Jennifer Laviolette

Jennifer Laviolette

A new youth ball league is in the works of forming in The Pas and Opaskwayak Cree Nation for next season. The Northern Youth Softball League has been recently formed with coaches lined up and a board of directors. The idea for this league happened for a variety of reasons, but the main one was to enhance the level of ball being played in the area for youth.
“I’m the fastball coach at the Oscar Lathlin Collegiate for the Grade 9 to 10 girls team,” said Northern Youth Softball League President and Coach Byron Bignell. “At the start of every season, I’ve had to start from scratch with the team and teach them the basics in terms of skills and play. This was one of the main reasons why I wanted to help create the Northern Softball League for our area.
“I know a lot of people who play fastball and there are a lot of opportunities that can come from it, where as with slo-pitch, there’s nothing really that is advancing about that style of ball.

American singer, songwriter, artist and author, William McCarthy, played at a free concert this past weekend held at The Pas Royal Canadian Legion. McCarthy was former the lead singer for The Augustines and has now struck up a solo career touring and performing all over the world. His experience in the community was definitely a notable one for him.
“My experience here in The Pas has been literally fantastic,” said William McCarthy. “I played a two hour show and it was like a long winding odyssey. I’ve had a really nice time here in the community.”
McCarthy had the opportunity to travel through The Pas and Opaskwayak Cree Nation (OCN) to see some of the local sights and scenery. He’s never quite seen an area like northern Manitoba and has fallen in love with its charm.

Many of us take Canada Day for granted and really don’t give it much thought, but for the Patel family, this year’s national day is also the start of a new journey for their family as Canadian citizens. The Patels came to Canada looking for more opportunities and were sponsored by family friend, who was already residing in the community.
“We’re originally from India and we came to Canada in 2017,” said Hemangi Patel. “We’ve been here now for five years and just got our Canadian Citizenship on June 7. Our family came to Canada seeking a life with better opportunities and a brighter future.
“One of our family friends sponsored us to come to Canada. At the time, he lived here in The Pas and recommended the community to us. We stayed with him until we were able to find an apartment and find a job. Over time we fell in love with the people and community, which led us to staying here.”

Published in Opasquia Times News
Tuesday, 21 June 2022 12:53

Well known musician to play the Legion

A well-known and accomplished musician will be making his way to play a free concert this week in The Pas. William McCarthy, former lead singer and songwriter for the band, The Augustines, will be performing a night of acoustic rock ‘n roll at the Royal Canadian Legion thanks to The Pas Arts Council and The Pas Friendship Centre.
McCarthy’s musical career debuted in 2004 when he released the EP All In Time with the band Pela. The band split in 2009 with a half finished album and some heartbroken fans. From there McCarthy teamed up with one of his former band mates to form a three-piece folk music act known as the Augustines.
The Augustines were signed to Votiv Records and released their first debut, Rise Ye Sunken Ships, on June 6, 2011. The album received praise reviews and was named iTunes Best Alternative Album that year. The Augustines did many network televisions performances and toured globally until they amicable disbanded in 2016, due to financial challenges.

There’s a future leader in the making who is originally from Sapotaweyak Cree Nation (SCN). Zoe Quill is currently studying at the University of Manitoba in the Faculty of Science and she’s recently been awarded the 2022 Indigenous Award of Excellence for Student Outstanding Achievement through the university. Her academic pursuits in the field of science are opening doors to a promising future for her.
“I was awarded the BMO Financial Group Indigenous Leader of Tomorrow Scholarship to study at the University of Manitoba in 2018,” said Quill. “I entered directly into the Faculty of Science with interest in pursuing Genetics. Throughout high school, I was always interested in the sciences and wanted to explore these fields more in-depth at university.”
Quill has been contributing to researching internships, which has allowed her to combine her science background and work with Indigenous communities. This has allowed her to start her own journey as an Indigenous leader in the realm of science.
“While pursuing my degree, I have had the pleasure of participating in four research internships,” said Quill. “For two of these internships, I was given an opportunity to combine my knowledge of the sciences and work closely with Indigenous communities. I have come to witness the resilience of Indigenous peoples and their ambition in becoming self-determined in research.
“It was inspiring to my own journey to be able to collaborate with leaders of the community and take part in supporting their success. Indigenous representation is growing among the science community, and I hope to always empower Indigenous scholars and communities through research.”
Quill recognizes the challenges that many Indigenous students face while attending any schooling. She is focused on harbouring and fostering nurturing environments for other Indigenous students by being a leader and mentor to them.
“I recognize that there are barriers that Indigenous students still face and gaps in the supports that are available,” said Quill. “As an Indigenous student, it was important to me to create a positive and supportive environment.
“I achieved these efforts through community involvement. I became a mentor to first-year Indigenous students to provide guidance in facilitating a smooth transition into university life and participated in question and answer sessions as an UN Ambassador, sharing personal experiences to prospective students. I also became the Indigenous Students’ Representative for the Science Students’ Association to advocate and uplift Indigenous student excellence in the Faculty of Science. In this position, I have hosted culturally informed events for Indigenous students as a way to support their well-being.
Quill is persevering in the field of Science and has plans to attend graduate school. She has been determined and dedicated in her research, and gaining experiences that will help her to pursue that goal of obtaining a MD or PhD.
“I’m pursuing a Bachelor of Science, Genetics Major,” said Quill. “I have only one more year to go. Since I’m planning on attending graduate school, I sought opportunities to conduct research at both Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and the National Microbiology Laboratory of Canada. These experiences will give me the opportunity to explore my interests in Public Health.
“So far, I have gathered four years of research experience in various fields. I have published two peer-review papers and am currently working on publishing three more by the time I graduate.
“I have always had the goal of becoming a doctor and recently, research has become a passion of mine,” said Quill. “After graduation, I’m planning to pursue a Master of Science in Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases that combines aspects of Public Health. Then, I will pursue either a MD or PhD. In research, I hope to always incorporate collaboration with Indigenous communities.”
With National Indigenous Peoples Day happening, Quill has been advocating to see more positive changes for Indigenous people. She feels her experience can be an example for others to overcome any obstacles they may face and be leaders for Indigenous people.
“As an Indigenous student heavily involved on campus and in research,” said Quill. “I have had the opportunity to meet like-minded individuals who are driven, resilient, and aspire to create changes that advocate for the rights of Indigenous peoples. To be part of a community that seeks to empower the next generation of Indigenous leaders, I am always motivated to contribute to these efforts.
“There is evidence that despite the hardships we have endured, we have the power to not only overcome these obstacles but to thrive as a community. I believe National Indigenous Peoples Day promotes a positive message describing this very strength every Indigenous person carries within them.”
Quill realizes that the process has been slow when it comes to the reconciliation portion for Indigenous people in Canada, but she focuses on the Indigenous people who are achieving reconciliation and pushing forward for a better and brighter future.
“I recognize that we still have a long way to go in fulfilling the 94 Calls to Action, but action is happening,” said Quill. “There are many Indigenous leaders in the community whom I met that are breaking barriers in their fields and contributing to the efforts of reconciliation.
“I have had my fair share of hardships experiencing discrimination, but I am motivated to continue to uplift Indigenous voices and support our movements of self-determination.“

One can only dream about being recognized on a prestigious level for their work, but for former Valley resident, Dr. Evan Eichler, it’s become a reality he never imagined. Dr. Eichler has been named as one of Time Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential People of 2022. His work and study on the human genome has been groundbreaking and led to his team being selected.
Dr. Eichler’s education has taken him all over the world and resulted in him studying in some of the most outstanding universities in his field.
“I went to the University of Saskatchewan, in Saskatoon, Sask, from 1986 to 1990, where I got an Honors B.Sc Degree in Biology,” said Dr. Eichler. “After a post-back year at the Ludwig-Maximillians University (LMU) in Munich, Germany, I was accepted to the Baylor College of Medicine (BCM), in Houston, Texas. Here I received my Ph.D. after four years of study in 1995 in the field of Human and Molecular Genetics.”
Dr. Eichler’s field of genome sciences is a fascinating one. He focuses on what's in a person’s genetics as it refers to genetic disease.
“Genome sciences is the study of the complete genetic instructions of a species,” said Dr. Eichler. “In the case of humans, it is essentially human genetics, but starts by having the complete set of instructions and then using it and new technology which is often referred to as genomics technology to understand biology and the basis of genetic disease.”
His extensive study and research began in Germany and has continued on throughout his career. Dr. Eichler’s work has placed him in many different universities across North America.
“In Germany, I interned in Molecular Veterinary Medicine and at Baylor, I worked on human genetics,” said Dr. Eichler. “My specific work at BCM involved understanding the genetic susceptibility to Fragile X Syndrome, which is a form of developmental delay due to an unstable piece of repetitive DNA on the X chromosome.
“After finishing my Ph.D., I moved to the Livermore National Labs in California, where I completed a postdoctoral fellowship from 1995 to 1997. It was here where I began some of my work on the Human Genome Project. I received offers for faculty positions from the University of Toronto, University of Ottawa and Case Western Reserve University (CWRU). I accepted a position as an assistant professor in the Department of Human Genetics at CWRU in Cleveland, Ohio, where I started my research lab in 1997.
“I continued my work on the Human Genome Project with a specific focus on characterizing unstable regions of our genome,” said Dr. Eichler. “I was tenured and promoted to Associate Professor in 2003 and offered a faculty position in the Department of Genome Sciences at the University of Washington, in Seattle, Wash., in 2004. I was promoted to full professor with tenure in 2008 and the National Academy of Sciences in 2013.”
Dr. Eichler received the honour of being appointed to the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) for his work on genome science. This is another outstanding achievement and recognition that comes with an incredible source of funding to do research.
“After I arrived at the University of Washington, Seattle, I was nominated by the University for this honour and was appointed in 2005 to the HHMI. HHMI is a virtual position, which does not require a change of universities, but it has the advantage that it pays your salary and gives you a research budget of approximately $750,000 million per year to pursue research.
“The position involves doing everything that a professor does. This includes running a research laboratory in size from 15 to 20 people; teaching classes; mentoring students and working with them to help get their Ph.D.; considerable travel giving lectures and seminars as well as serving on university and national committees."
Dr. Eichler’s research program is dedicated to understanding human genetic disease in relation to the human genome.
“My research program is focused on understanding the mutation of large repeats called segmental duplications,” said Dr. Eichler. “Our hypothesis is simple; we believe these repetitive regions contribute disproportionately to both human genetic disease and human evolution. We’ve shown over the last few years that many forms of autism, developmental delay and epilepsy are caused by mutation of these regions.
“On the flip side, some of the genes that make us uniquely human correspond to these same regions. Since the original Human Genome Project, back in 2001, our laboratory has been focused on finishing these regions, because we believe they are critical to understanding our species and genetic disease. These were however particularly difficult regions to accurately resolve. Most scientists left these and other regions, which is about eight percent of our genetic code, unresolved back in 2004.
“New sequencing technologies made it possible for us to sequence and assemble these for the first time in 2015,” said Dr. Eichler. “For the last 20 years, we have been working to finish all of these regions in the human genome, which we successfully did with a large team last year. The papers were published in April 2022 and we completed every human chromosome from telomere-to-telomere, from one end to the other without gaps. That’s why the project was called the T2T consortium.”
Being recommended for Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2022 has been both an extreme honour and mystery for Dr. Eichler. He was nominated along with his team for their work, but to this date, they still aren’t sure just who exactly recommended them for this honour.
“I honestly don’t know who recommended us,” said Dr. Eichler. “There’s a rumour that the Nobel Laureate, Jennifer Doudna, who wrote the description in the TIME 100 nominated us, but I don't know this for sure. It was a team effort and Adam Phillippy, Karen Miga and I led the project. Michael Schatz was one of about 96 other scientists in the project.
“I was honoured and to be honest completely surprised that we received this recognition. It's not the sort of thing that a human geneticist ever expects and it certainly isn't our usual crowd of peers. When I first received the notice, for example, I thought it was a hoax, but my secretary assured me that it was the real deal."
Dr. Eichler still has plans to continue his research and work in both human and non-human genomes. This time, he plans to focus on characterizing the genomes in children with autism.
“This is only the beginning,” said Dr. Eichler. “The next step is to complete more human genomes as well as non-human genomes to help us understand the genetic basis of disease as well as help better define the mutational processes that occur in our genome. I believe the telomere-to-telomere approach will be applied to children with unsolved genetic diseases. I have already received funding to characterize the genomes of more than 100 children with autism, cases we haven’t resolved with more traditional approaches.
"We believe that T2T sequencing of the genomes of these kids will provide us to new insights into how autism occurs and the genetic variants that underlie it. It's a long road but I believe the methods we have developed will be applied more routinely in the clinic 10-20 years from now.”

A new feature-length film is currently in the works featuring Opaskwayak Cree Nation (OCN) Elder Wilfred Buck, and will be in The Pas filming drama re-enactments set in the 1960s and 1970s in a couple of weeks. The hybrid documentary, titled Wilfred Buck, weaves together his challenging past and his present life with star knowledge stories and explores colonization’s impact on Indigenous ways of knowing, such as land-based teachings.
“I first heard about Wilfred Buck in 2017 at an Indigenous star knowledge conference at the University of Toronto,” said Door Number 3 Productions’ writer and director Lisa Jackson.

Published in Opasquia Times News
Tuesday, 31 May 2022 08:15

Putting it all Together

One never knows when a little quirk of a hobby or interest can lead to a calling to work in an industry one never imagined. That is the case for former Valley resident and film editor Andrew Gust. Gust started playing around with a camcorder and is now working on Hollywood feature films.
“Film making, for me, started when I was a kid and my dad had a camcorder that he would use to take videos of the farm and family events,” said Andrew Gust. “When my friends and I started snowboarding and skateboarding, we were really excited to capture our new stunts and tricks on video. We were constantly borrowing our parents’ camcorders to do that. It wasn’t long before we realized we had endless amounts of footage that we couldn’t do much with.
“Finally, when we figured out how to edit a bunch of clips together into a montage, it began to take on a whole different energy,” he continued. “Then we would add whatever music we were into at the time, and it suddenly had this larger-than-life feel. I think that was the first time that I realized I was passionate about filmmaking and editing.”
Gust was first exposed to the art of editing during his time at Swan Valley Regional Secondary School (SVRSS). It was here that he was given the freedom to explore his creativity and develop a keen interest in filmmaking and editing.
“The SVRSS was in its earlier stages of introducing video classes when I was in attendance there,” said Gust. “George van der Walt was the instructor at the time, and the school had purchased some camcorders and computers with editing software.
“He pretty much gave us free rein to have fun with it, so we would go around the school recruiting classmates for silly sketch comedy videos and making various montages that the school would play with the O Canada anthem in the morning. Those classes were really valuable because they provided the tools for us to explore our creative side.
“Near the end of high school, I hadn’t considered making videos to be a career path,” continued Gust.
Once I realized there were schools solely dedicated to teaching filmmaking, I decided to go to Vancouver Film School (VFS). It was a one-year course that covered everything from screenwriting to cinematography. The year that I attended VFS was the last year they were still shooting on 16mm cameras, so we got to work with real film stock, which was pretty special.
“All throughout that year I took different classes, but I found myself to be particularly drawn to editing,” said Gust. “Filming something and working on set can be a chaotic experience with a million different moving pieces and a hundred people on set doing different jobs. It only takes one mistake and the whole thing can fall apart. At the end of the day, you take all that hard-earned footage to the editing room and piece together the best version of the film you can. I really enjoy that process of exploring different versions of the film, because depending on how you put it together you can make entirely different movies out of the same footage. Working with the director to find the best way to put the movie together is what really excites me.”
Working in film requires a number of people doing separate jobs that all impact the outcome of the film. It not only takes everyone doing their job, but a sense of harmony onset in order to make things go smoothly and to produce a successful finished product.
“It takes a network of people to make a film happen from start to finish,” said Gust. “What I would tell upcoming filmmakers is that it’s really important to make the right relationships because there’s more than just one person involved. There has to be cohesiveness amongst the entire group working together.
“The relationship between the director and editor has them spending sometimes 12 hours a day putting the film together and if they don’t get along, it doesn’t matter how talented they both are, it won’t be a good end result.”
Gust has had film editing experience in both Canada and in the U.S., where he now resides. Both areas have had ample film editing opportunities, but Gust really wanted to set his horizons on bigger pictures.
“I first left the Valley and moved west for schooling and some warmer weather in Vancouver,” said Gust. “Now I moved south for some even warmer weather in Los Angeles, Calif., and now it’s too hot, so I don’t think I need to move further. All jokes aside, my mother was born in South Dakota, so when I was born I had dual citizenship.
“After going to film school in Vancouver and working there for a few years, I realized that the biggest concentration of filmmaking was happening in Los Angeles. I knew I would have to make that move to find a bigger variety of projects and opportunities. I do, however, travel between here and Vancouver to work on film projects.”
Over the course of time, Gust has worked for companies like Disney, 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate, and Apple. Recently he has been working a project for Netflix which will be premiering later on this year.
“One of the first companies I started working for in Vancouver made the original Air Bud movie,” said Gust. “A lot of people don’t realize that movie was made entirely in Canada by a Canadian company. It was only after they started filming that Disney bought the distribution rights and put their name on it.”
When I started working at that company they had already run out of sports for Air Bud to play, so my first job was on Super Buddies, which was about superhero dogs (that talk!) trying to save the world. It was a slightly bizarre start to my career, and I wouldn’t change a thing.”
“There’s a lot of film production that happens in Vancouver, but then the editing often continues in Los Angeles,” he continued. “After arriving in Los Angeles, I worked on a few smaller films for Lionsgate and some TV movies for Lifetime, and eventually a feature called The Hate U Give, which is based on the book by Angie Thomas. Most recently I was a film editor for a series on Netflix called Pup Academy and now I am working on a Netflix animated film called Entergalactic starring Kid Cudi and Timotheé Chalamet. That film will come out this fall.”
Gust has his sights set on doing more film editing work for feature films. He hopes to do more work on films that have a social impact and would like to get the opportunity to work on a film that was shot in Winnipeg.
“I want to continue working on feature films with directors that are making more character-driven dramas that focus on social issues, like The Hate U Give,” said Gust. “The most powerful films are those that are not only entertaining but have some sort of commentary about society. Those films make you think about things in a different way and those are the kinds of films I would like to work on.
“I would also love to continue not only in Los Angeles but also to work on films made in Canada. The industry is always in flux there, but right now Manitoba has some excellent tax breaks for films that are shot there. I would absolutely love it if I could wind up working on a feature film in Manitoba someday.”


There’s a lot of buzz surrounding the loss of the number of bees across Manitoba.

Every year apiaries lose a certain number of bees over the winter months.

Many attributed it to poor weather conditions, pests and it just being part of the nature of things, but there’s also a more politicized angle to this.

“This happens every year with bee numbers,” said Wendell Estate Honey Owner Tim Wendell. “There are some people that lose a lot of hive numbers and there’s different reasons for those losses, as well as some politics behind what’s going on. One of the most notable arguments has been about bringing in packaged bees across the U.S. border and it’s been an issue for over 35 years. The Canadian U.S. Border was closed in 1987 to the importation of packaged bees for sanitary reasons.”

The pandemic has played a slight role in all of this, with beekeepers not being able to access packaged bees from other countries. The delay in flights, shipping and the fact that bees are a perishable item to transport, have impacted honey production overall. Bringing in packaged bees, also presents a variety of different challenges as well.

Read the full story in this week's Russell Banner!

Published in Russell Banner News
Tuesday, 26 April 2022 08:12

Six Tires and a Dog

“You know it’s time to travel when you start to look like the person on your driver’s license…” This is the quote that Minitonas residents Bill and Tanya Oakes use as their mantra when it comes to their travels. They started a travel blog called 6 Tires and a Dog that documents their journey from Minitonas to Aransas, Texas.
“We wanted a place for family and friends to follow along on our adventure and thought the perfect place to do this would be on our Facebook page, but we quickly realized that a lot of our family didn't have access to Facebook, so I did some research and came up with the idea of a blog,” said Tanya Oakes. “Having some sort of platform would keep everyone in the loop on where we were and what we were doing, without having to make multiple phone calls repeating the same stories. I later found out that the two could be tied together with the click of a button so we had a Facebook page and then a web page and people could choose which one they preferred to follow along with.
“We started getting messages from people we didn't know asking if we minded if they followed us so we put a subscribe option in and next thing we knew we had hundreds of people following along. I also got a message from a lady in Nova Scotia who was writing to let me know that she had just lost her husband and they loved to travel together.
The blog reminded her of their adventures and she felt it was helping her deal with the loss of him. It was so nice to hear comments and shares like that.”
The Oakes' made several stops along the way to Aransas. Each stop had an adventure all its own and allowed them to take in the sights and some good food along the way.
“We left Minitonas and headed as far as Minot, N.D., for the first night,” said Oakes. “The next day we headed south to Sioux Falls, S.D., where we spent the night with plans to take in Mount Rushmore the next morning. After we completed touring Mount Rushmore, we headed out to Kansas City, Miss., where we stayed at our first RV resort.
The next day we left Kansas City and headed to Mount Vernon, Ill., where we spent the night at another RV Park. The next morning, we headed to our first planned long stay in Nashville, Tenn. where we spent eight days. From Nashville we travelled to New Orleans, La., where we stayed for four days. From New Orleans we went to Galveston Island, Texas, where we spent 10 days before heading west down the Texas coast to Mustang Island, Texas in the Corpus Christi area. We spent a week there and decided that we really liked Galveston Island, so we headed back and spent the next two months there.”
Their plans were a little altered and the Oakes' found themselves rushing against the clock to get back, only to be met with an unexpected surprise.
“Our original plan was to head up the west coast to Abbotsford, B.C., where Billy does his spring training, but when he received his schedule, we found that we wouldn't have the time we needed to get back in time so we made a quick and direct drive back to Canada,” said Oakes. “After 51 hours, nine states, two nights in truck stops and a whopping six hours total sleep, we made it back to the border only to be told that it had been closed by protestors early that morning.”
Despite the change in plans and rush to get back to Canada, the Oakes' still enjoyed their trip and made many memories along the way. Oakes fell in love with the history and culture in New Orleans, for it wasn’t like anything she had experienced before.
“There were so many memorable things, but some of them include camping right next to the ocean,” said Oakes.
“Then seeing things that you’ve only previously read about or seen in pictures like the 38.5 km long bridge when driving into New Orleans or Mount Rushmore, seeing ZZ top in Nashville, everything about New Orleans in general. The ability to be in shorts and a tank top, sitting outside enjoying a cold beer in +26 weather in December; that is a hard one to top.
“I love listening to stories, especially in regards to a place’s history, therefore my favourite place on the trip was New Orleans. I’ve never seen one place have such a vast variety of history attached to it. Not just history, but the types of things that it actually has going on today is so interesting. An example of this would be the two types of vampires that are known and practicing in New Orleans as we speak. The guided ghost tour of the French quarter at night in New Orleans was my favourite thing on the trip.
“My next favourite place was the ocean and being able to walk across the road outside our RV resort and it was right there,” said Oakes. “Being so close that even at night with the windows closed, you could still hear the sound of the waves hitting the shore. It was so soothing. The RV resort we were at on Galveston Island had a diversion of the ocean right behind our RV, full of fish and crab, so we bought some crab traps and were able to eat as much crab as we liked.”
With the ups of travelling also come the challenges too. Looking back, the Oakes' were met with some challenges during their travels that may seem comical now, but at the time were less than amusing.
“Some of the challenges included driving through major cities in an RV and having it breakdown. Finding out that the range on the electric bikes wasn't as long as told by the manufacturer, that was a hard lesson to learn when you’re 13 kilometres from the RV resort and the battery dies. It made for a long and difficult bike ride without the pedal assist. Then it was trying to find RV resorts that weren't for 55+ or full of people, such as us escaping for the winter. Then there was infamous steel height restriction bar at the entrance to an open-air parking lot at Wal-Mart. The one we never expected, but realised was there when it began to drag on the roof tearing off vent covers, satellite cover, denting the ladder and etc. All we could do was slowly keep going forward cringing at the sounds of the bar dragging and destroying the roof and the things on it.”
“It was so interesting to see the weather, scenery and even people's accents changing every day the further south we went. There’s always something to look at and so much to explore. One of the biggest lessons we learnt this winter was that having a vehicle to travel around to explore is the most important asset to have. We lost out on a lot of sightseeing opportunities because we didn't have access to get to them. There are very few things that can be accessed when you are driving a 40 foot RV and don't have a lot of experience doing it and electric bikes can only get you so far.”
The Oakes' sampled some of the best dining they’ve ever eaten in New Orleans. The food had an abundance of flavour unlike anything in Manitoba.
“Hands down, the best food was New Orleans,” said Oakes. “We tried Muffuletta's, Crawfish Etouffee, Cajun Chicken and Andouille Jambalaya, Gumbo, crab, oysters, and Chicken Andouille Gumbo. They were all amazing. We both agreed that we have never tasted such flavourful food in our lives, to date.”
Along with amazing food, the scenery they took was breathtaking as well. They witnessed a variety of different things from the mountains, ocean, bright lights of the Grand Ole Opry and more.
“For amazing views, Mount Rushmore was definitely a favourite of ours,” said Oakes. “It’s one of those places that takes on a whole new meaning when you are standing right there in its presence. The Grand Ole Opry in Nashville; The French Quarter in New Orleans; the ocean at Galveston Island with the beach houses standing on their stilts to allow water to flow under and through without damaging them; crossing to Galveston Island on the Ferry and having Dolphins swimming alongside the ferry are just a few others.”
The Oakes' started their trek on Nov. 14, and arrived home on Feb. 11. This allowed them to spend Christmas away from home. They are already thinking of how they will make next year’s trip different and better.
“It was difficult to be away for the holidays, because I love Christmas and usually have my house fully decorated,” said Oakes. “It was the first time that we had Christmas without our kids and family. It was the quietist and loneliest Christmas ever and we both agreed that we wouldn't do it again. We will be travelling back for Christmas or making arrangements to have family join us for Christmas going forward.
“The way things stand right now, we are thinking we will try Arizona out next winter and make sure that this time we get the west coast tour in. We learnt so much from our travels this past winter, good and bad, that the next one will hopefully go a lot smoother and we will definitely be more prepared.”
To check out the Oakes’ blog, go to or follow their page on Facebook.

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