I wake up early. Not as early as some, but early. As the summer season starts to swing into action, tourist season begins. As someone who recently was cruising, seeing the cruise ships sail in and out of the port is pretty cool. They are usually pulling in when I get up. And then pulling out after their port of call in Vancouver when I get home from work.There is something special living in a tourist destination. Sometimes I hate the crowds, but other times, I feel smug that I live somewhere that people pay money to visit.
May 9th, 2013 Extra-Ordinary: I am somewhere people want to be. That’s worth remembering.
I went to Whistler this weekend. It’s been 15 years since I’ve been and Emile has never been. The sea to sky highway – while still amazing – seems much more robust. I guess that is the Olympic legacy. This trip had all the makings of a disaster: We left on time, but our travelling companions didn’t, so we spent a bunch of time waiting. Our suite was occupied when we arrived as the company had made a mistake on the confirmations. The weather was awful – rain, cold and wind. The mountain was socked in with fog – we couldn’t tell that we were in a mountain resort. The children decided to awake at 6 am the first morning after being up until 11 pm the night before.
Emile and I spent an hour or two enjoying ourselves at Howe Sound Brewery pub in Squamish. The people who were in the suite were really considerate and worked with us to solve the problem. The weather stopped our friends from skiing, but also made it much easier to justify staying inside and getting an Indonesian style massage. The kids were so bloody tired on Saturday night that they went to bed with nary a peep. Sunday’s weather was warmer, dryer and stiller than Saturday and in comparison seemed downright lovely compared to the day before. Our friends went skiing, Emile got a pic or two and we had an early departure, getting us home to Vancouver just in time to receive our final ice cream delivery, have my nails done, catch up on chores, get some groceries bought and wind down the weekend before the work week started again.
Had a really good time and glad we went.
Last Weekend in April Extra-Ordinary: Silver Linings
One year ago Emile and I were in Grenada to celebrate his 40th birthday. He didn’t know about the trip – I managed to pay for it with my tips. 6 good friends came along and we had a great time staying in our rented villa and soaking up the sun. Emile didn’t really know what was going on until we pulled into the airport and got in line for at Caribbean Airlines. Even then, he couldn’t quite absorb that we were on this vacation and that I had pulled the whole thing off with him being completely unaware of anything.
I loved organizing the trip for us, but I fell into a habit of watching everything I said around him. It got to be second nature to hesitate before I spoke, to keep my thoughts to myself and lie to Emile. It took me a bit of time to get back to normal where I share almost all of my thoughts with him freely again. The simple pleasure of speaking to one who gets me and doesn’t ever judge.
We aren’t doing anything spectacular for his birthday this year, but we are full up on spectacular right now. But yet. . .
November 19th, 2012 Extra-Ordinary: 4 more boxes unpacked and put away. And perhaps Sayulita next . .
Greetings from Cranbrook, BC and the Levang Family Resort!
Hours on the Road: 7
Kms Travelled: 606
Today was a short jaunt home comparatively speaking. Just 1/2 of Montana left to go until Cranbrook – Emile flies to Vancouver on Sunday.
I was anxious to get started being so close to home, and I watched Emile intently while he tried to enjoy a leisurely breakfast. And today promised not to be a 15 hour marathon – there were only really 600 kms to travel – it was nothing really. But I am coming home to British Columbia after 16 years away. I wanted to get home for that reason and because I was so tired of seeing the inside of the Honda Fit.
Our travels took us through the flat prairies right into the Rocky Mountains. On the way, we journey through Glacier National Park and Cut Bank “The Coldest Place in the Nation”. Doesn’t that strike you as odd? The coldest place in the nation is in Montana? Not Alaska? Or maybe just considering the lower 48, Minnesota or something? Nonetheless, someone found the time and money to build a talking penguin statue that makes the claim. And seriously, if a penguin actually talks to me, I tend to believe what they have to say.
The BC places started to get more and more prevalent as we neared the border. At the gas station in Eureka (10 kms from Canada), there were more Canadian plates than American ones. I understand first hand the challenges that a strong Canadian dollar gives for Canadian companies trying to do business in the US, however, as a consumer, it works out pretty well.
We stopped at the duty-free shop in Roosville, Montana, USA called “First and Last Chance”. I am not sure who in the dark, dingy bar/store/casino was on their first chance, but there were some hard living people in there.
I insisted on a stop in Cranbrook before heading home because I wanted it official:
Greetings from Havre, Montana and the Town Inn and Suites.
Hours on the road: 15 hours
Kms Traveled: 1366.2
After a short night in Grand Rapids – well it seemed pretty short – and a grand breakfast, we hit the road again. You know “Breakfast included” in an American Hotel is significantly better than the lousy “continental breakfast” offered in most Canadian hotels. In every hotel we’ve stayed in during the last month, the American ones include make your own fresh waffle, oatmeal, biscuits & gravy, yogurt, fresh fruit, eggs, bacon/sausage, or a various combination of these. It’s fabulous. Emile usually grabs a hardboiled egg and I an extra yogurt and we’ve got our stops for the day. Pay attention Commonwealth!
We were excited to get to North Dakota – it adds another state to both of our collections (we only count states that we have actually been outside in – Emile’s 2 hour layover in LAX does not count). I’ve been to 21 (California, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming). Emile has been to 23 (Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virginia, Washington, Washington DC, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming).
The most exciting part of North Dakota was visiting the Geographic Centre of North America. I guess that should be Center – but I think that is ethnocentric of the US to use their spelling, don’t you think?? There it is. Built in 1932 (the monument not North America) Emile was more excited about the fantastic cloud formations, I think.
As we crossed into Montana, the Big Skies were evident:
Both of us had to sit as tall as we could with the sun visors down while squinting and wearing sunglasses to be able to see. Fortunately, Highway 2 – north of the main freeway – is very quiet. It is not uncommon for us to spend a half hour without seeing another vehicle. The sun sets in the west, I’ll tell you – I hope there is no permanent damage.
While in the US, we don’t use our cell phones due to the high data/roaming rates. I engage in the practice of War Driving – so named from the movie War Games. I race to see if I can connect to unsecured Wi-Fi and download my messages before Emile pulls away from a red light. I like to see what people call their Wi-Fi points: hurricane, tornado, getyourown, notyours, mine, thelassie, or my favorite “Linksys”. If you laughed when I said “Linksys”, you failed the geek test. Each time we stop for gas (or peeing), I am wandering around the parking lot trying to find a strong unsecured connection.
We had an early evening relatively speaking and pulled into Havre – land of the low-end casino – at 10 pm. We’d stopped to get Oreos and milk for Emile and he was eager to relax while watching TV and eating his American treat.
September 6th, 2012 Extra-Ordinary: Being exceptionally disappointed that the honeymoon suite bed (the only room left at the hotel) didn’t have the heart-shaped king bed like the clerk said it did. Who doesn’t want to sleep on a heart shaped bed once?
Greetings from Grand Rapids, Minnesota and the Country Inn!
Hours Travelled: 16 hours
Kms Covered: 1368.8
I’m not talking about any tears or heartache today, so I will begin our trip 30 minutes out of Huntsville. We stopped in Rosseau for a little pick me up in the form of a cream cheese smothered (and I mean drowning) raisin free cinnamon bun. I got Emile a day-old sticky bun – we need to watch the budget you know. We wrapped close to Georgian Bay this time whipping through Parry Sound and the French River area. Last time we swung out to North Bay, and I think hugging the bay is faster.
But then again I was working on catching up on EOs and not paying full attention:
There is an aside here for anyone who is married to or is connected to a photographer. I am in dire danger having my picture taken doing the most mundane of things with little warning. I mean who wants to have their picture taken while stuffing their face full of carb delicious Wendy’s Spicy Chicken Sandwiches? Or while driving? From today alone, here are the indignities suffered:
I am certain that this is a statement of the skill of the photographer.. . right? I mean I couldn’t possibly really look like this. Even when I know I am going to have a shot taken, I end up looking like yahoo because I am trying to suck in things that cannot be sucked in. I check myself in the mirror fairly regularly and find that my arms while needing a little more tone are not the size of leg of lambs. My hips while curvy have not yet gone the way of the middle age spread. But then he takes something like this, and I wonder…
In Blind River – or somewhere around there – we stopped for the aforementioned Wendy’s. While enjoying our meal, a women began coughing and choking. Note coughing. Not to let the women suffer, her husband (?) grabbed her from behind on the way to the bathroom and started vigorously performing the Heimlich Maneuver I must say this is the first time I have ever seen it done in a real “emergency”. Funny thing though – if the victim is coughing, that means she can breathe. If she can breathe, then the food is not blocking her airway and there is no need for such heroics. In fact, it can make the situation worse by moving the food around and then blocking the airway. Fortunately, a security guard waiting for his Baconater leapt to the woman’s defense and pulled the guy off. The poor woman – embarrassed for such a scene – slunk into the bathroom to cough out her fry.
We crossed the border at Sault Ste Marie and were really grilled by the customs officer. “Have either of you ever been arrested? Years ago? Perhaps as a juvenile? You can tell me. I need to know this stuff.” I was left feeling like I should have confessed a phantom brush with the law.
Our trip through Michigan journeyed through the Northern part where neither of us had ever been before. And before we knew it we had passed by the Michigan Skateboarding Hall of Fame and six or seven bizarrely finite rainstorms and moved into our 2 hour jaunt through Wisconsin. It was too late to buy any cheese and I am regretting that as I write this now.
We drove into the setting sun while swirls of mist wrapped around the tires of our Fit. Through Duluth as it didn’t seem just far enough and so into Grand Rapids (the other one). Judy Garland was born here, you know, it seems a fitting to sleep where “A Star is Born”.
September 5th, 2012 Extra-Ordinary: I’m a sucker for sunset shots – you know it! I love the evidence of the movement in the trees due to the shutter being open a little longer. I took the picture with Emile’s recommended settings, so I’d say this is a team effort.
Again, my hands on the camera, Emile’s advice from behind me:
It was ambitious, but we decided to drive from La Crosse, Wisconsin (which is almost in Minnesota) to home in one day. In reviewing the route, we determined that it was even further than we could handle and decided on a stop at my in-laws in St. Catharines to shave a couple of hours off the journey. And then we could see them too!
We made our requisite stop at a cheese factory in Wisconsin and gawked at cheese – how to pick just one? After driving more than 3000 kms on the I-90, we finally turned south to head around the lake. For excitement, we considered taking the Milwaukee ferry across Lake Michigan, but once we determined the cost to be $300, we decided the 1 hour we’d save wasn’t worth it. I guess we are too accustomed to Canada’s subsidized ferries – but that seemed ridiculous for a route that has a reasonable driving estimate.
Illinois is where things got tricky – we had to change highways several times and stop to pay tolls frequently. We were running low on American cash and therefore snuck Canadian change to our toll payments. We’d ask the collector a question to distract from our coinage and then leave immediately once the gate was up! The 407 toll highway in Canada is more expensive sure, but it was annoying in Illinois have to stop at 5 or 6 toll booths while making our way around Chicago. The last booth was quite confusing – pointing us to Iowa – and we mistakely drove right through without paying. We are waiting for the FBI to surround our house in Canada looking for their $1.50.
Emile played the Blues Brother’s Chicago and I answered back with Frank Sinatra’s. Yes, we are dorks.
We snuck through Indiana, and then back to Michigan. You know, for the “auto” state, Michigan has some nice scenery. In Charlotte, we stopped at Taco Bell for our last American experience. Afterwards, we shook hands to say No More Fast Food for a LONG while. About 30 minutes later, Emile saw a White Castle sign and promptly forgot our agreement. Fortunately, he fell asleep (I was driving by this time, otherwise that would not be so fortunate), and I avoided any other purchases.
The border guard accepted our passports and declarations without incident and we found ourselves with non-roaming cell phones for the first time in days. Oh, the things I could look up!
As I neared London, I started making up songs about our trip including a lovely ditty that I rhymed up “pee”, “me” and “tea”. The end was nigh and I was finally cracking up. Emile – rightly so – got concerned that a crazy person was driving, and requested to take over the wheel.
We pulled into St. Catharines at 1:30 am, and I’ve never been happier to arrive anywhere. Except the bathroom at Tri-State Toll Highway Hinsdale Oasis.
August 6th, 2012 Extra-Ordinary: The quiet and peaceful sound of driving on asphalt after crossing the border into Canada versus the loud and bumpy concrete highways in the USA.