The Daily EO: August 5th, 2012

(this one is a bit long).

Greetings from La Crosse, Wisconsin and the Days Hotel!

Hours Driven:  15 hours
Kms Covered:  1338.1
Money Spent:  $155

There is an inherent feeling of danger that comes from men who are bikers.  If I said fill in the blank:  “Biker ______”, you’d probably say “Gang”.  I suspect that the truth is more like society at large – people on the entire spectrum of evil and frightening scales.  Sure, in a group of bikers, there surely is a chance of meeting a mean person as there is an encounter with a weekend warrior lawyer in the throes of a midlife crisis.  Nonetheless, put me in a large group of bikers, and my intellectual understanding of stereotypes is somewhat drowned out by yeas of bias training in movies, headlines and books.

So, while driving the streets of Sturgis (Like we didn’t stop to drive through town!  Do you not know us at all??) during the 2012 Motorcycle Rally, I felt conspicuous.  Never mind we were in the 5% of the traffic in an automobile, but we were also driving a tinted-window, sport packaged, purple (ahem, “Blackberry”) Honda Fit with Ontario plates and a photographer hanging out the window trying get close-ups of nipple tassels.

And while I am on the subject of nipple tassels, I ponder this.  Why is it that many of the women who live in this club or culture or whatever you want to call it, are overt and confident in their sexuality?   I mean, there are some who in regular life we would encourage not to wear a tube top, to please put on a bra and certainly get longer shorts.  But here, everything is hanging out in its glory.  Now perhaps this is in the vein of the blatant sexuality at Pride celebrations that is used to boldly claim this as their right, their place, and to make a stir to provoke thoughts.  But Sturgis?  I don’t think it is political – I think it is just men and woman enjoying each other, and to hell with the concern of extra rolls, or saggy boobs, or ripplely thighs.  Shouldn’t we all take a little lesson from this?

Oil Changes and Bikinis. Stugis.

The logistics/planner person in me was fascinated by the preparation of Sturgis and surrounded areas for such a huge influx of bikers.  All of the intersections in Sturgis were changed from lights to four-way stops and every square foot of space was either parking, booths or gathering places.  It was fascinating – and made me want to meet the person in charge of this project – because this isn’t anarchy, people somewhere are planning this and planning it well.

Anyways, imagine driving the short distance from the South Dakota I-90 to Mount Rushmore with 50% of the traffic being cruising bikes.  We were in a group of about 15 bikes and us.  It felt like being in a poor country’s presidential motorcade.

Our Escorts

Mount Rushmore charged $11 to “park” indeed not for entrance to the monument.  Even at Mount Rushmore, there was a Sturgis Gift Shop set-up and 2 specially designated motorcycle lanes.  Mount Rushmore was interesting, but the image is so iconic, it was difficult to really understand that I was actually there.  It seemed smaller than I expected, and I found it more fascinating to look at the uncarved “needles” in the Black Hills.

The “Other View” at Mount Rushmore

The nearest town, Keystone, was almost a replica of Niagara Falls, Canada – with bold SHOUTING billboards and bizarre twisted history (ie, Sitting Bull’s Crystal Caves.  Really?)

We travelled through South Dakota stopping at strange places.  Pioneer Auto is home of THE General Lee (um, wasn’t there like 40 or something?) and Elvis’s motorcycle, but we were too cheap to pay to the $10 admission, so we’ll never know how cool it was.  Alas.  Wall Drug has brilliant marketing campaign with 40+ billboards in the 50 miles leading up to Wall – they advertised free doughnut and coffee for honeymooners.  We were going to try to scam them, but we don’t like coffee and didn’t feel like doughnuts.  But the worst was the “Corn Palace” in Mitchell who is a victim of “setting expectations”.  We expected a building made of corn, but instead it was an arena/stadium thing that was covered in corn.  I suppose that is impressive in itself, but it seemed lacking when we thought corn was used instead of concrete.   People, under promise, over deliver!

Our journey through Minnesota was almost entirely during dusk and we were treated to a slowly darkening cloudless sky with fields of corn and wind turbines.  We drove on to make up for our short day yesterday, and arrived at a Days Hotel that only wanted $60 for the night.  Clean and cheap.  Love it.

Beautiful Evening.

August 5th, 2012 Extra-Ordinary:  A run in Wyoming at 7:30 am, through a field, down a bike path, around a lake.  It made me feel like I am “that” person.  Yep.  Her.

Running In Wyoming. My reward.

The Daily EO: August 4th, 2012

Greetings from Gillette, Wyoming and the Country Inn and Suites!

Hours Driven: 7.5
kms Travelled:  743
Money Spent:  $307

“Are you Serious?  ARE YOU SERIOUS?”

I wouldn’t have been more surprised and abruptly awoken if Emile jumped up on the bed and shouted “Google provides 1000 mbps to select customers in Connecticut!” as loud as he could.  Which in fact is what it sounded like.  Not the Connecticut part, but the on our bed part.  At 6:30 in the morning, some crazed woman started screaming at her child.  Our hotel was not soundproof and I would have sworn she was right there.

“What did I tell you?  We are GOING to Have a Good Day!  And here you are being Difficult!!  ARE YOU SERIOUS?”

I laid there wondering where she was and what this child did to deserve this wraith.  What time is it?  Where are we?  What is going on?  What is it that happens to some people that have children?  The ones that become overbearing and borderline abusive to their kids.  Lady, its 6:30 in the morning and no doubt you have driven the Great American Road Trip, feeding your kid sugar, getting them to bed late and then awakening them at 6:00 am to “get a good start”.  So give us all a break!

“Your FACE will STOP being RED in 5 Minutes!!  Stop Crying!!  Are you SERIOUS??”

Finally this delightful mom and family left and we were able to go back to sleep.  Emile grabbed an extra pillow to cover his ears, built a pillow wall to block out the dawn sun that was streaming in and promptly returned to peaceful slumber.  I lay awake a little longer convinced I would never get back to sleep.  But soon I awoke at 10 am.

Our hotel included breakfast and we certainly were going to take advantage of it.  As Emile ate my waffle and his, I sipped at a tea and wondered if I would ever feel rested again.    I gathered the free condiments I always do, as I reminded Emile what our Nutbar Neighbour was screaming at the crack of dawn.

So, a bit of a late start.  The sun shone and the hotel parking lot was empty.  We were the late departure.

There is a reason Montana is called big sky country – it truly feels like the world is vast and open.   It was a tremendous drive and we both enjoyed it – being able to see the scenery this time.

We debated and debated whether to swing through South Dakota to see Mount Rushmore as it would add extra hours to our trip.  Emile said “Well, I think we should go, then we can scratch it off our list”.  I am not sure what the list is that we have, but well, he knows me.  Crossing something off a list is my motivation.  Of course we headed south!

That meant a dive into Wyoming, and the instant we crossed the state lines, the highways turned pink.  And I thought Wyoming’s borders were arbitrary!  What an incredible feeling – I want to come here and buy cowboy boots and find a ranch and do cowboy things.  Wide open like Montana, but with unique pink and black rock formations.  Exploring Wyoming goes on this list we apparently have.  But probably just after returning to Paris.

We pulled into Gillette – debating the pronunciation – at 7:30 pm and could not bring ourselves to risk driving further despite our paltry 700 kms.   We were tired, hungry and road weary and needed a good night’s sleep. Surely Gillette had a room for the night.  First hotel we tried – internet, fridge, breakfast and less than $100.  We are in.

The clerk told us we were lucky that we were here tonight (double the rate) instead of next week – it’s the big Motorbike Rally in Stugis next week.  And the connections were made – no wonder there have been so many bikes on the road!

Despite my assertion that Wal-Mart is destroying North American society, we went to the Super Centre across from our hotel.  We wanted the real modern American experience you see – and Wal-Mart fit the bill.  All we needed were some “pry it from my cold dead hands” guns and cheap tacos.

We crawled into bed with the alarm set for the first time in weeks.  I have the idea of running in Wyoming because it sounds really cool.

Aaah.  Bed with a new box of Cheeze Its, some weirdo Key Lime diet soda pop and Family Feud.

August 4th, 2012 Extra-Ordinary:  Finding a hotel before dark – new, clean, friendly, and cheap with fresh baked cookies and chocolates at the front desk.

You’re immortalized, Crazy Lady!

The Daily EO: August 3rd, 2012

Greetings from Butte, Montana and the Copper King Conference Centre and Resort!

Hours driven:  16 hours
Kms travelled (door to door):  1197.2
Money spent:  $215.43

Well, we didn’t get an early start because we wanted to catch up on some sleep.  After some concern about the border crossings into the US on the Canadian long weekend, we were happy to find the delay was only about 20 minutes.   Emile – accustomed to the large bridges for border crossing in Ontario – was disappointed to find that the Peace Arch was as small as it is it.  He thought the Peace Arch referred to a glorious bridge stretching across a river (like Niagara River).

Cell Phones are now switched off and we began probably the longest period either of us has spent disconnected in over a year.  Can’t look up hotels, maps, or settle arguments without the internet.

I always find adjusting to the road signs in the US is such a problem.  In Canada, you know if the road sign says “Regina 193”, you’re going to be there in 2 hours give or take.  In the US, you see “Missoula 193”, you’ve got another 3+ hours.  It makes the next distance sign feel like you’ve accomplished very little.

We stopped in . . . um. . . some city just outside Seattle to get some groceries and bought ourselves some American Only goods.  This included Keebler Cinnabon Cookies, Triple Double Oreos (three wafers, 1 vanilla icing and 1 chocolate icing), Reduced Fat Cheeze Its (you know, we have a strict diet), and a large Mexican Beer (just for the thrill of purchasing alcohol in a grocery store).

After that, I typed e-mails into Word, and we drove across Washington, into Idaho (Emile wonders why they got that little panhandle) with plans to stop in Coeur D’Alene.  We weren’t tired in there, so decided to keep pushing on, not knowing what was awaiting us.

Arrogance again led us to believe that we’d easily find a hotel room in Montana.  We started stopped in St. Regis, and by the time we asked at the third hotel in Missoula, we thought something might be up.  I asked the girl what was going on.  She looked at me like the ignorant Canadian I am and said “It’s Friday night.  It’s Montana.   It’s summer.”   Well.  Hmmm.  Well that pulls me down a couple of pegs.   Its midnight by now, but what to do? Park with the Truckers, and snuggle in the fit?  Or keep driving.  Emilie cracked open a diet cola, and some American Only Chili Fritos and said “I’m good to go.”

We headed towards Butte, while I slept for the next stage of driving if necessary.   When we got to Butte, we asked at 3 hotels before someone said “Copper King” might have rooms.

The clerk wasn’t the most attractive man – drinking a 7-11 Super Big Gulp at 2 in the morning might give you a clue about why – but I almost leapt across the desk into his arms when he told me there was a room.

August 3rd, 2012 Extra-Ordinary:  Staying at the former “it” spot from 1985.  But who cares?  It was a clean, well-appointed, and friendly with soft flat surfaces to sleep.

Leaving Vancouver. Goodbye Grandpa.

The Daily EO: August 2nd, 2012

After 3 weeks of vacation, you tend to get lazy and lacking of sleep.  You are never in your own bed, and you pack your days with visiting and activities.  I awoke early this morning for some reason – still tired.  Kinda hungry.  The previous evening we had visited my aunt’s new condo in Burnaby with my Grandma and Grandpa.  All five of us squeezed into the Fit with canes and walkers and headed out.

It was a later evening than usual, and this led to another night without a full night of sleep.  When I awoke –urgently needing to go to the washroom – I listened to my husband’s steady breathing.  Despite wanting to get Olympic highlights, I refrained from turning on the TV and waking him up.

I needed to leave the room so he could get some of the sleep he needed to.  I pondered my options.  Too early to see my grandpa, too early to eat.  But not too early for running.  That’s a bad idea.  I don’t want to run.  I’m tired.  My ass jingles a little bit more after this vacation.

But with a lack of any other choice, I quietly and reluctantly laced my shoes and headed out.  I walked for a bit to warm up.  Well, actually that is not true – I walked for a bit because I didn’t want to start.

But start I did finally and I ran 3.6 kms this morning.  Shorter than usual, but at least I got out there.  As I rounded the last corner, my mom was standing outside drinking a coffee and smoking a cigarette.   She gave me a wave.  Two different approaches to the start of the day.

August 2nd, 2012 Extra-Ordinary:  No stopping for 3.6 km.  Yes, NO STOPPING for 3.6 kms!

The Daily EO: August 1st, 2012

I have an unreasonable fear of missing ferries.  Now for those of you landlocked people, you won’t understand what I mean – but I hate being left on the dock being inconvenienced by having to wait for the next sailing. I imagine all that I am missing out on at my destination while watching the ferry pull away.

On the BC coast, the islands and shore are well serviced with comfortable, timely and attractive ferries. You can drive or walk-on and you can even make a reservation if you must make a sailing.  However, there is a charge for this.  So, if you happen to be a cheap. . . ahem value-conscious, fastidious planner like my husband.. . . oh, I mean like me . . .making a reservation hurts a little.  And somehow having a summer sojourn all planned up, takes all the romance out of it.  It’s supposed to be spontaneous!  And in the old days you just waited on the dock for hours until you could be squeezed on – it was how it was done.

So when I used to have to catch a ferry from Vancouver, I found my speed slowly edging up on the long straight stretch to the ferry terminal.  Nobody wants to finish fourth and I feel like every car I pass means my chances for getting on the next sailing increases.  It’s a dangerous combination – panicking me coupled with high speeds.

There is something about riding a ferry through the Juan de Fuca Straight that makes you feel like you are really going somewhere.  Nevermind that you could easily drive the distance between Tsawwassen and Schwartz Bay in about 20 minutes and the ferry crossing takes almost 2 hours.  Taking the Ferry means you are escaping, getting away from it all, and have a forced 2 hours that you must take some time for yourself.  You can find a comfortable seat inside, sprawl out on the sundeck, or do as many tourists started doing 20 years ago – standing at the front of the boat shouting “I’m the king of the world”.   Watch the gulf island go by and envy those who live on those islands and taken a different path.

Before Mentos found their internet fame partnered with Diet Coke, they toiled in obscurity.  But for whatever reason, BC Ferries always carried the fruit ones in their gift shop.  It became a tradition for me to purchase – or beg a relative to purchase for me (more often the latter).

As we ate marshmallows and wieners at Mariella’s birthday party, I kept glancing at my watch, willing it to tick off the seconds a little slower.  Although I’m more mellow in my aged state, I still hate missing ferries, we HAD to make the 2:40 pm ferry.   When we finally pulled ourselves away at 2:00 pm with a ½ hour drive in front of us, my anxiety strangled my ability to make conversation.  I tried to be cool, casual, but my husband knew better than to engage me at all.  After me screaming in my head at stupid, slow Alberta drivers ahead of us, we pulled into the ferry dock at 2:31 pm and were directed onto the ship 30 seconds later.

I need to lay down.

As I enjoyed my Mentos – well, actually my Starbucks tea, traditions change sometimes – I felt the salt air tossing around my beach hairdo.  We’ve been somewhere, people.  And it was good.

August 1st, 2012 Extra-Ordinary:  A caught ferry, the whole birthday party, and a fitting end to our road trip stop in Vancouver.

Like you could have left her to catch the ferry on time!



The Daily EO: July 30th & 31st, 2012

Sorry for the delay in the EOs, it’s been difficult to get to them with the travels and activity lately! 

Part 1:

Greetings from Sechelt, British Columbia and the Smillie Ocean Front Home!

Hours Driven (door to door):  4
kms travelled:  85
Money Spent:  $138.56

Today we travelled to Sechelt on the Sunshine Coast to stay with some friends for a couple of days.  Although it is not on an island, you have to ride a 40 minute ferry to get there.  That ferry ride gives you a feeling of a true journey and that you are exceptionally isolated – it has also saved the area from overwhelming development by Vancouver commuters.

We caught the 9:40 ferry, but that required a drive through Vancouver during rush hour, but it was surprisingly easy to move to Horseshoe Bay for our journey.

We had received exceedingly detailed directions to head to the house and found to our delight the perfect lake house.  Built and obviously decorated in the 1970s, the house with our friends quickly invited us to shove off your city stress.  We spent the day on the beach despite the cooler weather, and I watched as my husband charmed yet more children.

The adults enjoyed quiet time once the kids hit bed, despite knowing an early morning would quickly be upon us.  And we were right – the kids were up trying to be quiet right in the early morning.

July 30th, 2012 Extra-Ordinary:  The full moon shone over us – clear skies promising tomrrows weather.

A Full Moon Rises


The day was perfect – not a cloud and a soft summer breeze cooling our skin.  And it showed, we were in bathing suits all day.  Well, except one of us – Emile borrowed a motorcycle and spent hours driving the roads.  I learned how to stand-up paddleboard, enjoyed lime margaritas, burned my nose, tickled little children, pulled up prawn traps and even managed to even sneak in a long 6 km run.

My friend’s two-year-old son is adorable and well-mannered.  And – Parents, listen to this one! – he pulls himself into his crib every afternoon for a nap.  Yes, that is right, he decides he is tired and then goes has a nap.  A 2 year old!

Four adults tried to figure out how to make a butterfly birthday cake using cupcakes and 2 square cakes.  It took much longer than you might think.  So did the streamers.

July 31st, 2012 Extra-Ordinary:  Neighbourly Kindness – after helping the neighbours with their prawn traps, they gave the entire haul (peeled and prepped) to us to enjoy for our dinner.  Afterall – they had ordered pizza already.

Self Portrait: Husband with Gifted Prawns


The Daily EO: July 29th, 2012

I call it the Holland Hangover in honour of my father-in-law.  That feeling that you are in the perfect place at the perfect time, and it is the place you should always be.  I sat in Yaletown (Vancouver), enjoying a high quality chai tea and a beautiful sunny day – no humidity.   People were walking to their destinations, smiling in the lovely weather – and were out and about enjoying the city.  I was with a friend I value very much and I wondered why people ever live anywhere else.

This type of moment invariable occurs while you are on vacation – which as we all know is not normal life.  It is better life – with better food, special “catch-up” get togethers, no work to concern yourself with and other hedonistic pursuits.  Sleeping in late, touring notable landmarks, and void of any annoying things like errands, deadlines and budgets.

My father-in-law has it every time he visits The Netherlands – he gets together with all of his friends and family and in the best moments wonders why he ever left.  Is the grass greener in Holland?  It’s hard to tell when you’re wearing sunglasses and sipping a perfectly chilled glass of wine.  It could just be an illusion.  Or it ould be that life is just better here.

Where does the hangover end and where do your true desires begin?

July 29th, 2012 Extra-Ordinary:  Wanting to snatch the moment like a hen on a junebug in Vancouver, BC.

The Daily EO: July 25th, 2012

So as I write this, I am eating some Hersey’s Kisses that I stole from the freezer in the common room at the retirement home.  I mean, seriously, I am stealing chocolate from seniors.  In walkers.  This is an example of the things that I do when I go home.  I eat more, I do less, I apparently steal, and I generally regress.  However, in my defense, I probably would steal chocolate from seniors while at home.

I have one of the best aps for my Android phone:  CardioTrainer.  Like many training aps available, it combines GPS, step counting, maps and my dimensions to calculate distance run and calories burned.  It’s fantastic.  It’s free.

On this trip I was determined to not regress too far.  Sure, I’ll fight with my brother, but maybe I could do alright.  I awake early each morning – thanks to time zone changes – and I have to make a decision each morning to exercise.  And I’ve done pretty good I think.

July 25th, 2012 Extra-Ordinary:  According to CardioTrainer, I’ve run 42.2 kms since we left from Huntsville.  I think that is 5% of my lifetime total.

The Daily EO: July 23rd, 2012

Greetings from Burnaby, BC at the Mulberry Retirement Residence!
Cranbrook to Burnaby.

Hours (door to door):  11
Kms driven: 864
Money spent:  $116

We departed the house at 9:00 am exactly.  We had targeted leaving between 9 and 9:30 am, but my mom doesn’t understand time ranges and therefore she amended our departure time to 9:00 am.  When she climbed into the car, she gleefully announced that we were exactly on time – 9:00 am.  Emile couldn’t let that slide – he announced back that it I keep the clock 2 minutes fast.  But, I’ll bet we actually pulled out of the driveway at 9:00 am.

The drive on Highway 3 – Crowsnest Highway – is tremendous.  There is no shortage of glorious twisting turning mountains passes bored through the mountains dotted with picturesque – and now growing – towns.

We stopped frequently on this trip – we needed to help Mom spent her Tim Hortons gift cards, and we needed smoke breaks and pee breaks.  And food breaks.

When my parents were first married, they moved to Trail BC, and often returned to Vancouver to visit family.  This meant much of the trip was spent recollecting family lore stories about the travels.   Next time you see my mom, ask her about “Never Again (subtitled “The Whipsaw” and the “Sidewinder”)”, “I’ll Shut Up Now about the Sewing Machine” and “CastleGAAAAR” – they are stories worth the time.

I told you about Christina Lake visits when we were kids – it was 3.5 hours for my mom driving a 1969 Barracuda over two mountain passes.  To keep the peace, she bribed at us always with a visit to the Castlegar Dairy Queen on the journey.  It was old, brown and decorated with Dennis the Menace cartoons and we loved the stop.  We stopped on this trip also and found to my dismay that the place – although still in the same location – had been modernized and updated.

We stopped in at Christina Lake at the house we always stayed at and found to my delight that although some updates had been made – it had been left almost totally alone.

We pushed through the Okanogan pleased to see the same fruit stands advertising local cherries and other fruit.  We timed our arrival into the Lower Mainland perfectly – little traffic and still light.

Grandpa is so pleased to see us all.

July 23rd, 2012 Extra-Ordinary:    Standing on the Christina Lake beach recalling long summer days and times gone by.  Wishing so much that things didn’t change and that youth didn’t fade.

(Photo Credit Emile)

If Only Wishing Made it So.




The Daily EO: July 13th, 2012

Greetings From Cranbrook, BC and the Levang Motor Inn!

Hours Door to Door:  15
kms travelled:  1525.3
Money Spent:  $124.56

We had a plan – we were going to sleep in, enjoy the gym at our fancy hotel, eat breakfast, then hit the road for day 3.  That all changed when Emile woke up early feeling refreshed – and with a thin wallet – and said “I think we can make it all the way today”.  It wasn’t a bad idea, we had about 1.5 days of driving left and it felt silly to stay the night 4 hours away from our destination.  So, plans changed – out of bed, in the shower, stop at McDonald’s, fuel up and head out of Winnipeg with a song in our heart.

Just a note here – for anyone who hasn’t had a McGriddle in a long time (like me) – they are as wonderfully terrible as you can remember a sandwich made with syrup pitted pancakes to be.  And the Higgins and Burke Earl Grey tea was excellent.

There are those that will tell you driving the prairies is boring, but for me, I love it.  The vast expanses, the fields of yellow and purple, the multiple tiny towns gathered on the highway’s edge and the land filled with grain elevators, silos and even small oil pumps.   I also love that as a province, Saskatchewan refuses to change their time for Daylight savings – if it is 11:00 am in January, it’s good enough to be 11:00 am in July.   They just opted out.  I didn’t know you could opt out of Daylight Savings time. – I should try it in the Spring ahead and get my extra hour of sleep.  Just like the city of Creston, BC who as a town refused to change their clocks – they are right on the timezone line, otherwise that could be problematic.

I also love that Western Canada seems to have an end to their cities.  There isn’t outskirts for even most of the major cities – suddenly its upon you and just a quickly you are through.  In Ontario, we stretch and spread beyond the city limits, and now it seems that Barrie to Niagara Falls is one unending path of human construction.

We stopped at a little bakery in Indian Head outside of Regina.  I ordered 3 “jam jam” cookies and savoured them as we continued our drive.  Actually, I didn’t savour them at all, I ate them as quickly as I could.   Emile’s Long John – and I am talking about his chocolate covered pastry – disappeared pretty quickly also.

We missed any restaurant that appealed to us in Lethbridge, so ended up at Jimmy’s Drive Thru in Bow River about 40 kms past.  Type of place that really doesn’t care about the service levels – just takes care of business.   We ate our burgers on the go as we continued our trip through Alberta.

Do you know the speed limit in Saskatchewan and much of Manitoba is 110 km/hour?  You’ve got a four lane divided highway with 5 km visibility.  I wonder if they ever have accidents there?   In BC a twisting mountain narrow 2 lane highway speed limit is 100 km/hour.  I think one of these provinces need to consider adjusting.  As Emile was passed several times by the locals, we enjoyed the reemergence of the mountain ranges, and I felt the familiarity of home.

This is where we’ll stick for some time now before carrying on to Vancouver and returning to Huntsville via the United States.   It’s not very often that you take a picture of the welcome sign for three provinces in one day – it’s nice to have a break from driving.

July 13th, 2012 Extra-Ordinary:  Photo Credit Susan – that’s right! Not Emile!

Sunset in Big Sky Country