked in between my keys. Note to self: next year take marbles!

So here is some perspective on my stair climb that I discovered after I finished. My climb involved 1580 stairs… remember that when you look at the numbers below.

I think I may have a new goal! Generally I’m not really into tall buildings. I usually avoid them but not because I’m afraid of heights but they feel a bit unnatural. I’m pretty sure images of 911 didn’t help. A side note for many of these stair climbs, firefighters often race these events in full gear – I bow to their greatness as I’m not sure I could even attempt it!

Great collections of stairs from around the world:

Eiffel Tower (Paris) – 1665 steps. Only the first 704 are available to the public. An Australian woman did the tower run (sounds like the Kessel Run in Star Wars), which involves all the steps, in 10 mins, her first time in a previous year was 44 mins.

CN Tower (Toronto) – 1776 steps. Every year they hold a tower run as a fundraiser for the World Wildlife Fund.

Space Needle (Seattle) – 848 steps (no problem!). They also have a new yearly event – the Base to Space fundraiser.

Empire State Building (New York) – 1576 steps (I did this… in Saskatchewan!). Their tower run is the world’s oldest and most famous tower race. That same Australian woman won last year.

Wall Centre (Vancouver) – 739 steps (easy as pie!). They have a yearly Race for Clean Air.

Willis Tower (Chicago) – 2109 steps (gulp). Try their tower run!

Burj Khalifa (Dubai) – 2909 steps (gasp!). It doesn’t look like they have a tower run but residents here could be getting very good at the sport as the developer apparently threatened to shut down the elevators due to unpaid fees.

Ruins of Machu Picchu (Peru) – 1900 steps (hmmmmm – tempting). This is more my style.

Why was this crazy?

Ummm… think about it! Actually, I’m a real numbers person and this seemed like a great challenge.

Would I do it again?

Probably next year… can anyone say Eiffel Tower? That would be 11X. Actually doing one of these actual races wouldn’t appeal to me as the stairs are usually pretty closed off and I’m not in love with tight spaces.

10X Done!

10X Done!

50 Crazy Things in my 50th Year – Thing #10 – Return to the Place Where I Was Born

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We are born at a given moment, in a given place and, like vintage years of wine, we have the qualities of the year and of the season of which we are born. Astrology does not lay claim to anything more.

Carl Jung

Not sure why this has been such a big deal to me for so long but after 49

I'm back! Did you miss me?

I’m back! Did you miss me?

years I finally went back to see the town where I was born. In February of 1966 I made my debut in the bustling metropolis of Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan.

According to eye witness reports, from my mother, we were the only ones in the maternity ward at the time. It was a Thursday. The doctor was also in a curling bonspiel on the day I was born and he came in to see my mom and asked if she could hold off because it looked like they might make the finals. Apparently, he missed the finals. Those same eye witness reports indicate I was not necessarily a beautiful baby, but I was still lovable. Another woman came in shortly after and had a caesarean. Her little girl was all pink and perfect. I on the other hand had hair that went in all directions and a somewhat squished face. The nurses tried to put a bow in my hair – it didn’t work.

We didn’t actually live in Meadow Lake, it was just the nearest hospital. We lived in aIMG_9970 much smaller town… Rapid View… which is about 30 Km North of Meadow Lake. The joke about Rapid View is its name – if you blink you miss it.

I know my mom wasn’t happy in her relationship around this time, and that never really got any better. I also know she is the kind of mom most people would dream about – smart, fun, creative, loving, spontaneous, and devoted. My brother and I couldn’t have asked for better.

Revisiting the past

Like I said, I’m not sure why I never went back. Every summer for almost my entire life I’ve spent time at our family cabin at Jackfish Lake, which is only 120 Km from Meadow Lake, but in the opposite direction than we usually travel. For the last few summers I’ve felt a pull to go, see where I was born, see what community affected my vintage, to reference Jung’s quote. This year, with 50 Crazy Things to organize, I decided I had to go and I wanted mom to go with me.

It was a nice day and we had a lot of laughs on the drive up. I was surprised at how quickly the landscape of Northern Saskatchewan changed. I am used to rolling hills of neatly ordered fields, sky as far as the eye can see, and clumps of trees lined up to provide wind break to houses and buildings. Quickly we were travelling on a road that was thick with pine and poplar trees and there were few fields to be seen. Closer to Meadow Lake the fields appeared again and I felt relief. I suddenly didn’t like being boxed in by the forest.

My passport says my place of birth is Meadow Lake, Canada. Customs officers often ask where it is and comment that it sounds beautiful. I remember living in Ireland and using my passport as ID at the bank and other places, tellers would comment too on how idyllic it sounded. Compared to other Saskatchewan place names like Elbow and Eyebrow, it does sound idyllic, but I had heard it was a rough place without much going for it.

When we got to Meadow Lake I was surprised, and so was mom. It was a lot biggerIMG_9974 than I expected, and cleaner. Yards were large and well kept, the town actually looked quaint and almost fun. Not fun enough that I want to move there, but more than I was expecting. We got our bearings and continued through town to find Rapid View. Mom couldn’t remember just how far it was and everything looked different. She even wondered if the town had disappeared, become a ghost town. Ahead I saw road signs indicating the speed was about to drop to 60 and I suspected we were there. The joke is right, if you blinked you would miss it.

Less town and more a collection of houses with a school / recreation centre and what used to be a store, Rapid View was also very well kept, and very small. The population sign said 27. I asked mom what the population was when we were there. She laughed, and said, “27”! I wondered if they used a marker on the sign to increase it to 28 once I arrived.

My mom and dad lived in a trailer that was parked behind the store. I pulled the car

This used to be the store. Our trailer was behind the main building on the left.

This used to be the store. Our trailer was behind the main building on the left.

up and parked on the road across from what had been the store to take a look. The trailer went with my parents when they left for Edmonton. Now the store is an embroidery business. Across the street is a recreation centre and school all rolled into one. She laughed and said there used to be a curling rink and you had to clean the ice between ends because the walls weren’t very sturdy and allowed the snow to blow through them. We drove around and looked at houses of people she knew before we turned around and went back to Meadow Lake. I bought her lunch at A&W. It is quite possibly the cleanest fast food restaurant I’ve ever been in.

My vintage

Thinking back to the Jung quote again – what is my vintage? Mid 1960’s, an era of social change, a confusing war, and the Beatles. The number one song on the charts on the day I was born was, “These Boots are Made for Walkin’’’ by Nancy Sinatra (that one totally suits me by the way!). My vineyard was Meadow Lake, harsh in winter, doctors who curl, a mother who loves me. I matured in other places – we moved from Rapid View to Edmonton when I was two months old, then Chetwynd a year later, and finally Kamloops right before I turned three. I moved to Vancouver to go to SFU, then to Dublin for eight months after I graduated, back to Vancouver, and then Kamloops again in 1999. I always consider myself a prairie girl, though. I feel an enormous sense of relief when I drive back in the summer and get out of Edmonton – finally I can breathe, I can see the sky, my view is uninterrupted.

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Sign outside the recreation centre in Rapid View. Also part of my vintage apparently.

We cannot escape any of our past or our influences. Our vintage is who we are, the sum of our experiences that nurture and affect the potential for our future.

Why was this crazy?

It was crazy because I’ve thought about, and resisted, doing it for so many years and yet it was so simple. I own all parts of my vintage, the rough around the edges one, the one that loves winter and the prairies, and the one that loves Kamloops.

Would I do it again?

Not sure I need to, but the area is loaded with beautiful lakes waiting to be explored… maybe I will. The sign says Meadow Lake – Where Adventure Begins. My adventure began there, maybe there is more to come?