Saturday, October 24, 2020

Secret identity is secret

Raybans... for when the day is bright and the Knight is Dark...

So, you're a superhero and you decide you just wanna chill with the crowds at the outdoor market. But how to mingle without being recognized and mobbed by your adoring public?

Put on a pair of slick Raybans, of course!

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Red Tractor

A tractor on display...
A colourful farm vehicle at rest among the flowers...

 Seen during the summer on a Central Saanich farm...

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Haunted Victoria

Craigdarroch Castle looking sinister...
There's a light over at the Frankenstein place...

Victoria has a reputation for being one of the most haunted places on earth. Maybe it's for that reason that it has been tapped by Hollywood as a filming location for horror movies over the years. Two popular filming locations are Craigdarroch Castle seen above, and Hatley Castle seen at the bottom of this post.

Craigdarroch Castle -- more of a large manor really -- is often used by local theatre groups to stage Halloween productions. It shows up prominently in The Boy, a horror/suspense movie filmed here in 2016. You can watch it right now on Netflix.

Some of the exterior shots for The Boy were filmed at nearby Hatley Castle. Hatley Castle has also stood in for the Mutant Academy in the X-Men and Deadpool movies, and Lex Luthor's manor in the TV series Smallville.  It was also a film location for The Changeling, another very creepy ghost story, back in the early 80s.

Victoria's Hatley Castle has ghosts to spare...
Victoria's Hatley Castle....



Thursday, October 15, 2020

Metal arachnid

Welded wall crawler...

The local artist who produced the 10-foot high dragon in his front yard recently added this new creation to his front gate to catch the attention of passing pedestrians.

With their multiple eyes and legs spiders tend to freak a lot of people out... such as my wife. She would cheerfully crush every spider she finds in our house, if I didn't intervene to scoop them up and deposit them outside in a garden plant.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Fearless... not always a good thing

Sometimes it's a fine line
between fearless and naive...

Walking around the nearby nature sanctuary, I came across this young guy/gal contentedly munching on grass beside the trail. There was no sign of a mom around. S/he seemed pretty calm as I approached and took a photo.

When I got within grabbing distance s/he reluctantly abandoned the grass and slowly loped off into the brush. By the time you read this post, this bunny probably ended up being dinner for the many hawks and eagles that circle high over the sanctuary.


Friday, October 9, 2020

Scary Monsters

Victoria... here be monsters!
Victoria, BC... Here be Monsters!
You'll find all sorts of strange beasts stalking and walking downtown Victoria...

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

The visitor

Hummingbirds visit the feeder in our garden.
Tiny guests at our feeder...

We live near a nature sanctuary and get a large number of birds visiting our feeders.

The hummingbirds are frequent visitors. During the late summer and fall they will duke it out with the wasps for drinking rights at our feeders.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Rat rod

It ain't pretty but you can't look away.

What is a rat rod? It's the opposite of a hot rod.

Hot rods are older muscle cars that have been lovingly restored -- with the dollars to match! -- by their owners. At car shows, the chrome gleams, the body is waxed to perfection, the leather interior is buffed to a sheen... Everything is impeccable.

Rat rods are the opposite. Their owners deliberately go for a beaten up grungy look. Frequently they are adorned with elements that would seem more suited to a horror movie than a show room floor. 

While they probably don't spend as much money trying to source original parts, they invest a lot of time in producing DIY parts, welding, painting, etc. And they also take pride in showing off their creations at local car shows.

Seen on the Highway to Hell...


Monday, September 28, 2020

The Banana Boat

It's very yellow!

The Banana Boat is the name that my wife and I have given to our inflatable kayak. We don't bust it out very often, but it's always a fun day when we do.

It's unique for the transparent floor which lets us peek into the water below us as we paddle along.

Heading out into Brentwood Bay...


Friday, September 25, 2020

All quiet on the western front

Victoria's Empress Hotel lit up by the setting sun...

Recently my wife and I went out for dinner where we were treated to a glorious sunset illuminating the front of the iconic Empress Hotel.

Normally our summer waterfront would be bustling with tourists from around the world. 

Not in 2020... the year of COVID. 

Instead there's an unsettling quiet downtown. No buskers, no crowds of excited pedestrians, no pedicabs, no outdoor music or festivals, no harbour traffic... This lack of energy and vibrance that hangs over everything is eerie.

Will we still be here a year from now I wonder?

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Smoke gets in your eyes

Unrelenting smoke over Oregon...

Five years ago when we traveled through our favourite state of Oregon, the skies overhead were filled with the smoke of the numerous wildfires throughtout the state. At mid-day the sun was reduced to an orange orb in the dark skies.

Here we are again...

Thanks to COVID and a closed border we weren't able to travel south this summer as we planned. Which is just as well, since much of Oregon has been reduced to a fiery inferno. The news has been filled with images of landscapes and cityscapes barely visible through the omnipresent orange haze.

The smoke has drifted up to BC and Alberta. Up here in Victoria BC we are now four days into a greyish smoky haze that makes it seems like the middle of winter. The sun is barely visible. The only clue that we are still in the late days of summer is the warm temperatures.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Not up to code

Sketchy sun shelter... (say it fast five times!)

I'm not sure I would trust the integrity of this death trap DIY structure of beach logs standing on an Oak Bay beach.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

... now you don't.

Parkville's "empty" waterpark...

The fastest way to make children disappear in public is to pull out a camera and start taking pictures. Parents leap into action, grabbing their kids and dragging them away from the weird guy snapping photos.

So this is the popular water park at Parksville's Community Park. There are lots of kids just out of sight at the edges wondering why Mommy is clutching them so tightly.


Sunday, September 13, 2020

Come On Eileen

Karaoke couple
Eileen and Trevor sing the hits...

Come On Eileen is one of my go-to karaoke songs. Karaoke is also what brought Eileen and Trevor to my attention walking Parksville's boardwalk one early evening with my wife.

The pair were entertaining pedestrians and beach goers with their brand of 80s vintage karaoke on the beach. Their karaoke sounds way better than mine which is why you should be grateful that I will never serenade readers with my whiny voice.

As a karaoke enthusiast though I stopped to talk with them for awhile. They've been singing together since 1962. Apparently they loved their partnership so much they decided to make it permanent with marriage in 1967. Thanks to them both for their fun stories about life and radio rock in Britain in the 1960s 

Thursday, September 10, 2020

War of the Worlds

The aliens are here...
When worlds collide...
"Across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us."
-- War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells

Monday, September 7, 2020

The answer: Big, noisy and smelly.

 

Sea lions at rest...

The question is: What three words that accurately describe pinnipeds, the class of animals that includes seals, sea lions and elephant seals?

We have two local varieties of sea lions -- California sea lions (seen above) and stellar sea lions. One way to distinguish between them is through their vocals. California sea lions bark whereas stellar sea lions snort and grunt. Also, stellar sea lions grow much bigger than California sea lions... about three times as heavy.

Elephant seals (seen below) grow bigger yet, typically up to twice as heavy as a stellar sea lion. We saw this big guy/gal on a nearby island during our recent whale watching expedition.

An elephant seal takes a break...


Friday, September 4, 2020

Deep diver

Going for depth...

Recently my wife and I treated our nephew to a whale watching trip as a birthday present. It was organized through Eagle Wing Tours. They made it a great experience despite the COVID-19 measures they had to put in place in order to stay operating.

Our tour guide kept up a non-stop commentary about local marine wild life in her pleasant Irish accent. Along the way we saw three separate humpback whales.

As she explained it, typically these whales will surface for three to five big breaths before doing a deep dive to go for food. The deep dive is signified by the flip up of the tail out of the water as they go nearly vertical.

Whales on the move...


Tuesday, September 1, 2020

The mountain

Mt Baker seen from the Malahat...

Snow-capped Mt Baker is located in the state of Washington, but can be seen from many locations at the south end of Vancouver Island. A scenic lookout at the top of the mountain to the north of Victoria is popular with tourists and locals driving north on Vancouver Island for its awesome views of Baker.

The community of Sidney gets a great view of it too from their waterfront walkway.

Not many locals realize that Mt Baker is an active volcano. The last time it erupted was about 6000 years ago

Birds resting on Sidney's pilings...


Saturday, August 29, 2020

The chimney

Not so mysterious...

This Vancouver Island structure rises out of the forest around it very much like Stein's Pillar in Oregon

However, this structure is strictly man made... it's the remains of an old chimney that formed part of a cement factory that once stood on the site. 

Today it is the location of a major tourist attraction known as The Butchart Gardens.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

A pop of colour

Snow capped mountains are the backdrop for Port Alberni...
A colourful truck on the road to Port Alberni's waterfront...

The COVID pandemic has effectively crushed our normal travel plans to the U.S. Not gonna lie... we are not happy about it.

We won't even be able to do extensive travel in our own back yard this year. My wife's employer is trying to recover from a three-month shutdown so extended holidays are out for her this year.

We may have to settle for close-by locations such as Port Alberni.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

On a roll...

Kayakers on a roll...
Kayakers getting wet during manoeuvres...

Although it looks like a couple of these kayakers are having problems, it's all in hand. This group were practicing their rolls which is a fundamental skill for kayaking.

Some were more successful than others...

Friday, August 21, 2020

The Island

But is it art, really?

Recently a public arts group, built this small artificial island, complete with its own tree, and anchored it off a nearby park. "Island" is really just a fancy term for dock.

They invited the public to come and "experience" their art, and locals were happy to oblige during these hot days of summer.

All of this seems innocent fun, except that they moored it in a controversial section of our Gorge Waterway. This particular section of water has become the site of derelict boats being used by the homeless, or those who simply want to live on the water without the responsibility of buying waterfront property.

The city has spent years trying to clear the boats out. The problem is that the water is owned by a different level of government. They had just started making headway with the problem, when this island came along to encourage others to simply put up any old floating bit of junk to live on, and justify it as "art".

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

The Watering Can

A giant watering can of fun for kids...
Wet and fun, oh yes!
On a summer day, a popular destination for kids (and their grateful parents!) is the giant watering can in Victoria's Beacon Hill Park.

Whether it's a shower, a spray or a spew of water, it's all good medicine for hot and hyperactive children coping with severely restricted summer activities during these days of COVID-19.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Duck soup

Ducks plow through the matt of algae on Swan Lake...

We live close to a small nearby lake known as Swan Lake. It was carved out via glacial action and is fed only by a few streams and rainwater.

All of which means the water is relatively stagnant. In the summer, algae blooms spread across much of the lake's surface creating a pea soup effect.

However, it doesn't seem to bother the numerous ducks, cormorants, gulls, turtles, frogs and small fish that call the lake home.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Lost Airmen of the Empire

 A tribute to the fallen...

On a wind swept rise adjacent to the Greater Victoria Airport, you'll come across this sombre piece of art. It's a tribute to the airmen who lost their lives in the great wars of the 20th century.

The artist is Illarion Gallant who has numerous high profile art pieces installed throughout the area. I like his art for the fact that it's accessible and unambiguous unlike say a banana duct- taped to a wall.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Secret squirrel

Squirrel gymnastics...
A local ninja squirrel makes off with the goods...
Recently we've been going through bird seed for our feeders at a goodly rate. We didn't give it much thought... simply continued to load up the feeder every few days.

Early one morning I looked up from my coffee to see this guy/gal doing squirrel gymnastics to get to the seed.

Mystery solved... we've taken to setting out a separate supply of sunflower seeds for the local squirrel population.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Not a ride at the fair...

Ralmax' impressive stacker-reclaimer in Victoria...
Industrial carousel...
Although this looks like some sort of high-tech fair ride, that's only an effect of the wide-angle panorama setting on my phone.

This is a stacker-reclaimer... a big-ass piece of engineering designed to move coal between freighters and rail cars at nearby North Vancouver.

The sheer size of it captures the attention of everyone who drives, cycles or walks past its construction site at Victoria's Point Hope Shipyard where it has been under construction by Ralmax Group for the the past eighteen months.

The buckets used to scoop up the coal...
No, not the seats for the ride...



Monday, August 3, 2020

Double patties

A bridge over the Englishman River...
Water beats rock...
Another view of the 'double-patties' that were mentioned in my previous post. You can imagine how much higher the river levels are in the winter to have carved out this unusual formation.

The bridge leads to a network of trails that will take you deep into the forests further upstream. Just remember to bring your bear bells with you.

Friday, July 31, 2020

The Dare

Two boys contemplate a jump into the Englishman River.
"You go first. No, YOU go first!"

Parksville locals have a semi-secret swimming spot located on the Englishman River. The river has carved strange formations into the banks such as this 'double patty'.

It's a favourite place to jump into the water, but can be intimidating because:

i. The water is dark and you can't easily see if there are any obstacles below the surface of the water (there aren't);

ii. The water is cold and there's no easing into it from a jump;

iii. It's also a bit challenging to climb back out of the water without skinning a knee or scraping a foot on the rock.

In the ancient of tradition of boys, I watched one young guy coaxing/teasing his pal into jumping into the water. No idea if he did it as I couldn't wait that long. Mom was nearby though so I figured everyone was safe.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Tree lined

A summer canopy of green over a Parksville street...
A cooling canopy of leaves...
A cathedral of trees over a street in Parksville glows with the afternoon sun.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

The Moss Lady

The Moss Lady of Beacon Hill Park...
Serenely sleeping in the shade...
You'll find the Moss Lady tucked away in the shade of Victoria's Beacon Hill Park.

Artist Dale Doebert was inspired by the Mud Maid in Cornwall’s Lost Gardens of Heligan. The 35-foot long sculpture is covered with a specially designed clay-based acidic soil so that she will eventually be cloaked in moss.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Them!

Aggressive formica ants...
Beware of mandibles!
Them! is the cinema classic that started the whole 'giant mutant bugs' trend in the 1950s. It's the tale of giant ants that threaten a small New Mexico community.

While these ants aren't gigantic, they are very nearly as scary to me because they can deliver a pretty good bite. I discovered them outside my backyard shed. In the process of sweeping them away with my feet, a few managed to climb up to my arms.

I didn't give it much thought until I felt a startling pinch.

I had never encountered such aggressive ants before in BC in all my decades here. A helpful expert with the municipality identified them as formica ants.

From the website insectidentification.org:
This group of ants do not sting, but they can bite using strong mouth parts. They also spray formic acid from the tips of their abdomens at predators or perceived threats like human fingers. The formic acid can cause mild to severe irritation depending on the proximity of the target.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Erosion

Sandstone cave on Galiano Island...
A peak through to Retreat Cove and Island...
Wave and weather action has carved a cave out of the sandstone on Galiano Island...

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Mystic

The waterfalls of Mystic Beach on Vancouver Island...
Waterfalls at Mystic Beach on Vancouver Island...
People in BC are discovering the outdoor beauty of their province during these days of lock downs, closed borders, and limited vacation time. Media have reported that camping gear is selling briskly as BC residents opt to vacation in their own backyards.

Monday, July 13, 2020

To boldly grow...

Strange tree seen in my neighbourhood...
Sticking out like a sort thumb...
I really have to get out and walk around the neighbourhood more.

Following on from this post about strange local flora, I recently discovered this bizarre looking tree. Deep red-purple colour and mixed textures make it seem like something out of Star Trek to me.

No idea what it is...

Friday, July 10, 2020

The wraiths

Creepy kites...
Ominous creatures overhead...
I know that these kites flying over Parksville are supposed to be squids, but they still look creepy and alien-ish as they flutter in the breeze.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

23.5

A mysterious entrance in Fan Tan Alley...
The mysterious red door...
23-1/2 Fan Tan Alley in Victoria's Chinatown has been featured here before, but I've never caught a glimpse of what lies beyond the door until recently.

Nothing remarkable, just stairs leading up to ???

I've always been curious as to what the 1/2 means. Is 24 considered an unlucky number in Chinese? Did they somehow build an extra apartment between 23 and 24? Is it a portal to some alternate reality?

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Norwegian Bliss


Norwegian Bliss takes over Victoria's breakwater...
One big boat... one colossal cruise ship...
It was two years ago that I featured the cruise ship the Norwegian Bliss. At the time it was the largest cruise ship to ever pull into Victoria.

Cruise ships are unlikely to return to Victoria this year. Local and federal governments are not allowing cruise ships into Canada until at least October.

Not that it matters since cruise ships are likely not going to see the numbers of passengers that they need to stay operating for a long, long time.

In the meantime, the Norwegian Bliss is on the East Coast hoping to re-start operations to American ports in the fall.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Happy Birthday to Us

Canada celebrates its 151st birthday...
Gloomy skies
2020 seems like a dark time right now...

Canada Day celebrations this year are non-existent with the cancellation of every event thanks to the ongoing COVID crisis. Let's hope that next year will see sunnier days.



Sunday, June 28, 2020

Those were the days my friend...

A small sample of ghost signs in Victoria, BC...
Fading but not yet forgotten...
If you wander around Victoria and look up you'll see a goodly number of ghost signs. These are faded signs typically seen painted on the sides of buildings advertising for businesses that have long since disappeared.

Amazingly, these particular signs have endured for over a century. 

Thursday, June 25, 2020

On the move again

A BC ferry enters Active Pass on its way to Vancouver Island.
BC Ferries... on the long road to recovery...
BC is slowly starting to re-open after three months of the COVID shut down. Our ferry system took a big hit as both domestic and international numbers dwindled to a fraction of their normal levels.

The semi-private corporation estimates that it will take two to three years before they return to their normal pre-pandemic level of operations.

The sailing experience moving forward is going to look very different as masks will now be mandatory for passengers.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Exotic

Tropical coloured flowers in Victoria BC...
Victoria's eye-catching flowers on display...
The current COVID crisis which has closed many attractions and events across Vancouver Island has severely curtailed photo opportunities. I've taken to hiking local trails to find interesting subject material.

This flower is one I haven't seen before. I've no idea if it's native or something imported. It resembles some of the flowers that we saw in Costa Rica about a decade ago.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Isn't it ironic?

The Lucky Fortune Tattoo Studio... not so much.
Lucky Fortune?  Not so much...
As I walked around downtown Victoria recently, it was grim to see how many retail stores had shuttered as a result of the COVID shutdown.

Some had notices that they intended to re-open as soon as they could, but there were a few that announced that they were closing permanently.

I'm not sure what the eventual fate of the Lucky Fortune Tattoo Studio is. It was papered over and gated, but the neon light suggests that there is still hope for it.