4400km, 11 talks, a dozen interviews, and that’s a wrap for my 2016 Canadian Bucket List speaking tour! Picking up a shiny Platinum Ford Explorer on a sunny morning in Vancouver (the driver and passenger seats have a built-in massager and the car can park itself, dont’cha know?) my Dad and I hit the road eager to share the stories and inspiration behind my books, and tick off more bucket list experiences along the way. From Kamloops to Winnipeg, here’s the highlights:
KAMLOOPS, BC: My first speaking event took place in one of my favourite pubs, The Noble Pig. It’s a microbrew pub that just seems to do everything right – the beer, the food, the atmosphere and staff. Earlier in the day, I visited CBC Radio, and went for a mountain bike ride among fragrant sage brush and gorgeous views with Catharine Pendrel, an 11-time cross country World Champion and a wonderful ambassador for the many outdoor attractions of Kamloops. She’s off to the Olympics and the medal couldn’t go to anyone nicer or more deserving (and more patient, when I almost threw up in the bushes from trying unsuccessfully to keep up with her!)
JASPER, AB: I delivered a keynote for the Alberta Library Association at the stunning Jasper Park Lodge. We saw a large bear on the side of the road, braked for elk and mule deer, and feasted on the views and turquoise lakes. The Rockies, as I explained during my presentations, are incomparable. We sold a ton of books after my talk, which focused on what I’ve learned from a decade of ticking off bucket lists. Then it was time to hit the road to Edmonton, where we did some comparing after all: the road leaving Jasper for Edmonton vs the Icefields Parkway. Roadtrip gold.
EDMONTON, AB: A Sunday afternoon event at Audrey’s, a fantastic indie bookstore so supportive of writers and their books (thanks for staying late!) It happened to be Orthodox Easter Sunday, so after an interview with Global News, I met with some bloggers for a perogies cooking class with master chef Brad Smoliak, and did some leaps and bounds with the jaw-droppingly acrobatic Ukrainian dance ensemble, Volya. Another highlight of the day: successfully kicking a field goal in Commonwealth Stadium, the largest stadium in Canada.
CALGARY, AB: Bookshops, pubs – what about an outdoor adventure store? With the help of the folks at Keen Footwear, I gave a presentation at Campers Village (with dozens of attendees seated on camping chairs, of course). Never one to miss an opportunity, I did interviews with CTV and CBC Radio before meeting up with some bloggers and writers for a class of heli-yoga, as one does. Always fun to reconnect with the folks at Rockies Heli Tours, and the weather cooperated beautifully (as it would all week). My Dad, who has sworn off yoga after injuring himself in his first class, even managed to do the downward dog (being on top of a mountain inspires all sorts of action).
SASKATOON, SK: Let’s just not talk about the $384 speeding ticket we picked up outside of Harris, SK (the only thing that should be illegal on the long, flat, endless road is driving 100 km/hr!) We raced to the Wyant Group Raceway outside of Saskatoon to tick off another item on my list: Drop the Hammer in a Stock Car on a Nascar Track. Even cooler: the track has introductory days throughout the summer where anybody can actually do this! Global news joined me for the fun, before our Ford Explorer growled off to McNally-Robinson, Canada’s largest independent book chain, for my evening event.
REGINA, SK: After an early morning drive to Regina for an interview with the folks at CTV and Harvard Radio, I gathered the troops for an adventure to the Southern Prairie Railway in Ogema, the province’s only private tourist railway. Who knew we’d also find a young Italian guy obsessed with crafting the perfect pizza and pasta, or that our short trip into the big-sky prairies would spark a wildfire? We stomped it out (wildfires being a particularly sensitive topic in the week of the Fort McMurray tragedy) and reminded ourselves that the best adventures often take place when, and where, we least expect them. Thanks to the folks who came out to Chapters-Indigo that evening.
WINNIPEG, MB: A long drive to Winnipeg, but not without exploring the beautiful Qu’appelle Valley, a hot reader tip. Driving bliss before popping up on the Trans Canada and bee-lining it to Winnipeg (with a stop at the delicious Lady of the Lake in Brandon) for interviews with CTV, the CBC, Global and CityTV (I call that a media fourtracta!). How do I describe people who live in the prairies, asks the Manitoba HOT blog? Earthiness. Timing is everything and I was thrilled I’d arrived at the same time of year when tens of thousands of red garter snakes come out to play at the Narcisse Snake Dens. I didn’t expect them to be so damn cute (yes, snakes can be cute) or the surrounding area to be so lovely. My final event took place at a busy McNally Robinson, a cultural landmark in the country’s most cultural city.
In the coming months, I’ll be putting together videos and blog posts about the activities above, and preparing for the birth of two new babies. First, my worldwide opus – The Great Global Bucket List, which hits the shelves in September. And more importantly, the arrival of a baby in mid-July. Because clearly I have too much time on my hands.
A very special thanks to Ford Canada, Travel Manitoba, Tourism Saskatchewan, Tourism New Brunswick, Keen Footwear, Great Canadian Trails, Starwood Hotels and Resorts and Dundurn Press who helped make this tour possible. Tourism Kamloops, Tourism Saskatoon, and Tourism Winnipeg are awesome (as usual!) My Dad is a legend (and knows how to race a car in the prairies). Wonderful to meet all the bloggers, writers and media who met me along the way. And especially readers, old and new, who continue to share their enthusiasm and support for The Great Canadian Bucket List.