Hello, Manito Park in Spokane, Washington

On my way back from Canada, I re-entered through Idaho and drove across through the panhandle for my second visit to Spokane, Washington. I had a great time exploring downtown Spokane during my last visit, and this time, I decided to visit Manito Park, about a mile south of Interstate 90.

I parked in the northern-most lot northwest of the roundabout connecting East 18th Avenue and South Tekoa Street, then started walking around Mirror Pond. Most of the paths were paved with asphalt, but there were a few dirt trails around the northwestern area of the park.

The northwestern area also had the Lilac Garden, containing, as you may have guessed, lilacs.

Next up was Rose Hill.

After Rose Hill, I crossed West 21st Avenue and looked at some of the flower arrangements east of Rose Garden Path.

South of this was Duncan Garden, a manicured garden with a very pleasant display of flowers and trimmed shrubs.

The steps going up from Duncan Garden led to the Gaiser Conservatory.

The Gaiser Conservatory had two sections, with the one to the east having a more humid environment.

The west side of the conservatory was drier and featured vegetation you’d see in an arid climate.

I continued my walk down south near the playground and kickball field, then circled back around through the picnic area to where I had parked. Back by the pond, I saw some ducks waddling around in the grass.

Even with partly cloudy skies, it was still pretty sunny and got pretty warm. I think Manito Park would be a great place to find a spot in the shade and relax if the weather is nice, and a pleasant (and free) place to go for a walk if you like looking at flowers.

 

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Canada is underrated

If you’re caught up with my other blog posts from Canada already, then you probably easily picked up this sentiment, but the Canadian leg of my road trip has been my favorite segment so far. Pretty much everything Canada has been a stellar experience, but I decided to highlight some of the things that left a lasting impression on me. (Note that these are in no particular order, and they’re not my favorite things—they just happen to be things that stuck in my memory.)

  • British Columbia Highway 5 (also known as the Southern Yellowhead Highway) and the Trans-Canada Highway, starting from Hope and ending in Calgary, is my favorite location of all time. The quality of scenery on this stretch of highway exceeds what you would see in even some of the best National Parks in the United States, and this scenery is literally just hugging the road on all sides, everywhere.

  • I’ve noticed that Canadian people are noticeably nicer and have a strong sense of community—sort of like my experience in Montana, but to an even greater degree. People I’ve spoken with through random encounter on the street or while hiking will greet me as if we had already known each other for a long time, and opt for some more meaningful, relevant conversation as opposed to filler small talk.

  • On average, I’ve noticed that Canadian people are more physically attractive. It seems like Canadians care more about maintaining their health and appearance. There are still obviously some plump people in Canada, but I don’t recall seeing a single person throughout my entire stay in Canada who I would consider as obese… which is a dramatic difference from when I visited the southeastern United States, where literally over half the people I encountered appeared to me as unmanageably obese.

  • I am a huge fan of Diet Coca-Cola and would say it is my favorite beverage (along with Coca-Cola Zero) if you exclude just plain water. A lot of people claim they are cola enthusiasts, but when they do blind taste tests, they can’t tell the difference among different kinds of cola. Well, I have done blind taste tests, and have been so accurate as to even be able to point out when my friends were trying to trick me and mixed half Coca-Cola and half Pepsi into a single cup. With that claim of “expertise” having been said, I think Canadian Diet Coca-Cola tastes significantly better than that of the United States. I am not really sure exactly why that is, but it just leaves a cleaner, crisper aftertaste. I think that it’s because the sweetener might be different, but I’m not certain; all I know is that I definitely like it better.

  • Throughout my travels, I’ve managed to earn Ambassador Elite status in Marriott’s Bonvoy loyalty program, which entitles me to free upgrades and a lot of special treatment. However, because I am specially eligible (unrelated to the standard loyalty program) for a pretty substantial discount off regular rates, I generally don’t mind if I don’t always get the best upgrades or the best perks in the United States—I’m already very thankful that Marriott allows me to travel full-time at an affordable rate. However, in Canada, every single hotel I stayed at honored the full benefits of my Ambassador Elite status, gave me the maximum available upgrades, provided me with over-the-top welcome gifts, and overall just had stellar service that dwarfed what I came to expect from United States hotels.

  • The absence of firearms in Canada was a bit strange at first. I obviously left my gun in the United States, as I did not have the credentials to carry it with me into Canada, and I kept doing double-takes for the first week or so while I was still accustomed to not having a firearm with me. However, people in Canada just don’t really act suspiciously in general, and I never really felt that I was ever in a situation where I would even potentially need a firearm. Eventually, it felt a lot more peaceful after getting getting used to it.

  • Compared to the United States, Canadian drivers are a lot more reasonable and drive in a much more predictable manner. I’m used to driving in a very wide variety of conditions, from bustling, aggressive cities all the way to quite literally the middle of nowhere surrounded by wild grasses, and I’d say that the median driver in Canada is about the equivalent to the median driver in Utah, a state which I’ve spoken highly about in the past about how great their drivers are. On a related note, there is an overall lower travel speed on Canadian highways, so I actually ended up getting better fuel economy by not having to keep up with the flow of traffic at 85+ MPH (137+ KPH) like in the United States.

With those general thoughts and impressions out of the way, here are some leftover photos I had from Canada that didn’t fit in with any of my previous blog posts.

The first is the Canada Border Services Agency checkpoint in Abbotsford, British Columbia, across from Sumas, Washington. I had to drive quite a bit through what felt like local roads in order to get here. I decided to enter through Abbotsford instead of Surrey because I skipped Vancouver, as a stay in Vancouver was a bit too expensive due to tourism picking up for the summer.

My first overnight stop was in Kamloops, British Columbia. I got a nice, upgraded corner suite on the top floor of the Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott Kamloops, which had a nice view of the mountains.

My next overnight stop was at the Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott Revelstoke, where again, I got a nice upgraded suite on the top floor, and again, with an amazing view of the mountains.

My longest stop was in Calgary, where I selected the Element by Westin Calgary Airport. I got a great rate, and it had a convenient central location in Calgary. I got upgraded to a corner studio on the highest floor with a great view of both downtown and the suburbs, and their hot breakfast service had recently been reinstated, so I was able to get a different fresh dish every morning. There was plenty of space, there was a wired Internet connection available, and the sink even had a water filter built into it. I don’t think I could’ve asked for a better place to call my temporary home during my stay in Calgary.

After spending a night at the Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott Lethbridge, I continued my way down south back home to the United States. I made my final Tim Hortons stop in Cranbrook, British Columbia, where I enjoyed a few Timbits with iced coffee and enjoyed the clear skies and mountain views.

I ended up running into some construction traffic during my final stretch southbound on British Columbia Highway 95, but the scenery was so nice that even traffic somehow became enjoyable.

As if acting like a harsh reality check, when I arrived at the United States Customs and Border Protection’s Eastport Port of Entry in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, the officer basically acted as if I was committing a crime by attempting to re-enter the United States—a polar opposite experience from when I entered Canada for tourism.

Having formerly been in law enforcement, his “angry for no reason” demeanor made me disappointed, as he was a great example of officers who leave a bad impression of law enforcement on the community and make it more difficult for everyone else in the field. It was particularly upsetting because I had spent the last few weeks being showered with kindness by Canadians, and it felt very unjust to have an officer with a bad attitude greeting these kind Canadians at the border.

Hopefully this port has a refresher course on community policing and public relations coming up soon.

If Canada was part of the United States and relocation logistics were easy, I 100% would move there… though I guess it wouldn’t be how it is today if it was part of the United States. I guess the next best alternative would be to move to Montana, which I may consider at some point. Or, another option could be to maintain United States citizenship and spend 51% of my time in the US and 49% of my time in Canada on visitor visas… though I imagine that’s a decision I would only make after I settle down with a wife.

Regardless, the point is, visiting Canada has opened my eyes up to many new possibilities. I was never really that curious about Europe, but after making this trip to Canada and traveling internationally for the very first time, I’m more interested in visiting other countries, in hopes of seeing things that I would have never imagined was possible just from my limited scope and understanding of the United States.

Considering that a majority of Tempo‘s new employees are in the Seattle Metropolitan Area and I’ve been spending more time here, I’m thinking I will seize any future opportunities to make more trips to Canada, considering how close it is.

 

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Investment allocation breakdown for 2022 Q2, comprehensive edition

Disclaimer: I am not a registered investment advisor, nor do I have the proper qualifications to become one. The information contained in this blog post is intended to be strictly anecdotal as a means of personal storytelling, and it should not be construed as financial advice. Everyone’s situation is uniquely different, so do not blindly copy my strategy; instead, consult with a certified professional if you have any questions or need proper guidance.

 
After doing these investment breakdowns quarterly for over a year now, and each quarter, building upon the previous quarter’s breakdown, I realized that it’s not very realistic to ask people to go down the entire rabbit hole of all of my past investment allocation breakdowns in order to understand the full context of anything new that I’m sharing. Because of this, I have decided to do a “comprehensive edition” of my investment breakdown at least once a year in order to “reset” the trail of breadcrumbs and provide a new standalone anchor point from which readers can start.

Because of this, this particular comprehensive edition of 2022 Q2’s investment allocation breakdown is going to be a lot more detailed and will contain lots of repeated information from previous posts—which is the entire idea here, as the main point of me doing this is to be able to compact everything im­por­tant into a single article so readers won’t have to navigate back in time.

Now, with that having been just said, I think this may seem pretty silly, but I direct you to a blog post that I published in the past titled “Investing US$10,000.00 in the stock market – Parkzer vs. DougDoug’s Twitch chat.” In that post, I discuss my current outlook on the market; it will give a general explanation as to why I seem to be so focused lately (within the past half a year or so) with portfolio diversification and alternative investment classes.

Cash

I subscribe to many safe-investing principles, including the idea that time in the market is better than timing the market, and how you should always hold minimal cash—only enough to cover your emergency fund. If anything makes you heed my disclaimer above a­bout how I’m not an investment advisor, it should be this—I am at an all-time high in cash holdings, and I am being a hypocrite and not following my own advice.

I didn’t recently sell investments in preparation for making a major purchase or anything—I just don’t feel comfortable dumping a bunch of money into the stock market right now until I see some modicum of stability return to the charts. I am losing a substantial amount of value from my money due to high inflation by just holding it in cash, but that is a trade-off I’m wiling to accept to avoid losing even more to a crashing market.

My bank account of choice is the Discover Online Savings Account. I’ve been a Discover customer ever since I was 18 years old and got my first credit card; Discover has always been reliable for me, and because it is an online bank, even though the interest rate on the savings account is tiny, it is still astronomical compared to traditional brick-and-mortar banks that may offer less than a tenth (or even a hundredth) of a percentage point.

 27.19%

Domestic broad market index funds

For the money that I do still have in the stock market, a large portion of it is in domestic broad market index funds, namely Vanguard To­tal Stock Market Index Fund Admiral Shares (VTSAX) and Vanguard High Dividend Yield Index Fund Admiral Shares (VHYAX).

I use Vanguard as my primary brokerage, but I also have a Fidelity account for account types that Vanguard doesn’t offer—namely a Health Savings Account and a regular brokerage account that supports incoming transactions of over-the-counter securities (which Van­guard recently stopped supporting in late April) (I also hold my 529 College Savings Plan with Fidelity because the sign-up proc­ess was much easier than Vanguard’s). Within my Fidelity HSA, I hold my money in the form of the Fidelity ZERO® Total Market In­dex Fund (FZROX).

Although I’m hesitant in current market conditions, domestic broad market index funds are my favorite category of investment. Each calendar year when limits reset, I max out my tax-advantaged accounts, and all other investments into the stock market generally go into brokerage accounts in the form of broad market index funds.

 17.84%

International total market index funds

For the purpose of diversifying outside of the United States of America, I also own Vanguard To­tal International Stock Index Fund Ad­mi­ral Shares (VTIAX).

I don’t know much about countries outside the United States, and I am probably grossly uneducated about international matters, but I know for a fact that the United States is not the only successful country in the world, and I want to make sure that I have exposure to outside markets in case something horrible happens to the United States and/or something incredible happens to a foreign country.

Beyond that, I don’t really have much further insight here; I just picked out a broad market index fund specifically focusing on non-US companies (as opposed to worldwide index funds) such that I don’t have any overlap with domestic index funds I already own, and can control and proportion my exposure to global markets.

  5.29%

Target date funds

In my retirement accounts, specifically my Roth IRA and SEP-IRA, I like to purchase target-date broad-market index funds. Spe­cif­i­cal­ly, I have my money split fairly evenly between Vanguard Target Re­tire­ment 2055 Fund (VFFVX) and Vanguard Target Re­tire­ment 2060 Fund (VTTSX).

The premise of a target date fund is to pick out a year in the future for when you think you are going to need to start making with­drawals, and the index fund manager automatically adjusts the holdings of the fund to optimize growth up until that point. For ex­am­ple, if you are expecting to retire in 2060, these funds will invest heavily in high-risk, high-return stocks for now, but as it gets closer to 2060, the fund will progressively shift holdings into low-risk, low-return bonds such that your money won’t suddenly plum­met if a stock market crash were to happen close to your retirement year when you need to start making withdrawals.

Due to annual contribution limits set by the government on these tax-advantaged retirement accounts, a majority of my investments are in regular brokerage accounts. Thus, by putting all my tax-advantaged retirement savings into target date funds, I’m only putting a relatively small percentage of my investment into these automatically-adjusting portfolios, and I am manually managing everything else outside of these retirement accounts.

A reasonable question I often get is why I don’t manually self-manage all of my investments (including retirement savings), instead of en­trusting my IRA contributions to Vanguard’s fund manager, considering how involved I already am with investing and wealth man­age­ment. The main reason is so it can act as a safeguard in case something happens to me in the future where I am no longer able to ac­tive­ly manage my own money. Of course, I imagine that the likelihood of that actually happening (and then my caretaker also not being able to actively manage my money) is inconceivably low. However, for my personal risk tolerance, I feel like I already have plen­ty of other investments such that I’m willing to sacrifice a bit of money on an automatically-managed target date fund with a slight­ly higher expense ratio so it acts like a makeshift insurance policy for my retirement, in case the market crashes right when I need the money.

As a side note, I also recently started taking advantage of another tax-advantaged account, the UNIQUE 529 College Investing Plan. I set one up with Fidelity, and again, for the sake of convenience, and because of how small of a fraction of my total portfolio this ac­counts for, I was comfortable just putting the money into a target date fund. Based on the fact that I may use this money myself for further education (as opposed to passing it onto my children), Fidelity selected the NH College Portfolio (Fidelity Index) as my fund.

 20.53%

Real estate investment trusts (REITs)

If you ask people how to best diversify your investment portfolio, the go-to answer from most people is usually going to be real estate. Unfortunately, traditional real estate has a relatively high barrier of entry—not only do you have to go out and find a physical prop­er­ty at a rea­son­a­ble price with good potential for positive cash flow, but you also need to put a chunk of capital down to purchase the property, even if you’re loaning money from a lender.

Luckily, there are some alternatives for real estate investment that don’t involve purchasing an actual building, facility, or plot of land. The real estate investment trust is an investment vehicle that allows you to invest in a company that, to put it simply, acts like a land­lord on your behalf and shares their real estate profits with you. A vast majority of taxable revenue from income-driving activities, such as collecting rent payments from leasees, are distributed to REIT shareholders in the form of dividends.

Because I personally am not at a point where I feel ready to commit to purchasing physical real estate, 100% of my real estate investment exposure is through Vanguard Real Estate Index Fund Admiral Shares (VGSLX).

 11.72%

Bonds

I have been relatively fickle with bond holdings because of how young I am and how much opportunity cost there is to investing in bonds instead of in stocks, considering the amount of runway I have prior to needing to withdraw from my investments. With that being said, upon the full onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the relief efforts the United States government took to print an absurd amount of money out of nowhere, it was fairly obvious that inflation was going to skyrocket.

This was less well-known before, but I’m glad that this information is much more commonplace now—the United States Department of the Treasury offers a special bond called the Series I Savings Bonds that acts as a hedge against inflation. As of this writing, the in­ter­est rate on these bonds is 9.62%, which is earth-shatteringly high considering that many people are losing double-digit per­cent­ages on their portfolios by investing their money elsewhere.

An overwhelming majority of my bond holdings are in the form of Series I Savings Bonds. It’s a great way for me to retain as much of my money’s existing value as possible for now, and then once the market stabilizes, I can sell the bonds and reallocate them back into higher-risk stocks.

  6.77%

Cryptocurrency

I started investing in cryptocurrency primarily as a way to diversify my portfolio, but part of my interest also came from the fact that I saw many other people getting rich off buying into cryptocurrency early, and I wanted to join in on the gamble.

Tempo Games is going to be integrating blockchain technology into one of its upcoming game releases. Even though I oversee cor­po­rate operations and am not directly involved in game design or technical en­gi­neer­ing, I still felt like it would be important for me to be familiar with the concept. One of the best ways to learn is to accrue experience through first-hand, hands-on exposure and ex­per­i­men­ta­tion, so I have been making active cryptocurrency investments a lot more in the past few years.

I own a decent chunk of Bitcoin and a little bit of Dogecoin and Shiba Inu token, but a majority of my holdings are actually in the form of the Grayscale® Digital Large Cap Fund (GDLC) and the Bitwise 10 Crypto Index Fund (BITW). These are over-the-counter securities that represent underlying cryptocurrency holdings held by the firms and packaged into a single share, the convenience of which is paid for via a 2.5% annual management fee.

There are three distinct reasons why I own most of my cryptocurrency in this form:

  1. This is less applicable now, but when I first started purchasing cryptocurrency, I was not confident in my ability to manage my own wallet, and I had a mild concern that I would make a mistake that could render all my cryptocurrency useless or gone.
  2. At various times throughout the life of these funds, the market price per share was lower than the actual value of the underlying holdings. For example, on December 31, 2021, GDLC was trading OTC at US$24.25, but the cryptocurrency that each share rep­resented was valued at US$32.18, which means I got a nearly 25% discount on the cryptocurrency I purchased that day.
  3. If there were to be a situation where I suddenly die, my estate would then be distributed amongst my survivors. Because I have no spouse and no children, my parents are next in line to receive my assets. Considering my past experiences with watching them try to use emerging technology, I do not want tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of my assets to be locked behind a mo­bile app that they are going to have to figure out how to swap for United States dollars through a cryptocurrency exchange.
  2.87%

Individual stocks and private companies

I went through a phase when I was younger when I was very interested in researching companies and picking out stocks. In the past few years, I was also a participant of the retail investor movement and buying meme stocks. Since then, I’ve waned down my in­di­vid­u­al company holdings substantially, and instead just stick with companies that are meaningful to me.

I own Marriott International, Inc. (MAR) because they have functionally been my landlord for over a year now after I transferred out the lease to my condo in Las Vegas and traveled across the United States and Canada. I am an Ambassador Elite in their loyalty pro­gram, which is the highest tier achievable through their Bonvoy system; throughout this incredible volume of travel, as well as ad­di­tion­al research I’ve done on other hotel chains, I believe Marriott takes the best approach to lodging out of all the major brands.

I also own Cloudflare, Inc. (NET) and T-Mobile US, Inc. (TMUS) because they are two of my favorite companies to work with. I use almost all of Cloudflare’s available services to support my website, and also used them for Tempo’s corporate needs as well, up until we hired a new IT team and they took over that aspect of the company. I’ve been with T-Mobile ever since I left my parents’ AT&T family plan. I have never faced a single problem with either of these companies. In my opinion, both of these companies take an un­com­mon approach to business, in that they prioritize quality products and high customer satisfaction above anything else, and de­pend on those two aspects to naturally improve cash flow.

Finally, I purchased a nice batch of Stellantis, NV (STLA), the company behind my favorite auto brand and pickup truck, the Ram 1500 Rebel, as well as some other auto companies I’m a fan of, like Alfa Romeo, Maserati, and Jeep. Stellantis has shown great acumen towards advancing vehicle technology and implementing it in previously unestablished ways. I’m looking forward to seeing the Ram all-electric pickup truck, and there is a high chance that it is the next pickup truck that I’m going to end up purchasing.

Note that my holdings for the $10,000 investing challenge with DougDoug are not included in this line item (or in this investment al­lo­cation percentage breakdown at all), as I consider that more of a special project, and also want to avoid people trying to reverse en­gi­neer numbers to calculate my net worth. Instead, I have a brief section about the investment challenge at the end of this blog post.

  4.71%

Precious metals

As a way to even further diversify my portfolio, I took the recently-falling stock market trend as an opportunity to buy into some gold. I’m not really in a position right now to purchase solid gold bars and store them safely with me as a physical hedge against the market, but I found the Fidelity® Select Gold Portfolio (FSAGX) that I can buy from my existing Fidelity brokerage account, which comes close enough.

One thing to note here is that I’m not investing in gold because I’m particularly passionate about it or know what I’m doing; this is mostly a “why not” scenario where I am putting in a tiny fraction of my portfolio into something that I’ve always heard could be use­ful to have during market turbulence.

  1.20%

Fine art, and other collectibles

And finally, as a way to really diversify my portfolio, I began investing in fine art and other collectibles this quarter, and will continue doing so in increments in the future.

There were three factors that set me over the “tipping point” to begin investing in fine art:

  1. I always knew that fine art was something that only rich people invested in, and because of how I believe in the concept of “the rich get richer” (i.e., don’t work for your money, make your money work for you), I wanted to get in on this investment vehicle.
  2. With how “abstract” money has felt in the past few years, primarily caused by the United States government just printing a ton of money out of nowhere during the pandemic and making me question the core principle of the value of money (and, to some extent, how a radical move by the government could theoretically bring the value of my paper money down to zero), I realized that possessing “stuff” is more useful in the long-run than hoarding dollars.
  3. Although I can’t outright purchase fine art at my current level of wealth, I found StartEngine Collectibles Fund I, LLC’s Reg­u­la­tion A+, in which StartEngine has securitized fine art and is selling them as shares. This massively lowers the barrier of entry in­to fine art investing, even if the fees are fairly high. (To be clear, this is not a paid endorsement, which is why I linked to the SEC filing instead of their website; if you’re also interested in this type of investment, you should do your own research and con­sid­er all the options, rather than just blindly using the same company I did.)
  1.88%

 
As promised, to wrap up, here is a breakdown of how my $10,000 stock investing challenge with Doug Wreden is going:

My portfolio is weathering the stock market decline relatively well with a balance of $9,137.88, managing not only to beat Doug and his Twitch chat’s port­fo­li­o, but also the S&P 500 and even the bond market. Doug’s portfolio is at $7,944.67, rapidly re-approaching its all-time low. However, if it’s any con­so­la­tion, I guess he and his community can at least be happy that they didn’t go all-in on cryptocurrency, which would be down to $3,805.97 by now.

 

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Hello, Lethbridge Viaduct and Old Man River in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada

After spending two weeks in Calgary, I started making my way back down to the United States. I wanted to break up the drive as much as possible, and I found a Fairfield Inn & Suites in Lethbridge, Alberta, so I decided to spend a night there.

The drive from Calgary to Lethbridge was only about two hours, and with the long days and late sunsets in the summer, I was able to go exploring during the evening of my arrival in Lethbridge. The thing that Lethbridge appears to be known for is the Lethbridge Viaduct, so I drove over and went for a short hike.

As I got closer to the viaduct, I saw an increasing number of teenagers loitering. At first I was a bit confused, but then I realized that, due to how the viaduct is a bit out of the way compared to the rest of the park, it was likely the “cool kids hangout spot” for the teens of Lethbridge.

After walking for a bit parallel to the viaduct, I connected onto Indian Battle Road South and saw a long flight of stairs leading to a gazebo at the top of a hill.

Of course, I went all the way up, my efforts of which were rewarded with vast, sweeping views of Indian Battle Park.

Overall, my hike was a little short of 2 miles (or a little over 3 kilometers). There were some smaller trails cutting through the center of the park, but I opted to stay near the perimeter with less shade coverage because I ended up with around eight mosquito bites.

 

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Hello, Studio Bell: Home of the National Music Centre in Calgary, Alberta, Canada

A lot of Calgary’s interesting tourist attractions are either outside or involve some form of hybrid outdoors walking. Not wanting to lose all my ex­plo­ra­tion time to the relentless rain that has been pummeling (and on some occasions, flooding) Calgary since my arrival, I decided to find an indoors ac­tiv­i­ty and stumbled across a music museum inside Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre.

One of the first sections by the entrance was closed due to a special event, but the rest of the museum was open. The museum was a fairly traditional mixed-media interactive museum, with a lot of displays, lots of audiovisual material, a lot of opportunities to go hands-on, and a lot of text explaining the history and science behind the various musical topics.

There was a little section about the early 2000s in a chronological timeline that featured Avril Lavigne, which I obviously got very excited about because of how obsessed I was with her as a teenager. It’s not often that Avril Lavigne gets an entire spotlight to herself, but then I realized and remembered that it was because she is Canadian and was born in Ontario.

Unfortunately, the day that I visited happened to coincide with what appeared to be an elementary or middle school field trip, so the museum was flooded with children the entire time I was there. This was unfortunate for some of the hands-on activities, as there were always kids occupying all the stations. When I did manage to find an open station to play a guitar, the guitar was greasy… so I promptly put it down, upon which a hawk-eyed little girl swooped in and immediately took my spot.

I definitely would’ve enjoyed the museum more if I had a bit more peace and quiet to thoroughly experience everything that was available, but it was still a nice visit, and definitely something unique and uncommon when it comes to topics of museums. Admission was “pay what you can”; I paid the recommended CA$15, but if you take a visit and have unlucky timing like I did, they would let you in for free for a subsequent visit to pick up where you left off.

 

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Hello, Pearce Estate Park and Prince’s Island in Calgary, Alberta, Canada

On the rare days that it wasn’t raining, I squeezed in a few walks around the downtown Calgary area. It actually reminded me a bit of my walk around down­town Spokane, in that there was a lot of nature directly surrounding downtown, and it was designed in a way that made it very pedestrian-friendly.

For my first walk, I went to Pearce Estate Park, which isn’t quite exactly in downtown, but was nearby in the Inglewood neighborhood by the zoo. A short walk from the parking lot on Bow River Pathway led to some nice views of the Bow River. I am assuming it was because it rained a lot recently and it washed a lot of dirt into the river, but the water was unusually brown, opaque, and muddy.

Continuing northbound on the shoreline made me end up at the Harvie Passage Lookout, a nice structure surrounded by flowers that had an elevated view of the Bow River, Hughes Island, and the surrounding area.

After going as far as I could on the sand, I cut back into the park and explored the winding paths and smaller trails in the center of the park. There were a few small ponds and waterfalls, as well as some open areas where people were having picnics. The landscaping crew was also out maintaining the park, so large sections of the park had the nice, refreshing scent of freshly-mowed grass.

For my next walk, I wanted to get a bit closer to downtown. As is expected for a downtown area, parking was paid, so instead, I parked on 1 Street North­east (yes, apparently Calgary names its streets with numerals, rather than cardinals like 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. like the United States does) over by Rotary Park in a free parking zone. From there, I cut through the park, crossed Centre Street North, walked down Memorial Drive Northwest, and went onto Prince’s Island.

With a t-shirt, gym shorts, sneakers, and white above-the-ankle socks sticking out, I don’t think I could’ve looked more like a tourist. I ended up getting stopped by every single solicitor asking me to buy something from their business or donate to their charity. I felt like I had been walking pretty briskly the entire time, but according to my GPS tracker, my mile split times were comparable to climbing up a mountain because of them.

On my way back to Rotary Park where I parked, I stopped by Mt. Pleasant View Point and got a nice shot of the Calgary skyline.

The GPS tracking map probably isn’t as interesting for these walks as they usually are for real hikes, seeing as I was just walking on paved roads and tak­ing a lot of stops to capture photographs and tell solicitors I’m not interested in what they were offering, but here they are anyway:

 

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