Thursday, August 2, 2018

Road Trip, Part Three

After a week in Colorado, we were off on our next adventure--driving to Victoria.  We did this trip eight years ago (see Day Ten - Back to Wyoming and Day Eleven - Along the Oregon Trail) and some things have changed and some things have remained the same.

It is still a gorgeous drive through incredible county.  This time we cut across the tip of Colorado taking a secondary road to reach Laramie, Wyoming.  We stopped for lunch in Rawlins.  Most rest stops in Wyoming warn of rattlesnakes so we were wary as we walked through the grass to a lonely picnic table under a cottonwood tree.

You leave the rangelands of Wyoming and enter Utah through a canyon of red rocks (see photo).  Spectacular scenery.  Our destination was Best Wester Canyon Pines where we had stayed before.  We couldn't remember the restaurant where we'd had supper so googled Polygamy Ale, the beer we'd enjoyed last time.  For some reason, we didn't forget that name.  Up popped Roosters Brew Pub and off we went.  It was hot (35ºC/95ºF) but we didn't want to sit in AC so opted for the shaded patio.  We asked for Polygamy Ale but they didn't have it anymore.  Turns out it is only served at their second location in Layton, Utah.  So we opted for Patio Pilsner and it was excellent--very refreshing.

We shared an order of calamari served with Cajun remoulade and Louisiana hot sauce.  Glen had developed a love for hot sauce on this trip after he discovering Tabasco sauce on scrambled eggs were a great way to start the day.  Then, I had the Ahi Rice Bowl, billed as a Light Plate, while Glen went with Roosters Ravioli.  Both were tasty.

It was off to Oregon the next day.  We forgot about the change to Pacific time so arrived early at our hotel in Pendleton.  But first we passed through Idaho.  The first rest stop in this state tells you about the Ferrugingous Hawk.  I didn't see one on our first time in the state but did this time so I could check it off on my life-list of birds.   It wasn't the only bird I added on this trip.  I had seen Whooping Cranes as we entered Colorado although it took awhile to convince myself I had.  But, they couldn't have been anything else!  I also saw a Say's Phoebe in Mesa Verde.  The story behind this bird's name is interesting.  The nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte named it after Thomas Say who was the first scientist to see the bird near Cañon City, Colorado in 1819.  Say (who discovered 10 new bird species) is actually known as the father of American entomology (not ornithology).  Go figure.

The meridian of Idaho's Interstate 85 was awash with wild sunflowers which gave us a colourful drive and of course, we saw lots of fields of potatoes.  I thought I'd give you a bit of trivia about the Interstates we traveled.  The I-15 which leaves Sweetgrass, goes south through Montana and snakes its way to San Diego (2306 km/1433 mi), the I-90 which we took across Montana and picked up again in Washington state on the return trip, runs from Seattle to Boston (4860 km/3020 mi).  The I-25 which goes through Colorado begins in Las Cruces, New Mexico and ends in Buffalo, Wyoming.  Most interstates mark their exits by numbering them, starting at their southerly or westerly beginnings.  So an exit 5 miles from the west border of Wyoming would be #5.  Makes it easy to follow on a road map--and yes, I used paper maps!

Instead of staying in downtown Pendleton, we opted for a Best Western hotel (Pendleton Inn) on the highway.  It was a quick drive down into the valley for supper at Prodigal Son Brew Pub, Pendleton's first craft brewery.  It was a busy place enjoyed by families -- they even had a playroom with toys and books for kids while they waited for their dinner.   We drank A Beer Named Sue--anyone who is a Johnny Cash fan, has to order this.  It was called a Golden Ale made with barley and hops from the Pacific Northwest.  The food was also from local ingredients and we enjoyed sharing Red Hot chicken wings although, Pendleton Sunshine sauce made with orange habaneros sounded tempting.  The menu had lots of vegetarian options, unusual for a ranching community.  I had the largest grilled portobello mushroom (appetizer) I've ever seen.  I added Swiss cheese and sweet potato fries to make it a meal.  Glen loved his Pit Boss burger with bacon, cheddar, and roasted Jalapeños.

In 2010, we spent a day in Seattle but this time we made the push for Victoria.  Unfortunately, we made the mistake of not having lunch before hitting Seattle traffic.  Our nerves were frayed when we finally stopped at the outlet mall north of the city.  After lunch, we headed for the border.  There was a 30 minute wait but our Nexus cards came in handy as we were through in 5 minutes.  We had hoped to make the 3:00pm ferry but missed it by 10 minutes.  As is our custom, we dined at Christie's Pub once we got settled in the condo.

Victoria was a whirlwind of socializing.  Robb (Dutch friend) golfed with us at Mt Doug three times and Janny, his wife, joined us on the fourth time out but always met us for coffee after our 9 hole round. Monica (Slovenian friend) had a surprise operation so we visited her in the hospital and were thrilled everything went well.  Diane and Tony (Manchester friends) had us over for coffee and we joined them for lunch at Smugglers Cove pub one day after golf.  Tim and Ed (California friends) arrived on the cruise ship, Norwegian Pearl and joined us for supper at the The Beagle Pub.  We met Iain and Janet (Scottish friends) at the Irish Times pub and were thrilled Glen could walk downtown with no hip pain.  We drove 'up island' to the Crow and Gate pub south of Nanaimo to meet Murray (Canadian) and Yvon (Georgia, USA).  We also did a day of crabbing at Sidney.  Glen got out his bike and drove, with a picnic lunch, to Willows Beach and I walked down to meet him.  We also went to our favourite breakfast place, Shine Café.

Normally on the way back to Calgary, we stay in Salmon Arm but everything was booked so we made reservations at the Best Western in Sicamous.  We love the patio at Joe Schmuck's Roadhouse but we got there too late so had to eat inside.  We snagged a table by the open patio door so the summer heat warmed us.  Our room at the hotel was actually two rooms (3 queen size beds) sharing a bathroom so good to know if we ever travel there with family.

As we drove toward Golden the next day, the morning sun created tree shadows on the road.  Its light flashed against the side of my head and I wondered if that's what caused the ocular migraine I experienced last year.  It was like a strobe light hitting the corner of my eye.  By wearing a hat, I avoided the problem this year so we made it home without incident.  Yay!

After unpacking, we headed to our local pub (no, there are never enough pub experiences) for supper.  We'd just ordered veggie pizza to share when who walks in but Meg and Mike.  Our server didn't know we were related so she was about to tell Meg that her favourite table was taken.  Getting caught up on all their news was a great way to end our holiday!

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Road Trip, Part Two

Most people have a mental list of experiences they'd like to have before they die--the so called 'Bucket List' (things to do before you 'kick the bucket').  I didn't really have such a list but I've always wanted to see the cliff dwellings of the Anasazi.  I learned about these fascinating places while in university (many moon ago).

Back in the spring, when we discussed our visit, Geoff said he wanted to do a road trip with their new Subaru to test it out.  I suggested the cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde.  Melissa discovered they were the ones on my bucket list.  Sweet!  The park is close to Four Corners where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah meet so Glen bought into the trip as the region is famous for hantavirus and plague outbreaks.

It's about a seven hour drive to Durango, a town close to the park where we planned spending two nights.  It was great travelling through a different part of Colorado.  The highway snaked through canyons following the Arkansas River, passing the Royal Gorge where Glen visited as a child. The river, 6th longest in the US, is a tributary of the Mississippi River and flows from mountains in Colorado to Napoleon, Arkansas.  Some pronounce its name Ar-KAN-ses, while others call it Ar-ken-SAW.  Both are correct.

Near Cañon City, the river was full of hundreds of rafters.  The rapids we saw weren't scary--not like what we experienced in Costa Rica (see Whitewater Rafting)--so it might be worth trying sometime.  The scenery was spectacular.  However, we didn't stop as our destination was the town of Salida (se-LY-de and means 'exit' in Spanish) for lunch.  Due to a confusion as we exited the I-25, we arrived well after Geoff in this pretty town.  Melissa had spotted a sign for the riverwalk where she thought we could have our picnic.  She texted it was off C Street.  Who knew there were two parts to C Street and one that was nowhere near the river?  By the time we had sorted out where we had to go, they had finished their lunch and the kids were playing in the playground.  It was a wonderful place as the tall cottonwoods shaded most of the park.

We crossed the Rio Grande on our way to Durango.  This river also begins in Colorado (San Juan Mountains) and flows into the Gulf of Mexico forming most of the border between the US and Mexico.  Apparently it is great for fishing as we saw many outfitters along the highway.

Then we began to climb into the mountains and through Wolf Creek Pass.  It has a very steep grade but the Santa Fe had no problems.  Neither did Geoff's Outback except something popped at the summit which scared the heck out of them.  Turned out, the bottom blew out of a bag of chips.  We stopped at the town of Pagosa Springs (famous for its hot springs) for gas at a less than savoury station.  The bathrooms were wobbly porta-potties and the gas pumps were so old Glen had to ask how to work them.

Durango is a tourist town now but was originally the depot for the Denver and Rio Grande railway which serviced the San Juan mining district.  It was named after the town in Mexico.  We stayed at the Best Western Plus Rio Grande.  Our rooms were adjacent and near the pool so very convenient.  It was also right at the edge of downtown so we could easily walk to restaurants.

After checking in, we headed out to a restaurant one of Melissa's friends recommended.  Her mom is a local policewoman so we figured she must know.  There was a 20 minute wait at Steamworks Brewing Co.  but we felt it would be worth it.  About 5 minutes later, it became a 40 minute wait so we arrived at the right time.  The place was huge with a large elevated patio.  It was about 35ºC (95ºF) so we were glad to be seated in the AC.  They had a blackboard list of their beers and all the numbers you needed to get what you wanted (ABV, IBU, SRM).  Since I had no clue what these numbers meant, I ordered the Steam Engine Lager and it was perfect.  Glen had Colorado Kolsch and Geoff ordered Backside Stout and each was happy with their choice.  Melissa had to ask for a wine menu but they had a great selection.  The kids had lemonade and a special menu which Miles modified by adding his favourite toppings to the plain cheese pizza (and we didn't have to pay extra!).  Our food was excellent although I had to have my veggie pizza boxed as it was huge.  Our room had a fridge and we had also brought a cooler so it became lunch on Sunday.

After the kids learned that a buffet breakfast doesn't mean you must sample everything, we did the hour drive to Mesa Verde Park (created in 1906) (the video on the website gives you an idea of what we saw). We stopped first at the visitor centre to sign up for one of the cliff dwelling tours.  We had wanted to do the Palace dwelling (see photo) as it is the most famous but the only tour for all of us was at 4:00pm which was too late.  The ranger suggested the Balcony House as it was her favourite.  She warned us there was a 35 foot ladder and a narrow tunnel but she didn't think we would have issues.  I suffer from vertigo as does Melissa and she is claustrophobic but we decided to put on our 'big girl panties' and signed up.  It was $5/person so very reasonable (we didn't know but you could purchase tickets in Durango--next time).  So was the entrance fee to the park of $20/vehicle.

Balcony House is on the Chapin Loop scenic drive and the ranger suggested leaving Spruce Tree Terrace café no later than 1:00 to make our tour.  The café is about an hour's drive from the visitor centre as there are many stops along the way.  The boys signed up for the junior ranger program and had activities that gave info on the past and how different it is from today.  We all learned something.

The first stop was the Park Point Overlook (2613 m/8572 ft).  There was a short hike up to the fire lookout which gave us an overview of the park.  Due to smoke from local forest fires, we couldn't see the mountains of New Mexico.  I got a bit winded not realizing we were so high up.

Next stop, the Far View area was a self-guided walk through a mesa-top farming community (10th century or Pueblo II period).  Two rangers answered our questions and pointed out features we may have missed.  We learned about the dwelling's circular rooms called kivas.  These were usually underground and entry was by ladder through a hole in the roof.  They served as rooms for religious and social gatherings.  In the winter, they were heated.

One question on everyone's mind was where was the water?  There were no springs or rivers on the Mesa and the valleys were a long way down the cliffs.  The mesa-top people did have reservoirs but most of their water was brought up from crevices in the sandstone cliffs where rain and winter snow-water collected.  Women climbed the cliffs hauling, in clay pots, this precious commodity.

After having lunch at Spruce Tree Terrace (limited menu) and refilling our empty water bottles (yes, I actually drank plain water), we left the area that was also the trail head for several hikes, Spruce Tree House, and the Chapin Archeological Museum.  We headed into the Mesa Top loop to find the Sun Temple outlook because of its view of the Palace cliff dwellings.  When I saw the dwellings, I got a bit teary-eyed as they were all I had wanted to see and more.  We also explored the Sun Temple.

The next loop in the road, the Cliff Palace loop, took us over these cliff dwellings but we didn't stop as we had to reach the Balcony House in time for our tour.  This drive runs along the Colorado/Arizona border through a modern Pueblo Native American reservation.

Balcony House was built in the Pueblo III era (12th century) and Ranger Pete, a retired English teacher, was our guide.  He again warned about the ladders and the tunnels and I began to wonder if I had made the right decision.  He ended his talk saying if the ladders were too scary, we could retrace our steps but miss seeing the house.  That clinched it.  I was not going to miss seeing what I had always wanted to see.

You must go down to go up and we descend two long metal staircases.  It was very hot by now, 38ºC/98ºF but I had on a big hat and a long-sleeved shirt which gave me some protection from the sun.  Yes, the ladder into the house was tall but very sturdy.  I followed Melissa up and was surprised when I clambered into the cliff dwelling no worse for the wear.  The dwelling was amazing.  Out of the sun, it was cool and we saw the water that brought life to the mesa.  We crawled through a tunnel to the kiva and Ranger Pete told us about the people who lived there.  Apparently they believe a 70 year drought forced them to leave the dwellings in the 1300s.

Another ladder and set of stairs took us back to the parking lot.  Glen and I were pretty winded from our climb but proud we did it.  He was especially thrilled he could scramble through the tunnels.  That's what a new titanium hip gives you.

Miles wanted to do the tour again but we had to head back to the hotel.  First though, we stopped at the visitor centre so he and Elijah could get their junior ranger badges.  Miles had studied the Ancestral Pueblo in school and declared seeing it in person was much more meaningful.  Yay!!

On the way to Durango, Melissa confessed to feeling ill so she let the boys swim while she took a nap.  We decided to try a different place for supper and ended up at the Irish Embassy pub.  When they didn't have potato-leek soup, Melissa returned to their room to convalesce.  She didn't miss much.  Glen and I had the toughest corned beef ever.  Pretty bad when the best thing about the dish is the cabbage.

We headed back to Denver the next day stopping again in Salida for lunch.  Geoff and Melissa discovered Sweeties Sandwich Shop near the park and bought us some great eats.   I had the Parthenon which was a Greek vegetarian sandwich and Glen had Rob's Roast Beef.  I think Geoff had the Rio Grande and Melissa a Caesar salad but I can't remember what the kids ate.  After they had a quick romp in the park, we booted it for Aurora.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Road Trip, Part One

My mom loved road trips! I share her passion although I don't keep a packed suitcase in the trunk of the car for when the urge strikes.  Our favourite road trip, as those who read this blog know, is down to Aurora, Colorado to visit our grandsons (see Road Trip '16 --And Back AgainHelena, Herc, Helena, and Oh Yes, Wyoming).  This summer, I felt Mom was with us as we drove the Interstates.

The first leg of the journey is to Helena, Montana.  We stopped just before the border for lunch which turned out to be a wise move as the wait was over 30 minutes at Coutts/Sweetgrass.  As usual, we hit storms raging across Montana but this time no hail and the Santa Fe had no problems with the winds.  We always eat at Buffalo Wild Wings in Helena and enjoy Lewis & Clarke Amber Ale which is a great way to begin a holiday.

Sheridan is our next stop but this time we decided to check out a different restaurant.  Frackelton's received 5 stars so we went there.  We were ushered into the back room of a building that began life as a hardware store with the offices of "The Sagebrush Dentist", Dr. William Frackelton, upstairs.  We started our dinner with calamari and a couple of pints of Bomber Mountain Amber from the Black Tooth Brewery  The Ruby Red Trout sounded appealing so we ordered that.  Later, we discovered that it is a farm-raised trout fed a diet of either shellfish or naturally-coloured fish meal to give the flesh the redness of salmon.  Who knew?

The next day was the final push to Aurora, arriving around 3:30 in the afternoon.  It was great seeing everyone but we didn't let any grass grow under our feet as the next morning we were off fishing.  Melissa had a noon meeting so didn't join us.  First stop was getting some flies and fishing licenses at Cabela's.  While Geoff hunted for the flies he wanted, we started the license procedure.  Turns out even though the system knew us from licenses we had bought a couple of years ago, they needed our passport numbers to process the licenses.  The guys at the desk did all they could to expedite this but no government person was willing to by-pass the computer system.  However, our time there wasn't a complete waste because I bought a long sleeve shirt and Geoff got a nice fishing vest.

We had a picnic lunch at the river then Geoff fitted out the boy's rods.  Miles caught a stick on the first cast and both of them snagged their hooks on rocks.  Glen and I were busy helping them so didn't miss not being able to fish.  The deer flies were biting which became annoying.  Some young men (apparently I am the only person who uses this phrase, according to Elijah) offered me their insect repellent and referred to me as Ma'am.  I only ever hear this in the States and on this trip, I heard it several times.  I know it's because I'm old but I'm embracing this deference from 'young men'.

Finally, the flies got to us so while Geoff (who was wearing waders) did his 'fly fishing' in the river, we sat in the car.  We came home empty-handed but had not counted on fish for supper so it didn't matter.

Melissa had booked us to see the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Denver Natural and Science Museum the next day.  We arrived early so we could see our favourite dioramas.  While learning about the various ecosystems in Colorado, a volunteer alerted Melissa to an exciting viewing on the terrace.  We love the terrace as it offers the best view of the city of Denver.  But this day it was set up with telescopes focussed on the sun.  One to capture sunspots (none were found) and one to see solar flares.  The flares were amazing--I'd never seen them through a scope before and it blew me away.  Thanks to the volunteers who gave us great information.

Glen had seen the Dead Sea Scrolls when he was Elijah's age but I had never seen them.  What an amazing display!  The only problem was the place was packed so shuffling around the display case became tedious.  Also there was an awful lot of information on pottery before you reached the scrolls so my brain became saturated.  Lunch was to be at Fat Sully's Pizza but it was at 40 minute wait so Melissa suggested a nearby taco place called Machete.  Good call!  Lobster tacos?  Who knew? I had shrimp and tilapia tacos while Geoff lamented the fact they had taken tongue tacos off the menu.  I'm sure they were tasty as everything else was excellent.  We had a seasonal beer from a local brewery which had a definite grapefruit taste that paired well with the spicy tacos.   The boys played football afterwards ( see photo) and Glen was thrilled he could participate more than he'd done in the fall.

Wednesday was the Fourth of July.  A family in Geoff's neighbourhood hosts a pancake breakfast and bicycle parade.  He also provides streamers and flags so everyone can decorate their bikes. We didn't have breakfast there but did watch the kids prepare for the parade and we met them as they returned.  Each participant also received a frozen treat.  What a nice idea to celebrate the day.  Later, we brought beer and salad to Geoff's friend, Brady's house and had a barbecue pot luck which was lots of fun.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018


My mom passed away on Boxing Day so our Christmas was subdued.  My sister, Lynda, had a visitation for friends and family in Ottawa but Glen and I went to Victoria as that's where most of our friends live.  It was a brief visit as Glen had hip replacement surgery in mid-January.  Unable to travel for three months, we waited until April to join with family for a memorial in Ottawa.

Winter has been long in Calgary so we were happy to fly to a place with less snow and more green shoots.  Glen and I stayed with Lynda but Meg and Mike wanted to do touristy things downtown so booked into the Lord Elgin hotel.  Our family has memories of dining at Murray's in the Lord Elgin with Glen's folks.  My father had also stayed there when he had business trips to Ottawa.  He called it the Lord Helpless for some reason.

The hotel was named for James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin, the first Governor General of Canada.  It opened in 1941 catering to those on government or military business so didn't have the elegant ballrooms that characterized the Chateau Laurier, its competitor.  After falling into decline, the Lord Elgin was renovated in the 2000s and is now a grand dame of Ottawa hotels.  Meg and Mike had a great view of Confederation Park and the War Memorial from their room.  Mike was thrilled when he realized he could also see the province of Quebec from their window.

Sunday, April 8th, was the day of Mom's memorial.  Lynda drove Glen and me, picking up her friend, Mel along the way.  Chris, Lynda's boyfriend, drove Meg and Mike.  We were heading into Lanark County to my baby sister, Nancy's place.  I had ordered a two-seater, Adirondack bench from Home Depot which Andy, my brother-in-law, assembled.  He and Glen affixed the brass plaque we had engraved with Mom and Dad's names.   With the help of Alan, my nephew, the bench was positioned in a place overlooking Nancy's bird feeder.

It was a simple ceremony with me and my sisters saying a few words and then scattering our Mom's ashes.  There was cake, wine, and beer and lots of laughter.  Nancy sang a couple of songs and Andy read two of his poems.  It was a great send-off to a wonderful woman.

Monday, we did the touristy thing, meeting Meg and Mike at their hotel then walking around Parliament Hill before heading to the Earl of Sussex for lunch.  Glen regaled M&M with family stories that revolved around the hill.  His dad was once a busboy at the Parliamentary restaurant and his grandfather was Prime Minister Mackenzie King's chauffeur/gardener.  Meg remembered the cat colony which stood behind the Library but is no more.

We checked out the Famous Five statue commemorating the five Alberta women who fought to be declared persons and therefore able to vote in Federal elections.  Nearby was also a new statute to the War of 1812-14.  We always check out the bell that cracked during the historical fire that burned the original Parliament buildings and it was neat seeing a new addition to the Centennial Flame--Nuavut. It became a province in 1999.

As we walked down Sussex Drive (yes, the same road where the Prime Minister lives), we passed row houses that once house Le Hibou, a coffee shop where Glen and I had our first date.  We listened to Bruce Cockburn before he made it big.  The Earl of Sussex is across the street from the National Art Gallery so we stopped there for lunch.  Glen had Ashton Amber, a local beer brewed on the Jock River while Mike and I had Tankhouse Ale, from Toronto brewery, Mill Street.  Meg enjoyed London Pride from British brewer, Fullers and Lynda drank Alexander Keith's from Nova Scotia.  The food was good, too with Lynda raving about her steak and mushroom pie--the crust looked amazing.

The National Gallery was undergoing renovations but a big sign declared they were open so after having fun with the giant spider statue, we made our way to the door only to discover the gallery was closed on Monday (Meg and Mike were able to tour it later in the week).  Undeterred, we explored Major's Hill park, walking between the Rideau Canal and the Chateau Laurier.  We parted ways with Lynda so we could show Meg and Mike the inside of the chateau.  We had stayed there when Glen received his Brockhouse Medal.  As we returned to the Lord Elgin, we stopped at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to pay our respects and remember the contribution to Canadian peace that both Glen's father and mine made.

Tuesday was the day Nancy, Lynda and I sifted through all of Mom's stuff and chose pieces that were meaningful to each of us.  Memories evoked stories which we shared.  Some brought tears, others laughter.  Life is full of both.  Later, Meg arrived and sorted through things we thought she'd like.  After lunch, Chris drove M&M and Glen to Beechwood Cemetery to visit Glen's family plot.  Another moment of memories.  Lynda created a lovely salmon dinner for us all then Chris drove the 'kids' back to their hotel.

Wednesday, we were off to the newly opened Science and Technology museum.  I believe every display had a button to push or something interactive.  Glen, Lynda, Chris and I did the Crazy Kitchen before hordes of kids decided it was an in-and-out game.  It took ten minutes for their 'adult' to get them out of the kitchen so Meg and Mike could experience it.  Afterwards, we crossed the street and Meg and Mike treated us to lunch at Kelsey's.  Lynda had the tallest fish sandwich I've ever seen.

Thursday, we all drove out to Wheeler's Sugar Bush because you can't visit Eastern Ontario during the sap run and not eat pancakes and real maple syrup.  We met Andy and Nancy there.  I won't bore you with details of the museum as I've written about it before (see Ottawa Reunion).  Afterwards, we drove to Little Rahane Farm where Nancy boards her horses, Reba and Denny.  Reba was mellow after a session with the chiropractor but Denny was up for some riding action.  Andy rode around the indoor ring a couple of times (it was raining outside) and put Denny through his paces.  The horse seemed quite surprised when we clapped.  Neither Meg nor Mike had been that close to horses before and really enjoyed this new experience.

Friday, we were to meet up with my Aunt Mabel.  She just celebrated her 90th birthday in February and a day later fell and cracked her cheekbone.  It was still slightly swollen but that didn't stop her from regaling us with stories of her apartment complex.  Chris drove Meg and Mike back to their hotel while Lynda took us to Hog's Back Falls (created when the Rideau Canal was built) near Carleton University, our old stomping grounds.  The water wasn't high but the falls still put on a show.

Saturday, Lynda drove us downtown so we could meet up with Glen's third (?) cousin, Scott, his wife, Katherine and son, Elliot.  Katherine had also experienced the loss of a parent (and grandparent) last year and of course, Scott was close to Glen's cousin Lynn who died last spring.  It was good to talk of family and share experiences.  We had lunch at a great vegetarian restaurant called Pure Kitchen that was next door to where we used to eat Italian food (Sorrento's is long gone).  Their cauliflower wings are the best!  Glen has their Fantastic Bowl because he loves anything with peanut sauce and I had Radiant Ramen as I love mushrooms.  Both were excellent.

We then walked down to Lewis Street where we used to live and showed the younger generation the rather dilapidated building it has become.  Scott and Katherine's first apartment was nearby so we saw that as Glen told 'old Ottawa' stories.  Afterwards we enjoyed a beer with Meg and Mike where Murray's used to be in Lord Elgin--now an upscale lounge/restaurant called Grill 41.

Sunday, Glen and I packed up some of Mom's paintings with the idea of mailing them to Calgary but in the end, they fitted into our suitcase and didn't max out its weight.  In an old suitcase of Mom's, we stashed the rest of her stuff and pawned it off on Meg and Mike.  After lunch, my cousin Victor and his family came for a visit.  He, Colin and Valery are gamers so had a great discussion with Meg and Mike.  They are also Marvel universe people so lots of speculation on the upcoming movie, Infinity War.

We gave ourselves plenty of time to get to the airport as freezing rain pelted Ottawa.  Any flights in and out of Toronto were cancelled but luckily our Westjet plane flew in from Saskatchewan.  We had supper in the airport then boarded our flight on time.  Ice coated the windows which wasn't removed when the plane was de-iced.  It cracked and fell off as we took off which was pretty scary to witness.

Even though we were in Ottawa a short time, I feel we created great memories and relived some from the past.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

58º N Then Sailing South

A cool, misty Sunday morning tempted us to roll over and fall back to sleep in our gently rocking bed.  So glad we didn't.  We had entered Glacier Bay early, stopping to pick up National Park Service rangers.  As we finished breakfast, the rangers began broadcasting a commentary about what to expect in the park.  It was essentially a day at sea since the ship did not stop at any towns.  We spent most of the morning in our cabin either listening to the ranger or sitting on our balcony gazing at the wondrous scenery slipping past.

250 years ago, Glacier Bay was all ice and no bay.  As the glacier retreated, it gouged a deep channel between the surrounding mountains that filled with sea water.  Hanging between the peaks are the remnants of the ice field and over a dozen tidewater glaciers have fingers of ice dipping into the ocean.

In 1916, William Cooper, a plant ecologist, came to Glacier Bay and was inspired by its beauty.  He campaigned to have it preserved for future generations.  In 1925, it became a national monument and finally a national park in 1980.  It's only accessible by boat or sea plane which has helped keep it pristine.

As we headed north up the bay, we began passing bergy bits (3-16 feet high), growlers (size of a piano),  and chunks of ice.  When we reached the glacier (Grand Pacific Glacier), I must say I was not impressed.  It was black!  Still, we saw harbour seals on the ice floes and a sea otter swimming on its back.   At one point, I went inside to warm up.  Glen had turned on the TV so we could watch the ship's bow camera and hear the ranger.  There on the screen was a beautiful blue glacier (Margerie Glacier) off the port bow (see photo).  Surely the captain would turn the ship so those on the starboard side could see this icy beauty.  He did and what an amazing sight!  The ice sheet is a mile wide and 250 feet above the sea

As we stood admiring it (Glen confirmed we were at 58ºN), we heard a loud crack, then a roar as a house-sized chunk of ice slid down the glacier's face.  Wow!  We witnessed several calvings before heading west to the Lamplugh Glacier.  The ship inched into John Hopkins Inlet so we could see the John Hopkins Glacier where harbour seals give birth.  The pups are protected so cruise ships rarely enter the inlet.

We then headed south, dropping the rangers off at Bartlett Cove.  It was time to relax in the Wheelhouse Bar.  Had we been so inclined, we could have played a trivia game and won.  Something to remember next time.  The question we got that no one else did?  What is the element the symbol Na represents?  Obviously, no one remembered their high school chemistry classes.

Afterwards, we dressed for our second formal night and had a second set of photos taken.  We ate in the Bordeaux dining room and I enjoyed lobster tail while Glen had Beef Wellington.  Glen's dessert was all kinds of chocolate.

The Island Princess sailed into Ketchikan after breakfast.  We watched the docking from the promenade deck.  After all the tours had left, we disembarked on another 'decent' cup of coffee quest.  We found a small coffee shop across from the ship after doing a short walk around town.

Ketchikan has always been a fishing port even before Europeans came to the Tongass Narrows.  Its name means 'thundering wings of an eagle' in native Tlingit.  It's often called the 'first city of Alaska' as it's at the southern end of the Alaskan panhandle.  Locals refer to it as the 'Salmon Capital of the World'.  Five different species of Pacific salmon are found here: Chum, Sockeye, King, Silver, and Pink.

Another claim to fame are the 80 totem poles scattered throughout the city, supposedly the largest collection in the world.  I think the people of Duncan, BC would disagree as their city is officially designated The City of Totems and they also claim to have the largest collection in the world.

There were lots of activities to do ashore (I've never seen so many jewelry stores) but we decided to return to the ship for lunch.  We spent the afternoon doing a promenade walk then read or knit while watching the sea planes and boats come and go.  Supper was in the Bayou Café where I enjoyed Cajun catfish.

We left Alaska during the night and the next day spent a relaxing time sailing between Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia.  We did take time out to watch a Culinary demonstration done by the Executive Chef and his good friend, the Maitre D'Hotel.  We learned how to prepare three dishes while these two entertained us.  Very funny show.  Afterwards, we did a tour of the galley and watched the sous-chefs, butchers, and other staff prepare our meals.

We had a British-style pub lunch in the Bayou Café and Glen was thrilled to see steak and kidney pie on the menu.   Actually, the menu was limited to the pie, fish and chips, and bangers and mash.  I stuck with my seafood-only choice.  We heard some of 'British invasion' music before heading back to our cabin.

I spent most of the afternoon packing and organizing our clothes for the next day.  Bags are left at the cabin door before supper and disappear until you pick them up the next day.  Vietnam vets were enjoying a chat in the Wheelhouse Bar when we went down and it was interesting to hear some of their stories.  Most had been in the air force.  We'd actually chatted with one man on one of our tours so it was good to hear his story.

We headed to the Bordeaux restaurant for supper not realizing that this final meal always features Baked Alaska.  Glen had to have that!!  During our meal, the galley staff came out carrying flaming Baked Alaska desserts (perhaps fake) and we could show our appreciation for all the hard work they had done by clapping and waving our napkins.

Tipping on board no longer involves envelops stuffed with cash.  Princess Cruises adds the tips to your bill and these are divided amongst the staff.  The way you show appreciation for a job well done is either to slip some money to an individual or better still, keep track of their names and when the cruise line asks for commendations, let them know who went 'above and beyond' for you.  These remarks are used in determining promotions which benefit the individuals more.

I did a lot of hugging as we left the dining room as the staff had been so good to us as Glen made note of their names.

We were up early the final day so we could have breakfast and be in our departure lounge by 7:50 am.  While Glen showered, I witnessed the ship sailing into a dark Vancouver Harbour, the city surrounding us lit in blazing lights.  Quite an amazing sight.

After a bit of a scramble, we found our bag and with the help of a Port of Vancouver greeter, found our bus to Victoria stop.  There was quite a line waiting but the bus staffer didn't realize we all wanted on the bus.  When he began chatting to a colleague, I approached him to ask about the bus tags he had given those first in line.  Turns out we didn't need one but it did alert him to the crowd waiting to board.

The next day we bought groceries, did a laundry and didn't unpack what we weren't going to use (Glen's suit).  The next few days were spent visiting with friends as we said goodbye to everyone before heading back to Calgary.  That trip took a day longer than usual as I experience my first ocular migraine (think kaleidoscope eyes) and spent an afternoon in the hospital in Golden, BC.  Perhaps too much traveling brought it on but who knows?

See my photos here:  Glacier Bay, Ketchikan, and Heading Home.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Skagway, Alaska

The Island Princess arrived in Skagway before breakfast so we watched the comings and goings of the float planes and helicopters while lingering over coffee.  A family of river otters cavorted on the rocks near the pier of which the people disembarking were unaware.

We had a few 'chores' to do before we left to see the town.  We wanted to book another meal at the Bayou Café using our coupons as well as cancel our tour scheduled for Ketchikan.  While waiting in line, I overheard someone asking when she should line up for the afternoon train ride.  She had heard you needed to sit on the left of the train for the best views.  We had also heard this from both Lynda and our friend, Robb.  The lady at the desk suggested 15 minutes would be enough time but she was very wrong.

I asked how far it was to town and Glen felt he could make the walk if we went slowly.  This suited me as I wanted to take pictures.  Skagway is named for a beautiful, Tlingit (pronounced kling-it) mystic who turned herself into stone and caused strong winds to blow through the Taiya Inlet.  The town became the gateway to the Klondike gold rush. In 1896, George Carmack, Skookum Jim, and Dawson Charlie filled a spent Winchester rifle cartridge with gold flakes which sparked the gold rush to the Canadian Klondike.  The famous Chilkoot Pass was very rugged so William Moore and Skookum Jim scouted out an easier route, White Pass.  Moore had a homestead in Skagway where he built a wharf and sawmill as well as clearing a trail to the summit.

The Canadian government insisted each prospector carry 2000 pounds of equipment and supplies into the Yukon territory.  It didn't take locals long to build a railway up the mountain.  Michael J Heney, a railroad contractor happened to be in the Red Onion saloon (and bordello) when he met Sir Thomas Tancrede who wanted to invest in the railroad.  "Give me enough dynamite and snoose (snuff), and I'll build you a railroad to hell," Mike is reported to have told Sir Thomas.  He built the railroad in 26 months for $10 million.

So Skagway became the starting point for prospectors and the buildings in town reflect this history.  Although Glen's motive for walking into town was to get a decent cup of coffee, I wanted to check out the historic sites (one bookstore had 3 books on the north that I had read as a teenager).  After wandering Skagway (only 1000 people call the place home), we sat inside the railway station so Glen could enjoy some 'pretty' good coffee.  It began to drizzle as we returned to the ship.  The vegetation in town was much like Victoria's and later learned it rarely goes below freezing so the winds of the mystic, Skagway, mustn't be cold.

The excursion we had booked for the afternoon was a luxury train ride on the same railroad Heney built.  The White Pass & Yukon Route (WP&YR) railway, designated an International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1994, would take us up the mountain, into White Pass crossing into Canada.  We didn't need passports as we were to stay on board the train.  There were two excursions to choose from, one luxury and one not.  I decided to splurge as it was our anniversary.  So glad I did.

Glen noticed people lining up for the excursion at noon so we hustled out of our cabin and off the ship.  There are checkpoints as you disembark where someone scans your key card.  They will do so again when you return.  You will also have to pass through a security station when you come back on board much like those in airports.

At the end of the line, stood a woman with a clipboard.  She was checking tickets and told us we couldn't line up with the others.  We had to sit in special shelter and wait.  Glen was relieved as standing in line is not something he can do without pain.  They had a shuttle for us (our car was right behind the engine) but when they told us we could board, I beetled along the train hoping I'd get a seat on the lefthand side.  Two such seats were available when I boarded but I figured it would be nicer if Glen sat opposite me.  Only 14 people were in our 'luxury' cabin and we each had comfortable, leather-bound swivel seats.  It reminded me of the historic trains of the last century.  Glen was the last to board.  As he eased into his chair, he grinned and said, "Reminds me of Hell on Wheels."  This was a TV series we watch filmed in southern Alberta but about the building of the railroad across the United States.

Our car had a dedicated guide (the other cars had to share guides) who told us of the history and geology of the area.  She also served us drinks.  Yes, luxury meant Alaskan Amber beer!  We also had an assortment of canapés, raw veggies, and tea sandwiches.  We lunched while the scenery flew by.

The train first crossed Pullen Creek, a salmon river flowing next to the town.  The run was over and salmon carcasses clogged the creek as the fish die soon after spawning.  Next came the railyards and a cemetery where many Klondike characters are buried.  We climbed through a forest of Black Cottonwoods (the bark is black) before reaching an evergreen forest.  Of course, White Pass is above tree line.

Zoe, our guide, kept remarking on how clear the day was.  Despite the low-lying clouds, we could see the mountains surrounding us and at one point, saw the cruise ship dock in the distance.  She said that hasn't happened all summer.  The train didn't slow down for photos so I struggled to get some pictures of the views.  Lynda had been right in that the left side was the place to be but Zoe told us we had to switch places at the top so those on the right could also experience the views.  Places of note that  we passed were a caboose parked near Denver  Glacial trail which the railroad rents to hikers, Black Cross Rock where a 100 ton piece of granite fell on top of two prospectors, and the Chilkat Range where I was the first to spot a mountain goat (a white dot with 4 legs).  Just before reaching the summit, we passed the Steel Bridge which was the tallest cantilever bridge in the world but hasn't been used since 1969.  A mile later, we saw the actual Trail of '98 where the gold seekers dragged their pack animals (over 3000 died on this trail).

At the summit, beside an alpine lake (see above photo), we stopped and the engine switched tracks and our car became the caboose.  Glen and I changed seats, turning our chairs to face forward.  The only time we looked back was while going through the tunnels.  The train stopped at the town station and most of those on board got off to see the sights.  We remained and had a long chat with Zoe who as originally from Utah but had wanderlust so used the money she earned in the summer to travel the world.

Before supper, we relaxed in the Wheelhouse Bar and listened to some of Steve Hites's 'North to Alaska' show.

See my Skagway photos here

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Juneau, Alaska

When we booked our cruise, our travel agent, Sylvia, asked what special occasion were we celebrating.  Our 45th anniversary!  She passed this information along to Princess as apparently most cruisers plan their holiday around a special event.  Of course, the cruisers we know never need an excuse!  The day we selected to be our celebration day was the Friday of our cruise.  We thought they would sing us Happy Anniversary at dinner but it was so much more.

When we left the cabin to go to breakfast, we were greeted with balloons and a card stuck to our door wishing us Happy Anniversary.  Inside an actual anniversary card were several gift discounts.  We could reserve a table at the specialty restaurants and not pay the cover charge, we could get $50 off a spa treatment, we would receive an authenticate print from the art gallery, and yes, we could have them sing happy anniversary at supper.  Our steward, Allan, also wished us happy anniversary when he met us in the cabin way.

The sea was glassy calm so I decided it would be good to do a walk around the promenade after breakfast.  It was chilly so Glen opted to sit on comfy seats near the Wheelhouse Bar and enjoy the passing scene.  A Zumba class was working out in the bar and that music can get your heart racing even if you don't dance.  I did 3 circuits of the promenade (1 mile or 1.6 km) while photographing the Gastineau Channel which leads to Juneau, the Alaskan state capital.  When the Russians owned Alaska, Sitka was the capital but in 1906, Juneau became the seat of government.  It was named after a Quebec prospector, Joe Juneau who may have bribed the miners with drink to call the settlement after him.  It's an unusual capital in that there are no roads connecting the city to the rest of Alaska.

We missed the docking of our ship as we were slated to board a tour bus and had to meet in the Wheelhouse Bar.  I had pre-booked our excursions on line choosing ones that were wheelchair friendly assuming this would allow Glen to enjoy them.  However, one in Ketchikan, although wheelchair accessible, involved walking half a mile which Glen felt he could not do.  

Our bus guide pointed out all the points of interest to be seen in Juneau as we drove to the Allen Marine Tour dock.  The Allen family have been organizing tours since 1970 from their base in Sitka and have a fleet of over 25 whale watching boats.  The catamaran style gives the vessels stability and means they can handle the many who wish to see Alaskan wildlife.  The day was calm and not rainy (Juneau receives an average of 93 inches [236 cm of rain] a year).  This was unusual weather and meant we saw sights normally shrouded in cloud.

A naturalist on board explained the types of creatures we'd see and also pointed out some of the geological features we passed.  Due to the fact wildlife is indeed wild, we had no guarantee of seeing anything.  But Mother Nature didn't disappoint.  The animals of Favourite Channel which the boat plied were so used to the sight-seeing boats, they didn't hide from view.  Our first sighting was a herd of Harbour Seals laying on a stony beach waiting for the tide.  Unlike sea lions, seals don't have large flippers that allow for land-travel so they hug the coastline using the tide to lift them gently onto and off of the rocky shores.  

When the captain used the hackneyed phrase, There she blows!, the excitement in the boat was palatable.  We craned our necks watching the humpback whales break the sea's surface.  They are amazing creatures and one decided to show off.  I lost count of the number of times it dove so its tail could be photographed.  Glen and I were inside the cabin as standing on deck would have been difficult for Glen but I was still able to capture this exciting moment.  Humpbacks are in Alaska to feed.  They are baleen whales who filter fish and krill (shrimp-like crustaceans) through comb-like plates of baleen (the whalebone used in old-fashioned corsets).  At this time in September, some had already left for the warmer waters, most mating and bearing their young in Hawaii (see my posts, Hanakaoo Cemetery and Pontoon Boat Snorkeling).

Not to be outdone by the performing whale, some Steeler Sea Lions came to check out our boat, their characteristic noses pointing in the air (one way to tell them apart from seals).  These creatures are threatened as overfishing of pollock has led to their decline so we were happy to witness a few of the animals cavorting around us.

Due to the great weather, the captain took us further north along the channel to another place where whales loved.  On the way, we saw some Dall's Porpoises breaking the surface.  I realized this was the 'fish' I had seen in the wake of the Island Princess as I waited for Glen to get his lunch.  It looked liked a black and white torpedo and just as fast, I imagine.  They cannot survive in captivity so seeing them in the wild is amazing.

The naturalist spotted a bald eagle but it was too faraway for me to see despite the complementary binoculars the tour company provided.  They also had a galley that served a task lunch although we had had ours on the ship before leaving.

Our tour was actually two groups in one, the first only did whale watching while our group was off to see the Mendenhall Glacier.  It wasn't a long bus drive to the glacier and it was good to get out and stretch our legs.  We opted out of the hike to Nugget Falls for obvious reasons but did a short walk to where we could see the glacier and its surrounding mountains.

The glacier is named after Thomas Mendenhall a superintendent of the US Coast and Geodetic Survey.  He was an advocate of the metric system and was responsible for defining the exact border between Alaska and Canada.

The glacier is typical of the glaciers we see in the mountains near Calgary so it wasn't as thrilling to us as it was to the tourists who enjoyed the view with us.  There was a lovely visitor centre where we could get warm, listen to a ranger talk about glacier movement, and watch a movie.  The Mendenhall Glacier began receding in the 1700s and is used as an example of how climate change affects its retreat.

See my Juneau photos here.