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Old 05-25-2013, 06:22 AM   #526
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Vancouver Aquarium

Vancouver Aquarium
June 18-29, 2012

I was so nervous about my first day at the Aquarium. Worried I was going to be late, I gave myself ample time to get there. I was an hour and a half early and no one was even there yet to let me in.

I took the time to wander around Stanley Park as the sun was just breeching over the water. I walked along some winding paths through a lush forest carpeted with emerald ferns and a soft hemlock canopy.

Before long I spotted an obese black squirrel boldly watching me. I had only seen grey and red squirrels before. This one was obviously expecting I had something to offer.

I walked by a totem pole garden, not nearly as impressive as the one in Ketchikan, however still beautiful. I came to an open field and clubhouse before reaching the Seawall path near the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club.

I followed the path with an excellent view of the city before coming to Brockton Point lighthouse overlooking Vancouver Harbor. I skimmed the water searching for wildlife but saw none.

I made my way back towards the Aquarium following the Seawall along the Burrard Inlet looking across to North Vancouver. The morning was brisk and the time walking already absorbed some anxiety about my first day.

When I got back to the aquarium the information center was open and I informed the lady at the desk who I was. She called up to the hospital and I waited patiently on the bench outside for the technician I’d be working with to come and greet me.

Before long I saw a beautiful young woman approach me and introduce herself. Chelsea DeColle is one of two registered veterinary technicians at Vancouver Aquarium, and as soon as she took me in her company to guide me through the aquarium, I felt an instant relief and comfort in her presence.

She was my age, however had been a technician already for some time and her expert knowledge and skills showed it. I immediately admired this young woman, being an outdoor enthusiast like myself, and was grateful to learn from her over the next couple weeks.

We went into the hospital where she introduced me to Gwyneth, the other registered technician, and Dr. Haulena. The three of them shared a tiny office next to the treatment area and the University of British Columbia’s research office. It back up to the research animal’s habitats where I could hear the roaring barks of Steller sea lions.

I could see the trainers working with several Northern Fur seals through the window. They looked like eager little puppies running around their trainer waiting for a treat. One even came hopping in to the office to say hello. I knew instantly I was going to have a blast at the Vancouver Aquarium.

I had zero experience and knowledge of aquatic or marine life, so I didn’t expect to do much hands-on. However, everything I experienced was so fascinating that just being there to observe was amazing.

On my first day, I got to watch Chelsea draw blood for routine labwork on a beluga whale. What is so incredible about watching this is that these massive creatures are trained to voluntarily offer their tail for a quick blood sample. I was astounded with the patience required of the trainer working with the whale to position her just right so Chelsea could get the blood. Not to mention, I was astonished with Chelsea for hitting the invisible vein on her first stick.

In school, I learned about anesthetics. Propofol, Ketamine, Dexdomitor, and Valium are probably the most frequently used injectable drugs. But that is on an animal you can place an intravenous catheter on for induction. When it comes to fish and marine mammals, it’s a little different.

I had the opportunity to assist with monitoring anesthesia on several species in the aquarium which I found the most fascinating. We anesthetized an Oscillated Sting Ray for a physical exam with the use of Tricaine methanesulfonate or TMS, the most common powdered anesthetic drug used on fish.

With fish you have to use drugs soluble in water to make an anesthetic bath. This can often cause the water to be harmfully acidic so sodium bicarbonate is often added at twice the amount of the anesthetic. Figuring out dosages was a little different from what I have learned before. How much you give depends not on their mass but how much water they are in.

So instead of figuring out a milligram per kilogram dose to put an animal under anesthesia, with a fish you have to figure out a milligram per liter dose. Therefore, they must be put into an exact amount of water prepared for anesthesia.

With a marine mammal, such as a Steller sea lion, you can’t anesthetize them in a water bath like a fish since they have to breathe. They are gassed down by mask with Isoflurane until they can be intubated and kept on gas for any medical procedure. But how do you hold a 600lb sea lion still so you can keep a mask on its face? They are trained.

There are four Steller sea lions at Vancouver Aquarium owned by the University of British Columbia. The most interesting thing about watching these animals is how smart they are. Trainers work with them every day to get on scales, to be measured, to offer their flippers for exams and blood draws, and even to get into squeeze cages for anesthesia. They will do anything for a fish.

They eagerly go into a cage that will comfortably and gradually squeeze them for restraint so a mask can be placed over their face for induction. Intubation is pretty similar to what I’ve learned, since the general anatomies of mammals are all the same. However with a sea lion, you have a slimier mouth and fishier breath than a dog or cat.

I watched Chelsea monitor anesthesia. You can’t really use monitors with an ECG, pulseOx, or blood pressure cuff. There’s nowhere to attach it to the body. And a stethoscope won’t do much good through all that blubber. All you can do is watch their breathing for a respiratory rate and hover over their body to watch for a slight pulse for a heart rate.

There are four more sea lions I got to meet at UBC’s Open Water Research Station in Port Moody. These amazing animals are trained to wear harnesses carrying scientific equipment while swimming freely unrestrained on dives up to 60 meters deep. With the help of Vancouver Aquarium, UBC is studying the cause of decline of Stellar Sea lion populations in Alaska by using these trained sea lions. Unfortunately I didn’t get to go for an open water dive, but I know it’s incredible what they do. Here’s their website for more information on their research projects:

The Vancouver Aquarium promotes and operates many conservation projects regarding marine life. The Marine Mammal Rescue Center is another facility I had the opportunity to visit. There were several orphaned harbor seal pups being rehabilitated when I was there. Those black glassy eyes are cuter than anything I’d ever seen in my life. If humans reproduced things like that, I would consider having one.

MMR is a fully equipped rehabilitation center for the treatment and care of ill, injured, and orphaned wild marine animals including seals, sea lions, sea otters, sea turtles and small cetaceans like porpoises and dolphins. They will often rescue and treat over 100 patients a year in hopes of returning them back into the wild.

Newborn harbor seal pups are the most common patient treated at MMR and careful attention is paid to keep the animals wild and not imprinted on humans by interacting with them as little as possible. I’m sure it’s tough refraining
from playing and baby talking those cuddly creatures.

Rescue, rehabilitation, and release of wildlife are one of the greatest most rewarding things we can do for our environment to help keep the ecosystem balanced. Being a labor-intensive process, MMR, like many wildlife hospitals, relies on their volunteers and donors to function. Medications, vet care, and food are expenses that are a constant struggle to provide. If you’re interested in helping go to:

If anyone has been to Vancouver’s airport, you may have noticed the massive tank exhibit of native aquatics belonging to the Vancouver Aquarium. I had the opportunity to go there for a day to assist with treating the fish in the tank with fresh water baths for parasite control.

I felt slightly important driving on the air side of the airport past luggage carts and parked planes waiting at their gates. Being behind-the-scenes of an airport was pretty cool I’ll admit. We walked through the filtration room where all the water for the tank is piped in from the ocean. It was a maze of pipes too complicated for me to understand. I don’t know much about caring for fish tanks, but I know my mom works hard on her 50 gallon. I can’t imagine what it takes for this tank, the size of my bedroom plus a vaulted ceiling, to keep maintained.

I climbed a steep and narrow staircase to a small room above the tank. Divers were going in to gather the fish and hand them to us to place into fresh water for ten minutes apiece. By placing salt water fish in fresh water for a short amount of time, it would kill any parasites on them.

Most of the fish we treated were Rockfish with spiky fins. You had to be careful not to touch them. We also treated a wolf eel whose face reminded me of an old man. It was cool to see him so close. Usually they hide so well.

The two weeks at the Aquarium flew by. On my last day Chelsea and Gwyneth took me out for lunch to Ramen in downtown Vancouver. It was the best ramen I’ve ever had, but I’ve only had the instant stuff so I guess that doesn’t mean much.

I was sad to be done and inspired to learn more about marine life to pursue work in the rescue and rehabilitation of wildlife. I know there’s one in San Francisco. Maybe I can check it out too.

I’m grateful for the opportunity and thankful to all the staff at Vancouver Aquarium, especially Chelsea, for providing me with such a profound learning experience.

May the road rise up to meet you
And wind be always at your back

ruffntuff screwed with this post 05-25-2013 at 06:27 AM
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Old 05-25-2013, 06:49 AM   #527
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Another great read. Not a motorcycle in sight, but just as enjoyable, none the less. My favorite and most telling sentence; " If humans reproduced things like that, I would consider having one." They are cute...

Thanks for the information and glad you have great memories of the time spent at the Aquarium.
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Old 05-25-2013, 07:12 AM   #528
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Old 05-25-2013, 07:39 AM   #529
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Great experience for you. I love Vancouver, most beautiful city I've ever been to. Did you have a chance to go to a restaurant called Guu? All the staff yell hello (in Japanese) to you when you walk in, lots of yelling in there.

Ya know, the New England Aquarium in Boston does marine life rescue too. They work in conjunction with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. Maybe you could get a gig there? Wicked nice riding round these parts.
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Old 05-25-2013, 08:07 AM   #530
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Yay !
Now that you've updated your RR, maybe there's hope that Evan will get on his as well.
Onward south !
RR's Catnip Hill to Peoria ___Loopin' Seattle to WestFest
It started with some beers __1500 miles to the Dentist
Skeedaddle to Seattle______ A 30 year old on a Three Flags Run
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Old 05-25-2013, 08:24 AM   #531
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I just found this RR. I will have to take some time and read it from the beginning. My brother and I also talked about riding, in a Jeep, to Alaska. We did take a trip from Ohio to the Rockies and back, and countless trips on the back roads of the Appalachian mountains. He did take his trip to Alaska later, but by then I had a family and could not join him. So still on my to do list. For now I have a trip to Ohio to get ready for so I will read more tonight.

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Old 05-26-2013, 01:28 PM   #532
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Again, outstanding, simply outstanding!
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Old 05-26-2013, 01:35 PM   #533
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hiking the AT

Hi thanks for reading!! Several people have asked me about the AT, and I haven't written anything on it yet. However, I am certainly now inspired to. I did journal every day and still have those journals, but that was ten years ago, so I can only imagine how difficult it would be to write that story. Regardless, it would be an interesting adventure to try. But I need to finish this one first....;)

The short story to it is:

In 2003 a friend of mine was hiking it with her sister, they started in GA in April.
By the time they got to VA, unfortunatly a good friend of ours was killed in a car wreck.
She got off the trail and didn't want to get back on, so I convinced her if I got on with her we would finish it together.
So, I quit my job, got all my gear for $500 (i had never been backpacking before so i needed everything), and three days later got on the trail in Buchannan, VA.
This was in late June. I finished in ME in mid-October.
At that point I loved thru-hiking so much i was determined to finish the southern bit I hadn't seen, so I got a ride home to VA where I started and hiked South.
I finished in GA two days before Christmas.
So, not the typical way the AT is thru-hiked.....but most people that know me know there's nothing typical about me....;)
But that's another story for another blog....:)



Originally Posted by RidingUpAndDown View Post
Great pillion-pegs-down ride there kiddo, your brother is no doubt smiling big time. Your parents & other family must be very proud. You should be too.

A long solo trek is a very personal journey, amazing what you hear from the person, inside the helmet in this case; the ups and downs, loneliness, elation, fears, the questions and answers and the confidence and peace... and those magical moments that overtake you where it’s hard to see what’s ahead because of the sudden upwelling of emotion in your eyes. Talk about getting in touch.
Thank you for sharing!

Wondering, did u ever do a pubic write-up of your thru-hike on the AT?? I’d be very interested in that. That there is a real ‘walk in the woods’. Time of yr? w/ friend(s)? S to N? How long? ...

Keep on.

All the Best.
Cheers, dean
May the road rise up to meet you
And wind be always at your back
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Old 05-28-2013, 08:50 PM   #534
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Great ride report.....

This is the coolest RR and I can't wait to take more time to finish it. Thanks for taking the time to put in all of the effort that it takes to accomplish something like this. It's a great RR for sure!

Gary "Oldone"

Grampa’s Lake Superior Ride
Grampa’s National Monument Rid

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Old 05-29-2013, 11:37 AM   #535
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I just finished reading this fabulous RR! And I learned of the Denali Mountain Morning Hostel where Secret Agent Nancy and I now have reservations for our visit there in a few weeks ( I leave Texas on June 8.) We are visiting many of the same areas and like everyone who goes to AK, we are hoping for some sun shine and dry weather!

Thanks again for a great read!
"Guns are a lot like parachutes - if you need one and don't have one, you probably will never need one again." unknown

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Old 05-31-2013, 08:45 AM   #536
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I was just introduced to your post and like others on the forum, found myself completely drawn into your ride report. I commend you on your courage to embark on a great adventure and openly share your thoughts, feelings and experiences. You’ve so colorfully captured the essence of the ride, a story shared by so many of us when confronted by endless rain, beautiful landscapes, generous strangers, and comforting solo miles. Thank you for reminding us all that we love about this sport and inspiring us to plan that next adventure.

Look forward to seeing you and your Radian on the road
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Old 05-31-2013, 10:02 AM   #537
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What sucked me into this thread was the '86 Radian mention in the title. I thought , trip to Alaska on a Radian? Wow. I rode a radian for a short time back in the 80's. Great bike. Sorry about your brother. I lost my little brother almost a year ago, and your writing brought tears to my eyes.

Great report, I'm going to finish reading it. Thanks for posting it.
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Old 06-01-2013, 08:35 AM   #538
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Great RR !!!!!

Thank you for sharing.......I have been from Ohio to Alaska and back twice after reading this I will have to go again.First time was solo on a 1990 R100GS/PD.Second time was on a 2009 HD Road King with my wife as a passenger.This was a great RR.!!!!
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Old 06-01-2013, 06:30 PM   #539
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Damn fine writing, and it sounds like one hell of an adventure! Thank you for sharing it with us, Anna!

Christopher Robin was sitting outside his door, putting on his Big Boots.
As soon as he saw the Big Boots, Pooh knew that an Adventure was going to happen

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Old 06-02-2013, 05:43 PM   #540
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Wow, sounds like a great time at the Vancouver Aquarium! Very fascinating.

And as mentioned before, thank you so very much for sharing.

Mark H.
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