January 13th -18th, 2009
When leaving Calgary I was immediately attentive to the mountains in the distance. I wanted to see Banff and Lake Louise while driving through in the afternoon, it was a perfect day with few clouds.
I had tried to imagine the mountains many times before I got here, but none of my mental manifestations compared to the giants now standing in front of me. I had to remind myself to pay attention to the road too so I compromised by slowing down and letting people pass me who were familiar with the view and were in more of a hurry. I wanted to soak it in which resulted in getting to Banff a little later than expected. I spent a few hours walking around downtown with the camera and a coffee.
I was enjoying the warm pine winter air at 4 degrees that day but I had to keep going west if I was going to make it to Golden with some light. I stopped at Lake Louise though, I had driven all this way with wanting to have the lake’s view in my mind and out of picture books.
Leaving Lake Louise I realized that I’d have to drive about 30 kms in the dark. Not too far of a drive but an uncertain one indeed. It was a little foggy that night which made it harder to anticipate the road. I took my time and got to Golden in the early evening.
I went to the grocery store and bought some supplies to make dinner on the Coleman stove. I wanted to do a little reading before bed, waiting until morning to see the view I’d missed on my way in. It was pitch black because of the fog and clouds but I could see headlights driving by on the ridge that runs above the town.
I stopped a group of friends walking by. They were headed somewhere with their folders in hands, an energy meeting the town was holding. I thought it peculiar for all these young adults around my age to attend this. Many of the young twenty year olds I know wouldn’t be bothered by a gathering of this type. I asked them where the music was in town and was told to check out the Golden Taps near the 7-Eleven. Everything in Golden seems to be situated near the 7-Eleven as it seems to be the reference point to many directions. I didn’t go for long, I wanted to rest up and try my luck in the afternoon when management would be in. I talked to the bartender there that night, just asking if they had any live music booked for the weekend, which they did.
I drove to a level parking spot and retired at around 11pm. I couldn’t wait to open my eyes to the day and see what surrounded me. All I could see that night was a dark town of about 4500 people and the darkness above it.
When I woke up I peaked outside my window and saw it was a clear and sunny day. I got dressed and stepped outside. To my surprise I was surrounded with mountains. All around town the snowy summits were gathered around like guardians of the ski paradise. I must of stood in that same place for 5 minutes looking all around, trying to extract every detail, every resting place if one were to climb to the top or I tried to plan untamed ski runs from top to bottom.
I put myself together and drove to the 7-Eleven for coffee. I hadn’t seen a Tim Hortons in town anywhere and so after obtaining my morning energy drink, I drove to a spot where I could park the van again and gaze at the Rockies while sipping my coffee. I had never seen anything like this in my life, and to the many who have visited, you must remember your first experience most vividly. I drove away from my vantage point aimlessly, still taking in the scenery until I saw a pedestrian holding out his thumb. We were in town and I was a little confused. I turned around and drove back to him to ask him where he needed a ride to.
“I’m headed up to Kicking Horse for the day” he said.
I told him to hop in, asking him for directions as to where we were headed.
“You’re already headed there. The only way this road goes is up or down from the resort.”
“Perfect”, I could go take some pictures and have the rest of my coffee up there while doing some writing.
He hopped in and before we had a chance to introduce ourselves, about 500 meters down the road, another thumb went out. I told this self-proclaimed ski bum that I could give her a ride too but she would have to sit on the floor in the back because of my gear. This was of course no problem and then we were three. Kayla was from Ottawa while John was from New-Zealand. Both had been here for the last year or more but were headed back home to continue with their studies once the season ended.
After dropping them off and hearing about the open jam that was going on that night at the Golden Taps, I caught up on some work and decided to go have a bite to eat at the bar near the day lodge.
I was still on a little bit of a budget but like the old saying goes, you have to spend money to make money. If I only eat groceries then I’m not in the bar talking to people. And it was a good idea because I was told about the Rockwater bar in town which hosted live music as well. Ashley, one of the servers had informed me to go talk to Ryan, the manager there.
I finished my order of yam fries and headed back to town. The Golden Taps and the Rockwater were only steps away from each other. I went to the Rockwater first. Ryan was in and he kindly accepted to do a show for Sunday as he had a DJ booked for the weekend. I could stay in one of the rooms upstairs on Sunday, one part of our negotiations for the barter. I thanked him and walked out on to the street towards the Taps. I saw the same bartender from the night before and asked her if the owner was in. “Yes he’s just over there, his name’s Adam.” she said.
She walked me over to him, he was adding another LCD television next to the billiards table. He too was keen on a performance and offered me a dinner show on Friday with tab and money for the road. We couldn’t do an evening gig as they had music booked on the weekend as well. This was perfect though, Friday and Sunday night shows with a place to stay Sunday before I left town. I have never booked two gigs in ten minutes before!
Later that evening, when I showed up for the jam, it was to my surprise that the bar was filling up quite fast. I moved in on the last bar stool left and ordered a pint. The two guys hosting the night were just setting up. Both long haired musicians, one with a moustache and the other with a bandanna. They played a mix of bluegrass/Americana/folk and originals to open up the night. They were Ben and Eric, a music duo from town now, but, Ben originated from New Zealand while Eric was from the Toronto area. Ben told me I could use his acoustic if I wanted to get up, which was great since mine was still a little cold. I played alone for the first song, but by the end of the set drums had been set up and Eric was playing electric riffs through some of the blues songs we played. The bar had filled up completely and was standing room only.
Towards the end of the night Eric asked me to go up again; and, by this time, there was a full band setup with a bassist added to the mix. What a night!
Both Ben and Eric invited me back to there house after I’d met the other roommates Emily and Ben’s sister Joy which was in town for a visit. They didn’t have an extra place for me to sleep but I could park in their driveway and use their amenities in the morning and have some breakfast.
The next day I showed up for 5 o’clock again at the Taps to have dinner before playing. While I was having my wrap salad and fries the bar was dealt an entertainment blow. The much anticipated Kevin & Devon duo were snowed in at Revelstoke and couldn’t make the drive to town to play. Many people were set to come in that night to see them as they’re a favourite in Golden when they come to town. Adam called me and said he’d come in from 6:30 to 7:30 to see me play and said only to do one hour since he would probably hire me for the evening to cover for them if I “Didn’t suck”, he said.
At 9:45 I started the evening show. There was another musician in the bar travelling through from Victoria, and he offered to play between sets. Adam agreed and so we would share the night as Mr. Jet, and his travelling companion needed accommodations while in town which they were keen on playing for.
While playing my first set, a man came up to the stage and asked if he could come up and jam. He said he used to host the jam night there. I didn’t have an opposition to it but I only had my guitar and told him he’d have to ask Mr. Jet if he could use his. This wasn’t an issue and so he sang a few songs and jammed a few songs and had a grand ole time. We talked a bit after our set was done. His name was Aaron, and was a banker in town. He and his wife Debbie had also owned a candy store which they had just recently sold. He told me he was going to a birthday party the next day to play music for his friend’s 40th birthday and wanted me to come. I didn’t have anything planned and so I agreed. He was willing to pay me to play but I didn’t say much as I wasn’t planning on accepting a personal payment, I would have just played and left it at that. I sat with him and his group of friends. Four of them were in from Calgary to ski for the weekend. Aaron invited me back to the house after the bar and after hearing of my barter tour. It was very generous since they already had their company from out of town and their family all under the same roof. If my count is right, their was two babies, 3 kids, and 7 adults. A good thing their house was immense, we all slept in beds!
I was treated to the same hospitality as everyone, meals, comforts of home. Aaron told me they often have travellers come and stay as they love meeting new people and helping them on their way. I was surprised when I found out that Ben and Eric had also been boarders with them when they first arrived to Golden, working in the candy store and playing music at night. I knew I was with the right people and we went to the party on Saturday as planned. We jammed all through the evening, playing everything we knew. It was quite the birthday party, Hawaiian themed with hollowed out coconut glasses and many in beach uniform gathered around the feast set out on the table. I met so many great people, friends of the birthday man and of Aaron’s.
Later in the night Aaron presented me with a fist full of cash. He said they’d had a collection for me at the party. I was extremely grateful but had no idea it was going on. I ended the night with some of my originals as a thank you to everyone. Their generosity could not go unnoticed or unrewarded. Thank you again to everyone if you’re reading this, you put the good in “Good Faith Tour”, though maybe I should change it to the “Great Faith Tour”.
Sunday I got ready to hit the town before the show and stopped at Tim Hortons to get a coffee after hearing the night before that there indeed was one in town, it was up on the highway. Aaron gave me a few books for the road and told me to pass them on after I’d read them, which I will!
I had dinner at the Rockwater and prepared for the show. It was a quiet night which resulted in playing for a few patrons and Ryan behind the bar. I wish for the bar that it could have been a busier night but it had been a busy weekend from what I heard and well, for me, it was a chance to practice my songs, some of which I hadn’t tried in a while.
Ryan and I got acquainted since it was quiet. A great guy, originally from St-Catherines, we got talking about the GTA and places we knew and why he’d made the move. It’s like heaven out here. I had been doing my best all weekend not to get sucked in as I knew I would never want to leave myself. Ryan said to let him know when I’d be back as he’d book me in again. I thanked him again for the show before retiring to my room. I had played four nights in a row and my bed in the room couldn’t have felt more comfortable that night. I think I fell asleep as soon as I hit the pillow. Tomorrow, was a new day, a new town, new people, and… laundry day.