Our summer vacation: A Trip North

On Sunday, June 26 I drove Kayla to Britton Creek and dropped her with Grandma, Grandpa, and Jessica as Kayla was going on an extra trip to the Rockies with Grandma, Grandpa, and Rebecca. Through the next few days I variously saw Kayla climbing to Lake Agnes with the Tea House, at the Jasper Tramway, and at the Columbia Icefields; all due to being able to track her with the iPhone feature “Where’s My” (family).

On Thursday, June 30 at about 9:40 in the morning Spot, Melissa, Susan, and I left towing our trailer. We drove traditionally to Hope where we then took highway 1 and ended up passing through Lytton and ultimately stayed in 112 Mile House at the BIG Country RV Park (an old KOA). The campground was nice, quite small, but had very few people in it, which was fine with Spot who can be rather anxious when things get crowded. That evening Melissa, Spot, and I took a path through a small back exit from the fence around the campground on the path marked “To the Top” and we climbed a beautiful meadow to the top of a rolling hill. As we reached the top near a few evergreens the sun was setting and we had a gorgeous view of the surrounding countryside. We could even catch a glimpse of Lac La Hache (the actual lake) which was a few kilometres further down the highway from where we were staying. Spot had over-the-top fun after we took his leash off and he sprinted around through the long grass in the meadow as we climbed the hill. I think he likes to get the pollen up his nose as it is almost joy in his behaviour when he starts to sneeze, and seems to purposely push his nose through the grass. Not enjoying the pollen so much was Melissa, whose allergies were bothered quite a bit, was really bothered. She loved the hike and views, but her allergies were terrible.

Friday morning, July 1, Canada Day, we all took a shower as the camp facilities were quite nice, packed up, then all (Susan, Melissa, Spot, and I) took a hike up the hill again before getting on to the road. Our target for the day was to get to Prince George where we would be staying at the Northern Experience RV resort. We arrived mid-afternoon. Melissa’s allergies were so bad that she took a COVID test to make sure that she didn’t have COVID. Thankfully she tested negative. Although we had a booking for having the site with the most room, it was still pretty tight between us and our neighbours and Spot got pretty anxious due to having neighbours so close making room. We took him out for an off-leash walk at an off-leash park in Prince George, but he was so high-strung that he almost lunged at a jogger in the park. The leash was on from then on. We got gas at the cheapest station in town and then went back to the trailer to settle in for the night.

Saturday after packing up as we left Prince George we saw a road sign that the Alaska Highway was closed just after Liard River Hot Springs. Since our plan to be in Liard River Hot Springs was still 3 days later, we commented that undoubtedly the highway would be open by that time so we continued our drive north to Dawson Creek, the target for the day. It was also in Dawson Creek that we were planning to pick up Kayla from her Grandma and Grandpa (and Rebecca) as they would be in Dawson Creek after driving up through Grande Prairie after visiting Banff and Jasper. The campsite that we had reservations for, Mile 0 Campground, was a good one. We had a 30amp with water spot reserved, but when we saw it, it was very close to the neighbours (a jammed-in spot). We had seen that there were some other spots available near the highway that weren’t as crowded so we went back to the office and changed to a spot by the highway, which had only 15amp power and water. The fellow working in the office mentioned that the Alaska Highway was closed a bit north of Liard River Hot Springs. He had seen some pictures of the highway being washed out, and it was a bad washout, more like had happened the fall earlier in the Fraser Valley, and the guy was saying it might be months before the highway opened again. Oh no! Some further discussion and planning would need to occur. As Spot had been so anxious, we arranged that rather than having grandma, grandpa, Rebecca, and Kayla come over to the campsite to reacquaint with Kayla, and Spot possibly going “off the rails” and risking us getting kicked out of the campground for having a dog causing a disturbance we arranged to meet them in a park. Spot’s training this evening worked well (although the park was a quiet one) as he did recognize Kayla from a distance, but Susan was able to keep him well controlled. We met up, chatted, and had Kayla join us.

I have to say, not all could be considered hunky dory with Kayla joining us. Kayla said she was feeling sick, and was actually suspecting it might be COVID. She was dressed heavier than usual for the meeting in the park to keep warm. Although we had the one COVID test kit with 4 tests still in it with us, we didn’t immediately test that night. To safeguard a bit, rather than the usual Kayla and Melissa sleeping right next to each other in their tent-trailer bed, we had them sleep head to foot so that they weren’t breathing air close to each other. Thank goodness for that as Kayla did a test in the morning and got a positive result (she had COVID). I hoped this completed the standard superstition of bad things coming in threes (allergies for Melissa being so bad we had a slight concern she had COVID, the Alaskan Highway closing causing us to change our plans, Kayla getting COVID).

We called Grandma and Grandpa and let them know Kayla had COVID and hoped that they wouldn’t get it as well, and then we were off AGAIN to Prince George. The idea of course was that instead of taking the Alaska Highway north from Dawson Creek, we would go again down to Prince George, then west on highway 16, then north on highway 37 (which basically was how our trip back home was planned). Due to our drive from Prince George to Dawson Creek and then our drive from Dawson Creek BACK TO Prince George using up two days, we knew we had to put in an extra 2 hours a day of driving if we wanted to catch up to our original plan of being in Whitehorse Yukon on Wednesday, July 6. Travelling in a car (for long hours) with a person you know has COVID throws a bit of a wrench into the usual comfortable travel. We travelled with all windows wide open, the sunroof wide open, and EVERYONE wearing a mask (N-95 or something equivalently good). As we passed through Prince George I saw a Shoppers Drug Mart just on the side of the highway and so stopped there to get another COVID test kit. The pharmacists were very nice, but I could tell they really wanted to minimize their interaction with me since when I mentioned having my daughter in the car with a suspected case of COVID, they basically threw me a test kit and didn’t want any medical card or any paperwork and did seem to want to have me leave the store as fast as possible (so I did).

With the idea that if we were to catch up we had to drive a few extra hours per day, we didn’t stop in Prince George we instead pushed on to hopefully get in a few more hours. As we neared Vanderhoof BANG THUMP Thump thump thump thump…..
We pulled over to the side of the road and found we had a flat tire on the trailer.
Since our SUV is only a year old, we knew it was covered with roadside assistance but we knew the trailer wouldn’t be on that plan. We also have roadside assistance through our credit card, so I called them. However, they too said that changing a flat on a trailer wasn’t covered. Grandma and Grandpa called just to see how Kayla was doing, and so when I mentioned we were on the side of the road with a flat, they asked if they could somehow help, but we said no we would figure it out. In case we had to fully do it ourselves grandpa gave a point-by-point run-through on how to change a flat on a trailer. We called various tow companies directly since our various roadside assistance plans didn’t amount to much. There was only one (we talked to a few) that did personal vehicles, and they would be about 90 minutes before they could help. So we got cracking and did it ourselves in a little under an hour. Near the late stages of changing the tire, one of the guys we had called who only did commercial vehicles stopped as he happened to drive by in his massive tow truck, but he saw we were far along in getting it changed, so we thanked him and he went on his way. I also have to admit we did have a few other nice people stop and ask if we needed help, but we managed fine just with our own equipment.

We got going again and as we passed through Vanderhoof we picked up dinner at A&W and drove on to Beaumont Provincial Park and got a spot. We ate dinner first before setting up.

This park is very nice, and we may stay there on the way back. We talked to Glen’s parents to let them know we had successfully made it to the park. Glen’s dad suggested that we get two new tires as if one had blown, it is likely the other would too. Rather than have Kayla and Melissa sleep somewhat near each other in the same bed, we had Melissa move to our end giving Kayla the whole other end to herself. Spot stayed in his crate somewhat near Kayla (hopefully being immune to COVID).

The next morning when it turned 8:00am I started calling various tire shops in the upcoming towns we would pass through to see who would have a couple of trailer tires that fit and could put them on without being too expensive in setting us back in time. The first tire shop we’d pass by, Kal Tire in Burns Lake, didn’t have our tires. The second, Kal Tire in Houston, did have 4 tires our size in stock, but said it would need to be in the afternoon as their morning was fully booked. I said I’d try Smithers (the biggest of the three towns) to see if they could be any faster. I called Smithers and they too had our tires, but were uncertain as to when they could do them. Since Houston had been so helpful I called them back and said we’d be in. We pulled into the Kal Tire in Houston a few minutes before 1:00 in the afternoon and they said they’d try to be done in an hour. So we had lunch, walked around a bit, did a bit of grocery shopping, and true to their word they called within an hour saying it was done. We went back and picked up the trailer with the two new tires on, and had the original spare (which had been protected under a cover for the last 10 years) also put on a rim and on the spare location, paid, and got on the road. 50 kilometres down the road we stopped in at Smithers Kal Tire to have them do the after-use torque and continued on our way. A few hours later we left Highway 16 and started North on Highway 37 where we lost cell service for a few days. We pulled in quite late in the afternoon to Meziadin Lake Provincial Park. Having luck on our side for once we managed to snag the last spot that was protected from being right next to others (which would cause Spot anxiety), and we set up our trailer just before it started to downpour. Of the approximately 50 sites in the park, not only did we get the last site that was quite private, but it was actually the third to last to go in the whole park, and those last 2 went in the minutes following.

But I wouldn’t call it only good luck that we had. After we had dinner, Kayla went out to go to the campground’s closest bathroom which was maybe about 100 feet away. We hear she was only about halfway there when people started to tell her to go back as there was a grizzly bear in the campsite about where the bathroom she was heading to was. She came back quick. Maybe 10 minutes later Melissa went out to get something out of the truck, and the warden came up our driveway and told her there was a grizzly not too far away so to make sure to stay in. The rain was pouring down, so we were about to watch a downloaded Disney+ Marvel movie we had on our iPad, but thankfully the rain let up. Peeking out, the grizzly thankfully seemed to have moved off so we all were able to get to the washroom before going to bed again on our opposite ends of the trailer.

The biggest loss by our going this was was that we had had a reservation and plan to stay at Liard River Hot Springs. It was painful to hear from the campground gossip that the warden there confirmed that the Alaska Highway had been able to reopen again by using an old section of the Alaska Highway. So we COULD have made it without incident if we had just continued north from Dawson Creek. Not only we would have skipped the long days of driving, but we would have had the day at Liard River Hot Springs. Oh well, we were on our way.

We left Meziadin lake Provincial Park in the morning and drove north to Ta Chila Provincial Park (Boya Lake), where we too had a reservation and plan to stay when we eventually head back home. At this park, we got maybe the last single site (the double group site was still open). Thankfully the people in the trailer nearest us stayed in almost the whole time we were there and so bothered Spot next to nothing. Why? Mosquitoes! The mosquitoes at this lake were just terrible! The lake itself was gorgeously beautiful. Being the warmest lake in the north, both girls even went for a short swim. But admittedly the thing that will stick out the most about this park was the terrible mosquitoes. We took a 1km walk in the evening around part of the lake, and poor Spot was just in a cloud of mosquitoes as we rushed along. Believe me, we all slept under our sheets that night. Spot in his crate just couldn’t settle down as we knew mosquitoes were bothering him (as they were us), so for just this one night we let him out and he stay up with Kayla on her bed.

In the morning we packed up as fast as possible to get away from the mosquitoes and continued north. A few tens of kilometres before the junction that would put us on to the Alaska Highway (while still on highway 37), just after we entered the Yukon, we took a corner and CRASH BANG SCRAPE Scrape scrape… Oh no! Could this be another flat tire? We again pulled off to the side and got out to see what was wrong. Oh no! The propane tank had come loose from the trailer and fallen onto the road and was being pulled along by the hose that sends the propane into the trailer, the bottom of the tank was a bit mangled. Clearly, the bolts and nuts that keep the tank attached to the trailer had come loose letting the tank fall off the trailer onto the road. The tank itself thankfully still seemed to have integrity, and when I checked, the fridge was still being run by propane and so the first impression was that the propane lines into the trailer itself seemed OK. So I bolted one bolt (the only one I could) back to the trailer, stretched a couple of bungee cords around the tank holding it to the trailer, and got going. When we reached the junction at the Alaska Highway, we didn’t immediately head West to Whitehorse but instead headed East so that we could go to Watson Lake, which was only a few 10s of kilometres down the Alaska Highway from the Junction. We spent a good hour searching for Glen’s parents’ sign they had put up almost 30 years ago but never found it. My suspicion is that it is probably still there, but with changes (they do have 100,000 signs up now), the right area just couldn’t be found. We did stick up our own sign, and hopefully being wise, took a picture from WAY back to give more global context of where our sign is if we are lucky enough to be looking for it in 30 years.

After using the visitor centre bathrooms, we got on the road this time heading in the “proper” direction (West) and a few hundred kilometres later got to our destination (catching up), the Caribou RV Park just outside Whitehorse Yukon. Originally we had planned to do some things around Whitehorse on the day we arrived, but due to the long driving hours, we set ourselves up and just mostly spent the remainder of the day in camp. Susan, Melissa, and I drove into town (after 9:00) in the evening and went to Walmart (closing at 10:00) and got some groceries as well as more mosquito gear (such as screen jackets that are sort of like spacesuits).

The next day we got up, showered (nice to be in a nice commercial campground), and I drove into town by myself for the morning to deal with the propane tank. I found Home Hardware to have a good selection and did have tanks for sale that have a gauge on them (something I wanted since it’s hard to “pick up” the tank to easily check how much propane is left when the tank is bolted to the trailer). I also picked up a couple of locking bolts to use to “lock” the tank to the trailer. I then went over to Integra Tires, a gas station with the best reputation for getting propane refills to get the tank filled. Back at the campsite I put the new tank on the trailer (the old one had worked fine believe it or not but I definitely didn’t want to stay with it long-term) and took the old tank to the propane tank recycling box that Caribou RV had (mostly for small tanks, but they said they’d deal with the big one I had that was mostly still filled with propane). In the afternoon we all drove downtown and Susan, Melissa, and Kayla went for a tour of the S.S. Klondike, a paddle wheeler that used to go up and down the Yukon River. During this time, Glen and Spot took a circuitous walk along around and alongside the river for a total of about 6km.

After a couple of hours, we again hooked up and drove to a part of the loop that Glen and Spot had walked, and we all walked together and viewed the fish hatchery as well as a dam that was in Whitehorse (the fish hatchery generally is open to the public but this year is not).

After dinner, we took a drive over to see Miles Canyon and went for a bit of a hike. There is a suspension bridge over the river here that allows visitors to get on to trails on the far side. Miles Canyon is a narrow gorge with rapids that the sternwheelers one hundred years ago had difficulty navigating, with only the strongest of the boats making it through.

The next day we got a very late start (but it doesn’t matter too much since the sun sets at 11:30pm) and we drove to Kluane National Park. We stopped in at the local Kluane Airport to see if we could go flightseeing and see the glaciers, but there were no seats available so we instead went to the visitor centre where we got a hike recommendation and hiked an 11km round-trip great view hike called Sheep Creek hike. The end of the hike has you out on a narrow but high trail similar to how Angel’s Landing hike in Zion National Park is. We saw a bit of the Kaskawulsh Glacier as we did the hike. It was about 7:00pm when we got back to our car after the hike, so we then stopped for just a moment at Kluane Lake to take a look, but knowing that the closest food we could buy was about 70km away in Haines Junction, and those businesses were closing at 9:00pm we got going. We did buy a meal from the pub in Haines Junction (the last order taken since the bikers right behind us had their order turned down due to it being too late), and then ate dinner in a little town square next to the pub. A few hours later, just as we were passing by Whitehorse on the way to our campground a red car passed us and we got the first windshield rock chip. Somehow it strikes me that going north you’re bound to get rock chips in your windshield.

The next day we drove down to Carcross, had some ice cream, and toured around like tourists. Rainbow Lake which we saw just outside Carcross was a lake that I remembered from my trip in 1994 has at times been on my list of personally seen wonders of the world and did live up to the memory I had of it. The general store owner said that although business was better than it was in the summer of 2020 and 2021, it was still pretty bad since the White Pass & Yukon Railway railroad which traditionally brings in hundreds of cruise ship passengers a day from Skagway had not been able to work out a reasonable way to briefly have hundreds of people cross the borders, so they hadn’t been bringing anybody in.

On the way back we stopped at Carcross Desert, the smallest desert in the world. On getting back to our campsite in the afternoon I went and chatted with the owner for tips on where to stay when we went to Dawson City. He pointed out that the highway was closed due to forest fires. That threw a wrench into our plans. What to do???

We hmmed and hawed over dinner and decided probably our best bet was to stay based in Whitehorse and tour more things with that as our base rather than heading back immediately. We checked if we could stay in the commercial Caribou RV Park, but there were no acceptable sites available for the next few nights that had water and power. Knowing we were just a few kilometres down the highway from the government campground Wolf Creek, Susan and I took a drive down in the evening to see if we could probably get in there. There wasn’t much available but it being Saturday night, we were reasonably comfortable that a few people would be checking out the next day as they would need to go home and be ready for work on Monday.

The next morning after all taking showers we checked out early and drove the few k down the road to Wolf Creek to hopefully find an acceptable site. We drove slowly around the campsite, about a third of the way around we saw a lady who was preparing her trailer for pull-out, and so after confirming it was OK with her we dropped Susan off to hold the site while the rest of us continued around to see if we could find a better spot. About halfway around we saw a great site that was already taken for hold by somebody on this day (they just had a water bottle on a chair holding the spot). About 90% of the main road around we hadn’t found anything better, and let Kayla out to walk across the campsite on a minor road while Melissa and I continued around the loop. Melissa and I didn’t find anything, but as we looped around the second time Kayla was excitedly waving us to go on the minor road, and the warden happened to come out and suggested that if we wanted a spot the one Kayla was excited about was probably the best we would get. We pulled into the minor road and were happy to see the site was a great one. We called Susan and told her to abandon holding the first site we had found. Our new site was very close to washrooms, reasonably close to water, was of reasonable size for our trailer, and had a second-level area that was huge and was bordered on one side by Wolf Creek, a fast-moving creek. Perfect as it would give Spot a place where it would be hard for him to see others, and the creek sound would drown out the noise from anyone. We took it!

After checking in Kayla, Melissa, and Glen drove into Whitehorse and went to the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre where we all learned about how the Bering Straight between Alaska and Russia had about 15,000 years ago been frozen over and how the Yukon developed due to migrations from Asia. After a good time there, we went over to the Yukon Transportation Museum and learned about things such as the building of the Alaska Highway.

The next day we drove North about as far as we could before the road closed due to Forest Fires and visited Carmacks and saw the Five Finger Rapids, rapids that were a challenge for early travellers along the river. Along the way, we got some MASSIVE cinnamon buns from the world-famous Braeburn Lodge. For the next day, we booked ourselves on a flightseeing tour back in Kluane. To get there on time for our flight at 9:00am, we got on the road at 5:45am. As we drove out we had an inkling things might not go well due to it raining and blowing wind. We were proven right when we arrived at about 8:50am and sadly were told that due to weather, they wouldn’t be able to fly. They said if we could stick around in Kluane for a few hours we could do that as maybe as the day progressed the weather would clear. So we drove to Burwash Landing and went to the museum (actually Glen and Spot walked around outside while the girls all went inside). A few hours later we checked in with the airport, but they were still stuck due to the weather so we again returned to Whitehorse empty-handed without a flightseeing tour under our belt. On the way back, we took a bit of a detour down highway 3 before heading back to Whitehorse to see Kathleen Lake. Admittedly, the viewpoint was a pretty weak one and if we’d known it would be so far for a view of the lake we probably wouldn’t have bothered. That night Melissa and Glen went for a hike on a trail out of the Wolf Creek campsite. The view was pleasant, but nothing to write home about. Maybe best described as a very short Grouse Grind as there were lots of stairs.

The next day; Wednesday, July 13; Melissa, Kayla, and Glen all went into town and went to MacLeod Museum, the Whitehorse Museum about the history of the area. Since Wolf Creek had been a government campsite without services (no water), we spent some time looking around Whitehorse for a park that could fill a 5-gallon jug of water but never found one. Glen eventually made acquaintances with a fellow who worked for the city and was at a city depot who was able to fill our jug out of the sink in the city building. We also picked up some more mosquito supplies since we knew we would likely run into more before the trip was over. Susan went into town for a bit of grocery shopping, and also an order for our dinner from Klondike Salmon and Rib, which gave us a dinner of ribs and big game meat such as Elk. One of the favourites that everyone could agree on was the stroganoff. After dinner, we went for a hike on a trail out of the campsite that gave us a gorgeous view of the river.

The next day, Thursday (July 14) had us pack up and say goodbye to Whitehorse and drive East to Watson Lake Government Campground. Although we had originally planned to “return” home by taking Highway 37 down since we had come up that way we decided we should go back via the Alaska Highway. Watson Lake Campground was pleasant enough, EXCEPT FOR THE MOSQUITOES! The mosquitoes were absolutely horrible! Susan, Glen, and Melissa did go for a short hike down near the lake. We started the hike with Spot, but after 100 feet or so we sent him back to be in the trailer with Kayla since the mosquitoes were so bad.

Friday morning saw us happy to be back on the road to blow out all the mosquitoes from the vehicle. This day saw us re-enter BC (well, skipping like a rock on a pond as we bounced between BC and the Yukon over a 100km stint). We also were forced to stop at the other 100 (possibly exaggerating – but not much) locations where road work was on to reopen the Alaska Highway proper where it had washed out. To get around the washout there was a detour that took all travellers onto an old road sort of like a logging road, that we had heard rumour was actually part of the original Alaska Highway when it was built in 1942. Humorously at the stop lights at this detour as we waited for the pilot car, there was a grouse that seemed like it was part of the work crew. This grouse came out from the side by the construction stoplights when we stopped and set himself down in the middle of the road just like a flag person. He stayed there (maybe sleeping) until the pilot car showed up a few minutes later, at which time he woke up and walked back to the side of the road as if to let us through. On this section of road, we also pulled off for a quick look at Whirlpool Canyon, another gorgeous spot on the river that is highly turbulent. Mid-afternoon we pulled into Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park where we found a site and set ourselves up. The sign at the front booth of the park had a sign that said “Mosquitoes: Apocalyptic!”. The mosquitoes were very bad, but nowhere near as bad as they had been at Watson Lake. Kayla, Melissa, and Glen got suited up and went up and enjoyed themselves in the Hot Springs. Since Glen isn’t as keen, he didn’t stay long and soon came back to trade off with Susan to spend time with Spot. Since the mosquitoes were bad, this was another site where Spot mostly stayed in the trailer and only went out for short walks and of course to go to the bathroom.

Saturday morning we again were happy to get on the road to blow out all the mosquitoes! The views as we travelled down the Northern Rockies on this day were mesmerizing. We stopped in for lunch at the Toad River recreation site. Just as we were checking in to Triple G Hideaway Campground in Fort Nelson the rain bucketed down. The lady driving the golf court to show people which site to take (the campground is a very large one with over 130 sites, well run, and recommended), drove us down to a site without us even getting out of our vehicle to explicitly say we wanted to check-in. Strangely half an hour later the sky had cleared to beautiful clear blue with only a few wispy white clouds showing. We even got some very yummy ice cream cones from the ice cream shop.

On Sunday, Susan’s birthday, we got up and after a quick stop at the Tourist Information Centre in Fort Nelson, we headed North on highway 77 (after backtracking about 20km back up the Alaska Highway). A few hours later we entered the North West Territories. On our whole trip, we saw a lot of different wildlife such as black bears and moose and bison and foxes and eagles, but on this drive North, we saw the weirdest thing yet. A BIG bison was in the middle of a very long bridge over the Fort Nelson River. Actually, he was still there 5 hours later when we came back so we hope he eventually got himself safely off the bridge. At the entrance to the North West Territories, there is a very neat sign that looks just like it’s been digitally placed into a nature picture. There is also a rest stop with a bathroom that is the coolest ever. It’s a bathroom that has 3 feet-thick rock walls, and a door that is made out of iron probably an inch thick. Maybe it’s to protect people if they are being attacked by wildlife???? We had seen a black bear on the side of the road about 1 minute before this rest stop! After having lunch at this rest stop on the border between BC and NWT, we continued a few tens of kilometres into the territory where we shopped for souvenirs in Fort Liard, the first “major” city (ok, even village might be too grand – but you know what the population is of NWT so maybe this is considered a city). When we got back to Triple G Hideaway that afternoon we all got ice cream cones (again).

The next morning we continued to follow the Alaska Highway south but did eventually leave it to end our day in Hudson’s Hope rather than Dawson Creek. We actually rushed up to the W.A.C. Bennett Dam for the last tour of the day, where Glen, Kayla, and Melissa went on the tour while Susan and Spot did a self-guided tour. After the tour we went back down to Hudson’s Hope to decide between the various municipal campgrounds, eventually deciding on the Alvin Holland campground, known to the locals as “The Glen”. We set ourselves up and were overwhelmingly happy to be there as the geography on the Peace River was absolutely gorgeous. The rock formations and islands in the middle of the river reminded me of the Scottish Coast. While hiking down on the rocks as the sun was setting we even saw a deer come down and walk out to one of the islands, and eventually wade out and swim across the fast-moving river. Cool!

In the morning we continued driving south. We stopped in Chetwynd to buy some tools that Glen had been wishing he had, then some time at the visitor centre to use the wifi (the best wifi in almost a couple of weeks), and had lunch at the beautiful Bijoux Falls. Sadly we also got the second rock chip in our window, a bigger one, but just from a pickup driving along on the main highway! Late afternoon we checked in at Crooked River Campground on Bear Lake. Melissa and Kayla went swimming. The mosquitoes were what one would normally call bad, but nowhere near as bad as they had been at some of the earlier places (Liard River Hotsprings, Watson Lake, Boya Lake). The water was warm but not as warm as Boya Lake, bugs were around but not as badly as Boya Lake, so the girls were split on which was the better lake to swim in. The one no-question answer was that it was another gorgeous lake to swim in. Everybody had a shower, including Glen who had last had an actual shower at Caribou RV Park in Whitehorse. His excuse was that the dip in the Liard River Hotsprings was a fine bath!

We left Crooked River the next day and again headed south. We stopped in Prince George for some bigger grocery shopping, as well as spending some time at Tim Horton’s eating Timbits and Kayla with her ice coffee, mostly to use the internet to patch phones and also to pay some bills that would be upcoming (just taking a guess on some of them as to what the amount would be). As we left Prince George sadly we got our third windshield chip, this time by a passing dump truck, and honestly, I should call it more of a chip, a chip that turned immediately into a major crack! A day later as I write this it is almost fully across the windshield almost getting directly into the driver’s line of sight! The first two believably had been localized enough that they could likely just be fixed with a chip repair, but this third we’re pretty sure is not salvageable and likely will require a windshield replacement when we get back home.

We arrived at our day’s target, Forest Rose Campground in Barkerville Provincial Historical park late afternoon. We set up in our spot where we’ll be staying for a few days. After dinner, we made a campfire and roasted marshmallows.
The next day Glen and Spot drove Susan and the Girls over to the Barkerville entrance and dropped them off just a bit after 9:00 for them to spend the day at Barkerville until it closes at 6:00. Glen and Spot went into Wells (“downtown”) to see if the visitor centre was open to getting hiking recommendations, but it was to only open at 1:00pm. So they took a somewhat random trail out of the campsite which actually turned out to be a nice cross-country mountain biking trail (although lots of mosquitoes) that followed along the mountainside and eventually ended up in Wells, where they turned around and did it again (although this time modifying slightly to take a few RV trails rather than just cross-country trails to have fewer mosquitoes). It was a good 11.5km they did.

They got back early enough to drive into Wells (into Wells for the third time that day) to go to the visitor centre to (hopefully) get some recommendations for hikes for Susan and Spot when it’s Susan’s turn to look after Spot. All three girls reported having a very good time when Spot and Glen picked them up a few minutes before 6:00. We managed to have another campfire and roast a few marshmallows and then got to bed as everyone had very tired feet and legs after spending the day walking.

The next day we woke up at about 7:00 and enthusiastically got up with the girls to spend another day in Barkerville, but this time with Glen while Susan and Spot spent the day outside the park. Glen and the girls rode in a horse-pulled wagon around the town, went to entertaining shows, toured old buildings (kind of like Burnaby Village Museum), went and had their picture taken by the town’s photographer, and had chili and soup bowls for lunch, and some scrumptious pastries for a snack. For souvenirs, Kayla got herself a hair clip from the Barkerville Jewellery store while Glen got himself a belt from the general store.

That evening we went down to Williams Creek which backs Forest Rose campground and then again had a campfire, staying up a bit later to burn up all the wood we had and use up all the marshmallows and the smores targetted chocolate, we also cleaned up and packed in preparation for the following day’s long drive.

Originally we had planned to leave Barkerville and drive for a few hours to Lac La Hache where we’d spend a night. Then drive in another day from Lac La Hache to Pemberton (even though on the way up we had driven all the way from home to Lac La Hache in one long stint). And then on our final planned day, we would drive from Pemberton to home in a few hours. However, our actuality was that we drove all the way from Barkerville to home in one long day of driving. We left the Forest Rose campground in Barkerville on this day of Glen’s birthday at about 8:30 in the morning. We got gas as we pulled through Quesnel, Cache Creek, and finally Abbotsford, and eventually pulled into our driveway at home at 7:00.

The 10 worst things?

10. Getting 3 rock chips in the window, especially the crack!
9. Melissa’s allergies being so bad we suspected she might have COVID (she didn’t)
8. driving 500km round trip in one day to Kluane National Park but having to miss sightseeing
7. driving 500km round trip in one day to get to Kluane National Park with
a booked flightseeing tour, but not being able to fly because the
weather was too bad
6. Mosquitoes in a few campgrounds that were so terrible!!!!
5. On way North, washed out highway causing road closure on Alaska
Highway, making us detour and adding a 1000km to our trip
4. While in Whitehorse, about to head to Dawson City but then highway
closed and no detour so having to skip Dawson City
3. Propane tank coming loose and falling off trailer and being dragged
along highway
2. flat tire on trailer out in middle of nowhere
1. Our daughter Kayla having COVID, then a week of driving with all windows
open while wearing masks, plus 3 of us in one end of trailer while Kayla
in other, plus having to prepare Kayla’s food every meal

The 10 best things about the trip!

10. The fact we can now check “making it to the Northwest Territories” off our bucket lists
9. Seeing all the moose, caribou, elk, bears, foxes, and bison (especially the one on the bridge)
8. Smores
7. The Carcross Desert
6. The welcome to Northwest Territories sign
5. The outhouse at the border of The Northwest Territories
4. The hike to the top of Sheep Mountain
3. Barkerville (our local BC Disneyland equivalent)
2. Swimming in Boya Lake
1. More smores

Although there were many unlucky moments, the anecdote potential and fun we had made it a a long trip but wonderful time!

The first few months of 2021

When last I wrote, I was hoping to write and send out a Christmas newsletter. Sorry! For the first time in quite a few years, it never came together.

Susan had one week off while Glen and the girls had two off. In this Covid year we spent Christmas at home and just opened presents for which we were happy on Christmas morning.

We did some hiking, Glen, Melissa, and Spot making it a couple of days before Christmas up to Burnaby Mountain. We went up for lots of skiing, snowshoeing, and tubing. We also played games at home. With social distancing being the term of the year (stay away from everybody except for those you immediately live with), we did have quite successful multipoint video conferencing meetings. In the week leading up to Christmas Jimmy hosted a movie watching night where Glen’s parents, Jim’s full family (spread out in a few places), and us watched a synchronized showing of Miracle on 34th Street. The annual traditional old Toastmasters Christmas Carolling get together did happen, over remote video conferencing. The format had one benefit in that it allowed more friends who had scattered across the continent to attend. Christmas Day itself we hosted a conference with Glen’s parents and Jim’s family that had games and trivia, and eating, that had us all connected for approximately 8 hours.

Susan’s dad, who had been struggling with a few health issues the last few months sadly passed away in mid January, with a funeral held at the start of February. Although his health had been deteriorating, his passing was very quick. A short day in the hospital, family by bedside, before he passed on.

Our dog Spot continues to both be a joy and a challenge. He has continued to go weekly to outdoor obedience training, working on keeping him from barking at people. It’s a real mystery as to why he is so loving and such a pushover with us and when out he thinks he is a real big dog that likes to push others around. Outdoor obedience training though has been cancelled as of mid January for COVID reasons, with the public health officer tightening restrictions on group gatherings. When last he was clipped in the summer, we had taken him to the vet to have anesthesia and while under clipped (very short). We discovered a wonderful groomer Gloria who likes to work with troublesome dogs. Spot continues to get nervous in new spots around people he doesn’t know, and to bark and lunge (and sometimes bite at) people. With training we keep him well restrained. Gloria had us over on a weekend to spend some time with her in her backyard, and Spot was at his best(worst?), barking and biting at my leg while in Gloria’s backyard. Gloria pushed through though and with Spot wearing a muzzle was able to make a bit of a connection. So Spot a few days later went for a cut and bath, and had his overlong hair chopped off and had his best cut yet. Our wonderful dog trainer, Marilyn, suggested since the muzzle had worked well to calm him with Gloria to continue using it more on walks. It was funny that for the first few days Spot really seemed to be rebelling against wearing the muzzle, but after a week or so he settled into it and is a bit more easily controlled when around strangers, so we more often have him with a muzzle when we’re out and probably running into quite a few strangers.

A nice wrinkle in this social distancing time is that we ran into some other quite dedicated skiers who are close enough to be in our bubble that we have been skiing together the last few months. How does that work? First the skiing side. Skiing this year at all mountains, including at Mt. Seymour where we go, is that only those in the same bubble (generally same household) should ride a chairlift together. Singles MAY ride with another single, so long as they sit on opposite ends of the quad. School this year is setup in Elementary so that students in one class are setup to interact with each other, until recently even without masks in class, so basically Melissa has about 25 kids in her bubble. Over the Christmas break while skiing we happened to run into a girl named Layla who is in grade 7 and had been in Kayla’s class a couple of times due to split classes, as well as her dad. Layla has also been in a split class with Melissa before, and is again this year. So since she gets along well with both Kayla and Melissa, and Melissa is in both Kayla and Layla’s bubble, and as non bubble acquaintances Kayla and Layla are allowed to ride on the same chair so long as they sit on opposite ends of the chair, and as Melissa is in both their bubbles’ she can sit anywhere with them, for the last couple of months we have been skiing together generally on Saturday afternoon’s with Layla, Melissa, and Kayla riding on the Mystery Peak quad chair while Layla’s dad and myself ride on opposite ends of the chair as singles. We’ve been doing more than just one day a week skiing, we have quite reliably been getting up on Sunday to the mountain as well usually to go snowshoeing or sometimes skiing, and very occasionally tubing. If we go snowshoeing we usually take Spot.

This past week our immediate neighboring house was torn down, as it was recently bought by some new people. To us it will always be the Thomson’s house, as they lived their for many years after we moved into our house (after having already lived at their house since the early 1950s). After the Thomsons had moved out our good neighbour Brent then lived in the house for almost 10 years before it was recently bought with plans to tear it down to build a new house. Currently the very large lot has been fully cleared and we’re waiting to see what is built.

2020 — I guess the best title would be the year of COVID-19

I write this as we head back from the lake, Wednesday July 1. Our first visit to our cabin this year was our trip there this past Saturday, and with Monday and Tuesday off for vacation, eat day.and today of course a holiday, we just completed a pleasant half week of holidays at the lake.

Doesn’t July 1 seem like quite a late time of year for our first trip to the lake though? If you’re reading this sometime between now and the next few years you’ll probably have no problem understanding why this first trip was so late, but I suppose in some ways I’m journalizing this trip for the reader 10 or 20 years down the road. Why is our first trip so late? COVID-19. What’s that, let me tell you.

Our year (well, the world’s year) started pleasantly enough. Kayla was in grade 7, Melissa in grade 5. Our relatively new hamster, Atlas, was amusing the girls at home. Kayla was taking piano lessons, Melissa accordion lessons. We were having a great year of winter sport, the girls and Glen getting up to Mount Seymour basically every weekend for snow skiing, and often snow-shoeing and/or snow tubing. Melissa had her good friend Sylvie along one weekend (she too had a seasons pass). In February and March, Glen was thoroughly enjoying getting to go skiing twice a week, also going with Kayla’s school class on Monday’s (and he was taking days off — well worth it to get these extra days).

The last day of skiing with Kayla’s class was on Monday, March 9th, the last Monday of school before spring break was to start the following Monday (for 2 weeks). It was a very nice day of skiing at Mount Seymour. A couple of days before the three of us had spent a single day of skiing at Cypress Mountain. A gorgeous sunny day, and even spent about 20 minutes stuck on the Sky Chair when it broke down. We even spent a few minutes almost alone at the top of Mount Strachan since the chair was shutdown for about 20 minutes after they ran it long enough to get the people off who had been on it (like us).

That last week of school an item that had been in the news started to ramp up as a major item, and that was the Coronavirus. The Coronavirus was a virus that had seemed similar to H1N1 or the Avian Bird Flu from years before. When first in the news late in December 2019, the virus was getting news for starting in China (similar to the others mentioned before) and had caught like wildfire and had shutdown a a province in China called Wuhan. The Coronavirus became a bit bigger in the news when it got onto a couple of cruise ships in January and February and the cruise ships were somewhat overwhelmed with people getting sick, sort of like how the Norwalk virus the last 10 or 15 years had been in the news for infecting ships filled with passengers, except that the Coronavirus killed probably a few more people than the Norwalk had ever. Also different than the Norwalk was how a number of countries near China in January and then spreading even more in February and into March started to close down their borders. So a few particular ships were hit especially hard, such as the Diamond Princess which had an outbreak and wasn’t allowed to dock in any country, and spent weeks in the port city of Tokyo Bay.

For us, most of the news seemed relatively remote. As we headed into spring break in the second week of March, North America was starting to be more seriously hit with the Coronavirus. New York and California were particularly badly hit, sort of doing a bit of shutdown in the same way that Wuhan province had back a few months earlier. It seemed a bit of an American over-reaction when Whistler-Blackcomb shutdown late that last week of school. The BC Provincial Public Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry made a statement that although we should maybe be cautious about spending times in large groups indoors, she encouraged the province to get out and get lots of exercise, and explicitly mentioned we should go with our families out to local ski hills where the spaces were wide and we could get good exercise.

The endorsement was good for us, as we had a half week holiday planned to go to the Bulldog Inn in Silver Star. We were booked in to the one hotel that allows pets, so we were looking forward to taking Atlas our hamster. Surprisingly, Cypress Mountain, another American owned ski hill, shutdown as the school week came to a close. We had some slight apprehension about our planned holiday due to the fact that Silver Star had been bought by an American early in the season. I heard rumours that a number of companies were starting to tell employees to work from home. In some ways Glen’s company, Change Healthcare, seemed surprisingly reluctant to take that step as it would have been easy, since Glen’s department already were working from home a couple of days of the week on normal operations.

Glen and the girls went up for another gorgeous day at Mount Seymour for skiing and snowshoeing as Spring Break started. I saw Eddie Wood, the owner of Mount Seymour, and was tempted to stop him and tell him thank you for such a good year, and to not overreact like the Americans seemed to be doing. A few weeks earlier Glen had got some tips from a friend with a 10 year old daughter who had a seasons pass at Cypress Mountain for our visit to Cypress. He phoned me and got some tips for Seymour since he had been locked out of course at Cypress due to their closure.

A couple of days later mid week, news of more closures started to roll in. Since we were mostly focussed on ski hills that’s what I’ll report on. Silver Star reported closing and would maybe reopen depending on how Coronavirus unfolded in the coming weeks. Then almost every ski hill reported closing for a few weeks, including our very own Mount Seymour. I remember feeling almost indignant, didn’t people listen to the public health officer the week earlier on how we should all go skiing?!!?

I remember looking around to see if we could salvage a ski trip somehow, and gave a teeny bit of thought to going to one of the very few hills that hadn’t said they had closed, such as Mount Baldy. I checked and it seemed we could get a place. But in the following days, everything really did shutdown, and pretty well everyone everywhere, even people who wouldn’t efficiently be able to work from home were either laid off, furloughed, or for those lucky people in roles like ours who could efficiently work from home, we were told to work from home. So life changed and we spent time around home with the ocassional weekend hike.

So as the first week of spring break came to a close, and it sounded like we would be all at home for a few months (Ontario while school was still open said they closed their school for the rest of the year), and during spring break the BC Ministry of Education said that something would be worked, probably online, to close out the rest of the 2019/2020 school year. Melissa and more so Kayla returned to looking at pets, as for a few years they had wanted a dog, but we had never got one due to the fact that we wouldn’t be able to spend time around home to take a puppy out every few hours to go for a potty break. Kayla was looking at various dogs on the SPCA site, who were running a half price adoption program. A blue healer was a push for a day. After pointing out that Glen had a bit of a scar in the back of his hand due to a very strong blue healer bite, the girls started to look for something a bit smaller, and saw a cute set of triplet Cockapoos who had been born 9 weeks earlier in Williams Lake. The litter was a black female who had already been adopted, and 2 brothers, a white/brown/black pup who we initially had our eye on and a white and black little guy who didn’t seem as photogenic as his siblings (he didn’t seem to pay as much attention to the camera — or person taking the picture).

We sent a message to the lady who had the pups up for adoption, and she said the brown/black/white guy had been spoken for, but the black and white guy was available. Much discussion over the next 24 hours saw us discussing whether we should make an offer on the guy, and we decided we should. We decided we could take the 6 hour drive to Williams Lake in a day, but when we contact the lady about picking him up, she asked where we were (the lower mainland) and could we just meet in Merritt the following day (the last Saturday of the month), and we agreed.

Since long car drives can be tough on Susan’s back, just the girls and Glen drove to Merritt and fell for the little guy. Glen’s parents and Rebecca drove to Merritt for a few minutes of visiting (at a distance).

A bit of a detour to the story, up until that last paragraph I believe it was as mentioned all written on July 1. I didn’t get more time until now to continue the story until today, Sunday December 6 (yes, 6 months later!). But I’ll get on with the story (and admittedly probably speed up since there’s now even more to catch up on).

We fell in love with the little guy, and soon enough had named him Spot. The “breeders” seemed reluctant to have anything to do with his name, wanting to have his new family fully open on what he was named. But on being pressed, they in a lighthearted fashion did mention they had taken to calling him Spot due to his spots.

On the way home, we stopped in at Jim and Ellen’s to show off the little guy, so Ellen got to meet him before even Susan did. The first night he was whimpering and whining quite a bit due to being moved to a new house, and Susan stayed up quite late with him finally going to bed around midnight. Melissa got up about 4:00am for a brief bit to console him as he was whining.

Our second night also had him whimpering, but were done a little differently. Kayla kept him on her chest and slept in the living room with him on her chest for the full night. A bond was made! I’m not saying doing it was a mistake, but boy did that make an impression. Ever since, Kayla has been adored and if there’s any decision on who he goes to, it’s 100% always Kayla. Even Glen spent the next few weeks in the living room sleeping on the couch near Spot’s training cage, but Kayla is forever Spot‘s love.

Notice how we had been describing Coronavirus in this blog entry, then suddenly we have a dog? We were probably at the height of spring social distancing which means for weeks we never got near anybody (showing him to Ellen as we brought him back was probably our last outside-our-house interaction for a good month). You know what else they say about puppies, make sure they are socialized in their first 4 month. Hmm, we got Spot as he was about 2.5 months. Then it was also the standard advice, don’t let your puppy near other dogs until they’ve got their 14 week shots. Shots? We probably shot ourselves in the foot following this advice.

As Coronavirus progressed in the world and we all started to understand how social distancing would be with us for a while, and BC’s public health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry with her advice of “Few Faces and Bigger Spaces” meant that maybe some dog interaction outside might be reasonable. What we found is that our little unsocialized-before-4-months puppy was turning into a terror. We were watching dog training videos every single day on YouTube, but were finding it tougher and tougher to keep the little guy under control. Very few dog trainers were running programs where the dogs got to interact with others, which was exactly what Spot’s problem was turning out to be.

We got some recommendations from friends who had used an e-collar training method, and Marilyn the local trainer with the company seemed confident she could help. We paid the money, got 3 personalized lessons and then as much group training as we want for the life of Spot. Here we are 7 months later being able to say yes, we have a very well trained dog. He however is still a bit of a grenade around other people, and even dogs sometimes. He loves us, but can go off around others. We’ve learned from Marilyn how to recognize his tells as to when he might explode (OK, I’m exaggerating slightly, but not much). We’ve also gone to the outdoor training almost every week since, most often to group training that happens in a park near us here in or Burnaby, or in one case to a park out in Maple Ridge.

So after spring break school resumed as fully online courses. Both girls spent their school days sitting at computers, using Microsoft teams and Office 365 doing school assignments. Kindergarten and lunch play time were spent playing online games with their classmates.

Bonnie Henry, the (wonderful) chief medical officer for BC, said that we should all stay close to home, and hopefully by the end of summer things would be under control enough that as British Columbian’s we hopefully could maybe visit smaller places in BC such as our cabins. In many ways things went quite well, and for the July long weekend we did get to our cabin (as mentioned above).

Early July we tried to send Spot for his first clip, but while at the groomers his tendency to not get along well with people, and his anxiety at being away from his pack (us) caused him to raise quite a ruckus and after 45 minutes received a phone call that the groomer couldn’t deal with him and we had to come pick him up (without getting clipped). So for the first portion of summer, he was a pretty shaggy dog.

For summer holidays the girls spent their days at home, easy enough since Glen too was working from home 5 days a week. With Susan having one day off per week, they would generally get to go somewhere (usually outside) on her day off. Since trips within the province were now allowed, we booked one weeks of vacation at our cabin the final week of July that lead into the August long weekend. The holiday didn’t unroll quite as planned though… The second to last week of July Susan was taking a level 2 first-aid course (mostly for being the first aid attendant at her workplace). She finished the course by not only getting 100% on the written test, but also 100% on the practical portion, congratulations were given by her instructor who says they hadn’t seen somebody get 100% on both portions. HOWEVER, as we headed into the weekend we had planned to leave to the cabin, Susan reported that she had a sore throat. In Covid world we are in (“Covid world”, that’s what I’ve taken to calling the strange new life we all live), a sort throat means one should go get tested for Covid. So after isolating living in the basement, and eating separated from the rest of us (thankfully the weather was nice so we could all generally eat outside with Susan sitting about 10 feet away from the rest of us), Susan drove to Central Park on Saturday morning, got in a very long line-up, had a long q-tip put up her nose (which at the time was the collection method for the test for Covid). Over the next few days Susan’s sore throat went away, and 3 days later we were relieved to hear that the test reported she didn’t have Covid. Due to the possibility for both false positive and false negative testing meaning that even if a test showed negative results, it is recommended to socially isolate, we decided to make the trip and reasonably isolate at the cabin so we could be somewhere different. Over time we became more confident that Susan didn’t have Covid (she really didn’t), and had a good holiday swimming and boating and hiking. Near the end of our time on holiday (well proving Susan didn’t have Covid) we had some interaction with Glen’s parents and brother Jim’s family at Glen’s Uncle Earl’s cabin, as well as with Glen’s cousin Colin and his daughter and niece’s and aunt Laura who came out to Earl’s cabin for a long weekend of visiting (and water fun of course at the lake).

With our primary summer vacation over, we were back to work at home (with girls spending their days around home as well). Susan was in at her office a few days a week, working from home the rest of her days (and 1 day off of course, often going somewhere with the girls). Spot went for a trip to the vet to be clipped (well, shaved a better word) while under the effects of anesthetic. Kayla and Glen drove back to the cabin the weekend after the August long weekend in order to get some focussed time on cleaning it up (throwing out old stuff we had thrown into storage and no longer needed). Jim came out for the day on Saturday to help out, as he had been in Kamloops helping to prepare for Jessica moving to Kamloops to start school at TRU in the fall. It wasn’t all work, we pulled out Glen’s old drumset from storage and set it up on the deck and had a bit of fun playing it. It wasn’t to be one of the things to be donated/discarded, although it has gone back into storage.

Due to continuing social (somewhat) isolation, we got ourselves a VR headset, and the girls spent time exploring a virtual world (mostly boxing and dancing), and Glen too has had fun (mostly playing ping-pong) in this amazing new virtual world.

For the third week of August, Glen met Glen’s parents at the old toll-booth on the Coquihalla and the girls transitioned and then spent the week in Kamloops at their grandparents, seeing sites and having fun recreation.

During the week they were in Kamloops Susan and Glen rather suddenly decided it was time for a new car and bought a PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle), a black Kia Niro. Finally we have a car where with the push of the button the seat adjusts for Susan’s 5’3¾”, and the push of a separate button and it auto-adjusts to Glen’s 6’3¾” frame. We decided on a PHEV rather than a true EV because for the majority of our “car” driving, we only drive around town etc, and so the 45km range of this PHEV is no different than if we had an EV. For those people who then take one or two hundred kilometre trips as their “big” trips, an EV with their 3~500km range makes total sense. But for us, if we take a “big” trip, we not uncommonly have it being a 1000km+ trip, and the refuel time for a PHEV (gas) versus refuel time for an EV (electric), makes the PHEV the right choice. We’ve been happy with having to buy very little gas.

The fourth week of August had us joining up with the girls at the lake where we spent another week at our cabin. Jim’s family as well spent their time based out of Earl’s property. We had a very nice week at the lake, one day even taking the boat and hiking to the top of Copper Island, and another day hiking the falls at Albas. We took Spot around for more socialization, spending some time in the school yard in Celista.

September saw us returning to home, returning to work, returning to school. Melissa entered grade 6, still at Montecito Elementary School. She got a teacher who was new to the school, who seems like a good guy. The changes due to Covid in Elementary don’t seem that different than from past years. They have to wash their hands a lot more, the different classes in the school don’t all get let out at the same time for breaks nor do they start and end school at the same time, they do have to wear face coverings (“surgical masks”) when they are outside of their classroom, but inside the classroom they are allowed to take off their masks and interact with others. The concept of a bubble is big this past year, with the people in your house of course being most in your bubble, but the health recommendations puts people in your elementary school class also in your bubble (or more correctly the student’s bubble). Kayla entered High School, attending grade 8 at Burnaby North. Since high school traditionally has been 8 different courses with 8 different teachers and a good majority of different students in each different class, that doesn’t work well at all with the health recommendations because of Covid, so they are doing things significantly differently. To make it work, grade 8 and 9 this year are running by putting students into one classroom bubble, then having that classroom of student taught intensively on two different subjects with two different teachers for a very focussed two and a half months (basically one class for 2.5 hours each and every day and another class for 2.5 hours each day). Then at the end of the “term”, that classroom moves on to another 2 new classes for another 2.5 months. Doing it this way allows achievement of the recommendation of smaller/consistent bubbles, at the main cost of in a few cases some kids not getting their first choice of elective. Thankfully Kayla’s first term had her doing English and Art (her primary choice of elective), and in her second term doing French and ADST (Applied Design, Skills, and Technology — doing home-ec and woodwork/metalwork etc). Generally she says that all kids do wear masks even when in class. Thank goodness, similar to how the start of our July holidays had a wrench thrown in by Covid with slight concern that maybe Susan had it, the start of winter break is similar in that one of the students in Kayla’s class who was in her classroom early in the last week of school tested positive for Covid. Burnaby North is the biggest school in Burnaby (approximately 2000 students), and so we had been used to getting a notification letter every week or two that someone with Covid had been at Kayla’s school. As winter break started we received a notification letter one step up telling us to self-monitor Kayla for signs of Covid. Thankfully we didn’t receive the top letter which tells the person to go for Covid testing due to high suspicion of having chance to catch the virus. We’ve heightened our social distancing a bit, but thankfully so far things seem fine (we’ll be fully “out of the woods” just past Christmas).

Fall saw Kayla returning to weekly (remote via Skype) piano lessons, and Melissa returning to accordion lessons (also via Skype). With a dog we get out for a lot of walks, with sometimes going further such as a walk on the Vancouver beaches or out to Langley to visit a dog park. We’ve been happily driving around in our new car, using next to no gas. After charging nightly by simply plugging into a regular 110V outlet, we upped the ante and actually had a EV charger installed making charge times significantly less.

We were saddened in September to learn that Glen’s Uncle Earl had passed away in Southern Chile. There was some concern initially that it may have involved Covid, but further time enlightened us that it was heart problems after a surgery to repair a broken leg. I’m sure we’ll continue to call the cabin place “Uncle Earl’s”.

After 18 years of ownership, with an odometer just a bit past 300,000km, I was slightly saddened to sell our Jetta which had been bought new in 2002. We actually just sold it to a guy down the street who wanted to teach his grandkids how to drive a standard, so funnily enough we occasionally see the car drive by.

In late September Glen, Kayla, and Melissa took the new car for the weekend to Kamloops to celebrate Glen’s parents 56th wedding anniversary. Susan stayed home as she found the idea of a 3.5 hour drive one day followed by a 3.5 hour drive the next day a bit much for her back. While in Kamloops not only did we enjoy dinner out celebrating with Glen’s parents and the Kamloops based nieces, we also had a good hike around Kenna Cartwright park.

Thanksgiving saw us back at the cabin one last time for the year to shut it down. We had dinner with Glen’s parents and brother’s family over at Uncle Earl’s. There was some initial concern about going due to Covid cases starting to ramp up in (a somewhat expected) second wave, but we got the trip done without any problems before it had ramped up so significantly that recommendations were to stay really close to home.

Not only do we take Spot out for multiple daily walks, but most weekends we squeeze in an extra long walk or two.

As we have got into December, the local ski hills have opened (thankfully, as travelling outside your geographical region is discouraged) and Kayla, Melissa, and Glen have made it up for (socially distanced) skiing a number of times. This afternoon (it’s December 21 as I write this) we’re going up for some snowshoeing.

The girls and Glen have two weeks off, Susan has one week off. We’re looking forward to spending time together close to home (regular outings to walk the dog and go take part in snow sports).

I haven’t yet managed to write a Christmas newsletter, but hopefully I can get that together in the coming days and get it out before it’s too late (well, it’ll be too late to get it to people before Christmas, but maybe by New Years).

2020, the year of Covid.

Early 2020

Christmas 2019 was spent in Kamloops at Glen’s parent’s place. The girls’ last day of school was Friday, December 20, and we drove up to Kamloops the afternoon of Sunday the 22nd. Saturday the 21st had a few events that kept us in town. Melissa’s accordion concert was the Saturday afternoon, and our annual Toastmaster Christmas carolling get together was on the Saturday evening. Melissa brought her accordion, Kayla her baritone, and we not only sang carols to piano but also enjoyed performances by the girls and some of the other kids.

The drive to Kamloops was fine, admittedly some slick non cleared sections on the Coquihalla, but in time to partake in some liver and onions when we arrived.

We went hiking with Rebecca on Christmas Even day in Kenna Cartwright Park. We first took the Prickly Pear, Ponderosa, and Sunset trails and went out wast, above the jail, to overlook Kamloops lake. Admittedly in this first stage Melissa’s legs were getting tired and she stopped and built a snowman while the rest of us took turns getting up the last hill to see the lake. We then did some more serious exertion on the Ridge Trail heading east and got to the Tower, overlooking Kamloops proper.

Christmas morning proper had Kayla and Melissa opening some gifts first thing, Rebecca showing up a bit before lunch, and then Jim, Ellen, Zachary, and Jessica showing up a bit after lunch. We opened more presents late afternoon as for the first time this year we were doing a secret Santa gift exchange (target names drawn at Thanksgiving) which seemed to work well. We went and visited Auntie Jen and Dale, along with Tammy and Judy’s family down at Jeanette and Dale’s.

Boxing Day saw a few of us get down to the mall for a bit of shopping, and then on the 27th we went hiking again (this time in a bigger crowd) out at Tranquille. After the hike, we stopped in for a visit at Reg and Mary’s, and then had an annual tradition of having dinner out at the Moon Wok restaurant.

We drove back to Burnaby on Sunday the 29th and for New Years Eve we had Grace and Richard and Josh, and Anna over to celebrate ringing in New Years. A few of us tried the Twelve Grapes tradition as the New Year came in, but Josh was the only one who managed to stuff them all in (although we were wondering whether the bell we were listening to was maybe a bit quick).

January 6 (Monday) saw us back at work, with Susan going for 4 full days of work per week, having Thursday off. Glen works from home generally on Tuesday and Friday’s, so the girls go to Susan’s parents right now generally only on Wednesday. The weekends saw the girls returning to curling and piano and accordion and sewing lessons.

The second week of January the lower mainland was really whalloped with a heavy hit of winter, with a LOT of snow arriving in a couple of days. Glen and the girls took advantage of their season pass at Mount Seymour, and were up skiing, some hiking snowshoeing, and tubing.

In addition to the cold that seemed to get passed around over the holidays, Melissa and Susan were again hit by a cold mid January, so just Kayla and Glen were up skiing.

Summer Activities (2019)

Last post we shared about our trip to San Diego and Disneyland. But it was far from the only trip we had in the summer of 2019.

On coming back from our trip to California we had Uncle Richard in town, staying for a bit over a week. Helen and Daniel were coming a few days later because they had been travelling in China. But not letting moss grow under their feet, the girls left for Kamloops with Uncle Jim and Jessica on the Thursday, just 2 days after we got back from California. Jessica would be staying to for a week with Rebecca in Kamloops while our girls (in order to see cousin Daniel and Auntie Helen) were coming back on Sunday. To achieve this on the Sunday Glen drove to the toll booth to pick up the girls who were driven there by Glen’s parents. The Britton Creek rest stop, where we had lunch, was filled with travellers some in strange cars.

The girls and dad drove back just in time for a big family BBQ at our house, and a whole lot of eating with lots of food during the week Richard and family were here (with just an occasional bit of exercise thrown in).

On Sunday a couple of days after it opened Kayla and dad took the bus to the PNE. Susan and Melissa went shopping for the day. We got in cheap, for only $2 / ticket as there was a discount if you had the PNE app installed on your phone (and for a savings of $16 / ticket, I was happy to install the app for a few hours).

While at the PNE we saw the Superdogs show. We went and visited the CTV booth and had our picture taken with Jon Montgomery from the Amazing Race Canada (well, at least a cardboard cutout of him). We didn’t just get pictures taken with cardboard cutouts, we actually did meet (and take a picture with) the real Keri Adams and Krissy Vann. Keri is the morning anchor for CTV News Vancouver, and Krissy also a reporter on the morning show. As the anchor of a show I reasonably often watch, Keri strikes me as intelligent and friendly, and she was that in real life. I’m a bit of a bumble with small talk when meeting new people (as I’m sure you all know), and I felt that way when talking with Keri, but she was friendly all the same.

Glen took some allergy medicine to avoid horse allergy problems which allowed us to go see jousting and pig races. We saw the farm animals in the barn, including a very big pig (which I didn’t get a good picture of), a very big cow, and spent some time at the bee booth. Can you believe they take a random volunteer from the crowd, spend a few minutes in preparation with them, and then place them on display in a sealed booth and give them a bee beard! Can you imagine volunteering for that? I’m not sure I would want to do that…

We went and saw Mama Lou, one of the world’s few strong woman shows, showing feats of strength and doing things like ripping up card decks and squashing (popping?) apples in her biceps. You thought getting locked in a sealed display case and having a bee beard is bad? Mama Lou’s show had something even more people would probably want to skip… They had this poor guy from the crowd go up on stage, playing along that he was an evil nemesis of Mama Lou, and had to wear an orange leotard and have a phone book tearing duel (proving that the phone book was real by not being able to rip it in half while she did). Why do I describe this in detail? “That guy” was Glen! Sadly Kayla didn’t get any pictures, I think she was more trying to sink into her seat hoping that no-one she knew would see her and find out that her dad was on stage wearing an orange leotard in a phone book ripping duel with Mama Lou! In conversation after the show, although strong and playing a bit of comedy to make a good show, Mama Lou was a nice lady.

Our time at the PNE wasn’t all high energy, we spent some time by the Lake.

We watched a bit of glass blowing and finally took the bus home.

One evening we went for a bike ride to Dairy Queen at Kensington for some ice cream, and we sent the girls in by themselves to make the purchase. I think it was the first time for them both where they went into a store by themselves and made a purchase without adult help. Thanks for the ice cream girls (OK, admittedly dad gave them the money).

The last weekend in August (ignoring the labour day weekend which will have the Saturday on the 31st) we went for our annual trip to Alice Lake with our friends Jen and Zac and their kids and about 40 of their closest friends. We had an excellent weekend as usual, although it was a bit rainy on the first day we were there. Other than the fun and good memories, I think one phrase that could describe the weekend was “bad estimating”. Glen convinced half a dozen parents to go for a hike from the campsite to Cheekye Creek. The word was we could get there in about 20 minutes. It wasn’t a huge problem, but it took us about 45 minutes to get there. But it was far from the only misestimate. The second I believe was preparation for lunch. Every year each campsite (usually 2 families per site) is assigned one meal for which they cook the meal and clean the dishes. We had Saturday lunch with Jen and Zac. We planned for lunch about 12:30. We ended up serving the meal at about 2:00. Oops! Then on Sunday morning (the day we would leave even though the campground was booked through to Monday) we went for a mountain bike ride. Rumour was we were going for an hour. It was more than three hours before we all made it back. Once again, we were the last to checkout.

One more piece of trivia about the Alice Lake trip. Mice! We suspect that when we served the meal on Saturday, we brought some mice back into our trailer in a chip bag. Melissa was the first to notice one on Saturday evening when she went in to get ready for bed. Due to our misadventures with a mouse earlier in the year at Sasquatch Provincial Park we had traps so immediately set them out. In order to try to force the mouse (all we knew about at the time) to eat the cheese in the trap, we though we would carefully examine each package of food we had in our trailer and (hopefully) transfer it without a mouse to the truck. We failed! Yes, we moved all food to the truck and saw no mouse. We obviously did a shoddy job of our search, for when Susan went to the truck to get some food she saw a mouse running around in the truck. We moved a couple of traps from the trailer to the truck. An hour later I took a look and we had caught a mouse in the truck. “Great, we got him!” I thought. I asked Susan to get me my truck keys from in the trailer so I could get rid of the caught mouse. She went in the trailer and reported that a trap in the trailer had caught another mouse. I got rid of the one in the trailer, and then went to get the one out of the truck. While doing that I saw another mouse running around in the food boxes in the truck!

I got rid of the first two and left out some traps in both the trailer and the truck. When we got up in the morning we had another caught in one of the traps in the truck!

That seemed to have been all, we never caught anymore all weekend, and had the traps out this past week while home and didn’t catch anything else. It did take a long time for us to unpack though as we upped our scrutiny in examining everything we brought in from the trailer to the house, so it took us about 3 hours on the night we came home, and then another hour a few days later when we completed emptying out the trailer and winterizing it.

Summer isn’t over, we have a cabin visit planned for this coming weekend, Labour Day, and then the girls are back in school. All for now!

Summer Vacation, 2019

Last post I mentioned we were in Richardson Park, Oregon, when I wrote the initial words. That is where I am at right now. But again, more on that later.

On Thursday, July 18, we got up at 5:30am and got away from the house in our truck, towing our trailer, at about 7:00am. We had been looking at border wait times and saw that if we got to the border early we could avoid spending an inordinate amount of time waiting in the lineup. We had thrown out the idea for discussion that it would be good if we could get away by 6:30, but being infamous for taking a long time to get going in the morning, I think getting away at 7:00 was very respectable. It mostly worked, we didn’t spend long at the border.

We took advantage of our early start to try to get some distance and I think we really succeeded. By about lunch time, we had a sense of how far we would make it and set Eugene Oregon as the proposed destination for the day. We had taken out from the library the excellent book West Coast RV Camping, by Tom Stienstra (the 2015 edition, and I kick myself as the trip ends that I see the library does have another copy which is from 2018), and looked around to see which campsites would be possible.

From our experience when we did a similar trip 5 years earlier, we had found that Saturday nights campgrounds would book up, but most other nights you could just pull into any old campground late afternoon and get a site. Since our phone company, Public Mobile, gives us a good enough deal that we had unlimited cell phone usage through the US for our entire trip, we would often make a call ahead in the morning even if we were thinking it wouldn’t be necessary to make a booking, but just to check if the reservations clerks would think it would be a good idea.

In this case, being Thursday, we thought we would be fine. The book told us about Armitage Park, part of Lane Country Parks, which we liked the sounds of. Just a bit off the I-5 just on the edge of Eugene. We called the Lane County Parks reservation line to see if the clerk thought it would be good for us to get a reservation, and were susprised when she told us that actually there were no spots available that night for Armitage Park. She suggested that Richardson Park, also part of Lane Country parks would likely be available. We called that number and the lady confirmed that they did have three spots still available and making a reservation would be unlike if we were to get there late afternoon (there was a fee to make a reservation which is why we didn’t make one).

We arrived at Richardson Park and were very impressed. Our camp site was in a quiet section of the park in the trees. Following the camp host’s suggestion, after putting up the trailer we immediately took a walk over to the lake, actually the Fern Lake Reservoir, and were happy to find a gorgeous lake that the girls were happy to put their feet in after a long hot day of driving.

Later in the evening the camp hosts were around selling firewood, and we bought some and had a nice campfire around which we roasted some marshmallows.

I also spent a few moments working on our website, and it was here that I made mention in the previous post about being in Richardson Park. Wifi was good in the park. What more could one ask for? 🙂

In the morning, we couldn’t just leave without one more visit to the lake(/reservoir) so after packing up we pulled out and drove over to the day use area parking and spent a few minutes before getting on the road. Truthfully, our tire monitoring system was telling us one of our tires was low, so we actually stopped for gas and a quick pump at the Costco in Eugene before really getting on the road.

Where would Friday take us? Knowing we had 6 days to get down to San Diego, and wanting to be aggressive in our first few days in order to spend more time in places we can’t get to easily (such as maybe San Francisco and the coast down near LA), we chose Red Bluff California as a reasonable place to target for the day. Our book told us that Sycamore Grove State Park campground might be a nice place to stay. We called the reservation line, and found that to stay here we 100% did need reservations (not because the park was going to fill up, but because that’s how this State Park works). As we were driving the last few kilometres, the area seemed more and more familiar to us. On arriving at the park, we were surprised to find that we had actually stayed in this campground before! We had stayed here five years earlier on our very similar driving trip down to Disneyland! Although the US economy by most measures is doing better than it was doing five years ago, one wouldn’t be able to tell it by the state of this particular State Park (budget constraints have been hard on this park I guess).

Sycamore Grove campground is right next to the Sacramento River by the Red Bluff Diversion Dam. When we had been here five years ago the dam was closed, this time it was open. Similar to the day before we setup and then went for a walk. Red Bluff, and specifically Sycamore Grove, is a very hot dry spot, and we took a nature trail that took us along a hot dry dusty trail where we saw a good number of lizards and desert like trees.

Unlike the pleasant bathrooms and showers we had had at Richardson Park, the Sycamore Grove washroom facilities were some of worst so in the morning we had breakfast, packed up, and got on our way.

Since we had made good time to get out of our “local neighbourhood” (anywhere we could get in a long weekend or such), we decided we would head to San Francisco for the next night. The book identified a few potential campgrounds, and after a few calls we were lucky to get a campsite in the Pelican Point RV Park in Half Moon bay. After driving for a few more hours we decided that since we had a couple of extra days before we needed to get to San Diego, we should see if we could spend a few nights in San Francisco in order to give us a full uninterrupted day there. I tried calling the campsite back to see if we could extend our stay for another night, and tried continuously for about 45 minutes only to get a busy signal every time. I gave up as we drove down the hill as we entered California. An hour or so later we tried again and this time got them. I suspect I had been calling when the office was closed and they were maybe out cleaning up spots. Susan did get us a second night booking, with the caveat that we may have to move, but they would try to move things around so we wouldn’t have to move ourselves. We were lucky, they succeeded.

As we drove towards Half Moon Bay, I had answered to the GPS that it should avoid toll roads. Susan was partly paying attention and suddenly asked where in the world it was taking us as it seemed to be taking us way down towards San Jose. We pulled off the road maybe 10 kilometres further down the road than would be sensible, reentered in the GPS that we were going to Pelican Point RV Park and gave the option that tolls would be fine, and came back and spent $16USD to cross the San Mateo Bridge. The Highway 92 San Mateo Road, up and over the a small coastal ridge was beautiful to drive. Kayla fell in love with the idea of stopping in at a roadside succulent(and carniverous) plant store every time we drove by (we never did get to stop when the place was open).

We checked in at the very nice Pelican Point RV Park late afternoon, setup, and then took our kites and followed the path down to the beach (the campground is separated from being directly beachfront by the swanky Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay golf course. All thoroughly enjoyed flying kits and jumping in the waves and revelling in the enjoyable scenery.

On the Sunday (July 21), after cleaning up after breakfast we drove into San Francisco itself.

Boat tours to Alcatraz were out of the question, booking up in the summer at least a month in advance, so we walked along the piers taking pictures, seeing some of the distinct San Francisco buildings and unique treats (we never saw Tree Man!), and rode the Powell and Hyde cable car for the full length!

We had lunch sitting in Union Square. Strolled around Macy’s (OK, maybe it was mostly to use the restrooms), toured the Dyson store, did some shopping and sightseeing at an open air market, and then walked back to Fisherman’s Pier.

We then drove up to and parked at The Presidio and were awed by and walked out on the Golden Gate Bridge.

That evening we couldn’t not go down to the beach again and enjoyed the ocean before settling down for the night and our continued road trip the next day.

Like many San Francisco beach mornings, the next morning was cool and overcast and had us taking the 101 south. By the time we stopped at a rest stop in Bradley California for lunch, the environment had changed enough that it was cooking hot at 40℃+.

We thought we would go over to the coast and maybe see the Hearst Castle. Just after Paso Robles we took highway 46 west and headed out to Highway 1 running along the coast, but since the sky along the coast was overcast, and it would be after 4:00 before we got to the Castle and would only be able to look at the Castle from the highway (and with the overcast skies who knew whether we would even see anything), we gave up the minor backtrack up the 1 and instead turned south and started to look for a place. Our turnaround on the backtrack was at the San Simeon State Park, whose sign said they had no space. The trend continued with all state parks all seeming to have a FULL sign. After failing to find a sign that showed spots available, we actually did pull into Morro Strand State Park just off the 1 to ask if there would be any state parks that would have availability so we would know whether we were just wasting our time if we had to pull off the highway. The guy in the booth smiled and told us he actually did have 4 spots, he just never bothered to go up to the highway to change the sign each day because they for certain did get full each and every day by the end of the day. So we claimed a spot and spent some gorgeous time walking on the beach, seeing sealife and fauna in general, enjoying the view, and playing in the waves. We bought some firewood and had a campfire that evening.

Our campsite was nice enough, and the next morning to celebrate Glen’s birthday breakfast was pancakes. An interesting sidenote was that there was an abandoned cat and her kittens living in the bushes right by our campsite.

After breakfast we got heading south on the 1 along the coast. Another sidenote is that where we live in Burnaby, a neighbourhood called Montecito, is full of streets (and the neighbourhood name itself) that are cities in California where we would be driving this day. A few examples are Camarillo, Capistrano, and Goleta; all of which are streets right near where we live and also cities we drove by on this day in California. The street we live on, Broadway, is of course not named after a California town; probably instead named after the more famous New York Street. We stopped in Montecito California for lunch in an oceanside park (well, top of the ocean cliffs) and got to enjoy a hike down to the ocean and some nature.

We stopped for dinner at a Costco in Laguna Niguel, on the south side of LA, and pulled into the Metro KOA in San Diego (actually south San Diego in Chula Vista), about 15km north of the Mexican border at about 9:30 that night. Setup was mostly done in the dark.

Wednesday (July 24) had us up with plans to go to the San Diego Zoo. We pulled out our tickets (all our tickets, San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, Sea World, Knott’s Berry Farm, Disneyland had all been bought at Ares Travel, an online ticket site that seemed to offer the best price on admission to everything (by a slight amount)) and headed off to the relatively close Zoo. Parking was free and we got into the zoo and got a good recommendation from a helpful volunteer on how to tour the park.

One of the first places we went was to see the very cute and Melissa’s absolute “must see” animal, the Red Panda. Next up to see were the elephants. We spent some time with statues and displays showing various animals, some heading towards or already extinct. Next we saw the giraffes. Tired rhinos. Hungry Zebras. After lunch as we got into the hot part of the afternoon, we tried to stay cool by staying more in the shade so started by taking a (covered) bus tour through the park. Then we saw the birds. Finally we ended the tour with the primates: gorillas and monkeys. We of course liked everybody, Red Panda a highlight, but one of the agreed upon favourites were the monkeys. We were all entertained by their playfulness, their ability to climb and be gymnastic, and actually their smarts. At one point we sat down on a bench near a very big monkey enclosure to have a snack. After a few minutes one of the monkeys came over and sat down on his side of the enclosure quite near us and stared at us as we ate for a while. A minute later he threw us some of his food. We didn’t respond in kind. So then he grabbed another bigger piece of food he had and threw it to us. We could tell he was thinking to himself that he was being nice in offering trade and was hoping we would throw some of our food to him for him to try. I’m not sure how successful he would be, but he must try it often, since there was a sign near that spot that said “Please do not feed the animals, they are on a special diet”. Somehow I suspect the zoo knew this was a favourite spot for the monkeys to try to get people to throw them food and it wasn’t the first time the monkeys had tried to trade with somebody. It was very cute.

After a full day we finally left the zoo, but didn’t immediately head back to our campsite. The zoo is immediately next door to Balboa Park, one of the parks we had on our todo list for San Diego, so having a few minutes before the sun went down we went next door (taking advantage of the “included” zoo parking) and saw the buildings and fountains in Balboa Park.

The next morning saw us up and heading to San Diego Sea World. Sea World is a funny combination of big theme park with things like big roller coasters, and of course many sea animals and their advertised marine rehabilitation program. In the days following we had great debates over whether the dolphins and whales and other marine animals being in shows was actually a good idea. For some the park was a favourite, for others the San Diego Zoos (both original and Safari Park) were a more decent organization to look after animals in captivity. But we’ll leave that heavy topic and tell about our day.

One of the first things done was to ride a few of the rides. First up was the big Electric Eel which made us very happy. Susan skipped this ride. Then we all went over and did the Wild Arctic, which is a motion simulator that take you into a mockup of an arctic base where you get to see some walruses and whales. Next up we rode The Manta, another coaster (Susan skipped this one). This actually turned out to be Melissa’s favourite coasters from all the parks we went to on our trip. As it got hot, we cooled down with a flume ride, the Journey to Atlantis. In the hottest part of the day, we sat in the splash zone of both the (acrobatic) killer whale show and the dolphin show.

Thursday, the next day, had us taking a day off. We had originally thought we would go out to one of the San Diego beaches, but with the “busyness” of the prior few days, we actually just stayed around camp all day, taking advantage of some of the campsite facilities. We did some laundry. We went shopping. Melissa fell in love with the name of a big company called Petco and so we spent some time in one of their stores. Melissa went and rode “the barrel train”, a bunch of little barrel wagons towed by a golf cart around the park. We rented some bikes and rode them around the park. The girls went rock climbing on the park’s wall. We all went swimming in the pool (probably the nicest pool of anywhere we stayed — it was filled with salt water).

Friday saw us back at it, heading out on a further out of town trip to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Animals seen this day were birds, tigers (and more), wallabies and kangaroos, elephants, antelopes, rhinos, and camels (plus many other things too numerous to list). One neat show the park put on was one where we had an opportunity to watch a cheetah race. Sort of like a greyhound chasing a mechanical rabbit, the park setup a stuffy to be pulled by a cable and let a cheetah go. We watched him go from 0 to 80km/hr in something like 3 seconds. Again at peak heat of the afternoon we took a bus tour. We had fun as we toured around the park.

Sunday was our moving day, leaving San Diego and heading North to check in at the Anaheim Harbour RV Park, just outside the Disneyland fence. We checked in early afternoon so spent the day with a bit of leisure, playing a bit of mini-golf in the campground course (immediately next to our site), and spending time at the pool. Across the way was a family also visiting Disneyland from BC, with a couple of girls the same age as Kayla and Melissa. They played games together and swam in the pool together a number of times during our stay. Unlike us who was visiting Disneyland near the end of our trip (having already spent time in San Diego), they were visiting San Diego more at the start of their trip, and when they left late in the week they were heading for time in Las Vegas.

Our site was great for watching the fireworks show happening in Disneyland, and we took advantage of that benefit on this first night, as well as subsequent nights when we weren’t in the park itself as they went off (nightly at 9:30pm).

Due to the sites that put the theme parks under a microscope and do the equivalent of weather forecasting, but for crowds, we saw that the Disneyland parks were expected to be maximum busy early in the week and then to trail off to a relatively quiet day at the end of the week, while Knott’s Berry Farm was expected to be relatively stable in “busyness” throughout the week. So our plans had us going to Knott’s Berry Farm on day 1, Monday.

We packed our lunch and left it in the car as Knott’s doesn’t allow guests to take food into the park. We returned to the car mid day to have our lunch on the grass near where we parked. One big drawback to Knott’s is the WiFi. Understand that “free” WiFi coverage is actually great, it seems to blanket the park. What is the huge drawback (and mostly stopped me from using it) is that for some crazy reason after the first few megabytes the network starts to insert ads into pages you request. And not only on non-encrypted pages (HTTP), but also tries to do it for encrypted pages (HTTPS). How do they do that? Well, after the first few megabytes, the network kept trying to feed me a non-CA root certificate whenever I tried to visit a site using HTTPS. Susan actually accepted the “fraudulent” signing certificate into her phone for the day and got along just fine (other than the privacy loss and the additional ads on every page she visited). I shouldn’t say I don’t know why the park did it, I suspect it’s because of some company selling to Knott’s the proposition “We’ll blanket your park with WiFi so long as we can use the customer data we gather” and maybe Knott’s isn’t paying attention to what the provider is doing. It’s technology hijinks I would expect from a country like China or Kazakhstan, but I was surprised to see it being tried in such an apple-pie and baseball all-American service company. But on to what we did… Rides we rode include the Stage Coach (actually only the ladies did this one as Glen is allergic to horses and instead he went and rode the train). We rode the famous GhostRider coaster (the tallest and longest wooden coaster on the West Coast of the US), and Kayla’s favourite coaster of the whole trip. We rode the Silver Bullet, Glen’s favourite coaster of the whole trip. We rode the Timber Mountain Log Ride (probably the family favourite flume ride). We rode the Calico Mine Ride. We rode the Pony Express, a favourite coaster of Melissa’s where each rider rides their own individual carousel horse (although with advanced coaster seat bars to keep the rider attached). We rode the Jaguar, which we all agreed for a hot day was the worst line to go through to get on a coaster for the whole trip (the line goes through hallways in a pyramid, with no air conditioning). We rode HangTime, another favourite where the cars go vertical at 95° (i.e. sort of a slightly upside down section after an over the top section). We rode the Sky Cabin (nice air conditioning!). We all rode the Supreme Scream. We took the Voyage to the Iron Reef (actually Glen skipped this one). We rode the Xcelerator (this is extremely smooth and we told Susan she could probably ride it without bothering her back, but she didn’t take us up on the offer for us to ride it again with her). We of course went in some shops and did a bit of tourist shopping, we enjoyed the themed fun of the old west town in Knott’s Berry Farm and attended a showing of the fun stuntman show. A great day!

The next day, Tuesday, saw us driving over to Disneyland. It was a dilemna as to how to go, as the bus for everyone to and from was $22.50USD. The cost of parking was $25.00USD. For the first day, we chose to drive (to give us flexibility if we needed it — we ultimately decided taking the bus was better as it delivered us right to the front gate whereas the parking is still a shuttle ride away from the gates — as well as a seriously long escalator ride).

Tuesday saw us getting into the park at around 9:00am. One early impression, kept over the days we visited following, was that WiFi is surprisingly good in both parks. It doesn’t blanket the park as it does in Knott’s, but it is surprisingly strong throughout the park and even more important doesn’t play games such as decrypting of encrypted traffic and inserting ads into pages you visit. For the days we would be spending in either Disneyland or Disneyland California Adventureland (we had a 3 day 1 park per day ticket for each of us) there was one early admission benefit where we could choose the day. Generally speaking the hours of both parks is from 8:00am to midnight, and with an early admission you can go into the park (and ride rides) at 7:00am. We had thrown around the idea of trying to use our early admission probably on the Wednesday as that was the day we were going to California Adventureland, but since our first day here at Disneyland was at 9:00am with an 8:00am opening, things weren’t looking good from that perspective…

The first thing we did on entering the park was actually to go into Adventureland to tour Tarzan’s treehouse. When we came out of the house, we went right next door to the Pirates of the Caribbean. On coming out of that, Glen ran over to get a Splash Mountain (water flume ride) fastpass, which was good for about 15 minutes from the time he picked it up to about 75 minutes later (we wanted to ride the ride when it was later/hotter in the day). We then went through the Haunted Mansion. Next we went over to the Big Thunder Mountain coaster, which looked like it had a long line up. Concerned about the splash mountain fastpass, Glen asked a “cast member” host fast the line would be. They said it should be about 30 minutes, and would go fast. (Mistakenly) we believed them. It took almost an hour to get through the ride. We went back to Splash Mountain and the “cast member” there said we couldn’t use our fastpass as it was about half an hour overdue (!@$#$&@!). We claimed an Indiana Jones fastpass (good for later that afternoon) and then went and experienced the Enchanted Tiki Room. After being sung to by the birds (and other carvings) we had lunch. We claimed another Splash Mountain fastpass (with hopefully better luck this time) and then got on the Jungle Cruise. After cruising around the jungle we went and rode the Matterhorn. Since Susan didn’t use her Fastpass, Kayla used it and went twice in a row (back to back). Then we went and relaxed on the It’s a Small World ride. Then we used our Fastpass to go on the Indiana Jones Ride. Then on the Splash Mountain ride where we much appreciated the cool off. We went and watched Star Tours, a Star Wars extended trailer. We each got a new drivers license and drove our own individual cars around Autopia (and Kayla probably still took the lead for hitting the sides 🙂 ). We got a fastpass for Space Mountain, but it was good for starting at 10:05 that night, and we weren’t at all certain we would take advantage of it. We ate dinner in the Galactic Grill. After dinner we had fun on the Buzz Lightyear AstroBlasters. We then went and experienced the new Star Wars land and the recently opened Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run. The lineup on this was about an hour long, but unlike many other lineups, there were things to do while in line so the time went quick and we were soon assigned with Kayla and dad as gunners, Susan and Melissa as co-pilots, and two individuals from the singles line as engineers. We were slightly profitable. We left the park as it was approaching 10:00 so didn’t take advantage of our Space Mountain fastpass.

The talk on reaching the campsite was that Wednesday would be the day we would use our Early Entrance benefit. Kayla was organizing us and telling us that we would be on a bus by 6:30 in the morning, and up at 5:00am to get ready. She set an alarm on her ipod. Imagine the chagrin next morning when she realized the alarm was mistakenly set for 5:00pm! Due to the late nights the last few nights, we actually slept in until about 7:30, and took the bus and got into the park at about 9:00am.

We had a good time in California Adventureland this day! We rushed over to claim a FastPass for Radiator Springs Racers in Carsland immediately, and already at just after 9:00 got a return time for 3:00 in the afternoon. We had planned to also stand in line for the Racers at that time, but it was broken down and only to open a little later in the day (in time for our FastPass thankfully). Then we went and rode the IncrediCoaster, the old “California Screamin” that has been rebranded in the last few years with the release of the new Incredibles movie.

Honestly, the rebranding of rides that Disney has been doing I found to work quite well. In my opinion, it would be no problem not to rebrand any rides, but since they are, they are doing a good job. The coaster now involves a bit of a story of the Incredibles on an adventure and is well done. Similar rebranding has happened to the old Tower of Terror, which has now been rebranded as Guardians of the Galaxy Mission: BREAKOUT!. This actually is what we rode next after the coaster. I should mention that the Incredicoaster was in the running for Melissa’s favourite coaster on the whole trip, for a bit, but after a few days it returned to being The Manta. In Disneyland, Guardians WAS Melissa’s favourite ride.

After Guardians we got ourselves a FastPass for the Grizzly River Run, and then went and rode Soarin’. A favourite definitely. We spent some time on the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail, including a bit of head to head one armed bouldering between Kayla and dad, and a race up the cargo netting, and then had lunch on a bench near Grizzly peak (just outside the entrance to the challenge trail).

In the afternoon we cooled down by riding the Grizzly River Run, and were glad to have a FastPass (which we got another of to ride again late afternoon). The girls rode the Incredicoaster a couple of times again, (back to back) using their own then Susan and my FastPasses.

We were lucky to happen along Pluto just as he came out of “backstage” so were able to get a picture with Pluto without any long lineup.

We thoroughly enjoyed sharing a big ice cream sundae that we got at Clarabelle’s Hand-Scooped Ice Cream shop, and sat at the Fiddler Fifer tables on the street.

We had a great run on the Radiator Springs Racers, with our car going through the paintjob side (there’s two ways the Racers cars can go) and then winning the race!

We had dinner with Susan getting a chowder bread bowl from the Pacific Wharf Cafe, which she brought over and joined the rest of us at our table at Flo’s V8 Cafe which the rest of us ordered from.

We joined Mike and Sulley on a taxi ride through Monstropolis in Monsters Inc, Mike & Sulley to the Rescue.

One of the surprise highlights was attending a few classes at the Animation Academy in Hollywood Land. The experience is a half hour class in a huge theater where you learn from a Disney animator how to draw specific characters. The ladies took a class on how to draw BB-8 from Star Wars, and had such a good time that they convinced dad to go and so everyone went and learned how to draw Goofy.

Thursday was our day off in LA. Unlike San Diego, we weren’t just going to laze around camp all day. Susan did some research from the California books we had along and proposed we go to Mother’s beach which is one of the beaches part of the big Newport beach. We entered Mothers Beach into the GPS, didn’t double check, and headed off. We ended up at Mother’s Beach, part of Long Beach, which is a nice beach for swimming on an inlet. So we didn’t get to experience the big waves of being directly on the ocean, but we did get to instead experience some nice salt water swimming.

Due to the girls convincing us to go to Petco (when it probably really wasn’t necessary) when we were San Diego, dad convinced everyone that it would be interesting to go to a Fry’s Electronics, so we went there and had fun looking at computer parts and electric scooters and glasses with cameras in them and karaoke machines — a true nerd’s paradise.

There was some talk of again trying to take advantage of our early entry day on Friday to get into a park at 7:00, but surprise surprise, it again didn’t happen. We took the bus again and entered the park at about 9:00. We went and drove around Autopia. We got a splash mountain fastpass and rode that in the afternoon. We did the Millenium Falcon, Smugglers Run again (this time with dad and Kayla as pilots, Melissa and Susan as gunners, and another couple of singles line individuals as the engineers). We rode Glen’s favourite ride from when he had visited in 1977, the Finding Nemo Submarine ride. When Susan and Glen visited in the late 90s, for some reason the sub ride was closed. When we visited in 2014, the sub ride was closed. This time it was open, and Glen was appreciative of everyone standing in line and reliving some of his childhood favourite memories of Disneyland. We rode Indiana Jones again. We saw Chewbacca in Star Wars land. We rode the train around the park, and had a somewhat more relaxed day strolling around the park and watching a magic show in Toontown. Before leaving, we visited the Disneyland Story and saw Great Moments with Abraham Lincoln, and actually spent some time chatting with the lady who must be the best Disneyland employee ever, Bobbie, who was wonderful at telling Disneyland park history and stories!

Saturday morning saw us getting away good and early and having breakfast on the road. We followed the I-5 all the way North to Orland California. We took a brief stop at a rest stop and got to Orland California late afternoon and checked in to the rather pricey, but nice, Parkway RV Resort and Campground in Orland California. It was cooking hot there, but we enjoyed a swim in the pool.

Sunday we got away early again and had breakfast on the road. Since we had made good time the day before and had started early this day, but had until Wednesday until we had to be back at work we didn’t set too aggressive of a schedule and having had such a good time on the way down, set Eugene Oregon again as our destination for the day, and again Richardson Park as our campspot. We pulled in at about 4:00. The girls and dad went to the lake and went swimming while Susan went to town to do some grocery shopping. Dad spent a moment starting this blog entry, which is why it starts by mentioning that we are in Richardson Park (believe me, I didn’t finish the entry until we were home).

Monday, again due to having made good time and being in a place where we could easily get home in one day, we enjoyed our breakfast before getting on the road. Being in Oregon which is tax free, we stopped by the Woodburn Premium Outlets (according to Wikipedia “the largest tax-free shopping outlet in the Western United States … and … one of Orgeon’s most popular tourist attractions”. We spent a few hours shopping, and then continued on our way and stayed at Columbus Park at Black Lake in Olympia Washington. It looks like a gorgeous place to spend a day or two, with some fun stuff like a water trampoline, but due to our arriving late afternoon and then leaving relatively early, we didn’t get to take advantage of the extra fun stuff like that. We did get to play with some of the playground equipment, briefly get onto the water, and see some wildlife (yay Canadian Geese).

Tuesday (August 6), the last day of our trip… We got away early enough to eat breakfast on the road. We stopped at a nice rest stop for lunch. Got gas and groceries from the Costco in Bellingham. And were welcomed back into Canada by a nice border agent mid afternoon. We made it home by about 5:00.

A wonderful trip!

The talk this time? Maybe in a few years we’ll take a trip to Yosemite National Park, but for now, we’ll see and enjoy the recent memories.

Spring 2019 Events

We’re in Richardson Park, Oregon at a campsite near a gorgeous lake, but more about that later. I’m writing now to give a quick summary of the events from Spring 2019.

The year started with us at home after we had spent Christmas itself in Kamloops with Glen’s parents.

Through January Melissa was up skiing every weekend at Seymour in lessons, with Glen along as driver. Both girls continued in piano lessons. Melissa continued in accordion lessons.

Both girls took part in Odyssey of the Mind at school. Both their teams did the same “problem”, presenting an invention of Leonardo Da Vinci’s. Both girls teams did excellently, both winning the provincial competition for their respective ages, and both went to University of Michigan to compete in the works finals.

We went to our cabin at Easter for an egg hunt and with a bow and arrow we acquired had some fun doing archery. Glen has a couple of drones that were also along and had fun flying those.

We didn’t get to the cabin for the May long weekend as it ran into when the girls went with their team’s and Susan to Michigan to compete in the Odyssey of the Mind world’s. We did make it again to the lake for the July long weekend. Both girls gave waterskiing a quick attempt, a courageous attempt actually since the lake was so busy it was very rough and even for those of us with backgrounds in skiing it was pretty challenging to stay up. Our niece Jessica had a number of her friends along staying at Uncle Earl’s so they too came to the beach and tried waterskiing, but as mentioned no one other than Glen actually made it up for more than a few seconds at a time.

Glen continued playing indoor beach volleyball on a work team for the first few months of the year. As it got closer to summer that fell buy the wayside as work got really busy.

In late June we took our trailer out to Sasquatch Provincial Park for a weekend with Jim, Ellen, and Jessica.

Our main summer event, to be described in a subsequent post, is a road trip down to San Diego, which is what we’re on now (hunted at in the first paragraph of the this post).

Christmas Holidays

As hinted at in an earlier post, Christmas and concerts are something we need to journalize. The last day of school, and work for the year for Glen, was on Friday, December 21st (Susan had her last day of work on Thursday). The girls had a fun day at school with a pancake breakfast. Friday evening we went to a dinner party at Aunt Ruth’s. Deborah was home for the holidays with her new (to us) fiance Peter. A nice fellow. Welcome to the family Peter.

Saturday, we took our truck and headed to Glen’s parents in Kamloops where we would be spending Christmas. Although we weren’t going to be spending Christmas at our house, we did have a tree we enjoyed through early December and after coming back from Kamloops. We got away at about lunch time, and actually stopped at the McDonald’s by Cabela’s in Abbotsford for lunch. Honestly, this has got to be a McDonald’s on the bottom end of service in Canada. They were nice enough, but wow, mistakes and other misses galore. Three plus visits back to the counter to get our food order close to what we ordered (although never exactly). Thankfully we had fun looking around Cabela’s afterwards. We arrived in Kamloops in time for dinner.

Sunday morning we (including Glen’s parents) all got in our vehicle and drove out to St. David’s by the Lake, a church in Celista on the Shuswap, that we occasionally attend (although more often in the summer). After church and lunch (at the church), we continued on to our cabin and had a look around. We found out from the local churchgoers that snow had arrived on the night before, so the girls were lucky enough to be able to build a snowman. We drove back to Kamloops for dinner, and were lucky enough (for some of us) to have a Christmas eve tradition (on the eve of Christmas even), liver and onions. Yum!

For Christmas Eve day (Monday), we all went down to Petersen Creek and hiked the new Xget’tem Trail that is fully paved (wheelchair accessible) all the way from the bottom in Petersen Creek. Although it’s classified as “easy”, it is a serious uphill climb, so we all took the occasional break as we climbed up (to Sahali).

On Christmas itself we had a bit of snow arrive in town, and of course had a very nice visit from Santa Claus who delivered some nice gifts. We then went for an afternoon hike in Aberdeen on a trail called The Links. Oddly (no pun intended), early in the hike we saw a Lynx.

That night we saw some more snow arrive, but it didn’t stop us (primarily Susan) from getting out for some boxing day shopping. Late in the afternoon dad and the girls took a sled and went up to the dog park for some fun in the snow.

Thursday we all went downtown to visit Auntie Jen and Dale. The adults chatted while the girls kept themselves busy quietly amusing themselves at the dining room table. Jim and family (including Rebecca who had spent Christmas in the lower mainland) arrived at Glen’s parent’s just as we got back from our visiting. We then went out for a second annual dinner at the Moon Wok restaurant. Unlike last year where we all ate at the North Kamloops location, this year we ate at the one in Aberdeen.

Finally, on Friday the 28th we left Kamloops, gassed up the vehicle at Costco, and returned home. Immediately upon arriving at home the ladies went out to Debora’s bridal shower while dad unpacked and stayed at home (but did think about going skiing since it looked to be a good night for it — but instead stayed in for a quiet time).

On Saturday Glen and the girls went down to Metrotown and did the next best thing to getting a new phone, putting in a new battery. Since it took a while to get in to the Apple Store for service, we toured the mall quite thoroughly. In the afternoon as our Christmas present, Jen and Zac and family took us out to a play at the Surrey Arts Center, a presentation of Hansel and Gretel. Thanks guys! We enjoyed it!

Sunday saw our friends Pauline and Eddy and kids (some of who are now in University!) come over for the afternoon for a pleasant visit.

Monday, New Years Eve day, finally was free of schedule constraints, so dad and the girls went up for a day of skiing at Mount Seymour. It was a great day. We came home and after dinner played a very fun home version of an Escape Room. If you’ve never heard of an escape room, I’ll give you a quick overview. The last few years have saw them jump in popularity, and they traditionally are played in a business that sets up a set where you are (pretendingly) locked in some sort of a room, and you have to solve puzzle mysteries from findable clues in order to unlock the locks that will get you out of the room. Glen and Susan have played a few in the last few years, but for this evening’s fun we had a home version that saw us (pretending) try to decipher a treasure map, SCUBA dive down to find a sunken wreck (the Santa Maria), break into the wreck, find valuable sunken treasure (the name of the exact game we played), and break out of the wreck without drowning (pretend)! I’m not sure we were the best at being a TEAM, but we definitely were good problems solvers and after a few hours succeeded in solving all the mysteries (with the occasional help card where necessary). We all stayed up until midnight, spending the stroke itself watching the countdown and local fireworks on TV.

After having a slow start on New Years Day, we enjoyed the day by getting out for some running around (and drone flying) at the local school yard. On the Wednesday (the 2nd) dad and the girls again went up to Mount Seymour for some more skiing while Susan went back to work.

The next day we took the truck in for service. We had originally planned to go for a walk while it was being worked on, but it was a very rainy day and so instead we just toured the mall while it was in the shop. We had thought we would get up skiing again, but it was always rainy when we looked to go. The weekend saw us take all our Christmas decorations down, just in time for everyone to go back to school and work on Monday.

It was a very nice holiday, but like all such holidays, it went much too fast!