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Home & Garden

A Man Walks Into a Cave

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Back in prehistoric times, while learning to walk upright, man lived in a cave. Huddled around the fire, a family unit would have etchings on the wall as a sense of décor.

Thousands of years later, man still has his cave, as in man cave.

Man cave…a metaphor describing a sanctuary, be it in a room in the house or out in the garage, where the man may be alone or with friends, surrounded by a design of their choice.

Sometimes the choice is not one of choice.

A resident of Fort McMurray for six years, Gord Dancey, like many others, was affected  last year when The Beast ((Fire 9, MWF-009, Horse Creek Fire) came into our world Tuesday May 3, 2016.

Nearly 90,000 fellow Fort McMurray residents were evacuated due to the wildfire that would eventually engulf and destroy 2,500 structures.

One of those structures was Gord’s residence in Beacon Hill; home for just under a year at that time.

“Like everyone else, I was left in doubt wherever we would come through (the fire) or have to get a new place,” recalled Gord, 54, who works at Northern Lights Regional Health Centre’s AHS Facility Maintenance and Engineering.

Lost in the blaze was his garage (man cave) which housed “antique tools” and “Coca-Cola” memorabilia among other items.

Some of the antique tools included “wooden hand planes and old carpentry tools up to 75 or 80 years old” which had belonged to his grandfather Alex Strickland.

“He (Strickland) was from Newfoundland and built schooners,” said a proud Dancey of the heirlooms. “You cannot replace that.”

Dancey, along with the assistance of True Stud Contracting, has now rebuilt his heated 24 x 24 garage which sits behind his new Beacon Hill home.

A garage which is strictly, “A place where anybody can come by and have a good time.”

He adds: “We have plug-ins for the trucks and when you live in a modular home, it is nice to have a second place you can go to and have family and friends over.”

Dancey admits that a trip to the garage is a daily feature in his life.

“I am a smoker and I don’t like to smoke in the house. So, it is a place where I can go relax, enjoy a cigarette and coffee and perhaps watch a little TV.”

With a 60-inch wide screen on one wall, Dancey says he watches “hockey” and “the Toronto Maple Leafs naturally, as I was born and raised there.”

Visiting antique shops and “occasionally getting something off the Internet”, Dancey has slowly started to redecorate with one wall displaying all sorts of Coca-Cola memorabilia.

“It is something that I grew up with and I like the colour and style of writing,” said Dancey of the popular Coca-Cola culture.

Soon to add on a bar feature for refreshments, Dancey also has a dart board set up in one corner.

“My wife (Barb) is in here pretty often as we play darts a lot.”

Another item lost in the fire, which may irreplaceable, was a stained piece of glass from the Renaissance era.

“It was French Latin...religious stained glass,” said Dancey. “It was from 1595. I was upset that we lost that.”


The Klipper

Walking into Mike Klippenstein’s Thickwood Heights garage you are met with the unique smell of new tires. Over in a corner, up high on shelving are stacked various sets and sizes.

Neatly lined up in the 30 x 50 heated man cave are 10 motorbikes of various sizes and more than a dozen shiny personal water crafts along with a few snowmobiles.

The garage looks like a dealership.

Instead it is just a hobby and part of the life of a professional athlete.

Racing, be it motorbikes, snowmobiles or personal watercrafts, which sometimes  are  referred by the trademarked brand names like Jet Ski  or Sea-Doo, has gained Klippenstein international fame.

Inducted into the local Wood Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame in 2008, Klippenstein, 49, has won an incredible 27 World Championships in jet skiing.

Traveling to compete in exotic locations including Guadeloupe, Japan, Martinique, Thailand and United Arab Emirates, while annually attending numerous races in North America, Klippenstein makes the most of the time in his garage.

“It took a year-and-a-half to build and I built it myself with lots of good friends chipping in,” said Klippenstein, who is an ETF Maintenance Superintendent at Suncor Energy.  “It was hard hard work.”

Finished with a proxy coated floor and including a loft, Klippenstein says he spends a few hours every evening in the garage as, “There is only so much time for preparation, rebuilding motors, fine tuning, testing. I’ve worked on water craft boats for people all around the world.

“It is tough to have full time job and what is basically a full time hobby.”

Along with sponsorship, he is a factory rider for Yamaha USA, Klippenstein uses up majority of his holiday time with weekend trips to many events.

“We also go to Lake Havasu City (Arizona) 10 to 12 times a year and that is where we have the backup man cave…overflow parking,” says Klippenstein with a laugh.

Despite having a 60, 55 and 42-inch flat screen televisions in his Fort McMurray man cave; Klippenstein says he does not watch much TV.

”It is also wired for an overhead projector but to be honest…I don’t watch much television,” said Klippenstein, who started motocross dirt bike  racing in 1982 at the local Valiant Memorial Race Track located south of the city. “I listen to a lot of radio.’

His impressive media system was set up by McMurray TV Centre where fellow jet ski racer Gerry Wong is General Manager.

Also displayed in the garage are various championship trophies Klippenstein has captured over the years…including one that takes up plenty of room.

“I gutted my Hydrospace (personal water craft) it is now a hollow shell. It takes up a lot of space and is an expensive trophy. I won my first two world championships with it. So for me it is like someone with their game ball.”

A need for speed keeps Klippenstein busy at work, life and as a pro athlete.

Also inducted into the International Jet Ski Boating Association Hall of Fame, Klippenstein once clocked a world record for fastest stand up Jet Ski 0-60 miles per hour in 2.3 seconds and a 72-74 mph top end.

Adjacent to his garage in the backyard is what Klippenstein calls, “a little 50 track for mini bikes.”

Along with his eight year-old son Cohen, who, “started dirt bike riding at 27 months but his passion now is jet skiing,” Klippenstein says he too takes to the backyard track.

“We ride little pit bikes. You are never too old and you are never too big.”


Curtis J. Phillips has been a sports journalist in print/electronic mediums since 1976. A strong advocate of volunteerism, he is a founding father of numerous local events and organizations including the Challenge Cup and Wood Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame. Phillips is also recognized internationally as a sports historian.