Friday, October 31st8.5°C
Real Estate

We can get on together

I was in LA this week. I witnessed such crazy and unusual circumstances as I strolled along Hollywood Blvd and Sunset Blvd. A far cry from sleepy Peachland in the Okanagan!
The strange thing was, I found myself talking about terrorism on home turf in Canada. It seemed more bizarre than talking about naked people walking down Hollywood Blvd or TV show budgets of multiple millions of dollars.
I explained to our US friends that we had just witnessed a very rare (thank goodness) circumstance of terrorism on our home soil. Canadians were angry. As a member of the Canadian Armed Forces, I was confused. How could somebody do such a thing? Such a rare circumstance that it was not even necessary to dwell on. On Monday of this week a mad man had driven his car into some unsuspecting soldiers and killed one of them!
Then on Wednesday, I checked in at LAX for a flight home and watched the unfolding of an even more bizarre story regarding the lock down of Parliament Hill as some crazed gunman kills yet another innocent and unarmed military reservist who was paying the greatest respect to our fallen soldiers by performing honour guard duties at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
It very quickly unfolded that the crazed Gunman was a Muslim convert. Radicalized by Islamists that claim to represent the teaching of the Quran.
I should state that my opinions have nothing to do with Castanet or the Canadian Armed Forces, they are my own experiences. 
It is very easy to paint a faith with the same brush every time we see these nonsensical stories and the same happens with Christianity as well as a host of other faiths, but it really has nothing to do with anything other than media sensationalizing a story to get headline grabs.
My own thoughts revolve around an event in Morocco on the Algerian border. I was stranded in the middle of the Sahara with a group of motorcycle racers with a broken collarbone and two broken ribs. It took several hours of very uncomfortable driving (thanks to my wife) through dry river beds and over sand dunes to get to anything remotely resembling civilization.
We were at a small Touareg Riad in Erg Chebbi and our hosts were traditional muslim Touareg. I was blown away by their care for my well being. They immediately insisted that my wife and I take a guest room instead of a space on the floor in their traditional Berber tent they had set up for us. They didn’t ask if I was in “Infidel”, they were not concerned about my faith and they did not push their beliefs on me.
For two days we were waited on hand and foot and they insisted on helping me find a doctor and ensuring that everything was safe. I got to know a little about their faith but also their personality and character. 
We now have Muslim friends across the world and I can honestly say that if we believe the gunman on Wednesday or the driver on Monday had any real and meaningful connection to the Muslim faith, we are mistaken.
It was a tragic day from many perspectives and as always it served to bind a nation not tear it apart. Our job now is to ensure that the healthy multi-cultural traditions that we have established in Canada are continued. At the same time, we need to look at our national security and make darn sure we are doing the best we can to protect all Canadian citizens of all cultures and faiths. 
We can and will get along, we will become stronger through adversity. Today our thoughts and prayers should be with the families and friends of our fallen and unarmed comrades who were never given the opportunity to defend themselves in this dastardly act of cowardice by crazed lunatics intent on spreading hate and violence by killing innocent people. That has nothing to do with faith - period.


Keep it rubber side down

This time of year, I always worry about which friends of mine will get caught going off the road in adverse weather conditions. With a little preparation most accidents can be avoided.
Having won the Open Class rally championship in Western Canada on two occasions, I have used that experience to put on occasional safe winter driving courses. I am not sure my schedule allows me to this year, however, if your group or organization can benefit from a 90 minute classroom session, I invite you to contact me, [email protected] and I will see what I can do.
The plain truth in terms of rallying is that winter conditions are some of the fastest conditions we drive in,  usually because the surface we drive on is so consistent. It sounds strange I know, but with the right driving style and tire choice, snow and ice can be a surface that you can drive extremely fast on.
Accidents are caused by only a few circumstances, some of which are very subtle. In the right conditions simply lifting your foot abruptly off the throttle can send your car into a spin. Who would have thought? Rally drivers, including myself will use this technique on gravel and snow to “unsettle” the car before a corner. We can lift the throttle abruptly, change the direction of the car and initiate a slide that is beneficial to us. If you are not aware of the weight transfer that can happen or the resistance that lifting the throttle can create on a slick surface, you should be!
So here are a few tips that may help you keep rubber side down this year.
1.    Practice driving on loose surfaces. This year, the Big White Winter Rally ( which is happening in early December may present an opportunity for you to enter their “snow cross”. Grab a helmet, take your daily driver up there and push yourself on a closed course. It is very safe and you will be the only car on the course. The worst thing that could happen is you may get stuck in a snow bank and need a tow out... you will have learned something!
2.    Concentrate. Rally drivers will routinely drive at 200kph on surfaces that make you “pucker up”. So what is the difference. They concentrate. Most people I see driving today are on their phones, drinking their coffee or checking their make-up in the mirror as they slide off unnecessarily into a ditch! Pay attention. After a fast winter stage that is 8kms long I will be soaked with sweat because of the concentration and effort. When we are driving 4,000lb vehicles on the road I am absolutely shocked at the lack of attention to driving. Driving is serious business.
3.    Be aware of the surroundings. If the wind is blowing left to right on a highway and you pass a truck, expect the impacts of the wind after you come out of the wind shadow beside the truck. It is often enough to send you in to a big slide if the wind is strong enough.
4.    Be a passive driver. Use the throttle and brakes gently and don’t use cruise control. Sure I know your truck sounds cool, but hitting the gas hard is not going to prove anything other than how expensive it is to fix the pretty truck you are still paying for. Don’t change lanes aggressively and develop some “spider senses”. Particularly in a diesel truck you have so much torque that the automatic gearbox change can set the back wheels spinning.
5.    Slightly contradictory to the above, when you need to use the brakes (if an accident is imminent), step on them hard if you have anti lock brakes. There are very few vehicles without anti lock brakes today. The problem is that if you are my age or older you don’t trust them. We learned to “threshold brake” or “cadence brake” which is what we use in race cars, THAT DOESN’T WORK WITH ANTI LOCK BRAKES! They do the job for you, you just press hard and when the brake pedal vibrates, they are doing their job, brake and steer! If you don't have anti lock brakes, you will need to learn the techniques for threshold braking - go look it up on Youtube!
6.    Please, get the right tires. Go see Big O Tires in Westbank. They have sponsored my rally team for years and know as much about tire technology as anyone. You don’t need studs, just good winter tires. The difference in control you will have is massive. Don’t cheap out on the only part of the vehicle that is going to stop you in the winter... your tires!
7.    The final piece of advice. Four wheel drive will not stop you going off the road, it won’t stop you sliding when you loose traction. It will help you get up the hill! Whether you have all wheel drive, front wheel drive or rear wheel drive, with the right knowledge and equipment you can drive safely on BC roads this winter,
For a country that spends a lot of time in the winter with snow and ice conditions we should not see so many bad drivers in the ditch, but it is guaranteed, every time the snow first flies. We seem to forget that we live in Canada!

How low can you go?

Have you ever felt that gut wrenching feeling when you have had to cancel a project you are working on or didn’t make your goals. It is a low feeling indeed.
We often see examples of athletes who experience the same lows. I always remember thinking I could not understand how a grown man could cry because he came in second place in a race. While that may have been my opinion many years ago, the tables turned on me when I was actively racing with my rally team.
Several times I have gone from 1st or second place in an event to last because of a mechanical issue or driver error. The feeling is not pleasant. 
One particular time in Merritt BC, I was racing my Eagle Talon with the support of local Mitsubishi dealer, Valley Mitsubishi. I had placed well after Friday evening’s stages and was probably sitting around 6th or 7th in the national standings. Saturday morning started with a drive up the connector to a group of stages near the old toll booth. On my first run through I noticed I was having a difficult time changing gears. Then finally, I had no clutch!
I started two stages by putting the car in second gear, starting on the start line by turning the key in second gear and then running the stage with no clutch.
Interestingly I managed a 4th fastest time on one of those stages. Sadly, the car was not going to get through the day. A mad flurry of activity over the service period at lunch gave me a respite. We hurriedly left for the next stage and sure enough no clutch after that stage. It was then that we threw the towel in. As a mature, grown man, I sat on my car and cried! I couldn’t help it. The thought of all the effort everyone around me had put in to get us in the event and to continue through the event was hard to think about. We had just lost a good position in a national event. 
The feeling was all too familiar for me a few months ago when I decided to postpone a 650km run in Africa alongside Connor Clerke. We had not attracted enough funding and with the Ebola outbreak and Al-Shabhab doing their thing, we did not want any of the public coming with us to be put in any danger. 
The good news is, we are going next year. So the end result is not as bad as the rally event.
The even better news is we have another exciting project planned. As one door opens, another one closes!
Several months ago I was chatting to Jim Bates at Fresh Air Concept ( and told him about a crazy idea I had. I had decided to attempt another world record to help our charity, Rally4Life. I looked to see if anyone had done such a crazy thing before and sure enough I would be the first. Nobody had ever ridden a unicycle underwater before.
You read that right! 
A few years later I contacted Guinness who advised me that the record had been set and was now close to 2kms!
When Jim had picked himself off the floor laughing, he decided it would be too much fun to be involved and so a few weeks later a Unicycle showed up at my door. A unicycle that I am struggling to learn to ride!
I will reveal more about the project in a future story, but watch this space for news for the “solo round the pool” expedition to pedal (not paddle) 2.5kms in the Kelowna area. 
We will be hosting a fun fundraising party for the charity and you may even see Jim Bates sitting in a corner scratching his head and wondering what compelled him to even get involved in the first place!
A big thanks and shout out to Fresh Air who support a lot of community events.
For those of you who like Rally driving, head over to Merritt today and Saturday top catch National level action with 36 driver competing for top honours in the Canadian National Championship. Visit for more information.

Finding the smart money

Recently I had the privilege of working alongside André Voskuil, a local guru in the world of Alternative Financing. André has quite the reputation in the world of direct investments as he consults to wealthy individuals and Family Offices. The project was to find a way to allow entrepreneurs access to individuals who look for direct investments in new opportunities. We were very pleased with the result so I wanted to share this weeks media release with you:

Finding the Smart Money
Kelowna, Canada, September 23 2014
Your Grandfather may have told you the first $1 was the hardest to make and the rest would be easier. He may have been accurate in his day, but entrepreneurs are finding it harder to access capital for their new ventures and the increased competition means their business plan can sometimes get pushed to the bottom of the pile or even straight into the waste pile pretty quickly.
Alternative Investment Strategist, André Voskuil knows this all too well. Known as the Dutch Oracle because of his accurate predictions in relation to finance and investments André see hundreds of “filtered” investment opportunities year after year and very few impress him!
“It is not always about a cool idea which is on the cutting edge, it is about the thought process” says André, adding “too many times I see a great idea with no thought to corporate governance, or a valuation which is a figure plucked out of thin air. If those parameters happen to be in place, there is a good chance the key players and finance strategies are lacking”. At the end of the day, André knows if these parameters are inadequate, funding is going to be a challenge to say the least.
For this reason, André and partner Mark Jennings-Bates have launched the Dutch Oracle Deal Vault to assist entrepreneurs in finding capital for their plans. “We are excited to offer this to clients who we have not been able to assist in the past. Our core expertise is in serving André’s Inner Circle clients who want us to isolate the best opportunities. Adding the Dutch Oracle Deal Vault in to our quiver simply expands on a service we are offering to others” says Jennings-Bates.
The Dutch Oracle Deal Vault gives entrepreneurs unique access to high net worth global investors and Family Offices who use the platform to identify potential investments. The subscriber is able to pitch their opportunity to various individuals and offices in the Vault and participate in a unique Dutch Oracle Web Forum to gain more experience and exposure for their business.
The service is enhanced through the provision of some incredible Intellectual Property from André’s office. In order to assist entrepreneurs, at sign up, they will also be given some tips and “inside help” on how to pitch their offering, including Dutch Oracle’s unique due diligence matrix - the same document André himself uses to analyse business opportunities.
To find out more, go to




André Voskuil is a leading Alternative Investment strategist who specialises in counseling his Inner Circle clients in regards to their specific investments in this exciting class of opportunities. You can find out more about André at
Contact André at [email protected] or 1.760.600.8850

Read more The Accidental Journey articles


About the author...

For the past twenty years Mark has been involved in real estate development and consulting and is currently a REALTOR with Realty Executives in Kelowna.

His column, brings a unique perspective on what may be important to us in the future as we come to grips with fast paced change in a world that few people barely recognize.

His influences come from the various travels he undertakes as an Adventurer, Philanthropist and Keynote Speaker. More information can be found on Mark at his website


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet presents its columns "as is" and does not warrant the contents.

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