Let boy gones be boy gones…

And the 2010 holiday season begins:

Zak is first out of the gate; off and running to Calgary on Westjet. He should be leaving Calgary for Gatwick in an hour or so. No phone call so far…

After that he arrives in London tomorrow a.m. at 6:30 and is supposed to give us a call to let us know he’s there. We’ll see…

A last glimpse of Zak as he goes through security at YEG.


Update 2!

Day 1: We’re off

Well we missed Bastille Day. Tired, grumpy, panicking and packing. No matter we will re-enact the day after when everyone had hangovers and guilt. We can do that.

Today we are off; the plan is on to Jasper and relax then on to Kamloops and relax and then on to Vancouver. Oddly enough, this the first time Leslie and I have gone to Vancouver via Jasper –other than that debacle with the broken radiator–better to say the first time we’ve done it in a leisurely manner.

Zak’s been toodling around London and I suspect playing a lot of cards. We hear something about his doings pretty much everyday on Facebook, but no pics yet. Rem is there now but I don’t know if they’ve met up.

T minus 2 hours…

We have lift-off

(to be continued)

Somewhere around Hinton, Carmen lost her bra. It’s a mystery. So we had to stop for her to redress herself. Apparently dressing isn’t something she can do in a car.

Our room in Jasper wasn’t ready so they bought us a free beer at the magic beer machine. Mmmmmmm.

Next up is some groceries, some dinner, some sauterne and some post Bastille shenanigans. Hopefully C can keep her clothes on.

Groceries ensued and Bruce hacked up a chicken while L @ C lolled. Later after Bruce queried where all the booze was, to which Leslie replied “what do you need booze for?”, Carmen piped in with the one-liner of the day: “look, AADAC, what holiday are you on?”

A walk around Pyramid Island, a cruise through town with a stop to get some cherry chocolates from the Candy Bears Liar took us home for a round of skipbo and beer.

Day Two

Up with a headache is still up

Today we eat bagels. Well Leslie doesn’t actually want bagels and Carmen won’t toast or but butter on it so in my mind it’s not actually a bagel, but today I am definitely eating a bagel. Then we are off to Kamloops. We will have to stop and take in the sights along the way otherwise well get there too early.

We shall see…

Hitting the road brought nothing but trees and rocks until Mount Robson, at which point we found tourists. After a quick walk and snoop, Carmen (who after all is slightly smaller than a 1 year old moose) took up shotgun to Bruce’s pilot and we went west. Blue River provided lunch, tacky souvenirs and bad grammar and Bruce was relegated to the back seat.

Kamloops. Leslie drove us up and down the Number 1 while she got her bearings. Eventually we arrived at the tourist booth where a lovely lady pointed out the wildlife park, train rides and music in the park. Meanwhile Les acquired rooms at the local inn and we travelled off to meet some bears.

The park is a rehabilitation place for wildlife. There were a couple of 35 year old grizzlies sucking on watermelon and salmon steaks, a few peripatetic lynx and many many more cute, fuzzy and hungry animals.

After a very very hot stroll we headed back to Kamloops proper for dinner at Frick and Frack. Six mini beers later we were ready for a nap so we went for a walk.

Kamloops, as we had discovered years ago when we broke down here, has the best riverside park. Between gorgeous warm evenings, an incredible park and free music every night in July, the evening started some of the much needed relaxation process.

Bocephus King, a blues band was on the bill and provided our annual taste of indigenous entertainment. Sprawled on the grass, we grooved and snoozed. After a loverly evening we watched the sun set over the confluence of rivers and headed on to our hotel.

Day three: Americans for breakfast

Morning started with getting up. This might seem obvious but it seemed to escape a few of my traveling companions. To them morning seems to be some sort of möbius loop of up and down with intermittent napping. Nevertheless we made the ups stick and moved on to the free breakfast. Apparently the breakfast boy was new and hadn’t anticipated the weekend rush so resources were scarce. We managed to snags toast, juice and coffee in between the complaining and bustling of other guests.

As I have often mentioned to Leslie the reason socialism is doomed to fail is that in times of scarce resources people tend to horde, lash out and generally devolve into smaller and smaller social groups until it’s everyone for himself. So at least one guy got a load of precooked, defrosted scrambled eggs…may it bring him much happiness. On the bright side, the fact that the ravening hordes just made us smile is a sign that we are starting to relax.

Today it’s off to Vancouver. We toyed with the old number 1, but in the end opted for the Cocquihalla because we would rather not face the drive into Van late in the day. So, more hours of being subjected to Leslie’s iPod (shudder) and over the mountains we go.

Arriving in Vancouver was, as Vancouver always seems to be, busy. Leslie and I switched off outs of Chilliwack and I proceeded to motor off until the traffic jam started. We moved at a crawl until we finally crossed the river. I could never live with that. Anyway we eventually turned on to Hastings Street and zipped downtown to our hotel. The Best Western Granville is Leslie place of choice when she’s in town so it was our ultimate destination.

After checking in and hauling our stuff we went in search of a CIBC so someone could reset their pin as their visa had ceased to work for unspecified reasons. Down near Yale town we found a bank and a Cactus Club for lunch. The food was, as always, delish. We all tried one of Rob’s specials and the girls opted for some sangria like booze.

We walked the rest of the way down to False Creek after stopping at Urban Fare to check out the travelator and peruse the bakery goods. We hopped the water taxi to Granville Island. Immediately. I dragged everyone down to then dock to check out the sailboats. Sigh. Next it was on to the fabric shop to fondle wool and fabric and an afternoon of shopping shops and trying on hats.

A quick ferry ride brought us up to Hornby street and we walked over to Davie to grab some sushi and later a brush for Carmen to help straighten out her hair–it was apparently curly. A nice walk to the hotel ended with some online updating, an nice French red and a quiet night. Tomorrow the girls are off to Simon Fraser for school and I am not going to buy that 32′ Bavaria… Nope, no siree…

Day 4: Solo Joe

Day 4 started, and I was alone. Les and Carm went off to the book symposium and I slept in. After a chat with my parents I walked to the White Spot and did some Eggs Benedict. A scoot over to Granville island found me touring the docks again.

Cooper boats offers some 5 day, on the water training and I might just come back later in the summer. Later I meandered back downtown in search of a haircut, some pizza and some new sandals. Eventually I found a teenburger and some sandals, but for a big city, Vancouver has a sandal shortage.

Around 5 I met up with the goils and we headed off to Sears so Carmen could get her specs repaired … Again.

Then we hit a wine bar for some tapas and snobby wine. Eventually we headed down to W Pender, caught a bus to Stanley Park and walked the seawall. One seal and a bunch of eagles later we caught the bus, then the train later we were back home for the night.

Instead of going to our rooms we opted for beer, cheesecake and spicy almonds. Then it was sleep time.


Day Five – up and up again

Zak update: he made it to Paris. Also he apparently had an adventure. If he keeps on spending cash on cabs to get out of his adventures he’s gonna be calling soon!


This morning we got up for breakie and decided on the hotel’s cafe. Not really in tune with the clientele; but at least they provided a fancy side of fruit with their 2 pieces of French bread for $12. And they helpfully cut up Carmen’s banana!

Eventually we got the truck packed up and were on the road. I think everybody is sick of moving pretty much every night. Well it’s 2 nights in Squamish (or SQ Amish) as Carmen has taken to calling it) before we move on and if we are willing to drive long, we could stay for free. By the weekend we’ll be in Prince Rupert and I think we will settle down somewhere for am longer haul.

The drive to Squamish was awesome as always and the new highway makes it much more pleasant. Too pleasant I think as it’s really not a slow scenic drive anymore. Anyway we turned off at Murrin Park and Sugarloaf was deserted so we unpacked the gear and hiked up to climb.

These are all 5.4, 5.5 gear routes and a lot of fun. I got in about 5 or 6 gear leads and Leslie and Carmen both got a chance to toprope and clean the gear. We tried one route a bunch of times before moving over and trying something a bit harder. Oddly enough the harder route suited Carmen and she zipped up it.

Afterward dirty and tired we hit the White Spot for Halibut, burgers and beer (cider for Les of course) full and content we the hostel, checked in and I wimped out for a shower. A rousing couple of games of crib and it was time for bed.

Day 6: Rock Warriors

Today started with a train at 6 am and a really really enjoying bird on our windowsill. After we actually got up we headed into to town for a quick tour and to discover to our dismay the Howe Sound Adventures is actually gone… Sigh, I really like jetsking in Howe Sound.

We then headed off to the Smoke Bluffs (right across the way from the hostel). A short hike in took unto Ferrets Folly but it was occupied by fellow hostelers. We kept going on up to Burgers and Fries. It was empty so we set up on what I thought was ‘Burgers and Fries’. Since I had no idea what was what as I had left the guide books at home, it was pretty much a crap shoot. Turns out we were climbing something else but luckily it was another 5.7.

I lead it in gear but freaked on the slab bit in the last 8 feet and bailed. I walked up and set a toprope and we tried again. Carmen practiced her gear climbing and zipped up the crack and conquered the slab bit that had stymied me. Les did it smoothly and cleanly and it was a clean sweep. We did it again a couple of more times and while I never did the slab bit on lead it was an awesome day.

Eventually we moved over to another cliff face; good thing because the YMCA kids had just shown up. Ferrets Folly provided a bit of crack and a bit of face. The crack (5.7) provided some trad practice and some layback practice. Eventually we tried a bit of the face climbing with a 5.7-5.9 smearing to build up our ego.

We packed up and headed back into town. Carmen decided to invest in her own shoes ( and some other things) and I bought a couple of biners.

Back at the hostel we showered and cooked some chicken on the BBQ. Diner followed with some wine (our last bottle of France: the sauterne), some gossiping, bragging and reminiscing. Tomorrow is up the Sunshine Coast, but frankly, I don’t want to go…

Day 7: You are my Sunshine…

The natives are restless and it’s time to move on. Actually we have a ferry reservation so I had to poke the natives into activity. We packed up an drove the windy road back to Horseshoe Bay. We arrived in plenty of time and hung out waiting for the ferry. After boarding we had a sunny, beautiful trip across Howe Sound to Langdale, just outsider of Gibsons Landing.

The sunshine greeters on the ferry said we’d have plenty of time to make the Earls Cove ferry, so we trucked into Gibsons for some touristy stuff. We parked right behind Molly’s Reach. We took the obligatory pictures and made the obligatory Bruno Gerussi references. It’s a beautiful place. I envy those guys getting to work there for so many years.

Back in the truck we moved on to Sechelt and looked for some quick food. Some sushi and pizza later we piled into the truck and realized that the helpful ferry guide had been a bit misleading; we were gonna be touch and go for the next ferry. I drove like a maniac down the twistiest, turniest roads ever at breakneck speeds. Stupid locals kept doing the speed limit…grrrr.

As we drove down the hill to the ferry dock, there was 1 car and 4 semi’s left to load; 2 semi’s made it and the rest of us were left stranded until the next ferry, 2.5 hours later. Apparently the fell in front of us had been there for 30 minutes, but a traveling amusement park got precedence and he was left behind. The guys who arrived 5 minutes after us were of course the most vocal about their bitterness: typical.

The fellow in front of us left to go back to town for the break and that left us first in line. A couple of games of Flux in the shade, some relaxing and lying around brought 5:30 and the ferry. First on and at the front of the ferry, it was a beautiful crossing. I’ll have to come back in my own boat some day.

From Saltery Bay to Powell River is a short drive. The terrain here isn’t typical lush BC coast. Apparently it doesn’t rain here very often hence the sunshine coast. Powell River wasn’t my favorite town of the trip but it was ok. We checked out the ferry to Comox and the lady laughed and told us to show up 10 minutes before departure. That gave us 1.5 hrs for dinner. Snickers Greek restaurant was slow and our waitress was new, new, new. We didn’t miss our ferry, but we were plenty nervous.

As we waited in line for the ferry, I saw the guy from in front of us, and the grumpy guy from behind all waiting to cross the strait to the island. The ferry sailed at 8:45 into the setting sun and it was peaceful, stunning and a nice way to wind down. The ferry terminal to Courtenay was a quick trip and we pulled into a Best Western, Carmen picked up some rooms and it was lala land for the night.

Day 8… Bird is the word

Morning. Shower. French toast X3 (2 dry, 1 slathered in butter & syrup). Load and go…

We gassed up in Campbell River and headed north. Pretty soon you veer away from the water and head inland: lots of trees, lots of clear cuts and one less bird. Leslie, who was driving, continued her streak of smashing into tiny flying things with my truck. We think it was a sparrow this time which gives L bonus points for tininess.

The scene of the crime

The tourist booth at Sayward.

The highway is small and windey, but in good shape and all in all not bad for driving so far. A quick stop at Sayward to pick up some brochures led us to decide to stop in Telegraph Cove. A picturesque old salmon saltery, it was well worth a visit. Carmen bought mittens (only her second pair this summer–she’s definitely got her little ‘problem’ under control… I think). We toured around, admired the old buildings on stilts and had beer and lunch. The girls opted for fresh chowders and we nibbled away beneath the bald eagles.

Leaving, Leslie remembered that reverse is also a direction, and we made it ought of the parking lot intact. We pulled out only to see a lumbering black bear just outside of town. First bear of the trip, although we had spotted several small deer. Next stop Port McNeal. Here we found no cheap trinkets and tshirts stores, sigh. We did however show Carmen her first monkey puzzle tree, and it was a beaut! And while C didn’t exactly throw poo at me, she did get a very quizzical expression on her face when she first saw it… Just saying.

There are apparently resident killer whales around here and if we had planned better we would definitely go out for a boat trip; maybe next time.

Port Hardy started with a trip out to the ferry. We need to be there at 5:30 am so we thought we’d scope it out. On the way back we stopped at Bear Cove Park and checked out the coastline. Crabs, eagles, anemones, starfish and more barnacles than a chicken has feathers, it had it all. Carmen, in a novel introduction to marine life, got spit on by a clam. Always love walking the seashore.

Into town we toured around and checked out the facilities. Then we checked in tot the Quarterdeck Inn and Marina and caught a bit of a rest. The Rogers 3G is nonexistent her but the Bell connection on my iPad is working fine–worth the hassle to sign up I guess.

Day Nine: Humpbacks off the starboard bow

The morning started early. I think C was in the shower by 4. Eventually we all started to crawl out of bed and I grabbed a quick shower cause there was time. While the girls primped and flattened, I packed the truck and generally made antsy noises.

At exactly 5:15 we pulled out and headed for the ferry. Somewhere along they way Boingy Bunny settled in for a snuggle with the Chalkbag bunny, and they are still going at it.

After being asked for our ID about fifty bazillion times we finally pulled into the ferry though a bow door that lifted vertically.

The Northern Expedition is a recent addition to the fleet. It was built in Germany late 2008 to replace the ferry that sank a few years back. It traveled from Germany via the Panama Canal in spring 2009 and was in service by May.

I’d gotten a cabin in case we wanted to rest (which Leslie is doing right now) and it was fitted out with bathroom, shower, tv and more.

The sail started out with a sunny dawn breaking though clouds in the east. The ferry hustles along as Leslie and I explored the ship. Eventually we ate breakfast at 7 and as we finished up the ship backed out and into Port Hardy’s harbour.

Another roam around the ship decided us on the aft sundeck on deck 6 as our home and we met up with Carmen and camped ourselves in the morning sun. Eventually it clouded over but it was pleasant while it lasted.

By noon we’d spotted an orca, a few far off whales and the girls saw a humpback dive right in front of them. The ship reversed course for a scheduled man-overboard drill that had a slightly comical twist to it when the rescue boat failed to start a bobbed pathetically along side. Eventually though they got it going and the dummy was saved after all.

Right after that the bridge announced humpbacks breaching about 3 miles ahead off the starboard bow. We could see the splashes with the naked eye and as we got closer, the binoculars provided an excellent show. It was mostly a big cow splashing around with her fins and her calf exuberantly breaching alongside. This went on for 5 or 10 minutes and the captain even slowed the ship to a crawl. A few more whales provides a glimpse or two, but it was primarily mother and daughter show.

When we resumed it was BBQ smokies on the sundeck and a bit of a relax.

The afternoon brought clouds and misty fog making for a very coastal experience. Eventually the mist drove us inside to a cup of hot chocolate and/or tea. After tea: nap!

While we were napping the mist turned to rain. We wandered and explored for a bit trying to decide on dinner. Eventually we hit the gift shop for some exercise in commercialism then decided the buffet’s $29 price tag was too steep. It’s only 6:29 and we’ve likely got another 4 hours.

The last four passes quietly with occasional staring out the window, solitude and meandering. We pulled into Prince Rupert at exactly 10:30 and were quickly unloaded and on our way. Separate rooms tonight as I guess we are all tired of each others company 🙂

Night night