Spring 2021

For any update recently I would be remiss if I did not write that “the ‘COVID’ year continues”. As described previously, the majority of 2020 (starting March) and 2021 so far we are still solidly in the midst of a pandemic. Happily our outlook is that things seem to be getting under control etc with vaccines and we can maybe see the light at the end of the tunnel. I think we all have a sense that hopefully in the next months/year we’ll be able to return to more normal life. I’ll write about vaccinations a bit later but first, what has been going on?

Melissa has continued her time in Girl Guides. How does that work in the long nights of winter/early-March when there has been required social distancing? Well, her guide troupe continues to meet virtually using Discord, a multi-point video conferencing application. Meetings have seen her making models (one night was spiders made out of corks) and doing biology/chemistry research (one night they were extracting DNA from bananas). As we got a bit further along into spring and the days got a bit longer and evenings a bit warmer (late April/early May), meetings returned to a bit more traditional style and the troupe returned to meeting in person in Confederation park. Still socially distanced, each girl generally sitting on their own orange Home Depot bucket. I really shouldn’t imply they were just “sitting”, one night it was building shelters out of tarps, another night it was hiking a portion of the Trans-Canada Trail (along with garbage bags doing trail cleanup). As this 20/21 Girl Guides year winds down it is the end of Melissa’s 6th year in the guiding program. She is already signed up for her first year in Pathfinders starting next year, continuing out of the same location.

Kayla hasn’t been in guiding this past year, but has been weekly continuing to attend (virtual) weekly piano lessons. She is progressing well. She isn’t focusing on Royal Conservatory of Music tests and grades as she says it just takes too much time to focus on only a few songs, and enjoys playing a wider variety of songs and music in the year. Her main chosen style this past year is jazz. For music, Melissa is continuing as well with her (virtual) weekly accordion lessons. Melissa got a new accordion (new to her as “old” accordions are generally the best) from an accordion store in Victoria (delivered through the mail). With Melissa now finishing more than three years of lessons, it seemed sensible to upgrade her accordion, as her “starter” accordion had always had an air leak through the bellows making it tough to play the phrasing which she should be able to. Hopefully with vaccines getting into the arms of Canadians the last few months, both girls will be able to continue their lessons non-virtually and be able to attend lessons with their instructors weekly in real life.

For those of us living through this past year of COVID, isn’t it amazing how healthcare technology has managed to find a vaccine that works and has been developed and is going in to arms all in the last year. You know what other healthcare technology is amazing? Insulin pumps! As some of you may know, I’ve been diabetic for a very long time, and have been on an insulin pump for the last 13 years or so. I think I wrote a web site entry about it not long after going on to it and how it had improved quality of life, with more flexibility to eat when and what I wanted. I have to say there wasn’t significant technical improvements though since I went on that pump in 2008 until recently. Last fall I got a new insulin pump, the Tandem T-Slim X2, which sadly isn’t covered by the BC Pharmacare plan yet (I guess they’re focussed on COVID). Luckily I do have extended medical and got this new pump. Unlike pumps of old which were delivered with the features present when the pump was delivered, and stayed the same until you replaced it (probably every 5 years or so), this one can be software upgraded over the life of it, and I did my first upgrade in mid/late March. What a huge improvement! The pump pays attention to a continuous glucose monitor that I also wear, and adjusts insulin throughout the day to match where my blood sugar is going. I still have to tell it when I’m eating food (since it is quite the latent effect between eating something and having your blood sugar go up), and I still tell it that I’m doing some exercise (since it can take a while for exercise to cause BG to go down after exercising), or that I’m sleeping, but by doing those not too hard things it does a relatively brilliant job of keeping my blood sugar where I want it to be. I had almost a month of use of the upgrade while I was still skiing/snowboarding/snowshoeing three times a week up at Seymour, and it was greatly helpful as I didn’t have to manually stop and manually adjust my insulin rate. It’s a great upgrade!

So yes, we did continue heavily with snow sports as the winter came to a close. It was one thing that Glen really appreciated, as outings to Mount Seymour continued to give some good strenuous activity, outdoors with wide open spaces, automatic social distancing, and everyone easily wearing masks. Sundays generally would be Glen and both girls, and quite often friends Layla and Tristan. A few times it was less, with occasionally just Melissa or Kayla with Glen. Saturday afternoons were sometimes skiing, but often snowshoeing, usually with Spot along. Then a weeknight, usually Wednesday night, but sometimes a Tuesday or Thursday, Glen would go up, sometimes skiing but more frequently as the season wore on for some snowboarding. Occasionally Melissa would come along as well, but more frequently it was just Kayla and Glen. The first night in probably five years that Glen had his snowboard out the bindings ripped off (it was a 30 year old snowboard after all), but since it was a bit of a legacy board, the fellow working in the Seymour service desk was happy to buy it at a reasonable price, allowing Glen to buy himself a new (to him) prior season’s demo board a few weeks later. So admittedly on the night the board broken, it was just a night with only Glen at the mountain, and everyone was surprised when he was home so much sooner than usual. Glen quite reliably got up to the mountain 3 times every week. Kayla made it many times for 3 times a week, giving Glen the amusement of saying she had a workout “8 days a week” — all because Kayla’s school being on a quarter system meant she took 2 courses at a time for 2½ months, and one of her courses as the ski season was ending was gym, so she had 3 hours of gym 5 days a week, plus of course 3 strenuous exercise outings to Mount Seymour, resulting in the joke of activity “8 days a week”.

So as mentioned, Kayla has been spending her grade 8 year on the quarter system, with gym and social studies from February through mid-April, and now math and science from mid-April through to the end of the year in late June. She has been doing very well in her schooling, keeping up with her assignments which allows her to get not only good grades but also nice comments from the teachers she has had. Melissa too has been doing well in school. There is a yearly math contest that occurs in grades 5, 6, and 7 each year (except for last when they called it off due to the unexpected changes that COVID forced). The grade 5 contest is called the Abel contest, the grade 6 is the Mirzakhani, and the grade 7 (national) contest is the Gauss. Melissa this year competed in the Mirzakhani and spent much time practicing her math leading up to the test, and her effort paid off as we recently learned she got the best mark in her school.

From an extra curricular perspective, Kayla got onto the school grade 8 Ultimate team and attended practice and games after school twice a week for the last few months. They had their final games this past week, and for the first time all year her team lost so came in second (but got a team spirit award anyway), earning Kayla and her team a box of Timbits.

A bit outside of school, Kayla has been taking part in the Teen Advisory Group at the Burnaby Public Library. The description of this group is “… for teens who want to make the library better for themselves and other teens. The library belongs to teens as much as anyone else in the community, so we want to know what you’d like to see from us–whether it’s physical space, stuff you can borrow, programs you wish we had, or places you wish we visited.” It has been Zoom meetings this past year, but I imagine when COVID concerns are over it will return to in person meetings in addition to the virtual attendance necessary this past year.

Around home, we have taken up a new tradition the last few months, where we have family nights a couple of times a month. We have a scheduled rotation where each (human) family member gets to choose the meal/events that the family will take part in. It’s regularly scheduled for a Sunday evening, between 5:00 and 9:00pm. We’ve had simple pizza nights, movie nights, fish and chips, bocce, ladder ball, and volleyball in the yard, neighbourhood walks, greek food, BBQ, fancy deserts, kangaroo pie, sushi, game nights, etc. Ideas floating around that haven’t yet been able to happen either due to weather or to COVID concerns are a night of climbing, golfing at the Kensington Pitch and Putt. I (Glen) have the luck of picking the events for tonight, but am at a total loss since the weather is terrible today (we are in the first weekend of June currently).

The best man from our wedding, Dave, along with his wife Miriam and family, all who have been living in Edmonton for the last 15 years or so, are this summer moving back to the lower mainland. They found a good job here in the lower mainland which she will start at in the fall. So even though they still live in Edmonton, they have been looking for a place to move to the last few months as well as searching for a school their boy, same age as Kayla, to attend. Real estate (and rentals) in the lower mainland have been quite out of control the last few years, and so they have been struggling for a few months to find something to rent. We’ve gone to look at a few places at their request, but they’ve been snapped up. This past week they finally managed to get a 1 year agreement for renting a house in North Vancouver. No chance for extension due to the plan being for the house to be torn down in a year. Thank goodness we have a place settled we can call home.

The last place Dave phoned for us to look at was surprisingly a house we had just walked by on an urban hike we were on. We’ve been doing a lot of hiking these last few months since the ski season ended. Public Health Authority restrictions in place due to COVID these past few months meant we all need to stay close to home (we’ve been recommended that we don’t even travel “a city” away), so we have done a lot of walks around where we live. Thankfully we live in a good neighbourhood that has lots of interesting hikes. We’ve walked around Burnaby Lake a few times, even though it is close we have been avoiding Deer Lake since it gets too busy for comfort, we have hiked up and around Burnaby Mountain. As keen hikers too, we have been joined by friends Tristan and Layla. There has been an annual challenge the last few years where Burnaby challenges New Westminster in an event called Walk 30. Individuals or as part of a team you can sign up and take part where for your city you try to walk the most minutes per day, hopefully at least 30 minutes each and every day. It was Kayla this year who was on the ball and aware of what was going on in the community and pointed out to us that we should sign up. So Melissa joined her school team, filled mostly with teachers, while Kayla and I joined as individuals. Because of this, we quite reliably get out for at least 1 walk every day for the last month. I think I’ve only had one day where I didn’t walk for 30 minutes, and that was on a day where it was pouring rain all day. Spot, who loves walks, enjoys every one of them.

So how is Spot? As you may know, as a COVID dog who arrived with us as a youngster at the height of the first wave necessitating social distancing, he never got socialized at the right age for interacting with people. So he continues to be a challenge for acting nicely when around strangers. We’ve got his anxiety of walking past people and other dogs mostly solved, so so long as we keep walking we’ve got no concerns. Stopping to talk to people, or having anybody into our house (such as Shirley — not a lot of visitors this past year) can still be a problem. We’ve consulted with our trainer Marilyn who confirms we’re probably on the right track and doing as well as we can. We’ll just keep working on him. He still loves to run, and when we’ve taken him to the dog park still is one of the fastest dogs around. Although it’s probably not his favourite thing to do, he can act fine as a lap dog. What is his favourite thing? Well, food, but I’m sure that’s no surprise to anyone who has ever had a dog. Walks and hikes. That too is no surprise. He’s still enamored with Kayla, and follows her around. But as you know Kayla does a lot of reading, so what does Spot do when she is reading? One of his favourite things to do when in the house and there’s not much else to do is to look out the window. We joke that it is his big screen TV. He likes to watch first thing in the morning, all day when Glen is downstairs working, and into the evening. He gets a bit excited (but don’t many sports enthusiasts watching their game on the big screen?) when somebody (human, dog, or bird) goes by.

So as briefly mentioned, it seems as if the worst of COVID may be over (at least we hope so) as vaccines do seem to be working and getting into arms. Susan’s mom was one of the first getting a Pfizer shot in early March, Glen’s parents also Pfizer in later March, Glen himself as a diabetic got moved up in priority and got a Pfizer shot in early April, and Glen’s brother Jim and wife Ellen managed to get a very hard to get Astra Zenneca shot when they first became available in pharmacies, in early May Susan got a Moderna shot, and just yesterday on this first weekend in June both Kayla and Melissa got a Pfizer shot. Glen’s parents got their second doses just in the last few days. Glen himself is scheduled to receive his second shot later this week. With current timelines it’ll probably be early July when Susan gets her second, and probably early August when Kayla and Melissa get theirs. Spot himself a week or two ago was in at the vet getting vaccines, just not the COVID type but standard canine vaccines for things such as rabies, so things are looking up.

Something we hope doesn’t go up is inflation, but in some ways it won’t be surprising if it does with the Canadian government as well as other governments around the world pretty well having to print money to keep economies from crashing. As part of a safeguard against inflation making material goods feel outrageously expensive, and for the reasons that a) Kayla is likely to be at home with us for somewhere between 4 to 10 years, (b) Melissa for between 6 to 12 years, (c) a desire to drive to places in the Yukon, Alaska, and North West Territories sometime in the next few years (which are all places that don’t have continuous cel coverage), (d) still wanting to be able to tow our tent-trailer, (e) still needing to tow our boat to launch it, (f) improvements in fuel mileage in regular ICE (internal combustion engine) vechicles, (g) the fact our current vehicle meeting all these criteria is more than 12 years old and will likely need to be replaced sometime in the next few years and vehicles DURING inflation are one of the things that are very expensive, (h) current hybrid or EV vehicles that can tow our trailer and boat are very expensive, (i) my prediction that for an average vehicle that would be able to tow that would be hybrid and/or EV at an affordable price is likely to happen early 2030s but almost certainly by 2040; means that if we leave our Kia Borrego to “expire” at probably the more natural end of it’s attractive life to us, in say next 5 years, that would put us at a terrible time to need to buy another ICE vehicle to meet the listed criteria (being possibly in an inflationary time) PLUS being a time that would be just a few years before hybrids/EVs likely would meet the criteria, we decided it sensible to probably replace our big vehicle now. For that reason we’ve negotiated to buy a new Kia Telluride and have put in an order after paying a down payment. Telluride’s are notoriously difficult to buy off the lot, so putting in a factory order was necessary. A silver SX. The fact it will take likely a good few months is actually very attractive to us because it is locking in our price, yet not giving us the vehicle for quite a few months (as we said, by many measures our Borrego doesn’t need replacing yet). I’m actually wondering what will happen because there is currently a world-wide silicon shortage that is causing chips to be unavailable at traditional prices (start of inflation?) and is causing vehicle manufacturers difficulties in building their vehicles (such as definitely the Telluride) that are dependent on this high technology. So if things go well, we should probably take delivery of our new big vehicle this fall. No rush on our part, we’re just glad we have been able to lock in our price (crossing our fingers that other than needing to wait which is what we want, all the rest goes well with our plan).

So what’s upcoming? Well, both Kayla and Melissa in the last few weeks have taken up Martial Arts. They are currently at White Belt level, and have been attending classes twice per week at Master Gee’s Black Belt Academy. Unlike many traditional schools (dojo’s) that focus on one martial art, with the head of this academy having multiple black belts in Tae Kwon Do, Hapkido, Jiu Jitsu, Modern Ninjutsu, and Kickboxing; as well as being the Canadian representative on the American Martial Arts Organization, this school focuses not on just one style but more of mixed martial arts.

With the province opening up in the coming weeks, we look forward to getting to our cabin, and seeing Glen’s parents in person for the first time since last summer. In the past half year we threw around a lot of ideas on how to spend our vacation time, including the possibility of making this year be the year that we went north to see some territories, but the uncertainty of how the world will open, and the fact that must sees such as the Liard River Hot Springs in Northern BC (near the Yukon border) have been closed the last year due to COVID, it just seemed too much risk to plan such a big trip when there was no guarantee that things would be open as we would like them to be. So we decided we would spend a few weeks at our cabin and look forward to that.

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.