bardicvoice (bardicvoice) wrote,

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Supernatural Fan Greetings from Vancouver, Part Two

I wish with all my yearning heart that I could say I found the current location for Supernatural during my Vancouver trip last week, watched them shoot, and met Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, but alas, it didn’t happen. Not for want of trying, mind you! I am now amazingly intimate with roads in Vancouver, North Van, Richmond, Burnaby, Surrey, Fort Langley, and part of Delta. In the course of five days, I went through almost two tanks of gas trolling those roads. I can tell you all sorts of amusing things about roads that change names, disappear, turn into other streets, don’t appear on maps, and appear on maps and not in real life, and I can get you to Supernatural’s studio in Burnaby from absolutely anywhere.


I learned that hunting for former (and current) shooting locations can be a great way to see a lot more of a city than an ordinary tourist would ever visit. Given the nature of Supernatural, that included some seedy and disreputable areas that I wouldn’t have felt comfortable walking around (East Hastings, anyone? Homelessness, drug dealing, and prostitute central ...), but it also included charm and beauty. There was a particular delight not only to recognizing a location, but to figuring out where the scene had been shot from, in order to get a camera angle as close as possible to the one used in the show. I now have a real appreciation for crane shots (dang it, can’t duplicate those!) and for places where the camera operators had to have been cursing the landscaping.


I had fun companions on the road. Thank you, thank you, Sandra (SJJCM), Amy (Metalligirl), and Erica (Idahogirl) from the blogging community, and Amanda from Australia, who joined Sandra and me after meeting us at the “Something Wicked” con. My job was knowing where we were and figuring out how to get where we wanted to go; their jobs were to watch for the white signs with shocking pink arrows marked “SN” that would indicate the shooting location, and anything else that merited eyes and photos. Here’s a hint: if you’re ever going to try doing this, travel at least in a pair – one to drive, and one to watch. You can’t effectively do both, not and stay safe. Not only did we stay safe, we had an absolute blast!


Speaking of safety, I have a funny caution to convey. If you’re driving in Canada, you should know that the Canadians give a lot less warning of the approach of a train to a crossing than Americans do! My funny story about that concerns the train crossing on North Fraser Way beside Marine Way, very close to the Supernatural studios. When you’re on North Fraser, you have to turn either right or left onto Marine Way. It’s a stoplight-controlled intersection, and Marine Way is a main drag. The point where the train tracks cross North Fraser is about two car lengths back from the stoplight, so if you’re waiting for the light to change, you obviously leave the train tracks clear. Well, we were sitting back from the tracks waiting for the light to change. The light went green, I started forward, and just as my car touched the railroad tracks, the red lights on the crossbucks started flashing and the warning horn began to sound. I looked to the side, and the train was RIGHT THERE – not a hundred or even fifty meters away, but large as life and looming up! In pure Dean fashion, I exclaimed “Son of a bitch!” and floored the accelerator, rabbiting off the tracks and out of the way. We were all astounded by how rapidly the thing had come up, and couldn’t get over the extremely short warning. For the rest of the trip, every time we came up on railroad tracks, we made a point of looking carefully in both directions and asking, “Any sons of bitches on the tracks?” It became our hilarious byline!


With help from a local who’d compiled a list of locations (thanks, Squeats!), we were able to drop by and take photos of past shooting sites as we searched assiduously for the current one. Each day, we headed out in another direction to explore new territory while tracking down images along the way that we’d recognize. Whenever we got frustrated – and believe me, I got tearfully frustrated the night when even my birthday brought no luck – we went back to the studio, checked out the current conditions, and then tried again. The benefit of that was finally seeing a couple of the Impalas parked in the back lot one day, which counted as our big contemporary thrill. Squealing over the Impalas, as well as Bobby’s car and the base of the Crossroad Blues/Hollywood Babylon/Bedtime Stories watertower/windmill, also seen parked in the back lot, proved to us just exactly how geeky we were.


Enough about what we missed. Here’s a list of highlights of show-related locations we visited in our personal roving, apart from the con-organized tour I described in a previous blog entry:


Bloody Mary – the corner in Steveston where Jessica’s spirit appeared to Sam, across the street from George’s Taverna (which makes a great spanakopita, by the way!).


Skin – the gas station on the corner of Marine Drive and Gilley, where Sam checks his email and where irritated Dean ignores the stop sign when he pulls out in a 180 turn to go where Sam wants to go.


Hookman – the building on Clarkson Street in New Westminster that served as the exterior of the sheriff’s office; the BCIT library, part of the campus the boys visited; and the Lu Lu Island trestle bridge in Burnaby Fraser Foreshore Park, where the boyfriend died in the teaser.


Bugs – the UBC Chemistry Building (currently being remodeled), where the boys took the bones and in front of which they had their little exchange about Sam not respecting John and John being afraid for Sam.


Asylum – the parking lot space where the boys talked over the Impala, with the red arched Quayside Bridge in the background, after Sam left the psychiatrist’s office.


Scarecrow – alas for us, the Burnaby Village Museum in Deer Lake Park was closed for the season, but looking through and over the fence (even though I couldn’t get pictures), we could see places where scenes in Burkittsville had been shot.


Route 666/Born Under a Bad Sign – Cannery Row and the Britannia Heritage Shipyards down in Steveston doubled for Cape Girardeau, MO in the first season, and then in the third season, was the dockside Duluth bar where Jo worked and the dock where possessed Sam shot Dean, dumping him into the water.


Salvation – the road beside the train trestle where John gave Dean the Colt, a fenced turn-off from River Road on Lu Lu Island, just across the river from the location used for 9 Mile Road in Hookman; and the place under the Queensborough Bridge where Sam drew the symbols on the Impala’s trunk.


Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things – I was driving and we weren’t stopping, so I couldn’t get a picture but did get an eyeful of the Barclay Manor house near Stanley Park that was used for Angela’s father’s place and the sidewalk where Sam finally laid into Dean about being afraid of losing him.


Simon Said – Cleveland Dam out on Capilano Road in North Vancouver, the site of the showdown with Ansom Weems and Andy Gallagher, including Dean’s sniper vantage up the hill.


Croatoan/Hunted – the corner of Mavis and River in Fort Langley, seen when Dean drove the Impala into town and parked in front of the clinic; the clinic building, which is actually just a front on an arch opening into an interior courtyard for the other businesses on the block; and best of all, the stretch along the river pilings where Sam pressured Dean into coming clean about what was hurting him so badly, and Dean finally told Sam the secret that John had laid on his shoulders.


Nightshifter – the New Westminster carpark where the boys rejoined the Impala at the end of the episode and drove off to “Renegade” by Styx … including the staircase that they came trotting up in order to get to the car; and the Royal Bank of Canada building in downtown Vancouver that served as both their exterior and interior location for the bank lobby.


What Is and What Should Never Be – a stretch of Burnaby Fraser Foreshore Park along the river was dressed as the cemetery where John was buried, but you’d never know it now.


Want to know just how geeky I really am? As I was flying away from Vancouver on Friday morning, I looked down from the plane and realized that I could see the Lu Lu Island trestle bridge, and I actually yanked my camera out and managed to snap a photo just before it went out of view. I can even tell you that the side you can see is the one that was used in Hookman, not Salvation. Can you say, “obsession?”  Heck, I took a couple of pictures in the airport terminal, even though I wasn’t in the particular area that they used for shooting Phantom Traveler.


Another thought: I suspect that Bobby runs an auto salvage yard not just in tribute to the Kripke family business, but also because the studio location came equipped with plenty of convenient inspiration – the studio is in an industrial park that includes several auto salvage yards! They’re all fenced, so we couldn’t see in, but how much you want to bet that the Supernatural folk have a deal with one of the local salvage yards to be able to shoot on their grounds when they need stacks of junked cars to indicate Bobby’s yard? 

One more thing I forgot to mention: you can sometimes see more in the night than in the day. I lost count of the number of times we drove past the studio in the course of the week, and that front end was always pretty featureless. I mean, hey; a studio is basically nothing but a big warehouse, and in this case, had office space grafted onto the front. But driving by at night provided a whole different perspective, because with the lights on inside, not only could we see into a little bit of that office space - we also saw through the windows into a room on the ground floor full of costumes, racks upon racks of Sam's and Dean's shirts, jackets, and what-have-you! I hadn't been expecting that!


Even though we never found the Supernatural shooting location, we all had a blast, and I’m delighted with the trip. Maybe someday, we’ll have a chance to try again, with better luck in the hunt.


I’m game!


And to see some of my photos, you can go here:

Tags: cons, on location, real life, supernatural, television production, travelogue

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