The ride down east to the Okanagan then onto the Kootenays was rather uneventful, however gorgeous and mountainous. Since my bus left at a gory 6:30am in the morning it was still dark when I was in line waiting to board the bus. In front of me was a girl who had loads of gear to pack on the bus. I struck up a conversation with her because she had the same all access bus passes as me called the Discovery Pass. As it turns out she was from Tasmania. First tazzy I ever meet. She was here to work and sky like most down under-ers who come to Canada. I began to tell her how awesome the Discovery pass is and how it allows me to do what I do. Then she darkened my world with the news that Greyhound was discontinuing the discovery pass in both Canada and the U.S.A. “What!!!!????” I couldn’t believe it, there had to be some confusion. Apparently as of September 29th a few days away, Greyhound would no longer be issuing the discovery pass option for passengers. The reason she gave is because they were having difficulty with number of seats reserved vis a vis the discovery option. So instead of trying to fix the problem they simple annihilated the pass! That is no solution! My guess is that they were not making any money off the pass so they just decided to ex it. But the discovery pass has been with greyhound for decades! It is a part of their philosophy, a part of the experience. How else are travellers supposed to discover the country? How else are people who work across the country supposed to get around? It a real shame that the shareholders and decision makers at Greyhound only see the bottom line, and give no real value to anything else. They have just closed the door on a very sacred part of their own mission. I later confirmed the news and was so saddened. Even though my current pass is still good until it expires, for me this is a great loss and it means I will have to re-think the way I tour across North America. I wrote them a letter expressing my unhappiness but think I was too emotional and harsh, so Ill write another in a softer tone.
Despite this, I will keep moving on, and find a way. There are many other modes of transport, but Greyhound lost a valued customer in me. Despite all their shit and difficulties of travel, they are still a great company, the drivers are good decent hardworking people, and they are always trustworthy as a means to get a round. I will miss Greyhound travel but in a way this is kind of the inspiring kick in the butt to move onto the next phase of touring for me. I can’t keep doing the greyhound my whole life and have been talking about either train travel or car travel. I think the next step for me is to take a crewmember along on the road, someone who can first and foremost be my soundman to insure the best possible sound and lighting. Someone who I can trust with tour managing and driving so I can focus on putting on the best possible shows I can. Taking on the roles of artist, band manager, driver, production, tour manager, publicist and booker for the last two years had been an immensely gratifying and educational experience. However it has spread me too thin and has taken lots of time and energy off of what is important which is making the best music. So I am putting out the feelers to hire someone who can fill in the gaps, but most importantly, someone whom I can call a friend. How else can you travel and tour with others? SO I’m putting it out here in the universe! Get back universe!
We got to Kelowna in the early afternoon, I sat behind a woman who I think had just gotten out of jail, she seemed so happy to be back and it inspired me because we all need to turn a new page sometimes. I then switched over to a bus towards the Kootenay Mountains. Another spectacular mountain range stretching hundreds of kilometers in any which direction but we were going southbound toward the city of Nelson BC , we passed White River, Salmo, Cochican Valley and many other pretty small towns with breathtaking mountains and rivers everywhere. Finally we reached the valley and there was beautiful Nelson.
Nelson is likely my favorite little town in BC. It has this holistic, artsy, organic vibe to it that no other towns seem to have; even the national parks don’t have it. The whole area around the town is completely protected by strict environmental laws to keep the town from growing and expanding, also to protect all the natural wonders and wildlife that hang in such a fragile balance with civilization here. They have a few mini dams and use solar power to create 100% all their own energy. So the town is completely or almost completely self-energized!!! I mean oh my god!
The bus arrived just around 7pm after the driver was late being stopped by an RCMP squad car, for no apparent reason. I was met by my couch surfing host Alex and her mom Leslie and two other travellers. They took me to their place in their Westphalia and we sat down for diner. Leslie is originally from around Windsor Ontario but moved to BC at a young age. She has lived in a town called White Rock near the Canada US border, and has also lived in Vancouver. Leslie has four daughters, Maddy, Alex (the cs host) Kaitlin and Rachel. Add to that the two other girl travellers and myself and you have a table with 7 ladies and one guy…..moi! Oh yeah, and they had a cat they simply named “cat”. I like that!
They made “Almost Irish Stew” which is an Irish stew but almost because it comes without meat! Leslie and the girls all told me their story. They had all moved to Nelson from White Rock BC only a few weeks ago in their Westfalia. When they first arrived here, as soon as they stepped out of the car, they knew this would be the place for them! That was in of the same feeling I had when here. I feel that everyone is of the same mind here. Kindred folk who have a love for nature, for self-realization, for outdoor sports, for the mountains and skiing, for the arts and music and for good healthy food, basically for good healthy living. I am turned on by this town. However it is very isolated, about six hours from anywhere. Although there is everything you could ever need in this bubble, there is even a little Tram Car that runs through the town!
I slept well that night and awoke to find almost everyone gone off to work. The mum and all four daughters had taken jobs in and around the town and were living less as a family unit but more as equal shareholders in a family community, where the burden is not on the parent to bring home the bacon, but where everyone contributes. I started to call them the Facts of Life family as a joke. This way they have a nice house, they eat well and are able to afford many fun vacations. It was amazing and inspiring to see how well they all got along and how solid they were as a family and as collaborators in their unique and easy lifestyle, they opened up a new world of options for me for the future. Their love for adventure and trying out new experiences does not limit them to the few choices left to 99% of north American families which mostly involve working till you croak and leaving behind a huge debt and mortgage for your children. I strolled through the town the next day, found a Sally Anne and took a red shirt there, I went up to the cashier and asked “are there any specials on the used clothes today?” HE answered, “Everything is on special!” Great I thought! How much is it then? Then he replied “no I mean everything is special here” so really there was nothing special, just overpriced used clothing.
I have found that most of the Salvation Army’s and the value villages have become total rip-offs, don’t you think? How else can you charge 10$ for a used shirt! Are the profits really going to the needy or are they lining the non–used pockets of the owners? I wonder, but it’s a travesty that even places like the Salvation Army are taking advantage of people. I bought the shirt reluctantly because I needed one for the show and later found another used shop where it was half priced, Dang!
I bought a slice of Pizza at the reputable Troy’s pizza right off Baker Street. I ate at an organic Indian restaurant, which was just yummy. I walked and walked to my heart’s content, into shops, into parks, by the water, uphill up-hill and uphill. The one thing that is a bit tough about Nelson is that the whole town is on the face of a mountain, so you are either driving everywhere or going downhill one way and uphill the other. So I walked back for a nap and felt like I was climbing a mountain! It’s no wonder I did not notice too many walkers or bikers around,
I did not like the fact that many people driver everywhere here.
The Royal On Baker, the big venue in Nelson where I was playing is a beautiful hall. Nice big bar, nice décor, big stage, nice greenroom and an amazing Soundman, Sean. Sean and I spent a good hour working on my sound and on the monitors. It was amazing to have a good solid sound check and as usual, it pays off tremendously.
Crystal, the bartender, helped me paint the Styrofoam plane I bought and prepared for a bit during my show. She, Tina, Sean, Paul and the rest of the staff were all sweethearts. I felt right at home and that usually translates into a great show! And what a show it was, Daniel Bloom, a local with a beautiful guitar opened the set, followed by Kindredheart who had amazing songs she played on guitar and Autoharp. She reminded me of Buffy Ste Marie.
I played my set to about 30 people and it quickly became a love in of music, of sound, of audience participation and of encores! I wish the room was more packed that night because there was magic there I launched the Styrofoam plane into the audience and much like the catching of the marriage bouquet, the catcher would win a cd. It was my way of succumbing to Jet Envy after being on the bus for so long!
After the show I went back with Leslie who so kindly offered to drive me to the bus station at 5am!! Insane, how kind she is, thank you Leslie for everything! There are so many kind people everywhere who will do so many great thing for strangers it makes me feel small in their presence. The bus rolled in at 5:20am, and once again, I said my goodbyes to Nelson, BC’s best-kept secret!
On to Salmo, through Creston, onto Cranbrook for a bus switch towards Radium BC where all the best natural hot springs are! And also the Kootenay national park, a testament to the marvel of creation. The bus driver told me that instead of waiting in Cranbrook for 6 hours for the bus to Golden, where I was playing that night, I could take another bus to Radium, then hitchhike 100km straight into Golden. That sounded like a plan that would save me several hours, and I like hitchhiking in BC, its easy and fun. So I took the bus and just as it got into radium, the bus drive tells me that he is driving to Banff next and I can stay on the bus and take another bus immediately from Banff to golden, which I decided to do in the end, just because I have so much stuff with me it might have been more difficult to get a lift right a ay, and I was tired and couldn’t be bothered, so on through some more gorgeous scenery until we get to Banff then a quick 2 hour ride to Golden, I arrived at 4pm instead of the 9pm arrival I was initially expecting!
As soon as the bus pulled up to the husky station on the outskirts of Beautiful Golden BC, there was a party of people with cars going into town so I simply asked one of the m if they’d drive me into town. They were more than happy to. The west coast is like that, strangers helping strangers. Golden is a ski town, it overlooks the Columbia mountains and is flanked by the kicking Horse trail. Some say it’s the best skiing and snowboarding in the Rockies. I wouldn’t know, I couldn’t; even stand on a snowboard, but I sure love playing ski towns, people here are always up for a party.
As Soon as the gentleman dropped me off at the Bar, I saw some friends from golden who took care of me last time I was here, Ben Caldwell and Eric Laroque of the groups Stellar Radio Choir and Broke Down Suitcase. It was good to see some familiar faces again. They just happened to be there for a few minutes before to set me up for the show before heading out to Revelstoke for a show of their own that night. Eric was doing some October Fest party so he and a friend were dressed like old xGerman mountain men in slacks!
We had a pint then they went on and I stayed and met my couch surfing host Abby Watkins. Abby is an Aussie who moved to Canada many years ago and has lived quite a life. She is a Rock Climbing guide, a professional skier, a hiking guide, a first responder, a painter, and an air dancer in a Vancouver troop called Aeriosa. She is all these things by profession. Aeriosa scale down the walls of high-rises and perform choreographed dances for thousands of spectators while suspended on harnesses 200 meters in the air. Its quite amazing to see, check out her troop Aeriousa perform here. It gives me the willies just looking at it but it’s so beautiful to watch.
I played two sets at the taps that night, but it was very different from the time before, My audience was older, there were fewer people and they were more in a sit down and watch mood, which was fine with me. Tracy, the bartender tells me that September is the slowest month of the year in golden and that everything starts up when the snow kicks in in october-november. So it wasn’t the barnburner I had hoped for but I still sold and gave a bunch of cds and signed a bunch of autographs including for Kent, the owner of the bar. They are nice amazing people at the taps.
As I was finishing up, I was going to walk back with all my gear to Abby’s place. Normally a no brainer since it was only a 10-minute walk but since I had all my gear with me it could have taken more like an hour. So someone at the bar mentioned there was a bicycle rickshaw driver in Golden, and just happenstance, he showed up! Jerry the Rickshaw biker from Golden Driftwood rickshaw gave me a lift home, played some rickshaw music and gave good conversation. I took a picture of him and all my stuff on the Rickshaw! That’s coming home in style!
The next morning Abby and I chatted over coffee about lots of stuff about our lives and histories. She is a great conversationalist. She showed me pictures of some amazing things she’s done in the past, including climbing to raise money to give Cataract operations to the elderly and the poor from an entire village in Nepal. They had lost their sight and now it was regained! It was amazing to see. Abby has climbed the second highest peak after Mount Everest, which is still like 7000 feet. Her danced troop has performed for the Olympics and she is the first person called in case of an avalanche! Wonder people out there really impress me. Abby drove me to the husky in time for m bus to Kelowna in the Okanagan. Back out west for one more show at the Streaming Cafe before heading back home!